The name of the last story I’m highlighting for The Animal is just too juicy to mess with. Now, my thoughts on a brazen bull probably take on an entirely different set of meanings – but I degrees. The double entendres are incredible. Bulls certainly can be brazen, whether in animal or human form. They seem to enjoy taking the lead, rather forcefully I might add.
The Animal should release any day now and the team of authors is extremely excited. Up on the chopping block today is Sheri Williams. I think you’re going to love her.
THE ANIMAL – THE BRAZEN BULL
“What are the dimensions, please?” The man at the table shuffled papers, and the three of them at the bigger table looked at each other. This was a simple question; he should know the answer.
“Six feet by four feet by four feet. With the door on the one side that is closed with three hinges.”
“Have you tested it?” Now was the time that the applicants usually started to crack.
“Human or animal?” There was still no emotion in the applicant’s voice and the inquisitors were intrigued.
“Could you expand on that, please?”
“With a suitably strong fire the structure heats quickly. The animal test subject did not last more than a few minutes with the heat. The human test subject lasted a surprisingly long amount of time. The screams died out far earlier than the subject perished.”
“Did you record it?” This was suggested, but not required, to get into the program.
“I did. I have it on disc and a flash drive. Which would you prefer?”
“Please wait in the hall while we discuss. Leave the flash drive with me please.” The woman with the number one on her nametag watched the man come forward and then head for the hall. Zero emotion showed on his face. One turned to two and three, her eyes shining bright. “I do not care what is on that flash drive. He is in.” The other two agreed, heads nodding in unison, as she plugged the flash drive into her laptop. The screen went black, but then there were the screams. The applicant had certainly outdone himself.
In the hall outside of the meeting room the applicant sat on a hard wooden chair. There was no comfort to be had in the building. Even the inquisitors sat on the same chair. Now that he was not in the room with the numbers, as they were called, he allowed himself to let out a deep, shaky breath. He had been on the waitlist for the consortium for three years. Twice before, he thought his device might be good enough, but this was the first time his application had made it through to the second round.
If the inquisitors found his evidence to be appropriate, then he would move on. The third round. He had heard histories—his circle was small after all—but he did not know anyone who had actually made it through the third round. It must happen, the consortium was full every year, but they may have been pulling from other countries as well. The urge to fiddle with his hands was strong, but he dared not. He knew there was surveillance. They would be watching him. It was no secret that if an applicant showed any signs of weakness, they would be cut.
The blinding white that surrounded him lulled him into a trancelike state. In his head, he travelled back to his first kill. It was not special. A small lizard that inched itself across his bedroom window. He’d cut the head off of it before letting the body drop the two stories down to the ground. The rush that had given him had never gone away. If he made it past the third round, if he had the chance to go to the hidden hotel, he would be the youngest ever. At nineteen, he thought it nearly impossible, but there he was, in the revered white hall, while the numbers discussed his video.
“Please re enter the meeting room.” The disembodied voice came from somewhere above him. He did not hesitate. A blank look settled across his face as he walked through the automatically opening door. In no time, he was standing in front of the numbers. The table he had sat at before was gone, along with his things.
“You have been selected to move on. From now on, you will be known as Umber.” The woman known as One leaned toward the edge of the big table. “Follow Three, he will take you to your room. Please read and sign the papers you will find on the desk in the room, then shower, making sure to scrub vigorously, then drop your clothing into the chute in the hall. It leads to the incinerator. You will find new attire in the closet. You will wait in your room for the sound of the evening meal. Is this clear?”
The man known as Umber nodded, afraid if he spoke his emotions would betray him.
“Welcome to the consortium, Umber. I look forward to seeing what you have to offer.”
Alone in the room, Umber followed directions. Stripped, scrubbed, and dressed in a white jumpsuit he walked to the chute in the hallway, dropping his clothes; the last link to his life before this moment. The last instruction was to wait for a sound, and he did that as well. On the gray floor, he sat cross-legged, his mind cleared. Time passed, but there was no way to tell how much. Nothing stood in the room aside from the bed, the closet and a desk, there wasn’t even a chair, and it was all the same dull gray.
First, it was the white meeting room and hall, now white clothes and a gray room. There was most certainly a theme, and Umber believed it to be about sensory deprivation. When the sound came, it jostled Umber out of a meditative state. In a moment of uncertainty, he paused at the door. Neither One nor Three had told him the procedure for this. Would he simply follow the others? Were there others? With a deep breath, he opened the door.
At each door, there stood a person. Four men and two women. They all wore the same outfit as him, the same slippers, and they did not look toward him at all. He followed their lead. Back to the door, he stood until another sound rang out. Then the others walked down the hall, and he went with them. No one said anything. More sensory tactics, most likely. He had not been able to find out much about the consortium, but he did not figure they wanted to breed relationships.
No. They were in the business of death. Of producing the serial killers the world needed. There was no doubt that he would be trained to do the most damage he could, but in horrific ways. The talk around the Internet was that it had started as a government-funded program. But there were some arguments about whether it still was. Did the government know, or care, that the population control they had dreamt of had been turned into a school for the most depraved humans on the earth?
The first words spoken since Umber had been named came from a loudspeaker. The small group sat at the tables they had arrived at after walking into a room that was obviously a cafeteria. A quick glance and the seating was figured out, two to a table. Still no communication between the others. A metallic sound rang out and a door to the left opened. Skinny boys with tattoos running across their foreheads carried out silver trays. There was one boy and tray for each in the small group, and they stopped right before the person they headed for. A small thrill flittered through Umber when the young boy stopped before him. He could read the number, 6754, clearly.
The boy would not make eye contact with him, and Umber chose not to feel affronted. Though the urge to measure the boy for his device crossed his mind before he was able to tamp it down. Control. They do not need to know how excited you are to be there. With that reminder, his calm returned. His focus now on the food and not the boy, his stomach rumbled. The food was piled high and smelled better than anything he had made for himself in the past few weeks.
This Umber did know and he recited along with the others. “I am not a monster. I am a tool. I will do what I will, with the sanctions I have been given.”
The others sat, Umber followed. The serving boy placed the tray in front of Umber before hastily departing. A quick glance around the room proved that there was nothing else that needed doing before eating was allowed, so Umber tucked in.
Delicious. I hope you’re very excited about our terrifying collection.
Kisses and dreams of blood and gore…