|Is the future blood?|
IN THE BLOOD
© By Gary Morton (6,600 words)
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Tommy stumbled, trying to clear his murky vision -- trying to remember how he got out on this slippery concrete ledge, then the depth of the cityscape overwhelmed him and he began to stagger and lose his footing. Sheets of reddish rain swept him closer to the edge; below rust-colored water swirled into the sewers.
Polluted runoff spilled down on his face, he spat and screamed as he slipped. Darkness and a fantastic sucking noise consumed him as he tumbled, then thunder boomed, emptying his head as he woke.
A heat lightning flash lit the window like the poof of a giant camera. It faded as the thunder rumbled again. A heavy downpour had skinned the window with dirty tears. The day beyond it was clouded and dim like a block of salt.
The alarm rang; Tommy popped out of bed and went to the bathroom. A splash of cold water did nothing for him and he stood there staring at his tanned face and crooked nose. It was like seeing himself for the first time, and he wasn't all that fond of his close blue eyes, chin mole and other hints of weak character. He was proud of his strong build and shoulders, but not of his low hairline or the way his head seemed to press forward, like he was a sort of in-your-face type of person.
His mind slipped back into fog as he stepped into the kitchen. He grabbed the mail from the inside slot then he opened the side door without thinking and got hit by a wet blast. The paper was in plastic wrap against the wall, and as he reached for it the door flew out of his hands and wind threw him back.
Five minutes later, he had black coffee and toast and was quietly cursing as he tossed the outer sections of the paper away. The sports section was semi-dry; he opened it and began to read about the city's hockey hopes.
Concentration slipped away to unrelated daydreams, and as he sipped his coffee his mind went to thoughts of Linda and his upcoming wedding. Worried thoughts mostly. Thoughts that made him gnaw on his sore tongue. He wanted a perfect wedding and the rain irritated him. He hadn't considered the possibility of rain before. Storms on their magic day would spoil the photo shoot in the High Park garden and just about everything else. His suit could get wet and that would be horrible; he was a perfectionist when it came to that -- the suit was already prepared and in the closet, wrapped in no less than three protective bags. He'd gone to the trouble of renting the yacht club for the reception, and that seemed like a bad idea now as visions of waves and pelting rain grew.
There were other things to consider -- certain relatives hadn’t been invited, and he feared they’d show up anyway. And they were nuisance relatives that would say embarrassing things -- people like Aunt Jesse and that horrible Cousin Bobby and his family of Hamilton hillbillies.
It all weighed on his mind like a natural part of the gloomy day. He reached for his mail thinking of life as something created by an ill-mannered mortician.
The first letter was from his employer - The Ministry of the Environment -- and he opened it quickly, thinking that perhaps they’d come through with a bonus after all. His eyes scanned the page, and then scanned it again. A layoff notice. Disbelief settled on his troubled brow for a moment then anger began to rise as he noticed that Jackie, the union steward had signed his okay to the document.
"We must inform you that the Provincial Government of Ontario has passed new legislation removing environmental protection from hospital waste and blood disposal. This new legislation legalizes the disposal of medical and other blood products through use of the sewers. As a result your position as a disposal technician is now redundant . . ."
"Redundant," he whispered . . . realizing that his occupation no longer existed. And what about his seniority? They could’ve transferred him.
The black rain swept from the window and into his head, casting his perfectionist order into a flood of dark confusion. It forced him to his feet, but he couldn't walk because if he wasn't going to work, he didn't know where to go. He groaned at the thought of telling Linda's parents he was unemployed.
Both his fists came down hard on the table. His coffee and plate went to the floor and shattered. Swearing softly he decided to go down to the ministry and confront them on it.
Racing to bedroom, he got dressed. His low brows and glowering expression staring back from the mirror - he looked ready to butt heads, like a human battering ram. He ran to the door, then he went back to the bedroom and grabbed a comic book. Tommy always read a comic on lunch and in his order of things it was a routine he couldn’t break.
He dashed down the walk to the car, the wind buffeting his umbrella. Popping in, he turned the key and listened as the old Chevy coughed and died. Ten more attempts failed. The useless beast wasn't going to start. It made him so mad he started pounding the steering wheel in an uncontrollable rage.
