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ALAN PRINCE, AFTER leaving his regular joint and high on cocktail drugs, wandered through a familiar red-light alley and picked up a hooker to spend the evening with.

In the wake of the unprecedented shifting phase of his life, Alan had discovered that he often needed to end his psychological frustration and maintain a constant high; that was how he started smoking in the first place, after surviving the accident.

Then afterwards, he wanted something more powerful to keep him going. He started at clubs and street side joints, discovered more illicit substances that gave him the desired high, but for only a moment at a time. So he had to return to the same drugs the next day, and the day after that. And then he had to increase the intake.

Of course, drugs often came with women. All of the conflicting situations and emotional distress seemed to disrupt his libido, made him badly desire an escape from the real world where his problems resided, and girls had that kind of effect. They came with a promise to make his wildest sexual fantasies come true. They could transcend him to heights never before imagined; only problem was that he always had to come back.

When he got home after midnight, he found his pops dozing on the couch in the living room, stone-drunk and snoring terribly. The house was dim-lit and it stank heavily of booze, filth and dust.

Alan felt gravely incensed and repulsed to look at his father, lying there helplessly, coiled up grotesquely like a bum out on the streets.

He paused and frowned darkly, and was quite irritated when the girl crept into his arm abrasively and said in his ears, “Well, I guess he’s knocked himself out, lover boy. We could get down on it right here and he wouldn’t know a thing.”

Alan turned and glared at her with reproach. She smiled uneasily, recoiled at the tensed look in his eyes. Then Alan relaxed tentatively as he pulled her closely to himself, somewhat roughly, and ran his fingers through her silky, pink-dyed hair.

It was one of the series of times he’d picked this particular one and brought her to his home. Being with her had often sufficed to alleviate his mental stress, even if temporary. If that was the only use for her, Alan thought it was worth it.

But on this day, even though he was trying to hide it, something had snapped in him. His paranoia had secretly assumed a new form. He felt like killing his father right there where he lay; strangle him and get it over with.

As he glared at his father, Alan lowered his gaze and grimaced softly, like an animal about to attack, closing his hands into angry fists. Since the drugs and the prostitutes had not granted him permanent respite for two year, maybe murdering his father in cold blood would do the magic. Yes, that may be the treatment he needed to end his pains.

Alan’s frown deepened, his teeth bared slightly with dark vengeance clouding his entire expression. But as he stood there with the rage festered within him and poisoning his blood like bile, Alan became distinctly aware of a dark, foreboding presence that crept into the apartment just then. It was unseen yet so real he could touch, even see it for a split moment as it took position at the other side of him from where the girl stood; a surreal, otherworldly expression devoid of tangibility.

Alan felt his muscles tightened, felt his blood growing cold and the hairs standing on end all over his body. Then quite strangely, the ominous presence diffused into him from the side, bonding them both in that moment.

This was as vivid as it was spooky and chilly, and Alan started, took a moment to puzzle what just happened and why it was that the girl seemed oblivious of it.

Two murders, it said.

A gentle, compelling voice from inside his head!

Oh God, he could hear it! Alan was sure that it wasn’t his mind speaking to him. The tone and sound of it was unlike him. The voice he heard was powerful and gripping and very real in his head. It was an alien presence, like a stranger taking residence in his mind.

“What?” he began to say, half-aloud, startled by the suddenness of the Voice in his head. Then he caught himself on time as he saw the miffed look in the girl’s eyes when she glanced curiously at him. “Nothing,” he said uncertainly.

That’s right, said the Voice. Two murders.

Willing himself to be calm and not give the impression that he was losing his mind, Alan spoke back, without moving his lips, “I don’t understand.”

There was a moment’s silence. Then: If you kill your father now, then you’ll have to kill the bitch as well. Now that’s fine, but for a beginner, it’ll be too messy to manage two murders at once. Get it?

Alan smiled subtly, seeing the point. “Sure,” he replied. “Maybe next time then.”

Good. Now where were we? Yeah, right; the girl. You brought her here for a reason, didn’t you? Look at her, Alan, just waiting to be taken. I suggest you get down to business. So go upstairs and knock yourself out, the Voice told him lecherously.

Alan smiled to himself. Then he threw his hands around her neck and they both clambered up the untidy corridor to his room, where they wasted no time in virtually tearing off clothes from their bodies and then scrambled onto the bed with smoldering lust.

And she was right; in spite of all the noise they made while at it, his father slept on, undisturbed.

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