Without any plan worth the name, I strode towards the column of the dead, extending my hand into it as I did so, ignoring the slashes to my flesh from the satellite plates and broken glass caught in a crazy stilted orbit and the blood dripping down my arm onto the floor. It was the stupidest thing I could have done and it should have taken my arm off with the sheer power of the centrifugal force generated by the spectral mass.
But it didn’t. My arm slipped through into the belly of the beast and without thinking about the wisdom of doing so, my body followed until I was inside the essence of the beast. I wasn’t aware of the debris anymore, but I had the brief sense I was being protected from it before it absorbed me whole and I couldn’t think anymore.
The noise was indescribable, a vast roaring sound like a succession of bombs exploding in the dark surrounding me and I thought I was losing what was left of my mind. But as I got used to it I began to make out patterns, not one, but many in the melee, like the sound of hundreds of hearts beating out of time with each other. My eyes were readjusting to the dark and for the moment I couldn’t see. I put my hands to my ears to shut out the noise as a wave of claustrophobia engulfed me and I fought not to try to run out, because by that stage I had discovered just how excited that would have made this Frankensteinian patchwork of spirits. I knew there had been something more than familiar about this thing.
As my eyes adjusted to the cave like interior of the thing, a huge face carved from the darkness pressed itself into mine, thick tuberous tongue roughly probing my face and trailing thick, hot sticky secretions all over it. I lost it for moment and started to claw against the face, eventually head-butting it only to be rewarded by a vicious bite on my cheek, drawing blood. Another faced formed from the darkness and then another and another until I was surrounded by them, all of them licking me tasting what I was made of and finding it sugar and spice, like being in a serial killer’s wet dream where body parts were not only kept alive but were emphatically, ecstatically up for the ride. In the strange penumbra generated by the guts of the beast itself I could see that they were drawing back as though an order had been given. All rendered from the same darkness now made flesh every eyelash, every leer lovingly delineated for either my benefit or because this was the collective’s way of remembering their individual selves. This was how they dreamed themselves into being. There was also some other debris within, pale against the dark and I recognised what looked like the top of a very small thigh-bone. This entity fused together from what had been countless separate spirits clearly took its own slaughter house with it.
A gigantic head, burst from the darkness, so close I could make out wisps of hair on its elephantine skull and little tusks beside the gaping, wet, formless mouth which hovered inches in front of me like a snake about to strike. My skin tingled where I’d been licked as though I had acid on my skin. I got a flash of how the spirits killed their victims and I realised that was the prelude to being eaten alive. It was going to start the process of consuming me whole, absorbing me into its gut exactly like a snake.
“I know you from somewhere, don’t I,” I said as though this was a chance meeting with a casual acquaintance. The heads grew angry and chittered, a high pulsing sound that got under my skin.
The head wobbled although it wasn’t supported by anything visible and I thought it was about to speak, when another three heads appeared to my left with murder in their eyes.
“Don’t you remember?” I asked plaintively.
“Well, maybe you’ll remember this,” I whispered and slammed my power into the meat of the column of souls and they screamed as one in agony. A cobalt blue lightening zipped up and down the column burning the heads as it went and shrivelling the new and tender flesh it had sprouted for itself. Not like in the good old days when I knew it as the spirit collective that I’d met underground, the one that had followed me like a love sick teenager and had evolved into this.
“You see, the thing is,” I continued, “When the word becomes flesh and I think you know what I mean, the flesh feels things it didn’t before, small unimportant things: pain for example,” I let another bolt of my power rip into the column and smelled burning meat, like week old kebab without the spices. An unknown multitude of throats screamed their raw, tortured homage to a new mistress and it felt so fucking good.
“And whether you get flesh or not, you’re still dead, which technically makes you…does anyone know the answer? You, yes you, Cyclops over there? No?
“My bitches,” and with the last two words I loosed murder with every piece of rage and hatred that had ever pooled in my bones. The visceral feel of slicing through the newly acquired just healed flesh in search of whatever animated it was like biting through gristle and bloodlust bloomed through my veins like a fine wine. I saw and heard the things it had done and oh how it deserved to die and die with infinite slowness. It didn’t just feed on people’s fear anymore, not now it had muscle and heft and a whole plethora of needs and wants it had thought long gone: it fed on flesh and soul. It had consumed men, women and children to power its continued existence; to make it stronger, cleverer, as bad as its worst nightmares promised.
But the essence of this thing told me something else: not only was it my old pal from the not too distant past, but it had delivered the Hand-of-Glory, left the mis-spelled message in my living room and had followed me here. Whatever this little community of the dead killed became part of it and added its strength and characteristics to the original gang of killers that had made it up.
A piteous whine buzzed around me like an insect, setting my teeth on edge.
“Pleasssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssse. Let live. So hungrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry.”
A thought struck me, distracting me from the sweet business of butchery.
“Who sent you? Tell me, or I’ll kill you. You know I can. I’m a succubus bitch remember.”
The remaining heads whined again.
“Not knowwwwwwwwww. Sent by woman. Promised we would eat. So hungrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryy-“
“Yes, I got that, loud and clear. If you don’t tell me, I’ll kill you, all of you and there’ll be no more hunger, no more life, no more bodies or souls to eat, no more of the living you can torment,” my voice had dropped to a whisper as though I was promising untold delights and I certainly felt that way. I wanted nothing more than to crush the life out of this thing. I rolled it around in my head. This collection of the worst souls and revenants had banded together in the first place because its lust for murder, rape and misery had been more than they could achieve on their own, but I could bind it to me and make do what I wanted. It was sheer slavery of course, but I didn’t give a shit. I was strong enough to do it and in this case might was most definitely right. I was also strong enough to know that it didn’t know who had sent it, nor where she was; but that was okay, I had another idea.
I imagined the equivalent of a leash wrapped around the entire length of the column, giving it a vicious pull and it screamed for me, so I did it again because it just felt that good.. And then I promised them something:
“When we find the woman who sent you to me, you can have her. You can eat her soul and you have my word. Will you serve me and no other? Once an oath is made, you cannot break it, you know the consequences now.”
“Yessssssssssssssssssssssss Lady. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS LADY-“
“Go now and come when I call you. It will be soon, stay close.”
I walked away from the carnage and saw that the place was deserted, so the rest must have escaped. The Starbucks was destroyed and food, detritus and body parts lay strewn around as though a bomb had gone off. I could hear the sound of sirens in the distance and slipped out the door once I’d managed to figure out the bolts. I hurried back the way I had come and couldn’t help marvelling at the ease with which I’d made the spirit cloud, column whatever the hell it had become, my slave. I knew it with the certainty that I knew my arm was attached to my shoulder; I could feel them as an additional appendage and I could make them obey me in the same way. It used to follow me around because it wanted to and then it gained power from The Change as I was beginning to think of it. Now it had to follow me, because I had tied it to me. It wasn’t just fear of me that bound it, the beast would protect me, die for me if I demanded it. Whoever sent it after me had intended my death. But just as the dead had gained power from the Black Dog’s awakening, I gained power from the dead. If they were stronger, so was I. Whoever sent it hadn’t banked on that and when I found them, I’d keep my promise to the rapists, murderers and scavengers whose spirits made up the entity and I’d watch while she died.
And that was it in a nutshell: the more power I had, the more compelling my need to destroy grew and the more unstable I became.