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Authors: John Skipp,Craig Spector

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Horror

The Light at the End (6 page)

BOOK: The Light at the End
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CHAPTER 6

 

At about 3:30 in the afternoon, Stephen Parrish resolved to call Josalyn again. He’d been all over the Village until almost four in the morning, checking every possible hangout, and come up with nothing. He’d finally dragged himself home and collapsed in defeat, slept through the rest of the morning, and awakened at a quarter to two: bleary-eyed, cranky, and not at all rested.

He’d gotten dressed, made a cup of instant coffee, and gone down to the corner for the
Post
and the
Daily News
. The subway murders were relegated to small boxes in the lower left-hand corner of the front page:
POLICE SUSPECT DEMON CULT IN SUBWAY SLAYINGS
for the first,
SUBWAY PSYCHO’S CALL… “THE DEVIL MADE US DO IT!”
for the other. They did not make him happy He bought them and took them home.

He read them. They were nonsense, pure and simple. Stephen was amazed that the ruse had made it past the copy editors desk. Obviously, some fruitcake had called in, dubbing himself High Priest of the Luciferian Order, and claimed to have orchestrated a blood sacrifice to the Dark Prince Himself. The police were checking on it, on the off chance that there might be something to it; but Stephen’s opinion was that “Lord Blood” (as this loony-tune referred to himself) was a sicko publicity-seeker, cluttering the trail with bad jokes and schizophrenia.

But… how could he know for sure?

For all he knew, Lord Blood was not only as weird as he seemed, but even
weirder
. For all he knew, the guy might be a cover for a real group of Satanists, or mobsters, or terrorists, or whatever. For all he knew, it could have been the C.I.A.

The big question in his mind was beginning to be
what difference does it make? If someone got Rudy, it doesn’t really matter who it was. Does it?

In truth, he didn’t really have any evidence that Rudy was on the train at all, just a gut feeling that got harder and harder to hang on to as time dragged by. By 2:45, Stephen was more than half convinced that he’d been making a complete arse out of himself… that Rudy was out somewhere, sleeping it off, and just not bothering to call.

Which led to the next question:
why, exactly, should I care? Why should I break my neck looking for someone who wakes me up in the middle of the night, says he’ll be right over, and then doesn’t so much as call for two days?

By 3:15, Stephen had decided that Josalyn was right, and he was wrong: Rudy was a pig. He had no respect for anybody else. He was completely selfish, completely wrapped up in his own cynical world. He treated other people… other
artists
, even… like trash, and he had a ridiculously inflated sense of his own importance. An ego as big as a Buick. And he wasn’t all that great, really, when you came right down to it.

Stephen felt extremely guilty, then. He felt like an idiot for letting Rudy jerk him around like that, and he felt even worse about jumping all over Josalyn. She was a nice enough girl, and she certainly wasn’t stupid: she’d seen through Rudy before he had.

And so it was that, at roughly 3:30, Stephen decided to call her up and apologize.
It won’t be pleasant
, he told himself,
but I really have to do it. It’s the least I can do, considering how I’ve behaved.

He started pacing around the apartment, trying to figure out how to approach it. Should he just say
I’m sorry
and forget about it? Should he try to joke around with her, stay within her good graces if it wasn’t already too late? And what if she wasn’t willing to talk with him? Could he blame her? Not really.

By 3:40, he’d given up on the idea. It would probably just blow over, and the situation was already awkward. Why make it worse? He spent another ten minutes, just trying to assure himself that he’d made the right decision.

Then he tried to think of something to do.

He went downstairs and checked the mailbox. His weekly check from Mom and Dad was there. As an unemployed art school student (who needed lots of time to pursue his main interest, which was writing), it seemed only right that they should cover his rent, tuition, and all other expenses.
This will come in handy
, he thought.
I’m down to thirty bucks
. Then he went back upstairs.

Half an hour later, after another cup of instant, he decided that writing might help him work off some of his nervous energy. The only problem was, he didn’t know what to write about. There were a couple of stories kicking around in his head, but he didn’t quite know where to start with any of them.

He tried to come up with something new, but it went nowhere. He threw out the sheet and put in a new one. He stared at it for a long long time.

