Authors: Dan Keohane,Kellianne Jones
Shit,” he said. “Nothing. It could be a silverback, but it’s way too big, and there isn’t any white on it. Is there?” No answer. He didn’t turn around. “There’s not a whole lot of stuff out here. The rest of the world either hasn’t noticed or no one’s made any updates. If it wasn’t such a madhouse over there I’d go and check it out for myself.”
Kimberly heard these last words, and they affected her. She ran fingers across her throat, wondering how far away the towers were. A mile? Two at the most. At that moment the camera image shook. The ape no longer swung but gripped the leftmost tower with both arms and legs. It stared directly into the camera. In the background, spectators squealed nervously.
Now what?” Tom stood behind her. His voice startled Kimberly from her reverie. He didn’t notice. “Oh, man. It’s going to attack.”
It didn’t attack. Staring into the camera which broadcast its image into Kimberly’s mind, the animal stretched out one arm, as if pleading an unseen keeper for food, or company.
Tom took an unconscious step backwards. “Looks like it’s trying to say something. Maybe it’s scared.”
Kimberly suddenly found herself standing before the towers. Silence all around. The ape reached down, inviting. Arousal filled her, warm, breathless. She stepped into the open hand. It closed gently, entombing her. The rough palm pressed against her face. No panic. She tried to breathe through the ever-tightening grip.
What the hell are you doing?” The living room returned with its light and flickering television. Kimberly gasped, laying on her back on the floor. Tom hesitated a moment, then lifted her into the chair. “Are you all right? It looked like you fainted. The hell with this.” He reached over and clicked off the set.
No! Please, don’t.” She reached for the button. Tom stopped her.
Kim, what’s wrong?”
She closed her eyes, tried to resurrect the feel of the giant hand around her. “Nothing,” she whispered. “The news. Everything. I need to lie down.”
* * *
The bed was cold and inviting. Maybe she was too sensitive. Sleep. Better.
Tom turned off the light and closed the door without speaking. Kimberly remained on the bed, eyes open. The earlier fatigue lifted in the solitude. She had to go. Now.
Naked. Her sweater and jeans in a pile by the door. The white dress fell from its hanger and slid over her. She wore nothing else. Cool cotton against skin. Subtly, softly erotic. She put on a thin pair of slippers and left the bedroom. Tom’s back was silhouetted against the ever-changing images on the computer. He never turned around, never understood she was gone until it was too late to do anything about it.
* * *
Nicholas tapped the syringe twice to free the bubbles. Only a half dose, but it should make the monkey go away. Tap tap again. No bubbles. Now the needle was in his arm. Slow push of the plunger. Hot metal in his blood. Thinning. The yellow walls of the apartment dripped and peeled then everything was blue. Pink. Ecstasy. He turned his head, at least he thought he did. The television wore a top hat. Skinny arms (one held a cane) on each side of the square box. It danced about the room. Mickey Mouse just kept jumping up and down on the screen.
Nicholas laughed as he lay on the thin rug. Above the holes in the knees of his camouflage pants, a slow, dark urine stain crept. The television was still on. The news broadcast showed the ape stopping on the leftmost tower, reaching for something unseen before it. Nicholas didn’t see this. In fact he was staring at the ceiling. He smiled half from the euphoria and half from the lack of facial control caused by the drug. Just the free-based blissful haze of his universe. The smile tightened suddenly. A frown.
The crash came too early. Purple was here now. The walls solidified, bright evil violet. They breathed, folded in, breathed, twisted out. The room writhed and turned.
Too soon,” he muttered. Crawling to his knees he grabbed the discarded syringe. Still a lot left. He messed up. Just take more. He never got the chance. The wall before him twisted into the head of the ape. It’s expression was not blank as on television. It bared teeth, purple like the wall. The eyes complete blackness. It opened its mouth and roared. The sound flooded the room with a physical resonance that buckled the other walls. Nicholas gripped his head. The sound banged inside his skull. Roar. Roar.
Stop it! Stop it, demon! Satan!” Emerging on either side of the sneering ape-head, two arms stretched forward. One massive fist slammed down beside him. The floorboards split. Nicholas rolled away, landed against the couch. Fingers like tree limbs opened for him.
The weapon was in his bedroom. He sidestepped and ran. Before he reached the doorway the tip of the monster’s fingers brushed his back. The darkness of the bedroom rolled under him. He landed on the edge of the mattress, then squatted into a defensive posture on the floor.
The ape’s gargantuan head filled the door’s frame. The mouth twisted with another angry shout. Everything twisted in response. Reality buckling under the nightmare. Nicholas reached under the bed. It was there. Unfold the blanket. Check the clip. Everything an instinctive motion. No clip. Another roar. Something lifted the end of the bed.
Nicholas whispered, “C’mon.... Where the fuck are - yes!” The clip rolled out of the blanket and into his lap. Slap it in. Roll. Aim.
No sound. The bed crashed to the floor. Nicholas’ finger cocked the trigger halfway. He wanted to spray the room blindly and decimate everything in front of him. He did not. Do not fire without the target in view. Don’t kill your own men out of fear.
The rectangle of light from the living room was deserted. It must have seen the rifle. Nicholas moved in jerky motions, stopping beside the doorway. The weapon was light in his arms. Adrenaline. Makes a man stronger. Time to move in.
In silence he dove into the light. Roll away. Weapon raised the instant he righted himself.
Nothing. The intruder was gone. Intruder. The left corner of his mouth twitched. Monster. The monster was gone. Nicholas breathed quickly, not wanting the rush to drop into the crash he knew waited. Bad trip. Bad trip. That’s all.
On the television screen, the unnatural bulk of the ape returned to its steady rotation around the towers. When Nicholas saw it, he knew it was not a trip.
