He placed his hand palm down, fingers spread against the floor. Turning the needle down he forced the point through the skin between the thumb and the first finger. His features remained smooth, but star points of sweat broke out on his forehead. He raised his hand and pushed the needle, stretching and breaking the skin on the other side. The pain was constant. David knew that the Bad Metal demanded his agony. He took another shaft from those now laid out in front of him and spread his toes for the kiss. Again he lowered the tip, piercing the skin just between the first and second metatarsals. The pain increased with a steady throbbing in synch with his heart.

The inevitable headache began and his ears hummed. The tattoo lines began to glow softly, as though illuminated from the inside at his ankle and wrist, pale steel blue like a straight razor's edge. The pain and the metal had to be in harmony, building evenly to a crescendo dictated by his tolerance, so David began to twist the needles, hanging twin lead weights from the rings in his pierced nipples. He forced two shafts through his penis head and hung another weight from the ring embedded in his scrotum. Far from crescendo - many more needles to go. The tattoo glow crept around his body, slowly growing brighter.

Three blocks away, demolitions were happening. The guest of honor, a supermarket, one of the monsters put up in the early Sixties. It was an architectural nightmare, occupying half a block steadfastly, sharing the space with a monthly parking lot. It was a simple job for a wrecking crew, but this job had turned ugly very fast, with three men dead and the two badly maimed. The police cited the construction crew with a half dozen safety violations, but to the men on the site it was a simple case of 'The building's out to get us. ) Most of the crew believed it with religious conviction, and pointed out in an unflappable way that the unbelievers were dead.

Lunch break with the crew was an animated discussion dealing with the myriad ways of death, the horrible accidents they'd witnessed on other sites, and sex. John Petrakos never joined the twisted talks the others relished. John Petrakos was a self-proclaimedBadass andexcessive alcoholic. Heoccupied his lunch break drinking silently behind the dozer.

Today he was staring at an old man across the street, who had shown up every day since the work first started. He wore soiled army dress pants, canvas tennis shoes, an old blue T-shirt and a dirty, rumpled London Fog dress coat. Sticking out above this pile of rags was a paper-fleshed skull shrivelled beyond age. He never moved from his station in the door frame of a derelict storefront. Judging by the pile of newspapers in the doorway, the old man must have lived there.

John had seen the type before, old forgotten men with nothing better to do and a few waning years to do it in. Old men were attracted to demolition sites. They would stand a safe distance away and mutter to themselves or with other street slime about a broad range of crap, usually about the past, when they had identities. They would grunt, spit or cough every time the ball made a good hit, an absurd kind of acknowledgment.

John hated them. All the fuckedup street trash he had to tolerate in this job. He was dead certain that if he left for five minutes they would sneak in at night, start fires, shit on the ground, andsteal anything they could load into a shopping cart. He'd caught two old bastards already. John was the watchman, this was his site, and where he parked his trailer he was fucking king!

He scowled at the man across the street, and the old man met his gaze with two cataract-blocked orbs of his own. Throwing down the gauntlet, it seemed to John. He dribbled out words between pulls on his bottle. "You're next old man."

John grew angrier as the staring match went on: "I'11 do you like I did your slimeball buddies!" He stopped himself when he realized he was starting to yell. "Great," he thought 'Tell the whole fucking world, you asshole.' He looked around to make sure no one was watching, picked up a rock and threw it over the safety fence as hard as he could. It caught the old man on the temple, and he staggered backward, his body slamming hard into the door then slipping to its knees. Blood ran from the cut, spilling over his cheek and into his toothless mouth. John grinned'Right in the fucking face!'

The old man raised his head very slowly. Though the blood flowed freely, a broad black grin spread over his face and stopped John's self-congratulations cold - dead cold. The old man stood up very slowly, as if each bone was being pulled back together under his grinning old skull. For John the world tilted a little. Fear trickled his gut. The old man squared his shoulders and started across the street. This wasn't right, John told himself: 'I'm the fucking watchman. They're supposed to run.' He looked around to see if a weapon was handy, and when he looked back the old man was at the safety fence.

