VERMiN is a novella about madness, suffering and sacrifice. Along with VERMyN, they are two sixths of VERMIN, the sequel to my first novel MAMOTH.
VERMiN too will fuck you.
ZERO: “I do fucking everything in this shit hole…”
Hunched over, pushing his thighs and calves, Rat dragged two lifeless bodies across the sticky sludge of the sewer floor. Blood streamed from their wounds, but left no visible trail in the darkness of MediaNop City’s underground tunnels.
Rat shot the first in the shoulder, sending him down but not dead. “Shit,” he said then spat. The poor boy didn’t need to suffer, he needed to die. For the second one, he aimed for the head, but again missed sending a bullet through its neck instead. He groaned as he hobbled over to the downed bodies. Before they could plead he blew away their skulls. Only after he pulled the trigger did Rat notice the second one was a female.
Their sneakers protruded from underneath his armpits as he dragged them back to the tracks where his rail car was parked. He dropped their legs and leaned against the flatbed, catching his breath before lifting them up one at a time.
At sixty two, Rat was the oldest member of the Elite Force. The Bum Control Division accepted him years ago after he was forced to retire from his position as sergeant. No one wanted the job. Living in the underground and killing all trespassers wasn’t a sought for position, but he took it knowing it was his only chance at continued pay. Separation of heart and mind was the only way to deal and he kept them detached that way as if strangers.
After speeding along the rails, he parked at his processing post, one of the many abandoned stops in the old train system, and pulled the bodies one at a time off the cart. Brain matter leaked as what was left of their heads clinked against each stair up. He sighed and huffed with the fatigue of the effort and dropped their legs once he pulled them on to the landing. Stumbling over to his table of processing utensils, he exaggerated every move of his muscles as if for sympathy from an absent audience. He made sure to remove his night vision goggles before flicking on the overhead lights.
The knives dulled long ago, but it didn’t matter. A butter knife could separate skin with enough determination, so rusted butcher knives caked with years of dried blood worked just as well. He selected the sharpest and placed it on his work bench before lifting the male to the table.
Rat removed its shoes and then socks. He took off the rest of its clothes until it was completely naked. He pierced the skin first at the neck and then ran the blade down over the sternum, slicing through the belly button and stopping right at the base of the penis. Here, he grabbed the whole thing and stabbed it off, throwing it then over his shoulder to a dark corner where the vermin loudly wrestled for it. He continued, making lines down the legs and arms and once the proper incisions were created, he picked up a hacksaw from the crunchy floor.
The collected blood was like a scab below him that stretched out from beneath his processing table. He sliced through the wrists and then ankles letting the feet and hands fall to the ground. They bounced and rolled dumbly like oval balls and he kicked them over to the corner where the rustling creatures accelerated their feed frenzy.
Rat pulled its neck taut as he sliced through it. Blood dripped from the wound, most of it having drained through its open skull, and he tossed it into a sink. It would have his attention later.
With the body prepped, Rat set down his saw and dug his bare fingers into the incision. The skin leaving the flesh sounded like a wet roll of tape being pulled apart. It separated easily except for a few instances where his knife was necessary. Once the body was only a pile of flesh, tissue and bone, he carried the sheets of skin over to a taught line running from wall to wall behind him. Here, he draped the human sheet over to drip dry.
Just as he bent down to pick up the girl he made out the flash and buzz of his Bum Control Alert device. He paused, hunched over, as he waited to hear it again and once he did, he threw up his arms on the way to the sink.
“Son of a bitch,” he grumbled. “Stupid fucking cocksuckers can’t give me a single fucking second to get my shit done.”
He turned on the water that came out a dark orange, splashing over the severed head of the boy. It removed the blood on his hands and the obscenities continued.
“And not one fucking ounce of help. I do fucking everything in this shit hole,” he said as he took his time down the stairs. He opened the door of his rail car and picked up his BCA. The screen flashed red and he tapped it to reveal a map of the MediaNop underground. A green dot showed his location and, almost touching it, a red X flashed. The realization hit and he looked up to see a silhouette in the tunnel ahead. He threw the BCA back to the seat, pulled out his rifle and took a knee.
The light from his station put him at a disadvantage. He couldn’t tell which way the trespasser was moving. With rifle raised, he shot once. Nothing. He squeezed the trigger for the next. A yelp of pain came and Rat smiled.
He kept quiet on the approach. He could hear its deep gasping breaths. The silhouette again became visible as it rose.
“Stop!” it pleaded. “Herbert! Herbert Hubert!”
Rat shot again and the silhouette dropped. The shot didn’t phase it though because just a second passed before it pushed itself back up on to all fours.
“You have to trust me! You have to help! I have to find Herbert Hubert!”
Rat put the nozzle right to the back of its head and said nothing before pulling the trigger.
“Piece of shit,” said Rat as he dug into his pockets. The rest of his ammo was in the car so he kicked it to its back and stepped onto its neck.
“Please! Gundry told us to find Herbert Hubert!” it yelled as Rat began to pound the butt of his rifle into its skull. He missed the first few, just grazing the sides of its head, but stilled it by leaning in with all his weight onto its Adam’s apple.
Suddenly, Rat was in collision. Something from the darkness. He landed on his back and the thing on top of him spread his limbs at his wrists and ankles.
Rat didn’t resist. A throb in his head pulsed. Feet gathered around him.
His sight focused and he saw the person on top of him was naked. It was a teenager, dumb in the face with a collar around its neck.
Rat groaned. A baby was crying. Children were sniffling. Someone spat.
“Fuck,” Rat said. He squeezed his eyes with the shit storm he knew he just inherited.
Gundry, he thought, you asshole.
“I’m Herbert Hubert,” said Rat, “and you’re the RadiCons.”
He lit his pipe once the Dog-E-Tard was off him and took his time before even standing up.
Son of a bitch, thought Rat. I do fucking everything in this shit hole.
Sleep, thought Isaac and it was the best thought he’d had since the killing started.
He did everything he could to stay alive. He was good at staying alive, but it was the keeping others alive too that was the problem. A teen, a kid, a toddler, a baby and a Dog-E-Tard all led by him. All with their lives and futures balanced on his slouched shoulders. He knew it was inevitable. No one fights MediaNop City and gets away clean. They were all going to suffer and if he ever woke up, he knew that he above all would receive the worst of punishments.
Sleep. The word rolled over and over in his head as he felt his bleeding body being dragged against the slimy brick sewer floor before unconsciousness took him. It had been at least 48 hours since he’d really slept. They stayed under a bridge along MediaNop’s south flowing river, the six of them tucked inside where the metal planks met the concrete supports. Isaac sat guard as the five others slept and he waited until just before the sun rose to wake them to make their next move.
With the Elite Force hunting them, the only safe place if there was one was out of the city. There was no way to get there unseen, unless Isaac did what he swore he never would. With the only remaining free RadiCons in tow, he led them down through what he hoped was a less sure sentence of death.
The abandoned MediaNop subway was patrolled by the Elite Force’s Bum Control Division. Not many people even knew it existed, but the sewer lids were unmistakably marked with the words ‘Trespassers Killed’ engraved into the metal pattern. The sidewalk entrances were cemented over leaving not a trace of what used to be below.
It was after high school that Isaac moved to MediaNop and by then the subway was already sealed. When he was still attempting to make friends, having moved to MediaNop without any, he asked around and found soon that the MediaNop underground was something no one could agree on. Some claimed they shut it down because of the rats evolving in to the size of dogs. Others claimed it was to be remodeled, but construction stopped when funding ran dry. Some thought it was a security issue, that MediaNop got rid of it to stop a potential terrorist attack.
The most absurd came from Grammy, the mother of the now dead RadiCon Gweniviere. “It’s haunted,” she told him once while making him a sandwich on rye bread. “Too many people die down there for it not to be.”
This whole city is haunted then, Isaac thought. MediaNop Tower and the Global Gladiators Stadium especially. And if that’s true, the RadiCons are haunting them now too.
But Isaac didn’t believe in ghosts because if they did exist then they didn’t care enough to let him know they did.
Isaac was born in East Luminot where the headquarters for The One True Church were stationed. His father was a deacon, his mother a saint, and he was a choir boy since before he could remember. He wore the white robe with the red sash that hung around his neck and down to his knees. He sang every Sunday morning and night. He practiced three times a week and attended special one-on-one vocal training sessions with the big man himself.
Pastor Scott was tall and tan. His forearms were abnormally hairy and his thin nose stuck out far from his orange U-shaped facial hair. His head was bald on top with a ring of white hair around the freckled center. His teeth were white as well and he wore glasses that made his eyes seem smaller than they actually were.
It was Pastor Scott that gave the blessing for his family to put Isaac on medication, something The One True Church usually frowned upon.
Learning how to swallow the small purple pill was one of Isaac’s earliest memories. The night terrors were the first.
In the morning he always pretended like he didn’t remember them, but that was only half true. The terror always started with an ocean. Not that he was in the ocean or even above it, but that the ocean was all there was, weighing so much, being so much that nothing else existed. Then the horizon would rise and all around him were walls of water until he was completely encapsulated, claustrophobia rising within him until it shook him by the nerves. The orb of air pulsed as the ocean pushed in and once it took him, swallowing him on all sides, the choking began. The water forced its way into his mouth and blinded him with its darkness. His temples compressed under the pressure. It swarmed around him, groping his naked skin and twisting his muscles. The force of water kept his jaw stretched open as a continuous stream jammed past his uvula and into his throat. Salty liquid burst from his nostrils. Only once the pain reached its worse did he submit his will to it and only then would the dream end.
But he wouldn’t wake up, not completely. From there he would get out of his bed, crying, stumbling and mouthing nonsense. He was there the whole time and remembered it all, but his body was not under his control. His mouth and limbs moved, his eyes flowed, and he thrashed his way to his parents room where his mother would hug him tight to stop his flailing and his father would stand with his arms crossed, observing his son’s odd behavior analytically.
