8Fold/Acra: Haunted Man #2 "Condemned" and "The Hemophile"
jamie.rosen at sunlife.com
Wed Oct 17 18:29:09 PDT 2007
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Jamie Rosen ....... ....... ...... |
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#2 "Condemned" and .. .. .. .. .. .. |
"The Hemophile" .. .. .. .. .. .. |
Your host looks different at the time of your second visit. His skin
is still pale, his body still gaunt, but somehow he seems livelier.
Healthier, if such a word can be used.
"Thank you so much for returning," he says, ushering you in from the
storm outside. "I do so enjoy the company."
He escorts you back to the sitting room, and as you did the time
before, you take a seat. "May I interest you in some ladies' fingers?"
he asks, offering a tray of delectable treats. "I obtained them fresh
You shake your head no, and he returns to the tray to the table beside
him. In an empty chair to your left, you see the cushions shift
slightly, as though a weight has been placed upon them.
"Ah," says your host. "I see the evening's entertainment is about to
begin." The wind outside the shutters sounds ever so much like
whispers to your ears.
Jay Yasbeck came to with a start. How long had he been lying here?
Since the car crash -- he had stumbled from the accident, come into
this building, and collapsed. His entire body hurt: joints ached,
muscles cramped and stiffened from having lain in so awkward a
position. There were cuts and scratches on his body, and blood on his
His first thought was to try the door, but it was either stuck or
locked. He couldn't get it open. The windows were boarded up, and so
filthy that even where the boards were cracked he couldn't see through
them to the world outside. The rest of the building was in no better
shape -- the paint was peeling from the walls in great, palm-sized
sections, and the floor was covered in the accumulated filth and trash
of God knows how long.
He flexed and stretched his muscles, hoping to work the stiffness out
of them, and gave some thought to his situation. The door would not
budge, and he doubted he could pry the planks from the windows in his
condition, let alone then break the glass. By the amount of blood he
could see -- some of it was all but indistinguishable from the dirt --
he was in need of medical attention, but he wasn't sure of his
location and had no idea where the nearest hospital was, or how to get
there. He couldn't stay where he was forever, though -- he had to find
another way out.
Every door along the hallway was locked except the one at the end,
which groaned in complaint but opened nonetheless. Beyond it lay a
stairwell, in no better condition than the hallway itself. Something
Jay couldn't see crunched beneath his boots as he mounted the stairs,
but the steps themselves were sturdy and solid. He looked back at the
hallway, thinking of returning, but he had already exhausted every
other option open to him.
Halfway up the stairs, Jay stopped and looked down at his stained,
filthy clothing. His temples throbbed and his body ached, but he
should have felt worse. If he had lost as much blood as it appeared,
he thought, he should have been weaker, his injuries should have been
If all that blood were his....
He turned to look down the stairwell, resting his hand on the
battered, rotting railing. How had he gotten here, into this building?
What had he been doing before the crash? Why were all the doors locked
-- had they been locked after his arrival?
He closed his eyes and tried to think back: he had awoken on the
ground floor, with a start. How long had he been out? Before that --
he could remember snippets, bits and pieces of his life, but they were
too disjointed to come up with any sort of timeline for them. They
could have been hours, days, or even years apart. A drive in the
country. A young girl -- his daughter? -- in a pink dress and
pigtails. Balloons of all different colours. The sound of breaking
glass and raised voices, one of them perhaps his own.
Something crawled across his fingers. He opened his eyes but couldn't
see what had done it, although the hairs on his knuckles still tingled
from the sensation. Shaking his head to free it of his confusion, he
pressed onward, up the stairs some more.
Two steps later, a wave of nausea washed over him and he had to shut
his eyes again, reaching out to the wall for support. The flaking
paint was a jagged crust against his palm; his nostrils filled with an
overwhelming stench and he lost his balance, toppling backward. For a
moment as he fell he wasn't in the stairs at all -- he was in a car,
in the driver's seat, with lights flashing all around him.
