Chapter 3 – Nina

The following was found in a Manila envelope that had been wedged in our back door. I didn’t ask for a contribution or a collaboration from anyone and Nina was the last person I expected to voluntarily throw her two cents in.

The following doesn’t exactly paint me in a the best light. However, If I’m being completely honest, it does clear up a lot of things that would otherwise not make a whole lot of sense otherwise.

So, yeah…go! Read!

Chapter 3 – Nina

At first it was just an empty pharmacy at 3am. Then there was static. Then there was Dave. “Fucking Dave…” Nina thought to herself as she wound the video back to the start and played it again.

Nothing.

Static.

Dave.

“Did he come through the ceiling?” she thought to herself. “There’s no possible way he’s smart enough to figure out something that…physically demanding”

She fast-forwarded through what without audio looked like a child of 3’s best attempt at impersonating the cartoon Tasmanian devil to the moment that Dave started having what appeared to be a seizure. She saw herself run back into camera frame and try to check on him and then just like when Dave had appeared, static. Then it was just her standing there looking bewildered. Dave was nowhere to be seen. After years with Dave she knew this must’ve been some kind of trick. Some new elaborate way to torment her.

He hadn’t taken the break up well and had always been the most spiteful and vindictive when they fought. She wondered if her leaving him could actually push him to do something this over the top just to get back at her.

The people from her department didn’t think much of her quasi-supernatural recounting of the incident in her report, especially after the reports given by the other officers on the scene mentioned that she had apparently known the suspect personally. Her higher ups all agreed that the most logical explanation was that Nina had let Dave go and because of this, she had been placed under review pending action.

She’d offered to go and arrest him, again. After all they did have him on camera burglarizing the pharmacy, but she was given instructions not to make any contact with him. Apparently the damage had been done and their focus was on punishing her, not punishing him.

Nina wound the tape back again as the shadow of her commanding officer loomed over the desk. She pressed pause.

“Got a suspect in interrogation 2 needs shaken down about the gang he’s affiliated with. Real nasty motherfucker, face covered in tattoos an’ scars. You want first crack at him” Her commander asked as a leering grin slowly exposed his mangled teeth.

“Absolutely sir!” Nina closed the laptop with a smile and gathered her things. This was her favourite part. If there’s one thing she was good at, it was rattling people’s cages and making them accidentally tell the truth. Years spent working her way through Dave’s labyrinth of lies and half-truths had sharpened this skill greatly.

As they began to walk out of the small office her commanding officer turned around, putting his arm across the doorway blocking Nina’s exit.

“You know, he’s handcuffed, shackles actually. The kind that lock into the table” he informed her.

“Good to know sir. Thanks for the info” she replied wondering why he’d bothered to share this with her. It was pretty standard procedure.

“Yeah, yeah, doors gonna be double locked. You got that reinforced shatter resistant glass.” He continued listing the security features.

“Sir, I’m not sure I follow.” Nina asked, but she knew what was coming next.

“Well, I just want you to be sure you can handle it before I send you in there” his grin was getting bigger now. “I mean, that guy’s going nowhere unless he can teleport himself out of the damn station now is he?” Her commanding officer burst out laughing and along with him 3 other officers who had been hiding behind a cubicle wall the whole time.

“Assholes!” she thought. “Fuck them, fuck all of them. And fuck Dave. This was all his fault”.

“HAHAHA! Don’t worry about it Ramirez, we’re gonna let a cop worth a shit take care of this. I just came down to tell you that a little bird told me about your review, and word has it this time tomorrow, you’re gonna be suspended without pay.” He glared at her with his smug eyes showing off his graveyard smile “why don’t you take off early tonight and let us handle the police work ”

Nina felt that tingling feeling in the bridge of her nose and swore to herself that she would under no circumstances cry. She simply said yes sir and made her way to the locker rooms.

As she changed out of her uniform she decided that she wasn’t going to let Dave get away with this. She’d given too much of her life already to him and his peter pan complex and wasn’t going to let him spoil any part of her future now that she’d gotten away from him. The problem was, she had no idea how to even begin to broach the subject. “Hi Dave, please explain to me how you blinked out of existence after I caught you ransacking a pharmacy, then turn yourself in so I’m no longer the laughing stock of my job”, it sounded crazy. He could just deny it and she’d be left looking like the insane person. No, she needed to plan; she needed to go somewhere she could think.

Nina didn’t want to go home. Home was just an inflatable mattress and boxes of things she’d gotten out of Dave’s house. It was the loneliest place she could think of. What she needed was a familiar place she could sit quietly and think, the Hunters Edge Tavern seemed like the perfect place at a time like this.

It was the bar her and Dave used to hang out, now it was a place that she went to get away from him. He’d been banned from the place after he assaulted a local homeless man who made wacky balloon sculptures for tips to buy drinks with. One day Dave developed an irrational hatred for the guy. There was nothing to it, Dave just suddenly decided he hated ballon art and the artist became his mortal enemy. One night, in the midst of a Tequila fueled rampage, Dave had reached his irrational breaking point and attacked him. She was thankful he had, though she did feel bad for Balloon Guy, she was happy to have a place that was a guaranteed Dave free zone.

The Hunters Edge could host, at a squeeze, about 50 people, but there was rarely more than 10 people there even at the busiest of times. At 4am, there were only 2 cars in the lot and she pulled her squad car up to a front spot with no hindrance. She liked doing this, she knew that every degenerate in this bar all sat up straight going through their mental rolodexes trying to pin point the crimes they’d committed that weeks that would warrant a visit from the police at this hour. Nina laughed to herself as she pushed through the front door.

“Well, well, well! Aren’t you a sight for old eyes!” The regular graveyard bartender, Artie, welcomed Nina in with a smile “At this hour I imagine you’ll be having the usual?” he asked, delighted to see Nina as always.

