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Authors: Chet Williamson

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BOOK: Siege of Stone
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She knew what he wanted to hear her say, but she wasn't about to say it. She was going to tell the truth, and she
had
told it, time and again, and it was so simple an idiot
child
could understand it, but they didn't believe her, so they kept her in this
nut
house.

She went over it in her mind again, her closely clipped nails digging at her arms, burrowing in the soft spot inside the bend of her elbow, reddening the flesh. They had been in that Indian roadhouse on the reservation, and those moronic cowboys had started on Damon, who was trying to lead them to the Divine now that Ezekiel had disappeared into the desert. Then Rodney, the big ex-biker who was with them, went for one of the cowboys, and all hell broke loose.

Before she knew what had happened, Jezebel had rammed a shard of glass from a broken sugar container into the throat of a cowboy, killing him deader than dirt. She and Damon had gotten out and driven away, but their van got stuck, and the next thing she knew, Ezekiel, her brother and lover, was there, a mummylike walking corpse, enveloping Damon and somehow sucking all the juice out of him. In a minute, Damon's body was as dried as Ezekiel's had been, and Ezekiel, now full of Damon's fluids, was standing there, looking happy and satisfied, come back to life.

Then the cops had come, or at least some people she
thought
were cops, some black bitch and a white guy. They took Ezekiel and put him in their trunk, along with Damon's body, and told her to say that Damon had run away. That was the story she had told the
other
cops when they came, and they had taken her and charged her with the murder of Arthur Griffith, which was the name of the shit-for-brains cowboy she had stabbed.

For a while, she had given them the story the first cops had told her to tell, but then, after days of being in her cell, she told her court-appointed attorney to go screw himself and gave the authorities the dope on what had actually happened. When none of them believed her, she got a little violent, and then started scratching herself. That was when they'd put her in the nuthouse.

She didn't give a damn, though. Those cops who'd taken Ezekiel away hadn't come back or done shit for her, so why should she tell their bullshit story? And when it came right down to it, the nuthouse was better than the jail. The cells were cleaner, for one thing, and she'd rather be locked up with crazies than with the trash she'd been with in jail.

But Jesus, she
hated
that Dr. Ross. If they let her nails grow out, which they wouldn't, she'd try and scratch his eyes out. She was already in for murder, so what else could they do to her?

She had just closed her eyes to try and get some sleep when she heard a weird sound, like somebody had ripped a really big piece of cloth. She sat up quickly and opened her eyes, and saw him.

She had never set eyes on the Divine before, nor had she spoken to anyone who had ever seen him, but from the electricity that filled her entire body, she knew this being in front of her could be no one else. He was wearing a loose white shirt and light-colored trousers, and he smiled at her as though he were an angel come down from heaven. A light brown beard wreathed his strong jaw, and his soft hair fell straight down to his shoulders. His unblemished skin was a perfect bronze shade, and his blue eyes looked into hers with a promise of paradise.

"Jezebel," he said, and her name had never sounded more beautiful in her ears. "I've come to free you." Then he held out his hand, and she stood up and put her bandaged right hand into his. There was a further tingle at the contact, and she laughed out loud at the sensation. "Come," he said, and he stepped through the wall.

She didn't pause to wonder at it. Of course the Divine could pass through walls if he wished to. He could do anything, couldn't he? She watched as her hand in his vanished through the white-painted cinderblock wall, and then she just stepped through it as well.

Instantly, there was a feeling of compression. It was as though all the atoms in her body had suddenly shrunk, and the pain was so great as to be beyond the release of a scream. But it lasted for only a moment, and then she and the Divine were standing in a dimly lit hall, and he was leading her down it, and she was moving along with him, the pain gone, but the memory of it still pounding at her mind.

This part of the facility seemed to be deserted. She could hear no screams or moans from inside the rooms they passed.

At the end of the hall, they came to a heavily locked door, but again, the Divine simply passed through its steel surface. Jezebel wanted to try and pull back, but was helpless. Had the Divine walked into flames, she would have gone with him, as long as her hand was in his.

This time the pain was even worse. The steel was far less yielding than the more porous cinderblocks that had walled her cell. As she came out on the other side, she felt shredded, slashed apart, and put back together with will alone.

But they were outside now, and it was the first time she had felt cool night air for many weeks. Or was it months? She had lost all track of time, and the pain she had just experienced muddied her mind even more.

The Divine didn't look back, nor did he acknowledge her pain. He only walked with the certainty of a god toward the back wall of the facility, and then through it, and she followed, her soul screaming one last time at the pain, and then they were through, and a dry plain made silver by moonlight lay before them, as far as Jezebel's burning eyes could see. They continued to walk, the Divine still clinging to her hand. It wasn't as though she was
holding
his hand, or that he was holding hers, but as though they were one creature, half-man, half-woman, joined at the ends of the arms, grafted together so that their hands became one, a shared fusion of flesh.

Although the memory of pain stayed with her, it faded after a time, and she was amazed to find that she did not grow weary as she walked. It was as if her contact with the Divine strengthened her, as though he were an inexhaustible battery from which she drew power through their contact.

They walked all through the night, away from people and buildings and roads, straight into the desert. At last, just as the sun was starting to lighten the eastern horizon, he suddenly stopped, whirled about, and looked at her, his gaze piercing her like a butterfly on a pin. She tried to draw back from the ferocity in his face, but their hands still clung together.

"
Why?
" he said. The power of the single word was like a slap in her face. Jezebel shook her head, not understanding. The Divine pulled his hand away from hers, and the release left her weak. She staggered and fell to her knees in the dust, her right hand throbbing. But when she looked at it, it appeared unchanged, the bandage still wrapped around it.

