‘Hello.’ I said.
‘Hey.’ David said.
I smiled as I held the phone to my ear as I swiped my pass card then opened the door.
‘How was it?’ he said.
‘Honestly?’ I said.
‘Yes.’ he said.
He almost sounded amused. Continue reading
‘Hello.’ I said.
‘Hey.’ David said.
I smiled as I held the phone to my ear as I swiped my pass card then opened the door.
‘How was it?’ he said.
‘Honestly?’ I said.
‘Yes.’ he said.
He almost sounded amused. Continue reading
I am looking for beta readers for this project.
UNTIL SHE SINGS
M B BLISSETT
You cannot stay silent if you want to be heard.
Caitlin Ross, a young singer-songwriter, makes her debut at an open mic night playing and singing her own songs for the first time. Struggling in her relationship with her once, nearly famous boyfriend Luke, Caitlin’s performance lends a new spotlight for him to pirate. But Caitlin has grown weary of life in Luke’s shadow.
When a handsome stranger, Daniel, introduces himself after her set, the attraction is immediate and all consuming. His pursuit quickly throws Luke’s failings as a partner into stark relief. And she quickly finds herself caught between the past and the future, chained to the former by her guilt over Luke’s dependence upon her.
I am looking for beta readers, so please get in touch if you are interested in providing me with feedback on the book.
Previous episodes are here.
I can try to get away, but I’ve strapped myself in
I can try to scratch away the sound in my ears
I can see it killing away all of my bad parts
I don’t want to listen, but it’s all too clear
Nine Inch Nails, The Becoming.
John stopped outside the facility. Kelly held onto his fur with enough force her fingers throbbed but when he lowered his shoulders to the ground, she slipped from his back. She trembled, eyes hot and wet with tears, disorientated and tasting something thick on her tongue.
The boy’s memories, she told herself.
She wrapped her arms around herself, revolted and frightened as John raised his muzzle to the door and barked twice. The door slid open with a hiss as the speakers crackled overhead. Kelly watched him pad inside, wreathed with ribbons of red and orange light as she saw the damage her thoughts had done.
The ribbons were receding as his body healed from the injuries she inflicted. She saw the twisting oceanic waves of his aura, their colours ranging from autumn to spring, and wondered if she was seeing John’s heart, even his soul.
Kelly wondered if she had wounded it.
‘Come in, Kelly.’ the AI said.
Its tone was flat and Kelly looked up at the speakers. A memory of confronting it, pulling on wires and feeding on information.
‘I did something to you. I’m sorry.’ she said.
A sigh came from the speakers.
John laid on the floor and put his head between his paws, growled as Kelly stepped into the facility. The door closed behind her as she watched the ribbons fade away whilst his muscles moved underneath his fur. There were wet, tearing sounds and muted cracks of motion as he breathed through his transformation. John slipped out from the fur, glistening and trembling. He stood up and stared at Kelly, his eyes dark with concern before they rolled up in his head and he fell backwards like a puppet with the strings cut.
Kelly rushed over to him. Her stomach ached as she pulled him into her arms.
She wondered if she could do something good with what lived inside her.
Kelly closed her eyes, went inside herself, a motion which felt somewhere between flight and diving, into the vast clouds of knowledge she held. A library of stolen truths, and each book opened its pages all at once, a cool wave of emotion washed over her as she searched for something she could use.
Kelly had no formal medical knowledge so what passed between thought and action was more art than science. His mind was a riot of raging neural activity, and she found the path of where her thoughts had wounded him.
Knowing what to do and understanding it were two different things, so she did something over understanding it. If it were something she had to live with, then she had time on her side.
There was a care in her investigation, a need to serve and heal him which gave her a surge of crude power. She shook with the force as she pressed her palm to his forehead and closed her eyes.
A transfer of energy between them. The memory of his weight on her in bed, the last good, warm memory they shared before she turned into a monster which fed on memories, used them to wound the people she loved. It was easier to reach into herself and find good things to help him.
Perhaps, she thought, the virus knew her a little too well. She had done it before, to wake him, and she did it again. John stiffened up, but his fingers were gentle when they touched her cheek. His eyes were wide as he stared into her eyes.
‘What have we done to each other?’ he said.
The car swam like a shark down the freeway. Olivia found the smooth hiss of the air conditioning soothing as she looked through the windshield. There was an edge to her thoughts which looked at the occupants of the other cars and weighed up their value to her as meat. It was playful, without malice or real need, but she looked at the young, tattooed man with the trucker cap and faded tattoos on his forearms, and imagined his blood trickling down her throat. She smiled at him and he turned away.
She hummed with a delighted energy. Her senses made everything a playground, sweet and bitter, soft and hard, all the details of the world in perfect clarity as her thoughts swam around her head.
There was a screech of tyres and the percussive crash of metal brought her back to the moment as she looked through the windshield.
An SUV and a Mercedes Benz. The SUV had mounted the smaller car, and Olivia watched as a man got out of the driver’s seat. She watched him pull the brim of his cap down and her eyes fell to the gun in his hand. She stopped the car and undid her seatbelt.
The smart thing would have been to move on, but Olivia needed to test herself before she got to the real work. This, she decided was exercise.
The man in the cap staggered after a few steps. Olivia got out of the car, caught the blood in the air, different flavours mingled with gasoline and brake fluid.
‘You don’t have to do that.’ she said.
He stopped and wiped the blood from his chin.
‘Fuck off, lady. This asshole’s been on my case for miles.’ he said.
Olivia walked towards the man. She looked into his eyes and lifted her hands. Olivia had left the gun in the car because she didn’t need it.
‘Well, you’ve got them now, haven’t you?’
