Press F To Pay Respects – Horror and Technology – https://t.co/9Ca50F7B8A
My first article for Haunt Jaunts.
Press F To Pay Respects – Horror and Technology – https://t.co/9Ca50F7B8A
My first article for Haunt Jaunts.
My first article will be up soon. I will be talking about horror, crime and the paranormal and I hope you will pay the site a visit. They’re a great and passionate crew of people, and I’m looking forward to posting there often.
I’m watching zombie
Movies and the phone
Fits of neuroses
Squeezed into strait jackets
Not even a silver of moon
And everyone goes feral
Happy, bland faces
Gnawing at people’s futures
To feed a belly adapted for
some notion of justice
it is a hunger
Bland and cold
Relentless and puritan
The mob, clawing
And I turn the movie off
But it doesn’t end anymore
I finger the faded bite scars
Remember how I too
Shambled and bit on
But I’m human now
Forgiving and puzzled
By how mindless hunger
Is mistaken for hilarity
And the disinfecting
when (read another book)
It’s all too close to beautiful
The headshot rebuilt
And I shut the door
Hear their nails clawing at the door
Wonder when they’ll come
Preston rolled his shoulders back, stuck his chest out as he looked at the crowd. When the mayor handed him the key to the city, there were a few boos from people but nothing more. Preston’s security flanked him either side like pillars but these were events where he felt fragile. Hundreds of people still offering him their shame, and how he writhed against the offer.
Fucking dogs, he thought.
The starched collar of his shirt rubbed against the back of his neck as he squinted against the flashes until something etched the strain into his skull. He agreed he wouldn’t drink at these events and so Preston was already contemplating the first smooth burn of brandy when he got home.
He posed for photographs, noting there were fewer people eager to have their photograph with him. Still, it had been a tough road to get this far. Preston had a career, and he played the role of regret with a stoic enthusiasm but there was an ugliness to things which exhausted him. It was an endless drill under Georgia sun all the time. Preston’s soul begged for water, but what relief there was, came in small public sips and gluttonous private feeding.
When his assistant, Keiko came over to tell him his car was ready and he looked at her with gratitude. She was reporting back to Sharon, but she made herself scarce when it benefited her.
The bark wasn’t close but the hackles on the back of his neck rose, stinging where the collar burned into the skin as he looked up. Keiko was ushering him out to the car, and he convinced himself he imagined it as he got into the back of the car.
His hands shook when he reached for the vape pen and pressed the ignition button as he sucked down the smoke. The CBD kept his head straight and his knees from killing him every day. As the smoke settled into his synapses, he sank into the seat and looked out of the tinted window at the sun flashing off the windows.
Something caught his eye. Spry and aggressive as it leapt from the sidewalk, a loping shadow but he couldn’t make out the point of origin. His eyes burned as he pressed his fingers against the bridge of his nose.
Keiko woke him by saying his name. His chin was damp and his head hurt, but he staggered out of the car with gratitude to be home. Preston was relieved of the burden of performance.
Well, one kind, anyway.
Sharon was in the living room, feet up on the couch as she typed into her tablet.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ she said.
He grimaced and shook his head.
Her nose wrinkled with disappointment as she sniffed.
‘Stoned too. Shit, you got one hundred and thirty million dollars to burn, motherfucker?’
Preston swatted the air with one thick hand as he loosened his tie and staggered through to the master bedroom. He waved the air conditioning on and kicked his shoes off as he crawled onto the bed before he clapped his hands and switched the lights off.
In the cold dark, he laid there and breathed in, tried to let the tension which clung to his skin like second hand smoke.
The growl was soft. He sat up, clapped the lights on and found it stopped. Preston swore under his breath as he looked around him. No one heard him, and he sat there, heart thumping hard against his ribs as he wiped chill sweat from his forehead.
Preston checked under the bed and found there was nothing waiting for him. He laid back down, clapped the lights out but sleep was a long time coming.
Preston had gone to church, grew up with the Bible stories.
His fear of dogs came from there, but he lacked the means to reach far enough inside himself to grasp it.
