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John Derhak
Author of Tales from the moe.Republic & Chill Your Cockles
The New Novel by John Derhak
The Bones of Lazarus
The Bones of LazarusWhen Evil Comes
In the darkness of the service entrance, he pressed his back against the door. He knew what was coming next, but the evil was taking hold of his senses. The burning gripped him. Demons were rising through him, from within. When evil came, when it was within their reach, they clawed their way up from the pits of hell and perched like vultures, ready to feed on one of their own. He could feel the wrath growing, the irrepressible rage, its hunger. But it was too late to move. He suppressed them with his will. He would make them wait—keep the demons downa few moments more, and then act quickly.
When the violence erupted it was profound. A beam of light flooded the alley. On cue, the soldiers emptied the chambers of their weapons in a deafening volley of gunfire. Bullets lifted rats in midair and splattered them like water balloons. Trash cans went flying. Crates were shattered. Bricks exploded into pieces and powder. Amidst the staccato bursts he heard yelling, and then all went silent. The light went out. Voices and shouts came from the street. But he paid no attention to them. They, the demons, there were many for this one, were prying their way out. He walked briskly up to the man and stood over him. Hate and fear emitted from him, foul and repulsive. The man looked up slowly and their eyes locked. In those fleeting moments, the last the man would know on this earthly plane, his senses were overpowered by a putrid, hideous stenchfrom deep within. The demons were there now, before him, and with the unmerciful fury of Satan driving them on, they entered. The man screamed insanely. He did not feel the hand clasp his neck or the swift blow to his chest that followed. He felt but one thing: the demons, his very own, ravenous and voracious, devouring his soul.
Only seconds had passed and he was back in the Underworld. He had descended rapidly through the hole in the back corner, concealing the entrance behind him as before. Hesitating, he thought about the soldiers. He lit a cigarette, and inhaled deeply. A minute or two went by in complete silence. Smoking contently, he pondered fate, the universe, and the Divine. The silence ended abruptly with the scream of men. He dropped the cigarette and listened. Confusion and shock soon followed. Then there was an explosion.

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Remember What Solomon Said?
“You expect me to believe there’s a bloodsucking vampire on the loose—amidst the chaos—on top of the chaos and carnage?” Captain Loomis asked incredulously.
“Call it what you like, sir,” Sergeant Barton answered. “I am telling you that Lazarus has arrived. That body in the alley had his mark.”
Captain Loomis frowned.
“The near same mark as the previous five,” Sergeant Barton added.
“Lazarus is a figment of the imagination,” responded Captain Loomis, frustrated, “a legend like Vlad the Impaler—who, as you may recall, was nothing more than a ruthless tyrant and butcher. He impaled his victims for sport—his own people and enemies alike. After he died, the only way to rationalize his atrocities was to turn him into a monster—one that would survive for eternity—as he did in his own lifetime—on his own people’s blood—as an immortal fiend, as the legend Dracula.”
“The legend of Dracula lives on the silver screen,” replied Sergeant Barton. “But Lazarus lives on this plane of existence. You know it. Your grandfather told you so, Daniel. You can’t deny that!”
“I never took you to be given to superstition, Sergeant Barton,” Captain Loomis spoke calmly. “You’re a good soldier. Your men respect you. You carry out your orders, at times difficult orders, without judgment or question. That’s why you’ve succeeded so admirably.” Captain Loomis, who had paced slowly at the foot of the bed as he spoke, paused, and looked directly into the eyes of Sergeant Barton. “Now you place all of that in jeopardy,” he continued, “Reporting that you’ve seen a monster from your childhood at the end of an alley last night? At the moment the patrol you led was ambushed? Christ! Nearly half your men were killed over that monster. Think about what you’re saying. I’m talking about your reputation, your career—God—your sanity! You’re putting all that on the line?” Captain Loomis said sharply. “And leave my grandfather’s tall tales out of this, Thomas. We were boys. He was an old man, a storyteller, who found great joy in entertaining children.”
“Captain, I mean no disrespect. I was very fond of your grandfather,” Sergeant Barton replied, “And we all have superstitions. But I speak to you now as a professional and friend, Daniel. Lazarus is not a superstition. Your grandfather was telling the truth.”
“You’re telling me, Thomas, that this man—or whatever you would have me believe—the younger brother of Mary Magdalene has walked the earth since the time of Christ? Raised by Him from the dead to feast on the hearts and souls of the wicked.” He shook his head in disbelief. “Please, you really don’t expect me to believe that!”
“Remember what Solomon said. You know the proverb, ‘… a cruel messenger shall be sent …,’” the Sergeant answered him. “Lazarus of Bethany, the one and the same, is such a messenger. He is that messenger, a soul seeker, resurrected by Christ 2,000 years ago. He cannot die because of the hand He laid upon him. Wherever there is violence in the world, he wanders. He seeks the souls of the damned, purging humanity. Christ died for our sins. Lazarus is making us pay for them.”
