NaNoWriMo Day 14

With bloody teeth and white knuckles, the Driver had followed his prey’s trail all the way to this last hole. He’d found Phil Warner’s car in the parking lot, circling the big black auto pasture like a ghost shark out of a lucid nightmare. Then he lined up his shot. He set up the Jerry Lee Lewis, slammed his right foot down to the floorboard as hard as he could, and blew through the broad glass from wall of the reception area with magnificent raping force just as the first chorus of “Great Balls of Fire” really got into gear.

There was a desk, and a receptionist behind it. She was stunned rabbit-on-the-highway frozen, a second and two thirds away from beginning to scream for the rest of her life. There had been a coffee table as well, and some semi-current news magazines on top of it, but it turned out Ikea’s standards for living room furnishings wasn’t anyhow comparable to the standards for front bumpers at the height of Detroit’s glory days. It seemed there had been someone sitting in a chair by that coffee table as well, and now the chair and his legs were ground together in a mass of wet ugly flinders, and he was yelping in a way that most people would say was inhuman. You’d have to find someone who’d put in time on battlefields and in disaster areas to recognize the purely concentrated humanity in those noises.

The Driver opened the big black door and stepped out, steel-capped boots crunching on broken glass. With a short hatchet-chop application of the toe of his right boot, he silenced the noise of the unlegged man. By now, the receptionist was opening her throat and letting everything out through it. The Driver listened to her get raw, and then shut her up by flicking his knife in an underhand throw, burying it deep just below her throat, nestled in the cleft of her collarbone. Then he bent down and grabbed what was left of the man at his feet, grabbed him by the skull with a hand over either ear, and picked him up. The spine popped and the rest of his neck ripped some, but that was fine. With his left hand the Driver took short hold of this head by the hair, and with his right shoved his first two fingers and his thumb into the man’s mouth and took hold of the soul, ripping it right out and biting it in half. He swallowed it without chewing.

The receptionist was still conscious, and still screaming as best she could. The Driver crossed quickly over to her and sucked the life out of her in one slurping swallow, then jerked his knife out of the husk and let it fall wetly to the carpet.

Now that he’d established himself, he took one of the carve finger bones from its case, cracked it open with his teeth, and snorted the marrow like cocaine. When he did this, his hands, his tongue and his eyes burst into green flame.

Someone came to see what the commotion was, came through a door behind the receptionist’s desk and looked around with a look of shock overwhelming his bearded face.

The Driver forced his left hand into the shape of a knobby ivory sickle, flesh melting back and bone melting wax-like into a new configuration, smooth and quick as shucking a mitten, the ghastly reaping appendage still wreathed in green flame. He took the man’s bald head off, shearing through the neck right below the beard line. The unregulated spurt of blood from the stump, deprived of its appropriate destination, flecked the walls and ceiling. The headless body fell forward with the knees collapsing, and the Driver caught it with his right hand. He made his tongue into a long writhing proboscis, jammed it down through the corpse’s windpipe, and hoovered up the last breath in the lungs. The fingers on his right hand, the one that still had fingers, they grew longer and sharper. His arms and legs stretched. Far to the north where the Driver originally hailed from, unfortunate and desperate men in the grimmest of winters would undergo such a transition in the right circumstance, but he felt warmer and more in control than any wendigo.

He tore the door off its hinges because he fucking could, tweaking on black magic and bloody havoc. He kicked the bald man’s head with startling accuracy, launching it in a beautiful long arc that carried it entirely down the length of the hall, which seemed to stretch the full length of the building. It made quite a mess when it reached its destination, and left a trail all along the way that the Driver followed. At this point he was legitimately fucked up beyond rational thought, a full-bore killing machine with a demolished attention span. He still sort of remembered that he was here for specific person Phil Warner, but that got sidelined by the new addition to his agenda, which was ripping apart every living thing in this building and feasting on their Breath of Life.

Without any conscious thought, a fraction of the energy pouring off of him twisted its way into the PA system built into the building, sent other tendrils shooting out to wrap around every speaker on every computer in the place, every headphone, every radio. Jerry Lee Lewis was now coming from every direction.

The long-limbed shark-mouthed sickle-handed slave of Hell stepped through the doorway, moving with speed and balance that was masked by a shuddery seeming awkwardness. It had a quality of stop-motion to it, like some lizards or arachnids have when crawling across the side of a wall.

He had stepped out onto the main floor of the call center, Spread out in front of him were rows and rows of four foot tall cubicles, crewed by men and women in headsets. To his left and right were glassed-in offices, one empty and the other holding a small man who was frozen in uncut shock.

