ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz

What I did next was a small miracle. No, not really a miracle. It was the result of a natural function of the body. You hear about similar cases all the time in the newspapers and stats. A monorail slips off the track and falls to the earth with a full complement of passengers. A man’s wife is pinned in the wreckage. Without thinking, he lifts a ton or ton and a half of debris and heaves it off her, a feat he would never be able to perform if he were not ridden by the demon Fear. It is, of course, the result of an extra helping of adrenalin pumped into his system, not a supernatural act. To a lesser degree, I performed a similar feat when the pseudopod swept at my face. I whirled, grasped the chair and lifted it above my head. The chair only weighed fifty or sixty pounds—but it had been bolted to the cabin floor at each of its four legs. I had torn those bolts loose in one wrenching spasm of effort. I swung the chair, thrust it into the pseudopod. The amoeboid flesh curled around the chair, momentarily unaware that it had not grasped me. While it figured out the situation, I turned, got to the window, used the butt of my rifle to smash it open, and went through onto the porch, down onto the snow to the magnetic sled.

I started to get into the front seat, then stopped. If I left, nothing would have been gained. The Hyde mother body inside that cabin would go into the cellar —or remain where it was—and set up a food-seeking network, secure deer, wolves and rabbits, and begin to produce other android selves. The Jekyll mother body back in Harry’s cellar would not be able to come seeking it until it had produced androids of its own. Then they would be evenly matched, just where we had started less than an hour ago. No, the only hope for any of us was for me to go back in there and kill the Hyde mother body.

I didn’t relish that idea.

But I stopped trying to run. I turned back to the cabin.

At the doorway, the Hyde mother body was dragging itself outside.

I took ammunition out of my pocket and loaded the rifle to its full eight-shot capacity. Then, walking to the porch steps and going to the top of them, I aimed into the mass of pink-tan flesh and fired. Once. Twice. Three times.

The Hyde mother body jerked, rolled backwards. Chunks of it laid behind it, dead, but the main mass sealed the wounds and tried to recover.

I fired the other five bullets into it, then quickly reloaded.

The mother body had pulled away from the door and was six feet inside. I walked to the doorway and pumped four more shots into it. It flopped around now, moved away from me as swiftly as it could. It was trying to get to the cellar steps. I moved around it and fired the other four shots into it, making it move into the living room instead. It was obviously quite badly hurt, for the holes were not healing as quickly now. Some of them seemed not to be healing at all. Some of the veins had been punctured and had let loose quantities of blood. It had sealed those off and redirected the blood flow, but the loss had still weakened it. I was wounding it faster than it could recover.

While I reloaded, my fingers steady now, the mother body moved deeper into the living room, seeking escape and finding none. When I slipped the eight shells into the rifle chambers, I was left with only three more in my pocket. I would have to bring all of this to an end with eleven shots. With what I had in mind, it was just possible—just maybe. I slammed the gun together and fired four times into the mass of flesh, aiming for the largest, pulsating veins. I hit them twice. Blood spurted up, then settled to a steady flow. I turned and ran into the kitchen, hoping the place was stocked the way it was intended to be.

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Categories: Koontz, Dean