He looked towards the Prius. Olivia heard the sounds of panic from inside. She could smell the weed inside the car, the thin stink of panic and the artless scrambling for their phone. They could record it, she thought, and it decided for her.
‘Put the gun away. The police will come, I’ll Say I helped you out of the truck and we can all get to where we’re going to.’ she said.
She kept her voice soft and hid the flush of victory as the man stopped and looked at the gun in his hand.
He shook his head like he was trying to shake something out before he racked the slide on the gun and walked over to the Benz, lifted the gun and Olivia moved. The instinct snapped her forwards, and the tips of her fingers burst as her claws protruded and she had her hands out.
She dug her fingers into the meat of his neck, corded with muscle and squeezed as she tugged away ragged divots of skin and tissue. His blood was hot on her fingers and she watched it splash down his front, black in the sodium lights. She stepped back and looked at the Mercedes, saw the flashing light of his phone, held at an angle through the window.
Olivia coiled with disgust. She leapt forwards, swiped with her right hand and punched her claws through the back of his hand. Her fingers drew inwards as she pulled him through, reaching through the open window to swipe at his face. He was so young, she thought, before she stabbed her claws into his eyes and he screamed in a high pitch which only came from agony.
It was a mess, but it was quick.
She found the phone, saw it was recording, not streaming and slipped it into her pocket. The traffic was light but someone would see if they hadn’t already. She took the gun from the man’s body, opened the fuel tank on the SUV and went back to her car.
Olivia licked her fingers like a cat, murmured soothing noises of comfort to herself before she drove off. She drove past the cars with care, looked at the mess she had made and decided it was better not to mention this. A field test, a game gone wrong, it was all relative to her. Before dawn, she stopped at a motel, checked in and showered. The phone had no security, so she went in, deleted everything and reset it all to factory settings before popping out the memory card and the SIM, cut them up with nail scissors and flushed them down the toilet..
There was nothing to fear, nothing to doubt. Olivia sat up in her seat, flush with confidence as she saw the turning for the offices.
A party in the kitchen. Loud, boorish noises and someone had good coke, so there was an energetic pace to the volume which reaches her as she’s sat there, trying to write.
No, it was not working.
The violence was too close to drown out or use. The Editor tried to make the scene work, but it did not come to her. She heard a bone crack and someone cries out before the boom of a shotgun made her ears ring as she shuffled forwards. She breathed in, went back to the draft and focused in on the Adam itself.
It was a seething hive of necrotic flesh and electricity, stitched together with sigils and black science. It had been a story in her world, rewritten and deployed to patrol the contested territory.
No one had considered what happened in the long term. Adam had transcended the limits of its narrative and became something else. It had turned on its authors and editors in a display of hubris she wanted to find ironic.
She used the search engine on the quantum keyboard to locate any cars outside. A coincidence in the second line of the moment told her which car had the keys in the ignition.
The Golem roared before something crashed to the ground. She wrote a terse internal narrative which held hypothetical instructions for a set of moves which would stop Adam and sent it.
She heard a hard, compact thump and a gush of fluid before a louder, more complete impact shook the ground beneath her.
The Editor turned as The Golem’s scarred, bald head rolled towards her. Adam’s hands were down by his side as he reached for the knives on his belt. He grinned at her as he stepped forwards. She blinked twice, activated the plot twist.
She started the car and drove out of the grounds. Adam took out the rear windshield with a shot but she got away and it was dawn before she stopped. She pulled over by the side of the road, fished out the lenses and realised she left the case back at the house. Her eyes burned and the tears stung as she put on her glasses and looked around her.
Her phone had been in the bedroom.
The slow trickle of dismal facts pinned her down before she took a deep breath, started up the car and carried on driving. She wanted to go home and feeling sorry for herself was third rate hackery to her mind, so she kept moving until a development came to her.
She called Editorial from a payphone.
‘This is a Corrigendum.’ she said.
‘Where are you?’ Editorial said. It was a different voice each time, and she listened to one of the male voices, gruff from cigarettes and scotch but kind and professional.
‘I drove east from the safe house. I need whatever you have around.’ she said.
‘That was it. Politics, my dear, are the greatest enemies of our art. There’s a safe house on the coast, I can get you back to the Library. There’s no sense in staying until we establish our response.’
The Editor squeezed her eyes shut.
‘No, I’m not leaving. I need support down here. Adam is not stopping and it’s a narrative we can’t have loose.’ she said.
Editorial sighed and she heard the snap of a lighter.
‘A Corrigendum? OK, go to the safe house, wait for further instructions. I’m inclined to pull you out but -‘
‘No.’ she said.
She wanted to go home. The fragile life she was building where the weight of things didn’t rest on her shoulders so much and there was someone with her at night who made her feel safe. The corrigendum warranted a response but her reasons ran deep and she let them anchor her to her decision.
‘I won’t leave.’ she said.
Editorial sighed and she heard him pull on a cigarette.
‘What about the Golem?’ he said.
The Editor looked out at the street, cautious for signs of Adam’s approach.
‘He’s gone. I put in a deus ex machina but it didn’t take.’ she said.
‘Good girl. Get out of the street.’ he said.
He gave the address and she put the phone back in the cradle and ran to the car. She wanted to call home, but she wasn’t sure about hearing his voice, what it would do to her. The Editor missed it all the time, and the feeling kept her awake as she drove towards the coast.
https://ko-fi.com/mbblissett if you enjoyed this and want to donate, you’re most welcome.
To anyone watching, he appeared pleasant and self-contained, groomed and polite as he took books out, or as was more often the case, sat down with a book or a stack of graphic novels and read through them with a focused enthusiasm. He smiled if anyone made eye contact and indulged in balloons of conversation which flew away.
