1 : a series of events or facts told or presented
2 : a usually imaginative narrative of an event
The Little Bookshop of Horror, by
"Look, look, I told ya this was the place, now lemme go!"
The canine squirmed and pulled again the handcuffs that bound
him, though it did him no better than any of his previous
efforts. The dark furred, almost black, dog was as tall as
the tips of Alvin's long ears were he to put them up right,
which made the informant nearly a head tall than Alvin. Despite
the height difference, Alvin handled the bound mutt easily
-- the fellow has half-starved.
"Shut up, Leroi. I will let you go once I've got what I want."
Alvin looked at the building Leroi had led him too. The side
street leading to the tiny parking lot would have been easy
to miss without having dragged Leroi out as a guide. This
far out from the center of town the buildings were low and
sparse, the whole area no longer maintained. In the hot sun,
a few half-dead trees and bushes kept struggling along around
the perimeter of the flat, squat building.
The training as a Changeling Control Divison officer came
to the fore as studied the structure. The beige color was
part of the concrete construction, built for minimal maintenance.
There were no windows anywhere on the building he could see,
and just one personnel entrance and one cargo entrance. The
building almost reminded him of a military bunker, but not
quite. Pulling Leroi along with him, Alvin walked over to
a where a sign had fallen over in the parking lot and lifted
it with one large rabbit foot.
"Telephone company property...?" Alvin considered. "Must
have been the central office for the town." He studied the
building again and considered what he knew of networking equipment.
"Probably had its own generators, climate control... secured
access." He mentally reconsidered his opinion of the situation.
He had had his doubts about a single woman running a ... business
this far out by herself, but this was a good choice of buildings
to do it from. "Come on."
"Please, man, lemme go, isn't this enough?" Leroi practically
whined as Alvin dragged him over towards the personnel entrance.
Alvin noted that the cargo entrance had been partially bricked
over with bricks and concrete to create a low barrier. There
was a small sign beside the personnel entrance that had replaced
whatever sign had been there originally -- the sign was a
weathered white, with neat sky blue printed letters on it:
"The Little Bookshop of Horror."
"Bizarre," Alvin murmured, then almost frowned at Leroi.
Leroi was cringing and doing his best to hide behind the rather
solidly built charcoal gray rabbit -- the fear was almost
"What is the matter with you?"
"D-Don't-t make m-me go in-n there, pl-please!" Leroi begged
and shivered all over with his tail between his legs. His
eyes were wide and almost unseeing and he stank of fear.
Alvin re-evaluated the situation again. Leroi's terror was
no act. Something here frightened... terrified him, even in
broad daylight. Alvin began reconsidering his actions.
The moment of thought was interrupted as the solid metal
door swung open silently from within its concrete chasm, accompanied
by a blast of cool air.
"Good afternoon," a soft, feminine voice whispered. "Ah,
Leroi. I did not think I would see you again. And you brought
a friend." The voice was calm and pleasant almost to the point
of being emotionless.
Alvin immediately evaluated the figure standing in the shadows
of the doorway -- the hallway behind her was unlit. The woman
was wearing a dark blue robe... kimono?... with large, hanging
sleeves. His immediate thought was that she was a lemur, but
after a moment he dismissed that, unable to quite place the
features and shape of her head, though they seemed faintly
familiar. A gray-furred hand was almost covering her eyes
against the sunlight, casting dark shadows over them. She
was slightly taller than Alvin's own five and a half feet,
and he caught glimpses of a large banded tail behind the robe.
"H-he f-forced me here!" Leroi babbled frantically. "He's
a CCD officer and he-"
"Shut up," Alvin said firmly and gave Leroi a shake. "Be
"- and he is a Cipher, as well," the woman whispered calmly.
"An interesting combination. If you are here to see me, then
please let Leroi go, officer. His terror is quite distracting."
Alvin found himself reconsidering the situation a third time.
No one had ever spotted him as Cipher so quickly. He was beginning
to feel like perhaps Leroi had the right idea. Faintly uneasily,
he was considering that calling for backup might be a good
idea, though unfortuantely the nearest backup he knew of was
over fifty miles away. He had to admit that the woman had
a point about Leroi, who was now quivering violently and generating
a growing wet spot on his trousers. Alvin almost swore, but
bit the words back. The woman was right about one thing, though
-- Leroi was of no use at all now.
