Report 14: Knives in the Dark

Where were we?

Right. I asked Alexandra about the knives, then saw the hands coming out of her pillow. I’d hoped to catch her off-guard with the question, and I did, but well… The hands.

They were slender and strong. Bone-white. And unnaturally large. They moved quickly, wrapping themselves around her face and pulling, her head slipping smoothly back into the pillow. She was in up to her neck before I could even react. I leapt onto the bed and got my arms around her kicking legs, but by then she’d been pulled through to the waist, and I couldn’t get enough leverage to fight it. So I just held on for dear life and followed her in.

The other side felt like being underwater. Not wet, but the same muffling pressure on the ears, the same dim, refracted light. Otherwise, it was the same. Alexandra in her hospital bed, me in the chair beside it. As if nothing had happened. Except…

Except that the ill ease she felt at my knife question had dissipated. In its place was an eagerness, a glint in her eye that bespoke some secret thrill. I was disappointed that I’d lost the upper ground in the interrogation so quickly. But then her lip curled, and a different kind of excitement rose in my chest.

“You want to know about the knives?” Her voice was deeper. Husky.

“Yes. Please.” I couldn’t keep the edge of desire out of my voice. Didn’t particularly want to.

“Alright. The first time was on my 13th birthday. Someone… a man… came into my room at midnight. He had this… long knife in his hand. Like a kitchen knife, but bigger. Shinier. More dangerous.” Her eyes flashed. “I was so scared. But he didn’t do anything. Just came and sat beside my bed…” She reached out. “Kind of like you’re doing.”

I took her hand in mine. “I don’t have a knife.”

Eyes level, voice cool. “You have a gun.”

I felt it pressing hard against my side. The holster seemed to chafe. “It’s tucked away.”

“It doesn’t have to be.”

She was right, something told me. I could take it out, let her see it. Let her… “What—ahem. What was he doing with the knife?”

She sighed, disappointed. But she gripped my hand tighter. “He was holding it. Stroking it. Staring at me. He sat there for an hour. It felt like more.”

My voice cracked. “And then?”

She leaned forward. “He stood up and bent down over me, leaning in close. Just like this…”

I leaned toward her in turn.

“And he said…”

Her lips brushed my ear. A cool, whispering thrill.

“Next time.”

She leaned back, let go of my hand. I felt bereft.

“So scary. So… exciting.” Her lip curled again, and this time her tongue flicked daintily out, pointy and forked. I blinked. Looked away. My eyes rested on her IV drip, which I suddenly realized was filled with something black. It hung heavy over the bed, the line running down the headboard, over the soft white flesh of her shoulder, under her gown, and into mystery…

“The first time,” I said.

She blinked. “What?”

“You said that was the first time. With the knives.”

“Oh. Yes. He came back the next year and did the same thing. Except this time he sat on the edge of the bed.”

Her hand patted the mattress, in memory or invitation I don’t know. I took it as the latter, and moved closer.

“He stared into my eyes for a minute…”

She reached out and took my hand again.

“…then he opened my nightgown…”

She untied the knot at the collar of her gown and slipped my hand in. Her skin was cool and dry.

“…and laid the flat of the blade against my chest.”

Her other hand reached up under my jacket, toward the holster. I didn’t try to stop her.

“It was so cold.” She was whispering now, pulling the gun free.

“Raised gooseflesh all up and down me.”

She brought the gun to her chest and pressed it into my hand. I saw her skin prickle at its touch.

“I was terrified, of course. Fourteen years old and exposed to a grown man. A grown man with a knife. But there was a thrill to it, too. I mostly remember the thrill, now.”

She brought her free hand up to my face. Her touch was sinuous. Cool. Insistent.

I swallowed hard to clear the lump from my throat. “What did he do then?”

She smiled, ruefully. “Nothing. He just stared into my eyes for a while.”

Her hand slipped to the back of my head and pulled it down to hers.

“Then he leaned in and said it again.”

I felt her breath, soft and cool against my lips.

“Next time.”

Her fingers curled into my hair, pulled at it. Our lips almost touched, but she relented.

“Then…” Breathy, forlorn. “…He put his knife away and left.”

Her other hand tightened on mine. On the gun.

