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Excerpt from Primaland, Chapter 5:

"First Mention of Sir Wixom Carver's Gothic Shoppe (or Traveling Show)"

 

 They are closing in faster than I can make heads or tails of this. Any effort I make to understand things is doomed to distraction by this cacophonous moaning, growing at a comparable rate to the baleful howl of the authorities.

We are waiting at the center of it. I feel I am about to witness a mad massacre party, held in my honor. In my hand is an empty Sig-Sauer and Rita is holding the clips out to me, fourteen in a belt. Kint advises us to “Get off the streets. Hide somewhere, but you won’t be able to go far in the next thirty seconds. Get to a hiding place; try for a storeroom. That way, when everything returns to normal, you’ll be able to slip out and blend in. Meet us north of here.”

“That’s it? Meet us north of here?”

“Best of luck, son. My advice? Take the record store right over there on the corner. It will give you two sides of the building as options for escape onto cross streets. Head for the back and come out smooth, brother.” Kint taps Rita on the side of the arm, more like a comrade-in-arms than a girlfriend, and they take off. That leaves Dorgon alone with me. “I’ll look for you after you come out of the record store,” he says, then splits for the opposite side of the street. I turn and flee, not thinking anymore, just focusing on prolonging my lifespan. The moan and wail have reached a fever pitch, clashing together in the skies above Grym like thunderclouds. I am inside the store in seven seconds, and it is seemingly empty. The walls are sanitary green tile from the late fifties, now stained old by years of cigarette smoke. This is all I notice, besides the long rows of records I pass on either side of me. Over the loudspeakers “Land of a 1000 Dances” is blasting away with a ferocity to rival the terrible sounds of destruction coming. Halfway to the back of the place, I stop. Eighteen seconds left, and I am feeling something in the air has changed. I am too late to make it to the storeroom, though I will never know what told me that. Different vibes in the air.

The vibes of these demons you cannot miss.

I pause, turning to look behind me, through the glass front of the store, at the street, convinced that I will see people materializing out there. I am wrong, but not for much longer. Slowly, as I turn back to my escape, I see that a swinging doorway at the back of the store is opening, the doorway that leads to the storeroom, presumably. Around its edge, I see long, hairy, curling claws appear, with nails that are stained with the blood of many late-night meals. Frozen, I wait, as does the werewolf in the white suit who then reveals himself to me. He is in no hurry. He wears a white fedora, wingtips, and holds a cane in the claw not holding the door open.

Wilson Pickett wails in a kind of demented harmony with the beasts that are beginning to appear outside.

I pull up my Siggy and proceed to jam a clip into it as fast as I have ever done anything. I always wondered if I would be aware of the most important moment in my life whenever it chose to show itself, and here it is. Butterfingers now will mean my end. Again, I feel the vibes change, and this time it is because the thing in the doorway has moved. In fact, it is coming at me, but it isn’t using its legs. I can sense the thing, in my periphery, taking to the air and hovering, laughing at me like a vicious child with an M-80 poring over a hapless frog.

That’s when civilization returns. In the blink of an eye, there are twenty people between that monstrosity and me. The store is, indeed, doing a rather brisk business at this exact moment. The werewolf in impeccable dress proceeds to glide toward me and collides with three customers instead, they as surprised as it by the others presence. They are picked up and carried by the werewolf’s momentum another ten feet, where the lot of them finally collapses in the middle of the aisle. From this, I would turn and flee if I had any wits remaining, if I was smart, but logic is meaningless here. Such is the only thing I can guarantee about Primaland. In a terrible conflict of thoughts concerning death and all the things I have not done, I vault over them and hit the storeroom doors, putting three more employees on the floor, rather rudely interrupting their break. Standing amidst their stunned curses, I skip apologies and take for the back door.

At this point, my other visibilities take over, and I am watching the city come alive outside. Taxies, people rushing back and forth on foot, hustling homeward bound—a school bus in the midst of rush hour traffic, no hurry, the driver being paid by the hour—business as usual, except for the moaning wail that fills the air. Like sheep, the people realize something isn’t right, and gee, maybe it has something to do with that sound that’s deafening them. They are beginning to look up and around as if the answer might be found in the oxygen. That’s when werewolves descend on the street like locusts, running amok among the crowds, which is soon followed by a preposterous sound that completely overwhelms the moaning wail.

I am in a winding labyrinth of back store tunnels, not thinking clearly (no time to lose it, can’t help myself, fighting to stay on my feet, not fall, can’t see straight, turn another corner...), seeing light at the end of this tunnel, going out back … and blocked by a by-now familiar shape in a white suit, grotesque and hunched, smoking a long cigar in a holder. I slam on the brakes.