“That sounds like a hook from a movie trailer!” snapped Captain Loomis. “What next? The Vampire Lazarus?—it’s mad!”
“Mad? After what I witnessed? Perhaps. Who wouldn’t be? But Lazarus is not a vampire of legend. It isn’t blood he thirsts after—that he takes from his victims. It is their souls. He devours the still beating hearts of his prey. He doesn’t drink their blood; he sucks dry the very essence of their beings.”
“Violence begets violence, my friend? An eye for an eye? Sounds like your fiend is less a Christian soldier than a Hammurabi code enforcer,” joked Captain Loomis, laughing at his own remark.
“Did you not see what was left of that man? He is not the first, and you know it. More than a heartless, mutilated corpse, it carried the mark of petrified evil upon its face—all the victims have. That is the mark of Lazarus, Daniel.”
“Old Testament wrath, Thomas?” Captain Loomis answered dismissively. “Ah, but lest we forget, Lazarus was a Jew, and though a product of the New Testament, he was not of the New Testament,” he smiled. “His beliefs would have been firmly rooted in the Old Testament—and the God of the Old Testament is a wrathful, vengeful Creator, Thomas. One prone to smiting and slaying His enemies—hell—for that matter—smiting anyone who wouldn’t listen to Him or what He had to say. Have you read Genesis lately, as an adult? Maybe our killer thinks he’s Lazarus.”
“Say what you will—mock me if you want. I’m telling you this as a friend, Daniel, and you very well know it but won’t admit it. Where people cannot or will not resolve their differences peaceably, that’s where Lazarus wanders.”
“You need sleep, Thomas. That explosion last night went to your head.”
“I have never seen the world more clearly. You have my report.”
“I received your report. Here it is,” he said, holding up the document. “Clearly, you’re shell-shocked. Fortunately for you, my report has already been submitted to Captain Van Brock. Let me remind you about Captain Van Brock. He’ll stop at nothing to suppress anything that would imply he’s lost control, and believe me, you and I know he’s lost control—lost control a long time ago. How do you think he’d react to your report? Rumors of a monster roaming the streets—sucking souls dry and devouring the hearts of the people? Too much symbolism there, Thomas—and insanity. Captain Van Brock, I’m sure, is already doing an internal on me and my department, because of these murders. Your report would be just the excuse he needs. If I were to give him what you dictated earlier, it would surely be a political opportunity for him. A chance to shift blame. Score with Colonel Stevin and the Directorate. The perfect diversion from his inability to quell the violence, let alone end the rebellion. He’d lock me away and have you put down like a mad dog. Euthanasia—Saint George style. I’m not exaggerating, and you know it.”
Sergeant Barton stared at Captain Loomis intently, and then said, “What of my report, Daniel? What are you going to do with it?”
“Have you heard a fucking thing I’ve said, Thomas?” he snapped, shaking his head in disbelief. “Let me read you my report. ‘Five soldiers killed in action, ten wounded, in a rebel ambush. A man, perhaps the bomber, was pursued down an alleyway where he was found dead and mutilated. An investigation as to the exact cause of death is in progress.’ That’s all that will be said of this. I am recommending you be awarded the Heart of Valor for your selfless act of bravery. The dead will receive the Noble Cross for their sacrifice. The wounded will be honored with the Golden Star for their suffering and be reassigned.”
Sergeant Barton shut his eyes and sighed deeply. “Be wary of the night, Captain, for that is when he at his strongest and men and women are most vulnerable.”
“I’m wary every night, Thomas,” he responded. “Do you know why?”
Sergeant Barton opened his eyes and shook his head no.
“Because that’s when all the monsters come out and crawl along the dark streets of Saint George in search of prey—preying on men like you and me. They’re traitors, and they’re everywhere. Now get your rest, Sergeant Barton. That’s an order.” He patted his friend’s shoulder gently and nodded. The Sergeant looked as though he were about to speak, but Captain Loomis placed his index finger to his lips and shushed him quietly. “I must leave now, Thomas. So sleep my dear old friend. Shut your eyes and sleep. I’ll come by tomorrow.”
The Captain turned and left the room. No more than a few paces out the door, he paused when he heard Sergeant Barton utter above a whisper, “A cruel messenger shall be sent ...”
Captain Loomis continued without looking back, but Sergeant Barton managed to leave him wondering. The name Lazarus was now imprinted on his mind. If Thomas’s belief was in the realm of possibility, he knew that the fair people of Saint George were as doomed as the people of Gomorrah. In truth, they already were, he thought.
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