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"Ye... yes," he said.

The rock in front of him was broken. It looked as if there was a hole, and something had crashed into it. In the darkness, he couldn't see, but it was something metal, something old. It might have been a ship.

We will do the stopping.

Then you will destroy them.

For us.


The Carrion.

What you call them.

Mason squinted, but the darkness was still too thick. "That's what you want, huh?"

First, you will rest.

You will rest a long time.

Your friends will die.

Your loved ones will die.

The world as you know it will die.

He could only stare at this.

It will be painful.

The needle in the back of his head turned, and something in his skull popped. He ground his teeth, the muscles in his body tightening.

"Why me?" he whispered. He wasn't sure if sound actually escaped his lips, but the things in the wall seemed to hear him just the same.

You are the best statistical choice.

Not special.

The best of a bad lot, as you say.

Mason tried to laugh again, but it was too painful. His shoulder ached. His ribs felt crushed, and he knew he had been shot in at least three places. Instead, he grinned, his lip b.l.o.o.d.y with teeth marks.

It will be painful, the voice in his head repeated. Will you scream?

"f.u.c.k you," Mason said.

Will you scream? it asked, its voice implacable.


Screaming will violate the terms of our arrangement.

"Arrangement? Get this c.r.a.p out of me, then we'll talk about our little arrangement. Capisce?"

No. You will sleep.

"Your mother's a wh.o.r.e."

Will you scream? it asked a third time.

"f.u.c.k you, no!" But he wasn't so sure any more. He was starting to think this wasn't a dream. If it wasn't, and this thing was real, he couldn't make promises. Because he knew at some point, no matter how strong you were, you just lost control of your body, and your body would scream all on its own. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he was afraid.

Let us begin.

"Why?" Mason asked.

The enemy of my enemy, it said.

It dragged him in.

And when the scalpels and joint splitters went to work, Mason tried very hard not to scream.


This novel would not have been possible without the loving support of friends and family, especially my wife Kristen, who did more for this book than I can describe. A special thanks also goes to Dave Johnson for his invaluable first draft notes, to Writer's Carnival for their support, and to Matthew Gomez for generally helping to improve my writing.

About the Author.

David Barclay is the author of The Aeschylus and the forthcoming novella, The Maker's Box. He lives in the greater San Francis...o...b..y Area with his wife Kristen.