A rip in the veil begins to tear. Much like a run in a
pair of fishnet stockings, it starts as a single broken thread—then
begins to unravel. Threads spiral away from threads. And the veil is that
diaphanous barrier between this world and the next; and the rip is the sound of
a violin playing. The notes become dazzling stars, emerging powers, spilling
their luminous lifeblood in ominous tapestries of fraying threads.
Somewhere between here and then, now and there, Another
In Tempe, on the corner of Mill Ave and 6th
Street, Darlene played a song she never heard before. She hadn’t set
out to play it, it just happened. The music came to her fingertips as surely as
she had practiced it to perfection for hundreds of years, and she performed it
perfectly. The song rang clarion from the stings of her violin without bias or
reverberation; it transcended the power of the amps; it rose above the rush and
motion of Mill; it surpassed even the meager bounds of sound and air and became
emotion: the impetus that moves souls.
The swelling crowd stood entranced, unable to look away
from Darlene as she played. She felt filled up with perfect motion, unable to steer
herself away even if she wanted. And she didn’t want to. The violin was
an instrument of her will, and she became the instrument of the music.
Darlene became a moment of perfect beauty.
In Mesa, an elderly Mormon couple died watching
television. They were only in their mid-sixties, but their hearts gave out at
the same time. In the same moment—or as close as the coroner could tell
during the autopsy later. There were no toxins present, no other reason for
their deaths. Natural causes, it was ruled. Reruns of old Benny Hill skits ran
that day at seven o’clock on Fox, the channel the TV was on.
In Gilbert, a young Mexican man came home to discover that
one of his dogs had unearthed a skeletal hand in his yard. When the police
forensics agents excavated the yard—thus forcing the young man to park
his beat-up, blue pickup truck on the street—they discovered another
skeleton holding its hand, and that one held another’s hand, and another,
and another, in a great chain reaching ten meters down into a mass grave.
On the very edges of Chandler, where people still
sometimes kept goats in their yards, a woman was roused from a fitful midday nap when her dog started barking. She pushed her back door open to discover a
gristly scene: all of her goats had died horrible, bloody deaths. Their
entrails strewn across her back yard. No authorities were contacted about
the incident. The Chupacabra was blamed.
In Phoenix, in a morgue, the body of a recently killed ASU
student opened her eyes, pushed open the door to the fridge, and walked away.
In Scottsdale, an office building filled with noxious
sulfur smoke when a tunnel beneath the building ruptured. The yellow, foul
smelling gasses seeped insidiously up through the floor, entered the
ventilation system, and began to choke bankers and janitorial staff remaining
after hours. Hazmat and rescue crews were dispatched. Thirty-three people died.
Nearby in Tempe, an executive in the Chase Manhattan
building on Mill Avenue received a phone call from a long dead partner. The
voice on the line informed her that it was time to sell her stocks and reap the
dividends. She never got the chance to take the advice; because, startled and
confused, she left the building to take a smoke break, discovered she had no
cigarettes, headed to the gas station across the street—and was hit by
the Red Line bus. She died before the paramedics arrived on the scene. With her
last breath, she bummed a cig off of one of the good Samaritans who stopped to
Dark things stirred beneath the earth, old eyes opened
onto a new world, and corpses shivered in their graves.
Near Graffiti Shop, Vex had collapsed to the ground and
her body shook with seizures.
Nathan was by her side in an instant. “Quickly, grab
her legs. I’ll cradle her head so that she doesn’t hit it on the
ground.” When Megan didn’t move fast enough he raised his voice.
Megan grabbed Vex’s legs. They twitched under her
grasp; Megan could feel the muscles clenching and relaxing under the skin
through Vex’s pants.
“What happened to her?”
“It’s her demons,” replied Nathan. He
carefully cradled Vex’s head in his lap, holding her gently but not
preventing her from twisting back and forth. “She’s not epileptic
or at least that’s what they discovered. It’s something else. Her
parents wouldn’t pay for the more expensive tests to determine what was
wrong, and because everybody thought it was an isolated incident the time that
she collapsed like this at school she was never branded as having it.
“Otherwise she couldn’t drive the taxi like she
“You mean demons like way-back-when everyone thought
that epilepsy and seizures were caused by demons?” asked Megan. The
tremors in Vex’s limbs were subsiding.
Nathan shook his head. “Ah, no, I really mean
demons. Back in High School—she dropped out you know—she was
tormented. When I first met her I thought maybe she was just another one of
those wannabe Satan worshippers. She is a lost sheep, yes, but she’s her
“Junior year there was a janitor who
was…molesting students. It had apparently been going on for years, nobody
knew. Then one day, Vex comes to school late. She walked right up and laid him
out. Pow. I know we’ve nearly come to blows in our arguments
before, but I never want to be on the receiving end of one of her punches. Not
after what I saw her do to him.
“I don’t know the whole deal. I don’t
know if she was one of his victims or what—but not long after that she
had a nervous breakdown. She hears voices, you see, devils whisper in her ears.
She spent part of our junior year in Camelback.”
“The mental hospital?”
“Yeah—I think that the seizure is over,”
Nathan said, but he kept his hands cradling Vex’s head. “Yeah, the
mental hospital. Ah, anyway, she didn’t come back to school after she got
“Um, I don’t really know why I told you all
that.” He took a deep breath. “I suppose I try to explain
everything when I’m nervous.”
