The figure now stood, sort of, dripping multi-colored, oily liquid that seemed to be paint, but in trickling from the entity left its body—its ever-changing, slimy body—a pale peach color. Like flesh. Its eye looked up cautiously, moving back and forth between the two beds. Shifting backward with a series of side-to-side shimmy movements, apparently seeing something that gave it alarm in the visages or postures of the two men with whom it was faced, a sort of wet gurgle escaped its nascent mouth—a horrible sound.
That was, it seemed, beyond the pale for Servais, who clambered over the bed and was a vial of wrath smashed open and poured over the uppermost regions of the creature with a torrent of fierce, clubbing, swinging blows courtesy of his thick inner forearms. The former ballplayer let loose a series of full-throated roars and gnashed-teeth obscenities that complemented perfectly the bottomless rage of his physical attack.
Servais had told Brian long ago that, when one really wants to beat someone savagely, a series of swiping “cross-face” blows with the meat of the forearm, or simply the radius of either or both arms, is the ideal method of attack, as one can generally strike with greater abandon about the target’s skull than one can with bare fists, which break easily on a human forehead.
“Fuckin’… thing!” Servais cried, his assault slowing from drunken fatigue even as he continued to straddle the writhing, retreating life form. Panting as he tried to best pick his next point of attack, he shouted, “Come on, Kid, give me a hand here! Christ…”
Powell slid reluctantly off the bed, watching Servais’ pursuit of the thing with one eye but drawn to the darkening, viscous puddle on the cheap teal shag, where the being had first begun to take proper shape. He was now standing over this swamp of unknown, fetid substance, staring down at it in some mixture of fascination and disgust when his concentration was encroached upon by a pained yelp.
“Son of a bitch!” Servais howled, shaking out his right arm and feeling around the middle of the aforementioned radius with his meaty left hand. “Think I broke it,” he remarked with a sudden, almost perverse calmness, given the situation. The thing must’ve had a hard skull despite what had looked like a soft, wormy physiqu“What if He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named owned the hellsite?” Danny Cater (@DanEC8rWriter) “chirped,” his waxy, clammy-skinned face stretched into a shit-eating grin. Chirper virality at last, he thought—there’s no way this one wouldn’t do “mad biz” with the “updoots.”
Hours later, all the shit had been eaten, and now poor Danny was left with only a sad, thin smile to show for his once-in-a-lifetime level chirp. Only a single like, and then that blasted fool who’d commented “haha” but not liked. What was the meaning of that, he wondered indignantly. Didn’t this knave know their “netiquette?” “If you laugh, you like,” that was just how it was.
Danny began composing a scathing private message to the offending user, essentially ordering this “Max Legroom” to leave the “like” he’d either forgotten or been too ignorant to know it was his obligation to give, but rather than click “Send,” the aggrieved writer sighed and discarded the draft. No, no, as distasteful as Mr. Legroom’s behavior was, he wasn’t to blame. Not entirely at any rate.
“Moth-er!” Cater bellowed in his strange, nasal tone that became shriller when the volume and passion of his speech increased, and thus in this case the pitch and timbre of his cry was nearly enough to shatter glass.
There could be heard the hasty thumping of footsteps beating a frantic path down the steps and through the hallway. The door to Danny’s room was thrown open. Mrs. Cater, gasping for air like the Big Bad Wolf after failing to blow down the well-crafted, structurally sound brick house of the third Little Pig, took a hit of the oxygen she’d been prescribed after nearly asphyxiating in the process of hauling her 280 lbs. “baby” out of the hospital conflagration to safety some time back. She really shouldn’t have been running, but figured it was probably something of the utmost importance that had led her sweetsie boy to summon her.
“Yes… Danny… Dear?” Mrs. Cater asked breathlessly.
Danny sneered slightly. “You sound like that little BIPOC from ‘Malcolm in the Middle,’” he said with obvious displeasure, but then thought that was a pretty good “zinger,” and so giddily clicked around in his PC for his ever-growing “Zingers_N_Quips.txt” file, wanting to commit this bad boy for posterity before it dissipated into the ether from which it had sprung fully formed, like the Goddess Athena from the head of Zeus.
“Danny? What is it? What’s wrong?” Mrs. Cater cried desperately, her veiny old hands clenched together tightly before her worried face.
“What? Nothing,” the flustered Cater hissed, his tiny, damp little fingers typing speedily at the keys. With the bon mot ensconced safely in the preserving amber of the .txt file at last, he sighed lightly. Now turning to face his mother, who looked to be mere seconds from throwing herself at his feet and demanding to know what she could do for him, he spoke calmly. “Oh. Did you call that number I asked you about?”
Mrs. Cater perked up immediately. “Yes! Yes, I did, Danny.”
“Well?” Danny said curtly. “What did he say, Mother?”
“Hello, yes?” the voice said faintly.
“Otter?” Emily Twiggs asked, the reception rather poor on her end.
“That’s right, mamakin. How’s it slicing? Wedge or party cut?” Otter said in his singular, nonsensically pleasant way.
There was a pause, during which Emily cleared her throat several times in short succession. “Well, I… I’m… fine.”
“Good ship, lollipops. The best!” Otter exclaimed.
“Well, not that good, but I’m…” she began, only to be interrupted.