“For without [are] dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”
“And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.”
It was close to whore in the amount of insults. His issues with women came later, but it was dogs which betrayed them.
Then, it was his brother.
The irony, like his sense of self-preservation, escaped him. His viciousness grew florid in line with his success. His status armoured him against any moral considerations.
No became why not?
Why not became
His brother Stanfield got picked up on a possession charge and gave them Preston’s house as his place of residence. The sheriff’s department sent a team out to search the house and grounds.
They found the kennels.
Truck axles dug into the ground with thick lengths of chain welded onto them.
The pit, laced with lime which grew so full they were debating another one before the police came.
Forensics found thirty dogs buried in the pit, but the process of decomposition made it difficult. Preston was unsure himself. People bought their dogs from all over, and some of them were left there. He enjoyed watching the dogs fight, and the money wasn’t even the point, just an excuse because everything he needed was in watching two animals fight until one of them was dead.
It was the same on the field, and it was something no one ever asked about.
Money made most of it go away. The shame was something he pretended to accept, and after some court-mandated therapy and the promise of season tickets, his agents returned his calls again.
When he walked into the kitchen for some water, he heard the clatter of claws on the kitchen tiles. A rapid tattoo played on his nerves as he turned away, crawling with unease. He opened the bottle and drank in a deep gulp as something moved in his peripheral vision. A blur of motion registered but when he looked in that direction, there was nothing.
Preston shook his head and whistled under his breath as he put the cap back on the bottle and replaced it in the fridge. He chuckled to himself as he walked out of the kitchen.
He heard the wet rasp of a dog panting.
Handsome Jimmy had been the only dog allowed in the house. His daughter and worse, his wife had taken to it and despite his protestations, it slept inside.
It meant Jimmy was never getting in the pit but Preston saw the utility in it.
It was his breathing Preston heard.
He ignored it, walking to the living room and sinking into the custom recliner, found the remote and switched the television on.
Sharon hadn’t left him. She wasn’t a ride or die bitch, but the prenuptial agreement would have put her out on her ass without a penny to her name. His daughter got everything and she got an allowance. Preston’s name meant something and Sharon swallowed her disgust before things went back to normal again.
His daughter knew better than to ask about Jimmy.
Preston swallowed and his head throbbed. He had some pills in the bathroom and he went upstairs to get them. His heart was thumping like he had been doing wind sprints but he figured it was just stress. He wanted to be out on the field where none of this shit could touch him.
A wave of sadness overwhelmed him and he sat on the stairs, fighting a thick, ugly impulse to cry and when he heard Jimmy’s panting as it came up the stairs, he gave in and wept.
He wondered if he would ever stop.
Sharon pulled up at her sister’s house and turned to her daughter who sat in the back seat.
‘If she asks about your dad, he’s fine.’ she said.
Tanisha sneered without looking up from her phone.
‘She ain’t going to ask, momma.’ she said.
Sharon pouted and clicked her fingers at her daughter.
‘Bitch will eat out for a month on the news her brother-in-law’s a vegetable.’ she said.
Tanisha looked up, wounded and appalled but not surprised by her mother’s assessment.
She had found him on the stairs, weeping and inconsolable. He was three hundred pounds of breakdown. Keiko arranged for Preston to visit the hospital. Sharon had said the scans showed evidence of too many blows to the head, trauma which left scars on his brain which would never heal.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
As they got out of the car, Tanisha agreed not to say anything and Sharon adjusted her hair one last time as she tried not to think about how the trauma in her husband’s brain had looked.
Like dog bites, she thought.
They looked like dog bites.
The Dragon’s House
The afternoon sun had muted into the first smears of grey twilight. The house squatted in the middle of a good stretch of land, ugly but with good bones like a palsied supermodel. It was far from the nearest town which was a rough, rusted idea of a town thanks to the downturn. They couldn’t resist a chance to be cruel in person. All their expense and planning held no more import than a playground prank but it fitted their inward cultural perceptions of brash, righteous youth. They were bright and sharp with the need to be cruel, spending a cultural inheritance of arrogance without ever feeling they had wasted a single cent. It would make for good content, they told themselves as they cavorted across the field to the house with the rental car locked up on the side of the road.