Leroi just stared at the woman and hardly noticed as Alvin
removed the handcuffs from the shaking canine.
"Beat it," Alvin ordered. Leroi just stood there, shivering.
"Go home to your bed," the woman suggested casually. "Perhaps
your lover will visit you."
Leroi froze solid for a moment, the pupils in the brown eyes
shrunk to pin-points, then he howled in despair and terror
so suddenly that Alvin jumped back. Leroi bolted blindly for
the road leading to the building, literally bouncing off Alvin's
car unseeingly as he ran away.
"Poor pup," the woman commented, still shading her eyes.
"He used to be the leader of his street gang by just muscle,
he worked out whenever he could, and now just this cringing
cur." She lowered her hand and Alvin had a brief glimpse of
the largest blue eyes he had seen before she mostly closed
them. "Would you like to come in, officer? It is far cooler
and more pleasant inside away from the sun. I am of a more
nocturnal type from overseas with eyes not suited for this
Alvin nodded slowly as he put his handcuffs away.
"I am Office Alvin Irving, of the CCD. Pleased to meet you,
He was not entirely convinced of the wisdom of accepting,
but saw little choice unless he wanted to run all the way
back to the nearest CCD branch office and report failure.
"It is a pleasure to meet you indeed, Officer Irving. You
may call me Sam." Sam turned and walked further back into
the building, trailing a truly amazing amount of banded black
and white tail after her. Her two large ears swivelled around
to focus on him as he followed. The air inside was quite noticeably
cool, and Alvin could now hear the faint hum of machinery
down the hallway.
"You are quite the brave man to follow me into the darkness,"
she murmured. "I might be a Changeling."
"I am a CCD officer -- I am expected to deal with Changelings."
Alvin pushed the heavy metal door shut slowly behind him until
the latch clicked shut. After a few moments his eyes adjusted
to the interior, and saw that there was enough light coming
from the faintly glowing flourescent lights to see by. The
aged vinyl flooring was curling up slightly near the walls
and cracked in other places, but appeared free from debris.
The hall branched to the left and continued on to stop at
a double doorway from behind which Alvin heard the mechanical
humming he heard before, louder.
"I would assume you are here to deal with a Changeling, then,
Officer?" Sam turned down the left hand branch, tail trailing
"I am looking for one, yes," Alvin walked carefully after
her, senses alert, and hand not quite reaching for his gun
but ready. "I was told you have information I need about one."
He paused at the intersection and briefly turned both ears
towards the double doors at the end of the entry hall to listen.
"It sounds like you have things running here."
"I am adequately versed in some matters of technology. Enough
to keep the phone switch running for the remaining few thousand
residents here. No one from the cities wishes to come this
far out to keep things operational."
The side hall dead-ended after a fair distance, but there
were two doors on either side. Sam entered the first door
on the left and Alvin followed cautiously. Inside, the twenty
by twenty foot room was slightly better illuminated than the
hallway outside. The walls were lined with filled bookshelves
and there were two reading tables with a half dozen mis-matched
chairs in the middle of the room. Additional light was provided
by the four lava lamps sitting on the tables, each in a different
"Welcome to my little bookshop of horror, Officer. Perhaps
the finest collection of horror novels for hundreds of miles
around. So what information were you interested in?" She turned
around to face Alvin, though her eyes were lowered and still
"A Haemophage my group has been hunting for some time was
last heard to be heading out this way for some reason. Leroi
thought you might know where I could find him." Alvin looked
around the room slowly. The floor to ceiling bookshelves were
indeed nearly overflowing with horror novels as far as he
could tell. The lava lamps cast strange, flowing multi-colored
light and shadows in the dark room.
"Very odd, Leroi is not totally stupid. He should know that
I do not normally bother with Phages," Sam commented casually.
"Does this Haemophage have a name?"
