“Yes,” Will.I.Am pondered, his soulless red eyes aglow, “But does it have that boom boom pow?” Fergie, unable to think of anything except methamphetamines and meat, folded her leathery wings but did not reply. In the corner Taboo and Apl.De.Ap danced in silence, but their eyes remained fixed on their master. Their faces betrayed no expression. They had lost that capacity long ago. “I don’t believe it does,” Will.I.Am said with an air of regret, and returned to his drum machine. In the glow of the torches his shadow loomed large upon the wet stone of the cave’s wall. He paid it no mind, though the others shrank from it as readily as they avoided the flames, or dictionaries. In silence, save for the soft whisks of nylon from Taboo and Apl.De.Ap’s pants, Will.I.Am began again. Somewhere within him was the melody to permanently end what the humans considered music, if only he could focus his thoughts. He absentmindedly tossed Fergie a chunk of meat from the wet pile at his feet. A pile that had once been human before Taboo caught it wandering near the river and brought it back in pieces. She began to weep, gnawing through the slick, white splinters of bone that protruded here and there along its length. She was always so grateful when he allowed her to feed. “Shhhh,” he whispered. “Slow down, my dear. Savor it. Isn’t it tastey?” “T-A-S-T-E-Y,” she replied through a mouthful of scarlet and sinew. “Tastey, tastey.” Will.I.Am only smiled and returned to his work.
“Yes,” Will.I.Am pondered, his soulless red eyes aglow, “But does it have that boom boom pow?”
Fergie, unable to think of anything except methamphetamines and meat, folded her leathery wings but did not reply. In the corner Taboo and Apl.De.Ap danced in silence, but their eyes remained fixed on their master. Their faces betrayed no expression. They had lost that capacity long ago.
“I don’t believe it does,” Will.I.Am said with an air of regret, and returned to his drum machine.
In the glow of the torches his shadow loomed large upon the wet stone of the cave’s wall. He paid it no mind, though the others shrank from it as readily as they avoided the flames, or dictionaries.
In silence, save for the soft whisks of nylon from Taboo and Apl.De.Ap’s pants, Will.I.Am began again. Somewhere within him was the melody to permanently end what the humans considered music, if only he could focus his thoughts.
He absentmindedly tossed Fergie a chunk of meat from the wet pile at his feet. A pile that had once been human before Taboo caught it wandering near the river and brought it back in pieces. She began to weep, gnawing through the slick, white splinters of bone that protruded here and there along its length. She was always so grateful when he allowed her to feed.
“Shhhh,” he whispered. “Slow down, my dear. Savor it. Isn’t it tastey?”
“T-A-S-T-E-Y,” she replied through a mouthful of scarlet and sinew. “Tastey, tastey.”
Will.I.Am only smiled and returned to his work.
Thick strands of what look like wire covered the door, glistening in the light that seeped through the mud-caked ground level windows. Seann Willam Scott eyed them warily, keeping his distance. He remembered with a mixture of embarrassment and disgust what happened the last time he touched them. Three and a half hours of fruitless struggle and he had remained trapped, howling in pain as the viscous fluid in which they were covered slowly ate through first his clothing then the soft tissues beneath. He would not repeat his mistake.
The deadbolt turned and the door swung inward. He recoiled involuntarily. A monstrous malformation, all thick black hairs and mandibles between dual rows of jet black eyes wearing a simple white polo shirt and khaki shorts strode forward, touching the filaments with the cruel, malicious hooks of its hands. The web fell away in tatters, hissing as it dissolved.
There was a sickening crunch and a sound like leather being scraped with a knife. He watched the eyes and hairs recede, the bones shifting beneath blossoming patches of skin, as the camera-friendly face of Matthew Fox emerged from the tumult. When his metamorphosis was complete he grinned broadly, extending a now-human hand in greeting.
“Seann. Sorry about the web. Can’t be too careful. Come on in. Have a Corona.”
