The cloud, our outcasts, just waited and watched from afar. The Church had been fun. The Church had been excellent! Like any of us, it was still learning; it would always be learning. It needed something. It wanted to have more fun. It hovered near a department store, looking and waiting for something to take its fancy; it did not take long.
Daniel sat alone at home. His head was banging. Playing the greatest hits of every classic rock band all at once. Thankfully he had not spent another night at the police station. The Policeman had been a decent sort and bought him home. His hangover…
Had enough of Jailhouse Rock? Well, here is Folsum Prison Blues; wait, The Hurricane is in the queue. We have all your favourites.
Daniel stumbled from the sofa, using a hand to steady himself as he rose. He needed drugs, lots of drugs. He staggered up the stairs, one step at a time and slowly, Daniel headed to the bathroom. He opened the cabinet above the sink and saw the pills, his collection of painkillers. He bought a box almost every time he visited the supermarket. Why did they have to be in packs of sixteen? He did not usually need them because of drinking. It was the nightmares that gave him headaches. That was why he had the collection. He popped two pills from one box and two from another. He knew that you were supposed to take them two hours apart, but he didn’t care, not this morning. Daniel dry swallowed the four pills and headed for the toilet.
David looked at the Church doors, what was left of them, and walked inside. The Church had only just been given the all-clear from the fire department. “There is some fucked up shit in there”, he had been told. Nothing they had said, nor anything they could have said, could have prepared him for what awaited. David walked inside and looked over the scene. A few firefighters were still there sifting through the mess. They were checking or any embers they had missed. “Jesus Christ”, David mutters to himself, the son of God fast becoming his go-to curse.
Many of the bodies lay in a charred heap in the centre of the aisle. They had crawled to the fire and tried to gather as close to it as they could. Water dripped from everything to the floor.
Drip, drip, drip…
David looked over the pews. He saw people sat on each other, mounted and burnt together. Held in place by the remains of the fire. Skin merging with their partner’s skin to form one shape.
“Beleive it or not, but they were shagging”, the firefighter said.
“Shagging? During this?” David replied, with a note of disbelief ringing in his voice. A hint of the report he had read fluttering in the brain waves. “Yep, as far as I can see, they kept on fucking while the fire raged”.
David shook his head, unbelievable; why? “Okay, tell me what happened”, David asked the firefighter.
Daniel sat at the kitchen table with a coffee in hand. The radio is on in the background as it regularly was, only today the volume was low. He took a sip from the cup as the news rolled in.
The fire at Eastbound Church has been extinguished, the police are now on the scene. Reports are coming in suggesting that the fire was a deliberate act, and so far, everyone is thought to have died. The local Priest “John Westly” is believed to have perished along with his congregation. If you have any information or think you may have had family involved in this, please call………
Daniel turned the radio off and finished his coffee.
Depressing, what was the world coming to? Christ, a Church as well!
As if he was being answered by God, the phone in the hallway started to ring. Daniel got up and headed down the hallway. He was steadier now on his feet. The coffee and pills had begun to do the job. He looked at the phone as if it was an alien object, it rang, and he knew what to do; it was just that nobody called on the landline these days. He picked up the phone and said, “Hello”.
The cloud hung in the air. It kept itself high enough to not be noticed but close enough so that it could see. This could be perfect, but could it pull it off? The doll had been hard work, more of a challenge than it had expected, but it had worked. This would be the same; it was just bigger. It watched the shop window and bided its time. The cloud dropped lower, heading toward the shop. It thinned itself as it did so. When it has reached the ground, it was nothing but a slight fog. It approached the door and made its way inside. It could have possessed a human, but where was the fun in that?
“A psychic called Crystal? I am not having that”, Daniel said as he spoke on the phone. “I think she is genuine. At the very least, she is engaging and knows things that she shouldn’t”, Martin replied. Martin understood Daniels scepticism; they were all sceptical of psychics. It was part of the job. They had met far too many charlatans and not enough genuine ones. “You think she is real?” Daniel questioned. Martin hesitated for just a moment before he replied. “I think she is trustworthy. Do I think she is psychic? I don’t know… She could be, she may not be. I do think that we should listen to her and hear her out”.
“Okay, I will head over to the office. I’ll be there in half an hour”.
“What makes something like this happen?” David asked the firefighter. “That is your job, mate; mine is to tell you how. Yours is to find out why”. David grunted at this, the firefighter was right, but he would have used any help he could have got with this one. “I just can’t wrap my head around this one,” He said. “It can’t be drugs, can it?” David looked around, looking for a sign of drug use. “I have not seen anything unusual”, the firefighter said. He glanced around the smouldering remains, “Well nothing that indicates drugs use, unusual… Yeah I’ve seen that”. David shuffled his feet, trying to avoid standing on something that could give him a clue as to why.
Unusual, yes, that is one way to describe things.
