Grayland chapter three o.., p.1
Grayland: Chapter Three of the Dark Chicago Series, page 1
Chapter Three of the Dark Chicago Series by
Copyright © 2017 David Ghilardi
All rights reserved.
Cover Design by David Ghilardi Art/Rendering by Brad Nelson
iii How frozen and how faint I then became, Ask me not, reader for I write it not, Since words would fail to tell thee of my state. I was not dead nor living.
Exposed esh freezes in seconds at minus 34 degrees below zero. The naked man had been running through the frozen landscape of Old Irving Park for at least 20 minutes. He felt nothing. Even as layers of tissue on his soles of his feet tore away in patches.
It was 42 degrees below zero in Chicago, Christmas time in the Windy City. The nude male ran down ice encrusted Kildare Street. Nothing was stirring this Christmas Morn except him. It was as if time had halted to watch his lone progress. Dried blood and black scabs covered his shoulders and legs. The main wound on his right calf was not what a doctor would call healed, merely a congealed mess. His genitals swung free. Cold did not bother his frozen man meat. Pain was beyond him for the moment.
The blizzard had stopped earlier in the night. Af ter Zeus and his Norse Gods flung the entire Ice Giants terrain at Chicago for the past ten days, it was now accompanied by Arctic Cold. The malice hearted maidens sweeping from Northern Canadian skies lay their fiingertips across the entire swath of the Mid-West. The climate turned murderous. Deep frost settled in hour by hour thinning the air, lowering the temperature. Layers of clothing were required to avoid frostbite. Normal exposure to the outside numbed human flesh within minutes. Long plumes of frost saturated by moist lung exhalations tendrilled out as the nude man continued to leap from snow rut to snow mound.
His head was shaved stubble-landed short, keeping no body heat from the elements. Yet he seemed not to need any protection. Two sharp teeth rubbed against his bottom lip. He bit himself for pleasure. It was habit borne from excitement.
Today was Christmas Day, the most anticipated time of year for many Chicagoans. Christians and precocious children everywhere revered this day for the birth of Jesus Christ (and the toys Santa left behind). Cheery red, green and white lights and festooned Christmas trees in windows presented themselves to the holy day. Many strands hung low in the aftermath of the storm. It caused the nude fiigure to leap over a few lowered lines of merriment. The man darted past festive bows and gnarled icicles hanging from eaves above. None of this seasonal cheer registered on him.
Strong winds continued to blow in from the North, like a bodyguard for the cold temps. Gusts were kicking up impromptu snow-Devils. Most streetlights were out, due to the damage of the chaos the few nights prior. A burned out Prius lay on its side t-boned in the middle of Kenneth Street. Its frame remained half-buried in the blowing snow. All the damage from the previous battles began to present themselves as the wind blew top snow offf the metal carcasses. The wind was a scalpel exposing bare bones of wreckage. No one had dared go out in the monstrous blizzard. Most people had been content to shelter in place.
Branches from many elm trees had scattered themselves across sidewalks, on crumpled hoods of cars. One had even smashed through a heavy garage door like the broken arm of a drunk sailor defeated after a fiight. The naked fiigure leapt over the heap of a buried head-on collision between a Ford truck and an old Pinto. Snow crunched as its pristine surface crumpled.
Gusts of wind dislodged huge portions of ice with chunks of snow spilling onto stone staircases. Windows cracked and shattered in the front enclosed balconies that had been curtained, shuttered away for the winter season. Ceramic planters left outside, exploded from the sudden thrusting weight of falling ice. Ice expands after all. Water always wins whether liquid, solid or gas.
The man ran on. One remaining streetlight on Kedvale blinked sickly, a lonely man beckoning for rescue in a vast White Sea. The man ran past, punching the green pole, tearing out the main junction box. The light blinked out, forcing the pole to collapse backwards towards a home. The owners had recently sand blasted the stone exterior taking pride in their refurbishment. The pole scrapped diagonally across its facade, a metal fiingernail leaving its mark. It clunked against the corner of the stone front porch, shaking all of its snow and ice, leaving itself as a broken Christmas present for the owners.
