Radial Symmetry (10 of 10)
Tentacle 10: Nonesuch
". . . the littlest arm, oft kept curled below the body, and thus nigh unto totally atavised and withered. This is our placeholder, the cipher . . . "
The rising sun's cold, hard light seeped across Detroit. Its rays engulfed the abandoned houses with their collapsed eaves and board-blinded windows, crept through vacant lots overgrown to thickets and copses sheltering pheasant and deer. The light seemed to pool in the aging potholes that gaped in the street, and slathered the struggling businesses standing like a few good teeth in a mouth given up for decay. The sun, pitiless and searing through the clouds, glistened on the mirrored windows of the Renaissance Center towers, and upon the clean white promenade stretching behind the towers and out across the Detroit river like a tiny hand reaching to Canada.
Sang stood in the early morning light alone on this white grandstand over the water and smiled. This was the moment before the moment that he had been working toward for all of his life, but he did not bask in the moment, or reflect on the long and arduous journey to this Demonstration. Instead, he thought of a fish he had once seen in a well in his old home in Vietnam. And he smiled. Many nights as he slouched over his computer terminal or prepared another long and serpentine set of transactions in order to obscure the path of another bribe, Sang had begun to worry that her boon to him was really a curse — the tricky wording of gods and demons that makes every prize a punishment. But looking over the river's glistening, sludge bulk on this pitiless morning, he knew that he had been given fair reward for fair service. He had found his moment.
"I want to travel the seas," he said to no one, not even himself. Perhaps to the Spirit of the River herself, "And gaze deep into the eyes of the darkest abyss."
Sang's Blackberry chirped, and he looked at it. Spider's text message read only "SQ HOME," but Sang understood that to mean that however it had been done — the goon's interrogation of the trailer woman, the seizing of the boy, the chimps' relentless assaults — it had been done: the creature was safely back in the lab and isolated from the fools that flock to him. While in abstract this should mean that there would be no chance for things to go awry, in practice Sang knew that somehow the world always tipped and slid sideways once the Giant Squid — the most Venerable and Loquacious Squid — drew near. Sang hoped that having him again locked in has tank — far from foolish and ill-fated patsies, manipulable, drug-addled fools, and headstrong, strident cattle — meant that the Squid might, just for once, fail to foul something perfect and simple.
"Everything it touches gets warped and twisted to its own ends," Sang said aloud, this time to himself. He had meant to sound righteous, but his words sounded small and flat in the river breeze. Sang checked his watch. "I wanted to gaze deep into the eyes of the darkest abyss," he sighed. It was almost time. He should get ready.
Devo drove Ivan and Jarwaun down I-94 from Port Huron, whistling some half-improvised tune that rested somewhere between "Zippety Doo-Daa" and "These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things." The boy and the young man were obstinately silent, and Devo knew that they'd had an argument about what to do with the Squid, and argument stemming from what he had told them. It was the most uncomfortable ride of his life.
There were few cars on the road and the air was crisp and calm in a way that Ivan found insulting. His body hurt from where the chimps attacked, and it made him angry that the rest of the world wasn't paying attention.
Ivan had tried reasoning with Jarwaun up until the moment Devo arrived, but it made no difference: they were going to hand the Squid back to Sang, or Jarwaun was going to kill him. They had hauled the Giant Squid in his ruined domed velocitation suit on to a trailer Devo found behind the garage. It had required ropes and Devo's winch and levering and swearing and bleeding and all the while Jarwaun lay spread across the dome of the Giant Squid's pressurized suit with his uncle's handgun pressed hard to the glass directly in front of the Squid's plate-sized, vulture eye. Neither had spoken in the long night hours it had taken for a cursing Devo and Ivan to get them hauled into the trailer. Now Jarwaun sat on the long bench seat in the front of the wrecker, in the passenger side, forcing Ivan to ride "bitch." The Squid, dragged behind in the two-wheeled trailer, bellowed for mercy and yelled threats. Ivan was pretty glad he couldn't make it all out, but still wished Devo would stop whistling.
Jarwaun had made Devo call Spider and let him talk. He had spoken, quietly and insistently with the man named Spider. He had heard his brother Trael's voice calmly asking who was on the phone on the other line. They had spoken like two men who wished nothing more than to get rid of what they had in their hands. As they rode in the truck together Jarwaun stared out the window at the passing fields, and the derelict buildings as they eased into the city. He didn't have his uncle's gun out, but it was still there, they knew, and could think of little else.
