“Lord of Needles” by Shaun Avery

I think I’ve become a pain addict.


That’s what the last few weeks have done to me.


And not the namby-pamby physical pain stuff either, because we all know how that heals in time. I’ve dished enough of it out recently to know that. Not that I left them alive long enough to really suffer, but you get my point, I’m sure.


It was addiction that kept me going to my mother’s grave more times in a day than was strictly necessary. And at the grave, my task became clear.


I have to see my father’s face – the true one, behind the human masks that he wears with such relish – before he dies. I have to see him face to face. I have to know.


My mother died a screaming, babbling wreck, ranting stories that only I knew to be true. My adoptive parents told me not to go and see her, unprofessional as that is, and I told them, in reply, to eat shit; I told them I owed them nothing for the years they’d kept me. Seeing her in the ward, with all that screaming, yelling, and weeping… I really felt at home there.


Then she died, and I became the proud owner of her diaries, and that was when everything started to make sense. I waited until my adoptive parents were out, let myself into their house, and went and read through the books in the attic. At home, as always, in the dark.


I said earlier ‘everything started to make sense,’ but that’s probably too strong a point, as very little in my existence has made much sense – from my incarcerated mother to my complete lack of feeling for my foster parents and others, it’s all been a bit haphazard thus far. So let’s just say that reading my mother’s diaries removed any confusion I may have had about what I should do with my future. Because when I had soaked it in, my vision of the days to come became crystal clear. Not to mention blood red.


I lay on my front, reading the book with a torch, and smiled at my mother’s harsh words, soaking in the hate that had consumed her until her dying day. Too right, I agreed in my head. That thing ruined your life, and he’s got away with it for far too long. Well, not any more.


I’d read it five times before I decided that I knew enough, and just as I rolled onto my back, turned off the light, and let the darkness eat me up, I heard the front door slam three levels below, and knew that the old timers had returned. Tried to keep me from seeing her, I said to myself, anger burning inside me. Well, I’ll show you, damn it!


I dropped down from the attic, landing perfectly. They saw me instantly, and stopped.


The old bitch’s eyes welled up. ‘Oh Ben,’ she began, overjoyed to see me. ‘You’ve come home!’


‘Save it.’


‘Anne.’ The old bastard laid a hand on her shoulder to stop her, seeing that not all was sweetness and light with their darling little foster son. ‘I don’t think he’s staying.’ Give him his due; he met my fierce gaze without flinching. ‘Is he?’


Stupid woman didn’t take the hint, though, especially when she noticed the book in my hand. ‘Oh Ben, no, you’ve been reading that horrid woman again!’


I was down the stairs in a flash, using one of the many traits that my father gave me, sending the old man flying with one arm, and using the other to pin her up against the wall. ‘One more word, you geriatric slut,’ I hissed into her face, ‘I dare you just to risk one more word about my mother.’ I looked at the fallen father figure, not certain that he was stupid enough to rush me but knowing that you can never be too careful. ‘I dare both of you.’


He stood, but there was no fight in his eyes, only a weary acceptance. ‘Just go, Ben,’ he told me. ‘And leave us be.’


I let the woman drop. ‘Yeah. I’ll do that.’ I spat on the floor as I left. ‘And, uh, try not to miss me too much, yeah?’


The diary and me were out of there.


She’d used code names, my mother, the crafty old dame, but none of that mattered, as she was talking to me through these words, guiding me on my path, reaching across the curtain of death to tell me where I needed to go, who I needed to look for. Most of the thoughts and events wouldn’t have made much sense to anyone else, anyway; she’d been drugged too much of the time. I had the feeling that I’d find out the truth for myself on this journey – no matter how nasty it got.


In the early hours of the morning, I sneaked away on a holiday bus, using my powers to blind all the passengers to my presence. I sat at the back undisturbed, lifting a few wallets and purses as the need took me, as people boarded and alit. Money was one thing I was going to need; after all, weapons don’t come for cheap.


