20
Apr
10

Old Clerks Don’t Die – Chapter 6

Old Clerks Don’t Die, They Slay Away

Chapter 6

It never ceased to amaze Gloria how going a few blocks on the Hill could feel like walking into a completely different world.  There were so many people, buildings, and businesses densely packed together that a person could go for days without leaving a three or four block radius yet still be able to get anything they needed.  So while the Club McPhisto was only a six or seven minute walk from the OneStop, it could still be in an area she barely knew.

“When the hell did this happen?” Gloria asked as they walked north up Grant Street.  She gestured with her duffel bag at a half-finished building that had been nothing more than a parking lot last time she saw it.

“Oh, don’t get me started on that crap,” Caleb said.  Gloria waited for him to get started anyway, but he stayed quiet.  In fact, he had been pretty quiet for almost ten minutes now.  That had to be a new record for him.  She’d noticed lately that he’d been distracted, but she hadn’t asked him what was up.  They may have been sleeping together, but that didn’t mean she’d gotten comfortable being too personal with him yet.

“Well?” Gloria asked.  Caleb sighed.

“They started construction about a week ago.”

“And why would that bother you?”

“Well, just look at it.”

Gloria stopped and looked at the construction site.  There wasn’t really much she could see.  The outer edge was lit by the street lights, but most of it was just shadows.  From what she could make out, it looked like it might be kind of high class when it was done.  The upper floors looked like they would probably be apartments, while the bottom floor looked like it had multiple entrances.  There would probably be a number of businesses there.

“Not really sure what I’m supposed to be seeing.  Apartments and, what, stores?”

“Condos, actually,” Caleb said.  “And from what I’ve heard, all the businesses are going to be things like big chain coffee shops or whatever.”

“Okay, so?”

Caleb scowled at her.  “You don’t see the problem here?”

“Um, no.”

“Fine.  Let me put it this way.  You know Shakespeare’s Records down on 12th?”

“Yeah, I think so.  I mean, I’ve never gone in there.  Isn’t it supposed to be kind of famous or something?”

“It was, but not anymore.  Back in the sixties and seventies, this whole area was starting to catch on to the counter-culture thing.  Probably because it’s so weird, people could do all sorts of drugs and thought the things they saw at night were just hallucinations or whatever.  In the seventies, Shakespeare’s Records wasn’t just a music store.  It was a studio, and the home of one of the earliest independent punk rock labels.  It’s part of the reason I originally moved to the Hill.  I thought being close to all that was really cool.  Did you know, word on the street is that the first band on the label was a bunch of fairies?  Supposedly they would turn the heads of anyone that booed them into donkeys.  Don’t mess with a punk rock fairy, man.”

“Does this history lesson have a point?  It’s really cold out here, and Jack Frost is nipping at my nose.”

“Actually, I think I saw him passed out in an alley a block back.  My point is that that store is history.  Not some cookie-cutter big box music store like you find for the tourists when you go downtown.  You can’t just replace that one store with any other.  And now it’s gone.  Some company bought it out two weeks ago.  That’s the exact same thing that’s happening all over this neighborhood.  Give the Hill enough time, and everything that makes it unique and bizarre and awesome and scary will be gone.  All that will be left is condos and Starbucks.”

Gloria looked again at the half-finished construction.  She supposed he was partially right, but she didn’t completely buy it.  “What was the last customer you served before you left work tonight?”

“What’s that got to do with any of this?” Caleb asked.

“Just answer the question.”

“Just a normal everyday human, I guess.”

“Well, okay.  Before that, then.”

“Um, well… a vampire wearing nothing but a bathrobe and fuzzy bunny slippers.  He bought a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.”

“Right.  And you know what was one of the first things I did when I started my shift at the Sin Depot tonight?  I gave a lap dance to a triffid.”

“That’s a bizarre and… strangely erotic image.  But what the hell’s your point?”

“My point is where else can a giant carnivorous plant go for a lap dance?  Where’s a vampire gonna go to get ice cream?  As long as these things exist, they’ll need a place where they can go and do everyday normal things.  Even if the Hill were to change, it can’t change completely.  It will always be bizarre and wonderful and scary, no matter how much people try to whitewash it.”

Caleb grunted.  “Maybe.”  He started walking again.  “Maybe things won’t change, maybe they will.  Maybe some things will change and the wrong things will stay the same.”

“Caleb, I don’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about.  What has gotten into you lately?”

“Nothing.  Come on.  Don’t want to keep the flesh-stealing demon waiting.”

Gloria didn’t want to stop the conversation, but she knew him well enough to know when he was too stubborn to budge.  Whatever was really on his mind, he wasn’t going to share it now no matter how much she prodded.  She would just have to wait until he was ready.

They could hear the Club McPhisto before they rounded a corner and saw it.  The ground shook with the bass of dance music, and there was a murmur of people waiting outside.  That had to suck.  The temperature was close to freezing at this time of night, and the weathermen had predicted the city would see the first snow of the year within a few days.  Yet most of the people standing in line hoping to get in weren’t dressed very warm.  They were dressed to look good in the hopes of picking someone up and getting laid.  It probably didn’t occur to any of them that nobody looked good with frostbite.

The outside of the building was pretty plain.  A few of the other trendy clubs in the city tried to entice people to them with flashy exteriors, but the Club McPhisto didn’t need that.  It relied entirely on reputation and word of mouth to get people to it.  During the day, casual onlookers probably wouldn’t even realize it was a nightclub.  The only thing that clued people in on what might be inside the squat red building were the line of people, the velvet ropes outside the door, and the gigantic gentleman guarding the door with a clipboard.  Gloria guessed that he probably wasn’t completely human, but he didn’t show any of the telltale demon signs of Mary’s bodyguards.  Gloria and Caleb approached him slowly, aware that everyone in line was giving them the evil eye.

“Um, hi,” Gloria said.  “Mary McPhisto is supposed to be expecting us.”

The bouncer glanced down at his clipboard.  “Amesnay?”

Gloria blinked and looked at Caleb, who only shrugged.  “Uh, Gloria Alvarez and… wait, Caleb, what’s your last name?”

“Seriously?  We’ve been sleeping together for months now and you still can’t remember my last name?  All your smoking must be killing your damned brain cells.”

“Hey, it’s not like I need to call out your last name during sex.  I don’t even usually need to use your first name.  All I need to say is ‘What, done already?'”

Caleb bristled.  “Hey, at least it’s better than when I have to poke you during sex to make sure you haven’t fallen asleep.”

“Yeah?  Well there’s a reason I keep falling asleep.”

“Yeah?  Well so’s your face!”

“Eyhay!” the bouncer yelled.  “Othbay ofhay ouyay, utshay ethay uckfay upyay.  Ouryay othbay onyay ethay istlay.”

Gloria took a couple seconds to translate the pig latin in her head.  “Oh.  Okay.”  The bouncer let them through the velvet rope, and there was an audible grumble from the waiting crowd as they went in.

There was a lady at a register near the front taking cover charges along with another bouncer.  This bouncer must have been told a little about them, because he made sure to pat them both down for weapons before he let them go further.  Despite their protests, he wouldn’t let them take their duffel bags in with them.  Gloria hadn’t expected they would be allowed to go into the meeting armed, but she’d wanted to bring the bags just in case they could.  As they walked into the club proper Caleb tried to say something, but the music was too loud for her to hear him.

“What?” she yelled.

“I asked when was the last time you were in here?” he yelled back.

“I don’t know, maybe a year ago?  This kind of place isn’t my scene, even without the hellspawn owner.”  The interior didn’t look like it had changed much, though.  A long, remarkably well-stocked bar took up the center portion of the room.  The bar itself looked like it was glowing, but Gloria couldn’t be sure if that was some trick of the lighting or something supernatural.  A dance floor and a DJ booth took up one whole side of the club, while the other was full of tables and booths in dark corners.  A quick glance showed Gloria that pretty much all of the dancers looked completely human, although she occasionally thought she saw a pointed ear or two poking out from someone’s hair.  There were forms in the darkened booths, however, that were too disproportionate to be anything other than beasties.  That would be where they had to stay, too, if they wanted to continue coming back to the Club McPhisto.  If a mundy saw a malformed shadow, that could still just be dismissed as an effect of the alcohol or drugs being passed around.  If one of these things came out into the shifting and pulsing light of the dance floor, though, that would make Mary McPhisto mad.  And nobody wanted her mad.

“You want a drink before we get down to business?” Gloria yelled.

“Yeah, I’ll have a shot of No Fucking Way In Hell Am I Drinking Anything From This Place.  With a cherry instead of an olive, thank you.”

Gloria shrugged.  “Hey, how come the two of us never go out to places like this?”

“I didn’t think this was your kind of scene.”

“It’s not.  But when was the last time we went anywhere that didn’t involve slaying something?”

“What, doesn’t that count?”

“Very romantic of you, Caleb.  Really.”

Gloria stepped up to the bar and wormed her way through a crowd of drunk people until the bartender saw her.  The bartender looked like she hadn’t slept in days, and when she looked in Gloria’s direction her gaze was unfocused.  There were a pair of bracelets on her wrists that look suspiciously like golden manacles, although there was no chain attached to them.

“Yes?” the bartender asked.  Her voice was hoarse but contained no inflection whatsoever.  “What can I get you?”

“Are you okay?” Gloria asked.

The bartender paused, twitched a little, and then repeated herself.  “What can I get for you?”

Gloria looked at Caleb, but he just shook his head.  There was obviously something wrong with the poor woman, but they couldn’t do anything right now.  “Um, we’re supposed to meet with Mary McPhisto.  Can you tell us where we’re supposed to find her?”

