ParaVice: Chapter 1
Written by Jeffrey Arce.
Artwork by Jeffrey Arce.
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Edited by Erin Al-Mehairi
This series is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously or are merely products of allegory. All names, characters, places, and events are figments of the author’s imagination, any resemblances thereof are entirely coincidental.
Dedicated to You, Constant Reader.
We are nothing without you.
This story features mature content and disturbing artwork not suitable for all ages. Read at your own risk!
What is coming:
A speeding car screams off the freeway. It stops at last in a violent crash. But the driver is not done running. Battered and bloody he crawls out from the wreckage. A big man. A scary man. But he is racing through the darkness with terror in his eyes. He looks back. Something is following. Something darker and scarier is after him. There is nowhere left to go. The creature is gaining.
KISSED BY THE DEVIL
Incandescent streetlamps burned hazily in the night. They whipped by like streams of fire blazing across the black sky as the car raced along the empty highway. Its ancient gas-powered V8 engine has become a treasured relic, beloved by muscle-car enthusiasts over the ages. Its tumultuous mechanical fury was one of legend, stapled in time with an ethereal wonder. Her roar was loud and fierce, singing a dominating chorus of rage across the heavens. Its passing threw a nearby radar detector into disarray. The glowing orange digital numbers on its interface shuddered like a sleeping machine startled back into consciousness. The speed limit was 75, and the off-ramp that the car was shooting for implored a deceleration with a 35mph limit post sign. The Radar’s flipping numbers at last rested with a reading of 110.
He opened the throttle, performing a sliding, screaming turn after the exit ramp. A downward slope in the pavement launched the machine off its axel, sending it soaring for a split second before gravity ripped it back down onto its frame so violently that a shower of sparks exploded out from beneath. The serpentine-turn ahead was its undoing. The crimson sports car careened on two wheels, punishing them until they howled plaintively, whirling in a ball of dark blue smoke. Then the car collided violently with the concrete dividers. It twisted over the railing, before smashing into the weeds lost beneath the night shadows below. Shattered glass chimed against the thorny brushes and pelted the smoking undercarriage with a ting, and a clang, thunk, and a BANG! There it came to a still in its earthen grave.
For a brief moment the driver was out cold, hanging upside from his seatbelt. The putrid stink redolent of a burning skunk’s carcass is what brought him back. He hacked on it, registering it at last as smoke from the burning heap he was still trapped in. He released himself from his safety harness and crawled out of the overturned wreckage. Bloodied, bruised, and battered, he clambered with anxious determination in his every move. The man was built like a tank but scared as a mewling child trapped in a corner. He was thick-bodied with sinuous muscle. His face had years of damage written into his flat nose, and jutting, scar-calloused forehead, but none of this hard-earned armor could protect him now. Fresh, seething gashes on his head gleamed with hot blood, but he didn’t care. His shoulder was dislocated, and his left orbital was broken, purpling, and swelling shut from the punch that the steering wheel had delivered him only moments ago. He could still see with the other eye, though, and that was good enough.
He needed to escape and fast. The burning car was the least of his worries. Death by fire would be a mercy if he had to choose his fate, but unfortunately for him survival was a hard-wired instinct. Clumsily he bulled his way through the entanglement of sticks, vines, and thorns that snagged at his leather jacket, and oil-streaked jeans. Still he went, desperate to flee the scene. He squirmed out of his jacket, and left it there caught in the entanglement of barbed foliage. His dusky face turned white with dread as fear vied internally with his adrenaline. Bleeding, badly injured, he ran, and he whimpered. New cuts were made into his exposed flesh as he fought through the jagged city shrubs. But that pain eluded him. Every other human code in his mind was temporarily disabled; all but for one: the instinct to evade a predator.
He could see his destination looming ahead. The police station was just peering over the wall of trees before him. In a life he had lived only moments before he fell into his current circumstance, he would have looked to that building the way a mouse would look to a cat, but now it was his only hope for refuge. As he sprang for it, he stole a frantic glance over his shoulder. The night’s shadows were inky and all encompassing, but something was there, he could see it. A spectral shape spilled over the guardrail, and it was moving cat-quick after him beneath the bushes. The light of the moon winked all over its green, purple and pink, liquid body. Its cloak of tattered white flesh was dragging behind it like a bridal train. Long, sharp arachnid legs made of bone and strange muscle hauled it along.