“That would be fantastic Artie, it’s been a real shit of a day” she made the kind of pouty face a little girl makes after she see’s something like it in a Disney movie.

“Coffee and a bowl of Frites! Your corner booth is open darlin’, I’ll bring it right over” The Hunters Edge had the best comfort food. The frites were Nina’s favourite. Even though she was sure they were just frozen French fries from the grocery store she loved the fact that Artie called them frites and served them with his attempts at different flavoured aioli’s.

Artie dropped the coffee off and Nina stared at her reflection in the dark liquid that filled her cup. She tried to give herself a pep talk but instead the tingling in the bridge of her nose came back and she let a few tears seep from her eyes and roll down to the tip of her nose.

Nina thought about her asshole coworkers. She wondered how they could turn on her so easily? Until this point she’d been an exemplary officer. Back in police academy she came top of her class, excellent in the field, and all her paperwork was perfect. Every time. How does one small turn her into the butt of the entire stations jokes? She cringed at the thought of hearing another one of those pricks ask, “wait, did you used to date this one?” again before she cuffed someone.

She didn’t let Dave escape, Dave didn’t even escape on his own; he vanished Right before her eyes. It was like he’d never been there at all. Then she had to try and explain that to the 2 other officers, which is when her whole life started to feel like there was a building falling on top of it. She wished she’d kept her mouth shut, said he’d bolted on her out of a back door. Maybe then this all wouldn’t be so bad.

“Fucking Dave!” she’d found herself thinking that a lot lately. Each time came with a warm wave of anger that grew larger and larger every time she experienced it. This time the wave was huge.

Nina took being a cop seriously and went out of her way not to truly abuse the power of her position outside of spooking the scumbags at the bar and maybe using the siren to skip through the occasional stop light, but damn it, she was the police, she still had her badge and she still had her a gun. She didn’t have to ask Dave nicely to turn himself in. She would tell him to.

Nina took one last sip of her coffee, left a twenty dollar bill on the table, and took off for the for the door just as Artie emerged from the back with a large steaming bowl of Fries.

“Where ya going?” he yelled to Nina “What about your food?”

“Sorry Artie, I gotta run, something came up” she called back to him “I left money on the table, you have them!”

Nina bolted for her car. She was running on adrenaline and rage, slamming the car into reverse and spinning the tires as she put her foot on the gas pedal. A dust cloud kicked up as she threw the car into gear and took off out of the lot narrowly avoiding a collision with another car pulling in.

As she sped down the road she ran hypothetical conversations in her head, what she would say to Dave when he came to the door. Saying phrases out loud over and over with different tone and cadence.

“NO! You’re coming with me now!” she yelled at nobody “NO! YOU are coming with me RIGHT. FUCKING. NOW!” yeah, that was it. If he tried to protest she’d just arrest him for one of the plethora of crimes he was surely going to be blatantly guilty of when she arrived.

“I don’t care Dave” she practiced “I DON’T GIVE A SHIT DAVID!”

Nina pulled up at the light a few blocks from Dave’s house and continued yelling at an imaginary version of her ex until she was distracted by a middle aged white woman wearing what seemed to be pajamas running through the intersection in front of her.

The woman was clearly in distress, but why? The cop in Nina woke up, throwing the car in park and getting out to investigate. She looked to the right, the woman still sprinting for her life and screaming like a mad woman. Then she looked to her left and saw…

“Bryce?” He didn’t reply.

She knew Bryce through Dave. He was one of Dave’s many many “friends” he used to not pay for drugs through. Outside of that and his name she didn’t know much about him. He moved like he was wasted. She’d seen him incredibly intoxicated at bars before, but she’d never seen him this trashed. He barely looked conscious.

Bryce just sort of stood there slightly swaying from side to side. Nina looked back at the woman who despite her efforts wasn’t gaining all that much ground. Then she looked back at Bryce who hadn’t made a sound, but had somehow gotten about 4 car lengths closer to her in the split second she’d looked away. It was now a mere 20 feet away from her and crouching down on the ground.

“Bryce, I need you to tell me what’s happening” Bryce just stood there, not saying a single word. Nina felt uneasy.There was an unusual clicking sound coming from Bryce’s direction. She couldn’t take her eyes off of him.

Now he was closer she could see him more clearly. She could see that he looked all wrong. Like a bar artist rendition.

Blindly she stepped backwards, into a better position to jump back into the driver’s seat.

“Go.” A small voice in the back of Nina head piped up. It was the same voice that had been rehearsing its skills in intimidation by screaming obscenities at a hypothetical Dave a minute ago. Now it was calm, collected. It came from that place deep inside you that knows you’re in trouble before you do. The part of you that pushes your body to act before your brain ever has a chance to process the action.

“Get back in the car and go. Now.” The voice in her head instructed and she edged backwards even further as the little kid, or whatever it was looked as though it was rearing back.

Nina went for it and threw herself back into the car at the exact second it lunged toward her. She slammed the car into gear, spinning the wheel to turn the car in the direction of the fleeing woman, accidentally turning on the red and blue flashing lights in the process.

As the car corrected she heard a loud thud from behind her and the car shifted slightly. In the rear view mirror she could see Bryce tumbling on the asphalt. At this angle, it didn’t look like a Bryce at all. The limbs were too long and the body too thin. It looked entirely alien, all stretched out.

The car screeched to a stop next to the woman in her pajamas where Nina threw the passenger side door open.

“GET IN!” She cried at the woman whose face was wrought with fear.

The woman took one step towards Nina’s police cruiser when the Bryce-thing tackled her out of view.

It hit her so fast and so hard Nina almost thought the woman had vanished the same way Dave had back at the pharmacy.

