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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55. Chapter 54

The Day the Sun Fell on Apollo

Anno Domini Mors August 10th, 2017

6:44 PM

 

The car was parked some distance away from the lake, it was underneath the shade of a tree though Apollo did not know why he even bothered. It wouldn’t be long, he thought he knew. He had walked deep into the forest, past brown and white police vehicles and the yellow tape that squared off the fishing store. He went further, deeper, following the edge of the lake. He thought he was here for the cup, only the cup.

He went along the ridges of the mountains where the small pebbles cascaded down like the medieval boulder traps of castles old. The fish in the lake spun in circles and fretted away at the touch of his feet. He covered himself in mud, in water. He sunk himself knee-deep into the lake and came out finally at that tapered end where the frogs croaked to each other and where the fireflies were beginning to collect like small stars. And he came to the tree, with the X. Then further away, to the spot (a spot he had no difficulty in actually finding, because the mound was so big and obvious that anyone could have found it) and he cupped his hands to scoop dirt and inside found the cup in its shallow grave. It was as if there wasn’t even an effort made to hide it, or perhaps not enough time.

And he put it in his hands, rubbed the mud into the gems and shook the gold stem some. There was a drink left, he figured.

He walked away initially and felt the cool air brush against him and push his hair. He must have made it halfway before he felt short of breath, before his legs started to shake and weaken. And he knelt on one leg over the shore.

“He’s probably already dead,” Apollo said. “Or at least in the act of dying.”

He kicked rocks. They split water and forced the fish to swim.

“He doesn’t have a plan to get out, does he?” That wasn’t the question he wanted to ask, he rubbed his chin. “Why did he go in the first place? They’re just strangers. Nobodies. Fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a million. The world turns, doesn’t fucking matter.”

He looked up to the glaring sun that fell into crimson, the red flushed the water face.

“Nobodies who have families and children, who live and who love.” He slapped his leg. “But so what? What is a man owed? A couple seconds out of the womb, a moment to breath and that’s it. What’s a man owed? To live long enough, just barely long enough that you start to miss it when the ride is over? Who fucking cares. The world turns, the solar system spins, the universe expands. Everything goes dead, dying, or missing. Doesn’t matter. Fuck it.” He walked. His head was low and he steered clear from the view of the red glare on the water, the giant circle. His footsteps popped with the sound of stones shooting out from underneath his feet. A lily pad sunk.

“That's just the way it is. You’re not owed life!” He scratched his face. “But who has a right to take it, too? No one does. And yet it was taken. By the dozens. Over and over and over again. Fuck man, fuck!”

His heart beat fast.

“They didn’t live a good life or even a pleasant life. But it was still theirs, to resign or to suffer through. They never got to make that choice...”

He looked at the cup, swished the liquid around.

"What do I want?" He stared at that black substance as if a crystal ball. There was no answer, just darkness and the reflection of Apollo within that darkness.

“I guess I’d like to tell that retard Dion a thing or two, wouldn’t I? Call him for what he is, stupid. And if I could, I'd like to round up as many likeminded people too." He laughed, flat and lifeless. "So we can all take turns calling him a retard.” His lips trembled. “Yeah, I’d like that. That’d be fair in this very unfair world. Wouldn't it?”

Wouldn't it? The words rang into him. His shoulders eased, his heart eased, his eyes eased. All of him seemed to hunch over the small goblet and all of him seemed to fall into it.

"I'd like to help." His heart popped, a kind of balloon. And the stones within his heart, falling, falling down the cliff, down into the water.

And he drank. With his nose pinched, he took a gulp. It had the texture of cough medicine, a slow molasses or mucus that trickled down his throat. It tasted sweet though, a bit like metal too, like he had just been fed candied nails.

Then he vomited. Hard, for minutes. Vomited until there was nothing but stomach acid left, and then some more, until the floor was septic and beginning to smell of toxic waste.

Apollo sat near the lake. He vomited in fits between absolute stillness and angry convulsions. Somewhere in between, he fitted the cup back into his coat. It went like that, him kneeling over the water, his head finally submerged, the fish and the amphibians scrambling away, the birds of prey benched atop the drooping branches with the meek wind that to brushed their feathers.

