ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz

“You’re going to need all that?” I asked, incredulous.

“Maybe more.”

“More?” ,

“I can’t really say yet. Not until I’m farther along with the changes. But you might have to go hunting for me, Jacob. Can you hunt?”

“I’ve done a little. Mostly gamebirds, though. Duck, pheasant, a bit of turkey. And it has been three or four years since I’ve even been out for those. What would I hunt here?”

“Well, we’ve seen that there are wolves. Geese, if it’s that time of the year. Rabbits. I understand the park is noted for its elk herds and its white-tailed deer.”

I laughed.

“I’m serious,” He said.

“Let’s see you eat what you have here first. That should take a month. If you manage that, then we’ll talk about hunting.”

I went to the window to check the weather. It was still snowing hard, and there did not appear to be any breaks in the cloud cover. The wind was whipping up the white stuff and jamming it against the cabin in dandy drifts. I was all for a blizzard. Aesthetically, I enjoyed the beauty of it. Also, and more importantly, it was unlikely that a search of the park could be initiated now even if some bright young World Authority executive candidate had thought of it. Helicopters couldn’t move in that soup, and foot parties could easily get separated and lost. It was snowing much harder than before. The wind seemed strong enough to snap the towering pines all around us. Satisfied that we would not be interrupted by any nasty WA patrols, I went into one of the two bedrooms, stripped, and fell into bed. I didn’t even mind that there were no sheets, just the spread. For all I knew, I could have been in the Astor, high up in the best suite available, curled on a five-thousand-dollar bed.

I had bad dreams. Real bad.

I was running through a dark, thick, silent forest in the first dream, pursued by some nameless, faceless hulk that moaned as it crashed through the brush. Several times, its long, thick fingers touched the nape of my neck, tried to draw me into its murderous grasp. Each time, I would have to double my speed to put more ground between us. But the night wore on and on, and the beast was tiring more slowly than I. It would get me. I knew it. As I ran, I screamed … In another dream, I was in an old, many-roomed castle at midnight, again pursued by something nameless that breathed heavily, chasing me from room to room, gurgling thickly in its throat and chuckling now and then when it almost trapped me in a deadend hallway or on a stair when I tripped and fell.

But the dreams failed to wake me. I woke naturally that evening, having slept the morning and afternoon through, with a faint sense of nausea from the unreal exertion of my nightmare chases. I felt a moment of terror as I realized I had allowed myself to sleep so soundly with the enemy breathing down our necks. Then I remembered the snow and slowed my heartbeat by deep breathing and conscious effort. I dressed and went into the living room. He was nowhere in sight, I called His name. There was no answer.

He’s gone, I thought.

I had been expecting it all along, ever since that moment when we took flight from the laboratories. All along the line, I had been loking for Him to leave me high and dry, to strike out on His own. It was that concealed facet of His personality that gave me such pessimistic visions. I wondered if that secret portion of His soul knew that He did not need me, that He was, in fact, superior and needed no one. Now He was gone. Now it had happened. I felt a curious mixture of sadness and relief. I could go back now, give myself up. What would they do to me? Jail? Death? Conceivably nothing? It would be interesting to find out. I decided to get something to eat and then to leave for the trek back to the main gate, back to Cantwell, back to New York and the World Authority labs. I walked into the kitchen —and found Him.

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Categories: Koontz, Dean