Green's Hollow was the name of the private pleasure garden that Providence Hospital sat in. Eyre and Ben Rose entered the estate, crossing to the parking lot of the small facility that only had fifty beds in it, three of which were permanently occupied, the rest permanently empty. A low building with only three floors, it was so exclusive as to be the stuff of local urban legend. They stopped at the edge of the parking lot in a copse of oak trees.
"Cereborora," Ben said. "Shit."
The creatures were built like hounds with two heads: one wolfish, the other like a big cat. Six of them were patrolling the grounds of the hospital, watching for intruders. Glowing green eyes searched the evening and occasionally one of the dark creatures snapped at another that had gotten too close.
Eyre put a hand on Ben's shoulder. "What's going on, Ben?"
Ben Rose bowed his head, seemingly defeated. "It's all gone wrong," he said.
Eyre slapped him hard, knocked him to the ground. He looked up at her not with shock or resentment, but with tired eyes. She waited.
"Gary's the source of all the monsters," Ben said, pushing himself to his feet. "He wasn't always."
"We have to go in there and ---"
"No," Eyre said. "I mean how does he do this?"
"I don't know exactly, but he's in constant REM sleep," Ben said. "The theory is that he dreams and they escape somehow or he pushes them into the physical world."
Eyre nodded. "How long?"
"Five years, maybe six. We had no idea until last year and we put him on [medication] that was supposed to suppress the REM cycle." Ben stretched and rolled his neck, hopped a little and turned back to the building. "I guess that's the end of that, then."
"What are you going to do, Ben?"
"I have to kill him," Ben Rose said.
Lanette had been running for dozens of blocks, aiming herself toward Green's Hollow, when she finally stopped around the corner of the Bank of America branch to catch her breath. Across the street were another local bank, a Methodist church, the local employment office and a residential neighborhood, all terribly quiet and obviously deserted. She'd have to cross the wide street to get into the rows of houses that would hopefully keep her hidden while she ran toward the Hollow.
She stood up straight, took a lungful of air and let it out slowly then began a slow jog across the empty thoroughfare. "I should listen to the news when I'm out of town," she said. The church and the employment office passed on her left as she zigged to that side of the residential street. She didn't see the creature Jimmy had called Staggers come around the corner she'd just left.
Its voice sounding like dust blowing off an ancient tomb, it said "Esme" and followed.
"You can fly?"
Eyre landed gracefully on the roof of the hospital and took Ben's arm from around her shoulder and more slowly hers from around his waist. "Not something I advertise," she said. "It comes in handy from time to time." She'd gotten them over the Cereborora when they were distracted by paving stones Ben had thrown crashing into trees on the far side of the building; three seconds later they were on the roof.
"Good thing," Ben said. He walked to the hatch that would take them down into the building and twisted the handle off easily. As he pulled the door up, he looked back at Eyre, who hadn't moved. "You probably shouldn't come. Killing him is going to cause all sorts of problems for me with the Chondria."
"Do you know what's inside?"
She walked over and kissed him on the cheek before stepping onto the little wooden ladder inside the doorway. "You'll need some help, then." Ben Rose followed her down into the dark of the top floor of the mental hospital.
The hallway was immaculate and lit by what appeared to be emergency lights. Both monster hunters scanned for the door that would take them to the stairs. "This way," Ben said and Eyre followed him to the near end of the hall and through a door that said Employees Only.
"What floor is he on?"
"First," Ben said. "There are two others here, but this isn't about them. Gary's the new guy, been here fifteen years now."
"The Chondria set this up?"
Creeping down the stairs to the first landing, Ben made the left turn to continue down past the door that had a white '2' painted on it. "One of their agents on earth," Ben said. "You know they don't operate in person for anything."
"Except Brahmen," Eyre said.
"Right. But we don't count him with the Chondria any more, do we?"