When Nina sat up she could see very clearly in the flashing lights that this thing had never been Bryce, it had always been a monster.

The parts of it that had looked like Bryce were all melting away down onto the poor woman underneath it. Nina could make out the shape of her through the dark translucent blob and she could hear her trying to scream.

The car stayed running and the red and blue lights flashed on. Nina’s mouth hung open and her heart beat pounded in her ears. She didn’t want to watch but she couldn’t look away from the macabre spectacle unfolding before her.

Suddenly the weight of the blob shifted forward and a something, presumably woman beneath it, exploded out from under as the heap of slime seemed to be consuming whatever was still trapped inside it.

The monster heaved slightly and something bubbled out from atop of it rocketing out of the slime and cascading through the air until finally landing on Nina’s windshield with a sound that was somewhere between a splat and a thud.

It was the woman’s face. No longer attached to a scull, the fleshy depiction slid slowly without definition down to the wipers leaving a slick crimson trail behind it.

“Go.” The voice in Nina’s head calmly demanded. “You can’t help her. Go.”

Nina pulled the wheel and floored it into a u-turn. The creature gave her and the car little acknowledgement, hissing at her as the car spun around, passenger side door still hanging open.

Nina sped up the street using all her might to not look in the review mirror. She wanted more than anything to believe it hadn’t happened at all.

Running on auto pilot Nina took turn after turn with precision and stability. She focused on breathing in and out, now was not the time to start panicking. Panicking wouldn’t help anything.

When the car came to stop Nina calmly took the keys from the ignition and placed them on the passenger seat then peered out through the front windshield. The woman’s face was still there. Fixed in place with coagulating blood and an oily slime left from being inside that creature. Nina started to cry.

Not the crocodile tears from the bar, this was a waterfall of uncontrollable crying. Her shoulders jerked and snot poured out of her nose.

This was the kind of crying fit you see in infants who have no idea how to express themselves and just explode in the attempt.

She pounded the steering wheel.

“Fuck…” she burbled from behind the tears “Fuck…” Nina hit the steering wheel again before screaming “FUUUUCK!” With the conviction of a banshee and then all of a sudden the hysteria ceased. Her tears dried, and the calm composure from the drive over crept over her like a cold breeze from an open window…or door, as the passenger side door had never managed to latch on the drive over to…

“Dave’s place” Nina looked around to be certain if her location “Nina, why did you drive to Dave’s house?” She said to herself shooting a look of disapproval at the reflection in the rear view.

Dave’s place had been the initial destination, but after what had just happened she needed comfort, some kind of security. Dave was the last thing she needed. This must’ve been some deep rooted symptom of Stockholm syndrome, a reflex she didn’t know she possessed.

Nina looked up the path at the house, the door was wide open and all the lights had been left on. She knew this was very uncharacteristic of Dave and his housemate Buck, who were strangely prudent about home security. It was the last place she wanted to be but it was the only place she had to go. Nina willed herself out of the car and up the path to the door.

“Dave?” She shouted as she timidly approached the door, hand slowly reaching for her gun undoing the snap.

“Buck?” There was no answer from either as she rounded the door way.

The living room was small, space mostly occupied by a coffee table that was covered with various pull bottles and a large old sectional couch that she’d begged Dave to replace. The space left defined a path along the grey tile floor into the kitchen, but the tiles weren’t grey anymore. There was something dark smeared everywhere. Thicker in some places than others. Looking back over her shoulder she could see it led all the way from the turn to the kitchen back to the front door. Foot prints in heading out to the front yard.

She knew what it was. She’d seen this before. One of those things you see occasionally working as a police officer and don’t quickly neglect to recognize, blood, the floor was covered in blood.

As Nina approached the kitchen she took a deep breath, she’d seen enough blood today.

“Go on three” she thought to herself

1

2

3

Nina turned the corner to the kitchen and in a split second she knew she’d seen enough. Spinning back around and vomiting over the arm of the couch briefly observing it pool into the a dent left in a cushion from over occupancy.

There was barely anything left of whoever’s corpse was in the kitchen and she wasn’t prepared to go back in to more thoroughly investigate.

Nina ran out the front door, leaving it open, and back to the squad car with the dead woman’s face staring lifelessly back at her, street lights beaming through the place where eyes and teeth used to be. She started to cry again.

“Dave…what the fuck are you involved in?”

To be continued…

Chapter 4 – The Brycis

Chapter 3 – The Brycis

Buck and me sat silently opposite each other in a corner booth at a bar called The Hunters Edge tavern. Technically I wasn’t supposed to be there, I had been put on the banned list, I’d been 86ed. This had all been nearly a year ago but I have a theory that you’re never kicked out of a bar permanently, only for as long as it takes for the person who kicked you out to get over whatever it was that you did. It’s completely situational. So how long can you actually be upset with someone for punching a guy who makes a living by sculpting penis hats out of fucking balloons? Hopefully not that long, because this was the closest bar to our house and we really needed somewhere that wasn’t covered in Bryce’s blood to get our collective shit together.

To be certain we wouldn’t be denied entry Buck insisted that I wear some sort of disguise and all we had was this piece of shit mask I wore a few Halloween’s back.

So there we sat, Buck whose face was still covered with ceiling and his anonymous friend known only as Lucha-Wolvie. A genius creation of mine that was a hybrid of a masked Mexican wrestler and the famed x-men character, Wolverine.

Both of us were covered in blood. If it weren’t Halloween weekend people would have lost their minds.

“druph fuph ar re gunuph duh” I said to Buck who rolled his eyes.

“I can’t understand a word your saying through that fucking mask man” Buck replied.

I pulled it up over my mouth “Hey! The mask was your idea!” I whisper-shouted through my teeth.

