Looks like it's a five-parter. Here's part three.
Part 4: Narwhal
The narwhal tusk was beside a fireplace in the room where the unicorn tapestries were hung. The tusk was long, and it was elegant--a sharp spike, a deliberate point, an answer to the question ‘why’.
James and Cobble entered the room. They were making their way through the Cloisters castle.
“Narwhal,” James said.
“What?” Cobble asked.
“Narwhal. Look.” James pointed to the tusk. Cobble tried to not seem annoyed--James had insisted on coming to the Cloisters, had insisted Cobble accompany him, had oooh’d and aaaaah’d over obscure medieval trinkets, and was now standing in the same room, a few feet away, with one of the most famous works of art in dorm-room decoration history. However, James was ignoring the unicorn tapestries. He was instead pointing at a tusk.
“It’s gorgeous,” James said.
“The light in here is terrible,” Cobble replied.
“It’s a castle. They didn’t have track lighting in 1400.”
“They didn’t have a snack bar either, but we just spent 20 bucks on two sandwiches.”
“Narwhal. Tusk.” James smiled. Touched Cobble’s cheek. “Thanks for coming with me, by the way.”
“I get it. It’s a tusk.” Cobble gestured to the tapestry. “Oh look, it’s the most famous thing in the museum. Why aren’t we looking at it?”
James flicked his eyes to the tapestry--a unicorn trapped in a flimsy fence. “He looks comfortable. And his horn is mythic. This one is real.” James pointed at the narwhal tusk again. “Unicorn fake. Narwhal real.”
“Both horny,” Cobble said.
“Ha-ha.” James moved to the unicorn, struck a dramatic pose, pretended to be awe-struck. “Happy?”
Cobble was. He’d always loved the piece, which was one in a series of tapestries depicting the hunt and imprisonment of a unicorn. And he was loving James, standing in the dark stone room, and he was loving the people who were in the room with him, and he was loving the morning light sneaking in through the gothic windows.
“Fine,” Cobble said. “Gonna take a picture of you.”
“Please do.” James moved to the side of the tapestry. Brushed a hand through his hair. Cleared his throat for effect.
Cobble retrieved his camera from his pocket, pointed it at James, and was about to tell him to smile when a thing--no other way to describe it--a thing grabbed James, pulled his chest to the left, his hips to the right, and suddenly James was in two pieces and his blood was on the tapestry.
Strange, Cobble thought.
Shit, Cobble thought.
Narwhal, Cobble thought.
The thing was human.
It happened quickly: James was split like an atom, blood spraying into the weak morning light. The camera flashed, then fell to the floor. The thing, the human, stood in the blood and the entrails and the whatever-else of James’s insides. The thing was wearing a blue blazer, khaki pants, had skin the texture of bad papier mache, teeth the color of burned coal, eyes the color of rubies, and its breathing sounded like the asthmatic fat kid from Cobble’s 5th grade gym class.
Without thinking, Cobble grabbed the narwhal tusk and shoved it into the thing, the human. He felt the point pierce the thing’s chest, shatter its breast-plate, slide into the heart. Now he was in a room with panicked tourists, a decidedly dead James, the unicorn tapestries, and a pissed off, not-dead thing. The narwhal tusk jutted from its chest.
“Should probably run,” Cobble said.
“No shit,” someone responded, pushing past him.
Here’s what will happen: Cobble will not make it to Elena’s building in time to stop Mrs. Guzman from ripping out Elena’s throat. But Mrs. Guzman will not rip out Elena’s throat.
And, not that it’s much of an issue, but Mrs. Guzman’s daughter, Agatha, will never learn that her father left her mother.
Also, even less of an issue: no one will ever learn why Elena’s water was the color of urine, was foul. The reason, in case you’re wondering, is rather boring: the city’s water supply was clogged with thousands of rotting, shredded corpses. No water purification system on earth could filter away such impurities. Elena’s coffee was made with the putrefaction of New York’s latest disaster.
‘Putrefaction’ is a strangely delightful word to type.
One other thing: no one would ever learn what happened in New York. No one would ever understand why humans became vicious, mindless, murderous creatures determined to tear one another limb from limb because the humans retaining their ability to ask ‘why’ were too busy avoiding the humans who’d stopped asking why, who’d stopped caring about reason and instead simply ‘did’. They ‘did’ as much as they could, from coast to coast, acting on impulse, and the impulse was to rip and tear and bite and destroy.
Elena stood in her apartment doorway, one shaking hand pressed against her doorjamb, her fingertips coated in blood. She still thought the red smears were from paint. She didn’t know the red smears were once on the inside of the Carter kid, who had rushed to her apartment out of fear and had been ripped apart by Mrs. Guzman.
Elena thought the hallway leading from the door to her living room was beautiful.
So much sunlight. The sunlight rushed in through the living room window, tripped over her green chair, washed across the wood floor, made everything glow white. The hallway was a tunnel of light. And at the end of the tunnel, should she choose to go into it, was a cup of sugarless coffee, sitting on the counter in the kitchen, a foul cup of coffee that would warm her as she sat in the green chair to read Dickens through a magnifying glass.
Elena took a step into the hallway.
Mrs. Guzman lurched forward as well.
Half a mile away, Elena’s grandson dodged a treelimb which had fallen to the street. It was burning. Everything was burning.
Elena took another step. Her joints hurt. She needed to sit for a moment, rest for a while.
Mrs. Guzman took another step. Ruby eyes. Black teeth.
The cup of foul coffee, by the way, continued to sit on the kitchen counter, waiting to be consumed or dumped down the sink’s drain.
When Mrs. Guzman attacked, finally, Elena moaned.
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