Mr. Grimes’ speed greatly belied his size, as he nearly disappeared from the driver’s seat of the bus and then reappeared amongst a crowd of shadows that lumbered out from behind the obnoxiously bright headlights. Clearly, Mr. Grimes was not the only predator stalking the particular stretch of darkness we traveled, but it appeared that he had cultivated alliances among his fellow monsters. As the shadows milled around Mr. Grimes, listening to his account of me, I heard the signature sound of firearms—a small metallic clicking that spoke of tiny steel pieces moving against one another, like the chitinous mandibles of a hungry insect. Eventually the killer shadows surrounded the bus, hurling threats and challenges from behind the storm of wind, rain and electric light. A bullet was even fired into the air, and I almost laughed when a clap of thunder annihilated the weapon’s report.
Slowly, and with much caution, a group of gun-wielding shadows began to enter the bus. Of course I was no longer in the bus, but that was to be the least of their realizations. I heard Mr. Grimes instructing the armed shadows to take care, as I was a “big sucker, with some huge weapon-thingee on his back.” One of the shadows started-up the bus, hoping that the internal lights might reveal my hiding place. I was glad that Mr. Grimes had chosen to stay outside while his allies invaded the vehicle, otherwise I might not have done what I did.
I could hear the high pitched whine of Mr. Grimes’ secret machinery coming to life when I reconnected certain wires, and then came the sounds of flesh tearing, bones snapping, screams being chopped into small bits of groans and gasps, and finally there arrived the wet sounds of inanimate flesh being worked by busy, mindless steel. The remaining shadows, those who had wisely remained outside, seemed frozen by the antics of the bus-turned-devourer. Within seconds the silence took me from beneath the bus and placed me behind Mr. Grimes’ few remaining allies, and then my sister awoke into my hand, giggling.
I made sure that Mr. Grimes was a safe distance from me when my sister sorted through the thoughts of one of the shadows, reaching deeply into the convolutions of his brain. The shadow to my left swung a heavy chain at me, but his attack was so slow that I wondered if he had intended for me to grab the inbound weapon. When I seized the chain, and pulled its wielder from the ground, my sister entered the hidden places of his body, dancing like a happy child from one red room to the next. After my sibling had exhausted her enthusiasm, I hurled her ruined playmate at the last shadow standing. The flying body struck the shadow in the midsection, smashing him against a tree. My sister was about to play with the stunned man when the thunderous voice of my father commanded her to stop. My father wished for Mr. Grimes to see him, and all of the wonderful work he was capable of. In an instant my father was revealed, awake and afire with stolen storm-light. The shadow shuddered beneath my patron’s terrible gaze. The injured creature pleaded for mercy, but my father had none to give. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the shadow decided to attack rather than die quietly. Like a cornered beast, he howled-out his last breath, launching from the ground, knives out like bared fangs. But while his feral madness might have served him well against any other foe, it failed him in the face of my father. The thunder roared as the ax collided with the man. My great benefactor seemed to channel the fury of the tempest, creating a second, crimson storm—from blood, brains and bone. My father turned towards Mr. Grimes, who immediately collapsed to the wet earth.
“Holy freakin’ hell!! I know who you are!!”
“Then we both understand each other,” I said. After I returned my father to his sleep, I extended my hand to help the trembling killer to his feet.
“What are you gonna do with me? ya…ya gonna make me inta some kinda freak-show corpse!?” He was again demonstrating his comedic value.
“Nothing has changed, Mr. Grimes. We are simply back where we began: you are taking me to New Victoria.”
“…And then what?”
“I will release you back into the dark waters of your hunting pool.” Mr. Grimes seemed relieved, exhaling what he surely thought could have been his final breath. The vehicles of the dead still cast their yellowed light into the darkness, revealing my work. The killer surveyed his losses.
“I can’t believe you killed all my guys by yerself! I was friends with some of ‘em, and I know they wasn’t no push-overs, neither!”
“Friends, Mr. Grimes, are no substitute for family.”