In His House
by Peter A. Balaskas
Table of Contents
Part 1 appeared
in issue 262.
|part 2 of 6|
A mysterious “Event” has unleashed blistering storms that have trapped a man in a kind of hotel. He finds himself in the company of others who have mutated into physical and moral monstrosities. As the protagonist moves through his strange environment, he struggles to remember his past and his forgotten identity.
The older woman’s frightening composure wavered. The scarring on her left shoulder still restricted its movement. Her face shrunk back into its normal shape. Only her eyes remained black. Christine noticed Kat hadn’t totally submitted and she added, “Go back inside. Manny is about to fill the hallways again so I would run if I were you.”
Kat’s pointed face twitched upon the girl’s demands. She looked pleadingly at him; her eyes returned to cow-brown once again. When he remained impassive, she hissed and ran back to the house.
Christine glared at the running figure as though she was targeting her next prey. As soon as the door was shut, her claws shrunk back into her fingers. She turned back to him, eyes wide with concern. “Are you okay?”
“You didn’t have to do that. I could’ve handled her.”
“Then why were you backing into that?” she asked with a smirk, pointing at the tempest.
He laughed, then walked towards Christine. The closer he approached, the deeper his love for his surrogate sister became. Every time he was in her presence, all emotional poison seemed to be temporarily siphoned from him. He felt that kind of relief from Francis as well. He stood in front of her, stroking her silken hair. “What brings you out here?”
“Francis wants you to see him.”
He frowned. “He’s awake? I didn’t hear any music this morning.”
“He’s working on a new piece; and he feels music would be wrong for some reason.” She paused, then added, “I saw you holding a picture earlier. You were talking about it to Kat. What is it?” He pulled out the photo and handed it to the girl. Christine studied it for a few seconds before she nodded and returned it to him. “She looks pretty... and sad, too.”
He nodded as he placed the photo in his pocket and they strolled back to the house.
“Thinking about leaving again?” she asked.
He looked at her. “Don’t you?”
For the first time since he’s known her, Christine looked fearful. “I don’t want to go alone.”
“You have Francis.”
She turned to him; her fear was replaced with a sad smile, layered with a subtle edge of guilt. “He won’t leave because of you. And neither will I.”
He avoided her pointed gaze and focused back to the house. He wished he didn’t need her help, or from Francis, either. At least they could defend themselves. He wanted to be like his friends, adapted for the New Age of Man. Besides a partially erased memory, the Event physically transformed his fellow tenants. Some can hide their mutations more than others. Francis, Christine, and Kat — “Norms” as he would refer them — were those that can call upon it at will, yet can still recall their full human appearance. Cainye and Minque — the “Partials” — always displayed some physical mutations without losing their total humanity.
Although he only saw Kao once, he guessed he fit into the “Norm” category. Manny T? A lost cause. Leech? A total mystery. Although never seen by anybody, the force bubble on his door preventing intrusion was a good sign it was conjured by the landlord himself. He doubted it was created by technological means. He touched the bubble and although it didn’t harm him, the shield had an organic feeling behind it, like it was indeed connected to some malevolent presence.
Everyone was a physical adaptation of The Event; all except him.
He knew with each passing day his normalcy made him a target for every monster residing in that house. Only Francis and Christine’s protection had kept him in tact, and that sort of helplessness crawled through his skin like worms patiently burrowing paths through the earth.
He looked down at his little protector. “How are you doing today?”
She frowned. “I’m feeling perplexed.”
He smirked; the paradox between her mature mind and child-like form was jarring at times. “Okay, why are you feeling perplexed?”
Her delicate face seemed to harden. “I found something strange in my room; it bothers me.”
“If it bothers you, get rid of it. Or have Francis help you.”
She shook her head. “It bothers me because it’s... mine, somehow. And I don’t remember why.”
A chill made him rub his arms. He thought about his photo, the same feelings he had. “What is it?”
When they approached the front door of the house, Christine beckoned him to bend down. When he did, she whispered in his ear, “After you see Francis, come by my room. He knows about it, too. I think it’s the reason why he wants to see you.”
He nodded, and as they entered the house, the Ring of Pain returned to full glory, causing him to lean against the wall. Christine ran upstairs, and the moment she reached the landing, she disappeared down the left wing of the house where her and Francis’s rooms were. He straightened up and tentatively breathed in the lobby air, recoiling from the pungent odor of digested food. Fortunately, the gas must have been present long enough to slightly dissipate. If it weren’t the case, he would have been unconscious.
