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The Luminarium 2

(working title)

Chapter Ew.

 Chief Rivers never liked Saturdays. Though it would seem that his hard work and reluctant ass-kissing that finally awarded him with a position high enough in the Cincinnati P.D. to have a normal, American, Monday through Friday schedule would make Saturdays the best... it never worked out that way. There was almost always some emergency, some political requirement that he show up anyway. Even on the few Saturdays that this didn't happen, he would spend the whole day waiting for it. Sundays were always worse from the Saturday-night parties, and Mondays were Mondays. What the Chief NEVER expected.. was a Tuesday like this one.

“I just... don't understand.” Rivers said gently, running his hand through a hairline desperately grasping at its last vestiges of life, a habit from his mullet-days that he never quite broke. He loosened his already relaxed tie and leaned forward in his ancient office chair that suffered more vocally every day. He studied the badge and gun that had landed haphazardly on his tidy inbox, as if they would somehow explain the mystery before him.

The statue of a man in the chair opposite him continued its unstirred vigil. Jim Skorski had now been the head of the homicide division for nearly eight years. Rivers had grown to consider Jim a true friend long before that time, despite the fact that the two couldn't have been more different. Rivers was often misconstrued as a slob, though those who knew him realized that this flaw applied only to his mode of dress. Every rookie detective had to take a turn pointing out the Chief's off-buttoned shirts or rumpled ties within two weeks of being promoted. The remainder of Rivers life was a lesson in organization and well-oiled management. However, even his exemplary record hadn't staved off the inevitable approach of retirement age, with the hair and body to go with it.

Detective Jim Skorski was the youngest Lead Homicide Detective in the history of Ohio state law enforcement. Rivers would often lovingly joke that Jim's speedy ascension in the ranks was due partly to his impeccable fashion sense. Despite his clean looks, including a shaven head that didn't need to be, and a fit body that refused to gain weight, Jim was a man of more passion than compartmentalization. Though Rivers was at first skeptical of this mindset, Jim proved to have more than enough empathy to give him the drive to solve cases, but the innate wisdom to let go when there were no answers, or even admit when he was wrong. The last case was a rare occurrence since Jim modestly wielded a genius-level I.Q.

“Jim, talk to me,” Rivers pleaded again, “This just... isn't YOU.” Jim blinked, after what seemed an eternity, but continued to stare blankly into an empty corner.

“Listen, I understand this was a bad one, and it seems completely senseless, but we just got started on this case.” Rivers had already been called twice the night before about the riot on Timberhill Drive. Even by morning the press were already calling it “The most violent cataclysm in Ohio history.” Thus far, there was no discernible cause for the event. Rivers had collected reports of over 130 homicides, more than 70 rapes, 95 supposed suicides, several bombings, assaults of all manner, and even animal cruelty. Reports were still coming in, and the rubble was still being tediously sifted through. The entirety of which seemed to be centered primarily around one city block.

“Did you hear about the survivors?” Jim blurted suddenly, making Rivers nearly jump. His tone was monotonous yet sharp.

“Yeah... yeah I heard.” Rivers was already reeling over one of the most perplexing and terrifying factors in the riot yet. All but half a dozen survivors had to be sedated for violent behavior, and preliminary reports from CPD therapists was that they were all suffering from delusional schitzophrenic episodes.

“This is.... this is... is...” Jim closed his eyes to regain his composure, “This is something... it's just beginning. Something... is coming.”

Rivers sat up straight again. He had never heard this voice come from his friend. “All right, look... this is one of the bloodiest, creepiest, weirdest things we've faced, so I can understand if you need to step back. Take some time. But, Jesus Christ, Jim... we've seen some real shit together! We survived that serial child rapist, the... the fuckin' cannibal vagrant. Jim... you faced down two Al Queda terrorists about to blow up a goddam veteran's hospital!”

Jim's eyes remained closed. Rivers was beginning to get seriously pissed... and deeply disturbed, by the specter in front of him. The ghost of Jim. “What the hell happened out there?” Rivers finally forced out, for he considered whether or not this was really a question he wanted the answer to.

Jim's eyes darted open, staring directly into the Chief's. Rivers found himself forced to look away, as much as he tried not to, he found himself frequently interested in the discarded gun and badge and various notes on his desk.

“When we first got there... Cate and I... we saw a man running around,” Jim began, his voice less stoic and more shaky than before, “He was naked, but with something draped over his head and shoulders. He seemed wounded, and was definitely unarmed, so we... got closer. The power was out and there was still lots of smoke, so we had our flashlights on the guy. It wasn't 'til we got closer that we realized what he was wearing... Frank, it was the skin of the upper half of a woman.”

The Chief's mouth dropped open despite his attempts to disguise anything resembling shock.