A bus spattered the window with mud as it passed; it stopped at a shelter 100 metres away. Jumping out he raced for the stop; seeing the last of four passengers go in as he was coming up at the back of the bus. Suddenly the tires spun on a wet pizza box in the road, throwing it straight into his face.
Tommy kept running, trying to punch the taillights of the bus as it pulled off, but he missed, slipped and went down.
He felt no pain, but when he rose, he saw that he'd torn the knee out of his pants and mud and cardboard had fouled his suit.
The downpour put a damper on boiling anger, leaving him in a state of confusion and nerves. His thoughts were so fried he couldn't sit still enough to take a cab or transit. In a state of grim frustration, he plodded forward into the sheets of dirty rain. Totally soaked, he arrived at the ministry disposal building and walked up to the security check. He showed his pass and stared in amazement as the guard refused to allow him in --- on the grounds that he'd been terminated.
Tommy bit his lip and walked away calmly in the pouring rain; and as soon as he was out of the guard's sight, he ran through the evergreens to a side door and used his key to gain entrance.
Since the building was pretty much deserted, it was easy to move around. He headed for personnel and stopped at the door. Sylvester Johnson, Human Resources was the title embossed in the bronze plaque.
An itch crawled on Tommy's soggy skin; he felt like bursting in and strangling the bastard. Both Sly and the union steward were either going to cooperate with him or face the hard rock music of knuckles.
He tried the knob; the door eased inward -- Tommy threw it open the rest of the way, rushed in and found himself standing in an empty office. He clenched his fists as he looked around at four bare walls, then he heard footsteps behind him, turned and saw two burly mulatto security guards.
They rushed him and a struggle ensued; Tommy's mighty fists missed on every punch and in a matter of two minutes he was being disposed of on the front steps. Picking himself up from the gravel he wiped the blood from his lips and started walking home.
He didn't care about the rain anymore as the agony of job loss was eating at him. For others it would only be the agony of losing a paycheck. But Tommy had loved his job. Blood disposal was a job with a set routine that he enjoyed. He'd worked in a beautiful white protective suit, and his self-image was of Mr. Clean aiding the city by seeing that horrid hospital waste was properly eliminated. He'd handled a lot of the 2,150,000 yearly tons of medical waste requiring special handling and treatment before disposal. Yellow bag waste that often needed incineration. Lately it had included drums of waste and blood suspected of carrying streptococcus pyogenes -- the flesh-eating bacteria.
He'd also been the star of the ministry's films on the disposal process and a top employee. It seemed impossible that he could be redundant. And what about the blood -- the contaminated stuff, with god knew what body parts in it -- all of it going into the sewers? On a rainy day like today it was possible that it would wash up and infect the city with a flesh-eating plague --- or rats would feed on it and spread disease and plague.
It was madness but it was the truth and his ruin, leaving him with nothing to do but walk home and wonder how to break the news to Linda.
As he came up the sidewalk on Brock Avenue wind-rocked maples spattered him with fat drops. To avoid being splashed by the cars he walked on the grass; each step squeaking on the soggy ground. At the house, he saw that the side door had blown open. Water and twigs were spread across the kitchen floor. Slamming the door angrily, he walked to the bathroom to get a mop.
His suit went in the laundry hamper; he toweled himself dry and put on jeans and a Molson T-shirt. The chill was still penetrating to his bones so he decided to have soup and lemon tea to warm up.
Campbell's chicken soup steamed in front of him. He put a spoon to his lips as he picked up the rest of his unopened mail, then he spit the soup out as it burned his tongue. The torn layoff notice was still on top and he read it once more, carefully -- then he threw it on the counter. The next letters were bills. With all the things he'd been charging for the wedding, he was afraid to open his credit card bill. It went unopened to the counter.
The odor of expensive perfume came from the next letter. And he smiled as he saw that it was from Linda. She's sent me more romantic ramblings, he thought. How nice. Then he opened it carefully with his gold opener, being sure he didn't tear anything. He planned to keep the letter for posterity, in the future family album.