It was just barely dawn when they arrived at the base of the Ren Cen. As they pulled up to the ramp for the parking garage beneath the Renaissance Center, the security gate rolled smoothly up. Spider was in the guard booth, and he waved them in, back toward the service elevator. Jarwaun unhooked the trailer hitch and the squid tilted heavily backwards with a concrete-scarring thump. The Giant Squid tried to right himself, but the two remaining manipulator tentacles of his suit had bounced along the freeway too much—sparking and leaping and snagging on potholes and guardrail until the dexterous claws became stumps.
Spider was jogged over from the booth and ran the service elevator door up, revealing Trael.
Jarwaun scrambled out of Devo's wrecker and ran to Trael, then came up short several feet from the boy and Spider. "You OK, Tray?" he asked. His hand was deep in his pocket, gripping the revolver.
Trael turned and looked up at Spider. Spider looked away. "It's fine," he said, "You should go. Home."
The boy ran to his brother, who embraced him with his left arm, keeping the right hand in his pocket. "You OK, bro?" Jarwaun asked.
"I'm OK. We watched Wedding Crashers on the DVD."
"But you ain't hurt?" Jarwaun glared across the garage at Spider, who hadn't moved.
Trael shook his head. "I'm good. They gave me cereal," Jarwaun kept glaring at Spider. Devo stood next to the wrecker, and could see the cords standing out on the back of Jarwaun's neck. He could see how tense Jarwaun's right side was, the arm ramrod straight.
"Fellas," Devo called, "Why don't you two get back in the truck and I'll take you home?"
No one moved; Jarwaun glowered at Spider and Spider looked nowhere in particular.
"Guys," Devo said, "C'mon. We gotta go."
Trael looked past his brother's side and saw Devo and the wrecker, "We gonna ride in that big truck?" he asked.
"Sure thing," Devo smiled broadly, "Right in front. We'll run the flashers on top and everything."
"You a shepherd?" Trael asked, slitting his eyes.
Devo stitched his brow, "No," he laughed, "Shit, amigo; I'm more of a sheep."
Devo's cell phone rang; he glanced at it, saw it was Rob calling, "I've . . . um, gotta take this," he flipped the phone open, "Hey, Ma', what's cookin' Unh. Yeah. Gee . . . that's real interesting. I really wish you'd called me earlier . . ." Devo pulled the phone from his ear, "Gotta run," he said, "In the truck, everyone!" then screwed the phone back to his ear and jogged around to the driver's side.
Trael turned from his brother and ran to get in the truck, "C'mon, Jay," he called back, "He gonna run the lights on top. When we get home I wanna make Hot Pockets and play the car game on Xbox."
Jarwaun broke his stare and turned to saunter back to the tow truck. Trael leaned out of the passenger door and asked, "What you doin' with Mr. Squid?"
Jarwaun didn't answer.
"JarJar, what you doin?" Trael's voice broke and rose. "You can't leave him here! They bad men!" Jarwaun climbed into the truck, shoving Trael into the middle, on top of Ivan, who yowled and bitched about his shoulder. The wrecker roared to life and eased out of the garage. Spider's eyes followed them the whole way. He saw Jarwaun hugging Trael tightly while Trael's mouth opened and closed with wails.
Spider turned and walked cautiously to the Squid. He withdrew a gray tube from his pants pocket and aimed it at the Squid.
"SPIDER, MY GOOD AND EXCELLENT FRIEND, I HAVE BEEN LEFT HERE UNCEREMONIOUSLY AND I NEED TO GET TO THE WATER! MY BELOVED, HAZEL, SHE IS THERE AND IN PAIN AND ALONE AND I NEED TO EXPLAIN TO HER WHAT HAS HAPPENED!"
Spider shook his head. "I'm sorry, but this is the end of the movie for you, pulpo." And, despite it all, the Squid saw that Spider really was sorry. "Sang got a nice aquarium upstairs all tricked out for you. I'm afraid it don't have all your old fancy hook-ups to the phones and cameras and internet and stuff. He said something about it having some nice rocks and a bubbling treasure chest, but that was just a joke."