"This is our fucking city. You don't go killing nobody down here." The deep brown voice resonated with younger days of strength and confidence. Under the voice somewhere was the kind of tone found indark places where lunatics like to scream. "Old Gustav was the King of a country. Who the hell are you to touch him?"

John's mind was in a panic f~re. "The Shithead knows! He fucking knows!" The black raisin face opened again: "The rat eater told me stories about his days as a writer. He was big in the old pulp days. Glorious mind leaking out that ear. He deserved better than the bottom of a gravel pit." John found his last ounce of bravado and fired it at the bloody black skull on the other side of the fence: "You're next, old man!"

The old man raised the stump of his left hand to his temple. He stopped grinning, said seriously: "I paid foryou, John Petrakos. It cost me my hand, took it clean off. It's mean, John. Meaner than anything you can imagine, and I raised it myself just for assholes like you. You just wait for it, John. It took my hand clean off didn't even know it happened. You're a fucking dead man, John."
 

Avid was a glowing mass of light in the J5, barren apartment. The blood on the floorboards threw back the crawling radiance with a dark liquid shine like a city street after ruin. David had pierced his flesh seventy times in the past two hours, and the needles hung from every loose fold of skin he had - arms, legs, ears, nose, groin. The Bad Metal in the shafts was awake and the power was at a peak. His nerves were alive with Bad Metal, and now he fought to contain it. This had been a most satisfying session. Orgasm after shocking orgasm had rocked his body, and even now his erection raged for more. He liked it when the brothers gave him big assignments. He enjoyed dark places where lunatics like to scream. "Old Gustav was the King of a country. Who the hell are you to touch him?"

John's mind was in a panic fire. "The Shithead knows! He fucking knows!" The black raisin face opened again: "The rat eater told me stories about his days as a writer. He was big in the old pulp days. Glorious mind leaking out that ear. He deserved better than the bottom of a gravel pit." John found his last ounce of bravado and fired it at the bloody black skull on the other side of the fence: "You're next, old man!"

The old man raised the stump of his left hand to his temple. He stopped grinning, said seriously: "I paid for you, John Petrakos. It cost me my hand, took it clean off. It's mean, John. Meaner than anything you can imagine, and I raised it myself just for assholes like you. You just wait for it, John. It took my hand clean off didn't even know it happened. You're a fucking dead man, John."

Avid was a glowing mass of light in the ',l barren apartment. The blood on the floorboards threw back the crawling radiance with a dark liquid shine like a city street after ruin. David had pierced his flesh seventy times in the past two hours, and the needles hung from every loose fold of skin he had - arms, legs, ears, nose, groin.

The Bad Metal in the shafts was awake and the power was at a peak. His nerves were alive with Bad Metal, and now he fought to contain it. This had been a most satisfying session. Orgasm after shocking orgasm had rocked his body, and even now his erection raged for more. He liked it when the brothers gave him big assignments. He enjoyed exploring these new heights of sexual pleasure slightly more than he did the release. The fraternity and their offerings to him were nothing compared to his pleasure.

Light years back, David walked the rails that ran behind the high school in that squalid ~, suburban neighborhood north of the city. David walked the rails every chance he got. Often he'd sneak out of the house. Late at night was best; you could almost see the ghosts of the people who had died under churning wheels. He could imagine them forever walking between the iron. He would smoke cigarettes, drink Coke, and dream. There was plenty to see.

On his left, as he walked north, the twisted suburban tumor where his house lay. On his right, the ugly trailer park jungles full of white trash and second-generation Mexicans. He hated going to school with the mindless spawn of both camps. To them, geeks like him didn't f~t. At first, David walked the twin lines thinking they represented escape to someplace better, but he dis~ covered that wasn't true at al1.

The first revelation came as David walked the rails one night in the late summer. Up ahead he could see motion low to the ground. As he approached, he saw the back haunch of a cat, torn off ~ust below the rib cage. Blood and organs spread out on down the line. Shiny black and pale white. About ten feet further up, lying on the gravel, was the top half of the cat. It licked the wound, where the rest of its body used to be.

