Ombres Malvants: 2) blue pills

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rating: +39+x

"So he knows they don't look quite right, yeah, but he takes one anyway."

Rafael was shouting to be heard over the thrumming bass, and his face flickered from deep shadow to shock white in the strobe light. "And straight away he has the hardest cock ever. Like he could drill metal with this thing."

Joan, pissed out of his mind, laughed too soon at this. Tomàs raised an eyebrow, and he and Xavi waited to hear more.

"Well when the girl sees it, she panics or something - I don't know - but she just walks out, straight out of his apartment," Rafael continued. "So now he's pissed off, standing there with a huge hard-on and nowhere to put it."

Another giggle from Joan, who was leaning heavily on the wall beside them.

"Shut up, Joan," said Rafael. "Anyway, he sits around for a while, probably watches some porn, has a wank, but he notices that it's not going down. This is two, three hours later, and he's still as hard as Ronaldo's abs."

They all pretend to spit at the mention of the hated Ronaldo.

"Next morning it's the same. Eventually he gives in, goes to the hospital to get some help. Well nothing can fix it, right? They do every test they can, and nothing is working. So finally they give him a CAT scan, and then they see it. Inside his dick, down the whole length, there's a set of tiny vertebrae - a complete spine. There's ribs and a sternum - his cock has a whole skeleton inside it, keeping it hard."

"Bullshit!" said Xavi, beer spraying from his mouth.

"It's true," Rafael replied evenly. "This guy had the world's first literal boner!"

They all laughed then, Joan swaying recklessly. Xavi, skeptical as always, wanted to litigate the details, but Tomàs was quieter. Nowadays the line between urban myth and reality seemed porous.

He brought himself back to the conversation. "I think you're full of shit, Raf."

"Two suppliers confirmed it," said Rafael. "They even told me where they got the stuff from. You don't believe I know all the right people?"

He had a point. Tomàs, Xavi and Rafael had been on the force together, before Tomàs left. Raf had been dealing on the side for years, leaning on a network of contacts picked up in his day job.

Tomàs laughed. "You know the people, but I wouldn't believe the shit they tell you. Anyway, no-one needs a pill to get it up when the women here are so hot."

Joan slurred something from which only "hot" and "your sister" were intelligible. Tomàs cuffed him on the back of the head.

"Bring her up again, friend, and …" They both knew threat was empty. As Tomàs' cousin, Joan's drunken cracks about Tomàs' sister were a well-worn part of their friendship.

Joan wandered off to take a piss, and Xavi to get the next round of drinks. Now was Tomàs' opportunity. He leaned closer to avoid shouting over the pounding music.

"Raf, do you know if there is a local supplier for ketamine, midazolam, that sort of thing?"

Rafael's eyes widened slightly. "Really, Tomàs? You know if you want that kind of thing, I can just get you roofies. More effective, in any case."

"Fuck you too, Raf. Not that - I'm talking about something that is used as an animal tranquilizer." If the kid had been drugging the squirrels, the drugs had to be coming from somewhere.

"What kind of freaky shit are you into?" asked Rafael in feigned shock.

"It's for a case." Tomàs had told them he was resigning from the Mossos to become a private investigator. A convenient lie: it gave him cover to do anything and say nothing, and no-one would ask why. The Foundation had approved.

"Sure it is. But you're out of luck. The "k" around here is cut with too much crap. Have you tried any vets?"

"Most of them. Anything else that might work?"

"There's a guy I've heard about, from the US, does special requests. You want his number?"

"Sure, some time."

Then Xavi returned with their beers, so Tomàs changed the subject.

Another dead end. And nothing from the Foundation in two days. What was going on? The frustration, combined with the flashing lights and sonic bombardment, were putting Tomàs on edge.

Joan never came back from the toilets, and they didn't bother looking for him. Rafael danced for a while, then left with some girl - not his girlfriend. By 3am, Tomàs was bored. He and Xavi left the club, strolling back through the streets of El Raval, talking of past exploits.

The old buildings and their shadows gathered closer around them. On this lane, there was an extra shadow. Hanging from a lamppost, swinging in a slight circle, was a human leg, a rope slung around the ankle. Blood had trickled from the thick stump of the thigh, adding a further dark stain in the circle of lamplight.

"Deu meu!" Xavi had stopped dead, looking up.

Tomàs, in contrast, was looking ahead to the shape dangling beneath the next lamp. And the next. And the next.

From the third hung a head, with a neck and one torn off shoulder. Flesh hung in glistening ribbons; stark bone protruded. The face was staring, a single grey feather - perhaps a pigeon's - jammed into each eye.

Xavi was first to speak. "Jesus Christ. That's Raf."