Tommy eyed the stationery -- nothing romantic about it. Just a sheet of cheap white paper.
I've talked it over with Mother and we have decided that marriage just isn't the right thing to do. You are only a government worker and may not be able to keep me in the luxury I am accustomed to -- and Mother keeps going on about how dreadful it would be if I were to fall into poverty.
I want you to think about this, so I have decided to cancel the wedding and our date on Friday. It might be better if you don't call me for a couple of months.
Tommy had been swallowing a spoon of hot soup as he read and it went sour in his throat and burst like pepper fire. He felt his heart spasm, choke up with blood and rise as a horrible unwanted belch.
He couldn't believe it; Linda who had loved him so truly, and made all those philosophical speeches on true love, could send him such a crass and mercenary Dear John letter and sign it, Thanks, Linda.
His spoon clicked as it fell back into the bowl; he tossed the letter away like it was a bomb that might go off. Then he stared at it, his face a screw of agony.
Minutes passed, he didn't seem to be breathing. It was like Linda had turned him to stone and outside the sky was weeping on his behalf. Beyond the window dark clouds drifted, sending down wind and passion that threatened to enter and destroy him. And he had no defense other than to lock his mind and refuse to think about it.
He shuffled to the bedroom and dressed; the white calm of a waxed corpse on his face as he combed his hair. The many photos of Linda on his dresser were now blanks. He couldn't see her at all.
Wind whistled around the high-rises and rushed in the alleys and treetops. The rain drummed on sheds and parked cars and splashes were thrown by the fast traffic. Wet tires hissed as the whole world tried to drown him and speed away. They ran him over, they ran everyone over, and they didn't care about anything on the edges of their narrow line of sight. People not in their immediate transactions were manikins and disposable. And Linda was the same as the rest of them -- a simple decision, labeling him not up to standards had killed his future and self-worth. They'd all deserve it if they died in a plague -- every single one of them.
Tommy reached Linda's house, but didn't go up the walk. Instead he crossed the street to a parkette and stood beneath a rain-shivering oak tree. The house was large, with an open front porch and separate stone garage. In spite of the size it seemed toy-like and fragile beneath the rolling storm clouds. It was so dark he could see in lit windows. He'd never known which window was Linda's room, and spying didn't tip him off. No one showed at the curtains; he was left standing there in the drizzle for half an hour, fighting off memories of sunny days with Linda by counting the blooms on the garden trellises and hedges.
Icy water ran down the small of his back. He shook his wet body, and when he looked back to the street two elderly ladies in a black sedan were pulling up. Linda's emaciated mother emerged at the front door. Tommy moved closer to the tree and she didn't notice him as she came down the walk.
The car drove away, splashing through a huge puddle, and as Tommy watched the muddy waters recede and ripple, he decided he had to talk to Linda.
He crossed the road, thinking of himself as more than just a mud puddle people could drive over. And now with the sight of Linda's mom's wrinkled and heartless face fresh in his mind, he felt certain that she was behind the break-up and Linda hadn’t wanted it at all. Only yesterday Linda had been testifying to her love on the phone, and he kept a close enough eye on her to know there was no one else. The old bag must've been at work, using her witchery to get him tossed in the scrap heap.
Hope strengthened Tommy's steps as he reached the walk, then wind and wet leaves tore down from the eves like nature itself was trying to keep him away. He slipped off the sidewalk into the grass, where he halted for a moment as he picked lilac blooms from the hedge. Fighting the blow, he got to the door and hit the bell.
Linda answered almost immediately; and she looked angelic. Loose dark curls framed a pear-shaped face. Her nose had the delicacy of fine soap and her soft blue eyes and pursed lips seemed to ask for a kiss.
She said nothing as Tommy smiled and held out the dripping flowers, then as he leaned over to steal a kiss she stepped back and slapped him viciously.
"You beast," she hissed, her face looming from a tunnel of hatred. "Don't hand me your soggy garbage. Where’d you sleep, in the sewer? Get out of here and don't come back again. Jim Bono is picking me up in a few minutes, and if you aren't gone when he arrives I'll have you thrashed."
