I'll come up with something in a minute.

Brothers & Sisters – Chapter Twenty-One: Heroes

Brothers & Sisters
A Tale of The Weirdo
By Brett N. Lashuay

Chapter Twenty-One

Heroes

 

 

April 11th, 2003

11:30 p.m.

 

The Other sat on the shore and looked at the white ocean before her. It was a foul smelling ocean, and it was an opaque white at that. The soft shore she sat on appeared to be made of some sort of soft wax. It smelled familiar though, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She touched the warm soft ground, which was a solid thing even if very soft.

 

            She wasn’t quite sure how she had gotten there, and she didn’t know where there was actually. She looked at the sky and around her at the waxy shore. She looked down at her bleeding hand and everything just came down on her at once. Had they thought they could win? She was lost and no one would ever find her.

 

            The world was going to end, and there was nothing anyone could ever do about it. If Lilith could invade the house, what else could she do? She might be able to break all the rules and stop The Weirdo dead in his tracks. She had believed in The Weirdo but he was going into the places where no one had ever returned. It would not be inconceivable that he would never return. She was lost, and there was no one left to come get her, they would all be killed and then the world would end.

 


            The tears came up suddenly, and poured out over her face as the sobs began. They started to hitch a ride up her throat from somewhere deep in her belly where her heart had sunk to. They began as small whines, before the engine of grief got warmed up and the sobs and half screams began to pour out.

 

            There was a little man, with enormous ears, watching her. He had a pair of yellow foam earplugs stuck in his ears with a large pair of gun range ear covers over them. This was to prevent him from hearing too much, which he always could anyway. They had thought that plugging his ears might help, but he could hear the vibrations on his bones when they traveled through the floor. He could be stone deaf and still understand every word.

 

            He was smoking a cigarette, and watching the little girl who had shown up. Actually, to be honest, it was really a cigarillo, but why split hairs? Next to him was standing a man with large iron balls attached by heavy chains to his legs. He was actually smoking a cigarette, and was also watching the little girl.

 

            “Should we do something?” The man with the irons asked.

 

            “We could try to console her.” The smaller man said.

 

            “You any good at consolation?”

 

            “Not really.” The little man said. “I’ve got to be in pretty bad pain to comfort myself.”

 

            “Then we should tell him.”

 

“I guess.” The little man said and dropped his cigarillo.

 

He placed his foot on top of it and ground with his foot, causing the muddy wax of the ground to twist and shape itself around his footprint, it also caused a pretty bad smell. He twisted his face into a look of disgust at the smell, and it seemed that he’d smelled this sort of thing before.

 

            “I hate this fucking island,” He said.

 

            “Don’t I know it, love?” The man with the chains said.

 

            “He told us the stuff would be fresh, it’s always been sour since we first got here.”

 

            “Well, he’s a fucking liar, what do you want?”

 

            They turned and both walked easily at the same speed, towards the hill. The heavy weights seemed to hardly slow the taller man down, though they made deep twin trenches behind him. They walked towards the hill and the large Bavarian style-hunting lodge on top of it. It would be a perfect representation in not for a few problems, like the fact that it appeared to be made of chocolate and the largest cucumbers ever seen. They walked towards the door and saw a man sleeping on a deck chair. He was very old, and looked like the world’s end would be quite a mercy to him.

 

            “Hey boss.” The little man said.

 

            “Yes?” The Ancient man asked, lifting his old head.

 

            The man may have been old, but his curls and braid were still in place. He hadn’t lost the ability to understand 18th century fashion at any rate. His blue coat was extremely worn, but not shabby. His eyes seemed to stare past the two men and just looked out into eternity, focusing on the past.

 

            “There’s a little girl on the shore.” The taller man said. “And she’s crying.”

 

            “A crying girl?” The man said slowly rising. “We can’t have that, can we?”

 

            “No I suppose not.” The short man said.