"Astonishing." Her voice sounded no more surprised than someone
commenting on the blandness of the weather. "He will either
attack the group of the Wired to the southwest or this building
here. I wonder if he has lost his mind or if he actually has
a plan." She folded her arms together so that her hands were
lost in the sleeves of her robe.
Alvin looked faintly non-plussed, straightening up in his
gray suit from where he had been leaning over to examine one
of the lava lamps. "Attack?"
"As soon as he tracks down his old pack and takes it back
over. He always considered the town to the southwest to be
his territory and resented the Wired there."
"Why would he attack here?"
"He does not particularly care for me. His old haunts used
to be to the south, along the main road or the river near
the main road. He had a fondness for the water."
Alvin considered that piece of information. "Yes. That makes
sense. His first victims in the city were all around the lake
"All in well-lit areas?"
"Yes," Alvin said slowly "Yes, they were all in well-lit
areas, now that you mentioned it. How did you know that?"
"This is the only communications nexus for the entire area.
Everyone rather tends to talk to me, even the Wired occasionally,
one way or the other."
Alvin slowly swivelled his ears to focus on the woman. Whoever,
whatever she was, Alvin did not particularly want her as an
opponent, not in her home ground. He did not believe this
set-up fell into her lap by pure luck.
"That sounds odd. Why aren't the Wired running this place?"
"The Wired are not interested in such mundane networks. There
is a group of them near the microwave communications tower
to the southwest that is linked to this facility, though I
am not fully sure why they are there... but they serve a useful
presence in protecting it."
"I see." Alvin studied the woman in the shifting light. He
knew it was still afternoon outside, but with the solid, windowless
walls and the chilled air, it felt like midnight. "Why the
"I do quite well with it, because I am good at knowing what
frightens people, and there are people who enjoy being frightened.
Why did you become a CCD officer? Do you enjoy the adrenaline?
The tension?" she asked softly with her eyes still mostly
closed and lowered. "Being a Cipher only means one is hard
to read, not that one is without emotions."
Alvin felt his mouth go dry. The woman was standing a dozen
feet away from him, relaxed, and not posing any obvious threat,
yet he if his thoughts were correct...
"Aren't you concerned I might arrest you?"
"You are not a threat," Sam answered idly.
"You are a... Changeling."
"I could take you in."
"Unlikely. I know too much. I know far too much about what
people are afraid of... the Wired, the people in town, the
people in your city," Sam said softly. "I deal in horror and
secrets, Alvin Irving. I know many dark little secrets that
people live in terror of, little pieces of information that
might get out. Tell me, is Ivana Kilcarny still working at
"She is the department director," Alvin almost whispered.
"It has been a long, long time since I last spoke with her,"
Sam mused. "She used to only be a field agent. Most interesting.
Did she send you here? What did you do to make her dislike
Alvin slowly lifted his hand up towards his shoulder holster
"How did you know?"
"She was obviously hoping that I would either kill you, or
you me. That is annoying." Sam turned slightly to look at
the door. "I shall have to make some phone calls."
The body-warmed grip of his pistol did little to reassure
Alvin "I could take you down."
"I have told you that you are not a threat. The fire suppressant
system for this facility is still functional and designed
for electronic equipment. My finger is on what you might call
a deadman switch on a remote under my sleeve. If you begin
to act, the system will be set off and suppression gas forcibly
pumped into the room immediately -- I am afraid I removed
the evacuation delay from the control circuit."
"Even Changelings have to brea- ... oh shit."
"Not all Changelings have to breathe." Sam smiled slightly,
though not showing any teeth. "Why are you afraid? I am not
a Phage, with their strength, speed, and healing."
"You're Blind," Alvin croaked through his dry mouth. The
Changeling smiled wider and bowed over her hands. When she
straightened, she kept one hand within her sleeves, but the
other held something.
"Please catch." She tossed the small sphere to him.
Alvin caught it out of reflex with his free hand and looked
at the object. It was a large glass eye with a blue iris.
There was a second pupil ... no, a tiny window on the back.
As he stared at it, a tiny glowing triangular shape bobbed
up against the window. He could just make out the words: "Future
"Please don't drop my eye. It is hard to get them made,"
the Blind murmured indifferently. When Alvin looked up he
saw that she had removed the other eye -- two black holes
gaped roundly in the dim room.