It looked at David, dull-eyed and hissed, then returned to the useless repairs. David walked on in shock, his mind balking at the sight of death dealt so decisively, so quickly, the animal wasn't even aware it was dead.

Evidence of power was everywhere he looked. Sand made so hot by passing wheels it became paperthin green glass. Coins flattened and stretched beyond recognition, thousands of bones partially ground, oil-covered feathers, clumps of fur like in a witch's larder. A vicious sociopathic monolith stalked the steel lands. Deep inside, David twisted the slightest bit.

Three weeks after the first revelation came the second, in the shape of an old man sitting at the side of the rails, wearing an old trench coat and smoking a clay Churchwarden pipe. The stem was broken off close to the bowl. He didn't turn to look at David, but stared intently at the point ahead of him somewhere. He was the dirtiest man David had ever seen. "Been waiting for ya."

David stopped, looked closer, "Huh?"

"Been sitting here damn near a week. Heard you were the new switchman. Got ajob waiting down the line." The old man tamped down his pipe, looking up at David. "You look mean enough for it."

David smiled, "Wrong guy." The old man laughed till he broke out in a cough. "You like pain, don't ya?" Jerk off a lot, huh? Never had a real girl before, have you? Dream a lot about the Boss bitches whipping your ass, squeezing your balls. All that leather shit. Boy, I know you. Bad Metal's been talkin'."

"You fucking crazy dude." Fear cracking in David's voice. The old man leapt to his feet. He grabbed David by the hair and swung him around till he hit the tracks hard. He jumped on David's back, pinning his arms so David's face rested on steel. The old man spat. "Gonna cut you now. Show you a magic trick." David felt something warm on his neck, then the sharp sting of a slicing knife. "You cut me,

you crazy fuck! Get the fuck off me!"

The old man wiped the blood on the rail, grinning. The blood streaks shrank and disappeared. He cackled, "See that! See that! Drank it! Slurped it up! Now it'll do what you want!" The old man whacked David's head. "You paying attention, boy. You're a switchrnan. You can bend the rails. You can bend Bad Metal!"

"You're fucking crazy ! " David thrashed wildly. The old man hit David again. "Make it bend!"

"Fuck you!"

"Tell it to move!"

The man drew his knife across David's neck again. "I'll cut your dick off! Tell it to bend!"

"OK, bend!"

"Not like that, you shithead!" The old man drove his knife into David's leg.

"Jesus!"David screamed, "Bend! Bend! Bend!"

The steel under David's cheek began to vibrate. He watched as the rail began to blister and warp. A railroad spike popped from its hole and the rail began to bend upward, then back into its original straight line.

"Some folks just don't want to learn," the old man sighed as he lit his pipe.

Years later, David waited peacefully on the '' floor, slowly flexing each muscle he could Y*' control. The needles were gone, but every ~ nerve was firing electric rhythms to his brain. The power was inside now. Deep inside, he could feel it coiled around his spinal column. His mind was a blur of colors, red to purple to black. Still, each muscle relaxed, one after another, unclenching, releasing. There was the job now. It was hard
not to get aroused at the erotic image. The fraternity needed. David waited.

John Petrakos checked his gun for the third time in ten minutes. A 9mm Baretta did a lot for his self-confidence. All day long

Everything was disgusting; the dirt, the dust, the sweat, the sandlots, even his co-workers - "Sweaty, ignorant scum." They lived for their next beer and talked all the time about sex that never happened and women who wouldn't touch them with someone else's body.

Every word they spoke was an irritant to him. No matter how he wrestled with it he couldn't relax. It was three o'clock when John spotted the old man again. He had brought friends. The old man was keeping his distance this time. He set himself up at the entrance to an alleyway between a laundromat and a used clothing store. His friends chose street corners and retaining walls for their vigil. Grim dirty men with glowing white eyes under the grease. Some wore hats or masses of black hair. An Indian was with them, smoking a cigarette.

He wore combat boots and work overalls and a red bandana around his head. Over in front of the 7-11 a tall man with long dreadlocks and a beard sat on a trash can screaming at passersby. "They're gonna crawl up your ass and eat your heart! They're gonna crawl up your ass and eatyourheart! Youtoldme! Youtoldme! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!

