Arnie walked toward the exit. I followed, stopping quickly to pay the lady at the counter.
“Wait,” I stammered as he pushed through the door. “I got, you know, all that paperwork on the Hyundai and the accident and all that. The insurance company, they took pictures of the scene and, well, you can’t really see anything but they describe the scene in the report, the dead roaches and all that. I went back that next morning and I got a hand, a clump of the bugs in the shape of, of the fingers. I got it at home . . .”
Nothing from Arnie. He didn’t even nod.
“In my toolshed, in a jar. I can show it to you. I mean, what kind of a person would fake that, would sit at home and glue a bunch of roaches together? ‘Honey, what are you doing?’ ‘Oh, I’m making a roach hand. You know, to aid my credibility with the press.’”
Arnie said, “The kid you say you killed during the Las Vegas thing? Fred Chu? Say I go looking into that, his disappearance.”
I hesitated. “Do it. Those records are out there. I’ve been honest with you, I keep saying that.”
“So you admit killing him?”
“Off the record, yeah.”
“And the other kid that died, Big Jim—”
“He’s really dead, too. You can look it up.”
“I already did. But Big Jim, he would have gone to the cops about Fred, wouldn’t he? That you shot Fred? He didn’t seem too happy about it.”
“I—I don’t know. We’ll never know.”
“Worked out pretty good for you that Big Jim died then, didn’t it?”
“Don’t you see? You got all this ridiculous shit swirling around in your story, Wong, but then you got the parts that are real, the parts that can be verified. And they’re all felonies. A dead kid. A missing kid. A missing cop. So why don’t I do both of us a favor and pretend we never talked? Because I’m not sure I wanna hear the rest of it.”
He unlocked the door to a white Cavalier and ducked inside.
I jogged up to the car and circled around to the passenger side. I gently smacked the window with my palm. Arnie hesitated, then reached over and unlocked it. I leaned in.
“Can I sit down?”
He paused once more, not wanting to prolong this but not quite sure how to get rid of me. Maybe he was afraid I was dangerous, liable to fly into crazy-man violence if turned away. He used both hands to scoop up a bundle of notebooks and folders from the passenger seat. I ducked in and arranged my feet around a pile of recording equipment and cassettes on the floorboard.
“Here,” I said. “Look.” I pulled a single folded sheet of paper from my pocket. “It’s been in my pants all day so it’s kind of wrinkled and, uh, moist, but read it. I copied that from Dr. Marconi’s book.”
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leaving it looking like a jar of pickled eggs that had been eaten and then vomited by a gorilla.
The strange ritual was done in service to a deity who to my ears sounded like “Koddock” (the tribe had no written language). I was told that each member bore the mark of this god and I was allowed to witness the branding ceremony each member undertakes at the age of manhood.
The young man was forced to lay facedown on a mat, naked. The priest then brought out a clay jar containing the writhing maggots of bot flies. The larvae were placed on the back of the young man, arranged in the shape of Koddock’s symbol. The maggots then chewed through the top layer of skin, digging holes a half-inch deep. I was told the larvae would, according to ceremony, be allowed to remain in their warm, wet tunnels in the young man’s back for seven days. If the young man succumbed to the itch and scratched the spot, he would fail the test of manhood and would have to wait a year before attempting it again.
On the seventh day the larvae are extracted by the priest and the wound treated. What remains will be the trails of scar tissue, following the paths eaten by the worms. These scars would form the “brand” of Koddock. The priest showed me the finished symbol and the pipe literally fell from my mouth.
Once more, it was like the symbol for pi, only rotated ninety degrees to the left. The same symbol I had seen a Manchester toddler draw in his trance state months before.
As soon as I got back to Lima, I phoned Dr. Haleine, the Egyptologist. Shouting to each other over a poor connection, he described for me again the hieroglyph he had discovered in his dig, nearly 7,500 miles from where I stood.
I was so stunned by what he told me that I could not keep my feet. Sitting on the floor of my hotel, I pondered the enormity of the revelation and sought out my flask.
Haleine explained that there was an Egyptian god named Kuk, who was already known to Egyptologists (in the Ogdoad cosmogony, Kuk
PAGE 193 SCIENCE AND THE BEYOND DR. ALBERT MARCONI
was a frog-like god who represented darkness and chaos). Haleine, however, believed he had stumbled upon a cult that worshipped his rash and destructive son, Kor’rok. This god was represented symbolically by a man punctured by two spears, one in the mouth and one in the groin, the twin centers of desire for mankind.
