From CHAPTER ONE

May 12, 2024

3. JIMMY

Racing 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.

Pausing 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 freaks.

Taking 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.

ď1.......2.......Ē

ďTHERE HE IS!Ē

ďFuck.Ē

The 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.

Good thing I got out.

 

From CHAPTER TWO

May 12, 2024

4. X

Sitting 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.

She 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.

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 wet thump.

I 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.

Fail. Failure. It rings in my head.

 

From CHAPTER TWO

May 12, 2024

5. GORDON

Strapped 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.

When 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.

ďNow listen up, fucker. You vomit on my shoes again, and itís lights out. Got it?Ē

Arms 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.

Heís 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.

ďThis wonít hurt a bit, Gordon. Well, me anyways.Ē

He 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.

As my hearing fades, footsteps enter the room. Lilac.

ďIs he out?Ē

ďOf course, thatíd put a horse under, Marcy.Ē

The 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.

I 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.

ďIíll take care of you after I take care of him.Ē

The microchip isnít working. The chip has failed. Losing my focus. Her hands, her mouth.

 

From CHAPTER FOUR

May 12, 2024

1. JACOB

Turning 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.

The 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 here.

Jumping 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.

The 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.

You 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.

The 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 the shop.

 


 

Richard was the winner of the ChiZine Publications 2009 “Enter the World of Filaria” contest. His short story "Maker of Flight" was chosen by Filaria author Brent Hayward and Bram Stoker Award-Winning editor Brett Alexander Savory. His work is forthcoming or published in Shivers VI (Cemetery Dance), Eternal Night: A Vampire Anthology (Living Dead Press), Murky Depths, 3:AM Magazine, Word Riot, Dogmatika, Cherry Bleeds, Outsider Writers Collective, The Oddville Press, Colored Chalk, Cause and Effect, Gold Dust, Vain, Nefarious Muse, Troubadour 21 and Opium. Richard is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers.

 

“Transubstantiate is, is — it's a visual: that 2001 baby opening its eyes in the monolith, but the monolith is shrouded in this story of loss and hope and identity, and encoded in the cadence of that story, if you listen close, is the genetic map with which to draw this impossible celestial infant, opening its eyes on the page, looking right into you.”
—Stephen Graham Jones
All The Beautiful Sinners, Bleed Into Me: A Book of Stories, Demon Theory, The Ones That Got Away

"Transubstantiate is an intricately-woven dystopian thriller, with every thread pulled tight. This is a solid debut from Richard Thomas."
—Craig Clevenger
The Contortionist's Handbook, Dermaphoria

Check out http://www.transubstantiate.net, http://www.otherworldpublications.com, Barnes and Noble
Richard's Blog: http://www.whatdoesnotkillme.com