Gale sat on the floor, her back against the recliner where Selivanov lay mumbling and groaning. Across the room, one of the guards stood, a menacing obsidian statue, his arms crossed over his chest. Gale looked up at him, then lowered her eyes. Her nose had stopped bleeding from where Charlie had struck her, but her side still ached from the kick. He had gone, leaving the soldier behind to watch her, but Gale knew he would be back. And he would be angry, because the blind man, Selivanov, had not gotten any better.
The shock of recent hours settled in on Gale, numbing her. Her mind glazed over as it struggled to process, digest, accept all she had witnessed and experienced. She felt she must be dreaming, and the fear she felt was the kind of detached terror one has in a nightmare. Unable to absorb so much horror at one time, her mind took it in bit by bit. This alone kept her from hysterics, from panic.
It took a moment for her to be pulled from her stupor as Selivanov became seized with a coughing fit, choking, his one arm flailing as he gasped for air. The soldier, taking a step toward her, barked an order and pointed. Gale stood, her professional training taking over. She gave Selivanov a perfunctory examination.
“He’s choking on something,” Gale said, her voice an illusion of calm and confidence. She held open his mouth, checking to see if he had swallowed his own tongue, then pulled him up to a sitting position. The guard watched, useless.
Gale maneuvered around behind Selivanov, striking him in the middle of the back with the flat of her hand, then encircled his waist with her arms. She knotted her fist below his sternum, grabbed it with her other hand, and gave three sudden jerks. Selivanov gagged, retched, and Gale repeated the process.
Something began to emerge from his mouth. It protruded an inch, then two, black and shiny and wet, twitching and alive. Gale saw it and recoiled, drawing one arm up in front of her face as if for protection. Inch by inch, a segmented body forced its way from Selivanov’s mouth, insectoid legs wiggling as it swung in the air. Selivanov grabbed it with his hand and pulled. Finally it dropped from his mouth to the floor, a huge centipede nearly two feet long.
It writhed on the floor, legs clicking against the tile, and began to crawl. Gale suppressed the urge to gag. The guard, his eyes large and white in his dark face, drew his revolver and fired. Two, then three bullets struck the centipede, cutting it into pieces, but each piece continued to move independent of the others. Summoning his courage, the guard stomped them beneath his boot.
“Oh, God!” Gale managed before her wrist was seized in a crushing grip by Selivanov’s good hand. She yelped in pain and tried to pull away as she looked up at Selivanov, gasping, swallowing a scream. Selivanov’s face had changed, altered. Veins and capillaries stood out like bulging scars and his skin had turned the dark purple hue of one suffering from oxygen deprivation. The towel covering his eyes had fallen away and
Gale found herself staring into his gaping, empty sockets, the scar tissue inside the cavities alive as the remains of muscles moved in futility. As she watched, the skin along
Selivanov’s forehead opened in a tiny split, revealing the bone of the skull, blood flowing down to coat his face in a liquid mask.
Selivanov spoke, but the voice did not belong to him. Nor could it, Gale realized, belong to anything human. An image from an old movie flickered in her mind, the story of a child suffering demonic possession. Gale knew, on some deeper, primal level of her being, that she was now in the presence of something other, something that did not belong.
“Hurt…Me..!” the thing inside Selivanov spoke. “…little…thing…where…?! Where…?!”
“God!” Gale jerked her hand free, toppling backwards. A nauseating odor filled the room. Gale felt dizzy.
“…kill…it!” Selivnov convulsed as the words spewed from his mouth, spraying blood. “…Alllll…derrr…maaaaaan!”
Then it left him. Selivanov collapsed back into the chair. Again going numb, Gale acted on instinct, sought to staunch the flow of blood from the tear on Selivanov’s forehead with the discarded towel.
The door to the room burst open, clipping the soldier’s elbow. Charlie Drenth rushed in.
“Mr. Selivanov!” Charlie yelled. “Are you okay?! I heard gunshots!” “It’s…going to be alright now…Charlie,” Selivanov wheezed. “The Master…is feeling a little better now…Charlie.”