‘I wasn’t expecting real customers.’ As he spoke, Blade-Man Eddie nursed the bloody nose I’d given him. ‘So you can understand my surprise earlier, when you turned up.’


Sneering, I looked around his comfortably middle class garage. For as long as I could remember, Blade-Man Eddie’s website had been one of my favourite places to go online; I loved looking at all the stuff he had for sale, and loved reading his vividly over-the-top descriptions of battles he claimed to have fought. On the site, Blade-Man Eddie purported to be a former soldier of fortune, selling off weapons that he’d plucked from the bodies of people he’d killed. In reality, he was a nerdy kid freeloading stuff he’d stolen from his grandfather and other old guys around town, all of whom were too senile to notice. Eddie was putrid. I liked him.


‘So who’s the guy in the photo, Eddie?’ I casually ran my finger along a wicked-looking bayonet, drawing a little blood but not really caring. ‘Since it so obviously isn’t you.’


‘Some foreign general or something,’ he managed to cough out. ‘I wasn’t expecting someone to turn up here.’


‘That’s the problem with asking for payment in the mail to your house. Why didn’t you just set up a PO box? Or a Paypal account?’


‘I guess I never thought of that.’


‘No, I guess you didn’t.’ My hands curled over some bloody chains hanging by the window, and a charge of sheer power ran through me, like I’d never experienced before. Eddie noticed, too, and gasped. I pulled them down, wrapped one around each arm under my coat sleeves, and told him, ‘purchase number one.’


He sunk his face deep into his hands. ‘You think my grandfather’s going to notice?’


I can be sympathetic when the mood takes me, and now was such a time. I put a hand on his shoulder, which now bobbed up and down in tandem with his sobs, and said, ‘don’t worry about it too much. You said he was mad, and in my experience mad people don’t tend to notice anything other than their own delusions.’


‘I hope so. I mean, he really loves some of this stuff…’


My good mood had passed. ‘Tough. I’m still taking lots of it.’


I walked out of there with a variety of blades and chains, all of them slotted nicely into the backpack that hung around my shoulder. I also left with the knuckles on one hand slightly grazed from my earlier greeting to Eddie. One thing that hadn’t interested me in his weapon lot was his range of guns; any punishment I had to mete out would come up close and personal. I would bathe in their blood by the time this was over.


I slid onto another bus, and the city swallowed me.


I’d never seen a real, live pimp before, so Potts wasn’t at all like I was expecting – no bling-bling jewellery, no big fluffy fur coat. But then, he’d moved on from the pimping business by now, according to my mother’s diaries. These days, he was a respectable businessman, selling and buying property – and still running prostitutes and rent boys on the side.


I followed him for days, powered by the link with my mother’s past that bonds me to all of my targets, hoping in earnest the whole time for him to park up somewhere and lose the two huge minders that literally never let him out of their sight. But no – Mr. Cautious never stopped, never slept a wink, at least not inside any houses. Instead he cruised from building to building, ferried in the back of a car while those two guardians sat in the front, keeping himself out of harm’s way. I began to despair, and the size of those two bruisers didn’t do me any favours, either; even at the safe distance I kept, they still looked mighty mean.


Hiding out on the roof of a shop, I began to rock and wail, moaning to myself, ‘mother, what am I going to do now? How do I get him? How?’


I was going at myself so hard that I barely even noticed when I passed out and went sprawling to the floor below.


I woke up with a friendly looking, very normal couple standing over me. The man, a business type, clean shaven and short haired, reached out a hand to me, saying, ‘hey, man, you all right?’


Groggily, I shook my head. It had been raining that night and my clothes (all black, naturally) were plastered to my skin. The lady, a blonde girl of about eighteen, petite but stacked in all the right places, put her umbrella over me.


I immediately decided to use them. ‘I’m an old friend called Ben,’ I said, ‘and you want to take me back to your home and let me stay the night.’


Needless to say, with talents like mine, it worked. And so a few hours later I found myself back at their house, lying on the couch while they whiled away in the bedroom – even my powers couldn’t get in the way of their libidos. They went for about an hour, and I got up from where I was lying and walked over to stand outside their room. What am I going to do with them? I asked myself. How else can they help me?


