Dark Screams: Volume Two

Dark Screams: Volume Two by Robert R. McCammon, Graham Masterton, Richard Christian Matheson Read Free Book Online

Book: Dark Screams: Volume Two by Robert R. McCammon, Graham Masterton, Richard Christian Matheson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Robert R. McCammon, Graham Masterton, Richard Christian Matheson
Michelle had predicted.
    —
    “What was that?”
    Several voices at once. The scuff of rubber-tipped chair legs on thin carpet.
    “My baby. My baby.”
    People clutching at their chests or squeezing their faces in their hands.
    “Alan’s briefcase?”
    Standing abruptly, a half-empty coffee cup spilling to the floor.
    “Sandra’s jacket. That looked like Sandra’s jacket!”
    A rustle of newsprint. Quiet sobs in an awkward silence.
    “It couldn’t be…”
    “Isn’t that—?”
    And the pregnant woman, closest to the front, crossing the gap with a sprinter’s speed, tiptoed and stretching one arm over the lectern to grasp Wade’s lapel and pull his face closer to hers, her voice an awful, resonating snarl: “What kind of sadistic fucking game are you playing?”
    Because, on the public screen—only for a split second, an almost subliminal flash—an image so horrific…Michelle couldn’t be sure, it had happened so fast. But she thought she’d seen a nightmare collage, some awful collection of the worst fears in this room, carefully joined into a single terrible picture then projected onto the screen. All this time, had Wade simply been working on this perverse Photoshopped image?
    “What?” Wade, flustered, looked behind him at the familiar status board that had been projected for so long. “What? I didn’t—” But he also snapped shut the lid to his laptop, turning off the computer in a quick, guilty motion.
    “Oh, Lord, oh, Lord.” The grandmother hugged the baby against her frail chest.
    Wade stepped beside the lectern, and the pregnant woman’s hand hovered in the air where she’d previously held the lapel of his suit coat. Clearly, the group was ready to shout him down, attack him, but something about his defenseless manner made them pause. Michelle stayed back, not wanting the blame that came with Wade’s authority. She felt the crowd lean forward, tensing, as if to decipher the words of a man who stuttered or spoke in a foreign tongue.
    And that’s what it sounded like: an odd rasping whisper of syllables that started and stopped, less decipherable with each attempt. But he was
trying
to speak, Wade was trying, which was more than he’d done before, so they gave him space, they listened and waited for some meaning to break through.
    As a result, the other voice broke through clearly, even at a whisper. “You did this.” An accusation, from the man she’d come to think of as the Reporter. His glowering eyes focused on Robert’s friend.
    Where she stood, Michelle could see them both. Most people faced forward as her boss’s voice cracked further and further from coherence, but the Reporter had turned ninety degrees in his chair, his legs in the aisle and chin near his shoulder, to stare at the man across the room and two rows back.
    “What?” One arm flew up, wrist flapping limp as if he’d been startled into a stereotypical flamboyant gesture. Robert’s friend didn’t check to see if the Reporter intended someone else nearby, and Michelle thought she understood. A gay man in this southern town no doubt lived through years of harassment: misunderstood by his parents; teased at school; jeered at outside bars by predatory frat brothers; finally finding love, but denied legal status by a government that should protect him. And all the while, a target for blame, as if just by existing he corrupted children, undermined the nation’s morality, weakened the economy and the employment rate.
You did this,
the Reporter had said, and of course the word
this
meant everything, from the tension in the room to the strange projected flash of horror to the plane crash itself. Robert’s friend was startled by the accusation, but not surprised.
    “I know what you are,” the Reporter said. “You shouldn’t be here.” He had obviously listened carefully when she’d bent the rules to admit Robert’s friend into the room.
    The gay man summoned a nervous laugh, then a wry, resigned,

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