It happened three times before his parents consulted Pastor Scott. His mother was convinced it was a demon. His father was convinced his boy just wanted attention. Pastor Scott was convinced the Lord wanted the boy drugged and so he was and it worked.
Isaac took one purple pill each night before bed. It took care of the night terrors by stopping the dreams all together. Through his school years and even after, the pills kept sleep easy. Without them, he couldn’t sleep at all. He had tried to go without them, figuring sleep would eventually come, but just as his body settled he would be jerked out of relaxation, wide awake though deathly tired.
For the first time since the night terrors, Isaac had finally settled into unconsciousness with the aid of fatigue, lost blood and a concussion. There were no dreams and he woke up strapped to a table when fingers opened one of his eyelids. He tried to move his head, but it too was secured.
“Don’t move,” he heard and Isaac looked around frantically. “Stop it. Keep your eye still. You’re really going to want me to get this right.”
Isaac opened his mouth to yell, but a roll of leather was shoved between his teeth.
Then he saw the needle.
“Look right at the tip. Injection on three. One…”
Isaac tried to push the sweaty tasting leather out of his mouth but it was stuck behind his teeth.
He stared at the tip as it lowered toward him recognizing it as a syringe. All his muscles went taut and he pushed with all his might outward until his eye became blind with the puncture at his pupil. The metallic point went deep into the middle of his eyeball and his throat lurched to hold his sickness.
“There we go,” said Rat. He depressed the back of the needle and an ice cold fluid flooded the inside of Isaac’s eye.
Rat pulled it back, but there was no relief as he closed Isaac’s eyelid with his dirty fingers. He held the skin shut until he secured it with tape in an X shape.
“Good,” said Rat.
Isaac’s heart thumped desperately. His nostrils flared with each inhale and exhale. His hands were fists and his toes curled in the musty air. He only then sensed he was naked as the fingers pulled apart his other eyelid.
“One more and you’re done,” said Rat and before the horror repeated, Isaac felt the liquid, so cold it burned, traveling through his face. Rat didn’t count for the second shot and by the time his other eye was filled with ice too, the other injection had traveled to the middle of his brain, turning the spot behind the middle of his eyebrows into a molten orb. “Pay attention. You’re going to want to remember this.”
The words were hardly there and by the time the needle left his second eye, tape crossed in an X over his eyelid, the heat in the middle of his head was spreading. He pictured his entire brain melting and then bubbling up through his nose and out of his ears.
It was then that Isaac dreamt his first dream in almost twenty years.
x x x x x x
Darkness everywhere. He felt he was not alone before he heard it and the lights flickered on, never settling out of their erratic strobe-like vibration after.
The man sat on the prison bench with his face turned away to the corner. His body rocked and his arms were secured across him in a white binding straightjacket. Wild long hair on his head and face was stained with grey. His body accelerated its shakes until he stopped abruptly, his posture erect as if suddenly possessed.
Then the bugs came.
Roaches swirled from dark cracks. Spiders rose and lowered from invisible strings. Ants climbed the walls in spirals. Cicadas rose from beneath the tiles and moths fluttered from wall to wall.
“You must remove them,” the bound man said. His voice was rough as if his throat was lined with scabs. “You must, but you will not. You want to see, but will not with their crutch. Sacrifice is the only way to salvation.”
Isaac was frozen, his legs weak, his mouth muddy and numb.
“Your eyes are your enemies and you must remove them in order to truly see. Truth is only visible with the eye of your mind.” Around them, the bugs accelerated until the room was saturated with movement. “Your inaction will kill thousands, but your actions can save millions. Your optical perception is cursed with sickness and the only cure is in its abandonment. The foundation of clarity is at your fingertips. Break the cycle and set us free!”
The rush of insects came to a stark standstill. Slowly, the bushy head of the bound man turned up to Isaac. Ghastly open space and shadow filled the man’s empty eye sockets. A shutter of shock tried to floor Isaac but his bones couldn’t even quiver.
The man had Isaac’s face. The nose, the mouth; it was unmistakable. He saw through the mask of graying hair and missing eyes. This person was him, but older and terrifyingly insane.
And then a wrinkle, barely unexposed by the hair on the bound man’s forehead, moved. It deepened and widened as it stretched across. The crevice severed and as it opened, white glossy membrane appeared. Isaac recognized it immediately as an eye. It was without pupil and once opened to its fullest, it glowed vibrant neon yellow light. The color hypnotized him and his equilibrium shuttered as his insides spun away under the sick influence.
Before he collapsed, the man’s voice changed to a deep impossible tone. “The death of thousands will incite the birth of the godchild and in His death will come the wrath of the apocalypse.”
The walls shook with explosions from overhead. Dust fell from cracks in the ceiling. The insects scampered off from their stillness to hide within the cracks and under the tiles.
“Be not afraid,” spoke the otherworldly voice. “Surrender yourself in blind faith so that the good in you may not extinguish.”
The shaking of the world broke Isaac from stillness and he crumpled to the ground. The bound man stood and kicked Isaac over, placing a foot on the middle of his chest. He lowered his face to Isaac and the third eye’s bright yellow light became all that Isaac could see.
The last he heard was the terrible voice, clear and guttural: “Cycles enslave us, but tangents will save us.”
Isaac woke up. Pain clenched his injured body the moment he stirred. His abdominal muscles cringed and he rolled to his shoulder for relief, but was met with only more discomfort. Turning over to his other side, he saw Jacob. They connected eyes and Jacob lowered a large bottle of dark liquid that showed its sting by the bite in his twisted expression.
“I dreamed,” spoke Isaac fighting just to get the words out clearly. Memories came back to him and he checked his eyes with his fingers. No tape though a sharp pain lingered behind them.
“You’ve been asleep for like…days.” He took another chug and then offered it to Isaac who waved it away.
“I never dream,” he said. “My medicine-“
“Yeah, I know. Sorry. I threw it in the river.” There was silence and Isaac pushed up to a seated position off the side of the table.
Isaac couldn’t blame him. The teen watched his twin brother get hung and then set on fire by Elite Force Sheriff Gerald Fox off the top of a building before dropping ten stories to the ground. He remembered the sound. The crash of metal as he hit fire escapes on the way down and then the far away splat of his body’s final end.
“Where are the kids?”
“With Rat,” said Jacob. “The guy that shot you. He’s taking care of us now.”
Isaac dropped his head and took a deep breath in before he stepped off to the ground. It wobbled beneath him and his hand caught the table to stop himself from tipping. His vision fuzzed into black and he closed his eyes to wait for it to pass.
“There’s food down at the next station. He needed you here to operate.”
“I have to pee,” said Isaac as his mind and vision cleared. He walked over to a dark corner, unzipped and relaxed to let the stream come. The yellow line splashed into the grime caked floor creating a crawling puddle. Beside it, a mound of insects moved like TV static. Their bodies hid the source they crowded around and Isaac stared intently at the still yet moving mass.
They’re eating, he thought. Something once alive being picked clean by robotic organisms of decomposition. By shape, he imagined it a foot, but ended urinating and gave it no more attention.
Jacob operated the rail car down the track to the others. The start and stop pulled at Isaac’s wounds, but he suffered the pain alone, content with being alive.
Out of the car, Isaac took each step slowly up to the transformed subway station. Mattresses, ratty and tattered without sheets, rowed the floor. Plywood walls covered spaces that hid blocked entrances to the surface. A tri-monitor computer system with speakers rested on the floor and multiple oddly arranged keyboards sat inoperable in shadow. Jacob walked out ahead to the semi-circle couch where the TV lights reflected off its viewers faces.
On the rug in front of the television, the baby laid on its back, cooing and giggling at the face of Mr. Sparkles as the Dog-E-Tard hovered over it on all fours, moving up and down, making sounds and contorting his face into universally humorous expressions. On either side of Rat, Janice and Gregory were sitting as close to him as possible with eyes big and focused on the active images. Isaac took a seat on the end and no one noticed. Jacob came back with a bowl of steaming broth. Unidentifiable grey masses bobbed in the thick brown liquid.
“It’s good,” said Gregory without turning his eyes.
Well, if they’re eating it…thought Isaac. The taste was grabbing and required a second of acceptance before he could continue, but the calming of his crippled stomach turned the flavor into a nonissue. He drank down the final bits and stopped himself from asking for more.
On the television, Captain Kill was talking to the screen as if it was his victim. “Lights out!” he yelled at the top of his lungs, drool spattering from his cartoon teeth and blood running down his yellow face. He raised an army knife and plunged the long serrated blade into the camera’s lens. Red blood filled the cracked screen as the credits rolled.
“What time is it?” asked Isaac.
“10:30,” responded Gregory without hesitation from a watch Isaac had never seen before.
“Shouldn’t you guys maybe get to bed?” he asked and looked up to Rat.
Everyone beside him burst into a laugh.
“AM!” said Gregory.
“Well, um, Rat, could I talk to you?”
“No, here’s fine.”
“But the kids-“
“The kids already know everything you’re going to ask. You’ve missed a lot.”
A frustrated pause caught Isaac’s words.
“We can’t stay here,” he blurted out. “We’re all very thankful for your help, but they’ll be looking for us soon. We have to get out of the city.”
“No,” said Gregory with his full attention now away from the TV. “We have to stay. That’s what Gundry wants. Us to stay with Rat until he and Momma get here.” Sickness secreted itself and Isaac could only hold his stomach. The poor kid had no idea Gundry was dead.
“You’re safest here,” said Rat as he removed a pipe from his jacket and began to pack it with stringy pouch tobacco. “Gundry told me I was to look after the kids. I’m the only one that can keep them safe. There’s no doubt in my mind that if you leave here, you’ll be caught and they’ll find out where they are. Can’t risk it. Too dangerous.”
“Coming from the man who shot me. Twice.”
“It was an accident,” said Janice, now paying attention as well.
“And my eyes!” yelled Isaac.
Mr. Sparkles made a confused pout and the baby was silent. Janice and Gregory stared and Jacob chugged from his bottle.
He leaned in close to Rat and whispered threateningly, “What the fuck did you do to my eyes?”