Seann William Scott returned the handshake and the smile, silently berating himself for flinching at the sight of one his own kind. After all, what must it be like to watch his own segmented torso and thick plating snap and warp, to listen to the rasp of his antennae as they withered and changed, becoming pathetic, frail strands of mammalian hair?
“Hi, Matt. I’d love a Corona. Those things are delicious.”
They laughed in unison and entered the safehouse. Seann knew that if one were to walk through its hallways and dank corridors, past the small piles of cracked bones and the oozing future meals dangling in their cocoons of webbing from the ceiling, through the media room with its 52” flat screen currently showing I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry and through a service entrance on the north wall of the sub basement, one would find themselves in a makeshift tunnel, which after several miles would lead them to the basement of Matthew Fox’s house in Sonoma Valley. This abandoned water treatment facility, owned by a development company owned by Keanu Reeves, was one of many in the area. A gathering place. Other tunnels lead to other places, other large homes or small mansions, where the harbingers of Darkness did their entertaining and cocaine, hidden inside soft, weak skin and well-tailored clothing.
“What do you have to report?” asked Fox, pressing a thin wedge of lime into the mouth of a bottle and handing it to him.
“He’s here,” Seann replied, “With her. They’re in Portland.”
Matthew fox spat and a thick coil of webbing struck the floor.
“He must be stopped. Events are progressing beyond our control. Even with Ledger out of the picture their forces are growing stronger, their projects being greenlit more and more. And the humans … the humans are-“
“Waking up,” Scott concluded, “Opening themselves to brighter possibilities.”
“Nolan has begun principal filming on his vanity project.”
“They’re gathering their forces. They think they can win.”
Seann William Scott’s hand clenched in anger, shattering the bottle. Thick rivulets of blood joined the Corona as it foamed on the cold stone floor. He spred his fingers and the two men peered at the shards of glass protruding from his skin. He closed his eyes. The bones of his face cracked and shifted. The skin of his back grew taut, then split along unseen seams, hardening as it went. The glass shards slowly emerged as his hand shrank and grew dark. Beside him, vicious black mandibles stretched and distorted Matthew Fox’s mouth, forcing their way out. In moments they were eye to row of eyes, a spider the size of a bear cub and a slick black cockroach only slightly smaller.
“Are you hungry?” the spider chittered, craning its head toward the ceiling.
Seann Williams Scott twisted his thorax in the direction of one of Fox’s tightly wrapped meals. From between two strands of the shimmering wire a young woman’s hand dangled, limp, oozing where the webbing met her wrist. A class ring glinted in the glow from the TV.
Matthew Fox clambered up with a soft rustling sound, efficiently severing the strands that secured her to the ceiling. She struck the ground with a wet crunch and the webbing fell away and began to dissolve.
“I’m starving,” Scott replied, and tore the hand from the corpse in one deft motion.
On the television, Lance Bass, in his cameo role, began to croon.
“I love this movie,” Matthew Fox whispered around a length of femur.
“Me too,” Seann Scott replied, and continued to feed.
So one day I’m in Seattle with Rachel Bilson. This is back when we were dating.
The rain was falling in light but persistent sheets, just enough to make small streams along the curbside. I took turns watching the leaves from neighborhood bushes go sailing by on those tiny half-natural rivers and staring at Rachel’s flawless profile as we walked. At some point she looked at me from under her zebra striped umbrella and said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”
“I don’t have gonorrhea,” I replied with a very serious expression. “That’s just a rumor.”
She gave me an exasperated look and went, “Ew,” to which I smiled broadly.
We came to a small café. The patio tables were dry under massive picnic umbrellas, so we sat. We ordered coffee, some small pastries, water. Rachel complimented the waitress’ shoes and the girl blushed and stammered a thank you. I smiled and played footsie with my girlfriend, taking small sips of piping hot coffee and humming softly under my breath. It was May.
“Is it true what they say?” asked Rachel Bilson, adopting a very serious and weighty tone she usually reserved for political discussions or objective critiques of the latest The Hills episode. “Are you the speaker they keep talking about?”
“For the House of Representatives? Am I a toastmaster? What kind of speaker?”
