In The Midnight Of His Heart
By AL BRUNO III
April 26, 1993
The sight of blood crusting the welcome mat was enough to make Phil decide to investigate further. The doorknob was streaked with red, so was the keyhole. He broke into John's house easily and with a flush of guilty pride that he still had the touch. Pocketing the forty year old lockpick set he stepped inside, his footsteps echoing in the naked room. “Love what you've done with the place.” he muttered to himself.
In the two days since the incident Phil like to think of as the 'McDonaldland Massacre' he’d neither seen nor heard from John. Ordinarily that wouldn't have worried him, after all it wouldn't be the first time that old coot had gotten fed up with him. But there was an article in today's Troy Record that got him worrying.
Phil stopped dead in the front hall. He bent unsteadily and carefully examined the pile of tattered clothes. They were stiff with dried blood. Where they John's? Or somebody else's?
They were too ruined for him to be certain. There were bloody footprints everywhere, steeling himself for the worst Phil followed one of the trails into the kitchen.
The newspaper article that got him worried was about the bodies of three drug addicts the police had found in the lobby of an abandoned hotel. They had been mutilated beyond recognition, the police could only theorize that the bodies had been eaten by rats or a pack of feral dogs. Now ordinarily Phil would have read an article like that and chuckled to himself but the thing that stuck in his craw was where the bodies had been found. That building had been abandoned for almost a century now and it was the largest eyesore in Troy’s ever-growing repertoire of eyesores. It was also where the remnants of the original Pharos team had risen up against the Project’s founder Victor Kovach.
The floorboards creaked underfoot but Phil was too lost in thought to hear. They way the bodies had been found had also set him worrying. Bodies had been found floating in the Hudson River thirty years ago in roughly the same condition. He wondered how long it would be before someone connected the dots between then and now.
The kitchen was a ruin of opened tins of SPAM and pastry boxes. The patches of dried blood were thick with crumbs and flecks of meat. Phil breathed heavily, this was bad. The rust-colored footprints lead back to the stairs, he followed them.
Three steps up the stairs something squished underfoot, oozing out from beneath the undersides of his sneakers. Reluctantly Phil looked down, relieved to see it was only vomit. Skirting as much of it as he hurried to the second floor. The blood trail led straight to John’s bedroom door. For a moment Phil considered just turning around and heading straight back home.
After all, what if he was still hungry?
But on the other hand, if not for John he’d be worse than dead.
Phil cautiously pushed open the door.
Pale sunlight streamed in through the cracked bedroom window. The only furniture was a bloody mattress; John lay on it, curled into the fetal position. His back was to Phil and his breath was coming in shuddering pants. He looked emaciated, like a starving animal. Phil felt his mouth go dry as his gaze lingered on the fist-sized exit wound in the man's back. The borders of the laceration were crusted and dark, but the center was wet and gleaming. He could just see the edge of John's spine.
“Why the gun?”
Phil started at the sound of his John's voice, “What happened to you?”
“Why did you bring a gun?” he said again.
“Just in case.” his hand drifted to the .38 in his jacket pocket.
“Just in case of what?”
Phil shook his head, “I don't know! Just in case.”
“What kind of bullets are in it?”
“John, stop talking nonsense and let me help you.” he drew closer.
“Do you have regular bullets in there?” he rolled over and glared at Phil. It looked as though the lower half of his body had been soaked blood, there was a bullet wound in his gut. His face was drawn, his eyes were feverish and resentful, “Or the expensive kind?”
“You're hurt. I need to call Zara.” he looked around, “Where's your phone?”
“After all this time... you still don't trust me.” he set his good leg down beneath him and stood, “No matter how hard I try, I don't belong.”
Phil put a hand up, “Look just calm down and get back on the bed before something falls out of you.”
“What was it Victor said about me? Too much a monster to be a man,” he hobbled forward, every step threatening to pitch him forward, “Too much a man to be a monster.”
Phil shrugged nervously, “Victor also said that no one could stop him. We stopped him didn’t we?”
He drew closer, “I'm a murderer.”
“So am I, what's your point?” Phil took an involuntary step backwards.
“When I reach you I'm going to tear your throat out.” the sunlight cast John's face in shadow, making his expression unreadable, “Just like those men in the hotel.”
“I might even attempt the Metastasis.” he said, “Hell I might even get lucky, even the best enchantments fade over time.”
“I'm not going to kill you.”
“Then why did you bring the gun?”
Phil muttered “Fuck.” under his breath and took another step back. He was in the hall now, one if his hands snaked into his jacket and wrapped around the comforting weight of the pistol.
“That's it.” John cooed as he limped closer.
“Don't make me...” he shook his head, “don't you dare fuckin' make me.”
“There's no telephone here Phil and even if the neighbors hear your screams, they wouldn't get here in time.”
Phil's back hit the wall, cursing himself he drew the gun, “John-”
“There is no John, there never was.” he took another unsteady step forward, “He was an affectation, a role to play. I am Sig! And I am alone.”
“I don't believe that.”
“You know it.” he was close now, close enough for Phil to smell the stink blood and shit on him. Tears ran down his cheeks, “You're going to die if you don't shoot.”
“And then when I'm done with you maybe I'll pay Zara a visit and do all the things-”
“Fucker!” Phil swung the barrel of the pistol down catching John on the side of the head. Gasping, John dropped to his knees. Phil swung the pistol again, striking this time on the other side of John’s head, sending him sprawling. Phil stood over him and took aim.
There was a long silence broken only by John's trembling whisper, “Do it.”
Phil looked from the supine form to the gun in his hand and back again. He lowered the weapon, “I can't- I could never-”
“I am alone.” sobs racked his body. His head was in his hands, his fists tangled in his long silver hair. He wailed again, “I am alone.”