Heathens

Apollo and Dion, a dysfunctional rag-tag pair of demon hunters have been sent to investigate the city of Havenbrook and its inhabitants.

The mission is simple: to find the cultists responsible for a recent string of murders and to bring them to justice. Even if it takes killing dozens of demons on the way there.

But things are never that simple when you deal with the dark arts. Cultists, demon pacts, sacrificial murders all stand in the demon hunters' way as they search for the truth. A truth that will force them to question their own identities, a truth about the absolute evil lurking beyond heaven and earth. The question is, if they find the truth, will they be strong enough to handle it?

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34. Chapter 33

Alestor
July 20th, 2017
1:08 AM

They sat on their bellies and rolled on the floor with an intensity that made Alestor cringe, lost pets dragged themselves on the dirty floor with mouths hanging from their covered faces and the hope and want in their bloodshot eyes. They took steps forward, like lizards chasing the hot sun that had passed through the sky many hours ago. They were here for worship. Of Astyanax, of that demon who promised their family names the world and who had delivered nothing but the false hope and the anxiety. Still, they would worship. Perhaps he would listen today and even Alestor began to believe it. They were close, that was sure. 

The most excited for today's offering were those in the front, their knees were bleeding and their pants were ripped and stained with old floral wallpaper made to rot. They looked like scabs of the earth now, black and brown stickers that stuck to the worshipers as they slithered up the room. It was an office meeting once. Once, now it lay lopsided and uneven and on the end where an old projector screen once flapped around, was the makeshift altar. A collection of candles, of scripture and of those yellow flowers in broken vases. The cheap dollar candles stood lonely like acolytes in church. They flickered and illuminated nearly nothing. The worshippers came up. They picked candles and held them close to the heart. Like awkward pirouettes, they rushed round the table, the heartbeat of the fire shaking left and right. The tailcoats died at last and they stepped around to the maggot half-eaten roundtable to their rear. They propped them one by one and set a human femur in a certain place. They were forming crosses, tearing yellow flower petals and putting strands of hair onto the spots where the arcana symbol had been etched in. Unholy worship, unholy sacrifice. 

A cup. A goblet, bejeweled and stained looking, shaped awkwardly, like a dented half circle. Alestor came up to it. He put it at the very center of all the pretty sticks and bones and flowers. 

He looked back, the veil on his head was purple. Far different from the white they all wore, the eight others.

Alestor looked back at the girl, Sophie, lying in the corner of the room in a complacent manner. Her deep breaths sucked in the sack and blew it out like an artificial lung. 

“Bring the chair.” Alestor said. One of the degenerates rushed to the other end of the room. There was a chair there, somewhere in the intersection of moonlight that broke through the metal bars outside the windows. There Alestor could see the chair, the feet dangling from its high legs. The worshiper titillated the chair, rocked it some. It did not move. He dragged it and Alestor could hear it cry and moan as it came forward. There someone there. Someone young, long passed. The life bled out of her, dripping down one side. He raised the cup and put it under her. The blood would not come off the wood and he raised her hand and rested it inside like a siphon of her life force. Vampires.

She did not move. 

“Fuck.” Alestor began to sweat. I don’t want to kill another one. He thought. He felt the vibrations from under his feet. The struggle was continuing and his fingers were tingling with worry. Needle prickles, all across his chest, like his lungs, had become a living puffer fish. It seemed to pain him. He heard a man scream. He heard a dog cry. Now the other nine worshippers looked around, the seeming calm around the room somehow discomforting as they played with their hair and bodies like concerned children. 

But what’s another one to the mound? What’s one more sin? Alestor thought. 

It was time and he was closer, he could not wait and it seemed the world could not either. He looked to Sophie.

“Those hunters have made a martyr of you.” Alestor said. “They pushed me to this. Day in, day out with their nosy pickings. They dragged me and hurt me and forced me. Perhaps we could have used others. More deserving people than you, girl. But I don’t have that luxury anymore.” 