“I laid still for a while after that, exposed and cold. I was petrified. Ashamed. Humiliated. I was relieved, but… incomplete. He left me hanging.”

She slipped my finger over the trigger, stroked it.

“You’re not going to leave me hanging, are you?”

Her eyelids fluttered, and a second set fluttered behind them.

I recoiled, pulling the gun away and stumbling back off the bed. She sat up, looking hurt, confused, and angry, her pupils narrowed into slits. My head reeled with the sight of her, the smell. She was lovely and terrifying. Desirable and repugnant. Part of me wanted her and part of me wanted to kill her. I raised the gun, knowing somehow that it would fulfill both of those desires. She smiled, then, and that tongue darted out again, excited, pink, and pointed. She leaned forward and hissed, opening her gown to welcome the bullets, revealing pale breasts covered in fine oily scales.

But I was still off-balance and I tripped, tumbling backwards. The room spun, and my head opened up again like it had done on the Mountain. I fell back hard against the chair and passed through it. The pressure was suddenly gone from my ears, the light returned to normal. I slumped and shuddered in the chair, about to go into what they tell me was a full-blown seizure. The last thing I remember seeing before I blacked out was Alexandra Melmoth, now quite human, bending over me in concern. She pulled her gown shut, and leaned in close. Her breath was hot as she whispered in my ear.

“Next time…”


Denise again, Chief.

This was, obviously I guess, the second half of X-23’s encounter with the Melmoth girl. He dictated it to me after he got done with Cheveyo’s sketch artist, and asked me to send it on to you. Said it would finally catch the intra-blog up to the present, at least until next time. He also asked me to pass along this message to you:

Not much explanation as to what happened to me in there, Chief. The hands, the other world, Alexandra’s transformation… We definitely weren’t operating in reality, and it didn’t feel like the dream I’ve walked in so many times since my arrival in Pannawau. I have nothing to base this on but the dark urges that drove us both, but… I do wonder if we weren’t pulled by forces unknown into the Black Mirror World. I also wonder if the fluid in the IV wasn’t the Osceola, the Black Drink of the Alo. I’m curious if there’s more to its psychoactive properties than Cheveyo let on. More theories, and some updates on the case notes, next time I write you. The forces of Pannawau law enforcement did some vital legwork for me while I was laid up, and there’s new evidence to share.

X-23’s off to the sheriff’s office now. Patton called and said that the Melmoth girl’s guardian, Andrew Robinson, had requested a private chat. That should be entertaining. Cheveyo’s gone, too. He took off in a big damn hurry after X-23 finished the description of the old man he saw with the Nukpana. Said he knew who it was, but that they’d have to deal with it “Mountain Style.” Whatever the hell that means.

So that just leaves me here at Fat Beaver HQ. Me and Tom and Gladys. Cute couple, those two. They’re going to make me fat if I stay here much longer, though. They fed me an omelette the size of a dinner plate this morning, and now they’re gorging me on some kind of amazing tuna fish casserole for lunch. Lucky for me it’s liver and onions for dinner tonight. I hate liver and onions. Of course, I hate tuna fish casserole, too. But this stuff’s a winner. Hmm. Maybe the plus-size life wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Anyway, I’m about to head off to the hospital to get those MRIs. Then I thought I’d wander by Melmoth House on the way back, see if I can get in to meet this Alexandra bitch. I’ll give you my impressions when I get back. If I haven’t clawed her eyes out, that is…

– Denise, signing off.


About Mark Brett

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One response to “Report 14: Knives in the Dark

  • Mark Brett

    You be careful with that Melmoth girl, Denise. If I’m reading all that death wish stuff right, she’s not a full-blown Yig-Spawn yet. But somebody wants her to be one pretty bad. It took the Black Drink to awaken the Serpentine Fire in her, but now they need to push it one step further. Might be a “kill the body, free the soul” kind of thing. That would explain the gun stuff. Unless she’s just a whole lot kinkier than Clint’s first reading of her indicated. I guess time will tell.

    I’ve been worried about this for a while now. Something Curry said to me before the Manhattan. But I guess I’d better finish that story up so you know what I’m talking about there.