They're gonna crawl up your ass and eat your heart!" John could see twelve but he was sure there were more. Their presence sent him into a silent panic. John punched out and went to his trailer. There was no comfort inside either. He paced from window to window, trying to watch all twelve of them at once. John's violent nature did not mix well with a sit and-wait strategy. He felt trapped, boxed in. Focus was destroyed. Adrenaline assaulted his brain again and again. With no kinetic outlet for his frustration, John was left with only a desperate confusion. He became more and more disoriented and irrational with each passing minute.

Images of dead men stared at him, shaped from the uneven shadow-folds of his curtains on the floor and wall. Contorted faces mottled with blood and mud - twenty men in so many years, men nobody would miss and nobody noticed were gone. Endless scrubbing, concealingevidence. Plenty of paranoia over being caught, but no guilt. Never guilt. All that drove John was the hope that more of the filth could climb his fence, and they always did.

They couldn't help it. On the inside was John, waiting, stalking, screaming, swinging his sledgehammer justice. This cannonball through hell head rush of killing was better than cocaine, better than sex, a sex taken further than orgasm. Self-seduction torn inside out. Muscle, sweat and blood lining up, organizing, forming itself into a fleeting incarnation of death. It was all about going to the point of standing outside himself, watching his body dealing in mortality. Brave, strong, fearless. Not cold-blooded murder, but hot electric dirty mortal fucking. Electric orgasms on a roller coaster of flesh.

Four o'clock came and the crew disappeared like gremlins at daybreak. All except Chris Collins. He was putting overtime to make up for a couple of days taken off to see a gun show. He busied himself tidying the site, picking up beer bottles, tools, and trash. Chris was sixty. He sported a steel plate on the left parietal region of his bald head. He was a smiling happy man, the kind of person who could walk in on a vicious stabbing and miss the whole thing. However, get aroused at the erotic image. The fraternity needed. David waited. John Petrakos checked his gun for the third time in ten minutes. A 9mm Baretta did a lot for his self-confidence. All day long

After his encounter with the old man, the Nite seemed repulsive to him. Everything was disgusting; the dirt, the dust, the sweat, the sandlots, even his co-workers - "Sweaty, ignorant scum." They lived for their next beer and talked all the time about sex that never happened and women who wouldn't touch them with someone else's body. Every word they spoke was an irritant to him. No matter how he wrestled with it he couldn't relax. It was three o'clock when John spotted the old man again. He had brought friends. The old man was keeping his distance this time. He set himself up at the entrance to an alleyway between a laundromat

- and a used clothing store. His friends chose street corners and retaining walls for their vigil. Grim dirty men with glowing whiteeyes underthe grease. Some wore hats or masses of black hair. An Indian was with them, smoking a cigarette. He wore combat boots and work overalls and a red bandana around his head. Over in front of the 7-11 a tall man with long dreadlocks and a beard sat on a trash can screaming at passersby.

"They're gonna crawl up your ass and eat your heart! They're gonna crawl up your ass and eatyourheart! Youtoldme! Youtoldme! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! They're gonna crawl up your ass and eat your heart!" John could see twelve but he was sure there were more. Their presence sent him into a silent panic. John punched out and went to his trailer. There was no comfort inside either. He paced from window to window, trying to watch all twelve of them at once. John's violent nature did not mix well with a sitand-wait strategy. He felt trapped, boxed in. Focus was destroyed. Adrenaline assaulted his brain again and again.

With no kinetic outlet for his frustration, John was left with only a desperate confusion. He became more and more disoriented and irrational with each passing minute. Images of dead men stared at him, shaped from the uneven shadow-folds of his curtains on the floor and wall. Contorted faces mottled with blood and mud - twenty men in so many years, men nobody would miss and nobody noticed were gone. Endless scrubbing,concealingevidence. Plenty of paranoia over being caught, but no guilt. Never guilt. All that drove John was the hope that more of the filth could climb his fence, and they always did. They couldn't help it. On the inside was John, waiting, stalking, screaming, swinging his sledgehammer justice.