It was: their friend had been ripped apart and pieces hung from every lamppost on the street. But for Tomàs, the impact of that recognition had been overwhelmed by a further realisation. From the corner of Rafael's mouth, like a mockery of a tongue, poked the end of a squirrel tail.

In a tipsy panic, Xavi had run back to the mouth of the street, pulling out his phone to call the police. Tomàs reached up and pulled the tail from his friend's dead lips, then walked quickly further down the lane. On the sixth lamp was an arm. The hand still clutched Rafael's phone.

Tomàs couldn't tell if he was thinking quickly or not at all. Looking to make sure Xavi was still distant, he took the phone, using Rafael's thumb to unlock it and change the passcode. As he let go of the severed limb, the shock, combined with the alcohol, caught up with him. He staggered to the nearest wall and vomited beer and bile, then collapsed next to the stinking mess, suddenly unable to do anything more.

Hours later, after the police arrived and he had given his statement thrice over, after the sun had risen and made the hanging tableau somehow more grotesque in daylight, Tomàs was finally released, and dragged himself back into his apartment. He needed sleep desperately, but first he wanted to look at Rafael's phone.

There were no unread messages, no missed calls - not even from Raf's girlfriend. Scrolling through the contacts, Tomàs saw some names he recognised, but nothing unusual. Until he saw an overseas number - a US code - with the name "dado". Could this be the supplier Rafael had mentioned?

On a whim, he sent out a message. He slept then, awakened by a soft ping from the stolen phone.

hello yes i am dado. what i can do for u?

Tomàs thought carefully, then typed:

Hi. Are you the guy who does special requests?

yes many fine special product available.

great prices. satisfaction guarantee.

u want bring dry cleaning?

No, I can't come to you. I am in Barcelona, Spain.

no prob i have amazon prime deliver anywhere. spain very easy.

u have sick hamster?

I don't understand. I don't have a hamster.

There was a long delay. He wondered if he had said the wrong thing. Finally the message flashed up.

oh ok. many barcelona hamsters, lot orders, so dado assume.

something else 4 u?

u want 2 stop smoking cigarettes?

i have great product like you smoke with no cigarette.

Wait, who made the orders?

hey

how you get this number?

u nefarious agent of dado competitor business?

Shit. Tomàs typed a response as quickly as he could.

No, no.

I'm a customer.

No hamster, but I have a small pet that needs painkillers.

Please can you help?

Another long, agonising delay.

ok dado help u. send you special product for barcelona hamster and other pet.

pet feel, you feel nothing, very good.

do not use on persons or large animal.

delivery tomorrow?

Great. But I'm not at home tomorrow.

Is there an address you usually deliver to in Barcelona?

yes. other package there today

will send u tmw.

cost 30 euro.

dado accepts apple pay.

Feeling a sudden pang of guilt, Tomàs sent Rafael's payment details. A final message gave him the address. An apartment in Barceloneta, near the port. He grabbed an apple from the counter, stopped back to pick up his phone, and headed out.

Somehow it was mid-afternoon already. Tomàs walked the cramped streets of the Barceloneta district, smelling salt and fish-guts. Once he found the address, there was little to do but go up. This was as close to a lead as he was likely to get.

The apartment building was decrepit, narrow stairs behind the unlocked front door. He walked past them to the ground floor apartment, noting the mildewed hallway. Wishing he still had his gun, Tomàs knocked.

The man who answered was short, wearing jeans and a garish Hilfiger polo. Cheap sunglasses were lodged in his gelled hair. Tomàs glimpsed a barren room behind him, populated with cardboard packing boxes and lit with a bare bulb.

"Who gave you this address?" the man said, roughly.

"A friend. He said you could hook me up."

The man's top lip curled in suspicion, but he let Tomàs in. No-one else was visible in the apartment; there were no windows. The boxes sat unopened in the dust. Too many just for tranquilising squirrels. What else were these people doing?

Locking the door, the young man turned to Tomàs. He started brusquely, "If you're here, we both know what you want. We can help you get it. But you're either in or out, right now. No questions, no bullshit. Understood?"

"Okay," replied Tomàs.

"This is your last chance. No turning back. Believe whatever you want to believe, but you take this, and I show you how deep this shit goes."

The man held out one hand. In it was a capsule, the colour of fresh blood.

Tomàs choked down a laugh. Was this shithead quoting him The Matrix?

He saw the man react, knew he had to speak. "Shouldn't you offer me a second pill to choose?" was the best he could muster.

It was the wrong response. The man was instantly on edge. "You fucking police?" he barked.

There was no way to recover the situation; he would have to be direct. Tomàs started forward, the man dropped the capsule, and they grappled, crashing into piles of boxes. The man wasn't trained, and Tomàs almost had him in a chokehold, when the room's bulb flickered rapidly and suddenly all sound seemed dampened and spongy.

