Denton Fetch had a civilian life; a three storey town house in Kensington, a job, even a couple of friends that he interacted with purely to maintain the façade of normality. He knew the importance of fitting in, not arousing suspicion so that he could carry out his calling without fear of being stopped by those that enforced the “law”. Even so, keeping an even keel between a mundanely satisfactory performance at work – he was a data analyst for a large bank – and constantly thinking of excuses to rebuke the social advances of the colleagues who considered themselves his friends was impacting on his real work. He wondered if those friendly colleagues would just leave him alone if they knew the importance of what he was doing, and how much of a distraction they were to him. Hell, his latest depiction had been quite sloppy by his standards; the suturing along the jawline had been hurried and uneven, and he hadn’t anticipated the subject’s eyes rupturing when he inserted the upper tusks, although he considered the subsequent oozing tears a result that was beneficial to the tableau as a whole. But there was one thing that was significantly different to his other scenes, this time he had very nearly been caught in the act. It was a foolish mistake to have made in the first place; he’d let Larry, the malodourous fat guy who occupied the other desk in Denton’s claustrophobic booth at the bank, converse with him far too long after work. He was planning a game of racquetball and grooming Denton as his partner for the evening, and despite polite remonstration he was quite insistent. Denton should have walked away instead of placating the mouth-breathing sack of adiposity, maybe even just killed the fat bastard and put him out of the misery that he would no doubt endure trying to chase a rubber ball around a racquetball court. But no, in the interest of remaining as anonymous as possible he had remained polite, which had put his entire evening back by almost an hour. He’d finished his sculpture too hastily and still arrived later than he would have liked at the zoo, and while he was assembling the display his mind had been lost in dissatisfaction over his latest production, which had allowed someone to approach him, almost catch him even. He didn’t get a good look at the man who’d found him such was his alarm at being discovered, and had fled to the safety of his home. Of course this wasn’t his home though, that was his interaction with normal people rubbing off on him again – maybe he should take some leave and get re-focused on his quest – his real home was surrounded by emptiness in a vast wooden sarcophagus, locked away with his instruments. And his subjects. His real home would be considered squalid by the normal people but put him far more at ease than the other building in which he resided, the building inside which he now lurked crouching in the shadows with a rusted hammer clutched in one hand, waiting to see if he had been followed. After what seemed like an eternity poised to defend himself Denton relaxed, reassured that he had not been pursued, and resolved to his modest front sitting room. The entrance level of his house was actually the second storey; concrete steps led up from the sidewalk to a front door opening onto a hallway with the sitting room immediately to the right and a kitchenette further down the hall behind it. On the left were two ill-maintained wooden staircases, one leading up to the two bedrooms on the top floor, the other leading down into the basement which was a dusty-floored open plan space contained by crumbling redbrick walls with a tiny single window at its front, allowing light to sneak in from the street. Denton was sat on the only chair in his front room – the abode was purely functional and therefore required nothing more than essential furnishings – which was positioned in the large bay window facing out into the street. He placed the hammer down on the hardwood floor, his fingers carving tracks in the dust that had accumulated there as they released the handle and rested on the arm of the chair. There were net curtains hanging over the window which had been there when Denton had moved in. They were made of dirty lace, worn and stained over the years, and the intricate snowflake pattern was such that they obscured any view of the house’s interior from street level but allowed him to see what was happening outside. Denton didn’t care much for their pattern but considered this semipermeable barrier to the outside world a blessing sent by the being that had first sent him on his quest. He sat in the faded red chair, letting the almost-pink velvet cradle him as he considered his only failure to date; the deep sentience within him, this being that he could feel in the recesses of his mind like wiry fingers wringing the thoughts out of his deep brain nuclei, had never directly addressed him but spurred him on with a compulsion he had never before experienced and could not fully explain other than to say he was being guided by a supra-human entity. He felt no different after this recent fiasco though, other than a slightly stronger compulsion than usual; perhaps this being was a merciful one, especially given Denton’s exceptional work so far, or maybe he was allowed only a certain number of mistakes before his mind would be torn apart from the inside out as punishment. He wondered if his uncle, Jerry Fetch, had a similar entity inside of him, one which had compelled him to molest and sodomise Denton on more than one occasion during his childhood; perhaps uncle Jerry would have descended into madness as his brain was consumed by a vengeful inner demon if Denton himself hadn’t seduced him one day with promises of drunken fellatio at his mother’s funeral, but instead delivering a dose of Rohypnol in his whiskey, then a double dose of amateur mutilation before leaving him to bleed out in the