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“Details in the patent do not make it clear what use these mixed-species embryos would be put to, but experts are in no doubt that the potential is there to create a hybrid creature.”

“Patent Allows Creation of Man-Animal Hybrid,” The Observer, 11-26-02


In the time that passed from leaving Dr. Jones at the seminary to arriving inside the Gray Hideaway, Joe watched as Andrew Corsivino talked on a cell phone. He spoke with two people, one in French and the other in German, for approximately thirty minutes. From the sound of things, he was giving orders and making plans. Finally, folding the phone closed, he leaned on Dave’s computer desk and said, “Okay, Joe, I’ve made some arrangements that will help you.”

Joe’s original idea hadn’t diminished. He wanted to drive straight to the police to report Sheri’s abduction. The little physicist was barely keeping him from it.

“I still think I should go to the police,” he said.

“What would you tell them, Joe?” Corsivino pressed. “That a respected government contractor abducted your sister? They’ll laugh you all the way to your jail cell. Don’t forget, Montero claims the two of you robbed them.”

“They can’t prove that, because it didn’t happen.”

“I understand, but I’ve seen the news reports and watched the security video depicting Sheri holding a gun on Montero personnel while you stuff what appears to be a detonation device into a fanny pack. It’s followed by a very convincing clip of you jumping out of the window with it. The video’s blurry and contrived, but it’s probably enough to lock you up for a while.”

“You’d better listen,” Dave said. “I’d stay away from the police if I were you.”

That was always Dave’s position with regard to law enforcement, Joe believed. But computer hacking gave him reasons to feel that way.

“Besides,” Corsivino said. “I know where she is. Local police have no jurisdiction there.”

“And that is?”

“You know, of course. Montero.”

Joe’s brow dropped. He clenched both fists and kicked a chair across the room. Storming toward the door as if he was headed for a fight, he heard Corsivino caution behind him, “She’s in a very high security area below ground, and if you want to see her alive again, you need to pay close attention to what I have to say.”

He turned, walked over and shoved his flush-red face an inch from Corsivino’s. He didn’t know this man from Adam, but if the physicist were being anything but forthright, he’d pay for it. “Then why don’t you tell me what I’m supposed to do, huh? And how do you know where she is!?” The tone of his voice was a stone-cold threat.

Corsivino didn’t bat an eye. “To begin with, I have friends on the inside. Secondly, I need some room to breathe. Please?”

Joe studied his reaction to intimidation, then backed off a little. “You got something to say, spit it out. My sister’s in this situation because of me.” And the last thing she heard me say was that she’d get what she deserved…

“I’m aware of that, but are you aware that the people you’re dealing with reach to the highest levels of global influence, politically and otherwise? They’ll stop at nothing to possess what they want and to guard their identities. You’ve breached their protective shield.”

“And?” he said, crossing his arms over his chest.

“And your sister could be irreparably harmed by them. Her only chance is that you do as I say.”

“Tell me what you have to say, and I’ll tell you what I plan to do. And by the way, why would you risk helping me anyway?”

“My motives will be clear soon enough. In the meantime, I’ve made some arrangements for you. It’s not much, but it’s what I can do under the circumstances. You’ll be contacted within the next twenty-four hours by a man code-named ‘Phobos.’”

Corsivino handed Joe his encryption-enabled cell phone. “He’ll reach you on this.”

Joe took his coat off, slipped the phone into one of the pockets, hung it over a chair, and said, “What’s he calling about?”

“Detailed explanations as to why we are helping you, including information and equipment you can use to get into Montero, to hopefully rescue Sheri. If you succeed in getting her out, friends will be available to transport the two of you to a safe house where you can remain as our guests for a while. Your identities will need to be changed, and we can handle that, too.”

Joe looked at Corsivino and grinned slightly. This could be a setup, a diversion for his own purposes. What he doesn’t know is that I’ll be using him.

“But you must understand, if anything goes wrong, there are larger issues than the rescue of your sister.”

Aha. There it is. “Larger issues.” “Not in my mind,” Joe said flatly.

