Richard’s mind was in turmoil. He wanted to find Cari to kill her for what she’d done to his wife. John wanted to find her to be reunited with his lover. IT wanted to find ITs master and share the fruits of ITs labor.

That was the hardest part for Richard to reconcile. He knew the consuming darkness from which IT was born. Yet to think that IT had a master. That IT had a superior. That IT was not the darkest thing in existence. It scared Richard to his very core. It shook his foundation and threatened to throw open the gates with which IT was bound in the back of his mind.

For whatever the reason, he knew he had to find Cari. He knew he had to kill her before IT realized what was happening and wrestled control away from him. The dark kinship that existed between IT and Cari was too frightening to think about and to see it in reality would drive anyone else mad.

Richard turned his mind towards the prison in Oregon and, though the power of his mind’s eye, began searching through the general population for Cari. He reached out and latched on to the Records with all his strength and let its power course through his mind, making him real enough in Oregon to walk through the halls and see what was going on, but not real enough that anyone there would notice. No, it wasn’t time for him to be there. Not just yet.

Alan was already en route. He’d taken a helicopter to a small airfield just outside of town where the FBI charter plane was waiting.

“Are you sure this will work?”

“I’ve dropped the bait. When he realizes she’s not in general population, he’ll go there himself to tear the place to the ground looking for her.”

“I’d still like to know why you’re so sure about this.”

“Maybe when it’s all done I’ll let you know. Just know this is the right decision and that Richard Drake’s our man. We just need to catch him in the act of reconnecting with Cari. He needs to be there, and they need to talk. Then we’ll have the proof we need to make the arrest and lock him up for good.”

“I thought Drake was your friend.”

“At one point in time he was. But my friend Rick is gone, and Richard Drake is a kind of monster you don’t ever want to know.”

Cari had never been in a real solitary confinement cell before. She’d seen them in movies, sure, but to actually be here. To be breathing the same air as the killers and psychopaths who’d come before. It was intoxicating! Cari closed her eyes and imagined she was in the cell used by the like of Charles Manson and Ted Bundy. The greats she’d never get to know. Part of her mind imagined that Hannibal Lector was real and that this had been his cell, too.

She was so close to those who’d come before her. It was refreshing to feel their greatness entombed in the concrete walls and humbling to know that even they had been subject to the same animal imprisonment she was now confined by. They were larger than life, and had been contained within these walls. She aspired to their level of greatness, and was rewarded by sharing the same prison.

Still, her crimes had been far less. She’d stolen, yes, but stolen to survive. Logically, she didn’t even consider petty theft to be a crime. She stole to eat. Stole to clothe herself. Stole to provide protection and transportation. They were necessities of life, and she’d never taken more than she needed, never taken more than the victim could bear to give.

But her sin wasn’t in her crime. It was in the manipulative thread she ran through the hearts of men. She could coax even the purest soul into a life of darkness. She’d taken college-bound young men and turned them into interstate fugitives, wanted for all sorts of crimes and misdemeanors. She’d coaxed them to kill and corrupted the very nature of their beings.

It was fun, really, to train a man so much as a pet. She’d reward their tiny successes and teach them to suppress and eventually remove their consciences. It was arousing to watch a man drop from being a productive member of society into a life of crime. Even more so to watch him kill a man for the first time. Many times, she’d set things in motion so it would be out of self defense. The first killing being that much more justified made the second killing easier. Once his hands were covered in blood, adding a little more seemed of no consequence.

She still remembered how she’d set John up that first time. She’d seen him casing the liquor store and had a rough idea when he’d strike. Then she’d convinced her boy of the hour that they’d rob the place, too. The night before, she’d called the liquor store owner and warned him. Suggested he arm himself to protect his register from the oncoming crime.

Everything else worked out perfectly. The store owner had killed her boy – she’d been bored with him anyway – and her new boy killed the owner. Even better, he’d killed him to protect her. Latching on with his emotions and giving her a stronger connection with which to corrupt his sense of morality and twist him into her all-purpose slave.

Later killings had been by the book. She’d find the victims and bring John in to do the heavy lifting. She’d always play the part of the weakling, forcing John to assume the role of the protector. She’d blame her weakness on the man and tell John the only way to make her whole again was to destroy the source of the man’s strength.

