Infected Page 71

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In that moment, he was his father’s son once again.

“You want to see?”

Pain was coming, Perry knew. Truckloads of it. A clearance sale on agony. “You got to learn not to talk to me that way. Tell you what, I’ll show

you how I cook your dinner.” Perry hopped up onto the counter.



He sat with his ass on the countertop, legs dangling over the edge, right ass cheek almost touching the edge of the electric stove, back resting against the cupboards that held his mismatched plates. He watched the burner slowly change from black to a soft, glowing orange. An orphaned, dried-out grain of rice sat

let us see

on the burner. Perry watched closely. The grain was at first white, then slowly turned black.

It began to burn, sending a thin

let us see now

tendril of smoke toward the ceiling. The little stream thickened as the metal continued to heat, smoke rising in a tiny column then dissipating into

let us see, we’re warning you

nothingness. It was so black against the hot metal. There was the briefest flicker of an orange flame, and then nothing. The smoke quickly petered out, leaving a small black husk on the glowing burner.

warning y ou warningyou see See SEE

“You want to see?” Perry rolled onto his left cheek and hooked his right thumb under his waistband. They’d “warned” him. Nobody “warns” a Dawsey of anything. It was Perry’s house, after all, and anyone under his roof was damn well going to live by his rules.

y es w e want to see

now Now NOW, and

we’re not going to tell you again

Perry slid over so his right cheek hovered directly above the burner. He instantly felt the rising, searing heat. He pulled his pants down, exposing the right cheek to the burner only inches away. Blistering heat cascaded over his naked skin.

“Do you see now, fuckers?” He felt the overflow excitement again, coursing through his body, intense and stronger than ever. what is it? is it dinner? ar e w e going to eat?

what is it?

“You don’t know what it is?” Perry heard the malice in his own voice, the hatred and the anger that had once again taken over his body and thrown reason and common sense out some mental twentieth-story window to splatter on the concrete sidewalk below. He heard his father’s voice within his own.

“Well, if you don’t know what it is, maybe you’d better take a closer look!”

Perry slammed his right cheek down on the burner and immediately heard the answering sizzle. The scorching pain stabbed into his body, but it was his pain, and he welcomed it with the wide-eyed smile of a madman. His nervous system railed against the searing heat as his flesh bubbled and blistered and blackened.

NO NO NO NO NO

NO NO NO

The stench of his own burning flesh filled the room. The unbearable agony ripped through his every fiber. Later on he’d congratulate himself on his incredible willpower — he managed to keep his ass pressed firmly against the burner for almost four seconds, fighting against his body’s primal directive to get away from the pain —

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO

The mindscream hammered into his head and broke his superhuman concentration. Perry leaped off the stove and landed on his bad leg, which promptly gave way. He fell in a heap on the bloodstained linoleum floor.

NO NO NO NO NONO NO

He didn’t have time to regret his actions; he didn’t even have time to tell himself how stupid it was. He felt the scorching pain on his ass and the strong smell of cooked human flesh (and was there another smell in there?) and the jackhammer screaming that ripped into his mind and stirred his brains like a swizzle stick.

NO NO NO NO NO

NO NO NO

Despite the pain that had him whimpering like a little girl, despite tears streaming down his face to mix with the dried blood on the linoleum floor, despite feeling every injury flare back to agonizing life, he knew he’d killed another one. He held that satisfaction tight to his soul as he passed out.

THE ARCHES

Margaret, Amos and Clarence Otto stared at the photomural. Clarence had had the painting blown up to three times the original size, so that Nguyen’s nightmarish vision took up an entire wall.

They’d all caught a few hours of sleep from around 2:00 A.M. to 5:00 A.M., then it was back to work. After two hours of staring at the mural, staring and thinking, Margaret still felt groggy despite five cups of nasty hospital coffee. Amos, as usual, looked none the worse for wear. Neither did Otto. Margaret hated them both.

Amos stood right in front of the photomural, his nose just inches from the wall. “How did Nguyen know these people?” he asked.

Margaret stared and thought hard about the question. “I don’t think he knew these people at all,” she finally said.

Amos looked at her and crossed his arms. “What, you’re saying that the kid was a psychic or something?”

Margaret shook her head slowly, but kept her eyes fixed on the painting photo. “No, I don’t think so. Not psychic, but something like psychic. Something beyond the science we know.”

Where she could identify and match, she had taped the life-size pictures of the infestation victims’ faces next to their life-size spot on the painting.

Blaine Tanarive.

Charlotte Wilson.

Gary Leeland.

Judy Washington.

Martin Brewbaker.

Kiet Nguyen.

There was an indefinable horror in seeing the real faces taped next to Nguyen’s ghastly, painted renditions. Horror, yes, but that horror paled in comparison to the math.

Infected Page 71

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Infected Page 71 summary

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