“I understand your feelings, but believe me when I tell you, millions of people are in similar danger. We must think in terms of global responsibility.”

“You have your priorities and I have mine.”

“Yet our enemy is one and the same.”

“Maybe, but our objectives are not. My father was murdered. My sister won’t be.”

Corsivino looked at Dave, who was slumped on a crooked green recliner, then back at Joe. “Let me explain something. When I came here today, I intended to confiscate the key ingredient, the Martian artifact. Obviously that will be impossible now…”

“Confiscate!” Dave huffed, rising onto his elbows. “What in the world?”

“Yes, well, my colleagues and I believe the image you had in your possession is the cosmic equivalent of the Missing Link. If it’s what we think it is, it dates back to 1987 when a saucer-shaped object crash-landed in the desert near Sedona, Arizona. The craft and three alien bodies—one of them alive—were recovered. The ship was intact, but the salvage team was perplexed. The ignition key, for want of a better term, was missing.”

Joe recognized the dates and details as elements of his father’s story. “You believe the object my dad retrieved was this key?”

“It’s very likely.”

“What makes you think so?”

“Three circular plates, called Dropa discs, were also recovered from the crash site. They contained microscopic verses in a language similar to primitive Sumerian. Among other things, they served as the ship’s logs. They identified the occupants as the ‘Annunaki of Nibiru,’ and the key as integral to facilitating the vessel’s astounding ability to travel interdimensionally.”

“You’re saying the UFO my father saw could travel through time?”

“Evidently through multiple dimensions, and forward in time, yes.”

If this were even remotely true, Joe understood the image’s importance now. Needless to say, the key to such technology would be worth killing for, and he thought he knew by whom. He glanced at Dave, who appeared to be thinking.

“Shortly after the Sedona crash,” Corsivino went on, “your father, Lieutenant Colonel Ryback, became the focus of an internal investigation by military intelligence. The subject investigation centered around the paradoxical technology’s missing element, this key of sorts, which your father was believed to be hiding. The object was never recovered…and your father was found beaten to death some time later.”

“So he was murdered for the artifact?”

“His death was probably a mistake.”

“You got that right!” Joe grumbled. “Definitely a mistake for those who did it.”

“Well, we think he was tortured by a rogue military element in hopes of forcing him to surrender the Nibiruan Key’s whereabouts.”

“Is that what these dead-men-walking call it? The Nibiruan Key?”

“That’s what it became known as. It’s a reference to the distant home of the Annunaki. Yet to the military, it’s the holy grail of interdimensional time travel—the ultimate weapon—an instrument of unlimited power supposedly developed by no less than advanced alien intelligence.”





The treeless parking lot outside the Gray Hideaway offered little covering as a shifty-eyed man ambled across the north walkway with a small black box. He looked left and then right and back again. His senses told him that nobody cared what he was up to. But here in this quiet neighborhood, with its community watch program and matching warning signs, they should have been concerned.


Dave held his hand up like a kid wanting a chance to speak.

“Yes, Dave?”

“You couldn’t figure out the technology without this key? You couldn’t jump-start the spaceship’s motor?”

“It turned out that way,” Corsivino said. “By the time I came to Montero, the research staff was trying to work around the key, to hot-wire the motor, if you will. They were reverse engineering the exotic technologies, without much success, although some astounding conclusions were being made along the way.”

Joe thought about the conspiracy theories Dave had run on his website over the past year. He couldn’t remember any as far-fetched as this, not even among the infamous Roswell files hidden on page two. “Such as?”

“We learned that the most important characteristic of the alien technology centered on a distortion pulse, a puzzling technology, which existed between four columns in the middle of the ship. We called it the Enigma.”

“As in a riddle?”

“Of sorts, technically speaking. The Dropa described it as being able to manufacture a vortex in the space-time continuum. Not warp drive technology or wormholes mind you, but a multidimensional gateway to Heaven…or Hell…or anywhere else. We came to believe the device would help us breach our three-dimensional membrane. We broke open the champagne bottles and celebrated. Man was about to make his nest among the stars.”

