Note: This is part ten in a multi-part story based around the events leading up to the containment of SCP-2982. It is recommended that you read the previous entry Forgiveness first, or start from the beginning At the Library. You can even take a look at Golan too, for a tale based on one of the tests of the SCP object.
The story so far… Helen Gwandoya and Aidan Brown are just two of many blackmailing victims of Harold Maine, a petty, unambitious man who has a mobile phone that can change people in gruesome ways. Even though the phone gives him almost unlimited power, he uses it almost exclusively to extort money from his associates and neighbors.
Thanks to Maine, Helen is thalidomide impaired, and her daughter has been murdered by Aidan, an ordinary man turned grotesque, invisible half-man half-lobster paedophile by the same man. Nevertheless, the two are forced to act together if they are to escape Maine's clutches, and manage to enlist the help of another victim, ex-radio presenter Geoff Mansani, who Maine has altered so that everything he says is autocorrected.
Between them, they come to the realisation that they will never be free as long as Harold Maine lives.
Unfortunately for Helen Gwandoya and Aidan Brown, Geoff Mansani is also working for Maine…
"We do this now."
"I don't know," said Aidan. "Maybe we should - "
"I'm not giving you a choice," said Helen. "We do this now. The last thing he'd expect is for us to strike him at home. We finish this. We get rid of him and then - "
"What? What then? We go back to normal? We get arrested? We stay as we are?" Even in the relative safety of Helen's home, Aidan's voice was hushed.
"You can't get arrested," Helen countered. "Nobody can see you."
Aidan took a swig of whisky, the platelets on his face clicking in appreciation. He savoured the taste before swallowing, allowing its warmth to permeate itself through his corrupted, nonesuch system.
"He can see me," he said finally. His claws clacked and closed fitfully. "He'll fucking see me and everything will be lost. What if he can read my mind? How do you know he can't do that right now? How else would he know about us?"
"I don't know," Helen admitted. "What would you suggest? Do you think waiting is a good idea? I sure as hell don't see him getting any weaker as time goes on. And I sure as fuck don't see us getting any stronger."
"So what's the plan?"
"We go to his place. I knock on the door. He opens it. You burst in, I leave. You find out how he does what he does. We know he overwrites something, you find out what. Make him change us back. You kill him. You leave. How you do it is up to you, but I can't be there. I can't watch."
"That's the plan? You knock on his fucking door? And then a crippled monster who can't even fucking walk without sticks, is expected to somehow interrogate and then kill him? How? Bad fucking breath? Jesus. What if he's got company? What if he's out? What if I can't do it and he screams and people come? Jesus - what would he do to me after that? What would he do to us?"
"You think it would be worse than it is now? I don't have hands anymore. I don't have a daughter anymore." Helen rounded on Aidan. "And you - you're a half-crustacean child-murdering paedophile. We live in dread every minute of the day. There is no release from this. How does it get worse?"
Aidan shrugged and leant forwards, massaging his apologetic lung. "I don't have answers," he said. "What about the fan club? There might still be others like us. We could band together."
"We tried that," said Helen. "Dont you remember Olivia Hulme? The self-harmer? We're not X-Men. Even if we found somebody - and you know that won't happen now - what could we do? Everyone's too scared to help."
"Not everyone," said Aidan.
"True," said Helen. She turned to the third person in the room, the one person who had yet to speak. "You're the only person who's on our side. What do you think?"
"I think type rockery, " said Geoff Mansani. "I think you're rockery." He stopped and gathered himself. "Rockery… Right."
Aidan straightened up again, his good hand forming a fist and kneading the small of his back as he did so. "Jesus, it fucking aches," he complained. Mansani continued, ignorant to his presence. "The VB last told me exodus CV is an CV aural on his own turf… "
Aidan snorted in derision. "Wow he's on your side," he said, "Hold the front page."
Helen disregarded him. "Carry on, Geoff," she said.