The sound of the slap and her voice echoed in an empty chamber. It seemed to travel a great distance and return as a roar -- devoid of feelings and familiarity. Continuing as a dead echo, it faded in his mind like a sigh passing in an empty wooden drum.
Black gloom entered him and his lips firmed -- as the last pieces of his perfectionist's world shattered, so did his humanity. Predatory instincts swept him, and as she moved to slap him again he stepped forward and mashed the flowers in her face.
A muffled scream was rising. Crowding her, he seized her throat and squeezed -- forcing her back to arm's length as she thrashed and kicked. His grip tightened and he stared with popping eyes as he shook her. The nastiness on her face slipped to fear, then pain, choking agony and the certainty of death. And he loved it and savored every millisecond of her horror, his face finally twisting to a warped and satisfied grin as she expired.
Linda collapsed to the floor. His hands slipped from her as she fell and he stared down at her head as it lolled on his wet feet. Flower petals were mashed in her nose and her eyes were open. She’d become repulsive; he hated her so much he kicked her aside.
Guilt began to rise, he gulped as fear of disgrace, and jail flooded his mind. The shakes hit him. He couldn't decide what to do. Then he remembered that Jim Bono was on the way.
Behind him rain continued to shower and the streets were empty. He seized the body but couldn't pick it up as the limp limbs kept slipping from him. Getting a grip on her arms and chest, he pulled her back and got the door shut. He dragged her down the walk and across the road. He looked around in the park and spotted a green storage box. It was unlocked and had nothing in it other than some earth and sticks so he dumped the body inside and closed it.
He was barely finished when Jim Bono pulled up in his hybrid. Ducking behind an oak, Tommy watched as he got out. Bono snapped open a big blue umbrella and started up the walk. He looked almost like a movie star – perfectly cut suit and causal grin. It suddenly occurred to him that the perfume on the Dear John letter must've been a gift Linda got from him. Tommy could barely stop himself from going after the guy. At least he knew Bono would never have her now.
A sudden brilliant idea flashed in his mind and he hurried to the storage box and opened it. Shoving Linda's head down he grabbed a handful of her hair and yanked it out, then he hurried across the road in a crouched run. Bono was just getting to the porch bell, and as he pressed it Tommy eased the car door open and shoved the hair under the seat. Getting back to the parkette was more difficult. He had to sidestep puddles and pray that Bono wouldn’t turn around.
He made it and kept going through the parkette, jogging in the rain and not stopping until he was at home. The exhilarating action had him wanting more -- an hour later he returned. Bono had left and there wasn't any activity at the house. People were passing on the street now and he had to keep ducking out of sight for an irritating twenty minutes before he got a chance to get to work. He threw the box open, dragged the body out and quickly slid it into the huge environment disposal bag he'd brought. The thick and clouded yellow bag hid the body well but it didn't hide its shape. Stuffing he'd brought worked to eliminate that problem. Using a heat seal, he closed the bag, then he clipped it to the cart he'd brought.
Tommy left the park at the east gate and moved down the side street with some confidence. With the huge Ministry of the Environment letters stamped on the package he was pulling, no one would be suspicious. On many occasions he'd moved similar packages, though at those times he hadn't known exactly what was inside. There was even some relief and satisfaction in it -- he was back on the job and he had Linda with him. That was all he'd really wanted anyway -- he'd wanted to own her. Though it would’ve been better if she could still talk to him. As a waste manager, Tommy knew that it was a case of being properly contained in life. Bono was going to be arrested for the murder and properly contained in jail, and she would be properly contained and by his side for eternity.
The rain let up and the sky brightened to an inspiring white glow. Almost like the storm in his life was ending. He could see his tiny house ahead and it felt like home again. He sighed with wet relief, and then his heart nearly shot out of his mouth as a white truck honked and pulled over.
The windows were wet and dirty; Tommy's hands started to shake and a withering feeling rose as the door opened. Then he saw that it was his old pal Lester and calmed down.
"Yo, Tommy. I've been looking for you."
