Anomalous Inc: From Hell's Heart

" the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!"

- Captain Ahab, Moby Dick

Tuesday was pudding night. Robert liked pudding night.

He didn't love pudding night. To love pudding night would imply that there was something lovable about the Summerset Plaza for Elderly Care and Integrated Assisted Living. And there wasn't: He hated its bright and happy walls. He hated its placid, happy patients. He hated the happy squirrels outside his room's window, and he hated the happy tree where they all gathered to happily fuck.

But most of all? He hated that the place's name spelled out the acronym, "SPECIAL".

"It's pudding night, Mr. Rochester," the nurse announced. She grasped the back of his wheelchair and nudged the brake free with her toe. Robert gave the squirrels one last defiant glare. Just before she pulled him away, he pantomimed gunning the fuckers down with a pistol. God, how he wanted to pull that trigger.

Every day was the same. Bullshit like 'participation events', 'community activities', or 'bingo night'. They didn't even play bingo for cash; they just did it for 'funsies'. He tried to organize a little side action, once — the ol' numbers racket. Something to break up the tedium, maybe give him a taste of the glory days. But there wasn't a lick of interest in it. Not anymore.

The only joy left to him now? Pudding night. A simple pleasure — but these days, he took them wherever he could.

The nurse pushed him through the cafeteria. Some silver-foxed 'Casanova' slathered in cheap cologne was trying to charm the granny panties off a bint so old she couldn't even remember what century it was. A gaggle of curly-haired hags were playing bridge, swapping whatever horse-shit passed for gossip in this sappy pastel-colored tomb. Two limp-dicked chucklefucks sat on a bench, watching the television while trying to out-do each other with imaginary war-stories.

Robert hated them all. He hated them so very, very much.

His 'community therapist' had been near-ecstatic when Robert expressed interest in helping with pudding night. Called it a 'break-through'. The nurse already had the mixing bowl set out for him, just like every Tuesday. "I'll go ahead and get the milk." She left. He wheeled his way to the table.

Well, Robert told him — this place makes shit pudding. Real pudding doesn't come out of a package. Real pudding comes from key ingredients: corn starch, cane sugar, a pinch of salt, milk, vanilla extract, and Robert's own special touch.

He was just getting started when he heard the television in the other room:

" — particularly given the intensity of the fire, which was sufficient to incinerate Stefan Marchesi's remains. This marks the third occurrence in three weeks of a fire claiming the life of a wealthy Chicago resident — "

Robert wheeled himself out of the kitchen just in time to see one of the attendants approaching the television.

"Jeez, sorry," the attendant said, speaking to no one in particular. "Forgot to change the channel before the evening news."

"Get the fuck away from that."

There was something in Robert's voice, just then. Something that hadn't been there for years — decades, maybe. Anger. Rage. Hate. The real kind of hate — the kind that twisted your bowels into knots and shot up through your guts. The kind that thumped in your skull like a war-drum; that made your face burn and your teeth grind. The kind that put bodies in motion and corpses in morgues.

"Uh — um. Mr. Rochester?" The attendant stopped and gawked at the old, red-faced man seated in a wheelchair.

Robert suddenly realized that he did not hate this place or these people. He did not even hate the fucking squirrels. He just didn't like them.

Genuine hate, though? That gave you clarity. Focus. Purpose. Genuine hate gave you the power to move mountains; it gave you the strength to claw your way out of Hell. If Robert really hated this place, nothing between heaven and earth could have stopped him from rolling on out that door. But he didn't hate it. Not enough. He didn't hate anything that much.

But she did.

The Devil's Reaper. The Black Demon of the White City. That Fucking Bitch from Chicago.

The news-caster continued: " — beginning with Julian Giovanni in April. In a statement to the press, the police chief has not ruled out arson as a possibility. Investigations are underway — "

"Mr. Rochester — "

"Giovanni," Robert corrected him. "My name is Robert Giovanni."

The nurse emerged from the kitchen with a carton of milk and a perplexed expression. Robert shot her a smile.

He still had a little bit of magic left. A one-time trick that Richard Chappell taught him back in '29. Robert moved to a corner of the room where it wouldn't leave too much of a mess; then, he lifted his hand and pressed his index finger to the side of his temple, curling his fist into the shape of a pistol.

"By the way," he announced. "Every Tuesday? I've been dipping my wrinkled old sack in the pudding. That's the secret ingredient: My hairy, saggy nuts. You're welcome." Simple pleasures. You took them wherever you could.

At long last, he pulled the trigger.


Robert Giovanni's brains splattered all over those bright and happy walls.

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