barn which he later inherited and put to use for his own inner demon. Denton let his head fall back against the soft backrest, the furry material reminded him of mould spreading over the surface of a half-finished meal left out in the sun for too long. The thought of a living thing cushioning his weary cranium comforted him, he closed his eyes and rolled his head from side to side, rubbing his cheeks against the forgiving pink-red velvet as a vision of his next creation began to take form behind his eyelids; this one was a male and he was surrounded by a bright light, silhouetting him and obscuring his features. He danced and spun in front of the glare, his withered frame curling to bring his knees to his chest, and Denton could hear him sobbing as he turned to face his tormentor with deep, saucer-like eyes that were so dark they were apparent even in the shadow of the man’s face. Then the man began to smile, a sliver of pure white spreading across his face as he continued to sob. The grin grew to a maniacal smirk and the man’s eyes came to life, reaching out towards Denton as he watched on in amazement at this depiction. The shadowy ocular protrusions formed into fingers, then hands, then arms as they extended forward, and as they reached him Denton could feel a tightening at his throat, collapsing his airway as the ghostly fingers clamped around his neck. The scene was beautiful, almost horribly angelic, and Denton grew excited in anticipation of recreating this wondrous sight. He tried to pull away from the vision and return to reality but the spectral hands wouldn’t release him, instead they grew tighter and tighter as panic spawned in his stomach like an intense swarm of Africanised bees. Denton thrashed from side to side in his chair, eyes still closed, almost rocking it over onto the grimy floor as, within his mind’s eye, he was asphyxiated. Just as he felt the power sapping from his limbs and the ferocity of his thrashing lessened, his vision released him and he slouched back into the chair breathing heavily with a nauseating rumbling low down in his abdomen. His lap felt moist, and when he looked down he saw that he had ejaculated, the semen stain in his pants deepening as his penis lost its tumescence and regressed back into his groin. Denton was still panting as he rose from the chair; his visions had never been so exhilaratingly intense. He turned, intending to make his way up the stairs to his bedroom, and was stopped in his tracks by a knock at his front door. No one knew his address, and even his postman had gotten the hint months ago and would leave any parcels on the porch instead of attempting contact. Denton shuffled to the window clutching his groin and moving with the awkward gait of a man trying to prevent a mess seeping out of the bottom of his underwear and down his leg. Peering cautiously through the filthy lace canopy he considered fetching his hammer back up from the floor; standing patiently atop the concrete steps outside was a man with deathly pale skin and thinning hair whose clothes appeared a size or two too big for him. The man scratched his swollen forehead with a withered finger and Denton was sure he could see the tendons in his hand gesturing to him from beneath that ghostly pallor of his skin. This could be his next subject, served up directly to his door, but he was still unsettled and clumsy from his vision and subsequent sexual release. Besides, something didn’t seem right. Something about this man was threatening, even though he looked as if he was being consumed by some devastating, insidious disease. Denton made a snap decision to regroup elsewhere, he slunk out of the sitting room no longer caring about the congealing ooze sliding down the inside of his thigh and made his exit through the back door. If this indeed was his next subject then he would find him again, but for now he would begin the preparations.
Frank had been going door to door for the last two days. He had begun once he’d been sure the cops weren’t coming to arrest him for his attack on the zoo warden, and had been searching for leads for six hours the previous day. Today he was entering his eighth hour of knocking on doors. He had been sworn at, threatened, and physically removed from several people’s doorways but he was compelled to continue. He had a sense that he was getting close, a sense that he couldn’t quite explain but one that had served him well in his past. The day had been particularly humid and Frank’s shirt clung to his frame, stuck with sweat. His feet were aching and his steps had shortened as his legs had become more and more fatigued, his arms now hanging limply at his sides and not swinging with his gait as usual. He had found nothing of use in nearly fourteen hours of canvassing but shuffled on relentlessly like a malnourished zombie with Parkinson’s disease. He had just had the umpteenth door slammed in his face by a terrified looking elderly lady, and as he trudged away from her porch and rounded the corner onto a new street she opened a window and leaned out apologetically, offering him a bag of groceries. He waved her back inside wearily and muttered a muted thanks that he couldn’t be sure that she’d heard before deciding that this would be the last street he would check today. His head felt as though someone had drilled a hole in the top of it and poured in a litre of honey; his thoughts were like a poisonous mixture of the abuse he’d suffered over the past couple of days dissolved in a soup of self-doubt regarding his relationship with Daisy and the physical manifestations of whatever infestation was growing inside him. Every time a door slammed in his face he pictured Daisy was the one doing the slamming, and each time this happened it broke his will ever so slightly. He imagined his sanity was an under-baked cookie slowly being ripped away in chunks by tiny white tendrils.