Tommy stared, not knowing quite what to say. Lester was dressed in greens like a high school janitor, and his sunken eyes and thin lips made him look like an evil sort of one from a low budget horror flick. "You working at the school?" Tommy said.
"School," Lester said. He laughed. "No but it's like that -- I got my own disposal company now. Started it a couple years ago after the bastards at the ministry fired me. Look at my truck."
Tommy looked back to the truck and noted the lettering on the door. LESTER B. BROWN, WE CLEAN DISPOSE OF HAZERDOUS WASTE.
"Say," Tommy said. "You've done well. But you may be in for hard times. We all got laid off down at the ministry. The government changed the disposal laws and we're all screwed. This package I'm pulling is my last load then I'm through."
"I know all about that," Lester said. "I've got the disposal contract now."
"Wow! Will you be hiring any of us?"
"Not many, Tommy. I use prison labour. I got a contract with two of the provincial prisons. That's what really happened. The government likes the idea of profiting from cons. It's a growth industry -- just keep jailing poor people and you got convict gold. I do need one good man, though. There’s still a fair bit of stuff that convicts can't be trusted with so I got a site set up over by the east waterfront. It has a small incinerator and a straight line into the sewer. That's why I came looking for you. I figure you're a boy who has the qualifications and can keep his mouth shut. I'll pay you ten percent more than the ministry paid if you can run the site and do things my way."
"You don't have to ask twice," Tommy said, offering a handshake. "Damn right I'll do it."
The storm seemed to be a never-ending blow. It rocked the house for most of the evening. Tommy found that he couldn't eat and he was too agitated to watch TV or concentrate. At about ten he threw aside a copy of Sports Insider and went into the bedroom. He'd always had trouble sleeping, but knew from experience that he’d eventually drift off if he got in bed.
Under the covers, he stared up at the shadows moving on the ceiling. The wind rushed, whistled, and started eating at him the way it ate at the rest of the world. A strange feeling of discomfort came over him and combined with terrible guilt feelings. As long as he'd been in the process of disposing of Linda he'd felt fine. Now that she was safely stored in the garage, his conscience had come back to life. Dark waves and voices passed from the edge of sleep --- murderer, murderer was a constant whisper in the wind. Thoughts of his love for Linda started to return like an inner tornado, threatening to tear him apart. Her face whirled on the ceiling like an angel and when he closed his eyes he saw an expression of her beautiful innocence.
Tommy shot up in bed -- tears streaming down his cheeks. He took his head in his hands and started rocking back and forth. "I can't stand it. I can't stand it," he muttered, then he jumped up and dressed.
He didn't bother to take an umbrella. The cold drizzle and foggy night cloaked him like an old friend. Brown water rushed from flooded sewers, and he walked through it, stamping on floating trash. It was almost like the sewer was calling to him, touching him like an old friend. Tomorrow he’d begin feeding it with blood again and perhaps then he could be happy. There was just one detail to take care of and that was Linda.
Darkness shrouded his mind completely. He saw the ministry looming like an evil castle. His thoughts rushed with the rusty rain and sewer water for two long hours. Streetlights illuming his house woke him to reality and he lifted his hands and watched the rain wash the blood from his fingers -- seizing the heavy drum he'd rolled across town he pushed it the rest of the way into the garage.
Tommy closed the door and flicked the light on -- Linda stood in the corner, neatly packaged. Only the packaging was showing signs of sogginess and leakage. A problem the drum would fix. Rolling it to her side he lifted it up straight then used his special tool to pull the lid.
Air whooshed as the seal broke and the lid popped to the side. The interior was spacious, as the drum was a large container. Red blood shone at the bottom. This particular container was of a special variety holding blood that might carry the flesh eating bacteria and other deadly bacteria. That knowledge didn't bother him because he knew how paranoid they were at the ministry. He was about 99.9 percent sure that the blood was just ordinary harmless blood.
Turning back to Linda, he adjusted her packaging, then he carefully lifted her and slipped her into the drum. Blood swirled up to her chest -- in her folded position she was an easy fit.