"Itself the lady thing he'd elect," he said. "Last… thing… he's expect. Am attack on gotta own peppery…. On… his… pen… own… property."
"That's easy for you to say," Aidan said, and a noise like ruined laughter came from his throat. Helen shot him a warning glance. "Oh come on," he said. "And anyway where's he going to be when the shit hits the fan?"
"Doesn't matter," said Helen. "Whatever help he can give - " she turned quickly to Geoff - "you can give, will be appreciated. Even if you're just the lookout. Whatever you can do, we'll take."
Geoff Mansani pulled something from his jacket. A stubby black cylinder with prongs at the end. Aidan Brown's good eye widened in amazement. "Fuck me," he exclaimed. "Is that what I think it is?"
Geoff placed it carefully on the coffee table. "It's a trader… tray… razer… Fuck. Silecroft socks. Electric socks. Shocks."
"A taser?" Helen asked. Geoff Mansani nodded. Aidan whistled.
"Guess that swings things back in our favor," Helen said. "Ok - come back here before seven. We'll finish this before the dawn."
"Jesus H Christ," said Aidan. "This is madness. How the fuck do you expect this to work?"
Helen shot him another withering glance and he raised his claws in capitulation. "Okay," he said. "Okay. You win."
"He won the see another sunrise," Geoff said.
"No," Helen agreed. "He won't see another sunrise."
Geoff Mansani nodded silently, thinking about his last conversation with Harold Maine. Less than a week ago the man had woken up, shit-covered and terrified, and demanded that Geoff come round straight away. He had suffered the most vivid nightmare, Maine said. He had been attacked in his home by Helen and Aidan, and they had literally turned him into excrement. He had come apart, flesh turning to dollops of dung as he watched, and - as Helen, the love of his life walked away - the lobster monster had dragged him into the tiny bathroom and flushed him away forever.
Just a dream, but horrific nonetheless.
Maine trusted Geoff Mansani, he said. He had told him that if he helped foil such an attack in the future, he would give him his voice back. Hell, he would make him a star. So now, with just such an attack mere hours away, the ex radio presenter had a difficult decision to take. He had promised to help Maine, and if he did, he would be relatively safe - but he would never be free.
He looked at Helen, at the ruin of her arms and hands. At her hollow, sunken eyes. She had been crying a lot, he realised. The rape and murder of your only child would do that to you, he thought. His eyes went involuntarily back to her birth defects. Her disfigured, malformed fingers, her tiny t-rex arms.
He shook his head, the road suddenly clear, and made his choice.
"You can VB reply… VB relying… rely CV on me," he said.
Carol Paris waited in the unmarked car. The sun was low in the sky, a baleful beacon in the gathering dusk. "Come on," she whispered. "What's going on?"
A heavily built man gestured for her to wind down her window. She shook her head. He brought out from his jacket an ID badge and held it for her to see. He came round to the passenger side. She opened the door, and Lieutenant Dimitri huffed into the seat next to her. She repeated her question. "Always wondered what you look like," she said. "What's going on?"
"Things have come to a head," said the agent. "Our hand is being forced. Shame, because we were about to put covert surveillance in place. Too late now - we waited too long. Oh, and Caruso says he told you so."
"He did, did he?"
"It's no secret he wanted a Meet and Greet weeks ago. He doesn't know why we had to - "
"He doesn't know a lot of things," Carol said. "Leave it at that…"
"Damned right, okay. So what's going on now? Why the sudden activity?"
"F1 and M2 have just turned up at Harold Maine's apartment. MTF is on its way, they should be there any second. Hopefully they're not too late."
"Christ," said Carol. "Time is 21:17. We'll be there in ten if the traffic's good."
"Yeah. I just hope whatever made us hang back with this one was worth it."
