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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54. Chapter 53

Apollo

August 10th, 2017

6:11 PM


He hadn’t left the room for days, hadn’t eaten, had only really taken up space like a piece of furniture in that small dainty apartment. But now it was time to leave and the final check had been left on that lousy small office at the bottom of the apartment block. He checked his pockets and found no cigarettes. Only an empty crumbled box. He had slept mostly throughout the day and now, waking up to a bright sun and the pyramid of orange juice bottles, had found himself uncomfortable and in a small daze. There was a note on the kitchen counter, a note that read ‘I’ve gone to the lake, West end, look for an X on a great on a pine tree, go four paces West, five paces North.’

It sounded like instructions to a pirates chest. And it was, kind of, in a way. For the goblet had been taken (presumably by Dion) and it would be used (presumably by Dion) and what remained of it would be left for Apollo to take. And he supposed that was the end of it all, of Havenbrook and of Dion and of the fifty who were gone. Because there was no coming back from Hell, Apollo was convinced. And there was no way to convince Dion otherwise, as Dion was convinced. And so it was. Apollo crushed the note into a ball and threw it into the trash bin.

He looked for his clothes, what remained of clothes at least. Most of his dressings were in a red suitcase that bulged and spilled with a loose sock. He looked at the floor and figured, upon seeing his coat, to just suit up. So he did, tie and slacks and shoes and all, it felt like a noose around his neck. He put the coat on, realizing he’d have to give it back soon and all the small magical gadgets it hosted for him. It’d be more than that, he was sure, he’d get more than an earful from those terribly strict administrators. Oh well. He’d suffered through worse. He stood from his bed, look at the walls and the floor and so he began his business, with tired eyes, of wiping the evidence of his existence off this city. At least, all that he could wipe of himself. He slapped on a pair of blue gloves and began to wash off the walls and floors. He rubbed the dirty fingerprints off the windows with the smelly ammonia substance, then off the refrigerator handles, then off the walls until everything smelled of urine. He went into the bathroom where he had shaved, where Dion had shaved and pressed against the glass frame. It opened the cupboard and he took out the hydrogen peroxide that sat unopened, purple. He poured it into the sink, into the bath, into the toilet, into the kitchen and flushed, washed, sprayed down until he could hear it move through the pipes. Then he did it again. A third time, making sure every strand of hair that was still there would be contaminated. He had done this time after time in the silence of the night, but now would be the last. He was going to be replaced by another group of Vicars, hopefully, a better group. One who would watch over the situation of the Alestor Cult (though he named it ASTYCLT 238 in the reports) for the next few weeks. Though he was sure no one important was left.

No. No. No, more fighting, he thought. It was time to go. He took a look at the small room, the two bent beds that now sat in a dip like a cup, the cat clock that lay dismantled on a table, the tables disarrayed to give anyone with even the slightest inclination of OCD a mild case of hives. He looked at it all, felt a rather wholesome warmth in him, and closed the door. It was okay, at best, a terrible job, at worst. He drove down the street, it wasn’t busy, nor was it empty, just kind of rattling with renewed strength like the whole town had come back into health from a bad fever. 

He fixed his mirrors midway, brought down his hand to his coat pocket and felt the emptiness. It made him turn. A car honked to his rear as he nearly sidelined someone. Apollo zoomed past cars, heading west, heading for the small store in the front entrance of the city, somewhere near the red-rusty sign and the old congregation of that false priest he had listened to many moons ago.  

 


Apollo parked a little crooked and hit the curb some and came out of the car with a jog. He stopped when he hit the door and cracked it open to a familiar jingle of bells. There was no name to the store, not outside at least, it just read GENERAL GOODS from neon sign within that had stopped glowing pink. He went through the aisles and looked ahead to an old familiar man who sat on the edge of a cracked glass counter and who shaved away at a block of wood. There were statues around the table, all lined up chronologically from their inception, all of them at a distance similar but as Apollo came forward, as he stepped through the empty and lifeless aisles, he came to the full image of the wooden figurines. They were birds. Growing more grotesque and simple as the statues went on along in a line. It looked like a long chain of devolution, from a highly detailed blue jay to a small blob with wings of a songbird that sat at the end. Apollo looked at the statues then to the Old Man carving away. The Old Man’s glasses were falling off, they teetered by the end of an ear.

“I’d like to buy some cigarettes.” Apollo said. The man said nothing, only kept carving. 