 

            “I’ll attend to this a once gentlemen.” He reached out and took a walking stick and began to walk towards the shore.

 

            The Other was still crying when the old man came, she didn’t hear him approach because of the soft consistency of the land. The Old man looked at the girl and noticed that these weren’t tears of pain despite the wounds on her arm and leg. The idea that some one would made such a pretty girl sad made him angry, almost as angry as the idea that some damn dogs had attacked her. He thought he’d like to find those dogs and turn the bastards inside out.

 

 

April 11th, 2003

11:34 a.m.

 

            Kestrel looked at D’var Cassimano’s body and wiped the tears from her face. She then wondered about where he was born. He had mentioned it once or twice, had said its name anyway. It had something to do with amber she remembered that. There was amber in the name; she just couldn’t remember the name of the place. It was sad, that he was so far removed from his birthplace. It might not ever exist now, besides being in his mind, and now not even there.

 

            She touched his neck and was surprised that she felt something. It wasn’t much, but there had been the tiniest hint of a pulse. She looked at him again, her eyes opening wide and her heart suddenly jumping into over drive. She could feel the thumping deep in her chest and wondered if it had suddenly relocated to just to the right of her left ear. The thumping sound was so great that she didn’t hear as Max came to tell her that they didn’t know how to get past the gates.

 

            Max saw her bent over Cassimano, her breath coming in quick successive shots. They were short shallow beats of time and if she wasn’t careful she was going to hyperventilate. She stood, motionless, her hand pressed against Cassimano’s neck. She then raised her left hand, as if appealing the Gods to energize it. She stood up ever so slightly, her eyes still on his apparently dead face. Her hand hung in the air and then, like a samurai who was making a killing strikes, her hand came down.

 

            D’var Cassimano’s eyes opened only just so slightly, cracking just at the lids. He could feel a terrific pain in his head, like being shot. Had he been shot? He couldn’t quite remember. He thought maybe he had been and that he’d possibly been in a deep coma, where he had hidden till his body was ready to act again. He saw a pair of shoes near his own boots and then something struck him.

 

            The slap was so loud that Max jumped at the sound. Cassimano’s head swung violently from the blow and struck the stonewall behind him. He screamed, and clutched his head. The volley of cursing was prodigious and came in a multitude of languages. There were words for whore and bastard and shit head and oh, just an amazing variety.

 

            “You’re alive then?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “I must be.” Cassimano said softly. “Hell isn’t this painful.”

 

            “Good.” She said, with a complete lack of sympathy. “Then get up.”

 

            “What?” He asked, his hands still clutching his head. “I can’t even move right now.”

 

            “You’ve got to.” She prodded him with her foot.

 

            “Why?” His voice suggested he might be on the verge of tears.

 

            “Revenge.” She said. “Some one killed Mike and Persephone.”

 

            His head raised up from his hands and he looked her in the eyes. He looked both shocked and angry all at the same time. His mouth hung slightly open, giving him the look of a predatory animal.

 

            “What?” He asked.

 

            “She’s dead too.” Kestrel said.

 

            “Mother fucker!” He said pounding his fist against the stones.

 

            He rolled and stood quickly, and then had to stand still and hold his hand to his head. He pressed down on his sinuses and stood with his mouth open for a few seconds while the pain subsided. He had to stand for a moment after that, one hand touching the wall. He was sure the wall wasn’t moving and thus this feeling of motion he felt should pass in a few moments.

 

            He exhaled a breath and then looked at the ground around him. His pistol lay at his feet. He picked it up and checked its load. That idiot Tanteroy had actually left the blaster intact and able to fire. Cassimano shook his head, amazed at the stupidity. The kid hadn’t even tried to rig a booby trap to it. Cassimano was actually somewhat disappointed, he had expected so much more.

 

 

April 11th, 2003

11:36 a.m.

 

“Why are you crying?” The Old man asked.

