Shallow Veins (The Obscured Book 1) (24 page)

BOOK: Shallow Veins (The Obscured Book 1)
10.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


The priest smiles sadly. “There's still so much you don't know.”

Butcher grabs the car keys from the dresser. “When this is all done, believe me I'm all ears. Meantime, I'm borrowing your car.”

He locks the door behind him and double-checks it. As he walks back up the corridor, gets back into the hearse, starts it up and drives away, a man watches him from the window of Room Seven.

The plumber, once missing, follows the hearse with his eyes until the car disappears down the road.

The Self-woman's hand trembles on his newly built shoulder.






As Butcher drives the hearse toward the Robins house, he has time to think on what happened back at the church. He goes over every detail in his mind, from the way the creature-women's skin moved on top of their bones, to the feeling of having the life nearly crushed out of him, to the look in his former partner's eyes as the car passed him by; not quite as caring as anger, more the look a chef might give a cockroach that wiggled its way into his kitchen.

Mostly, though, he thinks of the visions. When the snake-arms were coiled around his body and made contact with his skin, he was attacked by images, memories of The Self and the horrible things they'd done. Yet what bothered him most was the image of a man's face. It was an unfiltered glimpse at what Butcher overlooked, and most likely what the man's wife and every other person in his life had overlooked as well: that something was deeply, fundamentally wrong with Kevin Robins.

The hearse pulls up to the Robins house. Butcher barely pauses to turn off the engine before he jumps out of the car and makes a line for the front door, drawing his gun on the way.

He knocks hard. "Police, open up," he bellows. There's no answer. "Kevin, I know you're in there, open this door."

He tries the handle but it's locked. No time for doorbells, he kicks the door hard, once, twice, three times. It busts in with a loud crack. He steps to the side and puts his back to the wall, out of sight.

A dull ache in the back of his head, he takes a few breaths and cautiously peeks into the house. "I'm a police officer and I'm armed, if anyone's in there drop your weapons and get on the ground."

Silence. He checks the corners and takes one step in, gun up.

A wrenching pain grips his skull. He's never had his head in a vice, and doesn't intend to, but this is surely what it would feel like. It's as if the weight of a thousand oceans is pressing down on him and he has no way to swim up to the sun. It's a pain so strong he can hear it.

Butcher does his best to ignore the pain. It dulls his senses and distracts him from the danger, and he can't risk dropping focus for even a second. Halfway into the couple's living room he notices a large, black stain in the ceiling, as if an old bathroom rotted out one floor up and poured sewage down through the floor.

“The problem being there is no second floor,” he says to no one.

The thought crosses his mind to put a few bullets in the stain just to be safe, but he knows if something actually is hiding up there, shooting it will only piss it off. With his gun trained upward he crosses the living room, past the kitchen, noting a knife block with all knives accounted for, and makes his way to the hallway.

His pulse pounds. His eyes burn. Everything in his brain screams for him to get out of the house. Despite it all, he continues.

Kevin Robins sits silently at his computer, his makeup melted into a downward skeleton grimace. He stares at the monitor while his hand moves on the mouse with practiced speed, oblivious to Butcher’s presence. His eyes dart back and forth beneath the makeup.

“Put your hands on your head,” Butcher commands, but the man ignores him. “I’m talking to you, Robins, put your goddamn hands up.”

Still nothing. Butcher glances across the hall to the empty master bedroom.

“Where’s Mary?”

“They can't touch it, you know,” Kevin says without turning his head.

“What are you talking about?”

“The book burns right up in their hands. It’s no use to them.”

“We'll talk about your book later, right now I want to know what you did to Mary.”

Unseen by Butcher, the ceiling stain begins to grow longer. It bleeds through the drywall in a long, steady, sticky line from the living room to the hallway, slowly closing the distance.

“Is she alive?”

“Alive. Dead. We helped Kevin understand the flaws in his thinking.” Kevin lifts his right hand to show the wire running not into a computer mouse but into the fleshy palm of his hand. “In return, he showed us sso mmuch of your world.”

The stain stops just above Butcher's head, grows darker.

“Tell us where the book is,” Kevin insists.

“I don't know what you're talking about, but even if I did I get the feeling I wouldn't tell you.”

“Ttell us where the book is and we'll spare your wife and son.”

Butcher's face hardens. “You can't hurt them. You'll never get close enough.”

“Elaine Butcher, age thirty-eight. Jake Butcher, age eight. Current residence in town of Greenwood, Narrow Lane, house number-”

“Stop,” Butcher shouts. He aims his gun at Kevin's sternum. “If you say one more thing about them I'll burn this house down.”

“Kevin has shown us how fragile your world is. All of your weakness, all of your ssecrets, all of your fears, you broadcast them through these electric veins, scream them for anyone to know. Kevin has turned out to be the perfect host. The host we've been wwaiting for.”

“And Mary?”

Kevin stands, his vein-wire hands at his sides. “She's like the rest of you- the perfect puppet.”

The ceiling over Butcher collapses. Brown-black drywall rains down on his head, followed by a heavy mass; a tangle of veins and more. He's knocked to the floor and lands hard on his back, the breath pushed out of him. Without hesitating he scrambles backward to aim his weapon at the attacker.

A sick marionette dangles from the ceiling, hung by strings of artery and sinew. The body has been skinned completely to reveal the deep red muscle beneath, but the face remains intact, pale and untouched and painfully beautiful at the center of the violent rendering.

It's the face of Mary.

"You evil piece of shit," Butcher moans, feeling his stomach flip. "How could you do that to your wife?"

