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All Sandie learned from her very expensive blood tests was that there was no reason for her to have paid for very expensive blood tests. She did not have leprosy, or hepatitis, or any of a number of different anemias. The news was a comfort, but the check was not.

Sandie bought a book of stamps and sent a stack of poems away to the offices of Lead Soldiers, thinking that a small royalty would at least begin to fill the dent that a new door and a medical bill had left in her bank account.

"Maybe you could take up a special collection for me," she told Mike as she got him a glass of water – root beer was an unnecessary expense.

"Meh," he said. "Charitable though the cause may be, it doesn't really work that way."

"Shame. I'm going to start getting really sick of ramen in a week or two."

"You can always come share with me. For some reason, people are always bringing me leftover barbecue. Which is nice, don't get me wrong. But they must think I eat like a football team or something. I mean, a gallon of potato salad? Really?"

Sandie was silent. She picked at a moth hole in her tee shirt and crossed her legs, first one way and then the other, and said nothing.

Mike sat forward and put on his Confession face, the one that said he was ready to listen and would not, under any circumstances, laugh.

"What's the matter? You don't like potato salad?"

"There's a voice haunting me."

A car alarm went off, and the dogs next door set up an answering ruckus. Outside, someone started shouting for the world to just shut up.

"It's worse when I'm asleep or really tired, but it's gotten to where it's all the time, now. It started right after the break-in. And it's not really a voice, more like thoughts. Like tuning in to someone's mind. Sometimes it's aimed at me, like its talking to me, but most of the time it's just thinking about whatever, trying to figure things out. It's looking for something, but I don't think it knows what. It scares the shit out of me, but then it… like… I don't know. Like it sucks the fear out of me. Like it needs that. Does that make sense?"

Mike shut his eyes and opened them again very slowly. He set his glass of water on the end table, chewed his lip, laced his fingers, and took a preparatory breath.

"Have you considered seeing someone about this?" The light filtered blue through the sheet of plastic that sealed the door and fell across his face – his Last Rites face.

"Yeah, but I'm broke. Plus, I'm not convinced that I'm crazy. I mean, it's looking pretty likely that I am, I admit, but I'm not actually that stressed, and the paramedics said I didn't hit my head that hard, and it just seems like one hell of a coincidence."

"You mean that you get attacked by a dead body, and now you're hearing voices, and you think that they're both real, and related."

"Yeah, pretty much. I like that better than the idea that I'm schizo. Only…"

"What?"

"You don't think I'm possessed or anything, do you?"

There was a pause, long enough to make Sandie uncomfortable.

"At this point, I really couldn't say." He sat back again and folded his arms with a look of healthy skepticism, blue eyes narrowed in thought. "You know we have to rule out insanity before even looking into that. But if you're worried about it, frankly, that can't be doing your mental state any good."

"Mike. Father… There is someone else in my head. Being worried about it is pretty natural, I'd say. And if it's… gonna start getting worse, or… taking me over or something… Shit, I mean…"

Mike got up and crossed over to the couch, grabbing the tissue box in passing. He set the box on Sandie's knees and draped his arm across her shoulders, wincing as she jammed her head up under his chin.

"Baby," he said, "you are the toughest girl I know. If anyone has the guts to handle weirdness, it's you."


It was moving again as soon as Sandie got into bed. Slow, labored, starving, and determined. It dragged itself blind through suburbia to the sound of sprinklers until a late-night bicyclist hit a bump and went sprawling. There was blood and garbled plosives that were probably cursing. There was anger. Footsteps. More cursing. Then silence and horror.

damage. breach outer boundary understand easy repair. little effort. results inconsequential stimulus unknown cannot replicate. unsatisfactory. insufficient.

It absorbed the anger and the horror and moved on, leaving the cyclist behind, but it was not enough.

It found the freeway and followed a stream of frustration around the Loop, noisy and congested even in the wee hours. Dotted between the horns and brakes were flashes of road rage.

unsatisfactory. insufficient. inefficient. spontaneous unpredictable cannot be harnessed.

What are you looking for?

need… will recognize object when located.

What if you don't find it? And what do you need me for?

unknown. anticipate negative consequence. contact is a preventative measure.

Preventative of what?

isolation.

It stopped thinking, then, and started listening hard. There was a sensation like stretching out, and Sandie found a familiar pattern. It was distorted by Someone Else's perception, filtering through a mind that had no idea what to make of it, but Sandie recognized a jazz band. The bass line pounded through her id with fierce abandon, and the entire universe resonated wildly to the frenetic strains of improv.

