Authors: David Beers
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llison Moore watched
her daughter descend the steps. Marley walked slow, taking each step as if she wasn’t completely sure it would be there when her foot arrived. Allison stood, smiling, in no hurry to do anything else. Marley took these same steps every day and she took them at the same speed. The world had made Allison move at a different speed for so long, and now she had adapted to the pace Marley needed. The world and its callings no longer mattered, not outside of making sure that Marley had food and a roof.
Allison had the food ready this morning, sitting on the kitchen table. It took Marley five minutes to walk anywhere in the house, so Allison never poured the milk into the cereal before Marley sat. She would do it once Marley was in place and ready to eat.
She had to make sure Marley was at the table an hour and a half before the bus arrived to pick her up. Things moved slow around Allison’s house, and that was okay. It was better than okay, really, because she had her daughter at home, as opposed to the glorified psychiatric ward she had resided in for two years. Those years had been tough. Spending as much time as possible at the ward, only leaving at bedtime each day and only then because her little girl needed routine.
That’s what Allison wanted now for her daughter: routine. She didn’t want anything out of the ordinary to appear, didn’t want to surprise Marley at all. Marley needed order and that meant Allison’s life contained it too. After breakfast, Marley would head back upstairs and dress. Allison originally thought that it would be easier if they dressed Marley and then brought her down to eat, that way things would move quicker. Marley didn’t like doing it that way, though. She actually had refused, and Allison smiled when she did. Marley rarely, if ever, took an interest in anything and for her to demonstrate that she didn’t want to dress first, that she would rather eat breakfast in her pajamas--well that was a miracle for Allison. So every morning Allison brought Marley down, took her back up, and then Allison would walk her to the bus stop where they waited together. They were always five minutes early for the bus, because Allison couldn’t afford for Marley to miss it.
If Marley didn’t make it to the bus that meant Allison had to either drive Marley to school herself or they would both stay home for the day. Getting in the car and driving to school would be a shock to Marley, even if a small one. Shocks weren’t good. Allison knew because she tried to drive Marley once, before this routine was carved in stone by lightning bolts sent from God himself. They had been running late; Allison watched as the bus sped down the road, not slowing and definitely not turning around.
, she thought, and began walking Marley to the car.
The twelve year old girl was okay up until the moment that the car door opened, then both hands turned into fists and started whacking at the sides of her head. One at a time. Hard.
A doctor ended up having to leave the school to come sedate Marley. The girl never said a word, just attempted to beat the brains out of her head. Thus, if Marley missed the bus, Allison was staying home without even attempting to drive her daughter to school, and that meant Allison had to skip work, which was something they couldn’t afford. Things were expensive, much more so now than when Jerry was alive and they possessed two incomes to float the bills. For one, the therapy Marley needed wasn’t cheap, and two, the meds weren’t either. Allison wasn’t working for the FBI anymore, hadn’t been since she found Marley in that gruesome warehouse. She now worked as a manager for an insurance company on the claims side. The work wasn’t rewarding, but it had medical benefits and a 401k and paid better than nearly anything but banking. Allison had spent her previous life—her life with her husband and daughter—working on climbing a conceptual career ladder. Now, there was no ladder. She had her job, and she would never move up, or at least not substantially, because she wasn’t willing to dedicate anything over forty hours a week to it. During those forty hours, she gave everything she had, but when those were up—everyone at her job knew not to call.
She could miss work, could take days off if she needed, but if she didn’t
the day then she didn’t want to take it. Because when she actually
a day off, then by God, it better be there.
Marley was the one that actually
the days, so Allison was forced to oblige. Watching her father die left scars on Marley that doctors couldn’t see, let alone understand. Her mind was a place of silence now, that’s what the doctors told Allison. A place where nothing went through it and nothing came out of it. Allison wasn’t sure she believed that fully, and maybe that was just mother’s love talking and maybe not. She thought Marley took in more than she let anyone know. So when Marley reacted to dressing before breakfast, Allison would have done a handstand had she been able.
Still, for the most part, Marley’s mind
quiet and the reason stood out starkly: her mind wasn’t able to handle the world Matthew Brand showed her, so it had shut down. Maybe it would come back one day. Maybe it would slowly open itself up to the possibility that all the death it witnessed before no longer existed.
Allison tried not to consider that part, the Matthew Brand part.
She considered Jerry all the time. He constantly filtered through her thoughts, both in waves of depression and in appreciation for everything that he gave her while alive.
Marley never left Allison’s thoughts.
Matthew Brand, though, that was someone she didn’t allow herself to think about. She received the call from the scientist four years ago; she knew Jeffrey Dillan and the woman he lived with were missing, presumed dead. Allison had allowed that knowledge to fill her with terror for a long time, terror that the escaped man had taken Dillan. That the escaped man, a black man who had raped numerous women before being caught, was actually filled with Brand’s intellect, his personality. She lived in terror that eventually this black man with Brand’s mind would come for her, would come for Marley, would come finish what he started with Jerry.
