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Bloodline

Posted on 2006.09.20 at 03:29
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I'm rewriting the third act of my second manuscript, "Blood Bound," and find myself in that solitary place where the world collapses into the abyss of my imagination. I'm consumed and confounded, torn by that strange mix of loathing and excitement I experience when immersed too long in the dream sea. My skull becomes both palace and prison. I yearn for physical dissolution, an animal release to explode the mental singularity. And I hunger for feedback in a process that I know is months away from completion. With that in mind, I've decided to post a scene from the book in progress, more a character study than Grand Guignal, which fleshes out Lieutenant Noboro Noguchi. Noguci, a homicide detective, is struggling to maintain his sanity in a world where nightmares made flesh are chewing their way through the fabric of reality.  Ken Vaggio, the chief protagonist, is a genetic engineer, who while attempting to create a gene therapy for schizophrenia, unlocked the door to a universe of madness, a hell born of  lust, fear, and rage called the Flesh Field.

In creating Noguchi, I strove to pay tribute to my own Japanese heritage. Though I'm only a quarter Japanese, and you'd never know it by looking at me with my pale skin and blue eyes, the rich traditions of my childhood continue to provide fertile ground for my imagination. The fact that my mother was in an internment camp, Poston to be specific, where the American Dream for an entire race was line-edited by an executive order, constantly reminds me how fragile our lucid dream of America really is. I quake with a mix of horror and rage at the erosion of the right to privacy, at the executive orders of the current administration which seek to consolidate power in that office.  I see human rights trampled in the name of national security, and find proof of the old adage--the more things change, the more they remain the same. So without further ado, I present another scene from "Blood Bound": 


Noboro shuffled up the brick steps of his old brownstone apartment and unlocked the white double doors. He shook the water off his umbrella and stepped into the lobby. Dark oak paneled the walls, giving the room an air of gloomy elegance. Two rows of square pillars with matching oak veneers stood like enormous rooks on the marble, chessboard floor. Above him fans with wooden blades spun despite the cold, filling the lobby with fluttering wings of shadow. At the back of the lobby stood an antique elevator housed in a cage of bronze. He slid back the gate, stepped inside and pressed the ivory button for the second floor. The elevator shuddered and the gears chinked as the elevator ascended. He gazed down at the checkered floor and gave a defeated sigh. He knew he was only a pawn in a game with monumental stakes, and now he was being lifted from the board.

Angelica, she was the queen, and Simmons thought himself a king but was just another pawn. When Noboro met them at Dynagene, Angelica's disdain for the Simmons bordered on revulsion. Simmons' held her in equal contempt, believing himself superior, and tested the strength of his leash at every opportunity. The man had strategic value, but like himself was expendable. So what did that make Vaggio? Not a pawn, not a king, but certainly a member of the royal household. Was Vaggio the court magician then? That role fit him best though no such piece existed. He was a deviant, a red mage, painting a swathe of blood across a world defined by black and white domains. An unseen hand nudged him, but his moves were unpredictable. The game would confound Noboro until he discovered who played from the shadows.

The elevator creaked to a stop and Noboro slid back the gate. He trudged along the balcony, grasping the oak bannister like a man twice his age. In the past three days he had barely slept, and the little slices of sleep he had stolen brought him not oblivion but nightmares. The attack on Kate had been a devastating blow, and the rising body count had left him exhausted. Three or four homicides were being called in every hour, and those were only the ones that people reported. Munoz had disappeared and wasn't returning his calls. To deal with the crisis Noboro had reassigned traffic cops and vice cops, anyone with a badge and a heartbeat. He even pulled in five rookies, just days out of the academy, to help mop up the carnage at Club Sodom. All of them had been death scene virgins. Christ, what a way to bust their cherries.

In all, thirty-seven bodies had been recovered from the sex club. The majority of the victims had been reamed out, as if a giant apple-corer had been thrust between their legs. Noboro had eaten so many breath mints that he'd started sweating wintergreen. If only Kate could have been there to help him work the scene.

But she had been infected by the blood from the tit-caldera, and it was changing her, empowering her, even as it flowed through her veins. He had watched the blood rising from her hands, opening a wound in the air. It was a portal to another world, and he knew it led to the birthplace of the twins with the many mouths. He shuddered, remembering the bloodworms that infested Chung and Webb. Were they even now worming through her heart? Why am I such a coward? Why didn't I tell her I love her before she became something else? He feared death, but not half as much as he feared outliving Kate.

