Crisp leaves edged with shades of burnt orange and rust sailed on the chill autumn wind, the odd one scrabbling across Tam's unshaven face like a fast and dirty rodent. Bark bits, dust and twigs bit into his clothing and as he reached the steep embankment, he squinted into the ferocity of the gale. Bleak gray clouds rippled like the moving rib cage of a whale and the horizon looked pale and nearly colorless like a vampire had swallowed the wine of sunset. The shutters of darkness would soon close hard, with a mood of suicide - an atmosphere that spoke of the many people who broke down in the face of the emptiness of fall. This was the season of self-loathing - a time when people went mad and played with self-destruction. Yet he wasn't here to kill himself, and if there really was such a thing as madness, he'd been mad for years.
Polluted water flowed in the wide stream below. Froth and chemical poisons spitting in the surging murk, climbing and spattering rounded boulders, sending up spray that flew as mist on the wind. He could see skulls in the muck at bottom. Bones he’d dumped years ago. Bright sockets glaring, ghost faces of the dead stretching to rubber screams as the skin of the water reflected the faint light and rippled through transparency and mirror shades.
The old footbridge was gone, eroded to a stump by chemicals and washed away, and the waters were too fast and toxic to ford. He dug his moccasins in hard as he went down the bank, and at the shore he spat on the waves then took a brand new hatchet from his pack and began to cut a small maple tree.
His blows were smooth and effective, and the gusts soon aided him - sweeping in over the bank and tossing the head of the tree forward until it snapped and crashed across the stream. Tam enjoyed the screech of the splitting wood and watched as it settled in the leaping water, waiting for a safe moment to cross. A moment that never seemed to come as the tree rocked in the waves. He bit his tongue impatiently then he picked up and leapt over the dripping roots and ran across the slippery trunk. The water splashed up over his pounding feet and sloshed into his face as he made the jump for the far bank - a vile chemical taste seething past his lips as he landed. It caused him to stumble and fall. And as he lay there on his back, he spat fizz several times, trying to get the chemo/bacterial stink out of his mouth.
The flavour refused to vanish - it was foul - tastes of rotten corpses lingering with metallic slime on his gums. He took his lip between his teeth and bit, feeling better as warm blood flowed on his tongue. A moment later he was up and climbing the bank. At the top, the wind roared through the trees like a beast and whipped his clothes as he plodded on through wilting weeds toward a path in the woods. Broken oaks surrounded him. Even the lichens on the many boulders had a moldy, cobwebby look of decay. There was more dead matter and petrified wood in this forest than anything else and the sound of it groaning in the gale stirred fright.
The cold began to eat at his bones, so he was glad it wasn't a long walk - about a quarter mile to the clearing. Poison ivy and thistles crunched underfoot as he came out of the trees. And in the center of a field of thick dead crabgrass, the crumbling walls of an abandoned factory rose. Carbide Boniphal Chemical and Nickel Company, Ltd. - the faded words could still be read on the side of a rusting trailer leaning in the weeds beside the main building. Boniphal was the name of a special poison - the company had killed the land and the water in this area while developing it and its byproducts. It had killed both natives and whites with horrible diseases and made this place a no man's land. Some of it had been cleaned up with public money, but this rise was simply fenced off and Tam knew he was the only person who came here. And it was sort of like returning home. He'd worked at Boniphal more than two decades ago - he'd lost his mind after five years at Boniphal and had spent another long ten years in a secretive maximum-security lunatic asylum outside of North Bay. When he got out he returned and found that everyone had died. He'd been the lucky one - no long term exposure or weird cancers and growths like the others.
Standing beside a deep crack in the wall Tam studied the sumac on the far side. It rose to flames in his mind like red autumn fire. Long faces rose in the distortion of imagination, some of them laughing wickedly - then they settled and his vision was of a paneled room and a circle of middle-aged men at a polished table - men passing judgment on him.
Voices echoed through hostile tones and pain crinkled like electricity and crisp cellophane behind his eyes. It worked to drain him of blood and energy; his heart felt like a painful lump swelling in his breast.
“You murdered that woman!” Doctor Wesley exclaimed through piggish jowls. “Fixation! There isn't a devil, or Satan or Lucifer. Your Night Angel is a dream and only a dream. He is the manifest effect of the Boniphal poison in your brain cells. Genetic damage working to destroy you. Our medication and therapy show that to you now. Don't they?”
He seemed to be looking down, seeing himself at the table, chaos whirling in his mind as the form of the Night Angel rose like a hidden tornado. Satan had possessed the woman. He'd known that when he'd killed and dismembered her. And Doctor Wesley's medication was more poison, not a cure. The Night Angel wanted him to lie - so Tam's drawn face softened with remorse, his crooked right eye shed a tear. Drugged peace eased his wide mouth and his thin lips trembled delicately. The look of the wild faded from his eyes - he seemed as gentle as a lamb. Gentle because the angel wanted it that way. He heard himself saying, “Yes, I understand it now. My thoughts have cleared. It was a toxin induced fixation - the Boniphal poison damaging my brain. What I did to that woman was cruel, despicable and unnatural. But I’m not guilty of planning the murder - it was the disorder. I thought she was Satan-possessed. The hallucination was very real at the time. I heard the voice of the Night Angel - it taunted me, tricked me and drove me to do evil things. But the angel is gone now. The new medication melts him away like a bad dream.”
Some of the others had probing personal questions and questions of a perverse sexual nature. In the end he heard Doctor Wesley addressing them. “Gentlemen, it is possible that he may have some reoccurrence of the hallucinations and temporary states of fixation. But he won't be dangerous. The tests show that a tendency toward fixation torments him at times, but the new medication removes all tendencies toward violence. He won't function perfectly in society, but well enough to get by. I think we can report this as a success and Novactis’ new medication as a cure for the violent symptoms of this form of poison-induced mental disorder.”
The others nodded, two of them grunted with satisfaction, and then their faces rotted off and became fire and smoke - wisps of rancid poison drifting across time. Many years had passed and the angel had called him here again. Tam didn’t know why, but he was certain the angel's wishes would not be something the doctors would approve.
Brightly painted lanterns formed an astral circle of light and granite boulders a second circle of earth. He'd built a huge bon fire with select logs of deformed wood and now the flames roared in the wind and he could see the yellow moon rising over the fanglike jags of the building's shattered roof. It was a scene of heathen worship amid desolation - wildlife and birds had abandoned this place and for a moment he felt like the last predator at the centre of something black and diseased. He whispered a name then his lips formed an O and he began circling the fire chanting the strange words the poison sent to his mind.
Ghostly forms began to drift in darkness and smoke - tenuous and fading - nothing more than memories rising from the bones of the thousands of dead creatures buried here in sludge. Drifting into the wind, they coagulated and rose next to a halo of light in the crystalline portion of sky by the moon. Turbulence above howled like a cold demon, icy sweat beaded on his forehead and as the words grew complex the Night Angel took shape. Its powerful head hooded like the grim reaper, and its vast wings glistening like sharpened ebony and steel in the moonlight.
It looked down on him with dagger eyes of glowing red and commanded him to stop the chant. And when it spoke its words cut his flesh and seemed to splinter his bones with piercing shards of sound - the command for obedience contained in its fiery breath promising that he would face judgment-day punishment should he even think of questioning this being's desires.
“You are soft flesh and corruption, a student of weak human doctors,” the Night Angel said, its voice booming in his mind. “It disturbs me that you are doing nothing to aid me in the war on my rival, Satan. Listen carefully - you will begin again. Though you killed Satan in his incarnation as a woman, he is returning again. Halloween is the date. Go and find the woman whose child is to be born on Halloween. I will guide you to her. Stalk her, study her - because on Halloween eve, the child will be born and it will be the Satan seed. Before that time you must find her, wherever she is and kill the child. It must not see the light of the sunrise or it will be too powerful to stop. Kill it in the womb to be sure.”
“It will be done,” Tam said. He staggered as the voice thundered. “It must be done or you will die!”
Darkness whirled and deepened, becoming a liquid coil in the sky. Tam saw the angel melt to stars and skulls and vanish. Clouds raced over the moon, covering it completely, and the wind rushed so hard it shattered the fire and lanterns in front of him. Logs burst to sparks as they exploded and flew, and moments later, he was thrown to his knees. He stared like a blind man into absolute darkness, feeling the sweat harden like ice on his neck and back.
“The child will die,” he whispered through freezing drool.
Autumn shades and sunlight tinted Doctor Wilson's window. He studied Rosemary with knowing eyes, admiring the glow of health she radiated. Her dark hair and skin shone - a beautiful luster that reached perfection when reflected in her large brown eyes.
The Doctor put on his practiced pleasant smile. “Your pregnancy is as normal and stable as I've seen. Unexpected complications are always a possibility, but you seem to be a very happy mother, so they are unlikely. My guess is it'll be a by-the-book delivery near the beginning of November, and that isn't far off so relax and deal with the pains and cravings till then.”
Rosemary nodded and forced a pleasant smile of her own as she stepped out the office door. Her bulk and the discomfort slowed her as she walked. “I feel like a damn clucking hen,” she thought, and then she grimaced as she noticed ragged balls of dust gathered on the corner tiles by the door. If she was to have her baby girl in a hospital, it could at least be spotlessly clean. Wetheron Hospital was starting to look untidy and it was more than the recent funding cutbacks. It was a sort of demoralization where the staff was starting to decay. She'd noticed an unshaven doctor on arrival and a few orderlies that looked pale and hung over.
At least Doctor Wilson looked professional; there was some relief in that … but not much because other things were eating at her. Daily worries and the hospital actually helped to keep them below the surface.
Number one on the worry list was Jason. As a husband he'd managed to go from a great lover and companion to an angry man - over the last few weeks he'd come apart at the seams. He’d been a temperamental prick all morning. Stretched any further his pettiness would become wife abuse.
