Home > Mr. Monster (John Cleaver #2)

Mr. Monster (John Cleaver #2)
Dan Wells

Prologue

I killed a demon. I don’t know if it was really, technically a demon - I’m not exactly a religious person - but I do know that Mr Crowley, my neighbour across the street, was some kind of monster, with fangs and claws and the whole bit. He could change back and forth, and he murdered a lot of people, and if he’d known that I knew who he was, he would have murdered me too. So for lack of a better word I called him a demon, and because there was no one else who could do it, I killed him. I think it was the right thing to do. At least the killing stopped.

Well, it stopped for a while.

You see, I’m a monster too - not a supernatural demon, just a messed-up kid. I’ve spent my whole life trying to keep my dark side locked away where it couldn’t hurt anybody, but then that demon showed up, and letting my dark side loose was the only way to stop it. And now I don’t know how to lock it back up.

I call my dark side ‘Mr Monster’ - the side that dreams about bloody knives, and imagines what you’d look like with your head on a stick. I don’t have multiple personalities and I don’t hear voices or anything, I just . . . it’s hard to explain. I think about a lot of terrible things, and I want to do a lot of terrible things, and it’s just easier to come to terms with that side of me by pretending it’s someone else; it’s not John who wants to cut his mother into tiny pieces, it’s Mr Monster. See? I feel better already.

But here’s the problem: Mr Monster is hungry.

Serial killers often talk about a need - some driving urge that they can control at first, but which builds and builds until it’s impossible to stop, and then they lash out and kill again. I never understood what they were talking about before, but now I think I do. Now I can feel it, deep in my bones, as insistent and inevitable as the biological urge to eat or hunt or mate.

I’ve killed once, and it’s only a matter of time before I kill again.

Chapter 1

It was 1 a.m., and I was staring at a cat.

It was probably a white cat, but here in the dark I couldn’t tell for sure; what little moonlight filtered through the broken windows turned the room into an older version of itself, a scene from a black and white movie. The cement-block walls were grey, the dented barrels and stacks of wooden planks were grey, the piles of half-used paint cans were grey - and there in the centre, refusing to move, was a grey cat.

I played with the plastic jug in my hands, turning it back and forth, listening to the gasoline as it sloshed around inside. I had a book of matches in my pocket, and a pile of oily rags at my feet. There was enough old wood and chemicals in here to fuel a spectacular fire, and I desperately wanted to light it, but I didn’t want to hurt that cat. I didn’t even dare scare it away, for fear that I might lose control.

So I stared at it, waiting. As soon as it left, this place was gone.

It was late April, and spring was finally winning its battle to transform a dull, frozen Clayton County into a cheerful, green one. A big part of this, of course, was the fact that the Clayton Killer had finally left us alone. His vicious killing spree had lasted almost five months, but he’d stopped very suddenly, and no one had heard from him since January. The town had huddled in fear for another two months, barring its doors and windows every night, and waking up each morning hardly daring to turn on the TV and see another shredded corpse on the morning news. But nothing had come, and slowly we’d started to believe that it was over for real this time, and there wouldn’t be any more bodies. The sun came up, the snow melted away, and people started smiling again. We’d weathered the storm. Clayton had been tentatively happy for almost a month now.’

I was the one person, in fact, who hadn’t been worried at all. I’d known for certain that the Clayton Killer was gone for good, way back in January. After all, I’m the one who killed him.

The cat moved, turning its attention from me to drop its head and lick its paw. I held completely still, hoping it would ignore me or forget me and go outside to hunt or something. Cats were supposed to be nocturnal hunters, and this one had to eat sometime. I pulled my watch from my pocket - a cheap plastic wristwatch that I’d torn the straps off - and checked the time again. Five past one. This was going nowhere.

The warehouse had been built as a supply dump for a construction company many, many years ago, back when the big woodmill in town was new and people still thought Clayton County might turn into something. It never did, and while the woodmill still struggled along, the construction company had cut its losses and gone home. In the years since, I wasn’t the only one who’d made use of this long-abandoned building - the walls were covered with graffiti, and the ground inside and out was littered with beer cans and empty wrappers. I’d even found a mattress behind some wooden pallets, presumably some vagrant’s temporary home. I wondered if the Clayton Killer had got him, too, before I stopped him; either way, the mattress was musty from disuse, and I figured nobody had been out here all winter. When I finally got a chance, that mattress was slated to be the core of my carefully crafted fire.

Tonight, though, there was nothing I could do. I followed rules, and those rules were very strict, and the very first one said Do not hurt animals. That made this the fourth time the cat had stopped me from burning down the warehouse. I suppose I should have been grateful . . . but I really needed to burn something. One of these days I’d take that cat and—No. I wouldn’t hurt the cat. I’d never hurt anyone again.

Breathe deep.

I set down the gas jug; I didn’t have time to wait for the cat, but I could burn something smaller. I grabbed a wooden pallet and dragged it outside, then went back in for the gas. The cat was still there, now sitting in a ragged square of moonlight, watching me.

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