Read Seldom Seen in August Online

Authors: Kealan Patrick Burke

Tags: #Horror, #Short Stories, #+IPAD, #+UNCHECKED

Seldom Seen in August (5 page)

BOOK: Seldom Seen in August
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He put a hand on the floor to steady
himself, his mind buzzing.

Gotta be a way—

His fingers brushed against the doll
and he recoiled. Was it his imagination or had the doll appeared to
be shivering when he’d touched it? He returned its unwavering stare
for a moment, until he realized he’d found the source of the
humming sound.

The doll was vibrating.

Gunfire made him duck as a chunk of
plaster and wood the size of a fist exploded from the doorway mere
inches above his head. Gray dust rained down on his

“Hear me now, you prick?” the cop
roared at him.

Rustling in the hall again. The cop the
shot had been meant to cover, he assumed.

Well, this is it
, he thought
with curious calm, and took a deep breath, bracing himself to swing
out around the kitchen door and plug another dumb cop. He cast one
last look down at the doll and smirked.

The doll smirked back.

Wade flinched.

The doll opened its Cupid’s bow mouth
wide. Wider. Something glinted inside, and despite the horror,
despite the urgency of the situation in which he was currently
mired, Wade leaned forward and peered into that open plastic

The doll began to hum again.

, Wade realized,
got needles in its mouth
, and jerked back a second too late to
avoid their trajectory as the doll winked and spat them into his




He awoke what felt like only seconds
later, but clearly it had been more than that because he was no
longer in the house, or at least in any part of it that he had seen
during his turbulent time there. As the effects of whatever drug
the needles had contained gradually abated, he was left with only a
mild headache, slightly muddled vision, and a great disappointment
not only that he had been caught, but also that he hadn’t managed
to take down a few more of the cops before the end. Not that he
blamed himself for that. Who knew a doll could spit poison darts?
He shook his head and it hurt.

They had bound him to a chair by his
feet and ankles. In true modern fashion, they hadn’t used ropes,
but PlastiCuffs, the kind that you had to gnaw through your own
limbs to escape. As expected, when he tested their hold, there was
no give at all. He was, as Shakespeare had once said, well and
truly fucked.

There was little to see in the room but
a small blue card table, the cheap kind you could pick up at any
convenience store. A chair was set on the other side of it. Behind
the chair was a wall of television screens. The screens were on,
but showed nothing but gray.

Wade waited.

At length a door opened somewhere
behind him. He tried to see who was there but gave up when it
caused fiery threads of pain to scurry up the back of his

“Mr. Crawford?” the visitor asked in an
oddly benevolent voice, as if he had been dying to make Wade’s

“Yeah? Who’re you?”

The man came around the table, allowing
Wade to get a good look at him.

“My name is Hank Cochran. You may have
heard of me?”

“Nope,” said Wade.

“Ah. Well, no matter. We have plenty of
time to get to know one another.”

Cochran was silver-haired and dressed
in a charcoal colored suit and a midnight blue tie. A matching
handkerchief poked like the tongue of a hanged man from his breast
pocket. As he sat and put his hands together, Wade saw that his
nails were neatly clipped. The man’s face was long and pale. Bushy
eyebrows fought to unite over a pair of light blue eyes. Everything
about him spoke of money, of a no-nonsense attitude toward

Wade wondered if he was a lawyer, a
mortician, or a mobster. He looked like a combination of all three.
Of course, many of the lawyers he’d known who’d worked for the mob
had been forced to adopt all of those roles at one time or another.
One thing he did know for sure was that the old man in front of him
was not on the right side of the law.

“I’m sorry for keeping you

“No problem. It was a good chance to
gather my thoughts.”

Cochran looked at him, a faint smile on
his face. “Do you know where you are, Wade? May I call you

Wade shrugged. “So where am

“Still in Seldom Seen.”

Wade looked around again, noted the
dirt walls around the bank of television screens, and nodded. “The
basement, right?”

Cochran smiled, exposing brilliant
white teeth. “Right.”


“We’re conducting a project

“And it’s not arts and

“No. No it isn’t. It’s a little more
elaborate than that, though I suppose there are similarities. Both
require the coming together of certain elements to

“And I’m an element.”

“You are, yes. A vital one.” Cochran
seemed to be enjoying their exchange, which baffled Wade

“So what does the project


“By what means?”

Cochran raised his eyebrows. “Oh, but
you’ve already seen the means.” He looked up at the ceiling, which
consisted of a network of wires and rotting beams Wade didn’t think
would take much to bring down. “Upstairs.”

“The ghosts?”

The old man shook his head. “They’re
not ghosts.”

“Holograms then.”

“In a way, if you think of yourself as
the projector.”

“So you put on this show of things from
my past in the hope that I would—what? Drop to my knees and pray
for forgiveness?”

Cochran sat back and folded his arms.
“That’s the gist of it, though given your history, we’d all have
been rather astounded if your reaction had been so dramatic, or so
easily attained.”

“What were you hoping for

“Gradual dawning.”

Wade pondered this a moment, then said,
“Well if by “dawning” you mean figuring out your game, then I won,
didn’t I? What’s my prize? Few hookers and some Cuban cigars?
One-way trip to Mexico?” He grinned, but let it fade when he
realized it wasn’t being returned. Cochran suddenly looked all

“Wade,” he said, leaning forward again,
his palms flat on the table. “You’re a psychopath.”