I was waiting for them to sleep before I answered the question. But then I heard him, giggling as if he was the girl, say, ‘I don’t think I can again, yet.’


‘Really? Then why don’t I put the music channels on? I know how those pop videos get you in the mood.’


‘Mmmmm, I like it. Hit that remote, baby.’


And that took care of the next hour.


Finally they lay there sleeping, and I crept into their room and looked down at their slumbering bodies. Maybe I can practice on them? I asked myself. Having never killed anyone before, perhaps they could be human guinea pigs for me to work my magic upon?


I discarded the idea with no small amount of revulsion. Because, don’t get me wrong, I’m no indiscriminate killer. I was doing this all for a reason; Potts and the rest were going down because of what they’d done to my mother. These two souls, though, had done nothing wrong – in fact, they’d been kind to me even before I made them think I was a friend. They’d let me borrow clothes, although he didn’t have another all black-combo for me to take, and they’d let me dry my own drenched outfit, which now was back in my pack with the weaponry, just slightly damp now. So no way would I kill them; they were nice people.


Now Potts, on the other hand…


I resumed the hunt in new clothes.


Potts went into a building at two. He looked worried, scared, as the two minders ushered him in, looking over his shoulder a little too much – was he on to me?


I didn’t know. But by four, he hadn’t re-emerged.


Two more wasted hours for yours truly.


Throwing caution to the wind, I pulled out a chain and a hunting knife, stashed my pack away in some bushes, and went in after him.


I was swallowed by darkness even deeper than back in my old attic, a dark so deep that my hand in front of me was a vague shape only. About halfway down, I wrapped the chain tight around my left fist, and tightened my grip on the blade’s handle with my right – I was taking no chances. Not with Potts. Not with a man who had beaten up and sliced many a non-paying customer, and hospitalised a good half dozen of his girls for trying to withhold profits from him. He’d loomed larger than life in my mother’s life story, and though he was far from being the most dangerous foe I had to face (that would be you again, eh, Daddy?) I still needed to watch my back with him.


So I walked carefully past a few locked doors that I knew he wasn’t behind, still not seeing anything, moving entirely from instinct.


And then the cries hit me, cries and the sound of someone being hit repeatedly, the muted sobs of someone whose pain is kept hidden behind a gag. Right at the bottom of the hall, that’s where they were coming from, and though I ached to charge in there and make my first kill, I knew that running in this pitch black would be suicidal – I’d slip, they’d hear me, and it’d be end of days for me. Instead I marched briskly down the hall, keeping it cool, chain jingling with every step, until I stood at the door, planted my heel against it, U.S. cop style, and booted it open.


I saw…


Nothing on God’s green earth could have prepared me for what I saw.


I’d expected the badass pimp to be doing badass pimp style stuff – whipping someone, maybe, from the sounds I’d heard out in the hall. But instead of seeing this vilest of men in a position of power, putting his cock or his fists to use on some woman, I chanced upon the exact opposite: Potts was tied to a pole in the middle of the room, standing on bare tiptoes with his wrists bound high, stretching out his frail old arms to their full length, while the two guys, who I’d thought were his minders, took it in turns to beat the life out of him, one facing him and one behind him. ‘Shouldn’t have tried to escape again, bud,’ the one in front said as he pulled back for another punch. ‘That means we have to hurt you again.’ The punch flew, and connected. ‘I mean, you think we like doing this to you?’


The blood in Potts’s mouth made it kind of hard for him to answer, but I thought the reply he would have given was probably ‘yes.’ Because he had all the signs of someone who’d been beaten for a while; it took getting this close to show me that. The more I thought about it now, the more I saw how obvious the pimp’s real fate was. The way that they drove everywhere, taking it in turns to run the wheel, the way they never left his side, even during the business meetings I’d watched them go to; the truth had been staring me in the face all along.


It didn’t faze me. I mean, these weren’t even nice like the couple were, plus they were in my way. So two more boobs to take down, what the hell.


