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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53. Chapter 52

Dion

August 6th, 2017

10:17 AM

 

“I’m not saying that what you’re suggesting isn’t possible. What I’m saying is that it’s fucking stupid.” Apollo said.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s stupid, what matters is if it’s possible and if it is, that we should do it.” Dion said.

Apollo sighed and looked out from the window sill, in between the small interstices of plastic blinds that rested at a slant and from which dripped down the small trail of dirt. He took his hands from the window frame, brushed them across the wooden table to his rear and stained paper documents, labeled, ‘ARTIFACT FOUND, RICHARD THE LIONHEART, TEUFELSCLOCH #234 REQUESTING PICK UP’. A fax machine was set up in front of it, still warm from the usage. A laptop was clasped shut, depressed, humming from a hard drive that had just spent the last hour transporting and processing the long list of details of the event that transpired yesterday and for that matter, the weeks leading up to it.

And the goblet? The goblet used by the false prophet Alestor (the fool, more like it)? It sat on the kitchen counter like a shiny paperweight. Apollo walked towards it, he was in his underwear, tired, unshaven. He held it up, looked it over from bottom to top. There was something written on it that he could not translate, there were rubies across and a kind of gray stone that sat in between the cup and its stem. Inside was a blackened substance, it had the texture of mercury and stuck to the inside bowl of the cup. Apollo flipped the cup, watched the black substance seep down just below the lip, but no further. It would not fall or drip, as if gravity itself could not wrap her hands around the mysterious liquid.

“How many times do I have to explain this?” Apollo set down the cup. It rung with a low tune. “They’re gone. Gone straight to fucking hell, literally. I don’t mean to be hyperbolic, everyone in that church, those that did not die at least, have gone straight below and there’s nothing left to do with them.”

“I know that, I know that! But, but, but.” Dion blew the hair out of his face. “You said it yourself, there’s still enough juice in there for a round trip. So so so so. That means, we. Uh, you and I, we can go there too. And back.”

“And I’m telling you we’re not.” Apollo looked at him, a bit saddened, more sobered, less raspy than usual. “Do you have any idea what this is, Dion? This isn’t just a mug, alright? This is Witchcraft and black magic, this is the devil and his devices, this is literally a door to hell. A key straight to a plane of existence that should not be available to anyone but the most depraved.”

Apollo shook his head and rubbed his chin.

“Now you tell me, how would a fucking psychologist come about an artifact this powerful? Do you think he just happened upon it at a fucking garage sale? No, this shit was given to him. Or more likely, he was led to it. This cup, this weapon.” He picked up the cup again and rose it high above. “This is what it was all for. This fucking idiot spent a month, at least, killing and collecting as much blood as he could, from as many different people as he could, just to fill it to the brim. And when that was done, when all the dusty dead were laid in their coffins, this fucking guy comes out of the woodwork and transports himself to Hell.”

“Why would he do that? Why would he take so many people with him?”

“Maybe he didn’t know what it did. Maybe he was promised something else. Maybe he just wanted to go. Too bad he had to take half a hundred dumb fuckers with him.”

Apollo sat near the kitchen table, the refrigerator buzzed behind him and below he scratched his naked legs with his feet. The sun was hot outside, like the summer sun ought to be, the cicadas were amusing him with song. The birds chirped, fluttering in warm daylight. The cold, the mist, all disappeared like a bad season, seemingly to pass over to another town in another place far away. The city was okay or at least appeared right, just barely on the line of normalcy. If you could exclude the burn victims agonizing in the dark corners of a busy emergency room.

Aside from the murders. The trauma, the explosions, things were returning back. Where the crime was high, the illiteracy was common, the stupidity rampant, the diseased and the downtrodden, roaming. All in all, the city of Havenbrook was only slightly better off.

Apollo dragged his hand across the table. He went for his box of cigarettes and picked a clean one off, most of them were crooked and looked more like bent straws. Dion sat on his bed with his hands grabbing his thighs. He was shaking a bit, his face twitched and couldn’t decide whether to cry or to scream in dreadful fury. He chose neither. Rather, suffocated the idea and looked crazed, in that rabid wide-eyed glare.

“There’s a way in, there’s a way out. What’s wrong with trying to save them? How is that bad? He asked. Apollo huffed, he carried his head with one hand and fiddled with the cup with the other.

“Teufelsloch.” Apollo said, dismissively almost as if Dion wasn’t even in the room. He took up that aura of a professor. “Ludwig Van Müller coined the phrase some odd six hundred years ago. Called this stupid thing the Devil’s Hole because it supposedly granted you a small visage into the underworld. It’s been a lost artifact for four hundred years. Who would have thought we’d find it here.”

He set the cup down and massaged his face.

“I’m telling you, if anyone was dragged down, they’re not coming back. And I know that it doesn’t matter to you if that’s true. You still want to save them because that’s your nature.” Apollo exhausted smoke from his lungs. “But please, just listen to me. Hell is not something you and I are trained for. Do you know how many people have gotten killed down there? Last year, the Vatican sent an expedition. Around April, fifty-four Vicars in total. The finest hunters around. Only five returned back and of those five, two killed themselves. They didn’t even make it all the way. They stopped on the fourth circle. The fourth, out of nine. Barely four.”

