A pain shot through Sam Spikone's arm. He felt a wet drip from his nose. Another ran down the back of his neck. For a while, he lay absolutely motionless, unsure whether or not he could move, unsure if he was still dreaming.
Through the broken, wire-reinforced glass he could see white-capped mountains in the distance. It was a crystal clear day, the first in a while. On the street below, the night's snow had already begun to turn dirty brown. His best guess was that Tammy had dumped him in some downtown shit-hole, except the tangle of raised, intertwined cement structures suspended above street level could have placed him in any number of defunct, formerly light industrial districts, or otherwise blighted inner-city urban neighborhoods that ran alongside the main metropolitan manufacturing route. The place was empty, long since cleared out. There were no signs of the revelers from the sex club reenactment at the church-shelter. By the look of the stripped down interior it had been uninhabitable for a while.
After the recurring nightmare, he had the constant feeling he had been psychically molested, his unconscious mind violated by the government scientist's intrusive probes. He could never get the dwarf clown out of his mind, or shake the irrational sensation the mad doctor had tampered with his insides in some despicable way. He shut his eyes, partly because of his splitting headache, partly in a pointless attempt to assess if the dream was real or imaginary, as if to give his inner self a chance to run a diagnostic, to let it search out a reflective surface to examine its likeness undisturbed by the outside world, so it could pull down its lids to check the whiteness of its eyes, press its fingers into the hollows of its cheeks to make sure the same person as there had always been was still inside, and that the good doctor with the bone saw hadn't replaced him with an evil clown doppelganger while he was helpless and unconscious.
The events of the night before were a tumultuous chaos awash with distorted, many-colored shapes and sounds. With difficulty, he put his fingertips to his tongue. No metallic taste, sweet. Fake pig's blood. Like an amniotic tank full of autonomous body parts, his fragmented recollections floated around as if they were electrified, harvested human and animal limbs that never quite managed to reconnect into anything intelligible. When they did fuse it was with a charged crack, and the result was fantastical, creepy, resembling more than anything else a hybrid, misbegotten being, like an updated, conceptual version of a chimera. Witches bobbled red, jelly-mold brains as they tripped over large floppy shoes. Clowns chanted to the devil in a circle. Dr. Edward Vincent was a transvestite prostitute. The disenfranchised and alienated tried without success to reassemble a human brain. Fabulous transsexuals more beautiful than any woman he had ever seen, even Tammy, performed an autopsy on a teenage kid. Yellow rubber ducks flocked into a chapel to partake in one last taboo sacrament. Noses melted off ventriloquist dolls in a crematorium incinerator. One-legged pink flamingos weighed organs then sewed them back into a torso. Some of it Sam had dreamt. Other parts might actually have happened. Seeming fact intermingled freely with seeming fiction to the point where no matter how hard he tried they were so mixed up in his mind that the one was permanently and irretrievably inseparable from the other.
Contrary to whatever else, the blood that poured from his nose wasn't make-believe. If he was able to wipe it away, he might have noticed that a subtle change had indeed come over his features. Not that it would have mattered, but he might have seen that regardless of the red smear above his upper lip, he was no longer exactly the same person he was up on the dais before the congregation of street denizens. He might have observed that his normally frightened expression was faintly despoiled by an unfamiliar shadow, one that had never previously graced his complexion. Whether it was the result of his nightmare, or it was precipitated by the dreadful affair Tammy and Katie had organized was a matter for academic speculation, beyond his power, irrelevant to the reaction he would have had at the sight of the unwelcome imposter. If he had been able to study himself closely, he might have noticed the transformation that had overcome him, that his double bore him only an eerie resemblance. If he could have seen the pretender, what would he have done? Would he have fought back, enraged by the duplicity? Or would he have withdrawn into his shell the way he always did in deference to a more driven, headstrong personality?
Like a million tiny paragliders aloft in the air, dust floated in the diagonal rays of light that came through the sliver of window. He wrenched his torso forward. For the first time, he saw the rest of the cavernous space. If it were not so convincingly arranged, what confronted him would have struck anybody as patently absurd. Much to his consternation, the letters "S.P." were spray painted in red enamel on the wall across from him. There was also a satin banner with the same nonsensical insignia draped from the ceiling. Further down, a number of automatic rifles leaned against a lone office divider. There were several grenades on a desk. An even larger stockpile of machine guns was stacked against a row of drawerless, warm gray, metal file cabinets, and if that wasn't bad enough, there was a cracked pine crate to one side with the straw packing material pulled back to expose an RPG launcher. You could have started a minor war with that kind of hardware. A genius cap wasn't required to figure out the intention was to make the loft resemble a Suicide Party weapons cash. What was supposed to happen? Had Katie Faye called in a hot tip to her branch office? He grabbed his motionless leg, and grimaced. The feeling was coming back. Were government agents already outside? Was a black uniformed SWAT team amassed on the sidewalk? Were there sharpshooters positioned in all the windows of the surrounding buildings? Was there a spy satellite with its camera trained directly at the rooftop overhead? Had they called in a drone? He shook off the mound of reeking, encrusted, cast-off clothing dumped on top of him, and tried as best he could to massage his thighs back to life. If the objective was for them to come through the heavy, steel-plated track-door and find him there, like he was some kind of drug over-dose-punker, like he was a washed-up Svengali, he certainly didn't want to stick around and find out the hard way. Somehow the kid with the makeup and dog collar got to his feet, found a large, black canvas shoulder bag among the rags, and crammed it full with as many weapons and rounds as he was able to carry.
-- Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2011