In the cult’s mythology, Kor’rok was a reckless and cruel slavemaster, who used men’s bodily desires to lure them to their destruction for his own amusement.
Dr. Haleine’s hieroglyph and the symbol of “Koddock” I had copied in my note pad, when laid over one another, were nearly identical in shape. Here we had now three peoples, living on opposite corners of the planet, separated by oceans of water and time, independently identifying the same deity.
It was the single best piece of evidence for the supernatural ever discovered by science.
Another day of travel took me back to the village. I arrived in such a state of excitement that the priest had me restrained by several strong men and forced me to drink a potion to “cool the embers in my head.” After some time I got alone with the priest and asked him about Koddock and the symbol.
The symbol, he told me, was a representation of the god Koddock himself. Koddock was a young god, he told me, hotheaded and prone to fits of rage if not pleased. The vertical line was his body. The top horizontal line was a stream of vomit, the second horizontal line was a stream of urine. For, you see, the tribe believed Koddock liked to drink to excess, and when he was intoxicated he interfered with the affairs of man and caused great destruction. This was the tribe’s explanation for all suffering and misfortune in the world.
Arnie skimmed over it, then let out a long sigh.
“See? That’s Korrok. That symbol, that’s what was on Molly’s foot, it’s what’s on . . . look, you’re a journalist, these are independent sources here confirming the same thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s crazy, this is evidence, right?”
“What am I supposed to say, Wong? What do you want from me?”
“I need somebody to know about this. I have to get this out. Before . . .” I shook my head. I ran out of words.
“Before what? A monster catches you in an alley and eats you?”
Tell him about Amy.
“No. It’s nothing like that. Well, I mean, that’s a possibility, but it’s bigger than that.”
Arnie let out a sigh.
“Just listen,” I said, begging a little. “Just listen a little bit longer and then everything will be clear. You’ll understand how much is at stake here. Seriously.”
Arnie sighed and looked off across the parking lot. “I ain’t got much time, Wong. It’s getting late.”
“I know. Just . . . I need you to drive somewhere. We go there and I can show you. Everything will be clear, you’ll know what’s true and what isn’t.”
“The mall. The mall.”
He gave me a long, hard look. He was probably sizing up his ability to take me down if I went nuts on him and tried to bite through his neck. He apparently judged his physical prowess to be superior because he twisted the key and revved the engine to life.
“Turn right out of the parking lot here.”
THE SKITTERING FOOTSTEPS grew louder in the mall’s cavernous hallway. John pumped the shotgun and raised it.
“Sister Christian,” by Night Ranger, slowed, garbled, ground to silence. The last of the juice in the ghetto blaster’s batteries.
Two gray blurs.
They were coyotes, muscular, with matted fur and red eyes. They both skidded to a stop at the sight of us, took in deep breaths, and breathed plumes of fire.
The three of us dove behind the crate. John leaned over with the shotgun, fired and tore a fist-sized chunk out of the first coyote head. He fired at the second one, missed.
The beast lunged at me, knocking me over like a linebacker. It stood on my chest, its breath smelling like burnt electrical wires. It sucked in a huge breath that I knew would take the flesh off my skull.
A hand shot out.
Punching into the coyote’s side.
Krissy hit the Taser.
Blue sparks flew.
The coyote’s abdomen, swollen with flammable breath, exploded like the Hindenburg. Furry chunks hit me in the face, a beautiful orange fireball rolling up toward the glass ceiling.
I scrambled to my feet, my face hot and tight, brushing slimy red chunks of animal off me and cursing. I wasn’t sure if it was coyote blood or my own piss on my pants.
Something heavy bounced off my shoe. John shone the flashlight, revealing a box of bullets.
Laying next to it was a key with the number “1” etched into it.
“A key,” said John, clicking shells into his shotgun. “Good. Now, if I know what’s going on here, and I think I do, we’ll have to wander around looking for that door. Behind it we’ll meet a series of monsters or, more likely, a whole bunch of the same one. We’ll kill them, get another key, and then it’ll open a really big door. Now right before that we’ll probably get nicer guns. It may require us to backtrack some and it might get really tedious and annoying.”