Right about now, the one behind Potts saw me. He stopped swinging, grinned, and walked over to a bloodstained baseball bat. ‘Looks like another friend has come to bust you out, Pottsy old boy,’ he said. ‘Remember what happened to the last one?’ At that, both of their ugly, shaven heads spun to a pile of bones in the corner. Then returned to me. ‘You see what happens to freedom fighters, boy?’


I spoke simply: ‘I’m not here to free anybody.’


He ran, swinging the bat high above his head, yelling ‘fucker!’ I let my beloved chain swing in return, wrapping it around his weapon and yanking him off balance with it, a move that nearly dislocated my shoulder, despite my extra strength. He came crashing into me, and we landed hard, the bat clattering away, my chain still wrapped around it in a lover’s grip. He sat up on me, and instead of going for the choke or the eye gouge I’d expected, he relied on his old friend the fist, pulling it back to whack down into my face.


But I didn’t give him the chance. I pulled the knife out from under me and drove it deep into his wrist, slicing it straight down a vein, and I squirmed out from under him just as the blood started to seep and he started to scream.


I didn’t see the kick coming from thug number two until it was far too late. I took the blow in the stomach, and it launched me across the room to make yet another undignified landing, this time on my behind. My body, still smarting from my fall off the roof earlier, tried to wave a little white flag, and it was a struggle against time to pick myself up as he stalked towards me, as everything except him started to run in slow motion…


I looked around frantically for a way to stall him, since my knife was still stuck in the other guy’s arm and my chain was still wrapped around the bat, and my eyes chanced upon the pile of bones lying in the corner. A grin spread across my face as I shouted a command into the big guy’s head – LOOK AT ME NOW! – and he slowly spun round to see the body. Or rather, to see what I put in his head. Which were the gnarled remains of the hands coming to life, creeping towards him, and the skull leaping through the air towards his throat. He was already screaming and trying to pull them off, powerless now, but I decided to step things up a notch anyway, by having the hands creep slowly up his legs, up and up, further still…


When they reached his groin, he fell to his knees. Potts watched it all, amazed and confused.


I walked over to the bat, picked it up, and then brought it down on the big guy’s head until his cries had finally stopped. Then I regarded Potts, the first piece of my jigsaw.


‘Should I kill him now?’ I asked myself.


Nah – let him sweat first, so he’ll suffer more in the long run.


It seemed like a plan.


After I led him out of his punishment place, I bought him food, (the condemned man’s last food and all that jazz), and I heard the full sordid story: how the two guys, Clarence and Bell, had wiped out all of his associates and heavies long ago but kept him around, letting Potts’s various customers believe that he was still running the slow whilst the whole time holding him a prisoner in his own life. Sometimes he tried to run away or tell someone the truth, and last night had been such a time. He spilled the whole thing to me without much prompting, thinking I was some kind of friend. The fool.


The pretence lasted a few hours, but every game must have its end, and so, as we walked through a park, I said casually, ‘I’m here to kill you, Potts.’


We stopped; much to my surprise, he didn’t run.


‘You what?’


‘You heard me, pimp. But first, I’m going to tell you a story. One about a beautiful young woman that you sold to some rock star.’


His face went white, realisation setting in. ‘But that was years ago!’


‘Nearly twenty, to be precise, but who’s counting?’ I pushed him onto a park bench and towered over him, vengeance in black. ‘And not that you care, but do you know what happened to that woman?’


‘She married the rock star?’


‘No. Oh no.’ I tensed my hands in expectation. ‘She married something completely different. And then she had me. Then she went mad.’ Her life in three sentences, and it made me sad, not mad. But madness was still in charge; make no bones (pardon the pun) about that.


‘Well, you can’t blame me for any of that!’


I grabbed his shirt, pulled him up face to face, and I saw just how pathetic he was, this fallen prince, this former tyrant. In my mother’s journal, he’d been a huge, steroid-guzzling monster, someone that women lusted after until they discovered his true self. Now he was old and shrunken, with shoulders slumped, beaten down by time, and I realised, as I pushed my eyes deep into his mind, that the person known as Potts was already dead inside. But that wasn’t enough for me.


