THE JOINING

By Ian Egan

 

  Mr. Johnson looked into the fierce bloodshot eyes glaring at him just inches from his face, and he trembled. He had worked for Harvey Brothers Printing for twenty-two years, and in all that time he had only lost his temper once... and that was a long, long time ago when he was much younger with a salesman who thought he could intimidate him into a sale. He was a timid, mousy kind of fellow, whose leadership on the plant floor stemmed more from his vast knowledge of printing then from any charismatic personality trait. He wasn't at all in the habit of confrontations, and this big bully of a security guard now facing him scared the hell out of him.

 

  That guard was now snarling at him. "I think you better take your stupid goddamn 'suggestions', asshole, and shove them up your ass!" Mr. Johnson mumbled something inconsequential, and hurriedly beat a retreat back to his office. He would pass his suggestions to his people at their work stations, quietly, out of earshot of the security guard. This guard was a new one, and he had taken over as soon as he was hired, scaring and intimidating the employees. One of these days, he thought to himself. One day soon I'll stand up to him, and tell him off, and then I'll fire him. Yeah, that's what I'll do. One of these days.

 

  Bromsky was pissed. That's just what he needed, a dumb shithead telling him how to do his job. Swear to God, if he had to spend another night in this rat hole of a warehouse, he was gonna go ape shit! As he stalked down the aisle, the last of the workers on their way to the locker room scrambled to get out of his way.

 

  Bromsky liked to be pissed off, because to him fury was power. Especially in a big man, because it bred fear in others... and Bromsky was a big man. He was six five, fat (his friends called him burly, mostly to avoid those ever-ready fists), and had an attitude that could best be described, on those few good days, as nasty. In fact, it was that bad attitude that had put him in this filthy run down piece-of-shit excuse for a warehouse in the first place.

 

   Once back at the security desk, Bromsky was having a good time. He had stopped that cute little Mexican bitch, and was giving her a hard time about checking her bags and clothes, taking the opportunity to grope her breasts while he was at it. He was hoping she would start crying... he loved it when they cried. Maybe he could intimidate the little slut into giving him another piece of ass. Yeah, that's the ticket, he thought with a wicked grin. She saw the grin, and the blood drained from her face. She dropped her eyes, and started to cry. He had hurt her the last time, and he had enjoyed her pain. Just seeing her like this gave him a hard-on.

 

  God, sometimes he loved this job.

 

  With a final grope and leer, he let her go. Anticipation was half the fun, and he wanted her to think about it overnight. He went back to his desk, poured himself another cup of coffee, and kicked back to reminisce. He still had an hour before he had to make a round and check the doors.

 

    He was on his seventh or eighth career, having failed at everything else. He was sure that he could have been a cop when he got out of the Army, but he had failed the Police Academy. To him, being a cop was his life's ambition. What a dream job! Wearing a gun legally, flashing your badge at punks, rousting drug dealers and taking their stash, intimidating assholes who think that they're better then him... In short, to Bromsky, being a cop was the ultimate power over lesser mortals. Then he had tried to intimidate an instructor at the Academy, and the bastard had overreacted and recommended that he be "discharged for unsuitability". To hear Bromsky talk about it, it was through no fault of his own, of course. That wimp instructor had never liked him, he would say; he was probably a fag, and he had pulled strings to get him flunked out. He totally ignored the fact that he had failed every psychological test they had given him. They had proven that he was the violent, quick-tempered, anti-social loaner that everyone who knew him had always thought him to be. But, it wasn't his fault... never, never his fault. It was always someone else's.

 

  He went through jobs like other men went through shoes. The longest he'd ever held a job was a year and a half, but that was way above the average. He had quit a few, but he had been fired from most... once again, "not his fault."

 

  Like the last job. Who did that stupid spic think he was, ordering him around? Who cares if old Juan had been working there for fifteen years. Who cares if he had taught the owner everything there was to know about tool machining when he had taken the business over from his father. Bromsky doesn't take orders from spics. He had gotten into about a dozen confrontations with others in the shop, some of them violent, but he had always intimidated his way out of trouble. Until the last incident. He had enjoyed the terror in that spic asshole's eyes when he had slammed him up against the wall. He had enjoyed the fight when the others in the warehouse had come to old Juan's aid, too. He had left the building only after they had called the police on him, even though he half hoped they would show up before he had cleared out of the parking lot. He had even paused to slash the tires on that stupid spic asshole's car.

 

  He had been escorted away from a few jobs by the cops, and even fought them all the way to the lock-up a couple of times. He hated the cops, mostly because they were doing the job that he had coveted and lusted after for as long as he could remember. This security job was a poor substitute because he had limited powers over the people in the warehouse, and none at all extending beyond the walls of the building.

 

  With an angry shove, he pushed back from the desk and stood up. Time to make his rounds.

 

  He started on the shipping dock, and made his way to the back of the warehouse, turning off lights, checking doors, rifling through desks, taking the change and anything else that struck his fancy. This job definitely had it's benefits. Maybe he should try for a job at a warehouse that handled stereo equipment or televisions; then he could make some serious money on the side! If he could just stay at this job long enough to force a good recommendation out of these wimps, he would definitely try.

