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My eyes are pools of blood now, barely conceivable by their whites as the crimson just keeps on gushing. What discernment I can still achieve through my remaining good eye relays back most disparaging Intel. From what it appears the malodorous cretin preparing for re-entry is steadily composing, gaining its strength from my oozing fear. Its funk fills my nostrils, molesting my polyps with its clammy malevolence and rapidly draining any remaining resolve. I cannot make out the sex, actually scrap that, I just caught a hazed glimpse of something I truly hope isn’t the recipient of the last remaining Golden Ticket. Funny, the name Bucket actually springs to mind as I attempt to stave off any realization that I’m about to get well and truly ‘Wonkered’.
There’s nothing left to clench, my entire lower back is like a circus tent with a busted zip and right now I’d take a pounding from the Bearded Lady over any seeds this dame is likely to sow. For a split-second I attempt to fathom how that old fool in reception hasn’t halted this hellish deflowering from taking place. Surely he would’ve heard my screams from his office and yet I’m still one prod away from FUBAR. This just isn’t at all funny.
I cried out at the top of my voice, I remember that. Clear as day I recall using the words “I’m in a spot of bother in room nine”. Or did I? Suddenly clarity is beginning to become shrouded in incertitude, and all I can see strewn around me are hypodermic needles. A vicious head rush reminds me that I am not in the possession of my amenities and I see that whatever has been feeding me with its probed narcotic has also taken away my ability to complete such a task. I’ve been stymied…the oldest trick in the book. The virulent intrusion. He didn’t, in fact, receive any communication from me which means there’s no cavalry coming after all. With that in mind I prepare for the final indignity.
On a rare positive the pain is subsiding in both my crown and shoulder blade and the reveal just keeps on coming. There are no visible abrasions, it has all been one long tweak on my part. The shit being pumped into my fresh spinal cavity has simply been leading me to believe the pain was happening. That agonizing tear, on the other hand, is only too authentic. But each time it slides in I feel a sense of momentary calm as my yearning for the next oncoming rush is quenched once again.
I’ve seen quite enough. I’m thoroughly finished with this scenario. Silently my right hand crosses my body and I pull the gun, loathing it and yet quite happy to have it. Very slowly, pulling it from my pocket, sliding it up against my body, I finally grip it correctly and point it toward the creature who is just turning to face me. I aim for the neck…
The report is loud enough to wake the dead in this small space. Even Keeper acknowledges the shot with a small jerking motion, indicating that he may be coming to his senses soon..?
Shell-shocked. I’m sure that I just heard a firearm go off, can hear it ricochet around me although at this point its audible wallpaper to me. I couldn’t be less vexed, despite the insistent rearrangement of my positioning from where I lay. I replay the Cagney & Lacey theme tune in my head, whilst attempting to ascertain whether it is Cagney’s bullet that rattles around my ears or Lacey’s. Whoever fired their round has fashioned a new dynamic to my molestation.
I discern the taste of cruor as it sprays across the back of my neck. Even after it settles I can feel it still animating, feeling and congealing as it burns its insignia across my pelt. There isn’t an ounce human about the beast standing over me, moreover, it evolves with every touch, as though feeding from my diminishing font. Even now, with it clearly having taken damage, it twists and turns behind me and is not nearly ready to give up the ghost quite yet. Now would be a pretty fucking grand time for some divine interception.
The creature’s head snaps back and as my aim was not as true as I’d like to admit, its head remains on its shoulders even as blood gushes from the wound in an unreal fountain. It staggers back, eyes roving, seeking out a visual of its attacker. The lidless eyes settle on me and some kind of hiss rips from its lipless mouth.
As I am well aware of my positioning, blocking the only real escape, I sidestep to the other side of the bed, gun still pointed at it, my rage beginning to build. Why aim for the neck? Why, indeed?! That deceivingly beautiful voice fueled my initial rage, and I am beginning to boil now. I don’t care what the fuck this thing is, I don’t care what its ultimate purpose is, and I resent the fact that I now have the chore of killing it.