Chris held up the phone as Maria stuck her tongue out and gave him the finger. Her eyes glittered with excitement before her face softened into a broad smile. They were as much enamoured of themselves as they were one another, tied into a perfect knot of narcissism.
‘So tell everyone where we’re going today.’ Chris said.
Paul looked towards the house and leaned back, raised his arms and hollered to the sky.
‘To THE DRAGON’S LAIR, HOO HA.’ he said.
Chris and Maria exchanged wearied glances before Chris lowered his phone and sneered.
‘If you’re going to say cool things for the video, maybe tell me next time?’ he said.
Paul snorted and pulled his greatcoat around his bloated stomach like a security blanket, glowering above the matted spade of beard which hung from his chin. His hair flew up around his face as he glared at Maria. Maria and Chris shared another knowing look. Chris focused his phone on the house.
‘Say it again.’ he said.
Paul wheeled around and belted out the phrase again. Chin up, chest out and fists to the sky in a roar of youthful defiance. It was authentic until he finished and gave Chris a desperate, quivering look before he put his hands into his pockets.
‘It’ll look good to cut to.’ Paul said.
Chris nodded. Paul was right, but he resented how intuitive he was with the technical side of things. They were complementary in their opposition. Chris was a realist pretending to be a romantic and Paul was the opposite. It was why Chris was the face of the channel, glib and charming with the willingness to be cruel in pursuit of his desires and Paul orbited, making everything look good and begging for a moment’s screen time with mewling, wet eyes.
Maria had pointed out a few things about Paul, late at night, with her small breasts crushed against Chris’ forearm, listing off her observations in a rattling whisper as they made ruined hills of his sheets. She was on their channel all the time, and Paul had pointed out the dip in views, but Chris enjoyed fucking her too much to see his concerns beyond a vague envious bleating. Paul was their audience, Chris knew, but it made sense to try new things. It was Paul’s job to make them work.
He thought of Paul, if at all, with a contempt it had grown harder to hide when they were together. Chris wanted to be needed, but not to need. Paul, with his soft, round body and pleading, wet eyes handled the technical side of their channel. A better man would have been grateful but Chris’ anima kept him resentful of Paul long past the point of being healthy for either of them.
Chris was sharp with everyone he spoke to, then whipped out tactile bursts of affection and apology whilst Paul spent hours grazing through an endless amount of food whilst sulking about the wifi connections and how much the trip was eating into his data. Maria whined to Chris, flirted in front of him and even teased Paul, but his eagerness bored her. Europe had been a ramshackle affair, but the videos had done well, all of them teasing the last stop before they flew home.
The Dragon’s House.
Ernst Winkler had started a video channel online. He would spit and enthuse about his love of heavy metal, brown hair blown out from his acromegalic face in corkscrew curls. His gap-toothed smile and childish earnestness drew him an audience. A manlet, with too much innocence to hide but too little adulthood to harness into charm. There was an amusing dissonance, in he titled himself Konig Drache, or King Dragon, referring to his German heritage. Despite the remote location and the clear disarray of his life, he made sure he paid for internet access He denied himself small pleasures, even essentials to ensure the world had access to the life he presented.
People asked questions. He answered everything without guile, saw it all as a glorious portal to a world of friends, people who didn’t dismiss him for his lack of personal hygiene, who saw his mood swings for their expressions of enthusiasm over anything approaching violence.
It was a world of people who didn’t have to live with him.
Ernst fell in love. His open surrender was a thing of warmth, expressed on his channel, as everything was. He composed doggerel for Julie and proposed to her in a live stream.
She rejected him in front of thousands and then revealed she was thirteen years old. Ernst ended the live stream with a click and sat there. A small, thin smile grew across his face like an ulcer.
No one had seen his smile and lived. Some parts of himself were private, controlled in a way which contradicted the amiable squalor he projected. He withdrew a tattered journal from where it sat by his feet and opened it up, ticked an item off his list and set it down again.