Helen stood at the main door of Harold Maine's apartment block and looked at the watch Mansani had bought her just for this occasion. Eight thirty seven. Aidan and Geoff Mansani had gone ahead of her, walking quietly and anxiously up the stairs to the fifth floor, lost to the gloom in the badly lit hallways.
The plan, such as it was, was simple. Aidan and Geoff would go first and hide around the corner of his apartment. There was no danger of Aidan being seen, after all, although the smell would sooner or later give him away. Helen would follow them up and knock on Maine's door. Surprised at her visit, Maine would allow her inside. Aidan and Geoff would burst in and overpower Maine. Helen would leave and the two men would try and drag out as much information from Maine as they could about how he performed his grotesque miracles, and make him change them back. Then they would kill him. If they could leave with the source of his power, so much the better. Otherwise they risked it falling into the hands of someone else, and they still wouldn't be free.
It would look like an accident, so there would be no struggles, no screams, no police involvement.
Eight thirty-eight. It was time. She pushed open the front door and walked in as confidently as she could. Sounds of televisions turned up loud to hide the neighbors' arguments. Cheap carpet, badly painted walls. The scent of cigars, cheap cigarettes and joints. She walked up the first flight of stairs to the second floor. There were wonders right here in this building; monsters both human and otherwise; malevolent, horrific miracles that defied understanding. That the mundane and the grotesquely fantastical could live side by side so easily beggared belief.
The third floor. Damp on the walls, mould forming in the corners where the moisture gathered. Less noise. A TV or two, and a sound system pumping out aggressive, misogynistic music. She proceeded onwards and upwards.
The fourth floor. The air seemed heavier - no, that wasn't right. It felt like it was thicker somehow, as if there was some anomalous force in effect that slowed her movement and made her fight for every new intake of breath. She looked at the mould thriving and plotting in the corners, could almost see the spores spreading like gossamer-thin threads along the walls and ceiling. She was breathing them in, she thought, and she closed her eyes and envisioned her lungs blackening with damp. She felt it worm its way into her bloodstream, felt her body temperature drop as the filaments took hold within her.
Get a fucking grip, she said to herself. She looked up; the mould was just mould, the black patches just that - but the sense of dread, of active, alert malice, did not leave her.
The fifth floor. This was it. Harold Maine's domain. There was a grimy, clingy feel to the air, as if countless years of cigar smoking hung invisibly in the corridor. Once again she found herself fighting to breathe. The carpet was grubby and damp. There were unidentifiable shapes within the weave that giddied her senses. She looked back down the hall, saw the ceiling light flickering in the gloom. Dust motes drifted lazily in the small circumference of ungloom, swirling randonly like deep sea protozoa. It felt like she had somehow found herself on the sea bed. And wouldn't that be appropriate, for a lobster man and a woman who's hands were more in keeping with something crawling on the ocean floor? The patterns on the carpet spoke of chasms and unfathomable, dank darkness, of things hidden and waiting and hungry in the depths of the world. Was this why the air felt so heavy - because she was underwater, and an ocean of weight was above her?
She pushed the images from her mind as best she could and counted down the numbers on the doors. Thirty nine, forty, forty-one… forty two. She stopped. Unlike the others, this door had a heavy metal grille placed over it, locked from the inside. She listened for a moment - there were sounds of life inside. A radio, running water. Metal on crockery.
She knocked on the door, vaguely aware that she was almost about to lose control of her bladder, and waited for a reply. Around the corner, she hoped, Aidan and Geoff were poised to strike.
There was movement inside the apartment. Noises getting louder as the occupier grumbled his way towards the spyhole. The plan was shit, she realised. It had zero chance of working. Her only hope was to flee. She was about to run, no longer equal to the task ahead of her, when the door swung open inwards and the monster she had come to unravel revealed himself. It regarded her initially with surprise, then greed, then suspicion through the locked grille. It was a creature of few words.
"Fuck," said Harold Maine. "What the fuck are you doing here?" He peered over Helen's shoulder into the hallway behind her. "Fuck," he said again. "You alone?"
