Red Death

Rhiannon Locke

Jayise couldn't breathe, but found he didn't need to. Breathing only made the pain worse. It also made the red worse. He couldn't think about anything but the red. It looked like he was in a dust storm, but the dust was all red and pink.

"Mate, did you breathe? You've got to breathe."

It was Marvin Ren's voice, coming from his phone, despite the fact his phone was off. His phone was red.

"I know you think you don't need to but you've got to breathe. Breathe."

Somehow he could see Marvin, with his absurd little mustache and goatee and the thick rimmed glasses. He was standing on his field of sheep, on top of the smooth rock he could use to look over the entire flock. The dogs were with him, but they were red. The sheep were gone. They were also red.


Jayise didn't see his mouth moving. He realized he wasn't actually looking at Marvin, but some kind of memory of him, all in red. He realized then he didn't know where he was, and then a stinging pain hit him. He didn't want to think about that. The pain stopped, but it was still red.

"us in…"

The voice was sounding more clear now. It wasn't coming from his phone. Jayise thought about his dad, and getting to him. The pain hit again so he stopped. He still wasn't breathing, but it didn't hurt. Breathing hurt.


He let slip a little suckle of air, and was immediately hit by burning red pain. So he stopped after that, and looked up ahead. The red stung his eyes; he wasn't supposed to look at anything. He wasn't supposed to think about anything either. But he could move.

So he moved. It was pleasant, like a nice breezy walk after a rest and a filling meal. It was the only thing that didn't hurt. But it was red. Marvin's voice started to fade as he began to walk. He tried to look up to see what was getting in his way but his eyes would sting again. He did see other people, other objects, but they weren't moving as lucidly as he was. It was like they stopped moving the moment he looked at them. The red punished him for that so he kept his gaze down and unfocused. The red gave him pain every time he thought about the images he was seeing; a car being flipped over, pain. A person in his face screaming, pain. People running, pain. People running from him, pain. Try to piece any of it together, pain.

At some point he realized the pain was fading, and the red was getting more red. Then he lost all sensation in his legs and faceplanted into the red. He was suffocating. Maybe he should've breathed.

Fats discovered too late that the information report had been misfiled, and not given over to her in the big bundle she had meticulously gone through for days. It was somewhat frustrating to discover that so much information that was either contradictory or completely missing from the files were present in the initial information report. It meant a single point of failure, should that report end up permanently lost. It also inexplicably meant that the information report was the only source for at least two supposedly verified sightings of Rhiannon Locke immediately following Key Biscayne.

It was all of three pages, neatly spaced and formatted on a computer, with no citations or reference material attached.

- August 3rd, 2005: Rhiannon Locke is witnessed on Brickell Key in the company of suspected drug trafficker known by the pseudonym "Huge Hugo". He appears to attempt to throw Ms. Locke into oncoming traffic, which she plays off as a joke. The two continue walking together for several blocks before exchanging a plastic suitcase with a red handle appearing to contain assorted fruits and vegetables. "Huge Hugo" departs and Ms. Locke is observed on her cell phone for several hours until daybreak.

- August 18th, 2005: Rhiannon Locke is briefly apprehended by police in the Overtown area on suspicion of public intoxication. Several transients are then observed converging on the officers, who order the transients to step away. The individuals maintain their distance while demanding Ms. Locke's release. The officers administer a field sobriety test which Ms. Locke fails, whereupon two of the transients physically accost the officers and lead them on a foot chase away from the scene. Ms. Locke leaves the scene before officers return.

- August 19th, 2005: Rhiannon Locke appears in the same area, apparently intoxicated, and approaches several individuals on the street. She is begging for spare change. One individual acquiesces, whereupon Ms. Locke asks the individual for help, claiming she is being held against her will and forcibly drugged by a group unknown. The individual attempts to call the police while Ms. Locke leaves the area, shouting obscenities at the individual.

All of this added up to… what? That she was a figurehead rather than a true leader of this supposed cult? Being kept against her will by them? Nothing she'd garnered from Priscilla Locke indicated Rhiannon was being victimized in any way.

Fats stared at the information report, her hands trembling as they always did. Without any further family or known associates, she would have to fall back on procedure and work her way from schoolmates, former co-workers, anyone around her with a name on file or a record. "Huge Hugo" had been killed at Key Biscayne, and only two individuals spotted with her had been positively identified by police so far.

