ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz

The old Frankenstein tale kept coming back to me so that I could not think clearly. Mary Shelley be damned! She had written a book that still haunted me and which clashed too closely with my present reality. I knew He was not a beast that strangled little girls. I was not afraid of a great, stitched graveyard monster with a crazy-quilt body of once-dead parts who crept around in the night and looked for victims. But I was afraid of whatever the android was becoming. It was something I had not bargained for, something I might not be able to accept. Was the final change going to be that of the ugly caterpillar into the lovely, colorful butterfly—or was it going to be a strange reversal wherein the butterfly reverted into an ugly, stinging worm? Whatever, it was definitely more werewolfian than any writer of weird fiction had ever envisioned.

Yet He assured me so sincerely that these changes were necessary so that He might use His powers to help mankind. Did Dr. Frankenstein’s demon whisper sweet words in his ear too, promises of wonderful things to come? No! Wrong train of thought, Jacob Kennelmen. I believed Him. Despite the horrid mutation He had become, I still put credence in His words, still trusted Him as I had trusted no man since Harry. Suddenly, I laughed out loud at my comparison, for the android was not even a man! I was placing my trust in an artificially-cultured mass of tissues and organs that had been made—thanks to a science apparently better than God’s—superior to men. So be it. If I could not trust a being superior to Man, then it must follow that Man, being morally and intellectually lesser, was even, more untrustworthy. No, I had to stick with Him. I had promised Him that much. If He turned on me and devoured me to feed His great need for energy, then it would be as if the angels themselves had double-crossed me. Which was a distinct possibility, considering all of Man’s holy books reported the fickleness of angels, but a possibility that I would not bother myself with.

Having irrevocably committed myself to a course of action, I felt greatly relieved. I am like that. I despise sitting on a tight rope. If I can’t reach the other side safely, I would rather leap off and to hell with it. I was still afraid, but the anxiety over whether I was going to do the right or wrong thing drained away like the last of a filthy flood and left me purged. I unslung the rifle from my shoulder, loaded it, slammed the breech shut, and seriously set out for elk.

I found more wolves instead. Nasty looking fellows.

I didn’t know whether it was the same pack that He and I had fought off the previous night or whether it was a different bunch. I heard their howls before I saw them, lonesome and penetrating, animal and yet somehow human in tone. I had a heavy gun with me now, plus the narcodart pistol, and I was feeling braver than I really had any right to. I topped a hill that gave me a clear view down the length of a small valley that ran for approximately a mile before a crossrun of foothills broke it off. A hundred yards down that valley, a pack of eight wolves were worrying something they had killed. I could tell from the racket they were making that they had eaten their fill and were now merely showing off for the benefit of any other beast in the neighborhood, also playing a game with the tattered carcass, tearing it from each other and running a few steps with it. After a few minutes of this, they left the dead thing, turned as a group, and wandered up the valley toward me.

I dropped to the ground and flattened myself as much as I could, blending into the scenery. If they spotted me before I wanted them to, it would ruin my hunting plans—and might even get a little sticky when they charged. Eight of them coming at full tilt would make a formidable wall of teeth and claws.

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Categories: Koontz, Dean