“What would you like to drink?”

“We’re not here to drink,” Gloria said.  “We’re looking for…”

“I can get you a drink.”

“Forget it,” Gloria said.  “Guess we’ll just have to find her by ourselves.”

The bartender twitched, gave a small and pained gasp, and then spoke again.  “Mistress is in her office.”  She pointed with her thumb at a door near the back, then turned to the person next to Gloria.  “Yes?  What can I get you?”

Caleb grabbed Gloria by the arm and pulled her away from the bar.  “Still want me to take you out here?” he asked.

“I didn’t say this place specifically.  And no.  I’m beginning to remember why I haven’t been here in so long.”

“I vote we go talk to that evil bitch so we can get the hell out of here with our souls intact.”

“Seconded.”

The door was down a short hallway, and as they approached it the sound of the music seemed to taper off.  By the time they were actually within knocking distance of the door, they could barely hear any of the noise out in the rest of the club.  There didn’t seem to be anything special about the hallway to deaden the sound, so Gloria could only assume there was something enchanted about it.  Maybe McPhisto didn’t want to be disturbed by the sounds of her own club, although Gloria bet she more likely didn’t want anyone outside hearing things in the office.  All manner of things could happen in there, and no one outside would be the wiser.

Caleb’s thinking must have been along the same lines.  “I just want to state one last time for the record that I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

“Anybody smart always has a bad feeling on the Hill.  Can’t avoid it, though.  I mean, come on.  We’ve faced worse, right?”

Caleb didn’t answer.  He was probably trying to think what else on the Hill might be worse than Mary McPhisto.  Gloria couldn’t think of anything or anyone off the top of her head.

Caleb reached out and knocked on the door.  Gloria fought the urge to smack him when she realized he was tapping out “Shave and a haircut.”

“Come in,” Hannah’s voice said from inside.  It gave Gloria a chill.  She wondered for a moment how McPhisto could imitate the voice without actually having Hannah’s voicebox, but for all she knew McPhisto had ripped out the poor girl’s larynx right along with her skin.

Caleb opened the door and they both walked in.  Gloria had almost expected some medieval torture chamber inside, but it looked like a normal office.  It was much larger than Gloria would have expected, and there were tall filing cabinets lining two of the walls.  She doubted McPhisto needed all that filing space just for club business.

Mary McPhisto sat behind a large, somewhat ornate wooden desk with her elbows resting on the surface and her hands folded in front of her.  There were three comfortable-looking chairs just in front of the desk, and McPhisto gestured for them both to sit.  Everything appeared very civil and normal, if Gloria ignored the woman’s glowing red eyes.

“Glad you could make it, Alvarez,” McPhisto said.  She nodded at Caleb and Gloria waited for her to say his last name, but she didn’t.  “You as well.”

“Caleb, do you even have a last name?” Gloria asked.

“Of course I do.  It’s…”  He paused.  The pause went on for a very long time.  “Miss McPhisto, that’s the point where you’re supposed to interrupt me for comedic effect.”

“Don’t call me miss.  And I don’t do comedic effect.  Sorry,” McPhisto said.  “I do business.  Are you two ready to do business as well, or do you want to continue acting like morons for a while longer?”  She reached down to open a drawer in her desk and pulled out a small, locked wooden box.  She pushed it across her desk and let it sit between them.  Gloria entertained the idea of just grabbing it and running, but she was sure McPhisto had a few hidden tricks that wouldn’t even let her get as far as the door.

“So,” McPhisto said.  “I have the Osterhaggis Key.  You want it.  Let us see what it takes for me to give it to you.”

“Pardon me if this seems a little weird to me,” Gloria said.  “You’ve had the key ever since the beginning of summer.  You could have sold it, or you could have traveled to one of the places it works and used it.  Instead you wait all this time and then want to just give it to us.”

“And right after your hostile takeover of the Sin Depot, too,” Caleb said.

“Your point?” McPhisto asked.

“So pardon us if it seems a little fishy,” Gloria said.  “If we didn’t know any better, we’d say this is some sort of setup and you’ve got something planned.”

McPhisto nodded.  Gloria waited for her to say something, but she didn’t.

“Well?” Caleb asked.

“Well what?” McPhisto asked back.

“This is the point where you’re supposed to say we’re wrong and make up some story about how your intentions are pure,” Caleb said.

“Anyone who knows me is aware that my intentions are never pure, unless you count that they’re purely for my own self interests.”

“So what are you saying?” Gloria asked.  “That you want us to take the key for your own nefarious interests, and you’re not trying to hide that from us?”

“Why would I try to hide it?  Despite the way you two always bumble your way through supernatural problems, I know you’re both intelligent enough to realize when I might be trying to screw you over.  So I’m not going to avoid the issue.  Yes, I want you to have the key so I can inevitably screw you over.”

Gloria looked over at Caleb, who stared at McPhisto with his mouth wide open.  “Did you just…” Caleb said.  “Are you actually telling us that you’re setting us up?”

“Definitely.”

“So… if we take the key from you,” Gloria said.  “We’re falling into some sort of trap.”

“Correct.”

Caleb blinked.  “Then why tell us?  In order to avoid whatever this trap is, all we need to do is not take the key.  That doesn’t seem very smart.”

“Indeed,” McPhisto said.  “Not smart at all.  And do I strike you as the kind of person who isn’t smart?”

“So, I don’t get it,” Caleb said.  “You’re smart, so you wouldn’t tell us you’re up to something by giving us the key.  But you did tell us.  Which must mean… um… you actually don’t want us to take the key.”

“But she would know we would figure that out,” Gloria said.  “She tells us we can just have the key, so we decide we shouldn’t, but we know that’s what she wants so we decide we should.  Which she knows we would do, so maybe we shouldn’t.”

“Okay,” Caleb said.  “I’m completely and totally confused.  We don’t want to do whatever she wants us to do, but what does she really want us to do?”

Mary just smiled at them both.

“So what do we do?” Caleb asked Gloria.  “Take the key or not?”

Gloria looked at Mary, searching for a tell.  Maybe it was easier for her to hide any kind of facial twitch when she was wearing someone else’s skin.

“I think we need to get out of here,” Gloria said.  “Right now.”

“There’s the door,” McPhisto said.  “You’re free to walk out of it at any time.  Are you sure you don’t want to take the key with you?  None of my customary contracts for this sort of exchange, no need to promise me your skin or soul.  I’ll give it to you free of any charge.”

“Somehow I doubt that,” Gloria said.  She stood up, waiting for Caleb to stand up with her before she went for the door.  He moved slowly, like he was still too dazed by this whole thing to understand that a hasty retreat was probably the sanest move just now.  Gloria waited for Mary to try something as she grabbed Caleb’s arm and pulled him to the door, but nothing happened.  Once they were out the door and it closed behind them, Gloria paused.  She thought some nasty surprise might have been waiting for them out here, but still everything was calm.  In fact, it was a little eerie how serene the quiet hall was, considering how rowdy the crowd was not too far away.

“Gloria,” Caleb said, “why do I get the suspicion we just did exactly what she wanted us to do all along?”

“Because I have the same feeling,” Gloria said.  “And I’ll do you one better.  What do you want to bet that some time in the very near future we’re going to discover just how horribly screwed over we now are?”

Caleb declined that bet.

06
Apr
10

Old Clerks Don’t Die – Chapter 5

Sorry for another week-long delay.  As always, if you need to catch up on the story then the first book in the series can be purchased here, and the first chapter of this one can be found here.

Thanks as always, and enjoy!

-Derek J. Goodman

Old Clerks Don’t Die, They Slay Away – Chapter 5


“Hey, Courtney!  How’ve you been?”

“Okay.”

“How’s the other job been going?”

“Fine.”

Phil waited, hoping that Courtney would realize the awkward pause in the conversation meant she was supposed to answer in sentences consisting of more than just one word, but she didn’t take the hint.  Instead she just walked into the store, went in back to punch in and put on one of the blue OneStop smocks, and then went about her job.  Caleb and Gloria said hi to her on their way out, but even though they were the closest things she had to friends she still didn’t give them anything more than a nod back.  In someone else Phil might have thought she was mad at everyone for calling her in, but he had learned to just accept her like this.  He didn’t see her often enough to know if she was like this all the time, but considering everything she had been through, it would have been unreasonable to expect her to just one day be happy and chipper.  That didn’t mean it would be fun working with her.

Still, on the few occasions she came in for a shift she was a hell of a worker, so Phil didn’t mind.  And Sue would probably be in sometime soon, which would brighten up the night considerably.

It was coming up on a year now since he had first met Sue, and although they hadn’t started dating (or doing the closest thing he could with someone who slept six feet under during the day) until after Valentine’s Day, it still felt to him like their relationship had been going on longer.  Of course, any relationship longer than a couple months was a long time for him.  He didn’t know if it was because of him or the girls he had dated, but after too long he’d begun to feel bored in his relationships.  He’d never felt the need to get close to any of them.

Sue was different, although he wasn’t sure why just yet.  Part of him wanted to say that was because she was a zombie and the novelty of the relationship hadn’t worn out yet.  But another, growing part of him didn’t want to think that.  He wanted something more than just a story of an interesting yet bizarre relationship in his history.  He wanted to believe that, if Sue hadn’t been among the breathing-challenged set, he would still feel the same for her.

