NaNoWriMo Day 15

The Driver was well past his humanity now, past remnants of conscience, past reason, past all sense of self or place. He was riding a wave of frenzy, feeling nothing but hunger and need that he sought to slake with blood and souls. The air was full of terror and copper stink, screams and lamentations reverberating.

A distant voice of something that was not sanity, but was closer to sanity than anything on deck in his blackened bloodstained soul, began shouting.

The Quarry.

The purpose.

The entire objective of this whole affair.

Phil Warner was escaping.

The Driver had just torn a scrawny man roughly in half across the vicinity of his waist, sickle-hand hooked up under his jaw and grasping talon wrapped around his ankle. His tongue probed the lungs, and he had begun chewing on the left one when some still-conscious fragment advised him to look up and redeem the time. The scrap meat was dropped to the blackening carpet, and the beast moved to intercept, gulping down a third bone as it went. A wave of fresh power exploded off from him, blasting furniture, computers and the dead and wounded away like a shock wave.

Phil lay on the asphalt, gasping and bleeding some. He was as scared as he had ever been in his life, as scared as he ever would be again, and there seemed to be no remedy.

Get up! Goddamn you, get up!

He rolled over onto his face, glass crunching under him. He sucked in a lungful of coppery air, and set his shaking limbs under him as best he could.

We’re out of time! Move!

He moved. Up onto his hands and knees. Try to get on top of the legs. Try to get the legs straight. Don’t let the knees betray you now, hold them fast. There.

Phil Warner stood upright. He stank and dripped with his own urine, and blood from many sources including his own torn forearm and gashed scalp. His legs shook like reeds and barely managed his weight, and his hands were palsied with pure terror, but Phil Warner stood upright. Somehow the little silver cross was still in his hand, pressed deep into the flesh and dripping red with it, bloody like every other thing in the world just at present. He stared at his battered reflection in the tinted mirror-surface of the window’s intact portion, and saw his ancestor standing behind him, supporting hand clapped on his shoulder and a look of some pride on his face together with the desperation the moment indubitably called for.

Damn right, boy! Now saddle up and ride!

Phil turned to make his way towards his car. That was, of course, the moment the killing thing lashed out at the window with a howl that translated into a supersonic blast of shuddering force that sundered the glass into a cloud of jag-edged fragments. The blizzard of glass tore into the pickup truck parked directly in its path like a shotgun blast, narrowly missing Phil.

Phil began to do as close as he could to running. Awkward stagger-jog, legs shaking and knees weak, but covering ground because he’d seen what was behind, at his heels.

Doom.

The great sickle of its left arm ripped the frame of the window all apart, clearing the path for eight feet of abomination to pass through. Eight feet of pure festering insult to God Almighty, standing now in the Texas sun, cool clean clear-smelling autumn breeze choking on the aura of bloody rot it bore about it.

Phil didn’t know any prayers. Branson had forgotten the ones he’d once been taught. Between them though they had a sort of continuous howl to the heavens going steady, pleading with any benevolent higher power to step in and take a hand.

Phil Kept his feet, and his forward momentum. More help than that, God didn’t seem to be handing out today.

He heard the click of the steel taps on the things boots, as it stepped after him. Phil put out a burst of speed, was almost in reach of the car.

The thing behind him wasn’t going to permit this.

Phil was digging out his keys when the thing howled something like a word, and the car’s engine exploded into green fire. For good measure, every other vehicle in thirty feet followed suit, forming a rough circle of verdant corpselight and swallowing up the oxygen with a roar. Glass shattered. Phil dropped his keys in stunned surprise. The heat seared his eyes, and he squinted them shut.

The hunter was closer.

No escape.

No hope.

He was going to die here, die now. He’d go out horribly, painfully, in shame and fear, and that would be the end of him forever.

Gun, dammit!

He blinked. The gun?

Revolver’s still in the car, and I ain’t yet seen anything bullets wouldn’t do for!

Phil had never held a real gun in his life, and his hands were shaking like they held a jackhammer.

Dammit. Gimme the reins boy!

Phil looked up at the towering spindle-limbed reaver coming at him, locked his eyes on the green firepits sunk into its distorted face, and made the decision. He let go, and let Harry Branson rise up to fill his hands.

As a spectator he watched his left hand blur, slamming the glove compartment open and diving in. Somehow, there was a gun in it now. Faster than thought it was cocked, and by the time Phil realized it was now in his right hand, the hammer was falling for the third time.

Harry Branson had learned to handle a revolver in an unforgiving environment, where speed was prized over accuracy. Only the truly exceptional could have been called marksmen with the sidearms the guerrillas favored. It hadn’t ever been any brag when Branson claimed himself to be exceptional in this regard. His eye looked straight and his hand obeyed. When he aimed, it was as if his finger was pointing right out from his pupil, and every one of the first three lightning shots he cast loose at the attacker took effect. One tore a chunk of meat off a rib. Another one sunk into the thing’s thigh. The third seemed to drill right into its sternum, pulling it up short.

The fires seemed to dull some, to recede.

Harry Branson took his time and aimed careful.

A bullet plowed into the thing’s brow, exploding blood and bone out from its forehead like the birth of Athena. A second bullet tore a ragged hole in its throat. The last one in the cylinder, it took the thing right in one burning green eye, and that’s when the monster finally flopped back on the ground with it’s limbs splayed and twitching, keening horribly.

