The Nick of Time
(and other abrasions)
A Darkness Unyielding
Al Bruno III
The following story was originally published by Eden Studios
He waited an hour longer than he was supposed to before he making his way to the boathouse. It made no sense; they’d had the Dread Lord dead to rights but death as the only thing that would have kept Wu-Han and Meng from their rendezvous. Hefting the two valises full of bank notes Jack Diamond wondered where he would go to now. He didn’t relish the idea of starting over again; the Gray Mandarin had put a lot of work into the City and he had put a lot of work into the Gray Mandarin. He’d grown comfortable here, perhaps too comfortable. He wondered briefly if the Greater Eastern Council of Mystagogues would have him back. He sneered at the thought. With what he’d learned here he’d be running the place in a week.
Something squelched underfoot. He cursed, as if his alligator boots hadn’t been through enough already. When he reached the door of the boathouse, he paused to look back at the City of Olathoe, with its clusters of minarets, domes and towers, with its dark wonders and teeming conspiracies, with its magic and mystery. It was a damn shame to loose it all, it was a fucking tragedy to loose it all this because of Jason Magwier and his mouthy girlfriend.
Unlocking the door he headed inside. Wu-Han’s ash-colored sloop wasn’t much to look at but it would be enough to get him to a quieter port of call. The ocean was choppy and streaked with pollution; he stepped carefully onto the bow of the boat. He was already making a mental checklist of things he needed to do before he could get underway. He wondered to himself if there were enough supplies for an extended voyage.
Not that it mattered of course, there was no way he was going back out there. Not on this night.
Making his way to the bridge he set down the valises and sniffed the air. What in the name of the Handsome Monkey King was that stench?
It came shambling from below decks before he had the time to react, swatting the .357 Desert Eagle from his hands and pinning him to the floor. It was the Dread Lord but he was blackened with rot, the flesh was peeling away from his bones in slimy, foul-smelling chunks.
“Almost time to go.” the nightmare of putrefied sinew and bone whispered, “The darkness calls me back, to wait until I am summoned again.”
A protective incantation flowed from Jack Diamond’s lips, but before he could finish it the dead man leaned in close like a lover and bit off his lower lip with a snap of his decomposing teeth.
“No. No. No.” the Dread Lord spat the half-chewed curl of flesh away, “Stop struggling, it’s all over now. I just wanted to know, who she was, she was such a good likeness.”
Jack Diamond screamed and cursed, he tore at the dead man’s flesh, ripping it away in oozing clumps. Chuckling with amused exasperation Mr. Nagaki moved in and gnawed off Jack Diamond’s nose. He did it slowly, taking long pauses between bites.
“I said who was she?”
“Meng.” Jack Diamond’s voice was slurred and bloody, “An actress.”
“Ah, her performance was uncanny. Award winning. She only made one mistake, you all only made one mistake.”
“You can’t do this! I am protected by the Monkey King-”
With a click of his teeth, Mr. Nagaki silenced him, “You see that’s why I have to be certain you die, because you did come so close. I did indenture my soul to the Celestial Kings to save Bai Rong-Bao from the torments of Hell. I did this because I loved her more than I loved life itself.”
“Then why are you here?” Jack Diamond shouted, “We had you, we had you dead to rights!”
The dead man leaned in close again, his crumbling teeth brushing tentatively against Jack Diamond’s carotid artery. He whispered, “Bao was my daughter.”