The creature claps one barely formed hand over the spraying side of its neck, and leans forward, growling at me. I have cleared the way for its escape; my movement to the opposite side of the bed has gotten me closer in one respect, but with the bed between us, I am betting on its not-quite-formed muscles not being able to leap at me with any real success.
My hunch pays off, and this disgusting creature, this dripping, growling little motherfucker — it edges back around the bed and staggers for the door. I consider shooting it again, when I hear a painfully loud groan emanate from Keeper’s general direction. Distracted, I glance over at him, affording the creature just the few moments needed to get to the door and fling it open. It slips out, dripping crimson droplets in a completely inappropriate version of Hansel & Gretel. Yes, I’ll find you, you nasty little fuck — I will be with you momentarily.
I’m becoming weary now of the taste of ingot and acid which swills around my esophagus but enough of that drug has blurred the edges considerably. My discomfort is only in one place. The overwhelming feeling now is of relief as my attacker has staggered back, and evidently someone or thing has foiled my forecast depredation.
I must regroup. Whatever resolution I still hang onto needs to crown in a crescendo moment of some sort, the fact that I’m still figuratively standing is testament to both my stamina and dogged fight when the big dripping dick comes swinging. I feel strength returning every second but still I lay dormant. The foul convergence may be over momentarily but, should that fucking monstrosity return, I’m going to need my A-game about me to stand Joe’s chance in the Volcano of getting out of this intact.
Having already ascertained that Keeper is injured but not dying, I decide to leave him, for now. There are no other creatures to deal with, of this I’m certain. If there were, they would have been absolutely eaten by the miserable little fucker I am now charged with tracking.
Right: time to track. Easily done, with large droplets of unbelievably fresh blood spattered on the sidewalk lining the outside of the motel. I’m walking rapidly, and I’ve already decided: as upset at this adventure as I’ve been, I click the pistol into the locked position and pocket it, opting instead for my dagger.
Its a nasty little thing and I adore it. The blade is not especially long…just a bit longer than the length of my hand from wrist to the tip of my middle finger, and the tip of this piece is punctuated with just the barest hook, causing it to tear even if it can’t be buried properly into its target. As my target scarcely has the skin to pierce anyway, it will serve as a kind of experiment: how deeply into newly forming flesh can my blade sink..?
The droplets lead directly to the motel office, and I remember the gigantically fat old man lounging, asleep, within. DAMN IT. Why does anyone else have to be involved..? For some reason, I didn’t hear the bell chiming and yet I can see through the glass door that the blood leads right into the office. Fucks sake.
I’m hanging from a pretty slender string here. Granted, recuperation is going swimmingly and I feel more like myself with each passing second but I am under no illusion. Right now it’s sorry limbo. I can hear movements in the vicinity but cannot muster enough vitality to rise from my position on the floor. So I listen intently, hanging from every footstep or shuffle, fascinated by developments I have no inkling as to the meaning of. I can just about fathom the vague sound of a door being forcibly opened nearby. What the fuck is actually going down out there?
I burst through the door; no chime, again. Well then. Where did this malicious little fuck disappear to, anyway, and why is that old man still laying in his chair? I track the blood across the floor, around the counter, and stand a few feet away. Now…NOW I am ready to gag. I was not prepared for this.
The old man is so incredibly large that the seat sags beneath him. His fleshy-jowled head is back and he is snoozing in what could be considered a fairly comfortable position. In this respect, there ends any sense of normalcy.
His checkered lumberjack shirt is open, revealing a massive belly, an absolute monster of flesh. The grey hairs begin at his sternum and travel downward in a silver happy trail, and nestled in the center of this hairy pathway is a huge fucking gash. His belly is laid open, wide open in the most disturbing of ways. There are no rivers of blood. There are no guts laying about. He has not been slaughtered. At first glance, his belly seemed cleaved in two, and yet…not. He sleeps almost peacefully, and his cavity is laid open. He is a vessel.