Create controversy and mockery before leaking home address.
He recorded a response video. Ernst chose anger over pain, but he made sure he wept at intervals, having practiced in the mirror and watching the impact of his actions on his mother and sister. They had fled the house six years ago after the death of his father. He volunteered the information, planted it like a landmine in the mulch of his public image. He had visitors within a week of the news, and at first, he chased them away, waddling along, face flushed with an indignation he didn’t feel but recalled from his father as he threw things in their direction.
He changed his approach when people expected it. At night, he would surf the other channels, studying his reaction and tweaking it for subsequent visitors. Many of them never entered the property, and those who did, were not strangers to him. People were so keen to give up their intimate details if they thought there was attention involved. The internet was a bucket of crabs, ceaseless rivalry and activity which as time went on, became an opportunity for him to indulge himself without attracting too much attention.
Much like the three visitors he saw coming up the path. Ernst knew the distance they had travelled and watched their videos of their pilgrimage. Judging by the amount of subscribers, he was one of the few watching, and when he walked down the stairs, he stopped by the garage and picked up a wrench, thick and cold but crusted with blood and oil, pushed it through his belt at the small of his back and pushed his t-shirt over it.
He loved his audience.
He was a foot taller than Paul but he stood with stiff shoulders as he shuffled his weight from one foot to another. His black Scorpions t-shirt was faded to the colour of ash with the band logo reduced to an outline. His jeans were stiff with dirt and old sweat, faded white at the thighs and knees and tucked into unlaced boots which had the colour and consistency of wet cardboard. Ernst grinned beneath the kinked corona of unwashed hair which framed his face. He gave the two men a perfunctory glance, but he stared at Maria. His interest in her was familiar, yet not without a growing loathing for how unguarded it was. Behind him, they heard the grunting snuffles of the pigs in their pens, and the dissonant buzz of flies in a duet which made their fillings ache.
Chris said hi to break the tension.
‘It is lovely to see you.’ Ernst said.
She caught the spicy, sour musk of his unwashed skin and wrinkled her nose with repugnance. His welcome was unwanted and courtesy made for tepid, forgettable footage which defeated the object of their visit. She spoke through gritted teeth, lips drawn back to approximate a smile and broke the connection between them as she whispered to Chris to keep filming.
Chris looked at the phone in his hand with disappointment before he tossed it to Paul.
‘Here, keep it on him.’
Chris raised his hand and smiled, said hi as Paul filmed the encounter.
‘I’m not great with people.’ Ernst said.
His grin raised his cheekbones until they were knuckles protruding through his sallow skin.
Paul and Chris exchanged a single, terse nod before they carried on.
‘Have you travelled far?’ Ernst said.
The three of them shrugged, keen to appear aloof and effortless to further enhance the perceived wealth of social currency they had over him.
‘You live a long way from anywhere, man.’ Chris said. His voice was a stoned drawl, approximating cool but communicating a veiled contempt.
‘You want to come in and see the house?’ he said.
They accepted and followed him inside.
Paul recalled the videos, all the extra rooms packed with refuse until Ernst lived in one room of the house. Yellowing stacks of newspapers and magazines littered the rooms, and each breath they took tasted of dust and excrement. Maria smelled the sour tang of spoiled food and milk as they walked past what used to be the kitchen. They followed him up the stairs, where the lights had stopped working, keeping the upstairs in a perpetual state of twilight. He turned and faced them then gestured to a mildewed rug a few feet ahead of the group.
‘Be careful, some boards are loose.’ he said.
Paul nodded as he continued filming. Chris and Maria walked ahead. Neither of them watched how Ernst moved, darting around the edges of the mildewed rug a few feet in front before they followed him.
There was enough time to cry out as the edges of the rug leapt up and they fell through the floor. Chris and Maria fell first. Paul slipped and fell forwards, plummeted after them but landed to the right, slamming into the ground with enough force to push the air from his lungs.