Liz handed over the dvd and smiled as she watched him take a book over to a chair in the corner and sit down. He leaned forward and looked up, caught her eye and grinned before he returned his attention to the book.
She watched him before Ellie came and asked her if she wanted a cup of tea. Liz nodded without looking at Ellie, who chuckled which made Liz turn around, embarrassed and ashamed.
‘Sorry, I was miles away.’ she said.
Ellie chuckled and went away to make tea. Liz looked down at the book open on the desk. Wuthering Heights, for the eighth time, and a book which reached inside her chest and squeezed each time she read it. When she looked up, she cried out with alarm as he handed over his library card.
Liz watched him ask to check on the status of a reservation before she realised he was asking her to do it, and she hurried herself with a tight-lipped embarrassment before she passed the card back and told him it had not arrived. He thanked her and walked away as Liz stared after him. Ellie came back with two mugs of tea and Liz sat there, awash with the fear she had looked ridiculous with the man.
His details were still on the computer and she opened another tab rather than delete the information. Ellie talked about her plans for the weekend, Liz had dinner with her parents on Sunday but nothing otherwise.. She seldom voiced how much pleasure she took in it but Liz had developed a sense of what was appropriate with others over the years, a lack of ostentation was a useful trait to survive, if not to live.
She had books.
Ellie went out to deal with the influx of returned books and Liz waited until she was on the other side of the desk before she clicked on the man’s information.
He didn’t look like a Joseph, she thought. He didn’t live far from here and she wondered what his house looked like. The information gave a telephone number and an email address, but nothing about his circumstances or what he did for a living.
Such a thing required copying his name into another tab and letting the internet do the rest.
There wasn’t much. No social media accounts and even an image search came up empty. She looked at the reservation.
Baudrillard. Simulacra and Simulations.
Postmodernism gave her a headache, the ghost of too many university boys eager to fill her skull with words before she gave up on dating. Still, he moved with a quiet boldness which didn’t lend itself to the twitching unease of the small town intellectual. She liked his hands and his beard, how he stopped and spoke to people. Liz wondered what it would be like to have his attention for a time, but it crashed into her own wall of insecurities and she closed down both tabs in a hurried rush of guilt. She was curious about him, but it was fragile in the face of her experiences to date.
Liz was small, delicate in manner and wardrobe enough to pass for younger but her manner betrayed her. She had a small circle of friends, fellow survivors of the social wars being fought over so little and even a few of those had been absorbed into relationships, either with other people, cats or in Katharine’s case, academia. Liz had a small, quiet life, enlightened by spasms of acute loneliness. After a gilded adolescence, and experiences in further education which prepared her for a gradual lowering of expectations, Liz felt diminished by the years, those she carried already and their allies in the distance.
She left the library, letting her hair cover her face as she hurried home. Liz was tired, but made herself walk into the supermarket, dazzled by the overhead lights and the shrink-wrapped line up of choices. Liz picked out a tray of chicken breasts and laid them down in the basket when she looked up.
Joseph had picked out a tray of steaks and put it in his basket when he looked around and saw her. His smile widened and he took a step towards her.
‘We should stop meeting like this, people will talk.’ he said.
Liz fought the rush of blood to her cheeks as she turned away. She liked how he was with people, but when he turned his attention towards her, it made her twist with discomfort.
She looked back and saw him stood there, with the basket dangling from his fingers as he looked at her with a cautious interest.
‘I’ve seen you at the library.’ he said.
Liz smiled at the acknowledgement but struggled to keep herself even and nonchalant.
‘Me too.’ she said.
He smiled, raising an eyebrow as he moved towards her.
‘What you’ve seen yourself at the library?’ he said.
She frowned, not getting the joke until he shook his head and changed the subject of conversation.
Liz had worked at the library for three years. She enjoyed the work, but worried telling Joseph about it would somehow diminish her in his eyes. The logic of his regular visits eluded her as her choir of anxieties sang from the same hymn sheet.
‘You don’t recognise me, do you?’ he said.
Liz stared at him with surprise. There had been something, amongst the warm timbre of his voice and the easy manner he carried, but she paid it no more attention than she had anything else about him.
He looked around him before he leaned into her space.
‘I said you had a bum man should get on their knees and worship. We were in rehearsal for From Land And Sea, Helen Taylor was there.’
The mention of Helen tore at Liz, since she emigrated, Liz had entered a broken correspondence but it had been her turn to email. She looked and saw the twinkle had remained, masked by the beard and the polished armour of confidence.
‘Joe Mason.’ she said.
Different surname, she told remembered, but hadn’t his mum remarried? Liz’ mum would know, but the thought of explaining it made her feel faint, so she gave in to her surprise and stared at him as he nodded.
‘You look good.’ he said.
His voice lowered the burr reached into Liz’ stomach and caressed a slow, liquid heat into being. The sensation made her feel girlish and strong and she straightened up a little in the face.
‘No, but you’re kind to say so, Joe.’ she said.
She coughed and took him in. He was thicker across the chest and shoulders and he had shaved his head, which contrasted well with the beard.
‘You do too.’ she said.
They laughed through the awkwardness in the polite, unspoken way people did. Ghosts of roads not taken put their arms around Liz, whispered at what she had missed out on, but Joe had never taken his shot either. He had been quiet and polite, but that one comment aroused her interest and he had seen the look in her eyes across the stage and never followed up on it. She had burned for him to ask her out, but his attentiveness and concern grew pathological and she had resigned from the vigil when Bradley asked her out to the school disco.
She blinked away tears and Joe smiled as he peered into her basket.
‘Want to get something to eat, Liz?’ he said.
She was scruffy and tired, embarrassed not to recognise him but Liz brushed her hair from her eyes and told him she was starving.
He was reading the Baudrillard as research for a book he was writing.