“Thank you,” she said to a stocky Greek man holding the exit door for her. “Absent-minded, I'm not seeing anything but my troubles,” she thought.
A chill wind tore at her dress as she stepped outside, and she couldn't see the car parked anywhere on the semicircular exit road. Patiently she went down the line car by car, but Jason wasn't there. “He's taken off again. Damn him,” she muttered.
A taxi driver opened his door, but she turned him down and headed for a small parkette by the public sidewalk. Sitting there on a bench amid the scraggly trees and blowing leaves, she waited for Jason to return.
The sky was gray and patterned like fine feathers, the light filtering through a bit on the bleak side. It seemed like only yesterday life was very simple and happiness prearranged. She'd married the right man, they were doing quite well at a time when others were in serious financial straits, and a beautiful child was to be born … a bundle of joy that would brighten gray skies with a smile and firm up the pattern of their planned and orderly future.
But that was yesterday and this was today. She was growing certain that she'd married the wrong man, and divorce was something she feared a hell of a lot. The poverty that would likely devour her if she became a single mother was not something she wanted to think about. It was like thinking about being raped and perhaps worse because endless humiliation could come with destitution.
Life, happiness, the meaning of it all - simplicity had been shattered and the world now swept over her like a great power she’d never fathom. She began to feel that there should be joy in just being a human being. That was what a baby was about - celebrating just being born. But when she looked out at everyone she knew, it was obvious that happiness was a house they built, and it quickly exited their lives when they didn't have all of the materials. With Jason, the house was burning down - and this was the first time Rosemary understood that she hadn't really been happy; she'd built an illusion around herself. So the question was whether to try and save it or just escape the flames.
Smog rose from motorists tearing by to beat the lights. Fumes licked at her nostrils like reverse smelling salts that dizzied her. She had a picture of Jason racing in his car to some unnecessary business rendezvous - she could see a touch of sweat on his lightly browned skin, then his mouth warped and his eyes fired up like an imp's. Rosemary twitched on the bench and shook her head. “Visions like this will never do,” she thought as she moved her fingertips gently across her eyes.
The wind gusting in the treetops seemed unduly loud, like tearing parchment, and she looked up, seeing people passing the flower shop and others boarding the streetcar. Their fall clothes seemed dowdy and ragged; people were getting to be scarecrows, just carrying on in a dull march … their lives no more than a survival routine. There wasn't anyone who could rise above it all and live for higher principles. It made her think of evil and it wasn’t a roaring lion but something that sapped the strength out of the world and made life lesser and plain.
Traffic thinned, pedestrians had vanished for the moment. Rosemary looked south, up the empty street, hoping to see Jason driving back. But there wasn't any traffic and her eyes fell on the old Waters Funeral Home just across from the hospital. A number of cars were parked in the lot, including a hearse. A lone man stood smoking in the shadows near the exit. He stared straight at her then he looked away toward the patchwork rooftops of nearby houses. A cloud of smoke passed from his pale lips. She noticed that he was unshaven and his suit was ill fitting like it belonged to someone else. Darkness ringed his eyes, making her think of him as a drug addict or someone terminally ill. A creepy feeling came over her - maybe he'd stolen the suit from a corpse. He looked that vile.
Then his eyes settled on her again, and they held piercing fire and life that the rest of him didn’t have. She could see him well enough to note that he wasn't staring at her face; he was staring directly at her swollen belly - at her baby girl. Hate shone like stars in those eyes, and his right eye was a crooked evil eye. It startled her so much she got up and hurried over to the taxi line.
Rosemary shuddered as she adjusted herself in the seat, then as the cab pulled out she saw the man shuffling off past the flower shop. From the rear he looked quite normal. But his look hadn't been normal, of that she was sure.
Like many taxi drivers, this kind fellow managed to go straight out of light traffic and into a jam. They ended up stopped dead beside a self-serve beer store barely two blocks from the hospital. The driver issued lifeless words of apology then crept ahead slowly, just behind a streetcar. Irritated, Rosemary studied the street and the many tiny clothing shops hugging the sidewalk. She wished she could afford a shop of her own - she had plans on starting a home business based on her computer and special designs. But that would be after the baby was born.
At the intersection they were out front of a sleazy bar and condo place called the Parkview Suites . . . which added to her discomfort, as she took no joy in studying its cheap facade. When the taxi lurched ahead, it was only for a short jump that ended with a rocking halt. It left Rosemary staring down the bar’s alleyway at torn asphalt, blowing litter and leaves. She saw a man and woman standing near a huge metal trash bin. They were engaged in animated discussion. As always, she studied the woman first, registering her as a frizz-headed blond hooker wearing a dress and jacket much too thin for the weather. Then her eyes went to the man and her expression became one of shock and disbelief. It was Jason. His face fiercely grim; the serious look he wore a lot lately as he issued his selfish commands. He said something brief then Rosemary saw the woman get to her knees in a squat.
Covering her eyes Rosemary began to cry quietly as the taxi lurched forward and sped through the light. The ugly image of Jason swam in phosphorous darkness, and flashes of the strange man lurking near the funeral home came and went. She couldn't escape the conclusion that both men hated her and both belonged with stinking rats in the sewer.
Rosemary's house stood in a hideaway location on a street dead-ended by a railway grade and a hydro storage yard. It was a new house, but an odd design, sitting atop a tiny rise. Its atmosphere was best described as a spooky home-of-the-local-ghost feeling. They'd purchased it because of its low price; and at the time they'd hoped to save for a house in a better neighbourhood. Her pregnancy hadn't been planned, and over time she’d grown fond of the place and didn't bring up the subject of moving. She hadn't been thinking of it at all until now.
The boughs of huge old maple trees arched over the driveway, throwing heavy shade on the taxi as it crawled up the rise. Light the texture of salt filtered through, creating a shifting pattern on the polished hood. A gable and a piece of the western sky appeared, and as the car pulled in by the walk she had the bizarre feeling that she really was a sort of ghost, with a blockhead for a husband and a comic creature kicking in her womb.
The pie-faced French taxi driver remained about as cold and unconcerned as the weather. She paid him with Jason's credit card, tossing him a nasty glance as she got out. He had the nerve to squeal the tires as he backed down the drive. Frowning she watched him swing out on the road and race off. She felt like calling in a complaint but decided against it.
Cold waves from the icy asphalt seeped through her thin shoes. The bones in her feet had been aching since the beginning of her pregnancy and they ached even more as she started up the walk. To ease the pain she stepped into the leaves and long grass, getting a soothing feeling from the soft turf. She didn't go straight in but strolled around the grounds.
The sky had gone dull and mountainous dark clouds had moved in to cover everything like a lead seal. The place resembled a gloomy prison yard, the house squatting in the dim light like a jail block. Stepping up to the plank fence she peered through a crack and studied the weedy hydro yard. It looked old, more like a junkyard than a storage area. And it was broken down, decaying like her life. She had the feeling that everything had passed with summer and now she'd entered a netherworld where she’d spend an eternity raising a child with a husband who had about as much love as a drooling zombie.
His shining armor had rusted quickly, but what could she do about it? She felt guilty because it had been her decision not to have sex during the later months of pregnancy. Other women did but she felt it was gross, and though he argued about nearly everything else, Jason hadn't disagreed. Even so, he would still likely bring it up if she confronted him with his infidelity.
She turned east, facing the subdivision and saw a mild glare from the sunset reflected on the windows. She shielded her eyes and as the spots faded she saw something flapping in the wind. It looked like a large ragged piece of fur attached to a pole hammered into the ground near the boundary line. She knew Jason was the only person ever down in that fenced off area and wondered why he'd put such a thing there.
Deep leaves reached up to her shins as she took careful steps down the rise. Odors of fresh earth, roots and some sort of chemical fragrance filled her nostrils. As she got closer she saw that it was a section of fur.
Thistles bit at her ankles but she continued to push ahead. A huge maple tree shaded her as she reached the spot, and the wind seemed to die temporarily. The fur hung at about chest height on a wooden pole that’d been lightly carved. It appeared to be a sort of tiny totem pole, the images on it vaguely defined but almost forming faces, wings or skulls.
Reaching out she touched the fur then quickly pulled her hand back. It was wet and sticky blood smeared her knuckles. She recoiled in horror as she realized that this animal had been recently killed and skinned. Her eyes went to the grass and she saw more blood. It trailed through the weeds to a corpse. About the size of a dog, it had been blackened by smoke and rested in seared grass. She couldn't tell exactly what kind of animal it’d been.
“God,” she whispered and the world went from cold and distant to close and hungry. Someone had sacrificed this animal in the yard and she strongly suspected Jason. He'd been out in the yard before they left. At times, he liked to talk about a cult he'd been involved in years ago - a group that was into a lot of animal sacrifice. She hadn't known him then. Perhaps now that he was losing it, he was regressing to his old ways. The thought sickened her and she felt suddenly paranoid, feeling an evil force and hidden eyes watching her. She choked and then she panicked, beginning to run up the hill. She didn't get far before her head began to whirl and she tumbled in the grass.
Next thing she knew she was in the house in a groggy state with a vague memory of picking herself up and walking the rest of the way. Except for a few abrasions, she was okay. She sat in the kitchen with a first aid kit, washing the scrapes with alcohol. Feeling a sudden thirst, she went to the fridge and poured herself a small glass of tomato juice. After one sip, she remembered the blood and her stomach churned as she put the glass aside.
Heading up to the bedroom, she discarded her grass-stained clothes and put on a clean dress. The change helped her relax and back in the living room, she sat staring at the TV, undecided about what she would do.
The phone rang - she picked it up and said hello. But the person didn't answer. She could hear him breathing. “Jason, is that you?” she said. Then she heard a click.
“That son of a bitch,” she muttered. “I'm tired of his weird behaviour.”