“If you could stop having imaginary vendetta’s against complete strangers you wouldn’t have to wear the mask, Dave.” Buck said matter-of-factly

“I saw him make a balloon donkey show Buck. A balloon man, fucking a balloon donkey…as a hat! This is a wholesome, family oriented establishment! We don’t need that kinda trash in here!” I replied angrily, I really fucking hated that balloon guy “Now what the fuck are we gonna do about our Brycis”

Bucks nostrils flared. His eyes sunk low. This was what I called his Shame-Face. I’d just pissed him off.

“Don’t start Dave, not tonight. Please” if Buck could have rolled his eyes with his entire body, he would of. He continued his protest through a comically poignant mocking imitation of a high pitched English accent “he’s Bryce, it’s a crisis…” he gave up on the accent “I get it, it’s funny, mostly for you, this is how you deal with things but seriously, not toni…” he was cut off

“Dave! Take that stupid fucking mask off! I know that’s you” it was Artie the grave yard bartender. I’d been rumbled.

“Not gonna give me any fuckin’ trouble are you?” He barked.

“No Artie! I promise” I help up three fingers like some kind of boy-scout salute as I pulled the mask off of my face giving Buck a self-satisfied look and said, as though no one could hear me and we were the only two people In the room “see, my theory about getting banned from places holds up!”. He could tell and flipped me the bird.

“Don’t make me regret letting you back in here” Artie pointed a stern finger at me “pitcher of Coors and 4 shots of well tequila?”

“Each” We said simultaneously.

Ordinarily we’d split a pitcher and have a couple shots each. That first round would either put us where we needed to be or it repeated until Irish whiskey seemed like a good idea and then I usually wound up puking out the window of Buck’s truck on the way home. Tonight we had to up the ante. Needed to.

Before we knew it there was beautiful problem solving alcohol in front of us and I lowered my voice, attempting once more to approach the subject of the corpse that was still in our kitchen aka The Brycis.

“I’m not crazy for thinking this am I? We can’t feasibly call the police about this right? I mean what the fuck would we say?” it might have been some kind of guilt complex I had buried away in me, or possibly the countless hours of procedural homicide shows I’ve watched, but in my mind it looked like we did it, or had something to do with it.

“We could say a wild animal broke in and…” Buck stopped and shook his head “what the fuck kinda animal can do anything like that?” My mind flashed back to the kitchen for a split second. The image of Bryce’s body, ripped open and lifeless was already beginning to haunt the thoughts that I didn’t actively keep occupied with more pleasant thoughts.

We said Cheers and took the first shot.

I suppose I hadn’t noticed how irregular i had been feeling until the first sip of liquor crossed my lips and into my body. The warmth of the shot emanated from the center of me and spread all the way to my fingertips. I was immediately beginning to feel like myself again.

“What about…It?” buck said

“What about it?” I snapped “’s’not in our house anymore, ‘s’not our problem!”

Apparently the more scared I get the bigger prick I become, and that fucking thing scared me shitless.

We clinked our glasses together and took another shot.

I could shoot a million monsters in a million videogames. I could subject myself the darkest most fucked up creatures the cinematic world could offer me for months at a time, but it would’ve never prepared me for seeing something like that in the flesh, right in front of my eyes. It had been the undeniable proof that there were monsters. They might not be from our world, but they were very very real and we’d just brought one here.

Everything had changed.

“Jesus Dave, this isn’t like we let an ill-tempered fucking dog loose. You saw what it did to Bry…”

“SHHHdon’t say his fucking name!” my face looked like I was yelling, but my voice was definitely a whisper.

Buck shook his head in dismissal then leaned in across the table and in a low and collected tone said “People are going to come looking for him Dave. Do you know if he told anyone he was coming over? This isn’t just gonna go away.”

He was right. I fucking hate it when Buck is right.

“So what do you suggest Buck? We strap on hockey pads and patrol the neighborhood with your shotgun?” I proposed sarcastically “…hope to fuck we see that thing before it see’s us?”

“What I suggest, asshole…” Buck lowered his voice even further “…is that we get what’s left of Bryce the fuck out of our kitchen before we’re in handcuffs trying to explain how we accidentally teleported a monster from a parallel earth here and inadvertently got someone killed”

There was a seriousness in Buck’s voice that I don’t so often hear. It was cold and lacked emotion. Up until a few hours ago Bryce had a living person. He had been someone we knew. now, he was just something that couldn’t be in our kitchen anymore.

Upon processing this notion I realised that Bryce was now just a reason for me to burn my shirt, Burn my jeans, and my boots. I liked those boots. I liked them so much I’d given them names. Persephone and Damascus. They’d been all over the country with me. Up and down mountains. I’d smuggled all manner of things across international boarders in them. We had a very special bond.

I’d like to correct myself. I loved those fucking boots.

Jesus, where’d I put my humanity?

“Don’t look at me like that man, I don’t have time to think about the morality in all of this. This is something we need to fix, and quickly before we’re blamed for it.” Clearly buck hadn’t correctly extrapolated the cause behind my inflection, but I couldn’t help but agree with him.

Cheers. Shot.

The power of alcohol was really starting to course through me now and after the last shot I could feel the gears of my mind easing up and beginning to turn. The terror had started to vanish into the fog of booze and too many prescription meds. my inner piece-of-shit was pushing back the lid on its coffin in preparation of joining us on this adventure. After that last drink none of it seemed all that bad and both of us kinda started to see the funny side.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking “what funny side Dave? Your friend’s dead and there’s a murderous shape shifting inter dimensional blob monster on the loose” and yes that all sounds pretty awful, but what were we supposed to do, stay scared and sober? Fuck that, my inner shit-bag is a man of action, and lucky for me he’s usually a solid aid when it comes to rousing the same sort of enthusiasm in Buck who was at that point, starting to look a little mopey.

