Piercing the Veil
by Guy Riessen Genre: Horror, Supernatural Occult Thriller
What do flesh-eating cell phones, brain-enhancing tacos, and a real live dead foot have in common?
They're all tools in the destruction of our world, and a weapons-grade team of heavily-armed Miskatonic University nerds may be humanity’s last hope. Something is ripping holes in the Veil of energy that separates our world from that of the ancient evils writhing just beyond what we think is reality. Time is running out for Professors Derrick LeStrand, Howard Strauss and their team of researchers as they race to hunt down a mysterious Frenchman who wields Necromantic Death Magic unlike anything they’ve seen before.
Tearing open psychological wounds from Derrick’s past, the cabalistic sorcerer is gathering ancient icons of power to pierce the Veil and bring down the only thing shielding mankind from the relentless horrors beyond.
If they fail, the only questions that will remain are who will live in servitude to the Great Old Ones and who will die…and who will supply Derrick with tacos?
Set against the backdrop of a world where H.P. Lovecraft was not a fiction writer, but a Sweep, a special operative trained to protect the collective sanity of the human race with misinformative blends of fact and fiction … where the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual is little more than a slightly skewed Audubon Field Guide, and the monster movies you grew up with are more documentary than not.
The room was humid and stuffy, fetid with the smell of blood and bile, smoke, and pizza.
The air conditioner below the window sat idle. A cigarette hung loose at the corner of his lips, smoke rising in curling eddies from the heavy length of ash that dangled off the end. His eyes were staring, unfocused, at the half-eaten slice of pepperoni pizza that lay on a grease-soaked napkin next to his open laptop.
He could feel the gaze of the small stone idol sitting on the dresser, twin empty sockets where the eyes should be, black stains running down from the dark pits like oily tears. He didn’t want to look at it. Looking at it was like glancing up from a lover’s text and seeing the burning red brake lights of a dump truck in front of your speeding car, too late to reach the brake pedal.
He knew for himself, it was too late to even remove his foot from the gas.
His eyes drifted back to the computer screen. The words at the top read, “Welcome to Tor Browser,” and his hand lay unmoving on the mouse next to the keyboard, his index finger resting on the button. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been sitting like that, just staring, until the ash trickled down from the end of his cigarette and singed the hair on his arm—how long does it take for a cigarette to burn itself to the filter?
He set the smoldering cigarette on the small desk that filled half of his tiny room at the Redding Cypress Inn. A small, yellowed crescent spread from under the tip of the cigarette, joining dozens of others burned into the desktop varnish. Picking up the slice of pizza, he stuffed it into his mouth, the oil dribbling down his chin unnoticed. He tossed the crust into the pizza box that lay open on the soiled comforter at the end of the bed. A spattered crimson stain of blood had soaked through the top of the box.
He’d come to America six weeks ago after losing his job as the professor of Hydrogeology at Université de Versailles. But, by the time he was forced to resign, he already knew the big picture … and it wasn’t his job that mattered any more. Money was no longer important after the brutal attack stole the lives of his wife and son. He needed access to the Dark Web, that part of the Internet frequented by those looking to avoid the constraint of society's morals. For that he only needed a laptop and Wi-Fi access.
Muffled sounds came from the bathroom. Unintelligible moans, and the squeak of skin skidding and thumping in the cheap motel fiberglass tub. It reminded him he needed to stay focused. He finally glanced at the green stone idol that sat on the dresser in front of the black flat-screen TV, hoping for that taste of a lover’s touch before crashing steel, and a jolt of adrenalin suffused him. He thought the idol glowed, but whenever he tried to catch it luminescing, it stayed dark, its black-pit eyes boring into his soul. He should do more to make the idol happy. He would do more, he thought, and his rewards were close …
Soon the black fire beyond the Veil would shine with dark light in his mind, and he would see.
Months before he'd left Université de Versailles, he’d bought a couple Trojan malware programs on the Dark Web using a bitcoin payment site. One, he'd installed immediately on the campus computer, which gave him access to information concerning international university antiquities-transfer requests, shipping and grant submissions, and approvals specifically for the Archeology and Antiquities departments.
The other Trojan was installed in the United States Forest Service System database. That took more time since it had to be installed by hand on one of the USFS computer terminals. After a month of trolling the child-porn trading sites on the Dark Web, he’d found a Forest Service employee who’d been convinced to cooperate by a combination of blackmail threats and a large bitcoin transfer, which had been possible while he still had his university income.
He typed the scrambled text-string address into the Tor browser's address bar which ran through the USFS trojan backdoor entry. It brought him to the Complaints Entry portal where he entered an unknown disturbance for a property in the Trinity National Forest, along with a series of photos showing a glowing white figure in a dark room. He clicked the Do Not Share button so the complaint, while in the system, would not be passed up the chain of command to anyone else. He’d left similar entries over the last two weeks, so the process was quick and easy.
Rising from the threadbare desk chair, he shuffled over to the pizza box. There was a pile of clothes at the end of the bed, stacked next to the Tortellinis Pizza delivery box. A blue and white shirt with a name tag, “Tony,” black slacks and a Tortellinis ball cap. There’d been a magnetic pizza delivery sign adorning Tony’s car that he’d left on while driving. Stuffing the sign into the trunk, he’d abandoned the vehicle in a dirt pull out off the highway south of town.
He’d need more money soon. He still had some money in his bank account, but didn’t want to make any traceable international withdrawals if he didn’t need to. He reached over to the pizza box and pulled out the last slice slicked with red from the blood dripping through the box lid. Dragging his tongue over the congealed blood and cold oily cheese, he savored the salty copper taste and took a bite. More cash would be delightful, and another body to feed to a haruspex would be even better—he needed to gain control of the dark power site that the others were already unsuccessfully trying to awaken.