“Sorry, babydolls, growing pains starring Kirk Cameron, yes?” Otter explained, apologizing for the angry outburst his girlfriend hadn’t even realized was an outburst at all, let alone an angry one. For that matter, she wasn’t sure if this was an apology or more of his inscrutable slang.
Emily could hear all manner of shuffling and banging on the other end of the phone following this, along with Otter’s labored breathing. “Otter? Are… are you listening?”
“This the cat’s piss— aiyeeeeee!” he shrieked following what sounded like an electric crackle.
As she was now in Mr. Leeds’ outer office, and was expecting to be seen at any minute, and didn’t want to be seen by Leeds’ secretary Velma as unprofessional besides, Emily was anxious to get this call over with. Cupping her hand over her mouth she whispered sharply, “Otter! Stop that and listen to me!”
A horrible pounding followed, like nails being hammered right next to the phone. Emily withdrew her cell from her ear and looked at it with an offended, annoyed expression. Then: “Otter! Would you—I need you to do something very important for me. I need—Otter? Otter!”
Shortly following more sounds of hectic unknown activity, an out-of-breath Otter returned. “I’m needing you too, Emily Twiggs. I’m needing you tonight.”
“That’s sweet, thanks babe,” Emily said with a little giggle and shrug, taken aback by Otter’s ability to convey his emotions directly. So unlike these local boys who were still so uptight and hard to get a read on. Then she remembered that she had other concerns at the moment. “But I need you to…”
“Okay, bye-bye, I’m fucking you on tonight!” Otter said cheerfully as the call was terminated.
“Otter? Otter?!” cried Emily. Forgetting that she wasn’t alone, she then let out a guttural, wordless scream. “Gyaaaaah!”
A wet crunch interrupted the still silence. Emily looked up like a startled doe in a sun-dappled clearing to see Velma taking a bite of her lunch salad, looking sideways at the agitated young journalist as she did.
“O-oh… sorry. Bad reception,” Emily said bashfully.
“Mm-hmm,” Velma intoned disinterestedly before cracking open her Fresca.
Emily fidgeted with her left earring, plagued with worry over how she’d get Pillowface to sex work now that Otter was being such an unhelpful butthead. Emily had been in such a hurry to get to this meeting with Leeds to share the details of the big story she’d broken that she’d forgotten all about her promise to poor Pillowface, who she now imagined rattling nervously around the unfamiliar apartment, in a strange part of town, probably convinced that Emily had abandoned her just like so many others in her life had done.
Powell and Servais had hog-tied the slimy, slug-like figure after it had ceased being a limbless, writhing creature and turned into what, for all intents and purposes, looked like a normal man, with the notable exceptions of having a number of large, dark scars criss-crossing his back, chest and upper arms, and just one eye: a piercing, burning black eye that seemed to move in his head with an uncommon degree of freedom. All the same, the pair had secured his hands and feet with a couple of electrical cords they’d cut from the motel room’s floor lamps. With the drama now having passed, and Servais having plunged his bruised and swollen right forearm into a large bag of melting ice, the exhausted friends lay on their beds watching “Ice Road Fuckers” on the television set.
Popping the tab on a can of Bud with his left forefinger, Servais took a gulp and wondered aloud, “What’s the deal with these broads, Kid? They’re,” he belched silently, “Sellin’ pussy and brains on the, uh, ice…ice roads? Can’t be much money in that line.”
Powell was still kind of preoccupied, both with the restrained man writhing and wriggling in unnerving silence on the floor, and the painting from which he’d emerged in a sort of chrysalis, that had formerly been multi-colored but had since turned an ever-deepening black. It was now like an unfathomably aphotic pitch, so dark that the light from the bedside lamps no longer reflected back from it.
Servais broke Powell’s obsessive focus on the painting by crushing his latest empty and burping long and loud. After, he expounded on his previous comments, his eyes locked on the scantily clad bottle-blonde who was haggling indecipherably with a trucker on the TV, “How long you figure this chick stands out there waitin’ to turn a trick? Lucky she didn’t freeze her tits off,” he said with what sounded like growing anger.
“I’m not sure it’s real,” Brian offered after a calming sip from his own beer.
“What?” Servais barked. “‘Course it’s real, Kid. They couldn't call it a reality show if it wasn’t.” He opened and took a pull from a fresh beer. Shaking his head to put the thought out of his mind, he added, “Wouldn’t be legal.”
They sat in renewed silence. On the TV, the deep, sonorous voice of the narrator explained, “If Harmony wants to make Earl a repeat customer, she’ll have to show him just what Ice Road Fucking is all about…”
Servais shimmied and sat up excitedly, watching with great interest as the prostitute, Harmony, shed her bulky fur coat to reveal a skimpy, pale yellow chemise. “Look at them titties, Kid! This is a hell of a…”
The lights and the TV flickered and there was the faint but unmistakable scent of ozone in the air. Servais and Powell looked at one another and then, over the humming and sporadic popping of the room’s electricity, they could hear a muttering, almost like chanting. They moved slowly, hesitantly down toward the feet of their beds, just about to look over their edges at the hog-tied man, when the room went dark.
“Miya… moto… Miya… moto… Miyamoto…” the wispy voice droned barely above a whisper.