Dead for Good
by O.J. Anderson
part 1 of 2
The closer they get to the city, the darker it gets. The vans’ headlights come on automatically. Jack gets an uneasy feeling as he takes off his aviator sunglasses. He folds them up and tucks them into his shirt pocket. The caller was frantic and vague, didn’t have the vocabulary to describe what he had seen. Jack thought it sounded like a standard zombie job. But now he is beginning to think differently. Nothing standard about this one.
The Mini City is awash in a cold bluegray hue. Overturned trash cans swaying on sidewalks. Sheets of newspaper tumbling down the streets. Rot. Slumping households and grime-stained buildings. Decay. Hopeless and unfettered decay. Smith navigates the lead van through the streets following the directions clipped to the dashboard. Takes a right on E Street.
Jack points. “There. Up ahead.”
Parked across the street from a dilapidated two level home is an old white station wagon. On the side of the vehicle is printed: Lance The Exterminator. The kid is standing in front of the car dressed in a white jumpsuit. A respirator pulled up to his forehead. In his hand is a spray gun connected by hose to a tank on his back. And clipped to his belt are six bug-bomb canisters. Jack likes him already. The kid waves as the vans pull up. They park on the road in front of the house.
Jack gets out. “Lance?”
“I’m Jack Creed. What’s inside?”
He takes a deep breath. “I’m not sure. I was inside spraying. It was dark, the power’s not on. As I was going around something caught my eye. A quick movement off to the side. A shadowy something. I don’t know. It creeped me out but I kept on spraying and telling myself it was only my imagination. But when I walked into the next room I saw it.” His eyes widen as he envisions it again. “It was some kind of monster. Black. Red eyes. Horns. The works.”
“Were you harmed?”
“I might have pulled a hamstring as I ran out of there.”
Jack nods. Turns to the vans. “Smith, Jones, gear up.” Then to Lance the exterminator: “I take it the premises are vacant?”
“Yes, sir. Been that way for a long time.”
“Mind if I ask why you were in there spraying?”
“A lot of outside investors have been buying up the properties here. They think the real estate market’s going to bounce back in a few years. I get hired every now and then by a group of these investors to do some maintenance. Minor repairs. Spraying. A little painting. I’m trying to concentrate on the spraying now though. That’s where the money’s at.”
“Right,” Jack says. Smith and Jones go running by. “You live here in the city?”
“Used to,” Lance says. “My dad moved us out about eight years ago. Before things got really bad.”
It isn’t long before Smith and Jones come back out of the house. Smith jogs over to Jack and says, “That place is popping with waves. We did a quick search of the first floor. It’s an icebox in there. Carvings all over the walls, high up. Whatever’s in there is big, and it’s gonna be hard to get out.”
Jack nods. Doesn’t say anything. Just stands still for a moment looking at the house. It’s a congested area. Less than a hundred feet between houses. High collateral damage. Too tight for demo. Eventually, he tells Smith, “Let’s get the Hoffman set up. I want to do this one clean. No chances.”
Smith nods vigorously, as though he were hoping Jack would say that, and heads back to the van. Lance asks Jack:
“What did all that mean?”
“Means you got lucky, kid.”
They watch as Jack’s crew sets up the Hoffman device. First, Reynolds and Simms bring out a large black rectangular box, about the size of a foot locker. Along the top of the box is a curved groove and a cable port. They set the box down perpendicular to the house on the walkway leading to the front door. Then comes a large metal ring, large enough to walk through. The ring is affixed into the groove on the box. Stands about ten feet high when it is assembled. A heavy black cable coming from the second van is then connected to the box.
The device begins to hum. Almost imperceptibly.
The final component is then brought forth by Rivers. He wears heavy black gloves and carries a small lead box carefully up to the Hoffman device. Sets the box down on the ground, opens it, and with a thick pair of tongs, he removes a small ball bearing, the size of a standard marble. Rivers places the ball bearing in the center of the large ring, where it remains suspended, and carefully backs away with the tongs. The ball bearing floats, dead center of the ring, facing the house.