“Fixed them. And I took the bullets out. You know my job, what I have to do, so just be glad I recognized you before I finished it.”
Off to the side listening, Jacob took an oversized gulp from the bottle and failed at stifling a coughing fit. “Wrong pipe,” he said wiping the stinging liquid from his lips.
“Take it easy on that,” scolded Isaac. “It’s the morning. Why the hell are you drinking?”
Jacob raised an eyebrow, but Rat answered for him.
“If I were you I’d worry about myself. You still have a lot of healing to do.”
Isaac felt the anger rise inside him and it tensed his body, agitating the holes in his shoulder and side.
“Even if I did let you go, you wouldn’t get far. Everyone in the country is looking for you now.”
Isaac looked down and sat on the couch. Every option in his mind slipped away one at a time into impossibility.
“It’s okay,” said Gregory. He patted Isaac’s knee. “They’re looking for us too.”
“So what then? We just wait here? How long can that last?”
“As long as it takes to blow over,” said Rat. He lit his pipe and stared blankly. The eyes behind his glasses were plain and unconcerned.
“What day is it?”
“Saturday,” said Gregory who grabbed the remote and flipped channels to avoid commercials. Rat stood and disappeared into a dark hall behind them as Gregory landed on an episode of Elite Force: Brutality Edition.
Sheriff Gerald Fox spoke into a bloodied and swollen black face. The man’s eyes squeezed tears and his sobbing mouth drooled. “Thought you’d get away with it didn’t you? Tell the camera how old she was kiddy-fucker!”
“Change the channel,” said Isaac.
Jacob walked behind the couch. He wobbled as he tried to focus and snarled as he forced another swig.
“Rat said we can watch whatever we want,” said Gregory.
Janice scooted in next to Isaac and interlaced her fingers in his.
“No, you can’t. This is not for you.” He tried to swipe the remote, but Gregory squirmed away.
On the screen, Gerald yelled, “It’s time I showed this worthless molesting piece of shit rapist what it’s like to be forced against your will.”
“I’m going to kill him,” said Jacob through a slur.
“Gregory, seriously, nobody wants to see this.”
“I want to see it,” said Gregory.
Mr. Sparkles turned his head up to the conflict as the whimpering head on TV was turned to face the car window.
“We’re watching it,” said Jacob as he stumbled into the back of the couch. “Watch the evil shit-bastard.”
“I don’t get it. What’d he do?” asked Gregory.
The man’s face was clenched in agony with Gerald’s palm gripping the back of his bald head. Snot ran into his mouth and bubbles came out instead of words.
“Nothing,” said Isaac.
“The Sheriff is a murderer and I’m going to fucking kill him for it.”
Janice squeezed Isaac’s hand as blood flew on the television screen and the bald misshapen head of the Dog-E-Tard rose between them.
“Mr. Sparkles!” yelled Gregory. His pet turned happily, tongue hanging with drool, still blocking the screen. “Sit!”
Mr. Sparkles obeyed and sat waiting for his next direction as Rat came back into the room.
“Here,” said Rat. A black film case rattled as it landed on Isaac’s lap. “You’ll need those for when the pain comes back.”
Isaac took his hand from Janice and opened the top. He tapped one into his palm. It was a green square shaped pill with an X imprinted on its surface.
“What are they?”
“I know that,” snapped Isaac as he checked for a label on the blank canister. “What do they do? I’m already on medication.”
“Good. That’s what these are for.”
“I thought you said they were for pain?”
Gerald Fox ran the face on the television in and out of the shattered window. Blood ran down the criminal’s face in patchy stripes and then Gerald gripped the back of his victim’s neck. He leaned on it with the other hand on his hip and crossed his foot to balance, pushing the man’s throat into the jagged glass.
“The legal age of consent is 14, folks. Anyone having any kind of sexual relations with anyone 13 years old or younger is breaking the law.”
Blood gushed from the sides of the victim’s neck as he squealed and choked.
“What did he do?” asked Gregory to Rat.
Isaac wasn’t paying attention. The terrible dreams were too real. He without eyes was all his mind could see. Against his better judgment, he swallowed the green square and felt the edges the whole way down.
“Gregory,” said Rat before he paused to suck in from the pipe and inhale, “that man treated someone your age as if they were someone older. You don’t understand certain things about life and your body right now. Sometimes older people can be sick in the brain and do bad things with younger people’s private parts.”
“You mean sex,” said Gregory and Janice laughed.
“Yes, but sex isn’t good until you’re older.”
“Sex is gross,” said Gregory with a scowl. “Do you like sex Isaac?”
Isaac’s stomach turned and he grabbed it, sending a shock of sharp pain to his shoulder. “I don’t know,” he said, squeezing his eyes to block the sting, but only creating a new one inside them.
Janice and Gregory laughed, making it a chain reaction, infecting the baby, Mr. Sparkles who laughed like a seal and lastly Jacob, more laughing at the Dog-E-Tard than anything else.
“Hey, it’s you!” said Gregory. Everyone went silent, staring at the photo of Isaac on the television.
It was his license photo from years ago and he couldn’t help but smile, though even that hurt to do.
His hair was wild, hanging up and out in every direction. It was so big that all of it didn’t fit in frame. His beard was big too, though he remembered wishing he was able to grow it out longer. He did it to be funny and cut his hair right after down to a buzz the way it was now.
His photo shrunk and moved to the top corner of the screen beside the orange and wrinkly skinned news anchor Jeff Randall. “The Elite Force is calling on the citizens of MediaNop to assist in capturing this dangerous fugitive. Isaac is believed to be hiding within MediaNop City with three small children and the famed Dog-E-Tard Mr. Sparkles. The Elite Force is actively searching for their whereabouts with heightened security around the city. Syd Sylver has stressed the importance of apprehending this dangerous child molesting terrorist as soon as possible.”
“What?” Isaac leaned forward and pushed Mr. Sparkles’ head down.
“Now we go to the mother of these poor children, Cashmere Sticky, the brainwashed victim of the RadiCons that allowed her children to be used and abused by her sick captors while under their manipulative influence.”
As Miriam, better known by MediaNop as Cashmere Sticky, the mother of Gregory, Janice and the baby, came up on screen, the kids yelled, “Mommy!” in unison and Isaac was too stunned to change the channel.
“Isaac is evil,” she said through glazed eyes. “Please find my children. Please stop him. Bring my children back to me. Save them from him.” She spoke earnestly and even Isaac thought she might actually believe the lies she said.
“What about me?” Jacob asked the television. “What lies you got for me you piece of shit?” He upended the bottle over his mouth and then wound up, almost tripping as he pitched the bottle at the television. He missed and it sailed over to burst into pieces against the subway tracks.
The television went black and Rat clapped his hands twice after putting the remote in his pocket. “Alright kids. Enough television. Go get your story books.”
Gregory obeyed and Jacob stumbled over to a mattress to collapse. “I miss my mommy,” said Janice and Isaac watched as her cheery face slowly disintegrated into despair. Before he could make a move to help, Mr. Sparkles scooped up the baby in one arm and took Janice in to his other. She sobbed into his neck as he sat cross legged and the baby began to cry as well. Tears formed and dropped down the Dog-E-Tard’s face too though he made no sound.
“I want to show you around,” said Rat. “You’re going to be here a while.”
“Yeah,” said Isaac as he followed Rat in a daze. This was worse than being killed, worse than torture. Everyone he ever knew would think he was a child molester. Not only would he die and be tortured, but now even his name and everything he thought he stood for in life was tainted. The world would forever know him as the worst kind of criminal possible.
Through a curtain, Isaac followed Rat down a pitch black hallway. As the curtain closed behind them his eyes became useless.
“Those were lies?” asked Rat.
“From Miriam. She’s lying about you?”
“Of course. Yes. Definitely. They must have made her.”
A door opened under a jingle of keys and Rat flipped a switch. Bright fluorescent lighting brought pain to Isaac’s eyes. Once he could open them again, he noticed there was tile at his feet and mirrors at his side. Exposed pipes stuck out of the floor and walls.
Rat pulled out a mattress from beneath the counter where the sinks were cracked and disconnected. “You have to stay in here for the sound.” He kicked the mattress and multiple generations of roaches scattered away from the inside. “We can’t have you scaring the children.” He picked up a dead stiff rodent from a corner, held it by the tail and raised it to Isaac. “No matter how hungry you get, don’t eat these.”
Isaac backed away. “What are you talking about?” he asked, but as the words came out, slurred and difficult, his question was answered. He wobbled finding his feet unsure and difficult. “What did you…”
Rat grabbed Isaac’s elbow and helped him over to the mattress. When he let go, Isaac fell, unable to keep his heavy head up.
“Don’t worry,” said Rat as he pinched tobacco from his pouch and thumbed it into the bowl of his pipe. “You’re probably not going to die, but you’ll feel like you will.”
Isaac’s head pushed into the brown stained material. Drool piddled out of his mouth and his eyelids closed on their own.
“You’ll only be conscious for another minute so listen to what I’m about to say.” He lit his pipe. “Your body will have to adjust to the medicine. The best way to do that is to cooperate.”
“Don’t try and talk. Just give into it. The more agreeable you are the easier this will be. If you fight it…”
Rat trailed off as Isaac fell completely into the medicine’s grip. He bent down and grunted as he moved Isaac to his back.
“Sweet dreams,” said Rat. “And good luck.”
He closed the door and locked it from the outside as the medicine paralyzed Isaac’s body and began the transformation.
The sounds came first. Clinks of metal versus rock in random and frantic succession. Cracks of leather and yelps and grunts. Marching, shouting and screaming. Gunshots harangued, only momentarily blotting out the chopping mumble of hooves. He felt the ground pulse beneath him with explosions in the distance and opened his eyes to the city.
