He punted two of the creatures off his wife with several furious kicks, then John ran in and chaired the last one off, screaming, “You’ve been sentenced to get the chair, motherfucker!”
The man helped his wife to her feet and said to me, “Those things! They’re blocking the exits!”
I spun around, saw black clumps surrounding the doors we came in.
The woman looked dazed. The man asked her if she was okay. She nodded, then calmly reached over with her left arm and tore the right arm out of its socket. It made a slimy sucking sound, like tearing the leg off a Thanksgiving turkey. There was no blood. The wound was instantly sealed by a thin, black layer of the soy sauce.
She calmly walked back toward the fountain, casually carrying her arm like an umbrella. Her husband stood in dumbfounded silence. I heard John land two more blows with the chair.
Another bite victim lay nearby, a young man writhing as if in a seizure. Eventually his legs kicked themselves free from the rest of his body. The limbs thumped along the floor on their own like two giant polyester snakes with shoes for heads. Right behind them was a loose head stuck to a single arm, furiously biting and clawing the carpet.
I felt like we might not be in control of this situation any longer.
I heard a scream that I had come to recognize as Jennifer’s. She was on her knees with Fred’s switchblade, surrounded by five dead wig monsters all bearing ragged stab wounds. I sprinted that way.
I heard a metallic thump from behind me and heard John yell, “You wants the committee, asshole, then you best meet with the chair!” I pulled Jen to her feet.
Around us, the disembodied human limbs were piling up, forming a circle around the fountain, fusing themselves to each other like Satan’s LEGO set. A wet, pink disembodied spine slithered past us like a snake.
Dr. Marconi jogging toward us, shouting some instruction I couldn’t hear in the pandemonium. All around us the wig monsters were closing in, their dark shapes rolling in toward the fountain like oil down a drain.
One of them jumped onto Jen’s back. I flung myself at it, grabbed it in a bear hug and ripped it off her. One of its little fists came around and started punching me in the face.
I carried it to the fountain, stepping over a squishy pile of body parts. I shoved the monster into the water, held it under, screamed “Die!” or something to that effect. After a few seconds it stopped moving and black sauce oozed out of it like an oil slick.
Dr. Marconi got close enough so I could finally hear him. He said, “They’re trying to get into the water! Don’t let them!”
I looked back down at the spreading black pool, heard a splash as another of the beasts jumped in, followed by another, the creatures returning to the pool from which they had sprung.
Nothing good could come from that.
Marconi said, “Follow me.”
We sprinted toward a set of doors behind the stage, John smacking creatures with chairs as we went. Marconi unlocked the doors and we filed in. John stopped and spun in front of the open doorway. He faced at least half a dozen of the wig monsters, circling in on him. He whipped the chair around and actually split one of the things in half with the impact, spilling a spray of blood that was reflective, like mercury. John bellowed, “Anybody else want to donate blood to chair-ity?”
He ducked into the door, stopped, thought for a moment, then flung the door open again. He swung the chair and bashed one monster right in the wig, screaming, “There’s some dessert! With a chair-y on top!”
He came back in again, breathing heavily, slamming the door just as something thumped against it.
I said, “How about we just stay in here until they all leave?”
Dr. Marconi took off his glasses and cleaned them with a handkerchief.
John said, “What’s happening to them out there? The bite victims?” He looked at Marconi. “We’ve got friends who took the soy sauce, the, uh, the venom those things out there spit out. Almost all of them died but not like—”
“Out there you have a room full of true believers,” Marconi said, sadly. “There’s a shift that goes on, you see, physically and mentally and spiritually. They were ripe for this.”
Something hammered against the door and one hinge popped out in a burst of plaster dust. Big Jim and John leaned against the door to brace it.
I said, “Wait, you know what’s going on here?”
He gave me a dismissive look. “I’ll send you home with a copy of my book.”
Big Jim said, “He’s trying to break through, isn’t he?”
Marconi nodded. “He or his lackeys, yes.”
“Goddammit!” I screamed. “Did everybody else know this was gonna happen but me?”
“I most certainly did not know this was going to happen,” Marconi said, “or I would have canceled and issued full refunds. But when I became aware of the ‘sauce’ as you call it, I knew that it had only one purpose.”