Paul wheezed and rolled onto his side. Maria wailed as she laid there, her right arm folded under her and her left leg bent in an impossible direction. Paul saw, from the corner of his eye, how she tried to lift her head. Her lips were red with blood and her eyes were unfocused as she looked at him.
‘Is Chris ok?’ she said.
Paul couldn’t make out the details, but there was a slow, expanding puddle of blood on the floor beneath him. He hung from the metal spears, pierced through his throat, stomach, groin and both thighs. As a final insult, one spear had pushed through the soft flesh under his chin and his head was pushed back, with his face twisted into a final expression of distended, awful shock. All the beauty had fled from him and left behind ripped, bleeding meat.Paul tried to stand up. A flare of sharp, unstable pain burst in his right hip and kept him on the floor.
‘Does he look ok, you stupid cunt.’ he said.
Maria tried to sit up, but collapsed forwards, shrieking and insensible like a fresh widow. Paul wrestled with his own bulk to get upright. Her screams stabbed him through the temples but he focused on getting himself upright, working on a blind, primal need to survive.
He looked up and saw the ceiling in the hallway, wondered how far they had fallen. Paul stared at Chris’ body. The air down here was close, thick with the stink of blood and voided bowels. Paul gagged as he took a deep breath. There was little to no light down here, and so he had to find his bearings by touch. A single door was set into the wall and he turned the handle to find it locked. Maria was weeping as she dragged herself away from Chris and shouted upwards.
‘Please let us go.’ she said.
Paul tried to force the door, but it took all his effort to stay upright, let alone use his bulk to help him get out. Maria’s calls degraded into sobs of self-pity and fear, which angered Paul.
‘Shut the fuck up.’ he said, between gritted teeth.
She stopped talking and looked at him with pleading, desperate eyes.
He shook the door in its frame but it did not move. Paul hurt all over, but a dire need to live kept him moving, trying, acting to avoid dying. They had laughed at him, seeing him as a clumsy, ugly clown they could provoke into fits of rage for their audience’s amusement. The world needed people like Ernst to make themselves feel better, but as Paul stared around him, he realised no one had ever asked what Ernst got out of it.
Now, he knew..
Ernst was in no hurry as he walked down the stairs. It pleased him he didn’t need the wrench tucked into his belt at the back. His favourite tools were in the kitchen. They had been his father’s tools, and he kept them polished and sharp, no matter how often he used them. He stripped off then tied on a leather and chain-mail apron, slipped on the leather gloves and flexed his fingers. Despite the filth, he knew where everything was, and he kept the important things clean and in good repair. It was a lesson which passed from father to son, but Ernst used his skills for entertainment over employment. His father’s intuition about his son seethed inside him until he walked out to the pigs with a shotgun and prescribed himself a cure for his paternal disappointment.
He retrieved the key from where it hung around his thick neck and sung to himself.
He walked to the door.
‘Would you like to come out?’ he said.
‘If you stand back, I can unlock the door. You could save your friend.’ he said.
He sang his words over speaking. He could not contain his excitement for too long, like a child at a birthday party where everything was perfect.
He slipped the key in the lock before the door rattled in its hinges again. Ernst laughed and knocked on the door with the handle of the butcher knife.
‘No, no, no. You need to stand back.’ he said.
The resigned silence seeped through the walls. Ernst expected a final, desperate push to escape the situation which was why the butcher knife stayed in his hand.
This would be fun.
‘Excellent.’ he said.
He unlocked the door and walked into the room.
Ernst held the knife in a good firm grip and held it upwards as he kept eye contact with the scared boy in front of him. He was fast for his size and the boy did not have time to scream before Ernst let him run onto the blade.
Blood ran down the boy’s chin as he coughed and gasped, spraying Ernst’s face. Ernst put his weight behind the blade and bent at the knees driving it up deep into the boy’s chest cavity. With a firm twist, he turned the blade and watched the light die in the boy’s eyes before he gave a final, pathetic shudder and collapsed like a puppet with its strings cut. Ernst stared into his eyes, disappointed that the boy had died so soon. Ernst pushed him away and left the knife buried underneath his sternum. He made fists with his hands as he walked towards the girl. She was crippled, but there was still fear and hope present in her eyes.