‘That doesn’t let you off the hook, pal. You started this whole thing; now you’re the first to start finishing it.’


I throttled him, lifting him high in the air and watching his face until it turned blue, until all life ran out of it, and then I tossed him into the bush, an off-hand throw. Even in death, no trace of his guilt appeared on his features. Sneering, leaving three corpses behind me, I moved on to stage two.


I popped in somewhere for food, and hey, what do you know? I saw my father.


It’s a pain, chasing someone who can hop bodies at will.


There were only five people in the American-style diner when I entered – two chefs out back, a couple and some guy talking on his mobile phone non-stop. Oh, and the waitress, a pretty blonde girl with her hair tied up high on her head. I ordered a burger, paying with money I’d taken from the two dead guys, and since it was late night, and there wasn’t much for her to do, the girl hung around my table, talking to me, being friendly, stealing touches whenever she could. ‘The name’s Sarah,’ she said, pointing to her nametag, drawing my attention to the breast that it was pinned above. ‘What’s yours?’


I’m normally short of patience with people, but tonight, after all I’d been through, I decided that I could do with the company. ‘Ben. I’m from out of town.’


She smiled at the couple as they left, and then put a hand on my arm and said, ‘I’ll go and check on your food. How would you like a drink with it, no charge?’


‘Yeah, why not?’ I watched her go, and then swung my gaze up, to where the guy was still talking on his phone. He smiled at me. Deciding that he was beneath me, I didn’t return it.


Sarah came back with a frown on her face. ‘I’m sorry,’ she told me, ‘but we’re having to close early tonight. Maybe you’d like that food to go?’ She fluttered her eyelashes at me to show that wherever my food and I were going, we wouldn’t be going alone.


‘Yeah, okay.’


‘I’ll meet you outside.’ She looked over at the phone-guy. ‘I just have to empty the place totally first.’


I stood and waited, and as attracted to her as I was, I couldn’t get my mind off the mission. Names and really painful ways to die swam in front of my vision, and I kept trying to match one up with the other, and I was having such a full-blown conversation on the inside that I didn’t notice something had happened to me on the outside.


Sarah did, though. And she screamed, dropped the food, and pointed.


I looked down.




To say that I was scared would be putting it mildly. In the middle of the street, in the glow of a street lamp, I was fading in and out of focus, my legs, torso and neck disappearing until only my head fully remained, not invisible like on the coach and not visible like all other times, but somewhere in-between. I instinctively felt myself, and relief, I was there, but I wasn’t fully actually there; I couldn’t be seen properly. And I knew why. I’d lost too much of my human self to the vengeful, demonic side that comes from my father. This was what happened when I forgot that I’m half and half.


Panicking, I yelled ‘sleep!’ at Sarah, and she immediately hit the floor. I was halfway over to catch her when I heard laughing come from the other side of the road. Looking in the window of the diner, I caught the reflection of the man with the phone.


And then he disappeared totally.


‘You bastard,’ I muttered, running over the road without bothering to look for traffic. I’ve never been scared of being hit by a car or truck, as there’s no way I’m going to die in a vehicle accident. Not a chance, baby; this boy’s going out the same way he does everything: in style. But that’s off the point. The point is, when I reached the other side, I found nothing.


Except his phone.


Which started to ring.


I answered it without a ‘hello.’ Why bother, when I knew who it would be?


‘Nice try, kid,’ the voice said. ‘But you’ve got a long way to go yet.’


I trashed the phone and returned to Sarah. ‘You don’t remember coming outside,’ I told her, burning it into her brain. ‘You want to come with me now, and do whatever I say.’


She obeyed me. When she was back to normal, shaking off her grogginess, I took her hand, led her away from work, and said, ‘do you like rock music?’


