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Molly waited in line, impatient as sweat dried on her neck, plastering locks of her golden hair to her nape. She dressed like everyone else in the damned stream of men and women: blue jeans and a dark-green, button-up shirt. Above either shirt-pocket was a patch, one with the name Glenstroke and the other that read Custodial. A comforting beep came from the front, and one less person was in the stream. 

Beep—another custodian swiped their card and left the building. The line moved, and she moved with it, excited to finish the work week.

She peeked around the burly man ahead of her and saw Gretchen clocking out. The little machine flashed with the words Gretchen Thompson and clocked out and 2:45.37 a.m. She bounced on the balls of her feet until she noticed and stopped—if she seemed too eager, someone might notice her. Blending in was how she survived. In an ant hill full of drones, she didn’t want to be the poor sucker standing out, the one a human could identify and pluck the limbs from.

The line moved quicker now, and only eleven custodians were before her; some jested and others took their early morning grumpiness out on those in front of them. But they would be happy when they finally went home, took off their shoes, and went about whatever routines they had established during their years working for the hotel.

Barney swiped his name badge through the slot in the machine; the screen flashed with Bernard Everly and clocked out and 2:47.11 a.m. “That’s it, y’all,” he said, turning to see the mixture of peeved and delighted faces in the line behind him. “Time to start this party.” He said this line every Friday, but he looked tired. He walked out the door to the jeers and sarcastic remarks of his colleagues, following the others to the staff parking lot behind the hotel. They walked like zombies in the movies, slow and spread out.

Molly bit her lip, hoping she would have time. She would have been further to the line’s front—should have been—but he had delayed her. If it wasn’t for Mark, she thought. Mark had pulled her aside before she stepped in line; Mark had talked to her for five minutes; Mark had flirted with her—his own kind of routine. Mark had better keep his fucking hands to himself.

She had heard stories about him from some other—unattractive—ladies, tales about him and the attractive ladies. The stories served as warnings, and they were told to every new—attractive—lady that came on Glenstroke Hotel’s custodial staff.

Mark was the supervisor.

Molly shivered at the thought of him.

The storytellers called him handsy, but she wasn’t sure that was the word for it. More like gropy, she thought. Yes, that was the one. And she knew to keep her space when around Mark, knew to discourage his advances, knew to not be alone with him. Some stories told of other—attractive—ladies being seen in private with him, and she didn’t like how those ended; one of them ended with the lady-in-question getting fired and giving birth to a bastard nine months later.

She didn’t want to be another story on the list.

But he had a way of getting the things he wanted—like tonight, when he cornered her and would not stop talking. I just wanted to get in line, she thought, pitying herself, hoping the storytellers hadn’t seen them.

That was one of Mark’s strengths: he knew which ladies were too polite to turn him down outright—he had Molly targeted from day one.

She cursed herself, knowing he didn’t take her seriously.

Charley swiped his card downward—beep. The little machine read Charles Henson and clocked in and 2:48.17 a.m. “Well shit,” he said in his southern drawl, reading the clocked in portion on the computer screen.

“You forgot to clock in?” the man behind said in a jovial tone.

“Coulda’ sworn I did,” Charley said, eyes bugged out as he scratched his graying head of hair.

“Talk with Mark,” the man said. “He’ll fix you up.”

“Yeah,” Charley said, stepping out of line and marching up to Mark’s office, a place high above the workers, with windows looking out on them.

Molly glanced up, watching Charley climb the metal stairs to the office; she could see Mark looking through half-closed blinds, sipping on coffee, his thick glasses shining queerly from the overhead light. She looked away—she could’ve sworn he was staring at her.

She was all nerves and anticipation—she had her ritual to get to. And she could almost taste it—delicious.

I wonder if Mark thinks I’m fat. The thought shot through her mind like a bullet, but the disgust lasted like fallout. Oh god, I hope he’s not breaking me down. If she wasn’t careful, Mark would ruin her plans for the night. She would be careful and fast.

She had thought of reporting him to human resources before, spilling everything she’d heard, draining herself of every inappropriate comment and gesture made to her. But she didn’t have it in her. Her grandfather would have called it grit, and her father would’ve named it spunk, but she supposed it was a good thing neither of them could see that she never developed whatever it was. They were both dead and couldn’t see.

The burly man in front of her swiped his card—beep. “Adios,” he said to no one.

She snapped out of her thoughts, fumbling for the name badge clipped to her right shirt-pocket.

The man left the building, and it was her turn to clock out. She swiped—beep. And the machine read Molly Eldritch and clocked out and 2:48.44 a.m. She kept a calm composure, but inside she was giddy with delight. She almost ran out of the door to follow the others into the parking lot.

