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The Abyss Looks Back: The Skinny Man by Phil Kuhlman
This one is a bit graphic, some gore, but I think it's just unsettling enough, and the lovecraft influence in the story becomes more evident as it progresses. This right here though is just the begining.
Deacon didn't know what to make of it. The area was unnaturally serene, a beautiful river flowing behind a quiet little community theater. Beautiful green grass, and strong healthy trees. Only the splatter of blood, bone, and gray matter to disrupt it. The victim was named Gauge Belknap, and Deacon knew him. Before Deacon joined the Ironside Police, Gauge was a friend of his, not a best friend, but a friend none the less, and he, although he always seemed despondent through the years, never seemed the type who would do this. Deacon hated dealing with suicides, and even more with those of people he knew.
He studied the scene carefully, the warmth of the body finally dying away as the chill of the morning overtook it. The way the face sagged from the skull of a victim of such a death always struck Deacon as the ultimate expression of pain and sorrow. A usually scientific man, he couldn't help but feel like the frowning was unnatural, and not caused by the loss of the back of the head. Something seemed wrong about all of this. No note, no sign of drugs or alcohol at the victims house, nothing. Deacon approached the body, and slowly pulled the rifle from the body, preparing to load it into the evidence wagon when something startling happened. Inside the mouth and barrel was a rolled up sheet of paper. How it survived through the blast Deacon couldn't figure out. He unrolled the sheet and began to study it carefully. There were moderate blood stains and powder burns but the stains seemed old and were clearly older than the newer bloodstains at the edge of the paper. It was brown, very old, and falling apart yet it was strong enough to survive the gunshot? It didn't add up.
It wasn't a suicide note, but it was startling. In browning lettering and curious drawings it detailed a strange ceremony, possibly satanic, with a number of strange, rune like, markings.
"Gauge...what the hell were you into?"
"Hey, Deacon, what did you find?" Matt Hale walked up calmly, two cups of coffee in his chubby hands. He was a larger man, balding slightly, but was possibly the nicest old cop on the force. Deacon always pegged it as a defense mechanism, his way of dealing with the undoubtedly horrible things he'd seen in his twenty plus years as a detective.
"It's some kind of...hell, I have no clue, looks really old, has some unusual markings on it, and it was in the barrel of the gun.
"So someone put it in after they shot him?"
"I don't think so, it has powder burns, see?" Deacon gingerly pointed out the streams of black tearing across the bizarre page.
"Well looks like you'll be busy with this one for a while."
"Most likely." Deacon signaled the cleanup crew to begin work on the scene as he bagged the page, marked it, and carried it and the weapon up the hill.
"So Deacon? I gotta ask...what's with the getup?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the brown trench coat, the hat...come on, the hat looks like something you'd see in a Turner Classic movie."
"Ahh, I see." Deacon chuckled as he took one of the cups of coffee off Matt's hands. "My Great uncle was a detective in New Orleans, dealt with all kinds of crazy crap back in the 1910's and 20's, but he managed to always come out on top. He left me the hat and coat in his will though, so I wear them just like he did. It's a luck thing."
"How's it worked so far?"
"Well, I am the youngest Detective Ironside's ever put on payroll, I say it's not too bad."
The tests were carried out later that day, around noon, and sure enough the paper was in the barrel when Gauge shot himself, but there was no explanation of how it survived. During the Autopsy, a number of bizarre carvings were found all over Gauge's body and tests showed they were about old enough to have been put there when he was first reported missing a week ago. On top of that, Deacon knew that Gauge wasn't a suicide risk, and this wasn't the first time a body had shown up with marks just like these on them in the last several years. Deacon figured that Gauge was kidnapped, tortured, took the paper from the kidnappers, and killed himself after that. It happens to some kidnap victims, and the marks were similar to those covering his body. Deacon would have to try to get those translated perhaps, and he a girl who could. Her name was Hailey, and currently she was living with an old woman, caring for her at the states request following a childhood marked with horrible violence, and years in the Rivas Sanitarium at Grackle's Nest. It would have to wait though, a call had just come across the scanners, and the lead in a decade old spree of such disappearances may have just arrived.
The heat mixed with the oils twelve stories down, lifting the street to his senses. The flashing lights of the sole police car illuminated the dark street, showing how dead the night truly was. The hot winds of the summer night whipped across the skinny man's bloody, nude body, and it made him smile.
The report came in just minutes ago, a girl had been seen covered in blood, apparently not her own, just outside of the Thompson Tenement building. The streets of Ironside had been plagued for years with disappearances and murders and Detective Deacon Cole refused to let this one get away like so many others had. The streets were quiet, only a few people outside, panicking, as they screamed for his attention, directing him to the little girl. An older woman ran frantically towards his car, horror flashing across her features as she screamed into her cell phone.
"This must be the caller..." Deacon thought to himself as he opened the door and stepped out, hand tightly held to his sidearm.
"Ma'am? Where is the girl?"
"Over here! Oh lord she's so bloody, where's the ambulance!?"