Floating above it all, he saw both from close and a distance simultaneously, his body was inexistent and his vision was never clearer. The skyscraper skyline was overlapped by amazing pyramids, gothic castles and spires on cathedrals. The cloudless sky was full with rain, snow and sleet. It ignited in lightning and rays of sun. Fighter jets tore through amidst blimps and hot air balloons. Kamikaze planes aimed for battleships swimming through concrete streets. Commercial airplanes disappeared into skyscrapers, their jet fuel erupted a never ending volcanic spurt.
All the while, black skinned slaves were whipped by white skinned owners. Brown skinned men sacrificed more brown skinned men. Women were burning on stakes. Elaborately dressed men on horseback shot down loin clothed men with spears. Bombs exploded everywhere, melting people, taking off entire sides of buildings. Chain gangs banged away at boulders. Barbarians axed people into parts, killing children and tying women’s hands. Piles of emaciated bodies were dumped by bulldozers into a hole. The sound of champagne glasses clinking mixed with the sound of bodies splattering against the pavement.
And then from far away, a single bus-sized missile grew from the horizon. Its approach was steady and slow until it was finally completely in view. On the side, hand painted, were the words, ‘PEACEMAKER’.
It dropped and landed on them all. Doctors pulling fetus’ with cracked skulls from between shaved legs. Men behind bars raping men behind bars. Rows of people bent over guillotines. Rows of people standing on trap doors with nooses around their necks. Rows of people strapped to chairs sizzling under never ending electrical currents. People strapped to gurneys getting injected against their will. People strapping their arms with belts to inject themselves. Children with guns. Babies in microwaves. Fashion models on catwalks. Boardroom meetings with laser pointers, projected graphs and tables. Men yelling with pieces of paper raised over their heads. Men yelling with signs raised over their heads.
From near or far, micro or macro, Isaac realized it was all just fungus. All just a growth. All just bacteria eating its innocent host.
White light took everything.
The omnipotent avalanche of yellow was a sun on earth that bathed him in its violent vibration.
The mushroom cloud left nothing standing. All buildings crumbled. All people died if not already dead. Life within the cloud’s wake became death. Mass movement became an abrupt stillness and in amazement, Isaac watched the all encompassing apocalypse.
Within him, his beyond body self, he felt the death toll rocket fast in a rush of extreme misery, but as the dead extinguished, overlapped atop them, the living continued to kill. Those that died were dead yet their premonitions repeated in cycles what they once did best. They murdered, maimed, enslaved, raped, terrorized. They created to destroy and destroyed to control.
The cloud eventually cleared and it was as if it were never there at all. Mankind’s history recycled itself over and over, all at the same time. Being born, killing, being killed. Being born, killing, being killed. Being born, killing, being killed.
x x x x x x
Isaac woke up with his eyes already open. His head throbbed as if a pulsing tumor flexed against his brain. His eyes ached and he pushed hard with his lids over their dry surface, seemingly scratching them. He tried to bring his hands to them, but his body was weak and he could only quiver, laying flat on his back.
The pain was like sandpaper scraping over his delicate tissue. He couldn’t keep them closed and his muscles instinctually pulled back their lids, tearing again. The white strips of light burned at him. Minutes passed before he could move his eyes freely. His body slowly became unfrozen, starting at his core and spreading to his extremities.
More time passed. How long have I been awake? he thought before a more pertinent question struck him. How long have I been asleep?
And then the dreams came in floods. So many and for so long, it could be days, weeks even. Were the kids still safe? Had Rat turned them in? What of Jacob? Mr. Sparkles? What about me?
He could hear fine. The electric buzzing of the lights. The rustle of bugs, crawling and flapping around them, right above him. Then footsteps. A door opened and the steps were at his feet. He heard the familiar huffing and puffing of the old man responsible for this insane daze and dreams.
Isaac attempted to move the muscles of his mouth to speak. Nothing but slurred syllables found the air. Unintelligible vowels and consonants scrambled like eggs into incomprehensible and formless blobs of sound.
And right after Isaac smelled him, the sweaty funk carried with his reeking pipe tobacco breath, the upside down face of Rat came into view.
“How was it?” asked the inverted lips fuming tobacco breath. Isaac forced a small urgent groan and Rat laughed. “Enlightening I’m sure.”
He felt his body lift from beneath his armpits. Rat grunted with the exertion and suddenly Isaac was sitting. His neck fell and his head was caught and then strapped back at the headrest with a belt over his forehead. Wheels creaked rusty and Isaac was moving. The bathroom tile clicked until they exited into the hall of darkness. Ahead, a sheet covered light that glowed through the holes dimly and then bright in shards at the edges.
This is it, thought Isaac. This is where he turns me over. Where I’m imprisoned as a criminal. A pedophile. A terrorist. Definitely tortured and eventually killed. This is where my life ends. As a terrorist. As a child molester. Hated by everyone.
Rat pushed him right into the sheet which glided from his knees up to his eyes.
And it was nothing like he expected.
A blackboard dashed all over with words and numbers, diagrams, pictures and graphs faced two desks and Isaac could see right away it was Gregory and Janice. On the carpet beside the TV, Mr. Sparkles cradled the diapered baby who sucked from a bottle. It took a moment for Isaac to recognize the Dog-E-Tard. He’d never seen him in clothes before and though it should have, it didn’t make sense. Both the baby and the Dog-E-Tard’s eyes were lovingly attached and unblinking. Rat wheeled Isaac between the two desks and Isaac’s peripheral vision was all that could catch the blurry profiles of Gregory and Janice. They didn’t address him and kept their pens down, drawing on the paper. Isaac attempted communication but there was none. His body was locked.
“Okay class, are we ready?”
“Yes, Mr. Rat,” Janice and Gregory said in unison.
“Good, now who knows what yesterday’s class was about? Do you two remember so Isaac can catch up?”
“Slavery,” said Gregory, “and the history of corruption in capitalist government where banks and corporations rule the world.”
“Good,” said Rat. “Now why do you think banks and corporations like slaves?”
“Because they’re bad,” said Janice. Her face was down, watching her balled fist scribble her pen on the notebook paper.
“True, but they’re also good. Corporations make things people need readily available and banks help people keep what they earn safe, so they can’t be all bad.”
“Because they’re evil and all they care about is profit,” said Gregory.
“Rat?” asked Janice raising her hand, but not waiting to be called on. “How are they good and bad too?”
Rat smiled and chuckled, obviously pleased with them, but more with himself. “Well…everything has bad and good in it. Just because something, or someone, is bad doesn’t mean they can’t do good. And good people do bad all the time, so it’s not about being all good or all bad. Nothing is. Instead, it’s about being more good than bad.”
Gregory and Janice were puzzled still, as well as Isaac, his head spinning, wobbling his already fuzzy vision.
“It’s like the Elite Force. Their job is to protect and serve, which is good, but that’s not what usually ends up happening.”
“Oh! Like, remember when on TV the Sheriff was kicking and punching that one fat guy?” asked Gregory, punching above the table and kicking under it. “That was good because the fat guy was bad.”
Janice snickered, covering her mouth to laugh. Gregory laughed too and Mr. Sparkles turned his head from the baby curiously.
“No,” said Rat ignoring the disruption and regaining their attention. “The fat man did do something bad and it was good he was caught, but the Sheriff was bad too because he hurt the fat man when he didn’t have to. So it’s good the Sheriff caught him and stopped him from doing it again, but bad that he beat him up instead of giving him a fair trial.”
“What’s a trial?” asked Gregory.
“It’s a…well, something they used to have when people would decide if a person was guilty or innocent.”
Silence again as Gregory and Janice waited in confusion.
“But we’ll get to that later. Now, the reason banks and corporations like slaves is because they save them money, or…”
He pointed to Gregory who added in proudly, “Profits.”
“Good. Now when slavery first started being used, the slaves weren’t paid at all, they were owned like property, or even pets.”
“Like Mr. Sparkles?” asked Janice.
At the sound of his name, the Dog-E-Tard perked his head up to his children.
“In a way, yes, but Dog-E-Tards are at least treated well, for now. The slaves were only supposed to work all day, but then as people started to realize that it was bad to have slaves, they made it illegal.”
“What did they do with them?”
“They were people,” said Rat, “so they let them go so they could live like people. You see, the slaves were people of different races. That’s how the people in charge justified keeping them as slaves. They pretended like they weren’t really people, but instead like animals.”
“Is Mr. Sparkles a person?” asked Janice. Mr. Sparkles looked away from the sitting baby to turn to Rat. The five of them, baby and Isaac included stared up to Rat who thought hard on an answer. His brow and mustache furrowed and he dug for his pipe while he considered it.
“Yes,” he answered, opening his tobacco pouch.
“So is it bad to treat him like an animal?” asked Gregory.
The silence let Isaac hear the surroundings. A slow gust crossed along the absent train line. A drip somewhere became audible. The ceiling vibrated and he realized it was the life above them. The city moving and working without them.
We are nothing, he thought. We are the same as it has always been since the beginning. We are worthless. We are scavengers, parasites, vermin. We only take, giving nothing. Our world would be better without us. We’re lucky, he thought, to have even this.
Rat lit the bowl of his pipe, the match flame inverted into the tobacco as he pulled it in, he held it long and only after releasing the mushroom cloud of smoke said, “I suppose that depends on how you treat animals.”
Footsteps on the stairs and Isaac tried to move his neck to see, but couldn’t. He heard Jacob before he saw him.
“Got it,” he said. “There was just one. Old. Put it out of its misery.”
“Good,” said Rat. “Where is it now?”
“On the table.”
“Take over for me here. He’s ready.”
Jacob walked in to Isaac’s frame of view and Isaac wouldn’t have noticed him if he hadn’t spoke. The teenager wore black jeans with rubber boots that went up to his knees. A leather jacket was unzipped over his shoulders and he held a rifle with the long end pointed down. His face was bruised, swollen over the eyes and crooked at the nose, and his head was shaved. As he spoke, Isaac could see darkness where teeth used to be.
“You’re doing good,” said Jacob. “Rat says you’re what we’ve been looking for.”
Isaac could hardly keep his eyes connected to Jacob’s as he spoke weakly. “Help me.”