It hummed an answering harmony, stretching out even further to touch a whirl of elation. Wrapped up tight in the voice of a twelve-string, people were dancing, shouting, and radiating more feeling than Sandie could take in. They never missed a few stolen laughs, a couple of missed beats as It sucked everything in, soaked up droplets of joy like a vast metaphysical sponge. It was moving again, pressing closer, right up against the vibrating walls, and the movement was easier, more natural, and the vibration was in its hands as they knitted together, condensed into something whole, and there was a body, a connection, a solidity, and then eyes opened and saw bricks painted green, the outside of the bar…


The adrenaline rush jarred Sandie awake, and she sat up in bed with a grunt, one hand pressed to her hammering head.

"Holy crap."

Instinctively, she reached for her cell phone on the night stand, eyes passing over the digital clock. Quarter to midnight. Mike would still be up. There was nothing to tell him, though – at least, nothing she could explain. She set the phone back down and rolled onto her side, settling back onto the pillow. There was plenty of night left to find out what would happen next, get an idea of what was going on, like an addictive serial publication.

But when she closed her eyes, there was no one there.
DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNNN.

Chapter 1: [link]
Chapter 2: [link]
Chapter 3: [link]
Chapter 4: [link]
Chapter 5: YOU ARE HERE
Chapter 6: [link]
Chapter 7: [link]
Chapter 8: [link]
Chapter 9: [link]
Chapter 10: [link]
Chapter 11: [link]
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:iconleyghan:
leyghan Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
247homr has it right. I remember reading the first chapter, being intrigued/impressed and faving. Then I saw this in DLD and realised you'd written more. Alright I says, let's check out one or two chapters then to bed. I've got an early morn. Annnd here I am at chapter five and all ready for chapter six.

Great storytelling. Can't wait to read what happens next. :eager:
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2013  Professional Writer
8D Oh, good! My ultimate goal is to be an early-morning-ruiner. 
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:icon247homr:
247homr Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
"I'll just read one chapter and go to bed," I said, five chapters ago. I was hooked from the first line. Excellent work!
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2013  Professional Writer
Oh, good! :eager: That's exactly what I was going for. ;)
Thanks.
Reply
:iconoviedomedina:
oviedomedina Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2012
That second to last paragraph, the that goes: "It hummed an answering harmony..." is wonderful!
This just keeps getting better and better!
Reply
:iconstormraevyn:
StormRaevyN Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2012  Student General Artist
Its really starting to have a nice coherent narrative voice at this point
Reply
:iconhakyness3876:
Hakyness3876 Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
DAT PARAGRAPH.
you know which one i'm talking about.
LEGIT.
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2012  Professional Writer
O_o Which one?
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:iconhakyness3876:
Hakyness3876 Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh. The one that starts with "It hummed an answering harmony..." etc. LOVE IT!
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Professional Writer
:heart: Ah, that! Yes, I was proud of that one.
Reply
:iconxemoxdudetx:
xEmoXDudetx Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
it feeds off of emotions. joy the most filling. :D
:squee:
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2012  Professional Writer
But of course! ^^
Reply
:iconkodaeclipse:
KodaEclipse Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2012  Student General Artist
IM BOUNCING OFF MY SEAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2012  Professional Writer
Hmmm. Maybe this story should come with a seatbelt.
Reply
:iconkodaeclipse:
KodaEclipse Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2012  Student General Artist
XD I've never gotten that reply before! You're so unique and creative!
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Professional Writer
Ba-dum-tsh. ;D
Reply
:iconannikaastra:
AnnikaAstra Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2012  Professional Writer
Man, every chapter I read just gets better. I loved "the machine-gun cadence of Spanish arguments" in the previous chapter, and then your opening paragraph here, geez.