“Don’t worry,” replied Megan,
“people tell me things all the time. I have one of those faces—you
Nathan nodded and glanced down. “Vex, can you hear
Vex’s body had stilled, her muscles no longer
twitched. Her eyelids fluttered open. A tear trickled down her cheek.
“We’re too late,” she said weakly.
“They got her already.”
Patrick sat sullenly in an uncomfortable chair staring
across a desk at an overworked detective. Once again he was inside of the Tempe
Police Station. At least last time he was rescuing Vex from the clutches of The
Man, but now he was the one in their sights. It wasn’t that he
couldn’t just get up and leave right now if he wanted, but he figured
that he might as well do his civic duty and actually talk to them.
So what that he was the next-door neighbor of two students
who had been killed gruesomely? The body of the girl, his next door neighbor
and the floor RA, had been found in the bed. The boy with her—another
student who lived in the dorm but on the second floor—had been identified
from what was left of him... Patrick hadn’t actually
“witnessed” anything. He was asleep at the time this supposedly
happened. Yet they still wanted to take his statement, which equated to:
“I was sleeping. I’m a heavy sleeper. Yeah I had a nightmare about
“Are you sure you weren’t even slightly awake
and heard what was going on?” the tired detective asked, sweat was
glistening on his brow.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Patrick replied.
“Hell, I have to sleep through the sounds of people humping, you get my
drift? You have to be a heavy sleeper to stay in my section of Hayden.”
“What about your roommate…”
“I don’t have a roommate.”
The detective scribbled something down for the hundredth
“Kid, there are two students dead. One is in the
morgue and the other was carried out in buckets… There was a lot of blood
in that room, the perp had to make a lot of noise to do that, maybe just maybe you—”
The air was chilly in the police station; the A/C was on
strong enough that Patrick kept his torn leather jacket on. Yet, despite the
cool air, the detective somehow managed to keep a consistent sheen of sweat on
his forehead no matter how often he mopped it.
“Alright…” Patrick leaned forward to
read the man’s badge. “Detective Johann, I’ve told you
everything that I can. I even agreed to ‘come down to the station’
as your man put it, and I’ve given you my statement. I have things to do
and places to be, can I get going?”
Detective Johann squinted at him with dark eyes and the
reflection off his brow nearly blinded Patrick. “Yeah, yeah,” the
man said finally. “You can go. Take one of my cards. Call me if you
As he exited the building, Patrick noticed the clock on
“Seven thirty already?” He shook his head.
He’d been there for almost three hours. “Talk about tax dollars at
A uniformed cop gave him a look and he made his way
quickly out the door.
The last rays of the sun were vanishing from the sky
casting heavy reds across the thin clouds. It turned the moon hazy red, almost
the color of blood, no longer as full as it was Thursday but still large and
luminous enough to catch Patrick’s eye. For a moment, he thought he saw
something pass in front of it, like the shadow of a hand passing over the lens
of a camera. The moon wavered like water, giving it more of a likeness to
Perturbed on a deep level, Patrick patted his jacket where
he used to keep his smokes. But he had quit smoking six months before, there
was no pack there. He cursed himself for having none.
“Why did I have to quit smoking?” he said as
he made his way to his jeep.
The area around Coffee Plantation was emptier than usual for
a Friday evening. The performance by the violinist, Darlene Ann Barlowe, had
apparently drawn quite a crowd, according to the employee’s inside. Yet
nobody could remember when the performance ended, or where the people who had
stopped to listen had gone. When pressed most admitted they simply assumed that
she had finished playing and everyone had gone about their usual ways.
Of course, nobody could explain why the event manager was
missing—smoke break probably. He hadn’t secured and stowed the amp
and other elements of the performance. Though most notably, neither
Darlene’s violin nor her person were anywhere to seen.
Vex asked that Megan and Nathan remain near the street
corner while she combed the area. They seemed to be getting along really well
anyway and it permitted her some semblance of privacy. After she was mostly by
herself, Vex turned her attention to what needed attending to.
“Why did you do that?” growled angrily. She
could feel her rage, focused and palpable. She lashed out with its intensity as
if wielding a knife, attempting to strike at something she could never touch
with her physical hands.
We were protecting you, daughter, the voices
replied. They echoed quietly in the back of her head, leaving hollow sense of
covetousness behind. This was not yours to interfere in. It would have been
frowned upon and we could not have prevented the reprisals.
“Explain this to me,” she said.
Ordinarily, Vex would not have deigned to have a
discussion with the voices. She knew better than that. Talking to them only led
to fears and doubts, and she could feel herself being drawn closer to their
clutches. They had never been secretive about their intentions for
her—just that their methods and information was never quite completely
It begins, they said.
They are coming.
“Who is coming?”
The Old Ones, They Who Walk Before… Do not fear,
our child, we will keep you safe. Always safe. You belong to us, you are our
daughter, and they cannot touch you. We will prevent them.
“I don’t belong to you. I don’t belong
to anyone other than myself.” Discussions with them always descended into
this same disagreement. It was inevitable.
You don’t understand, child, you cannot find
them. You cannot fight them and win.
“That’s not going to stop me. And furthermore,
know you this, one day I am going to come for you.”
Only soft laughter greeted her then. Vex felt a gentle
touch along her cheek, a gesture like a mother cupping a child’s face.
We love you.
Vex smoldered with anger.