[Short Story] The It [Excerpt]

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It’s still hard to believe that something so ugly and useless looking destroyed our town in just a matter of days. It turned everyone here into its slaves, and anyone who is immune to it gets killed. That disgusting thing made Karen kill her own husband of twenty years because he said it was controlling our thoughts and making us go insane. Karen loves this thing now like it’s her own kids.

[Short Story] Fantasy Fan Con Panic [Excerpt]

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Back inside, Jack and Crystal eyed the couple from the second story terrace overlooking the hotel lobby. They watched a crowd slowly form around their two targets while they swapped use of the Chem-Thermo goggles that had been provided for them.

Among the crowds of cosplayers interspersed with the banner advertisements and kiosks showcasing the newest trends in manga, anime, and fantasy there they stood among them all. Even dressed in costumes like the other con goers, it was frightening yet intriguing spectacle to see these kinds of predators blending in with the other humans down below.

The vampire looked no older than perhaps twenty as he spun his cape and flashed his fangs for the adoring fans that took photos of him and his poses. The young Dracula cosplay look that he was going for must have been some sort of meta-joke of his, or a blatant invitation for someone to stake him right then and there. Even so, he fit right into the costumed clientele of this particular convention. Crystal zoomed in on him, noticing his thin, smooth, innocent, and androgynous looking face with piercing, pale-blue eyes. Crystal raised an eyebrow as he pouted at one of the cameras that coaxed him for another photo. Under the therm-optic filter his body took on a greyish blue hue in a sea of deep red pedestrians that stood or passed him by.

The succubus — the vampire’s partner — was able to spoof her heat signature better among the crowd, but she also shared her undead boyfriend’s meta sense of humor. She was standing next to him with her bat wings and black horns on full display. They looked real, but could just as well be chalked up to being the product of well done prosthetic make up and accessories. Like the vampire, she had a conventional beauty and confidence in the way she carried herself. She wore armor, but nothing that could be considered practical. It reminded Crystal of Xenia the Warrior Princess, but with a shorter leather skirt. Not much left to the imagination. Jack and Crystal switched to the chemical tracer filter on the goggles and could see that she was already releasing pheromones into the crowd. People who

might have been uninterested in the impromptu photo shoot in the lobby, were now transfixed and slowly growing attached to this attractive couple posing together. On the surface, things looked innocent enough, but Jack and Crystal saw it for what it was: lambs being lead to slaughter in some anonymous hotel room later tonight.

As the crowd grew from a dozen to nearly twenty in a matter of minutes, Jack and Crystal got up from their table and began to walk down to the lobby area. They were dressed in post-apocalyptic duster jackets. A cosplay grab that fit with the eclectic dress code of the nerd convention. As they walked, they fingered the holstered, plastic-looking guns that were actually loaded with silver and holy relic tipped subsonic ammo. They were suppose to take this demon and vampire in alive, but if worse came to worse, the subsonic ammo and suppressors would quietly dispose of them. Jack and Crystal each put on their shades and pulled on their gas masks to counter the vampires hypnosis and the pheromones of the succubus.

Now in the lobby, they walked casually into what was now turning into a fan mob. Not a single person among the crowd of ninjas, transformers, and alien princesses noticed nor raised an eyebrow at the Mad Max cosplay couple making their way to the front to see the vampire and succubus “models” gaining attention.

When Jack and Crystal reached them, the two supernaturals noticed them, and momentarily paused their act. For a split second, it felt like a connection was made between the four of them. Fight or flight began to take hold. The vampire and succubus noticed the gas mask and shades Jack and Crystal were wearing and tensed up. The fear in their eyes seemed to surprise Jack momentarily before realizing that he had already put his hand on his gun.

[Novel] Matriarch [Excerpt]

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It had been awhile since a male had made it outside of one of the reservations, they said. The news was frightening, but not uncommon. It had happened before. Reports had been coming in all morning in the form of retinal uploads onto several gestalts being run by those living near the “old world territory.”

Windell passively let the thoughts of excitement, fear, and curiosity among her friends and followers pass over her like the rise and receding tide of water over a shoreline. The thoughts would come to her in snippets before moving on to the next one.