“Listen…” I said “…I’m gonna go piss, you’re gonna brain storm, then we’re taking these shots and start figuring this out. Nothing is fucked here.” shot three had apparently put me in a much more positive place giving buck 2 thumbs up before excusing myself to the toilets.

The Hunters Edge toilets were everything you could probably expect from a dive bar in downtown Las Vegas. They were dirty, smelled atrocious and were the last place you’d ever sit down to shit, I looked like part of the furniture.

I pulled my red hair into a fashionably taboo bun and glared at myself past the smears on the mirror, which wasn’t even a mirror, it was just polished metal and was only barely passable as something one might call a reflective surface.

I looked like shit. Like shit that had been eaten by shit, then shit out again, it was bad. My eyes still looked like they had recently been glowing. There was blood on…everything.

I looked like I’d just gotten off the set of some prime time zombie show where I’d been the feature zombie kill of the week.

I leaned in and eyed the lump forming on my cheek. I couldn’t really remember at what exact point I’d been hit in the face. I tried to replay the nights events but there was no distinct moment I could recall getting hit hard enough to give me that kind of shiner.

I poked at it, it hurt, all the way up into my eye it hurt. The hurt made me laugh. A lot.

Yes, I know that nothing was funny. Not funny Ha-Ha anyway, but I couldn’t help but laugh. This whole thing was absolutely ridiculous. like, suddenly we have to start dealing with the realization that there were alternate, and possibly infinite dimensions that play as homes to sincerely terrifying monsters and here I am, half cocked at The Hunters Edge just 30 minutes after I watched my friend get murdered trying to figure out at what point I got punched in the face. C’mon.

Maybe my brain forced my coping mechanisms into a hard time-out or something but this was the only thing I wanted to think About.

I turned on the sink and threw water in my face. The blood that had dried on my face started to regain a more viscous consistency and Just smeared across my face making me look even more ridiculous.

I didn’t want to think about my life being in danger, or Bryce, or the feeling that Nina was probably going to rush in at any point In time to arrest me. What I wanted to do was not deal with any of this, I wanted to walk back out into the bar, order another round and drink with Buck until the sun came up.

I took a deep breath and before I could exhale the bathroom door flew open and Artie stormed in screaming

“God damn it Dave! You’ve been in here for 10 minutes! Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing in…” Artie paused and looked around. I glanced over my shoulder with a puzzled look.

“Uhh, hey Art’, uhhh, what’s up?”

“Why aren’t you in the stall?” He quickly asked

“Because I’m standing here…wiping this blood off of my face.”

“Well why the hell there blood on your face?”

Artie seemed a little flustered, I assume he’d just heard me giggling like a moron by myself in there and had grown suspicious.

“There’s blood on my face because I just watched a monster brutally rip my friend to pieces Artie.” I was playing a pretty reckless game of chicken with the truth.

Artie paused, looked around like he was trying to find evidence that I’d been doing something he could kick me out for.

“Man, There’s blood on my face because it’s Halloween and bloods part of the costume.” The Lie was infinitely more plausible that the truth.

“You’re not doing drugs in here?”

“No man, i did them at home”

Long, awkward pause…I looked at Artie, he looked at me waiting for a crack in my defenses to make itself known.

“AH HAHAHAHAHA!” Artie burst out laughing, playfully punching my arm a little too hard while I awkwardly laughed along with him.

“Get back out there!” He grabbed me and turned me toward the door “your buddy’s gonna start drinking without you!” I left the bathroom.

I don’t want to say ran, but I might’ve power walked to get back to buck who was reaching for his glass.

I put my hand over it stopping him. I’d had a slight moment of something that might resemble clarity, like the last death rattle of my conscious speaking up before I, once again, got involved in some stupid fucking bullshit with Buck.

“Wait,” I looked at him soberly “What if we just turn the machine over to the cops and plead ignorance? Maybe they’d go easy on us?”

Buck lowered both his eyebrows and gave me the kind of look I assume someone would give if I’d just politely asked if they’d be totally fine with me fucking their younger sister.

“What? Why the fuck would we do that?” Buck said.

I paused briefly and considered the various scenarios.

“No, Yeah. Yeah. No, You’re right.” I said flippantly and reached for my shot glass.

We said cheers for a fourth time and knocked back our last shot chasing it down with the remainder of our beers.

“Anyway while you playing grab-ass with Artie in the men’s room, I was coming up with a plan, we need to get back to the house ” Buck had a smile on his face, a real one. Not a I’m-4-shots-and-a-pitcher-deep smile. He was genuinely pleased with himself.

“YES!” I Stood up and gave a little fist pump into the air. I don’t know what I was so excited about; at this point I knew absolutely nothing about Buck’s plan. For all I knew he was going to use me as bait then execute the Thing Mob style while it was busy sucking out my insides. I was just excited someone had a plan, any plan was better than no plan, and if I’m being completely honest with you, things tend to work out more favourably for us when I take a back seat to the planning things part of bullshit such as this.

We paid Artie and headed out to Buck’s 1998 Ford Ranger. Bathed in the white neon light of the strip mall The Hunters Edge was located in you could see all of its flaws, and fuck, it had a gang of them. I assumed palpable Hope held most of the car together somehow but Buck swore that while it didn’t look pretty, its only flaws were cosmetic. Buck had every intention of driving the beast until it took its final breath.

The old engine rumbled to life and Police Truck by Dead Kennedy’s came blaring out of the junk stock speakers. The whole car shook, constantly. You couldn’t tell if it was your phone or just the car vibrating. It was so bad that you could feel it in your whole body for 10 minutes after you’d gotten out. Buck had only ever driven that truck the entire time I’d known him, it was part of family! That’s not to say I didn’t ridicule the ever living fuck out of him for still driving it around though.