 

  The foul mood his reminiscing had put him in was still with him, and he continued to feed it. With a dark chuckle, he mused at the rage that he was working himself into. He hadn't gotten this bad since he had ripped that office apart what, two or three jobs ago? Yeah, that rage was a real work of art... one for the record books.

 

  Maybe when he got home in the morning he would give Ellen an extra special beating. Thank God he was married, he said to himself. Without that release they would have locked him up and thrown away the key long ago. Besides, she liked it. He never heard her complain, did he? She just laid there and took it. Hell, she didn't even cry out anymore.

 

  With an evil smile spreading across his face, Bromsky started planning the tortures he would inflict on his wife. He would get a response from her tomorrow, by God!

 

  As he made his way to the back of the building, he cursed softly to himself... he had forgotten his flashlight at the security desk, and the lights hadn't worked back here since he had started three weeks ago. The dying day slanted through the filthy skylights that hadn't seen a good washing in years, causing the shadows to swirl and leap in a slow motion dance. 

 

  The company had problems with vandalism, and had quit replacing bulbs and windows until it was stopped.  It seemed as if once a month, on a regular basis, someone was breaking windows and lights both inside and outside the building. The windows seemed to have been broken from the inside, but nothing ever seemed to be missing. Some of the older and more superstitious employees had noticed that it always seemed to happen around the full moon, but they never said anything to the owners for fear of being thought of as stupid or foolish and losing their jobs.

 

  Then there were the electrical problems. It seemed that some of the lights in the back of the building never worked, no matter how often you changed the bulbs and wiring. The resident handyman had tried to solve the problem in the past, but could never nail it down. The owner was a cheapskate who didn't want to spend a small fortune on an elaborate security system, so they had done the next best thing... a big, ugly, fearless thug in a uniform who was desperate for a job, and would do anything for a few dollars. Enter Security Officer Bromsky.

 

  Ah, well. At least Bromsky wasn't afraid of the dark. He started on the rear perimeter, checking the doors with a savage twist on the handle. He squinted in the dim light of the few security lights left on, and continued until he was deep into the darkness. He was thinking of that cute little wetback slut, and the way her breasts jiggled when she cried as he stepped forward into the heart of the inky blackness. He felt a chill go down his spine, and he froze.

 

  Someone was watching him.

 

  Peering around, he strained to see or hear anything that would confirm his feeling, but failed. But that didn't calm him or the hairs that were now standing up on the back of his neck. Bromsky was always proud of his ability to hide his fear from others, and he tried to stifle the panic rising up in his chest.

 

  They were here, waiting for him.

 

  He turned to run, but the shadows had closed in on him, and he couldn't tell which way safety lay. He frantically glanced around him, trying to pierce the gloom, trying to see them.  In a panic, with a scream welling up in his throat, he suddenly was filled with a horrible feeling of certainty...

 

  They were above him.

 

  Throwing his head back, he saw the shadows among the roof beams stir, separate, and drop silently down towards him. Now he didn't even try to hide his terror, and the scream tore from his throat as the shadows descended and engulfed his soul.

 

 

  Bromsky hurt all over.  At first he thought that he had tied on a real bender last night. His head was pounding to the point that he couldn't think straight, and he wished he could remember whether or not he had a good time.

 

  Then his memory clicked in, his eyes flew open, and another scream rose into his throat. A soft voice suddenly tickled inside his throbbing skull.

 

  "Do not fear, Brother... We are with you."

 

  "What... Who..."

 

  "Be at peace, Brother, and rest..."

 

  "Who the hell are you, and where am I?"

 

  There was a dry rustling, a murmur of something that was almost laughter, and the unearthly soothing voice whispered in his head again;

 

  "Be at peace, brother; all will be explained in good time."

 

  Bromsky looked around, and saw nothing but darkness. Then he noticed a light above him, and looked up... and almost shit his pants.

 

  He was upside down, hanging from the roof beams, with the floor twenty feet below him. He panicked, and almost let go. The shadows around him stirred, and the dry murmur of laughter came again as the shadows supported him until he realized that his feet had somehow changed. They were more like a bird's claws, except they were much larger and more massively muscled. The shadows held him until he had learned to grasp the roof beam with them, and he discovered that he could support himself without any trouble.

 

  His head buzzed with questions; visions and emotions and thoughts both majestic and frantic flashed though his mind, filling the void where his soul used to be with a gnawing hunger that could never be fully satiated. But that strange, quiet voice whispered in his head again:

 

  "Not now, Brother. All will be answered in time. Rest. Sleep well, for tomorrow we feast."

 

  He thrilled at the words, and felt the power of the Family as they gathered to sleep until the holy night visited again.

 

  They gathered their cloaking spells about themselves, and wove them together with dark enchantments of silence and shadow. He could hardly wait until the night returned. For the first time, he felt like he belonged. He had found his calling, and all who had persecuted him in the past would feel his anger, pain, and humiliation one hundred... no, one thousand times over. They'll be sorry they ever crossed him. He would see to it.

 

  This time he would not fail.

 

  Glancing once more at the Brotherhood packed closely together on the ceiling of the old warehouse, he thrilled at the promise of the voices. With a wicked smile, he closed his eyes and dreamed of blood-splattered walls...

 

  "Sleep well, Brother... tomorrow we feast."

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