“We lost sight of him when we got attacked. I... I don't even know how many shots we fired, or how many we killed. They just wouldn't stop coming... wielding bats and pans and knives... clawing, biting, screaming gibberish or repeated phrases... men, women, children, old people... There were so many patrolmen already on the ground. Cate got hurt pretty badly, and fortunately we got her on one of the few ambulances that was still there, but... I heard screaming in one of the tenements. I had to stay.”

Rivers shifted nervously now. In truth, he was no longer interested in hearing the details. In truth, this was a day he truly wished to not be a cop. He knew he had to listen. For his friend's sake, he HAD to keep listening.

“I grabbed two beat cops and had them follow me into the building...” Skorski got quieter, as if he feared the sound of his own voice. “Most of the street violence seemed contained for the time being, so we headed in. There were bodies all over the hallway. I checked the ones that seemed like they COULD be alive... the rest were obviously not. We took the stairs and at the first landing we found... two decapitated toddlers. I... Jesus, I don't know where their heads were... they were completely red from blood...” Jim paused and looked down, “One of the patrolmen bolted right then. The remaining two of us continued up to the second level. There were blood smears on every wall. Most apartment doors were hanging wide open, some with bodies propping them there. At the end of the hall there was... a couple... an old man and a.. a little girl were fucking! They... they were covered in blood, and... she was on top of the old man... screaming.”

Jim winced to hold back tears, “I yelled 'Stop', but they both just jumped up and ran down the other stairwell. We started across the hall, but more screaming came from the third floor. I figured those two would run into the cops still on the street, so we headed back up the stairs. That's where I saw... more than blood on the walls. It took me a minute to even figure out... that they were ears. Human ears had been nailed to the stairway wall... dozens....” Jim chuckled lightly with a vacant expression in his eyes, which Rivers found even more disconcerting. “They were all sizes, all colors... a real equal-opportunity horror.”
Rivers could see the tears pooling at Jim's chin, despite his attempts to find humor in his own story. “Jim, you don't have to....” but Jim held up his hand.

“When we got the third floor, there was teenage boy... it looked like the lower half of his body was charred... his right eye was missing and he was digging... he was digging at his left eye with a grapefruit spoon.” Still looking toward the floor, Jim scowled in further attempts to stave off his tears and keep talking, “He wasn't the one screaming. He was barely grunting as he did it. I grabbed his arm and pulled the spoon away, but he gripped it tight... and smiled at me. That's when I realized that he'd already pulled all of his own teeth. At least... I assume he did it himself. When the beat cop finished puking I had him take the guy out of the building. He was more than happy to leave. Hell, I would've given my right testicle to go with him... but I could still hear the screaming, though fainter, from the end of the hall.”

“There aren't words... It was hell on earth... There was blood and semen and feces and... body parts... everywhere. Fingers, toes, organs, pieces of scalp... I passed a door, I presume by the same 'artist' who nailed up the ears, there was a little mosaic of a face... two eyeballs, a mouth, a nose, two more ears, all arranged in the shape of a face, just... nailed, tacked and glued to the door. There were other body parts stuck there, too. Three penises, a heart, a kidney, four fingers... and parts I couldn't identify. I heard a weaker scream... the same voice... coming from the next door.”

Rivers found himself wincing as well. He also noticed that he'd begun to sweat. Jim's tears were dripping rhythmically from his chin and nose. Rivers could feel a tear on his own cheek, and had to fight not to cover his ears.

“The door was ajar, so I went in. The place was trashed. Every picture on the wall and piece of furniture was broken. There were small fires in the kitchen as I passed it, but then I saw the woman laying on the living room floor....” Jim paused for several seconds, seeming to attempt to disconnect himself in order to get the words out of his mouth, “She was covered in blood, too... from neck to ankles. There was... a gaping wound in her abdomen with something hanging out of it. At first, I though it was intestine, but... I realized it was... an umbilical cord... she was holding a straight-razor in one hand and something meaty in the other. There were little bloody pieces all around her. She didn't seem to be able to move much, and I quickly realized she was close to bleeding out. Then... the meaty thing in her hand... suddenly made sense... I could... I... I could see most of a head and torso... and part of the umbilical...”

Jim broke into full bawling. Rivers squeezed his eyes shut. For a time, all Jim could say was “Oh God!” and “Help me! Please fucking help me!” through his cries. After a couple of minutes, Jim breathed deeply, calming himself as Rivers had seen him do many times in the past. This time, however, Rivers knew that this was just a temporary reprieve. This man would never be able to escape this unrelenting memory.

Suddenly, Jim stood. Rivers bolted upright in his seat, and the squeal the chair bellowed seemed deafening. Jim still didn't look at his old friend, but almost whispered “She smiled... she smiled at me, so I let her die. I just... walked away.” With that, the ghost of Jim shuffled out of Rivers' office. There was nothing to say. The air was thick in his absence. The silence was ominous, oppressive. Cincinnati Chief of Police Frank Rivers then slowly picked up his phone, and called his wife, seeking a lifeline back to sanity.

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