"SPIDER — WHO HAS KNOWN LOVE AND THE PAIN OF ITS LOSS — I KNOW THAT YOU APPRECIATE THE GRAVITY OF MY PREDICAMENT, AND THUS MUST BELIEVE THAT YOU SIMPLY FAIL TO APPRECIATE —"
The tube in Spider's hand whirred and the lights in the garage flickered and dimmed and the electronics in the Squid's environmental suit died. "Please stop runnin' at he mouth," he begged, "You make everything so damn hard all the time."
Hours later, after the Squid has gone through cycles and cycles of rage-despondence-despair-hope-rage, Sang's honored guests begin to arrive. Two sets of stands had been erected at the base of the Ren Cen towers facing out across the Detroit river towards Canada and Sang's dock. The stands were full of men. They were serious men, tough men. The men spoke tersely and shook hands like they were trying to crack walnuts. They laughed like barking seals and stood ramrod straight. The men only had last names and titles, never first names. They were Doc or Patterson or Major. They were Director or General or President. They men were from many different countries, but all belonged to the same group.
Sang smiled his cool smile at these men and wondered how they got anything done in a day when they were so clearly busy polishing their shoes and pressing their uniforms. It was no matter, they had money and influence and they could fight against the Invasion. He remembered briefly a moment years ago when he first learned of the monsters and of their plans. He had tried talking to these men. No one had believed him then. No one had listened.
That had all changed when the Creature had been elected.
Now here they were—these generals and presidents and congressmen and weapons manufacturers. Here they were and now they were begging Sang for a solution. What can we do, they asked, with their simpering smiles and manly bravado, What can we do about these beasts from the sea? Who will save us when the rising times come? They clearly could not speak such a question aloud, but Sang could hear it nestled in their bluster, in the nervous shift of an eye or the grunt of a clearing throat. And, every time Sang heard it, he smiled and put his hand paternally on the shoulder of whatever professional man he might be talking to, a paternalistic gesture to someone who is a professional surrogate father to a country. Sang smiled and said, "I will, because I wanted to gaze deep into the eyes of the darkest abyss"
Hours later, as Sang was meeting and greeting, Devo, Rob and Molly pulled up to the Ren Cen ramp. Since Devo had dropped off the Squid, the empty garage had filed with a fleet of Town Cars, Hummers and limos, with a highway-bingo of assorted license plates. "Wow," Rob said, "It's just like Molls said." Teams of black suited men patrolled around the parking lot, some with dogs.
"Things are always just like 'Molls' says," Molly confirmed. "Because Molly is the only one who ever knows what she's talking about. These guys are secret service." She scanned the faces of the men in black, "and I recognize that one." She climbed over Rob and walked briskly over to the agent. Rob watched them talking, saw Molly smile and laugh, the agent relax and shrug, point over his back and laugh. Molly stood on her tip toes and hugged the agent, pecked his cheek.
Molly climbed back into the truck as Rob slid over. "Okay, Sang's already started his giant military presentation out back on the water; the place up top is empty. Secret Service is here to guard all the senators and big-wigs who have come to watch."
The agent waved them past, down into the garage.
Molly and Devo rode p in the service elevator. A TV in the elevator showed ads for online poker and mutual funds. Devo snickered.
"Why does your security card still work?" Molly asked.
"I dunno," Devo said, "Last time . . . shit." Molly waited, "Last time it still worked, I'm pretty sure it worked because Spider wanted me to come up."
They looked around the elevator, newly suspicious. "This is probably a bad time to suddenly become cautious," Molly opined. Devo was about to agree when the bell pinged; they were at their floor.
Instead of going to reception, as Rob had, they got off one floor below—at the service level. This was where Devo had worked for years with Spider, back when they had been dating, the Squid had ruled from his tank on high, and all had been right with the world. They had built whatever Sang has asked for — which he'd presumed was whatever the Giant Squid had asked for. It had been good times, and thinking back on it now made Devo feel old and scarred.
The workshop was deserted of people, but full of things. Projects half-completed lay scattered everywhere in disarray. "Has the workshop been robbed?" Molly asked.