Courtney came up to Phil by the registers.  “There anything specific you need me to work on right now?” she asked.  Her face showed virtually no emotion as she spoke.  There were a lot of people on the Hill with their own little creepy issues, but Courtney’s problem was one of the few that unnerved him.  Maybe that was because, unlike most of the strange customers, he actually knew what had made her like this.  Courtney had trouble showing emotion thanks to a combination of her condition and way too much makeup hiding the subtleties of her expressions.  At least she had gotten much better at the makeup since she’d first had to start.  Her face, her hands, and any other bit of exposed flesh once again matched her original light brown complexion.  Anyone looking at her would never guess that, under her clothes, she was green and had leaves growing in unseemly places.  She’d come from another universe where humans had fought a war against sentient vegetables and lost.  Her condition was the result of a virus the vegetables had used in an attempt to control her.  Now she was part plant.

“Um, no,” Phil said.  “Caleb got most of the work done before he left.  I’ll just need your help to deal with the bar rush in about an hour.”

“You mind if I take a moment to eat then?” Courtney asked.  “I didn’t get a chance yet.”

“Yeah, sure,” Phil said.  Courtney went into the back and pulled out a cellophane-wrapped chunk of raw hamburger that she’d brought with her.  She’d once told him she couldn’t eat vegetables anymore because it felt like cannibalism, although Phil thought sometimes she was more afraid that any vegetables she ate would try to rise up and kill her again.  Phil still didn’t understand why she had to eat the meat raw, but before he could ask the front door chime went off.  He went back to the register to see a girl in paint-spattered jeans standing in front of it with a worried look on her face.  Phil knew her face but couldn’t remember her name.  She was around here enough that he wasn’t surprised when she said his name.

“Hey, Phil?  You’re dating that zombie right?”
“Um, yeah?”

“You need to get outside.  Like, quick.”

Phil nearly forgot to grab his duffel bag of weapons from under the counter before he ran around the counter for the door.  The thought that Sue might be in danger almost trumped the common sense that, if something were happening to her, it probably wasn’t something mundane.  No one in their right mind would mess with a zombie.

As Phil got to the door and saw what was going on out in the street, he had to amend that thought.  No one in their right mind would mess with a zombie alone.

Phil unzipped his duffel bag as he ran out the door, trying to figure which of the many mystical weapons he could use for a situation like this.  He wasn’t certain immediately what was going on, but he thought maybe he got the gist of it.  A couple people were starting to gather at the street corner to watch, but they kept a safe distance as three men surrounded Sue in the middle of the street.  All three were white men that Phil guessed were in their thirties.  Two of them were overweight and kept some distance from Sue, but the third looked like someone Phil wouldn’t usually want to mess with.  Despite the cold weather, all he wore was a tank top and jeans.  Phil thought his head was shaved, but it was hard to tell between the poor lighting from the street lamps and the ragged cowboy hat on the man’s head.  While the two larger men saw Phil coming and took a step back, the cowboy didn’t pay him any attention.  Instead he shoved Sue backward.  Her balance wasn’t great even under normal circumstances, and she fell over and slammed her head against the pavement.  Phil wouldn’t normally worry about her getting hurt- she was already dead, after all- but head damage could still stop her cold.

Phil’s heart did a strange irregular beat as she hit the ground, and for a moment he thought the blow to the head might have actually hurt her.  Then she moved, a slow, confused sort of crawl away from the cowboy.

“Hey, get the fuck away from her!” Phil screamed.  He tried to blindly grab something from the bag as he ran at them, anything that he could use as a weapon, but his fingers kept touching bottles of holy water or spellbooks.  The distance closed before he could get anything useful, and as the cowboy turned to look at Phil with surprise, Phil made a quick decision and zipped the bag back up.  Before the cowboy had a chance to do or say anything more, Phil swung his duffel bag in an upward arc, clocking the cowboy right across the chin and sending him sprawling next to Sue.

“Oh shit, what the fuck?” one of the overweight guys said.  Both of them took a step back, although from the way their gaze went from him to the cowboy, Phil couldn’t be sure of which they were more afraid.

Phil kept an eye on all three of them as he bent low to help Sue up, but the cowboy was the only one who appeared to be a threat, and he was still groaning on the ground.  Phil gently grabbed Sue by the arms and helped her to her feet, taking care not to accidently pull too hard and take off any of her skin.  He’d done that once during sex and it wasn’t pretty.

“You okay, honey?” he asked.  She still had a shocked look on her face, but then her range of facial expressions wasn’t terribly wide.  She wasn’t crying, at least.  That was something most people never realized.  Zombies could cry, too.

“Fiiiiine,” Sue said.  Her head slowly moved back to look at the cowboy, and she backed away from him, almost tripping over her own feet this time.  Phil caught her and held her steady.

“You just messed up big time, boy,” the cowboy said.  One of the other guys tried to help him up, but the cowboy hit his hand aside and got up by himself.

“Fuck off and don’t call me boy,” Phil said.  “What the hell is wrong with you?”

“What the hell is wrong with you?”  The cowboy made a big show of dusting himself off, even though he didn’t have anything on him.  “This thing was trying to eat my fucking brains.”

Phil snorted.  In the whole time he’d known her, he had only seen Sue eat brains twice.  The first time had been the brains of a clown demon, and the second time had been a cybernetic elephant.  He’d had to help her pick pieces of circuit board out of her teeth after that one.  Never once had he seen her intentionally harm a person that hadn’t tried to harm her first.

“I highly doubt that,” Phil said.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass what you highly doubt,” the cowboy said.  “That thing is a menace.  If I had a gun right now…”

“You would be walking funny because I would shove it up your pasty white ass,” Phil said.  “I know her.  She wouldn’t attack anyone unprovoked.  So even if she did go after you, you must have deserved it.”

For the first time, the cowboy appeared to notice the way Phil held Sue.  He took a step away and wrinkled his face in disgust.  “Oh shit.  Boy, please tell me you’re not doing with that thing what I think your doing.”

“It’s none of anyone else’s business what me and my girlfriend do.”  He realized as the words came out of his mouth that he hadn’t hesitated at all in admitting their relationship.  Only a few months ago he’d been too embarrassed to show her any affection in public, yet now he could admit the truth to a complete stranger.  That certainly seemed to him like proof that she was more to him than just an experiment.  He smiled even as the cowboy cracked his knuckles.

“I’d heard rumors about the kind of people at this place,” the cowboy said, gesturing at the OneStop.  “But I thought it had to be bullshit.”

“Don’t try to look all threatening at me,” Phil said.  “If you’ve heard rumors then you’ve probably also heard that we can deal with a whole lot worse around here than a bunch of rednecks.”

“Is that a threat, boy?”

Phil unzipped his duffel bag and reached inside.  Now that he wasn’t running he found something threatening in it a lot quicker.  He pulled out a silver stake and pointed it at the guy.  The stake may have been designed as a dual weapon against vampires and werewolves, but it would still work just as well against a human.  “Yeah,” Phil said.  “It really is.”

The two larger men backed even further away.  The cowboy just looked at the stake for several seconds.  Briefly, Phil thought he might try something.  He wasn’t sure if he was comfortable with the idea of actually using the stake on a human, but a threat was a threat.  Sometimes the beasties weren’t the bad guys.

“You’re going to regret this,” the cowboy finally said.  He turned and walked away down 13th Street, angrily motioning at the other two to follow him.  Phil watched until they were nearly out of sight.  Revenge threats weren’t something to ignore around here, and he had no idea when it might come.  But for now, at least, they looked like they wouldn’t be a problem.

“Honey,” Phil said to Sue, “I don’t suppose you could tell me what that was about?”

“Aaaaai waaaaalk, theeeey pooooosh,” Sue said.  Her speech had gotten a lot better than it used to be.  There were a lot of mystical factors that had helped her along in that regard, but they couldn’t account for all of her improvement.  Once in a great while she was even able to speak in whole sentences, but most times he still had trouble figuring out what she tried to convey.

“You were just walking along and they started pushing you around?  Is that it?”  She nodded.  “Well there has to be more to it than that.”

“I saw them start it,” the girl in the paint-spattered clothes said.  She’d come up behind him when he hadn’t been paying attention.  “They just started harassing her, no reason or anything.”

“Do you know who they are?” Phil asked.

“I heard rumors that the dude in the hat runs a meth lab or something.  It’s not like she’s the first one he’s screwed with.  There was a story that he just went up to some vampire last week that was begging for change on 15th and just staked him.”

“The vamp didn’t do anything to him?”

“Minding his own business, from what I heard.”

Phil hugged Sue close to him.  “I’m sorry about all that,” he said.  Sue hugged him back, but the contact with her didn’t make him feel any more at ease.  He’d killed monsters on the Hill before, had in fact done it more times than he could count.  But every time it had been because the world was at stake or someone was in trouble.  There hadn’t seemed like any other choice.  To do like that guy and assume something was bad just because it wasn’t human was… well, the first word that popped in Phil’s head was racism, but that didn’t really cover it.

“Come on, Sue.  Let’s go inside where it’s warm,” he said.  He looked back over his shoulder as they went in.  The cowboy was gone.  Suddenly Phil wasn’t very comfortable letting Sue wander around the Hill by herself.

(c) 2010 Derek Goodman

22
Mar
10

Old Clerks Don’t Die – Chapter 4

Welcome back!  The newest book in the Apocalypse Shift series continues.  If you’re new here and would like to start the book from the beginning, you can click here.  If you’re still confused and would like to read the first book in the series, you can order it here.  And in non-AS news, the release of my new collection Machina is almost upon us!  The official release isn’t for a few days, but you can pre-order the print book at the publisher’s website, and the Mobipocket version is already available!

On to this week’s chapter.  Enjoy!