Tommy paused for a moment, staring at her lovingly before he sealed the drum tight and went through the long labored process of rolling and pulling it up to the bedroom. After that he took a quick shower and got in bed, finding that he could drift off easily with Linda at his side.
Dreams rose immediately and in spite of his exhaustion they were peaceful. He drifted in calm tropics, on a raft, exchanging pleasant words with Linda. Deep sleep took him for a time, then a loud buzz pierced the air. The phone; he shot up in bed, twisting his sore neck. His fingers were so stiff he could barely pick up the receiver.
Lester's voice droned; Tommy covered the earpiece and groaned. "What time is it?"
"5 a.m.," Lester said.
"Why are you calling me now?"
"Bad news or good news, Tommy, old friend. Depends on how you look at it. I just got a call from my man inside government. They’re coming to the demo site for an inspection today at 1 p.m. The minister of the environment and the Premier are going to show. It was supposed to be a surprise, but my man got worried and called. They want it to go smoothly, using it publicize their new disposal policy. Of course I’ll just happen to arrive at the same time to use the opportunity to plug the company on the air. My contact says we got to make sure it looks clean and that we don't mention that most of the disposal work is now done in prisons. They don't want to highlight that."
"Lester, don’t worry. I did all the government films on disposal. I know how to set it up to impress people. I'll go in early, warehouse most of the big drums and set up a stack of 2 litre aluminum cans and yellow bags. That's the way we do it in the demos. They must be filled with lemonade and oatmeal -- not blood. When the cameras arrive I'll be outfitted in a white body suit and I'll make them stand back while I work. We'll let them film me while I dump some small bags into the incinerator access funnel. When I start dumping that'll be your cue to move to the camera and start talking about how safe the whole process is."
"Great. I knew I could count on you."
The last of the storm clouds were drifting over a vacant lot behind the site as Tommy completed the cleanup. A hot sun was rising and sweat poured on his brow. Stepping into the shade of the warehouse he tried to phone Lester and left a message when he couldn't get through. Tommy was mighty pissed at Lester – he’d arrived to find that he was the only genuine worker at the site. The others were just delivery guys who brought in waste and left. Tommy wanted at least two assistants present for the inspection.
Stepping forward and shielding his eyes, he did his own preliminary inspection. Drums were now out of sight in the warehouse, except for the one containing Linda, which stood in the furnace building in the demo area. He wanted her at his side and the special drum was ideal as a prop. There was some leakage where the stacks had stood -- a problem a wheelbarrow of sand would take care of nicely. The rest of the place looked ship shape. The storage sheds were freshly painted and the waste house was nicely packed with properly tagged drums, yellow bags and cans. He'd done a check of the computer database and quickly updated the files by creating a matching system file for every one listed as delivered to Lester in the Ministry files. It looked good enough to fool even snoopy reporters.
Heading down the walk to the demo area, he suddenly realized that it'd been hot in there when he set things up. He shook his head as the double-layered metal doors slid open, then he went through the final door into a heat wave. Damn, he thought. It's well above room temperature, why didn't Lester follow regulations and install air conditioning?
Likely no one would notice -- it was just his habit to aim for perfection. He slipped into his suit figuring the inspection was fixed anyway so there was nothing to worry about.
For about ten minutes, he went through his routine -- carefully removing yellow bags from a trolley, checking the tag on a large computer screen on the operations panel, then carefully walking to the disposal area and dropping the bag down the incinerator tube. The two litre cans were a different animal; on those he opened a seal and poured the pink lemonade in them down a tube to the sewer. Of course they were only demo cans, the real articles were huge drums of blood and waste and they weren't poured down a funnel but straight into the sewer through a huge opening cut through the central floor in the warehouse.
The whole routine had a good feeling to it. Satisfied that all would go well he removed the suit and placed it in storage. Then he returned to the area and stood beside the drum and Linda.