“We are,” said Jacob patting his shoulder. “I know you’re confused, but we are. Everything is just right.”
Pulled backwards, Isaac’s view swung and then pushed forward, back in to the curtain.
“Bye-bye, Isaac,” he heard Janice say.
“Thank you for saving us,” said Gregory.
Rat opened the door and they were back in the room. He pushed Isaac in to roll to a stop and then placed a chair in front of him to sit. He lit his pipe and let out a long sigh before pulling out a small flat screen from his pocket.
“You’re not going to believe this, but I’m going to show you anyway.” Rat tapped the screen and then dragged his finger across it. “Tell me what’s happening here.”
It’s the view of a night vision surveillance camera, green, filming a man laying face up on a mattress in the middle of a bathroom with pipes sticking from the floor and wall instead of toilets. When after a second he realized it was him, Isaac instinctually tried to look up to the corner, but his head was firmly in place.
“Watch,” said Rat and it was then that Isaac noticed the video was sped up.
Around him, bugs appeared and disappeared. Rats shuddered in one place, then the next, then were gone. Everything was moving so fast. Except him. He lay on his back without moving and Isaac squinted to verify that his sleeping self on the screen had his eyes open.
“How long do you think you’ve been sleeping?” asked Rat.
Rat smiled wide and thin, his mustache hanging over his grin. “Weeks.”
Isaac tried to shake his head, but it was still in place by the buckle.
“Here,” said Rat as he placed the flat screen on to Isaac’s lap. He unbuckled each of Isaac’s wrists and forearms. “Feel your face.”
Isaac raised his hands to his cheeks where they were met with a mat of hair.
“Keep watching,” said Rat and stood up to unbuckle Isaac’s forehead strap.
Isaac watched as blurs of movement darted to and from him, but at his mouth they were still long enough for him to realize not only that they were rats, but that they were feeding him.
“You’re alive because of that. I left you in here to rot. Something saved you. Something wants you.”
“What are you…” said Isaac before trailing off. It was too much. His mind was spinning. Nothing was anything anymore and he couldn’t find words anywhere.
“You took one pill before. That was just to see. Now you take the rest. Now we’ll know for sure.”
“No,” sputtered Isaac. “No more. I don’t want any more.”
“That’s not true,” said Rat. “That’s never true.” He laughed to himself and lit his pipe. He inhaled deeply and let the smoke out between them as he walked back to his chair and sat down. “That’s the thing about this stuff. All you have to do is see it. Then you can’t resist.”
Immediately as the black film canister came out of Rat’s pocket, Isaac’s mouth flooded with saliva. He gulped it down, but more rushed into its place. Drool slipped from between his lips at one corner and Isaac couldn’t swallow enough to keep it all inside.
“Magic,” said Rat as he leaned Isaac’s willing head back. Isaac’s teeth parted and his tongue crept out of his mouth almost reaching for the pills as they one by one dropped into Isaac’s throat, his saliva rushing them to his stomach.
The ocean was back. Terror came at him just like the horrendous waves that took him once again. He closed his mouth and thrashed to reach a surface that didn’t exist until his lungs were clawing at his throat and forcing his mouth open. His lips splayed open, but no water could enter. Instead he felt fur and claws climbing his esophagus and dilating his throat as whiskers first and then scaled tales last passed from between his teeth. There was one and then another and once he was able to close his mouth behind them they were pulling him deeper, tales wrapped around his wrists, into the terrible water’s mass.
Before the liquid salt found its way in to him the water was gone and his body was pulled through mud by his rescuers. His hand felt air first and he pushed down on earth until his head was above, desperately thankful to have finally found gravity. He sucked in clean air, gasping for it and dragging his body out until he was lying down atop the thick mush of land.
He dug the mud from his eyes and face to see rats. There were two of them the size of cats and they rested on their hindquarters, paws together as if in prayer and tails twice as long as they should be waving behind them as if to signal for his attention. Above all, their eyes drew his focus with bright yellow light that glowed with streaking beams, illuminating the darkness around them.
He told his arms and legs to move him upright, but they stayed, as stunned as his mind. So paralyzed was Isaac, not even his nerves would stir.
“You are here to hear,” they spoke in unison, though their whiskered snouts and triangular buckteeth remained still. “Hear. Not fear. After all, we are not here and neither are you. Learn to not fear us now so that when we are, when you are, you will fear us not then either.”
Isaac tried to talk, but his face was without muscle.
“Hear, not speak. You will see and you will listen. Your tongue would only stifle you. Now stand.”
His body obeyed before his mind agreed to and once he was standing, the rats hopped to his knees and climbed him up to his arms. He found his hands held out in front of him and the rats climbed over his chest then across his arms to rest on his palms. They were weightless and left no sensation in their ascent.
“You have questions because you believe your mind can make sense of this. It cannot. Yet. Not until you see as She sees. Question nothing, for though this is not happening, it is much more real than if it actually were. Walk.”
The rats turned their backs to him and their glowing eyes were beams that illuminated the dark as Isaac stepped through the sinking mud. Their tails wrapped around each wrist in a spiral that led all the way to his elbows.
Their light only reached so far and as his body moved at their will he noticed the ground losing its give and turning into hardened dirt and eventually grass. It was damp on his feet and then there was light besides the rat’s eyes. Stars were there as if they had always been. Trees were there as if they never hadn’t been. Leaves and twigs crunched under his bare feet and though they hurt, there was no way to change his remotely controlled self.
They reached a clearing where the light was no longer brightest from the rats’ neon yellow eyes and suddenly they stopped him and turned to face him once again.
“Above us is The Tunnel. You must not go into The Tunnel. You must not look into The Tunnel. When the moon is orange it is not the moon.”
They turned back and he was walking again and while his neck wouldn’t turn to see it, Isaac could feel the moon above him, pulling at him strangely, urging him to see its beauty and he would have had the choice been his. Instead he saw its light and it grew brighter as they continued, reflecting the color orange off of the grass and trees like city streetlamps.
The grass became gravel and it hurt his feet until it was blacktop pavement followed by sidewalk and then laid brick. The building was doused in orange from The Tunnel, the moon, whatever it was. For as much as they would let him see, it sat right above the doors of the building they stopped in front of.
“Inside you go,” spoke the rats together, “but without us. What you will see not even we know. The eVERMINd forbids us entrance. She alone knows what lies inside. Only you have the ability to enter. Only you have the ability to exit. No matter what happens, no matter how bad it gets, remember that this is only the beginning. Worse things happen everyday than what you will face within.”
The rats unwound their tails and crawled back up his arms to his shoulders. One at a time they squirmed their way back into Isaac’s already open mouth. His jaw popped this time as they pushed through. After Isaac doubled over, he found new control over himself and spat away the hair they left behind. Once they passed the tube down to his stomach, their scaly tails sliding over the length of his tongue, he could feel them no longer and was sure they were gone.
With control over his body once again, he was able to see the building in full, still mindful not to stare into the source of the building’s orange glow. Double doors before him opened as his eyes scaled the structure. It was stone, all seemingly one piece with a spire topping a tower, and he entered slowly through the threshold of the cathedral, so much bigger than the outside could realistically allow.
“Children,” boomed a familiar voice from the pulpit, “are the foundation of society.”
The pews were packed with eager listeners that nodded their heads.
“Our youth are the future and it is our duty as their guardians to usher them in to the adulthood.”
Isaac walked down the middle aisle and stopped as the speaker came into view. He wore a royal purple robe with a heavy gold sash that was draped around his shoulders and hung down past his waist.
“We must guide them, mold them, so that they may continue our legacy and facilitate the future of a One True Church. We must teach them the ways of adulthood. They must be ushered in to their enlightened selves by the bodies of The Holy Elders.”
As Isaac continued down the aisle, passing by row after row of attentive listeners, it became clear that the speaker wore a mask. Big round eyes with slits instead of pupils were larger than goggles. The nose was feline and curled ears stuck out at the sides looking more like devil horns. The teeth, so purely white took up the majority of the purple face. They were long and thin, squeezed together forming a hideous smile, and the corners of his mouth curled to create the shape of a crescent moon.
“By their holy hands, we will teach them to grow mentally, emotionally, physically.”
Isaac stopped in the middle of the aisle, unsure of whether the speaker could see him.
“Love is the strongest of all emotion. It is a creation of our God and it is a sin to withhold it from the unholy.”
Only recognizing it then, but sure it had been going on since well before, Isaac turned to a sound from the pews. It was wet and smacking like how he remembered his father used to eat chewy rare steak. It was the audience. Not one, but all of them, crunched emphatically on something tough and juicy between their teeth.
“Today we offer up our children to The Holy Elders that they may take them under their tutelage and transform them in to Holy beings.”
Isaac’s throat closed and his stomach became sick. The people of the audience were eating. Blood overflowed from pools in their mouths down their chins. Some held their tongues with their fingers to chomp through them. Some already had and chewed on their disconnected organ noisily.
“Bring us The Innocents of Impurity so that they may be assigned their Holy Elder.”
The smacking was so loud that as the audience applauded, their clapping hands were only secondary in volume.
Children, no older than five, walked in single file to the front of the stage and stood in a line facing the pews. They were boys, all naked and all wearing purple masks of skulls that stopped at their upper lip, leaving their mouths below uncovered. There were six at first until another line came out and stood behind the first, naked and skull covered. After them, a third line came out, six as well, and out of them all there was no way to distinguish one from the other.
The audience stopped clapping and in unison they all swallowed with one loud and terrible gulp.
“Now bow your heads as we appeal to our God.” The speaker raised his hands and Isaac saw then that they were orange.
On both sides of him, the followers obeyed. They bowed their heads, but instead of putting their hands together to pray, they covered their ears.
“We appeal to You wholeheartedly our Holy Beloved,” said the speaker. His orange hands hovered over the purple skull children as if they were his marionettes. “God of Bones, we humble ourselves, our bodies, and our wills, that You may be glorified by the gift we lay before You.”