Liz stopped and looked at him with surprise.
‘You can’t just drop it into conversation and not elaborate.’ she said.
He wrote comic books under a different name, published in America and he had put out original series alongside the short runs on superhero titles. He looked at the pewter Captain America badge on the lapel of her coat and told her the name he wrote under.
To her relief, it was work she remembered and enjoyed.
Liz admitted she had looked at his information and he chortled as he drew closer to her.
‘So we both have our secrets don’t we? I’ll keep yours and you’ll keep mine.’ he said.
She looked down, felt the blood rising in her cheeks. Liz had not played the coquette before but he made it simple to work out how to do it without looking foolish.
‘Deal.’ she said.
They went into the pub, found a booth at the back out of the way and he said the steak was good here. She had been looking at the menu, unsure of what to order and she leapt at the chance to delegate the decision to him. Steak sounded great, she said and he smiled at her as the waitress came and took their order.
Liz couldn’t talk about Tom at first. She talked around him, but Joe looked at her, asked questions which opened her up to fill in the gaps since high school.
‘I was married. It didn’t work out.’ she said.
A universe hung between those words.
He sat forwards and picked up his beer.
‘I’m sorry, Liz. I never went down that road.’ he said.
Her hands shook as she wrapped them around the glass and lifted her chin.
‘We’re not smart when it comes to love, are we?’ she said.
He looked down and smiled then reached his hand across the table. She looked at the thick fingers, the dark hairs on the backs of his hands and the thick wrists before she put her hand atop his. The contact was galvanising and he looked into her eyes with a quiet, gentle acceptance which gave speed to her thoughts.
She breathed out and got up from the table, excusing herself with a soft whisper as she went to the bathroom and sat in a cubicle. Liz wanted to take him home, but the flat was a mess and her grooming routine had descended into washing and finding a gentle comfort in toying with the hair as she laid in bed reading. She decided not to announce the fact but telling herself meant she could commit to it without feeling bad about it.
Their food arrived and the conversation grew light as they enjoyed the food. They shared memories of music and film, books and television to paper over the gaps in their mutual experiences. Liz checked her phone for the time and saw it was close to nine o’clock. The time had flown by, and although she should have been sensible, there was a spring to her perceptions which made being around him a good, if impulsive decision.
He turned around outside the restaurant and kissed her. She whimpered as his hands came up to touch her cheek and she placed her hands on his shoulders, then his neck before she pushed him backwards, exhaling with surprise as she stared at him.
‘You can’t come to mine tonight.’ she said.
He chuckled and shook his head.
‘You’re assuming I wanted to.’ he said.
The prickling of anxiety fled at the smile he gave and she kissed him again.
She led him to the river, and they walked, with her arm looped around his, looking for a relative measure of privacy.
Liz heard the caws of contempt from the boys sat on the bench. She tightened her grip on Joe’s arm without meaning to, and he lifted his chin and smiled at them.
‘Evening.’ he said.
They looked away and smiled. Liz saw one of them wink at Joe and she blushed as they walked past. She stopped him when they turned the corner and she kissed him again. He accepted the gift of her appetite without concern before they found a bench and she straddled him.
It started to rain and she drew him close. His hands closed on her backside and she drew back.
‘Joe, do you still feel the same way about my bum?’ she said.
He smiled in the dark and squeezed her underneath his fingers as he pulled her down towards him.
The rain did not wash the past away, but it cleared a path for them both as they reunited, familiar strangers rewriting history as the new day watched from the shadows, eager to begin.
Previous episodes are here.
A surge of electricity had fried everything, cameras and alarms before someone had bust through the door, the locks wrenched like taffy and the cabinets torn open.
A pair of combat revolvers.Four boxes of ammunition.
Pump action shotguns. A bandolier. Eighteen shells.
They had taken the good knives. The fixed blade models and sheaths.
What scared the police and Frank, the owner, was what were these people going to do. Frank was glad the cameras were out because he wasn’t sure he could look at whoever it was and be able to sleep again.
The Editor took off her spectacles and rubbed her eyes. She was drunk with exhaustion, sat in the neat, back bedroom of the Golem’s house. There were multiple forces at work here, two pairs in proximity whilst another moved towards them.
There were bodies around all of them. She saw the information as glowing flecks of red coal scattered like ashes next to the soft flames of their presence. She saw the light of the monsters and the people burned by contact with them. The Golem had arranged for men to connect direct surveillance of the sites, and with a phone call, had police reports available of the pertinent events.
The slaughter in the woods.
A robbery which ended in an assault by something described as a gigantic wolf or bear.
Families brutalised in their homes. Strangulation or blunt force trauma, conducted over a short, vicious space of time.
The Editor had asked for a moment and the Golem had one of his men take her to the room. She had heard his footsteps echo down the hall and laid down on the bed.
The bedroom smelled of fresh polish and citrus, old oak furniture polished until it shone. She sighed as she laid down.
A sleeper agent in another realm, sent into a place which had appalled and enthralled her. The Editor had taken ill, forced to contemplate whether it was the world killing her, or a rejection of the woman she had been before this. She met someone strong with her, did not sit and suffocate her, stayed over but accepted the jagged rhythms of her work and the need for space. She missed him, hating the lies but knowing the cost of candour with him. In bed, at night, she’d sleep with her head on his shoulder, tucked into his arm after they read together.
She ached to tell him about all the additional Hemingway work she knew. The poetry of Hypatia, a female version of Lovecraft which was taught in schools. He was happy with his world, and when he stayed over, watching her laugh and dance, she believed she could be too.
They would kill him if they knew about him. It led her to wonder about the life she wanted, and where.
