Excerpt from The World Behind the World
Dani was crossing the parking lot that was in front of the apartment building when a scream of terror sliced through the day.
The scream was as out-of-place as a peacock at a gathering of crows. Heart thumping wildly, she looked around for the source of the scream and saw a woman struggling with someone at the foot of the concrete stairs that led up to the second floor of the apartment building. The woman shouted something in Spanish as she managed to free one arm from the attacker's grip. With her arm finally free, she hit her adversary across the face. Her nails left deep red furrows down his cheek. The assailant stumbled back in surprise and the woman seized the opportunity to escape.
As soon as Dani saw the woman's face, she recognized her downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Sanchez. The bottle of soda and the pizza boxes Dani was holding hit the pavement. The soda exploded, like a firecracker on the fourth of July, spraying root-beer everywhere. The pizza boxes and their contents lay scattered, like dead leaves, at her feet. She didn't notice because the unfolding drama had her complete attention.
Though she had no idea what she would do when she reached them, Dani began to run toward them. Only one thought was pulsing through the white noise of terror that filled her mind. Mrs. Sanchez was in trouble and she had to help her. Before she could get more than a few steps closer, the creep grabbed Mrs. Sanchez again. Then everything seemed to happen in the horrible slow motion that is most common to nightmares. Only this was no dream.
The lunatic pulled Mrs. Sanchez roughly against him and sank his teeth into her neck. Her scream was loud enough to hurt Dani's ears. Dani skidded to a sudden halt, her eyes too wide against her suddenly pale skin. The psycho bit deeper. The woman stopped screaming. Her mouth opened and closed like a fish. Blood was spattered across the cement and covering the stranger’s face. Mrs. Sanchez’s struggles became weaker. Soon, her arms fell limply to her sides and her stare took on the far away cast of the dead. The heavy smell of blood hung in the air.
Dani screamed and clapped her hands over her mouth. Her terrified eyes were visible above her fingers. At the sound of her scream, the killer turned his head towards her. He grinned at her, showing his blood stained teeth. Blood dripped from his chin and ran down over his neck and chest. He was stark naked, Dani belatedly realized. He threw Mrs. Sanchez’s lifeless body aside. When her body hit the ground, it made an awful thud-splat sound, like a bag of ice hitting cement. It was a sound Dani would never forget.
She saw several mangled bodies lying on the ground near the first floor apartments and on the landing up above. She couldn't tell if any of the people were alive or dead. Mercifully, she wasn't able to recognize them. There was blood everywhere she looked. The apartment building had become a charnel house of horrors. The maniac laughed and took a step towards her.
Dani forgot to breathe as terror stole through her. She took a faltering step backwards as she tried to get her legs moving. But her body had suddenly become stiff and awkward. The man continued to advance, leaving a trail of bloody footprints behind him. His eyes revealed a madness that was beyond the scope of her understanding. He radiated a palatable sense of evil and hatred. His grin was bone chilling. Dani finally remembered to breathe, but now her breath was coming much too fast. She felt light-headed. She was going to faint! No!
A man came out of one of the apartments. It was Joe Bellman. He was a massive bear of a man having worked in construction all of his life. Dani saw that he was holding a baseball bat and he looked ready to use it.
“Run Dani!” He shouted.
The freak shifted his attention from Dani to Joe and turned to face him. Instead of charging, he made a “come on” gesture at Joe and assumed a defensive stance. Joe rushed forward, bat raised as if he were about to hit a fast ball. The stranger ducked under the swing of the bat and tackled Joe. They both tumbled to the ground.
With the creep's attention shifted to the construction worker, Dani saw the opportunity to help. She saw a large rock on the grass and picked it up. If she could just get close enough, she could knock out that nut ball before he hurt anyone else. Determined not to let her fears win, she started to move towards the two men, but Joe saw her coming and warned her away.
“No, Dani! Run! Go!” The candidate for the local funny farm took advantage of Joe’s momentary distraction and bit his shoulder. Joe screamed and gripped the biter's hair with his free hand, trying to pull him away. Dani realized that there was no way she could triumph against someone who was so obviously insane. She had to call the police. Then she realized that she had left her phone upstairs in the apartment.