The Driver made flames burst up from under this man’s skin, for no real reason at all other than to see if he could. More power than he’d ever held before was rippling through him, burning itself quick but blazing beyond his capacity to contain. As the smell of burning flesh began to spread, he decided to similarly ignite the fire exits, since they were so helpfully labeled by illuminated signs. Doing this left him feeling suddenly drained, so he fished out a second bone, cracked it open with his shark teeth and swallowed it whole.

He was being noticed. No one seemed to have any idea about how to cope with what they were seeing, but they were all seeing it now. People were screaming, crying, praying, shouting, trying to argue loudly against the affront reality was delivering to their understanding of what reality was.

The Driver moved down one row at full speed, stopping only when he hit the wall, ripping heads and throats to either side as he passed. When he came to the end, he turned to the cubicle at his right, tore it apart and through it into the opposite cubicle facing on the next row, and went back up to the main corridor.

People were trying for the doors, but the heat was too intense, and the flames did not diminish. There was no escape, and the ax was at the root of the tree.

Phil had seen Mr. Garrett’s head sail across the room with a dent in it, and swiftly recognized that things had reached a degree of fucked up that he hadn’t even anticipated. Things were hitting a fever pitch right now, and the air was ripe with the smell of slaughter and ozone.

Run, boy, run!

He paid heed. He was moving before most of his coworkers seemed aware that something was happening. The nearest exit was just two rows over, and he was taking the most direct route, over the top. He registered something like a stretched-out scarecrow red with blood and moving like a Harryhausen acid trip, but maybe he realized just how crazy he’d go if he really thought about it, because he shut all that out and focused on the door, his back to the howling and the tearing sounds.

And now the fire door was covered in fire.

Not on fire. It wasn’t being consumed. It was wrapped in a sheet of nauseous green fire that stank of bile and burned with a tremendous heat. No escape that way.

And hey, this was bad. He was first at the door. He had provided a concrete example of someone trying to escape, and with the horror at the other end of the room, that inspired imitators. And since watching an aberrant mockery of human form rend the flesh of your coworkers like the Devil’s private butcher was something to short-circuit the faculties, none of them were thinking clear. There were a fair few of them, and they were moving like a wad of panicked hamsters, pushing towards that blazing door.

Phil felt like his skin was about to start blistering off, but he couldn’t push back against the crowd’s press. Drop! said Branson, and since he had no other ideas of any kind whatsoever, Phil dropped. He slithered on the floor trying not to get too trampled, letting some other suckers find out about the fire.

We gotta get out of here, now. Doors ain’t gonna work, how about windows?

Phil looked around trying to figure a way to the nearest window. He got distracted, though, when he saw the thing reaping its way across the room. There were at least a dozen people dead, and the spindly hell-thing kept picking them up and going for their lungs or some such, make ghastly sucking inhalations at them. These suctioning slurping noises were audible even over the omnidirectional dull roar of Jerry Lee Lewis, which was as inescapable as an earthquake.

Dammit boy, you’re pissing yourself! Wake up and run!

Phil realized that the ghost was being bluntly literal. The front of his pants were soaked, and he was slack-jawed.

His left hand spasmed, and squeezed the silver cross he suddenly realized he had in his hand. That woke him up as much as could be done.

In front of him, a young woman name Dora or Darla or something along those lines was running right at him. He had on several occasions said good morning to her by the coffee maker, and nodded politely when he passed her in the hall. She was running hard, gasping and sobbing, and looked to be preparing to shove right past Phil, but then she was laid low by a large thrown object. Phil realized it was Charlie, his boss opened up and spread apart, hurled by the thing that had done it, to soar through the air and bring down a coworker. When Phil realized that, he stopped looking at it and stopped thinking about it as quick as he could.

There were windows. Of course there were. Right on this wall. Focus on that, Phil. Focus on that. Great balls of fire.

The thing was slowing down now, sucking the dead around it dry. Phil went up to the window, but there was no way of opening it.

Do I gotta think of every damn thing?

Branson’s ghost shot a flash of inspiration into Phil’s short-circuiting brain. He grabbed a computer from under the nearest desk, ripped it loose of the wires in a desperate burst of strength, and started slamming it into the window like a ram. A few blows had cracks starting.

This ain’t the best plan ever, but it’s the one we got, so go at it hard as you can.

He was doing that, but then he noticed the thing noticing him. The banging had caught its attention.

It had a human face, once you got past the shark mouth and the long slurping tongue and the green burning eyes. Human enough, anyway, to make everything else really horrible.

Human enough to show what looked like recognition.

That’s bad.

Phil agreed. He slammed the computer all the way through the glass and out to the parking lot. He’d managed to knock a hole big enough to crawl through.

It started for him.

He dived instead of crawling.


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