- August 23rd, 2005, approx 7:30-8:30 p.m.: Rhiannon Locke is observed fishing beneath the Rickenbacker Causeway facing Key Biscayne along with a transient in possession of several road flares. Ms. Locke and the transient are observed speaking together for up to an hour before Ms. Locke departs and makes her way on foot across the Causeway towards the marina, where a crowd of protestors extends from the top of the Causeway to the marina and the nearby beach.

Approx 8:50 p.m. Ms. Locke arrives just as the protestors begin to impede traffic along the Causeway to prevent trucks carrying refugees from continuing on into Key Biscayne. Local "WestCiv" militia is also present to defend the convoy from protestors. Ms. Locke is observed meeting with five other individuals and exchanging information. The group remain inactive amongst the crowd for an hour.

10:02 p.m., the trucks begin to unload the refugees to proceed on foot in order to bypass the protestors' blockade. "WestCiv" militia provide additional cover for the police officers in attendance and begin physically engaging members of the protesting crowd. An incendiary weapon is launched from the crowd and strikes an officer. Within seconds, gunfire is exchanged between both the militia and unknown assailants within the crowd. The crowd itself quickly dissipates as panic spreads. Ms. Locke is witnessed dangerously close to the firefight consuming an unknown beverage.

10:13 p.m., Ms. Locke departs the area on foot. "WestCiv" militiamen fail to apprehend or otherwise question her presence, while police reinforcements arrive on the scene. The firefight dies down but gunfire is exchanged between the marina and the Causeway until 6:00 a.m.

Between 10:28 and 12:09 a.m., there is no further sighting of Rhiannon Locke. At 12:10 a.m., she is picked up by security cameras at the Vizcaya Metrorail station emerging from a northbound train. Note there is no Metrorail stop between Vizcaya and Key Biscayne, and the Metrorail does not service the Key Biscayne area. Therefore it is believed Rhiannon Locke departed from the Rickenbacker Causeway north, either to Brickell or the Downtown area.

Fats looked it over again, then turned towards her computer, laying out a map of the Miami area. Brickell was closer than Downtown, and closer still to Brickell Key. Had she gone to Brickell Key to meet someone there before heading back home?

She took out a red pen and squeezed on it, trying to steady her hand before slowly and carefully writing on a piece of paper she'd tape underneath the information report.

Subject Rhiannon Locke may have departed Key Biscayne for Brickell Key prior to Vizcaya station sighting, due to her prior meeting with "Huge Hugo" ten days earlier. This would also account for her arrival in a northbound train.

She sat back and looked over the report again. Based on what she learned from Priscilla Locke, she had more to fill in, and her hands were shaking too much to put it all down right away. She fiddled on the desk for her tape recorder.

The air at street level was stale and warm, almost disgustingly so for late December. Fats wasn't native to Miami so she made the mistake of putting on a light jacket expecting a cool breeze to come in from the bay. Instead she got stale city musk and a sulfuric hot garbage smell as she walked across Brickell Key.

Her inquiries around Brickell got her two names not listed anywhere in the police file: Roy Rush and "Malevolent" Mal Steiger. Despite the name, "Malevolent" Mal was shaking like a leaf as Fats questioned her outside the hotel, skin pale and stretched tight over her bones, impossible to tell if she was thirty, forty, or sixty.

"You're not in any trouble, you can relax" Fats said for possibly the fifth or sixth time as the taller woman leaned against a wall, squeezing her hands behind her back while her face alternated between going pale and blotchy pink.

"It's not that— I know, it's not— I'm not—" The woman was stammering, trying to look composed and avoiding eye contact, "I'm like, I can't be seen with you anyway."

"No one knows who I am. I'm not police, I'm nobody."

"It's not, it, it's not even about that, like… What've I got to tell you? Is it worth puttin' my ass out there?"

"You don't need to tell me anything drug-related. I already know 'Huge Hugo' and what he was involved in. I just want to know about Locke."

Mal fidgeted and shook her head, "Locke. That girl is a demon." She glared at Fats nodding in that condescending way. "I don't mean it cute or playing like she's a wild-ass fiend or a vicious asshole. I mean she's literally a demon."

"How so?"

"She's… got voices. She can talk in other voices. Each voice tells you to do somethin' different, and it's like… you do it."