"Yes," she replied.
"You look nervous," he noted.
"I… wanted to talk to you," Helen offered.
"I was hoping that maybe we… I feel so alone. Since Angela died."
"Oh yeah," Maine grunted. "I heard about that." She felt his gaze drift down to her ruined arms. "I'm sorry for your loss," he said, but he licked his lips with absent minded wanting.
"It's - I can't talk out here."
"Yeah," Maine said. His eyes narrowed. "Something smells… fishy, doesn't it?"
"I don't know," Helen said, her heart suddenly pounding in her chest. Christ, she thought. Please don't see through this. Maine watched her bosom heave, entranced by the rise and fall. "I just knew I had to come here," she said. The words almost failed her.
Around the corner, Aidan's legs shook. Just open the fucking grille.
Maine pondered. He had always wanted her and she was here at last. Helen Gwandoya fought the surging panic; she knew she looked terrified and vulnerable, broken and desperate. That's what Harold Maine would want, that's what he would expect. Her one chance at entry into the apartment depended on lust overpowering common sense.
Around the corner Geoff Mansani and Aidan Brown gave one last prayer to whatever gods still cared for them, and steeled themselves for the horrors ahead. The time was upon them. The time of reckoning.
Maine raised his eyebrows and clicked his teeth. Then, his eyes never leaving her, he unlocked the grille and cast another look around the hallway. Satisfied that she was indeed alone, he pushed the metal frame outwards. "You'd better come in," he said.
The metal grate swung open. The apartment beyond was dark, illuminated only by a silent television and the neon signs outside. Maine wiped his forehead as he beckoned her in. "This must be my lucky fucking day," he whistled, and Helen Gwandoya crossed the boundary silently. Behind her, an ex-radio jockey and a blasphemous, crippled child murderer checked one last time for witnesses, and swung around the corner.
Harold Maine had minutes to live. He would be found dead by a secret organisation, his head lodged face down in the toilet, apparent victim of a bizarre accident. He would not be missed or mourned.
Geoff Mansani picked up his pace. He knew the lobster thing was right behind him, although he could neither see nor hear it. He held the taser under his jacket, reassured by its weight, and counted down the door numbers. Forty five, forty four, forty three. He reached forty two just as Gwandoya disappeared inside. The neighbors left or right or above or below would not call the police or raise the alarm, no matter what ungodly noises they heard. And if the police did come, they would be waylaid and distracted. A mother suddenly screaming for a lost child, a dispute between brothers that would spill out into the corridors and slow things down. There would be confusion and chaos. They knew what was expected.
And so did Geoff Mansani. He grabbed the metal grille even as Harold Maine swung it shut and pushed past Helen Gwandoya. He could feel Aidan Brown's presence behind him, hot and damp and vengeful, and he guessed that Maine could see him too. Why else would he have just lost control of his bladder, if not at the sight of the lobster thing at his door? His next words confirmed it.
"You!" Harold cried, and his face was white with fear. Aidan Brown pushed past both Helen and Geoff and grabbed Maine by the throat. He turned back to Helen and panted, "Get out. Go!" She looked at Mansani briefly; he was readying the taser, waiting for Aidan to bring Maine down. Although Maine struggled, he was undone by Aidan's extra bulk, his vestigial legs and carapace weighing down the man even as he cried out in alarm. He sank to the floor with a shriek.
Aidan looked back at her again. "Go!" He shouted, and this time she obeyed, but not before one last glance; Geoff Mansani was standing over the two entangled on the floor, taser in hand, ready to deliver the incapacitating blow. Each of the three looked more terrified than the others.
She fled the apartment in tears. Suffering was suffering, no matter how well deserved. The door slammed shut behind her and she half ran, half stumbled down the corridor and down the stairs until she reached the bottom; she sank down sobbing onto the floor, gasping for breath, and waited for damnation or deliverance.