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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78. Chapter 76 - Episode 7

Apollo

“You should say something.” The Hyena dug its snout into the ground and threw the black dirt towards the rising fire. A modest gesture.

“No.” Apollo said. Because there was nothing more seemingly frightening than having to share words with a mourning child. He could barely do it with an adult, even with all the years of toughening and forging. How could he then, help a fragile person? He didn’t have that inconsequential foolhardiness in him. Not now. 

The corpse of Jeremiah laid on a pile of dried wood, the cut-down tree lay some pile away. He burned quickly, efficiently, easily and that made Apollo somewhat glad. There was not much smell to it either, the wind kept blowing against the smoke. There wasn’t any difficulty to any of this, physically at least. He threw in sticks every time the fire looked just about to fall. It was an easy funeral to make, a harder one to tolerate and one that would not have existed period, had the boy not protested.

“Why does a corpse care if it's burned or buried or left to rot?” Apollo whispered to the Hyena. 

“He can hear you.”

“Then he should know we need to hurry up.”

“You’re absolutely, socially inept.”

“I’m practical. I didn’t know the man so I can’t say I care for him. What I do care about, though, is getting out and that needs to happen faster rather than later.”

“Practical?” His voice sounded sly, smug. His tail wagged left and right. “Was crying, practical?”

“No, but it was normal.” He said. “Even I’m not that cruel.”

“You’re not cruel in the right order.” He yawned, its wide mouth showing the sleek, yellow teeth. “Stern with your friends, merciful with enemies. It should be the other way around.”

“What do you know?”

“Everything.”

Apollo’s leg shook. He tapped the floor and rubbed his hair and stretched his arms.

“Are you anxious?” The Hyena smirked.

“Who wouldn’t be? You’re having me kill a man who by all accounts of reason, seems to be the worst thing on this island.” Apollo spat. “I’m getting fucked and I can’t even get a god damn reach around.”

“Still talking irresponsibly? It’s not me who's having you do anything. It’s all your choice and yours only. You’re free to leave, you know.”

“Right.” He stepped on the stain left by his saliva. He stretched his neck and those tensed muscles that tightened his face.

“You’re worried about Dion, aren’t you?” The Hyena laughed. The boy looked at both of them, quiet grief reflected from his eyes. It looked like a dying fire. Apollo threw a stick into the pyre and hushed the dog.

“Maybe. Maybe I’m just curious. I’m wondering if the retard managed to stay alive.” 

“I’m sure we’ll find him. He’s probably gotten to Astyanax already.”

“You’re probably right.” Apollo cringed, he felt his eyelid tense. “More of a reason to hurry this shit up.”

“I thought you weren’t cruel?” He giggled.

“Cruelty would be staying here. Letting the living die to watch a dead man burn, what sense is there in that?” 

Apollo came down the small slope.

These were warped lands, waving up and down and from them, an outgrown stretch of dried trees. Little seeds grew from their limbs, a mute-colored yellow. They looked like bells. There were no leaves and no solid shadows, the tall trees kept straying from the winds. It was hard to even call them trees, they looked and felt like weeds. Giant thorns, brittle and chalky at the touch. A forest of thorns.

He walked over to the boy, the Hyena following steadily behind. 

“Hey, we need to go.” He grabbed Bartholomew's hand. The boy wiggled out.

“I don’t want anyone to have him.” He said.

“Who? What?” Apollo asked.

“Not you or the monsters or this dump. No one should have him.” The boy protested. Apollo stared, confused. 

“He’ll be ash in a second. Specks in the air in the minute. And desert dust within the hour.” He put his hand on the child’s shoulder. “You being here or not isn’t going to change that. So let's go.”

“That’s not how you talk to a child.” The Hyena laughed.

“Shut up.” Apollo looked at Bartholomew. His face was scratched, his lips were burst and the scar tissue on his forehead was overlapping. Is he even a kid anymore? He thought.

“I don’t want to leave him.” Bartholomew said.

“I think your friend would have preferred if you did. Why waste all that effort getting away in the first place?” Apollo asked. 

“He wasn’t my friend.” Bartholomew threw a stick into the fire. “He was my father's friend and now he’s gone.” 

There was something to it, a truth hidden underneath that statement that almost piqued Apollo. But a squawk of birds above, a drop of a branch to his rear, a shaking of the trees pushed him away from asking. He waited instead, for the boy to be done, waited for him to throw every stick in his little piles into that fire. And he watched the metamorphosis. It was a funeral for the child too, he thought. 

The fire spat back. Bartholomew reached down for a stick and found nothing. He stopped then to look at the body, if there was even a body left, inside the tower of flames. A blackened figure showed for a moment, then drowned in the orange and red and yellow and white. More embers flew out. Apollo stepped away and worried for a second if the woods would burn down with the outraged fire. Then realized, he’d prefer if they did. That way he could hurt the damned island, even if just a little.

The Hyena raised his head, at last, shook some dirt off his fur and pointed his nose towards a direction. 

“It’s done.” He said. “Let's get going. We need to make it to the top.”

Bartholomew nodded waited a bit before nodding. He led the way.

“What’s your name?” Apollo asked. “Mine’s Apollo. Just, Apollo.”

“No, it’s not.” The Hyena said.

“Be quiet.” 

There was a pause.

“I’m Bartholomew.” He said. “Bartholomew, Heinz.”

“You sound familiar.” Apollo frowned. Of course he did, he thought. Of course, he is. Goddamnit, it could have been anyone and it’s this kid?

