ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz

Now, why? Why . . .

The only reason I could find was that, perhaps, He thought I would tell the WA people where He was, that He had not been killed after all. But that was senseless. Surely, He would know that I would keep faith, would not turn Him in. Even if I had wanted to, surely the time to have done it would have been while I was in jail and without much hope. I could have done it then to make my sentence easier. But to kill me now was pointless.

Besides, He was God. And God did not kill without some sort of divine reason. Wasn’t that right? Or was it? I reminded myself that He was not the sort of God we had envisioned. He differed physically. Why not mentally? Why not a God who is sadistic? And maybe He had been lying to me. Who said that God did not lie? But what in the hell was He trying to do? Why kill me? What possible purpose could be served? I was right back where I started, nothing solved, but a great deal of apprehension spread on where there had not been any before.

Then I heard the noise. I had thought that He had gone away when the door closed Him out. Now I could hear Him forcing His weight against the heavy panel in an effort to either snap the lock or throw the door off its sliding track.

I stood up, suddenly frantic.

The door squeaked. I looked for a weapon. The door rattled as the bottom coasters slipped out of their grooves.

There was no weapon.

The door lifted, started bending inward. The wheels on the upper track snapped, popped, and scraped out of their track. The door swung inward.

I ran for the bedroom, slid that portal shut behind me, and thumbed the lock on it. A slug snapped into the door, came through, leaving a hole as big as a quarter near the top, and cracking the plastic of the portal, until it looked like a spider web. That would go down in a second. One solid push, and the pieces would fall inward, and He would be on top of me.

I turned, started for the bathroom, and remembered the guard-bot alarm that would bring a mechanical policeman from the storage vault at the far end of this floor. I ran to the bed, depressed the button in the wall, then hurried into the bathroom as He struck the bedroom door behind me. I slammed this final barrier, locked it, and looked around for something to push against it. There was nothing. Everything in the bath was bolted down. I sat on the commode to the left of the door, out of line of any bullets, and waited for the guard-bot, hoping it would make it in time.

I could hear Him in the bedroom. The door to the living room had given in with a crash, and He was through, only one plastic door away from me. Then He was against the bathroom door, and His voice came to me through the plastic, faint, husky, a dry whisper. “Jacob . . . Jacob, are you in there?”

“What do you want?” I asked.

“You,” He said.

“But why?”

“Jacob. . . .”

“Help!” I shouted as loud as I could. It was useless, of course. The apartments in that building were almost perfectly soundproof. And the most isolated room of all was the bath. Still, I shouted, because I felt a need to vocalize my terror. There was something in His voice, in the harsh, ugly tones of His whisper that I had never heard before. It was, I fancied, madness. He spoke like a psychotic, His words couched in a madman’s cadences.

I do not know how long I shouted. When I stopped, my voice hoarse, I was aware of a rapping on the door. For a moment, I almost laughed at the absurdity of His knocking now, after blasting His way this far. Then I heard the voice, which must have been calling me for some time. “Dr. Kennelmen,” it said. It was not a whisper, but a healthy male baritone. “This is your guard-bot. You called me. I have come in response. Dr. Kennelmen. This is your guard-bot. You called me. I have come—”

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Categories: Koontz, Dean