Stage two was upon me, and with me controlling all she did, Sarah was going to be an invaluable part of it. Hours after meeting her, we took our place amongst the screaming, autograph seeking fans standing outside the local city hall, hoping to get a glimpse of their idol – the man I’d come here to kill. Back when he’d bought my mother from Potts, Jerry Murray had been the lead singer in a shitty bargain basement heavy metal band called Mental Rental Van, but now, a long, long time after going solo, he was one of the world’s biggest music stars, with more fans than I could ever hope to kill. Luckily, I wasn’t interested in the parent-shocking, eardrum-abusing fan base; I just wanted the man himself.


And I was getting him via his love of groupies, which my mother’s words had told me about. Pushing my way to the front of the mob, I managed to make Sarah slip a piece of paper containing her mobile number into his hand. He grinned at her and moved towards the limo, and after that, it was just a case of waiting for the call.


He arrived half an hour after speaking to Sarah, and the sound of his car door slamming was the sound of my mother’s past merging with my future. I looked up sharply, seeing the taxi he’d arrived in drive off, and turned back to Sarah. ‘Show time,’ I told her. ‘Get naked.’


Watching her do so pretty much took my breath away – and it clearly did the same for Jerry, who started disrobing the minute he saw her. I stood watching from the sidelines, out of view thus far, knife ready in my hand. She drew me out by saying, like I’d told her to, ‘you don’t mind if my boyfriend joins in, do you?’


He raised an eyebrow. ‘Well, it’s been a while since my last bi experience, but you know me – I’ll try anything!’


‘So I hear,’ I said, still standing in the shadows. ‘So tell me: when was the last time you sold some used-up old whore to a demon?’


With jeans halfway down his ankles, the stupid grin slid off his face. ‘Oh, Jesus. What is this?’


I leapt out, landing in front of him. ‘Revenge, Jerry.’ I backhanded him across the mouth, sending him flying. ‘Want some?’ And kicked him in the side as he squirmed. ‘Tough if not, because I’ve got plenty to give.’


He stared up into my eyes, recognising. He wasn’t going anywhere, so I told Sarah to dress, and then sent her to sleep and made her invisible, so no one would disturb her until I got back. When I turned back to Jerry, the prick was grinning at me.


‘What’s so funny? You into pain or something?’


‘Actually yes, but that’s not why I’m smiling.’


‘So what is it?’


The grin grew wider. ‘You want to see the video?’


Jerry’s luxury hotel suite was bigger than my old house – he signed me in as his ‘friend,’ which struck me as funny. I’d followed him in without thinking, lured by the promise of seeing my father in action, but as soon as I got inside the place, the whole thing started to yell out ‘trap’ to me. I guessed my inexperience was showing.


Jerry seemed genuinely interested in showing someone the legendary recording, though, and that intrigued me. I sat down on the huge couch, watching him with an icy gaze as he reached deep into his suitcase. ‘If you pull something out of there,’ I told him, ‘that fires bullets and has a name rhyming with ‘fun,’ then I’m going to take great pleasure in making you eat it.’


‘No weapons, man.’ The concept seemed to shock him. ‘I’ve seen what your kind can do when you’re annoyed.’


‘Then remember it well.’


‘I do, man, I do.’ He finally found the tape, and held it aloft like some kind of prize. ‘Got the little sucker. I went through this whole crazy stage of recording my whole life, every single detail…’


‘Save it for the next autobiography, Jerry. I’m on a tight schedule here.’


He was so used to being fawned over that my order wiped the smile straight off his face. He looked at my bloody hands, and nodded in agreement. ‘Yeah, I suppose you are. But you gotta take time to watch this, man. You won’t believe it.’


It started off with his usual narcissistic waffle – in that much, at least, he hadn’t changed. But then Potts walked through the door of his high security mansion, and everything changed… because of the crazy chick Potts had in tow, who happened to be my mother. He pushed her into a chair as he began business talk with Jerry.


‘Hey, man, get that camera out of my face.’


‘No can do, Potts. I film everything. I plan to get my own TV show someday.’


‘Yeah? Who’d watch a show about some rock star on drugs?’


The camera zoomed in on Jerry’s raised eyebrow. ‘You’d be surprised.’


