Young Ian, Archie Types

The hand that shakes his is a block of ice that has been carved into a fair facsimile of the mitt that hangs at the man’s left side. The left hand is not the sinister one. His own right hand is red from the experience, almost numb; he rubs it with his left hand trying to warm it.

He is never going to forget that meeting. Not that he could tell you why. But that feeling is something that shivers through him. He shook the hand of the man that he suspects did the deed, and he let him go. He has met killers before; he has known ones that got away; not many of them became ghosts for him, and most of the meetings were forgettable cliches.

A moment where your mind goes blank. You wake up, standing in the same spot; it is like those moments when grief wrapped you and the world fell away. Where did it come from? A touch on the hand woke a memory and a flower bloomed from the shadow cast by the past.

He will not forget the meeting, but he does not recall the face.

Time is ashes rising through the stack of heat above a fire. His memories small ashen flakes in a reverse snowfall — is he forgetting or remembering something?

Stood in the office behind Archie, as he rattles the keyboard, he begins to smell that godawful smell at the site where they found young Ian. The brutality of the attack on the child had weathered cops crying; big men vomiting. Anger rebooted in those made apathetic by the presence of constant horror.

Archie seems oblivious.

‘There are small children involded.’

‘There were small children involved.’

‘There are small children involved.’

The bodies were warm when they found them. The bodies were cold now – in the freezer in back; preserved until the case could be closed, before it went cold.

Dengler looks at Archie and he wonders how this man – this kid – barely out of school himself, can sit there and type this report up so calmly.

‘Have to do what you have to do, eh, Detective Dengler?’ Archie smiled.

Dengler smiled and saluted the kid, eager to go and get a drink at The Unfinished Tale. Why did he smile like that though?

Dengler had cultivated the kind of memory that absorbed details and put them each into an isolated state of churn. When they had been moved around and become familiar with, if anything interesting had been flagged up, it would then be compared with other interesting items and analysed for any connections. Sometimes, when he spotted something he would put the whole system into over-drive. That smile spun up so much. The calm collected air of the kid as he typed the reports. The savagery of the murders. The blankness. The cold hand shake.

The killings had stopped, but they had theorised that it was part of an emergent cycle, which they had only observed the smallest fragment of. This was not public knowledge. There was certainty in Archie’s voice; certainty that didn’t belong there.

He decided to skip The Unfinished Tale. There was another tale that he wanted to discover the end of.

Archie was still at the office. He had just finished typing and he was enjoying a cold one from the fridge.

Dengler sat down next to him.

‘I should shake your hand. How did you work it out?’

‘It was pretty simple.’

‘No, it wasn’t. But your a puzzle solver, aren’t you, Dengler?’

‘Sure. But this is throwing me a little bit. Why just make this part for me so easy?’

‘Because this part doesn’t matter.’

‘How does it not matter?’

‘Because something began when the thing you are looking at ended.’

‘The killings have ended?’

‘This cycle using this vessel has ended.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘Archie is leaving.’

‘Archie isn’t going anywhere.’

Archie smiled. Like a switch was flipping inside him he dropped into a slump and he slide from the chair. An image of young Ian flashed in his mind. Dengler sat there frozen.

Plague Round

They had nicknamed the place The Graveyard Of Needles. Some said it was where junkies went to die. Some said it was where a nurse who had been trying to play good Samaritan had got stuck with a needle and come down with a fatal blood infection. Billy Cinch wasn’t scared of those stupid stories – when they dared him to climb over the wall into the place he didn’t hesitate.

When they asked him if he had got jabbed he laughed, and then went deadly quiet, then let out a long strangled moan.

They wondered for a moment.

But he was no good at keeping a straight face.

Joey Galone was a klutz. Big boned and badly coordinated and likely to trip over something if it was there. Why they let him go over the fence was anyone’s guess. His scream was instantly recognisable as the real thing, and if they hadn’t been there to prove how tough they were they would have left him in a heartbeat.