They’d take the woman, and Cari would watch while John expertly cut her to pieces. Always following her instructions exactly. He added his own touches, yes. She never quite understood why he’d stitch certain body parts together in strange combinations. But she didn’t need to. At the end of the day, he did her bidding – that was the important part. Whatever liberties he took in their ritual merely made it his own. Made it more personal. Made it easier for her to control.

Cari lay back on her small, lumpy bed and smiled. No, aside from her few in-prison murders, she hadn’t done a morally despicable thing in her entire life. She’d masterminded some of the most gruesome murders of all time, though, and trained the murderer, too. It was almost too perfect how her career had come together. She’d dreamt of this kind of control as a child, but never imagined she’d actually achieve it.

Cari closed her eyes and let herself drift through her memories. Every one of John’s murders was painted in intricate detail on the inside of her eyelids. Every detail, pristine. She knew there was no way any of his crimes could be tied to her. Well, unless he confessed and explained their little arrangement. Still, seeing the one man in that warehouse reminded Cari it would never happen. John was most likely dead by now himself. She was free to pursue and train a new pet.

That is, if she ever made her way out of this cell.

Cari dismissed the sobering thought and let her memories play back in slow motion. Reliving every blissful, gruesome detail and drifting ever so slowly into a pleasant, sleep, drunk with the bloodlust that fueled her dark passions.

Cari was walking down a dark alley in a strange town. It was after midnight, she could tell by the way the stars glistened and the way the town looked like it was just beginning to stir after a long night’s sleep. Still, time seemed to stand still as she tread over discarded newspapers and sloshed through a few puddles – the only evidence of a long-since passed rainstorm.

There were no signs of life anywhere on the street, but Cari felt them anyway. As if the whole town stared out at her from behind the safety of their curtains. They were right to hide. Cari felt ownership over this town. She felt power. And she felt that anyone caught outside at this hour would have right to fear her. Right to run in fear. And right to get caught unaware as
she walked smoothly behind them.

Up ahead, Cari spied some movement. A man and a woman walking drunkenly across the street. She caught up with them quickly, not adjusting her pace, but merely taking more ground with each step.

The couple froze and stared up at Cari in fear. Despite her small stature, she towered over both of them. The woman began to cry and Cari laughed, amused. She looked into the man’s eyes and took his mind, turning it from thoughts of loving protection for his partner to jealousy. She planted seeds of hate, despair, and distrust and turned his mind from love towards his partner to anger. As the fire in his mind began to kindle, she fueled it, whipping his rage into a fury and releasing him to his own devices.

As Cari stood and watched, the man ripped his wife to pieces while she stared at Cari, more afraid of her than of her now insane husband. Cari smiled, pleased and what she’d done. Then she walked on, leaving the man rocking in insanity on the corner. His soul now utterly destroyed, it wouldn’t be long before his body and mind followed.

As Cari turned down another alley, the husband and wife continued to walk drunkenly home.

Cari came to her own apartment and cocked her head to the side. She didn’t remember having an apartment, but found the keys in her hand. She walked inside and expertly opened the lock before tossing her keys by instinct into the basket by the door.

She’d never been here before, but the whole room seemed familiar. It smelled of love and fulfillment, two emotions Cari had never before experienced but now found herself enjoying. As she allowed herself to be wrapped in the pleasant feelings she found herself living a different life.

She was standing in the doorway, wearing heels and a cocktail dress, giving instructions to the babysitter while her husband waited impatiently by the door with her coat. It was their monthly date night, and he didn’t want to be late. They had dinner plans, then a show, then a hotel room uptown from their tiny apartment. It would be nice to have a night to enjoy one another as only a couple in love can, and being child-free for the evening would ensure a night of fevered passion.

Cari turned and smiled at her husband, allowing him to help her into her coat and reveling in the comforting way his hands found her waist and his warm lips found the soft part of her neck. Suddenly she remembered something and turned quickly to say something to the babysitter.

Too quickly, because by turning, Cari broke the illusion. Her husband was gone. He never existed. The babysitter vanished and her children had never been born. She still felt the warmth of her husband’s kiss on her neck and wept, trying to pull the pleasant illusion back to herself.

Cari sat on the floor of the kitchen, curled into a fetal position against the corner by the refrigerator. The apartment was suddenly cold. And dirty. It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in months. Moldy noodles trailed out of the edge of the refrigerator and Cari recoiled in disgust.