Money was then exchanged for drugs, and after Jerry had snorted plenty of the latter into what passed for his brain, I watched his leering gaze fall over my mother. ‘And who is this fine piece of merchandise?’


I looked over at the present Jerry, enraged to see him enjoying this memoir. Logically, I knew that I could kill him now and watch the rest of the video with him dead at my feet, but the time just didn’t feel right somehow. So instead I swung the chain around and down, whacking it hard over his thigh. He yelped, and I told him ‘quit the smiling’ before returning to the past.


Just in time to see a further transaction between the two – this time for my mother, who didn’t even seem to notice the change in management, so out of it was she. The rest of it was an endless parade of parties and abuse; it was just starting to get boring when he entered the picture.


My father, or rather the body he was inhabiting at the time. People knew and feared him even in this guise; he was hiding out in the upper echelons of the music business, and the artists on this recording, Jerry and his equally hedonistic, high life loving friends, were terrified of what he could do to the careers that had become their lives. I have to admit, he came across as pretty cultured and sophisticated – until he laid eyes on my mother. That was when the lust appeared in his eyes, exposing the monster within.


It cut to another seedy drug-taking scene, this time with only Jerry and my father present. They were relaxing in a sauna, both naked except for towels, and I noticed a tiny mark of the inhuman on my father that most would have missed: despite the humid surrounding, not a single drop of sweat adorned his body. I tried to ignore how nervous that made me.


‘I’m quite fond of that girl in your entourage,’ he said to Jerry. ‘Would you ever consider selling her?’


‘You mean Amber? No way, man. You don’t know the things she can do.’


‘I do. That’s why I want her.’


‘Sorry, pal.’ He snorted a little more. ‘Anyone else you can have, but Amber stays here.’


‘I see.’


And he pulled off my stunt, bounding across the room faster than the eye or camera could comprehend, shedding his human body, which slid to the floor, skin and clothes all bundled together, and appearing in front of Jerry in his true form, black and flaming. ‘I don’t think you see at all, Jerry,’ he growled into the rock star’s face. ‘When I ask you for something, you give it. Understand?’ The last word was bellowed so loudly that Jerry’s hair was swept back from his head and the camera toppled over and off the tripod that bore it, catching everything that followed from a new position on the floor.


To Jerry’s great embarrassment, he started crying as he replied, ‘yes, yes, take her, take whatever you want, just please, don’t hurt me!’


With that, normality returned to the scene, the camera sprung back to its former position, moved without hands by my father, and they became just two guys in a sauna again. My father smiled, unnerving me further, and said to Jerry, ‘I’m glad we got that sorted out. Now – want to be my best man?’


The wedding, if it could be called that, was an unpleasant as you’d expect – with a bride half dead through drug abuse, sexual abuse and malnourishment, and a groom who kept alternating between human and demon to impress his greedy and selfish congregation, I guessed that this wedding probably hadn’t graced the cover of any celebrity magazines. Some friend of Jerry’s tried to hit on my mother before the ‘ceremony’; they were wed in front of his eviscerated and elevated form, tied up to a board above them, his body covered in the pins and needles that my father enjoyed using so much. Hence the name he was married under: The Lord of Needles.


There was a second of lucidity in my mother’s eyes, when the drugs wore off and the real Amber managed to poke her way to the surface. She looked, saw what her life had become, and as she fainted dead away, I knew that this was the second in which her mind had snapped. Totally and utterly gone forever. Which was probably a relief, as my father’s next act was to consummate the marriage in front of everyone. They laughed and hooted, this audience, and then fell into a massive orgy, one that used the newlywed couple as its nucleus, spinning around them in a circle of obscenity. Even the cameraman joined in, putting his work tool on a tripod like he had done in the sauna, and stripping off his clothes to join in the fun. I looked over them all, just before I stopped the tape, and made a promise by my knife: these, too, would pay the price.


Without looking at Jerry, keeping my back to him, I said simply, ‘you’re going down.’


‘Am I?’ came the reply.


