Authors: William D. Carl
“Hey, robber guy!” Chesya called.
He stepped over the still-quivering bodies of Browning and Wiseman. They were clutching at their throats, tearing the skin away to expose crimson tubes and muscle. Jack opened his eyes as Rick passed, revealing tainted, urine-colored irises.
When Rick reached Chesya and Gloria, he saw that the blond teller was no longer shaking so badly. In fact, if it weren’t for the spooky eyes and the hair sprouting on the woman’s face, she would have appeared almost calm.
Chesya said, “I was holding her, and that’s when I felt the stubble. It just … pushed its way through her skin, like she was growing fur.”
“I felt it too,” Mary exclaimed. “It started beneath her skin, like movement, like her bones were shifting.” She scratched again, as if feeling something in her own skin, burrowing, growing.
“What the fuck is going on?” the male teller shouted, looking down at a fellow employee who had also ceased to quiver. “John, buddy, what is it?”
John was sprouting tufts of hair all over his body. His lips pulled back in a grimace, exposing elongated, sharp teeth.
“Hey, buddy … John? Talk to me, man.”
John launched at the teller’s throat, sinking fangs deep into the flesh and cartilage. He bit, shook his head, and pulled off a large chunk from the man’s neck. The teller fell to the floor, reaching for the severed carotid artery as his blood spurted a gruesome pop-art pattern on the walls. He screamed. Rick and Chesya did too, moving backward, watching as the beast-man chewed the flesh in his mouth and swallowed. His teeth shifted, moved.
When his face began to elongate into a snout, the half-man, half-creature shrieked like a terrified dog in pain. There was nothing human in the sound. Nothing.
Jones lurched awkwardly on all fours, like some newborn wild
animal, and shoved his face toward the darkness outside the glass front doors. Something was happening with his ears.
Wiseman turned himself from his side to a four-legged position similar to Jones’s. His long fingernails click-clacked against the floor, and when he opened his mouth, he exposed shifting dental work, teeth that grew longer and pushed others out of their way, teeth expanding into odd angles, positions impossible for a human mouth.
That thing is not Saul Wiseman,
Rick had to tell himself.
When Jack Browning began to tear his own face off of his skull, the bones broke and reassembled, like tectonic plates.
All this violence occurred in about ten seconds. Rick had stepped back farther into the bank, trying to comprehend what was happening.
“Rick!” Chesya screamed, and he spun to see Gloria trying to stand, backing the brunette teller into the corner. Chesya was a few feet away, closer to him. They united and retreated toward the depths of the bank.
Gloria’s body hair continued to grow at a visible, time-lapse photography rate, and her face had become pointed, almost like a rat’s snout. She rent her clothes, tearing them from her body to reveal withered breasts covered with fur. Her shoulders and arms were muscular, filled with veins. Her lips had chameleoned to black.
“You’ve got a gun, Rick,” Chesya said. “Use the damn thing.”
Amidst the chaos, he had forgotten the Glock, held tightly in his right hand, his knuckles turning white with the effort.
The Gloria-thing took a step toward the woman who was cowering in the corner, tearing at her own skin as though scratching out splinters.
Rick raised his gun.
Chesya shifted toward him.
And the beast that had been Gloria moved fast like a jaguar, grabbing the woman from the corner, tearing a deep handhold into her chest cavity and dragging her behind the tellers’ counter.
Rick didn’t have time to aim, but he fired two shots at her shadow.
Light came in from the street, and Rick and Chesya turned to see Saul Jones and Jack Browning stalking them, still caught in some deranged metamorphosis. Headlights beamed brightly from behind
them, from outside the bank, and their features were enshrouded, a reddish aura surrounding their fur-covered bodies.
Headlights … light into the bank … A car’s heading this way
, Chesya realized.
Right this way!
“Get down!” she shouted, as the lights grew brighter.
She pulled Rick behind the marble tellers’ counter. Tripping backward, Rick caught a glimpse of a police car, a huge Crown Victoria, as it rammed through the front doors of the bank, shattering glass and smashing metal. He thought he saw a hunchbacked shape behind the driver, clawing, clutching; had a vague sense of eyes and teeth and fury.