Joe loathed what he was hearing and mused sarcastically, “What happened on your way to becoming gods?”

Corsivino frowned. “We found our dream disintegrating. No matter how we tried, we couldn’t replicate the Nibiruan Key’s effect on the Enigma nor obtain the vortex described by the Dropa discs. To make matters worse, the project took an unexpected turn when advanced human DNA labeling was discovered in the Dropa. It illustrated genetic manipulation done by the Annunaki thousands of years before, including specific formulas for improving the human species.”

Maybe Dr. Jones knew what he was talking about after all, Joe thought.

“The formulas called for introducing animal, and, in at least one case, alien DNA into human genome. Experts at the Pentagon quickly determined humanity had been the subject of unknown mutation experiments. They convened a black operations panel and concluded that regardless of what else the Dropa texts represented, the discovery provided a unique opportunity for human enhancement studies.”

“So this is where you got involved, I take it,” Dave said.

“Following the panel’s above-top-secret report, genetic engineers like myself were given unprecedented resources, and the genome sciences were born.”

“Sickening,” Joe slipped.

Corsivino looked into his deep green eyes. “I understand. Not everybody was enthusiastic about our research back then, either. There were project scientists—those of religious persuasion—that came to believe the spacecraft and its contents were a remnant of forbidden technology, something cast down from heaven, perhaps a leftover of Lucifer’s rebellion against God.”

“Did they express these views?” Joe knew in the military that you usually keep your mouth shut, even when you disagree.

“A Jesuit named Malachi Malina did. He openly cautioned about dark forces he thought were trying to initiate Armageddon again, to unleash the Antichrist.”

“What do you mean, trying again?”

“You know, another Hitler or Antiochus Epiphanes, except this time a very high-tech one. The Jesuit based his conclusions about the Nibiruan Key and its devilish connection on similarities between ancient history involving the Nibiruans, or Annunaki, and the genetic experiments growing out of our research.”

This was really starting to sound like Jones now.

“He showed us where the Annunaki offered weapons technology to Israel’s enemies in exchange for women. The antediluvian females became hosts to genetic experiments, resulting in a breed of giants called Nephilim.”

“Like Goliath,” Dave said.

“According to Malina, yes. Goliath was one of an army of giants, created to destroy God’s people and to take over the world. God thwarted the original plan by eliminating the ancient Nephilim.”

“And that was that.” Dave said.

“I wish it were that simple. Malina believed history was repeating itself—that the disc recovered from Sedona was a Trojan horse—something to trick world governments into joining forces with Satan in preparation of Armageddon. Malina even speculated that the alien bodies we had recovered were demonic concoctions.”


Outside, the shifty-eyed man returned to his car, got inside, and pulled the snub-nosed .38 revolver from behind his belt. He watched the parking lot behind the video store and in a perverse sort of way almost hoped somebody would ask him what he had been doing. When an elderly woman pushed her grocery cart a little too close to his vehicle, he winked at her and whispered, “Kill ya next time, Granny.”


“Sounds like something a friend told me recently,” Joe said to Corsivino.

“What’s that?”

“Dr. Jones, a friend of the family, he believes aliens and demons are one and the same.”

“Father Malina was convinced of it, and he claimed it was illustrated in history books from civilizations around the world.”

“History books? You mean mythology, don’t you?” Dave corrected.

“Both. I remember Malina discussing the Greek Titans, how their legend began with so-called gods mating with earth women. He compared that story to Genesis where the Sons of God took women for wives and their offspring became mighty men of old. He also showed us how the word Titan equals 666 in Greek and means ‘gray, whitish, or chalky gray,’ fitting the skin coloration of the bodies recovered at Sedona. He certainly felt we were opening the gates to an ancient perdition by tinkering with this alien technology.”

“So…he’s the one that convinced you to quit?” Joe asked, refering to Malina.

“What started me thinking we scientists had been duped was a meeting between Major General William H. Layton, the secretary of defense, and Montero’s top genetic researchers.”

Joe recognized the Major General’s name. He had heard him speak while he was stationed in Hawaii. He was definitely a command presence, not somebody to second-guess.