"No, this is just how Spider works when he doesn't have someone tidying after him." Devo rubbed his face, "This place is a fucking sty. I don't know . . . coño," he cursed, "OK," Molly lost interest and started to poke around the shelves as Devo kept narrating to himself, "Right now, we're sort of under the front part of the Squid's room in the lab, so . . . yeah," he stepped forward briskly, shoving a wheeled tool case aside, "OK. Back through here," he opened a door to what Molly expected to be a broom closet, but turned out to be a short hall, "We're getting under the tank, and then," he turned, and slid his head and shoulders through another door, "The Load Room." Devo sighed with satisfaction, "Excelente." Molly looked up, but saw that as it was Devo couldn't even make it into the room yet, because of a jumble of cardboard boxes, one of which was split and spewing what appeared to be antique glass fuses.
"Hey," she called, and Devo pulled back out of the room, "Can I borrow this?" she asked, holding up a little DV camera.
"I can't guarantee it'll—"
Molly slid the switch on the side; the camera chimed and a little red light under the lens sprang to life.
"Sure," he said, "Whatever."
Molly found the Squid back in his old tank. He was a bright crimson and his skin bristled with rage. She pushed the red REC button and set the camera on top of a computer monitor, checking to be sure the Squid was in frame.
"SO MOLLY," he sneered, "YOU ARE INVOLVED IN THIS DUPLICITY AS WELL? I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN," The Giant Squid slammed his tentacles against the reinforced glass, bellowing inchoately. Then he calmed, and drifted to the bottom of his tank, "I KNOW A VERY TINY FISH," he whispered, "A CANDIRU THAT SHALL SWIM INTO WITHIN A VERY NARROW ORIFICE, AND ONCE NESTLED THEREIN SHALL—"
"Shut up. You're a bully. And you're paranoid, and if I'd known that a talking squid would be such a goddamned bore, I never would have studied Marine biology to begin with." Molly was brisk and matter-of-fact, and felt enormously refreshed to have said this. "Be quiet, or I'll leave you here for Sang to dissect." She stared the Squid right in his black enormous eyes and didn't give an inch. A minute passed, and then five, and neither budged.
"VERY WELL. I HAVE READ YOUR MIND—"
"No you didn't."
The squid sighed in his aquarium and his color softened through peach, toward a listless sherbet orange. If he'd had shoulders, he would have shrugged. Molly turned around and began rooting through the desks in the surrounding cubicles. He sighed. "WHAT IS IT YOU WANT OF ME, MOLLY REYNOLDS?"
Molly turned abruptly, holding up a grease pencil, and strode back to the tank. Her eyes narrowed and she held up the grease pencil like a finger. "I only want one thing: when this is all over, you leave me alone. No threats. No cajoling. No late night calls. No guilt trips. And especially no fucking minions. You got that?!"
The squid shrank back from her voice, and then nodded. "FREE ME, MOLLY REYNOLDS, FOR I HAVE A LOVER TO SAVE AND AN ENEMY TO VANQUISH."
But Molly had known the Squid for many years, and knew that wasn't good enough. She pulled a crumpled plastic sack from her jacket pocket, and smoothed it against the glass of the tank. The Squid could see that the bag had been split to lie flat in a single piece, and there were several rows of neat, black writing on it. "It's in sharpie," she said, "So it should hold up. I'm going to slide this in using your food shoot along with the grease pencil, and you'll sign it—"
"It won't need to be notarized, because we'll have the video footage." She said this matter-of-factly, and the Squid could not deny her practicality. Then Molly's tone sweetened unbearably, "You'll sign this, and then I'll get you out of that tank, and you can kill whoever you want," she paused, "as long as it isn't someone I know," she paused, "except for Sang." And she was done.
Sang stood back as his hired PR spokesperson did all of the talking. Self-conscious about the last traces of his accent, he was always more comfortable demonstrating the technology and answering design questions than he was trying to sell something. Also, when he felt like he was pitching a project to these thick white men, it suddenly made him feel like a porter at a resort hotel, "Another Mai Tai, sir?" And that feeling made his mouth go sour and twist.
They had progressed on to the battlefield weapons and Sang had picked up a large tubular device that looked like a bazooka's older, gay brother. The spokeswoman — whose no-nonsense delivery, long legs and short skirt was calculated to hopelessly ensnare the audience's attention — was discussing its use in immobilizing the enemy, neatly outlining the morale impact of the weapon. Sang smiled at the investors as they all nodded and leaned forward in their seats. He motioned to Spider who then flicked some controls. The investors all stood and pointed at the water which was now frothing and bubbling. A glass sphere of pressurized water containing a giant squid—not Sang's test subject, not the Giant Squid, but rather a wild squid caught off the coast of New Zealand. The squid was thrashing about in its bubble, and although its voice was far too muffled for the audience to hear — this squid had no complicated, watertight intercom system — Sang knew from past experience that it was swearing in Japanese.
