The streetlamps shot past the cruiser as if Darren were flying straight through a meteor shower, the ghostly orange glow of the sodium bulbs lacerated by alternating flashes of red and blue. Almost in time with these flashes was the frantic back and forth radio traffic as back up was coordinated, made more chaotic by the screaming of the sirens, all of this punctuated by the festive blasts in the distance. Thienes avenue was four minutes away from where Darren had been skating out until quitting time. The majority of TPD had been concentrated further south along 4th street, the main drag of Tavish where most of the nightlife took place.
Seven minutes away.
Darren had a perfect view of the situation in his chaotic freefall down the highway, the fireworks across the sky were like signal flares indicating how far he was from help.
Darren’s short career in law enforcement had never been described as heroic or even exceptional. His last performance review indicated varying levels of attitude and less than satisfactory work ethic. He pulled a kid out of car wreck once. Tased a meth head who robbed a store with a pickaxe handle before climbing into a fountain and throwing his own feces at pedestrians. He’d only pulled his service weapon a few times but never used it. Underneath the tidal wave of adrenaline, the notion floated up in his mind that this was his true test. This is where men find out who they are.
"Get there", Darren growled through clenched teeth, trying to muster some level of aggression up from his balls to suppress the fear in his heart, ever dancing beneath the surface. He was already sweating through his forehead and his palms. "Don’t fuck this up". He ratcheted his fists tighter to the wheel and pressed harder on the accelerator.
Fear and the hope that Hawkins might still be alive were the fuel that fed the furnace in his gut, sent him tearing West white-knuckled off of Angeles Crest and onto Eucalyptus past Veterans’ Park.
One more minute and there would be a right on Cork, a left on Bourgne, and one last right to Thienes. That minute stretched for an eternity, a lesser known talent of time, reserved only for those horrible, desperate moments where every second counts and human lives are at stake.
He jerked the wheel, screeching onto Cork, nearly spinning out completely but regained it, rounding the turn onto Bourgne and Thienes was in sight. From somewhere deep in Darren’s brain, where selfishness and spite live, the chasm that dark thoughts surface from before touching air and transmuting into guilt, Darren wondered what Ashley would think if he saved the day.
He shook it off before it could take root. No distractions. Focus. Get there.
He turned right onto the short dead-end street that was Thienes. It consisted of only six two-story houses before terminating at a service gate for an access road that led up into the hills, where a few electrical pylons were stretched out along the ridge. Darren had been to the first house before, a domestic violence call soon after he joined the department, but according to the sign out front, the house had since been vacated and placed back on the market. Down at the end, in the center of the road was Hawkins’ cruiser, nose pointed to the western side at the last house near the gate.
The streetlamps weren’t on. It took him a moment to process it, but all the lamps had been off since Cork a few seconds earlier. Darren immediately reasoned that the power might be out (at the worst possible time). But on the rear side of Hawkin’s car, the house on the end to the east had a very dim light on in the second story window facing the road. A figure which appeared to be a small-framed woman peered out over the bottom edge. There was this window, Darren’s headlights, and the flashes from the roof of his car capturing the houses along the street in red and blue freeze frame.
The only other source of light was a reddish glow emanating from the backyard of the house Hawkin’s car was pointing at, seeping around the dark structure like an eclipse. This must be the bonfire that Hawkins went to investigate. But it was too bright, like a massive flare had been lit. A crimson aura around a black hole hanging in the air.
"Here we go" Darren muttered with a quick exhale.
With the flick of a switch, the siren ceased its wailing. Darren keyed in his radio to pass up a sitrep. One normally has to key in for a second and a half and wait for a beep indicating when you can speak. A lot of new guys take a while to remember that and start talking right as they press the button, leading to a lot of half sentences going out over the air. Darren waited for the sound and that second and a half, much like the race to get here, took far too long with a man’s life on the line and some crazy pyromaniac asshole on the loose.
The beep never came.
Darren keyed again, waited for another eon, but only more silence.
"The fuck?!" hissed Darren. Wrong time for technical difficulties. Darren keyed in again and again with the same result. He bent down in his seat to the console, which showed it was powered on, and indicated that his mic was open when the handset was pressed, but no sound other than a low, deep hum.
