A storm broke behind me as a fresh gust of bullets blew across the already ruined lobby. Before the Darkness, the police exercised far more discretion as to where they pointed and fired their weapons. But now, with remainders of the Darkness seasoning an otherwise dead world, discretion was not a care they took very seriously.
Luckily, the dream held fast, transforming the majority of the deadly injuries I should have suffered into mere bruises and superficial cuts. Yet the police and their gunfire were far from primary to my thinking—only the fleeing form of Tom Hush pinned my attention.
He fled, still laughing, up a nearby staircase. I almost stepped on his shadow as I gave chase, nearly catching him in the grinning arc of my sister’s shining teeth, but he managed to push the remains of his borrowed body just slightly beyond her reach.
As we rounded a corner I was surprised by a mob bearing knives, keys, canes, anything they could quickly seize upon. I should have known that a luxurious hotel, little more than a hive of the rich and indulgent, would be thick with secrets for the antlered god to sup—and feast he did. I could hear the floors above me shaking under the wide trample of secret-keeping crowds. Mercifully, these new devotees were without the physical adjustments that manifest madness could supply, so I was confronted only by crazed humans.
My father cleared a flowing red path amidst the teeming throngs, but my pace was sorely wounded. I lost sight of the bleeding god somewhere on the third floor. I slipped into the dark silence of a hallway that had been closed off for some kind of maintenance, hoping the god had taken the same route. Sure enough, standing at the end of the corridor, holding the slack darkness that tumbled all around him as if it were a pull string, stood Tom.
“Where is your mother now, Donald? Do you even remember what you did to her? What she did to you? Think hard, Donald. You can do it, my boy. I’ll even help you.” I felt the god’s psychic fist slam into my mind, crashing past memory and dream alike, searching and clawing for more secrets.
Yet this time my family was home and they were admitting no visitors. I grinned at the terrible violence that greeted the god’s efforts. After all the slashing, hacking, and smashing, Tom seemed to reel from the inner conflict, but held himself up via the grip he continued to exercise upon the flowing darkness of the corridor. After a few moments of satisfying quiet, Mister Hush seemed to regain his sense of humor, letting drip a small stream of oily laughter as he rose from his psychic defeat. “Oh, yes. I forgot about that awful family of yours. It’s funny how they look nothing like you, hmm?”
The taunt found its mark and I mindlessly lunged forward. Tom yanked away the darkness as if it were a curtain being parted to reveal a glittering prize. Tom’s laughter sank beneath the sound of something large and mechanical, and the god’s shadow stretched toward me, pushed by a large blinding spotlight that projected from somewhere behind him. The shadow transformed as it fell over me, revealing the monstrous outline of the thing hidden within the dead, mutilated folklorist.
The sight almost distracted me from the gunfire that began thundering through the window at the end of the hallway—a police helicopter fired both its mounted cannons, chewing the world around me into so much smoking ruin.
I followed the curve of silence as it diverted into an adjoining hallway, all the while thinking of the monstrous battle that had risen up around me, wondering if it was all too much for me. I eventually concluded that such things were only to be expected when one seeks the death of a god—or in this case, the vessel of a god—and that mine was a killer’s pedigree worthy of the task and perhaps then some. I could also feel my father’s fire upon me as I gave my doubt even the slightest voice.
I could hear more police vehicles massing around the building as the skies filled with additional spotlights. I needed to finish the god quickly if I was to have any chance of escaping. Tom would need to conserve and repair what was left of his vessel, I reasoned. It seemed a worthy idea to make my way toward the hotel wedding chapel, should it have one. Secrets have no greater haven than beneath the shadow of religion.
Regrettably, according to the map of the hotel carved beautifully into a nearby wall, the chapel was located many floors above me, near the “rooftop lagoon,” of all things. The most direct paths to my destination lay on the outside of the building or up the elevator shaft, and I was fairly certain that my armor of dream would not long survive the direct and vulgar reality of a police gunship’s shower of high caliber, armor piercing rounds. So, I found myself prying open the elevator doors and scaling the shaft to the top of the building.
It was a fairly predictable route to take, I confess, but I hadn’t realized how predictable until large numbers of people began tumbling down at me from one of the floors above me. I was growing progressively more irritated by the antlered god, though I also admit to being slightly taken with him. He was a crafty one, after all. It was a surreal, if not terribly comfortable, situation—persons falling silently through the darkness, hoping to knock me from the wall so that I might join them on their way into death. Tom smartly denied them their screams, as they might have helped me determine their angle of descent.
When I reached the appropriate floor, there stood a wall of armored and armed policeman eager to be done with their night’s business. I stood to my full height, letting my father’s head scrape against the ceiling, and I pushed their obnoxious lights away from my face with obedient shadows. One of them croaked into the radio, “We got ‘em, all right. He’s cornered and all out of tricks. Were gonna bring him down the easy way.” I was amused by the bravado.
Without warning the power went out, followed by explosions and screams. It seemed my sister had done her work well. I had inserted her into one of the plummeting secret-keepers, hoping that she might help improve my situation from the lower floors of the hotel. The bravado vanished from the men before me. I remained amused, but no longer stationary.
As I rose from the human wreckage, I again heard the police radio. The voice on the other end called out to the six dead policemen as chaos and death reigned in the background. Apparently, my sister had transferred herself to the operator of a large armored vehicle and was making quite merry. Again, the voice broke through the din of madness, “Come in, guys! You still there? Talk to me!” I picked up the police radio and held it to my lips. “Even God knew when to call it a day, my friend. You should run. Quickly.” I tossed the noise-box over my shoulder as a song of steel turned the voice into a single wet shriek.
I hastened up the stairs to the rooftop, weeding my path of any lingering ill-wishers as I went. I saw a small bit of blood just outside the door to the chapel. Tom was inside.
Somewhere in the darkness of my mind, I heard my father cracking his knuckles.
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