She needed help and decided to call a friend, and the person she picked was Karren as she was her only friend who wasn't married and close to Jason.
Karren answered after two rings - her light voice sounding almost gleeful. After some small talk, Rosemary mentioned her problems with Jason.
Karren sighed with disbelief and Rosemary could practically see her shaking her head with disgust at the other end. “The man has lost his marbles,” she said. “You should get out of there before he's up in a tree house with the squirrels and wants you and the baby with him. You've got his credit card, so use it to draw out some cash. Get a cab right away and come over. I work nights now so it'll be easy for you to stay. We'll call a shrink or something tomorrow and get advice on what to do about him.”
Rosemary felt reinforced by Karren's support and decided to leave quickly. Another way of getting cash occurred to her. Jason trusted her to do his online banking - so she went into his study and booted up his computer. In minutes, she’d transferred 10,000 dollars to her own chequing account. Jason had about 30,000 left in his account. He'd been socking it away for a new house. Since he was too lazy to do the banking, she doubted he’d notice the change any time soon.
She packed her bags in a hurry then sat down and picked up the phone. It usually took twenty minutes to get a cab and that might be too long. Putting down the receiver, she wrote a quick note then went out the back door and crossed the yard to a gap in the fence. Stopping there, she looked back at the house with tears in her eyes. It had taken more than a year to decorate it, and now Jason had lost his marbles and spoiled everything.
The path went through the hydro yard and a ravine and ended at the local mall. Jason used it all the time, jogging down it to the store and back. So much brush had overgrown it now it was hard to traverse. And there were hazards - broken glass, boards with nails, pieces of metal and other junk. Her progress was slow and as she moved along in the semidarkness, she thought of Jason. He'd always hated animals. He wouldn't even let her keep a cat. And now she was glad she didn't have one because it could end up sacrificed to his cult totem.
As the perimeter of the hydro yard vanished, the path began to descend into the ravine. It wasn't a steep drop but it was dark at the bottom. The path had been cleared and lined with wood chips in this part, making it soft and easy to traverse. She'd gone about 100 metres down it when she spotted a portion of a dilapidated structure showing through a gap in the bushes. Halting she stepped through for a better look. Some tramps were living here in a hovel. She could see a sweater hanging from a stripped branch. A closer look and she saw the logo and lettering on it - Temagami Hiking Trails. She'd bought that sweater for Jason at a tourist shop two years ago, and the sight of it terrified her. He could’ve given it away to someone less fortunate. But considering his selfish nature he probably hadn't. If he was spending time down here in a hovel, he had to be mad.
Getting back on the path she looked up at the darkness and it seemed to spin like poisonous smoke in her head. Clamping her hands on her bags and clenching her teeth she began to run, thinking that she wanted out of this place; and she never wanted to return.
Darkness swept into his eyes like thick bursts of painless soot. Tam jogged across the hydro yard and swung himself over the high plank fence. Rosemary's house had all but disappeared in twilight, and he figured they had to be out because he knew they didn't retire early.
He felt through his pack for his flashlight, and then he began to move quietly through the deep leaves and grass. His totem suddenly appeared in front of him; he moved the light down to its base, comforted by the carvings he'd created. The animal sacrifices were a necessary evil as they absorbed evil spirits on the grounds and allowed him to do his work.
It would be best to check the house. He headed up the rise, pausing at the halfway point to study a depression in the leaves and grass … someone had been out in the yard recently even though no one seemed to be in the house.
At the living room window, he saw nothing but darkness. Walking to the door he rang the bell and knocked loudly, and then he ducked through the lilac bushes at the side. Five minutes passed and no lights came on so he went to the back. Taking a small pry bar from his pack, he forced the aluminum door and shouldered the inner door open. Stepping inside the back porch, he turned the light on. He went through the kitchen door, spotted the phone and went over and checked it for messages. He found one message on it. It was Jason, saying he'd been called away on business and would be home late. His tone was apologetic and phony.
So where was Rosemary? He scratched his head. She never went out at night so she should be here. Perhaps medical problems and distress over her loony husband had forced her to the hospital, or maybe that taxi she'd taken had got into an accident. It was also possible that she'd fallen or something and was unconscious and in the house somewhere.
Tam squeezed his eyes shut; the wing of the Night Angel flashed across his spotty vision like a scythe. Something wasn't right and he knew it. Evil spirits seemed to be blocking his thinking processes. He concluded it would be best to conduct a thorough search of the house.
Detective skills and logical thinking were not key assets of his -- he searched the upstairs rooms first, thinking he would find her collapsed somewhere. A half-hour went by before he found the note. And he read it once then reread it slowly. Spurs of vengeful fire flew in his mind, raising his mood to fury. He bit his tongue and stamped his feet. That wicked and whoring husband of hers had got in the way of his entire plan and now he didn't know where she was hiding. If she didn't return the days he'd spent working in the hydro yard would be a waste. Everything was set up - chemicals, blasting caps, the death scene - and on Halloween he was to do what he had to do and then burn the house down.
He had to get her back, but he couldn't think of a way to find her. Stumbling upstairs he collapsed and rested on the bed, rubbing his temples and watching waves of shadows pass on the ceiling. Fear of the Night Angel tormented him; he didn't dare try communing with it before he had this problem solved.
It came to him that Jason was the key. Jason had screwed things up for him and Jason had a background of evil and witchcraft, so obviously he'd done it on purpose or through his channeling of some demon. As the father of the Satan child, he was doing his best to save it.
The Night Angel would know just how to punish him -- but first Tam would capture him and prepare him for the Angel's wrath.
He bit his lip as a new feeling of satisfaction grew, then he heard a car pulling in the driveway. Checking the clock, he saw that it was nearly midnight. Popping off the bed he adjusted his pack and took out the pry bar, and then he thumped down the stairs and waited behind the door for Jason.
Tam heard the key in the lock. The door began to open. He swung the bar, smashing it right through the glass. It caught Jason on the forehead, stunning him. And as he fell against the frame, Tam seized his arm and yanked him inside. He stumbled across the floor and caught hold of the banister, and before he could turn and put up a fight, Tam delivered a hard blow to his shoulder. Jason went to his knees and groaned, and then he threw himself sideways to the floor.
Scrambling up he faced Tam, his eyes blinking as blood poured down from a deep cut above his brow. Moonlight shining in through the glass glistened on Jason's battered face as he began to charge. And Tam stepped back, grim determination and fury filling his mind. He had a vague mental picture of his bar swinging out like lightning. Then time passed and he had a rope around Jason's chest and shoulders and was dragging him through the leaves. His anger had settled, vanishing into a black void where words and thoughts melted to silence.
A Friend’s House
Rosemary felt dizzying fear and confusion wind down to an uneasy mood as she reached the Sanders Mall parking lot. She stumbled at the end of the path and began to hyperventilate. Her lips went cold as she hurried through a tiny playground. A quick step from the curb and she was on the asphalt lot and moving toward the sidewalk on unsteady legs. Then the jolt of a misstep caused her to stop and scan the mall.
The scene unfolded and she gained keen awareness of the crowd. There were dozens of people streaming through the row of glass doors. They shouted to one another, tossed shopping bags, slammed trunks and car doors and generally treated October's Halloween end as another hurried event in life.
Leaves tumbled on the cold ground, the windy atmosphere adding urgency to their efforts. Rush job, race car to the grave -- she wondered what they were running from or to . . . they had no time for love or anything more than a quick embrace and no capability for quality in their conversations or ideas. Nowadays a lot of things existed in books and if they didn't they wouldn't exist at all. Life had become shallow. The pocketful of genuine dreams had vanished; the soul declining to materialism and a packet of daily worries and fears. Jack-o-lantern gods looked down on all of this and laughed mightily, and it struck her that humans did not appear to be made in God's image. The pumpkin gods had more feelings than humans; they had smiles and patience -- in a warped way.
Either laugh or you'll cry her mother used to say. But being pregnant and married to Jason was a situation that made both of those options hard things to do. He turned her stiff and cold, she could cry for herself perhaps, but not for him. And she noticed that many people in the crowd were in the same boat as Jason. Their faces showed no emotion at all. They walked through the doors like zombies, no longer alert enough to remember what had died inside.
“Perhaps I had it easy for too long,” she thought as she entered the doors. “I let Jason take over and make the decisions, and when things soured there was no escape. He had me in a corner behind jail bars, and for a long time I didn't know it.”
Times weren’t the best; some shops were boarded up. Halloween displays were featured in most of the open stores, she stopped at a book store and studied lit pumpkins in straw and a wooden sign that said Read a Scary Story. A garish serial killer showed on a glossy cover, and his face reminded her of the frightening man she'd seen staring from the funeral home parking lot. It spooked her and when she turned trails of paranoia rose in her mind. A lot of men seemed to be watching, especially one fat man over by the food court. Rather than loiter any longer she headed for the subway, feeling some of the fear vanish as she rode an escalator down to train level.
She had a ticket, so she went straight in and down the aisle to a red bench where she dropped her bag, sat and began to exercise her stiff fingers. A large lifeless crowd was on the other side, waiting to travel in the other direction, and they all seemed to be staring - bug-eyed monsters, cold fish out of water. She felt uncomfortable, her legs sore and her muscles aching, and she was sure that with the loose clothes she'd thrown on she looked like a huge overweight rag doll. Overnight she'd become Pregnant Raggedy Ann -- the husbandless welfare mom that society now loved to hate.
A train rushed in on the other side and a feeling that Karren would understand came with it. She closed her eyes, heard the electric jolt and screech of the train leaving, and in her exhausted state her memories seemed almost like visions. It was high school again and she fought with Karren over Tom, then they made up and became fast friends during two weeks when neither of them had a date. That was followed by James and then Karren's pregnancy - it ended in abortion. James took off to BC while Rosemary remained with her friend, giving her encouragement at a time when suicide was her foremost thought.