"You mean she can change her voice?"

"No, I mean it's other voices. They all sound the same, but they're different voices. And you, and you can't ignore them. You don't— can't say no. It's like someone shouts 'Hey yo' at you, you turn your head to look. You just do it, you can't do otherwise."

Fats arched a brow at her, "Has she ever told you to do things, in one of her voices?"

Mal shook her head, then nodded, "Yes. No. She told me to keep my bed clean and my room locked. I tell her it ain't even my room, I coul— I can't afford a place like this. It's a hotel room."

"What happened, then?"

"Nothing. She didn't say anything else about it. I got spooked, I started locking my room, wash the bedsheets every so often. Makes me feel better."

"How many times did you see her in the hotel?"

"Sometimes once a week, sometimes not more than once every month or so. Last time was last summer."

"Was she with 'Huge Hugo' at the time?"

"Yeah. No— Yeah… He came by later and left with her."

"Did she mention where they were going? Where she was staying? Anyone she might be seeing?"

"She said she was gonna die that night. Then she smiled and left. I thought she was trying to sound tough, I didn't think anything of it."

"Did you see her after that?"

Mal smirked, then appeared to stiffen with fright, "On the news, yeah. Key Biscayne, the cult, everything like that."

Fats sighed softly, putting her hands in her pockets. She had promised not to broach the subject of drugs with her, but thus far it seemed to be the only subject that linked Rhiannon Locke with this fidgety woman.

"What was she doing when she visited? Buying, or, or selling?"

Mal shook her head and spoke slowly, carefully, "No. She and him were on some other business. Not drugs. This was before I heard about her cult. She wanted cars and trucks. She was talking about 'coordinating' and organizing people, evacuating."

"How many people?"

"All people. All the people. Entire city."

"Did she say where?"

"No. She just needed cars. And trucks. She said they don't even need to work."

Suddenly Mal pushed away from the wall and bolted. Fats furrowed her brow and watched in confusion as the woman went running. In her periphery she saw other people running, too. Then several loud pops sounded, like firecrackers. She looked around, and spotted a shirtless man in the street. He had a gun out, holding it dangerously close to his face, firing straight up into the air. From his gait, he looked to be intoxicated.

He noticed her then, and started to jog up to her. She brought a trembling hand to her belt and started to walk away, moving towards the brick pillars to provide some modicum of cover if he started firing. He noticed and dropped his gun, approaching her with his hands spread out at his sides. She didn't calm down but stopped and waited for him to approach. Once he was within a few feet, he stopped and looked at her. Before he could say anything he was tackled and slammed against a parked car trunk by three men all at once. They started savaging him with forearms and knees. Fats turned and ran.

For weeks, televisions all throughout the schoolgrounds of Site-804 were set to the news, headlines blaring about China. Average Dr. Marlowe hadn't followed the news coverage, figuring herself to be several steps ahead of them on intel. That was a mistake.

She spotted Kohn as she made her way to her office, and smiled, "Happy new year."

Kohn stared at her incredulously, then grabbed her by the arm like a child and pulled her wordlessly down the hall to the rec room, where heads were focused on the television mounted on the wall. She looked up with them, reading the headline, not seeming to understand for several long seconds.




She would've liked to have died then and there on her feet.

The usual meeting room was full of boxes and half the lights had burnt out from overuse. No one had bothered trying to replace them or try to tidy up or clean everything. Everyone just seemed to be waiting.

Marlowe was in the room alone with Dr. Kohn. The man in the overalls, she didn't recognize him, sat in the back of the room on a computer. Kohn set down a binder in front of her and opened it, spreading out some of the contents and marking them in order to be read. She quickly scanned them.

"Congratulations, you're now in the know. Any questions you have, anything we've held back from you, is now open."

Marlowe looked through some of the files. Some of the pages were photocopies. They were reports about a Foundation site in China.

"We had an operation in China?"

"We had an operation in China, from '76 to '77. It was strictly monitored by the Qing, and their own anomalies department was constantly butting heads with us."

