The Red Man is real and I’m going to Stop Him - Chap 4
The Red Man is a blind spot in our collective unconscious. You might feel him, like an ache in your bones. You might become absolutely certain that he is standing just behind you. But as soon as you turn to look, he’s gone.
The Red Man’s true desire is chaos. He feeds off it. So he infects the world with things that are sinister. His influence can be found in the places you are afraid to look.
“You know that aliens built the pyramids, right?” Edmund, a tech billionaire had a smug grin that you just wanted to smack off his face. We had found his name in Doctor Kline’s files. Emma and I managed to secure an interview by posing as a documentary crew.
“You sure about that?” I was skeptical.
Edmund looked out the window. He saw a homeless encampment outside. “You know how much money I make?” He sighed. “What gives these people the right to camp out where I have to look at them?”
The hunger I had experienced in the forest was rising again. I don’t hurt people, generally speaking. But this man seemed to be in need of some form of corrective ‘adjustment.’ “Where do you expect them to go, exactly? They have to sleep somewhere.” I felt my anger rising.
Emma interrupted, avoiding a catastrophe. “One of your associates mentioned that you had been treated by a Doctor Kline? We were hoping we could ask him some questions about his research. But we haven’t been able to find him.”
“Doctor K? Oh yeah I remember.” Edmund thought back. “I took this trip to Egypt a few years ago, visited some old burial sites. After that I started having some trouble sleeping, that’s all. But Doctor K cleared me right up.” Edmund leaned forward. “But I don’t know where he is… I thought you were here to ask me about my company?”
“Did you, by any chance, take anything from the sites you visited?” Emma’s question was pointed.
“No.” The look on Edmund’s face was disdainful. “I am not a tomb robber. Or ‘tomb raider.’ Or whatever the kids are calling it these days.”
“What can you tell us about your new project?”
“AI is the future. It’s going to change everything. Pretty soon it’ll be smart enough to tell us what to do and when that happens, we won’t have to make choices for ourselves anymore.”
“That sounds terrible.” I thought it was a bad idea.
Edmund had a vision. “In the old days we used to pray for guidance, right? Why? Because we thought there might be something up there, smarter than all of us. And now, with my technology. Soon there will be. A visionary guide for the human race.”
“And what if its intentions aren’t noble?” Emma wondered.
“We have safeguards.” Edmund had the look of someone who had found true peace. “My company is so far ahead of anyone else. They should all just pack up and go home.”
“Kind of strange.” Emma wondered. “You travel to Egypt. You come back. And all of a sudden, you’re making these incredible advancements. How does that work?”
“So what are you saying?” Edmund crossed his fingers. “Are you implying that I went down there and found some ancient artifact that makes computers smart or something?”
“What kind of interview is this?” Edmund frowned. “Who are you, really?”
“We’re just trying to get some answers.” I tried to keep the discussion on track.
“No. We’re done.” Edmund motioned to his assistant. “Show them the way out.”
As we drove away, Emma seemed anxious. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“We’re being followed.” She kept an eye on the rear-view.
I looked back and saw a black town car. I recognized it. It was the same car that had been at the airport when we arrived. “Who is it?”
Before she could answer, another car hit us from the side. Glass shattered. Our vehicle went spinning. I tried to go after her, I was pinned. Emma was tossed into the black car and taken.
I woke up in a hospital room. I felt pain in most of my joints and limbs. “What happened to your arm?” A nurse that seemed like an angel stood over me. Adanna looked at the scars on my arm with concern. “Did you cut yourself?”
I looked down at the markings from where I had carved the parasite out. “It’s a long story.” It tried to get out of bed, but my knee buckled.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Adanna shook her head. “You were in a car accident. Your body needs time to heal.” She helped me back into bed. “Now I want you to promise me, you won’t try that again.”
I nodded. I was in terrible pain. But Emma was out there, a captive of some unknown force. And she needed my help. But for now I had no choice but to stay here. I could barely walk.