They were down the second set of seven stairs and facing the door that had 'Ground' painted in white capital letters. "Okay, I don't know which way we're facing when we come out, so I'll need a couple of seconds to get my bearings."
"I'll cover," Eyre said. "Don't take too long."
"Luck," Ben said.
"Never depend on it," Eyre said. Ben opened the door.
Lanette found the road to Green's Hollow and cut across it to stay on the side with the most foliage. She heard a crash to her left and recoiled at the sight of the doglike things running to that end of the building. "Shit, Jimmy," she said after catching her breath. "What did you send me into?"
The snap of a tree branch breaking was startling. She whipped around to look behind her and saw Staggers less than six feet from her. "Esme," it said. To Lanette its voice sounded like stone on stone. She shook her head and took a step backward, fell over a tree root and saw Staggers loom over her. It put a hand out to her. "Esme," it said again.
"No, I'm not. I'm Lanette."
There was a shift in the body language of the monster shaped like a man that caused Lanette to turn and try to get up. She made it to her feet, but was still crouched over when Staggers' claw grabbed her hair and pulled her backwards. She screamed.
A Cereborora turned at the sound and growled as it ran to the stand of trees.
Lanette was looking upward at the ruined face of Staggers, whose glowing eyes seemed to bore into her skull. "Esme," it said and she could smell its terrible breath, a mixture of human waste and rotting corpse with ammonia used liberally to cut the stink. Staggers lifted her by her hair and sniffed it.
She was on her feet now and when the clang of metal on bone sounded, she nearly fell to the ground as her hair was let go. Turning, she saw Staggers on the ground and Jimmy jumping on the prone monster with a garden shovel. "Get inside," Jimmy said. "Find Rose and wake him up. Go!"
He stabbed at the chest of the monster with the blade of the shovel. Lanette hesitated.
"I don't know how long I'll be able to keep him here," Jimmy said. "Run, goddamn it. Find Rose!"
Lanette ran toward the hospital. She fell sideways as the Cereborora charged the trees and looked back with fear and trepidation. She set her mouth and ran forward to the building.
Ben stepped over the body of an orderly, into his brother's room. "Hello, Gary."
"You didn't tell me you were twins," Eyre said.
"You didn't ask."
Gary Rose was sitting up in the bed, his eyes open but unseeing. His lips were moving and when Ben put his ear close, he knew his brother was whispering but only because of the movement of the air; he couldn't hear the words. "He's dreaming," Ben said and stood straight. He looked on his brother and closed his eyes.
"How long are you going to wait?" Eyre was at his shoulder, almost touching him. Ben crossed himself, touched his forehead and pressed his hands together in front of his face. Slowly, he lowered his hands and opened his eyes.
"Okay," Ben said. "I want to try something first."
"Better be quick," Eyre said. "You saw the orderly out there. How many were there supposed to be and we only found the one?"
"Seven," Ben said.
"Something's not right here, Ben. What is this place?"
"Quiet!" Ben turned and shoved his face close to hers. "You're going to have to kill him if this doesn't work but I need to concentrate. Get out if you can't shut up."
Eyre's eyes betrayed her anger stood her ground and said nothing. She stepped back and crossed her arms. Ben nodded and turned to the bed. Gary was looking at him.
"I expected this," he said and his mouth opened wider than should have been possible. He roared, a mixture of animal and machine that scraped the inside of Ben's skull like a skilled surgeon removing a cancer.
Ben Rose was startled and staggered backwards. He recovered quickly and said "Oh no you don't." He reached out and punched his twin hard in the throat. Eyre saw an aura of blue electricity shimmer around Ben and when he turned to face her his eyes were white. "Get in the air! Unground yourself!"
Ben laid both hands on his twin brother: one on the heart, the other over Gary's eyes. The electricity crackled and spat. The room lit up like a star and both men yelled as Ben's power surged.
Gary convulsed with the electricity burning through his body but somehow a dagger had appeared in his left hand and he smiled through the crackling energy. "Surprise!"