The man gasped, "It's coming!"

In hesitation, Tomàs relaxed his grip. The floor seemed to slide diagonally away, and he fell. The man seemed to anticipate this and slipped from his grasp, kicking wildly and catching Tomàs on the temple. Spots in his vision, he saw the man escaping through the front door as the room swam.

When his thoughts cleared, Tomàs was lying next to the red capsule, unsure of how much time had passed. His watch and phone now disagreed on the time. There was no natural light. The air in the room felt slippery, like it was his mind that had fallen earlier, not his body. This was not a good place.

The door was locked. No amount of hammering at it produced a result. Tomàs got his phone out again, and realised with horror that he had picked up Raf's by mistake. He had no way to contact the Foundation, and calling anyone else would reveal his theft to the police. His mind was starting to race through possibilities when the bulb flickered again and went out.

Trying to breathe slowly, Tomàs lit the phone's torch and searched for an exit. Every room was stacked with mismatched boxes. It was very quiet. Lit only by the torch, the apartment felt large, larger than was possible for the building. Finally, in a back room, there was a wooden door.

He reached out for the handle, and the whole door rattled and shook. Tomàs sprang back. A low wet growl rumbled on the other side. Something was out there. Something big. There was a confused motion, half-visible, at the bottom of the door, but no definite shape.

The greasiness in the air had increased. A heavy thump shook the doorframe. Another, harder. Scrambling to the far side of the room, Tomàs tried to think of a way out. He looked up at the boxes. Cardboard wouldn't stop whatever was trying to get in. The door shook with another blow. A package, dislodged from the top of the pile, fell next to him. An Amazon package.

There was scuffling at the base of the door. Heavy, rapid breathing - a snort - and a chittering noise, like a cricket's wings rubbing. Tomàs snatched at Raf's phone.

U there?

help

this is dado yes.

oh, already help u. pls wait until product arrive. goodby.

No please something else

Already have product - need help

Nothing for what seemed like forever. The door banged again, and the room seemed to sway, as if Tomàs was in the hold of a boat. The red capsule rolled down the floor towards him, and he grabbed it. He smelled a sick sweetness. Was it growing hotter?

Just as he had lost hope of a response, the phone glowed.

wow. amazon prime even better than advertise.

great capitalist business. dado send flowers to bezos.

what ur question?

Animal problem. Angry. Can i use your pills

no. u not use.

maybe try give to animal.

His frustration was abruptly cut off by another thud. The doorframe creaked, splintering at one corner. Tomàs tore open the parcel. Inside was a yellowing tupperware box, holding a cluster of blue tablets. The lid read "dado sleepy pill for animal party". Tomàs tried to calm his breathing.

Its a big animal, ok?

yes sure be fine. method adapt to animal type

R u certain? u said not to give to big animals

3tla5ol12

What?

sorry hamster on phone.

The door shuddered, and a corner snapped off. Behind it, Tomàs could see a dark, writhing mass. The stench was stronger. Another crash. The top of the doorframe fell.

Is it ok?!

u trust dado?

The phone's light faded as its battery died. Tomàs looked down at the pills in one hand, the red capsule in the other. The growling and chittering beyond the door had thickened to a constant roar. On the next blow, the door gave a thunderous crack.

He closed his eyes and flung the handful of blue pills at the bottom of the doorway.

For a second, the frenzied noises continued. Then silence. Tomàs' ears rang.

All at once, the temperature dropped. Tomàs felt the hair on his arms stand on end, and the dim light from behind the door showed his breath frosting.

The warmth was being sucked out of the room. Clouds of condensation vented through the cracks in the door. From beyond it came a hissing, bubbling cacophony, rising to a hideously human shriek. It twisted into convulsive retching, the scrabbling becoming frantic. A tide of ichor was flowing beneath the door, the black bile freezing almost as it issued, as the water vapour froze on the door itself. It creaked ominously, then shattered inwards.

Tomàs tensed, expecting to be mauled. Finally, slowly, he looked up.

The doorway was a frozen shell, lined in a dark, icy sludge. On the other side only frozen shards, mismatched parts of a dozen creatures at least. Whatever it had been, it must have splintered its freezing carcass in its spasms. As the air warmed up again, thawing shreds of limp flesh fell from the walls.

Beyond the remains was a wooden staircase leading down. Only one way out. One way to know what the hell was behind all this.

Cautiously, blindly, Tomàs walked downwards into the dark.

(To be continued)







Thanks to djkaktus for coming up with the unstoppable dado, who has been massively fun to write. Please go read their entry to this round, with dado’s perspective on this conversation.

Thanks also to PeppersGhost for setting up the Original Character Tournament.

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