-Derek J. Goodman


Old Clerks Don’t Die, They Slay Away

Chapter 4

The worst thing that could happen was currently napping once again in her recliner.

Snookie would have been much more comfortable sleeping in her bed, but the bed, although made and meticulously dusted every day, hadn’t had her in it for years now.  There’d been a time, after she had retired from her calling, where she had bought the bed brand new and hoped sleep in it without nightmares.  In the end, it hadn’t been the nightmares that were the problem so much as plain old habit.  Sleeping in a bed was too comfortable.  If she slept there she felt like she might not get up in the event that something horrible happened and she needed to come back to her senses in a hurry.  It no longer mattered that she couldn’t do anything in a hurry.  She just didn’t feel right otherwise.

Much like the night before, Snookie wasn’t entirely sure what was happening when a loud noise woke her up.  She at least woke with a clear enough head to remember yesterday, so her first thought was that the apocalypse was coming again.  Twice in two days.  That was uncommon, but not unheard of.  She remembered one memorable time in her youth when she’d had to deal with nine separate Ends of the World in one week.  She immediately looked around, trying to see if the source of the End might have found a way into her apartment.  From the repeated, ear-splitting shriek she had to guess this thing was somewhere in the room with her.  Maybe this was it.  After all these years maybe something had found her and was ready to pounce, taking her out when she wasn’t prepared.  It was a relief, really.  She was prepared to finally stop living like this.

Then she realized the noise was just her phone.  She sighed, then realized this was nothing to be disappointed about.  Her phone was actually ringing.  She didn’t remember the last time she’d heard that noise.  She’d bought the phone purely to place calls to the outside world, and even then those were only to make an order with the grocery delivery service or to let the pharmacy know she was low on her meds.  No one ever called her.  Her family was long gone, and all her friends… well, she’d killed them, hadn’t she?

So just who the hell would possibly want to talk to her at… she looked at the clock on the wall.  Almost one o’clock in the morning now.  It certainly couldn’t be anything official, like the landlord.  Whoever had deemed it necessary to contact her, they kept night shift hours.

Everyone she’d once known who had kept those hours had either been a friend or wanted her dead.  So.  An enemy finally finding her?

Interesting.  She went for the phone as quick as she could, but in her current half-asleep condition that took the best part of a minute.  Still, the phone didn’t stop.  Whoever was on the other end had to be patient.

She took a deep breath before she picked up.

“Hello Snookie.”

Snookie thought she was going to have a heart attack right there.  She must have started breathing hard as her heart began racing, because the oh-so-familiar voice responded in a quiet, reassuring tone.

“Calm down, Snookie.  Take deep breaths.  I know this is probably a shock.  Just be calm and one with the universe.”

One with the universe.  That damned phrase had so annoyed her back in the day.  She’d heard it all the time and had grown to hate it.  But now those four simple words were so beautiful to her ears, beautiful and scary at the same time.

“You can’t be Aurora,” Snookie said.

“You want me to say something that only I would know, right?  To prove it’s really me?”

“Um, yes.”

“Remember when we were swallowed by the Beast from a Couple Fathoms, and we were trying to escape from its stomach but we couldn’t see and you complained about where my hand was?  And I said that wasn’t my hand, had to be something else?”

Snookie wanted to cry.  After all this time thinking Aurora was dead…  “Yes.  Yes, I remember.”

“Well I suppose it’s time to come clean.  That really was my hand.”

Snookie laughed, and with that she really did start to cry.  “I always knew, you know.  Not about the hand.  About the way you felt.  I always felt so bad about it…”

“You hush now,” Aurora said.  “You were straight.  I knew it wouldn’t work.”

“How is this even possible?” Snookie asked.  “There was no way you could have survived, especially after I… I…”

“That’s a really long story, and I promise I’ll tell you as soon as I can.  But we don’t have time at the moment.”

“Aurora, please, you can’t just call me up in the middle of the night after almost forty years and not tell me what happened.”

“I will, but first something really bad is about to happen.  The Osterhaggis Key is back in play.”

Snookie wished she had bought a cordless phone instead of this one.  The cord didn’t reach all the way to the recliner, and she wasn’t sure how much more information she could take without sitting down.

“Who has it?” Snookie asked.

“Someone really evil.  Really harshed groove.”

“Aurora, we’re old ladies now.  I really don’t think I can handle this.”

“Really?  That doesn’t sound at all like the Selected One I remember.”

“Well, I’m not the Selected One anymore.  Haven’t been for a very long time.”

“But you still have all your tools from back then, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I couldn’t bear to get rid of them.”

“And please tell me you never used the necklace I gave you?”

Snookie took a deep breath.  “No.  No, I didn’t.”

“Then this is your chance.  Our chance, really.  We can put all of it right again.”  Her voice hitched, like she was trying to keep from crying herself.  “Both for us and for Dani and Cory.”

Snookie’s own voice rasped with the effort of choking back her sobs.  “One with the universe again.”

“That’s right,” Aurora said.  If Snookie hadn’t been letting her emotions get the better of her, she might have noticed Aurora’s slightly malicious tone, but she didn’t.  “One with the universe.  Just as we should be.”

(c) 2010 Derek Goodman

15
Mar
10

Old Clerks Don’t Die – Chapter 3

Welcome to the next chapter of The Apocalypse Shift Book 2.  If you’ve missed any of it so far, here’s a link to go back and start from the beginning.  If you haven’t read the first book, then it’s available for purchase here (I’ve got some cool news I’m sitting on about TAS, but I’m not at liberty to reveal it yet.  I’ll post information here when I can).  Also, don’t forget that my non-AS universe collection Machina will be released at the beginning of April and is now available for pre-order.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

-Derek J. Goodman

Old Clerks Don’t Die, They Slay Away

Chapter 3

“You think I should get one?”

Caleb finished ringing up a customer and turned to look at Phil.  He was looking at the new prepaid cells lined up on the rack just over the cartons of cigarettes.

“The one you have now is basically the same as all those,” Caleb said.  “They’re even from the same company.”

“I’m not talking about one for me.  I was thinking about getting one for Sue.”

“What, so you can call her while she’s in her grave?” Caleb said.  “I’m sure the dirt makes it hard to talk no matter how good the phone is.”

Phil took one of the phones down and looked at it.  The bright Qwark Telecommunications logo on the package was almost as obnoxious as the ever-lit sign at the top of the Qwark building downtown.  “I just worry about her sometimes,” Phil said.  “I’d like to make sure she’s okay once in a while when she’s not here.”

“Except she’s always hanging around, so you shouldn’t have to worry,” Caleb said.  He didn’t understand why the OneStop needed to start carrying the prepaid cells in the first place.  The only people who would try to buy them from a place like this were drug dealers and cultists looking for the next creative way to place the call of Cthulhu.  But Big Maggie had been ordered to start stocking them by the higher ups, so whatever.

It was about midnight on a Thursday, so although there was a steady stream of customers, it at least wasn’t too busy.  Caleb was glad for that.  He’d found it harder lately to fake being polite to some of the people that came in.  He’d think about all the things he would rather be doing than working at a convenience store, bizarre and unpredictable or not, but then realize he didn’t have anything else to do.  The store, after so damned long here, had pretty much become his life.

Something knocked at the glass front door, and Caleb looked up to see a black bird on the front walk, its beak tapping incessantly at the glass.  He went around the counter and opened the door.  “What do you want?”

The bird looked up at him, cawed, and the hopped one hundred and eighty degrees to caw back at the parking lot.  It took wing, vanishing momentarily into the night.  Caleb was about to close the door when he heard the flutter of many more wings.  He continued holding the door as twenty or thirty black birds struggled through, carrying a dead body with their feet.  They dropped it just inside the door then flew off, leaving only one bird behind.  Caleb wasn’t sure if it was even possible, but the bird looked like it panted from exertion.

“Hey!” Caleb said to the bird.  The body belonged to a skinny, pale man with stringy black hair.  He appeared to have a gunshot wound to his chest.  “You can’t leave that in here!”

The bird gave Caleb a scolding caw, then pecked the dead body.  The body immediately gasped and sat up.

“Oh God,” the not-so-dead body said.  “They killed her!  They killed me!”

“You okay there, buddy?” Phil said from behind the counter.

“No,” the guy said.  “I’ve got to get my revenge for my wrongful death.”

“Yeah, but why would your damned birds need to bring you in here to do it?”

“Um…”

“You gonna buy something?” Caleb asked.

“Wha?  Um, no, I wasn’t planning on it.”

“This is a place of business,” Caleb said.  “If you aren’t going to buy something then you have no business coming back to life here.  That’s loitering.”

“But there’s nothing I need… Wait.  Do you have any eyeliner?”

“Er, no.  Most convenience stores don’t carry eyeliner.  Sorry.”

“But how am I supposed to avenge my wrongful death without black eyeliner?”

“Hey,” Phil said.  “Why don’t you try the Florblue Pharmacy east of here on 15th?  If you hurry you might be able to catch them before they close.”

The dead guy ran out the door without another word.  The door slammed as the bird took wing to follow, causing it to crash into the window.  It cawed mournfully until Caleb finally let it out to follow the dead guy.

“Deadbeat,” Caleb muttered.

“What is with you?” Phil asked.  “You’re in an even worse mood than normal.  Things not going right with you and Gloria?”

Caleb finally smiled, probably for the first time that night.  “Oh, no, nothing like that.  In fact, things with us are so good.  Although, yesterday while we were in bed…”

“Hold it.  I really don’t want to know about you two’s sex life.  How would you like it if I started talking about sex with Sue?”