From all around him, there was movement. Isaac didn’t hear it all until he saw the first ear rip. A man right next to him with his fingernails dug behind his earlobe pulled the skin to stretch until it gave and the disconnected membrane shrunk back. The sound of tearing skin and separated cartilage rose until blood gushed from the sides of all their heads and their ears were shoved into their mouths two at a time. Once the chewing started, louder than before as the cartilage crunched between their teeth and the skin became mashed into pulp, the speaker raised his voice to finish his prayer.
“In the name of the OverminD, we baptize The Innocents of Impurity into Your gracious terms of subservience. Praise be to MAMOTH!” yelled the speaker.
In response, tongue-less with mouths full of pieces of ears, the audience repeated. “Praise be to MAMOTH.”
“Elders, approach and select for yourself the vessel of your Holy deposit.”
From the front row, The Holy Elders rose and faced the audience who stood and clapped, applauding with their hands and some still with the chewing and swallowing of their ears. Their cloaks were golden and though their faces were darkened by the hoods, their long and pointy grey noses protruded from the shadows.
The audience, mostly done with their ears, began on their fingers as The Holy Elders took to the stage one at a time. The speaker clapped his orange hands twice and all of the children simultaneously arched their necks and opened their mouths. As The Elders walked from child to child, they inserted their fingers into each child’s mouth to inspect them. They stroked the smooth toothless gums of each of The Innocents of Impurity with their fingers until they were satisfied and stood behind their chosen child, gripping its naked shoulders.
Crunching bones, sloshing skin and spattering blood became louder until it was all Isaac could hear. He stepped backwards.
This isn’t real, thought Isaac. This is just a nightmare.
He turned around to leave, but once his head turned he was still staring at the rows of naked purple skulled children with the golden cloaks towering above them and the masked speaker with his hands raised over them all. He turned around again, but it was only as if he hadn’t, the people in the pews still facing forward, still chewing off their fingers and cracking their bones between their teeth.
“Elders, repeat after me,” the grinning masked man spoke. “I hereby baptize you…”
“I hereby baptize you…” they spoke together with a single raspy, congested voice.
“With the Holy fluid within me…”
“With the Holy fluid within me…”
“That you may enter in to the favor…”
“That you may enter in to the favor…”
“Of our God of Bones.”
“Of our God of Bones.”
The golden cloaks parted to reveal terrible skin, grey and shriveled. The Elders’ hands turned the children at the shoulders, grinning with thin lips. As the heads of the children bowed in to the grey torsos, Isaac tried to yell, but his immobile mouth allowed no sound. The grey hands gripped the backs of the children’s heads, pushing them in then out and Isaac ran. His mind was in flurry with no thought of how to stop them.
Before he could reach the stage, the grinning masked man pointed and Isaac fell to his knees. The speaker walked down the steps as the slurping sounds joined the cracking and gobbling of the audience’s hands.
“You have come back, Isaac,” he said. “This pleases me. Greatly.”
Isaac tried to panic, but he couldn’t even do that. His will was frozen and now under the control of the mask before him.
“Do you remember my voice? No? How about my face?” With that the man pulled back his mask to rest on top of his head. “You have fallen from the faith Isaac. You have denied the gift our God commanded you to take from me. You have forgotten your baptism. You should thank the great MAMOTH. He is a forgiving God and He has granted you the chance of redemption. It is time for your second baptism.”
Isaac couldn’t express surprise, disgust, fear or any other emotion that his mind rattled with. Instead, he could only stare in to the neon orange face of Pastor Scott as he dropped his robe to reveal his neon orange body.
The audience crunched the bones of their hands with their teeth, tongue-less, ear-less, with eyes wide and attentive as Isaac’s lips parted and his throat filled.
The only thing more terrible than the pain, humiliation and helplessness was the memory that resurfaced with it. That this had all happened before, a long time ago.
From nothing, Isaac came back into awareness. He didn’t realize he was moving until Jacob spoke.
“Stay close. The Cunts are skittish.”
Isaac didn’t understand which meant this wasn’t a dream.
He saw Mr. Sparkles stumble over. He didn’t recognize the Dog-E-Tard at first since he was walking on two feet and had a head full of shaggy blond hair, but he was still naked as usual. Mr. Sparkles put a hand on the arm of Isaac’s wheel chair and lowered his face to Isaac. His collar, marked with the letter ‘S’, swung back and forth beneath his big rounded chin and fat, hanging lower lip. The Dog-E-Tard scrunched his nose and despite the low light, Isaac could see tears forming under his beady eyes.
“Is he awake? Isaac? Can I talk to him?” Mr. Sparkles’ lips didn’t move and Isaac was confused until Gregory’s head swung in front of his. “Isaac can you hear me? Blink your eyes if you can hear me.”
“I can hear you,” said Isaac. “Loosen the straps.”
“Here,” said Jacob and unbuckled the belt that strapped back his forehead. “Alright?”
Isaac rolled his neck to each side slowly. The muscles were stiff, but he could hold his head and he lifted it only slightly before laying it back against the cushion.
“Where are we going?” he said, pushing past the dryness in his throat, and trying to look back at Jacob unsuccessfully.
“It’s a surprise,” said Gregory. He was jogging backwards, smiling big. “Sparks, ride!”
Gregory clapped his hands twice and stopped with his legs spread. Mr. Sparkles ran up to him, ducking between his open legs, crawling under and then rising to lift Gregory as he continued walking for them both on all fours.
“See? I taught him tricks.”
They were in a corridor, some kind of catacomb to the underground subway system. The ground, ceiling and walls were hard dirt and jutted out rock. Wood support beams crossed every few feet with strung lights leading them through the winding tunnel.
Gregory wore tattered jeans, holes in each knee, a black t-shirt with neon lettering hid by a red zip-up hooded sweatshirt and red shoes Isaac didn’t recognize either. The boy was bigger than he remembered.
“How long?” he asked through his throat’s dry stifling.
“Almost there,” said Jacob.
“No, have I been…” Isaac trailed off under the effort of thought.
“It’s winter,” said Jacob. “I don’t know the day.”
The tunnel curved and as they rounded the bend they were met by two figures with rifles raised at them. They looked like boys, or at least petite men, with shaved heads and baggy t-shirts hanging over tight and holey jeans.
“Peace,” spoke Jacob. “To the Mother.”
“The Mother,” they responded and lowered their rifles.
“This is Isaac. Isaac, these are The Cunts. Mug and Limey.”
The two approached and bent to stare at Isaac. “Looks like a bitch,” said Mug. Her head was shaved with scabby stripes over her scalp. “The Mother must be out her mind to want this shit.”
“Well she does, so you can tell Her that next time you see her.”
Jacob pushed Isaac past them and Limey went to the steel door they guarded. She spun a wheel at the middle that withdrew the locks from the rock frame. It swung open slow, the hinges creaking loudly with rust.
“She’s waiting for you,” Limey said to Isaac. “Don’t disappoint. People are counting on you.”
Jacob pushed him inside with Gregory and Mr. Sparkles following behind. The tunnels within were dark and they passed more of the Cunts, armed with rifles and heads shaved with scab designs sticking out from their scalps.
They passed many doors but the one at the end opened for them and they passed through after a steady decline into a high ceiling sanctuary. The floor, walls and ceiling were all covered in hard dirt and rock, but supported by wooden beams that crossed over head. Candles were the only light within and pews rowed the aisle on either side that they crossed. The stage was covered in red carpet and a pulpit was unmanned. Behind it were paintings. Tall and large, three of them were the backdrop for this makeshift chapel and the flickering flame of the candles didn’t allow Isaac to concentrate on their images.
Jacob knew where to go and pushed them down the aisle and then through a side door.
It wasn’t until they’d left the sanctuary that Isaac realized he had seen it before. The terrible dream with the masked Pastor Scott and all of the memories, once forgotten, that flooded Isaac afterward. And it wasn’t just the bad memories that came back to him after that. Once the dream had ended, Pastor Scott’s salty and sour penis ejaculating its disgustingly thick liquid gel down his throat, all of Isaac’s memories were all of a sudden back in to his mind. From the trivial to the pivotal, each one was bright and articulate. He remembered each time that Pastor Scott had taken him in to his bedroom that adjoined their choir practice place. He remembered the smell of cinnamon coming from the red candles that were always lit. He remembered how he would sit on the bed while the Pastor unrobed. He remembered every word the Pastor would say, about how this was normal. About how Isaac owed it to God to reward the Pastor. About how the penis was a holy instrument and that if he obeyed, he would be rewarded with eternal life. And how if he didn’t, the Devil would prey on him for his lack of faith. How he would go to hell for not pleasing Pastor Scott. About how if he told anyone, the Lord would punish him by giving him to the demons who wouldn’t be kind to him and who would do even worse. The demons wouldn’t rub his head while they put it in his mouth. The demons wouldn’t be gentle with their hands on his body and their fingers on his nipples. The demons wouldn’t go slow when they stuck it in him. The demons wouldn’t stop when he started to bleed.
Every memory all at once, all there and still there.
The next room’s walls and ceiling were covered completely in fabric. Every color of the spectrum wheel covered the dirt and rock in a rainbow of shiny satin.
Candles burned from wicks dripping wax. Music was playing from somewhere, but Isaac couldn’t tell if it was live or a recording. The room was foggy with smoke burning from incense that trailed up from trays in long lines to the ceiling where it dissipated.
“Sit,” came a voice from the corner. It was soft and loving, a suggestion, invitation, instead of a demand.
“Yes Mother Nithya,” said Jacob who stepped in front of Isaac’s wheelchair to bow. He led Mr. Sparkles and Gregory between an opening to a sectioned off area to the corner covered in mirrors.
Isaac watched as from the opposite corner, Mother Nithya rose from shadow and walked toward him.
Her beauty didn’t stunt him, he didn’t even notice it until after when they were all seated. Instead, his throat swelled and his uvula felt as though it sagged to hang inside his acidic empty stomach.