"Not now not now COME ON!"
It hit him that the near constant radio traffic on his approach to Thienes had ceased when he arrived like maybe something essential for communication had knocked loose. He had taken a few hard speed bumps that made him sure something underneath the car would be leaking once it got back to the motor pool.
"Fuck it" Darren threw the handset to the floor. Comm was down and the feeling in his bones was that he was out of time to waste. At that moment, he hadn’t even considered using his cell phone (which also showed a time of 11:48, 12 minutes to midnight), he was moving and thinking too fast. The kind of situational blind spot that obstructs us from a simple solution when the chips really are down. Darren unhooked the Remington 870 from its cradle, and in seemingly one deft move pulled the handle for the door, nudged it open, and sprang out of vehicle into the cold once again, bringing the shotgun up to his shoulder, opening the breech, and chambering a shell from the mount on the side with one hand; the loud CLACK echoing in the deathly silence of Thienes. Darren switched on the tactical flashlight attached to the foregrip, and with his heart slamming against the inside of his chest, stepped forward scanning for Hawkins, who was nowhere in sight.
Immediately upon exiting the vehicle, the scent of smoke assaulted Darren’s nose, carrying with it the faint hint of a stench much more vile. He scanned his surroundings at a steady pace, the light sweeping over the street from under the barrel of the shotgun.
It may have been the effects of the adrenaline dumped into his bloodstream, or being so near the border of panic, but it seemed as if the high-powered light cut through the darkness with great difficulty, on the verge of being swallowed by the shadows. The air was oppressive here, like trying to gasp in a coffin, oxygen slowly running out. It carried a deep chill, but Darren’s skin was hot. It was like someone was breathing on him. It felt like every hair on his body was standing up, like he was clutching a bare wire in his hands. The sweat was freezing his hands and his face.
And the sound.
There wasn’t any.
There should’ve been sirens bearing down on him right now with righteous fury, great wails carrying with them the help Darren needed now more than ever, promising rescue for their missing brother in arms, vengeance on the filth that assailed him, this man known as suspect white male, mid-thirties, heavyset, who did not appear to be carrying anything but must have been.
Darren moved quickly with his knees slightly bent, stepping carefully but quickly, setting his heels down and rolling the ground along the lengths of his feet to his toes. Darren’s car was a good forty feet from Hawkins’ and just when he nearly made the journey, the light caught something on the ground.
Blood. A great, bright red pool of it. Seemingly too much for one man.
Darren’s heart skipped, then somehow managed to rededicate itself to bashing through his chest with even more resolve. Sometimes terror seemed to live in our veins, and it was now cascading down his arms and legs, making the muscles feel weak. Darren shifted the light from the mess on the ground to the empty vehicle, which was streaked with what was unmistakably arterial spray.
This was a massacre.
And somehow, an officer was down in Southern California and Darren Barlow was completely alone.
A high shriek pierced the atmosphere, almost causing Darren to jump straight up out of his boots. Had his finger been inside of the trigger guard instead of along the side of it he would have blown a grapefruit-sized hole in the rear passenger side door of the abandoned vehicle. After a few rapid-fire heartbeats, the shriek was followed by a longer and deeper sound, almost forlorn with great disappointment. This lower sound repeated itself a second and third time, very slowly before ceasing. The heavy silence had returned to the thick and bitterly cold air.
"oh, shit" Darren whispered, trying to ignore his own wavering voice, which in the complete absence of any ambiance seemed to echo off of the lifeless structures around him. His pulse was like a set of war drums deep inside his ears and getting more emphatic.
He had no idea what to make of it, but he was certain these unspeakably disturbing noises were coming from human vocal cords. Their source was behind the house-shaped abyss pointed out by Hawkins’ car. With no corpse to be found, there was every chance in the world his missing comrade was still alive, barely, and being tortured by hopelessly cruel means. It seemed impossible with the amount of blood on the pavement, but if it was true, he was so unbelievably close to being out of time. He looked back at the house to the east, up to the second story window where a woman had been watching, more than likely the neighbor who had flagged Hawkins down. She was gone, and she had taken the light with her. Darren looked up out of some primal need for human contact in his desperation. The window was another dark hole in existence, taking in nothing, giving out the same.