 

            The Other’s head turned suddenly and looked at the old man, squinting at him. He had surprised her that was all it was really. She didn’t feel defensive or scared, just startled. She thought she recognized him, but with the sun just behind him she couldn’t see very well. The bright sun canceled out her ability to make out his face.

 

            “It’s all lost.” She said. “They attacked the house, no one supposed to be able to attack the house. They got The Weirdo to leave and he’ll probably die now. We’re going to loose and the world’s going to end.”

 

            At this the tears began again and the sobs replaced the words. The Old man sat down next to her and put an arm around her small shoulders. Had she seen his face without the bright sun obscuring it, she might have noticed he had been more wrinkled when she started talking. She would have probably noticed that the hair had been a little grayer before he’d sat down. His hand was gentle, and when she looked up at him his smile was warm.

 

            “Now then.” He said with a wry smile. “We won’t let the world be destroyed will we?”

 

            “Well.” She said.

 

            “Would you come with me for a moment? I’d like to show you something.”

 

            The little girl watched as the man stood, and she couldn’t help but follow him. He walked past some bushes from which pork sausages seemed to be growing. The old man touched one and muttered something about not ripe yet. She followed him past a Canadian cucumber tree, and towards a tree with buckets attached to them. She saw that they trees were being tapped like one would tap a maple tree. Except these trees weren’t maple trees, she couldn’t tell what kind of tree they were until the old man stopped and looked at one of them. He dipped a finger in and tasted a bit of the golden drops on his finger.

 

            “The honey’s coming along well this year.” He said.

 

            “Is that a honey tree?” She asked.

 

            “Well how else do you think we get it?”

 

            “Bees?” She asked.

 

            “Not the best kind.” He said, his eyes twinkling. “The best honey comes directly from honey trees, go on, have a try.”

 

            She looked and stuck her finger in; she then licked the small droplet of golden liquid off her finger. It was delicious, thought it seemed a bit weak and runny. She looked up at him and held her finger up.

 

            “Got to boil it first.” He said, “Haven’t you ever made maple syrup?”

 

            “No.” She said.

 

            “You will.” He said with absolute certainty.

 

            They walked to the highest hill on the island and looked out at the white sea around them. He held her up on his shoulder so that she could see around the island. It was an amazing place, the island was beautiful, and there were things that a rational person could barely credit. The animals and plants were beyond her comprehension. She could not begin to describe all the odd things she saw around her.

 

            “You see?” He said. “The sea is made of fresh milk, the island of cheese. See the natives down there, with their three legs? How happy they are. I know a little something about preserving a world.”

 

            “Milk and cheese.” She said, the familiarity suddenly falling into place.

 

            “So you see.” The old man said, “I think we can help your friends.”

 

            “Can we?” She asked. “They’re so far away.”

 

            “There is no problem that cannot be overcome.” He said. “After all, would I lie?”

 

 

July 4th, 1996

11:48 p.m.

 

            “Why don’t you just accept it?” A doctor asked for about the eight thousandth time.

 

            “Because there is nothing to accept.” He said, still stalking around the room.

 

            The discussion had been growing progressively more heated at the day went on. They had attacked every thing that he had believed in, and had even created facts in history just to mess with him. It was one of these facts that they were currently arguing about. Thoughts about this being someone else’s world had vanished from his mind, though he thought that there had been something important to think about in its place.

 

            “Richard the third died on the field at Bosworth.”

 

            “He did not.” The Weirdo shouted. “He was murdered six months after the battle of Bosworth by one of Tudor’s henchmen whose name eludes me for the moment. Tudor then killed the two princes and put their heads on London Bridge.”

 

            “And you can’t remember the name of this henchman?” another of the doctors asked.

 

            “Who invented the vacuum pump?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            The doctor turned to the man at the laptop and looked over his shoulder. The man with the laptop on his knees typed at the computer. The Weirdo approached the glass, angered by this obvious cheat. There were twelve of them, and they had internet access, that would prove nothing.