Heat reddened his cheeks as he studied the clean demo setup. In spite of his efforts something nagged at him. An unsettling feeling -- like something filthy and unseen lurked in the room. He looked up at a high window and frowned at the dust drifting in a sunbeam. The thought hit him that a sunbeam needed dust to be seen. If that was true then the whole world was imperfect, a dirty place where he’d never be happy. He longed for another time or another place -- a clean and green world where the sunshine was pure. And the dream image began to rise in his mind. An oasis, an island, and Linda splashing fresh water at him as they frolicked on the hot sand. He smiled as Linda's face drifted up close; then he felt agony as it drifted right through him -- he couldn't touch her and he wanted to touch her. He wanted to feel warm and not forever cold. All of his romantic memories of Linda began to sweep in -- they danced in the dusty sunbeam, and in his mind, and they eluded him.
Tommy covered his eyes; sunspots swam in his head. The sweat on his neck and arms grew cold and clammy. He felt like a snake-bit loser at the bottom of some musty pit -- or like he was almost dead and would die if he didn't absorb some genuine human contact and warmth.
A sudden injection of loneliness and death staggered him; he threw his arms wide and stood there huffing, his face puckered like a fish.
Stumbling to the toolbox he seized his opener, went to the drum and began to remove the seal.
As the lid lifted he heard the liquid bubbling -- a soft boiling sound. He pulled it loose and stepped back as steam and bright red drops spattered out. A drop hit his cheek and ran down to his lips -- burning with incredible warmth.
Tommy licked it up and decided its salty warmth was the feeling he sought. He stepped closer. Looking into the drum he saw Linda's corpse moving in the frothing blood. The bag had been eaten away completely -- and she looked alive. Her hair was wild -- wet red tentacles. Her face sunken and spotted with silver decay. Red-flecked green slime tinted her open eyes -- a sheen that appeared to be dead and eternal. He could see a special light in her pupils -- shining full of the emotion and love he lacked. A bizarre certainly stole into his mind -- he knew that if he could hold her, the light would enter him.
Tommy put a leg over, watching the blood leap and hiss as it touched his flesh. The warmth spilled through his entire being like strong wine. Intoxicated by it he climbed the rest of the way inside, and as frothing blood splashed up to blind him he pulled the lid back in place. Fire leapt in his heart now and as it burned, he seized Linda and pulled her to him, holding her close as his thoughts slipped into flames and oblivion.
As time passed the fire softened and the flames died down; Tommy had a vision in the warm darkness and it was of Linda and her love. He embraced her many times, tasting wet lips that felt swollen by passion and warmth. It really was heaven but the power of heaven began to fade and he could see it fading. He dreaded a return to dry existence and ordinary places. The dull torment of his everyday life had no appeal.
A tingling in his ears spoke to him, and he began to find meaning in the waves of needle and pin feelings sweeping up his legs. A voice of the blood itself was whispering to both of them -- imparting the truth. When the others came and peace was broken he was to rise -- to rise and contaminate them … and in destroying them, he would perish himself and have freedom. In the end the only world remaining would be in the power of the blood.
He’d fallen limp and could feel his flesh splitting, rotting, moldering and growing into new shapes. A slow tingle drifted from head to toe and numb thoughts sent his mind dropping into the dead electricity of sleep -- and it was an echoing voice that woke him. There were other voices -- ringing in hot tunnels. Tormenting him with needle jabs to the brain. He tried desperately to focus and make out the words.
"Tommy, Tommy" --- people were calling his name. Then time passed and he heard hypocritical laughter and footsteps near the drum.
Lester was speaking -- a strange memory snaked across Tommy's mind. The Demo, Lester must be giving the demo he was to supposed give. He understood now but it didn't matter -- hunger and death were what mattered -- and his limbs and distended belly ached for both.
They were closer -- moving right beside the drum and he could sense the blood racing in their veins. It was blood that had been trapped for too long and longed to be free.
Lester was saying --- "Oh, that drum. No, it's not all waste. It holds fluid used to dilute some of the yellow bag material. --- The premier wants to inspect the contents. Why certainly. Step right over guys. I'll remove the lid and you can take a look."
Tommy heard the seal popping, saw light and a wide face looming for a moment, then the steam and the blood ignited and he felt himself rising like magma from a volcano. An attached Linda flew with him, out into the sunny world to feed on the screaming head of the struggling thing they’d seized.
--- The End and the Beginning ---