I gotta say, you do a lovely job of keeping the reader in suspense without me getting fed up with not knowing. This is still great. Better, even!
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2012  Professional Writer
Thanks! Most of the places I've lived are largely Spanish-speaking. It really does sound like machine-gun fire. xD Much more rapid and clipped than English.
:heart: Yess! I've never really done this sort of story before, so I'm glad the pacing is good.
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:iconannikaastra:
AnnikaAstra Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2012  Professional Writer
You're welcome :D
Reply
:icongonekrazy:
GoneKrazy Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I have to say, I'm getting a Catholic vibe from your Baptist pastor.
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2012  Professional Writer
Considering that he's a Catholic priest, that would make sense. ;)
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:icongonekrazy:
GoneKrazy Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
That's what I thought until you mentioned the sign on the Baptist church in chapter 4. I guess I got confused?
Reply
:iconedgeofeternity32:
EdgeOfEternity32 Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2012  Student Writer
the whirl of emotion is so poetic. beautiful, really. still intrigued. still not much to say. still moving onward. ;)
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2012  Professional Writer
Thanks!
I had just been to a jazz bar and had to do something with the experience. >3>
Reply
:iconedgeofeternity32:
EdgeOfEternity32 Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2012  Student Writer
Hah, don't blame you. Jazz bars are definitely an experience.
Reply
:icontigzzz:
Tigzzz Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
GASP!
Reply
:iconmorgana-jones:
Morgana-Jones Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Okay I think I'm addicted to this
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2012  Professional Writer
Yes! I have succeeded!
Reply
:iconununseptium1:
Ununseptium1 Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2012  Student General Artist
Okay, this story has my attention, particularily because it has a psychological ring to it. I really wanna read more!
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2012  Professional Writer
Thank you!
And actually, there is more as of... just now.
Reply
:iconununseptium1:
Ununseptium1 Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2012  Student General Artist
Epic! Reading now!
Reply
:iconmagdalagarza:
magdalagarza Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Whu. Wait. Mike is a priest? How could I have missed that before? Gah.

All the surreal TV-tuning acid-trippiness of this scene just convinces me further that this is a robot alien who wants to get in on human culture. For serious.

I'm tickled that you're keeping us guessing, though.
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2012  Professional Writer
Lol, yep. There were a couple of oblique references earlier, but I didn't want to state it outright. He's one of the fun ones, anyway. :)

Guess away! It amuses me.
Reply
:iconmagdalagarza:
magdalagarza Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Darn. I didn't spot those references. Yes, he sounds like a fun priest. I have an uncle who is one, so I know that they do act like... well, like actual people. ^^; But I don't often encounter real priests in fiction. (Unless they're fantasy vampire-slaying priests or something.)
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2012  Professional Writer
I just kind of figure that the Catholic Church needs some more love. I so seldom see any Catholic portrayed in literature who isn't a) a religious fanatic who condemns everyone and everything b) a fat-cat rich hypocrite or c) a pedophile. :/ Or, as you say, a vampire-slayer or something else that divides them from reality.
I have a rant about it, but I'll spare you. >>;
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:iconmagdalagarza:
magdalagarza Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I love rants! Are you Catholic? I'm more of a lapsed cultural Christian myself, but I still strongly identify with Christianity. Stereotyping against Catholics (and Protestants) always manages to annoy me, mostly because it's lazy thinking.
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2012  Professional Writer
Yep, I'm pretty Catholic. Obviously, the Church has some problems, but looking for an organization without problems is like looking for hen's teeth.
Reply
:iconkay-march:
Kay-March Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2012
Don't know how to think about this development, perhaps with the next chapter I get a clear view on my mind...
but I like the last part of this one, the description is wonderful, well for me that is
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2012  Professional Writer
It will all come together, I promise!
If not, do let me know so I can edit the hell out of it. >>;
Reply
:iconkay-march:
Kay-March Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2012
it's like waiting for an episode of a good serie, sometimes we have to step back see the all thing again to materialize some pending questions... but for now I like it, can't wait for the next part
Reply
:iconlizardhound:
Lizardhound Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Sounds like an intelligent emotion-absorbing program on the loose. And I'm really looking forward to the next chapter!
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2012  Professional Writer
Good guess. ;)
But I'm still not saying.
<3
Reply
:iconlizardhound:
Lizardhound Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Hmmm... consciousness without body stored in a computer for a while and then escaped?
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2012  Professional Writer
Still ain't saying. xD
Reply
:iconlizardhound:
Lizardhound Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
... it's a Hive Queen! The buggers are here! Where's Ender?!??
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2012  Professional Writer
Pffffffft.
He's off hanging out at the coffee shop.
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:iconlizardhound:
Lizardhound Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
... oh.
Reply
:iconavalon620:
Avalon620 Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2012  Student Writer
Woa! :wow: It sounds more like a robot than a zombie! Hmmmm.... :plotting:
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2012  Professional Writer
xD Everyone keeps making guesses.
I'm not saying anything!
Reply
:iconavalon620:
Avalon620 Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2012  Student Writer
Dang! :shakefist:
Reply
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