 

            “Hey!” He slapped the glass open handed, so enraged by this group attack. “No looking it up! I wan to know if you remember the name of this man. Without Google if you don’t mind.”

 

            He pointed his finger at the doctor, his finger pressing against the glass. He noticed how his finger bent back against itself ever so slightly as he pressed it against the glass. The point of his finger made it clear whom he was talking to though.

 

            “I don’t know.” The doctor admitted as she stood up. “What difference does it make?”

 

            “You argue the validity of my facts because I can’t remember the name of one fairly unimportant person and yet you don’t know the name of the man who invented the vacuum pump, the implications of which pervade everything you do. Do you even know where he came from? What the pump was adapted from?”

 

            “I’m sure he was French and it was probably some sort of water wheel.” She said, turning away.

 

            “German.” He said, leaning against the glass and folding his arms. “Otto Von Guericke sixteen oh two sixteen eighty six. It was adapted from a device that was basically a big hypodermic that was used for fire dousing. He also invented the first electric generator, which was a ball of sulfur on a stick.”

 

            “Is that right?” She said turning to look at the man with the laptop.

 

            “That’s right.” He said.

 

            “What a fascinating little bundle of facts you are.”

 

            “What an empty headed bimbo you are.” He said walking away.

 

            “Petty insults, is it?” One of the male doctors asked.

 

            “Yes.” He said bitterly. “Poo poo head!”

 

 

April 11th, 2003

11:41 a.m.

 

            “We’ve got to help him.” The Other said.

 

            “Do you know how to get to where he is?” The Old man asked.

 

            “No.” She said shaking her head.

 

            “Then it is indeed fortuitous that you found me.” He said sticking a large three-cornered hat onto his head. “I can find him like a compass can find true north.”

 

            “Compasses don’t find true north.” She said. “They find Magnetic north.”

 

            “Right, so we’ll get damn close and look for the most noise.”

 

            “You listen for noise, you don’t look for it.” She said.

 

            “Exactly!” He said pointing his finger in an excitable manner.

 

            She couldn’t help but feel that she had won, even if it felt like a loss. He was excited though, and his energy was infectious. She began to believe, just by looking at him, that it would all be all right somehow. They were not in fact doomed, and the day might actually end up saved.

 

 

July 4th, 1996

11:59 p.m.

 

            “You people don’t even know who White Eagle is?” The Weirdo said. “How can I take seriously a group of people who don’t know who the progenitor of all costume heroes is.”

 

            “There you go with that again.” The man said. “There are no costumed heroes.”

 

            “Well not now.” The Weirdo said walking around the table again. “As I told you, most of them have been killed.”

 

            “There never were any.” The doctor said, becoming angry.

 

            “You should really accept that much.” Another of the women doctors said.

 

            He looked at her, and felt his blood boil. She had fabulous calves, which were all he could see sticking out from her conservative skirt. She had on the sort of shirt that hid the size of her bosom, and her hair was tied back behind her head. The large red plastic frames of her glasses made her look like someone who had affected the glasses because some men find them sexy. She looked like she had affected the entire wardrobe just so she could fling the glasses away and let her hair down before performing a strip tease. He noticed that his attention was being drawn towards her and felt the other him want to reach up and hurt her. That was it, the second him. He wasn’t here but someone else was. He could feel the other him, and he was here now. There were two of them in this head and their minds were mixed together. If he could keep this other him separated, and hold onto himself for long enough he might be able to pull out of him and get back.

 

            “There never were superheroes out side of a comic book.” She said.

 

            “That’s not true.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Why do you lie to us?” The head doctor said, his beard jumping as he spoke.

 

            The Weirdo didn’t like being called a liar, and it made him want to scream, being referred to in this manner. His hands squeezed down on the chair that was held before him. Any sane being would have seen that The Weirdo was angry and stopped. These were not sane people though; they worked in a mental hospital. He reached for the little girl, that tiny little girl who had begged him to be a hero. She wouldn’t have beseeched a rapist and murderer to save the day, so he could keep them separate with her. He let himself get angry, because he’d need this man’s strength.

