I’m crouching in a small corner of the refuse room trying to calm down and figure out what I’m going to do next, what might happen now that Brett has dissolved into a stain on the street. It’s full dark with a half-moon hovering in a pitch-black sky when the heavy metal door creaks open. I hide behind the mountain of junk below the street-facing window and ball my fists to fight off whoever might come for me. One of the group who attacked Brett comes through. I grab a mannequin made from chair legs and hit him hard over the head. He falls unconscious to the floor, and I step over him and into the living room.
I hurry through the living room, past the couch where some of Brett’s creations rot. I’m about to go through the open front door, but get a sneaking suspicion that some of those all-too-perfect people are waiting out there to give me one of Dr. Shrivak’s little metal pills.
I go into the back yard and am about to climb over the fence to make my escape when I hear voices come from Brett’s workshop shed. Through a crack in the wall of the shed, I see their shadows flickering in the light of a bare bulb. There are two voices inside; one is the voice of Dr. Shrivak, now devoid of the sterile un-human professionalism from the other day. The other is the voice of the five-legged beast that chased me through the woods before I met Amduscias.
“So sorry, so so so sorry, Buer,” Dr. Shrivak’s snivels. “I thought the medication would work, but, but….”
“But you should have brought him to me,” says Buer. “I could have harnessed his madness and turned it to the use of our natural philosophy, your science, could have used it to help me rise again. But Amduscias got to him first, and will use the dissolved eccentric’s madness to create more of his damned music.”
Dr. Shrivak makes a grunt as if to plea, but the shadows come together and Dr. Shrivak’s throat comes away in the thing’s teeth with a wet crunch, blood spraying the wall of the shed.
While Buer munches on Dr. Shrivak’s corpse, I scramble over the fence and sprint down the alley, never looking back. Later, exhaustion makes me slow down to a fast walk through the deserted nighttime streets of Longcord, but I always glance over my shoulder, fearing something sneaking up behind me to surprise me.
When I get back to my house, I stay awake on my couch looking at the front door, listening for suspicious sounds, and debating over whether or not to call the police, whether they’ll believe me. But by some dark grace I fall asleep, and a new set of nightmares come. I’m in Brett’s head, wearing his skull like a mask and seeing the world the way saw it. The streets of Longcord are a twisted no-man’s-land where hot hostility emerges from every crack in the sidewalk, and where the people walking these ruined concrete paths and driving along the roads are anthropoid beasts whose very form betoken that they hide a gun or dagger or cruel and devastating word. And through it all I wear a heavy vest of metal loneliness, making me feel as if it will pull me to the ground, toward the cracked and chipped dirty sidewalk emanating such horrible hate.