The flashing lights resolved into spots in his vision when he opened
his eyes. He was lying in the corner of the landing, his head and neck
at an awkward angle yet again. His chest hurt and his shirt was torn
along the front, presumably from the fall. He pulled himself to his
feet using the banister, and winced at the pain in his neck. But there
was something else.
The stairwell stank of alcohol. That was it. Overpoweringly, terribly
of alcohol. It made him want to vomit, but he forced the bile down and
started back up the stairs, each stride a struggle.
At the top of the stairs he stopped to catch his breath, trying at the
same time not to breathe too deeply and let the stench overwhelm him.
Every inhalation left a pain in his chest, and he had to lean against
the ragged, scaly wall again for support.
How had he gotten here? The car had crashed -- he'd swerved. To avoid
something? What? Had he been alone? A new urgency gripped him.
Something was eluding his grasp, something hidden in his spotty
memory, but he knew it was important that he get out and get help.
More important than he'd realized before.
One last push got him through the open door and into the blackness on
the other side, where he was caught up in something sticky -- bands
across his chest. In his temporary blindness, he felt his memories
come rushing back.
He'd argued with Wendy over something stupid -- her fear of spiders,
and how he'd laughed at her because of it. He'd been drinking. He did
that a lot lately. It was their daughter Marion's birthday party.
There was a clown in the backyard, entertaining the kids -- but the
shouting drowned out everything. They'd thrown things at each other,
sent the children home to their parents. She'd screamed at him to get
out, and he had obliged her -- taking Marion with him, crying and
His eyes adjusted to the light, dim as it was. The stickiness across
his chest was spider webs -- no, one giant spider web, binding him
tighter as he struggled against it, the silken threads turning crimson
and brown from the blood now seeping through his torn shirt. He had to
get free, to get out, but he could barely even move at all.
In the darkness something moved across the web -- a great hairy
something, bigger than Jay himself, with eight segmented legs dancing
with hideous grace from strand to strand. As it moved closer, he could
make out its bulbous body, and attached to the body a head, a human
head with a white-painted face and a blood-red, too-wide mouth under
smiling, circled eyes. Saliva dripped from its maw, and mucous from
its bulbous nose, and it stopped just shy of his immobilized form.
"Daddy?" the spider said with his daughter's voice. "Please, don't."
Then it struck, its teeth like broken shards of glass puncturing his
skin, and he realized what he'd done, and why he was condemned.
"My word," your host comments to you. "Children these days.
Carter Smoltz loved blood. He would dab his fingers into the little
pools that formed on his skin when he cut himself shaving, then lick
them clean. When his girlfriend was menstruating, he would go down on
her for hours at a time until his lips and chin were stained a deep,
dark red. He would never cut himself or make himself bleed on purpose,
for he had a profound distaste for pain; likewise, he would never
cause injury to another human being -- he just wasn't that sort of
person. And so it was natural for him to seek out, and find,
employment as a night shift security guard at the city's sole
remaining blood bank.
It was the perfect job for Carter, who had learned from early on the
joys and majesties of solitude. He would roam the corridors for hours
on end, checking doors and windows, shining his flashlight down
hallways, and periodically consuming a candy bar and cola from the
lone vending machine in the building, which worked slightly more often
than it did not. Sometimes he would toss the flashlight from hand to
hand, or flip it through the air like a drum major's baton, the narrow
beam of light illuminating madly dancing shadows in every corner of
the building. And one time, one of those shadows moved.
The thing that struck him from his blind spot had existed only briefly
in the corner of his eye. It was a shapeless, formless impact, that
knocked him to the floor and sent the flashlight skittering across the
pink and seafoam tiles. Then it scampered down the hallway, just
barely resolved into a set of feet -- two or three or four, the
darkness made impossible to say -- before it vanished 'round a corner.