This cannonball through hell head rush of killing was better than cocaine, better than sex, a sex taken further than orgasm. Self-seduction torn inside out. Muscle, sweat and blood lining up, organizing, forming itself into a fleeting incarnation of death. It was all about going to the point of standing outside himself, watching his body dealing in mortality. Brave, strong, fearless. Not cold-blooded murder, but hot electric dirty mortal fucking. Electric orgasms on a roller coaster of flesh.

Four o'clock came and the crew disappeared like gremlins at daybreak. All except Chris Collins. He was putting overtime to make up for a couple of days taken off to see a gun show. He busied himself tidying the site, picking up beer bottles, tools, and trash. Chris was sixty. He sported a steel plate on the left parietal region of his bald head. He was a smiling happy man, the kind of person who could walk in on a vicious stabbing and miss the whole thing. However, if you offered him a few drinks he spawned the nature of a weekend philosopher, imparting stale and badly informed half-truths on the universe mixed with stories about World War II and his days as a salvage man. Nobody wanted to listen. Chris didn't care.

More than anything, it was a way of jogging memories loose. Chris had been tipping the bottle a few times during the day and that damned annoying itch to talk was driving him nuts. He needed some company. John was a drinker and Chris in his blind way thought he was an OK Joe, so Chris hooked his bottle up and marched himself over to John's trailer.

Three hard pounds with a fist brought John to the door. The gun he pointed at Chris's head was definitely a sign that the man needed a drink. John blinked a couple times, and exhaled. He put his finger on the hammer and let it down slow. "You get away from me. I got trouble." John was talking low and standing in the shadows behind the door frame.

"Shit, John, c'mon out. Have a drink and you can shoot somebody later."

"Yeah, OK. I need a drink. I can shoot 'em later."

Avid pulled on his overcoat and closed ~ ~ the door behind him. Down the hall a `~ baby was screaming, a man screaming

back: "Shutup, Shutthefuckup!"David went out the back door and down the alley. He never walked the streets willingly. Besides, the graffiti was best in the alleys, everything from lowly tags to major works of art. He thought of the marks as the silent screaming of the crowd. Two blocks from his apartment David passed a geezer picking cans out of a dumpster. The trash picker halted his search as David passed:

"You put a big hurt on that pig!" The power jumped inside his coat. David tried to control it and pull it back. A security light exploded high on the wall of an apartmentbuilding. A steel pipe ripped itself from the brick wall and smashed hard on the asphalt.

A right turn and straight down the next alley he came up behind the old man silently. "Ready?"

The old man jumped. "Shit!"

David smiled. "I said, are you ready?"

"He's still in there." The old man's face split in a mirthless grin.

John Petrakos sat on the door frame and tilted his head back, rejoicing in his burning throat and the mind numboess the bottle dispensed. "Don't fucking give a shit. Just don't fucking give a shit. Fucking asswipes can watch all night! I'll blow their asses out their noses!"

Chris was two drinks up on John and he was really in touch with the wisdom of the ages now. "Did you ever see those guys? Never been on a site with so much dying. Like the walls were out to squash 'em. Life's a bitch and then you get pulped like a fly. Actually, I don't think it was them. Looked like it was you it wanted to kill."

"Bullshit," John growled.

`'Gotta say, John, you're the fastest motherfucker on two legs!"

John and Chris were too drunkto notice the wire in a pile of debris poke a steely tip above the crumbled cement, then just as quickly duck down. Hours were passing quickly and Chris seemed capable of producing an endless supply of alcohol from a thousand secret stashes on the site. The shadows fused into night and night slowly cleared the streets of people.

Chris was rapping his knuckles on the steel plate in his head. "Got this working a salvage job. Big old B- 17 outin the South Pacif~c. The 'Shoo ShooBaby.9 Whole damned fuselage dropped on me. It was just one big hunk of Bad Metal out to get me. That's what got those poor shits last week, I bet. You ask any guy who works with metal, they'll tell ya.

Some metal cuts and bends. Other metal cuts and bends you. It's like those fucking Jap bastards and their Samurai swords. They take months to make just one and then they call it the soul of the Samurai. We hopped islands all over the Pacific after the war. Picked up thousands of these damned swords. Sold some to junk dealers.