Karren's messy marriage and divorce was another dark period; Rosemary knew few of the details of that. But she did know that Karren had been through it all. Karren would understand when she arrived at her door. And that made all the difference. She boarded the train and closed her eyes in semi rest as it accelerated, looped and raced to the other side of the city.
Nebulous thoughts lurked at the edge of troubling sleep. Something terrible and unresolved crept in a fog of inner confusion, and like some monster of madness it threatened to crush the fence of sanity and plunge her into chaos. It was about to sweep her into dark dreams, then the rumbling of the wheels turned to a squeal and she was jolted to consciousness.
The doors seemed to open lightning fast, and as she struggled with her bag she feared she wouldn't make it. An elderly black man saw her plight and seized the doors, allowing her to get out without breaking an ankle from hurry.
She emerged in the night a block from Karren's house. There weren't any cabs at this lonely suburban station. From the rise she looked down at a sea of houses – some with black windows, other winking with lights. It gave her that old feeling of suburban loneliness. There were a million people here, and that meant very little when she couldn't touch any of them. She felt locked out and locked away. The lights became jack-o-lanterns in her mind, and a tear rolled on her cheek from the mockery of it.
The walk downhill was easy; she passed a couple teens with streaked hair, and encountered no one else on the next block. Nearly all of the lights were on in Karren's house and her car was parked in the driveway. The tall birch and the neat yard seemed friendly in the dark - a feeling largely different from Rosemary’s own downtown house. It made her wonder how many people were afraid to even approach her front door.
She felt a touch apprehensive as she rang the bell but that vanished as Karren answered almost immediately. Her smile was dimpled and huge, as always, but something had changed in her look. Rosemary put it down to less makeup. Karren looked a lot better as an older and mellower suburban woman. As a teen she'd been flashy to the edge of sleazy.
Karren's smile turned to a sad frown as they embraced, but as they separated, she ruffled Rosemary’s hair and said, “We should really feel sorry for Jason. You look just fine - pregnant but rosy as Rosy.”
“I am fine,” Rosemary said, stepping in slowly. “Few women have the physical strength I do at this stage of the game. Must be the big bones.”
Karren took her bag and coat and led her down the hall saying, “You need to sit and relax anyway. I've made some lemon tea so wait a moment and I'll fill you in on the situation here.”
Rosemary did just that, sitting on a deep soft chair. She found Karren's living room to be homey and nearly spotless. A large screen TV flickered as an action movie played, but the sound was muted. Furnishings were solid, with few knickknacks. A man's living room, though Rosemary knew Karren had done it that way purposely. Karren had always been a person who focused on her personal appearance -- fashion, makeup, health and figure. So perhaps there was some vanity in keeping exterior surroundings plain, so as not to be overshadowed by them.
Karren was also quite beautiful -- she wore her dark hair up with a couple long tresses hanging down at her shoulders. Her eyebrows were naturally arched and high and her brown eyes were set with a slight Oriental slope -- a fierce effect that became sensual when combined with her small nose and heart-shaped lips. Her skin was dark like Rosemary's, and in teen years many people had mistaken them for sisters. Together they looked exotic to an extent that some people mistook their race. Once, while parked in a hamburger joint on a trip to New York, some fascinated local males had whistled and called them pretty niggers. Rosemary was in fact Greek in ancestry and Karren was Scottish/Italian - so there was nothing black about them at all other than their tanned skin.
“You hungry?” Karren said as she entered with the tea.
“Not at all.”
“You're really just about due aren't you?”
“Any time, any moment.”
“I better fill you in on the situation. I won the house in the divorce settlement. The basement is rented out to a guy named Dave Windsor. He's handsome and he's gay, and he pays his rent. I'm working nights so I'll introduce you to him and he can take you to the hospital if necessary. I have lots of space, so you can stay as long as you want. Maybe we should discuss Jason and what the odds are on you two getting back together.”
“None at the moment,” Rosemary said. “And I don't have time to weep about it. I have to think about the baby.”
“Good girl, that's the attitude to take. What's this about Jason going crackers?”
“It started a while ago. I don't know what came over him. His behavior is nasty and erratic like someone on drugs, though I know he isn't on any.”
“Don't count on it, dear. I thought Johnny was clean and he was caught using needles.”
“No needles here. Jason is all business. He was growing colder and colder by the day. When I got pregnant, he changed for the better. He started treating me wonderfully, like the most caring husband in the world. Then he started getting mean - nastier every day. It's like he hates me or something. He left me at the hospital and ran off with a . . . .”
“Don't hurt yourself by repeating it. Johnny did the same sort of thing to me. I stabbed him for it, but it didn't pay off. He won custody of Joey. I almost never get to see him and he's been poisoned towards me. He's been taught that I'm a criminal and insane. I don't want you to make the same mistake. What we're going to do is play by all of the rules. I'm working tonight, but tomorrow we're going to see a shrink I know. We'll build a case against Jason. If he can be helped we'll help him. If he can't be helped, we'll make sure he's kept away from the baby. And don't go soft on me. It has to be done - it's a cruel world. If you don't take care of yourself you'll see your baby taken away by that lunatic.”
“I’ll take care of myself,” Rosemary said, suddenly bursting into tears.
Karren left for her midnight shift medical job at the St. Michael's Burn Unit in downtown Toronto. Rosemary stood at the window, feeling suddenly lonely as she watched the polished car slip away like mercury under the street lamps. Though exhausted, she didn't feel like sleeping so she went back to the living room and sipped tea in front of the set.
In the dim lamplight, the big screen flickered hypnotically and worked magic that temporarily erased her worries. She slowly flicked through the pay channels avoiding drama. A river of shadows rushed on the walls from the many action movies she encountered. In show after show brutal death appeared as exciting and colorful scenes. A racing motorcycle screamed over a cliff. Human devils leapt through choreographed scenes as they engaged in mortal combat. Spaceships moved through fantastic maneuvers, pulsed laser light and exploded. A new action hero fired off twenty times his body weight in lead without reloading once. A rampaging monster ate human beings like they were popcorn. A hijacker shot a man in the throat, and as the ketchup pack burst out in slow motion she shook her head and turned off the set.
The darkened screen left her in a room suddenly very dim; she saw movement near the window and gasped. Then she realized it was fog rolling outside and sighed. She walked to the curtains and looked out; mist as dense as angel hair caught the light as it rolled over the road and whited out the yard. A sudden image of Jason out there lost in the fog came into her mind, causing her to wince as she forced it away.
She decided it was time to hit the sack, turned and headed up the stairs. Karren had given her a bedroom facing the backyard. It was spacious with a bed that looked adequate if not fully comfortable. The room seemed hot so she opened the aluminum window a bit and then paused to study herself in the mirror. Her long loose dress failed to hide her pregnancy. Her eyes seemed expanded, wet and glossy and she felt momentarily spooked by her own gaze. She'd read that the latest studies on pregnancy showed that women underwent brain changes during pregnancy; changes that were an actual increase in intelligence. Perhaps something like that was happening to her and she could see it as something weird reflected in her eyes.
Pulling herself under the covers, she immediately dozed off and fell into mangled sleep. Her dreams had no visual aspect, but were like more fog and a cold flow of alien feelings … unpleasant and fleeting. She felt herself running away, bare feet flying in the empty night. And she felt something inside her that she was trying to save. The baby appeared as warmth and light - a fragile orb she had to protect. Then cold arms touched her; tentacles that made her shudder. She saw a face of jagged ice and evil, and heard a voice. “The child has been promised to me,” it whispered. “Promised as a sacrifice to me.” It was a haunting voice, its tone evil and knowing. It filled her with terror, causing her to wake.
Icy wind rushed through the open window. She rose and went over to close it. As she grabbed the slide, the curtain brushed past her face and she saw out into the night. Below the fog had thinned and was drifting into pockets. The treetops were rocking in a strong breeze, and above them she could see the moon. A dark cloud was rising on the horizon in the shape of an angel. A night angel, she thought, and the thought made her shiver. She remembered the voice from the dream and felt her flesh become clammy and cold. Shutting the window quickly, she pulled the curtains tight, hurried back to bed and sat there shivering under the covers.
The agony and fever had gone on for so long that Jason wasn’t sure if it had been hours or days. It was hard to even conceive of himself as a human being while in such anguish. Nightmares rushed like distorted video in his mind. Monsters and confusing images of disaster took shape. Hideous faces and the false memories of delirium doped him with shock after shock … brain twisting special effects that contained sickening horror and new forms of pain. He’d wake to stinging flesh and try to scream, only to find himself tightly bound and gagged. Alert, he’d moan low for hours as his knotted muscles fed his brain with pulsing aches from swelling and bruises. It would ascend to a pinnacle and then he’d faint, and rise out of black waters to nightmares and go through the whole thing again.
This time it was worse - a foul odor made the gagging stronger and the thought of dying on vomit seemed like pleasant sunshine. He heard heavy boots hitting a hardwood floor and it caused hope to rise in his mind. Someone was coming - perhaps he was being rescued. It was a shining thought but a red jolt of stabbing pain immediately replaced it. He felt the hard boots shoving his stiff legs aside, then the blindfold was suddenly torn off and brilliant light exploded like needles of fire in his eyes.
Jason couldn't see a thing - just light whirling like alien eggbeaters. A rough hand pinched his face then the cloth was ripped from his mouth, nearly taking his dry tongue along with it. The light eased and spilled like blurry sugar in his eyes. A train of bruised thoughts began to chug in his mind. Strong odors rose to his blood-caked nostrils and he felt his stomach heave like it’d been punched. He vomited uncontrollably; a burning mass shooting through his lips, tearing at his throat like hot acid. Needles of numbness and pain covered his skin like moving quills as his flesh convulsed, but he couldn't stop. He heaved many times then fell still.
