I Don't Want to Kill You, page 25
Who am I kidding? Brooke will never leave this alive.
Maybe it was something else. Maybe it was the specific mention of the demons that had prompted Nobody to kill Marci and take Brooke. I’d told her about the demons, and her first response was something about Brooke. She’d asked me if I had been in Agent Forman’s house. I’d said yes, and she’d said, ‘Brooke was in there too.’ Maybe she wanted to be Brooke because of Brooke’s experience with Forman.
Or maybe it was our shared experience with Forman, Brooke and I together, that made it important. Even if she wasn’t trying to kill me, she was definitely drawing closer and closer to me. Did she have some other plan, completely unrelated to killing?
She told me she loved me – those were her final words. Was that Marci, breaking through for one last message?
Or was it Nobody?
The phone rang again. I felt a sudden pit in my stomach, a swerve and plunge of vertigo. Ring! I crawled off of my bed and opened my bedroom door. Ring! I walked down the hall, step by step, and looked at the phone. The caller ID said Watson – Brooke’s family. I picked it up. Ring! I hit the button.
‘Hey, John.’ It was Brooke, her voice still soft and frail. ‘How’s it going?’
‘Fine.’ Why was she calling? Did she know I’d figured her out? What was she doing?
‘Sorry about my mom,’ said Brooke. ‘You know how parents can be sometimes. So, what you doing?’
I had no idea how to answer. I’m talking to a demon! I looked at the walls, the windows, anything to spark some kind of active thought, but my brain wouldn’t work. This is the thing that killed Marci.
‘You there?’ she asked.
I closed my eyes. ‘It’s you, isn’t it?’
She coughed. ‘Sorry about my voice, I’m kind of hoarse; it’s Brooke.’
‘No, it’s not. It’s Nobody, isn’t it? You’re Forman’s friend.’
Silence. The phone crackled, slightly static; the clock ticked. She inhaled, a tiny intake of breath, so soft I could barely hear it. I shifted my feet.
Her voice was the shadow of a whisper. ‘How did you know?’
‘You killed Marci,’ I said. ‘You killed all of them.’
‘No . . .’
‘You’re going to kill Brooke too. How long does she have?’
‘No,’ she whispered, ‘never again.’
‘What are you doing? Why are you killing these girls?’
‘I didn’t mean to. I never wanted to hurt anybody, but I couldn’t take it any more. But it’s okay now – that’s all behind me.’
‘What’s behind you – killing? Why do you keep saying that?’
‘I thought Marci would be the last one, I really did. She was prettier than Rachel, and smarter, and she had a boyfriend, and she looked so happy – but that wasn’t real at all. She was a slob. She was fat. She was dumb—’
‘She was brilliant,’ I cut in, ‘and she wasn’t remotely fat.’
‘Oh come on,’ she hissed. It was Brooke’s voice, but harsher and colder than Brooke had ever been. ‘Marci was a cow. Rachel was a loser, but at least she was skinny. Now, Brooke, on the other hand, is perfect. She’s tall, she’s thin, it’s like being a tree maybe, or a breeze. Her hair is long and flowing, not like Marci’s tangled rat hair. She’s clean, and her room is bright.’
‘You were the final piece,’ she said. ‘I could tell, as soon as you saw Brooke in the Friendly Burger, that you loved her. I could—’
‘I don’t love anyone.’
‘I could see it in your eyes,’ she said, ‘watching her, and in the things you’d shared together that Marci never had. I thought I could keep you, but it got worse and worse, and then this morning when you called to warn me, and you talked about her instead—’
‘You talked about her, not me.’
‘You talked about the demons,’ said Brooke. ‘I’d started to wonder if it might be you, with all of Marci’s memories, but I wasn’t sure until you said it this morning. You’re the hunter, and that’s what I wanted more than anything – that’s why I came here.’
‘To kill me?’
‘No!’ she insisted. ‘I came to join you. That’s why I knew it had to be Brooke, because she’d shared it all with you. They’re horrible, John; they’re evil, and awful, and we have to destroy them. I can help you, John. I can lead you to them, and you can kill them, and we can be together.’
‘But you’re one of them.’
‘No, I’m not!’ she rasped, as loud as her weakened voice would let her. ‘I am not one of Kanta’s gods, or angels, or whatever he wants to call them. I am Brooke Watson. I am a regular, beautiful, perfect human girl.’
Kanta. It was Forman’s other name, the one he used with his fellow demons. No one else knew it. If there was any doubt left that Brooke was Nobody, she’d abolished it with that single word.
‘Don’t you see how perfect this is?’ she pleaded. ‘I can help you, and we can stay together, and we can destroy them all. We can wipe them out, and get rid of them for good. You can have the girl you’ve always wanted, and I can have you. Forever.’
