Chapter Ten: The Final Predator



My face was stiff.  Dirty.  Putting water on it was the closest thing I’d had to a shower in… whatever unit of time could best measure the missing gap in my head.

Although… shit.

I kicked open the bathroom door.   No.  I tried to, but it felt more like I shattered my ankle bones and fell to the cold, tiled floor, soaking the ass of my pants in bathroom fluids.  When I finally got out of the room, I found Leif in the bar, trying to pull a kitchen knife out of the wall.  It wasn’t budging from its spot in the head of a crude human outline somebody had etched.

he saw me standing there, dripping from the ass and shook his head, disgusted.

“I thought we were over this,” he said, now so accustomed to me shitting my pants that he found it annoying rather than gross.

“Oh, I haven’t pooped myself,” I replied.  My voice sounded gruffer, like over time, the circumstances had gradually begun to evolve into some sort of hard-ass.  In between our words, the only sound was the drops of wetness falling off my pants.  It worked as an effective counter balance to any assumptions of bad-assery on my part.

“I don’t remember walking into the bathroom,” I continued.  “Which means I must have gone under, and by the looks of that blade in that guy’s head, you spent the time doing exactly what I didn’t want you to do.”

“Damn straight,” Leif stated uncaringly.  “And you’re a hell of a lot better at knifeplay now than you were at co-piloting a helicopter.”

“I’m not going to kill anyone.”

“You killed this guy about three dozen times in a row,” he informed me, pointing to the marker-drawn man on the wall. “It was pretty cool.”

“I don’t care,” I said immediately. “How cool?” I asked immediately after that.

“We just want you to be able to defend yourself from what’s coming.”

“W… what is coming?”

Leif sighed and finally got the knife out of the wall, tossing it on the bar.  “Somebody’s always coming.  Could be Clyde. Could be those guys who’s truck you fell out of.  Could be some entirely new thing.”


He looked at me.  His face was so often adrift in what could only be a nightmarish series of mental episodes, it was jarring to see him look me in the eye.  It may have been the first time he’d even done so.

“I’m not a killer.”

He nodded.  “Me neither.”  His nod intensified.  “Devil’s Blood makes us a lot of things we don’t want to be.”

Leif slammed his shut and cringed.  I feared he may be about to explode for no reason at all when the rains outside became wildly audible.  He must have heard them coming from a mile away.  The onset of precipitation was causing him actual, physical pain.

“What is it with you and the rain?” I finally demanded.

He wandered toward the back and didn’t tell me to follow him, but I did anyway.  If I blacked out I wanted someone to be there to clean me up.


Until Leif unlocked the door and ushered me into the sprawling, enormous warehouse behind it, I had assumed when i saw this structure from the outside, that it belonged to another building.  However, the space was apparently their’s, and they had used it to house a slick looking helicopter that became more and more familiar as I looked at the co-pilot’s chair.  The lights weren’t blinking frantically and Leif wasn’t screaming, so it took a second, but I eventually put together just how well the craft and I knew each other.

“Hey, beautiful…” Leif breathed softly at the aircraft, patting its missile turret.  “Sorry about that last time.  It’s over; get some rest.”

I coughed, hoping he’d remember I was there before his pants came off.

Isabel walked around the cockpit, holding a small black box in one hand and a crowbar in the other.  She didn’t look happy.  She rarely did.

“This was probably inevitable, but they’re definitely coming now,” she said.  “I’d be insulted by the cheapness of the tracking device, but they clearly knew what they were doing, if it took us this long to find it.”

“Which is probably why it took Clyde so little time to find us,” Leif replied, looking up at the ceiling.  The rain was clattering even louder in here on the tin roof.

“Max,” Isabel said.  “This is very close to being the ugliest thing you’ve ever been a part of.”

They both seemed serious; as if everything up to this point had been a disgusting set-up for a sick punchline waiting just around the corner.  Leif fell against the chopper.

“My dad used to tell me about the Serengeti while he was hacking up something,” he said, starting a story from nowhere.  “Fondly… like he used to summer there.  He’d say… the weirdest shit about dead meat lying in the sun.  How a kill brought everything together.  Lions would get the good stuff.  Jackals and vultures would line up to pick at the leftovers.  Swarms of insects got the rest.  And then there’s just… bones.”

“Still, silent bones.”

Leif folded his arms and stared into space.  I could tell he was taking a trip back in time, hanging out with his dad, watching him at work, sitting on a pile of dead animals.

“I mean, what eats a bone?” he asked, on the verge of chuckling.

I nodded in agreement, unsure if this was a rhetorical question.  I knew as soon I thought that it wasn’t, it would be.

“Maybe a—“

“Time,” Leif cut me off.

I knew it.

“It takes forever, but it is the only thing that is perfectly unstoppable.  Time ticks the clocks long after the battery dies.  Time turns all bones to dust.  Time… is the final predator.”

Isabel put a hand on his shoulder.

“Time’s about to catch up with Isabel and I,” he said.

The lights went out, and all three of us knew that it wasn’t because of the weather, though clearly, the eternally cryptic duo in front of me knew a lot more about what was going on than I did.

I sighed.

“You know, I just moved to the city to prove to everyone that I could live on my own.”

Dead silence slipped through the whispered through the darkness like a light breeze.

“Well,” Isabel muttered in my direction, “then I guess you’d better stay alive.”

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