He swiveled and turned the shotgun back to the house. As he did, he saw the final necessary indication. More blood, leading away from the scene, thick streaks haphazardly smeared onto the curb, across the sidewalk, and onto the lawn. Drag marks.
Darren’s internal voice urged him into action. Come on, you fuck, get there! He glanced briefly up at the sky, usually a dark pink from the light pollution, but it was completely obsidian. No clouds, no stars, no flashing lights from passing aircraft. A total void.
Like being trapped in a night terror.
Darren sank into a dreadful and unexplainable notion that he had crossed over some threshold into something he wasn’t meant to.
HAWKINS. GO NOW.
Despite every sense of self-preservation and the protests of every fiber of his being, Darren raised the Remington, shined the light towards the deep dark Hell in front of him and began to move forward.
Darren could see the vapor that erupted from his mouth in the beam of light with every exhale as he stepped up onto the curb and made his way towards the lawn. With his being the only light in what seemed like all of creation besides the ugly red behind the structure, Darren was bewildered that whoever lived here had not given some indication his presence was noted. His light illuminated the side of the mailbox, which below the numbers 318 read "Lauder".
A sharp hiss rolled across the air, over and around and through Darren, prompting him to whip the shotgun back towards the front door of the house. He instinctively crouched, ready to unload every shell in the magazine tube into whatever creeping nightmare exposed itself to his line of sight.
He was about to rise and press forward when the sound came again, freezing him in place, and then a third time, far quicker. Each time, the sensation was similar to swimming in warm water and passing through a cold pocket.
After the sound had not repeated again, Darren scanned his surroundings. The dark structure ahead loomed over him, appearing to lean over and regard with dead eyes this pitiful creature that dared to disturb it.
Another sound. Distant. Low.
This was decidedly not from vocal cords of any sort, but almost like the foghorn of a boat far out on the ocean. It would drone on for a time before quitting abruptly. Right there in the expectation of silence, it would pick up again, same as before.
While trying to decide what to make of it, Darren glanced right and picked up a faint light, the same red that had encircled the house from the street, glowing in a rectangular shape. He slowly shifted the Remington’s barrel towards it, passing over it with the light.
A gate. Between the house and the stone wall separating the property from the field of brush leading up into the cliffs. To what must be a narrow passageway to the backyard. His destination decided, Darren kept an eye towards the front of the house as he kept low and smoothly crept towards the side entrance. He reached it, vapor streaming from his mouth in short puffs. He began to lean around the corner to peer into the alleyway when the light caught more blood, a smear the size of a soccer ball on the stone barrier. The smell of smoke was stronger now, and the second, far more unpleasant stench grew with it. This was his point of ingress.
Carefully, crouched low, Darren poked his head out from the corner and looked down the alleyway.
The glow from what had to be the bonfire (had to be) Illuminated what he could see of the backyard’s northern side with his narrow view. Streaks of blood, smaller than before, traced alongside the wall. Below that, a clear and pronounced trail led through the dirt and around the corner on the other side.
Keeping the shotgun in his firing hand, buttstock tucked up in his armpit, Darren felt up over the door to find a latch. His hand passed through several spiderwebs and his fingers grazed something greasy and unpleasant before he found it. It took some effort for it to give, but with made no noise once it did. The door gently swung out a few inches towards Darren’s face. Darren nudged it gently open the rest of the way, resting it carefully against the wall, waiting for a breath to see if it would swing back once he released it. It stayed put. Darren set the Remington back into his shoulder and stepped into the narrow passage.
The stench of smoke and whatever vile, putrid thing that followed with it bottlenecked through the tunnel and hit Darren in an overwhelming wave as he traversed the passage in at a slow and steady pace. He had to fight the churning of his stomach and the torque of his throat as he made his way to the corner. With his shotgun barrel a foot away from the opening, he knelt down, pressing a knee into the blood trail. Massive radiating heat pressed against his face, as the cold from the street clung to his back.
Spitting the saliva that had pooled down in the corners of his jaws, Darren went down flat on his stomach, propped up on his elbows and began to inch towards whatever awaited at the rear of the house.
