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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50. Chapter 49

Apollo

August 5th, 2017

7:39 PM

 

It seemed like a stupid thing to do, running and jumping from rooftop to rooftop in broad daylight. But Apollo had thought it over, had imagined the world in which he did not run as excitedly as he did, the world in which whatever he was chasing after had got away. It frightened more than the prospect of getting caught. 

It also helped that there was a distraction. Miles away from him, the city was ablaze and any helicopter that could have spotted him was most likely there, dropping water on the inferno and any eyes that could spot him were facing elsewhere, at the spewing fires at the police headquarters.

Apollo ran opposite of Dion, went west. He hit train tracks after ten minutes of his exhausting dash. Around him were the stares of sullen eyes that looked at what they thought was a strange masked figure in the middle of rusted train tracks. They were homeless. In the small carts they had shaped into lodgers, all of them too hardened by life to care for who he was but too afraid as to not mind him. Apollo looked back at them, at their dirty faces and the laundry hanging on the ends of broken cross guards. There were no demons here. He grabbed his arm and cursed.

“Fuck.” He kicked the floor, pebbles shot out into the backdrop of trees. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”

His arm had gone cold. Where had he made the mistake? Heading West? Where was the path wrong?

His instincts told him to tread back and he did so, bringing up his phone and ringing it for Dion. Dion who did not answer and who let it ring before breaking completely. Answered, then hung up. He took a breath, felt the air, moved his body around to stretch his spin and his calves and walked patiently until he felt the lead again. The heat of the trail, physically and metaphorically, back on his arm. He had to go north-west off from the broken train station he had found himself in. North-west into an area more rural, where the forest had taken over concrete, where the long network of trees had consumed the floor and turned it into the tremulous playground of roots and dirt. Following this path that could only be felt, by a thermometer on his arm, he found himself tripping. Constantly.  Switching and strafing and twisting himself through the labyrinth of the forest as he tried to follow that visceral hotness that made his arm wiggle and squirm.

He felt he was going nowhere. It made him angry. And it was an anger that followed him through, that was made noticeable by the loud and pronounced shaking of trees as he stomped and rustled through the forest. It looked like a storm from above, where the birds flew and squawked. 

And that's why it took so long to make it to the small building near the lake, the store or what remained of the store that terminates and scavengers had not eaten. It was through accidental trial and error, through the pounding and the beating of his head against the bark and stone. It was through going the wrong way, marking on the trees with etched signs, ripping fauna. Through getting lost over and over and over. 

It frustrated him, it worried him. All that time spent searching, some thirty odd minutes which perhaps to you may appear small, but to Apollo, represented thirty minutes of life and death. 

For he was hunting demons and thirty minutes, not one more or one less, but thirty minutes would be all any demon would need to kill thirty dozens of people.

So he found the store. And he breathed relief for a moment and thought it strange to be relieved in finding a monster. But he was. He took a giant gulp of that fresh air. He felt breezes that did not move the pines and the fallen leaves, gusts that only sent cold towards him. And after a while, he made that stern face behind his mask. He clenched his mouth and oppressed the feeling of nervousness from his body, exiled it from his nervous system. He stopped his clattering teeth. He clenched his fist and reached into his coat. Out came the blade, broken, shorter, more jagged like the wide maw of death ought to be. Yes, broken, over the course of many battles throughout the weeks. Broken and worn and sanded down. But still very dangerous, he could feel it, the pounds of steel and silver that sunk his feet into the dirt as he rested the blade above his shoulders.

There were no cars in front of the store, there was no parking way as much as there was a small circle of tire tracks where someone had been. He went into the porch and perhaps by his weight and the weight of the blade, found his leg sinking through a board. Collapsing it. It made him shout. 

“Fuck.” It might have been the only word he knew today. 

He retracted his leg from the broken porch. He felt something slimy and slippery underneath his soles, worms. Maggots. Crushed and releasing the white bile. He scraped it off. Not because he cared about how it smelled or looked, but because it made his feet slipper and uneven and that ounce of difference was already too much of a gamble for Apollo.

So he prepared. He made sure his legs were ready and willing and his arms relaxed and malleable as he entered the door and the string around his left arm burned. A whip of fire it felt as he walked through the first room. His blade cut the side of the door frame. A notch one meter wide. Upon coming inside, he painted his blade at the shadows. Nothing. He looked around with that sentry gaze. There were so many stags and fish nailed up as trophies, their corpse a monument that did not inspire courage or pride as much as fear for Apollo.

