Paranoid 12-Vignette

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An Invisible Demon.

Last night, or thereabouts.

In the deepest, darkest depths of Lake Michigan, a small metal sphere began shaking. Softly at first, then more violently, steadily increasing. The metal began shearing, tiny fractures spreading across its surface and widening, revealing hints of something dark crimson. At last, the metal fell away, drifting slowly down to sink into the mud and silt. Left in its place was a small piece of flesh, no larger than a penny. It began drifting upwards, initially at a natural pace, but it quickly gained speed until it was shooting through the water like a bullet. When it burst from the surface, it brought a spray of water with it, splashing over the surprised people in the tiny fishing that was right next to it.

“What the hell was that?!” one of them cried as the flesh came to a rest about a meter above the water. It spun around, orienting itself, until it was facing towards the bright lights of New Chicago in the distance.

“Forget about that: what about them?!” If the flesh could see, or observe the world around it in any way, it would be able to see the hundreds of other tiny specks that had risen from the water at exactly the same time and were all hovering at the same height. But it couldn’t, because it was just a strand of muscle fiber, and muscle fiber couldn’t see.

Guided by an invisible force, it shot out across the water, leaving the gaping and fearful occupants of the boat behind as it headed towards the shore. Other specks began falling in behind it, shards of bone and pieces of fat and organs, and even tiny specks of vitreous jelly. Together, they formed a swarm of human body material in the shape of a comet, smaller pieces at the front, larger ones trailing behind. The piece of flesh was the smallest of all, so it was at the very front, and if it could think, it would be happy and excited to be important. But it didn’t, because it was a strand of muscle fiber, and muscle fiber couldn’t think. It left the water behind, crossing onto land and zooming through the street. It was a dark, cloudy night; in places without good lighting, it would’ve perhaps seemed like a mirage, a brief flicker of movement in the darkness. Where it could be seen, though, it left a trail of surprised shrieks and swerving cars behind it. In a few places, people didn’t get out of the way in time, and were left bleeding and battered in its wake. They had, comparatively speaking, gotten off lucky.

The building looked like it had been the subject of an artillery bombing. In a way, it had. Blood and body parts were still painting a macabre image across dirty wood and debris: the Tower wouldn’t arrive and begin cordoning the scene off for another few hours. One particular stain occupied a prominent position, and it was to this that the swarm congregated. It swirled around the spot until the trailing pieces had arrived, then collapsed inwards with a sound like a live pig being fed into a wheat thresher, only in reverse.

In the span of a second, a shape formed. Bones assembled and melted together, flesh and organs twisted into shape, and over them, skin brought itself together out of the hundreds of thousands of tiny particles that had, unseen, accompanied the swarm.  When the motion ceased, a man was standing there, naked, chest rising and falling slowly, with a rasp and a wince on each movement. He was far taller than was naturally possible, and his muscle-bound frame suggested (falsely) a life dedicated to barbells and protein shakes, while the wild, thick hair that covered most of his body implied that said implements were in the midst of a deep forest, or perhaps a post-apocalyptic situation. His teeth were jagged and dirty, and his were deep-set and pitch black, but lined with barely-concealed pain.

He glanced around the shattered remains of the room. Despite the complete lack of light outside of the feeble flickers of a dying, broken bulb above the bar, he had no trouble moving through the wreckage. He pushed aside a piece of rebar and wood to reveal a corpse, a young man in a jacket with lightning bolts on it. Chunks of his torso were missing, gouged away in what looked like high velocity impacts, and his blank eyes stared down at the dirty wooden floor, unseeing. The man crouched over the corpse, stiff and strained, and then exploded. The swarm descended upon the corpse, and in seconds, it had been stripped away to nothing. When the man reformed, the pain in his posture had disappeared, and he seemed ever so slightly larger. He straightened up, smiling a slightly creepy smile, and stepped away, moving towards the next nearest corpse.

The hum of cars and city ambience in the background hit a brief lull, and for a second, a quiet whimper could be heard. The man, halfway to his next meal, paused mid-step, then pivoted towards the sound. “Oh,” he rumbled, “this is unexpected. “A survivor. Hah. How novel.”

He strode over to the bar and tore it out of the ground with his bare hands, tossing it to one side. Huddled behind it was a woman, curled into a fetal position, with blood-splattered black clothes and a simple cloth domino mask pulled up over her hair. Both of her legs ended in stumps, one just below the knee, the other almost up to her torso. Despite the fact that she should’ve bled to death from wounds like that, she was still conscious, if pale and strained. Both wounds looked like they had scabbed over a good while ago, even though the wounds had been inflicted less than two hours ago.

She whimpered again, and shrunk even further as the man towered over her. “Do you know,” he said conversationally, “that I can taste them? It’s not quite the same, but it’s similar. And it always tastes so much better when they’re still warm.” He leaned down, and his skin began shaking, breaking apart and floating off to hover like an aura around him.

Golden light flooded the room, and the woman on the ground flinched, covering her eyes. An angelic figure, garbed in robes the same color as the light, appeared between the man and his would-be victim.

Not this one, the angel said. Let her go.

The man laughed sardonically. “You can’t be serious.”

Let her go, the angel repeated, something like annoyance passing over its blank face. She will spread the word.

“The word will spread regardless. They will see what I have wrought, and it will bring them fear.”

The Tower of Babel will hide it. They will keep the people placid like sheep.

“A slaughter of this size?” He laughed again. “They couldn’t hide a needle in a haystack.”

They have done it before. They will do it again. But if she lives, the word will spread.

The woman on the ground didn’t know why the man had stopped, or why he was now arguing with thin air, but she wasn’t one to look gift horses in their mouths. She began dragging herself away as fast as her arms would carry her, ignoring the pain from the stumps that used to be her legs as best she could. The man watched her go, but made no move to stop her.

“A waste,” he said, shaking his head.

It serves a greater cause, replied the angel. Now, you have work to do. The Pharisees shall soon be arriving in this city. Their representative seeks to correct the course of the pawns that have gone astray, and bring in their knights and rooks.

“You’re talking about this as if it’s a game.”

It is, to them. They seek to hide the light, scurry it away in some dark, forgotten vault. That cannot be allowed to happen.

“Mm,” the man said noncommittally. “And the children?”

Their part has been played. They interfered with the pawns and the Tower both, and set them moving down their appropriate paths. If you encounter them again, feel free to remove them from the board.

“Again with the game.”

It is an appropriate metaphor. For this, and for most things.

“Mm,” he repeated. “I suppose it is. So what is next?”

For now, wait. You’ll know when the situation changes. Stay away from the Pharisees especially. There is a new player associated with them, one that is muddling the path.

“Do I at least get to feed?”

The angel sighed. As long as it is unobtrusive.

“Unobtrusive,” the eight-foot tall mountain man said as he burst into a swirling storm of flesh, blood and bone. “I believe I can manage that.”

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