He started upstairs until he caught sight of Manny, who gleamed a toothy smile as he called out in a deep voice that seemed to resonate throughout the lobby, “Ah, good morning, kind neighbor! And how are you doing today?”
He stopped and gave a small grin. “Well, I’ve been here for about twenty seconds and I haven’t passed out or vomited yet. So, Manny, I’m doing fine.”
Manny T beamed. “Yes, well, I wish I can say the same for Cainye. He was standing where you are until I released my Fog of Defense. It nearly knocked him off his feet. Hee hee hee hee.” Tears from his eyes poured down his bulbous cheeks as his body quivered with enjoyment. He shook his head. “Ah, some people never learn, kind neighbor.” He paused as he regarded his fellow tenant, almost examining him. “Before you visit Picasso and that lovely Kewpie Doll, I was wondering if you could spare a moment of your time.”
His eyes widened. “I would very much like to talk to you. Anything wrong about that?”
“You don’t talk; you excrete.”
The mammoth heap laughed, “I swear, the longer you have been here, the sharper your wit. It cuts right to the bone.”
He chuckled. “With that body of yours, I doubt anything could cut you to the bone.”
Manny T’s laughter continued until he calmed himself and answered, “My dear, kind neighbor. Oh, how I do like you. But we need to converse about our respective futures here, because believe it or not, they are intertwined in more ways than one.”
Manny T’s gigantic form fidgeted. “This requires discretion. Enter my domain,” he said as he beckoned him with his plump fingers.
He hesitated, unconsciously tapping on the banister in thought. Although Manny wasn’t aggressive like the others, that didn’t mean he was an ally. He scowled at the obese tenant. “You let one loose and I’ll send both Christine and Francis after you.”
Manny raised his fleshy, adipose-saturated arms in surrender. The mound shuddered. “Now, now. There is absolutely no reason to be hostile. Despite my intimidating presence, I can be civil. You do not need to mention your friends, especially your Kewpie Doll. My God, looks can be deceiving.”
He grinned. “And obvious to others.” He crept down the stairs and took each step towards the kitchen with such care as though he was about to step on a landmine. He paused a few times, waiting for Manny to release a bomb.
The odor from his last one still lingered, and the smells from the blob’s body were adding more fuel to the olfactory fire. He took off his shirt to cover his mouth and nose. When he was able to breathe without difficulty, he entered the kitchen.
Manny T was still one ton of flesh; the radius from the outermost layer of his belly to his spine was at least ten feet, taking much of the thirty-by-thirty room. Each flabby role looked like a gigantic step that served as a flesh staircase up the organic pyramid called Manny T. And the big man’s yellow irised eyes gleamed like topazes. He glanced at Manny’s sleeping twin, wondering if his eyes matched as well. “Okay, talk.”
Manny steepled his fingers. “I saw Kitty Kat run through here. She wasn’t particularly happy.”
“She had to walk through your stench. What do you expect?”
Manny T shook his finger at his guest. “I can tell the difference between repulsion and rejection, kind neighbor. And when I saw you and Kewpie Doll walk in, I concluded there were some problems with Kat again.”
He sighed. “What’s your point?”
“My point is Kewpie Doll and Picasso can’t protect you forever, no matter how hard you wish for that to happen. Although I am immobile, I can see and hear all, kind neighbor. Cainye, Minque and Kat have been more determined to perform some considerable damage to you. The reason, as you can probably ascertain, is your aloof behavior. It is a type of behavior which projects a subliminal message, a message which states, to put it bluntly, ‘your crap smells better than the rest of us.’ The fact you have no powers excites them even more to the point where their violent reactions becomes almost Pavlovian. Your friends will eventually drop the ball and no one will be able to save you.”
He knew Manny T was right, and he resented him for that. The encounters with the others have been more frequent and dangerous. They will eventually get to him. He rubbed his temple. “What do you suggest?”
Manny T hesitated, then spread his hands out in welcome, “Move in with me. The house generated that over there.” He pointed to a gas mask in the corner of the kitchen. “My Fog of Defense will keep them at bay, you can indulge in the exquisite cuisine the house prepares for me, and whenever you leave the house, my domain is considerably closer than where your friends reside. You will be safe here.”
He closed his eyes. “Bye, Manny T.”