* * *
Return to your home, ma’am.” The trooper kept both arms folded across his chest, a solid human wall. Kimberly glanced at the other two policemen. One stood at the opposite end of the barricade, the third tried to convince the driver of a blue mini-van to turn around.
Kimberly said, “I don’t have a car.” She knew that made no sense. Her voice had the whispering lilt of a madwoman. It didn’t matter. She felt more peaceful than she ever remembered and didn’t want to lose it. Like hanging on to sleep while closing the windows against a midnight rain.
Do you live around here?” the trooper asked.
Just a couple of houses back,” she lied.
The man nodded. “Please return to your home, ma’am.” It was a mantra he’d likely be repeating the entire night. Some of her inner calm dissipated. She looked down, then back along the road behind her. Quiet, tree-lined street. Middle class homes painted white. A suburban utopia sitting only five miles east of downtown Manchester.
Maybe I should go.” She said it to herself more than to the trooper, who gave no response.
The further down the road she walked, the more people she passed going the other way.
Up the down stair case
, she mused. “They won’t let you pass,” she said to one person. Either the man didn’t hear or she’d spoken the words only in her mind. Either way, she was not important in the lives of these people. Kimberly stopped in front of a darkened colonial and leaned on the fence.
What’s wrong with me? Where’s Tom?
She remembered the hand, large, suffocating in its embrace. Trying to breath against its palm. Arousal at the memory of her body pressed further and further inward. It was waiting for her. She needed to get to it. She ran through the darkened yard of the colonial and disappeared into the woods beyond.
* * *
It was dark between the trees but Kimberly knew that if she kept in the same direction, she’d come out somewhere near the towers. She was past the road block. They were too busy with the beaten-path travelers to think of looking her way. Maybe they didn’t care. She sensed there was at least one other person behind her. No fear. She would be safe. Just keep walking. It was close. The ape’s presence reached through the dark shadows, pulling her along.
* * *
Every couple of minutes Nicholas checked the rifle strapped to his back. It was tight against him, but situated so he could swing it ready when the time came. His heart beat with the caffeine of adrenaline. The woman hadn’t noticed him, and she wouldn’t. No one would. Nicholas Ecklesbury was too well-trained. It’d been decades since he’d concealed himself fully-armed through the woods, but no matter. The act came as naturally as shitting. His eyes tracked the white blur like some surreal beacon, knowing the woman was moving in the right direction. He needed to hurry. The monster had to die soon.
* * *
She remembered letting Tom hold both her hands in his. She remembered thinking that her dress needed to come off soon, not because of any sexual urge but to rid herself of the starched seam that incessantly dug into her back. When the priest made the official pronouncement of their marriage, a thought occurred to her which lingered in her memory.
As the two bent to kiss, her lips dry as they pressed into his Kimberly thought,
Now what do I do?
A branch slapped her face. She stumbled backward and fell, face stinging. The monkey’s hand wrapped tighter around her. Kimberly took in a breath, wondering if she could ever exhale. She did, and rose to her feet. A hundred yards ahead, lights like stars blinked between wind-blown branches. She saw an occasional figure in the wood fading in and out of the light. They paid her no heed, moving as she now did towards the glow ahead. Earth-laden moths struggling forward, pushed by a blind instinctual urge. A twig snapped. Someone was close behind. She didn’t look back, but kept her eyes on the flashing trees.
The honeymoon was in Hawaii. The warm water wrapped around her body. The chartered boat advertised the freedom to swim naturally (a safer word for ‘naked’). Kimberly, clothes on the port-side bench, was in the water before Tom had his shoes off. Blurred figures bobbed around her. Too close. She swam out further. Below, the bay darkened to a soft, green opaqueness. They were moored far from the corral reefs to keep others from choosing this spot. Nevertheless, large colorful fish appeared as if from a heavy fog. They circled and inspected her. Kimberly followed one as it swam down. Perhaps, if she followed it far enough, a new fantastic world of color and light would open before her, bright cities hidden below the sun’s reach.
Too far. The glittering surface of the water like spilled mercury, out of reach but brilliant in its motion. Too far. She paddled and kicked, the exertion expanding her lungs. Any moment they would explode. With every stretch of arm it seemed her fingers would shatter the surface. With each stretch, the distance became too clear. Bubbles drifted ahead, carrying her life away forever. She stopped swimming, tried to grab the globes of air with her fingers. Drifting down. Tom’s naked body, arms under her shoulders. There were no bubbles left to escape. His hand over her face, water racing into her mouth from the canyons etching his palm. Too late.
I’ve left you.
The fog swallowed her. She awoke, vomiting salt water across the bow of the chartered boat. Never since could she decide whether those final sensations as she sank, or the painful realities of the boat’s deck, were the actual hallucinations in death. But the deck was cold and real. Life-giving.
The final tree fell away behind her. Crowds. Cars and police and men and women, in bathrobes and uniforms and suits. Lights shone across the muddy bog of bodies, into each other’s eyes, across the massive, swinging body of the monkey on the towers. She stepped into the throng, moving ahead as if each human around her was no more than a tree branch, or a multicolored fish.
A tall, black policeman looked at her, obviously preparing to recite the standard “go home” song. Behind his head, less than fifty yards away, the preternatural ape swung tower to tower. The head pivoted with the grace of a trapeze, keeping its gaze on her. The expression neutral.
Excuse me, ma’am...” the officer began.
. The command came not from the police officer but from every pore in her body. She stopped.
* * *
The demon was massive, much more than he expected from the images on the television. Nicholas felt a surge of joy. Yes, this was his mission. His life until now was only a vehicle carrying him to this moment. The monster
such only to him. To the rest it was a God. Deceiver. The vision in the apartment showed the truth. A message from the True Creator. The world was in peril, prostrating itself before the Beast.