"Fear is a very interesting subject. Take CCD agents, for
example -- all of the ones I have met have no problems chasing
down and hunting Phages with all their strengths, yet they
all quiver when facing one of the lone, unarmed Blind." She
smiled again. "If it helps, be assured I have no plans to
harm you. I want you to take a message back to Miss Kilcarny,
"It's Mrs. now," Alvin said automatically.
"Oh? Even better, so much more to worry about." Sam turned
her back on Alvin, gliding over to one bookshelf.
"Aren't you concerned that I might shoot you in the back?"
"What makes you think I cannot see you standing there behind
me, with your back up against the shelves? I do not see with
eyes." The tiniest touch of interest crept into her otherwise
bland voice. "Why are you staying? Even logic would suggest
that you should flee this building, which I have potentially
made into one large trap."
Alvin forced his hand slowly away from his gun "I do not
like being manipulated," he managed to say levelly.
"How ironic. That was the message I was going to have you
take back to Ivana. I suppose you can speak for both of us."
Reaching out with a free hand, she gestured to one set of
"This shelf is non-fiction," she murmured. "Psychology texts.
Phobias. Fear. How people react. Fascinating reading."
"Ivana... she knows you are of the Blind?"
"Most certainly. I... helped her with an interrogation one
time. Fear can do wonders to loosen the tongue." That small
smile came back for a moment. "It can be an interesting challenge
sometimes - did you know that Jasin does not attack people
in well-lit areas because he is bold, officer, he attacks
them there because he is afraid of the dark."
Alvin just stared at her "A Haemophage... afraid of the dark?!"
"An interesting phobia to try to induce in a Phage, yes.
He was becoming a nuisance to me a while ago. It was a long,
fascinating endeavor to deal with."
"Christ." Alvin took a deep breath. He felt his fur trying
to stand on end. As a Cipher, he had never had that obvious
a display of fear happen before -- it was a strange feeling.
"Mmmm. You are quite fascinating." Sam tilted her head, studying
him eyelessly. "You really ought to leave before I find you
too fascinating." Her voice dropped in volume enough to notice.
"I am of the Blind, Officer Alvin Irving. Fear attracts me.
Fear in a Cipher is...interesting."
Alvin clenched his jaw and stood his ground. "You are the
most...civil Blind I have ever heard of. And you are right
-- why should anyone be afraid of you? You do lack the strength
and physical prowess of a Phage, and you are alone."
The Blind laughed softly "Do you know how I can run a successful
bookstore, all the way out here, Officer? Because I make people
like being afraid... through the ages people have enjoyed
frightening stories, have sought out frightening experiences
just for the sake of being frightened. I just have to find
that chord in their psyche to pluck and play, and they will
come back to taste that fear. I make them into addicts."
Sam half-turned away "I asked you before -- why did you become
a CCD officer? The feeling of the surge of adreneline in your
blood? The tension, the excitement? Do you feel it now?" she
asked gently, almost affectionately. "Before I ... became
what I am today, I enjoyed hot foods, very hot foods, for
the endorphine rush. People engage in all manner of risky
activities for the thrill of the risk... and when they get
too comfortable with it, they need even more."
She looked back at him with those gaping eye sockets. "Are
you bored with life, Alvin Irving? Is your fear under control
these days? Would you like to be scared?"
"Shut up!" Alvin took a deep breath and shuddered. "I take
back what I said -- everyone should be afraid of you. You
have far more cunning than any Blind ought to!"
"Would you like to know what it like for me to be a Blind,
Cipher?" Somehow the Changeling was suddenly an arm's length
away, looking at him with those empty wounds. "Imagine thinking
twice as fast as you do now, but feeling nothing. To see everything,
but no color. To hear, but no music. To touch, but no feeling.
Every sensation is a dead thing -- all the torture of sensory
deprivation but without the soothing nothingness to retreat
into. I cannot sleep. There is no oblivion. There is no passion.