"Why did you seek me?" the Divine said, and his voice seemed more gentle.

She tried to think, and then to make her mouth form the words her mind spoke. Everything seemed suddenly, terribly complicated and difficult. "I . . . because . . . you are the
Divine
. Because you know . . . all the secrets. And you have . . . all the power."

"And what power," the Divine said softly, "do
you
have, little one?"

"I . . . I don't know, not much, I mean . . ."

"Are you not involved with a group? The group that Ezekiel Swain led?"

She felt tears pool in her eyes. "Ezekiel's dead . . . they're
all
dead now. I tried to find you after he died, but I couldn't. Then I . . . then everything fell apart."

"You are his sister, yet you couldn't find me? The blood should have been strong. His blood was your blood, yes?"

She shook her head dumbly, trying to explain. "My mother was Ezekiel's father's second wife. I was born after they were married."

"Half siblings, then," said the Divine thoughtfully. "Still, the same father . . ."

"No. My mother . . . had a lover.
He
was my father."

"Ah," said the Divine sagely. "That explains it, then. Why you couldn't reach me. Why even now it takes me great effort to peer inside your head. Our connection is so . . . tenuous."

"Oh, don't say that, my lord!" Jezebel took the Divine's hand again and held it tightly. "I've wanted so much to be with you . . . Ezekiel told me everything about you, your powers, your desires, what you could do for those who served you . . ."

"For those who serve me with more than themselves, my child. But you have nothing. I am free now. I need allies with connections. I need warriors. You I do not need." He held her right hand, and then ripped the bandages from it. She gasped at the pain. "You scratch yourself. So much so that you bleed." Then he nodded, as if in satisfaction.

The Divine took both of Jezebel's hands in his, so that her fingertips rested against his palms. Then he began to stroke her fingers with his thumbs. He did this several times, and then closed his hand over her fingertips and held them for nearly a minute. Jezebel could feel something changing in her hands, as though insects were crawling from the tips of her fingers.

Then the Divine opened his hands, and Jezebel saw that her fingernails, which had the day before been trimmed so short that she could barely scratch herself at all, had grown until they rose a full inch past her fingertips, curving inward like ragged and spatulate claws.

"Ah," the Divine whispered. "A miracle. Now you can do what you've been wanting to do, Jezebel. You can really scratch now. Scratch
hard
."

He looked at her, and the look would have told her what she had to do, even if she hadn't already heard the command inside her head. Maybe she wasn't the perfect channel for the Divine's will, but with him here, right in front of her, she knew precisely what he wanted her to do. And she had no choice but to do it.

She lifted her hands to her neck and she began to scratch the skin at the hollow of her throat, just below the spot where, she remembered, she had rammed the dagger of broken glass up under Arthur Griffith's chin. She scratched with both hands at once, so deeply that the nails started to cut right through the skin.

She scratched until she felt blood start to trickle down her fingers, across her palms, and onto her wrists from her torn exterior jugular veins. In another few minutes, she had dug deeper, so that her jagged nails severed her interior jugular, and her blood, wet and warm, start to rhythmically pulse against her hands. After that, she lived only another three minutes, and died wondering how all this had happened, and hoping that she would come back to life the way that Ezekiel had, and that she would see him again.

 

"D
on't count on it," said the creature who watched Jezebel Swain's eyes go dull, and who read her last thought before her brainwave activity ceased altogether. "There's no coming back for you," the Prisoner said softly.

He watched for a while longer, until the blood had ceased to pulse. It had really been all over when the blood had stopped its flow to the brain, but there was still some residual flavor, and he had been without such nourishment for so many centuries.

At last he stood up from where he had been crouching, looking into the woman's eyes as life left them. He looked at the eastern horizon and breathed deeply, relishing the smell of her blood that was soaking into the sandy soil. Then he looked down again, and wondered if perhaps he should have let her live and mated with her instead of enjoying her death.

No
, he thought. This was no time to start new generations. There were already enough of his blood. His ability to wield over half of Michael LaPierre's troops was proof of that. Amazing, how a mere score of seeds planted over a millennium ago could bear so much fruit.

Yet maybe not so amazing after all, when one considered the remarkable evolutionary advantage those with his blood would have. Genetic strengths that would enable them to survive plagues and deal with hunger more effectively than other humans. Add to that the fact that they could not help but be more intelligent and hardier workers, and it was no surprise that his progeny should have spread so widely.

Now it was another of those descendants that he would seek. This woman had been so feeble and useless that it was time to reach out to one who had proved himself a repository of data about the governments of this world, the governments that the Prisoner would have to use against each other.

The Prisoner had appeared to Joseph Stein in his dreams, and had found him a vibrant conduit for his will. The bond between them had been strong, and now he sent out the tendrils of his mind, firing brainwaves like missiles into the open sky, heatseekers searching for Stein's genetically sympathetic thoughts.

He reached far, and at last sensed the man's mind. But it was far to the east, across this continent. He would have to close that distance before he could hope to bring Stein under his control. He had in the past achieved mastery over souls, even through the lead that had bound him and through which he had learned to pierce, with great effort. But distance diminished his powers considerably. At several hundred miles, he had been able to touch Ezekiel Swain, and the weaker mind of Martin Reigle, who, at his order, had dynamited the Dead Horse Dam, in an unwitting effort to free the Prisoner from the kiva in which the Catholics had held him.

BOOK: Siege of Stone
11.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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