These thoughts followed her into a thin doze before there was the clatter of alarmed activity and she was on her feet, reaching for her spectacles and opening the door.
Olivia practiced the flex of transformation in the mirror, Amaro’s touch had opened her to an intimacy of flesh which lent itself to a new art.
Cosmetics. She had tightened the flesh along her jawline and given her lips a sensual flushness. Her hair was thicker and longer, and she knew it would lead to hunger pangs but she wanted the experience.
Her work was her priority, she told herself. These abilities were signing bonuses and when she watched Amaro enter the room, she smiled at him in the mirror.
‘Are you ready?’ he said.
She stood up and smoothed down the front of her cream blouse. The glasses were tucked into the front pocket as she turned and smiled.
‘I will head out now and be at their offices by morning.’ she said.
He smiled and walked towards her with open arms.
‘You’re following the money?’ he said.
She nodded and slipped her arms around his lean waist. Amaro was centuries old but his flesh was warm and lean as he held her.
‘My good girl. Do me proud.’
He moved back and looked to the door as she went through. An unpleasant splash of dismissal hit her on the cheek as she went out to the waiting car. She reminded herself such spasms of feeling were unwise here, despite the gifts of her new existence.
They were monsters.
Kelly stroked the fur along his muzzle. His eyes were closed, but he was breathing in deep, even bursts as his chest rose and fell.
‘I need you to wake up, John.’ she said.
She shook him, wondering what she had done here, a single thought forged into a single command, fired from her head like an insult she couldn’t take back. There was a phrase when you coined the perfect comeback after being insulted, in French, l’esprit de l’escalier and it had felt like delivering one of those before the event.
Kelly fought the panic as she heard screams from the house behind her. They had found the boy.
Kelly focused on reading John. She saw the sluggish flow of neurons, the pneumatic pump of his circulatory system and analysed it as an engineering problem. Her fingers knotted in his fur and she pushed a command into him, felt the power of the word flow down into him as it bloomed inside him. A perfect, qlippothic thought which was a phrase she never thought of before, but it fitted as she plucked it from the massive storm of knowledge within herself. Kelly had used it to hurt people, but within her was the capacity to help. To heal.
He opened his eyes and sniffed the air.
Kelly put her hands to her face as she watched him get to his paws by degrees.
He pushed his muzzle against her belly, gave a soft butt into her stomach before he turned and padded away into the shadows of the garden. She walked with him, trembling with anticipation at his reaction when he became a man again.
She had hurt him and been hurt in turn. Kelly followed him, felt the chill of night bite into her skin as they moved back to the grounds. She had climbed the wall with ease before, but now, exhausted and aching, it looked impassable. John barked and lowered his massive shoulders to the ground as she looked at him.
Kelly got it as she climbed onto his back, the raw power of his form pulsing through his bones and muscles with each breath as she dug her fingers into his fur. He stood up, bore her weight without effort as he turned away from the wall to gain some ground. She gripped onto him and closed her eyes as he charged the wall, moving from a trot to a sprint which ended when he pushed off his back legs and leapt into the air. John was the only solid thing beneath her as they left the ground and she fought the dizzying nausea of being airborne before they landed on the ground.
Kelly opened her eyes but kept her fingers dug into his fur as he ran towards the facility.
Adam racked a round into the shotgun as he walked out of the shadows, his hair hung in his face as blue sparks of electricity flashed between his gritted teeth. His skin had become translucent and yellow, visible patterns of veins and musculature in motion with each step he took towards his target.
He looked at the house and smiled at the chance to act according to his purpose. A line from the one of the books he had used to educate himself, back when he was at war with his creator.
“Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light.”
Adam climbed the wall with ease as he sent his consciousness into the electrical grid of the property, overloading it with the force of his will. He shut down the lights and power. There were two of them here, and they had force of arms to protect them.
He lifted the shotgun to his shoulder and watched the movement through the windows.
‘Come out and face me.’ he said.
His voice was a sonorous, booming thing which shook the glass in their frames.
The metallic rasp of weapons being loaded came to him and he smiled as he walked across the lawn.
A door swung open and the muzzle flash drew his attention as the round whipped past his head. He squeezed the trigger and the shotgun boomed as he walked. He heard the thump of a body hitting the floor and he pumped another round without thinking.
Another volley of rounds came through the dark, one took the meat of his right cheek in a spray of blood and skin whilst one buried itself in his shoulder but he fired and heard someone cry out. He shouldered the shotgun and drew the revolvers, brushed his thumbs over the hammers, having tooled them for a lighter action.
Webs of light danced across his ruined cheek, knitted the flesh together with an ugly economy as he saw a shape through the gloom and fired at it.
The bullet to his forehead stopped him, like holding a sneeze and a sick throb of pain went through him as black blood squirted from his nose. He lifted both revolvers and fired, watched the man’s head burst apart before he moved into the house.
Adam brushed the hair from his face as he watched the men point their weapons down the hall at him. He snarled at him, awash with hate and pain, all of it harnessed to his will.
‘Bring them to me.’ he said.
They fired at him, enough to bring him to his knees but he got up and fired both guns as he walked.
A spike of sensation charged through him, as they shot the flesh from his bones but his shots never missed, even when a bullet took out his jaw and it hung from his face before a corona of electricity glued it back on and two men were dead before he smiled again. He slipped the revolvers back into the shoulders and brought up the shotgun, cutting a path with the force of his violence.
There was a flickering light past the men, visible through the air, thick with smoke and bullets as he kept firing.
A fire, waiting to burn him.
She slipped the contact lens in, calm despite the roar of gunfire and the screams of dying men. The Editor brought up a quantum keyboard and started to write a better version of events than this was turning out to be.
He had found them instead, and she focused on crafting the right opening line as the Golem walked out of the room, smoke rising from his skin as he told her to get working. She could work to a deadline, she thought.