The car rammed into Jones’s body, smashing his bones, pinning him against its wide grille. When it slammed into the tellers’ counter, coming to an abrupt stop, it sliced Jones in two from the legs down. His face and torso hit the hood, his arms reaching for the spider-webbed windshield. Money flew into the air and dropped lazily, like leaves in the fall.
Rick and Chesya stood from their hiding place to look at the obscene accident. The driver was being pulled through a hole in the metal grille that caged off the backseat of the Crown Vic, pulled by some hulking shadow with yellow teeth. The driver screamed, pleaded, but soon his feet disappeared into the darkness, and the chewing noises began.
Worse, Jones was still alive. He pulled his legless, hairy torso toward the windshield, intestines and other purple organs smearing scarlet streaks across the hood of the vehicle. When he reached the cracked window, he began to slam his gargantuan fists into it. The web seemed to grow larger beneath his pounding.
Rick knew he should be moving, running away from the creatures, but he stood still, nearly hypnotized by the mayhem around him. “What the fuck is happening? What the fuck?”
Chesya pulled at his jacket. “Uh … Rick …”
She motioned toward the tellers’ counter; Browning and Wiseman were slinking around the corner, turning their protracted snouts each way and sniffing. The palms of their hands had grown black pads, and the gold in their eyes flashed.
“Come on,” Chesya said, grabbing Rick’s arm and pulling him to the back of the bank. “I have an idea.”
“What the fuck—”
“Snap out of it, man. Get in the vault. Make a run for the vault.”
She slapped him hard across the face, her own hand stinging, and he stared at her a moment.
The thing that had once been Gloria emerged from the darkness of the corner, blood and gore dripping from its newly formed fangs.
Rick yelled, and they dashed for the vault.
“Go, go, go!” Chesya yelled.
There were growls and footfalls behind them, but Rick couldn’t look back. He knew if he got a good visualization of what was chasing them, he would stop dead in his tracks. He couldn’t bear to see what they were. Not yet. Not in their entirety.
When they reached the vault, they both spun around and grabbed the door, swinging it shut behind them. A hand—Rick didn’t know whose it was—reached in, wiggling its fingers before they were caught in the steel trap of the door. The closing mechanism had been activated, and with four pops, each of the fingers snapped off and dropped to the steel floor, each one sporting black-tipped claws, sharp and deadly.
Rick heard the howling, the shrieks of pain from the opposite side of the door as it shut.
Then, with a hiss and a deep clank that stank of finality, the vault closed, and Rick couldn’t hear anything from the outside. The lack of sound was sudden and ominous.
When the light went out, just as he had always expected when he was a child and stationed at his refrigerator, Rick began screaming …
… and screaming …
… and screaming …
SEPTEMBER 16, 8:00 P.M.
hristian peered through the hole in the window. He had been dreaming about eating a steak dinner, with mashed potatoes and gravy and apple pie for dessert, when a noise from outside the warehouse awakened him.
His body was thin, lithe, still that of a gangly teenage boy, even though he was nearing eighteen. Smoothing back his long, shabby brown hair, he crept closer to the window, peering into the night. Lines that had been prematurely etched into the skin around his ice-blue eyes crinkled with the effort.
He’d been living in the warehouse for the last two months, ever since his father had held him down while his buddies raped him. Situated by the river in downtown Cincinnati, the building was three stories of empty, unused space, thick with dust and spiderwebs. Christian thought it was probably some rich guy’s tax shelter.
Christian slept in the delivery elevator, which was permanently parked on the ground floor. The doors still closed when he pulled on the leather strap, though they protested with creaks and groans. It locked from the inside, and he felt relatively safe there.
Rats and spiders shared his space, sometimes biting him, but usually just ignoring him as though he was an unwanted but necessary distraction, just another messy roommate. He used half a burnt mattress for a bed and kept a small transistor radio, probably constructed in the late seventies; it served as his only real companion when he needed to hear another human voice.