Someone to hunt with, I thought. Someone to talk with. It hit me like a brick, more tempting than I’d ever imagined: someone to be with forever, who would never leave me, who would always stay with me and always do the things I wanted to do. To be able to know that no matter what I did, no matter where I went, Brooke would always be there, always watching, always helping, always smiling and happy to see me . . .
. . . always trapped inside her own body, helpless and afraid. Every time I looked in her eyes I’d know it was a demon looking back, studying me, waiting for . . .
I’d always know, and so would Brooke.
And so would Nobody.
‘It will never last,’ I said. ‘You’ll just kill her again.’
‘That’s what you thought with Marci, too, and look what happened. How many times have you done it?’
‘How many?’ I demanded. ‘How many times have you killed an innocent girl because she was too short, or too tall, or her teeth were too crooked? How many times have you killed yourself, and some poor girl got in the way?’
‘It’s not me.’
‘Yes, it is! You hate the demons, but that’s what you are, so you hate yourself – and no matter how perfect these girls are, they will always be tainted, because you will always be there.’
‘No!’ Her voice was a roar, its weakness gone, its rawness terrifying. I’m putting Brooke in danger, I realised. I have to calm her down – I have to keep her happy while I figure out what to do.
‘You don’t know what it’s like!’ she shouted. ‘You don’t know what I have to go through every day, just being one of them!’
‘I’m sorry,’ I said, searching for a plan. ‘You were right. It will be different this time, because you have me.’
She paused. ‘I love you, John.’
I closed my eyes. Just don’t kill Brooke. ‘You’re sick now, because you’re still settling into the body, right?’
‘When will you be better?’
‘Tomorrow sometime. It shouldn’t take long.’
‘Then I’ll see you tomorrow. We’ll go somewhere and talk.’
I breathed deep. ‘Yes, a date. Does that sound good?’
‘It sounds wonderful.’
‘Okay then, I’ll see you tomorrow. I . . .’ I can’t say it. ‘I’ll see you.’
I have to kill her. It’s the only choice. I paced back and forth in the hallway, head down, fingers clenched into fists. She’s going to kill herself anyway, sooner or later, so Brooke’s already as good as dead. But if I kill her first, and find a way to kill Nobody too, then the chain will be broken and no one else will have to die. I can’t save Brooke, but I can make her the last.
It lives in her blood. Anything I do to kill her will free the demon, and she’ll spill out and live while Brooke’s body dies behind her. I heaved again. Maybe I could strangle her – there are plenty of ways to kill without blood. I could choke her to death, or tie her up and drop her in the lake . . .
I beat my hands against the floor, crying. Stop thinking about it! But I couldn’t stop. My mind kept going and going, filled with thoughts and images, imagining Brooke’s dead body lurching back to life, forced into motion by the demon in her blood. It’s not enough to kill the host – I have to kill the demon inside.
I curled up on the floor, squeezing my eyes shut and covering my ears, but the thoughts were inside my head and I couldn’t block them out. Fire would do it. Drop her in a big enough fire and the demon will burn to death before she can escape.
Maybe there’s a way to save her. A dialysis machine could pump the blood out, and the demon with it, and filter it all and put it back in. Or maybe not-the sludge is thick, and the pressure of pumping it out against its will would probably kill the host. And how could I possibly get access to a dialysis machine?
The front door opened, and footsteps came in. My heart sped up, irrationally certain it was the demon come to talk to me with Brooke’s voice and face, but the cadence of the steps was my mom’s; I let my muscles go slack, put my head on the cold tile floor, and tried to calm my breathing. The footsteps walked into the kitchen; the faucet turned on, then off. The footsteps wandered back into the hallway, disappearing with a creak into the softness of the carpet, and then Mom was gasping in the bathroom doorway.
‘John!’ She dropped her bag and knelt down, touching my shoulders, feeling my forehead, taking my pulse. I saw her glance into the toilet and grit her teeth, then she grabbed me under the arms and hauled me up. ‘Come on,’ she said softly. ‘It’s okay, come on up.’ I held her arm with one hand, the wall with the other, and let her help me to my feet. Together we staggered into the living room, where she laid me down on the couch. She sat next to me, pulling my head onto her lap, and smoothed my hair with her hand.
‘I’m so sorry, John. I’m so sorry about Marci.’
Had that really only been this morning? Not even seven hours had gone by since my call to Marci, and already she’d been dead so long it seemed like ages ago. I felt old and tired, like a weathered tyre cracking in the sun.
‘I heard you come home, after you ran out,’ said Mom. ‘I thought I’d just let you be alone for a while. I should have come up.’