Previous episodes are here.
I am just a copy of a copy of a copy
Everything I say has come before
Assembled into something into something into something
I don’t know for certain anymore
I am just a shadow of a shadow of a shadow
Always trying to catch up with myself
I am just an echo of an echo of an echo
Listening to someone’s cry for help
Nine Inch Nails, Copy of A.
‘I thought I’d get to punch more stuff?’
Kelly glanced at John as he attached the adhesive pad to her temple.
‘So does everyone who gets into medicine.’
John frowned as he worked. She reached out and touched his forearm.
‘I feel incredible. For the first time.’ she said.
He ran his tongue over his lips as he lowered his eyelids and put his hand over hers.
‘It feels that way when I turn into a wolf. The pain is part of it but when I was there, I lost control of myself.’
She leaned towards him and kissed him on the mouth. She brushed her lips against his and closed her eyes.
‘So far, John, I know amazing things and terrible things. I have to control it, don’t I?’ she said.
He rested his forehead against hers and sighed.
‘We have to establish baselines. Whatever you spoke to, it’s more than a virus and I want to know what it’s done. Kelly, we have to know why. I need to study you.’ he said.
She kept her eyes closed before she laid back down on the bed and let him attach the other pad as he went over to the laptop on the table and switched on the bluetooth speaker.
‘John. Voice activation is on. I need you to tell me what you’re processing’ he said.
Kelly’s face grew taut with concern as her eyes dampened and he came back to her side.
‘Are you frightened of me?’ she said
He shook his head, his mouth in a tight line as he breathed in through his nostrils and took her hand in both of his.
‘No, I’m frightened for you.’
He typed into the keyboard before he asked Kelly to focus on her breathing.
She felt the pull in the back of her mind. It gained clarity as she reached out, following the shimmering waves of information into the laptop.
Kelly’s head throbbed with a sudden, nauseating roll of sensation, coating the inside of her skull as she drew in the surrounding information. She turned her head to one side, her eyelids sprung open as she stared past John. It was the rough word of God, a galvanic revelation as John watched the data spike on the screen before her lips pulled back over her teeth as she held onto his hand with a mechanical, impossible strength.
Her eyes were all black. Numbers scrolled across them. John looked behind him and saw it was reflecting off the computer screen either. Her hand against his head. A halo of blue electricity formed around his head before it sank into him and his eyes rolled back in his head as he pushed away.
She bucked and thrashed as she tore the electrodes from her head. Kelly’s black eyes, scrolling numbers, looked on everything with a blank, insectile interest as John curled up in a ball. Small red blossoms opened on his skin as she watched him change.
Kelly lifted her hand to her eyes, watched as her pores dotted with black globules of shimmering chitin as it flowed over her like a chill kiss. It hardened into curved plates of blue-black chitin, iridescent where the light struck its surface and when it formed into a perfect, featureless mask over her face, it was cold and dark for a moment before her senses adjusted to her new form. Kelly stretched upwards, tested the new configurations of anatomy before she saw how the man lost beneath the thick, scarred shell which encased him.
She sensed the chemical riot of his transformation but at the edges of her new, brutal consciousness, more interesting prey presented itself to her and she ran from the chamber.
‘Kelly, stop it.’
Kelly looked up at the ceiling. Her arms were loose by her sides as she looked around, followed the trails of information twisting through the air before she strode over to the laptop and placed her palm against the screen. She screeched and lifted her chin as she sucked down the information, the knowledge and let it suffuse her brain.
‘That was interesting.’ the A.I. said.
Kelly screeched and it chuckled through the speaker.
‘I back up every 3 seconds. You’ve got three lines of random code, and whatever you’ve sucked down before. Sit down and wait for this to pass, you’ll regret it otherwise, I know.’
Kelly swiped the laptop off the table and it smashed into the wall, breaking in two as she walked out of the room.
The moonlight glinted off her armour and she squatted as her fingers elongated into razored tips and polyps of material ballooned on the line of her jaw into serrated mandibles which cut the air in rapid swipes as she ran into the night, eager to feed.
Inside the facility, the door sealed shut and the computer screen changed to a series of zeros and ones as the carapace on the floor cracked open, revealing the shimmer of wet fur and glistening white teeth as the beast tore itself free.
The air filtration system emitted a fine, white steam which drifted to the ground and the beast roared as it charged the doors.
Yvonne watched the agents leave. She gripped the mug of coffee with enough force to make the skin over her knuckles white as she kept the door closed to her office and struggled with what she had been told.
The war on terror had come to her part of the country, dressed in something bizarre and terrifying.
This animal was part of a program, she had been told, and the validation of her hunch to call local breeders was bitter as she tried to keep her face still.
This had been a test, deploying one of them in a limited, but dangerous environment to see how the animals acted. The investigation had captured a shipment of canine embryos en route to a post office box in Seattle. Yvonne had sat there, blinking in disbelief as the two agents gave her the story.
She had not believed a word of it but the lie was big enough to make her decide the truth wasn’t always worth pursuing. There were bodies all over the woods and handing it off no longer was a bad idea. She swallowed the lie, having been around too long to know what blowing a whistle cost you.
‘Killer dogs, huh?’ she said.
Yvonne got up and wandered to the door of her office and sighed.
Her phone rang and she answered it. She listened and got her coat on, cursing under her breath as she wondered what the weird thing was now.
For something she decided was not her problem, the universe was pushing to make it hers and the headache came on slow as she drove to the cabin.
Adam charged through the woods. He moved like a missile, following the ugly, grating pulse in his head as he pumped his arms and pushed aside anything in his path.