The cloud studied it, and if it could have, it would have smiled. It was perfect. The colour was the best bit, white and pure, everything that it was not. It slipped inside, contaminating the plastic, much like it had the doll. It was stronger now, but with strength came an awareness. It was aware of the one who had set it free, and it came to understand that he could also banish it. How did it come across this information? It did not know; it had just come to it. Tentatively it tries to lift an arm, the arm raised, and it felt control. This time it had the power; it had an ability that came from the other’s strength, power in numbers.
Daniel paid for the taxi and went to the office. His head was still pounding, but now it was a mild drumbeat. The incessant wittering from the taxi driver should have made it worse, but thankfully, it had not. He could live with that; he would have to live with that. Daniel opened the door and headed inside the Institute.
The office was the same as always; only three people were waiting for him instead of two. Crystal was sitting in the spare chair, in Daniels chair, sipping at a cup of tea. If she noticed him entering the room, she doesn’t show it. She just sat and drank her tea. Absorbed in her own thoughts.
Crystal had seen Daniel enter, and she was not really paying much attention to her tea either. The thing she was paying attention to. The thing that was sapping all of her awareness was the feeling in her gut. She had tightness and a sense of unease; something was going to happen. She kept trying to see, trying to visualise the threat that she felt. There is a car, but the driver, she cannot make out the driver. The driver is wrong.
The woman shrieked as it had walked from the department store. It did not bother it. It liked the attention, and it enjoyed the screams.
Let them scream, let them panic. Let them all fear me.
The plastic had creaked and squeaked at first. Straining as it was forced to move in ways that it had never been designed to do, but soon it moved freely enough. It had laboured at first, and it had wondered if it was strong enough for this. The plastic, though, had soon given up its fight. The car was another problem and was easily solved. It looked through its group of outcasts; it had what it needed somewhere. It did. There was a man among them who had experience with cars, someone who could do what needed to be done.
Daniel looked at Crystal. Her eyes crossed the room to where he stood. Finally, she seemed to acknowledge him, “Oh, Hi”, was all that she said. Daniel looked at her, and the first word that popped into his head was skatty. She looked like the type of person who would put the cereal into the fridge, then the milk into the cupboard. He then imagined that she would sit down to work, then something else would enter her mind, and she would be off to do that. She dressed in the stereotype of a fortune teller. Crystal looked at Daniel and just thought, cynic. They both knew the phrase that you should never judge a book by its cover; they had both ignored that advice.
The plastic smashed as it punched into the ignition, plastic upon plastic, both gave. Plastic started to fall to the well of the car, some from the dashboard and some from its hand. It watched as it fell, cursing itself for not thinking. Wishing that it had been more considered in its approach to this new fragile body. Something then happened, a thing that it had not expected, something that it could not have foreseen.
The plastic that had broken from it stopped in mid-air and just floated between the well and the dashboard. Tendrils of smoke drifted from the breaks in both its hand and the falling pieces. Cloud mixed with plastic, plastic mixed with the cloud. The broken pieces started to float back toward the hand, drawn back to the host by the hazy mist. The fractured pieces hovered back to the body, nestling in place almost entirely, with only the thinnest of fog showing the cracks. It instinctively raised the hand to look at it. It was something it did not need to do, but having a head – of sorts – made it revert to old habits. It clenched the fist, good as new. It pulled the wires from the dashboard and follows the instructions that it had been given by the thief.
Betty Davies walked along the pavement, not quite sure if she could believe her own eyes. Bets as she was known to her friends, Betty to many and Mrs Davies to those she did not like, she could be a fierce woman. She was not one to suffer fools gladly, nor did she have any qualms about speaking her mind. Had someone told her that they had seen what she had just seen, she’d have thought them crazy. This though had made her pause and consider. She first thought that it must have been kids playing a joke, but then it had moved. There was something in the way that it looked at the hand that had made her stop. She watched as it examined its hand. Steam surrounded the hand, lifting from it like the vapour rising from a pipe on a cold winters morning. It had made a fist and then stared at it. It was then that she had decided what she would do. Betty had rounded the corner. The Police station was minutes away.
“I am not special”, Crystal said; she held the cup in her hands.
“Then, how do you know all about this”, Daniel demanded to know. He slammed his hands into his lap when she just shook her head. “I don’t know”, Crystal said, “It’s just me. It is what I am and what I do. It is nothing special when you have been doing it your whole life”. She finished this breathless sentence and put the cup down on the desk. “Yes, but how can…” Daniel is cut off by Lisa. She held her hand in the air to stop him mid-flow. “I think we need to start again” Lisa looked at Daniel, “Calmly this time”, she finished. “Crystal, start again. What do you know?” Martin asked.
“Well…” Crystal said.
Betty entered the Police station and approached the desk. It was an old fashioned local – in a loose sense – station and had yet to have a security screen put up around the desk. It will come in time, she thought, well, if they don’t close the place first. One minute they are banging on about law and order, the next? Closing police stations and courts. She rang the bell and waited.