Sang nodded to the spokeswoman and then waved to the investors. He lifted the tube to his shoulder and fired at the squid. A volley of pink harpoons shot forth with a rush and shattered the glass bubble. They punctured the squid in a dozen different places spraying blood and ink all around. "Now, if you'll notice," the spokeswoman began, "the harpoons inflate to drag the creature to the surface, where it will harmlessly expire thanks to the pressure differential."
The gathered men murmured their approval.
The squid thrashed on the surface and moaned. It could not submerge itself. Sang turned to the investors who all stood and applauded.
From behind them there was a rumble. In the parking garage car alarms sprang to life, wailing like babes in the night. A flock of secret service men shot out, leaping up the ramp like starlings fleeing a tree. The crowd turned away from Sang, and their pleased murmur became perplexed.
Suddenly, a loudspeaker crackled to life. "I have come here to chew ass and kick bubble gum," Rob shouted gleefully, "And I'm all out of—fuck!" There was a squeal of rebar as one concrete abutment supporting the weight over the parking garage exploded out, and from below lumbered a dozen-foot-tall mech. It's stride was unsure and ungainly, like a newborn fawn, and in the gloom cast by the parking garage it was hard to identify the matte-black velocitator, but Sang recognized it at once, the velocitator he had upgraded to drive himself. It wasn't quite ready, so he'd left it in Toledo, but—
"Hey Sang," Rob sang through the PA, "How do you know a chinamen has been in your back yard?" Silence greeted Rob's question, so he answered it himself, "Because you're garbage can is pregnant and your dog's been eaten!" Rob was disappointed that he wasn't getting a better audience response, but pleased that he was getting the hang of the controls so quickly. Rob ran the suit forward, amazed at how easily it controlled. He leapt, landing in among the stands and sending the bigwigs scattering, "Take the hint!" he yelled over the PA. "Gettin' gone is for your own good!" Whatever he did with his body, the suit followed. "We got us a Royal Rumble about to start, Sang-o!" It was powerful and exhilarating, but so insulated. What must it be like for the squid to live this way, he wondered.
The crowd erupted in terror and fled back in to the parking garages. Secret service agents and private bodyguards drew their guns and fired at Rob's velocitator. The bullets pinged off like nickels thrown at a Buick. Rob in the suit pointed at the men and shaped his hand into a gun. "Bang," he whispered and a hail of rubber bullets sprayed forth peppering everyone nearby.
Rob lifted his left hand and held it, fingers splayed out, at the spokeswoman. "Bang," he whispered and a gush of foam shot forth from the suit. She tottered forward, and then fell — cushioned by the gooey mass — onto the concrete pad in front of the stage. Seeing the woman smeared and gooed to the ground, he felt a little aroused, and then felt really guilty. He turned to Sang, who leveled the harpoon gun at him.
"Robert, these will kill you." Rob whispered bang! again, and Sang had to dive away from a hail of bullets, back onto the dock where he could take cover behind the locker of demonstration weapons. Sang shouted shrilly, "I do not want to take any lives!" Sang's face was pained and pinched. "Back down, please."
Rob roared laughter into the microphone, "Ya gotta get up to get down!" he boomed and loosed another hail of bullets, then bounded out toward Sang and the water.
"I'm sorry," Sang said and fired the harpoons at Rob.
Molly's phone rang. Seeing Devo's number, she put it back in her pocket and ran the load sequence, turning a series of switches on one of the big panels across from the Squid's tank. In anticipation, he'd already crammed into the waterlock hatch at the center of his tank, like a spider hiding down the drain. The top had a glass portal, and Molly thought she saw him wave his tentacles like a widow heading off on a cruise, and then he disappeared out of the waterlock, like shreds of chicken fat going down in the garbage disposal.
The Giant Squid slid into his new velocitator and tested the controls. They gripped well and the suit fit like a well-tailored glove with ten fingers and a reinforced glass dome. "THIS SUITS ME ADMIRABLY WELL. I THANK YOU, FRIEND DEVO."