On each shoulder of Mother Nithya rested a rat. They were cat-sized and sat on their hindquarters with their paws together in front of them. Just like his dream, except for their eyes which were beady instead of glowing that horrendously intense yellow light.
“You are surprised,” said Mother Nithya. “This surprises me. I would of thought you used to the unusual by now.”
Isaac was staring at the beasts on her shoulders and didn’t notice that her eyes were closed.
“You must walk,” She said. “The eVERMINd will not meet you weakly.” With that she walked passed him and the rats turned to stare as she turned him back to enter between the gap in the mirrors.
“But I’m stuck,” said Isaac. He pulled at his arms and legs, but each were bound at their wrists and ankles.
“Are you?” she asked as she disappeared in to the mirrors.
“But…” trailed Isaac. He pulled at his feet, but they were too firm in place. He tried to curl with his biceps, but he could hardly move them. He pushed up at the straps with all his might until he felt his hands tingle. He stopped at the strange sensation. They felt light, but strong as if replaced all of a sudden. He pulled in, but his wrists wouldn’t fit through and so he lifted them one more time, surprised when they burst from the straps.
Isaac raised his hands to his eyes. His fingers waved like flames and his hands were the pit of a fire. He stared at them for a moment. His fingers rippled and he out focused to the mirror where in his reflection his hands were unmoving.
“Still dreaming,” Isaac said and undid the buckles at his ankles. He stepped out of the chair wobbly and fell immediately to his knees. He crawled to the mirror and used it to stand himself up. He stepped inside and took the seat nearest the opening between Gregory and Mr. Sparkles.
“Good,” said Mother Nithya and the door behind Isaac slammed shut. Within the enclosing was dark, but she lit a candle at the middle of the table. The two rats climbed down her arms and sat at each of her sides.
There were only six seats and Jacob was not at the table.
“You are here to meet the eVERMINd. I am here to appeal to Her on your behalf.”
The table before him was segmented into six parts, one of each color of the spectrum.
“We will now summon the spirit of The God of Hands so that She may decide if you are fit to carry Her spirit.” Mother Nithya, eyes still closed, put her hands over the table. She stayed them there for just seconds before they begun to shake. They vibrated as if charged electrically and suddenly a deep yellow light came from them. It shined its light in beams and then the eyes on both of the rats illuminated with their neon yellow rays.
Beside him, Gregory was awe inspired. His mouth hung agape and his hands were over the table too, shaking them, beckoning them to ignite as well. Mr. Sparkles sat back afraid. He was already awkward in the chair, but jumped up to curl in the seat, hugging the back.
“I appeal to You, oh God of Hands, that You will allow this follower to free himself of his afflictions so that they may be consumed by these two innocents, giving them Your infinite understanding and blessing.”
In the light of her hands, Isaac could see her face and realized her eyelids weren’t just shut, but the eyeballs beneath them were gone causing the lids to concave in to her sockets.
“Wait, what?” asked Isaac. His answer came as Mother Nithya’s eyelids receded to show their hollow innards and a crease on her forehead formed. It spread apart as yellow light shined from the crease and her third eye opened.
There was silence and all sound seemed to be sucked from the room.
“He will not,” spoke a voice from Mother Nithya’s mouth not her own. “He is plagued by doubt. He is prideful. He is spiteful. He will not offer up sacrifice.”
“This is crazy,” said Isaac. “You can’t expect me to…”
“By denying yourself salvation, you have endangered the lives of many. Their death sentence is on your hands.”
It was then that he recognized the voice as the same otherworldly tone that came from his bound future self in dream. “This is not my fault,” spoke Isaac. “I haven’t done anything. I’m a victim!”
“We are all victims. Even a victim can victimize. You have denied your Savior. You have rejected blind faith. This is what the OverminD wants. Your last chance for transcendence is closing.”
“I have been a victim since before I could remember! This is not on me! If you’re really a god then You are to blame!”
The light of Mother Nithya’s hands, still shaking over the table dimmed. The eyes of the rats went back to beady. The eye of Mother Nithya’s forehead closed and they were left in darkness.
“You have failed not only yourself, but thousands. Your fate will be left to the OverminD now.”
The rats climbed back to Mother Nithya’s shoulders as she stood. She walked around with her eyelids closed and took Gregory by the hand with Mr. Sparkles following them out the opening.
“It’s okay,” said Gregory over his shoulder. “Don’t feel bad.”
By the time Isaac had steadied himself enough to walk back in to the room he was all by himself. He thought about sitting back in the wheel chair, but kicked it instead and slowly made his way back through to the chapel.
Fewer candles were burning now and he walked to the front, staring at the stage. Behind the pulpit, Isaac could now see the murals. They were painted expertly, but were confusing none the less. Two hands with an eye in each palm formed a triangle with their thumb and forefingers above a pile of skulls. Yellow light streaked out from behind the hands to a scene of missiles, aircraft, tanks, explosions and burning buildings. The scene spread out on to the adjoining canvases showing people running, screaming, incinerating inside fireballs.
“Bullshit,” said Isaac. He walked up the stairs of the stage and faced the pulpit. “It’s all bullshit!” He yelled. “You’re all being lied to,” he screamed at the empty seats. “Even by yourself! You can’t even tell yourself the truth!”
He laughed to himself in the silence and unzipped his jeans. He arched his piss stream up to douse the pulpit and the open book on top of it. Urine dripped from the podium as he left, still weak, out through the catacomb passageway. The Cunts were gone and he saw no one. He left the door open where they’d met Mug and Limey. He walked down the tunnel, not knowing if he would make it and then knowing for sure he wouldn’t when he fell to his knees. His weak body couldn’t push any further.
As he lay on his back, he put his hands to his face. He remembered then how it felt after the first time and was surprised. His beard was long and bushy. He smiled and then coughed and then laughed and then coughed some more.
“Finally got the beard I wanted,” said Isaac. “I’m ready for my picture.”
It was then that he felt something on his neck and heard the sound of sniffing. He was lifted and felt himself carried, his feet dragging and his wrists held as his body rested on a naked back.
It was Mr. Sparkles. It suddenly made sense. “You’re turning us in,” said Isaac. “We’re the only ones that matter. We’re the only ones they want. This has been the plan all along.”
The Dog-E-Tard said nothing as he carried him through tunnels he had never been before.
“They’re going to kill me,” said Isaac. “They’re going to torture me and then they’re going to kill me and it’s going to be all over television. People are going to cheer. It’s going to make a lot of people happy.”
Mr. Sparkles kept walking and was glad to pretend like he didn’t understand. He knew Isaac was right and made sure he cried without making any sound.
It took six days for Isaac to decide to take his eyes out, but his hands were still broken and so he couldn’t. He was passed out when they took him, dreaming about war. Bombs over the suburbs. Fighter jets shot down and tumbling through a row of identical homes. The smoke of destruction quickly overshadowed the smoke of barbecue.
They didn’t hurt him at first. Once he was dragged to the surface, pushed limply through the open manhole, the cameras never left. Shouting paparazzi rushed him and not even that was enough to pull him out of the dream.
The godchild, just a fetus spinning in a floating orb above a black castle, blanketed the city around it with yellow light. Bombs exploded off of its dome surface. Lightning bolts struck the electric dome and the whole surface rippled with the energy. Within, people stared up to a lightshow across the whole sky. Waves of light crashed away from the centers of impact constantly. It went on for so long that the people stopped watching.
The video cameras showed his hands being smashed by a hammer to a packed live studio audience. At home, viewers celebrated too with a live feed that was the starting bell to the six day celebration leading up to the premiere of the new GGX and the first ever televised Pregnant Fencing tournament.
From that point on, a countdown ticked backwards to Day X in the corner of the screen for every channel on MediaNop television. Day X was declared a nationwide holiday for the Union to celebrate MediaNop City, its entertainment capitol. School was cancelled and businesses, except the service industry, closed in recognition all over. Cities across the Union held screening events. Every commercial slot mentioned the event. Late night shows focused solely on the event and BloidTV did an expose on all involved.
Each day of the celebration Isaac was subjected to another torture session. Five days till Day X, with hands still broken and fingers crunched hanging in his gashed skin, they cut off his left foot with a saw. Four days till, they smashed his other foot until the bones and innards hung loosely. Three days till, they removed his front teeth by pulling them with pliers. Two days till, they laid him on his stomach and flayed his back, removing the skin in strips and then slapping him in the face with them.
The day before Day X he was strapped to a chair and paying tourists threw rocks of varying size at him, depending on how much they were willing to pay.
The rats came for him that night. As he slept, only under the assistance of drugs that kept him unconscious, his mind rose from his body and he hovered over it, staring at his broken self.
“I am sorry this is happening to you,” came a voice.
There was no one in the room with him. Isaac’s spirit rose through the underground cells and through MediaNop Tower above them until he was high above in the night sky. There were no clouds and the moonlight was strong.
“Come here,” said the voice and Isaac knew then that it came from the moon. He zoomed through the ozone and out in to space. The moon grew as he moved and he thought it looked pregnant, as if he were watching it grow with child at a fast pace in front of him.
He met with the ground of the moon, his spirit feet touching the surface but affecting it not and unable to feel its surface.
“I want to apologize,” said the voice and Isaac looked up to see Mother Nithya. She walked toward him, a spirit as well, with a flowing white gown that swung about her as if alive. “I didn’t want this to happen.”
Her arms were open in front of her and Isaac felt himself drawn to her body’s warmth. Though he wasn’t cold and though neither of them actually were with body, he went to her and she embraced him. He could feel her love and it raced through him like the warmest liquid. Every pain he had left, every fear and emotion of anger, was gone. The hug of Mother Nithya cured him through and through and when she released him he’d never felt better.
“There is no answer to the question why. There is no reason behind the insanity of the human condition. It is and you are and that is all that can be known. Your chance to become like me has passed. You are going to die Isaac, but do not think that a defeat. You were right. You are a victim, but we are all victims. It matters not what is done to you, whether that be fair or not doesn’t matter. It only matters what you do and you have done well. There are consequences for any choice that is ever made. The consequence to you not completing your sacrifice has already been endured. The eVERMINd does not have control over everything. She wanted to give you an opportunity to escape this. You denied that opportunity and you suffered the consequences.