Catching the threat in his voice too late, I turned around – just in time for him to empty a can of deodorant straight into my eyes.


It went in my mouth, too, and I fell down coughing, blinded, scared beyond belief, fully expecting him to stick a knife through my heart when I was out of commission. But then there was a huge crash, which came from the equally huge window being smashed, and then there was the sound of someone entering through it, despite this being the top floor of the hotel, and it was someone who changed the atmosphere of the place just by entering. The Lord himself; my father. Reaching down through the hotel with my mind, I felt how he affected every single floor, every room: hey, the TV’s gone funny; hey, this food smells off; Jesus, why is it so cold in here? And this was the man I’d come to kill? Had I really thought I was stronger than him? Had you?


Jerry clearly hadn’t been expecting him, but he took it all in his stride. ‘This is a surprise.’


‘I thought you’d be dead by now.’ From the sound of it, my father was hovering in the air, somewhere in front of me. I rubbed my eyes frantically, trying to will sight back to them, wishing that they could heal as fast as the rest of my body. But I am half-human, after all… and hope sprang in me, as I remembered my invisibility! I tried to turn it on; and my father laughed. ‘That doesn’t work with me, kid. I invented that trick.’


Jerry replied to my father, ‘me, offed by some kid? What would the papers say?’


‘But this isn’t just any kid,’ my father explained. ‘He’s half me.’


‘Still, I could handle him just fine.’




Another loud sound split the room – this time of a hand tearing through flesh and bone, of blood exiting a suddenly torn open body at much too fast a pace. ‘No, you bastard!’ I yelled. ‘He was mine to kill! Mine!’


A slimy, clammy, skinless hand, covered in Jerry’s blood, stroked my cheek, and I ducked away instinctively, finally admitting to myself how scared I was to be facing this beast without sight, so scared that I was fading in and out of vision again, so scared that I pissed in my pants and whimpered for help that couldn’t come. ‘What’s the harm, boy?’ my father asked. ‘You still have me to kill, don’t you?’ And he laughed at the notion, and was gone.


I passed out, glad and surprised that only piss, and not shit, was currently staining my underwear.


Sometime later, my sight returned, and I walked to the mirror to check myself. I looked bad; I looked like what should have been lying in my undergarments. My eyes were bloodshot and puffy, and blood and slime dripped from my cheek, where my father had touched me. I removed my clothes, dumping them on the floor like my father had done with his skin on the video, and took a big long bath in Jerry’s suite, letting my mind roam through the hotel once again. He was gone; I knew this because all was peaceful throughout the place. I could relax for a while.


On my way to Jerry’s wardrobe, I came across a most welcome sight, one that put the smile firmly back on my face: Jerry moaning on the floor, still alive despite the huge split that had divided his body from throat to crotch. Too dumb and drugged up to die.


‘Hey, what do you know?’ I said cheerily. ‘Looks like pop isn’t the man after all. How do you fancy death, Jerry?’


From the sounds he made as I slowly removed his head, I assumed he hadn’t much fancied it at all.


I suited up in Jerry’s stuff and headed back to the park that I’d apprehended him in. Where Sarah became visible and awake again at my command.


‘Jesus,’ she said, stroking my face, concern in her voice. ‘What the hell happened to your eyes?’


‘I’ll tell you about it. I believe you invited me over to your place?’


In her pleasant dwellings, I’ve written all this down. I like Sarah, I must say; like her so much that I may stay here for a few months. Who knows?


But don’t think that I’ve given up on the mission, as this is far from the truth. In fact, I’ve kept a close eye on the news, studying newspapers and watching TV obsessively when Sarah is at work, and I’ve seen him three times, each time in a body that has just been found dead. I’d see the face of the deceased, and I’d see him laughing at me from behind it. He’s hopping bodies again, not hiding himself like he did in the diner, enjoying the thrill of being hunted, knowing that I’ll never stop until he’d dead at my feet. And I won’t; if it takes until my hair is grey and my teeth are false, I’ll see the score settled.


Are you reading this, are you?


There is nowhere you can hide.


I’m coming for you, Father.