“Okay...” Lance says.
“Electro-magnetic field,” Jack tells him.
Rivers closes up the small box and returns it to the back of the van.
Jack says, “Inside that tungsten-carbide ball are three oscillating-polarity x-trons bonded within a plutonium slurry. Once we ratchet up the power that ball will begin to move away from the ring, forming a cone in space.”
“And what now?”
Jack tells the boy, “Imagine laying a hula-hoop down on a bed. You pinch the sheet at the center of the hoop and pull upward. You get a cone. Here, the x-trons will do the pinching. The sheet is the space-time fabric.”
Rivers calls to Jack, “All set, boss.”
“Do it.” Jack takes Lance by the arm and leads him back to a safe distance.
The Hoffman device powers up. The humming grows, but it doesn’t sound like it’s coming from the device; sounds like it’s coming from everywhere. The tungsten-carbide ball starts to move away from the ring. As it moves the area within the ring goes black. A void. Starts as a flat disc, then, as the ball moves farther away from the ring, forms into a black cone.
The house rattles.
“Takes ten seconds to reach full power,” Jack says.
The front steps go first. Rotted, cruddy wood. They rip free and fly across the front yard, straight at the Hoffman ring. Balling up like slips of paper as they near the opening. Then disappear into the black cone. Random pieces of wood go soon thereafter. Roofing tiles. The front door. Siding. Shattered glass. All of it sucked through the ring into the black cone.
When the Hoffman device reaches full power there is a steady stream of house parts flying across the yard, into the hole. The house disintegrates into thin air. Sinks. Cabinets. Whole sections of carpet. Heavy posts. A tub. A flow of chimney bricks. A stove. Refrigerator. Hard wood flooring. Pipes. Wiring. All pulled into the void.
Somewhere within the stream of junk Jack catches a glimpse of it. A large black form. Darker than black. It too disappears into the Hoffman device.
A minute later, the house is gone. The fence behind the house and leaves from the tree begin to go. An old section of garden hose whips by. Jack signals Rivers to shut it down. The tungsten-carbide ball moves back to the center of the ring.
Lance is understandably perplexed. His hand is out to his front, making some unusual motions, as though he is doing some calculations on an invisible calculator. He soon gasps, “What in the...”
“Black hole,” Jack says.
“Say what?” Lance looks all around. No house. “Where did it go?”
“What? You’re telling me it didn’t go anywhere. Are you kidding me?”
“I didn’t say it didn’t go anywhere. I said it went nowhere.”
Lance the exterminator lets the words do a few laps through his mind, a look of befuddlement plain on his face. After a moment he lets the matter drop with a confused, “Uh-huh.”
“Bugs are gone too.”
“Yeah! I guess maybe, right?”
Just then a patrol car pulls up and parks behind the rear van. An officer gets out. Slides a baton through a loop on his pistol belt. He’s a tall one. Rugged looking. Military haircut. Walking up to their position, he demands to know, “What’s going on here?”
As the policeman walks towards him, Jack quickly picks up a vibe--literally: there is a bad vibration coming from the cop. Jack examines his facial features carefully as the policeman passes and tells him, “Nothing... officer. Nothing at all.”
The cop walks toward what is now only a foundation of a house. He stops. Looks around the area. But there’s nothing. Not even a splinter. Then he turns and walks over to the Hoffman device. His eyes trace the perimeter of the ring. “Nothing, huh? And what’s this?”
Jack says, “That’s nothing.”
Noticing the suspended ball, squinting at it, the cop says, “Well, maybe you’ll want to tell me about it after I take you to jail.”
Silence for a moment. Jack then says, “And what makes you think I’d let you do that?”
The cop’s head whips toward Jack. Surprised and angered. People obviously do not talk to this guy with disrespect and get away with it. He tries to move, but it’s too late. Rivers has already hit the switch. The T-C ball bearing moves outward.