“He told us that Special Agent Apol Leon—a military expert of some kind—would be in charge of genetic research in our department from there on out. We were becoming an All Black operation. No information concerning our undertaking was to be divulged to any military or government departments outside our own. This was now a top-level national security issue. Of course, we voiced our allegiance and reaffirmed our oaths, but the ethics of our work certainly changed after Apol Leon, and Hell, came to Montero.”

It suddenly dawned on Joe that Corsivino was talking about the man on his answering machine at home. He froze and listened carefully.

“Mr. Leon was on special assignment from Wright-Patterson Airforce Base where the alien bodies were kept. After formal introduction of him, General Layton disclosed top secret information related to an advanced race of humanoids, which supposedly visited Earth some ten thousand years ago.”

“What proof did they offer of that allegation?” Dave said smartly.

“What proof did they need to offer? We had the alien bodies and their ship.”

Dave opened his hands, palms up. “I mean that Earth was visited ten thousand years ago?”

“According to General Layton, the aliens left evidence of their visit everywhere—the pyramids, Nazca Lines, even an ancient city on Mars where excavations were underway by joint U.S.-Soviet stealth expeditions. We were told in no uncertain terms that these aliens were our creators. Homo sapiens was the product of their genetic handiwork on apes.”

Joe stared across the room at Dave’s computers again. He was familiar with many U.S. political and military figures. This was astounding information and probably confirmed Dave’s worst conspiracy fears. He returned his sights to Corsivino and said, “General Layton actually said that?”

“Not only that. We were told of a second, more aggressive breed of creature called Anakim. The aliens made them to rule over the newly created people. Each Anakim had the strength of ten men. They were ruthless but outnumbered by the humans. Eventually they were killed by hordes of men after the aliens, who were also known as ‘flying geniuses,’ departed for outer space. According to General Layton, the death of the Anakim was recorded in the mythos of every ancient culture, including the Bible, where the Hebrews called them Nephilim.”

“But why would a Major General get involved with all this mythology?”

“A newly deciphered portion of the Dropa had caught his attention. It provided the genetic formula for recreating the Anakim-Nephilim. Needless to say, the military was profoundly interested in it. This represented the ultimate soldier, a perfect killing machine, and Apol Leon was at Montero to introduce our researchers to the technology we would use to manufacture them—the cutting-edge science of transgenics.”


Standing next to Nathan Reel at PCD Imaging, Jones was visibly unhappy with Corsivino’s instructions not to contact the authorities. Like Joe, he worried that Sheri was in extreme danger and that he should call the police immediately. He needed a trusted advisor and considered Nathan Reel to be his man. Jones wanted Nathan to see the giant arm anyway, and since Nathan was ex-military and a good friend of Portland’s police chief, he thought he could kill two birds with one stone.

“So what do you think?” he said, watching Nathan as he carefully examined the giant arm.

“Heck of a thing, Jones, heck of a thing. Offhand I’d say it’s a mutation of some kind, a freak of nature. Probably a carnival escapee, a gorilla afflicted with gigantism…”

Jones tapped him on the shoulder. “I’m not talking about the arm, Nathan. I’m worried about Sheri. What do you think about me calling the police? Isn’t that the right thing to do?”

“Not necessarily. If this guy you met is Andrew Corsivino, you better take it slow.”

“What difference would that make?”

“Maybe a lot, Jones,” Nathan said, sounding derisive, as if Jones should have known better than to ask. “Corsivino was involved with the highest levels of shadow military research at one time. The blackest projects.”

“You mean stuff like The Manhattan Project?”

“Beyond that.”

“Above top secret?”

“Certainly. The government isn’t limited to known clearance levels, especially not white ones—confidential, secret, top secret.”

Jones was nonplussed. He thought the onion layer was only three levels deep. “They’re not?”

“Of course not. Black and above-black levels exist. This is where special access projects, sometimes called SAPs, are funded. The above-blacks, the ones called waived SAPs, these are the scary ones.”

“And that’s where our friend Corsivino worked?”

