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Mo’Steel got up and started to yell. “Hello! Help! Whoever is out there, let us out of here!”
Billy Weir did not move. He could wait.
Billy felt dizzy, drunk with the sights and sounds flooding into his mind and with the reactions of his body- skin breaking out in a sweat and then cooling, heart beating faster and then more slowly, mind flitting from thought to thought like a kaleidoscope. Everything happening so quickly, everything flowing together. No time to think, no time to sort real from unreal. “Hang on!” came a voice from outside. An adult man, Billy thought. Not an American. His voice had too much music in it. “We’re going to get you out.”
The door opened off to one side and light flooded in.
Billy stayed in the shadows.
Mo’Steel leaped out of the door and then took a fast step back. “Whoa!” he said, shaking his head in surprise.
Two people were at the door. A man. And another person, an extraordinary person. A person who looked like an illustration from Billy’s Encyclopedia Britannica.
Billy remembered sitting on the floor of Big Bill and Jessica’s bedroom and discovering the illustrations of MAN and WOMAN in the heavy, leather-bound p-book dating back to Jessica’s own childhood.
The figures were covered with layers of transparent pages. Turn the first filmy page and you removed MAN’s skin and exposed all that was underneath.
This person standing before Billy looked like that illustration brought to life. Wherever his clothes left his flesh visible, his skin was transparent. Arms, necks, face, scalp.
Billy saw the muscles in the monster’s face tighten as he narrowed his eyes. Billy examined the veins running over and under the muscles like tree roots, the packets of yellowish fat in the monster’s cheeks, the smooth, grayish muscles sweeping from his forehead up over his scalp, the vulnerable pulsing of his fat jugular vein.
This monster had never appeared in any of his dreams.
Unless this was a dream.
He had seen things during the war in Chechnya. Dead soldiers, Chechen and Russian both. Shattered, bleached white bones. Raw hamburger flesh. But nothing like this.
The monster saw Billy staring and gave him a hard look. His eyes were the green of late summer leaves. Burning. Undeniably human.
“I am Alberto DiSalvo and this- this is my son, Frederico.” The man’s voice was twisted with emotion. Not a good one. Pain? Fear?”
“Kubrick,” the monster said angrily.
“Hey, I remember you!” Mo’Steel said. He was talking to the man, but his eyes were drawn back to the monster over and over like a moth flitting toward a light. “I’m Mo’Steel. Remember? You were hitting the snooze button right around the time the worms showed up.”
“I- I think I remember seeing you,” Alberto said. “Then, then, we must have fallen asleep. When I woke up, we were in some sort of, um, laboratory.”
Billy felt a shudder. Not in his body- in someone’s mind. He caught a flash of something that could have been Alberto’s memory or Kubrick’s or both mixed. Nausea, the smell of blood, a dusty machine cutting Kubrick’s skin off in ridiculous small patches, anger, a sense of satisfaction.
Yes, Kubrick savored his father’s anguish. His father had always treated him as if he were damaged- and now he was.
Billy couldn’t be sure. Couldn’t tell if he was making this up, telling himself fairy tales.
He watched Alberto pull Mo’Steel a few feet away. “We have to find whoever or whatever did this to my son,” he whispered. “Can you help us?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Mo’Steel said. “Let’s go…”