The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Thursday January 26, 1995
Zeth had to hand it to them, they almost made it. Special Agent Wight huffed and puffed out of the abandoned building carrying a kid in his arms. A dark haired girl hobbled after them, her hands grasping at her abdomen. The kid was pale and barely conscious, his one leg swung bonelessly at the knee. The girl’s face was sweaty and sick, blood had run down from the front of her shirt all the way to her feet. Special Agent Wight looked beat up and about five minutes from a heart attack.
Behind them the building was shuddering on its foundations, twisting in and upon itself. The three of them moved as fast as they could through the destroyed cars and inert Drones but before they could get clear the Imperial Hotel disintegrated.
Dust exploded outwards in all directions. Metal, wood and plaster were reduced to powder as though decades of decay had swept through them in an instant.
The girl screamed. The special agent turned back to see a figure standing where the building had been.
It was Tristam Bloom. The very air around him seemed to crackle and hiss. He stared dumbly forward, his eyes glowing with an unsteady azure light.
The kid with the broken leg opened his eyes, “Tristam?”
“Why did it have to be so...” A cracked whisper filled their minds, “…cold?”
“What are you?” the girl shouted, “What are you?”
“So cold…” Tristam took another faltering step forward and collapsed.
Dropping the other boy the special agent rushed to his son’s side and knelt. He wasted a few moments staring at the unconscious figure, then he wrapped his hands around Tristam’s throat.
The kid with the broken leg shouted, “What are you doing?”
“No choice.” Special Agent Wight answered.
Jason Magwier put a gun to the back of the man’s head, “We all have a choice, even when we think we don’t.”
They all goggled at this latest impossible escape. The girl said “I saw you fall.”
Magwier grinned, “I didn’t. Trick of the light.”
“No.” the special agent said, “You fell, I watched you.”
Magwier shrugged, “Now step away. Tristam is coming with me.”
“He’s too dangerous.”
“He has potential.”
The stars were coming back, slipping through the waning veil of shadows in little groups. Bit by bit the tri-cities’ power came back online, the air began to fill with sirens and alarms.
Special Agent Wight raised himself up, he was almost a foot taller than Magwier, “I won’t let you take him.” He was eyeing the gun, judging his chances of snatching it.
There’s my queue. Zeth stepped into view and casually took aim at the special agent. “The man said step away,” he ordered. “You’d best do so.”
The kid with the broken leg made a snort of disbelief, “Who the fuck is this now?”
Magwier smiled, “That’s Zeth, he’s my best friend.”
“Just let Tristam go.” The kid with the broken leg said, “Let us all go.”
“I’m sorry Greg.” Magwier said. “We may have survived this very postmodern apocalypse but for Tristam the world has ended.”
After a thoughtful pause the kid with the broken leg asked, “Didn’t you used to be our janitor?”
The girl said, “This is crazy.”
The special agent shook his head, “You can’t have him. You’ll have to shoot me.”
Zeth gave Magwier a questioning look. Magwier seemed to consider.
Among the dozens of sirens filling the night one set seemed to be growing steadily louder. There were voices drawing closer as well, concerned citizens and jaded spectators were approaching. Special Agent Wight looked from them to the boy at his feet to the mass of people. His hands twitched.
Magwier pulled his best friend into the approaching crowd, “Come on Zeth, I’m not one for the marryin' or the buryin’.”
Zeth looked back, “What’s to keep him from killing Tristam later?”
“He’s lost his momentum, but we haven’t.” Magwier said, “Come on, I’ve got a car waiting.”
Zeth had to laugh, “How did you get a car in the middle of all this?”
“Now that was an adventure in itself.”