- The Spider’s Seven #13: The Absence
- The Spider’s Seven #14: The Enemy
- The Spider’s Seven #15: The Homecoming
- The Spider’s Seven #16: The Dearly Departed
- The Spider’s Seven #17 – The Visitation
- The Spider’s Seven #18 – The Others
- The Spider’s Seven #19 – The Misfits
- The Spider’s Seven #20 – The Setup (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #21 – The Set-up (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven #22 – The Set-up (Part3)
- The Spider’s Seven #23 – The Execution (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #24 – The Execution (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven Annual #2 – The Execution (Part 3)
- Spider’s 7 – Journey’s End
Jerry Galloway stood in the middle of his room, back straight. Dr. Mueller told him that it was a necessary part of his therapy and that he should just ‘breath through’ the discomfort it caused. Jerry didn’t know how any of what Dr. Mueller did would stop the dreams or make his powers go away, but he was a doctor, so he had to know what he was doing.
Mueller was circling him slowly, listening as Jerry recalled his latest dream; the latest destruction he’d seen his powers do.
“I just… I didn’t want him to hit me again and then…” Even after months of doing so, Jerry had trouble describing what happened when his powers kicked in. It made things worse that the doctor insisted that he give as much detail as possible. “I-it was like his hands started to burn. Pieces started to flake off like ash and… and he started screaming while it ran up his arm—”
Something hit the door to the room, not a violent slam, but loud enough to be heard.
“What was that?” Jerry asked, happy to have something interrupt his recounting.
Dr. Mueller scowled at the relief in the boy’s voice and his hand came up to trace the cult fetish hidden under his shirt. He could feel his god’s displeasure about that was well. “Ignore it. Keep talking.” he snapped. Jerry looked at the door, so Mueller moved to stand between it and him. “Continue, Jerry. If you want to get better.”
‘If you want your parents to want you back’ was unsaid this time, though the implication had always been there. Jerry hadn’t seen his mom and dad since Dr. Mueller moved him to Colorado. All signs of relief vanished as he drew in a breath to begin again.
Louder this time. The door actually rattled a bit in its frame.
Jerry opened his mouth to comment, but Mueller cut him off. “Keep talking. I’ll go look.”
Turning from the boy, he stalked over to the door. As he used his ID badge to unlock the door, his free hand clenched into a fist. He could guess what was going on: one of the guards had been paid off by the FBI to listen in on his night session or plant a bug. Luckily, they were a clumsy lot, no match for him if he called upon his god’s power.
Throwing the door open, he saw no one at first and almost leaned out to check up and down the hall before he heard the soft growl.
Sitting before him was a sizable coyote, snarling at him. If that wasn’t enough of a surprise, Mueller found himself wondering why it had a hair brush in its mouth. He’d seen the brush before; an antique looking thing with a solid metal handle. Dr. Gene Cobbworthy had checked it through as a personal item for his patient. Mueller hadn’t seen a problem with that was the girl had shown no suicidal tendencies or a will to hurt anyone with the small bludgeon.
The presence in the fetish stirred. It recognized the animal and did not like what it was seeing. Without Mueller even asking, strength flowed into his limbs.
As if sensing the channeling, the coyote stood and started to back away.
“Oh, you’re not getting away from me.” growled Mueller, his voice an octave lower. His god hated the creature before him and so, now he did as well. And the hate of the Adversarial Force was never a subtle, calculated thing. It was pent up violence waiting to explode.
“Dr. Mueller? What’s going on? Who is that?” asked Jerry, who couldn’t see past him into the hall.
“Nothing.” snapped Mueller, caught up in a thrall. “I’ll be right back.” He turned back to the coyote only to find it surging forward, jaws clamping down on the brush. There was a quiet beep and the coyote whipped its head, sending the brush flying between Mueller’s legs. Before he could question that, those same jaws closed firmly on his leg.
Mueller was beyond thought now, barely registering the door closing and locking behind him, following security protocols. Instead, he reached down and pounded his fist into his canine attacker’s midsection. The creature yelped and scrabbled back out of his range.
As it did, it changed, or at least that’s how Mueller’s mind processed it. In reality, she had always looked like that, just as she had always looked a number of ways. Now, she was showing hm her ancient face. The size of a tiger, her body was all blocky angles and sharpness. Obsidian claws clicked on the hallway tile while her short snout revealed glittering, white spikes instead of teeth beneath all-too human eyes. Grey fur was nearly blue and the copper blush in it became a sunset of orange and her.
Coyote was ready for war.
Jerry Galloway heard the growls and he wished he wasn’t trapped in the room. Any moment, he imagined, whatever was outside would come inside and hurt him. He didn’t have any faith at all the Dr. Mueller could fend it off.
His terrified visions of teeth and claws were sidetracked when a metal hair brush came bouncing into the room. Before he could ask Dr. Mueller about it, the door clicked shut, sealing him in. It took only a moment for curiosity to get the better of him and be bent to examine the brush.
