|The Story||The Authors|
|Janice, meanwhile, was in a real pickle.|
|She stood inside the building trying to remember where she was supposed to go. She closed her eyes tightly and tried to recall the last message she had recieved. "The house next door...abandoned. Go to the attic. Climb out the northwesternmost dormer window in the attic and it's an easy jump to the widow's-watch of the house where Tiki and Demetrius are being held. Tiki's the one they want, and they'll torture Demetrius to get her to talk. They'll torture you, too. Beware. Beware especially of the Iron Sausage." Janice ran out of the building to the house next door. Franticall she ran to the attic. She climbed out the northwesternmost dormer window and jumped to the widow's watch of the house where Tiki and Demetrius were being held. The house was silent and smelled of musty lint and and burning gunpowder. Janice searched the upstairs but could find no sign of Tiki and Demetrius. She looked at her watch - 12:05. Surely one of them had lost a limb by now. Janice chewed her lip against the panic that was quelling in her stomach. She slowly crept downstairs. Then she suddenly realized she'd been in this house before!|
|It had been a dream. A house. Climbing, climbing. The stairwell whirled round and round, spun higher and higher, something in her -- she was dreaming -- remembered them climbing up inside the giant chambered nautilus in Dr. Doolittle -- oh and you knew it all so well because these were the same dream-stairs you ran down when you were being chased, a great black batlike threat hard at your heels, rising over you, falling across you like the shadow cast by the infinite wing of the Roc, you descending ever more manically, not even daring to scream for fear that to do anything other than run-run-run would cost you the fraction of a nanosecond which was the only thing in this world and the other that you had on the beast, and you knew if you lost that infinitesimal edge on it, the thing would swoop down on you and ghather you in the dark folds of its being and you would never be seen again. She shuddered.|
Two flights up, in what once was the attic, a heavily cowled figure shows us his back as he leans forward and holds his thumb down on the START button of the Iron Sausage.|
The infernal machine sputters, shudders, shakes and coughs into life, belching thick, oily black smoke into the dark rafters. The effort it expends in awakening causes books and fluid-filled erlenmeyer flasks to vibrate from their shelves onto the floor, respectively thumping and shattering. The cowled figure does not even seem to notice, so intent is he on the needle's antics inside the gauge marked Heliocorporectomaic Factor per 1000j/intuit. query.
Inside their cages, however, suspended in mid-air from the roof-beams, Demetrius and Tiki did notice. With initial alarm followed by a grinding, intenesely visceral feeling of primal terror. As if a coelocanth were churning in each of their guts, chewing and turning, its cold sharp scales leaving carnage in their wake as it turned. Their eyes met across the thirty feet of air that separated them, and in that meeting they shared a horrified thought: That Thing is meant for us. We are meant for its bucking iron gullet. This is as arranged as an Indian wedding, or a sacrifice. Thus far in their captivity not a single word had been spoken to them; twice a day they were served TV dinners which appeared to have been sitting in a freezer somewhere since the early 1970s; twice a day their litter-boxes were emptied; once since they'd been there (and who could tell how long that had been in the monochromatic dayless-nightlessness of the laboratory) they'd been taken from their cages, one at a time, down a tile lined hallway to a shower where each had been allowed to bathe in private; all of things had been performed by the same mute, cowled, unblinking, inscrutable Asian men in their rustling jumpsuits of horsehair.