They peered down. Those decapitated heads. Their eyes were empty, beady and black. Their mouths were ajar and it looked like they had died wishing for one final breath but now staring at them, lifeless, Apollo realized they never got it. So it went.

He walked around the aisles, kept himself low until he looked like one giant arrowhead, pointed upwards at an angle to the end of the room where the cash register sat upon a broken glass desk. Inside, past the glass, were the small specs of black, dead worms and bait, stuck under large shards of shattered glass like samples from a laboratory. To the side of that desk, a collection of bobbing lures. He reached for one of them, a red striped. 

But there was a noise. Clutter moving. Then whining. Then crying. 

A loud shrill sound that sent a chill through ventilation shafts above him. It felt like the inept gust from outside. Cold, unmoving, but very real. Apollo hunched. He walked to a door that lead into the back of the store, he heard it crawl open and he peaked one eye inside. He was following the noise of the infant cry. The hall was too dark for anything else but following noise. He moved through with those crimson eyes, only seeing minor details, like the white cotton torn and hemorrhaging out of a purple sofa. His back was to the wall and it felt like he was sliding against it more so than walking. He went further, past the sofa and a half-open door. He would have gone inside, a cow's skull was peering from the small gap after all, but the cry was more intense. And more important.

He stood near the door where a flaccid potted plant hung over the doorknob.

All sense had become lost. All that remained of feeling was the pain of his tight grip on his sword and the wetness of sweat that made his clothes stick. His hairs stood as he approached the knob.  His ear drums were inflamed. His breath, stilted. 

He put his foot under the doorknob. He pressed. Pressured. Kicked. The door hinges flew out and hit one end of the wall like shrapnel. His eyes scanned immediately, from the dark corners to the low glow of a buzzing lamp in the middle of the room. 

Where? Where are they hiding? He thought. 

No where. There was nothing here. Nothing but the boat and the cry that came from the boat, the only boat left in the back room. There was a chain. Some blood, but nothing else. The struggle here that Isaac and that Alestor had conjured was nonexistent, at least to him. The boats? Vanished. Sunken? Maybe.

Apollo's head looking over squared shoulders as he approached the cry. There was a fickle spotlight above, quivering in circles (it was still recovering from the sudden barge and entry) and he faced what seemed like a bundle of cloth inside the boat. He walked to it, his blade pointed towards it, 

He took them off, carefully, blanket after blanket until all that was left was one final yellow quilt. It looked like a baby from the outline, but Apollo knew. Felt it, on his arm. This was the source of that demonic burn. He focused, the adrenaline pumped into him with each of his furious heartbeats. He lifted the veil. His eyes opened for a bit. Speechless. They narrowed again.

And reader, the details of the creature should not be made particular. Must not be. What Apollo saw could only be described as an afterbirth, a malfunction in God’s hatchery that never earned a place in the evolutionary chain. A bad combination in the slot machine. An unholy monstrosity taking the form of an infant.

A mockery. A mockery that mimicked the cry of a small baby, but no more. For the minute its gold, purple-veined eyes glanced back up at Apollo, it began to laugh. Its stone-textured tongue slipped out of the slit that would be considered its mouth and with that retarded gaze, it started to laugh.

“Gotcha.” It said. Hoarse as if its small lungs had used all of their force to squeeze out the words from its malformed face. It laughed. With it’s scaly slit for a mouth, it laughed. Apollo only stared. His hands shook. And at last, when that sharp laugh had caused too deep a wound in his heart, Apollo brought up his foot in defeat. Not of strength as much as wit. And in his annoyed anger, Apollo stomped the creature. He felt the monsters black lungs pop like two rotten plums. He stomped again, this time through the boat and watched as the small shriveled body descended down the murk. 

The room was silent and he took out his phone. He rung again, went unanswered and rung another five times before he got the mechanical answer from voice mail. 

“Ahh. Dion here. I’m sorry I’m not here, but be patient and I’m sure I’ll be able to get to you soon. As the Lord says…” The machine recording went on. “Romans Eight-twenty five. ‘But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience—”

“Dion.” Apollo shouted at his phone. “Dion, please answer! Dion! Somethings wrong, we need to rethink the plan. We must have missed something, no one's here. Nothing. Is. Here."

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