Is he still alive?

Does he have a beard?

No, he’s clean shaven. Trying to pass as something non-binary.

Has a surveillance drone spotted him yet?

Windell, with a single thought, disconnected, and her implant chirped internally with efficient obedience. She moved on to another one of her default gestalts. More images started to flow in; some in the form of videos. The second batch seemed to be uploaded by those who were brave enough to get a closer look. No longer the one-hundred yard photo uploads from street corners or high-rise balconies. This man was not very smart.

Does he have a gun?

Are there still guns on the reservations?

No way. They’d exterminate the whole territory if they found any.

Has Civil Protection gotten to him yet?

No, but I want to see the cishet try to run.

I got a drone tailing him now if anyone wants to see him. I’m letting the feed go public access through my personal gate.

Windell disconnected again. This was boring to her. Civil Protection will have this supposedly “cis-male” by lunch time. Although, maybe not. A lot of these men were moved to the reservations prior to collective implantation. There was no way to track them in any meaningful way. Civil Protection was down to near-stone age tactics now in order to find him, which meant eye-witness accounts mostly. Same deal as before.

Reflexively, she opened her channels again to see if any new conversations had started.

I remember when I had to cross the street at night to avoid men like him.

He might be rapist of some kind. Do you remember that one victim that was living outside the Eastern Europe reservation?

If private gun ownership were still legal, I’d shoot him before he goes any farther.

Oh, please! You’d lock your door like everyone else.

Disconnect.

Were they seriously still talking about this guy?

Windell had forgotten how much older her friends were compared to her. They were around her age when binaries and non-binaries were still still living together. Before the catastrophe. She was so lucky they told her.

They shared their memories with her. Cities and cultures obliterated in the blink of an eye. The burning of their lungs as they trudged through the ruins of post-nuclear fire. The shaking and fear as strangers looked across the horizon at the kill zones waiting for them. The hunger, the disease, the rapes, the drugs, the helplessness, the numbness, the anger, the rage. All these feelings until there was a collective cry of enough. It was a torrent of atrocity and experiences that left Windell gasping for air after her screams of agony. It took months of psycho-surgery to minimize the world that she saw until it could become just another person’s memories in her head.

It was a Matriarch’s duty to share these horrors, so that the world knew what they had suffered. War, Patriarchy, and Toxic Masculinity had brought the world to the brink of annihilation. It was a more humane, much saner place now.

The world was better, no doubt; but Windell was tired of the past. All of these events had come and gone. Women could walk the streets at night alone. Women did not have to worry about a man abusing her, belittling her, making her inferior to him. Why dwell on what the world was? The Patriarchy was over.

Windell disconnected from the whole collective to be alone as she finished her coffee at the cafe. Full autistic mode. The stream of thoughts that were pouring into her head had stopped abruptly like water being cut off from a spigot. She was alone with her own thoughts, so others couldn’t hear.

There are other gestalts worth following, she thought. Time for newer, younger friends.

Maybe she’d start searching the collective this afternoon or tomorrow. There was nothing wrong with her current friends, but the past was just so depressing. Let them follow that living, breathing artifact. Let them follow him with that drone and watch Civil Protection catch, process, and release him. There were bigger problems, and bigger issues that the world was dealing with now.

The now is what’s important, she thought. Now and the future.

 

[Excerpt] Night Call [Novel]

When the dead talks to the living, one tends to listen to them whether you want to or not. For me, it came in the form of a phone call at 3 a.m., via one of my burner cell phones I had been using that night. The voice belonged to a woman who I was sure I’d never hear from again, but like most clients found themselves dialing my number as a last resort. These calls never fail at being awkward, and was something I was only now starting to get used to. After giving the usual spiel of assurances on my part, she had become much more comfortable with speaking to me in the form of terse orders, and pointed questions meant to test my knowledge in a condescending sort of way with that I obliged with what I thought to be total sincerity while tuning out the rest. It was an obvious, if totally unnecessary power-move on her part to regain some perceived loss of superiority that didn’t matter to me whatsoever. However, given my position, I did have to pretend that it mattered, and play along with the mutual charade accordingly; a charade that was much easier for me to pull off over the phone.