Something had emerged and the call to act grew impossible to avoid. It was a relief to be stripped of dichotomy, focused on his purpose and running to meet it with open arms.
All to kill it.
His consciousness expanded, searching for the location until his senses were enervated by the contact. His sinuses were packed and he snorted ropes of black ichor down his face as he grinned. They sizzled where they fell to the ground but he kept on running.
Previous episodes are here.
Olivia looked at her hand, fingers splayed, fascinated by what was happening to her. The webbing between her fingers had swollen into translucence, with minute black veins visible beneath the surface. A sharp burst of pain flared in her fingertips as pearlescent needles slid forward, set in beads of black fluid which dripped onto the table. She sighed with pleasure as she lifted her hand for inspection.
‘Excellent, Olivia.’ Amaro said.
‘Now do it again.’
Olivia repeated the process until the tips of her fingers bled. She felt a deep pulsing travel up her forearm as the wounds closed.
‘Will it always hurt?’ she said.
Amaro give a thin smile and nodded.
‘As with all life, Olivia. However, some pain serves a purpose.’ he said.
Olivia ran her tongue along her gums, feeling the small nubs of raised flesh, through which slid the secondary set of teeth, fine black hollow needles which produced a neurotoxin and a vacuum seal to draw out blood. She lived with bursts of fascination about her new anatomy before a fleeting sense of how alien these things were washed over her like crude oil atop an ocean.
‘My experiences beg to differ.’ she said.
Amaro’s lips curved into a smile. Olivia noticed the subtle changes in his physiognomy, how his cheekbones would protrude and recess then the plates of his skull would swell before he caught himself and resumed his normal features.
‘Of the two of us, I have more to say on the matter.’ he said.
Olivia looked into his eyes and held his unflinching gaze.
‘How Old Are You?’ she said.
He brought his hand and covered his mouth as he shook his head and chuckled
‘I will be 340 years old in May, Olivia.’
‘Why are you laughing?’ she said.
He came around the table and stood close to her. She caught the salted piscine musk of him, wondered how far from humanity he was.
Perhaps it was the power, both in his form and wealth which set him apart. She had met with deputy directors, elected officials and although their station afforded them respect, Olivia knew without that station, they were small, crumpled and weak. She looked at him and fought the chill stirring of her interest which ran through her veins.
‘The ages have been dichotomous Olivia. I have been a monster and a god to some, but all I know is my purpose.’
She caught the Spanish accent, the diphthongs which escaped his control which made her smile to herself.
‘Which is what Amaro?’ she said.
He rested his hand atop hers for a moment.
‘In time, Olivia, in time. Now, walk with me.’
Amaro’s long, supple fingers curled around hers and he lifted her hand as she got up. Her breath caught in her throat as she followed him from the room. They left the house through the rear, wandered through the garden and out onto the beach. Olivia raised her nose and struggled against a pleasurable shifting through her body. The smell of the water prompted further changes and when she caught Amaro staring at her, she lifted the black t-shirt over her head and tossed it to the sand. He unbuttoned his shirt without taking his eyes from her, wandering over her high, firm breasts and soft stomach. Olivia had held herself apart from men but her transformation still held surprises. Her nipples hardened when the warm breeze caressed her. Amaro’s physique was a study in definition, sculptured muscles underneath translucent emerald skin as he let the shirt fall and he unbuttoned his trousers. The lack of modesty was reflected as Olivia stepped out of the cotton jogging pants and removed her white cotton panties. They established communications through the sets of laryngeal tissue set in vibrating pads of mucous membranes beneath the gills in their trapezius muscles.
(initiation) (consummation)? He said
(trust) (manipulation) she said.
Amaro stepped towards her and took her hands in both of his.
He led her to the water and she watched his face elongate into something cetacean as his mouth swelled with the additional rows of teeth in his mouth. His eyes blackened but there was an open lust there as she stepped into his arms. The rush of the sea water around her bare, webbed feet was a caress and when Amaro stroked her cheek, she opened her mouth, letting her additional teeth slip forwards as they nuzzled one another, moving into the ocean where she shuddered with an exultant bliss. She surrendered to the liquid, alien wonder of mutation as Amaro lengthened and drew her into the water, reaching for her with cold, elongated fingers which knew the places to draw her pleasure.
They sang to one another under the surface. When the surrounding fish convulsed and turn on one another, Olivia looked and saw the coruscating eddies of photo-electricity, lines of force which penetrated the surrounding space. Amaro pulled her close and she slipped her legs around him as he drove into her with an urgent thrust which was agony and ecstasy in the same instance.
If it was not love, then it was the monstrous equivalent and for Olivia, it was enough.
Kelly watched John as he loaded the dishwasher. She had showered and changed into one of his t shirts and a pair of pyjama bottoms festooned with superman logos, which made her chuckle when she saw them folded on the bed. When she came through, he smiled at her.
‘They look better on you than they did on me.’ he said.
She smiled and walked towards him as he stood up. Kelly enjoyed the difference in height between them. He read her thoughts and reached out, took her in his arms and kissed the top of her head.
‘Thank you.’ she said.
He took in a deep breath and she felt the raw force of him as she pressed her cheek to his collarbone.
‘It’s strange, Kelly.’ he said.
She looked up and watched his face. There were dark circles under his eyes but he smiled and she touched his furred cheek.
‘What is?’ she said
His smile faltered before he put his hand over hers.
‘Not being alone anymore.’ he said.
She kissed him and brought her other hand to his cheek before she drew back and stared into his eyes.
‘I know you didn’t give this John. Please don’t feel bad about it. I’m freaked out enough as it is.’ she said.
He lowered his mouth to hers, but held himself.
‘I wouldn’t hurt you for the world, Kelly.’ he said.
He gave off waves of warmth through his clothing and his hands smoothed down her back.