He stabbed Ben in the heart with the dagger, burying it to the hilt and hanging on grimly. The energy coursing through Gary was looped back into Ben who wasn't prepared for it and the deadly circuit flashed so bright that it seemed the world exploded.
Jimmy was holding a cold cloth to Eyre's forehead when she opened her eyes. She sat straight up and nearly jumped out of the bed. "Ben! Where is he?" The air stank of electricity and burning rubber still.
"Next door," Jimmy said, putting his hands on her shoulders and gently pushing her back to the bed. He stood next to the bed and Eyre closed her eyes.
"Is he alive?"
Jimmy shook his head, no. "Neither one of 'em are."
"Most of 'em are gone," Jimmy said. "The ones that the twins were dreaming into existence, any way."
"I'm sorry, Jimmy," Eyre said. "For the panicking there."
"S'okay," he said. "We go back a long way, you and me. Lot o' water under the bridge as it were."
Eyre looked at him and touched his cheek. "You look like shit," she said.
"Staggers caught up wi' me," he said. "One of the dogs took him out after I took him down. He must've followed me through the portal outside of town."
"I dunno," Jimmy said. "I was fighting with Staggers when the dog jumped on his leg and bit down hard. He lost interest in me and he duked with the thing. There was a flash of light that lit up the whole world, I think, and then Staggers was gone and there was a poor bastard who looked like he'd been put through the fuckin' wringer, naked as the day is long.
"I found my friend Lanette with a thick branch in a circle of more naked ess oh bees and she was as startled as anyone. She said she was surrounded by a pack of the dogs when the light flashed and then they were gone."
"The orderlies," Eyre said.
"Yeah, my guess anyway."
"Wait," Eyre said. "Lanette? The one you ---"
Jimmy nodded. "Yeah."
"Is she really Esme?"
"Nah," Jimmy said. "She's Lanette. Esme's gone, died a long time ago. Lanny's cool, though." He smiled. "I got a lot o' explainin' to do, too."
Eyre sat up on the edge of the bed and swung her feet out over the floor. Jimmy looked down at her. "I'm okay, chef," she said. "Just give me a minute. I'm tough enough."
"Oh, an' no doubt," Jimmy said. "Take it slow."
"Gave her a sedative and put her in the next bed over." Jimmy hooked a thumb over his shoulder. "She'll sleep a couple hours while I get her back to her apartment."
"I have to check on the other two guys Ben said were in here," Eyre said. "Want to help me?"
"Sure," Jimmy said. "You Hunter or Minder now?"
They found the men in separate rooms on separate floors and both were identical to Ben and Gary and just as dead. Their eyes were bulging and there were bloodstains on the heart of one and burn marks around the eyes of the other. There were no charts, no records in the rooms or at the nurse's stations on either floor. Eyre sighed as they walked down the stairs to the first floor again, toward the room where she'd woken and where Lanette slept. Jimmy looked up as Eyre came in.
"So who were these guys?"
"Locii," Eyre said. "In this case, multilocational doppelgangers. Rare but not the first ones I've met. Copies of one person in different places at the same time."
"So was Ben the original or one of the copies?"
"All I can say is that he was the dominant personality," Eyre said. "My guess is that the other two were batteries and 'Gary' was a conduit. There's really no way to know if Ben was the original or not."
They came into the room where Lanette was sleeping and Jimmy pulled a wheelchair out of the little closet in the room. "Help me?"
The two old friends gently put the sleeping woman into the chair and then wheeled her out of the hospital and into the fresh air. "Gonna be a long trip back in a wheelchair," Jimmy said. Eyre smiled and walked Jimmy and Lanette to a Honda parked in the lot of the hospital in Green's Hollow. She smashed the driver's window in and slid behind the wheel.
Moments later, the engine roared to life.
Thanks for reading A Monster In Repose. Click here to read "Honest Work".
©2010 By Jason Arnett.
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