The street was empty, with only a couple of brown paper bags flitting around the sidewalk on the breeze, and the first two houses were derelict, a quick glance through the cracked, faded window panes confirming the absence of any illegal habitation. The second house belonged to an impressively muscular African man in a torn white vest with a shaved head who mumbled something inaudible but seemingly threatening before closing his door with a calmness that disconcerted Frank and prompted his hasty departure. The fourth house looked lived in, too; four concrete steps ascended to a navy blue front door with new locks contrasting the dulling paint in shiny brass. In the bay window to the right hung an ugly net curtain that matched the dreariness of the door and obscured any view to the interior. Below this was a small, wood-framed window about the size of a laptop which served light to a basement level in the property. Frank assumed this because the glass surrounded by crusted white paint, clinging stubbornly to the splintered wood was clouded to the point where it was no longer at all transparent. Frank knocked on the door, the sound echoing in his head as if he’d used his skull instead of his knuckles to elicit the noise. No answer. He rubbed his temple, considering another knock, and the now familiar writhing amongst the tendons beneath his skin began. Clutching his hand into his chest he began a retreat, deciding to return home after all, but was stopped by a new sensation; as he turned away from the navy blue door he felt the tendrils move to his back, twisting and squirming vigorously as if to halt his exit. He turned to face the house again, the wriggling ceased. He turned his back once more and it resumed, more fiercely this time as if it was trying to rip Frank’s skin from its anchoring and reapply it to the faded paint behind him. His stomach began to murmur, a growling noise that faded as he approached the door. He pulled his penknife from his pocket and after a quick glance up and down the street – the threatening African neighbour thankfully hadn’t re-emerged – he expertly popped open the gleaming new lock and entered the building.
Frank’s first impression was that he had been mistaken in thinking this house to be occupied; there were no pictures hanging on the walls, no carpet on the floor, and the wooden staircases to his left were unpainted and dangerously rickety. The air smelled damp, as if it was seldom renewed by exterior ventilation, and despite the heat of the day it was cold inside the house. Curiosity drove him forward however, and he turned through the doorway to his right into a small living area which was empty except for those awful drapes, a red chair positioned by the window, and something on the floor beside it. The boards beneath Frank’s feet groaned in protest as he strode across them to investigate; the material of the chair was worn and the seat appeared to be moist, the object on the floor was a hammer and Frank smiled as he noticed the finger marks in the layer of dust around its handle. There was someone living here, although living might be an exaggeration given the absence of any personal items so far. Frank returned to the hallway and entered the only other room along the landing. The kitchen was bare, with empty wall units and undisturbed dusty surfaces. There was a stove along the far wall equally covered with an even layer of grime, and a refrigerator humming away to the right of the room. Frank approached the appliance and paused clutching the handle, reminiscing over the contents of his own fridge. The writhing had settled beneath his skin but his stomach continued to purr at him, wishing him onward as he pulled open the door. The interior light flickered to life, revealing empty Perspex shelves glinting defiantly back at Frank’s eager, expectant expression. Aside from a single glass jar the fridge was empty. Frank picked up the container and held it up to the light to inspect its contents; thin strips of pink-brown meat swam in cloudy brine, some were beginning to flake away and so there were small pieces of debris floated on the surface of the liquid. There was no label on the jar so God only knows how long it had been sat there, or even what kind of meat it contained. Frank replaced the receptacle and closed the refrigerator door before returning to his tour of the house. A hesitant descent of the unstable staircase down into the basement revealed nothing but some footsteps in the brick dust and a number of dead rats, and up on the top floor there was similarly little of note to find; one empty bedroom at the back of the house, the door to which was so stiff due to its hinges rusting over that entry was almost prevented entirely, and one looking over the street, above the room with the chair. This front bedroom had a mattress on the floor wrapped in a crisp white sheet, an item that was in stark contrast to the rest of the house as was its freshness. It was like a pocket of purity in a domain of squalor, and it beckoned Frank forward like a siren singing over the din of a storm. Next to the bed was a small ledger; illegible scribblings and diagrams decorated many of the pages, but as Frank flicked through a small envelope fell from the diary and landed at his feet. He bent slowly and retrieved the letter, brushing away the dust that had transferred to it from the floor, and turned it over in his hands. It looked like an invoice for some medical equipment, but clearly this was not the domicile of any such professional. Frank smiled wryly as he noted the address on the envelope; Mr D Fetch, Fetch Farm, Suffolk County, 11701. Frank’s strength returned to him like he was Popeye The Sailor draining a can of spinach, his body no longer ached and the writhing that had resumed within him now seemed empowering. It seemed he had had his second close call with the Holy Cow Killer, but now he had a lead, and perhaps the upper hand. As he strode triumphantly back out into the street he was blissfully unaware of the curious pair of eyes studying him from the shadows.