Kicking out a leg and taking a deep stance, he tries to fight the pull. His upper body bending to the ring. His clothes tear off like tissue paper. He fights harder. Skin next; it flies off in one smooth sheet, like someone pulling the wrapper off a popsicle. Underneath: a dark gargoyle. Wicked eyes. No lips; just bare, pointed teeth. Black leathery skin. Humped shoulders. It lets out a loud, guttural shriek, face burning with hate.
Jack waves bye bye.
Then, suddenly, like a wisp of smoke, the demon vanishes; sucked into nothingness.
Lance has dropped his sprayer to the ground and is leaning forward, bracing himself on his knees. Heart racing. He was still working on the disappearance of the house, and now this. Between breaths he says, “What was that?”
“Nephilim,” Jack says. “Fallen angel. Demon. Same as was in that house.”
“Hey, boss. You better have a look at this.” Smith and Jones are standing by the foundation, looking down into it.
Jack walks over and looks down inside. Sees the markings on the far wall. Four rows of black symbols. Like they were burned there.
“What is it?” Lance asks from behind them.
Jack doesn’t answer right away. He knew it would be something like this. It’s been a while since he’s read the language of the nephilim, but he gets through it well enough, slowly. It’s a nasty little screed, so Jack tones the translation down a bit for the crew. “It says a few things about death, slavery... all will die who enter here, and so on.”
The words anger Jack. He feels polluted just for having said them aloud. To no one specifically he says, “I think we’ll stick around a little longer.” Jack turns and begins walking to his van when he notices the door of the police car. It actually isn’t a police car. On the door are the words SECURITY SERVICES and a red shield. Jack stops, looks at it, and calls Lance.
Lance runs over to him. “Sir?”
Pointing to the car, Jack asks him, “What can you tell me about this?”
“Yeah, the police have been privatized here in the city. Actually, all the public services have been privatized. But the police are the worst. Every time someone calls 911, they get a bill in the mail. The cops’ rates are higher than most lawyers, and they charge you fees for everything.” Lance takes the respirator from his head and clips it to his belt. “People stopped calling after a while. Cheaper to get robbed. So now what they mostly do is troll the streets looking for people to fine.”
“And who owns them?”
“That would be the central bank, Red Shield. It owns everything. Which kind of makes the Director the mayor, as there isn’t really much of a government to speak of.”
Lance points down the street. At the end of it is a gigantic billboard brightly lit. On one side of the billboard is a huge picture of a bald man with a black mustache. On the right is a quotation.
I want your money. Every penny. — Dir. T. Rottenbugger
“Rottenbugger, huh?” Jack tells Rivers to get the map out. Then he and Lance walk to the van. “Lance, I want you to show me where this central bank is on the map.”
“That’s an easy one, sir.” Lance pokes his finger down onto the city map now spread across the van’s hood. “It’s right there in the center.”
Jack traces his finger along the map until he finds E Street. Points to the intersection just down the road and asks Lance, “That twenty-sixth?” After Lance confirms that it is, Jack looks at the mailbox. Circles its approximate location on the map. Draws a line from the house to the Red Shield bank. Then, next to the house’s location, he writes: E, 26, 193. “We need four more,” he tells Rivers.
“Four more what?” Lance asks him.
“Points,” Jack says. “Nephilim outposts like this one. This is how they mark their territory.” He then explains: “E is the fifth letter. It intersects with Twenty-Sixth Street. The sum of five, two, and six is thirteen. Also, the sum of one-ninety-three is thirteen. All we have to do is look for the confluence of thirteens. They’ll all be an equal distance from the central bank and each other. It won’t take long.”
“Gonna use that thing again?” Lance points to the Hoffman device. Now being disassembled.
“I’d like to,” Jack tells him. “But we have to assume that the cop called this in before he got out of the car. Since they aren’t really cops it’s likely that they don’t follow strict procedures, but we’ll play it safe anyway. That means doing the other four outposts simultaneously.”
Once the Hoffman is put away, Jack wants to get moving. He asks Lance if there’s a place they can hide the vans.
“Plenty,” he says. “Half the city’s abandoned.”
* * *
Copyright © 2007 by O.J. Anderson