    As I’m sure you remember, things had gotten pretty out of control down in Lab C, but it was when the second head started to grow that I really got worried. Up to that point, Billy had been lighting fires with his brain, but the PsychOps boys had managed to form up between him and the Black Library and stopped his progress toward the Black Library cold.
    It was quite a show, Clint. Fires flaring up on the walls, in filing cabinets, on our guys’ clothes… One lab tech’s whole head just went up in flames right next to me. Poor bastard name of Fred. Don’t think you knew him. New boy. Hired him in from the private sector personally, just a couple of months ago. Reminded me of old Abraham. You know, the one with the crazy hair? Good lab man. Such a waste.

    Anyway. For their part, PsychOps was busy trying to shut down Billy’s monster brain. But that was tough going. They’d shut down motor reflexes, and he’d just hang there in the air like… well, like a psychokinetic fetus. But he’d fight it off before they could move in for the kill. It went on like that for hours, our boys shutting down one part of his brain, him doing something terrible with another part and wriggling out of the trap. One time, he actually dropped to the floor, and we really thought we had him. But the idiot who moved in to smash his skull let his pyro shielding drop, and Billy lit him up like a torch. Sent him running right back into the ranks. Chaos.

    That’s when Billy grew the second head. The assault let up while our ranks were broken, and I saw him make that kind of tight-squeezed concentration face kids make when they’re squeezing out a poop. Then the second head started growing out of his neck. Kind of like a pimple at first, small and red and violent-looking. Got to about the size of a walnut before it popped. Blood and fluid went everywhere, and that’s when I noticed the little face that had been forming inside. The little face, and the little brain. By the time PsychOps regained discipline, it had grown into a full-fledged second head. Red, raw, misshapen, and about the size of a softball.

    It opened its eyes and three men went flying into the wall. A fourth agent… Reyes… started walking toward Billy against orders, shuffling zombie-style up the hall. Then he turned around and Billy settled on his shoulders, sinking his fingers into the guy’s head for support. A man’s skull hadn’t ought to be that soft, Clint. But those little fetus fingers went right down into his head like it was made of pudding. Then he lurched forward, and Billy was on full march.

    They tell me that what Billy had done was split his grey matter up between two skulls. Switched to a four hemisphere model. The PsychOps boys couldn’t shut down his new quad-cameral noggin, so we fell back to the Black Library to regroup. And that’s where we found Curry. While we’d been fighting our holding action against Billy, he’d been running around HQ trying to pull together tools. He’d come to the bait shop expecting to find a pre-contained psychic fetus, but once he figured out that it had gotten into Ernie’s kid, he had to regroup. When I got there, he already had a bunch of rubber tubing and an open bell jar, and he was wrestling with Simmons over a copy of The Book of Dead Names. I barked at Simmons to give him the damn thing, then turned on Curry.

    “Y’know, I ought to punch you in the face. But I figure you know how to stop this thing, so I’m not gonna.”

    “Much obliged.” He shot Simmons a nasty look, then started flipping through the book. “In point of fact… I do know how to stop it… If I can just find the… Ah. There we are. Right there.” He snapped the book shut and shot me the shit-eatingest grin you ever saw. “Now. Before I get rid of this little problem for you, I believe we need to dicker a bit.”

    I looked around at the brace of PsychOps agents that had followed me in, then back at Curry. “Do we? I think we’ve got you outnumbered, Mr. Curry.”

    “Yes, sir. Yes you do. But unless one of these fine gentlemen knows how to bring little Billy to heel, and from the commotion I’ve been hearing out in the hall, I doubt that… You need me to stop your house from burning down.”

    “You’d burn with it.”

    “Me? Oh no, Chief. No, Billy wouldn’t hurt me. I’m his friend. I kept him fed for fifty years. Gave him all kindsa fun games to play. He’d burn this whole place to the ground and leave me without a single singed hair. Then I’d feed him our friend here, and we’d still walk out together.”
    He pulled a baby bottle out of a coat pocket, filled with an oily glowing cloud. Last time I saw it, Curry was siphoning it out of Leroy and sealing it in a jar.

    “What do you plan to do with him?”

    “Feed him to Billy, of course.”

    “What happens then?”

    “Then Billy’s not hungry anymore, he stops setting your house on fire, and I get my top attraction back.”

    “And why should I let you walk out of here with a Level Ten Psychic Malignancy?”