When 5:00 rolled around, Stephen put on his jacket and headed for the store. He decided that a nice long walk might do him some good, help him clear his mind for this story he was trying to write, help him to relax. He wanted desperately to be a writer… a
great
writer… but he just couldn’t seem to concentrate. Too many distractions. He made a private vow to let nothing disturb him until the story was complete.

By 5:15, he was calling Rudy’s house from a Bleecker Street pay phone. Nobody answered. He decided to get a Coke or something and try again later. Just knowing that Rudy was alright would certainly ease his mind.

By 9:30, Stephen had decided that Rudy probably wouldn’t be out on the street tonight. He headed home to do some serious writing: a great new idea came to him at McSorley’s, swigging ale… actually, just some insights into collegiate behavior. Their sexual problems. How hard it all was. That kind of thing. It wasn’t a story, but it could be turned into a
great
one, if only he could think of some way to tie all the pieces together.

By 10:30, Stephen Parrish was fast asleep in his bed. He decided that the story could wait until tomorrow. He was really, really tired.

It had been a long, hard day.

 

CHAPTER 7

 

By 10:30, Danny Young was munching popcorn in the front row of the St. Marks Cinema and waiting for Werner Herzog’s
Nosferatu
to start. It was only the tenth time he’d seen it, and he couldn’t wait. “Ah, this is gonna be great,” he said to no one in particular, and kicked his scrawny legs like a little kid on a swing.

The black couple on his right, busily rolling up joints for the performance, took one look at him and busted up laughing. He smiled back, ebullient, and did a series of elaborate dance steps from his seat.

“Wha’choo
on
, bro’?” the guy wanted to know, brandishing a fat joint of what looked to be high-grade Hawaiian. “It’s got to be better than
this
, thass all I got to say.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Danny answered. In truth, all he had was some mediocre Colombian.
But, hey, why spoil the illusion?
he thought.
That’s what going to the movies is all about!

He didn’t notice the girl coming up on his left until she was almost next to him. He turned, going on the chronic movie-goer’s sixth sense; but when he saw her, something else went off in his mind.

I’ve seen her before
, he thought.
In my shop, maybe. Or maybe it was the last time I saw Nosferatu, with Jay and Brenda. I’m not sure. But I know that I’ve seen her before.

He certainly couldn’t forget that face: the large, dark eyes, surrounded by broad patches of black makeup in the shape of bats wings: the broad features, made almost gaunt by highlights and a thin layer of whiteface; the thick black hair, streaked with blue, styled like Magentas in
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
; the gaudy purple of her full, arrogantly set lips. He certainly couldn’t forget this girl, perennially dressed in red and black flowing garments that only partially obscured her extravagant curves.

No, there’s no doubt about it
, he mused, watching her approach.
She’s the one
. It suddenly occurred to him that there was only one empty seat in the front row, that it was currently occupied by his pack and denim jacket, and that she was going to ask if anyone was sitting there. He cleared his throat in advance and waited for her to reach him.

“Anyone sitting there?” she asked, pointing at his belongings.

“Not at all,” he said, piling his things quickly onto his lap. “Sit thee down.” Without a proper explanation, his heart was beginning to pound.

“Thanks,” she said, complying. While there wasn’t any gushing of eternal gratitude, he figured that she probably wasn’t pissed off at him, either.
Maybe she’ll share a doobie with me, once the show gets going
, he thought, checking in his pockets for the joints he knew were there with suddenly clammy hands. Quite involuntarily, the movie screen in his head started showing clips from a new art-porno film in which he and she were the stars. He closed his eyes and tried to stop the projector, but some pretty hard-core scenes played out before he achieved any measure of success.

Danny chanced a quick look over at her. She sat, eyes trained on the blank screen, expressionless. He assumed that she hadn’t read his mind and relaxed a little, but the sight of her hit him with a burst of renewed imagery.

You don’t get laid enough
, he reminded himself sternly.
That’s not good. Nonetheless, it is the way it is
. He helplessly allowed one more seamy shot to flash before the shout went up from behind him and the lights began to fade…

“Alright!” he cried, as darkness enveloped the theatre.

And the horror began.

 

When the uptown RR pulled out of the 8
th
Street station, there were only two people left on the platform: Louie, who was passed out some twenty yards from the southern mouth of the tunnel, and Fred, who was staggering around in a considerable stupor, looking for money that people might have dropped. Neither Louie nor Fred had held any gainful employment for the last eight years or so. Both of them smelled like ripe sewage on a hot plate. The uptown passengers on the RR were extremely glad that Louie and Fred had decided not to join them.