“No, just listen.  We were in bed, and all of a sudden she…”

“Okay, that’s it,” Phil said.  “Let me tell you something about being in a relationship with a zombie.  You see, they have these extra holes…”

“Ew, stop!  Okay, I get it.  Look, doesn’t matter.  My point is, there may be little tiny problems sometimes with our relationship, but everything else is great.  Really great.”

“Yeah?  You been thinking about taking the relationship further?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe,” Caleb said.  That was something he wasn’t ready to talk about yet.  The idea had occurred to him that maybe, at some point in the future, he might want to think about ring shopping, but for now there were just other things on his mind.  He had just felt restless lately, and it had nothing to do with Gloria.  He couldn’t pinpoint the reason, but it was there, somewhere inside him.

A few customers came in, and Caleb and Phil were busy for the next few minutes taking care of them.  They got busy enough that Caleb didn’t even notice Gloria had come in until she stood directly in front of the register, butting in ahead of a man with a top hat and a skull painted over his face.

“Hey!” the man said.  “Gloria, wait your turn!”

“Sorry Baron,” she said.  “But I’ve got to borrow Caleb for a minute.”

“What’s wrong?” Caleb asked.  “Why aren’t you at work?”

“Because there is no work anymore.  You could say I’m fired.”

“What?”

“Hey, can this wait?” the Baron asked.  “All I want is to get my smokes.”

Gloria stepped aside and let Caleb ring the Baron up.  She continued talking as he worked.  “I really think we should have this conversation in private,” Gloria said.  “There might be some things we don’t want get out into the gossip mill.”

“Everything always becomes gossip around here eventually,” Caleb said.  “If you were fired, then there’s probably a lot of people out there who would want to know that.  Better they know the whole thing than just random half-truths, right?”

“Fine.  Whatever.”

“So how the fuck could you possibly get fired?” Caleb asked.  “I thought Hancock loved you.”

“Sure, except Hancock no longer owns the Sin Depot.  Mary McPhisto does.”

“Mary… Mary McPhisto?  You mean scary-ass demon bitch Mary McPhisto?”

“Yep.”

“Okay,” Caleb said to the other customers in front of his register.  “This register’s closed.  Phil can take care of everyone.”  Phil gave him a dirty look, but that was too bad.  Gloria had been right.  If they were going to discuss one of the biggest power players on the Hill, one whose enemies routinely had a way of disappearing, then they should really move the conversation somewhere that other people wouldn’t hear.

They both went into the back room.  Gloria took a seat cross-legged on the desk while Caleb stood over by the crack in the floor at the mop sink.  It wasn’t quite big enough to fall through, which was good because that meant nothing could come up from it, either.  He could sometimes hear things speaking from down there, and Caleb didn’t have any desire to meet them.

“Okay,” Caleb said.  “So tell me what exactly is going on.”

Caleb listened as Gloria talked about Hannah and the uncomfortable meeting with McPhisto in the dressing room.  When she got to the part about the papers McPhisto had shown to Hancock, Caleb interrupted.

“Hold on.  I thought Hancock had full ownership of the place.  No co-owners, no loans out on it, nothing.  Am I right?  So how the hell could she possibly suddenly become the owner without his permission?”

“She said it’s a zoning thing.  I didn’t really understand it myself.  It all sounded like legalese gobbledygook to me.  Something called the Historic Hill Beautification Project.  Somehow she got a whole bunch of local politicians to declare the Sin Depot a blight on the community, and now it belongs to her so she can close it down.”

“That still can’t work,” Caleb said.  “There’s no way something like that would stand up in a court.”

“I don’t think it needs to, if she works quickly enough.  She probably just needed to get pictures of the right people with their dicks in something’s tentacles, just to get control of it for now.  She’s already announced plans to knock the building down.  By the time anyone figures out how to legally challenge a demon with all the right connections, the Sin Depot will already be gone.”

“That’s total bullshit,” Caleb said.  Phil stepped in, listening to them both from the door while keeping an eye on the front.  “We’ve got to do something.”

“I don’t know if you really could,” Phil said.  “Unless you’ve got super-secret lawyery powers we don’t know about.”

“what about that one guy we used to see come in here a while back?” Caleb asked.  “You know, the Green Lawyer?”

Gloria shook her head.  “He got corrupted by the yellow impurity in his bar exam and turned into the villainous Paralegal.  Not gonna help us.  And besides, when you’re talking about someone like Mary McPhisto, you’re not just dealing with human laws.  We’re talking about metaphysical rules and regulations too.  Trying to navigate through messes like that is a good way to lose your soul.”  Gloria looked down at her hands in her lap, and her voice went quiet.  “Just ask Hannah about that one, I guess.”

Phil and Gloria both went silent.  Caleb thought for a second.  “Well, wait.  Why don’t we?”

“Why don’t we what?” Phil asked.

“Ask Hannah.  She had to have been one of the last people Mary McPhisto talked to before she went to the Sin Depot, right?  Maybe McPhisto said something about what is going on.  Maybe Hannah could at least give us some clue what she’s up to.”

“Um, yeah, sure,” Gloria said.  “Except for that one teeny problem where she’s dead.”

“Hello?  Don’t you remember where you are?  The store has a ghost that haunts the security camera and Phil’s girlfriend is a zombie.  Around here death is just an inconvenience.”  Caleb felt bad when he saw Gloria wince.  Her mother had passed away recently, and he knew she still had some issues when it came to that.  She didn’t need to be reminded of those kind of things, but that didn’t make his point less valid.

“So what are you suggesting?” Phil asked.  “That we call her up on a Ouija board or something?”

“Those things don’t work,” Gloria said.  “I tried using one right after my mom died.”

“I’ve gotten one to work right here in the back room,” Caleb said.  “But I don’t think they’re very reliable.  As soon as I tried it, the first thing the little indicator doohickey spelled out was if this was going to be carry out or delivery.  But there are other ways.  I know a spell that can summon spirits.”

“I’ve tried those too,” Gloria said.  “How the hell are you getting results with this shit when I can’t?”

“I really don’t know.  Guess I’ve just got the magic touch and you don’t.”  The look on Gloria’s face at that told him that he definitely wasn’t going to be getting any after work tonight.

“Well, I’m not sure that any of that matters anyway,” Gloria said.  “If we really want to know what Mary McPhisto’s intentions are for the Sin Depot land, we could just ask her in two hours.  She might even give us an honest answer, but I doubt it.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Caleb said.  “What do you mean?”

“You and I have a meeting with her at the Club McPhisto at 2:30,” Gloria said.

“Holy hell, are you fucking crazy?” Caleb asked.  “You want us to meet with one of the meanest, nastiest things on the Hill on her home turf?  I can’t do that, I’ve got to work!”

“We could call Courtney, see if she’ll come in to cover the rest of your shift,” Phil said.  “That is, if she actually answers her phone for a change.”

“Which just leaves us once again with the point about the home turf of the crazy, skin-stealing bitch,” Caleb said.

“I kind of thought we had to,” Gloria said.  “She said she wants to see us both, and it’s not about the Sin Depot.  It’s about the Osterhaggis Key.”

Caleb forced himself to take a deep breath.  The key had been just one of the many things that had been making him feel on edge lately.  Life at the OneStop had a way of being about either trivial little things that drove you nuts or giant, world-shattering things.  There was nothing in between.  Not only had he started to think he should have more in his life than just the OneStop, but he had also begun to wonder about his mistakes at the store.  The incident with the stolen artifacts had driven that home for him.  He’d kept things he shouldn’t have and the consequences hadn’t been happy.  Although they had recovered most of the stolen artifacts (still hidden in Gloria’s apartment until they could figure out a safe way of getting rid of them), a few had been lost, including the Osterhaggis Key.

Or maybe lost wasn’t the right word for it.  They’d known exactly who had it over these last few months: none other than Mary McPhisto.  Getting the key back from her would have been a higher priority, except that, to anyone around here, the key was useless.  It could theoretically be used to rip the planet apart, but only when taken to one of three places: Ayer’s Rock in Australia, a hidden temple in the Congo, and Disneyland Paris.  There had always been the possibility that Mary would sell it or give it to someone who could take it away from the Hill, but all reports said she wasn’t the kind to give up power or bargaining chips if it wasn’t necessary.

“Okay, so… what?” Caleb asked.  “Is she going to try striking up some kind of deal with us?  We give her something, and she gives us the key?”

“I kind of figured that would be how it works,” Gloria said.  “Quid pro quo, or something like that.”

“I think I like the idea of giving her something about as much as I like the idea of having a Great Old One conjured up my nose,” Caleb said.

Both Gloria and Phil responded at once.  “It’s not as bad as you would think.”  They looked at each other with surprise, but thankfully neither of them elaborated.  Really, Caleb didn’t want to know.

“I don’t think it’s gonna hurt just to see what she has in mind,” Gloria said.

“Oh, right, I’m sure that having the fricking skin pealed from my body isn’t going to hurt at all.”

“Don’t be an idiot,” Gloria said.  “She never takes the skin of a guy.”

“Then that’s even worse, because that only leaves her taking the skin of the woman I… well, you.”

Gloria raised her eyebrows at that.

“I really don’t think Gloria has to worry about that,” Phil said.  “From what I’ve heard, she only takes new skin when the old one has worn out.  And if she just switched into this Hannah girl’s skin, she won’t need anything new just yet.”

“Yeah,” Gloria said.  “And she was all hung up on the paperwork thing for Hannah.  I don’t think I’m in any real danger as long as I take a really long and hard look at anything she tries to get us to sign.”