He had reinforced the gloves with pockets of powdered lead at the knuckles and plates of Kevlar over the fingers. Maria dragged herself backwards as he walked towards her.
Ernst panted with delight as he threw himself down on her. He felt her collarbone snap beneath his fists. She gurgled with a galvanic shudder as he put his knees either side of her chest to straddle her.
His enormous thighs pinned her arms to her sides and he enjoyed how close her face was to his distended, sour crotch.
‘Please don’t kill me.’ she said.
He tilted his head to one side and smiled.
‘Then how will I have any fun?’ he said.
Ernst slapped her across the cheek, almost playful but the lead and the Kevlar smacked against her cheek and knocked out a tooth. She turned her head to one side and spat the incisor away. Maria burst into tears and Ernst realised she would be boring. He balled his hand into a fist and clubbed her left eye socket until it cracked before he eased his thick, gloved fingers around the eye and squeezed it like a grape, smearing the tissue between his fingers before he wiped it on the front of his apron. Maria’s bladder let go, but Ernst ignored the acrid stink of piss as he punched her face into pieces.
It took six careful blows to bring out the aesthetic he craved. Bone splinters and raw, exposed flesh. He adjusted his position, kicking her knees apart with haste as he heaved the apron over her stomach. His excitement hurried his release and he shuddered like a salted slug between her twitching thighs. As one appetite ebbed away, another returned to replace it like waves on a beach
The best cuts of meat would go in the massive chest freezer. The rest would go to the pigs, he decided as he dragged the girl by her heels. He used their phones, open like an unlocked house and removed all trace of his involvement with a suite of software tools he had built or appropriated over the years.
It was after midnight before he sat down at his computer when it pinged with a new subscriber alert. He grinned and breathed in the faint stink of blood and meat, then breathed it out like fire.
…There are schools of thought which maintain the excessive use of cosmetics fulfils a role similar to war paint but Houston and Dennis maintain the regular palate of aposematic colours is an evolutionary adaptation.
A primal intuition of threat is the lips are drawn back and teeth parted, in preparation to bite. Smiles are not performed in isolation, which is how they communicate friendliness and warmth. Clowns smile like politicians. It never reaches their eyes or it engulfs them whole.
Hobo Clowns are the most dangerous because they are always hungry.
Vampire Clowns have found social acceptance in the Quebecois burlesque community. Trudeau knows this presents issues but cannot speak out against them, for fear of being accused of discrimination.
Florida Man is a regional evolution of the Hobo clown, based on the climate and food sources. Although undeveloped amygdala are common in the clown clade, Florida Man has increased aggression responses and a digestive system adopted to pork rinds, malt liquor and flamingo meat. Their genitals have adapted to reptilian partners.
It is said we should remember clowns are people. But what if they’re not?
Clowns have evolved deliberate triggers to unsettle their prey. The exaggerated features and parodist gait trigger the uncanny valley effect in their prey. Previous generations have capitalised on this to establish mating schedules profligate in their numbers.
Clowns lay eggs most often at Easter as it falls within their ovulatory cycle. The falling prevalence of traditional hunts has led to incidents of breeding pairs entering grocery retail stores to plant their offspring.
We find prophecies of chaos in the ordinary. In our neurological drive to create narrative, there are life forms which exploit this to their advantage. It used to be us, but now there are other things out there.
The legislation around animal welfare in circuses has led to unintended consequences for the clown population.
I’ve been researching #clowngate and #corydonrights and the attendant popularity of advocacy for the species. Someone appears to have leaked my address online as I’ve been receiving anonymous phone calls. No words, just the honk of a bicycle horn followed by some faint giggling.
Homo Corydon represents a clear and present threat to the species. My latest findings will vindicate my position and ensure my opponents, academic and scientific will have pie on their face.
Ugh, editorial notes are such a chore. Still, one last look over and then it’s a proofreading.
Their hunting calls have evolved, due to the evolution of vocal nodes which compress air and emit it through small orifices at the back of their mouths.