“Hello?” Apollo waved his hand in front of the Old Man’s face. “Could I get some cigarettes.”

The Old Man reached underneath and slammed them above a bed of wood shavings. 

“How much is that?” Apollo stood with his hands in his pockets, a bit far off from the counter and the knife blade.

“Don’t matter. I’ll be closing soon anyway.” 

“Is that so? Doesn’t look like you’re closing, the shelves are still full.”

“Don’t matter. Nothing does. It’s not my business to see to the closing or the selling anymore. I’m just here to be here.”

Apollo looked around. A box cart full of what should have been ice stood next to the glass screens of the refrigerators at the end of the store. The ice had melted. There were only bags now, dripping bags that had pooled water on the far west end of the store. 

“Do you remember me? I was the missionary.” Apollo said. 

“Oh.” The Old Man did not even look up. It didn’t seem like he even moved his lips, he was only kind of there, in space but not in time. 

“I had a frie—” Apollo gulped spit. “I had a business partner with me, at the time.”

“Oh.” The Old Man sat down his finished totem. It was a crow, or at least looked like one with how deeply black the wood was. On this crow was a beak, which pointed down and gave it the appearance of pecking at its own wooden pedestal. It had a wing, only one, the other was clipped and malformed and resembled more of a nub than a limb. There were no eyes, no details, only the rough figure of the specimen. He set it at the end of the line, seemingly finishing the abominations.

“Weren’t you making horses last time?” Apollo asked. The Old Man pushed the cigarettes forward, a polite way of telling Apollo to fuck off. So to speak. Apollo took them, chewed on his tongue and stopped himself from saying anything. He looked to his rear, to a small corner of the building where the back room sprawled, where the door had been left slightly open. Or rather, stuck open. There was a metal shelf stuck in the way of the door, and Apollo stretched his neck to get a better. There were boxes, still, on the floor and food, still, spilling over. And it hit Apollo, like an invisible slap that seemed to knock his brain and eyes out of their holding cells. There was a little girl here once, how could I forget her face.  

Her white face, her blond hair and he thought, briefly, the kind of thought that summons the visceral emotion faster than the abstract, such that in his gut he could already feel the sickening coil of disgust much before he could remember the bleeding body on the top of that burning building. He did remember that girl, though did not want to. 

His brain, his eyes, returned, rubber banded back by his nerves and veins. He felt sick.

He jogged, then paced, then walked. He could feel his eyes turn unintentionally scarlet and he could feel his lungs pressing for air and he closed his mouth to stop that urgent feeling. The feeling of a throbbing head and heart, the feeling of suffocation. He turned away from the Old Man and stood tall and calm to at least appear cordial. He almost reached the door and was one his eighth step, it felt like a plank walk on the end of a ship. Then the Old Man rose. Apollo could hear the leather chair stretch and scratch.

“You’re a missionary, aren’t ya?” The Old Man said, he pulled his head back and almost laughed in a burlesque tone. “Did you ever end up duping anyone into believing that garbage?” 

“No.” Apollo felt stiff as if trapped by a barb wire entanglement. Moving hurt, breathing hurt, living hurt.

“I thought as much.” The Old Man looked down again. He leaned over and from the floor picked up another block of wood, red oak. “Hope is a tough thing to sell.” 

The words sank into Apollo, like an ancient monument inside of him had finally corroded at its stand and fell, it collapsed on him and he could feel the dirt and dust pushing him away. His shoulder hunched over. He moved his hands to a shelf and left the free cigarettes next to a golden bag of potato chips. He left. The doorbell rung. He did not look to anyone as he made it to his car. He sat down, took a breath and fixed his rear side windows, there was a reflection of a stranger in the glass. He couldn’t make out the face, it was foreign to him. He could only tell that the face looked a bit sad, a bit teary eyed, and very pale. He closed his eyes, tried to remember what he looked like, a few words came to mind. Tall, brown, unyielding. He didn’t see any of that. Only the figure of the blond-haired, pale-faced girl.

He needed to drive. Away, anywhere. But where? Anywhere! But. Where? 

And he decided under some uncertain terms that he would just go to the lake, not to do anything in particular, but just to fill his lungs with fresh air. Not to meet or see or do anything, but just to live there on the edge of the body of water. Even if just for a moment. 

A moment, that’s it. He’d just go there for a moment.

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