He’d bought the kitchen knife from the store across the street. It glinted on the dresser, in the thin strip of afternoon light that shined where the blackout curtains didn't quite meet in the middle. He took the knife and the stone idol and walked over to the door leading to the hallway. He peered out from the crack the security chain allowed, making sure the “Do Not Disturb” sign still hung from the door knob. He locked the door and moved into the bathroom.
In the wan fluorescent lighting, he could see the naked young man lying in the tub with his hands bound behind his back, and his feet tied together at the ankles. His mouth was stuffed with a pillowcase held in place by a necktie striped with the colors of the Université de Versailles. The man's eyes bulged when he saw the knife. There were ragged, bloody holes where his kneecaps used to be, and there was no way for him to struggle much before the pain became overwhelming. The white bone disks, once Tony’s kneecaps, sat on the bathroom sink, streaked with blood, their frayed yellow pulpy tendons still attached.
He held the blade up, watching the light slide along the sharp edge. It was of excellent quality, but it was not the powerful dagger he sought. Looking at his other hand, he realized he had brought the idol into the bathroom with him. He set it on the edge of the counter. The stone figure had shown him the things he needed, including the dagger with a blade dark and cruel and running with the blood of innocents. Visions of the hilt seemed to twist and writhe in his mind's eye, runes like those on the idol, sharp and jagged as though hacked and torn from flesh.
The man in the tub screamed. Even though it wasn’t loud, he could see it in the way the tears floated in his eyes, the way his bare feet squeaked against the bloody tub. Fabric stuffed deep in his throat made the sound distant, and two days of screaming made it hoarse. He shushed the man and sat on the toilet next to the tub.
With a smooth motion, the kitchen blade arced down, deep into the man's abdomen. He licked his lips and smiled as he sawed through the stomach muscle down to the groin. The man thrashed until too much of his blood had poured from the open wound and down the tub drain. His eyes went flat.
Setting the bloody knife on the sink, he leaned over and spread the yellow clumpy fat and smooth muscle with his hands. He pulled loops of intestine out, slopping the viscera around the man's body, arranging the tangled loops to amplify the power. He studied the glinting wetness and the peristaltic motion that made intestines move sometimes long after death. Then he pulled out several more organs placing each in the proper position for haruspex.
Yes. The divination of the haruspicy showed the truth. The entrails slipped and throbbed in his hands, slowly leaking life force while foretelling the future. Someone would be sent from Miskatonic University. That was where the Angolka Iwisa was—on display in their museum, where anyone could get their hands on it. The fools had no idea what they held, leaving it in the open for the public to gaze upon in ignorance. The inter-university transfer he’d intercepted tracked the Sobeki Asphyxiation Rod travelling from Versailles to Miskatonic after the Egyptian excavation had ended with him held at the embassy while Egypt demanded his termination.
He should go to this Miskatonic University.
No, wait. He looked over at the statue sitting on the sink, black dripping eye sockets looked back. He looked back into the tub.
He pushed the entrails around in the blood-spattered tub, pulling the gall bladder into his hand. He sliced the organ, letting the bile spill through his fingers. The fluid sluiced across the slowly twisting intestines.
The message was clearing. There was more.
Miskatonic held a deeper secret—a group that would lead him not only to the missing pieces of unholy stone, but to the dagger itself, the true blade that could sever the ties that bind the Veil to this earthly plane.
Once he pierced the Veil, the Hidden Gate would be thrown wide and the power of the Old Ones would be his. Power enough to return his son, and still rain vengeance on those who had crossed him. He could feel a visceral sort of lust growing within him as he manipulated the organs, the fluids and secretions dribbling warmly through his fingers as they probed forbidden secrets. And more important than the feeling of his own growing tumescence, was the approval he could feel emanating from the idol. Turning his head, he stared into the blackened sockets and let the feeling wash over him, thrilling his every nerve.
He stood from his work and dried his sticky red hands on the towel hanging from the bent rack on the wall. Before he could put any plan in motion, though, he needed more money. Stepping from the bathroom, he flicked on the overhead fan, closed the door, and dialed his phone.
"Hello, Pizza Guys, West Redding, will this be for pick up or delivery?"
"This will be for delivery, mon frère" he said.
“Ah, hey man … you’re French, right? I’m taking French up at Shasta College. That’s cool, man. Hey, so Comment vous appelez-vous?”
The Frenchman laughed and said, “Je m'appelle François.” “Right on, François. Now, what can we get started for you …” “A pepperoni pizza.” “Size, mon frère?”
“One large pepperoni pizza for delivery, right? What’s your address?”
“Oui. I am at the Redding Cypress Inn. Room One-Seventeen.”
“Awesome, that’ll be eighteen-fifty, and I’ll see you in about thirty minutes.”
“Oh, will you be delivering too?”
“Yep, just me and Manuel here slinging dough tonight.”
Guy Riessen is an American author of contemporary dark fiction spanning the science fiction, horror, fantasy and crime genres. Born in South Dakota, he grew up in the Southern California beach town of Huntington Beach. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, graduated with a degree in English from UC Berkeley, and has been living in the wild lands north of San Francisco ever since. After nearly two decades of creating artwork in the visual effects industry for feature films, he returned to his first passion: writing speculative fiction.
He's been published on Under the Bed, Near to the Knuckle and Shotgun Honey, and in the anthologies Urban Temples of Cthulhu, Dreams of the Miskatonic and It's All Trumped Up.