Hot steam drifted into his face. A form began to take shape - a tall man working over some sort of portable stove. Thick vapors rose from a bulbous black pot, and Jason guessed that it was the source of the vile odors.
As his vision cleared his eyes darted about the room. This was a huge place. It looked like he was in the hydro warehouse next to his house. He could see boxes and rolls of copper cable piled in stacks. He focused on some burlap bags in a corner and noticed bloodstains. Then he spotted a swollen and blackened hand protruding from a hole in the cloth, and he nearly started vomiting again as he realized that corpses were the source of the odor.
The big man was turning to face him, but Jason couldn't see him clearly. His face seemed dark and distorted. His eyes like smoldering iron.
“Your sins of the flesh have wounded you, Jason,” he said. “We don't want your flesh to become infected like your astral body. The Night Angel asks that you be healed. As the warlock father of the evil child, you will atone by working with me, seeing to it that the child is not born. You will not try to resist. Your past of evil powers and magic have put you in our control and saved your life. We need you and because of that will spare you.” He held up a slender-necked bottle of opaque green glass. “This is science and it is magic and potion that will cleanse your mind of evil thoughts. It will allow you to confess, speak of your past and tell us the name of the demon that owns your soul.”
Thick liquid rose in Jason's throat and choked him. He couldn't speak. A memory came to him; images from years ago, when he'd been in a coven down in New Mexico. In ceremonies of blood, sex and magic, he’d promised his soul and his first-born child to a demon. But he’d never believed it. He’d done it all for the thrill, drugs and sex. Now this madman was going to force him to drink poison to get the name of the demon. The name - he thought back, seeing vivid smoke and flames. Night Angel was the name. He'd promised his first-born child as a sacrifice to the Night Angel, and in the ceremony the angel had been called as an ancient force of evil, named as the spawn of Satan in secret hieroglyphs.
Jason wasn't sure who this madman was but the creep was certainly deluded if he thought of himself as some sort of priest, and of the Night Angel as a holy force opposed to sin. Perhaps he’d been brainwashed by a coven of the Night Angel and sent here to destroy him and his first child. The coven was seeing to it that the promise was kept. If so it meant that deluded or not, this character was as deadly as Satan.
Jason knew there wasn't any such being as the Night Angel. The occult was all fraud; a product of warped minds and drug induced visions. He was certain of it but he also knew that certainty would matter very little in the long run to the people this monster thought he was serving. This man could still make people very ugly, very sick and very dead.
Gulping hard, Jason felt blood and agony shoot in his badly bruised neck. His captor was studying him like a bug, looking him up and down before he spoke. “The natural healing must begin”, Tam said authoritatively. And he turned back to the pot and began pouring various ingredients into the furiously boiling liquid. “Herbs to heal your wounds,” he said. “A bottle of wood alcohol to cleanse your skin, bark extracts to destroy the germs. Spring water to purify …”
He stirred the smoking pot with a large wooden spoon, and then he scooped out a wide flask of the boiling liquid and turned. “Let the healing begin!” he said as he reached out and poured the chemical on Jason's bare legs.
Jason screamed as the liquid scalded his already tortured flesh, and along with the pain, the words, “The father of the Satan seed will be cleansed!” were scorched into his brain.
A Cold Day
Soft beams of morning sunlight shone through the dining room window and warmed the polished wood. The early day appeared crisp and cold and the evils of night seemed far away. Rosemary sipped vanilla tea, and except for dust motes in the sunbeams, the room stood sparse and spotless. In her thoughts, she looked for exit signs that might take her out of her current situation, but she found none and in the process ended up thinking about Karren.
Karren had lost both her husband and son. Cleanliness remained; that and the aching of loss. A bad marriage had ended in financial stability and a loveless life. Rosemary supposed nearly the same would happen to her if Jason remained in control. Except that she would only have the loveless part, minus the financial stability.
The sun painted a rainbow in the clear glass of the neatly inlaid window, and the beauty of the day imprisoned her. After years of a comfortable home, the clean new setting felt like an institution. It felt like Jason already had her put away. He’d rejected her and she'd been forced to leave home. He'd left her no other choice. And now she was here and the beautiful sun continued to shine on a life become cold and empty. Thinking things over she understood why some people refused to bring children into the world. Human warmth hadn’t entered their lives and they didn't want little ones along to share the pain of the journey.
Karren came down the stairs at 10:30, a tired expression suspended like a mask on her face. She refused Rosemary's offer to cook a hot breakfast, and ate nothing at all. After wiping the kitchen counters she joined Rosemary in the dining room, cradling a cup of black coffee in her hands as she stared absently out the window.
“I phoned home early this morning,” Rosemary said. “Jason isn't there and I didn't leave a message on the machine. He must have gone to work. I used the 632A code first so he can't trace this number.”
“I doubt he went to work. At this stage, they usually alternate between brooding and searching for the spouse. He's probably called just about everyone you know by now. I guess he hasn't remembered me yet. Don't answer any calls here. If you're alone, let the machine take it and then check who it is. In his case, he's unpredictable. I'm not sure how he’d react but I’m sure he can't take a lot of frustration. He's probably dangerous and may try to assault you. You have to set the terms of meeting with him to be in control.”
“Jason's been displaying moods of abusive rage for a while … without any reason - unless the idea of being a father is too much for his businessman's pea brain. Maybe he just hates me.”
“If he hated you he would’ve run off or physically thrown you out. He's in a poor mental state. I think his love has become an obsession. We'll talk that over with the psychiatrist today. He's dealt with many similar cases so he'll know what Jason is about.”
The distant sun had a lonely effect. Their phones didn't ring or show messages at all that morning. At noon, Karren and Rosemary drove three kilometres across town to the Walker Street Mall. It was light parking as the lot was only half full, and the crowd wasn't large. Rosemary felt uncomfortable on the open mall floors. It would be too easy for someone who knew Jason to spot her, and if he had called around probably a number of people had their eyes open. Ducking quickly into shops with Karren, she watched jealously as she tried on sensual tops and dresses that would never fit her own swollen body.
Rosemary stocked up with lip-gloss, perfume and other necessary items at the drug store, and then they enjoyed a sweet lunch at the Just Deserts hut in the mall food gallery. One p.m. approached and Karren felt it was time to head over to Doctor Mather's office.
The medical offices were in the same sprawling complex, just a stroll down from the shopping area. They pushed through a heavy door of varnished wood into a sterile environment of piped-in satellite music, rubber plants and swirled glass and plastic ornaments. The elevator rose in a clear plastic tube, dropping them at the fourth floor level, and from there it was a short stroll to the doctor's office.
His office was more mall sterility, but vastly improved by the presence of his receptionist. Margaret was an attractive redhead with a knack for getting close to other women. Karren spent five minutes discussing local gossip with her then informed her of the emergency appointment she’d booked for Rosemary. They sat and read fashion magazines while they waited.
Doctor Mather emerged twenty minutes later. He was a short plump man wearing an elegant suit. Rosemary was surprised as she'd expected a man of strong stature.
The doctor had an intimate smile for Karren. In general, Rosemary had a good feeling about him, though she found it hard to see him as a tough customer who could deal with abusive husbands.
His initial consultation room, as he called it, looked like a living room. It had a couch and leather chairs and soothing nature scenes hung on the paneled walls. The polished ashtrays and an old television set appeared to be there for decoration.
Thick casebooks lined the library shelves and the doctor took one down, opened a page and wrote her name and a few personal details on a fresh page. She studied the rotund man as he wrote; he had large blue eyes that brimmed with kindness, gray hair that had receded gracefully and a face that was healthy and unwrinkled in spite of his age. He looked wise in the way a reverend would be wise, but hardly looked like someone who knew a lot of personal business and dark secrets.
“You still do everything by pen?” Rosemary said.
“Oh, I suppose you expected computers and recordings. They create a barrier between doctor and patient. I don't favour them. We do have computers for billing and tax purposes, but they aren’t here. I also don't trust them as a medium for case files. There are hackers who can break into them and it’s easy for people to copy and distribute information. Your file will be handwritten by me and viewed by no one else. I keep my files in that shelf and once it's locked it is fireproof and burglar proof. It is also held to the floor by heavy bolts.”
“Karren says you have experience dealing with abusive husbands and with cults and the occult.”
“Yes, and it's a dangerous area. I know you probably expected a big man. I use a detective agency when security is required. Based on what Karren has told me I can tell you immediately what I’ll probably recommend in regards to your husband Jason. That is you must stay where you are and not tell him where you are. If it becomes possible, I’ll contact him and arrange a meeting. That way I can assess him first. Abusive types are experts at manipulation. A line of intelligent defense must be set up to prevent them from controlling the situation. This also reveals the extent of their personal anger. If murderous anger is brewing within, he’ll start phoning me, threatening to use force. Though he’ll never really do that because it’s the spouse the abusive husband wants to reach.”
“I'm glad you're straightforward on this.”
“It's the only way that works. Let's talk about Jason. Karren told me a bit about his recent strange behaviour. On the occult involvement -- I understand that it was years ago and he was never in so deep that it involved deprogramming or trouble with the law.”
“Someone's been sacrificing animals in the yard. Jason is the only person out there at the times it happens. He was involved in a cult years ago -- some sort of witchcraft practice and belief in a fallen angel. Last week I found this medallion placed under the mattress. He put it right below my midsection. He may have some superstitious beliefs regarding the baby and thinks this medallion will provide protection. He denies putting it there.”
Doctor Mather took the medallion and turned it over in his palm. The metal was tarnished. A raised angel wing was on one side, a grinning skull on the other. It looked to be ancient. “I've never seen these particular images before. I can do some checking. This seems to be some obscure and unknown group and that's good. I mean it's good that he's not involved with a group known to be dangerous.”