He brought himself up and shuffled his feet to Sophie. His whole body was opposed to the action with rigidity. He stopped all of a sudden. Sophie’s hair stuck out from a cut in her sack, her lips showed, she screamed at him. He almost forgot there was a person under there. He wanted to forget there was and felt his cloth slip from his face. His nose, his large forehead, and chin couldn’t keep it any longer and he shook. Two gaunt eyes showed back, Sophie saw. 

“You killed him. Didn’t you?” Sophie asked. Alestor reached down for the cloth. He wiped his sweat and put it back on. It felt dirty like grease rubbed across his face and all of him felt slippery. Unable to stand, unable to move without feeling a need to fret and fumble.

“Shut up.” Alestor said. He reached for the hood and grabbed it. She was heavier than he thought and his knees buckled at each step towards the chair. One of the members offered his help with extended hand.

“Don’t. She’s mine.” Alestor said.

“I’m no ones.” Sophie screamed. 

“Didn’t you gag her?” He screamed at the eight. They nodded and looked at their feet and pleaded with open hands.

“Just be quiet.” Alestor hunched over. 

“My name is Sophie and you killed my friend, Pip.” 

“Be quiet.” Alestor said. Names make it worse, just shut up. He thought. He stopped midway to the chair and let himself catch air, he looked up around him to the broken glass and the dirt and the furniture scattered like deforested lands. He walked over to one of his men, he ripped a piece of suit from the right sleeve of the follower.

“If you can't do your job then I’ll gag her.” He said.

“Why? Why not just send her off? We can do it quick” Another said. His voice was firm, booming. A natural orator. The mayor perhaps? Commissioner? What little importance, the sin was just as grave for either.

“Fuck you.” Alestor screamed. “I need to keep her quiet.” 

“You can’t keep the dead silent.” Sophie shouted. Alestor reached for where he thought her neck would be but could not figure, he grabbed a nose instead, a head that kept slipping from his grip. He pulled her. She wrestled him. His mask fell off again. His hair broke. Chaos, a tussle between the weak old man and the young girl. Lunge. Punch. Headache. Pain, slow, pain. Sharp.

He finally took the sack from her. He hesitated. A young girl, just a young girl. His eyes narrowed. Her fierce expression changed his consternation. She had their eyes, the hunters eyes, though human. She had that resolve or seeming resolve. 

"No one forgets. The world doesn't, you'll see." She said. "You'll face judgment, everyone does."

His heart raced with that same worry and he reached for her mouth to shut it. The rope from her arms now dangled from her, the other eight stared in that Mexican standoff, unsure if he could handle such an unruly child.

He got close, inches. He felt her bitter breath down his wrist like the hot knife. Up his sleeves, nothing hid. 

She shouted. She revealed the glass knife. She cut him. The world shook. 

The ground, the table, the bones, and candles all went dead and the room was filled with a renewed darkness that swallowed them instantly. It was a pop, a large jump that made them all fall. All furniture was pushed outward like an ocean wave had just washed them out and away. They rubbed their heads, all nine and looked around. The girl was gone. The door was rattling violently from its broken hinges like saloon doors. She was gone.

“I’ll go catch her.” Alestor rubbed his scalp.

“What was that explosion?” One of them said. Another looked outside, put his hands on the bars and faced down. The whole second floor was erupting with flames from the windows with the fury of Vulcan's furnace. Something was being worked, they all heard the noises of steel and of flesh and of mighty shouts.

“Don’t worry about it.” Alestor said. “Just get out, any way you can. There are plenty of escapes, you know them.” 

“And what if we can’t?” A young woman said.

“Then you do whatever you can to preserve our security." His eyes looked cold in the darkness. "Anything.” 

One of them raised his head and stepped forward

“Paradise waits for us. Why worry for any temporary suffering?” He reasoned. 

“That’s right.” Alestor said. He rubbed his nose, blood was leaking. He walked up shaky like a pyramid of cards desperately trying to rebuild itself. The parts would not click. He fell, shattered. His face landed down, towards the cup and he felt it in his hand. Goblet in hand, he composed himself, his courage was with him. He felt it, a guardian devil over his shoulders. He walked out the door. On one end were the sounds of violence, of hounds and man. On the other, nubile footsteps. He retracted a knife from his belt and went to work.

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