ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz

“That’s all right, Jacob,” the voice said, even stranger and more ominous than before. “I’ve almost stopped the metamorphosis. I just need enough calories now to maintain my functions and to provide substance for my productions. I can use the elk for that, plus a little of what I’ve stored and don’t need.”

I did not question the word “productions.” I was far too tired to bother. I mumbled something, staggered off to bed, and slept until late afternoon, a sleep deep and almost dreamless. Almost. Now and then, I would dream of a huge gun barrel pointed at my head. I would hear the trigger click as it left primary position . . .

When I woke, the snow had stopped falling except for thin, light flakes that struck and melted against the glass. The only sound was a strange noise. I cocked my head and listened for a moment before I was able to identify it: helicopter blades pounding directly overhead . . .


I had been so tired and dejected that I had slept in my clothes, and I wasted no time now in getting to the window. I wiped a thin film of steam from it and pressed my face against the cold pane. But there was nothing to see; I was at a bad vantage point, looking out on the cliffs, most of the sky shielded by tall pines. I went into the living room to the row of windows that stretched across the front of the house. I could see it from there, hanging a hundred feet out from the cabin, perhaps a hundred and fifty feet in the air. It had the giant green letters W-A bent to form a globe painted on its side, the symbol of the World Authority military. It was not a troop transport, however. Only a scout. It swung out and swept along the hill, down to the base, up over a rise, and was gone. Abruptly, it turned and came back, drifting over the house, turning again, going away fast. I knew we had been found. The snow had stopped soon after I had come in the last time. It had not covered my last few sets of footprints.

The sound of chopper blades faded. Died completely.

Our time was up.

I looked out at the snow, at the telltale markings, the ugly crimson stain of the elk’s blood, the frozen red puddles. For the first time, I was retchingly nauseated with my killing spree. At the time, it had seemed an urgent assignment. I had plodded through it, shooting, hacking apart, dragging to the cabin, throwing down the cellar stairs, numb from my effort, sapped by cold and exhaustion. And all that had led to a reflex grab for the gun when that man had spotted me with the flashlight.

Before, hunting had always been a sport, a pleasant test of my shooting skills. I had only shot birds, for there is something about a dead bird that carries no guilt. It is not the same as killing a warm rabbit, a soft-skinned elk. A bird is hard: pinions and beak and claws. It is almost not living, almost a mechanical construction. But the slaughter last night had been different, had been directed against other empathy-arousing beasts. It was not like me, not like me at all. I wondered, briefly, whether He had had anything to do with my sudden surge of blood lust.

But that sort of talk could lead me nowhere but back to the Frankenstein theory, and I had outgrown that. Hadn’t I? Yes. He was a boon to mankind. A few animal deaths were petty compared to what He would be able to do when He had finished changing and was ready to aid us.

I started toward the cellar, checked myself. There was nothing He could do about the situation, for He was immobile. And perhaps I had been misinterpreting the helicopter. Maybe they didn’t suspect. No, I was deluding myself by being optimistic. The wounded man had aroused suspicions. I got the rifle, loaded it, and checked the level of pins in my narcodart pistol. I pulled a chair up to the window and settled down to wait. I had promised Him time to finish whatever He was doing. I would see that He got it.

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Categories: Koontz, Dean