Dean R. Koontz

Darkness in My Soul


Divinity Destroyed


For a long while, I wondered if Dragonfly was still in the heavens and whether the Spheres of Plague still floated in airlessness, blind eyes watchful. I wondered whether men still looked to the stars with trepidation and whether the skies yet bore the cancerous seed of mankind. There was no way for me to find out, for I lived in Hell during those days, where news of the living gained precious little circulation.

I was a digger into minds, a head-tripper. I esped. I found secrets, knew lies, and reported all these things for a price. I esped. Some questions were never meant to be answered; some parts of a man's mind were never intended for scrutiny. Yet our curiosity is, at the same time, our greatest virtue and our most serious weakness. I had within my mind the power to satisfy any curiosity which tickled me. I esped; I found; I knew. And then there was a darkness in my soul, darkness unmatched by the depths of space that lay lightless between the galaxies, an ebony ache without parallel.

It started with a nerve-jangling ring of the telephone, a mundane enough beginning.

I put down the book I was reading and lifted the receiver and said, impatiently perhaps, 'Hello?'

'Simeon?' the distant voice asked. He pronounced it correctly-Sim-ee-on.

It was Harry Kelly, sounding bedraggled and bewildered, two things he never was. I recognized his voice because it had been-in years past-the only sound of sanity and understanding in a world of wildly gabbling self- seekers and power-mongers. I esped out and saw him standing in a room that was strange to me, nervously drumming his fingers on the top of a simulated oak desk.

The desk was studded with a complex panel of controls, three telephones, and three-dimensional television screens for monitoring interoffice activity-the work space of someone of more than a little importance.

'What is it, Harry?'

'Sim, I have another job for you. If you want it, that is.

You don't have to take it if you're already wrapped up in something private.'

He had long ago given up his legal practice to act as my agent, and he could be counted on for at least one call a week like this. Yet there was a hollow anxiety in his tone which made me uncomfortable. I could have touched deeper into his mind, stirred through the pudding of his thoughts and discovered the trouble. But he was the one person in the world I would not esp for purely personal reasons. He had earned his sanctity, and he would never have to worry about losing it.

'Why so nervous? What kind of job?'

'Plenty of money,' he said. 'Look, Sim, I know how much you hate these tawdry little government contracts. If you take this job, you're not going to need money for a long while. You won't have to go around snooping through a hundred government heads a week.'

'Say no more,' I said. Harry knew my habit of living beyond my means. If he thought there was enough in this to keep me living fat for some time to come, the buyer had just purchased his merchandise. All of us have our price. Mine just came a little steeper than most.

'I'm at the Artificial Creation complex. We'll expect you in-say twenty minutes.'

'I'm on my way.' I dropped the phone into its cradle and tried to pretend I was enthusiastic. But my stomach belied my true feelings as it stung my chest with acidic, roiling spasms. In the back of my mind, The Fear rose and hung over me, watching with dinner-plate eyes, breathing fire through black nostrils. The Artificial Creation building: the womb, my womb, the first tides of my life

I almost crawled back into bed and almost said the hell with it. The AC complex was the last place on Earth I wanted to go, especially at night, when everything would seem more sinister, when memories would play in brighter colors. Two things kept me from the sheets: I truly did not enjoy the loyalty checks I ran on government employees to keep me in spending money, for I was not only required to report traitors, but to delineate the abnormal (as the government defined that) private practices and beliefs of those I scanned, violating privacy in the most insidious of fashions; secondly, I had just promised Harry I would be there, and I couldn't find a single instance when that mad Irishman had ever let me down.

I cursed the womb which had made me, beseeching the gods to melt its plastic walls and short-circuit those miles and miles of delicate copper wires.

I pulled on street clothes over pajamas, stepped into overshoes and a heavy coat with fur lining, one of the popular Nordic models. Without Harry Kelly, I would most likely have been in prison at that moment-or in a preventive detention apartment with federal plainclothes guards standing watch at the doors and windows. Which is only a more civilized way of saying the same thing: prison.

When the staff of Artificial Creation discovered my wild talents in my childhood, the FBI attempted to 'impound' me so that I might be used as a 'national resource' under federal control for 'the betterment of our great country and the establishment of a tighter American defense perimeter.'

It had been Harry Kelly who had cut through all that fancy language to call it what it was-illegal and immoral imprisonment of a free citizen. He fought the legal battle all the way to nine old men in nine old chairs, where the case was won. I was nine when we did that-twelve long years ago.

It was snowing outside. The harsh lines of shrubbery, trees, and curbs had been softened by three inches of white. I had to scrape the windscreen of the hovercar, which amused me and helped settle my nerves a bit. One would imagine that, in 2004 A.D., Science could have dreamed up something to make ice scrapers obsolete.

At the first red light, there was a gray police howler overturned on the sidewalk, like a beached whale. Its stubby nose had smashed through the display window of a small clothing store, and the dome light was still swiveling.

A thin trail of exhaust fumes rose from the bent tailpipe, curled upwards into the cold air. There were more than twenty uniformed coppers positioned around the intersection, though there seemed to be no present danger. The snow was tramped and scuffed, as if there had been a major conflagration, though the antagonists had disappeared. I was motioned through by a stern-faced bull in a fur-collared fatigue jacket, and I obeyed. None of them looked in the mood to satisfy the curiosity of a passing motorist, or even to let me pause long enough to scan their minds and find the answer without their knowledge.

I arrived at the AC building and floated the car in for a Marine attendant to park. As I slid out and he slid in, I asked, 'Know anything about the howler on Seventh?

Turned on its side and driven halfway into a store. Lot of coppers.'

He was a huge man with a blocky head and flat features that looked almost painted on. When he wrinkled his face in disgust, it looked as if someone had put an eggbeater on his nose and whirled everything together.

'Peace criers,' he said.

I couldn't see why he should bother lying to me, so I didn't go through the bother of using my esp, which requires some expenditure of energy. 'I thought they were finished,' I said.

'So did everyone else,' he said. Quite obviously, he hated the peace criers, as did most men in uniform. 'The Congressional investigating committee proved the voluntary army was still a good idea. We don't run the country like those creeps say. Brother, I can sure tell you we don't!' Then he slammed the door and took the car away to park it while I punched for the elevator, stepped through its open maw, and went up.

I made faces at the cameras which watched me, and repeated two dirty limericks on the way to the lobby.

When the lift stopped and the doors opened, a second Marine greeted me, requested that I hold my fingertips to an identiplate to verify his visual check. I complied, was approved, and followed him to another

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