In the daytime, he begged for money on the streets, and at night he turned tricks when things got tough. Sometimes he went without food for a few days, but he always managed to land on his feet.
No matter how arduous life on the streets could get, it was still better than remaining at home, prey for his father and his drinking pals. He would never go back there.
Lately, he had been giving a certain elderly gentleman blow jobs for twenty-five bucks, a shower, and a home-cooked dinner. Afterward, he stayed overnight, sleeping in the old man’s luxurious bed. For the past two months, they had met three or four times a week.
On the other nights, the boy slept in his elevator womb, bundled against the night in flea-infested blankets.
What the hell are those noises?
Christian wondered, looking out the window at the parking lot, which was painted blue from the light of the full moon.
Some kind of animal growling
This past week, the old man had divulged his name, Jean Cowell, and had invited Christian to move into his penthouse on Fourth Street. He worked as a geneticist for a company called Bio-Gen, and he conducted some egghead experiments that Christian would have found fascinating in his previous life. Jean’s apartment was a great place, beautifully decorated, and the old codger was kind enough to him, but Christian didn’t want to be tied down. He only had a few months to go before he was eighteen. Then he would legally find a job and a decent place to live. He didn’t want to hurt the old man either. After all, it was twenty-five bucks for very little work, even if he didn’t enjoy it, even if he’d had to tell the john he was a year older than he actually was. The dinners and showers didn’t hurt, either.
Christian wasn’t gay. He’d had a girlfriend before he dropped out of school, and he often thought about her when he was on his knees in front of Jean. He’d been forced to leave her behind with the rest of his life. In some ways, he hoped she’d found someone else, someone who could make her happy and not drag her through his shitty life. At other times, he resented her normalcy, her problems seldom rising above what to wear to football games.
Something moved on the other side of the window: a man running for the warehouse. He was thin, with a beard, and he wore pajama bottoms and nothing else. He was screaming for help, waving his hands.
At first, Christian thought the man had seen him and was running
toward him, but then he realized the man was fleeing from something. He kept glancing over his shoulder as he sprinted across the parking lot into the streetlights. He wasn’t wearing shoes; his feet were bleeding.
Keeping himself deep within the shadows, Christian peered through the jagged hole in the window. Something large and low to the ground loped behind the man, gaining on him with each stride.
Then the streetlights went out, as along with the electricity in all the apartments surrounding the warehouse. The shape behind the man instantly blended into the darkness, camouflaged by the sudden absence of light.
“Somebody help me!” the man shrieked.
Christian opened his mouth to call the man into the warehouse where it was safe. Instead, he remained silent, unsure whether the man would be just another abuser.
What if he’s just being chased by the cops?
What if I call out and whatever’s chasing him goes after me instead?
His selfishness gave him a pain in his chest, an alert as to how much he had changed.
He watched in horror as the man was overtaken by his mysterious pursuer. In the pale moonlight, some twenty yards away, Christian couldn’t make out any details, but he saw flashes of fur and teeth, golden specks of eye flash. The man’s screams abruptly ceased. Christian could see the front part of him, his head and outstretched arms, but something was crouched on his shoulders and back, something huge …
… and hungry. Christian listened as the creature devoured the man. He was glad the lights had gone out.
Two hundred yards away, on the other side of a chain-link fence that surrounded a parking lot, more dark hulks ran in the road. A car sped past on the street, racing at a good thirty miles over the speed limit, and it looked as if the dark shapes were running abreast of the vehicle. Christian squinted, rubbed his eyes, trying to determine whether his mind was playing tricks.
Suddenly, something reared up, just on the other side of the window, a giant, animal shape, blocking out the moonlight. It sniffed the air, then snapped its head toward the boy. It roared, almost like a bear,
exposing crooked, two-inch teeth, its eyes glowing molten gold in the dark.
Christian cringed, cursed, and retreated to the delivery elevator on the opposite side of the warehouse. He could lock himself inside if he could only reach it before the animal got to him.
Behind him, the window shattered and something heavy landed inside the room with a thump. It roared, deep and guttural. And then it chased after Christian.