There sits the creature, curled up on the old man’s crotch. It is plucking fleshy bits out of the old man’s innards, and stuffing them into the wound I had bestowed earlier, effectively plugging the hole. The bleeding has trickled into nothingness. The creature watches me, while I stare in complete disbelief. Thank you, Rod Serling, for taking those many years to prepare me for this very moment in life. Still, I’m a little stunned.
The creature finishes up its moment of first aid and shifts, climbing into the cavity of the old man and somehow, every bit of it fits…and just as I am about to convince myself that I, too, am under some sort of hallucinogen, one arm reaches out of the old man’s belly, over to the remains of the chicken dinner at his side, and grabs the chicken carcass. The hand, clutching its food, retreats back into the cavity, and the flaps of his stomach begin to close. The sound is a wet, bubbly zippery mess that causes the bile to rise in the back of my throat, and worst of all…chewing sounds emanate from inside his belly as the creature smackingly enjoys last evening’s dinner.
The old man stirs, slightly, and jars me from my shocked stillness. Oh yes, it’s definitely time to go. Fuck all this. I slip away, quietly, heading to Room number 9 to retrieve my friend, and stop.
I can’t let this shit go. I don’t know how many others have gone through the same tortures Keeper has endured over the last half a day, but I know how many more will follow. Reluctantly, I turn back to the office and grab the first flammable thing I can find, a plastic bottle of some industrial cleaner and, removing the lid, I dash some across the curtains and carpet, on the piles of papers strewn on the check-in desk, and lastly, on the pajama bottoms the old man is sporting in his once again pregnant-ish state of existence.
This done, I grab some papers, crumpling them and pull my lighter, torching the twisted paper and watching the flame for a few short moments. I love fire.
I toss the blazing bit into the chemically soaked arena and watch as it catches on, spreading everywhere in the room. Smoke is billowing, and now I can leave. I do so, back to the room where Keeper was so well and truly kept.
In mere seconds, the office is a beacon of fiery light, blazing and crackling and spreading steadily to each attached room. The screaming begins and seems to never end, two voices screaming in perfect unison.
I hear the door behind me swing open and, with it, rushes the most godawful smell of cauterized flesh. My first thought is that Otis’ chicken dinner has received a little too long a term in the stove but this is unlike any aroma I’ve ever had the displeasure of sucking into my lungs. The scent is accompanied by shrill synchronized shrieks which are tobogganing through to my very core. There is nothing earthly about the cries which filter through the open doorway. I believe that it is good riddance to some pretty fucking bad rubbish. Good fucking riddance.
I am now well aware of the time constraints as I rush back to Room 9. I doubt any rescue will show up to put out this blaze, but I also forgot how quickly a howling wind can spread the flame. I slip into the hotel room, righting a lamp and clicking it on.
“Keeper…” I whisper, kneeling by him, “…you look like shit.”
Jester? Jester…could that really be you? I know that voice, it is unmistakable. Relief washes over me instantaneously, not that she would know such as I’m still heavily sedated and finding it unworkable voicing anything at this point.
He blinks, several times, trying to focus. I can’t even see the blue of his eyes as his pupils are huge from whatever drug was pumped into him. I try again.
“Keeper, we have to go, now.”
I hear her suggestion loud and crystal and I know that time is of the essence as the heat from the nearby blaze is only intensifying. With everything I have, I take my shell out of mothballs and lift my jaded carcass from the floor. There is only a pinch of fortitude left but it buys me the movement necessary to hike from my position.
Good…he’s getting up. The smoke is strolling past the still open door of the room. As I help Keeper to his feet, the smoke shifts, flying upward in some funky, bird-like motion. Through the momentary clearing we stagger out, away from the nastiness of the fire, the strangeness of the night, and unbelievably, into a most glorious sunrise. Was this a movie, after all? Surely not.
Stopping at the motorcycle, I deposit the gun and dagger. Keeper is steadier on his feet, and his eyes are beginning to clear. I shake my head.
“Jester,” he says as I prepare to push the bike up to the road.
“Did you ever watch Sesame Street…?”
Keeper of the Crimson Quill