Marlowe flipped through some pages, finding photocopied pictures and reports detailing an anomalous find on-site in Guangdong province. The Qing had discovered an anomalous artifact that was ordered hidden away by order of the Tongzhi Emperor almost a hundred years before. Included were logs on the handling of the device and instructions on its usage. Despite the Tongzhi Emperor's order, Qing officials had been using it off and on up to the 1950s until a whistleblower alerted the Qing government as to its existence in the 70s. After two years of studying and testing on their own, they thought it important enough to bring to the attention of the Foundation. An arrangement was made in which Foundation personnel would be allowed on-site to study and conduct parallel investigations with the Qing. Details on the site and on procedures to be followed by Foundation personnel and their Qing counterparts. The arrangement was ended in 1982 and the anomalous device itself was destroyed four years later. What she couldn't find was any specific information on the anomaly itself. She then stopped, and started to read around it. There were protocols in place to keep the room on-site perpetually heated and sealed airtight. Personnel handling it had to use protective gloves after each experiment due to extreme cold.

Her nostrils flared and she grit her teeth, "They have an— They had an Anabasis."


"What happened to it?" She looked through some more pages, letters and documents in Chinese, hard translated, dating as far ahead as 1988 and 1990. Everything ended at 1990.

"They neutralized it. They said it was causing some residual effects on site personnel and the building itself. People were getting sick, coming down with neuro-degenerative diseases and the like. The building was also crumbling."

"So there's more than one Anabasis."

"As far as we know there was more than one."

She began to look through some of the experiment files. Kohn sat back in silence, waiting on her, as she skimmed through test after test and case after case. The similarities to some of their own testing in the school made it clear the Qing had had an Anabasis. Most of the reported neuro-degenerative symptoms were occurring mere months after use, some cases as early as 40 days. Her own group had had Anabasis for over six months and no one who had directly dealt with the device had so much as had a headache that a single aspirin couldn't help.

"What's missing here? What am I not getting?"

"Well, the bacteria, for one. They never encountered it."

"So we still don't know how they found out about our experiments."

Kohn shook his head, "Again, spies probably."

"Or, Occam's Razor, they did encounter the bacteria in their own experiments and either buried the information or are lying to us." She looked up at him, expecting some affirmation. He was unfazed, and shook his head again.

"Everything the Jinyiwei know or have about their own Anabasis is there. They swear they haven't held anything back. There's information in there that could compromise tons of Qing assets, even as far afield as South and Central America. If there's anything they didn't include, it's because they don't know about it."

She stopped, and began to look through the pages she'd read again. She had missed another telling detail; nothing was censored. Nothing was blacked out or redacted. Full names were given. The exact location of the Chinese site was there. The names of Jinyiwei agents assigned to the site or associated with the Foundation at the time.

"This is insane. There's no way they'd give us everything. This is… What?"

"They think it's that serious. Some in the Jinyiwei think their whole country is about to be destroyed, maybe the whole world. Even if they're exaggerating, handing all this over to us gives them some leverage with the Qing court: 'Proscribe us and we leak every scrap of classified information we've got'."

She furrowed her brow and looked though a different stack of documents. These were more recent, and described an agent Shi Mingxia. She had been involved in investigating bacterial residue in dirty bombs used recently in Laos. The implication from all the reports were that it was the same bacterium they had encountered with the Anabasis.

"There's no way they didn't bring this bacteria out themselves. There's reports of it being used before we ever discovered our own Anabasis."

"That's not what the Jinyiwei say, and the Qing aren't likely to believe us."

She sat back in her chair and threw up her hands, "Then… What? They want our help, but they say we're lying about the source of the bacterium? Do they think we gave it to the government to sell to Laotian rebels as a bio-weapon?"

"Wouldn't be the first time."

She blinked at him, and arched a brow. Kohn sighed and got up from his chair, smiling somberly, "Welcome to the big time, Doctor Marlowe. Now come on, they're waiting for us downstairs. We've got to discuss evac plans for the coming months."

Fats stepped into the Metro Mover, a stunted metro train car put on a short loop around Downtown, and rode the loop all the way around, watching and taking note of her surroundings. It gave her a decent overview of the streets. If Rhiannon Locke hadn't taken the Metro Mover that night, then Fats would at least be able to determine where she might've walked, how far from what street to what avenue, how long it might've taken her. Piecing together a timeline post-Key Biscayne was her priority, but if Locke had been spending months roaming around the Downtown and Brickell neighborhoods leading up to it, it would muddle the memories of witnesses. If Rhiannon Locke was spotted skipping along East Flagler Street two days after Key Biscayne, that would be new and crucial information. If Rhiannon Locke had skipped along East Flagler Street several times a week for six or seven months leading up to Key Biscayne, suddenly a witness might not be so sure it was before or after Key Biscayne that they'd seen her.

