December 9

The Manifestation (Part 8)

 

Outside, everyone heard a huge crash.

Jake turned his head. It sounded like the door of the school had smashed open.

A woman yelled. A young child started to wail.

But the door was intact. Behind him to the left, a mother snatched a large plastic contraption away from her son. A piece had fallen off onto a competitor’s table and had knocked over a display of wooden alphabet blocks.

“Adam, I told you not to touch anything!”

Jake recognized the yellow plastic as the boxing platform for a vintage set of Rock’em Sock’em Robots. The red robot was still attached to the platform; the blue one was partially buried in a pile of wooden blocks in front of the table.

The mother shrugged at the dealer. “He’s Broken,” she explained, indicating her son. She turned to Adam, told him, “This is coming out of your allowance.”

Jake braced himself as the woman took her wallet from her purse. A pristine set of Rock’em Sock’em Robots was rare, and he guessed the dealer wouldn’t give her a special price. Once she heard the amount, there would be more screaming.

 

#

 

A face slid down the glass of the observation booth. Not a head — just the face. Eyeless and bloodied, the features retained an expression of agonizing pain.

The irony didn’t escape Watkins. The auditorium had been built for throwing basketballs at hoops. The obese demon couldn’t reach the booth, didn’t have the leg strength to jump toward them, so it tossed body parts at the glass front.

A smear of blood followed the peeled face, which clumped at the bottom ledge like a soaked washrag. Splashes of red dotted the window from the earlier thumps of a foot, several hands, a skull‑tattooed chunk of shoulder blade.

And, tangled in the top corner of the window frame, the Creep’s scalped mullet.

Deitrich was the only survivor. He cowered against the wall, whispered pleas for help into his microphone.

“I will spare you.” The demon spoke in a low, measured voice. Each syllable got the same emphasis. “You can tell them what I’ve done.”

“Oh, god. Oh, god.” Deitrich shook his head, tried to look away as the demon moved closer. “Everywhere the smell of urine and excrement and blood. Its hands — oh, god — they peeled off skin…”

Next to Deitrich was the only exit from the auditorium level, a steel door set firmly in solid, reinforced concrete.

“Keypad,” the demon said, and looked at Deitrich.

“I don’t know the combination!” He whined at the demon and at Meyers simultaneously. Then, in a conspirator’s whisper: “Can you tell me? Oh, please tell me.”

Commander Meyers remained silent.

The demon pursed its full lips at Deitrich. “That’s okay.” It swiveled its head, looked up over its shoulder towards Meyers in the observation booth. “I know it.”

The snail hand reached toward Deitrich, level with his face. Deitrich whimpered. Then the hand lowered to his front pocket, stuck onto the tip of a mechanical pencil and lifted it out.

Detrich continued his whispered commentary. “The texture of his hand, how it ripped people’s skin — I thought it was ridged and scaled, like a cheese grater. But it’s thousands of hungry little mouths. I felt the bursts of air on my face. And the smell of tiny breaths like hot garbage. Spoiled meat. Rancid — ”

The demon’s arm whipped forward, cracked the side of Deitrich’s head. “Nobody asked you to insult me,” the demon said as Deitrich’s body dropped unconscious to the floor.

Watkins figured out the reason for the pencil. The flat undersides of the demon’s hands couldn’t work a keypad. But with the pencil extended as a modified finger, it would be able to punch in the sequence.

“Do you really think it knows the code?”

“We’ll find out soon enough.” Meyers remained calm, at least outwardly. Was this the usual objective stance of a commander? He’s safe, even if the rest of the world is outside, unaware.

Watkins began to panic, turned to Hilliard. “Can’t you reset the access code? Reboot the security system?”

Hilliard shook his head. “Not from here. That door isn’t on the same circuit.”

The demon’s body loomed large over the door, blocked it almost entirely from view. They heard three slow beeps from the keypad, waited for the final fourth.

Then:

“Damn.”

A metallic scrape. The keypad panel snapped off the door frame and crashed to the floor.

“Damn it to hell,” the demon said. “I’m Broken.”

 

#

 

[…continued in December 10 entry…]