“I’m still not sure about this,” he said, but maybe this would be a good thing.  There might be some way for him to get the key back.  After that he could work on getting his mind straight and figuring out what exactly had been bothering him lately.

“Come on, Butcher,” Gloria said with a smile.  “It’s a meeting and we both know what we’re doing.  What’s the worse that could happen?”

All three of them went silent as they thought about that.  Phil finally broke the silence.

“That was a really stupid thing to say, Gloria.”

They all agreed it was.

(c) 2010 Derek Goodman

08
Mar
10

Old Clerks Don’t Die – Chapter 2

I apologize for again being late.  I have no one to blame but myself this time.

For anyone who’s become a fan of my stuff through this blog, I would like to point out that my new non-AS universe story collection Machina is now available for pre-order from M-Brane SF.  The official release date isn’t for another month, but now is your chance to get it early.

Thanks as always for reading!

-Derek J. Goodman


Old Clerks Don’t Die, They Slay Away

Chapter 2


Gloria sometimes wondered if quitting the OneStop had been a good idea.  Neither of her jobs at the time had been glamorous, but the OneStop at least was considered “respectable.”  Her other job, even in a place like the Hill, where taboos were few and far between, was still something people looked down on.  But she had made her choice, and even if she was sometimes treated like even less of a person than she had been at the convenience store (which was really saying something), she at least made a hell of a lot more money by showing men her breasts.

As her last song ended, Gloria stooped to grab her tear-away bra from the stage and gathered up the assorted dollar bills strewn around the brass pole.  She took a closer look at one of the bills, realized it was a five, and then gave an appreciative nod to the man in a backwards cap at the edge of the stage who had given it to her.  The man, Carl, winked and clapped for her as she stepped off the stage.  Carl was a regular, and one of the better tippers.  Gloria usually took it as a good sign when he showed up at the Sin Depot.  Carl was a necromancer, and if he had lots of money to burn then that meant he had just done some really big job.  And when a necromancer did a big job that meant more undead walking around, which in turn made lots of people nervous, mundy or not.  Nervous people did their best to forget their troubles, and one of the ways they did that was by watching people like Gloria strut their stuff.

Natalia walked up to the stairs as Gloria came down.  “Well, how is it so far tonight?” she asked in a thick Russian accent.

Gloria held up her folded wad of bills.  “Looking good.  How about you?  You ready for this?”

Natalia nodded, but the poor girl shook visibly.  This was going to be her first time stripping.  She’d gone through a lot, though, so Gloria didn’t think going topless in front of a bunch of strange men would be any worse.  This was, after all, a girl who had been the subject of grizzly post-Cold War genetics experiments.  She looked beautiful, though, despite what Natalia might think of herself.  Her pale skin blended in almost perfectly with her short white skirt and white top.  The outfit was lined in gold thread, giving her every appearance of an angel.  Of course, that might have less to do with the costume and more to do with the giant white wings protruding from her back.

Most of the men and women watching the stage didn’t care that Natalia had wings, unless there were a few of them who were specifically turned on by it.  Strange things were common in this neighborhood.  The Sin Depot had certain girls, ones who could blend in like Gloria, that worked both before and after the sun set, but once darkness came on the Hill, girls like Natalia took the stage.  There were two more girls on the other stages right now.  One, Kimberly, gave every appearance of being a normal human like Gloria, but the other, Ginger, had partially changed herself into a cat.  Ginger worked most nights unless there was a full moon, since she had less control over her cat form then and had a tendency to go into heat.  Hancock wouldn’t let her anywhere near the customers when she was like that.  He made damned sure that everything at the Sin Depot stayed above board and legal, but the things an in-heat were-cat might do in the privacy of a lap dance booth came too close to prostitution.  There would be none of that here.

After putting her bra back on, Gloria strolled over to the bar and ordered a jack and coke before pulling out a cigarette from the pack tucked in her garter belt.  Emily, the girl who’d been quietly working on a crossword puzzle from the stool next to her, looked up at Gloria with a raised eyebrow.

“Whatever happened to you trying to quit?” Emily asked.

“That was last week,” Gloria said.  “I only try to quit smoking every other week.”

Emily shrugged and pulled up the top half of her costume from where it had been slipping down her chest.

“What are you even supposed to be dressed as?” Gloria asked her.  “You look like a cross between a cowgirl and a Japanese schoolgirl.”

“Actually, I think that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be.  Hancock suggested it.  He thought it was exactly what a few of the customers would find sexy.”

“I can pretty much guarantee none of the customers care about your clothes.”

“Hey, I’ve got to try something, right?  Especially with Ginger over there tonight.  You know how tough it is to get decent tips when she’s around.  Everyone saves their money for her.”

Gloria took a sip of her drink instead of answering.  She liked Emily okay, but she was always blaming the other girls for her lack of tips.  In truth, the customers virtually ignored her because she danced like she was stuck in tar.

She wasn’t wrong about Ginger being a top earner, though.  Any of the girls who had a sense of the exotic to them tended to make more money.  This was probably the only strip club in the world where girls like that could dance in the open.  The Hill was a haven for all that the rest of the world pretended existed only in dreams and nightmares.  Even the daylight people who tried to ignore what happened to the neighborhood at night- the “mundies,” as they were known- couldn’t deny that there was just something off about the neighborhood.  No one knew why, although there were plenty of implausible theories.

“Carl’s in tonight,” Gloria said.  “You want some extra cash, I’m sure you can talk him into a lap dance.”

Emily shrugged.  She appeared far more interested in the crossword puzzle than making any money.

“You hear any interesting word on the street yet for tonight?” Gloria asked.  Emily looked at her, appeared to think for a second, then set her crossword puzzle down on the bar and leaned closer to Gloria.

“Have you talked to Hancock at all since you got here?” Emily asked.

Gloria shook her head.  “No.  Kind of weird, too.  On a night with this many customers he’s usually walking around making sure everything is running totally smooth.”

“I know.  I saw him for a second.  He was reeeeally flustered looking.  Going from his office to the front counter and back, really quick-like.  I’ve never seen the guy look so much like he was on a caffeine buzz.”

Gloria nodded.  That was weird.  Hancock was the sort of guy that never rushed anything, a really laid-back person.  Even when he got angry, it was the kind of fuming anger that stayed just below the surface.  “No clue what that’s about?” she asked.

Emily started to shrug, then cocked her head.  “No… well, maybe.  Something else- Hannah never showed up tonight.”

Gloria took a long drag on her cigarette, thinking.  Hannah Stein was a really quiet girl, not usually spending much time with any of the other dancers.  If she had a good reason not to show up, she wouldn’t have bothered telling anyone.  But there were rumors about her lifestyle.  She spent more than she could afford.  The gossip was she was behind on payments for her Mustang and her credit cards were maxed out.  She was even a bit of an amateur mad scientist, supposedly reanimating stitched together corpses every time there was a lightning storm.  That kind of equipment didn’t come cheap.  On a busy night like tonight, Hannah would have wanted to be here to make all the money she could.

“You think the two things are related?” Gloria asked.

“Don’t know,” Emily said.  She rolled up her crossword book and stood up.  “I’ve got to get going though.  I’ll be up in about five minutes.”

Gloria finished her drink and cigarette, turning on her stool to watch Natalia’s performance.  She was very awkward on stage, and her wings got in the way when she tried to do anything more complicated on the pole than swing around it, but she was still beautiful.  She already had a good pile of dollars building at the edge of the stage.  She seemed like she would be all right in the long run.  Gloria was happy for the girl.  She and her boyfriend Caleb had been the ones to help her out of her previous bad situation.  Gloria knew there were plenty of people who would say stripping at a seedy dive on the Hill still counted as a bad situation, but those sanctimonious assholes could go screw themselves.

She stubbed out her cigarette in the nearest ashtray and got up to go back to the dressing rooms.  It sounded to her like there might be some trouble going on tonight, and she wanted to check her supplies and make sure she had come prepared.

Gloria knew she wasn’t the only one who kept “supplies” with her wherever she went on the Hill, but she was one of the few who took some joy in it.  The duffel bag Gloria had stashed in the back was full of pretty common items for the Hill, things like stakes and silver and holy water.  Those were simply this neighborhood’s equivalent of mace.  Muggers were as common here as in any other rough section of the city, but here they were just as likely to be a vampire or were-something as they were a human.  Gloria, however, went beyond the simple necessities.  She kept things for even more bizarre occurrences, since she had the habit of seeking the bizarre out and trying to help wherever she could.  She supposed one could consider that her hobby.  Some people did crossword puzzles or crocheted.  Some people reanimated stitched together corpses.  Then there were the few, like Gloria, who spent all there extra time as freelance beastie-bashers and helped the helpless.  What could she say?  It was fun.

That was another thing that hadn’t been so bad about the OneStop, she supposed.  She never would have taken up monster-hunting (although that wasn’t a really good term for it, considering the so-called “monsters” were just as likely to need a hand as anyone else; just because they were different didn’t mean they did not just want to go about with their lives), if it hadn’t been for the brief months she’d worked at the convenience store.  That was where she had first realized things hid in the shadows when nobody was looking.  That was also where she had learned that all of those things, good or bad, were just as prone to late night munchies as anyone else.  The OneStop, being at the heart of the Hill, had often been the last place the beasties went before trying to destroy or take over the world.  The apocalypse had nearly happened several times a month.  Gloria had her mundy-cherry broken very quickly there, and she had never looked back.