“I come to you now with another chance. Your life cannot be saved. Isaac, you will die. You will suffer more than you already have, worse than you already have. There is no changing that. What you can change though is what happens to those you gave your life to protect. This is your last chance. Offer up your sacrifice of eyes so that in your final hours you may truly see. So that by the consumption of your eyes, the chosen others may also see and may use your sight, your sacrifice, to save the world from what it has become.
“The godchild will be born. The OverminD will see to that, but the godchild must not be corrupted. That is up to She. Your sacrifice will allow the eVERMINd to arm up against the powers of evil. We can do nothing for you now, but we ask anyway. Will you offer up your eyes to the eVERMINd in holy sacrifice that the godchild may be protected?”
Isaac stared in to the beauty of Mother Nithya’s glowing yellow third eye and without mouth, said, “Yes.”
His spirit dropped back to earth at incredible speed. The moon along with Mother Nithya shrunk until they were just dots and then gone as he reentered his body after moving through the floors of the tower and the underground.
He sat up immediately once he was back in himself. On the ground before him were Mother Nithya’s rats, eyes aglow with yellow. They lowered their vermin heads and closed their shining eyes and Isaac understood.
His arms were bound by the straightjacket and it took nearly no energy to burst them from the straps. He raised his crooked hands to his eyes and watched as he squeezed his fists past the pain. The fingers cracked and reconfigured themselves back in to their rightful place. When he opened his hands again from fists he stared at them in wonder. They were without blemish and he felt the eVERMINd there with him in the faint glow of yellow beneath his skin.
Isaac wasted no time in digging his fingers in to his eyes. He couldn’t fit all of them in as he’d originally thought and so instead used just his index and middle fingers to scoop them out. He yelled, feeling the air pass strangely through where his teeth once were, and pulled until his eyes were hanging outside of his sockets. He ripped the cords and veins that held his eyeballs to his face and threw the squishy orbs to the floor. He heard them bounce wetly and held the place where they used to sit with his restored hands.
The rats’ tails wrapped around his eyes and rolled them up securely before disappearing back in to a hole in the corner.
He fell to sleep as on his forehead, a wrinkle opened, separating his skin and pushing through the skull to let his third eye free.
x x x x x x
Rat sold the skins of the children for a high price. He told his superiors that the baby had died of neglect and that he’d fed it and the flesh of the kids to the vermin. It wasn’t ideal. The Elite Force had wanted all three kids along with Isaac and Mr. Sparkles, but they were satisfied enough with the most important two returned. They never asked about Jacob.
“Here ya go,” said the delivery man handing Rat a leash. “Hope you like ‘em. Such a pain in the ass.”
Rat nodded and walked away with the dogs following him willingly.
“Hey, asshole! What about a tip?” the delivery man yelled after Rat, but the old man didn’t acknowledge the proposition.
Rat led the dogs down the tunnel. There were three. Two pups and a mother. Doberman Pinschers held a special place in Rat’s heart. They were fierce, loyal and loving, three things necessary for a man in his line of work.
Jacob was out with the rail car and Rat grumbled with the strain of walking. “That boy will be the death of me,” he told the dogs who were all sniffing eagerly at the underground soil. “Out grab-assing while there’s work to be done.” He did like the walk though and felt good that his trials were over for now. No more children to care for. No more Dog-E-Tard to teach. No more Isaac. It was a good feeling and he would never admit it.
Mug and Limey, though the toughest of the Cunts, were soft in the heart for the puppies especially. “Okay, okay,” said Rat after a minute of the couple fawning over the animals. “I don’t have all day. You want something to love, find a man and make your own.”
The girls ignored Rat, but let him through after receiving more licks to the face from the happy pets.
“C’mon girls,” said Rat to the dogs as they walked through the tunnel. “It’s time to answer for our sins. The Mother’s going to save our souls. Ready?”
The sarcasm was lost on the dogs but Rat laughed to himself anyway.
x x x x x x
Mr. Sparkles licked himself like he remembered he used to before he met the RadiCons. He was curled up on pillows outside his indoor doghouse in the corner of his owner Patrick Aswell’s room.
“Oh, you dirty bitch!” yelled Patrick. “Yeah, that’s it! Give it to me! Faster!”
Mr. Sparkles looked up to his owner. He had seen Patrick have sex many times before, but never from this position. It was confusing watching his master on all fours. Usually Patrick was the one giving it, but this time there was a woman ramming her torso into his behind. Mr. Sparkles cocked his head as he noticed some kind of belt around her waist and then saw the color of the thing she was pushing into him, a luminescent pink that glowed much brighter than any thing like that he’d ever seen.
“Yes! Yes!” yelled Patrick and Mr. Sparkles turned his head back in to the cushions.
After his master was done, he made the woman lay down as he made waste on her chest. That was even more confusing and the smell that reached his nostrils was unbearable. He left the room walking on all fours. It was much easier for him, much more natural, to walk this way. The marble floor of Patrick’s mansion was cold on his palms and toes and he hurried down the stairs still on all fours to the security guard that manned his post with a copy of the Bloids open in front of him.
Mr. Sparkles whimpered lightly, just as he used to, to get his attention.
“Hey buddy,” said the guard. “You want out? I’m sorry. You know the rules. Not allowed on the lawn after dark. Use the litter room if you have to. Want me to take you?”
Mr. Sparkles tried his sad face, but the Bloids rose between him and the guard. On the front cover, Isaac screamed from his straps as a hammer crunched the back of his palm.
“Run along now, buddy boy,” said the guard. “Just be glad you’re not caged like the rest of them.”
Mr. Sparkles went back up the stairs and a similarly dressed guard was escorting the woman out. She was carrying bags with her and was cleaned, but he could still smell the fecal matter on her. The scent trailed all the way back to Patrick’s room and Mr. Sparkles couldn’t get used to it.
Inside, his owner was passed out face down on his bed, snoring already. Mr. Sparkles crawled up on to the bed next to him and his owner didn’t stir. His heavy breathing was even and once Mr. Sparkles was sure he wouldn’t wake up, he jumped back down to the floor and made his way to the walk in closet on all fours closing the door behind him.
It took twenty minutes for Mr. Sparkles to get dressed. He put on Patrick’s purple socks and purple silk boxers. He put on his shiny purple suit jacket and pants, not even bothering with the white undershirt. Over his hands he slipped on the SapeSkin gloves and left the SapeSkin shoes untied at his feet. They were uncomfortable, but he didn’t care or realize he’d put them on the wrong feet. Mr. Sparkles chose the SapeSkin scalp cap that most resembled Patrick’s hair, a long brown pony tail that hung down to his shoulder line.
Just getting down the stairs on two feet took forever. Mr. Sparkles had practiced walking and had gotten good enough at it, but it still wasn’t comfortable and he much preferred the stability of his hands and feet than just the latter.
“Going out Mr. Aswell?” asked the security guard.
Mr. Sparkles kept walking past him until he was standing in front of the door with his back to the guard.
“Should I have them bring your car around?”
Mr. Sparkles calmed himself how he used to when he was about to perform. He took a deep breath and very carefully, making sure to move his lips and tongue just right, said, “Door.”
“Yes sir,” said the guard.
The doors in front of him opened and Mr. Sparkles hobbled out the front into the lawn. It was a beautiful mansion with a long pebble drive that separated the huge yard surrounded by two story tall fences.
The gate opened for him at the end of it and closed behind him. Mr. Sparkles had to concentrate so as not to bend at the back. Posture, he remembered Rat would say. That meant to keep his back straight. When he did, he never felt more vulnerable.
The long walk made sores form in his feet, but he kept going. He was used to pushing through the pain, ignoring it, pretending it wasn’t there.
Three men stopped him in the south side projects, telling him to take off his shoes. Mr. Sparkles did so happily and gave them his SapeSkin scalp cap and gloves as well. Without the shoes he was able to run and figured it safe to go on all fours. He was faster that way anyway. He stopped and turned around to say, “Thank you,” but the men were already gone and he dismissed the confusion, unsure of how they knew he so desperately wanted to get rid of his shoes.
Mr. Sparkles followed the route that Jacob had shown him from the car, driving through the city with his face out the window and the wind rushing into his eyes and mouth. He made sure that no one was looking when he got to the manhole that read ‘Trespassers Killed’.
He knew the way through the tunnels and secret passages to Mother Nithya’s hidden chamber. Mug and Limey hugged the Dog-E-Tard with their rifles pushing into their chests and helped him out of the rest of the awkward clothes.
“Sparks,” yelled Gregory when he first saw him. Tears ran down the Dog-E-Tard’s eyes faster than they ran to each other. “You’re here! I knew you’d make it back!”
Janice grabbed onto Mr. Sparkles’ knee and squeezed it. The baby waddled over on two feet, dirt all over its drooling face and hands. Rat smiled as he smoked from his pipe with a dog and two puppies jumping and barking excitedly. In the corner, Jacob held a girl closely, her legs covered with red and white striped tights and they kissed staring in to each other’s eyes.
“It’s time! Isaac did it! We’re going to be superheroes!” Mr. Sparkles didn’t know what that meant but he followed them in to the room of mirrors anyway where he and Gregory sat with Mother Nithya and her two rats. They set slimy white balls with red veins in front of them. Stringy membrane connected at the ends made them look like tadpoles.
“Consume the eyes of sacrifice that you may connect your soul to the eVERMINd.”
Gregory took the eyeball into his hand and stared in to the pupil. “Is he dead?”
“Not yet,” said Mother Nithya.
“Is he going to die?”
“We’re all going to die.”
“Will he die soon?”
“He believes so.”
“I hope not.”
“Me too,” said Gregory. He placed the eyeball in his mouth and chewed.
“Good?” asked Mr. Sparkles.
“No,” said Gregory shaking his head, but the Dog-E-Tard ate it along with his owner anyway.