So, this chapter is really short. But I’m making it really short for a reason; the next section of the story should be one long scene (separate from the one that’s taking place in this chapter), and if I continued this chapter with that scene, I would end up cutting the scene in half and finish it in the next chapter.
So instead, chapter twelve will be short, and then chapter thirteen will include that entire next scene, to avoid chopping things up unnecessarily.
I used to listen to this piece quite frequently, but had somehow forgotten about it until rediscovering it today and listening to it again.
I had made my way back. But the problem was, I had no idea where to go. If I had listened earlier, I would at least know where the band members were, but now I has just alone. Hannah far away, if not dead, Rennet god-knows-where, my own stupidity and inattentiveness leaving me clueless about the location of Nathan and the others…
And Frederick was probably here with me. Maybe he just didn’t care enough to hunt me down, or perhaps he was waiting to strike at another time.
Or, perhaps, he was already hunting me.
I knew that thought should be frightening to me, I even tried to feign some fear, maybe trick myself, but couldn’t even force it. I was just too far gone.
There had to be some gathering or something. It sounded like Frederick had plans that, even for someone as unnatural as he, wouldn’t be possible to handle alone. Maybe I could find them and learn something. And maybe I’d be able to recover my briefcase.
City Hall. I hadn’t had much time to explore around there last time, especially with Hannah holding me back, so maybe I’d be able to find something there. It was a place to start, at the very least.
Furthermore, I thought I had seen a vending machine in there. Maybe they’d have Chex Mix or something. My appetite, so reclusive earlier, had returned and I wanted something to eat.
I made my way in, gave the receptionist, the same one as before, a curt little nod, and went to get a cup of coffee. Once I had that in hand, I found the vending machine and pulled out my two torn dollar bills.
I tried squishing one half of one of the bills into the slot, and was excited when it actually sucked it up. Then spat it out a moment later.
I kicked the bottom of the machine and tried again. Then tried reaching up through the opening at the bottom. While I was distracted with the machine, someone came up from behind me.
“Hello, sir, I’d like you to come with me.”
He stood, neck and back straight, hands clasped behind himself, wearing some sort of police-like uniform. “U.C.F.” was emblazoned on his vest.
“What? The fuckin’ machine isn’t working? How’s that my fault?”
“I’m not here about the machine, sir. Please, come with me.”
He gestured the direction he wanted me to go and I began walking with him behind me, guarding me from getting away. Was this Frederick’s plan? Just arrest me and kill me when I was hopeless? Pathetic.
He led – or rather, followed – me down a flight of stairs into a poorly lit hall in the basement. Wooden doors flanked us on both sides, but as we proceeded further down, the wood was replaced with reinforced metal, with no windows.
“Hey, aren’t you going to read me my rights or something? Isn’t that the law?”
“You aren’t under arrest, sir.”
Well great. Now I was even more confused, and became more worried once I heard the sounds down here. It was like the sound that fluorescent lights make, that irritating high-pitched buzz, but was in a sort of twisted harmony with a much deeper note. And I felt that it was coming from an organic source.
The man stopped me and opened up a door in front of us.
I stepped through the doorway, the four halves of dollar bills crumped into the palm of my clenched left hand. The U.C.F. member – which I would later learn stood for Unofficial City Force – stood behind me and pushed me inside, and beyond the doorway stood five people in a semicircle. Each held a necklace with a stone dangling from the bottom in their right hands. I couldn’t see it, but I felt that UCF member wore the same necklace under his clothing.
After that, I…
Wait, no, we’ve actually gotten to that point in the story now. And I remember what happened next. I think I do. The ketamine was still going strong, so everything had that detached, surreal, fake feeling, but I’ll go with what exists in my memory, trusting that my senses at the time were still in some functioning order, and proceed.
The semicircle the people were standing in was set above a shape etched into the floor, semicircular itself. I felt like I recognized the shape, somehow, but when I tried to look at it directly, to focus on it, I couldn’t. My vision blurred, my attention switched to something – or nothing – else, it was impossible to focus on what the symbol itself was. I could get a general sense of the shape if I looked away from it, if I just saw it in my peripherals, but that was it.
“Hello, eh, Lawrence Cantor, was it?” Frederick’s voice said from within the shadows beyond. “You’re just in time to witness the Milking of the Beast.”