"I can only feel one thing ... another's fear," she said
in gentle but intense whispers. "It is my only color, my only
music, my only feeling. The only way to feel alive... the
only way to touch another person. Tell me, if you were locked
into a sensory deprivation tank and the only movement you
could make was to push a button, and that button rewarded
you with the sound of someone screaming... the only sound
you would ever, could ever hear again... how long would you
last before you pushed the button?"
Alvin felt the edges of the bookshelves press up against
his back as he tried to back away. "Oh... hell..."
"Hell is the right word, yes." The Blind turned away and
was silent for few moments. "The Phages are perhaps the opposite
because they do nothing but feel - lusts, passions, emotions..."
She fell quiet again.
"Go now," she said flatly. "Go back to your hotel room. I
will call you when I have Jasin for you."
"W-what? You think you can handle a Phage?" Alvin tried to
regain his mental equilibrium at the abrupt subject change
"The reason I was told to pursue him was he had stolen three
"Interesting. You think you can handle an armed pack of Phages?
He will not be alone. Go." The Blind tilted her head as she
studied the far wall. "Ivana must have sent you because she
thought you jaded, burned out... lost your sense of fear.
Hard to control or cajole," she said distantly. "If you had
no capacity for fear at all, you would have had no hesitation
in trying to deal with me, which Ivana would no doubt consider
a gain. She must have thought she could accurately tell when
a Cipher is burned out -- such a conceit.
"But you still have a spark of fear in you," the Blind continued
softly, almost hungrily. "I can feel it inside you, waiting
to be fanned into something delicious -- raw and new and strong
-- and that is why you must go, now."
Her head turned slowly towards him on a still, unbreathing
body. "Because that reborn fear will be too delicious to you,
too," she said in a soft, almost seductive voice. "Just like
a person reading a horror novel will turn that next page,
even when they know something scary is going to happen, they
need to experience it -- you'll hold off on pulling that trigger,
or fleeing, telling yourself you can handle it, waiting just
a little longer, just to feel that new, strong fear a little
more -- and it will be too late for both of us then.
"GO!" Alvin jumped at the sudden loud shout, almost having
been mesmerized by the soft voice and words. The truth of
them struck him to his heart and made him shiver as he stared
at the Blind. He felt his hand creeping towards his gun as
he opened his mouth to say something back to her -- to stay
longer, he realized.
With all his will Alvin pulled himself from the spot and
fled blindly back outside to his car. The bright hot sun did
little to calm him after the cool dark interior of the building
-- he barely felt the broiling heat of the interior of the
car as he sat in the driver's seat, shivering and staring
at the door back into the building.
When Alvin realized he was still staring at the door, he
realized he was waiting to see if something would happen,
if the Blind would follow him out. Alvin realized he was waiting
for the next page to turn to see if some frightening event
"Damn her!" he swore softly and jammed the key in the starter
hard. "And damn me!"
The tires squealed as the car spun around and fled from the
The ringing of the phone woke Alvin from
a restless, tossing sleep on his bed in the rundown excuse
for a hotel. The ringing was a welcome escape from the endless
corridors he ran down in dreams... some dark and lit with
lava lamps filled with the tortured souls of the damned, others
He sat up groggily and reached for the phone. "Hello? Irving
speaking," he mumbled.
"I hope you had pleasant dreams, Officer," the Blind's voice
said softly on the phone. Alvin froze. Many things ran through
his mind, but he did not know what to say -- the page had
turned at last, and he felt held helpless by it.
"I will see you in the morning, ten AM, at my little shop
of horror, Officer. I have what you were sent to find." The
Blind's voice was as calm and pleasant as a telemarketer informing
him of the latest interest rates. In the background noise
from the phone he heard the humming of machinery, then a quiet
"What... what was that?" Alvin managed to ask, not entirely
sure he wanted to know the answer. "How did you know where
Soft laughter answered him. "I told you I deal in horror
and secrets, Officer, and finding your room was no secret
at all. As far as horror goes... sleep well, Alvin. There
are no monsters under your bed."
The phone went dead with a little click. Alvin stared at
the phone until he finally managed to put it back on the cradle.
It took all his will to not look under the bed before trying
to sleep again.