Suddenly, she felt sick to her stomach and felt herself wretch inside. She turned and threw up in the trashcan – the painter’s bucket she’d been using as a vomit pail all night. Then she wiped her bile-stained hair away from her face and began to scratch her elbows nervously.

She needed a fix. Now. It’d been hours since she’d had any. She needed another shot. Where was her stash? Cari crawled feebly from the corner into the bathroom. Everything was stained with dirt, blood, and vomit, but Cari didn’t care anymore. She knew there was a needle under the sink. She clawed at the door and ripped it open, finding a single muddy syringe and a small bag of heroine underneath.

She didn’t bother cutting it. Either it was already cut down and would be a mellow high, or it was pure and would kill her. Either way, she’d have her fix. She melted it in a spoon, sucked it into the syringe, and plunged the needle into her arm.

The soothing was immediate, flowing over her entire body and forcing Cari to lie back on the floor in absolute bliss.

Then another contraction came and Cari shot straight up in bed. Her husband grabbed her arm and she half heard him remind her to breath. The doctor popped his head up and promised just a little more.

Another contraction, and it was over. She heard crying that wasn’t her own, and the nurse carried over a wet, wrinkled little boy. Cari rolled over in her hospital bed, and smiled at her husband while he brushed a sweaty lock of hair from her face. She was a mother, finally.

She leaned forward, still grinning, and asked to hold her son. As the nurse handed her the baby, she suddenly felt weak and fell backwards into her rocking chair.

“Mom, don’t push it too hard. You’ll drop your grandson,” she faintly heard her daughter say. She leaned back in the rocking chair and looked slowly around her apartment. It was the same, yet different. Clean and sterile, the way an old person’s home was. The way her home was. Cari looked down at her grandson with love and placed a pacifier in his mouth with a liver-spot stained hand. The cancer had almost run its course, and this would likely be the only time she’d ever hold her grandson, let alone see him.

Cari looked up at her daughter and found herself staring instead at a strange woman on the street corner. The woman looked like her, but darker. More sinister. She looked at her husband for support but saw just as bewildered a look on his face. She couldn’t think clearly. It must be the alcohol. She knew not to have that last cocktail, but still, it was fun to go out every now and then and be irresponsible. They were newlyweds, after all, and it wouldn’t be long until kids took over their lives completely.

She looked back at the strange woman and even through a heavily drunken haze saw the evil intent in the other woman’s eyes. Cari regarded her with fear and refused to look away. Even as her husband ripped her clothes and started clawing at her face, ripping into her skin and ripping it off at the same time.

The other woman just smiled at Cari and left her to die.

As the other woman walked away from the gruesome scene, Cari took her husband’s arm and walked with him, knowing their relationship would fail even before it had the chance to begin. Even though they were still both enjoying their honeymoon, he had killed her that night and she didn’t know how to face that reality in the coming days of their marriage.

Still, she closed her eyes and clung closer to his arm, more for moral support through this crisis than to support her drunkenly misplaced footfalls.

When Cari opened her eyes she was again standing in the apartment. It was empty. Devoid of life, emotion, and even furniture. Cari walked into the empty room and reached with her mind for something.

“The lives you could have lived,” said a deep voice behind her.

Cari spun around, but saw nothing.

“The businesswoman, living the high life. The junkie, living the low. The suburban housewife, electively relegated to a life of raising children and caring for the home. The single mother, persevering through all of life’s challenges only to be cut short by cancer in middle age. The newlywed, murdered by a husband spun to a jealous rage on their honeymoon. A million others, all possible, all impossible.”

Cari spun in circles, running from room to room searching for the man who was speaking.

She felt all of those lives as if she’d lived each of them. She felt the love for her newborn son alongside the fear of her enraged husband. Her excitement for her night of theatre was overshadowed only by her need for another fix. It was confusing to be so many people but no one at the same time.

Suddenly Cari realized she didn’t know who she was. She was nameless, standing in an empty apartment being taunted by a sinister voice hiding behind her. Always be
hind her.

Part of her felt like a defeated child and she wanted nothing more than to curl up in her bed and cry. But she didn’t know where her bed was. Then again, she might as well have been a child. Cari had no understanding of her age, or her life. No memories of who she was or where she’d come from.

She ran to the bathroom and shut the medicine cabinet to look at the mirror and saw nothing. A face she didn’t recognize that, as she began to sense a familiarity with the features, changed to another. An endless string of nameless faces, all hers, all no one’s.

The voice came again, calling from the living room.

