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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44. Chapter 43

Isaac
July 25th, 2017
5:03 AM


He was led through the muddy floors of the forest where the wheels of cars stopped and rolled endlessly into the flutter of brown snow. It made the trees dirty, with the sputter of mud. The car engine went on for a bit in its mindless anger. The police officers slapped the wheel, nodded to each other and opened the back door. They pulled him from his feet like some kind of fish dragged about on the port floors, floundering and flopping the dark waters all around. He was gasping. His face was scratched and it went on for a while, hitting branches and snagging himself against shrubbery before one of them got the good idea of lifting him up. They cuffed his hands this time and undid the cuffs on his feet.

Isaac's first instinct was to kick. He did. Felt proud even, in having done it until he received two kicks to his stomach. Air escaped and he opened his mouth for the silent groan. He was led through the forest where the animals knew well from where to steer away. They observed, small auxiliaries, mute animals with their curved spines facing up to the three pairs of footsteps that sloshed around wet ground. Isaac turned to see them, a squirrel holding a nut now dashing through a fallen log, the log itself half eaten and a haven of spiders and of snakes. 

The birds were the only ones uncaring. They stood and sang atop the pines. The trees were shaved. They did not rustle much, they seemed to get skinnier the closer the three got to their destination. A lake house. He had never seen it before or at least never remembered it. Below him, he could feel with the hole in his shoes, a trail of dirt left behind by wheels. 

The rust-colored pick-up trucks were waiting. One of them flashed his headlights and they nodded, made some sign with their hands and walked inside. Cranberries were floating on the surface of the water, Isaac noticed the red from the small slits made along the boardwalk. There were vines peeking out. It smelled of fall though it was summer, it smelled of the late of the year where the bright flowers and the bright trees die, where the snowfall covers all and leaves the grounds desolate. There was no snow though. It was summer, after all, a strange summer he began to think. The mist jumped along the steady waters and it carried with it the parting fruity scent that felt more of a memory of a smell. 

When he came inside he saw all around him the white shawls and the suits and the bright yellow flowers atop their heart. A pledge.

The cobwebs were forming in the corners of the rooms where the fishing hooks and rods lay. The head of a deer was across from him, a glass counter to his rear with the round patina stained bell that no longer rung the call. It was an empty, dead store. A fish on a plaque reminded him. Its weight and name were rubbed out, filed out by time. He was taken further to the back. Through a hall and past a bathroom and some kind of storage room. He was brought to the garage (if a fishing store could ever have a garage) where the boats were docked and held. He waited inside with what looked like six other men, three women.

There were four boats, three were rudderless. He looked to his side and where the small room bled out to. The placid dark waters and the cold winds that shook trees out of their summer bliss. Now he understood why the trees looked like starved wraiths, the lake was killing them. Sucking them, draining them. Like their very life force was pulled out of them and thrown into the water. 

Isaac faced westward to the black lake, more a chasm than a mass of water. There was no sound from it. No sound of life, at least. He remembered there were fish here once, that constituted the very shop he was in. They were gone now. 

His father came in a bit after five thirty five, two men behind him closed the metal sheet and covered the lake from their view. The waters were silent below them, they only heard the creek of wood and the light bumping of boats hitting each other. A fight with slaps, like playground children would. 

Isaac was silent.

Alestor came up to him. He looked at him and put his hands on Isaac’s chin. He jerked away. 

“What have they done to you?” He asked. No one answered. Everyone looked at each other and Alestor’s nostrils flared, he faced the two men behind Isaac. 

“Do you think he’s a farm animal? Do you think it was right to treat him like one?” He asked. They didn’t answer. He slapped them, three times. Twice to make them think, the third to make them bleed. Their noses ran and they looked up with the white veil beaten off their face. They were middle-aged men who looked past Alestor and began repentance. 

“I am sorry father for we have sinned…” They went on, practiced verse. “And I plead upon the divine nine to deliver me from my weakness.” And it went on and on and on and on until Alestor slapped them again. A fourth to hush them. He yanked the keys from one of their sides and undid the cuffs on Isaac’s hands. He looked down at them as if surprised he even had them with that childlike skepticism. 

Isaac looked to his father who had his arms extended to hug him. 

He punched him. Square in the nose. It sent Alestor back and made him hold his face as he landed on the floor, half his arm was in the lake water. Four men came to apprehend Isaac, Isaac who struggled and bit along their arms and who shouted. 

“Let go, let go, let go.” 

It felt like a body cast, paralysis as the men held from him from feet to neck. A pool of pythons, suffocating. 