Louie snored while Fred dragged his gaze along the concrete floor. It didn’t look promising for the great white hunter: if he found more than fifteen cents, he would have to consider himself lucky. Maybe… he wasn’t quite sure… that’d give him enough for another bottle of muscatel, if he got Louie to chip in…

There was a sound from the mouth of the tunnel. At first, Fred thought that it was just his buddy, shuffling around or something. But when he heard it again, he was looking directly at Louie, and Louie didn’t seem to be moving at all.

“Whuzzizit?” he mumbled, wiping his eyes with a grimy paw. He staggered a little further down Louie’s way, and that was when he saw it.

Sitting at the very edge of the platform, right next to the far wall, was a wallet. Even from that distance, with his vision swimming like an Olympic gold medallist, Fred had no doubts as to what it was. It looked pretty fat, too, and Fred couldn’t figure out for the life of him why he hadn’t noticed it before.

“Oboy,” he said, making a jagged beeline toward the black leather goody. He briefly considered waking up Louie, but decided against it.
Piss on ‘im
, he thought.
Gonna drink the whole bottle myself.

He was almost up to the edge of the platform when the first wave of irrational fear hit him. He shrugged it off, having learned long before to ignore anything that didn’t get him drunk. There was a gold buckle on the wallet; it twinkled in the overhead light like the wink of a harlot.

He was seduced. The wallet was so close now that he could almost smell the leather. He stumbled up to the yellow safety line, dropped to his knees, and reached out slowly with one trembling hand.

“Oboy,” he said.

And then the hand whipped up from below: so cold, so fast, that Fred barely had time to gasp before it took him by the wrist and yanked him, headfirst, toward the rails…

 

Two joints and more than half a film later, a strange thought came together in the back of Danny’s mind. Though it had nothing to do with what was on the screen at the moment, he found himself remembering the scene where Nosferatu’s ship docked…

…his ship full of rats…

…and he thought about the subway murders from a couple of days ago: the ones that made all the papers. He seemed to remember something about rats in that story, too: somebody eaten alive, speculation that a large number of rats were brought on board by Satanist crazies, or something…

What if
… he thought, and then stopped himself. It was too crazy to even consider, beyond a shadow of a doubt. And yet.

And yet.

Sitting in this theatre, surrounded by crazy people with Klaus Kinski’s two monstrous fangs staring him in the face, it suddenly didn’t seem any stranger than the fact that James Watt was once Secretary of the Interior. Suddenly, with a rush that bordered on cold certainty, it seemed ridiculously clear that vampires were riding the subways and feeding on hapless commuters.

Danny giggled nervously. He looked at Nosferatu’s face and cracked up completely. People on either side of him turned to see what could possibly be so funny; he waved them off with helpless little sweeps of his arms.
Oh, it’s so obvious, it’s almost obscene!
he thought, and then broke out into fresh, hysterical gales of laughter.

The girl on his left, with the bat-wing makeup. grabbed him by the arm and started to shake him. “
What’s going on?
” she hissed, eyes red and glassy from Danny’s two joints and God-knew-what-else she might have done before the show. On her face was a mixture of annoyance and amusement; she wanted to know why he was laughing just as badly as she wanted him to shut up.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered back. “I’ll be quiet.” And started giggling again.

“No, wait a minute.” The smile had taken over her face. “I want to know what’s so funny.”

“Uh…” The words froze on the way up his throat.
She’ll think I’m a fruitcake
, his rational mind informed him.
She’ll say
uh-huh, right,
and move to the back of the theatre
. But then he looked at her again… not just her physical appearance, but the way she was leaning toward him now, her eyes almost flaming in their twin pools of dark design… and he reconsidered.

Fuggit. One fruitcake to another
. He shrugged his shoulders, not giggling now, and leaned toward her with one hand cupped between his mouth and her ear.

“You might think this is silly,” he whispered, “but I’m beginning to suspect that there’s a vampire running around in the subways.”

She didn’t move. Danny, too, was fixed in position, with his face half-buried in her hair; and because he couldn’t see her awed, almost beatific expression, he had no idea as to how she was reacting. For a long moment, he sat in tense, motionless apprehension, wishing that he knew what went on in her mind.