Just then I heard a child’s laughter from the hall. “There are kids here?” I asked.
She gave me a strange look. “There are no children on this floor.” It must’ve been the voices again. And that shook me. What if there was something in this hospital and I was too weak to fight it?
That night I woke up. The window was open. I heard something, a kind of nasally chewing sound. I approached the other patient in the room, without making too much noise. There was something moving, just behind the divider.
As I approached the hospital bed. I saw a figure. It was gnawing on the patient, feeding on them. As I got closer, the violator heard me. It looked up. It saw me. Then it screamed and it ran away from its victim, before jumping out the window.
The next morning, Adanna and the doctors told me the patient had passed away. “Did he have any marks on his neck?” I wondered. “Like a bite mark or something?”
“Now why would you ask something like that?” Adanna was curious. “But if it makes you feel better.” She showed me the man. And there was nothing where the creature had been feeding on him. No scars or marks. But there was something about his eyes. A dark film had clouded them.
I heard the child’s laughter again. “Are you sure there aren’t any kids on this floor?”
Adanna looked at me closely. “You hear them too?”
I locked eyes with her, she must have thought I was crazy. “Do you hear voices sometimes? Things that aren’t there?”
She turned away. “I hear all kinds of terrible things… But I don’t know what they are.”
“I think we’re the same.” I tried to explain. “There is darkness in the world. And some people are connected to it.” I wondered if I should tell her about the Red Man, but I realized that knowing about his existence is a curse.
“Adanna.” I gripped her hand. “I need your help. My friend was taken… I’ve been trying to hear her, but I can’t. Maybe if we try together?”
“No.” She pulled her hand away. “This is dark magic you’re talking about. I won’t have anything to do with it.”
The violator returned that night, but this time I was ready. I watched as the window opened. I hid as the thing emerged, creeping through the window.
I followed it down the hall, which seemed eerily empty. I heard the children’s cries again. Then the creature disappeared into a room with several patients.
I found it feeding on an elderly woman. It was gnawing, clawing. I knew that if I didn’t do something it would kill that poor woman, just like it had done the night before. “Hey! Get away from her!” The violator turned. I could see that it was displeased at the sight of me.
The violator whipped away from the patient and came for me. It crawled on top of me, pinning me down. Its mouth began to bulge like an octopus, and it wrapped itself around my face. As I struggled to breathe, its eyes were pulsing, bioluminescent bulbs.
“Get off!” Adanna arrived. She had a scalpel. She stabbed the creature repeatedly until it hissed and let me go. I coughed madly. The violator screamed and ran back through the hall.
“What was that thing?” Adanna was in shock.
“I don’t know.” I recovered from the attack. “But if we don’t stop it, it’s going to keep killing people.”
Adanna wasn’t so sure. “What do you expect me to do? How can we kill something like that?”
“I don’t know. But those voices we heard might be connected. Was there ever a children’s ward here?”
“Yes.” She nodded. “But nobody goes there anymore. That floor is empty.”
The next day we found our way to the abandoned basement. Sulfur lights buzzed. The floors were littered with old toys and magazines.
“Why did they close this floor down?” I wondered.
“One year, a bunch of the children got sick. Several of them died. They had this disease where their eyes turned grey.” Adanna explained. “After that, nobody wanted to keep their children here.” We continued down the hall. “Sometimes I dream of a man.” Adanna confessed. “He is so full of evil. When I dream of him, I think I might never wake up again… Do you know who he is?”
“No.” I lied. I couldn’t tell her about the Red Man. Once she knew, she would be in danger.
Just then there was a buzz, like some old equipment had been left on. We entered the room where the noise came from. Wallpaper peeled off the walls. Lights flickered as we searched. Adanna bent down to find a discarded doll. She picked it up. “Maybe that thing that attacked you was what made the children sick.”
