His feet flew, ghost swift, finding impossible support on the gleaming patches of ice. They carried him along smoothly - a dark shadow racing with the night as the stars pin-wheeled above. He reached the final row of snowy back yards and approached a high brick wall. Without slowing at all, he went up the wall, skittering like a human fly.
The spotlights hit him, revealing his ski mask and black clothing. Every moment of hesitation was a moment in which he could be spotted, and the boost of fear sent him up the wall quicker than midnight lightning. Several meters up, he came to a large segmented window of colored glass. Cutting out a blue segment, he went through and dropped to the floor.
He still had the glass in his hands. Holding it in front of his face, he looked at the blue vision and laughed. Then he discarded it in a trash bin and checked his tools.
This was the subway, one of the automatic entrances, and breaking into it didn't make him look all that clever … at least not for a terrorist. In spite of that, euphoria swept through him as he worked. With great satisfaction, he set the gate timer back and rigged it to his detonator. It was all very easy; not that he was a genius . . . the planning had been done by other men. His training in the arts of break and enter had made this job possible.
He was almost done when he found a note; a greasy piece of paper wrapped in behind the timer. His eyes slowly absorbed the words, and then he looked at the tiny bits of crystal embedded in his fingertips and began to shake.
It unnerved him so much he had difficulty finishing the job, and when he was done, he went back over the wall in a panic, like a man fleeing demons. He thought he saw the shadow of the devil looming over him in the snowy back yards. But behind the fear, he knew the job had been done, and that was all that really mattered.
At 6:20 a.m., the first bus arrived and a crowd gathered at the locked gates. Five minutes later, a transit inspector unlocked a side entrance and the crowd continued to grow as he failed to free the main gates.
Ice, snow and a leaden winter sky … the wind chill was -10 and the explosion got added to that total numbness and misery of Monday morning. The timer turned over and the heavy metal gates blew off their hinges, punching into the crowd like the mailed fists of an angry god. Ten people became one with the wasteland, and many others would never be the same again. Later in the day city mini ploughs had to scrape frozen blood from the split asphalt.
An Arctic wind howled in the minds of many people, and some prayed their loved ones would find more than ice and cruelty at the end of the world. The same wind howled in Desmond's mind, but it wasn't because of grief. Then out of the howling came the buzz of the phone.
“Well done,” the man said. “The Canadian government has paid the price. Freedom for Haiti! Yes, brother -- freedom!”
Desmond hung up and his eyes fell on the wilted note he'd found while planting the explosives. --BEWARE, Anyone who tampers with this timer. The crystals on it are poison. It is voodoo, the poison of a witch doctor that I bought in Haiti. You have one day to find me and get the antidote, or you will die horribly. -- JAKE the SNAKE.
Black quicksilver swam in Desmond's eyes as he dropped the note. How could this Jake the Snake know that he, Desmond, would one day tamper with the timer? Why would the note be there ahead of him? It could only be voodoo.
Desmond knew of the poisons. They were real and not rumor. He had always hated talk of voodoo and zombie drugs -- hated the stories . . . like the one about Haitians digging up corpses and scooping out mouthfuls of ripe maggots. Another story accused voodoo priests of creating AIDS through abominable sex acts with the dead. Yet as much as he hated the stories, he believed in the power of voodoo. He had seen too much evil. Many of his friends and relatives back home were evil, and he believed voodoo to be the force of corruption.
He was supposed to sit tight and not go out for weeks. Order everything in. If he told the others he'd been poisoned they'd tell him to die with his lips sealed - tell him it was important that he be a hero.
A bar of twilight showed in the crack in his curtains, and it made him feel like a prisoner. By his calculation, he had until 3 a.m., and then death would take him. To hell with it, he thought. Pains were running like rats in his legs, but it wasn't so bad. A few drinks and he'd feel all right. It would be better to go out and have some quiet drinks at a bar before he died.
He threw the curtains open dramatically, like a monster greeting nightfall, and then he stepped back and blinked. A terrible hallucination nearly blinded him. There was no city was outside, only twilight and it slowly formed a huge hideous mask.
Sparks flew from the eyes and it whirled, then it shot in the window and spun like a carousel on the walls. Somehow, it got behind him and he could no longer find it. As he turned in a circle, a terrible thought hit him - the mask was now on his face. He was seeing the world through its power.
Cold twilight fell outside. The streets and buildings were blue and ice cold. Wind whipped over it all with a killer's whistle and razor sheets of hail. People were moving in the hostile streets - zombies, wandering aimlessly … their faces swollen, bruised and hanging with mats of frozen blood and frost. Some had eyes of icy tears, others had only purple holes. They gestured with bony hands, some of them without fingers or arms. A frosting of pus sealed the gashes in their chests and they scraped along on feet that were frozen solid.
Desmond wanted to cover his eyes, but his hands wouldn't obey him. They would only tremble, and when he lifted his eyes from their trembling, he saw other hands. The hands of some hellish creature. They looked like they'd been torn from their arms by a beast with superhuman strength. Ropes of gore and flesh trailed from the wrists as the crooked fingernails scratched at the glass.
A pattern of pentagrams formed in frost as the hands continued to move, and then pieces began to fall, tinkling on the ledge. A moment later the hands were in and crawling toward him.
Stumbling back, he dropped to his knees, staring in frozen horror as the bluish hands reached his legs and moved upward. He watched them settle on his genitals, then he gasped and screamed.
It filled his lungs with pain and the agony silenced him. Out the window, he saw a wolfish devil stride up to the window. He tossed up his black cloak and darkness and arctic cold swept in. A glow from the hands and the red of blood stained his crotch. Madness was upon him, and it was more than any man could bear -- he had to fight this somehow. Crawling to the phone, he dialed an emergency number.
It was 3 a.m. when the emergency crew picked up Jake the Snake. Jake resembled an easy-going type of man with long hair and gold loops in his ears. Though he looked like a subway maintenance man to most people, he looked like a terrorist to the cops. Their questions earlier in the day had been designed to ferret out a confession. Now they were working on another suspect and had to treat him with respect.
“So you're saying there's no antidote?” said the cop at the wheel.
“I'm saying there is no poison. I put notes and bits of crushed glass in all the automatic mechanisms I repair. The idea is to scare tamperers off before they do too much damage.”
“But this terrorist is obviously under the influence of a very powerful narcotic? He's screaming like the suffering is something wicked.”
“It just happens that your suspect believes in the power of voodoo,” Jake said. “When you believe strongly in voodoo it becomes real.”
The cop grinned like he was glad there wasn't a cure, and Jake touched his chest, feeling the amulet he wore under his shirt. The antidote was inside it, but it would stay hidden. He'd already destroyed the poison he'd planted in the other mechanisms, and he planned on making sure that they never identified the structure of the crystals. The weathered face of an ancient voodoo priest appeared in his mind, and it was his stepfather, reminding him that he had to protect the secrets, no matter what the cost.
. . . . . . . . . . .