The man ran faster feeling no pain. Reaching the Northern corner of Shurz High School offf of Lowell and Waveland, his nose picked up a strong scent. He stopped in his tracks pivoting his head to the left and right. He was alert now. Delight at his new found abilities was supplanted by rapacious thirst. Deciding where his prey might be, he stopped to nose a fresh scent. Fresh human meat. His fiirst. He leapt fiifteen feet onto Waveland Street.
The Driver slept curled up in the cab of the Sports Utility Vehicle. She was trying to keep warm. She had merely inches of warmth, covered only by thin blankets. The SUV’s heater failed when the engine ran out of petrol ninety minutes ago. Temperature in the vehicle fell quickly. She was keeping alive barely by saving body heat which was slowly seeping away.
Cray Lamb jumped upon the hood of the black SUV. He marveled at how his body responded. His new skill set. He felt like he could achieve any physical feat he could think of. He brushed offf the layer of frost on the windshield. There appeared to be no one in the truck, but he knew there was. A body was hiding. The instinct for food came upon him so fast, it overtook his self-control. His new senses could also see the heat humans threw offf. Was that thermal imaging? Cray wondered. His training told him it was, though all the lessons his military commanders had taught him were of no consequence now.
Smelling prey, (He was so thirsty. It came upon you hard and fast, that ravenous hunger.) he wasted no time. New rules applied. The truck door opened. He was upon the Driver before she realized what those pangs in her neck were about. Snufffling, his fiirst kill, Cray bent into the feral act. The Driver’s life force was siphoned away. Razor sharp teeth extended, Cray Lamb’s eyes lost their blue color, fading to black, as a violent rush swept over him.
The Driver got her wish. She became one of the others, at long last joining the monstrous family she once devotedly served. Whispering, “Janusz”, the girl was gone.
Chicago’s worst blizzard in fiifty years had blown past.
Now came the cold. Along with it creeped in frost and its harsher brother, a deadly wind chill. Clouds fled the skies like thieves in the night leaving only stark emptiness above. Stars twinkled like old men trying to open their eyes after a brutal dust-up. It was as if the heavens couldn’t believe Chicago still existed. Light from millions of miles away began to help stars twinkle illuminating Christmas Day morning. Rows and rows, blocks upon blocks of snow entombed homes, businesses and vehicles began to freeze solid. Snow that was once malleable, soft and pliable, hardened as the temps fell. Icicles formed instantly from broken water pipes and they expanded into front yards. Ice crystals formed along the porous surface of windows, their fragile pieces of glass exposed to the elements.
Slowly, like the fog that slew so many fiirst born in the time of Pharaoh, the ebony skies devoid of warmth, fiilled with opaqueness summoned from the Northern climes of Canada and beyond. Frigid breezes began to twirl up loose inches of snow creating small squalls which began to develop into larger snow devils. Grains of white flakes became waves wafting across frozen lawns bringing down visibility. Angry winds sculpted vast squalls of ice. The ability to see fe
Exposed esh would become stifff and freeze in less than ten minutes. Ears, noses and lips would grow numb if exposed, turn blue within minutes. Woe unto you if your flesh turned white. The agony of defrosting skin once frozen was toe-curling. Frost bite was a Chicagoan’s constant nemesis pouncing upon every inch of vulnerable, exposed flesh. It would creep up on you without warning. Ignoring the loss of your senses or feeling came at high cost. Thawing whatever vulnerable appendage had been affflicted was not the Christmas gift one sought from reawakened nerve endings.
Seasonal pain made the citizens in the city of broad shoulders nearly invulnerable at times. Winter in Chicago was a contact sport where you learned to play hurt. Bitching about it was your right as a citizen. No one faulted you for it.