We found something in the corner. It was an egg sac of some kind, fleshy at the touch. It smelled rotten. Black fractals extended out of it and up the wall. I touched it gently. And it moved. Something began to crawl out.
The violator stretched its body out, pulling itself outside its nest. Then it saw us. “What do we do now?” Adanna asked.
“Run!” I grabbed her arm. We ran down the hall as that thing chased after us. We hit the elevator button. But something was wrong.
“It’s not working.” Adanna jabbed at the button again. She turned to see the violator crawling slowly forward.
“In here!” I pulled her down the hall. We shut the door and moved some old furniture to barricade it. The doors rattled and shook as that thing tried to get in, to feed on us. Then it stopped.
“How do we kill it?” Adanna asked.
“My friend had some kind of protection, but she didn’t know what it was. It was just names and dates.”
“Names and dates?” Adanna had an idea. “In my country we believe in ‘ashe.’ It’s a kind of energy inside you that helps you change the world around you. Maybe the names are people with powerful ashe and they are protecting her.”
“If only we had some of our own.” I wasn’t sure how that knowledge would do us much good.
“Maybe we do.” Adanna felt confident. “I have something in me. Maybe it is something we can use to fight with.”
The violator appeared in front of us. Adanna stood before it. “Wait!” But she was braver than I was. And she ignored me.
Step by step, she approached the thing, it growled. “Look at me.” She stared the creature in the face. “You hurt those children, didn’t you?” The demon seemed to grin. “In my home there was a man, who loved me very much. He wanted to come here, to be with his wife. But they wouldn’t let him. One night two men tried to rob him, and even after he gave them his money, they killed him. He was a good man, who loved his wife. But I still hold him here, in my heart.” She advanced. “You must leave these people alone. You must stop hurting them.” Behind her I saw the spirit of her husband. For a moment he stood beside her in strength, then vanished.
The creature began to back away, cowering from Adanna’s courage.
Then something else arrived. Something deeper and darker. The walls of the hall started to glow, as if they were burning under the paint. “Get Down!” I grabbed Adanna and turned her away. “Whatever you do, don’t look.”
I felt a shockwave as the Red Man emerged. He seemed to growl, displeased with the violator. This creature had failed him. It had fallen back to hope. The Red Man lifted his foot, and he crushed the demon under it. “What is happening?” Adanna cried.
But the Red Man was clever. He spoke to her, in the voice of her husband. “Come back to me, my wife.” She didn’t look. “Don’t you love me anymore?” She didn’t look. “If I go now, you will never see me again.”
Adanna couldn’t help herself. She ached for a glimpse of the man she loved. I tried to stop her. But she stood, mesmerized. “Adanna, no!” She approached the Red Man, step by step. She stared into the creature’s eyes, as she was consumed by the horror.
But before the Red Man could finish his ritual, I grabbed Adanna. I closed my eyes and I pulled her to safety. We made our way to the stairwell. We ran up the stairs. Finally, the trashing winds from the basement subsided. The violator had been dealt with, but not by us.
After Adanna had recovered, I approached her. “I know you’ve been through a lot. But my friend is in danger. I need your help.”
She nodded. “Then I will help you find her.” We joined hands. And we listened for the voices. Working together, I could see farther, hear more. My mind reached out and searched across the void until I found a voice. It was Emma’s.
“So it’s not just the terrible things we hear after all?” Adanna felt relieved. “Do you think maybe? One day I can talk to my husband again?”
“It’s too dangerous.” I learned something new about the Red Man today. He had the power to influence people by fear, or by pretending to be someone they loved.
As I packed my things and was about to leave, Adanna gripped my hand. “Tell me. What was that thing I saw down there? I have to know.”
I didn’t want to tell her, but it was too late for innocence. So I explained it to her. I told her the story of the Red Man, and how he was the source of the creature that attacked us.
“Then he is responsible? For hurting those children?” Adanna felt cold.
“He is responsible for so much more than that.” I replied. “But I am going to rescue my friend. And we’re going to stop him.”