“Come here, my child.”

Cari walked slowly into the room and saw a man standing at its center. He was taller than her by far, and dressed all in black. His eyes were deep and blacker than his coat. Cari had to look away to keep from being pulled into them.

“Which life would you choose?”


He laughed. “Which one would you want to be yours, you can pick from any of them, and I’ll make it so.”

Cari looked at his face, not his eyes, and saw a genuine interest in her decision. At the same time, she knew nothing in this place was real. He’d subjected her to live a million lifetimes without giving her any say over which life she lived or for how long. She’d lived, loved, and died as a million different women. A million different personalities. A million different futures.

Now he wanted her to pick one. Just one to live over again. It seemed a pleasant gift … and a death sentence at the same time. If she picked, there would be no do-overs. No second chances. No opportunity to pick again.

Cari stood, deep in thought, and realized she had all the power in this situation. He could do nothing until she chose one life over another. Even then, there was no real guarantee she would be granted that life. She could choose the long, happy life of a housewife only to be sucked into life as a junkie instead.

The ambiguity of the decision gave her pause, and Cari suddenly knew what she wanted to do.

She looked back at the man and said, quite forcibly, “I choose mine.”

Now he was exasperated and sighed deeply. “If you won’t choose, then I’ll have to …”

“I did choose,” she interrupted. Then she recalled her life as a junkie and remembered the needle in her hand. “I chose mine.” Then she thrust the syringe deep into the man’s endlessly deep eye and fell backwards.

He screamed in agony, then he was gone and Cari was alone. She was sitting in the middle of an empty apartment in what she knew now to be New York. She walked out the front door and headed down the street. It was the middle of the day, not late at night, and the city was alive and vibrant.

Cari walked until she was good and lost. Then she sat on a stoop and tried to take account of who and where she was. As yet, she was still nameless. She had lived a million lives, but had no past and no memory of who she was.

Cari looked down at one of the newspapers on the ground and read the date. “June 12, 1963. An interesting day to start over from nothing.”

She read a few headlines, not really understanding the importance of any of them, but liking the way one of the columnist’s names sounded. Cari Thomas, that sounds like a nice name. I think I’ll be Cari Thomas, too.

Fourty-six years later, Cari rolled over on her bunk. It had been decades since she’d found herself alone in that apartment, yet she hadn’t aged a day. And the dark man hadn’t returned to force her to choose. If she had her way, she’d never choose a life. In over 40 years she’d lived as many different people, but always came back to being Cari Thomas, the manipulator. Maybe once all this was done she’d live a different life in a different part of the world. Cari had never been to Europe; it was as good a place as any to start living her life anew.

Richard hadn’t found her in the general population. He’d searched every cell, every floor, and every office. Alan had lied, though he still didn’t know why. In any case, it was time for Richard to get more involved. He pushed just slightly and went from being ‘almost there’ to being fully there, much to the security guards’ surprise. They stood there, more in shock of seeing a man in the women’s wing of the prison than seeing a person suddenly materialize out of thin air.

Richard turned and walked straight through the wall into the office, leaving a wake of confusion behind him. Had they seen a ghost, or had a man really just appeared and then walked through a wall? None of the guards or inmates knew what to make of what had just happened and they all just stood there, staring at where the man had been.

The FBI agent watching the security feed knew exactly what to do, though. He immediately picked up his radio and called Alan.

“He’s here, and he’s headed to the office. Should be headed your direction in no time.”

Alan was already set up. They’d chained Cari in her room, behind the heavy steel doors with two highly trained FBI agents as guards. Alan sat in a plain metal folding chair in the middle of the otherwise empty solitary confinement ward. Their original plan had been to lure Richard into one of the rooms and lock the door. Judging from his now proven ability to walk through walls, though, Alan knew that plan would have failed entirely.

His new plan was to talk sense into Richard. He hoped he’d be able to convince his friend to stand down. To seek help for his obviously very serious problem. Alan wasn’t sure he’d be able to win the argument, but he had to try. That’s why the FBI agents were behind the door. Alan knew they’d shoot on sight. He disagreed with their logic, but he knew that if reason failed, deadly force would likely be the only way to stop Richard.

Alan bowed his head and prayed. Not just for himself, but for the agents in the other room. For Cari, helplessly chained to the wall. Most of all, though, Alan prayed for Richard. Only God really had the power to stop him now, and Alan was praying that He’d come in force today.