The urge to turn and run from this place crawled up his spine, wrapped around his brain stem and pleaded with him to save himself. Get out. Get to the car. Get away. Far away. Run for as long as you can.
Your soul depends on it.
Darren squeezed his eyes shut, took a deep breath in through his mouth, exhaled carefully, expelling the smoke and the stink and the poisonous barbs of panic, switched off the light on the shotgun and then eased his head and upper body around the corner.
The bonfire was like staring into a small sun. Darren edged back around the corner, blinking the spots away. Back around the corner, he had to blink hard several times to get his eyes to adjust.
Thick smoke rising from the column of fire. Around the yard, no sign of movement. to the left, a patio with a sliding glass door at the back of the house. Empty. Darren shifted his gaze back towards the supernova in the middle of the yard. In front of the blaze, a structure.
Two large wooden poles, stretching high into the air.
Joined horizontally by an iron rod
Something in the middle.
Onto a torn police uniform.
Covered in a pile of intestines.
Feet lashed together, pierced with a hook chained to the bar at the top.
A short stump attached to the shoulders, viciously sawn through.
Large, ragged cut, from the collarbones to where the genitals used to be.
Field dressed like a deer.
Darren, numb with shock, trailed his eyes to a workbench next to the infernal structure where the head of Officer Alexander Hawkins seemed to be turned in his direction but seeing nothing now or ever again.
Darren’s mind was like a blank slate, unable to curse himself for being too late, for allowing his own fear to abandon a man, a friend to such insidious slaughter. It was deep in this fugue state that he felt it.
A pull. A PULL from deep in his chest. Bidding him, commanding him...
Slowly, Darren stood, shotgun cradled loosely in his arms.
Like a whisper, somehow heard over the cracking of the fire, a noise which Darren only now realized was present.
But this whisper seemed to be coming from the fire.
Above it...Above the structure. Standing over...floating over the eviscerated remains of Hawkins.
Hard to see against the smoke.
"don’t want to..."
Darren stood still for a moment, eyes fixed to the shape swaying above the grotesque display.
He lifted his foot to take a step forward before...
Darren gasped, clutching the side of the house for support. He’d passed out for a few seconds after the shock from seeing Hawkins’ body had set in. He’d seen many corpses in his profession, but nothing like this. No one outside of the worst war-torn places on earth had seen anything like this. Darren glanced up. The lights of an aircraft inching its way across the sky, far above this mess. The first sign of life since he got to Thienes. A small breeze had picked up. He thought he could hear fireworks in the distance.
Head still swimming, Darren pushed off from the wall but stumbled forward.
Outside his cover.
A rush of air, like someone breathing directly on the back of his neck.
Darren regained his balance, whipped around, bringing the shotgun back up...
A thunderous blast pierced his eardrums and what felt like a truck hit him square in the chest.
He landed on his back, half from the force, half from his hair-trigger nerves. Through pure instinct, Darren rolled left towards the narrow passage and behind the corner as two more blasts roared from the direction of what must be the patio as two more shots slammed into the dirt where he had been just a half second before.
Darren was able to catch his breath, patting himself down, looking for where he’d been hit. He hadn’t.
The Remington. The bullet went straight into the ejection port. Hoping for a miracle, he attempted to pump another round in the chamber but it wouldn’t budge. He dropped the shotgun in the dirt and pulled the Glock from his hip.
With the pistol in both hands, he leaned around the corner, spotting the shooter. He was short but muscular, his bald head reflected the fire. In one hand a large antique-looking revolver pointed directly at Darren.
Another thunder blast, coupled in the same instant with a whining hiss as the round went over Darren’s head, a few inches from digging a trench in his skull. Darren sighted in and squeezed the trigger three times.
The first round plowed through the sliding glass door, sending the shards crashing to the floor like a waterfall. The other two found their target, one planting itself deep into the man’s abdomen, the last on the right side of his chest. Twin fountains of blood sprang up from his torso, but he seemed unfazed. He didn’t move an inch. Darren couldn’t see his eyes, but the shadows where they should’ve been seemed to be drilling a hole straight through him.