We sped through the back streets. Buck always took the most ass-backwards ways to get too and from the bars we frequented. They weren’t necessarily short cuts, but they weren’t exclusively longer either. Buck claimed that it was to avoid the police, but we always saw them, and my previously mention guilt complex always had me convinced that we looked more suspicious being the only car rolling through mostly deserted areas of town in the middle of the night.

I looked out the window as the chorus to Police Truck hummed like music in another room. I was far away from it, thinking about how many people were probably dead already because of us. I have a habit of assuming the worst. My mind was like a pendulum swinging between being excited about everything and then feeling completely mortified. We shit the bed pretty bad this time.

I’d walked into that bathroom mere moments away from leveling up and being ready to fight the world but something between then And now really knocked me off my game. It’s so hard to maintain that perfect drunk.

Someone ran across the road in front of us forcing us to slow down. There was something familiar about the them but I couldn’t quite place what it was I recognized until the person glanced at over at us and…

“Is that fucking Bryce?” Buck took the words right out of my brain and said them for me but before I could process and respond.

Buck slammed the breaks and brought us to a sudden halt, the person stood still in the road vacantly looking in the trucks direction.

As far as I could see it was Bryce, right there in front of us all muddy and bloody lit up by the Rangers headlights.

There was a long, Erie silence as both of our jaws hung slack, unable to speak.

We looked at Bryce and Bryce looked back at us, I leaned forward squinting through Buck’s dirty windshield hoping that it was just my perspective or my overworked brain playing a cruel trick on itself.

“Uhhhhh, Buck…what the fuck is…”

BANG!

The back window of the truck shattered behind my head before I could finish.

I saw the Bryce thing dart off before I got as low as I could in the cramped truck cab. My heart pounded as tiny glass shards succumbed to gravity and toppled down onto our heads.

BANG!

Huge spiderweb cracks crawled across the windshield originating from a central hole that was about the size of a quarter.

“Is someone fucking shooting at us?” Buck grunted. The cold air swam in through the broken window and turned his breath to steam.

“I don’t think they’re shooting at…” I was cut off.

BANG!

BANG!

“RUN!” Buck hollered.

We both scrambled out of the car and scattered in opposite directions. Both of us taking cover between the vacant houses that surrounded us.

The neighborhood was mainly just foreclosed properties used as squat houses for the plethora of homeless that populated downtown Las Vegas. It was generally a very quiet place. Everyone who lived in the area kept to a don’t-shit-where-you-eat code of ethics because we were mostly all doing something illegal. We didn’t call the cop’s when Lenny from 3 houses down’s amateur meth lab blew up and left the neighborhood stinking like straight cat piss for 3 days because, at the same time, we had a kitchen full of grow lights and shoulder high pot plants. The point is that Nobody needed the extra attention; so you can understand what I mean when I say shooting at passing cars was generally frowned upon.

“YO! WHAT THE FUCK? WE COME IN PEACE!” I yelled but just heard another gunshot followed immediately by the sound of glass shattering. The Ranger took another shot. I wondered how much life that thing had left in it, every shot chipping away at its hypothetical power bar.

I reached down to grab my phone to try to contact Buck but I was only able to wrap my fingers around the feeling of disappointment upon realizing that I’d left it sitting in the passenger seat of the truck. Fuck!

“Buuuuuuck” I whispered through the cold hoping he was within ear shot, turning around and cutting behind one of the houses making sure not to disturb the mine field of sleeping drunks ready to wake up screaming their own private language of intoxicated mania. This was where they slept. They didn’t come to our house to sleep, so they didn’t take kindly to me wandering through theirs.

“Buuuuuuck” I tried again as I peeked my head out around the plastic siding. The shattering of glass had definitely been the driver side window. I imagined buck becoming quite furious.

I gingerly took a step out from between two buildings, cautiously checking my peripheries for rogue gunmen.

There hadn’t been another gun shot for some time now. I wondered if I’d have enough time to dash to the truck and retrieve my phone. Checking my lefts and rights again and seeing nothing I decided to take a chance and run for it.

Yes, I was about to risk my life for my phone. A small piece of plastic that connected easily to the internet and provided me with music and porn and free movies that were still in theaters. I can’t currently bring to mind a single human in my life that I’d risk getting shot for. Maybe Buck? But like, in the arm? Or leg? I don’t know, definitely not in the face or chest.

I planted my feet and readied myself to bolt for the car and retrieve what us apparently my most important belonging. Taking in a big breath of chill air, I tilted my head back and said a quick prayer to absolutely no one with the ability to hear my silent thoughts, then I launched out from behind the house with the force of an Olympic sprinter who managed to scam is drug tests.

I was One, two, three solid strides into my run when the whole plan, as most of my plans do, turned completely to total bullshit.

“OH FUCK THAT!” I yelled loudly as I was all of a sudden face to face with Bryce, but not Bryce. Bryce was dead and The remains of his body were splattered across the floor of my kitchen getting harder and harder to remove and clean with every moment that passed.

What stood in front of me was the thing that killed him, now wearing Bryce’s face, and apparently also wearing one of Bryce’s Bob Marley/Pittsburgh Steelers hybrid jerseys. I guess there’s no accounting for taste even when you’re dealing with monsters from other dimensions.

While the thing could look like Bryce at a glance, now getting a look at it just 6 feet away from me, I could see the cracks in its camouflage. I could pick out the more blob-creature aspects of it. the way the limbs stretched a little too far and how it couldn’t really ever stop moving, just drifting from side to side correcting the gelatinous weight shifting about. It had a total vacancy to all of its facial expressions. the mouth, eye brows, the way the jaw just kind of hung there, but it’s eyes, Bryce’s eyes, they looked hungry.