"It's on the way ma'am, just calm down, things will be alright..." He didn't know if they would be, and he was just as horrified as her. He had just recently been promoted from typical street patrol and this was by far the most disturbing thing he'd had to deal with. For nearly 10 years, children have been going missing from this area, only to show up years after the abduction horribly mutilated. "She got away, she had to have..." He thought as he approached, the crowd of people forming an oval around the frightened girl sitting on the curb, screaming. "Young lady...I'm Detective Deacon Cole. I'm a police officer and I'm here to help you..."
"The Skinny man is still in there! I cut him and he wants to kill me!!!" Streams of tears ran down her cheeks, and finally Deacon could see what had really horrified everyone. Her skin, nearly all that could be seen, and most likely more, was covered in elaborate carvings. Strange symbols that didn't belong in any language, or on any person. They were old too, scared deep in, no wounding was evident. These were maybe years old.
"It's okay now...where is he?" She slowly lifted her arm, still coated in the skinny man's blood, and pointed to the sky. Deacon could only faintly make out the figure of a man looking over the edge.
The skinny man closed his eyes, stretched his arms wide and took in the scents around him. The oil and rubber of the street, the tar of the rooftop, the bittersweet odor of the rotting bodies in the room behind him, and the coppery hot smell of his own blood, pouring from his face.
"Alice...where is my little girl....I miss you..." He muttered insane to himself as he stretched his toes against the porous bricks at his feet. "Children three that nestle near, Eager eye and willing ear, Pleased a simple tale to hear --"
The elevator took forever, testing Deacon's patience as he maintained position, weapon drawn, ready to strike upon opening. As if dictated by fate, the doors opened to a blood soaked hallway, broken lighting illuminating a trail past the dozens of locked doors to one single room, it's doors wide open. Against the strange back lighting of the city stood the man, nude, with a slick shine of blood pouring down his body. The stench of human rot hit Deacon hard as he stepped into the hall, his feet pressing hard into the bloody carpet. Deacon hurried towards the target, through the thick stench of god knows how many victims. As he got closer, the skinny man turned, a wide inhuman smile gracing his bloodied face.
"Still she haunts me, phantomwise. Alice moving under skies never seen by waking eyes..."
"Step off the ledge!" Deacon choked the words out as he stepped into the hovel, and nearly gagging at the sights before him. Bones, skin, blood, and waste everyplace. The sights turned him from sick though, to furious. "You're under arrest! Step off the ledge or so help me god I'll send you right to hell!"
The skinny man laughed, turning fully to Deacon now, his body covered in similar carvings. His skin turned yellow in parts from lack of bathing. The sight made Deacon want to end him even more.
Just from looking briefly into the corners of the filthy room, he could make up what must have been the remains of eight people. No telling if that number was double or not with no way to check while keeping his eyes on the skinny man.
"Have you seen the red Queen?" The skinny man asked, his body flushing from loss of blood. It was then that Deacon noticed the thick rusted blade in his right hand.
"Drop the Knife!" Deacon raised the gun to the man's head, prepared to pull the trigger, to send him to the concrete below if needed. Thoughts rushed to Deacon's mind as he stared intently into the eyes of the emaciated madman before him. Deacon's mind was a mix of voices now, one of restraint, and logic. The other a dark voice urging Deacon to exterminate the waste in front of him.
That girl was at least 12.
She matched the description of a girl that went missing two years ago.
She's been in here all that time...
What did this son of a bitch do to her?
The markings, what were they...he had to carve those, with that knife...so many victims.
I can't let him live...not after all of this.
Just shoot him. End this now. He'll get out, they'll let him out.
He'll do it again.
He'll do it again...
"I have to say goodbye to Alice...She has to go through the looking glass...Jabberwocky awaits..." The skinny man mumbled as Deacon's mind raced with thoughts on what to do. "Ever drifting down the stream --Lingering in the golden gleam --Life what is it but a dream?" The skinny man closed his eyes again as he carved one final marking into his stomach before Deacon's horrified eyes. Fire and steel split the night as Deacon clenched his fist around the pistol grip, burning iron shredding into the skinny man's chest.
"I...have...to...say goodbye...to Alice..." He snarled as his body buckled from the bullet's force. Like a waking demon, he leaned back up, grinning at Deacon before turning and leaping away. Deacon stood frozen for a moment before slowly approaching the window.
The wind flashed past his ears, the sound like razors across glass as he speed towards the awaiting earth. His body twisted, flinging the blood from his open wounds up and out as he fell, the grin never leaving his face as he approached the opening in the crowd. His twisted mind wanted him to laugh as he saw Deacon leaning out of the window, watching his fall. He turned one final time, just as the people realized what was happening.
His body struck the ground, the blinding white impact ripped his bones to pieces inside his soft emaciated body. The force alone caused the bloody sock that was his body to curl and bounce once before coming to rest. The girl screamed as she saw him for the final time. The crowd was silent as the sounds of sirens began to fill the air. The true horror came not from the horrible sight of the fall or of the body itself...but of what it was doing.
Talking. The mangled pile of what was once barely human was talking, gurgling as the skinny man's one good eye gazed hard at the girl. "I miss you Alice...at the end of it all...will you miss me..."
But answer came there none --