There was a scratching from the opposite side of the door that I suspected was the sound of the beasts trying to bite through it.
“And that purpose is?”
“I offer people a window into the spiritual. Someone wishes to turn it into a door.”
A blue eye, in the darkness.
Jim whispered, “The Devil.”
Marconi said, “Son, the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world there was only one of him.”
I held up a hand in a “halt” motion and said, “How. Do. We. Get. Out. Of. This?”
Marconi placed his glasses back on his nose and said, “We’re like one German soldier alone on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, holding a sharp stick. I assure you, son, if any of us were capable of destroying such evil, the world would have killed us long before now. The world turns, son. And now it turns into the darkness.”
I said, “So, what do you suggest?”
“I am a retired priest. Did you know that?”
John asked, “Are you one of those priests who can shoot lasers out of their eyes? Because that would be really helpful right now.”
“No,” he said. “But I can bless water to make it holy. The ice statue, I mean.”
John’s face brightened and he said, “That’s perfect!” He thrust his index finger into the air. “We bless the ice, then we just have to somehow get all hundred or so of those monsters to go lick the statue!”
I stared hard into the face of the older man, said, “Okay, there is no possible combination of English words that would form a dumber plan than that.”
“We’ll need to buy time, of course,” he said, undeterred. “But if I’m right, if they’re doing what I think they’re doing, it’s most likely the only hope we’ve got. The travelers out there, the beasts I mean, they do have a weakness.”
John said, “We know. Chairs.”
“Uh, not exactly. They’re natural discordians. It’s a product of where they’re from, you see. When you live in a world of black noise, melody is like a blade to the ears. Angels and their harps and all that.”
I asked, “What does that have to do with—”
A hole exploded from the center of the door. A little pink fist and a segmented leg curled through, reaching around between John and Big Jim. John grabbed it by the wrist and Jennifer severed the arm with the switchblade. There was a feline shriek from the other side. John held the detached arm in his hand for a moment, then shoved it back through the ragged hole.
Marconi said, “I see you have your instruments. Can any of you sing? The old spirituals work best.”
John said, “I can sing.”
I said, “No, you can’t, John.”
“Well, I play the guitar.”
“So can I,” said Big Jim. “We have two guitars.”
I said, “This could not be any stupider.”
John said, “Dave, you remember the words to ‘Camel Holocaust’?”
“Ah, once again, you prove me wrong, John.”
Marconi looked down at the two carts stacked with amps and cables and said, “How long is it? I’ll need several minutes.”
John stepped around and lifted the guitar off my back, said, “ ‘Camel Holocaust’ is as long as you want it to be, my friend. I’m lead, Jim is rhythm, Jen sings backup. Jen, just repeat everything Dave sings, only like one second behind. The sound system will be on the stage. We duck out there and plug in and wail. Okay? Guys, this is just retarded enough to work.”
We set up, then faced the banging door. John said, “You know, I’m surprised the door stopped them, since they can teleport around like that. You’d think they could just blink right through it.”
There was sudden silence from beyond the door, a muttering like the creatures had just realized something. From behind me, Jim screamed.
One of the beasts was on his back. A second appeared on his chest, and in a blurred motion it snatched at his throat.
Jim collapsed on his guitar, the white instrument turning instantly crimson.
Jennifer lunged with the switchblade and stabbed one beast to death. She was good with that thing.
I said, “Jim? Are you—”
He rolled over, his throat laying open in shreds and flaps, as if it had been hit with a shotgun blast. His eyes were wide, his mouth working. Then, he was gone.
I opened my mouth to say something when suddenly my vision was obstructed by blackness. There were little pinches on my chest and belly, like something grabbing hold. My vision focused and I saw a dozen mismatched eyes staring back at me.
I fell backward, hit the ground, the wig monster riding on my chest. Its beak opened and I saw a pink, human tongue lolling around inside.
An electric shriek emerged from the ballroom. A guitar.
The creature closed its beak and turned toward the open door where John played, a look of intense annoyance on its face. It trotted away, two tiny hands over its ears.
Marconi said, “Good! Go!”
I stood and pushed through the open door. John played his ax with his legs spread apart, holding the guitar low to the ground. I sprinted around him, grabbed the mic off of the stage. For a moment, I was speechless.