Less than ten minutes, she thought, walking fast. That’s all I’ll have—I think I can make it. Her sneakers hit asphalt, and she looked out upon the mostly empty rows of parking spaces, as few cars pulled in and filled some of those spaces—custodians from the next shift. She knew where she parked—she always parked there. She could’ve navigated the lot blindfolded. I’ve heard of people doing that kind of shit. Something to do with a movie—a bunch of morons.

Her Jeep was waiting for her at the base of an overhead lamp. The lights illuminated the car as if it were day. She walked twenty of the seventy feet to her vehicle as other cars pulled out of the lot. She wouldn’t leave last, which was comforting.

Glenstroke Hotel had put in those brilliantly bright lamps the year before after that man raped a woman behind a car. The woman had sued the hotel for improper lighting and they settled; she claimed someone could’ve seen her if the employee parking was properly lit. It was bogus, and everyone knew it—just the kind of thing to happen in America. It seemed there was always some fresh idiot with a new idiot claim against this company or that corporation, all to collect from the consequences of an idiot's decision. But that woman wasn’t the first rape victim in the parking lot, and she wasn’t even the worst case—there were women found in the morning, drugged and bloody. And those blindingly bright bulbs wouldn’t stop future rapes from taking place—even an idiot could divine that.

Molly felt bad for the woman when it happened—still did—but it had come out that she had been in the lot to buy cocaine, and the man who raped her was her dealer.

“So much for customer satisfaction,” she had overheard Mark say to one supervisor under him.

“I dunno,” the other had said. “She might’ve felt guilty by how satisfied she had been.”

The two of them had laughed it up, thinking that no one was listening to them. Not that they would’ve cared if they’d known, she thought, reaching her car under what some had called the sex lights.

Molly unlocked the door, opened it, and stepped in, closing it when she was safely inside. She put the key in the ignition and twisted—vroom! The low hum of the Jeep was soothing. She pulled open the glove compartment and got out her purse. She then unzipped it and looked inside—a wave of horror flushed through her.

It’s not here?

The taste of her ritual soured.

Her hands ravaged the purse until one of them touched the familiar leather of her wallet. Thank god, she thought, pulling the wallet out. She stared at the thing, relieved, knowing that her ritual couldn’t begin without the crimson rectangle—without the credit card within.

She opened her wallet and looked inside—just to be sure. And there it was. That brilliant light above her gave her silver Visa a shine. She took a labored breath, placed the card back, put the wallet on the passenger seat, buckled up, shifted the car into gear, and drove out of the lot and away from work.

It was Friday—technically Saturday morning—but it was truly the end of her work week.

She looked at the clock, wondering if Mark had ruined her ritual: 2:53 a.m.

I think I can make it, Molly thought. If I hurry, I just might.

She throttled the gas, and her Jeep drove at fifteen miles above the speed limit.

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Aiden Reeves pulled out of his girlfriend’s driveway—well, her parents’ driveway—and his Charger screeched as he peeled away. He smirked, even through the rage, the sound a defiant release; a peeling of the tires was a frustrated, angry burst that was like the blue balls he now had.

He plugged his iPhone into its charger, thumbing through iTunes as he cruised the sleepy, bourgeois neighborhood—he set it to shuffle and turned the volume down to three.

He knew his girl had watched him go from the bedroom window on the second floor, the room he had just ejected himself from. He snarled. Parents gone for the weekend, I brought protection, and we’ve been going out for three months—what gives?

Having never had sex before, Aiden understood his girl’s desire for patience. He just wished she would’ve had more desire for him than for her principles—he suspected most other girls would’ve caved.

But Becky Rivera was not like those girls. Her parents taught her differently. Those queers hammered into her head the value of abstinence, Aiden thought.

He turned onto a major street, westbound.

The song changed and dripped from his speakers; he almost didn’t hear it because the volume was low, and because of the many thoughts running around in his head, but he recognized the song. Get outta here, he thought, and he skipped to the next track. The following tune was more to his liking and he let it play.

I could’ve been more persuasive, his mind drifting back to that rage-inducing topic. I’m not unattractive or anything—maybe a seven—so I’ve got to convince her.

Slow down, he thought, though the words in his head felt forced upon him, like those other times before.

He looked at the speedometer—shit. He was going too fast. Girl troubles will kill a man.

He didn’t think there would be any cops around—they’re too busy terrorizing minority majority communities to bother the bourgeoisie.