"It's simple. Let us show you." Kevin raises his hands, the wire-veins with them. He works his fingers back and forth, side-to-side. Mary's corpse flops and dances on its strings to the rhythm of his movements. "If you become part of us wwe can teach you."

"I would rather die."

Kevin says, "Do you rreally think that would change anything?"

Mary's eyelids shoot open. Her eyeballs swim until they focus on the man below her. "Officer Butcher," she says, her voice both her own and not her own. "Please, join with us. Become part of us."

"That's not you talking, Mary, it's him. It's the monster."

"It is me." The veins holding her up stretch long enough to bring her face-to-face, forcing him to turn sideways so their lips don't touch. "Why won't you look at me, Officer Butcher?"

"Because you're not her."

"But she is," Kevin says, "she is her, only better. Mary doesn't feel pain anymore. She ddoesn't feel fear. This is what wwe want for you, to be part of us, something better, a world connected as one. Your computers try to do this but they can't achieve what we have. They are artificial while we are fflesh. They struggle to achieve what we were born with."

"Is this really how you're selling this to me? Faster internet?"

"You will become part of The Self either way."

"Yeah, then why all the lip flapping?"

"Because," Kevin grins under melted make-up, "we've tasted yyou. We know you're of the old blood."

“My blood's not that old.”

“It's older than old- your blood is ancient, like ours, but not like ours. It would please us to win you in ways other than force.”

“You can really taste that,” Butcher asks. Kevin nods, as does Mary, both heads in perfect sync. "Well then, see how you like the taste of this." He aims for the center of Kevin’s chest and pulls the trigger.

A shriek comes from Mary's dead lips. She lurches forward. As the gun goes off, Mary's skinned body falls on it, knocking it off its target. The bright white gunshot tears a chunk out of the door frame.

"Tthat was not smart," Kevin frowns.

"I have to agree," Butcher replies.

Mary grabs Butcher by the throat. She drags him up the hallway, Butcher clawing at her bloody grip with one hand, the gun in the other. The vein-strings in her back tear up the ceiling where she moves, blood-stained drywall falling on them like black rain. Her face never changes as she tosses him with no effort into the living room wall. Butcher's head breaks a framed photograph of Kevin and Mary on their wedding day. He and the glass fall to the floor in a pile.

He sits up to face Mary. Her feet dangle over the floor toward him, naked toes drawing red lines in the wood.

"Don't make me do this," Butcher tells her.

"There's nothing you ccan do to The Self."

"I’m not talking to The Self."

Butcher scrambles to his feet and runs for the kitchen. Mary goes after him, feet sliding, arms outstretched, mouth open. Butcher runs to the sink, to the knives he saw earlier, and slams into the counter. He tries to pull the largest knife he can find from the block, but she grabs him from behind and heaves him across the room. He topples over the table and crashes to the floor.

“Mmary doesn’t need your help,” she croaks, swiping the table out of her way as he tries to stand.

“I might be the one who needs help,” he says. She tosses him again, this time into the refrigerator. His back to the bent metal, the freezer opens and dumps frozen vegetables on him.

A frozen turkey lands like a slab of concrete an inch from his crotch. “Jesus,” he whispers, then picks up the turkey and hurls it over his head at Mary. It catches her in the face. He jumps to his feet and goes again for the knife block.

He pulls the knife and turns to find Mary on him. Again she grabs him by the neck.

"What will you do with that," she laughs.

"Set her free."

He locks his leg behind hers and pushes her off her feet. She's knocked onto her back, splayed on the kitchen floor with vein-strings billowed around her.

Butcher puts one boot on her chest to hold her down, then gathers up the veins connecting her to the ceiling, holding them in a thick bunch, like a boy bringing a girl flowers. With one, sideways swipe of the knife, he severs them.

Mary screams up at him, disconnected, black fluid spraying her. "You're too late," she spits, "you ccan't have her back!"

He tosses the knife, pulls his gun and pushes the barrel into her sternum. He fires, hitting her heart-brain. She lets out an ungodly scream like a hundred moths burning in candle flame, then begins to twitch madly under his boot.

"Maybe not. But I can still make sure you don't get her."

He aims his gun again, this time at her head, and quiets her.






Butcher checks his gun. He wants to make sure nothing goes wrong when he sticks it down Kevin's throat and pulls the trigger until it goes click.

A loud sound like a tornado touching down comes from the end of hallway, pushing Butcher into action. He has no time to check corners or play it safe, only enough to run toward the noise with gun drawn, hoping he's not too late.

He finds the computer room filled up with sunlight. The entire outside wall is smashed open, insulation loose, electrical wires blowing in the wind. He runs to the hole and leans out but finds no sign of Kevin in any direction.

“Damn it,” he shouts and kicks the wall. He comes back inside to check the room for a clue, some hint of Kevin’s plan other than finding a book from god-knows-where that does god-knows-what.

He stops to look at the monitor- on it is a scrambled page of nonsense text; random patterns of numbers and symbols, layers on layers of the stuff. In the middle of it all Butcher picks out one legible set of words. It's an address, one he not only knows, but one he's been to very recently.

He runs out, leaving behind the monitor and the blinking address of the Sweet Haven Motel.






Father Curtis is in pain.

His wound hasn't stopped bleeding, small, red dots starting to show in the strips wrapped around his arm. A cold cloud has crept into his body. As much as he tried to put on a brave face for Butcher for the boy's sake, the attack at the church took a great deal out of him. Just sitting down and writing a letter on the motel stationery by the phone took ten minutes of starting and stopping and rubbing the cramps from his arm until he could grip the pen again. It doesn't look good, and he knows it- all the more reason to finish the letter, make sure Butcher gets it.

BOOK: Shallow Veins (The Obscured Book 1)
10.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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