The parking lot was on fire. There was a big black car rammed into the building and a big ragged hole torn into the walls besides that. The building was full of torn, mangled, charred corpses, and survivors whose grips on sanity would be shaky a while. Sirens were getting closer and closer, howling alarm for all to hear.

And the monster didn’t look dead yet.

Hurt, yeah, hurt pretty damn bad. But not dead by half. And every bullet Branson had possessed already passed through the thing, leaving him with an empty gun and fuck-all.

All that being the case, the canny outlaw move was to go for distance and cover.

Branson and his descendant’s body ran.

The Driver, the beast, the killer, the monster, the wizard, the damned man, Richard Stane, he floated in the place between the worlds.

There were threads binding him, delicate as spiderwebs. Some of them were tethering him to the distorted meat on the ground in a Texas parking lot. Others bound him to the things whose names he had called upon, to whom he owed a debt for his power and his secrets.

There was no color here, for there had never been any light. No shapes, for there had never been any matter nor form. There was existence, a state of being, and even that was not firm. He was empty, just like everything around him. All barriers crumbled, and the integrity of his own conception was being lost as he forgot all that he had known of himself and slipped into the endless dream of the void.

“Failure.”

He focused. The word cut clear in the waveless nothing where no sound could be, drilled into his soul with painful drive.

“All that time. All that knowledge. All that power. Secrets that ain’t been whispered aloud in two hundred years, nor spoken outright in two thousand. Names so mighty that whole countries was burned to ash in the fight to get them forgotten. Ye kissed the Devil on the mouth and got yer soul packed with coals from Hell’s furnace.”

Being addressed, he knew that he must be a thing that existed. That knowledge helped solidify his outline, keep the tides of limbo at bay.

“Yer strength was such as ain’t never been seen on this continent since centuries before the first white man set foot on it. A livin’ terror.

“And ye fucked it all up and got shot half to death.”

The voice of his master. It rang with contempt. Contempt gave rise to anger. He knew who he was again.

“Fuck you,” was what Richard Stane said. The act of saying made him more alive, reaffirmed his existence in a stark way. “I was kicking ass.”

“Stupid shithead. Ye had a job to do. Find Phil Warner, take him, hurt him, and bring him back to me. Ye accomplished none of that. All you done is make sure yer as hunted as can be, attractin’ all the attention a city can give. Ye wasted yer power on theatrics. Ye made a spectacle of yerself.

“And this is the part I keep comin’ back to, because ye got shot to pieces! By a chickenshit!”

Stane was aware of himself fully. Now the purity of the void allowed him to clearly see in memory, as he replayed what had gone before.

“Wasn’t him. I had him running, scared. Ready for the kill. But–“

“Another thing I wanted to call to yer attention. Ye weren’t to kill the son of a bitch. He’s mine!”

“He changed. All of a sudden, he was a different person. Cool. He moved fast. He didn’t miss.”

The master hissed, a manifestation of platonic rage transcending expression’s limits. “Branson!”

Stane felt the thin lines tethering him to his grotesque body. He shut out his teacher’s scream and focused on following the trail. Tracing his way back. Tracing back to himself.

“Branson’s with him! How? Why?”

Stane didn’t answer. He was pressed up against the veil, stretching against the membrane separating him from returning to flesh.

“Guess it doesn’t matter. We find Warner, and I can finish Branson as he always should have been done. I’ll tear his soul apart!”

Stane shoved through the veil. It hurt like being born. He came into the world naked spirit, and the sun seared him. He wriggled like a smoking worm back into the safety of his own flesh, and set to exploring the paths of his nerves, relearning the map of his physicality. Dimly he could still hear the old ghost’s voice.

“Get up, get in yer damn car, and get a move on. If Branson’s with him he’ll be running, and it’s any guess as to where. But I won’t let him escape me again!”

Stane forced all his will into his finger, and got it to twitch.

“Stop wasting time!” Haverly’s voice said, and then faded altogether. In its place, Stane began hearing sirens. Men were on the scene.

He drove all his efforts into a point, and shoved that point hard into his right hand, still grotesquely distorted. He made it find his precious case, and pluck out the fourth finger bone. Took the bone, and brought it to his shark’s mouth. The misshapen tongue tasted the shape of the name graven into it, and with saw-edged teeth he cracked it open.

Energy poured into him, and he made swift use of it. He was economical with his strength now. First step was drawing his body into its accustomed shape, and this was done as quickly as he could stand. Even with the stored magic of his fetish, resculpting flesh and bone was agonizingly painful work.

From the sounds of things, firemen and paramedics were first on the scene, and they were held busy with the shambles he’d left inside. He, laying on the ground betwixt cars as he was, hadn’t yet been noticed. As his left hand split back apart into separate fingers, he managed to bite back a scream of pain, hoping to stay unnoticed a bit longer. The police were doubtless here as well, attending to their initial business.

Done. The Driver looked like a man again. Time to move.

The power he’d cached in that dead human’s marrow provided the fuel. Three words of power provided the channel through which the power flowed. The result was a haze thrown up around him, an enforced blind spot for those who looked his way. He moved with rapid stealth to his car, where two cops were getting to work. He whispered, and the uniformed men both fell to their knees in reamplified nausea. While they were busy desecrating the remains of his victims with vomit, the Driver took the wheel, and drove like a bat out of hell, unheeding of any futile attempt at pursuit.

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