The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Forty-Six part two
The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Thursday January 26, 1995
With every footstep Greg felt like he was tumbling in a dozen directions at once. The stairway had become a nightmare, rippling around him like an image seen through a veil of water. Pale light filtered up from the bottom of the stairwell. “What’s happening?” Greg held tight to the dead man, shadowing his plodding footsteps.
“The top floor of the building isn’t in this world any more.”
“What do you mean?”
“The closest place between our world and the Monarchs is up there.”
Oh yes. Greg thought, That explains everything.
They rounded another landing and the world suddenly calmed; no phantom illuminations, no uneasy perceptions. Greg sighed with relief and loosened his grip on the dead man’s sweatshirt.
The rasp of his skin on the fabric was almost deafening. In spite of the lightlessness Greg found he could see every thread in the weave of fabric and every pore on the surface of his hands. He was mesmerized by the sight. If he concentrated he could hear the creak of the dead man’s joints working, he could smell decay coupled with the cloying odor of the dust being disturbed by their footsteps.
Is this really the truth of the world? Greg wondered, Alien perceptions and empty ghosts? I told Tristam that God was watching us, that we could see him directing our every step. Can he see us now?
Greg cursed himself, all it took was a little doubt and he was questioning. It was no different then when he woke up in the hospital after Jeff Hayes’ shooting spree. All his mother could do was praise God for saving her boy but all Greg could do was feel outrage that Janice was gone. His first kiss, his first love, taken away in a moment of soulless insanity- how could that really be part of some divine plan?
Those things further down the stairs- the lost souls that Tristam devoured. Is that all that was left of Jan at the end? A blob of longing forever haunting the place where she died?
It grew darker again, Greg looked away from his hands, everything around him seemed to have become unclean. The walls were warped, sunken in some places and protruding out in others. Scraps of old clothing were piled in the corners along with damaged old books and bits of glass. A bleached gas mask lay to the side of the next landing, its eyeholes smashed. Greg could feel a strange heat beginning to radiate from the dead man; not the warmth of life but the warmth of something fevered. “Tristam...” he said.
“Don’t worry.” the dead man said, “This is how it’s supposed to be. This is normal.”