Tam's poison programmed Jason's mind into a charged medium of hellish visions - a renegade neuron set switching uncontrollably through a grotesque horrorscape. Sometimes images would normalize for a few minutes and he'd see the grinning face of his captor, then the head would melt to a skull and the attacking demons of strychnine would take over again. In lucid moments, the realization of it all delivered fear even more gut wrenching than that of the visions. Hell didn’t appear as an alien place or an exotic land of the damned. It appeared as a suddenly familiar place -- as a universe in his mind that he’d forgotten for some years.
Fallen saints walked broken-backed in rags on broad streets paved with the petrified corpses of murdered children. Angels writhed in white agony as madmen screamed. The city of gold was bright as it burned with fire and brimstone. Raging winds carried the mighty howls of wicked beasts.
Corruption licked up like flames in his mind and more visions followed -- an endless concatenation of evil. All of it took place in his soul. All of it part of him. The nightmare rose in consciousness as intimate memories now reborn, and the terror was in knowing that every human had such a corner of the mind … a personal hell, infinite and merciless, coded in the genes and developing in the brain from the day of birth … waiting for the dark hand of the angel and the turn of the key of that would unlock it.
In time the visions receded in the shadows of his drugged brain and something unseen and hideous began to creep in the light. He remembered the excruciating pain of his healing and the shock of the poison, and it didn't bother him because he'd gone completely numb. Numbness penetrated his thoughts, his brain, his flesh and his bones - like he'd become a plant or organic life that couldn't feel anything at all. Hades and poison had destroyed his spirit and left him empty.
Tingling in his toes led him to look down the length of his body. He saw that he was bandaged and realized that his body was probably a huge mass of scar and burn tissue. He couldn't bring himself to care about it at all; probably because Jason was dead or all he had believed was dead … which was really nothing at all - a mass of lusting flesh had gone numb. Lusting flesh was all that most men were - so in understanding that he knew he had lost nothing.
His vision clearing he looked around the room, and then he breathed deeply, finding the stink of the corpses to be as fine as perfume. As he exhaled the door opened and he sat up and watched Tam enter the room.
Tam's eyes had the brightness of moonbeams. They held a strange power he couldn’t fathom, and when Tam looked down at him, it was with understanding. He saw no pity or hate in those pupils.
“Be thankful that the angel has need of you,” Tam said. “Because of need you have been saved. And you are a higher being. Vanity and the sensual nature have been removed so that obedience will come easy to you. Nothing has been left for you but to serve the angel, and you will begin by aiding us in destroying Rosemary and the evil child she carries.”
Halloween fell on a Saturday and it arrived in rush of tropical air up from the Gulf of Mexico. After a rather uneventful day at home, Karren surprised Rosemary with the news that she'd be working on Halloween eve. In the public health business, the forces of witches, goblins and holidays brought more customers into the hospital for treatment. Rosemary concluded that she’d never be personally happy in that sort of occupation. Home life and holidays were just too important to her.
This Halloween also wore warts because she wasn't at home. She was still at Karren's and feeling rootless and depressed. She didn't want to go out by herself and she didn't want to be alone in the house. As partial compensation, she'd bought bags of candies and treats and a pumpkin at the neighbourhood store. Passing out goodies to the kids seemed like the best way to kill the evening, and time was already passing as she set up tables and bowls in the hall. She filled a punch bowl with jellybeans and tiny chocolate bars, topped off a cookie can with kisses and set a large sack of mixed nuts near the door. Triple-sized suckers in large cellophane wrappers stamped with a nutty pumpkin face were her feature candies. A carton of tiny potato chip bags and a flat of toffee packs rounded out her selection.
When the candy bowls were arranged to her liking she went back to the kitchen to finish the design on her jack-o-lantern. It had already been gutted and the pulp tossed. Using a fruit knife, she carved out a mischievous face - slanted eyes, triangular nose and jagged teeth. It was too windy for a candle so she used a battery-powered night-light instead. It had a yellow tinted bulb that made for a nice effect when she placed it inside.
She cradled the glowing pumpkin above her swollen belly like it was a second baby and headed for the front, carefully passing the tables and candy bowls. As she opened the door wind whipped across the porch and sent her hair flying. It tore at the candy wrappers so she stepped out quickly and shut the door. Gusts were sweeping the yard but the air didn't seem all that humid. Her guess was that it would be a very windy night but not a rainy night.
She placed the pumpkin on a sturdy porch bench then looked out at the last dying haze of sunset. Strong claws of wind raked leaves across the yard. Twilight showed in a darkening the sky and an enormous dark cloud was rising on the eastern horizon. She didn't see any kids approaching and the wind was whistling loudly on the balconies of some nearby apartments, making her wonder if the night was safe enough for them. She decided it wasn't that bad yet and went back inside.
Stepping over to the hall mirror, she fixed her strewn hair, and before she was done the first trick-or-treaters arrived. The door opened with a spooky creak and she saw three costumed kids standing by the porch pumpkin. “Treat,” they said, holding their bags forward.
Wind tore at their bags and ruffled their costumes, adding to the Halloween effect. Rosemary supposed the kids loved the windy night as it gave them more opportunities to scare people. She tried to look fair, but she actually gave the most candy to a tiny ghost and the least to a big pirate.
“Give me more,” said the pirate. “I didn't get any chocolate bars.”
“Why should I?” Rosemary said, frowning.
“Because the news says a big wind storm is coming. Probably most kids won't be allowed out. You need me to eat all your candy or you'll eat it yourself and get even fatter than you are.”
“I'm not fat, I'm pregnant,” Rosemary said, her cheeks reddening as she stuffed some small chocolates into his bag.
The smaller kids said thanks as she closed the door. She watched through the glass as they walked off in helter skelter wind, then the land phone rang and she went down the hall to answer it.
The call was from Doctor Mather, and he sounded unusually excited and out of breath. “I had a talk with Jason and don't feel he's dangerous. He came to the office yesterday. I arranged a first meeting for the two of you then I had to run out for an emergency call. One of my suicidal patients. My secretary forgot to notify you. It's for tonight at your house. I'm going over now and I want you to meet me there in an hour. We're going to talk things over with Jason. It should go well. He sounds like he has guilt feelings. It's a start anyway.”
“This is all happening rather fast,” Rosemary said. “I don't know if I want to see him. I'd rather talk to him on the phone first.”
“Okay, do that - but you must see him now or his condition might worsen. Grab a cab and meet me there.”
The line went dead as Doctor Mather hung up and an unknown fear started her fingers trembling. In her heart she didn't want to talk to Jason just yet, but in spite of that she robotically pushed the numbers.
The phone rang once and the call was picked up. Two strange beeps were followed by a delay and Jason. He said hello in a voice so hoarse and dry she wasn't sure who it was.
“Jason, is that you?”
“Of course it’s me.”
“Are you sure no one else is listening in. What's the matter with your voice?”
“No one’s here. I have a sore throat, so it's hard for me to talk. If you hear interference it’s probably the wind. The power has been blinking on and off for a while.”
“Are you sure you want me to come over tonight?”
“I love you darling,” he said in a voice so wooden it seemed like he was talking to a tree or a wall.
“You certainly haven't been acting as if you do.”
“I realize that now. I had a long talk with Doctor Mather. He’s opened my eyes to my reckless ways.”
“You sound more like he’s hypnotized you. Maybe you should be in bed.”
“No. Our relationship is too important to ignore. I want you to come over. I have a surprise that will make you feel much better about things.”
“All right, but only for a talk. I don't plan on returning home yet.”
“You don't have to. Come over and we'll talk. Maybe get some sort of understanding.”
Rosemary put the phone down. The conversation had done little other than make her feel dizzy and unsettled. Her feelings for Jason had grown about as flat as his voice. If he cared about her why wasn't he angry or sad? He came across as a bad actor reading his script in an emotionless monotone. She suspected Doctor Mather was telling him what to say. But then maybe Jason was just weird and only experienced emotions and anger at the wrong times.
The doorbell rang, interrupting her thoughts. She had no time for speculation so she decided to take her mind off it for another half an hour and have some fun with the kids.
A small stream of the little ones poured in out of the blustery night and in less than a half-hour, the candy was nearly gone. She decided she'd had enough and took in the pumpkin and shut off the porch light. Before leaving for home, she thought about calling Karren, then decided to keep her out of it. Doctor Mather wanted to meet her there so she called him to confirm. His answering machine picked up so she figured he'd already left. After dialing a cab, she waited outside on the porch.
There was a constant rattle as the wind hurled twigs into the tin garbage cans. Dust devils swept up leaves on the road, swirled and exploded into dark chaos; she could already see a fallen branch in the side yard. It didn't seem like a friendly night at all, and she hoped the stormy weather wasn't an indication of things to come in her relationship with Jason.
The Citywide cab streaked up the empty road at surprising speed and braked hard at curbside. She walked down and got inside, hoping the driver was going to keep to the speed limit on the trip across town. The cabby was a young black man and had some sort of protest sign taped on a side window.
Rosemary gave him the address. “What exactly are you guys protesting?” she said.
“More government regulation of the taxi industry,” he said. “Too many inspections and rules. It's costing us a fortune. You don't know what it's like lady. Ever had someone take over your life? Ever had that feeling?”
“Yes,” she said, a nasty picture of Jason forming in her mind.
“Then you know that when that happens you got to fight, and if you don't fight you're handing over the power. The monkey on your back will strangle you if you don't get him off.”
“I see what you mean,” she replied. And in her thoughts, she pictured herself handing the household power back to Jason. She was certain he didn't love her. He wanted a sex toy; a wife and child he could control. He was setting her up to conquer her again. Doctor Mather was probably completely fooled by him. A tear formed in the corner of her eye as she realized she’d never go back to Jason. She wanted a divorce.