"Hey boss, you paid for it a long time ago. This thing has been sitting here for years waiting for your first suit to break down." Devo flipped open a hatch on the rear of the suit. "The readings look good. Your atmo is pure." He slapped the ass of the suit playfully. "Go get em, tiger."
"DEVO, I AM AN ARCHITEUTHIS REX MUNDI. I AM NOT A TIGER. IS THERE AGAIN A PROBLEM OF THE CARBONS AND MONOXIDES, HERE IN YOUR WORKSHOPS?"
Devo sighed. "You're an insane monster, but I missed you." He pointed at freight lift they'd installed when the first took the property; a lift which only traveled up three floors: "Up to the roof and off the edge is the fast way."
The Giant Squid shook Devo's tiny monkey hand, marveling at the readouts of bacteria count and temperature that flickered across his heads-up display. Then he turned, lumbered into the lift and rose to the roof.
From the blacktopped precipice of the skyscraper he could take in Sang's best laid plans, being efficiently torn asunder by Rob. Bullets were fired, foam sprayed, and powerful men scattered like nine-pins; it was, indeed, a thing of beauty, and it made the Squid proud.
He reared back, ran on his mechanized legs, and leapt, plummeting towards Sang below. The squid flicked a switch and tiny jets activated all around the base of his suit, slowing his fall. As he descended the Squid saw Rob resplendent in his matching suit facing off against Sang. He watched in horror as Sang leveled and fired an enormous gun at Rob and as Rob's mechanized vehicle toppled backwards.
"SANG!" The Giant Squid bellowed and cut power to his jets. "I AM COMING FOR YOU!"
Sang wept as he fired the gun. No one was supposed to die. Just the monsters. This wasn't how he had planned it. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. Sang was going to save the world from this alien threat, and then he would be a hero. That was the plan. And if he happened to make a few billion in the process, well, no one could blame him.
The harpoons caught Rob's velocitator as he bound up to take the dock. Harpoons pierced the carapace in, and he suddenly changed trajectory, dumping sideways into the frigid, sluggish Detroit River. The matte black velocitator sank, and Sang could see that its bouncy bags were dragging it back toward the surface when he heard a familiar voice scream his name. Sang looked all around, but didn't see anyone. Everyone else had fled. Suddenly, the dock behind him exploded and showered splinters and foam and demonstration technology everywhere. Something heavy had fallen from the sky and crushed the dock between Sang and land. He was isolated.
Around Sang were devices he had not demonstrated yet. Some were broken or unreliable, others were useless as defense. He gathered everything that might help and strapped it on.
The water boiled and frothed before Sang and a glass dome broke the surface. Pitiless, optically-perfect eyes stared at him. Slowly, the Giant Squid lifted himself from the filthy water and on to the dock before Sang. The wooden slats creaked and cracked beneath the awesome weight of the Squid's suit. Steam rose and swooped all around him. He looked, to Sang, like a demon crawled straight from the mouth of a watery hell. Tentacles slithered around knocking everything that wasn't Sang in to the water. Clearing a path. Those two huge eyes bored into Sang, red-rimmed with anger.
Suddenly, it was all just a little clearer. "I wanted to gaze deep into the eyes of the darkest abyss," Sang whispered. All those years ago, that fish woman had been a demon and no god. It was true, he realized: live and learn.
"SHE IS GONE BECAUSE OF YOU."
Sang blinked. "Who?"
Sang was puzzled. "You mean the prostitute?"
"YOU SHALL WATCH YOUR WORDS, MY ERSTWHILE JAILOR, WHEN YOU SPEAK OF MY LOVE."
"Where is she? I did not ask her to be harmed, only to be interrogated so that she could shed light on what you were planning while you were hidden away."
The Giant Squid took a step forward and as he stepped his tentacles ripped into the dock behind him and destroyed it. "WHERE IS SHE? SHE IS IN THE WATER, YOU FOOL. TO SAVE HER FROM THE MINISTRATIONS OF YOUR MAN I WAS FORCED TO ALTER HER PAST RECOGNITION OR SANITY. I HOPE SHE SHALL RECOVER BUT FOR NOW SHE IS A MONSTER, AND I BLAME YOU AND YOUR AGENTS FOR WHAT HAS BEFALLEN."
