down the alley the stench of the garbage is overwhelming. I usually
avoid any sort of enclosed area, especially where the decomposition
is bad but there is no time. A hint of orange light floats down
the dark side street as the sun sets fast across the buildings.
In my jeans and leather jacket I blend into my surroundings. Smoke
covered shells of former apartment buildings squat next to rusted
husks of what used to be cars. When the gas started to run out most
people realized they wanted heat over transportation. And with the
acceleration of the drug dealing most people stayed inside.
at the edge of the chipped brick complex I peek around the corner.
Maybe they moved on. The Blisterheads mustíve found something more
interesting to occupy their simple minds. Itís one thing to shave
your head and spout racist white-power sentiments about anarchy
and revolution. Itís another to pour gasoline over your head and
set yourself on fire. Shaking my head and catching my breath I adjust
the straps on my backpack as they dig into my shoulders. Iím sick
of corned beef hash, but canned goods are canned goods. Sheís waiting
for me and I have to get back. The Magnum revolver is more than
she needs but I always get uneasy when the sun goes down. I canít
confirm all of the rumors but Iíve seen enough weirdness that I
canít just dismiss the stories outright. The Blisterheads are real.
Cranked up on meth and PCP their strength comes from the drugs,
but the radioactivity and other strangeness paired with the hybrid
pills and powders that are floating around have created some unimaginable
a deep breath, I prepare myself for the final leg of todayís journey
back home. I pull the 9mm Glock out of my jacket, and count to three.
thundering of boots echoes down the alley, as Ming and his boys
set their sights on my hide. I fire two shots into the crowd, winging
one thug who spins to the asphalt, and buzzing Mingís skull with
the other. They hesitate, some hitting the ground, some diving into
the overflowing dumpsters. Iím off in a second, my destination known,
my path already planned. Theyíll never catch me. Iíve been charting
the tunnels, the sewers and the buildings that were still structurally
sound for months. I have mountain bikes hidden in front of every
Starbucks. There are motorcycles and compact sports cars stashed
in garages all over downtown St. Louis. Theyíll never get me.
thing I got out.
naked with my legs crossed in the Tindu Hut the toxins rise from
my flesh and evaporate into the air. She is coming and purity is
of the utmost importance. Elbows on knees, palms upturned, eyes
open but focused on a certain spot on the far side of the mud enclosure.
The ancient mandala that has been drawn there with elderberry and
squid ink works an intricate pattern of continuously connected lines,
rotating cubes, and elaborate scrollwork. It defies mathematics
and after gazing upon its wonder for but a moment the walls slip
away, the mosquito sucking at my sweaty thigh disappears, and the
smell of hay and moss fades from my senses until there is nothing
left but the presence of light, and then dark.
is in the room. The cool air rushes over my crimson flesh and as
I materialize in her bedroom apartment she clamors for the door.
She has been ready and waiting but she isnít fast enough. My essence
drifts into her pores and as she runs for the elusive freedom of
the street below, I go with her.
stomach tightens as she holds her breath, flying out the splintered
door and down the steps of the abandoned apartment building. Dust
flies as tears leak from her eyes, wide open to see and yet blind
to the reality. Hands scrape faded wallpaper, searching for purchase.
Boots slam down onto each landing, the nape of her neck vulnerable
and tense. Heat upon her head, and no air, no time. Around and around
the stairs she goes, faster and faster, a high-pitched mewing that
grates across the foyer. Her hands drift over the soiled wooden
handrails. A high-pitched screech surrounds her. It emanates from
her and she doesnít even know it. The panic is a rancid, smothering,
flea-infested blanket. She glances up the open stairwell, but my
darkness blocks the open door that has been her residence of late.
Gusts of cold air seep out the door frame, a mist of steam and fog.
It is too late. Her head spins and the door to the street is in
sight. It is there, it is right there. She canít risk another look
back, but she has to. Back and up, a blur of muscle, sinuous and
shiny in a coat of red, thick and sticky. My form descends the open
stairwell with a grace that is unsettling to the mortals, dropping
down the shaft at a gravity defying slowness, yet faster than she
can move at her best sprint. A violent thud in the foyer, and a
cloud of dust and wetness. She flies out the door, wrists broken
as she crashes into it and flings it wide, a scream erupting from
her lips as she darts out into the daylight and traffic. The blare
of horns, the crash of metal, the crinkle of glass, and her soft
edge towards the open frame, once again on this plane as my spirit
returns to my ravenous hulk. Closing the door gently, my teeth clench
in bemused anguish. The building fades from view, a slow vapor rising
as I return to the jungle.
Failure. It rings in my head.
to a cold metal chair in a grass hut at the edge of the dock is
not the ideal way to come to. The asshole that made me mop up my
own vomit has a large syringe in his hand and itís meant for me.
Zeke, always so melodramatic. That needle could knit an afghan for
a battleship. This will hurt. They want me to forget. Where I came
from, why Iím here, the outside world, the island weíre on. But
I wonít. I made sure of it.
the sentence came down, I started doing research. All part of the
plan. They wanted me in, and I took the job, but it had to look
legit to the cops, the judge. Like a Trojan horse virus I was going
to destroy from within. The implant was the easiest and safest way
to do it.
listen up, fucker. You vomit on my shoes again, and itís lights
out. Got it?Ē
tied behind my back, my shirt on the floor, the room bakes me like
an oven. His eyes run over my sinuous frame. Deceptive, my weight.