She stepped off at Government Center and made her way out into the streets again, looking down at her phone and heading north, away from the more densely packed downtown area and going towards a ramshackle grocery on a corner, nestled between two vacant lots. Her man was sitting on a bench outside; an overweight black man wearing a tight black shirt and loose jeans, dark sunglasses, and a plain white cap.

"Hey lil' mama." He grinned to her as she came closer to him, hands clasped together over his belly.

"Roy Rush?"

"You found me," He scooted on the bench, leaving a very narrow space for her to sit, "Sit down, let's talk."

She remained standing, "I've got some questions about Rhiannon Locke."

He shrugged, "I don't know her. I seen her around but I don't know her."

"I hear different."

"What you hear?" He leaned forward a bit, resting elbows on his knees.

"I hear you spoke with her a little before Key Biscayne. I also hear you've seen her around afterwards."

He shrugged again, "I'm just a hard working, working class gentleman, I don't get involved in that shit."

"What shit?"

"Guns. Drugs. Sex. Now, I mean, a fine young lady like yourself comes up to me sure I'll talk a bit, get to know her. But that wild orgy shit? Nuh uh."

"Orgies?" She shifted her stance a bit, trying not to let the tape recorder in her pocket bulge too prominently.

"Yeah, orgies."

"Was she involved in orgies?"

"Shit, I don't know. This ain't a fuckin'… godly neighborhood or anything, but once Rhiannon started comin' around here, you'd hear about these… fuckin' orgies. Sex, drugs, violence. They'd be, like… pretending to kill each other in there."

"Pretending? You sure?"

"Motherfuckers would go all around buyin' fuckin' pigs blood everywhere they could and dumpin' it on theyselves in the orgies. I ain't ever been but I hear people talk, and I seen the places afterwards, like fuckin' crime scenes with no bodies."

"What went on, specifically?"

He sighed and leaned back on the bench, no longer comfortable having her around but looking relieved to at least be telling someone about it, "They pick houses, or hotel rooms, or construction sites. They lay out mattresses and bedsheets and bring all they people around, you know, start kissin' and fuckin'. Then they start dancin' around, with knives. They put the blood in doggie bags and put them up against people's throats, then slice open the bags like they cuttin' throats, and the people fall and play dead. They keep doin' this until everybody's dead. Everybody 'cept her."

"Rhiannon Locke? She's there? What's she do?"

"She just sits there, in the middle. She ain't ever move, she ain't ever talk, she ain't even watchin' what's goin' on. She just… sits there. When it's all done, she gets up and leaves. Then everybody clears out. Sometimes they clean up after themselves, but they don' give a shit if they in a construction site or an empty lot. They just leave it there. Cops show up, everybody freaks out till they test the blood and find out it's pig's blood."

"People you know have told you that?"

"Shit, I almost saw it myself one time. She was walkin' out of this lot like nothin' was wrong with the world," He leaned himself forward and looked over at the end of the grocery store, gesticulating at the empty lot beside it, "Right there. Everyone else looked dead, I was fittin' to call the cops, but then they all got up and started leavin'. All they left behind was the blood, the mattresses, and the doggie bags."

"Have they stopped?"

"I don't know. Last I heard, there was a big one down in Brickell right after them refugees got shot up in Key Biscayne. Real big one, they said. Cops were busy so they went all out and drenched a whole house in blood."

"Could you give me the address, or tell me where, exactly?"

"What's all this about, lil' mama, you police?"

She pursed her lips and shook her head, "I'm looking for her, I'm a friend of her sister's. No one's seen her since Key Biscayne."

He shrugged and lay back in the bench, "I don't mean to be rude or nothin' but by now she's probably dead."

"Why do you say that?"

"Well shit, you come around here settin' up blood orgies all around town, people are gonna notice. And some people might not just sit around and let it happen with no consequences, you know?"

"Someone might've killed her, you think?"

"Like I said, I ain't in any of that business, but believe me, someone comes around actin' wild, shittin' up the neighborhood with fuckin' satanic orgy shit, then they ain't ever seen again? They dead. They are dead."

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