“Come on, Justin. We’ve been together for six months. I’ve seen things. Heard things. And sometimes, when you’re sleeping there’s this hum from inside your dresser. It changes pitch when you’re having a bad dream. It’s Robert Downey Junior’s dagger isn’t it? The one we thought was lost.”
I love coffee. I really do. I have tried to quit it several times for the sake of my teeth or to see if it’s responsible for that last centimeter or two of stubborn bellyfat that keeps my abs at just ‘washboard’ instead of ‘Ryan Reynolds’. I always come back, though. There’s something magical about coffee. I stared at Rachel Bilson’s beautiful face above the rim of my cup. I tried to determine if the warmth spreading outward to my extremities was from the liquid in my belly or the love in my heart. She was so beautiful, even in that slick drizzle with thin wisps of her hair curling in the humidity. I wanted to tell her everything but there were dangers. Hell, I still didn’t know everything. I did what I had been bidden. I kept to the path. I spread the light.
“Are you responsible for the changes?” she said, her words gaining momentum, “After the last S.A.G. meeting I heard Anthony Hopkins say a beacon had risen in the Midwest, that we had great reason to hope once again. It’s you, isn’t it? Your stories? The way you tell them? Sometimes when you’re talking I watch people’s eyes and I can see it, the spark of transformation. It’s like an actual spark, you know. A light. It’s what we’ve all been struggling so long to keep-“
“Shhhhh. Rachel.” I pointed to our waitress who was moving quickly between the shelter of the awning and that of our oversized umbrella despite the fact that the rain was now barely a mist. The girl refilled our waters and my coffee in silence, perhaps sensing that matters of some import were being discussed. I caught her eye. I said thank you. When she departed I looked back to my lady and shrugged.
“I am what I am, Rachel. I don’t know. At first it was just a suggestion. Mary Kate and Ashley told me they liked my stories. I started telling them. After a while … I don’t know. Things began to change. People began to change.”
She smiled as far as her mouth would go, exposing her perfect teeth. “I knew it!” she laughed. “You are totally the speaker. I’m dating the lightbringer.”
“Rachel, it’s not all fun and games,” I said with some seriousness, though my voice was soft and I couldn’t help but smile at her, “It’s becoming dangerous. There have been attempts to silence me.”
“I love you,” she said, twining her slender fingers with my own. “And I will help to protect you. You are so important, Justin. Everything hinges on your work. Now finish that coffee and kiss me. We have to get to the bay by four o’clock or Olivia says the boat will leave without us.”
I downed the last sweet dregs of house blend and dropped a ten on the table for our waitress. I moved the artificial sweetener box on top of it to keep the breeze from snatching it away. As I leant to kiss Rachel Bilson’s perfect, soft lips the amulet around my neck turned icy cold and I hissed involuntarily.
“Are you okay?” she asked, but I failed to answer, my eyes scanning the nearby doorways and sidewalks for my attacker. My hands knotted into fists. Seann Williams Scott stood at the far end of the street, his mouth twisted with rage.
They would have to do better than that.
His eyes flashed a strange and startling red, then he disappeared. None of the shoppers or pedestrians seemed to notice. Still, they knew we were here. I needed to be more careful.
I glanced back to Rachel Bilson, as always slightly awed by her beauty. I could swim in those deep brown eyes, drown in them.
“I’m fine,” I whispered. “Rock in my shoe. Let’s go to Olivia Wilde’s extra special coastal cruise birthday party. It looks like the rain’s actually going to clear up.”
I kissed Rachel Bilson and Rachel Bilson kissed me back as the first rays of sun broke the cloud cover and struck the still wet pavement. For many months afterward we were inseparable, and she did indeed help me in my work. There is a fire in her that few comprehend and ever fewer could dare hope to quell. If we succeed in our collective work she will hold a place of great power in the new order. I don’t want to get into the details of our breakup. Suffice to say it was unpleasant, and I could have done more to prevent it.
I wish her only the best, and I have not forgotten that at one point we were very much in love.