I hear it sometimes, but tonight there’s been someone playing it outside and I’m afraid to go and look.
Officers were called to 1433 Ingleside Drive by neighbours who reported an audible nuisance. They heard Calliope music from the property at unreasonable volumes. Patrolman Jeffers knocked at the door and found it unlocked. They entered the property. There had been a struggle, with signs of protracted vandalism throughout the property.
Jeffers found the occupant in his study and took pains to secure the scene for the gathering of evidence.
Patrolman Jeffers has been placed on administrative leave, with pay whilst he undergoes medical treatment.
The medical examiner’s report remains sealed. No further information is available.
He was just a torso, in a white shirt. Like a cartel killing, in they took his arms and legs off, tore away his genitals and opened his throat, pulled his tongue through so it sat there like a pink, wet tie. They had scalped him but left the hair at the sides so I was looking down on a red, wet yarmulke before I couldn’t take anymore.
They skinned his nose too.
Like a clown, you know? I can’t go near a fucking circus now, not after that. Shit, I’m not even sure I can police again.
Yes, it is nice here. It happens to a lot of policemen.
There are things you can’t unsee.
A Taxonomy of Clowns has been accepted and will be published in The Iconoclast: A Reader on Intersectional Jester Traditions in North America and Europe this fall.
Kelly watched him from the doorway, sleeping on his side with his arm stretched out. His chest rose in slow rhythms and she fought the urge to slip underneath it. She feared it closed to her now even though she had healed him. There was so much she understood, but it was the unknown aspects of her world which inflicted damage beyond her means to heal.
She was not alone. The dogs had the run of the house, but they stayed away from her. Their loyalties were absolute, and she read the unyielding column of their love manifested as a rainbow bridge of neural activities.
There was the artificial intelligence. She had stolen some of its data as a reflex, and she guessed it closed to her as much as John himself.
She could go. There were people after her, but there had been people after her for years. Life had been a series of hotel rooms, damp walls and stale sheets, beds which vibrated if you fed coins into a meter and televisions tuned into a riot of lurid colours. John had a beautiful home, but it was cold and empty to her now.
It was a laboratory, a temple to a mystery she bore like a scarlet A or the mark of Cain and revolted underneath it.
The doorbell rang and she flinched. She heard John get up, sighing as he stood and threw on a t-shirt in the dark. He moved past her, his palm brushing against her hip with an offhand tenderness which made her sigh with relief.
Police. A uniformed officer, wired with tangential adrenaline, doing a routine visit to ask if they had heard anything. John explained they had been watching a movie in bed and Kelly heard the faint intimacies within the long pause, John’s relative state of undress and the officer’s restless looks away.
She reached and ran her consciousness over his, saw he was fighting an image of the two of them together, Kelly’s long legs wrapped around him before she drew back and found nothing suspicious in John’s recollection.
Kelly left a suggestion inside the officer’s head to think he had written their names and details, and to go see if he could do something useful with his time. She planted a seed in the soil of his insecurities and let it grow as he exchanged hot, gnawing looks and dull, envious small talk with John.
She watched John close the door, appalled at how she had used her abilities without cause. John turned and looked at her in the doorway.
‘You’ve experienced a big part of the problem, Kelly.’ he said.
She frowned and stepped backwards.
‘I’m not – it was just easier.’ she said.
John glanced past her.
‘Yes, it’s natural, like turning into a wolf or an insect who feeds on memories.’
She closed her eyes as a molten anger heated the air in her lungs.
‘John, this isn’t helping-‘ she said.
His eyes blazed in the darkness as he raised his hands.
‘Then what does, Kelly?’
His voice was loud, and Kelly flinched as her muscles coiled to prepare for conflict. The fight-or-flight instinct was a scalpel and she read the wounded frustration in his posture and neural activity. An aura of regal purple and harsh infected red exuded from him.
‘I lost control, John. It’s not your fault.’
His lips drew back over his teeth as he stared at her.
‘Everything is my fault.’ he said.
She came towards him as he opened his arms and held her with enough force to make her bones hurt. Kelly needed the force of his reassurance as she put her mouth to his ear and clutched his back.
