ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz

“Doesn’t bother me,” I said, though I was not too sure what I felt. The blood wouldn’t bother me, certainly, nor would the spilling of intestines and gore. If it did, then I might as well give up being a doctor. Eating a raw, warm rabbit, though . . .

He lifted the first rabbit in His left hand while He thinned His right fingers and slid the tiny tips into the game, loosening the hide from the inside. The animal peeled, literally, like a banana. He did the second one the same way, then set to devouring them before they could stiffen and freeze. He took large bites of the greasy flesh, blood dribbling down His chin, until He had consumed everything but the bones and the fur that He had previously skinned off. He hardly seemed to chew the food, but bolted it down in an effort to finish the unpleasant business as swiftly as possible. “Okay,” He said, standing and wiping the mess from His cheeks and lips. “Time to go.”

His eyes glittered.

My stomach flipped like a dying animal looking for a cozy place to have that final wrenching spasm, despite my concentrated efforts to control myself. I turned and led the way this time, for the snow under the trees was considerably less than it had been in the open and in the less dense sections of the woods. As I walked, I tried to sort out the confusing mass of conflicting emotions throbbing through my brain. He was the greatest boon to mankind in centuries, was He not? Of course He was I Look at the power in His hands, the ability to heal that burned in every cell of His body. This was not just a steam engine or an electric lightbulb or a more powerful rocket booster that had been discovered; this was a panacea for all that physically ailed the race. I should discount little things like His wild appetite, His energetic consumption of the rabbits—blood, guts, and all. Shouldn’t I? Of course I should. Only a small-minded man will overlook intrinsic worth because of superfluous surface defects.

The wind blew.

The snow beat my face.

Cold . . .

But there was one thing troubling me: Yes, perhaps He was benevolent in His previous stage when I had

kidnapped Him, when He had brought the explosion and fire victims back from the dead. But did that necessarily mean He would look kindly upon mankind in one of His later stages, after He had changed?

Wouldn’t we seem very inferior? And sort of pitiful. And maybe worthless. And, just maybe, pests to be dealt with out-of-hand?

I shivered.

Damn! I was acting like some superstitious child, or some senile old ninnie. This wasn’t a retelling of the hoary Frankenstein tale! My artificial human was not going to turn on me like a senseless brute and bash my head in. I shook my head and tried to dispel any more such thoughts. I knew they were unhealthy.

Thirty-five minutes later, we came out of the trees to the edge of the foothills. We had taken off our snow-shoes when we had entered the last woods, now we unstrapped them from our packs and put them on again. I made a mental note to be especially careful if we encountered any drifts. We couldn’t afford another two-hour delay while He shoveled me out with His hands. It would be dawn before we reached the cabin now, and I didn’t want to stay out in daylight any longer than was absolutely necessary. We moved across the barren slopes, and we had just crested the rise when the sound came to us.

“What is that?” He asked, taking my arm and stopping me.

I peeled off my mask and waited. It came again, low and hollow. “Wolves,” I said. “A pack of wolves.”


We stood a third of the way down the next slope, nothing behind which we might hide, no trees to climb, nothing at all to do but wait and hope that they passed us by, crossed another hill, went down a distant ravine and never knew our presence. But my scalp tightened and cold chills crept up my spine, flushing through all parts of my body when I considered the unlikelihood of that. A wolf is a formidable opponent. It has exceedingly sharp senses, among the keenest in the animal kingdom. And with the wind blowing our scent in the direction of the guttural, melancholy howls, there was almost no chance at all that we would escape detection.

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