Manny waved his hands. “Wait a minute! This is not a trick. I am not against you.”
“You aren’t exactly for me either.” He looked at Manny’s eyes. It was easy to recognize an ulterior motive. “What do you want in return?”
Manny T frowned. “My dear neighbor, you wound me. I am only trying to do a good deed.”
“Drop the act, Manny! What do you want?”
Manny shrugged as he looked down. He muttered, “Your company.” He turned to his guest, his somber face deepened even more. “You may be vulnerable, but at least you have your friends. I am a very powerful person here, but I am also lonely. It would truly be a blessing to have someone here to keep me company, talk to me.” He cleared his throat. “Maybe even clean me up, massage me.”
His stomach churned. “I won’t be your bitch.”
Manny’s raised his hands. “No no! I do not mean that! I am just saying it would be nice to have... an actual friend.”
“You have him,” he said, pointing at the sleeping head.
The big man turned to his other half and guffawed. “He is as useless as my legs. I can never wake him up. Maybe it’s just as well. We would probably fight over the food.”
He laughed underneath his crumpled shirt. “Maybe you should stop eating that garbage. That might solve your problem.”
Manny’s face darkened; his golden eyes flared. He forced a grin as he answered in a low, measured voice, “Dearest neighbor, I am afraid I have to correct you on your assumption. The food is... not... garbage. It is manna from heaven, a gift from the house. I am eternally grateful to be blessed with such treasures.”
He raised his hands to calm the giant. “Hey, Manny, I understand.”
“No, I don’t think you do,” he answered with a soft intensity. Manny T leaned forward, as though he were about to roll on top of him. “The condition that I am in right now is the price for the pleasures I savor and for the power I will always have. Despite my lacking memory, I know I had power before, and these gifts will assure that I will continue to do so.”
He began to drool, his polite smile transformed into a look of hunger. “My problem does not lie with the food; it is everyone’s lack of understanding, tolerance and respect for the position that I most certainly deserve. So be aware of your place and the language you utilize in my presence.”
He stepped back and clenched his fists, trying to prevent them from shaking. Although the fat man seemed calm, the level of insanity was brewing within his volcano-like body.
Manny T’s eyes diffused to placidity. “Now, I am sure you are sympathetic to my frustration, kind neighbor.”
He swallowed. “I certainly am, Manny.”
The fat man beamed his usual, welcoming smile. “What I am offering you is a safe haven, a merger that will benefit both parties. It will be a better life, I assure you. What do you say?”
He paused, more out of courtesy to Manny T rather than actually contemplating the offer. He shook his head. “Thank you, Manny. But I’ll be okay.”
He left the kitchen, and as he approached the stairs, he kept waiting for Manny T to respond, whether it would be cheerful or full of outrage. Instead, he was greeted with an unexpected, uncharacteristic silence. But it was an answer just the same.
He climbed the stairs and the moment he reached the landing, he saw Minque slink from her room to the railing. Her black crinkly hair, emerald green eyes and toned body could drive any man to sell his soul to possess such a creature. She moved like a stripper, or simply maybe someone who was so comfortable with her body every movement had only two purposes: to exhibit and to lure.
None of the others knew what she did before The Event; but soon after it happened, her movements and her form were accentuated. She was still human in all aspects except for the pointed ears, the fox-like tail, and a thin coat of fur that covered her entire body. Her speech composed mainly of whines, barks, and growls, and her canines became longer and considerably pointier than the typical human female.
Her sex drive exceeded the average of any life form, so much so she doesn’t sleep, and her room is the only one that doesn’t have a food generator. He soon realized every time Minque had sex with anyone, her dark, nubile form seemed to be revitalized.
Dressed in a tight red t-shirt and denim shorts, her green-eyed gaze stopped him in place on top of the stairs. He never had her before, and considering whom she’s been with, he never will. But he was always tempted by her presence, clothed or not. Her pelt glistened with sweat, and spots of dampness appeared on various parts of her shirt, especially where her nipples had conveniently become erect.
She prowled towards him, lips revealing a lustful grin, canines going up and down, tail whipping from side to side. She dragged the nails of her left hand across the railing until it met with the banister, pausing, then reached out to him.
He knocked her hand away, causing her to yelp. “Back off, Minque. I heard you with Cainye and Kat earlier. Go play with them.”
To be continued...
Copyright © 2007 by Peter A. Balaskas