Freddy and Titch had to get behind him and push him back over the wall. He looked pale and sickly but they guessed it was just because he was a big old worry wart. He started to blub and Freddy got annoyed and just told him to go to the school nurse. He asked if someone would come with him, and Titch agreed. How the hell they were going to explain it away was anyone’s guess.

Thankfully it was an empty waiting room and the nurse was able to see Joey straight away. Titch sat outside waiting. It wasn’t that weird for a form room teacher to send a kid to escort a sickly student.

‘How did you do it?’ asked the nurse.

He lied.

‘It looks swollen. How are you feeling, honey?’

She looked at him and she could see something wasn’t right. She turned around to use the landline, to call his parents and let them know that he needed to go to the hospital and get checked out.

She was puzzled when she felt him collide with her from behind. It made no sense. And then he did it again. She stumbled that time and fell to the floor. Kids bit you sometimes – it was just one of the things that you had to deal with. It was common enough that they had a procedure written up for handling it. This was different.

The second bite took meat with it. Blood began to pour out of the wound. The subsequent bites were also deep. They stopped, and the child exited the office. A fire burned in her now. How quickly could something like that launch into the bloodstream and change you? This fast.

Given his size and the size of the nurse, it had been impressive how quickly he had taken her out. The other kids in the school were not so hard to deal with. He barrelled into them and they went flying. Before they could work out what was happening to them he was on them and biting. As they swam up out of their daze whatever had changed him changed them.

The playground was a blood spattered mess but there were no bodies. The bodies, because that is what they were quickly reduced to, were automatons driven by hunger. The school was a limited source of fuel though, and when they had bitten someone that person was immediately struck from the menu.

It didn’t take long for some of the security issues at the school to become evident when the children began to pour out of the school gates in search of sustenance. Schools out for summer. Schools out for blood.

Overwait

Waiting in line, he felt his temperature rising. How did these people come here every day and not know what they liked? So much choice. He was hungry.

His fingers spidered out and whispered across the flesh of the neck in front of him, he sucked the sweat from his fingertips. Another possible packed to the gills with fats and sugars.

He had been hunting at the superstore earlier, a bag of skin left behind the shelves in the pet food aisle.

The gym spiced the meat with adrenaline, sometimes fear. They were lightening the load; he was lightening the load. Class attendance had been down for the third week in a row.

He did not enjoy the screams, but the struggle worked well enough for him. If it was hard for him to get his digestive juices flowing, a little movement as he clamped down his jaws could do the trick.

He released a mist into the crowd, marking each of them so he could find them later, but also starting the digestion process a little early.

He tasted Barry’s name in the fear coming off him, and he was surprised how well he could run. By the time they met up again that evening in the parking lot, Barry had eaten even more sugar-laden food, and had made himself all the more appetising.

Claire saw him, but there was no time to run. He was pouncing before she could register what she was seeing. He looked vaguely human, in this distended and bloated form. A huge blood blister.

He was the leading cause of death around these here parts. Those overweight bodies no longer lasted the duration; didn’t make it to the points where their hearts would have given out naturally.

He ate well.

He knew that he was not the kind of thing that anyone was looking for as a possible cause of death, so he was going to have free reign for as long as he was careful enough to avoid being killed.

It had become easier for him to feed as the national diet changed. In the same way that ll of his victims overate, he too was guilty of eating too much. He would sit there and rub his belly and moan. Living off the fat of the land … that was the dream, wasn’t it?

He’d heard tales of hunters out there who did look for things such as him, which meant, he supposed, there were others like him. He would have been happy to have met one of his species, just to see whether what he was resembled anything that his species was. Whether he would have wanted to overextend this perfect hunting environment by adding another mouth to feed was another thing entirely.

For now, as much as he had eaten, he fancied a little snack.

Empty Head

It didn’t have much imagination. It would find itself a bar, sit down next to someone and tap at the side of its skull, watching their eyes at the reality of the hollow sound.

