A Human Touch by Pete Warner

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SUMMARY: Entry for the september '09 flash fiction contest: Topic - super powers

Affixed to an iron bracket so rust-shot that it seemed to impale a bleeding wall, a single sulphur lamp swayed fitfully in the night's breath. Shuffling to stay within the transient comfort of its wan yellow lambency, the Whisperers of the City of Haven huddled cheek to jowl and horn to fang. Enormous fingers and dexterous claws cupped dainty brown cigarinas against the wind.

They sucked smoke, took swallows from acid flasks, stamped their hooves. They stared deliberately, one eye here, three eyes there, out on the dark beyond the lamp shine, but a monster's attention is a capricious child, prone to escape its reins, and so many snuck furtive glances beyond the sagging, rotted doorframe. Into that leering mouth, and the horror in the throat behind. They fondled bone fetishes. Warded themselves, making the sign of the Cage. They uttered their reports, simultaneously, as a great whispering chorus, to a creature consisting of a thousand fleshy ears, who later would excrete fecal matter containing the pure essence of fact, which would then be used as a puissant marinade for Haven's breakfast meat. The citizens would learn of the night's horrors from their morning chew. Morsel by morsel, every gory detail digested quite literally..

In the room beyond the door, Detector Rind crouched on double-hinged legs and felt the old, familiar walls go up inside, even as he meticulously scanned the walls outside his skull for details. Clinquant banners of luminescent green gore festooned the room, lent to it an odd air of celebration. Rind tried to piece together the mosaic of butchery but couldn't make the pieces fit. He looked up at the antlered head of the victim, which the perpetrator had mounted on the wall above the mantel. Behind his hunched back, his assistant, Mister Amok, was quietly and understandably filling a corner with white vomit.

"Supernatural," he said to nomonster in particular.

"Sir?" said Amok, wiping his twin mouths with a trembling paw.

"The cuts are clean, Amok. Precise. See that kidney there beneath the wainscoting. Or the hearts arranged neatly on the mantel. Not the maniacal swipe and tear of a monstrous claw. No, these are incisions. Surgical incisions. And look at these markings, there on the wall above you! I believe that is writing, Amok. Arcane symbols formed of the deceased's blood."

"Writing Sir?" said Amok incredulously. "With respect Sir, that's just bedside tales, or as you'd find in trashy scare-meat for those who won't chew proper literature."

"Just because monsters don't read, Amok, doesn't make it not writing. The powers at work here are beyond the bestial plane. Only a humanic hand is capable. Only a humanic mind could drive it. This..." he whispered, "this is the Doctor's work."

"Doctor Jekyll? Here, in Haven?"

"Quiet!" snapped Rind. And then softer: "My good gentlebeast, should that mob of Whisperers gathered outside hear that name, the flaming branch of panic will touch the considerable kindling of our city's collective disposition towards hysteria. The details here are incendiary, Amok.

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