Cursing under her breath, Dani tried to figure out how she was going to get past this raving lunatic to the relative safety of her apartment and call the cops in time to save Joe. Suddenly, Shane’s voice spoke in her head, as clearly as if he were standing right beside her. “Be invisible Dani!” Yes! That was it! She had been too scared and disoriented by all the blood and violence to think of it until now.
She could use her power and slip up to the apartment while the psycho was distracted. Once she was inside she would call the police and get them to come down here right away. She just hoped Joe would still be alive when they arrived. Quickly, while the two men were struggling with each other, she slipped into the world that was behind the world. Instantly, the world around her became fuzzy and undefined. Colors seemed to blend together around the edges.
She began edging slowly toward the stairs as Joe punched the other man in the side of the head. The stranger rolled off trying to avoid the construction worker's heavy blows. Joe staggered to his feet and kicked the maniac in the ribs. The toe of his work boot connected solidly. Though he was badly winded, the hard case managed to get up. He gripped a stair railing to hold himself upright. Then he grinned at Joe and used the back of his hand to wipe the blood from his mouth.
Sirens warbled in the distance. It seemed that she wouldn’t need to call the cops after all. She saw Joe looking around for her, clutching his wounded shoulder. When he didn't see her, he ran for his apartment, apparently deciding to let the professionals deal with the crazy-man. Dani was glad that Joe hadn't been seriously hurt.
Dani edged a little closer to the stairs. Though she no longer needed to call the police, she was desperately worried about Shane. She had seen nobody other than Joe. There must have been a lot of noise when the stranger had started on his killing spree. With all the commotion, Shane would naturally have come out of the apartment to see what was going on. So where was he?
When the madman suddenly spoke aloud, Dani felt as if her blood were turning to ice in her veins. His voice was rough and harsh, like a wickedly sharp blade that cut into the dead, still air.
“I’m coming for you, Dani. You and your boyfriends can’t hide from me. And when I find you, I will cut the guts out of you and eat them while I watch you die.”
Dani felt shock as cold as ice. How did he know who she was? Who was he? What was he? Dear god, what was he? To get up the stairs she would have to pass close by him. Her skin crawled at the thought, but she had to know if Shane was alright. She tore her gaze away from the man and inched a few steps closer to the stairs.
A moment later, a dozen police units arrived with lights blazing. They screeched to a halt in front of the complex. Policemen jumped out of the cars almost before they had rolled to a complete stop. There were shouts of “Freeze!” and “Stop right there!” as they pointed their guns at the killer. The crackle of the police radios filled the air.
The man looked toward the shouting policemen. His eyes were empty twin mirrors reflecting the flashing lights of the police vehicles. While his attention was focused on the police, Dani sidled passed him and crept up the stairs. Where was Shane? Was he one of the maniac’s victims? In spite of her sense of urgency, some instinct made her pause.
She stopped and watched from the stairs as the psycho raised his hands in the air. He held very still as several policemen approached him. He offered no resistance as he was handcuffed and led away to one of the police cars where an officer was speaking urgently into his radio. Other policemen were examining the bodies and the areas around them.
Her eyes returned to the freak. He sat in the back of the squad car looking out the window. With a nasty jolt, Dani realized he was looking directly at her even though she was still invisible to the world. His mouth curved in an evil and knowing smile. She saw him mouth the words, “I'll be back.” It was as if he had just been waiting for her to realize that he could see her. But how could he see her? It was impossible!
The cold fear she had felt before was like a mere sprinkle of snowflakes over her skin compared to the large plate of ice she now felt covering her spine. The feeling of familiarity increased and the space where her stomach should have been was an empty void. She watched, frozen in place, as the police vehicle containing the killer pulled out of the parking lot and into the traffic which had slowed to a crawl. The drivers were no doubt busily gawking out their windows at all the police cars and wondering what had happened.
Dani felt deeply unsettled and afraid by what had just transpired. Slowly, she continued up the stairs, afraid of what she might see and equally afraid not to see. Shane’s body was not up on the landing. Instead of feeling relieved, she felt the dread building. Maybe he was dead in the loft. Please, not that! Anything but that! She began to run, her heart racing crazily with fear.
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