He reached his apartment, unlocked the deadbolt and pushed open the door. Musty air spilled from the darkness, clinging to his face and limbs like a rotten burial shroud. He stepped inside and flipped on the lights. The rain had leaked beneath the window and trickled down the wall. Where the water puddled on the floorboards, the wax had turned milky. He dropped his umbrella into a brass can beside the door and slowly approached the window. Black splotches of mold covered the peeling paint on the windowsill. He had ignored the burgeoning colony of mold when he discovered it two days ago, planning on eradicating it as soon as he had time to buy some bleach. Now the mold had spread like cancer and the air itself was permeated with rot. Mingled with the odor of the mold, was the sour-sweet rancor of fruit going to rot.

He crept across the sparsely furnished room to the three-foot-high niche where he kept his family shrine. On the back of the niche hung a long white scroll inked with Japanese calligraphy. A deflated orange, frosted with mildew, sat beneath it on a square, ceramic dish. In a silver frame to the right of the dish was a black and white wedding photo of his deceased mother and father. To the left of the dish stood a rectangular vase filled with spider chrysanthemums. The once white blossoms were withered and brown, curled up on their yellow stalks like dead versions of their namesakes. Rage made a furnace of his chest and blazed down his limbs. He clenched his fists and trembled. While he'd been chasing death across the city in a losing game of follow the leader, decay had invaded his home and pillaged his sacred space. If he couldn't eradicate the rot from the streets at least he could expunge it from his home.

He picked up the saucer with the moldy orange and grabbed the vase of chrysanthemums. Dried petals rained on the floor as he stormed into the kitchen. He set the vase in the sink and threw the orange into the trash. A green puff burst from the orange when it struck the bottom of the bin. Next he yanked the flowers from the vase and grunted in disgust. Slime dripped from the putrefying stems. He crammed the flowers into the trash and dumped the cloudy water into the sink. The odor assaulted him like an open sewer. He gagged and tasted vomit. He squirted detergent into the vase, filled it with steaming water, and scrubbed his hands as if he were prepping for surgery. The stench of the rotten fruit and flowers lingered in the air, reminding him of all the ruined lives he had bagged that afternoon.

He dried his hands, returned to the living room and raised the sliding window. An icy breeze wafted through the gap. He loosened his tie and gazed at the street. It was quiet down there tonight, disconcertingly quiet. People were staying inside and bolting their doors, whispering prayers they hadn't said since they were children trembling beneath their sheets.

God, don't let the monsters get me!  Please let morning come!

A flashbulb bursts blinded him, triggered by a stab of pain that plunged through the base of his skull. He clenched his teeth, groaning in agony, and clutched the back of his neck. His shirt collar was stiff with Kate's dried blood. More flashes went off as the pain drove deeper. He howled and ripped off his tie. Tears streamed down his face. He shucked off his jacket and unbuttoned his shirt.

The pain doubled. Trebled. His stomach heaved and he ran into the bathroom. He was nearly to the toilet when his legs buckled. Vomit sprayed through his fingers. Streams of it gushed from his nose. He wretched until it felt like his intestines were ripping loose. Finally, the heaving abating, and he crawled over to the sink. He turned on the tap, filled his hand and doused his sweaty face. The pain in the back of his neck dwindled to dull throb. He brought more water up to his lips and rinsed out his mouth. A sickening, bilious sweetness lingered on his tongue.

He reached around the back of his neck, terrified of what he would feel there. A sticky ooze seeped from the lesion which had grown to the size of a dime. Hard ridges ringed the sore, as if the legs of a giant tick were buried in his skin. Oh, God, was that what is was? Had he been bitten by a parasite? He twisted sideways but couldn't see the lesion in the mirror. Something sharp stabbed his fingers. With a yelp, he jerked his hand away and held it in front of his face. Blood welled from two deep puncture wounds on his fingertips. "What the Hell?" The fucking thing had bit him. Sweat streamed down his face, cold and acrid with fear.

Another flash of light blinded him, but this time an afterimage lingered in his mind. Angelica slouched on a marble throne with her arms wrapped around her belly. A kaleidoscope of nightmare images overlapped this scene--a naked corpse in a pool of blood, a bald woman with a rope of intestine wrapped around her head like a blindfold, another woman with a bloated face and a beehive of eyes. The last image eclipsed the others and he saw that one of her many eyes had been plucked from her forehead. The multitude of eyes fixed on him, and her bloody mouth broke into a smile. He screamed, but the sound didn't reach his ears. His mind had already fled into the dark.

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