“Where even congressional oversights are removed.”

“So if Corsivino says to wait on calling the police, we should? Where does that leave Sheri?”

“Trust me, Jones. If her abductors plan to kill her, they most likely already have. But tell you what I’ll do. Give me a couple hours to contact a friend at the city’s crime lab. I’ll ask him to nose around a little, see what he can dig up. Maybe he’s heard something. While he’s doing that, I’ll have a look at our big friend here, try to figure out who or what he was. Maybe then we’ll both have a reason to call the authorities.”



Joe realized he was clenching his fists again. His head was tilted down, his eyes fixed on Corsivino. He needed to calm down, think about his plan, glean as much information as he could from this man before making his move. He bit his lip and said, “So, Apol Leon came to teach you about transgenics, huh, the technology you would use to re-create the Nephilim. What does that actually mean?”

“Simply stated, transgenics is the science of altering the genetic structure of one species by introducing the DNA of a different species into its genome. Under Apol’s watchful eye, transgenics at Montero developed in the form of male human embryos having their molecular biology altered through inserting animal and alien DNA into their genome.”

“Just where does one get alien DNA? I assume you don’t run to the corner market for it.”

Corsivino grinned. “From the specimens we recovered at Sedona. Those strands produced the most fascinating and horrific results.”

Dave shook his head. “I hate to think what that means.”

“Mutated embryos aggressive inside their mother’s wombs, highly intelligent, brutish creatures after birth, babies with phenomenal growth rates, an unequivocal thirst to rule, conquer, and dominate.”

“You must have been so proud,” Joe smirked again. Remember! Diplomacy!

“Actually, we were flabbergasted. At six months of age the real problems developed. The chimera—or Nephilim as Apol insisted we call them—became uncontrollable. Due to their size and physical strength, special cages had to be designed to hold them. A few months after that we found it necessary to implant control chips directly into their brains.”

“Evidently those chips were not foolproof at supervising your babies.”

“What? Why do you say that?”

“Because at least one of them escaped,” Joe said. He took a moment to fill Corsivino and Dave in on the recovery near Montero. He described the appearance of the carcass, the arm that was now in Dr. Jones’s possession, and the wire inside the beast’s head. He speculated that Jones was having the specimen tested at Nathan Reel’s laboratory.

Corsivino’s reaction was one of astonishment. “That’s what he had in the blanket at the hillside? This arm?”


“Well, when and if that arm’s DNA is analyzed, a fifth and sixth nucleotide will be discovered. It’s unlike anything ever seen in animal or human DNA before. It could really open a can of worms.”

Good. “And the wire in the giant’s head? That was one of your control devices?”

“It’s called AngelStar. It too was a product of reverse engineering, actually designed for human implantation. The aggressive nature of the Nephilim forced us to interface the neural chip with the beast’s brains, in order to control them. From what I remember it caused the creatures to become lethargic when set at one hundred sixteen megahertz.”

Dave, sounding like his contemptible old self again, said, “But did it satisfy naysayers?”

“What do you mean, naysayers?”

“The scientists that were uncomfortable with the project…the Malina guy and the others who thought this might be an Antichrist thing. Were they willing to go along with the research once they saw the ape-men could be controlled?”

Corsivino looked confused by the question and said, “The fact that we learned to control the beasts was a separate issue to Malina and his colleagues. Questions about the ethics of our research grew regardless, even among the nonreligious types. Eventually, I found myself among them.”

Joe raised an eyebrow. “I thought you said you were a project leader?”

“I was, but you must understand, Joe, even though I knew I was breaking my own values, there was something alluring about our work. It was as if a beautiful Siren stood somewhere in the distance, bidding us to come to her. It drew us back day after day with promises of discovery and immortality. Indeed, we believed our work would immortalize us in more ways than one.”

“But you were finally convinced otherwise?”

