VOLUME INDEX



Chapter VII: Kel the Bosh
Chapter VIII: Incantations of Incarnation
Chapter IX: Friday Night on the Ave

 
 
 




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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 reaches through.

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 help her.

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. “Hurry now.”

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 does.”

“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 own thing.

“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 out…

“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 know, trustworthy.”

Nathan nodded and glanced down. “Vex, can you hear me?”

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 screaming…”

“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 time.

“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—”

“No.”

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 remember anything.”

“Will do.”

As he exited the building, Patrick noticed the clock on the wall.

“Seven thirty already?” He shook his head. He’d been there for almost three hours. “Talk about tax dollars at work.”

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 blood.

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 trustworthy.

It begins, they said.

“What begins?”

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.

 
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