Carter chased after it, grabbing the flashlight as he ran, his feet a
little too anxious underneath him. He hadn't thought there much point
to his position, but now it seemed he had been gravely mistaken. He
followed the intruder by the irregular sound of its footsteps, and
came upon it in the room where most of the bank's supplies were
His hands were shaking with adrenaline, making it hard to hold the
flashlight steady, but he could still make out the figure before him
with perfect precision. The footsteps had been irregular, the feet
impossible to count, because the creature's limbs were in a constant
state of flux -- legs became arms became tails became flaccid pink
penii. The only constants were the two spindly, almost twig-like arms
that held a clear bag before it, and the drooping neck that supported,
barely, an oversized head currently draining that bag of its plasma.
A feeling of disgust came over Carter, soon washed away by a stronger
rage. What was this thing, to think it could come in here, violate the
sanctity and serenity of this place and feast upon the very lifeblood
of mankind? It held in its hands the most precious gift that could be
given by one human being to another, and it was drinking it down like
a -- like a fucking Slurpee!
Without thinking, he flung himself on the thing, dropping the
flashlight in the process. They struggled in the unsteady light as the
bulb, loosened by two significant impacts in short succession, came
slightly out of its socket. The creature was slimy in places, scaly in
others, and at times Carter's body seemed about to sink into its
fleshy, shifting bulk. The ever-changing number and nature of its
limbs meant that he could not hope to out-grapple it, and instead he
began to lash out, raining blow after blow on the creature's body
whenever possible, grimacing at the implacable silence that, save for
the thud of body meeting body, surrounded them.
Then his hands found those tiny arms that had gripped the blood bag,
and he twisted them, snapping whatever bones or carapace held them
together and eliciting, at last, a sound from the creature itself.
It was a guttural, anguished cry, the wail of an infant in its crib,
the howl of a stray cat in heat, the squeal of gears grinding against
one another in a way that they were never meant to. And in the instant
of that sound, the thing with which he grappled seemed to melt, its
already-shifting shape losing all cohesion whatsoever to form a puddle
on the floor. He licked a finger, and tasted that familiar salty tang.
Shaken, he went over to the flashlight and picked it up, then found
the switch on the wall and turned on the overhead fluorescents. The
room was a mess: shredded bags were littered on the floor and tables,
and blood was splattered across every surface, his own body included.
His stomach lurched.
It was disgusting, all this waste. Even his own love for the fluid of
life could not inure him to the visceral reaction toward this mess, a
mess that should by rights have signalled and death and violence, and,
upon reflection, did. It was enough to make him sick, and he doubled
over as his insides threatened to come out en masse.
He vomited up blood in great reverse-gulps -- blood and nothing but.
The stuff spilled to the floor and seemed to seek out the puddles that
sat there already. No. No, he realized, the opposite was true -- the
blood already sprayed across the walls, the counter tops, the tiled
floor, was seeking out that which fled his mouth. His eyes were
tearing, his gut was wrenching, but there was no doubt in his mind of
what he saw, what he experienced.
For one brief, beautiful moment his body was itself again, and under
his control. And then it happened: the blood had pooled together, run
in rivers and streams to one central pond, and now it leapt up and
pried apart his lips, flooding his esophagus, looking for any entrance
it could find into his system, a nightmare come to life. He felt the
pulse of a hundred men and women, children and animals, beating
through his veins. He felt his terror melt in the face of this new
orientation, this turning outward of his body and his senses -- his
self. He understood the creature he had fought -- it was not feeding,
it was not destroying, it was liberating. Liberating itself, and
liberating the blood that once meant life and now was just a captive
rotting in a plastic prison. He understood the creature because he was
the creature, and every other creature it had been. He understood
because blood cried out for blood, and now he could hear its call.
And he would not be the last.
You find yourself at the door, a little out of sorts.
"Thank you again for your visit," your host says. "Are you well? You
You nod your head yes. Perhaps it was something you ate.
"Well, do take care to arrive safely. I would hate for anything to
befall you in the DEAD of night."
You bid your host adieu, and step out into the storm again. The trees
scratch against the sky like claws against flesh, and you wend your
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