Monday, March 24, 2014

The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Thirty-Seven part one

The Cold Inside
Chapter Thirty-Seven
part one
By AL BRUNO III

Wednesday January 25, 1995


Phil was locked in a dark room with a man he’d feared all his life. The floor between them was littered with shredded paper and shattered mementos. Occasionally they would cut Phil as he tried to drag himself into a corner. He felt his nerve endings tingling with life. Was that a good sign? Zara would have known.

Zara… His breath caught in his throat.

“Still mourning her are you?” The boy said. Victor Kovach’s mannerisms and speech patterns riddled Tristam’s body like an ambitious cancer. He was kneeling beside an old suitcase, pawing through the silk Italian suits. Before tossing each one aside he made sure to rip it along the seams. “She never loved you, not in the way a man should be loved.”

“Fuck you.”

“Cerebrate upon this.” The boy grinned, “Her final thought was not of you, it was of me. She loved me to the last. You were trustworthy and harmless. Her only fidelity was to the protection you offered her, a protection that came to naught in the end.”


Nothing left to lose, Phil spat an incantation of the most vile and deadly sorcery he knew. It erupted from his gut as a wet cloud, howling with a dozen different voices that were all his. The air around it crackled and hissed. It was hate given form, it was unlife personified.

The boy caught it in the palm if his hand and marveled at it like a child’s drawing. “Sumerian death magic? What a pathetic squandering of the time and energy you have left.”

With an offhand gesture he sent a fragment of the incantation arcing back to Phil. The boy watched the old man squirm and wail. Once Phil’s agonies had run their course he spoke again. “I assume you are speculating upon how it is I came to conceal myself from you so adroitly for so prolonged a period?”

“…can’t… can’t…”

“It was elementary enough really. I postulated accurately that you would search only the most obvious of places to find where I had anchored my soul. After all you could never be certain you were rid of me unless you could be certain I was soul-dead.” The boy got up and went back to rummaging through  suitcases. “Especially when you knew that the Monarchs were being held at bay by the stalemate my physical confinement created.”

“… traitor…”

“No, merely a pragmatist. The Monarchs, no matter what we do, will have this world.” The boy shook his head in bemusement, “None of you fathomed that, you were all to busy playing at being heroes. Perhaps in your final moments Phillip you will come to appreciate that the world has never needed heroes. They are an anathema to an ordered society.”

With a grunt of satisfaction the boy retrieved the familiar old winebottle from the suitcase. Phil felt something catch in his throat.

“So, where did I ensconce myself? The explanation is simplicity itself if you only pause to consider. I anchored myself to an animal, to a cat.”

“Victor…”

“To the cat you discovered in Sig’s house when you went there to try and find some suggestion of what had happened to him. The cat you brought home to guard against the solitude you had always dreaded.” The boy stood over Phil, hefting the winebottle from one hand to another, “How could you not have seen? Did you disregard my teachings so easily?”

“What…” Phil coughed, “What are you going to do with that?”

“And this is why you floundered as a disciple my dear Philip, an inability to focus.” The boy ran his fingers along the length of the tinted glass, pausing to idly pick at the melted wax holding the stopper in place. An indistinct form shifted inside. “And we all know who this is don’t we? Poor, pitiable Reginald, I have made contact with him several times over the last few years.”

“Victor… please…”

“He vowed to serve me, serve me forever so long as he is revenged on you first.” The boy’s razor thin smile filled Tristam’s face, “Have I not always been the very paragon of generosity Philip?”

He threw the bottle against the far wall, it shattered into a spray of broken glass. A thick miasmic form slithered from the remains, no bigger than a man’s fist and coiling in and upon itself. A fluttering, whisper of a voice filled the air with rants, curses and nonsense. It flowed across the floor of the storage room, dragging slivers and chips of glass after itself.

“No!” Phil tried to raise himself up, he almost found the strength but the boy held him in place, grinding his sneakered foot into the old man’s chest, “No!”

Scraps of paper, swatches of cloth and old ties, splinters of wood and bits of plastic; the wrathful spirit added them all to itself as it crossed the room. It evolved a shape as it moved, raising itself up, becoming bipedal; a man made of refuse, a face of contorted paper, sinew of moth-eaten cloth and fingertips made from broken glass and rusted metal. When it spoke its lips moved out of synch with the murmuring nonsense of its voice.

“What do you think Phillip?” The boy beamed, “Impressive, but not quite the Reginald of old anymore is it? I think I shall call it Chimera for lack of a better appellation.”

“Please!” Phil was shouting as loud as he could. Someone would hear him, someone had to hear him.

The boy stepped aside, allowing the nightmare shape to draw closer.



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