In This Skin

In This Skin by Simon Clark Read Free Book Online

Book: In This Skin by Simon Clark Read Free Book Online
Authors: Simon Clark
Tags: v1.5
feet the leaf-covered ground gave way to a wooden floor. He was through.
        But as he passed into the main body of the building he glimpsed movement from the corner of his eye. A gray figure slipped through beside him.
        Just for a second Ellery glimpsed a monstrously elongated form with a misshapen head. It was close enough for him to see its glistening skin and ragged clothes. The thing glared out into the hall, not at him. Even so, he'd glimpsed the blazing eyes that bulged from its repulsive face.
        The figure ran on two powerful legs with a savage stride, the pace of a hunter seeking new prey. Seconds later it bounded into the darkened doorway that led to the rear of the stage and vanished. Footsteps receded into the distance.
        Ellery, sitting once more in the armchair, opened his eyes. He was pleased his imagined world had grown even more vivid. The quirky, spontaneous image of the weird beast-man slipping out of his dream world and into a dark Chicago night pleased him. He wished with a sudden passion that tightened his throat and made his heart beat furiously that the wonderful world he'd built in his mind could erupt into this grim state of affairs that people call reality Mate the two worlds together to create something beautiful! He clenched his fists as the sheer force of his wish tore through him. Please God, yes. Make it happen!

        The address in the wallet took Benedict to a place that looked a lot like a motel, a long, two-story block faced with white boards. You reached the second story by an external staircase that opened onto a walkway bolted along the face of the building. A dozen doors led to a dozen apartments.
        The odors changed radically with every step along the walkway as his eyes flicked over the plastic numerals, looking for number 21. The first step he smelled urine. The second step brought a blast of spicy chili from a kitchen window fan. The next brought tobacco smoke. The next step he was engulfed by the smell of toadstool decay from an apartment with boarded windows (although the bottom panel of the door had been kicked through, letting the stink ooze free). Another step took him into the cabbage-rich embrace of boiled leftovers. The landing here didn't look as pretty as a picture either. Every couple of paces a used diaper lay on the boards, while chained to the railing were the bare bones of a dozen bikes. Most had wheels or handlebars missing. One miserable specimen had been stripped down to nothing but a shabby red frame. The drive chain hung miserably from the cog.
        Stepping over diapers and strewn toys, Benedict West headed for the door bearing broken plastic numbers that he managed to decipher as 21. A rock ballad wailed from an open window.
        It's OK, Benedict reassured himself as a sour cabbage smell swamped his nostrils again; I'm just doing my good deed for the day. Even so, he wanted badly to return to his car. With the time nudging past noon and the sun shining bright on this raunchy suburb of Chicago, he didn't feel personally at risk. He feared for his car though. From up here he could see two burned-out car wrecks in the corner of a football field across the road, while down in the lot an unhappy SUV without wheels sat with its belly touching the asphalt. Every window had been smashed.
        Great, a little of the third world right in my hometown, Benedict thought sourly, then grimaced. Hardly the most sensitive observation.
        People didn't live here through choice. When factory owners decide they can reduce labor costs by shifting their gearbox plant from Idaho to Korea, or their plastic extrusion unit from Florida to Brazil, this kind of shit happens. Hell, even his old employer, who had paid him a nice fat salary for inserting them squarely into the groovy new electrocosmos of cyberspace, had recently fired their web site team. Then his former bosses had contracted out to a

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