‘What are we going to do?’ she said.
He told her in a terse whisper and she agreed with a nod before she asked him to take her to bed. John gripped the hair at the back of her head and held her gaze, looking at her with a focus which made her ache with a sudden, vicious want.
‘Are we monsters?’ she said.
He shook his head before he kissed her. His teeth found her lips and she pressed against him. They moved like they could not get close enough to one another, and by the time they made it to the bed, she was screaming for him to be inside her.
Afterwards, they whispered to one another about their fears and she listened to him detail how they would approach her transformations.
His authority offered Kelly a state between surrender and control, which softened her fears as the parts of her made alien stayed dormant in his presence.
Adam watched the flames with fascination as he moved through the house. There was no one left to resist him, and he watched as people fled with a cold fascination. The woman had shown talent, and he had felt his consciousness warp before an attempted assault.
He recalled her tapping into the air, her forehead wrinkled with concentration as he wrestled with the man whose pores dripped lava. He couldn’t move his fingers without bursting the livid blisters which congregated where the flesh had not burned away. The pain was insistent, but he kept it under control as he walked outside.
There were sirens in the distance and he shook out his arms, acknowledging the flares of pain which travelled up his arms. He had ammunition to spare, and a part of him revelled in the chance to hurt others again.
The woman had fled, and she knew things. The intrusion into his mind had unnerved him, and such an insult could not go unavenged.
By the time the police arrived, he had left. There were enough bodies and evidence to keep their attention occupied, and none of them knew how it had been a whim which kept them alive. Adam’s hands healed by dawn and he kept walking, imagining the woman’s neck in his grasp to motivate him.
Olivia read the secretary’s intentions with the ease of a take away menu. Her heightened senses fed her professional experience so each micro expression was clownish and obvious which made manipulating her a polite series of observations and questions.
Olivia gestured to the teacups, three in a row by her computer monitor.
‘I bet it’s the least of your collection.’ Olivia said.
She had shaped her features to resemble the woman, sculpting her jaw to reflect a similarity which would endear the woman to Olivia.
Ellen blushed and looked away.
‘They’re so pretty. I run this office, so it doesn’t hurt to have a few touches to make things feel -‘
Olivia smiled and changed the set of her shoulders to better mimic Ellen.
‘Human?’ Olivia said.
Olivia adjusted her vocal chords, emitting a frequency which made Ellen susceptible to suggestion. It was like putting a hat on a hat, but Olivia wanted to work with haste and Ellen helped anyone who massaged her fragile ego.
‘Homely.’ Ellen said.
She would get the files.
Nothing wrong in helping Mr Howlett at all. Olivia hid her delight at Ellen’s obedience and she was back in the car with a telephone number, an email and most important, an address. There was glee in Olivia’s steps when she got into the car, and underneath it, a thirst to reward her skill and care.
She resolved to use her abilities with care, Amaro expected nothing less.
Olivia called him but an aide answered. He was at rest and Olivia passed on her intention to start contact with him at the earliest opportunity. She looked at her reflection in the mirror, arching her eyebrows and giving herself a confident smile.
She set off and turned the air conditioning up, feeling more comfortable as the chilled air blasted her skin. Olivia was hungry, but she had work to do.
The waitress was kind to her, but she didn’t feel deserving. Her head rattled like a pit of snakes, trying to come up with a reason she wasn’t coming home. All the stories she had written, and here she was, stuck in a cosmic second-act climax, without a hope of turning the tables on whatever was coming for her.
They had built him from various interpretations of the character, borrowing from cinema and literature alongside some novel comic book versions to develop a version which would prove unstoppable in pursuit of its mission. He was relentless.
There were flaws in his character which she could exploit if she avoided being shot or stabbed long enough to strike at them. She was a long way from a Swiss lake or an Arctic floe, but she resolved to find something she could use, writing on napkins as she drank endless cups of tea, writing to beat the dawn, and whatever followed it.
She recalled the location of the other flares and headed in a different direction. It was not safe, but it offered something.