BLACKMANE Chapter 42

The faces on the TV screen were arguing. Angry words, like always. The same as she heard on the radio, or read on the Internet. Angry and worried.

Some days, she walked down to the dingy gas station on the corner (maybe not a good idea considering the neighborhood, but sometimes Avni had to have the fresh air) and would buy a newspaper along with her groceries. The words written on the newsprint, in cheap ink that rubbed off on her fingers, those were angry words, too. Angry words, worried, frightened. All the faces on the TV, all the voices on the radio and all the reporters working for the AP. They were all angry.

They were all talking about her.

“What we are seeing here is a blatant repetition of the way men were behaving when they constructed the Tower of Babel.” Right now some fundamentalist preacher was giving his two cents to the head anchor of the evening news broadcast. “Man stepping beyond his bounds, trying to become like unto God Himself! God will not have it!”

“There are those who would argue that much Human life could be saved in the long run,” the anchor responded, “by the implementation of such ‘taboo’ technology. Wouldn’t that make it worth it?”

“The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, Bill,” the preacher responded. “Now these people, these Natarajans, coming as they do from a foreign society, they’re not Christians, so it isn’t surprising that they wouldn’t look at things through a moral Christian focus. That’s why it’s important for all of God’s people to…”

Idiot. Avni clicked the remote, silencing the talking head, switching to another channel, another network.

“…who have examined the creature maintain that it exhibits some degree of rudimentary intelligence.” A woman this time. Perfect hair and painted-on smile. “At the same time, genetics testing has confirmed that the creature does contain both Human and animal DNA, that of a lion, to be specific.”

Avni frowned.

“The creature is undergoing further examination under the care of the World Foundation for Ethics in Biodiversity and Wildlife Conservation and Health, which is the watchdog group given special dispensation by the government to oversee…”

She changed the channel.

“…Natarajans are still at large. The husband and wife team spearheaded the research and development of the recombinant DNA technology that allowed for the alleged production of these controversial animal-Human hybrids…”

Avni clicked the power button and the screen went dark. She sighed. *They don’t know*.

It was so dark in the house, with all the windows boarded up.

*They have no clue where we are.*

Just one more seedy house, maybe a little larger than the rest, but just as run-down and filthy as all the others up and down the street. And those on the next street over. On the lot next door, to the right and past the one dead tree standing sentinel, a few rusted shells of cars sat up on concrete blocks, surrounded by a sagging chain-link fence. To the left, the burned-out hulk of another house had fallen in on itself, now just a pile of blackened timbers and rubble, like the charred bones of some great beast picked clean by vermin and left exposed to the elements. Avni had chosen this place well.

She got up and made her way down the hall—she had never bothered to clear away the old cardboard boxes or empty cans and bottles—to what passed for the kitchen. A sink and refrigerator, some shelves, a microwave oven and the freezer that Amman needed. Nothing more. Cobwebs still hung from the corners.

This filthy house contained the most sophisticated security system money could buy; wires and sensors ran like veins through the peeling walls. Why had she not also had the house cleaned, renovated, made the inside as neat and attractive as the outside was ugly? It would have cost little more time, and little more money. *Because this is not our home. It is only a place to hide.*

Avni had lived in Birmingham before, years earlier. When she’d been an intern at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Some of the finest doctors in the world had passed through the UAB medical center. Some of the world’s finest physicians, living right here in the “Magic City.” But none of those doctors ever saw this part of town. No one else did, either, by choice. Which was why Avni had brought her son here to heal.

But he is not healing, is he? Avni asked herself. *He’s not getting better. He’s getting worse*. She opened the refrigerator and the cold air chilled the tears in her eyes.

By The Evil Cheezman

WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763 MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!

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