1/8/15 Update: read the story in one go, here.
In a nutshell, Part 1 sees our narrator, Skinner, witness the killing of a young girl by a street preacher who’s also a serial killer. To end the madness, Skinner follows the preacher with a plan to torture and kill him like he does his victims, but he ends up being led by the preacher to a confrontation in an abandoned apartment building. Here’s a lead-in followed by Part 2 of 4:
…“So, Skinner, our paths converge,” he yelled.
“What, not raping and killing today, ‘preacher’?” I yelled back.
“That’s your form of entertainment, not mine.”
“You lie! I saw what you did.”
“Of course you saw. You were the one doing it.”
“Deceiver!” I screamed at him. “You filthy, False Prophet, behold me, the New Jesus come to kill you and rule the New Day.”
The preacher roared with amusement. Nothing could be said or heard above it and I was forced to wait, to listen to what sounded like three or more tracks of the preacher’s laughter playing in my head at once.
“Fool!” the preacher thundered. “Compared to the False Prophet, your New Jesus construct is a pantywaist. The False Prophet is so deeply rooted in your mind that to kill him would be to kill yourself.”
I couldn’t think with the preacher circling round and round me with his sticky words, trying to bind me in a cocoon of confusion. I grasped at the first voice I heard in my head and blurted out, “I will subdue you then, cast you to the dungeon and reign supreme.”
“It makes no difference if I go from clocktower to dungeon,” the preacher countered. “You know I can get at you from wherever I am.”
“No you can’t.”
“I am the New Jesus, I will prevail,” I yelled.
“Come down and pick up this thread,” the preacher countered.
“You heard me. Do it.”
“I don’t need it,” I said.
“You need to hide the evidence.”
“It isn’t mine.”
“You know it is.”
“No! I didn’t do anything.”
“You did, and they know about it.”
“You’re trying to trick me.”
“They know about you.”
“They know what you did.”
“No, you did it.”
“They’re coming for you, you know that.”
“You killed them all,” I shouted.
“That’s a lie, and they’ll know if you lie.”
Suddenly it rose up in me like locusts out of the Abyss: the preacher was one of them!
“They’re coming to get you,” the preacher said. “And what are you going do about it?”
I wanted to escape my skin, to fly up the stairs, to find a way out, a fire escape, skylight, anything…
“I know what you’re thinking,” the preacher said.
Tapeworms were moving downward inside my legs.
“Are you just going stand there like an idiot and do nothing?
I looked down at my feet. The worms were spilling out my shoes.
“You must pick up this thread and run. Destroy it before they find you with it,” the preacher bellowed.
I half ran, half tripped down the stairs and snatched up the gilt thread. It screamed to be put down but I couldn’t and it burned in my hand until I jammed in into the pocket with the marigolds.
“Good,” the preacher said. “Now go.” And he stepped into the shadows.
I froze. I couldn’t go downstairs, not with him lurking there. He’d jump me, take me to the dungeon where he kills his victims… And then I felt a sick heat from above. Sweating and cringing, I leaned into the stairwell and looked up and there he was, several flights high, looking down at me.
He bellowed, “Go in peace,” then laughed hysterically, the echo of the highest notes stabbing down through the tunnel of stairs at me.
I nearly fell the rest of the way down the stairs but when my feet hit solid ground I dug in, just blasted through the door and ran for my life, down the first alley, then over and down entire blocks, zig-zagging willy-nilly like that until I ran out of breath in the back lot of a 7-11.
I bent over, hands on my knees, heaving for air.
“You can’t afford to stop, they’ll catch up with you,” I heard the preacher say.
My body jerked upright like the reflexive movement of a dead person. I spun around. The preacher was nowhere.
“It’s too late, Skinner, I’m in the clocktower.”
“Damn you,” I screamed at him and I ran for the 7-11 dumpster, fumbling inside my jacket for the marigolds and thread. They were burning my hand as I lifted the dumpster lid.
“No! Not there, you idiot,” the preacher shouted.
I lost my grip on the lid and it slammed back down. I froze, shaking like a jackhammer. As if I were being electrocuted, I couldn’t let go of the marigolds and thread and they were melting the skin of my hand. When it stopped, I just threw the whole smoldering mess down on the ground and I ran willy-nilly again.
“You worthless idiot,” the preacher yelled at me. “You’ve just condemned yourself.”
I could feel what was left of my power swirling round, picking up speed like water toward a drain.
“You’ve done it now,” the preacher said. “You hear those sirens? They’re headed this way.”
I gritted my teeth and tried to summon some power. I thought of the Trinity River. How could I have forgotten the blessed Trinity? I could wash the preacher’s vileness from me there, get another bottle from Elmer’s and drink him clean away…
“The police are getting out of their cruisers, coming for you, and it’s all your fault,” the preacher said.
I could hear yelling. I changed course for the river.
“You should have used your mind to stop them,” the preacher said.
I was flattened to the ground by a massive force.
“Stop them! You have to take control,” the preacher yelled.
I fought like a rabid dog, snapping at flying limbs and biting at faces that got too close and I spat and kicked through the yelling and pinning and the steel grips until everything went black.
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