The man suddenly cried a high, piercing screech and turned back towards the house, raising the arm with the hand cannon to blindfire behind him. Darren leveled the Glock and got off four more shots, the first striking his target directly in the head, another in his lower back before he pitched forward into the darkness of the house.
Darren’s nerves were completely shot, and he was somehow positive that his attacker wasn’t dead.
The fucker responsible for Hawkins.
After the shock of seeing what had happened here, Darren felt that he had slipped out of reality, out of himself. He was starting to get his fangs back. The fear was gone.
"Come on, get up, get in there" Darren growled to himself.
Darren raced forward, Glock up, ready for anything as he lept up the stairs and onto the patio, ready to breach the door when he saw two bare legs streaked with dirt in the glow of the fire on the carpet. Darren quickly fumbled in his pocket for the small flashlight he kept as a backup, clicked it on and shined it inside.
The man was dead, the shot to the head had done what .40 S&W was meant to do. The blood was pooling up around the corpse, appearing black in the low light. He hadn’t noticed the man was completely naked. Darren began to step into the room when...
"Wha...ou..see?" said a deep, morose and garbled voice.
Darren turned quick and found himself looking straight down the barrel of a shotgun. A large man (mid-thirties, heavyset) was leveling at his face. The light revealed dried blood around his mouth and down his chin, staining his wife-beater.
Darren froze, brain unable to process what he was seeing and unable to make out what he was hearing.
The man’s large, fat cheeks tweaked up from ear to ear, revealing gums completely devoid of teeth.
"ou ill, eh ime."
As he spoke, Darren shifted the flashlight at an upward angle towards his face, his opened jaws revealed a stump where the tongue had been.
His eyes completely devoid of humanity. Pure, animal rage.
Darren’s breath made a peculiar noise against the shotgun barrel, an inch from his face.
A shotgun barrel with a tactical flashlight.
The Remington he’d abandoned outside.
The large man pulled the trigger.
Darren brought the Glock up fast, but the beast in front of him was shockingly more agile than he looked, swinging the shotgun like a club, knocking the pistol from his hand with the barrel then slamming the buttstock into the side of his face.
Darren went to the ground, hands frantically searching for the gun. The huge psycho wrapped a meaty hand around Darren’s ankle and dragged him up under his massive frame. Darren went for the mace in his belt but instead rolled to avoid a massive foot aimed at his head with the man’s full weight behind it. It slammed into the floor with such force the whole house seemed to shake.
Crawling on his hands and knees, Darren went back to where he’d heard the clatter of the gun in the darkness, and again felt himself being dragged back by his belt. This monster would smash his skull to pieces if it was the last thing he ever did. Sensing his luck about to run out, Darren rolled to his back and kicked up with all the strength in his body. His right boot connected beautifully up under the jaw of his attacker, bringing him down to his knees.
"Last chance go go GO"
Darren scrambled back into the darkness and put his hand on something that wasn’t his pistol, but the large revolver that was dropped by the other man. A Walker Colt.
As he attempted to rise he felt the massive arm wrap under his and over his chest, flinging him into the wall. The bulletproof vest Darren wore absorbed most of the impact but not all, the wind was knocked out of him.
A blood-soaked hand wrapped around his throat and held him up straight, nearly lifting him in the air. The monster brought his face straight in front of Darren’s, eye to eye. Deep within, Darren could’ve sworn he saw something swirling around in there. Madness. Darren’s eyes darted to his left and saw something far worse in the other hand.
His brain losing oxygen fast and about to be bashed out of his skull, he used the last of his strength to bring his arm up, pressing the barrel of the revolver into the thick fat under the man’s chin and cocking the hammer.
The blinding muzzle flash. The loud blast followed by a harsh ringing in his ears. A wet spray filled with tiny razors splashing his face. The sensation of falling for too long and then being stopped hard by the floor. The earthquake as the beast above him followed.
It took what felt like several minutes for his vision to clear. Darren rose to his knees, soaked in blood and gore. Unsure of what lay ahead. The house was quiet, and getting darker. Looking out the smashed patio door, Darren could see the bonfire dying out. He was almost unable to see Hawkins. He never wanted to see that again.
He found his flashlight, and his service pistol, putting a fresh mag in and shining the light around the room which turned out to be the kitchen.