Rosemary sighed. Her lungs filled with stale air. She hit the window button, opening it a crack. The wind slashed in like a knife and the glass began to vibrate so fast it sounded like a saw. Irritated, she took a couple deep breaths then powered the glass shut just as they hit the valley overpass.
A moment later wind buffeted the car. The taxi driver remained unperturbed and sped up, fighting his way across the bridge. The expressway below was jammed, the valley traffic resembling a long sparkling necklace.
Traffic on the far side of the bridge was also bottlenecked, and as they reached Yonge Street the line of cars ground to a halt. Hi-rises towered on all sides, amplifying the gusts. She saw a newspaper fly by like a kite, and then a whoosh of wind from an alley carried a rain of dust and cigarette butts into the hood.
A pizza box tumbled out of the dark and sailed like a bizarre orange omen over a sudden fender bender. Lacking patience her taxi driver spat and swore then swung onto the sidewalk. Pushing through startled pedestrians, he went down a dark alley. At the next block he made a left. An opening appeared in the bottleneck and he zoomed through it and raced down some side streets.
He drove the rest of the way at a good clip. Coming down Sally Bird Hill, he ploughed through blowing leaves, and then the car entered her neighbourhood, first cruising past a costumed crowd lined up out front of a theatre.
Rosemary took a casual look at the people. They didn't seem festive at all but appeared lame and weak as they huddled against the wind. The one exception being a big man whose face was covered by a demon mask. He leered in the window at her as they passed. Twigs and leaf bits were caught up in his wind-strewn wig. Streetlights reflected like moon pools in his eyes making him seem almost like a real demon, and for a moment she had a flashback of the strange man she'd seen at the funeral home.
They turned into residential streets and as the car closed in on her driveway, she noticed that the hill and house were shrouded in darkness. The cabby braked and stopped before turning in. Looking around she saw that all the lights in the subdivision were on. It was only her house and the hydro yard that were blacked out.
Powering down his window the cabby stuck his head out. “The power line to your house is down. I can see it hanging over the fence and those bushes. It's a live wire so make sure you don't go near it before the repair crew arrives.”
“Damn, it has to happen now. Just pull in. I'll deal with it.”
Nosing in the cabby drove uphill slowly, the sweep of his headlights illumining a chaotic scene of wind-bent boughs and flying leaves. The car rocked to a stop and Rosemary said a simple keep the change and good night as she paid the fare and got out.
The headlights lit the walk and front door, but they didn't reveal anything other than leaves skating across the empty night. She pushed forward against the wind and as she walked away, the taxi pulled out, leaving her in darkness and a swirl of debris. “Geez, why didn't the idiot stay till I got to the door?” she muttered. “And where is Jason?” she thought. “What a gentleman he is - leaving me out in this wicked storm.”
A flying twig snapped into her eye. She stumbled and banged her knee on hard metal. Her hand touched the cold painted surface of car - a station wagon. She realized that it had to be Doctor Mather's car. He'd parked it partly off the driveway beside a willow tree.
She'd hit her funny bone so she waited by the car until the tingling stopped. Dark mist raced over the moon above, and some faint light filtered through the crooked web of branches. The front door shone in faint moonlight and as she was about to take a step a branch snapped and whipped the ground beside her. Spooked, she broke into a run for the door, and then halted a few feet from it.
The old house really was an eerie place this time, enough so that she was afraid to go inside. Something was definitely wrong. The situation worried her. Jason should've met her at the door. Perhaps his condition had gotten worse. And what about her doctor?
She edged closer then Jason's voice came to her on a snatch of wind. She looked around for him and realized that the sound was coming from the door speaker. Her fear transformed to anger. If Jason's new caring nature involved being too busy to answer the door, she wanted none of it.
Pacing to the entrance, she yanked the door open and stepped into the dark hall. She couldn't see a thing so she called out. “Jason, where are you?”
His voice echoed and seemed to come from the ceiling. “I'm in the living room, honey.”
As she reached the end of the hall, she noticed a haze of light in the doorway and turned. A single guttering candle lit the room. Jason was sitting on a recliner in the far corner. Only his form and large moving shadows showed. She could barely see him.
“What's going on here? Why didn't you come to the door when I arrived?”
“I was in the basement. The storm broke some windows and I was down there checking the damage. I didn't hear you arrive.”
“What about Doctor Mather, where'd he go?”
“The phone here has gone dead. He went out to his car for his cell phone.”
“I didn't see him out there.”
“Maybe he's still in the car. Give it a minute and if he isn't back I’ll go out and take a look.”
“We better. Branches are falling out there. He could've been hit.”
“I hope not. I don't need more problems.”
“Listen, Jason, you'll have to wait here in the dark for a minute. I'm going up to the bedroom. There are a couple things I need.”
“Okay, go ahead.”
Scooping up the candleholder Rosemary headed for the stairs. She walked up carefully, found the bedroom and looked around. She could hear the wind knocking hard at the window. Walking to the dresser, she opened a bottom drawer and took out her diary. She checked the lock and found it firm. She didn’t want Jason reading it and wanted to have it over at Karren's place. A nightlight stood by the mirror. It was in the shape of a rocking horse and battery powered. She flicked the switch, but it didn't work. She guessed that Jason might have batteries so she picked it up and carried it with her as she returned downstairs.
Back in the living room she placed the candle on the coffee table and sat on the couch. “I need batteries, Jason. Where are they?”
“I think I have some with the flashlights out in the shed. We'll have to go out anyway. Something must've happened to the Doctor, he hasn't returned.”
“Okay,” Rosemary said, twisting at the battery lid of the rocking horse as she spoke. She stood up, prepared to leave, then something clicked at her fingertips and the portable light came on.
It was quite brilliant without its cover, its power lighting up the whole room. Shadows were cast out and Jason suddenly got to his feet. Rosemary blinked -- the vision of Jason taking shape in her mind being too impossible to believe. She was so certain that it was a bizarre trick of the light that it didn't fully register at first.
The grotesquerie failed to fade. It solidified in the shifting light created by her trembling hands. A rumpled cap of burned scalp and ragged strands of dead hair topped Jason's head. His eyes were black gun slits in a massive purple bruise and his nose was mashed below them - veins pulsing above the nostrils like thick fibers in a transparent slice of melon. His mouth resembled a slash made by a butcher knife and his clothing was a bloody tatter of stained skin and rags.
“I didn’t want you to see this,” Jason said, stepping forward slowly.
And in Rosemary's mind, he stepped from an impossible nightmare into reality. The floorboards creaked and the sound penetrated like a ghostly explosion in her ears. Her scalp tightened and her hair rose. Fear and revulsion swept her with incredible speed. She didn't make a sound but just threw the night light at him, turned and fled wildly down the dark hall. Heavy footsteps sounded behind her as she reached the door. She stopped, fumbled with the handle and screamed in terror when it didn't move. A second try opened it and she burst out into the night and ran deep into the yard.
Wind kicked her with such force that it felt like she was running against a net. Her hair tore back, her muscles strained, then the blow weakened and she burst forward and tumbled in the leaves. Rolling up she glanced back and saw Jason standing in moonlight by the door. A machete gleamed in his blackened hand and he was scanning the darkness, trying to locate her.
A faint patch of yellow light showed to her left. She turned quickly and saw that the interior light had come on in Doctor Mather's car. A door was partially open but no one appeared to be inside. She guessed that the wind had sucked it open.
The light also revealed her to Jason and he growled and began to stride towards her. She got up quickly and ran, her knees slapping in wet grass. Heading for the car her hope was that either the keys were inside or the Doctor was nearby.
Reaching the light she swept the car door open and tossed herself inside - all in a smooth thrust that would've worked had something not blocked her. She dogpaddled over it, tumbling on her side toward the passenger seat, and then horror rose as she felt the touch of cold flesh. She kicked it away as she scrambled the rest of the way to the passenger side.
The interior light still glowed. She looked to the wheel then screamed when she saw Doctor Mather slumped below it. Blood poured from his swollen lips. A huge bullet wound marred the side of his head.
Something gleamed on the carpeting - the handle of a pistol, and the terrible truth grew in her mind . . . the encounter with Jason had snapped the Doctor's mind and he’d shot himself.
And her mind was threatening to snap, too. The Jason thing was coming up to the door … with faint yellow light webbing his face, and crooked boughs highlighted behind him, he appeared as the most terrifying of human ghouls. She wondered what sort of evil force could do such a thing to a man and she realized that she was up against much more than the Jason thing. This was something wicked and unknown.
In moments, Jason would be in the car. She hit the lock beside her then looked in the back. Both rear doors were locked so she only had to deal with the driver's side. The corpse was leaning partway out the door - one arm dangling to the ground.
Jason was nearly on her. There was no time to manipulate the body. She leaned sideways and shoved it hard, sending it tumbling out. The feet still hung in the way and Jason was right at the door reaching for the handle. Scrambling over she grabbed the heels and forced them out. Then she pulled door shut hard and heard Jason roar.
She sighed with temporary relief, and then noticed sticky blood on the steering wheel. Her eyes went to the ignition, and her relief ended when she saw that the key was partially turned and broken off. A tiny portion protruded but she'd need pliers to turn it.
Except for a faint dash light, it was dark in the car. A hand banged against the side then there was silence. Noise returned with scratching on the hood, and as her eyes adjusted she saw Jason dragging an enormous fallen tree branch. The blade of his machete flashed in the moonlight as he chopped at it. Then he put the blade aside and moved to lift the branch. Shifting his weight, he swung it over the hood and into the windshield. It hit with a hard thump that scratched the glass. Rosemary ducked below the dash as the second blow came in and put a small spider web crack in the plastic.
Fear rose and paralyzed her as she peeked up and watched the branch fly in again. It hit with a crash and when the crack expanded to a huge indentation, she gained the will to move and seize the dead doctor's gun from the floor. A dull black weapon with a Glock embossing, it was so powerful that it had blown most of his head off. She held it in both hands and shook so much she was waving it from side to side.