The engine revved wildly. The foot pressed down on the accelerator, lifted for a second and then pushed down again. The car jumping as it pushed its foot down; it wanted to be free. It moved its hand down to the gearstick and shifted it into first. The memories coming back immediately, the lessons it had learnt in life coming back to it, coming back quick and fast.
Crystal knew about everything; in total, she knew far more than they knew. She had told them of the house, how she had felt Daniel there. She had no idea who he was at the time and that the feeling that she had felt was not unusual. Then it went quiet. She didn’t know why, but Daniel did. I was in the hospital, he thought to himself. “Then you burnt the house down,” Crystal said and eyed Daniel.
“Hello, how can I help?” The Policewoman asked as she arrived at the desk. Betty looked at her and then started to question herself, how was she going to report this? “Well”, she said, “I saw someone breaking into a car”.
“Okay Madam”, the Policewoman said. Oh, Betty hated being called Madam. “Can you tell me your name please?”
“Mrs Davies”, Betty replied.
It turned the steering wheel and applied a slight push to the accelerator. The car edged forward from the parking space. It hit the car parked just in front, no harm, it thought to itself as it slid forward, leaving a scratch along the side. It was on the straight now. More manageable, it pushed the accelerator down. So what if it crashed? It thought to itself, it isn’t going to hurt me. The car sped onwards.
“But don’t you see?” Crystal asked, stressing the final word. “The house was left to you so that you’d investigate it and hopefully understand what is there”.
“And you burned it down”, Martin added with a sigh. “I knew it was too easy”.
“Then there was the car thief”, Crystal said. “Then it moved to the family”.
“So your saying you think these things are connected?” Daniel asked. Crystal looked at him again before she continued. “Then it was the Church, it burnt all those poor people. When that happened I had to come forward”.
“But, you couldn’t go to the police?” Lisa asked. The moment the words had slipped from her mouth, she knew it was a stupid question. “Hello, I’m psychic and I have infomation. Think it over sis”, Martin said. Crystal had not taken her eyes from Daniel, “And no”, she said. “I don’t think these things were linked, I know they were”.
“Well it must have been kids, or well at least a kid”, Betty said.
“And why do you say that?” The Policewoman asked. This was the part that Betty was not looking forward to. How would she go about explaining what she had seen? “He was in fancy dress”, Betty said. “Dressed as a manaquin”, she added, trying to make it sound like an afterthought or an irrelevance.
“A manaquin?” The Policewoman said, surprised. She’d heard many things in her short time working here, but this was a new one. She raised an eyebrow as she did it. “Yes!” Betty said, “I know what it sounds like, but just around the corner outside of M&S I saw them trying to steal a car”.
“It is happening again, I can feel it”, Crystal said. She held her hands to her head as if trying to push the thoughts back inside. Pushing the palms to her temples. “It is in a car, I can feel the movement”.
“How can it drive?” Daniel asked. His scepticism subsided a little, but it was always ready to charge back to the front. “I don’t know. I think it has taken someone or something. I just see the cloud”.
“Okay, so where is it,” Martin asked her.
“I can’t tell. It is all moving too fast”, Crystal said. “I can only tell you that it is happening right now!”
The Policewoman watched as Mrs Davies left the station. Dotty old bat (And yes, Sir, that is my professional opinion), she thought to herself, probably just looking for attention. The Policewoman pushed the notes to one side. Still, she would fill in the forms. Dot the i’s and cross the t’s she was always taught. She was filling out the paperwork when she heard the screeching of tyres. Looking up from the desk, she could see the old lady outside. Mrs Davies had turned to her left, her jaw dropped in horror. She just stared at the noise that they had both heard.
The tyres screamed, and the breaks squealed; it didn’t care. It needed something done, and it would do it. It would not hold back on a bit of fun. Why should it? It saw the old lady and took only seconds to decide; the car swerved and hit the lady head-on. Her legs smashed into the bumper; they were almost ripped in half. The sound of the breaking bones reverberates down the narrow street, bouncing from building to building. Her head rebounded off the bonnet and then smashed into the windscreen, splintering the glass. The mannequin behind the wheel punches the glass, hitting it with anger and supernatural strength. The body bounced from the window as it struck, the plastic hand shattering and rejoining through its misty veins. The body fell from the car, the head being smashed by the rear wheel.
The Policewoman stands mouth open and gawks at the scene. She had seen the car hit the woman, then she had seen inside. Finally, she had watched as the vehicle had jumped six inches in the air at the rear. She had no idea why at first, then she saw the aftermath and the woman’s body, head smashed into the ground. Another Policeman came running into the reception area, “What the hell was that?” He asked. “Someone…” she stopped, trying to pull herself together. “Someone dressed as a manaquin just hit that old lady with a car”, she said with a stutter.
And the car continued to speed on down the street, heading towards the Insititute.