He quailed at the sight of it and spent the last ounce of fuel provided by his adrenaline into his lungs and legs and willed himself to move faster. He exploded out from the darkness, swooning like a disoriented drunkard near startled out of his high. His boots found flat pavement and he corrected his path. A vast visitors parking lot sprawled out before him. It seemed to hang on to the dark horizon forever, but it was all an illusion inflamed by fear. Like the perpetual hallways in those old horror movies, his anxiety was stretching the distance.
The parking lot lamps dotted the way. He dove under the first vacant police truck he could find. He waited and listened. The night air was suddenly languorous. He lay there flat on his stomach, breathing heavy. His heart was drumming faster than a death-metal rock solo. After a nerve-wracking moment in silence he peered around one of the truck’s rear tires to look back the way he came. Nothing was there. The parking lot was empty. But it was a lie, and he knew it. He searched a moment longer, trying to rein in the sound of his laborious breathing. Then suddenly, there was a weighted thud from above, and he heard the cry of metal bending inward and saw the shocks of the vehicle lurch violently. He scrambled away just in time, narrowly escaping a long scythe of bone that came slamming into the ground behind him. Blood and slime hung in ropes off the strange, hideously knobbly alien appendage.
The creature howled in his wake. It came like the rattle from a rattlesnake over an almost human, breathy cackle. The man was running again, screaming, and bawling. He ran straight for the lobby of the police station. There was nowhere else to go. And once in their hands he would soon answer for the horrible crimes he had managed without penance. But life on death row may still grant him a few more years, albeit they will be years spent in a cold cell waiting for his final sentence. Lethal injection seemed like a better way to go than to be chewed up and ingested by a demon.
The graveyard shift never expected their untimely visitor. The big man exploded into the lobby besot on maddening terror and braying about something that was coming for him. He kept yelling, “She’s here! She wants to kill us all! She must be stopped!”
He was a big, beast of a creature to be so shaken out of his core wits by some mysterious girl. But even so, there was no pursuer that they could see. He had to be on dope.
Before long, the startled police officers were there, making a careful move to close in and intercept him. One was speaking to him with a well learned sanguine coolness in his voice, but he was feeling up the stun-gun at his side. The stranger was drenched in terror sweat. He looked like he just ran a marathon. He must be stoned. Being so intoxicated, by god knows which drug, made him potentially dangerous. So, with caution, and a touch of equanimity they closed in around him.
Their soft words muted in his hearing. The stranger saw what the cop leading his pack of dogs had meant to do, but his focus was on the gun harnessed away on the other side of his belt. The officer said once more, “Careful now, let us just talk about this… who’s coming? Who’s after you, sir?” That was the last thing he would live to say before all the lights in the building went out, plunging them into confusion and utter blackness.
Frantic footfalls echoed, scrambling blindly. Commands were shouted, and clothing shuffled. A trade of grunts could be heard, but the sudden, deafening discharge of a firearm quieted all that. As the lights winked back on again, the officers were astounded to find this stranger armed with one of their own commanders issued firearms. He pointed the smoldering barrel of the weapon in a tremulous hand away from them, aiming it intently at the glass lobby doors where only a tranquil night was waiting on the other side. The officer he had stolen the weapon from was lying face down on the tiles, but he no longer had a face. His skull had been perforated, and a pool of blood was leaking out from a massive crater that blossomed on the back end of his cranium. That was their commander.
The officers drew their arms and engaged the hostile visitor. He heard the metallic clicks of weapons readying behind him, but he refused to stand down. He heard an effervescent rise of laughter on a strange wind that gusted outside: it was a woman’s voice and a woman’s laughter. After an intense moment, the officers’ shouts began to take form in his ears. They were telling him to put down the weapon. They wanted him to surrender. Like all the innocent eyes he shut with his hand, it was over. A tear broke from his lashes; he couldn’t remember the last time he had felt a tear there. He said a silent prayer; he couldn’t remember the last time he spoke to God. He turned the barrel under his chin. The mouth of the weapon was still hot. It burned. Kissed by the devil, he thought only moments before pulling down on the trigger.