I have a thing about dying, ever since I was a little kid I have wanted fuck all to do with it, I just outright refuse. I’ve gotten good at it. Refusing death(which is very different than simply avoiding it) has become such a big part of my life that the second I read the look in the Bryce-things eyes I was gone, I didn’t need a fucking Teleporter for that. Not. Fucking. Today.

My reflexes activated in such a way that my legs were a full 2 strides into running away before my body caught up. I must’ve looked like I was trying to imitate an old Saturday morning Scooby-Doo cartoon.

I vaulted over the wall of a front yard and jettisoned myself to the side of the house, cutting through to get one street over and put more obstacles between me and that thing.

I only glanced back once, briefly, to see if it had given chase, but I didn’t get chance to turn my head all the way back to look. Before I could, there was the sound of tires screeching and a sharp pain in my hip. my head hit something cold and metallic. There was the sensation of falling, then my head hit the asphalt and I looked up at the stars, they were spinning like a babies crib Mobile, or maybe my brain was what was spinning.

I heard a voice, a woman’s.

“…Dave?”

Fucking Nina.

To be continued…

Chapter 1: The Pharmacy

Chapter 1: The Pharmacy

One moment, it was just an empty pharmacy at 3am. Quiet as a cemetery and just as fucking lonely. Streetlight crept in through the closed shutters and the only things that ever moved were the shadows when cars piloted by probably too-drunk-to-drive bar patrons would pass by.

One moment it was just an empty pharmacy at 3am and then, a fraction of a second later there was me.

Hi! I’m Dave and I am an alcoholic…Sorry, I’ve had to say that so many times It just winds up slipping out whenever I introduce myself anymore.

So there I stood in all my monochromatic thrift adorned majesty casually smoking a cigarette behind the counter like I’d been standing there the whole time. It happened so fast that your brain would probably add a comedic POP! Sound effect every time you tried to remember seeing it happen. It’s that sudden.

You’re probably wondering what exactly is happening here. Your internal monologue is crying out “Why! Why on earth did Dave just appear out of complete thin air behind the register at a clearly shuttered and empty pill boutique?”

Why? Well because this is what happens when you give a machine capable of teleportation to two highly functioning degenerates.

Yes, you heard me. We have a Teleporter. We have the means for instant transportation of a human being to anywhere on the planet…sort of.

My phone buzzed. It was Buck, My housemate. He’s generally the one who runs the Machine and the only other person who knows about it besides me. He pushes the buttons. I call him The Pusher.

I’ve known Buck forever, we were drawn together through my desperate delinquent need to consume alcohol and his ability to buy beer due to him being he only person in our social group who happened to be over 21 at the time. Buck was also in this ripper band that, while I have a forum to bring it up, were genuinely before their time and the fact that I’m not currently suckling from the swollen tit of bucks Success and fame both shocks and upsets me.

“Did it work?” the screen read.

I looked around the room and let an uncontrollable grin etch its way onto my face and replied, “Dude… yes, yes it fucking worked.”

I was excited, and deservedly so. This was a big win for us, and I think both of us were in need of a win at this point. See, we don’t actually know how this fucking Teleport thing works. That’s the hilarious karmic irony of us having this machine. It’s possesses the ability to take me anywhere I want, whenever I want…as long as we read the instructions. Trouble is, we didn’t actually get any instructions. All we got was a series of numbers and a few locations frantically scribbled on the back of an envelope during the final breaths of a speed freak we found quietly bleeding out in the alley behind our apartment.

This posed a real problem. It’s nice knowing that you can get to Moscow or North Korea whenever you please, it’s something Buck and me have really taken advantage of since this thing fell into our laps. We’ve even got the coordinates to a Place in Columbia where I was able to use enough kitchen Spanish to talk my way into a relationship with a woman who vends generic Quaaludes. Quaaludes in two thousand fucking nineteen! What a time to be alive! Trouble is, once you get a taste of all that you want more. You can see the possibilities this thing could afford you if only you knew how it worked. We’ve been doing a little experimenting on paper and this particular excursion was the first set of coordinates we’d managed to work out all by ourselves. Well, Buck did mostly all of the math. I would’ve helped but this was all happening around the same time my on again off again girlfriend left me…again, after deciding I’d made her feel morally compromised. A whole thing about her being a police officer while also being in a romantic relationship with someone who…well, someone whose first thought upon obtaining a device capable of teleportation is to rob a pharmacy. I was preoccupied by gin while buck was working out the math. Whatever. This was a win.

The phone buzzed again and my screen read “10”. That meant I had 10 minutes to stuff as many pills into my bag before he pressed the button and brought me back to my comfy living room with enough drugs to make sure I would never have to deal with allergies ever again!

You didn’t think this was just about getting high did you? Shame!

I’d like to say that I went about looting those shelves with expert precision and the stealth of a ninja, but I didn’t. I pressed play on my “work-out” playlist and the headphones in my ears boomed with introductory horn blasts of Gloria Estefan’s 1985 smash hit Conga and took to dancing about the place like a delirious man possessed by the spirit of salsa (yes, I know that technically Conga was by The Miami Sound Machine, but technically Gloria Estefan was The Miami Sound Machine!)!

I’d begun emptying whole shelves into my bag without even checking what they were. I was drop kicking bulk sized bottles of pills I knew I had no interest in while at the same time trying to catch mouthfuls of the ones I loved as I sent them flying into the air. I was in narcotic heaven.

In retrospect I probably could’ve shown a little restraint, but this is the curse of the Teleporter, a life without consequence. Hypothetically we could run up $1000 tabs at the cities best restaurants and as long as we knew how to set the machine, we’d blink out of existence and anyone present would be left with no way to explain where the two heathen’s drinking Dom from the bottle had suddenly vanished to. I wasn’t thinking about getting caught because as Conga drew to a close all I could think was that I had 5 minutes and 44 seconds left to steal more drugs.