That had also been where she had met her current boyfriend.  Caleb had been a clerk at the OneStop for a long time before Gloria had shown up, and he was still a clerk now.  Being at the OneStop meant he got paid to do what Gloria did for fun, but to him it was just part of the job.  At first he’d been nothing more than a friend at best, an annoyance at worst.  Her opinion had changed over time.  The man who had at first struck her as unambitious now seemed to her like more of a survivor, making it through life with what he’d been given.  Despite his insufferably snarky tone, she’d slowly fallen for him.

The fact that they had been forced into bed together by a cursed Rubik’s Cube might have helped their relationship along, though.

Even though Gloria still practiced her hobby alone most of the time, Caleb had still become a big part of her nightly excursions.  Sometimes he would come along with her when he wasn’t on at the OneStop, but usually he opted out, saying that was too much like work.  He was still a key source of information, however, especially when he was at the store.  She would have to give him a call and ask him if there was anything going on she should know about.

There were a couple other girls in the dressing room getting into their next change of outfit before they got on stage, but most were out in the main room, getting drinks or smoking or trying to talk a few guys into the lap dance booths.  Gloria went over to the lockers and started to put her combination into her lock, but she stopped when she looked back at the door and saw Hannah walk in.

Gloria turned and approached her.  “Hey, Hannah, where’ve you been?  Some of us were worried…”  She stopped when two very large men followed Hannah in.  There weren’t supposed to be any men allowed in the dressing room, not even Hancock.  If he needed official business taken care of while girls were in here, he sent in his assistant manager.  Even people who took their clothes off for a living needed a private place, and Hancock respected that.

Gloria was going to chastise the two men for violating this sacred principle, but she stopped before any words left her mouth.  Something was very, very wrong here.  Hannah was dressed in a suit- a very expensive one, from the look of it.  Gloria might not have known the girl too well, but she was pretty sure Hannah was not a suit person.  She was more likely to come dressed in a designer lab coat.  She also wore sunglasses, which were pretty useless to people who only came out at night.  The two men also looked off, like they were slightly out of proportion.  Each was well over six feet, and their skin appeared stretched over their faces, like there was something underneath straining to get out.

Both the other girls looked at the trio that had entered the room and they left, completely ignoring whatever makeup or costume changes they needed to finish.  Gloria didn’t blame them.  It was obvious to her that the men weren’t human, and while that alone wasn’t cause for alarm, Hannah’s demeanor might be.  She stood straight with her hands clasped in front of her, a briefcase clutched in her fingers.  This was not normal for Hannah at all.

“Hannah?” Gloria asked.  “What’s up?”

“You’re Gloria Louisa Alvarez, correct?” Hannah asked.  Her head moved up and down, taking Gloria in, almost scanning her.  Gloria initial reaction was to back away, but she held her ground.  Most of the girls only knew each other by first names and stage names.  Hannah probably shouldn’t have known Gloria’s last name, and she definitely had no way to know her middle name.  Gloria hated her middle name, and she hadn’t even told Caleb.

In a place like the Hill, that led Gloria to only one conclusion.  If Hannah couldn’t know her full name then…

“You’re not Hannah,” Gloria said.

Hannah cocked her head.  “No, but we’ve met.  Very briefly, although not formally.  I would say I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t remember me, but then I do also have something of a reputation.”

Hannah took off her glasses and stared straight at Gloria.  This time she did back away.  Hannah’s doppleganger had eye whites just like anyone else, but instead of irises and pupils there were just glowing red pits.  Only then, Gloria realized Hannah’s skin didn’t fit completely right on her, too tight in some areas while drooping in places it shouldn’t.  These were all the signs of a demon.  Not all demons looked like this, just very special kinds.  And there was only one demon like that of any repute on the Hill.  This could only be Mary McPhisto.

Mary was right.  They had met for one very brief, very chaotic moment in the past, and there had been no formal introductions.  Several months ago there had been another apocalypse.  Normally that was nothing special, but this one had partially been Caleb’s fault.  The problem with failed apocalypses was they tended to leave world-destroying artifacts lying around afterwards.  Caleb had taken to collecting them, leaving them all in one place where a sufficiently ambitious guy bent on making the world a better place had been able to get them all in one fell swoop.  He’d lured the most powerful people on the Hill into one location with the promise of auctioning the items off, although his real plan had been to wipe out everything that made the Hill different.  Gloria, Caleb, and their friend Phil had all been there trying to stop him.  McPhisto, on the other hand, had been there trying to buy her very own world-destroying artifact.

Had the auction been real, Mary McPhisto could have possibly walked away with everything that had been on sale, no matter the price.  She didn’t hide the fact that she had money to burn, although there were many differing rumors about how much.  She didn’t keep a low profile, either.  She owned the Club McPhisto, which was close enough to the edge of the Hill that even clueless mundies went there.  The club had a strict policy that anything non-human had to conceal its true nature within its walls (it also had a no zombie policy, but that was for a different reason entirely), although strange things still happened there.  Those strange things were exactly what made it so popular.  Everyone knew that a night at Club McPhisto would be a night to remember, even though Mary’s bouncers usually had to wipe the memories of the club-goers before they left.

While Mary McPhisto’s true nature might have been unknown in the mundy world, everyone on the Hill knew what she was and kept their distance.  If she wanted to go outside the Hill for business, then Mary needed to look human, but that wasn’t easy for most demons.  Their actual appearance varied depending on the type of demon, but generally they had red or purplish skin, often with horns, scales, or tails.  Some kinds of demons could make themselves look human with the proper illusion spells.  Mary was not that kind of demon.  Illusion spells slid off her body like water.  So in addition to magic, she needed something to physically cover her body.  In short, if she wanted to look human then she needed an actual human’s skin.

Gloria had seen people die on the Hill.  Sometimes it touched her and sometimes it didn’t, depending on the person and the way it happened.  Often she could shrug it off.  She should have been able to shrug it off now.  After all, she hadn’t been very close to Hannah.  No one here had.  But the idea that the girl had actually been skinned so that someone else could now go walking around in it?  For the first time in too long, Gloria had to fight not to puke.

Gloria backed in the direction of her locker.  She had no idea how she could get her weapons out of her locker without McPhisto or her bodyguards stopping her, but she would find a way.  She was going to kill this bitch.

McPhisto chuckled.  “If you’re thinking of doing something rash on Hannah’s account, let me assure you that I came by her skin in a completely legal manner.”

She opened up the briefcase.  There were quite a few papers inside.  McPhisto pulled out one and held it up for Gloria to see.  Gloria took a cautious step closer and looked at the bottom of the sheet.  There was a signature at the bottom that may or may not have been Hannah’s.  It was dated a month ago, and judging from the rust color of the ink, Gloria would guess it was signed in blood.  McPhisto put the paper back in her briefcase before Gloria could see anything else.

“She was having financial problems,” McPhisto said, “and heard that I would be willing to help.”

“And did she know what you would eventually be taking in return?” Gloria asked.

“It is not my fault if she was careless enough to sign without reading thoroughly.  The point is that anything I did to her was completely legal, when taken in context with the right authorities.  So if you get any closer to that locker while I am in your presence, I will consider it right and proper self defense to have my two associates eat every one of your fingers and toes.”

Gloria froze.  If this was anywhere else, that threat could have been nothing but an exaggeration, but Gloria knew better.

“How did you know my full name?” Gloria asked.

McPhisto laughed.  “Honey, you would be extremely surprised to know exactly which people are keeping a close eye on you and your boyfriend.”

“Hey!” someone said from behind Mary’s bodyguards.  “The rules are clear.  No men in the girls’ dressing rooms!”  Hancock pushed past the two guards, but stopped as soon as he saw McPhisto.  “Hannah?  What’s going…  Oh, Mary.  Um, I didn’t know you were here.”

“But you heard I might be coming, I’m sure,” McPhisto said.  She and the bodyguards turned their back to Gloria.  They must have had a lot of confidence in their threat if they didn’t expect Gloria to try something while they weren’t looking.  Unfortunately, Gloria had to admit at the moment that the threat was enough.

“There was some talk,” Hancock said.  He wasn’t a small man, being a little overweight but very tall.  In a fair fight it was possible he could take one of the guards if something happened, but demons rarely fought fair.  He trembled as he spoke, and with good reason.  “Would you like something to drink?  I’m sure that whatever you want to talk about…”

“I’m a busy woman.  I don’t have time to talk,” McPhisto said.  She reached into her briefcase and pulled out the paper that had been on top of the pile.  “I’m only here to give you this.”

“What…”  Hancock took the paper and looked at it, his eyes growing wide.  “This is ridiculous.  You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Please insert a cliché right here about how I never kid, Mr. Hancock.”

“This can’t be legal!” Hancock said.

“I knew that you would think that,” McPhisto said.  She took a large number of papers from the briefcase and handed them to him.  “So I took the liberty of making copies of all the paperwork for you to peruse.  You’ll want to make some phone calls, I’m sure, also have your lawyer look at them.  You’ll find that every possible loophole for you getting out of this has been filled.  From this moment on, you no longer own the Sin Depot.  It belongs to me.”

22
Feb
10

Old Clerks Don’t Die – Chapter 1

Okay, after last week’s unfortunate delay, I should now be back on track.  As promised, I am starting to serialize the sequel to The Apocalypse Shift (which is available for purchase here if you haven’t read it yet).  I’m trying to write this one so you don’t need to have read the first one to understand it, but it will probably contain quite a few spoilers for the first, so you have been warned.  I will be posting one chapter a week for now, which will make the individual entries much shorter than when I was posting large chunks of stories. 

So let’s get this thing started.  I hope you enjoy!