Sold the rest to be melted down. You couldn't handle one of those bastards without cutting yourself. They were dangerous. Accidents happened around them all the time. They're still around, only they ain't swords no more, they're buildings and cards and kids' toys. Maybe power tools or nuclear missiles ..."

Chris paused and took the last swallow from the latest bottle. John was in a stupor, not listening, just watching the shadows move around as an ever dwindling number of car headlights passed. The wire crawled under the dirt in a broad loop, five feet in front of the trailer.

'Y'm not saying it's just the Jap swords. What about all those guns and knives and God knows what else that cops melt down? How 'bout cars that kill people on the road? It's all fucking Bad Metal. Go ahead, ask people, ask any Joe who works with the stuff, they'll tell ya."

John pulled back the hammer on his gun. "Get outta here, Chris."

Chris inclined his head. "Just talking, 30hn."

"Get the fuck outta here, asshole"

"I can get another bottle. Let's just . . ."

John levelled the gun at Chris's head. '~Get the Fuck out of here!" Chris stood up and backed down the steps. Hebackpedalled about eight feetbefore the ground around him exploded. The loop of wire tightened around Chris's ankles. The ends took off in opposite directions. The wire pulled itself taut with swift and bloody force.

Chris fell forward on his face. His feet, still in his shoes, lay severed behind him. Thirty seconds of silence, then Chris began to scream. Blood jetted from his ankles and was soaked up in thirsty dust. John stared wide-eyed. All the will toward action he could muster was a breathless "Jesus Christ."

The wire wrapped around a steel girder. The other end looped twice around each of Chris's wrists then climbed the side of John's trailer and anchored itself in the vent grate of an air duct. Slowly this time, the wire pulled taut. Chris was lifted from the ground screaming and jerking. His hands quickly turned blue. "Jesus! Help me, John, help me!" Another wire whipped into the air around his neck and up to a telephone pole, securing itself to the cross bar.

There was a dramatic pause flawed slightly by a choking "It hurts . . . " All three wires yanked themselves into straight lines. Chris hit the ground in a series of wet thumps, internal organs dumped from open cavities in hot waves. Blood splashed John's face. The shock of it got his body moving backwards into the trailer. He slammed the door.

David stood outside the trailer in the field of meat that was once a man. The power streamed from him. The only sensation he could compare it to was taking a leak - one of God's little pleasures of relief, uplifted to the point of ecstasy. David was more Bad Metal than human now. Its lusts were David's, and David himself sat somewhere behind the eyes joyfully masturbating in the image of himself as a god.

The fraternity brothers were moving out of the shadows and onto the site to carry away the carnage in shopping carts lined with plastic. The old man stood next to David. "Jesus, David, we could've waited until he left."

David turned on him. "This is my fucking show! I couldn't wait, and that's good enough for you!"

"We just don't want a big deal."

"It is a big deal. A big ugly deal motherfucker of a deal ~ " David's face twisted into a grinning Jack-o'lantern. "You made me a nightmare! OK, I'm a nightmare. What the hell do you expect? Don't get in my way again or I'll take your piss-covered dick next time!" The power was straining against the flesh. "Leave me alone!"

John Petrakos could see the two men outside the trailer and street people picking up the carrion. But the hand that held the gun wouldn't stop shaking. With a mental will taxed beyond his limits he managed to squeeze the trigger. The flash from the weapon blinded him. He didn't see the back of the Indian's head explode all over the old man's trench coat. The others scattered like roaches, leaving the shopping carts behind. He also didn't see David ducking to the left and laying his hands on the trailer.

John's ears were ringing from the gun's report, masking the deep groan from the trailer's shell. But he clearly felt the vibration on his feet. He reacted by instinct. Slarnming his shoulder into the door, he broke through and hit the dirt. John's mind was in panic, wondering why his body was taking him where he least wanted to go - outside.

The trailer imploding looked like a beer can crushed by an invisible hand. Compressed air blew out all the windows, and a wave of glass flew at John. He tucked his head under his arm and rolled away. When he removed his arm and opened his eyes he was nose to nose with Chris's head. It moved. A sick sound of bone splitting and skin tearing filled John's ears.

