THE NICK OF TIME
(and other abrasions)
Acquainted With The Night
Al Bruno III
Dr. Flesh began to smell smoke. The pungent smell distracted him from his thoughts; he looked up to see flames lashing into the dark, snowy sky. When he realized where the fire was coming from he broke into a run. Dr. Flesh tried to stay calm, tried to remind himself that this could be a trap but he quickly brushed such considerations aside.
His boot slipped on a patch of frozen sidewalk and he went down hard on his shoulder. He grunted with pain and stumbled back to his feet. “No.” His voice was ferocious, “No!”
A block from Kliftin Hill, the armored Sentriesies had set up roadblocks. They patrolled the perimeter, keeping the growing audience of curfew breaking spectators at bay. Dr. Flesh shouldered roughly through the crowd, and stopped at the barricades.
Flames were ravaging Scamander's manor, devouring everything but the stonework. Smoke rose from every shattered widow, carrying with it flurries of white ashes. Sentries and their damage control vehicles clustered as close as possible, trying to quell the flames by means both mechanical and mystical.
Dr. Flesh stepped over the barricade. The armored Sentriesy turned on him, “I've had about enough of you people! Get back!”
Shoving the Sentries aside, Dr. Flesh walked zombie-like to the corner of Kliftin Hill and Bushman Terrace. One of the manor's walls squealed and collapsed inward, dragging down most of the roof and the other three walls with it. The screams of the people trapped inside the building somehow carried over the rumble of the flames.
In the courtyard, a robed figure waved his arms and chanted in an ancient tongue. The flames dwindled to glowing embers, darkness moved in to retake the night. Somewhere in the crowd, applause rose up. The other Sentries began to rush toward the wreckage to search for survivors.
Moments the later a fresh tendril of flame rose up to lick the sky, the Sentries reeled back heat shocked and burning. Oblivious to it all, Dr. Flesh stepped over hoses and past the white van parked near the manor's front gate.
The coroners puffed away on cheap cigarettes and joked around as they surveyed the three rows of six body bags lying in the street. The door of their van was open, the hooks suspended from its ceiling glinted dully in the firelight.
A coroner spied Dr. Flesh kneeling beside one of the bodies and tried to shout him away. “It's all right,” He said, his expression desolate, “I'm a doctor.”
He unzipped the thick plastic and stared at the figure inside. It was curled into a fetal ball; the flames had seared the clothing, tissue and bone into a soft, brown carapace that rendered the body faceless and sexless.
Was this Horace? Dr. Flesh wondered, or perhaps it was Giselle? Or even Scamander? Did they die quietly in their sleep of smoke inhalation or had they experienced the burning, all encompassing pain of a death by fire. Had they shouted for help? Had they called his name?
An animal cry was escaping him, he could hear it whispering past his teeth as a growl. He covered the body and forced himself to stand; he would mourn later. The coroner stood by watching his every move. Dr. Flesh knew the kind of men they were and the kind of pleasures they partook of.
Dr. Flesh asked, “Were there any survivors?”
“Sir, I uhm...”
“No, no. The fire came too fast, Chief Constable Loundsberry suspects an explosion.”
“He'd be a damn fool not to.”
“Whatever you say...”
Dr. Flesh turned and stared him down, “Do you know who I am?”
“Yes.” The coroner shrank back.
“Good. Now, when the fire dies you'll find eleven more bodies in there. I want you to take those bodies to Mimir's Fountain and drop them in. Every one of them. And you'll be gentle with them, you'll treat them like they were sacred.”
The coroner’s eyes widened, “There are procedures...”
Dr. Flesh jabbed his finger into the coroner's shoulder, “Fuck your procedures and fuck you. Do it or I'll...” The coroner howled with terror at his touch. Dr. Flesh' voice nearly broke. “...just do it!” He turned and walked away, “Or I'll find you.”