‘It’s not just Marci,’ I said. ‘You saw the demon sludge, right?’
I closed my eyes. ‘It’s been moving through them all, all the suicides, and now it’s moved to someone else.’
She paused again. ‘What are you going to do?’
‘I don’t know.’ I’m going to kill Brooke. ‘I don’t know. I used to think I was trying to kill demons, and then I realised that killing wasn’t enough, and I needed to save people, and now . . . Now I can’t do either one.’ But I knew it wasn’t true – I knew I could still find the strength to kill the demon. Saving Brooke wasn’t an option any more, but I could always kill. Sometimes that seemed like the only thing I was ever good at. ‘I don’t want to be a killer.’
We sat in silence for a minute, then Mom spoke again. ‘Lauren told me about last night. That you told her to get me out of the house.’
I pressed my fingertips against my forehead, rubbing away the beginning of a headache. It didn’t work. ‘She didn’t know why. It’s not her fault.’
‘No, she didn’t, but that’s not making it any better. It’s tearing her apart, thinking what could have happened to you.’
‘That’s a poor choice of words, given the circumstances.’
Mom sighed. ‘Please, John. You can’t just hide behind jokes and technicalities.’ Pause. ‘Did you kill that man?’
‘Were you planning to?’
She sighed again, and I felt her arm tense on my shoulder; her leg tensed beneath my head, and I closed my eyes, bracing myself for a fight. Her next question was soft and quiet. ‘Why didn’t you?’
Not what I expected. ‘I didn’t want to. He was just a normal guy. Screwed up, but not a demon or anything.’
‘He was a sociopath,’ said Mom.
‘He was me, twenty years from now; he was exactly what I was turning into. I decided I didn’t want to.’
Her arm and leg relaxed, and I felt a drop of water on my head; a tear. ‘So,’ she said, ‘what are you going to do now?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Do you know who the demon is in?’
She stifled a small sob. ‘Who?’
‘No one.’ But she’s already guessed, I thought. ‘It’s no one you know.’ I pulled away from her, sitting up and facing the wall. ‘It doesn’t matter.’
‘I just want to—’
The phone rang. I felt cold again, dreading the call like it was my own death. Mom stood up, grabbed the phone and answered.
‘Hello?’ Pause. ‘Oh, hello Brooke, it’s nice to hear from you. Yes, he’s right here, but . . .’ She looked at me, frowned, and turned back to the phone. ‘I’m afraid he’s really not—’
‘Wait!’ I said, jumping up. ‘I’ll take it. I’ll talk.’
‘Are you sure?’
She paused, holding the phone.
‘Please,’ I begged.
Mom lifted the phone to her face. ‘Here he is.’ She handed me the phone and I held it to my ear.
‘Hey, John.’ Brooke’s voice, Brooke’s mouth, Brooke’s body. It made me sick. ‘I was thinking about tomorrow, trying to decide a good place to go. Do you have any specific plans?’
I took a deep breath before I replied, forcing myself to sound normal. Just keep her happy – just one more day, maybe two. I’ll figure something out but I’ve got to keep her happy.
When I’d finished, Mom frowned. ‘Are you sure you’ll be okay?’
‘Don’t worry about it,’ I said, walking slowly down the hall to my room. ‘Don’t worry about me.’ I’m not the one who’s going to die.
Fire was the only way. It was the only thing that could trap the demon and kill it for sure, with no mistakes and no chance for escape. I have to do it – I have to stop Nobody from killing girl after girl after girl. Brooke would die too, but she would be the last. Nobody would never again be able to sacrifice another girl’s body to fuel her own impossible quest for perfection.
Fire would work. It was destruction embodied, and even if Nobody could regenerate, like Crowley, a good fire could keep up with her regeneration, and even surpass it. It would kill her before she could get clear of the body. All I had to do was find a good fire, or a good place to set one, and then get Brooke near enough to push her in. How could I do it without making her suspicious? Where could I do it without anyone seeing us, and trying to rescue her?
Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, living with Nobody. She might actually be happy – I could keep her happy forever, keep her in that body, and we could hunt the demons together just like she said. If I weighed the worth of lives in a pure, objective scale, Nobody and I could save hundreds, maybe thousands, if we killed just a handful of demons. The Formans of the world, the leaders of this hell community, were the biggest prize. Nobody herself might kill a few more times, but what was that compared to thousands of people, thousands of families?
I had no idea how many other demons were out there, how many
DAN WELLS SERIES:
Other author's books:
- PartialsI Don't Want to Kill YouIsolationThe Devil's Only FriendOnes and ZeroesNext of KinOver Your Dead BodyFragments
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