His eyes flaring and carrying a gleam of hatred, Jason raised the branch for a final deadly blow … sweat slime and ghoulish intent gleaming on his face as he prepared to swing. She heard him grunt as he strained, then the branch came in hard and shattered a portion of the windshield. Cubed fragments showered in and when the branch pulled back a hole the size of a fist remained.
Dropping the branch, he retrieved his machete. He threw himself up on the hood, his hands slipping and banging as he crawled up to the hole. Raising the machete, he began hitting the edge of the hole with its butt. Blunt stars of shining fake glass flew in as he enlarged it.
Rosemary's eyes widened with horror as the hideous face stared in at her. Foul breath touched her nostrils. She felt like crying and vomiting at the same time, but did neither. Instead, she raised the Glock, pointed it at Jason's forehead and pulled the trigger.
Death was instant. His face exploded like a red melon and his body slammed on the hood. She saw his fingers trail blood and twitch as he slid off the car and into the leaves.
Her hands stung from the recoil but shock kept the gun hard in her fingers. She remained frozen for a few seconds, then the side window shattered, a hand reached in and grabbed her hair and she fainted dead away.
Tam kicked Jason's tattered shoulder, rolling the crushed skull face up. The exposed flesh, rot and oozing brain matter made him shiver. He shook his head in disgust - all that work done in creating a zombie and it couldn't even handle a pregnant woman. So much effort had been put into it he felt like crying, and then like beating Rosemary to death for spoiling his work.
The mixed emotions confused him momentarily then he spat and decided the body was too close to the driveway and rolled it back out of sight in the heaps of damp leaves. Getting to his knees, he shoved the dead doctor under the car.
He turned to Rosemary and his anger became a cruel smile as he studied her limp form. Now that he had her tremendous relief swept him, and it was followed by an even greater power of wind that swept the door shut as he was reaching inside. It closed hard on his hand and he howled and stepped back. Tightening his lips to a white line he moved forward to open the door and pull her out.
He dragged her carelessly and she flopped limply in the deep grass. It was hard to move anything in such a strong wind so he rolled her onto her back, took her arms and began pulling her like a sled on a downhill track to the totem. His direction was against the press of the gale and it cut his movements to the speed of molasses.
Gazing up at the unforgiving sky, he saw clouds racing over the moon in a continuous pattern of wings. They beat down as a dark force that roared through the trees, creating a swaying, rubbing and creaking of branches -- frightening alien sounds that would terrify a common person. Tam heard them as a siren sound of the angel.
Halfway down the hill a fist of wind ripped up the rise and slammed him with wet leaves and filthy dust, and he spat, perversely enjoying the taste of the mud. After a moment's pause he pulled Rosemary over some exposed tree roots and on to the bottom and the totem.
Tam looked barely human. He was covered with stains and dirt from many days of living outdoors and in the warehouse. Yet in his mind, a state of euphoria and power was rising and he felt himself to be the pinnacle of human endeavor.
His eyes returned to Rosemary's pregnant body and instant rage coursed through his veins. His vision penetrated and he saw a hideous male creature baring its fangs beneath her flesh. Resisting the urge to pounce on her and stab the thing to death, he kicked her legs then handled her roughly as he tied her left wrist to the totem.
He tried to revive her with a sharp slap. She stirred but failed to awaken fully. This caused him to frown. Killing her while she was awake would be so much better, but it wasn't necessary. The job had to be done, so if she didn't come around soon he'd have to finish her in her sleep.
He hadn't lit the ceremonial lamps and his dagger had to be prepared so he turned from her and pulled out his lighter. Raising the stained glass, he lit the first wick, then he stepped back and let the light fill him with its radiance. He noticed that the lamps weren't in a proper circle so he took time to arrange them before he lit the rest.
Gusts of wind came in and steadily jabbed him back. Finally, he had to crouch to keep from being blown away. The lamps rattled in spite of their heavy supports and he began to worry that if he didn't finish soon they’d be shattered. There was also the possibility of trees falling and destroying the circle.
Tam reached for his angel wing dagger and came up empty. He groaned in frustration as he realized he'd left it back at the warehouse. He couldn't finish without it so he turned and ran up toward the fence. Thistles whipped at his ankles, knuckles of wind rumbled along the fence boards and a loose timber at the end slammed back and forth with heavy thuds.
He slipped through a gap in the broken boards and looked around the hydro yard. A few emergency lights cast a faint and eerie orange glow. A roof had torn away from one of the sheds and shingles and tin were strewn across the grounds.
A chunk of rotten plywood cracked underfoot as he stepped behind some stacks of bound crates. He went down the row and emerged at the main storage shed and entered it through a side door. A warm putrid stench wafted through the room and he gagged as he moved along the shelving in the darkness.
Light from an emergency spotlight flooded through the glass, illumining the central area. He spotted the angel dagger where he'd left it - stuck into a crate board. Hurrying over he pulled it out and as he turned to leave, he saw a van cruise up and park in the warehouse lot. He edged over to the window as the headlights went out and a lone worker emerged. The interior lights showed no one else in the vehicle.
The man hunched against the wind as he walked toward some rolls of heavily insulated cable. Tam watched him like a predator while he made a decision on what action to take. He decided that he didn't want anyone in the way so he grabbed an unhinged safety door from a stack by the wall and threw it through the glass.
Brilliant shards burst into the small spotlighted area. The wind caught the door as it fell to the gravel and sent it skidding a ways across the lot. The burly worker turned, his gaze focusing on the explosion of glass. He watched the door slide and didn't see Tam at all. A situation Tam took advantage of as he leapt through the frame and threw the dagger. His motion was liquid, his toss strong and accurate, catching the guy in the chest near the heart. And death came so quick that the flat press of the man's lips remained and he never got a chance to reveal either pain or surprise. He lifted his arms partway up then he fell on his face like a statue kicked over by the wind.
Tam pulled the dagger from the corpse and ran so fast he was panting as he dodged through the fence. The whoosh of wind almost lifted him off his feet then darkness and the circle of colored lamplight filled his vision and he felt the magic of the Night Angel and the powers of evil tongues descend. He began to chant softly as he headed over the rough ground to Rosemary, the wind tearing his words away as he uttered them, like they were treasures snatched for the gods. Air currents above shrieked in a long cry and the Night Angel took shape out of icy clouds. Its hood of darkness shrouded the trees and its wings added a cutting edge to the winds.
The power of the spell woke Rosemary and the eternity of loss that awaited her grew as an emotion of deep terror in her eyes. Tam saw an aura of the angel envelop her and she rose as a supernatural vision, inspiring his chant and sending his voice into louder frenzied tones. He lifted fingers and hands that felt like swift wings, ready to fly with the blade, carrying its sacrificial blow to her belly and the growing demon seed.
Closing in he detected subtle agony in her face. Her lips trembled and slipped in and out of a pleasurable grimace. Tam was sure it meant childbirth. He didn’t have time to complete the full ceremony. If he didn't strike now before child emerged from the womb, it would be too late.
His hand and the dagger flew up, flashing a silver arc in the night. His lips twitched and his morbid eye moved as he targeted the blow. He slowly stepped in to strike, and then he saw red dripping on the blade and ended up falling to his knees. Blood from the workman he'd killed in the hydro yard still coated the blade - a taste of murder that the evil child would feed on and use as re-channeled energy to destroy him.
The magic of the chant vanished from his lips like it had never been there. Panting desperately he pulled his flask of water from his pouch and quickly wet the blade. He cleansed it with a strip of linen then he looked up and saw Rosemary's eyes closing … the painful joy of childbirth flushing her face with radiant beauty. He still had time to end it and with her eyes shut the end would come easy for her. He rose on his knees, his body bending with the flexibility of a snake, and he held the blade in both hands to make sure he planted it hard and firm. His muscles unwound smoothly, and he had the feeling of a practiced priest, performing a rite that’d been repeated throughout history. Then he saw something long and black in Rosemary's left hand, her eyes opening wide and her expression shifting from agony to one of anger and revenge.
She pulled the snakelike object up from the grass, and Tam realized it had to be the power cable he'd knocked out earlier to darken grounds … a line carrying thousands of volts that would burn through him if its exposed end touched him. He knew it was death but he was already plunging for her so fast he couldn't stop.
His senses were heightened and warped by the magic of the angel. In his mind the entire scene locked into one long unfolding instant. He had a final vision of deep darkness flowing as Rosemary's power repelled it from the circle of light. He saw her swinging the cable slowly like she was casting a spell from some large magic wand -- a spell that bound his vision to her thoughts.
Meteors showered in the clearing sky. They spun in brilliant rings above the scene like a great natural power as the electric end of the cable snapped to him.
Then he saw himself through the eyes of the Night Angel -- an ugly and twisted man -- eyes full of liquid hate as he plunged with a dagger, carrying the evil of death to a beautiful pregnant woman.
He saw the crackling blue charge from the cable touch his arms and send his body flying left of the totem. A blast of flesh-ripping fire roared as he bounced, igniting his head like a matchstick. Hot blood as black as the angel's vials of poison burst from his eye sockets, nose and lips. His face boiled away and his clothing and flesh burned off in a camera flash of horror. The force sent him on to tumble in the grass like the remains of some blackened voodoo doll, and the winged dagger flew from his hand, carrying some of the charge into an oak tree.
. . . and in death he saw the force of the dagger split the tree trunk . . . the angel wing handle grow and take form as the Night Angel . . . an angel of death and ancient evil. All illusions of the divine vanished, leaving his spirit howling into emptiness as the angel's fangs expanded and swallowed him.
As the wheel of fire consumed him, and he was banished with the angel, he saw a child of the true light emerging from Rosemary's womb, and he heard the sirens of approaching emergency vehicles blasting over the roar of the wind.
. . . . . . . . . . .