“My dad was a policeman.” The boy said in his monotone voice. “He died. It was on the new. You must have heard my name from that.”

He walked with indifference.

It had to be him, the boy of the man who had been stabbed that day, in the middle of that night. The start of the comatose, the beginning of his death. It just had to be the son of the man he had failed. Apollo felt his stomach turn like a wheel had tangled and twisted his internal organs. He felt the anxiety all throughout, the twisting pain and he tried very hard to walk straight and confident. He knew the boy didn’t know who he was, and that kind of ignorance was a blessing.

“I’m sorry for your loss.” Apollo said.

“Are you?” The boy asked. “People said that to me all the time. Usually when they wanted stuff. Like the Captain or the mayor or whatever person was my dad’s boss. It’d always go like that ‘I’m sorry for your loss, but…’ and I’d know they want something. ‘Cause they always continued with a but.”

Apollo narrowed his eyes. The mayor? The Captain?

“What’d they want?” He asked.

“For me to not talk to reporters. For me to be friends. I don’t think they wanted to be friends though.”

“Whens the last time you saw them?” 

“At church today. Or whenever today was. They were wearing black hoodies. Masks. They looked like moose's, pretty dumb.” Bartholomew stopped. “I can’t tell. Has a day passed?”

Apollo walked ahead of him. Guilt, curiosity, shame moved him. He stared at the boy's blank face. There was a dullness to the child, an apathetic stare. It seemed a bit bold, matured even. But something important was missing on his face, something taken. 

“Tell me everything about the church. What happened?”

“Why?” The boy asked. “I don’t like you.”

“I figure you owe me, for saving your life and for burning your friend.”

“Owe? I didn’t ask you for anything.” Bartholomew said. “You can leave me, what do I care if you’re here or not. Everyone leaves me.” 

Another silence passed over them before the Hyena exclaimed, with a loud breath.

“He’s a detective. A kind of detective. And he just wants answers.”

“What? Like for the police? What are you doing here then? Stop lying.” Bartholomew inspected Apollo’s face. “I’ve never seen him work with my dad. And I knew everyone who worked with my dad. Plus, he looks funny, like those dumb monsters with the big trashcans on them.”

“You little shit-” Apollo said.

“What are you going to do?” The Hyena asked. “Threaten a child for information? Answers to questions that don’t matter to anyone but you?”

“When you’ve been chasing a man and a thing for so long, you start to get hungry.” Apollo steadied himself and rubbed his shoulder. “I need you to answer me, kid. It’s just personal curiosity is all.” 

Bartholomew looked at the both of them. Seeing a talking dog, seeing a reasonable monster-demon-thing (as he thought of them), didn’t seem so strange. Nothing seemed strange, nothing surprised him. That was what his face was empty of, Apollo thought, innocence. 

“I don’t care anymore.” Bartholomew said. “I’ll tell you everything.”

He told them about the church, about the black sabbath and Isaac who had been killed and everyone who had been abducted. He talked about the Captain and the Mayor in their strange black dresses that made them look like mooses (as he described it) and about how this all happened so far back that the boy didn’t even care anymore. Not about the violence, not about the death. That everyone died around him and that he was used to it, whether he liked it or not. That his eyes couldn’t cry anymore, that he didn’t know where he was or where he was going or how he was getting there. It was like living in the nightmare, the kid said. And you don’t ask questions in a dream.

“The Captain? The Mayor? The black priest, Alestor. Where are they now?” Apollo asked.

“They both got killed real early. Stabbed with spears.” Bartholomew said. “Most of the weird black dress people died too. Except for that Alestor guy. I don’t know who or where he is. That’s all I know.”

“So, the mayor and the captain are fucking dead, huh?” Apollo said. “And those minions, the cultists, all dead? I can’t feel but help that maybe some of them didn’t know what they were getting into.”

“That sure sounds like pity to me.” The Hyena said.

“Maybe. I have pity for the kid and the bystanders attending church, sure.” Apollo said. “I might even have pity for the mentally diseased Alestor strung around himself. Madness attracting madness, like the orbit of stars and planets.” He paused. “But the Captain, the Mayor, Alestor himself? Fuck them. I’m glad they’re gone.”

“That’s the spirit.” The Hyena smiled. “Savage desires meet savage ends, always.” 

Apollo frowned.

“What?” The Hyena asked. 

“I get the feeling somethings wrong.”

“Relative to what? You’re in Hell.”

“What?” The boy chimed.

“Something feels off.” They both ignored him and walked ahead.

The wrinkles appeared on Apollo’s face like cracks.

“You’re weird and you say funny things. Not in a good way.” Bartholomew said. He hung his head at a slant. “Your talking dog is weird too.”

“He’s not a dog.”

“What is he then?”

“I’ve been trying to get him to tell me for the longest time.”  

“Oh.” Bartholomew walked past him. Up the hill.

“Is this really hell?” He asked.

Apollo scratched his chin, dismissive almost in his deep contemplation.

“Sure.” He said.

“I thought only bad people go to tell. I wasn’t that bad.” He said. “I don’t think…”

“It’s not by choice or will that you’re down here. You’re a victim of circumstance.” He said.

“Oh.” The boy said.

“You haven’t asked me where we’re going.” Apollo outstretched his arms. He started walking. “You should be more curious.”

“Oh.” Bartholomew repeated. 

They continued in silence. Behind them, the smell of burning wood, of ash, of dust and of the past. 

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