-Derek J. Goodman

Old Clerks Don’t Die, They Slay Away 

Chapter 1

 

     Snookie Winters was nodding off in her recliner when things from another planet tried to destroy the world outside her apartment door.

     She jerked awake and looked around, confused for a moment.  She had that problem more and more these days.  Every time she woke up she forgot for a moment where she was, what year she lived in.  She could almost make herself believe it was the old days again, the glory days. 

     Then she felt all the aches in her body and the wet patch on her chest where she had drooled on herself as she napped, and she remembered that the glory days were a long time gone.

     Despite the deafening noise coming from the hallway, she still remained confused for several seconds about what had awakened her.  The TV was on, stuck on the episode menu of a DVD.  The old familiar song from the TV show she’d been watching- ba-da-da-DUMP-snap-snap- was extremely loud in the small living room, turned up so she could still hear it even with her failing ears.  Old shows like that were the only reason she had bothered buying a DVD player to begin with.  They reminded her not only of a time when she had been younger, but also the kind of people she had once known.  They were all gone now, leaving behind a new generation that didn’t care where it had come from.

     The noises in the hallway got louder, and finally she realized what had brought her out of her restless slumber.  Someone screamed, and something wooden broke, and there were shouts.  Something buzzed and whined, a noise completely unlike anything that should have occurred in nature.  Snookie’s heart sped up, something she would have rather avoided if possible.  Her troubled ticker didn’t like excitement much anymore.  Despite the strain, however, Snookie got up out of her recliner as fast as she could.  She still knew the sounds of an apocalypse when she heard it.

     She grabbed her cane from its place against the chair and walked to the door.  She still kept a rack of what she had used to call her “just in case” items right next to the door, although she hadn’t used them in years.  Still, before she grabbed any of them, she peered through the peep hole.  It would be best if she knew just what the hell was going on first.

     To anyone on the other side of the door, her peephole looked completely normal.  However, she’d had some modifications done to it when she’d moved in here, just like she had her entire apartment.  When she looked out, she didn’t get the typical fish-eye view of whatever was directly in front of the door.  Instead the view was widescreen, covering nearly the entire length of the hallway.  If she just tapped lightly on the door, the magic spell on the peep hole would switch views to somewhere else in the hall, making sure that no matter where somebody stood out there, Snookie could still get a look at them.  And what she saw looked like a small army of six foot tall orange salt shakers.

     “Hmph,” Snookie muttered.  “These things again.”  They moved down the hall like they were on wheels and had only long thin sticks for arms.  Each had a single eye.  They looked ridiculous rather than scary, but Snookie had seen them come around once or twice before and knew what they could do.  There wasn’t much around here that she hadn’t seen.

     She tapped the door, and the view changed to one at the end of the hall just above the stairwell.  One of the doors near the end was broken with a smoldering dead body lying just outside.  Snookie didn’t know why these things had chosen to come into this building, but they obviously didn’t intend to leave it peacefully.

     Snookie reached for the rack, her hand falling on the necklace hanging from a nail on the rack’s side.  It was made of hemp with a smooth green stone dangling from it, and it looked like it had seen better days.  It had been made several decades ago when it became obvious she would never again be the same person from her youth, but she had never worn it.  It would only work once, and she hadn’t wanted to waste it.  These creatures seemed like a good enough reason to put it on, but she hesitated.  She knew this neighborhood.  It didn’t need her anymore when it came to stuff like this.

     Snookie tapped the door again as she heard a rattling doorknob.  The view changed to something closer, giving her a clear look as the door of the apartment immediately to her left flew open and a young man and woman came jumping out.  Each one held a katana in hand.  The weapons were rather elegant, the sort of thing one would expect from warriors in heavy samurai armor.  But neither the boy nor girl wore armor.  In fact, they wore nothing but a single bed sheet draped over them both. 

     “Every freaking time,” the boy said to the girl.  “We’re just about to get all hot and heavy, and then either the phone rings or we’re invaded by a bunch of…”  He paused, cocking his head at the salt shakers as they turned to look at the naked couple.  “What the hell are these things, anyway?”

     “Not a clue,” the girl said.  “These are a new one, even for the Hill.”

     Snookie made another “hmph” noise, but she let her hand drop away from the necklace.

     The lead salt shaker pointed a stick arm at them and spoke in a high-pitched robotic voice.  “You will not resist!  You will not resist!”

     The boy looked at the girl.  “You’re up, Gloria.”

     “No, I came up with the last clever insult before a fight, Caleb.  It’s your turn.”

     “Are you sure?  Cuz I kind of remember it being pretty lame.”

     “Which is obviously why it must have been yours.”

     “Are you kidding me?  My quips are far better than…”

     The salt shaker spoke again.  “You will not resist!”

     Caleb waved the katana at it.  “Would you be quiet?  No one is fucking resisting yet.  Just hold your horses until we can come…”

     A door opened across the hall, revealing a sleepy neighbor in a red bathrobe.  “What the hell is going on out here now?”

     The girl, Gloria, looked alarmed.  “Get back inside!” she yelled at the man.  “Change into a different colored bathrobe!  Hurry!”

     The man looked thoroughly confused.  He could only be a mundy.  Snookie again reached for the necklace, but she was too late.  Events moved too quickly for her to do anything.

     The lead salt shaker turned to the man.  “Exfoliate!  Exfoliate!”

     Caleb looked at Gloria.  “Really?  That doesn’t sound like much of a threat.”

     The lead salt shaker aimed his stick arms at the man, and brilliant blue beams of light shot at him.  The man dropped dead to the ground, all the skin now gone for his body.  His red bathrobe became a whole lot redder.

     “Oh,” Caleb said.  “Right.”  He swung his sword before the lead salt shaker could move.  The blade sliced right through it at a diagonal, sending a thick purplish blood splattering all over the other salt shakers.  The shaker next to it screamed and backed away as Caleb moved to take another swing, but he got tangled up in the bed sheet.  He tripped and fell to the ground, nearly pulling the other end off Gloria.  She gripped it tighter over her chest but still jumped over Caleb’s prone form, tangling him even further, as she swung her own blade.  She only missed because all the other shaker things were backing toward the stairs. 

     “Gah!  No!” the closest creature said.  “You will not resist!”

     “Resist what?” Caleb asked.  He hadn’t been able to unwind the sheet from around himself, so he had instead cut it open with his sword.  He stood holding the katana threateningly at them with one hand while he tried to cover himself up with a torn piece of sheet in the other.  “You’re barely even doing anything now that your leader guy is gone.  Aren’t you even going to put up a fight?”

     “We are sorry for what he did!” the nearest one said.  “That ‘Exfoliate’ thing is just something he got off on!”

     The next closest shaker-thing spoke.  “He was a douchebag!”

     They all spoke in unison.  “Douchebag!  Douchebag!”

     Gloria lowered the sword and looked like she was trying to find a way to scratch her head without setting it down or lowering the sheet.  After a moment, she took the hand and sheet away from her body long enough to scratch.  Snookie guessed that she didn’t think the creatures cared whether or not she was clothed.  The girl probably didn’t realize anyone else might be watching.

     “So what exactly is it you guys don’t want us to resist?”

     The first one spoke.  “Do not resist giving us directions to the bowling alley!”

     Gloria and Caleb both stared for several seconds.  “That’s it?” Caleb asked.  “You just broke into the building, let your friend kill people…”

     “Not our friend!  Douchebag!  Douchebag!”

     “Whatever,” Gloria said.  “What do you expect to do at the bowling alley?  You don’t even have hands!”

     One of them waved a stick arm at one of the creatures near the back.  “Larry over there thinks the girl who sprays the shoes with disinfectant is hot!”

     Caleb and Gloria gave them the directions, then went back into their apartment.  They didn’t bother to watch the shaker-shaped things leave.  Snookie had no idea how they had made it up the stairs in the first place, but they didn’t have any trouble getting down.  They just wheeled to the stairs and fell the rest of the way.

     Snookie continued to watch the hallway until she was sure no one else was coming.  If the boy and girl knew anything about how things worked around here, they had probably called someone about cleaning up the dead bodies and coming up with a plausible story in case any of the mundy neighbors asked the wrong questions.  But just because they knew how to get rid of strange things didn’t mean Snookie would admit they knew what they were doing.  Snookie shook her head as she stepped away from the peep hole.  Amateurs.  They were complete amateurs, acting like they had the slightest clue about anything, even when they didn’t.  They should have known katanas weren’t the best weapon in that situation.  Any true beastie-basher worth her salt would have used a Scottish claymore. 

     Snookie leaned her cane against the rack and grabbed her own Scottish claymore from the “just in case” rack.  Her frail arms strained at the great weight, but the hilt still felt good and familiar in her hands.  The sword was almost as tall as her, but there had once been a time she could have wielded it easily.

     Her eyes misted a little as she carefully put a hand on the blade.  It desperately needed a polish, but she hadn’t been able to make herself clean it since she had last used it.  There was still blood on it.  Not a lot, but just enough to remind her.  Four distinct spots of old, dried human blood, one for each of the OneStop Mart employees she had killed.

     She carefully put the sword back in its place and grabbed her cane again.  She shuffled back to her recliner, trying to accompany the music on her TV with a double-finger snap from her free hand.  Her arthritic joints just couldn’t do it anymore.

 (c) 2010 Derek Goodman

15
Feb
10

Apologies

I just want to give my readers an apology.  I had previously stated that Old Clerks Don’t Die, They Slay Away would start appearing here today, but do to technical problems beyond my control, it will be late by at least a week.  Please check in next week, as I anticipate these issues will have cleared up by then.




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