Old Irving Park remained dead quiet. No one moved in the cold environs. Residents who wanted to clear their sidewalk or run their new snow blower were dissuaded merely by looking out their front window. The cold wasn’t going to abate anytime soon. The total damage done to the historic triangle, going back to 1897, that had once housed mayors and dignitaries would remain undiscovered for many hours yet. Victims from the systemic attacks by the undead creatures lay where they fell. What the bloody things destroyed was as yet unseen, the noises written offf as blizzard damage to the groggy or drunk observer. No need to attend to it now, most thought, better to stay in and keep warm. Have a drink.
It was Christmas Day! Much like the bark beetle infestation that had blighted the prettiest areas of the city in the 90s, Chicagoans were accustomed to observe, endure, shrug, repair any damage done and move forward. They were an ever resilient lot.
Overturned autos, crushed porches and roofs, mangled power lines, even the decimated train trestle at the west end of the neighborhood line, were not fretted about on this Christmas morn. Most people had decided to skip Mass this year. Few would dare trying to trudge to the nearest church: St Viator’s. None of it concerned the nestled inhabitants. Surely the priests would forgive them on this horrendous day. Common sense was common in Chicago. People had stocked up. No one was moving a muscle today.
Something stirred in Gray Mansion. Olde Irving Park, their collective dreams, had they desired to share them, concerned tales of dripping blood with dark obscene creatures pursuing them. Visions of a fanged Santa, smiling elves roasting children, Rudolph with his teeth so bright, won’t you rend some child tonight? All dreamt stories were touched by tendrils of anger. A dark man sent his presence into the inhabitants cozy dreaming places, stronger now that he had a touchstone from an
unquenchable hideous well. Dipping his presence like a quill onto the myriad parchment of minds he considered his. Many who slumbered in the Chicago neighborhood allowed entrance into most of their sleeping human minds.
Gray nourished himself from what heinous dirty deeds had been performed. Dee lay drained of her blood on his chest. The dark man laughed, his mirth rumbled slowly, considering the new hell he was set to bring to this ignorant unbelieving world.
He saw into these human minds, feeble constructs really, devoid of belief in anything less than themselves. It seemed no one truly believed in religion any longer. The Gray felt that most locals feared other brown and black humans who worshiped diffferently from themselves. Their institutions were rendered suspect. Little faith was to be had in the world considered as ‘reality’. Gray had learned there was very little that these ‘modern people’ believed in or continued to espouse faith about. Their minds were chaos, easily manipulated. Monumental fear and lack of a world view blighted them of any defense against him. Stopping him would prove nearly impossible.
The city had given him a neat gift.
Gray smiled broadly as he lay in the comfortable dirt caressing his new violated toy. How had man grown so weak? So vulnerable? He reminisced. If you believe in nothing, you fall for anything. He had gone to sleep in P.T. Barnum’s world, yet awoken to fiind the world open to the suggestion of any flimflam, medicine salesman he had ever known on the prairies of ‘wild-onion-grass’.
A sucker was born every minute. Gray marveled at the herd mind. Thoughts that should have brought humans peace or at least brief solace, were overwhelmed by inflated state of worry. Anxiety was palpable.
Many had given their lives to opioids, constant drink or ravenous greed. No time for quiet in their soul robbed them of any salvation. Before he had taken his rest, public belief revolved around the conceit that most people were good and that evil was an anomaly. A paltry small act committed by few. Prayer was the foundation of society. How that belief system had changed since he was under the ground. Gray smiled, idly petting Dee’s lifeless body. Apparently, trust was hard to come by these days. People felt fearful of each other, neighbors suspected motives, someone you knew could poise the greatest danger.
The dark man had returned to Chicago as a conqueror and found it good. There was a small pocket of de fiiance in the area. His chuckle kicked up the new soil there in the basement. He could feel their stubborn minds, their bright integrity stood out among the sheeple.