    Rubens piped up with a “Twelve” just then, but I shushed him. Good man, but a little pedantic for negotiations.

    Curry sighed like he pitied me, and I very nearly punched him again. “Chief, I know you’re not a stupid man. You’re gonna let me walk out of here with Billy because that’s the deal. Besides… I’m the best thing for him.”

    “You are, huh?”

    “Yes, sir.” His lip curled a little. “What would you do with him, if you could even calm him down long enough to keep him from killin’ you? You’d bash his head in, then have your science boys pick apart whatever was left of his brain, tryin’ to understand somethin’ that’s beyond understanding. I keep him fed and active. Give him a job, a purpose. As much of a life as a horrible thing like him can have, without hurtin’ somebody.”

    “That what you did with that Yig-Spawn of yours? Kept it from hurting people? Right up til it went wild on the midway?”

    He didn’t like that one bit. “That won’t my fault! You just ask ol’ Tim Danforth whose fault it was that thing got loose! Besides. How many more people been hurt by your failure in the Yig department, Chief? Well, don’t you worry. I’ll clean that little problem up for you, too, soon as I get to Colorado.”

    Now it was my turn not to like something. But before I had a chance to land that punch I’d been itching to throw, there was a crash and a scream out in the hallway. Billy had driven Reyes right up to the door of the Black Library.

    “What’s it gonna be, Chief? You gonna let me help you, or do I stand by and watch you burn?”

    “Do it.”

    So he did it. Marched right out there and showed Billy the bottle. Calmed the kid right down. Then he started singing to him, real soft. I won’t record the words here, for safety’s sake, but Simmons called it “The Alhazred Lullaby.” Says nobody’s ever been able to figure out the tune, but one glance at the Book of Dead Names and Curry was belting it out like it’s “Row Row Row Your Boat.”

    Anyway. The whole time he was singing, Curry was also setting up the bell jar. He put the base on the floor and pulled out a roll of duct tape to attach the bottle to the side of the bell. Then he pulled out a damn Bowie knife, cut off a length of that rubber tubing, and shoved it into the mouth of the bell. Billy sat up on Reyes’ shoulders and watched him work, with this look of idiot fascination on his face. His original face, that is. The new one just sat there kinda slack and rubbery and mean-looking.

    When he was done, Curry stopped singing and looked up at the little monster. “Alright, Billy. Time to come home.”

    And that was that. Billy floated up off Reyes and settled onto the base of that jar. Then Curry put the bell down over him, gentle as you please, and closed the seals. Billy grabbed his end of the tubing and put it in his mouth while Curry took the other end and attached it to the stopper on the baby bottle. Billy started sucking and settled back, closing his eyes. Content.

    You could feel the tension drain out of the air as the lights – which I hadn’t even realized had dimmed – slowly came back up to full power. HQ was peaceful and quiet again. Except for a constant, tiny scream echoing out of the bottle. But all things considered, I was willing to ignore it.

    We moved pretty fast, then. Booted Curry and Billy back out the Great Dismal Swamp hedge door, then enacted the Manhattan. Since we’d been breached, it was the only thing to do. First, though, I had one last conversation with Curry. The Great Dismal door opened up into an abandoned gas station, the kind of old cement block building that litters country roads all over. I saw him to the door, and as he stepped out into the Carolina sun, he turned back and gave me another one of those shit-eating grins.

    “Pleasure doing business with you, Chief.”

    “Sure. You know I’m going to hunt you down now.”

    “I won’t be hidin’. I’ve just about got the band back together, you know. I’ll be takin’ the show on the road again soon. You can come after me all you want, then. I’ll even give you free admission. But before you do that, you find ol’ Tim Danforth. He’ll tell you what it costs to tangle with me. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

    He turned up the road and whistled. “Joe! Time to go!”

    Deep Joe came ambling up out of the woods, dressed in filthy overalls and holding a squirrel in his mouth. “Dammit, Joe! You’re gonna get blood all over the truck again! I swear… Alright, that’s it. You’re ridin’ in the back.” He looked back at me and shrugged. “You can take the boy outta the swamp…” Then they were gone.

    You’ll have to excuse me now, Clint. If I don’t get going, I’ll be late to Ernie’s funeral.

    – Chief Bill Roberts, signing off.

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