No consequences was the reason that after I did an 180 degree spin move in the throws of the techno intro to another Estafan classic, Turn The Beat Around, I didn’t immediately shit myself at the sight of four police officers pointing their guns at me demanding I get down on the ground with my hands behind my head. Instead I just smiled at the police and let a long drawn out “hiiiiiiiiii” escape from somewhere within me that lacked the fear of being shot to pieces.

I did get a feeling similar to that of shitting ones self when I noticed that one of the officers was my now ex-girlfriend Nina. It was dark enough and I was under my hood enough to where she hadn’t recognized me yet, though her persistent orders of “get on the ground you piece of shit” made it seem a lot like we were still living together at the house.

I figured that as long as I didn’t do anything that might be construed as threatening and kept hold of my bag all I’d have to do is keep the cops at bay for a minute or two and buck would have me home, leaving Nina to explain to her superiors how The Pharmacy Bandit vanished without a trace as they were shoving him into the back of a squad car.

I slung my bag over my shoulder hearing the last few seconds of Turn The Beat Around ebb away knowing that it was a matter of seconds before I’d be out of this predicament.

Nina hopped the counter and started coming towards me, gun drawn in one hand, cuffs in the other. I turned around so she couldn’t see my face, putting my arms out behind me allowing her to cuff me with ease. This really was starting to feel like old times.

A mental countdown started in my head as she approached.

5 – One cuff goes on

4 – and the next one. She hasn’t taken off my bag. There is now a pharmacies worth of drugs literally hand cuffed to my person.

3 – I start to think that getting out of these cuffs back home might actually be somewhat of a hassle. I wonder if Buck still has those bolt cutters in the garage at home…or does CJ still have those?

2 – She’s reading me my rights and I have a frivolous thought about whether or not she’s going to be able to finish before I’m gone.

1 – who gives a shit? I’m about to be higher than horse pussy!

0 – …

“…and if you are unable to afford an attorney one will be provided to you by the state…” my body gets that tingling feeling and it feels like my eyes are sweating. I snap my head around and make eye contact with Nina who is pointing her gun at my face.

“Dave!?” she yells with surprise.

“You know this asshole?” one of the other officers asks, but it sounds like it’s far away, like he’s saying it in another room and the plasterboard is cheap.

“Zero” I mutter. As if saying the number again will make whatever didn’t work start working but it’s no good. Panic is setting in and everything looks like I’m staring at it through a telescope. It’s all so far away.

“Will you ever stop being such a fucking embarrassment!?” I think I hear Nina say before my heart starts to beat out of my chest and it all goes black as I faint into a crumpled heap on the floor.

Back at home Buck was entering a similar state of panic, though scorned lovers were the furthest things from his mind. He was frantically trying to make sense of the long meaningless string of numbers and letters the screen on the Teleporter has started displaying when he pressed the button to bring me back.

It was nearly 2 minutes passed the mark; he knew something had to have gone wrong, but how could it? He entered numbers just like we always did. The only difference was that this time it was our numbers, not the ones the dying guy in the alley had given us.

Buck mashed every possible button on the console and got nothing, the machine was unresponsive and apparently in free fall. Just as he was about to reach for his phone to call me and apologize for the delay it all stopped. The screen turned dark and just flashed the words “REBOOT NEEDED”.

Buck quickly made work of unplugging the four power cables necessary to run the machine in hopes of bringing it back to normal upon the restart. As he unplugged and then re-plugged the last cable the machine beeped it’s two beeps and once again displayed its usual T:/ prompt on the screen. Buck immediately pressed the return button but instead of bringing me back it just screeched like an ensemble of faulty 56k dial up modems “FUCKING C’MON!” Buck growled at the device and as he hammered his fist down onto the table in frustration the noise ceased and Buck pressed the button again.

Back at the pharmacy I was regaining consciousness. I’d been propped up against the counter with my legs straight out in front of me, my hands still cuffed behind my back. All of the police officers had stepped outside leaving me alone. I tried to stand but as I attempted to get my feet under me a pain shot through my head, like it was coming from the center of my brain. I suddenly felt like my whole body was being pulled in every direction by a force that seemed like it could, if it wanted, rip me in two.

I screamed out, the pain was almost unbearable. The pulling switched up and then felt like a push, like I was being crushed. My screaming got Nina’s attention and she began to make her way back inside to check on me. She peered over the counter and saw me writhing on the floor.

I glared up at her, eyes bulging out of my head, trying to say words but no words could make it past the feeling of simultaneously being crushed and torn apart. I felt a cracking, or a tearing somewhere behind my eyes and the world took on a crimson hue. Nina’s expression twisted with confusion, she had no idea what was happening and was as fearful as she was skeptical.

“I don’t know what’s happening Dave, I need you to…” POP! I was gone.

I appeared about 3 feet off the ground in the middle of the kitchen and let gravity pull me down with a thud onto my ass.

“ohhhh, fuck! ohhhhhhh Fuck!” I whined, “What the fuck happened man?” I was trying to get to my feet but my hands were still cuffed behind my back.

“I don’t know man, everything was fine then the machine just went crazy. Why the fuck are you in handcuffs?” Buck aided me in sitting up but backed up in shock as his eyes met mine “Whoa!” he said.

“What?” I asked, “What’s wrong? Not my face!? That thing better not’ve made me ugly man!”

“No dude, it’s your eyes…look” Buck grabbed his phone and held the black screen up to my face and showed me. Both of my eyes were completely red. Not a hint of white remained in either of them. I looked like some sort of other worldly demon, but one who really knew how to put an outfit together.

I shook my head and said, “Ok, that was fun, lets never do that again”.

To be continued…