“That’s kinda strong, isn’t

“It’s fact.”

“Well, so’s the fact that you’re an old
fart, but you don’t hear me pointing it out.”

“You killed a man three weeks shy of
your fifteenth birthday. There was a boy with you. Do you

Wade remembered the man clearly, the
boy only vaguely.

“Not the kid. Only met him that one
time,” he said. “But the guy had it coming.”

“Or so you were told. That he deserved
to die. If they’d said the same about anyone, whether it was true
or not, you’d have done what they asked of you, wouldn’t

“I suppose so,” Wade said. “It was the
way things were.”

“And it was the way you wanted it to

Wade frowned. “Have we entered the
psychological evaluation stage of our relationship, Mr.

Cochran ignored him. “The boy’s name
was Eddie Scarsdale. Like you, he wanted to be a gangster, wanted
some way to make a lot of money so he wouldn’t get mocked at school
anymore for having holes in the soles of his shoes, but he didn’t
have the
, the nerve to take the life of another
human being. After you killed the old man, he was so distraught, so
guilty, he went home and got his father’s straight razor…” He waved
a hand in the air. “You know the rest.”

Wade thought of the kid in the bathroom
upstairs and shook his head. “So it’s
fault he took the
chickenshit expressway?”

Cochran just stared, his face

“Whatever,” Wade said. “So who was the
old floating bitch in the bedroom?”

“My wife,” Cochran said

“Whoops.” Wade chuckled. “I’d put my
foot in my mouth if it wasn’t tied to the chair.”

“She was never the same after Eddie’s

Despite the lingering skeins of
disorientation, Wade was able to connect the dots fairly quickly.
“Your wife?”

Cochran nodded.

“So then, this Eddie character was your


“All right then, I’m lost.”

“He was already dead by the time I met
and married his mother.”


“But I saw how she suffered. Saw how it
ate away at her worse than any cancer.” A distant look entered his
eyes. “I think she married me just so she wouldn’t be alone. Not
sure there was any love there. At least, from her.”

Wade leaned forward as much as his
restraints would allow. “Can I interrupt you for a sec?”

Cochran waited.

“Thanks. Um…how did you get the
impression from my record, which I assume you’ve read in detail,
that I would give a cartwheeling fuck about anything you’ve just
told me?”

Cochran shook his head.

“Hey, look, I am sorry about what
happened to your…whatever he was to you, and your wife. Really, I

Cochran gave a feeble smile. “Perhaps
you should care, Wade. It is, after all, part of the reason you’re

“Okay, so what’s the other part of the

“Do you know what nanotechnology

“Computer classes for

“Funny,” the old man said. “But no, it
refers to
control of matter on the
atomic and molecular scale.”

fascinating. And is it safe to assume that it also means we’ve
moved from psychoanalysis to psychics? Because if we have I’d like
to apologize in advance if I nod off during your

“In this case,
they’re interlinked.”

“Your losing me

“Then I’ll
condense it for you,” Cochran said patiently. “In 2000, my company
announced a breakthrough in psychotherapy following a fusion of two
distinct but radically different departments of the University of

“Jesus Christ,
get to the point already,” Wade said around an exaggerated

“Very well.
What we developed was called “nanoreality”—a means of using
nanotechnology to construct realistic visual images, or as you so
rightly guessed, “mental holograms” based on the memories of a

Wade said, sounding bored. “But it makes me wonder why you felt the
need to strap me to a chair when just listening to you would have
been enough to bore me into a coma.”

continued, unfazed. “It was primarily developed as a way for
doctors to abandon professional speculation and actually
the trauma in the minds of their patients, as if it
were a movie, to witness firsthand the core of the patient’s
illness in living color, and therefore treat the patient
accordingly. Of course the possibilities didn’t end there.
Witnesses afraid to talk, or abuse cases with repressed
memories…all of it could be found in the suconscious and projected
for observation and study. We could, in essence, see reflections
gleaned from the subject’s life. Better yet, a dying man could
project images of his killer and we could save them. Better than
any mugshot. It stands to turn the justice system as we know it on
its ear.”

Wade felt the
restraints biting into his wrists. There was a way out of these
zip-ties. Someone had told him how to do it once upon a time, but
the method eluded him now.

“But like any
great discovery, “nanoreality” had its problems, and some pretty
significant ones at that. Once access was gained, we found it
difficult to isolate the memories we wanted. The mind doesn’t have
an index, you see. It’s like a library full of books with no
titles. We ended up selecting them at random.” He shook his head.
“Which had unfortunate consequences for some of the subjects,
otherwise good people who had seen terrible things and had managed
to forget them. Essentially we made them relive those nightmares,
and of course, when memories are recreated in front of you, they
cease to be memories anymore. They become the present, the now. So
those who had witnessed or endured tragedies were forced to witness
them again. And once the present became the past again, the memory
was duplicated, intensifying the level of emotional turmoil. It
proved counterproductive, exacerbating the very symptoms were were
trying to cure.”

Wade smiled.
“So you fucked them up even more, in other words.”

“Yes,” Cochran
conceded. “And I’ll spare you the speech about every great advance
needing sacrifice. It was my fault. We weren’t ready.”

BOOK: Seldom Seen in August
4.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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