Nothing happened though. No one else turned up missing. No cops died and Matthew Brand didn’t resurface. There was a brief hunt after the scientist gave his proclamation, but it filtered down from the FBI that Brand was dead, that no one could have survived what the doctor claimed had happened. No one need worry about Matthew Brand because he was gone, finally. Allison believed that, but only because she didn’t have a choice.
The alternative left her believing Brand was alive, and that wasn’t something Allison could entertain. Not as a single mother raising a daughter whose mind was scarred by the lunatic. She couldn’t add that onto her shoulders, not if she wanted to keep her collarbone from cracking. If Brand was alive after all these years, had he given up? Had he moved onto something else? Or was he biding time?
Those thoughts could take over her mind if Allison let them, so she didn’t.
Marley finished her bowl of cereal and placed her spoon loudly onto the table. That was her way of saying she was finished, as well as Allison’s way of knowing that her daughter wasn’t as gone as the doctors claimed. Allison clicked the television off and stood up from the loveseat.
The man looked at her through the television’s reflection. He was tall, over six-feet, and his body solid. Her breath caught in her lungs, her mouth hanging slightly open.
Allison Moore turned around and looked at a black man named Arthur Morgant, a rapist who had been sentenced to a frozen life twenty five years ago. His face was tilted down slightly, his eyes still looking at her. His skin was the deep brown of mahogany, but his eyes were the color of beautiful, deep blue.
“Hi, Agent Moore,” Matthew Brand said.
For the first time in four years, Allison didn’t think about her daughter, but ran instead—heading to her bedroom in hopes of making it there before he could.
* * *
Allison Moore take off to her right. She dashed for the hallway behind both of them, probably for a gun she kept somewhere back there. Matthew allowed himself a second to watch her go, a second to see her for the first time in years, but knew the time to watch was brief. If he slipped here, nothing else could possibly work. He allowed himself that moment of indulgence, but no more or everything to come might be ruined.
He raced after her, this body so different than the last one he owned. It contained a power that his frail frame hadn’t approached before. His physical feats had only been completed by shock and audacity, but here, with these muscles covered in dark skin, he moved with an ease he hadn’t known possible. His legs propelled him down the hallway, his strides catching up with Moore’s quickly. He watched as she rounded a doorway, knowing she was approaching whatever she hunted. If she shot him, managed to call the police, if anything happened here besides him capturing her silently—plans would change drastically.
He turned the bedroom corner, and thank God and all His Host of Angels, she was reaching up to the top of her walk-in closet. She had locked her gun away and it couldn’t help her now.
Matthew bombarded the closet, grabbing Allison’s hair with his massive hand and then slamming her head into the corner of the door frame. She struggled, trying to fight her way back to the gun, trying somehow to overtake this hulk throwing her around.
Matthew slammed her head a second time.
And a third.
And, finally, Allison’s body went slack.
Matthew dragged her by her hair, tossing her onto the floor in front of the bed. Her eye was already swelling; a gash on her forehead dripped blood across her face, combining with the blood running from her nose.
Matthew felt Morgant rising, felt the original owner of the body stretching forth with a fury Matthew hadn’t known.
Take her. Take her. TakehertakeherTAKEHERTAKEHERTAKEHER
“SHUT UP!” Matthew screamed into the empty room, his voice growling like bass from a sub-woofer.
The urge to penetrate, Morgant’s voice, all of it welled inside Matthew, and though his pronouncement quieted it some, he could still feel Morgant desperately wanting to get back to the surface. Desperately wanting him to rip Moore’s clothes off, then his own, and lay on top of her naked body, pumping up and down until he sprayed his seed everywhere. Matthew decided two years ago what his plans were, and now, somehow, Arthur Morgant was deciding he wanted a say in things. Not a say perhaps, but just a piece. His cut. His rapes.
Matthew looked down at the woman before him and couldn’t state he didn’t want to. Or that a part of him didn’t want to. He wanted to dive down on top of her and take her, take her the way the memories in Morgant’s head told him it could be. Part of him wanted that while the rest felt nothing but revulsion, a deep sickness that made him want to vomit.
All of Matthew’s murders came with a reason behind them. Even what would happen next for Moore and her daughter served a purpose.
thoughts had no purpose besides some primal desire Matthew had never known before—a desire stemming from Morgant’s unconscious, still inside this body, if pushed way down. A purpose to please that desire, to satisfy it, which was no purpose at all.
the words whispered again to him.
No. He wouldn’t. He didn’t have time to think about this, to try and understand why it was happening. Matthew had felt these urges before, but they had been nothing, something he dismissed as a leftover ghost from the body he now owned. Something was happening inside him, something was changing, and he needed to figure out what, and if it could be stopped.
Not right now, though
. Now he had to move Moore and her daughter.
* * *
atthew walked back
into the hallway.
Marley stood in it, her long hair hanging next to her face. Her body showed no signs of fear, no signs of any emotion at all.