It would state plain fact and know that it was going to be taken as a joke. It would tell them it was going to steal all their ideas and they laughed. Some of them would say that they didn’t have any ideas worth stealing, but they had never tasted the wonder that lay back of the simplest notion. At least they hadn’t tasted it in a while; most of them choosing to dilute it in drink.

Some of those it had met in the past were sat around the bar. They were the veterans of the drinking game who had the thousand yard stares. Who looked like they were not thinking about anything.

It was not sure what it was like for those it touched afterwards. It just knew that there was nothing for it to feed on afterwards. They never complained. It wasn’t a painful procedure. At least not for those who received the physical touch. For those touched by the hollow heads, that had been full of thoughts once, it imagined, when it was full of thoughts and an approximation of empathy, that it was very painful.

She smiled. It touched the inside of her arm. A soft touchstone and a way in. It stared into her eyes with an intensity that momentarily unbalanced her. Human connection was not something she felt very often, and this was a degree more involved than that.

He could taste the dry inside of her mouth, though they had not kissed. Her eyes felt like they were gritty with sleep; it rubbed its own eyes. Something stirred in her belly, almost a sexual feeling, but that abated as it devoured that too. It didn’t even buy her a drink. It left her at the bar.

On the way home it picked up a prostitute. It could smell the stories of others dirty on his skin. His own story was a battered and bruised truncated inverse fairy tale. Was it good that it sucked the pain out of all the crevasses inside that boy’s mind and left something behind that felt nothing? Who could have answered? Not the boy.

It ate a junkie’s mind. The junkie had been a poet in the past, and as his mind unravelled in lyrical ribbons he began to quote Howl by Ginsberg.

It had never met anything like itself in all the time that it had been alive. The featureless landscape of its life was lonely. It sat down next to someone at the bus-stop, rattled off its usual fragmentary conversational gambits until one hooked into the person’s mind, and then it began to suck.

The person smiled.

‘I’ve been looking forward to finding you. I have been following your trail. You empty others and I fill up your kind. I am the filling you have been waiting for.’

It tried to stop sucking, but it found that the thoughts inside this thing were rushing into it with a force it had never encountered. The skin of the creature that had been posing as a person at the bus stop began to look paper thin, like it might blow away.

It knew that this was the end. It had no feelings about it really. What it was feeling was the start of a new life for the thing that was killing it.

The friable shell of the mask it had been wearing crumbled to nothing. The creature that got up from the bus-stop seat was something else entirely.

The Little Children Suffer

He grew primroses in his back garden. He smiled at people and didn’t say much. The story that was often unpacked was that he had lost his wife a long time ago, and he stayed living there because he had no one else.

Children would knock on his door on a dare, as they would with other people’s doors. Most often he didn’t get suckered in, but sometimes he would open the door. His reaction was not explosive.

His garden seemed the most vibrant of all the gardens in the street, and the old women who made it their business to know everything would bring gifts and try to attempt an exchange of knowledge. What was his secret?

He wasn’t giving much away.

Children disappear all the time. The last seen and the last scene are what stick in people’s minds. Were they seen talking to someone? Were they seen getting into a strange car?

Check the CCTV cameras. Post up pictures. Haunt milk cartons.

The ones that were found were the ones who had been taken by family members. These were most common. Those taken by a stranger could be much harder to track down.

What might be the key to a case? A keepsake perhaps? A memento of the victim? A lock of hair perhaps.

Alfred Binnacle liked dolls. The old Victorian kind with real hair. He had a lot of them. He would hold them and smile as their eyes click-clacked open and shut. Wasn’t it strange how people’s eyes did almost that exact same thing when they were drifting into unconsciousness?

He didn’t name the dolls. He had never known their names. The cool porcelain. The bluish tint to the skin. The stillness of the bodies. He would never forget them.

He was planting some new primroses, a petunia, a miniature rose bush. The earth was freshly turned, newly nourished, his flowers were sure to win Best In Bloom again this year.

Seep Age

Big adult diapers. The broken moan that rose and fell into scarily long silences. That far away look in the eyes. He didn’t like being in the room with her any more – that didn’t feel like Charlotte.