Itís all muscle. The surgeries changed my frame, as well as my face.
He doesnít recognize me.
been here too long, that I can tell. Heís reacting to me like a
wolf to a wounded sheep. I could have been a thirty-year-old blond
MILF or an innocent girl scout. It was all about the power, and
the opportunity. I doubt if he could get it up if he tried. They
put potassium nitrate in the chow down here. Saltpeter to us citizens.
Keeps you from getting an erection.
wonít hurt a bit, Gordon. Well, me anyways.Ē
leans over me, drops of sweat splashing onto my bruised chest. He
shoves the needle into my left arm, grinning the whole way. It didnít
hurt until it hit the bone. A deep, sharp stab that makes me wince.
He expects me to pass out, so I do. In theory. The ancient art of
self-meditation, Gong Rhass, the serpent mind. I can slow my heartbeat
to almost nothing, so that I appear dead to the layman. A quick
check of the pulse and nothing. I can stop my heart for up to 12
seconds. This has come in handy on more than one occasion. Waking
up in a body bag is claustrophobic and foul. The key is to get out
before the mortician gets in.
my hearing fades, footsteps enter the room. Lilac.
course, thatíd put a horse under, Marcy.Ē
room shifts from grey to black and I enter the center of my being.
Somewhere in the distance a sea bird caws. A fire is burning, leaves
and sassafras roots. Rain clouds are forming, itíll be here before
dark. His partner stands outside smoking a Marlboro Red. My hands
are pink and starting to swell. The drugs were working, damnit.
hear a zipper go down, and a panic comes over me. Then another zipper,
and the rustling of clothes being pulled off. Faintly, in the distance,
but still audible, she speaks again.
take care of you after I take care of him.Ē
microchip isnít working. The chip has failed. Losing my focus. Her
hands, her mouth.
off the computer, my entry done for the day, I swivel in the chair
and glance around my office. Out the window, clouds drift in the
soft sky and a gleam in my eye says I need to get out of here. Put
a sign on the front door and get some fresh air. Most everyone will
be in the fields working on the harvest. Nobody will wander in looking
for an epic tale today. Filling my skull are the pulsing lapis waves,
the crashing of the ocean against the rock strewn beaches. I can
hear her calling to me and the pull is overwhelming.
bell rings downstairs and I hear the front door fly open, a violent
push and clatter, not the easy entrance of a housewife seeking romance.
Boot steps clomp across the hardwood floor as the rustle and slap
of books falling drifts to my ears. There is a pounding up the stairs,
picture frames falling, the crack and shatter of glass. Theyíre
out of my chair I donít even make it to the door. The room fills
with the black fabric that is the Enforcers. E-Men. The Darkness.
Doesnít matter what you call them. Iíve never seen them in the daylight.
The office goes dim as their presence sucks all the light out of
the room and Iím shoved back inside. Spinning around my hip catches
the corner of the desk and I fall to the floor amid papers and panic.
Not a word. Not a grunt or an accusation. A blur of tightly coiled
muscles lurks under denim and canvas. The uniform is one with their
flesh, not an inch of it exposed, hidden under black studded gloves
and spiked helmets. There are no badge numbers, no introductions
but to pain. They are the same size. Big. Linebackers that move
like ballet dancers, a blur of motion, efficient and precise. They
know what they want and they have no time for emotion or hesitation.
one closest to me grabs me by the shirt collar and pulls my face
up to meet his flying fist. In rapid fire succession I am pummeled
into a daze, blood splattering in all directions, limp defenseless
hands dangling by my sides. Iíve gone from cocky shop owner to a
bag of flesh in the time it took the second one to kick in the closet
door. The cheap wood splinters and is ripped off the hinges, clattering
to the corner, a fraction of its former self. He reaches into the
closet and pulls out the telescope. Holding it up they both pause
for a moment as I whimper in my hazy recline, fading as they finish.
can almost see the grins behind their visors, the subtle glowing
where eyes would have been. And as quickly as that, he snaps it
over his knee, shattering the glass lens, breaking it in two. He
pulls a knapsack out of his pocket, unfolding it in a flurry, snapping
it open. He throws the pieces into the bag, and then reaches back
inside for the stand. He bends the metal frame in half, and half
again, as if it is a paper clip.
whole time his partner is watching, enjoying the show no doubt,
as a pool of blood collects beneath me, my face torn open, lips
split in two. His clenched fist is the only thing keeping me up.
After glancing back at me, he simply releases the cloth, letting
me crumple to the ground. My head smacks the wood with a hollow
thud. The room fades and I pray they will leave me now, to suffer
in the silence and anguish of a man busted in his private addiction,
his deviant joy. Just like that they are gone, the room quiet, not
a sound to be heard. A wheezing drifts to my ears, fighting the
buzzing in my head, a humming all around. It is my own labored breath
and I donít recognize it. Downstairs a gentle jingle as the exit