And it was funny, because when she turned to him with lowered eyelids and a crafty smile on her purple lips, the first thing she said was, “You know, I was just thinking exactly the same thing.”

For another long moment, their eyes were locked.

An understanding passed between them.

“Later,” she whispered finally, bringing one finger to her lips. They turned, secretly smiling, and went back to the movie.

On the screen, an actor was pretending to drain blood from an actress who was pretending to die; but for the first time in Danny Young’s life, he saw it as though it were actually happening. As though it were
possible
.

And for the first time in ten viewings of
Nosferatu
, he was genuinely scared to the bone.

 

Louie wasn’t sure, at first, what woke him from the sleep of the mortally wasted. It happened suddenly; no dreamlike segue between his own little world and the big one outside his head, no break at all between total unconsciousness and as much attention as he could muster. Suddenly he was awake, staring bleary-eyed at the empty platform.

Alone.

“Wuh,” he mumbled, wiping something wet from his mouth. Liquor and drool. It left a thin, glossy smear across his dirty hand. He wiped it on the hair that spilled down into his eyes, and looked around the platform again.

Dimly, in the back of his mind, it occurred to him that something was missing. He didn’t know what it was, but it was there; or, rather, it was
not
. Louie grimaced, perplexed, and scratched absently at his itching scalp. His brain, pickled by the years, refused to cooperate.

And then he heard the sound that awakened him Echoing crazily from the depths of the tunnel. Cutting off sharply, as if by a switch. And erupting again.

A scream.

Louie dragged himself forward for about a yard before he could get to his feet. It came again… horrible, tortured, pleading… and stopped abruptly. He craned his neck, stumbled, and fell on his face. For a second he forgot where he was, then remembered; his ears pricked up like a dog’s, and his bowels threatened to let go in terror.

But the screaming had stopped.

“Fred?” he whispered.

Then, from somewhere deep in the forever darkness a low rumbling: faint at first, but slowly gathering force as it drew closer and closer to where he lay, trembling, on the cold concrete. The rumble became a roar, like thunder. For the second time today, Louie pissed himself; but this time he was awake, and whimpering, as two bright circles of brilliance glared out of the tunnel like a pair of hellish eyes.

And as the express train hurtled through the 8
th
Street station, Louie was not at all sure whether the puny screams that he heard were a last dying echo from the shadows beyond, or whether they were his own.

 

“The thing I don’t understand,” she said, “is why it’s just starting now. Why now?”

“Why not?” he answered, glib. “Good a time as any.”

“No. I mean, did he just move to New York two days ago, or has he been hiding out for a while?”

“I don’t know. A lot of people move here every day.” He paused to scratch his chin, a gesture of deepest concentration. “Maybe it’s just a tourist.”

“A tourist?” She laughed, beaming, and brushed a dark lock of hair from her eyes.

“Yeah. He pops into town, takes a room under the wine cellar at the Plaza Hotel, sleeps all day, and paints the town red at night.”

“Oh, Jesus.” She shook her head and gave him a look that said
I don’t believe I’m walking with this guy
, then laughed again. “Paints the town red. Jesus. You’re insane, did you know that?”

Her name was Claire De Loon; or at least that was what she’d have had him believe. She said that she lived on MacDougal Street, just south of Houston, which was good news for Danny: it put her within four or five blocks of his shop.

Another happy development for Danny, were it to be true, was that Claire seemed to like him. It was evidenced by her laughter, the sparkle in her eyes, by the fact that she’d told him so much about herself… even if some of the details, like the name, were bogus—if nothing else, then by the fact that they were going to Cafe Reggio for cappuccino together.

It was good news for Danny because he had definitely taken a liking to Claire De Loon, or whatever her name was.
She’s a real character
, he thought fondly as he watched her walk beside him. The jiggle of her breasts was an awesome thing to behold. She moved with unmistakable New York bravura: a swagger just this side of haughtiness.

But the clincher, without a doubt, was their little psychic link. There must have been half a million girls in the city who could make him do a double-take; very few of them, however, would be apt to get the same flash at the same time, and fewer still would be willing… no, make that
eager
… to talk about it. Especially when it was as weird a flash as this.

“Well, then,” Claire continued, “he might be gone by now. Nobody else has been killed, have they?”

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