It wasn’t anything special, not that he knew much about brushes beyond his mother expecting him to use his more than he did. But still, it was just a metal handle attached to a metal back that held plastic teeth topped with round blobs of pink rubber to keep the teeth from scrapping the scalp.
Then the handle split down the middle before his eyes, revealing tiny holes. Nothing more seemed to happen beyond Jerry detecting a mild hiss from somewhere.
Warmth started to fill his chest and his head swam. Fear started to seize him, then melted away.
Jerry Galloway looked around and saw instead of the drab room he’d called home for months, the same room, only with a dazzling rainbow sheen that sang silly songs he remembered from his mom and smelled like saw dust like from when he and his dad did crafts in the garage. It had been so long since they seemed so close and he couldn’t help but laugh with pure joy.
And just beyond his perception, like an oily stain that had been growing in the air around him, something recoiled from the boy.
Wendell watched the lock-down icon flashing over the representation of Jerry room on his palmtop. He felt a little bad about drugging a kid and all, but Flo promised the joy grenades wouldn’t have any lasting damage. As sketchy as Flo’s thought processes and morality might have been, she knew grenades and all the components she used in them. Besides, without them, their plan wouldn’t have a prayer.
He switched over to his readout of the sensors in the room. They were reporting normal back to the alarm system that might issue alerts as to the patients’ health, but they were telling him the truth and the slowed heart rate and steady breathing were exactly what Flo had predicted.
“Unless we were screwed from the beginning, Jerry is off the table. Coyote, I’m coming to you. Susan, Tommy: roll now. I need you right behind me. Terrell, how’s it going?”
Terrell hadn’t actually entered the room with Aidan; he wanted no part of getting close to the jar filled with evil feeling ever again. So when The Force started affecting the former and now-restored vampire, he’d already been pushing the door closed and the refrigerator with it.
He put his back against it just as the Strigoi hit the door. The whole wall shuddered and the distinct sound of wood cracking sounded.
After fumbling once, he got the key fob out and squeezed the ‘lock’ button. His reward was a piercing, inhuman shriek. He kept his thumb jammed on that while he pulled out his palmtop. “Just fine, Wendell. By the way: why didn’t you put the grenade trigger on the key fob, jackass?”
“The grenades were all Flo.” said Wendell. “I didn’t know how to wire them in.”
The screen on Terrell’s palmtop came up with a wireframe of a human body with several green nodes on it. As he went to toggle one, another, the one set around the neck turned red. Moments later, a second impact hit the door, accompanied by more splintering door.
“No more shock collar.” came the voice of the Strigoi. “And the second you stop holding the door, I’m going to rip you to pieces and wring the blood out into my throat.”
“Not just a shock collar, asshole.” said Terrell, touching the red node first, then proceeding down the line with the others.
Wendell stowed his palmtop just before entering the lobby of the Rochester Psionic Mental Health and Wellness Center and checked to make sure everything on his person was properly hidden.
“Dr. Cobbworthy?” His false name was a question with more concern on it than he would have liked. The voice that asked it almost made him miss a step. Rochelle Campos was at the front desk.
Wendell knew the scheduling for the center front and back; nurses were never asked to sub in at the front desk. On the one hand, there was pride to be felt at panicking the cult enough with the fake FBI credentials that he’d forced the cult to put their own person on the desk. On the other, Rochelle being at the front desk meant that she could warn Boyd what was coming next.
It was time to improvise.
“Nurse Campos.” He said in the smooth, somewhat flirty manner of the Cobbworthy character, “I’m surprised they’re wasting your talent in the lobby.”
Rochelle sent him a fake smile right back. If he wasn’t an expert in the game, he would have thought she wanted him. “Oh, you know how it is: someone called in sick and we all have to scramble. Damn budget cuts keeping us from having proper full shifts.”
“I hear that.” Wendell nodded, then turned more serious if only slightly. “I… should be scheduled for a session with Jane tonight—though I’m about an hour late.”
At his question, Rochelle turned toward the computer on her desk. Just as Wendell had hoped, she didn’t look like she knew how to use the system. Fear and haste didn’t birth the best plans. While she was flicking through screens, trying to find Cobbworthy’s name on the schedule, he fished a joy grenade from a hidden pocket in his trousers, set the timer to four minutes by touch, and set it down quietly behind the monitor with its nozzles pointed toward her.
After a minute of searching, Rochelle gave up. She really didn’t care and had far more important things to look out for than some random doctor coming in off the schedule. “Oh. There you are.” She lied smoothly. “Go right through.”
“Thank you.” Wendell smiled, though for different reasons than Rochelle could hope to expect. “I won’t be long. I just have to talk to her for about five minutes.”
