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01.01.03


  Viper Wire by Richard Kadrey

 

   

The Night Patrons

  

The demon is a fast typist. He's doing sends with a vampire wannabe in an Anne Rice online chatroom. The demon's claws are six inches long, yellow and curved like scythes. They're very useful for typing and make a pleasant clicking noise as they strike the keys. Even the succubus sitting across from the demon enjoys the rhythmic tap, tap, tapping, and everyone knows that succubi are the moodiest creatures in existence.

At another computer nearby, a vampire with the body of a pretty pre-pubescent girl but the eyes of something that's watched continents rise and sink into the ocean, is on a conspiracy site. The little vampire writes how her local paper won't carry stories about the night stalker murders in her town. How they might be supernatural, but that's all right because the local neighborhood watch figured out they could chase the killer away with holy water and garlic. A werewolf at the next table is telling a similar story about alleged wolf-man attacks in the Pacific northwest. The werewolf stole the idea from the vampire. Werewolves have no imagination.

It's 2 a.m. in the big public library downtown. The second floor is full of computers the day patrons use to surf the Web for news and pornography. Now, it's the night patrons' turn. Every night they're let in by the janitor, who is their slave and lackey. The janitor doesn't ask what they do upstairs. He knows better than to bother the night patrons with questions. He sometimes thinks that the sounds of those creatures upstairs typing frightens him more than if he heard a full-blown black mass. At those uncomfortable moments, the janitor adjusts his headphones, cranks up Slayer on his Walkman and concentrates on his mopping.

At the computers, a tattooed, flesh-eating ghoul takes dictation from her friend the Ifrit, a Persian fire demon. The Ifrit can't type. His flaming hands would melt the keyboard in an instant. The dragon has a similar problem, but an obliging banshee types the dragon's words into a mythology discussion group used by a local university.

Each night it's the same. The day patrons would never suspect that the night patrons are so industrious. But they're there hard at work every evening, sending out stories to local newspapers, writing letters to the editor, hacking their way into religious and mythological databases, starting rumors in chatrooms, telling tall tales about mysterious attacks and miraculous rescues. Sometimes they create whole websites about themselves, adding subtle details to the old myths and legends.

Of course, everything they say is a lie. Stakes killing vampires. Silver scaring witches. The sign of the cross banishing ghosts. All self-serving cons. Who better to write the myths of demons and monsters than the beasts themselves? Their disinformation campaign keeps them safe and means that there's always a lot of funny water-cooler talk about the old priest who pulled the crucifix or the kid who summoned a hellspawn while standing in a circle of salt. "Man, the look on that kid's face when I just licked up that salt and bit off his leg…"

The demon stretches. The succubus yawns and the vampire checks her Badtz Maru watch. It's closing in on dawn. The monsters file out of the library, growling and blowing kisses to one another. The janitor bows to each as they pass.

He always saves the computer room to clean last. The night patrons leave things behind. Bloody doodles on notebook paper. Piles of their dead, flaking skin. A partially gnawed human finger. The smell is the toughest part. The demons are the worst. The janitor sprays a whole can of Lysol into the room. It's Hell, so to speak, trying to get the stink of sulfur out of the air.

 

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Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, including William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s. He also creates art. He lives in San Francisco.

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