“Are you under surveillance right now?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she told me.

“So will I need your key code to come into your home?” I asked.

“Yes, I’m not…” she paused, “I’m not entirely human right now. I’ll send you the code to the condo so that you can unlock it.”

“Maybe I should wait then,” I told her.

“No,” her voice was a stern venom of persistence over the phone line, “this is a fucking emergency. Get here. Now.”

The living also tend to do what the dead tell them to, whether they want to or not.

The condo was owned by her, or rather, she was living in the condo that was owned by a retainer of hers. Not the kind of retainer that was on my level, nowhere near that important; but he was rich, which is usually enough. I could smell the soft pheromones coming from the door as I walked down the white, brightly lit hallway to the pent house suite. I opened the inner pocket of my jacket and pulled out the thumb-pin-sized syringe containing the inoculation I’d need to take before entering. I quickly shoved the needle into a vein along my arm and just as quickly pocketed the thing. The serum, as well as the pain, was immediate. My body shivered like a cold fever while the serum went through the process of blocking any receptors to my sense of smell or taste for the next four hours. A bit extreme, but my life depended on it. I’d just as well be another victim to them otherwise; another pawn if I breathed in the pheromones long enough or taste something tainted within the condo. I’m more useful to them alive than dead, at least that’s what I tell myself. As an extra precaution, I also preformed the white mage ritual of the inde odor praesidium so that my body would not give off any appetizing scents to my client. I adjusted my suit, and pulled even tighter onto my leather gloves, and use the spare key card to open the door. The key card reader chirped with approval and the wooden door slid open, beckoning me to enter.

Inside I was greeted by a soft, violet haze that told me she had already been hard at work. It took me a few seconds to realize that the serum had made me, thankfully, immune to the miasma, but past years of nearly lethal mistakes allowed to imagine what I was walking into. It would be the classic wall of death’s stench quickly followed by the usual sweet twinge of a demon’s hard work to mask the smell of corpses he or she might have caused earlier. It was a technique that served two purposes: the first being to trap any suspicious smells from oozing out and prompting someone to investigate, and if that didn’t work the miasma would work its magic to turn the curious victims into suggestible, brain-washed zombies whose minds could be wiped or bodies turned into a second meal until a cleaner like myself arrived. Either way, it involved leaving no witnesses. I took a few more steps into the dark and adjusted my eyes to the haze that my client had created throughout the whole condo. I saw the contours of the oak polished hard wood floor and a Persian carpet that lead to the living room area. There was another trail, this time made by discarded clothes that trailed beyond a flat screen T.V to the sliding door leading to a beautiful stone terrace with a working Jacuzzi. I did one more scan to take in the Neo Art Deco interior design of the condo and then I found them.

There were three men lying naked on the living room carpet; all who looked liked they’d all died violently from heart attacks at the ripe old age of eighty, but I recognized them as acquaintances that were no younger than I was. As I got closer to the corpses, I managed to recognizing one of  them crumpled on the floor: I had lunch with him last week as he was talking about his fiance and their plans for a honeymoon in Costa Rica. He told me her name, her age, her job. She had lied to him, of course. He didn’t have a clue, and wouldn’t have believed me if I told him. I had learned to accept these kinds of lies from my clients, especially when they told them to their retainers and my agreements to reinforce said lies. It was simply a reality of the world I lived in. However, the husks I saw nearly turned to ash did not soften the blow. As I looked at the bodies I felt a presence in the room that caused me to swallow and try to stifle the fear and bile building up in my stomach.