It was a horrific pigsty, not that he’d expected any better. Dirty pots and pans, trash, old food rotting. Papers all over the floor. He moved into what seemed to be a living room, careful to avoid the corpses of the men he’d just killed. The walls were completely covered, floor to ceiling, in strange writing. Sometimes even on the ceiling. Darren could only make out very few coherent and legible sentences. He wandered the house for what seemed to be a half hour.
There were some old books on the coffee table, and behind it next to the ratty old sofa, three large duffel bags. He shined a light inside. It was packed full of clear plastic bags, each filled with grey powder.
A noise below Darren battered his already frayed nerves.
A chime. His fucking cell phone. How could he have forgotten?
Cursing himself and bewildered at the idea that he forgot he had it on him this whole time, his heart nearly stopped when he saw the time.
"Just so you know, you really haven’t been here as long as you think."
Darren whirled around and shined his light on a short man, balding, dressed business casual but highly disheveled.
"DON’T FUCKING MOVE! SHOW ME YOUR HANDS!" Darren commanded, gun at the ready.
He did, but without much care put into it.
"I’m unarmed," said the man. And he also was the only person in the house not covered in blood.
"Show me. Turn around, slowly. Lift your jacket."
"I watched you. You saw without any help. That’s a rare talent."
"The fuck are you talking about?" Darren kept the gun pointed at the base of the guy’s skull. Not taking any more chances.
"You know what you saw. Out there. Above the fire. Above that mess."
Darren shuddered. When he passed out, there was something.
"Imagine what you could do with a little help. With a little communion. Confession sets you free." He continued.
"Who are you?’ Darren asked,"are you Lauder?"
The man thought for a few moments. "In a way. Yeah, I guess I am. Real name’s Burke. Will."
"Who the fuck were these guys?"
"The dead guys on the floor. Turn around. Do it slowly."
"They killed the police officer outside?" Darren asked.
"Them? Oh. Yes. They did work for me from time to time. Stayed here. They got...carried away. I gave them communion. Some cannot handle what they see. They go too far. They don’t need to." Burke explained.
Darren had enough of this shit for one night.
"You know, someone like you, who can see her just fine without help, I wonder..." He rambled on.
"Well, without help, she has to choose you. What would happen..."
"Quiet. Turn around and get down on your knees." Darren was going to hook him, take him back to the car and call for help.
The man did as instructed. As Darren went to cuff his hands he felt a sharp pain in his thigh. Syringe. Something grey. Burke’s thumb pushing the plunger halfway down.
"Fuck!" Darren yanked the needle out and swung the Glock at Burke’s head, a desperate swipe but he went down.
Darren bent down to put a knee on Burke, keeping him in place, but lost his balance. He hit the floor, ears ringing louder than ever. His head was swimming again, just like when he discovered Hawkins’ body. With some effort, he got to his feet, but his balance was way worse. The ground was shifting. Spots formed in his eyes. He heard Burke stirring and aimed the pistol at him. No. Not there. Where was he? He’d lost the flashlight again and it was dark. Too dark. He stumbled back out to the kitchen where the fire would provide some light but it what happened to the light? How had the fire burned itself out without him noticing? His vision was wavering at the edges and he attempted to grab the kitchen table for support but his foot caught something and he hit the floor again. The floor that was wet with something sticky and thick. The dizziness was so bad he couldn’t get all the way back up so he crawled. Crawled toward what he thought was the broken glass door but he could hear Burke, on his feet, saying something. Something about Her. Darren aimed the Glock at the sound of Burke’s voice but the Glock wasn’t in his hand anymore so he crawled away, looking for something, anything to help him get out of this and put his hand on something wet, something fleshy, with hair like somebody’s head but this one was missing most of it. His bladder had let go and then he was on his back and Burke was on him with the needle again, which he sunk into Darren’s neck, the rest of the shit that grey shit and he was saying something something something about her and he was so tired and he wanted to get help and he was saying something about her about who about Ashley no it was
THE WORLD SLAMMED BACK into focus but it was something different now, he was somewhere else but the same place, Burke had given him his communion and his hands were on his neck, but Darren’s hand had found something, not a gun but with a long handle, and it was heavy but Darren felt stronger now, It was no longer dark, there was a brilliant red light everywhere, over everything, something was calling, someone was calling.
She was calling. Whispering Darren’s name. He wanted to see Her. And this man Burke was in the way. From somewhere, everywhere, all around and through him, She whispered and told him what to do about this man, this insect who was keeping him from Her, his love, and Darren brought the hammer up and bashed in the side of Burke’s head. Burke toppled over to the side, eyes rolled over white and he was twitching and this FUCKING INSECT wouldn’t stop squirming so Darren knelt over him and swung the hammer again and again and again until his face was gone and his head was pulp and Darren wanted to bring it down one more time, just be sure, so he raised his hand and
The little man was gone. All those dead little worms in the kitchen were gone. the house was gone, Thienes, Tavish, the world, all gone.
He was drifting somewhere.
He couldn’t remember his name. Didn’t matter anyway. All of that was over. Whatever that was.
But then he was somewhere. He knew this place. It was a cabin in the forest. It was warm, and it was night and the moonlight cast the world in a ghostly pallor.
Someone was there. It was her. A beautiful girl in a dress. He loved her and hoped to spend the rest of his life with her.
"shh, love. come."
He went to her and when they kissed nothing mattered because it was just the two of them in all of Creation, he felt free, they were both free and all he ever wanted was this, forever.
All the little insects fell away to die with the world beneath them, they could never know what it meant to feel like this.
A sensation all around him, like butterfly wings caressing every inch of his skin. He pulled back and looked at Her face.
The moon shined down on her beautiful face, but it was not Her beautiful face. Her pale skin glowed brightly in the moonlight and her eyes were complete shadows, and her perfect pink lips hid something horrible behind them.
He was afraid. This was not her. This was Her.
Her face shifted briefly and the sight of it paralyzed him with pure mortal terror. She stretched her arm out, past his head, gesturing behind him, the other hand remained on the back of his neck, the nail running along the length of it, a gesture the girl used to do to keep him right there with her forever and aways but this was not the girl.
"see." She whispered.
He did not want to.
Not a request. A demand.
He turned to see because it would please Her.
The house of the Worm at the place called Thienes. Just to the right, He saw himself standing next to the highway watching fireworks. Further down, asking the girl to marry him. To the left of the Worm’s house, a desert. He’s in a hotel room on a phone. He’s with an old friend. there’s another pretty girl with yellow hair. Pretty but with a strong heart, Stronger than his. Down further than that is difficult to see.
She whispers again "come"
He follows her, drifting out out out further out. Straight ahead sees them all, all the insects and they are full of joy and celebrating and there are explosions in the sky. From this far out the left looks very similar to the right, with a few differences in appearance and it’s too hard to see very far on either side.
She smiles. He’s afraid when She smiles.
"see" She whispers.
In between those perfect pink lips that he loved so much Her cheeks split wide open all the way to Her ears, dividing Her face in half and Her jaw opens and there are teeth like needles and She shrieks and something black slithers out of Her throat, black with orange, writhing legs and it touches the world with all the insects, and the black thing splits off to the left and to right and its everywhere and there’s screaming there’s so much screaming and oh god oh god oh god
"This one’s alive! Rick, get the fuck over here!"
i’m looking into Her eyes those deep dark shadows and She’ll never let me
"Come on Barlow, stay with me. Open your eyes!"
into Her eyes She sees me and I see Her She sees
"That’s it buddy, come on."
She sees me and I see Her and She sees me and I see
The clock on the wall of William Burke’s kitchen reads 11:59 pm, and there’s sirens and cops and paramedics all around and Darren feels himself being rolled out of that terrible house and
She will never let me go because I saw Her and She saw me
and at 12:00 am on January 1st, 2013, The people in Tavish, and everywhere on the west coast, celebrated just as the rest of the world had done hours before them. Because the dirt of the old year had been washed clean. It was a new beginning in which anything was possible. Dead winter would fade into gentle spring. Hope had returned. Their sins were forgiven.
They were oblivious to Darren Barlow and what happened in the house of William Burke. Life as Darren knew it had ended. But the rest of the world had not ended. The world kept on.
The world keeps spinning until it doesn’t.