Groggy from a terrible night's sleep, the
rabbit CCD officer parked the car outside the Little Bookshop
of Horror. Carefully, Alvin checked his pistol, then got out
and walked up to the metal door. He remembered how yesterday
he found Leroi's reaction to the bland little building curious
-- Alvin was not so curious any more.
Knocking on the metal door produced a metallic banging sound
which was startling in the quiet morning light. The door opened
after the echoes had died down.
"Good morning, Officer Irving," the Blind murmured calmly.
Unlike yesterday, this morning she was dressed in only a work
apron. There was an shallow wound across her face that refused
to bleed, and a bandage around her bare left thigh one one
around her right forearm. She held a trowel in her left hand.
"I almost regret not having you around last night. It was
a quite ... lively party. Please come in." She stepped aside.
"Do be careful with your step. I have most of the grease cleaned
from the floor, but there are still patches left."
Alvin hesistated, then reluctantly entered against the blast
of cool air. Sam turned and shut the door behind them -- from
behind, with nothing but the apron on, Alvin noticed in that
instictive way that she had a rather nice figure, combined
with that long fluffy tail... he twitched a little, remembering
this was one of the Blind he was looking at, after all.
"What happened?" he asked uneasily.
"Jasin showed up with several friends. I had rather expected
him to get his old local Phage pack dragged along, but he
also brought a few from the city -- he came along with five
other Phages." The Blind glided down the dark hallway. Once
his eyes adjusted to the dim light again, Alvin saw mostly
scrubbed away blood stains here and there, three bullet holes
in the walls, and two fist-sized holes in the walls. From
the trowel in her hand and the bucket and building supplies
on the floor, the Blind had evidently been in the process
of plastering over some of the damage when he arrived. A nasty
smell of burnt flesh and chemicals still lingered in the air.
Three pistols and two police tasers."
Alvin blinked. "Tasers? Where did they get the tasers from?"
He felt his nervousness fade briefly under his surprise as
his rational mind snapped back to the fore.
"I was wondering if you could answer that," Sam murmured
pleasantly. "It hardly mattered, though -- they had little
effect. The three Phages he brought from the city ... did
not seem to think a single Blind could be dangerous."
She set the trowel down in bucket and gestured from Alvin
to follow her down the side hallway again. "It was a lively
brawl, nonetheless. Greater speed and strength means less
on a greased floor than careful movement. The three from the
city were completely unprepared for the spotlights and strobe
lights - trivial to make then fight each other while blinded
and in pain ... and frightened. The old co-location room is
quite a mess now. Finding nineteen inch equipment racks these
days is challenging," she mused.
"Six Phages, three guns, two tasers," Alvin muttered under
his breath. "And Ivana only sent one agent?" Sam led him into
the second room on the left, which had several closed equipment
cabinets and three workbenches. Sitting on the floor were
two large camping coolers.
"Most Phages are really not that hard to deal with Officer,
they do not think. They react. A little proper planning and
they can be dealt with." Alvin looked at the two coolers.
"What are these?" he asked uneasily. "My little gift to you,
and Ivana. Open them."
To kneel down and open the coolers took a minor act of will.
Alvin swallowed hard at the contents. The top trays of the
coolers contained the three pistols and stolen ammo, the spent
shells and bullets, and the two tasers that were, he saw,
indeed police issue. Below the trays the coolers were packed
with frozen ice packs and... three heads each. One was definitely
Jasin's head and from the sharp teeth, the other five were
also Phages. Two of the heads had a singed, burned look to
parts of their faces.
"If you drive back reasonably soon, the ice should keep them
preserved until they can make positive identification at your
office. Oh, and Officer Irving..."
Alvin tore his eyes away from the contents of the coolers
and looked up at the Blind, and found her bent half over him,
looking into his face from less than a foot away.
"Please do tell Ivana that I will call her... soon." The
Blind smiled pleasantly beneath the pair of unseeing faux
blue eyes, showing teeth that were sharp, but nowhere near
as sharp as a Phages.
"I do hope you enjoyed your visit to my little store, please
come back again, when you think you have conquered your fear
again and want to prove it to yourself...or at least believe
that is why you are returning. Like any business, I thrive
on repeat customers."