The city of Blooming Heights—jokingly called Sleepy Hills by many residents—was like many other multicultural cities. Cultural ghettos, created by self-segregation, split up the map by racial lines. The Blacks have their cut; the Asians have their cut; the Mexicans have their cut, and so on—racial in-group preference at its finest. Minority communities were rife with crime, with local gangs like FKA, Yakushi, and La Raza. The Whites had their gangs as well, with chapters of both The Hellhounds and the infamous Neo-nazi group, the SSA (Schutzstaffel America). They can all get stuffed.

But to Blooming Heights’ more unsavory folks, the city had a pointed name. The slum lords and prostitutes and drug pushers call it Gomorrah’s Ashes. Gomorrah because it was in northern Nevada. Gomorrah because Las Vegas was the popular sister in the south. Gomorrah because it had just as much claim to the name Sin City.

If Las Vegas, the overshadowing sister, was Sodom, Blooming Heights was Gomorrah. And because Sodom and Gomorrah had burned, Blooming Heights was Gomorrah’s Ashes, resurrected like a phoenix.

Aiden turned right on Spencer, heading north—heading home. My turf, he thought. I’ll put this shitty day behind me and I’ll be in my place at last. But home was just a two-bedroom apartment shared by four guys. And they’ll be wondering how my night went—they’ll probably ask me.

I could always lie.

They would know. You’re a fucking virgin—they would know.

Aiden shuddered at the word virgin. It was too feminine.

He drove past the old factory, the one that never bounced back after its innards had burned out, killing five workers and gifting twenty more with scars they would live with until they returned to dust. I’ll die a virgin. Just like that kid, Elliot.

Elliot was nineteen when he started working at the factory—he died six months later. No one knew whether the kid had had sex before the flames swallowed him—no past lovers surfaced—but that didn’t stop the word from spreading. It started in the kid’s high school, the one he hadn’t graduated from, but it was soon the truth and nothing but the truth in every jr. high and high school in Blooming Heights.

The lie ran halfway around the world before the truth could get its pants on. The truth should stop fucking around.

The kids only spoke the other truth in hushed tones. The truth that Elliot’s ghost now haunted the old factory.

I won’t go out like that kid. I will not die a virgin. Aiden thought about turning around, thought about persuading Becky to have sex with him—pondered what he might do if she refused. Would he slap her around? Would he force himself on her?

His mind darkened his blue eyes, but thinking was all he did. Well, thinking and creating fantasies.

Just down the street Aiden saw the red hand blinking with a number next to it—10 9 8…—he throttled the accelerator, pushing his Charger to make the light. He glanced at the clock: 2:47 a.m.—few people would drive at this hour. Even if the light turned red, he wouldn’t have to worry about—slow down—… other cars.

Twice in one night? Aiden put his foot to the brake, thinking about the last time the whispers came at such brief intervals. And he was twenty feet from the intersection of Spencer and Abadel Street, going forty miles an hour, when the light turned red.

He looked down the street as he approached: and there, already plowing through the crosswalk on his left, were the demon eyes of a crimson Honda. He slammed on his breaks—his tires screeched and he lurched forward—his car stopped, its front poking through the thick, white line it should’ve been behind.

The crimson demon’s horn blasted as it passed, and Aiden saw the driver staring him down as he drove by, a single, middle finger sticking up so he could see. He watched the car go down Abadel Street until the buildings blocked his view, and the light turned green soon after—there were no other cars to follow the Honda.

Aiden wiped sweat off his brow. Fuck, he thought. He could’ve hit me. But that wasn’t the worst of it. And he knew—I could’ve died.

He sped up, his heart pounding like a war drum, anxiety washing over him. And he passed Abadel Street as a new song played through his speakers.

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Edwin Carver drove south in his Honda until he hit Abadel Street, at which point he made a left, heading for the hills that gave the city its local name of Sleepy Hills. The hills—then the mesa, he thought, as he drove toward his gathering. The mesa’s grove. It was their regular meeting grounds; well, regular since Bobby’s father caught wind of what they had been doing in his basement.

But they had grown since then and would’ve needed to move, anyway.

Unlike Aiden, Edwin had no problem getting girls to do whatever he wanted. Most chicks were into his rockin’ bod; two-hundred pounds of muscle, a low fat percentage, all wrapped up by his six-foot stature. He was the guy moms thought of when banging their husbands, the guy most dads didn’t want anywhere near their daughters. With good fuckin’ reason.

Those dads saw right through his bullshit. But that’s half the fun, getting around those dads. Edwin had gotten around them many times—it was almost comical how easy it was. Thank the gods for feminism. Girls lining up to get laid—like a shish kabob; my dick’s the skewer, and all the bitches are the tasty meats. It’s sex on-demand, no prior relationship necessary, no expectation for a connection, just a session of hot and sweaty sex—full of lust.

“Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am,” Edwin said, smirking with mirth.

But his smirk disappeared. Oh, he had enjoyed the meaningless sex… but now. Everything’s changed.

He hadn’t gotten laid in weeks. Shit, he thought, realizing how long it had been.

Edwin drove down Abadel Street, his mind racing as fast as his car, remembering the things he had seen on the mesa. He passed Reacher Elementary, the school that had barely made local news for its massive child abuse scandal—they had convicted five teachers on molestation and child endangerment charges, and inmates brutally murdered two of which in prison. They deserved everything done to them… no; they deserved more.

He thought of what he would’ve done if he shared a cell with one of them—that made him grin. Of course, the two who had died were the only males in the lot. No chance of getting to those degenerates now… maybe they could reach them.

They were his new gods, the ones he had met on the mesa.

Local media called the SSA a Neo-nazi group—technically true. The group advocated for national socialist policies—or democratic socialist, if you prefer. Yes, there was little that separated their policies from that of Bernie Sanders. Bill Gregor, SSA’s head, supported Bernie in the primaries—until he cucked to Clinton. Edwin smirked. Bernie bent over and got fucked bloody by Hillary’s non-lubed strap-on. A royal screwing only a politician could give.

He had a Fuck Trump bumper sticker on the back of his car, but he hated Hillary more for what she did to Uncle Sanders, as Bill used to call him. Good ol’ Uncle Sanders.

But the key difference between democratic socialists and Schutzstaffel America was SSA’s other nazi ties. Not the race shit—we couldn’t give a fuck about race. No, it was their dedication to seeking the knowledge behind the mysteries of the universe. They had an ever-increasing interest in the occult and the supernatural. And it’s fuckin’ paying out like a womanizer at a whorehouse.

That was why their gathering was secret and done in the early hours of the day.

Edwin had his hooded cloak in the trunk, along with the mask to wear under it. Total anonymity. Not as if anyone would ever find them in their little clearing atop the mesa.

He passed Clarmonte Street, and he shook his head in disgust as he thought of the next intersection he’d pass: Spencer. He knew the streets better than ever, because the meetings had increased to two nights every week. They used to meet once a month.

Oaks lined the sidewalk on his right, and his headlights revealed most of those trees that hid from the streetlights. There was something funny about those knotted trees—like hundreds of twisted faces watching me pass by. He got gooseflesh just thinking about it, as he considered the idea that something was watching him.

Give him to me.

The thought came suddenly and Edwin felt the urge to slam on the breaks, pull the car over, get out, and never drive it again. He looked in the backseat—nothing. His wide eyes went back to the road—Spencer was coming quick, but the light was red. Good, I’ll stop and take a breather.

It wasn’t his thought, and he knew it. It was more like a command from a boss than an inner whisper… more like the stuff he’d encountered on the mesa.

The light turned green ahead.

Edwin took a deep breath. The stopping will have to wait. And he no longer knew whether he liked the idea of stopping after hearing the command. He sped up—fear goes out the window the faster you go. He neared the intersection.

I really heard nothing, he tried to convince himself. But he knew this was the shit he and SSA were getting into. They wanted to reach out to entities and spirits; was he really surprised that those things might touch him in return? No, it was nothing.

Edwin drove past the crosswalk when he heard the screech of tires on his right—his head darted to see the headlights of another car. Terror gripped him as he thought the other would hit him, but the car stopped just beyond that first white line. Fuck you! He slammed his hand on the horn.

“Fuck you!” he said, passing the car. And he shot his middle finger at the driver—a drive-by flipping of the bird. I hope the bastard sees it, too.

His car cleared the intersection, and he looked in his rearview: the street sign seemed to mock him. Spencer.

That fuckin’ fruit-fag, he thought. Of course I’d find a degenerate driving up Spencer.

Edwin’s hatred of Spencer came from his knowledge of the man, Richard Spencer, a leader in the Alt-right. Fuckin’ controlled opposition if I’ve ever seen it. The perfect boogeyman for far-left activists. The media falsely labeled SSA as an Alt-right hate-group. We only hate the rich, just like the other socialists… I guess we hate Richard, too. Just the rich and Richard.

He chuckled, anxiety fading. And he thought of the GIF he’d regularly play: some internet user clipped a video of Richard Spencer getting punched out by a member of Antifa. Fuck, I would’ve punched him out, too.

This image played in his head all the way down Abadel Street, but as the street turned into Gridshan Hills Drive, and his car drove up-and-down the foothills toward the mesa, he thought of the things he would see… and of the voice that he definitely had not heard.

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