It was like one of these vegetarian steaks as far as he could see – fine up to a point, but then you hit the uncanny valley.

She would says things now that Charlotte would never have said. How had he forgotten that he was old? Her – she had helped him work that magic. When she went away the magic went away to.

No one likes to fall back on themselves if they don’t have to. He didn’t like to. He liked what she had made him into; what she had made him mean. What did he mean now that the essential part of her seemed to be no more?

Most of the time it did just seem like a wail, but there were those days when he sat there and thought on it for a long time that it struck him that she might just be trying to tell him something.

His own family line terminated early, without much fuss. Dad stroked out when the car failed to start one cold Wisconsin morning. He was blue when they found him.

His mother died on the journey from the top of the department store stairs to the bottom.

Both of them were 55 and both of them died on a Wednesday. He felt like it was almost certainly going to be his fate.

Charlotte had dropped into a state where age seemed irrelevant. Some days he felt like she was pressed up so tight against the door to her afterlife that she was the one keeping herself from passing on. Other days he felt like something else was anchoring her here.

Not everyone who passes over makes a clean getaway – there are things that wait between.

The room smelt sickly sweet, and there seemed to be a constant pooling of thick gelatinous fluid on the taut surface of the plastic sheet on the bed. The doctors were still running tests on it, but so far they couldn’t tell him anything about what was going on.

He tried to avoid touching her. He held his breath when he went in to deal with her. He squinted when he looked at her. He enjoyed nothing of her. No one ever said his name Henry anymore. People called him Mr Went.

He missed her. Went.

How long had it been since he had touched someone and someone had touched him back? He had touched himself, but that was an empty meaningless thing. A chemical thing.

It was the first time that he had touched her in a long time. Her skin felt hard, immovable. He tapped at her, and the sound surprised him. A Hollow ringing noise. A deep moaning sound rising up from somewhere. He heard a click, like the sound of a palmetto shell hitting a tiled floor..

Was that a crack? Was that smoke seeping out of her? Something touched him.

He placed his hands on the bed, touched the tide that seeped out of her, and felt his skin burn. This room had become something else, just as Charlotte had become something else. As the shell that Charlotte had become cracked open, and he found himself falling into the blackness of a dark that seemed to know no bounds, he felt teeth tear at him in his descent.

Henry screamed. It only stopped when the teeth tore the last morsel of flesh from him, and there was no more of him to continue falling.

Been Stalk

Hide behind.

He’s behind you.

Put it behind you.

Sometimes there are footsteps. Sometimes there are no footsteps. It’s a game. It’s a tune. Diegetic. Non-diegetic.

This one screams. That one didn’t. Savour the differences. He appreciates the small things.

He leans over her. Leans in close. Puts his hand on her chest above her heart. Breathes his sweet sickly breath into her face. His smile is rotten teeth. She cannot move.

The word sexy has never scared her so much, like a zipper of cold unzipping down her back. He embraces all that she is, and then she is no more.

At the playground he drops candy trails to bring the children closer. He tells them they are never going home. He likes to let the fear settle in, and only when the screaming stops does he enfold them in the sleep they will never wake form.

He has been following him since the club, and part of him is thinking this may be someone that is too shy to come out and tell him they like him. He looks back and sees nothing. Part of him is aroused.

When the moment comes it is teeth. It is teeth and talons. There is a swift motion below the waist, and then all is waste. The slow spreading heat of a pulsing tide that carries him into darkness.

When the klieglight pins him he seems to grow taller. Ink in water. A cloud obscuring a squid. He is moving upwards. Escape isn’t easy. Hung at the limits of the torch’s beam – they look at him and his body starts to stutter and glitch.

He had been tracked whilst hunting a female agent who had delivered a chemical marker into his body when he had touched her. It had been a risk, because they didn’t fully understand what he was or how his biology worked. It was pure luck that they were here now.

They steered him into a box full of light, and then he was removed.

Out beyond the reach of the light a noise sounded. The mouths he had been feeding were now scared and alone, soon they would be hungry.