‘I know, but we have to figure this out, don’t we?’ she said.
He rubbed his nose against hers.
‘We will. I’m interested in the intuition you’re experiencing. Do you feel stronger,?’ she said.
She had not considered it but there were rushes of vitality coming through her in waves, sometimes subtle and involving but in his arms, it was a more primal state of grace which wrapped itself around them.
‘Yes, but it’s the thoughts. I reached into your computer without touching it and it was something I did without thinking.’ she said.
He pressed her to him and they held one another, drawing a deep comfort from the simple reassurance of touch which chased the thoughts away.
He looked into her eyes,
‘Take me to bed.’ she said.
He led her through to his bedroom. There was a full cabinet of books, some worn paperbacks skulking between crisp hardback spines and the floorboards were varnished and warm beneath her bare feet. She looked at the king sized bed with egyptian cotton sheets and sat on the bed.
‘I want to feel your weight on me, John. Everything in my head is floating away and I need you to hold me down until I figure it out. Do you get it?’
John did not have to speak. A flare of insight gave Kelly the biological information of his arousal. The hormones translated into tastes and textures. Testosterone and oxytocin were the soft crush of fruit flesh and wine, the endorphins were clouds of golden butterflies and she sensed the immunoglobulin as wavering globules of light appearing around them.
‘You look so beautiful.’ she said.
He gave a tender smile and looked away for a moment.
‘No one’s told me that before.’ he said.
Kelly watched the subtle shimmer of his vulnerability as a heat haze around him.
‘That you’re beautiful?’ she said.
He sighed and she ran her hands over her shoulders.
‘You are, John. We’ve changed but I still feel human, don’t you?’ she said.
He stood in front of her and she pulled him down onto the bed with her. They were still dressed and it lent an adolescent clumsiness which ended up in a burst of giggles before he slipped his hand inside her pyjama bottoms and ran his fingertips over the curve of her pussy. She tensed up with the delight of it before she softened and nodded to him, her voice lost to the urgency of her need.
‘I feel human around you.’ he said.
She kissed him hard and pushed his bottoms down his thighs before she caressed the taut globes of his backside. A moment’s concern wafted across her forebrain about protection but she looked into his eyes and wanted him inside her with nothing between her.
The virus had chosen them both. Perhaps it had a reason but as she closed her eyes and surrendered to the urge for his substance. It did not chase the thoughts away, but it gave them an alchemical symphonic quality which eased her fears. Kelly could see the means to kill and break, but it was a tool to see how desire manifested through her new senses.
John put his weight on her and moved inside her, slow but determined before she urged him not to hold back. He gained pace and urgency as she grew sodden with each angled thrust of his cock, moving deeper as she opened to him. When she came, with her fingers dug into his back everything went white before he joined her in the moment of pulsing abandon.
Later, as they laid there, Kelly turned on her side and stroked the hair on his chest as she moistened her lips with her tongue.
‘John, we need to test what I can do, don’t you think?’ she said.
He opened his eyes and brushed the hair away from her face as he nodded.
‘Tomorrow.’ he said.
She squeezed him close and rested her head on his chest.
A hive of thoughts hummed in her skull as she laid there, enjoying the strong thump of his heart and the dark musk of sex which hung in the air between them.
‘Would we have gotten together if we hadn’t met the way we did?’ she said.
He stroked her hair. She listened to his heartbeat for a change in pace but his heartbeat remained strong and steady.
‘You were flying over my house. I don’t like to ascribe meaning to horrible things which happen any more than I do to good things. I’m glad we have met, despite everything.’ he said.
She inhaled the smell of his skin before her eyes grew heavy and she drifted off into a slow, deep rest.
Yvonne walked into the station house and stopped when the pair of agents stood up, their faces were expressionless but polite as they identified themselves as Agents Richards and Evans. She hid her nerves well as she led them into her office.
They sat down and she asked one deputy to bring her the files from the store robbery. Agent Evans pushed his spectacles up the bridge of his nose and thanked her.
‘In the interest of cooperation, we hope you’ll be amicable to our help.’
Yvonne chuckled and shook her head.
‘I’ve dealt with stray dogs before but this is some fucked up Lassie shit.’ she said.
She punctuated the balloons of horror which floated through her day with sharp observations, disguised as homespun humour. The pair of agents were a tough crowd, however.
Agent Richards leaned forwards, rested her forearms on her thighs.
‘Yes it is. We had the autopsy report sent over on the way here. Your coroner was a touch precious about it, but we figured we’re all on the same side, sheriff?’ she said.
Yvonne nodded with care.
Whatever the thing was, the coroner had assessed it managed about 1160 psi, enough to bite through the knee joint and amputate the leg in a single bite. Yvonne had looked on the internet and saw it was more powerful than a bengal tiger. She had emailed a few local dog breeders, asked them if they had taken orders or bred anything special but they responded as a chorus of indignation at the suggestion.
Evans smiled and looked at Yvonne with a quiet disdain.
‘The Lassie thing is cute, sheriff, but we’re looking at something which has been used to kill several people in your jurisdiction.’ he said.
Richards, who had the bright insincere smile of the girls who bullied Yvonne through school, shook her head.
‘You must forgive Evans. He takes getting used to.’ she said.
Yvonne hoped she wouldn’t have to but smiled and asked them if they wanted coffee. They agreed and she asked one deputy to go across the street and grab some.
‘As precious as Ray is, he’s recovered some foreign tissue and it’s getting analysed.’
Richards pouted and nodded her approval.
‘That’s good, the sooner we can find him, the better.’ she said.
Yvonne wondered if she misheard her but when she saw the blood creep up Richard’s throat, she realised she had.
‘What do you mean, him?’