Fine with him. Gray always did like a challenge. “What is it?” rasped Dee. The woman had found her new existence, awaking suddenly. One hand clutched his genitals, the other grasped the ebony box he caressed idly. She used her nails to dig into the ebony wood.
The Gray grabbed the black box, backhanding the woman sending her sprawling across the basement floor. Hundred year old dirt kicked up a cloud as she landed fiifteen feet away. Pain was not an issue to the undead. It was force versus force. These creatures could no longer feel along the same emotional rainbow that functioning human beings did.
Dee touched her jaw. It was broken in three places. Trying to speak ground bone against bone proving speech to be a bit difffiicult.
“Zhy?” She shrieked. Gray grimaced. “Because you ask. Worry not. Your wound will knit itself back. It will recover faster if you go out and hunt. There must still be some blood sacks lost in the storm outside. Some hapless animal desiring to venture out on this most Holy Day. I release you from my side. Go out and cause as much carnage as you can. Hunt.”
Dee felt something. It reminded her of an emotion a bit like dismay at being dismissed so summarily. She had strong attachment for her lord. He had made her, given her new life. It was like being born, so fresh to her. Confusion was in her head, but she was programmed to listen to him.
The Gray had already forgotten the exploited waitress. His focus remained upon the shiny black box he turned like a diamond in his hands. He had what many had been seeking for centuries. A key to open doors to destinations unknown. The Gray admired the handiwork of centuries.
“How best to use you?” The Gray mumbled.
Voices inside the cube began to chatter then, until one bass quieted the others and fervently instructed the man in black as to how to do such a thing.
The Gray smiled.
The box spoke words like razor blades dripping with red honey. Gray liked what he heard.
Ancient thoughts dripped like bloody parafffiin coating the creature’s mind. Lying in the shallow grave his acolytes had dug and placed him in over one hundred years ago, remained a comfortable creche for thought. His long leather boots came up above his knees. The thick dark cloth his trousers and vest were made of had grown wrinkled over time but a dull sheen battled through the dust covering his body. The beaten longcoat had sheltered the Gray from most vermin and insect nests. (Gray’s body was preserved from sucking all the Life energy using close contact of lower level vermin. Carcasses of desiccated rats, mice, raccoons lay about his earth crib.) A black cravat drooped over the only exposed triangle of faded white shirt as it radiated through the dust as well. Gray’s long black mane and beard only served to frame his tight face. Eyes like coal diamonds shimmered as he heard the secrets he had been waiting more than a lifetime for.
The land-owner t
He liked to think of it a ‘Unlife’. New words, like change, kept the creature young at heart. Gray snorted. The voices grew silent. Dee watched from the shadows. Her pink uniform was stained liberally with her own blood. Her face was like a child who had gotten into red fiingerpaints, touching herself all over her body. Her waitress days were over.
Dust in the air circulated as if commanded. Both ghastly creatures watched as a silver crack appeared before them. It was a long crooked gash appearing a few feet above the dirt. It was a tear in space. A thought floated out of the confused miasma that was Dee’s mind, that she was looking at an earthquake in Air. Instead of the ground tearing open, it was the molecules ripping apart the fabric of her world. Earth had been breached by a dimension from somewhere else. Dee had always liked reading Heinlein and Issac Asimov back in her High School days at Alvernia. She shook her head, biting her lip. This was not right. Even robbed of humanity, she knew this was unholy.
Gray stood up then. At six three, getting to that height after reclining for so long proved arduous even after being well-fed. His frame was a tottered a bit due to vertiginous influence coming from the glimmering rent in space. The bleeding dimension shimmering before him tore free all random thoughts from his mind. Many things in that new place hungered as the Gray did. They just required diffferent sustenance.
He shook his head yet nothing diminished the talon grip of the floating gash. Dirty teeth from inside the rift, clenched onto his brain, using a rough tongue to slather over random thoughts. Gray’s dark hair shuddered shaking away all dormant lice and other insects. Gray was a dark lion fiit to roar.
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