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BZRK (BZRK #1)(10)
Michael Grant

“Berserk,” Nijinsky said quietly.

Noah’s heart froze. His eyes snapped up. “What the hell does it mean? What is it? And how did you know?”

Nijinsky sighed. “What is it? It’s an organization. I’m part of it. And so was Alex.”

He waited and watched as Noah digested this. And as the truth dawned on Noah. “Are you here to …” He couldn’t finish the question. It seemed absurd, and if he asked it, it would be embarrassing.

“Your brother had a very special skill. A very rare skill. Sometimes it runs in families. If you have this skill, then we may want to talk further. If not, then we will part ways and you’ll hear nothing more from us.”

Noah blinked water out of his eyes. “What the hell?” When Nijinsky didn’t answer, Noah said, “Bug Man. Is that a real person? I mean, is he the person who did this to Alex?”

“The Bug Man is real.”

“How do I … I mean, how do I find out if, you know, I have this thing you’re talking about?”

Nijinsky drew a business card from his inner coat pocket and handed it to Noah. It was a rather odd set of handwritten instructions. Noah quickly shielded it from the rain with the arc of his body.

Nijinsky turned to walk away but then stopped at a distance and called back to Noah. “Tell me something, Noah. Which is more important: freedom or happiness?”

What was this, a game? But Nijinsky wasn’t smiling.

“You can’t be happy unless you’re free,” Noah said.

The American nodded. “Skip school tomorrow.”

(ARTIFACT)

To: C and B Armstrong

From: S Lebowski

Division: AmericaStrong, a division of Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation

Status: EYES ONLY ENCRYPT Read and safe-delete

Gentlemen: You have requested occasional updates on subject Burnofsky’s state of mind. We have been able to penetrate security on his computer files. The following is an extract from a video diary. Despite the fact that Burnofsky appears to be addressing someone, there is no evidence that anyone other than Burnofsky himself has viewed these files.

We assess their condition to be secure.

We make no judgments of subject Burnofsky’s mental condition at this time, but note that he is a heavy drinker and opium addict.

The following is a transcript. The video itself is also available.

ENTRY FOLLOWS:

Let me tell you about the nano. Down there, down in the nano, you see marvels, man. You think you see glory in a sunset or the shape of a tree? No, man, the genius, the creation, the architecture, the fucking complexity, the edges and the patterns and the horrors—oh, yeah, because there are horrors—are down there in the meat.

You want to see God the Creator, the supreme artist? Gaze into the nano. You’ll see your God, and he will scare the shit out of you.

God isn’t in big things measured in miles, he’s down there. Down there in a flea’s antennae like a hairy tree trunk twitching for blood, and a macrophage slithering along like a shell-less snail come to eat you up, and the cells you see splitting beneath your feet, and landscapes of seething bacteria, and yeah, right there, you want to see God up close and personal?

Come with me into the nano, and I’ll show you what happens when you empty a sac full of staph germs, the hard stuff, the boosted MRSA, the necrotizing fasciitis itself, the true shit, into the ocular orb, behind a man’s eye. Oh, you don’t know that term, that neat Latin? Does the phrase “flesh-eating bacteria” ring any bells for you?

Cut it open—the sac—and dump it out, and it goes right to work. It eats into the eye and into the nerves and into the brain, and you haven’t really seen God’s true handiwork until you’ve seen those little staph balls, down there, down in the meat—they look about as big as cats, maybe, you know? And they’re fuzzy. But no eyes or face, just these soulless rugby balls covered in bumps. And man, you should see them work.

See them turn healthy cells into goo.

See them eat right through the meat, explode cells, grow; double, double toil and trouble, again and again, and eat all the while, those bumpy little balls, and by the time the guy feels the pain it’s way too late.

Yeah. You want to see the face of God the Artist? Get down in the nano, watch a sea of healthy flesh overrun by those microscopic hordes, like murdering Huns.

They’ll eat their way through to sunlight eventually. Through a nose, a cheek, an eye, a skull.

Praise the Lord: the Great and Crazy Artist.

END OF TRANSCRIPT

FIVE

Vincent was also visiting London, but miles away from Noah and Nijinsky.

Vincent was twentysomething, a trim, average-size guy with carefully barbered brown hair and a downturned mouth, and eyes that were brown but with no sense of warmth in them. He had a slightly curved nose and nostrils that flared and a faint scar that extended half an inch above and half an inch below his lips.

He held himself like a guy who wanted to avoid attention, but he didn’t have the gift of disappearing in a crowd. He had the curse of being noticed, no matter how careful he was to keep his eyes down and his face impassive. People still noticed him because there was just an air about Vincent that suggested tamped-down emotion and volatility barely disguised by his careful movements and his soft, almost inaudible voice.

He was at dinner, sitting at a dark table in a nice but not stuffy Indian restaurant on Charlotte Street, picking at a poppadom. The target sat across the room at one of the larger, brighter, noisier tables.

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