“Let him go.” Alestor stood. “He’s not yours to hurt or to judge, you hear me?”

They looked strange, surprised with the eyes behind their face masks low and beady. They hesitated for a while, kept close to make sure he would not attack but eventually turned away. And Isaac was back in the middle of the room facing his father, both of them dirty on the face. 

“Come here.” Alestor brought his hand close. He was rubbing the mud and the dried leaves from his sons face. Isaac pulled his hand away and everyone locked up into that fighting stance. 

“Enough with all of you,” Alestor yelled. “He’s my son, did you hear me? You animals!”

And Isaac was torn in that moment. For his body wanted to run but his eyes showed that strange resolve, not necessarily courage but anger. Anger over the night he had snuck into the theater and bore witness to the death of Pip. Anger for the child. The memory ran in his head until it came upon the demon and his legs felt shaky all of a sudden. 

“You killed a kid.” Isaac’s voice was unsteady, between a high pitched shriek and those anger driven grunts. “You did something to him.”

“How’d you find out?” His eyes were wide.

“I saw you with the dagger and the table. You fucking stabbed him, over and over. You fucking killed him, dad.” Isaac held his mouth, his eyes felt those salty tears swelling. But his cheeks were fierce, hurting in how long they held that mad frown.

“I do what I do for the family, you have to understand. And not just mine.” Alestor extended his hand and spun to point out the room. “All of theirs too. I do it for them as much as us.”

“Us? Are you fucking insane? What the fuck was that thing?"

“Thing? What thing?”

“Don’t weasel out of this.” Isaac clenched his hands. “The fucking monster, it came out of the kid.”

Alestor drank his spit. His adam's apple bobbed.

“The uteri, the heart, the demon.” Alestor rubbed his chin, undecided on which to start from. “It was a womb. I was just giving it a Cesarean cut. That’s all. A process.”

“Pr-process? Cesarean what? You fucking killed a kid.” Isaac held his father by the collar. “Someone with a mother, someone with a father who had dreams and hopes and a promised life. Someone who could have been me.” 

Alestor pushed him away.

“It was necessary. It was tribute.”

“For what? I don’t understand.”

“Because you haven’t seen it. That's the problem. The only problem. Yes, you haven't seen it.” Alestor ran to the back. He took out his pink salt, his wax candle, his flint and steel. And the cup. A goblet with a mixture so thick and so dark it was hard to call it wine. It did not spill, it did not leave the rim, it did not move. An unholy concoction. “If you see what I’ve seen, you’d understand. Let me show you paradise. He’ll tell you everything.” 

He held it all in his chest and walked over to his son like a child with his box of toys, wanting to share, wanting to show. Isaac pulled away. 

“Enough of this insane bullshit.” Isaac said. “I used to think it was just drugs, a sniff and that was it. Too much acid rotting your brain. But this, this is much worse.” 

“It started like that.” Alestor dropped to his knees and organized his materials. “We saw something in a fire once, when I went out to burn your mothers clothes. It was the first week. The first... It was in the fire! I remember, I promise. After that we started taking psychedelics, I just wanted to re-watch what it. Heaven, I tell you, Zac. Heaven."

"What are you trying to pull? You found god, is that what you're telling me?"

"No. God let me suffer, God let me go. It was the opposite." Alestor's eyes flared. "Let me show you."

“Enough. I don’t want to hear it. It’s enough to know my father is a murderer, it’s another thing to hear him pleading his excuses. Have some dignity! Admit to it.” Isaac yelled. "At least lie. Let me pretend, at least, that you still have a moral compass. Any compass."

“It was paradise, Zac. It was the best thing ever. Better than the trips to the Bahamas, better than the cruises or the old birthday cakes you used to get at the steakhouse.”

“Is it better than mom?” Isaac began to tear up. Alestor looked up.

“It is mom. And your sister. It’s both of them. Let me show you.” He started the circle of pink salt. Isaac came up, his mud stained feet left the imprints on the wood. He looked at his father, his balding head and the crazy hair that flew down.He rubbed his feet and ruined the circle and kicked the candle into the water. 

“You can excuse the act however you will, but you can’t change it for what it is.” Isaac cried. “Mom is dead and she took you with her, you’ve been dead this whole time. I can’t believe I couldn’t see it until now.” 

“You’ve evaluated so many people on top of the couch, you never bothered though, have you? To put yourself on it, to see what’s inside of the fucked up brain of yours.” 