“It all came to a head one day during a casual conversation with Malachi Malina. He’d been removed from the research program at Montero a week before. The official reasoning was ambiguous, but we all knew Malachi was terminated as a result of his challenging the ethics of Montero’s research. In the days following his departure, Malachi contacted several team members, including myself. He couldn’t speak publicly, so he chose to address his former co-workers privately, to challenge our moral apathy. In my case, he specifically wondered why as a professing Christian I was not concerned with my role at Montero, why I couldn’t see it as an affront to the divine order.”

Joe was incredulous. “You’re a Christian?”

“Is that so hard to believe?”

“With the work you were involved in? Yes, as a matter of fact.”

“Then you and Father Malina would have agreed. He came right out and asked me. ‘Andrew,’ he said, ‘the Bible tells us that God commands humans, animals, and plants to reproduce after their own kind. If God requires species integrity, how do you reconcile what you are doing? Your research at Montero not only violates Scripture, but could open a Pandora’s box to a molecular biological nightmare.’”

“He was right,” Joe said, not that he understood the science.

“I know, in many ways, I see that now. By introducing animal and alien DNA into human genome, we were breaching the species barrier and producing unclassified mutations beyond imagination.”

Joe couldn’t help himself. Even though he wanted to play this guy, he scoffed, “Yet you remained. I sure hope the pay was good.”

“Actually, I left the program not long after Malina did.”

“I remember that,” Dave said, raising his finger. “It was big news.”

Joe was more interested in what motivated him. “Was it a conflict of conscience, or were you just protecting your butt somehow?”

“I’d say a mixture of both, although my conscience drives me these days, believe it or not.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Okay, in particular, the problem for me was this: The molecular biologists at Montero classified the functions of the alien genes supplied by Apol Leon. Yet none of them knew how the gene’s coding would react from the alien species to human. There were strong possibilities that interspecies differences would measurably effect the gene’s protein interactions, thus modifying the human hereditary traits in the mutations. That represented a potential catastrophe beyond measure.”

Joe hoped he would rephrase the comment so he could understand the important point.

As if reading his mind, Corsivino said, “Let me put it a different way. Since interbreeding between humans and Nephilim was now theoretically possible, it was reasonable to believe the mutated DNA would get out of the bottle someday. When that happened, alien and animal characteristics would be introduced to our own species, altering the human genetic code and eventually eliminating humanity as we know it. Malachi Malina believed this was not only possible, but also perhaps the whole idea. That was something I could not be part of.”

Joe was contemplative, then finally said, “Sounds like a Dr. Jones theory.”


“Something the professor told me about God having to destroy the human race during Noah’s flood because giants had interbred with humans. According to Jones, by the time Noah and his children came along, they were the only ones left with DNA not corrupted by intermarriage with Nephilim and their offspring. In order to preserve the human species, God had to eliminate everybody but Noah and his family.”

“Jones is a smart man,” Corsivino said. “What would you say if I told you a similar plan is unfolding as we speak, right beneath the world’s nose?”

“I’d hope you were kidding. A plan to annihilate mankind by interbreeding humans with Nephilim? Why would anybody want to do that?”

“They are deceived. The government and military are deceived. They believe their research is leading to a super army that will police a New World Order—a better world system. Those of us in Operation Gadfly think differently. We believe Montero’s work is part of a larger scheme to force Armageddon and to enslave mankind.”

Dave raised his hand again. “Operation Gadfly?”

“It’s a consortium of scientists dedicated to the destruction of Montero, its research and researchers, and similar factories around the world.”

“You mean there’s more than one factory!?”

“Oh yes. Nine others in the Alliance of Nations. Ten in total.”



Slowly emerging from what felt like a drug-induced sleep, Sheri felt a piercing white light cut knifelike across her retina, creating a miserable, nightmarish ambience that galvanized the memory of a man jumping from a dark automobile and grabbing her by the throat. The car mirrored the Lincoln that had chased her before, deluxe and sleek with overtinted windows.… The thug was holding her arms…then her mouth…until she bit him…and he punched her and cupped her face with a cloth.… Suddenly the strong odor of chemicals rendered her helpless against his nasty wet tongue…licking along and into her ear…the third of the unwanted “feels” he had copped before throwing her into the car.

Now somebody else was talking, telling her to be still, jabbing her with something that smelled of alcohol. A nauseating substance tinged her mouth. Her lips were dry and hurting, her throat parched. She struggled to focus; to sooth the burning sensations.

“I said be still, child,” a corpulent woman spat with an unfamiliar, maybe Jamaican accent. “Don’t move ya het, we-ah be done in a minute.”

Sheri stretched her face and got her eyes open. Bleary objects crowded the room around her: a beeping monitor anchored to a stainless steel cabinet; a series of lights and attachments from an overhead multidirectional arm; bizarre images of winged women on the walls here and there; a Medusa-like idol staring down at her from the corner of the room.

“A-am I…in a hospital?” she whispered, straining to rise.

A shadowy presence in the corner of the room was watching, as if waiting for her to respond. “You could sssay that,” it hissed. “But it isn’t the Portland Memorial, Blue Eyes.”

The fiendish voice delivered the words with such emptiness; it felt as if they had been flicked at her from a snake’s forked tongue.

She looked toward the presence, then at the nurse. Realizing she was strapped to the bed, she tried to scream, but could only whimper, “W-hat are you d-doing?”

The large lady with the icy stare held up a hypodermic needle filled with her blood. “I’m done wit yew,” she barked unsympathetically. She placed the specimen on a tray and waddled out of the room.

A sick uncertainty engulfed Sheri as she returned her gaze to the shadow. Resonant evil lingered there. And something else around her, observing, no, examining her.

The presence nearby groaned and what sounded like a chain dragged over the floor. “Sssooo…you ask why you are here? It’s really quite ssimple, dear. Since you seem so fond of The Book, allow me to quote a verse that will clarify everything. It’s one of my favoritesss, from Genesis, chapter six.”

Edging toward the light, the pale silhouette of a tall man in a dark suit emerged. Now his voice became eerily bright and melodious, like an angelic child. “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”

Who, or what, was she witnessing, and why was it quivering like that!?

The darkman hissed, and the dragon’s voice returned. “You sssee, dear. Your purpose is to serve as a kind of, shall we sssay, mother?” He made a gurgling noise, trembled, and answered her next question before she could ask it. “Oh, did I fail to mention? It’sss your big day, hon. But don’t get excited yet. Before you can conceive, we’ve got to tessst your blood for compatibility. We can’t have nasty human virussses messing things up for us, can we?”

The words, delivered so bare of human sympathy, sickened her. Instinctively she knew she needed to get away. She struggled against the straps, heaving and grunting and jerking fruitlessly.

The presence, sounding amused by her fear, snorted, “Well look on the bright side, sweetness. If everything checksss out, you’ll be the new virgin mother. Imagine how your friends will envy you then! On the other hand, if you’re not ssselected to bear the special child, you’ll at leassst get to be Rahu’s bride. You’ll love him…you’d be number…what is it now, six? Seven? Oh, I do lose count with Rahu, he goes through females ssso fast, you know.”

Sheri clutched the bed rails and clenched her eyes tight, telling herself she was in a dream. Such madmen’s houses of terror could not exist in the real world. The fact that her abductor seemed anything but human and possessed no apparent capacity for caring was certain proof that she would wake up at any moment to find herself wrapped in the warmth and familiarity of her bedroom. Even the cruelest nightmares came to an end if she cried! This one would too. She burst into tears, sobbing, “W-what I k-know is that you’d better let me g-go!”

She opened her eyes to see if she was at home now. The darkman took a step toward her. Something darted from his mouth and slipped immediately back inside. “But, my dear, you’ve only just arrived,” he hissed.

With the man’s demented eyes glowering at her through the darkness, she screamed as loud as she could, “GET AWAAAY! YOU’RE POSSESSED!”

“You might sssay that!” Apol boiled, stepping from the shadows to her bedside. As she tried in vain to draw back, he wiped her tears with his scabrous hand and licked the salty moisture from his fingers. “But I wouldn’t ussse such obsolescent language, or that tone of voice, Sheri. Your ssspeaking to the possessor, not the possessed. My host is way past the point of thinking for himssself.”


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