Then those too, flew away. Far above. For whatever came out of Apollo came in waves and had only begun, that strange, almost bright purple substance. The color of unoxidized blood, and like unoxidized blood, turning red almost immediately upon contact with the outside. But it got worse. It spun in circles, a whirlpool. Apollo’s whole body fell into the water now, dragged by that current, into the deep cloud. He could not see between fuzzy, glossy eyes and the red (now turning black) substance. He only felt it, like tingles, like small fingers scratched all around his body.

Whatever it was, that ink-like substance, he drowned in it.

And when the murk and cloudy darkness cleared. Nothing remained. The fish came back, slowly at first, until the whole school had filled the vacuum. There they danced, danced and swam to the disappearance of Apollo.

And Apollo? Somewhere. He awoke somewhere and only noticed he was alive by the figure of a red ring in front of him, an oddity, that seemed to only retreat further away the closer he himself got and he (Apollo) floating in what he thought or felt was oblivion, though he was wrong, wrong so very wrong, because from those dark corners there seemed to be a materialization. Hands, many hands, and arms that gripped and clawed, that made him gasp and in doing so, releasing that precious air from his body. They grabbed hold of him, outstretched him.

He tried screaming. Nothing, there was no air to break and to vibrate. So he was mute. Bizarre, this infinite nothingness, that dragged and pulled until the very limbs of his body split and de-attached from him.

He would have cried was he not paralyzed with that toxin of fear. He saw his limbs cover the threshold, the little brown bits of him carried with delicate hands that receded and eventually disappeared. They fell into the ring and he did not know what to think; why he was not bleeding, why was he not dead?

Neither dying nor dead simply hurt. His face scrunched into silent agony. It was in between a face of defeat and shock like a tortured man hearing the footsteps of the executioner down the dungeon halls.

His legs were gone, arms too, most of his torso and his hips, disappeared. All that remained was a chest, a neck, a head. A torso that kept spinning in circles, eyes that looked outward to the myriad colors of yellow and red. He was being spied upon. He felt them creep up from that nothingness, those voyeurs. And slowly, they showed their primeval forms, whatever they were, chimera or demon.

A woman (more thing than woman), nude, full-bodied, scaly almost with the elongated neck and fangs across the wide mouth, looked down at him. Another, two men this time, welded together on their singular back who crawled on all fours and who turned themselves like a fallen tortoise. Siamese turtles, it almost made him laugh, he tried to but his eyes wouldn't stop crying.

And then the others came, the long dead and long forgotten, the pained, the pitiful. Those that carried men like dogs with the chains around their necks. Those that begged for mercy, creatures or otherwise. Most of them had no mouths or arms or will to beg, all of them watched Apollo fall.

His body turned like a satellite. He could not say he was facing up, there was no up, he only knew he was flipped and faced something. That amalgamation of disgust. That prime object of revulsion, a monster bloated and whose folds of flesh seeped out like waves of the sea. This creature who looked down Apollo from his broken seat of corpses. A sort of throne, and him, the king of filth upon it, floating too with Apollo. It was pierced, stabbed all across. There were smaller creatures, holding these chains, who stretched his flesh back so a face could reveal itself. This, the only creature that could seemingly stand and form a plane in the nothingness, this, that creature of yellow and green flesh. It revealed its small head, it revealed its gold teeth and its uneven eyes that looked carefully at Apollo.

“Toy.”

Was that what it said? He thought. His face went cold. The arm came closer, dripping skin upon him like a shawl of rotten flesh and past the arm, Apollo saw it. That infantile greed that brimmed in the creature's eyes.

Fortunately, it was too late. The last hand came to grab Apollo, came to send him down through the red ring and he did not know what to feel, only knew the storm of emotions that capsized his courage. Shock. Disgust. Curiosity? He stopped thinking. He couldn't bear to think. He closed his eyes and fell asleep and whispered to himself with silent words: What a strange thing, to have your soul amputated from your body.

 

Author's Note: The festive spirit really shines through in this chapter. Oh, end of Episode 4 too.

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