Alestor lept up. He grabbed Isaac by neck and dragged him to the floor. The wood snapped and the plank fell into a plop inside the water. Alestor’s hands were hot, gloved in black flame. It burned Isaac, burned and suffocated. The more he put his hands around his father, the more he burned. His tears were vaporizing but his body would not. It was an empty pain, pain without the wound or the actual burn. Torture.

“I am trying to fix everything, you little shit.” Alestor shouted. The men around the room looked apprehensive. The contention exploded. The storm of their hearts orchestrated their fear. and they began to look, with skittish eyes, for a means of escape. They contemplated, so afraid of Alestor and his fire and his rage, to perhaps grab him away. But they were afraid of that even more.

“What can I do with a son that can’t see? That won’t see? Ignorance isn’t your sin, stupidity is.” Alestor spat. It hit Isaac’s scrunched face. He was shouting with what little air remained. “You’d dig the knife into your father? You’d twist it, wouldn’t you? You did it before, after all. You sold me out. You think I wouldn’t find out you shithead? Huh? Huh! Say something.”

“Off.” Isaac’s eyes rolled up. “Me.” 

Alestor looked at him. He undid his hands, he sat on top of Isaac now. Isaac who was wheezing for breathing, holding his chest to see if it would even work anymore. 

“I wish you had died instead.” Alestor said. Everyone seemed still at the confession, their bones hollowed out and the marrow replaced with some jelly-like substance. Isaac most of all wanted to collapse. But he was too busy holding his neck and reviewing the markings of his father's fingers. 

“I could have replaced you with the other. I could have had more. And the piece of her that exists in you is nothing more than pain in me. You’re acid. Corrosive, running through my veins.” Alestor stood away. He reached for chains. “It took a while to finally get my dialysis. But I’m proud to say my blood is pure now. I know the way, it was shown to me.”

“Killing people is the way? Selfish murder?” Isaac huffed.  

Alestor clicked his fingers. Two men came around and bound Isaac. Alestor reached and put the collar around his neck. He wedged it right, watched the skin spill out from the top and bottom. It would never be snug, it would never sit right. Every second Isaac would be reminded, with the yank and the pinch of the metal on his neck, that he was chained to the ground. 

“I hate the son I have now.” Alestor said. “But I hope, within the next few days, that you come around. I really need you to. For your sake, not mine. I’ll come around every couple of hours to see your progress.”

“I hate you.” He cried. “Let everyone fucking know, let the earth and the heavens and your gods and devils know. I hate you. Let it ring in your heart, I fucking hate you. A stab, a knife? Yeah, yeah, I wish I could right now. I wish I could fix you with the only way I can see you being fixed. I hate you, let the words ring you fuck.”

Alestor looked down at him. An animal, all his son was. The rottweiler gone feral. 

“It’s been a while since I’ve disciplined you, hasn’t it? Last time I yelled at you was when you were fourteen, just beginning to masturbate. You lied to me then. It seems as though I shouldn’t have stopped with just a yelling. Your whole life has been one giant wank. An annoyance, you gluttonous fool. To be given everything, yet to be so spiteful towards your father. Disgusting.”

“What father?” Isaac said. “I look and look but I can’t find any man you’d call a father. Only a fraud, a fraud with a belt. I can’t believe I haven’t stood up to you until now.”

“Well, our failures are the same. We never struck each other. You were never shown the man I could be, but you will learn. Consider this your therapy session, a correction to that faulty cognitive behavior of yours.” Alestor walked up to the door. The other men were beginning to leave. 

“I really hope you’ll come around. I can show you the things He’s shown me. They’ll really make you rethink this whole rebellious streak of yours.”

“You can’t rethink a murder. You can bullshit that way, Alestor.” Isaac said. The defiance in his tone made Alestor lower his head. A hammer strike right on his head, he could feel the pressure of a headache building in him like a band around his head slowly crushing his skull. 

“We’ll begin your conditioning tomorrow. Have a good night, Isaac.” Alestor took a final look at the chained son. It was short and he was stuck to a water pipe running up along the wall. Isaac shouted at Alestor, growled and dragged his fingernails against the floor to try and gain terrain. He couldn’t. He could not move more than four yards. He pulled on his chain, nothing. Steel was too much.

Alestor sighed, put his hand on the light switch and pressed. The room went dark. 

But Alestor could hear his son. His shouting went on, like the waves of water rising high with the blue surf and crashing down into that loud bevy: Help me, help me, help me, please.

 

Author's Note: It'd be a shame if things went South. Or worse, down. Really, really, down. 

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