There was a wet-sounding pop, and the plate in the head lifted itself on end, gray matter on the underside and skin around the edges. John screamed for the first time since birth. In answer, the three-inch square of metal tore free and cut the air past John's cheek. John whipped sideways, but his ear was already sheared off. John couldn't stop screaming now, and blood poured between his fingers from the wound. He pulled himself up enough to sit cross-legged in the dirt. He patted the dirt all around him looking for the ear. He was oblivious to the figure standing behind him, holding his gun.

"Too easy," David thought, "This is art. Let's give the peanut gallery something to cheer about." David backed away from the shrieking man on the ground.

Section by section, the safety fence began to unravel. Wire sprang from everywhere on the site, even from cars on the street. The wires twisted and wrapped around steel girders that tore themselves from the foundation. The wire bound each girder to the next, forming joints and tendons. Steel wailed to make ribs and a spinal column. Steel drums split at their seams, spilling oil on the ground. The drums fused to the spine, a primitive cranium. The wire wove around to make a muzzle and eye sockets. Smaller pieces of metal with sharp edges became teeth, and muscle by muscle makeshift Golempulled together.

John was very far down the path to insanity, just one step away from catatonia. The nightmare growing was at his back. All he could see was the deserted street. All he could hear was a desperate voice in his skull yelling: "Run, you stupid motherfucker!" He turned around in a sluggish, vicious motion. The vision that dwarfed him was impossible, a joke or a spoof. The mind bent at the absurdity. David was an artist and as art, it was very realistic. John did run. He ran faster than he'd ever run in his life.

Slowly the steel junkyard dog took its first step. Each stride took the giant, moaning animal half a block. The paws chewed up the sidewalk. The tail weighed a ton and a half and it playfully swatted a storefront to dust, leaving a gaping hole between businesses. John tried to make a right turn into an alley but he was running too fast. He smashed face first into a cinder block wall. His nose broke. His head was drowning in a bright red light yet his body wasn't ready to die. John righted himself and ran down the alley. Praying for escape, all he found was the wall of another building in his way.

The junkyard dog stopped at the alley entrance. It sat on its haunches, turning its head from side to side, the entrance too narrow for its immense shoulders. The steel dog fixed John with reflective gray eyes. John tucked his head under his arm again, and slid down the wall in a fetal crouch. He cried. The junkyard dog began to shake, and its wire skin unraveled from its foreleg, slithering on the asphalt toward the huddled form.

John was in darkness. His mind retreated to a place of safety, colors erupting on his eyelids. A sting like a pin prick fired an urgent plea or attention to John's clouded brain. Something had stabbed his left heel. He felt the agony of a tendon ripping. Then another prick in his right heel. The pain was coaxing him back to the physical world and he regretfully opened his eyes. Wires had pierced his socks at the back of each leg, and more wires moved toward him.

"Oh my God, they're inside!" The steel hit him in an unstoppable wave. The wires went for any exposed skin, violated every orifice. They pierced his neck and his eyes, his hands, all moving toward the center like tiny catheter tubes.

John's skin was a mass of moving metal flesh. John's last thought before the wire raped his brain was: "They're gonna crawl up your ass and eat your heartt" No final scream. His mouth was stuffed with wire.

David stepped from between the legs of the dog and walked toward John's bloated carcass. The wire still writhed inside, making the skin ripple and the limbs twitch. The last of the Bad Metal's power slipped from David. John's body stopped moving and the monster at his back collapsed into a heap. David felt weak. His entire body shook with the strain of standing. After a moment, the sound of squeaky wheels echoed down the alleyway.

The brothers with their plastic-lined shopping carts were coming to clear up the mess. They would dismantle the dog and they would dismantle John as well, disposing of the evidence in a thousand trash dumpsters all over the city.

David bent down and kissed John's mangled cheek, marvelling at the two hundred pounds of metal he'd managed to stuff inside the corpse. Then he put his lips close to John's ear and whispered: "Thank you, lover." He stood up with a satisfied smile on his face, lit a cigarette, and walked away.