“Five minutes on the clock.” Tommy said, turning on the stopwatch function on his palmtop. With one hand while pulling their all-black sedan up to the curb in front of the center, just out of view of the lobby. He looked to Susan, “Where’s Boyd?”
Susan was watching her feed from the freckle cam. “Still in the security room. His attention’s still on the guards in trouble though because all the alarms on Jerry’s hall are down. He might turn around any minute and see what’s happening down there though.”
“We go in right now and we walk into the happy gas.” Tommy pointed out.
“Not for a few minutes.” Susan reasoned. “If we bull our way past the front desk, we can be out of the room before the grenade goes off.”
Tommy shook his head. “No, I don’t think it’ll work. Cult-lady might call Boyd, he might run and we’re screwed. I thought the whole point of this was to get the three leaders and take them out?”
“If we don’t go now, we might still lose Boyd.” Susan was already opening her door.
Seeing that he wasn’t going to make her see his point of view, Tommy followed suit. “Son of a bitch, I knew this wasn’t going to go smooth.”
Mueller clenched his fists and held them out to his sides. There was nothing for it now; the threat in front of him was something beyond mere strength. More power flowed from his fetish and the air around him tinted to red, accompanied by a phantom wind that whipped his shirt and trousers.
“Coyote.” He said, speaking with knowledge he hadn’t had a moment ago. “And here I thought the petty, emotional beings of the Blue World lost their power to truly create long ago, binding their great works in chains of metaphor and allegory; restricting them to morality tales and entertainment, smothering them in clay and pulp. Was that not why they needed Amorocca the first time I entered this realm?”
“Those chains were lifelines, keeping us alive for all time, allowing us to pass down through generations and evolve alongside them.” replied Coyote, who was no longer showing any signs of Ida Lane. “Why do you think I’m here now?”
Mueller’s face split into what could not be called a grin, though it showed all his teeth and seemingly more of those than a man’s fair share. You’ve killed beasts of the Green and the Yellow and the White. I am something more. Until this moment, you’ve fought only shadows: allow me to show you the power of a real monster!”
One hand came up, opening to present his palm. The red taint in the air around him flew at her in a cloud of globules of the stuff, taking her off her feet and driving her back against the wall hard enough to send cracks spiderwebbing out from around the point of impact.
But the attack was not just physical: it reached tendrils into her mind—her minds. Coyote was created fearless, especially in the face of monsters that faced humanity, but Ida Lane was still there, still human. The tendrils violated her mind and ensnared her heart. Into her metaphysical blood, it pumped fear that turned to irrationality, that birthed anger, with stoked hatred; pure and undirected.
With part of her rebelling and lashing out blindly, Coyote couldn’t stand again, couldn’t move.
Mueller showed his teeth again and this time, there was the mirth of a grin there. His other hand rose from his side, and while the other continued its assault on Ida Lane, this one was covered over by a crimson miasma that slowly gained form until it became an ax.
The Strigoi hit the door one more time and this time, in addition to breaking wood, Terrell heard a metallic whump as the back of the refrigerator took the hit as well. This was in counterpoint to the tiny firecracker sounds of all the studs on the Strigoi’s outfit cracking open one by one.
Each was releasing a highly concentrated dose of the joy grenade concoction plus a tranquilizer. Wendell had suggested setting them off one set at a time as needed, but then Wendell hadn’t been facing the idea of the vampire breaking free and tearing him apart at the time.
Another thump hit the back of the refrigerator, half-hearted this time.
“What the hell did you do to me?” The Strigoi demanded, sounding as if he were trying not to breath in and failing because he still felt the need to talk. “You dirty son of a bitch. You planned this. You planned this!” The next hit sounded like his was just patting the metal rather than striking it.
“I’m just the delivery man,” Terrell said, calming now that his deadly foe was weakening. From out of his waistband, at the small of his back, he drew a gun. It was an antique: a .357 magnum from 1980; no safety modifications, no tracking device, and no trigger locks. Wendell had picked it up from somewhere and Terrell didn’t want to know where, considering how illegal the thing was. All that mattered was the large caliber and portability. He checked to make sure it was fully loaded and finally removed his back from the fridge. “This was all Wendell.”
“I’ll kill him too.” The Strigoi said weakly. “I’ll stab him with your broken femur.”
“We’ll see about that.” Terrell said, turning. He put one hand on the fridge, ready to pull it open. “Wendell, I hope you and Coyote know what you’re talking about.”
His muscles tensed and he had to pause to steady his nerves. It wouldn’t help to take his shots and miss.
Footsteps came from behind him. In a panic, he whirled, keeping the gun pointed toward the ground.
In the doorway leading into the kitchen stood Anansi the Spider. For once his face was bereft of his carefree attitude and curiosity. His hand was tight around his staff and the bandages wrapped around it writhed violently in the air, matching the ferocity in his eyes.
“Just what in the hell do you think you are doing?” boomed the Spider.
To Be Continued…