"You blame me? You! Blame! Me?" Sang laughed. "You are a monster! An alien from the depths of the seas here to conquer man. You have said so yourself dozens and dozens of time. Why does no one see it?" Sang's voice rose and spittle flecked his lips. "You ruin everything you touch because you are a monster. You ruin and wreck and pervert all that comes near you, because you don't belong. If your whore has become some creature, some thing, you have no one to blame but yourself." Sang flicked switches across the device strapped to his body.
"I AM NO MONSTER, BUT IT IS TRUE THAT I AM A WRETCH. I HAVE MURDERED THE LOVELY AND THE HELPLESS; I HAVE STRANGLED THE INNOCENT AS THEY SLEPT, AND GRASPED TO DEATH HIS THROAT WHO NEVER INJURED ME OR ANY OTHER LIVING THING. I HAVE DEVOTED MY HAZEL, THE SELECT SPECIMEN OF ALL THAT IS WORTHY OF LOVE AND ADMIRATION AMONG MEN, TO MISERY; I HAVE PURSUED HER EVEN TO THAT IRREMEDIABLE RUIN. THERE SHE LIES, MONSTROUS AND FOREIGN. YOU HATE ME; BUT YOUR ABHORRENCE CANNOT EQUAL THAT WITH WHICH I REGARD MYSELF. I LOOK ON THE LIMBS WHICH EXECUTED THE DEED; I THINK ON THE HEARTS IN WHICH THE IMAGINATION OF IT WAS CONCEIVED, AND LONG FOR THE MOMENT WHEN THESE LIMBS WILL MEET MY EYES, WHEN THAT IMAGINATION WILL HAUNT MY THOUGHTS NO MORE."
The Giant Squid stepped forward, ripping up more dock behind him. Sang was left with only a few planks between him and the river.
"FEAR NOT THAT I SHALL BE THE INSTRUMENT OF FUTURE MISCHIEF. MY WORK IS NEARLY COMPLETE. NEITHER YOURS NOR ANY MAN'S DEATH IS NEEDED TO CONSUMMATE THE SERIES OF MY BEING, AND ACCOMPLISH THAT WHICH MUST BE DONE; BUT IT REQUIRES MY OWN. THOUGH YOUR DEATH WILL COME FIRST, BE ASSURED. DO NOT THINK THAT I SHALL BE SLOW TO PERFORM THIS SACRIFICE. I SHALL QUIT YOUR LIFE HERE ON THIS RIVER, AND I SHALL SEEK AGAIN MY PLACE ATOP THIS TOWER BEHIND US. WITHOUT MY LOVE I SHALL NO LONGER SEE THE SUN OR STARS, OR FEEL THE CURRENTS PLAY ON MY CHEEKS. LIGHT, FEELING, AND SENSE WILL PASS AWAY; AND IN THIS CONDITION MUST I FIND MY HAPPINESS. SOME YEARS AGO, WHEN THE IMAGES WHICH THIS WORLD AFFORDS FIRST OPENED UPON ME, WHEN I FELT THE CHEERING WARMTH OF SUMMER, AND HEARD THE RUSTLING OF THE LEAVES AND THE WARBLING OF THE BIRDS, AND THESE WERE ALL TO ME, I SHOULD HAVE WEPT TO DIE; NOW IT IS MY ONLY CONSOLATION. POLLUTED BY CRIMES, AND TORN BY THE BITTEREST REMORSE, WHERE CAN I FIND REST BUT IN DEATH? IN YOUR DEATH."
Sang withdrew a silver gun from amongst his pockets and fired at the water under the squid. "Farewell! I leave you. Farewell, you abhorrent thing! Your revenge upon me will have to wait. At times I had my doubts as to your wretchedness, your unfitness to live, but those doubts have been burned from my eyes. You have come here and tossed off your cloak and revealed to all the freak and the thug and the violent conqueror you are. You think your hate for me is pure and untainted and just, but next to the fire of my hate for you, yours is but a dying ember adrift on the breeze."
A sharp crack rang out and ice spread in all directions from where Sang had fired. The frost crept up over the dock and across the shore. Where the Giant Squid's tentacles were still standing in the water they were frozen solid. He was immobile.
Sang turned and walked off across the frozen river to Canada as the Giant Squid bellowed with rage.
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson