The handle finally grew too slick to hold and slipped out of his hand with such force that it crashed through the thin-screen TV.
Blood from its passage left Rorschach patterns all along the carpet, the dresser, and what was left of the television, but it hadn’t been enough. It would never be enough, because Joshua was still alive.
He looked down at himself, at the hamburger of his own flesh knitting together before his eyes, and started laughing. He couldn’t die. Could not. Nothing he did would end it, the torment, the hunger, the fear. The burning. He’d thought at least the sun might kill him, but no—it just resulted in horrible pain, unconsciousness, and waking up right back in the hotel room where he started.
Using an abdomen just-healed and muscles he’d tried to destroy, he curled in on himself and wept.
Four days passed, and two times more, he woke up with a new body in the room. Some person he’d apparently taken and killed, though he had no idea how, when, or why. When he grew hungry, he just lost it—lost his mind, lost his memories, and did… horrible things.
And he couldn’t die and end it.
His credit card would max out soon. He could only keep this room for so much longer. At least the cold air meant his open window kept the bodies from going bad too quickly, but even so, the smell—
He flung himself off the filthy bed, scrambling backwards, caught and trapped and certain he’d kill the policemen or whoever had found him.
And he stopped. He couldn’t not stop. The man who spoke owned him with one word.
And what kind of a man was this? He couldn’t be more than twenty, with soft curls haloing an angelic face, wearing a blue suit made of… velvet? Compassion softened this man’s green eyes—the most beautiful eyes Joshua had ever seen, though he wasn’t into guys as a rule.
The strange man knelt, and whatever power he produced wafted like a gentle kiss of breeze. Joshua shuddered, yearning for the unknown, repulsed at himself, afraid, but unable to move; that single word had turned off his ability to run.
“You are afraid,” said the blue-suited man. “I know this. You were changed and left here to do harm to others. You were intended as a terrorist attack, of sorts.” He produced a bottle of Chardonnay for no reason Joshua could guess and began to work on the cork with his fingernail.
His fingernail. Ordinary-looking, but apparently strong enough to remove a cork.
Joshua’s lungs ached with his fast, shallow breaths, and he tried to take a deep one to scream.
He had to obey that, too, but the blue-suited man had not ordered him not to cry, so.
Apparently unsurprised by weeping, the blue-suited man held out the Chardonnay. “Drink this. Then we can speak.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do with wine?” was what Joshua wanted to say. What he did instead was moan, a deep, naked sound summoned by the smell of something definitely not born of grapes in that bottle.
Blood. It held blood.
He drained the bottle before he even realized he’d reached for it, and this blood… this blood was like nothing he’d known, rich and filling and calming, and as he lowered the empty bottle from his lips, he realized the shakes had left his limbs. Finally.
“I have found you,” said the blue-suited man. “I am Notte. You were made in an attempt to hurt me, but I have found you before that could happen. I know you are afraid; the self-control you have shown here is extraordinary.”
“I killed people!” Joshua said.
“Yes, but not as many as you were meant to kill. You were intended to be madness, uninhibited and unhinged, so that by the time I found you, the dead would be innumerable. Yet you have only killed three.”
What was he talking about? “Only?” The room blurred with tears.
“You were meant as a weapon. I will take you as a son.” The blurry blue-suited man held out his hand. “Come to me, Joshua Run. Come. Join my family. I will take care of you, and I will ensure you never kill another innocent again.”
Maybe the blue-suited man would kill him. Or maybe it would all be worse than before, trained to be a weapon, or who knew? This was like some horrible movie, straight to DVD.
“Take my hand.” It was not a command, and it could have been. The blue-suited man who could control him with words was giving him a choice.
Joshua sobbed and grabbed the other man’s wrist as if it were the only thing keeping him from falling off a cliff.
He’d almost fallen off; he’d scrabbled and torn out fingernails trying to keep from falling, but as Notte drew him close, the sucking power of that cliff finally melted. Gentle control wrapped around like a blanket on a cold night, tight and safe and warm.
For the first time in days, Joshua slept and did not dream of blood.