In another place, I see Malick sitting in an office at a massive oak desk full of telephones, only one in his hand. The view beyond him outside is beautiful, meticulously kept gardens and lawn. The clock on the wall says this took place an hour ago. “Sighted where? … Put the word through then, you were right to call me first … Send whoever you have to, as many as you have to … Make sure we have just as many as they do … Get the navy over to that harbor, on the double!”

I bring up the Siggy and pull off four rounds without thinking. Just like that, the white-suited demon goes down right in the doorway. Son of a bitch … but I do not stop to think about it. I evaporate out the back door, right over the wolf in immaculate clothing and his ventilated ass.

In my mind, I see mysterious boat shapes coming in through the fog on Grym Harbor. They are longboats, with the heads of dragons on their stems. The moaning accompanies these … Figures, enormous, standing in shadows on the decks, awaiting the coming battle … Medieval axes and other weapons…

The scene that I return to in the street is not the one I left behind. The empty streets are now filled with scattering crowds. The cars are colliding. The air is filled with a vast symphonic droning. A fire hydrant jets water a good fifteen feet straight into the air on the corner of the intersection diagonal from me. A locked car horn sustains a neverending, agonized blast, this not ten feet from me in a well-dented station wagon. I stagger into the street in a far-flung daze, dodging passersby. I gradually begin to distinguish sounds. The wail is like people in hell being tortured, piercing and broken.

Another matter entirely are the Vikings. In the center of the street, where a taxi has died forty feet from me with flames licking out from under its hood, is a seven-foot giant of a man clad in fur pelts and chain-mail, with a horned helmet and battle ax. Abruptly he hops to the roof of the taxi, throws back his huge head, and roars. For one, maybe two seconds, the werewolves’ wail reciprocates with a flickering pause, and then resumes full speed. Everywhere, I notice now, there are werewolves intermingled with the crowd. Maybe, perhaps, I am in hell.

The Viking pulls back his battle ax, going back and behind his head with it. Still roaring he pauses before coming back like a human catapult. Over and over, the double-edged missile whistles toward me and, as it comes, every other noise halts. In a raving fear, I fall backward to the street and hear the whistle of it passing over me. The sound that I hear two seconds later is not like anything I have heard so far, or ever thought I would hear in all my days. It is a scream of sorts, not unlike the wailing banshee insanity of the werewolves in unison, but this one is singular—and I am afraid, vastly afraid, to look over my shoulder at its source.

When I do, I believe my heart actually stops for a half-second.

A werewolf, as huge as the Viking who just provoked its death, is standing above me, the battle ax jutting out of the center of its skull. With both enormous claws grasping the handle of it, the nightmare thing proceeds to back up in a final stagger, screeching for its father Evil to come and relieve its agony. It is trying to remove the enormous cleaver from its mind, mostly with the use of dying-nerves’ release. As it sinks to its knees, I feel unseen forces leading me to stop watching, to get to my feet and run full out to the sidewalk across the street, against the tide of people. Every once in awhile I see the Viking who threw the blade that saved my life and he is watching me over the melee. In the midst of all this, he is as comfortable as a statue.

Instantly I jut right, running into the nearest building. Vaguely, my mission is to locate Dorgon, though I have no real idea why. I guess because he is the closest thing to an ally I have met so far. In the back, I find him surrounded by four werewolves, all wearing black suits. Apparently, they are interrogating him. As one of them shifts slightly on its wolfen paws, I see Dorgon completely. His hair is pure white, but he is still alive. The next thing I do is the stupidest thing I have ever done. Raising the Sig-Sauer, I let one off directly into the closest of the beasts, maybe thirty feet away.

In a wash of gore, its entire monstrous head evaporates, and the screeching of the others raise to fill in the absence of one of their own. They leave Dorgon then, and hobble toward me.

Another of their number goes down when Dorgon blasts it from behind with the piece that Rita gave him, which he somehow managed to hide from these killers. That leaves two of them, and their confusion is making them grow bigger in frustration, more of a threat, viler than I imagined anything could be. With barely another breath, I turn and abandon the place again, never having any idea what kind of place it was to begin with, not that it matters, back onto the sidewalk and God knows what—Rita!

The Amazon Guardian is standing in the middle of the street, firing with true skill and precision at the various nightmare wolves, each of them dropping from whatever upper-floor window or car rooftop they may be inhabiting. In that second, the two wolves who were torturing Dorgon have closed the gap between themselves and me. Together, they come smashing through the place’s glass front, and envelop me from behind. After that, I have no clear realization of what takes place. The next thing I can deduce is my fear-weakened body being dragged along the sidewalk—by Rita, still firing, though not as effectively as she could if she weren’t dragging me.

“Dorgon! Dorgon!”

“Forget him! He’s gone!”

“No, I saw him!”

“He’s been scared insane! He’s no good to us anymore!”

“We can’t leave him—”

She clocks me at that point, and I leave the game.

(End of excerpt)

 

 

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