I felt around in my suit’s inner pocket for the retractable, electric prod that I’d taken in with me. This kind of client, whether it was demon or vampire, was way more unpredictable in this particular state of duress than in any other situation. Some would be polite enough to open the door and let you in to show you where the bodies are; others, after the reveal, will apologize profusely for the inconvenience (“sorry, we know you like to sleep during these hours” is a common one). However, there are those who will just wait for you to come in and simply watch quietly in the corner while smiling, before they decide you’re next. The worst of them will hide somewhere in their home and wait for you to arrive in order to fulfill a thrill that comes with hunting human prey. Because under those human exteriors of theirs, wearing expensive clothes, and sharing polite conversation lurks a beast trying to control their urge to feed and their willingness to kill to satisfy that hunger. But then again, when it comes to me, they’re not dealing with something completely human, either.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

[Excerpt] Con Job [Short Story]

“…and you don’t have to believe me when I tell you this, but those cosplayers were the biggest sluts I had ever met in my life. All those chicks wearing those vocaloid, school girl outfits and that bikini mercenary shit that’s so popular right now. Yeah, I’ve seen some real babes around here and they will spread their legs for just about anything. You wouldn’t fucking believe it, dude. Dude, you don’t even know, bro. You don’t even know. But they won’t give me the time of day anymore, man, cuz I’m thirty, and I’m not a voice actor, or some web artist, or Youtuber, or whatever the fuck it is they want now. But, dude, everybody gets laid at J-Con. Everybody!”

Amanda and I are sitting across from this guy at our small table. We stare at him blankly in the dub-step speaker blasting, neon framed, black light, darkness of the hotel bar as the anime convention happening throughout the rest of the Omni Tower Hotel enters its third, and final, night in a city that I can’t remember the name of. My cigarette that I was about to light up and enjoy nearly falls out of my mouth; the butt now dangling from a precarious corner in the clutches of my lips. After my first two nights of dealing with the utter bullshit of this temp job involving breaking up fights, drug deals, theft rings, and  following up on over a dozen sexual harassment complaints, this night was supposed to have the potential of being decent before getting subjected to this rant. For the first time in my life, I make face-to-face contact with a guy who openly admits to buying into the “everybody gets laid at J-Con” myth, and he wasn’t some anonymous user on a message board. Despite myself, I smirk at this burned out looking, black clothed, cowboy-goth wearing shades in this dark, loud, dungeon of a crowded bar full of old-school anime nerds, wee-a-boos, and cosplayers.

I turn to look at Amanda, and she’s looking just as tired as we do, with bags under her eyes and her long, blond hair done up in a bun that hadn’t seen a shower since the other night when she got puked on by a belligerent, drunk con goer dressed up as a Transformer. She also came dressed in all black tonight, with her leather jacket and matching steel toe boots (for the purpose of major ass kicking, I guess).

I finger the threads of my dark green suit and dark purple button up shirt, and look down at my black sneakers. I’m proud that my color scheme makes us, as a trio, come off as significantly less fascist looking, or at the very least, less goth, and therefore more approachable. And I say that in spite of our standard issued red lanyards, blue-tooth head sets, and stun guns modded to look like SMG rifles (which seem intimidating, but only fire pellets that pop on impact, sending  a charged, tazer-style shock to the target).

Amanda turns to look at me. She sucks in her cheeks, trying to either hold back a laugh or an insult. She glances back at our fellow partner in con security, shakes her head, and takes out her phone.

“Penny for your thoughts, Amanda?” I ask her while I take out my cigarette, having given up on lighting it.

“I’m thinking…” she says, raising her eyebrows at the screen of her smartphone as she types something into it, “that I should have listened to my mom and finished college.”

“Hey,” says goth cowboy, “it’s fucking real, babe. Some will even stream their shit through VR now. I’ve seen it”

“Virtual reality?” I ask.

“Fuck yeah, dude,” he tells me, “and if you know the right dealer, you can take some LSD while you VR, and it’s guaranteed total immersion. Fuck, do that, but with an MMO, and you can actually fool yourself into thinking you’re an orc mage.”

I hear my phone start to buzz and I pull it out from my pocket to take a look. It’s Amanda,via text:

Hey, this guy’s a fucking creep. Wanna bail?

I look at the text for a few more seconds, trying to come up with something.

“What’s up?” goth cowboy asks me.

I sigh.

“Damien again,” I show my phone to Amanda, pretending to have received a text from our employer, “boss man needs an assist in the dealer room.”

Amanda takes my phone, making sure that goth cowboy can’t see the screen. She looks at it for a few seconds. I imagine her counting to five in her head before saying something.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser