Hematophagy, Pt. 16

“Manny,” I said with a calmness that belied my desire to murder the grinning fool before me. “ I’m going to ask you some questions, and I want some straight-forward answers. I’m in kind of a bad mood, and I really don’t want to ask twice.”

Manny’s grin widened. “The wise man doesn’t ask at all, for he knows he doesn’t want to hear the answers. It is the common man who asks once, and the fool that asks twice.”

I blinked once, twice. I stepped up to the desk, leaned over it, grabbed Manny by the front of his shirt, and pulled him out of his chair and onto his desk. “Start talking,” I growled. “Tell me about the book. Tell me about ‘the kiss.’”

Manny just kept smiling, his arms limp at his side, his body dead weight in my hands. He didn’t even try to resist. He didn’t seem to be aware that he’d moved at all. I had a vision of him sitting in that chair for a week, not eating, not moving, not blinking, just shitting and pissing his pants, enthralled to whatever dark visions his blank gaze alone could see. “They kiss the ones they love. That’s what a kiss is supposed to be, ain’t it? A sign of love.”

Like two machine outside of conscious control, my right hand moved around to the back of Manny’s head and my left hand moved over to his shoulder. I slammed his face into the desk. He grunted, a noise that sounded more like surprise than pain, even as I pulled his head back by his hair. The thin trickles of blood that had been leaking from his nose had turned into rivers, and the whole thing was bent at an unnatural angle. His eyes were the worst though. They alternated impossibly fast between dilation and constriction, like they were trying to focus on some distant object in some differently lighted room and utterly unable to do so. But more than that, desperation had crept into them. Manny whimpered, not like he was in pain, but with the fear of a child suddenly threatened with having his favorite toy taken away from him. All of this I took in in the space of a few seconds, and I resolved not to let any of my thoughts show on my face. “Ready to start making sense?”

His eyes snapped onto my face, and for the first time, real emotion registered there. I felt like he truly saw me, like he wasn’t just a sleepwalker interacting with a world he barely understood. “You fucking bastard,” he said, his voice low, each word spit from his mouth. “Oh, you bitch. I’m–”

I slammed his face into the desk again. He screamed this time. “Talk.”

“They’re going to–”

Another scream. “Talk.”

“The observatory!” Manny choked out. “The observatory! They told me to tell you the observatory!”

“When?”

“I don’t know! Tonight! They didn’t say when! They just told me that you’d come see me and when you did, I was supposed to send you to the observatory!”

“Who. Is. ‘They?’”

Manny whimpered. Whatever bravado and conviction had been empowering him before were soaking into the desk along with his blood. One little beating and he was back to being a scared, sniveling kid. “The voices,” he said. “Just… the voices. I told you what I was supposed to tell you. Won’t you just leave me alone? I just want to hear them again, that’s all. I just want to hear.”

I shoved him back into his chair and grunted in disgust. The whole thing tipped over, spilling him onto the floor where he scrabbled ineffectually to crawl away and stand up and right himself all at once. “Why me?” I asked. “Manny. Fucking look at me. Why me?”

He turned his head from side to side, drops of blood and snot and tears shaking loose, a gross parody of a dog shaking itself dry. “I just want to–”

“Manny!” I said, my voice as loud and sharp as a gunshot.

“They asked for you! They asked for you by name! They did, I swear, but they didn’t say why! Please, that’s all I know!”

I snorted and turned to leave. “Goddamn junkie,” I muttered under my breath.

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