“We don’t have to go that deep.” Dion clasped his hands, he stood. His eyes looked out and a cat-shaped clock framed on a wall rung out ten in the morning with a mechanical meow. Apollo went to it, turned it off and set it aside. “We just need to go wherever they’re at. A quick in and out.”

“And if they’re spread out, if some are deeper than others, what then?”

“They won’t be.”

“How do you know?”

“I just do, alright. I feel it, it’s something in my guts that tells me so. You can call that instinct or God or stupidity but it’s real and true.”

“Well that’s fucking swell, you trust instinct and faith more than Me?” He almost wanted to laugh and stopped halfway through a chuckle. “We’re not going. That’s final.”

“Then I’ll go by myself!” Dion walked to him and snatched the goblet. “I’ll do it alone and you can go home with your tail between your legs, you can be the man who tells the story and nothing more. Just a watcher, just someone who stood on the sidelines who could have done something but didn’t. You’re more than welcome to be that person.”

“I know you find it hard to believe but this but I’m making this decision for your own good too.”

“My own good is not what I care about!” Apollo ran to his bed and looked for his suit or the coat, rather. “What I care about is everyone else’s good. What’s good for the world, for society, not for myself.”

“I’m not going to stop you, am I?” Apollo paced back and forth and starting pulling on his hair and biting his lip. “This is what I warned you about! Very early on. I told you, said it so many times that I exhaust myself just remembering it. I told you: No man should mean too much. I told you to not get attached, to not make this brief sentence in this godforsaken town into a martyr mission. Yet here you are, trying to play as the greatest martyr ever: A fucking idiot who wants to go straight to Hell for the far off chance that you can save someone. You’re throwing away your life.”

“What right do you have to say anything about what I ought to do with my life?” Dion snapped. It sounded more bark than yell. “You’re not living. You? You’re just existing. A worthless existence filled with apathy and nihilism. That’s not a life. It’s a prison sentence. You’re just surviving, that’s all you do, the bare minimum so you can make it day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. That’s not a life. It’s a waiting line, to the slowest, most dishonorable death anyone could achieve. You’re not living life. You’re not doing anything. You just take up space.”

“You can call it any which way, I call it living smart. I’m not dying for God and I’m not dying for idiots.”

“And is there anything you’d die for? Is there anything you’ve ever cared about?” Dion asked. Apollo stood silent. “Do you know how many people I’ve had to watch die in front me? How powerless I’ve been? Do you know what it looks like to stare down at a lonely, sad, miserable corpse? It’s a terrible feeling. It’s not one I want to have anyone suffer through. There’s nothing worse than living alone and dying alone. Do you understand? I can’t accept the claim that someone, somewhere, is alone and dying and miserable and that I have the power to do something and yet I don’t. How can you accept that? Don’t you feel anything?”

Apollo leaned back in his seat. He was quiet. The cat-clock stopped ticking, it felt like time itself had stopped ticking like every particle in the room had stopped jumping, an absolute zero.

“That silence says a lot about you.”

“Yeah?” Apollo mused. “Like what?”

“It says that you’re a coward.”

“Be quiet.” Apollo said.

“No, I won't. And I won't stay down either because the thought of doing nothing and becoming anything like you frightens me.”

“What do you know!” Apollo snapped back. His veins bulged on his neck. “What do you know of love and sacrifice? You haven’t seen the best things in your life disappear. You haven’t had to find out how painfully minuscule your existence is. Oh, you think you’ve suffered? You saw a bunch of fucks that meant nothing to you die? You think that’s hard? Have you seen your friends die? Have you seen your lovers disappear from your life? No? What right do you have to try and judge me then? You dipped your toes into the cold waters of existence, my friend, and it froze you stiff, didn’t it?”

Apollo felt his eyes swell, a memory in the back of his head seemed to unwedge itself from his skull as if his whole life had been transformed into a library, and there, upon the tallest and thinnest bookshelf, there the book fell from. A very sad book.

“I’ve lived my whole life alone and it wasn’t by choice. It wasn’t me telling the world t go fuck itself.” He rubbed his eyelashes. “It was world telling me, in its abject silence, that I was alone.”

They both fell into reticence. The room felt like the empty blackness of space and them, in the epicenter of the vacuum.

“I don’t even care about what happened to you. How do you expect me to when you’ve never cared about anyone else? Isn’t that sad? You’re like Ouroboros, eating your own tail.” Dion set the goblet down. “But who you were isn’t stopping you from becoming a new person. To do right by these people, considering how far we’ve failed them. If you want to keep pitying yourself, do it, but do it far away from here.”

Dion stopped, took his coat and left the room. Apollo could hear the car pummel through with a roar. He had nothing else in his head but the pulsing anger. He sat down in front of the table with the mess of papers, leaned back and let the air breath unto him the fresh morning air.

Apollo had an idea of where Dion would go, how he would come back and for what. But he, Apollo, for once in his life, had no idea what he would do.

 

Author's Note: It's almost time for a change of setting. It's a Christmas miracle! In Hell!

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