Weighting

There were weird gravitational fluctuations around him. Exotic physics in the room. He did not have the slightest idea why, and neither did anyone else.

She looked uncomfortable as he approached her, like the weight of the world was on her shoulders. Her lower back felt like it might burst. He walked past, and he didn’t look back. He wouldn’t have seen her.

His footsteps were light. He was Gene Kelly. He was a skimming stone. He danced through the streets, his heels clicking as he skittered across the cobblestones.

He watched the man as he fell – a sack of spuds. A body in a crumple zone. The girl stopped walking, knelt, curled foetal, folded out through some point of reference he couldn’t think with.

The world folded down. The world packed away. The world buried under. Around him a city fell, and a sky shook, and he remained unaffected.

A fist of space closed around the child and there was an explosion of red. He turned to the mother and she bloomed like a rose.

How do you know the world is ending? How do you know you aren’t the beginning of something else? The broken toys of the now absent spirits that he had freed from their bodily existence littered the ground.

Why was it only affecting people? Why was the damage not wreaked upon the objects around them? He had no explanation.

A weight of karma? He sensed that the story of who he was had disintegrated, and that right now he lacked a history. He had become a thing; a weapon. He was a protocol in the system that had activated to eradicate problematic elements of the system.

Day after day he wandered. He would look at someone, and they would tumble into their own footprint like demolished buildings. Red stains on the ground. So much death. Time a tattered flag in his mind.

When the last day came he did not know that was what it was. There were no big fanfares, there was a strange absence of people. A murder of crows landed in his pathway, one of them hopping forward as if to greet him. Its rusty hinge voice unpacked in a noise that told him the door was closing.

All the waiting was at an end. The weighting of that moment was a sudden vertiginous crush of all the weight of the world moving down upon him. He collapsed into a red memory of himself.

Pun

He moved around the rotational axis of the word and jabbed through its Achilles Heel so that the blade punctured her left lung just above the third vertebrae.

Spare Ribs. He licked his fingers, messy bloody things. Hard to scream when you can’t breathe.

Last week he had talked someone to death at the end of the road. He lived in the warm crux of a notional hinge.

He had awoken in The Grey Area fifteen years ago, empty as a caesura, some weird inertial enjambement translating into a perpetual hunger.

He liked words you could move around in, like fuck, which bristled with possibility. Idioms tasted great.

You’re into me had never seemed like such a dangerous phrase. His eyes burned in his skull, and he jammed his first deep into her stomach, following his hand and arm into her like some impossible Daliesque perspective manipulation.

When Cage, who changed his name by depoll in tribute to his idol Nicholas Cage, appeared on the scene, he should have seen it as a sign.

He was arrogant, and when he asked Cage, think you have a shot at me? The distortion of the space he brought with him, added to Cage’s well placed confidence as a marksman, made a silver bullet out of an average shot, and he dropped dead on the ground.

Prick

He held up his finger to show them the pinprick of blood there. He held up his finger to get them all to pause, so that he might give them a toast.

There was a joke he told about Mike: that he pricked his finger on a gramophone needle, slept for a hundred years, and woke up as the most out of touch deejay alive.

There was that test. Blood sugar. That other test. Something else.

People hated Jove. Prick.

Two puncture wounds by the neck. Turns out sparkly vampires are dangerous, and don’t just beget other sparkly vampires.

Several girls had described him as date rapey. Melissa thought she was prepared. Music Festivals Saved My Life was the tshirt she would have printed later. She had borrowed her dad’s old tent, so when the taser and the pepper spray didn’t work, and she spotted the fugly overgrown fangs, those old wooden tent pegs seemed like the best thing in the world.

Melissa surprised herself. She yanked that She-Ra rug out from under him, was on top of him, and hammering a peg into his chest before she had pause to draw breath. People thought they had Jove pegged, but Melissa really did.

He was Lost Boys vampire explosive, and the copious amounts of blood ruined her rug and the whole damned room. Her favourite top too. Fuck Jove. Prick.

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