 

            “I don’t lie.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “There are no heroes!” The head doctor shouted. “You should accept that by now! There is no man of steel, no dark knight, no Amazon queen! There is no wall crawler, no flag draped super soldiers, no men in technological armor! There are no mutants with metal blades sticking out of their hands, no returned soldiers from hell! There are no pilots battling aliens, and no playboys who can make themselves invisible! You’ve got to get it into your head! No one just protects the innocent! No one saves the day! This is the real world, and people die here! You can’t hide in a world where the heroes make it at just the last minuet because that world doesn’t exist! There are no heroes!”

            The words wouldn’t stop in his head, even after the doctor stopped. They kept coming to him, rebounding off the side of his head like echoes. The sound of a small child Please mister Weirdo, save my mommy. The sound of a fallen lover I love you. The words written on a piece of paper by a living ancestor, ‘It’s too bad there aren’t any more heroes left.’ That child again ‘That’s what heroes do, they save mommies and daddies and people who can’t help themselves.’ There were the words of enemies, ‘What do you get out of it? The world could be gone tomorrow.’ The words began to battle each other in his head, and he felt that there was a war of idea’s going on inside his mind.

 

            Please mister weirdo… I love you… No one saves the day… Heroes save mommies and daddies… I love you… What do you get out of it…No heroes…I love you… Please save my mommy… Could be gone tomorrow… That’s what heroes do… I love you… Please mister Weirdo… No more heroes…No one saves the day…No one protects the innocent… There are no heroes left…

 

            Then a single written phrase came to him, something The Other had written. It had been on a small piece of art she had drawn that he had seen, do you remember that? She had written something in the legend and when he needed it most, that came back.

 

            This is my daddy, and he’s a great hero. He doesn’t always think he is, but he is. I believe in him, because he’s a hero, and we need to believe in heroes.

 

            The rage boiled up and became something useful, something he could use. He was able to push the other him aside. They were separate now and The Weirdo would let him have his body back in just a moment. His hands touched the chair and his eyes looked up at the group arranged before him. There was a strength he hadn’t felt since coming to this place. He could feel his body fill up, as if he were drinking water for the first time in days. His dried out membranes became fluid filled, and he could feel everything again.

 

            “Now will you accept the simple facts?” The doctor’s voice was powerful.

 

            “No.” He said firmly.

 

            He lifted the chair and threw it with all his strength at the glass, because he knew what it was. It wasn’t really bullet proof. In fact it wasn’t even really a solid thing. It shattered like a thin plane of delicate crystal, pieces turned into small shards, and a lot of it powdered. The pieces of glass spun through the air as The Weirdo charged the doctors.

 

            The glass should have been bullet proof, but it wasn’t really the window he thought it was. He wasn’t in this killer’s hospital, he had to hold that thought, he was somewhere in the middle. He was in the middle and now he was going back.

 

            The doors opened and men with machine guns came rushing into the part of the room he had been in. They didn’t start shooting just yet, but they would soon. He had to use the moment of surprise he had to his advantage. He grabbed one of the doctors and threw him at the guards. They just quickly stepped out of the doctor’s path and regained a bead on him. This wasn’t going to work out too well for him. He touched a chair and thought at the very least he could start distracting them by hurling things. If could just get a hold of one gun.

 

            “You’re going to die now.” The guard said and raised the machine gun to his shoulder.

 

            A wall then exploded, a huge fist had punched a hole in the wall and the world’s strongest man rushed through the whole he had made. A huge white horse with a German cavalry officer on it came through the hole in the wall as well and The Weirdo gave up on logic. A saber flashed as a streak of yellow flew into the room and began to dispatch the guards. If you could sort of make your mind slow down time, you’d see a man in a yellow suit, dispatching guards with some of the sloppiest kung fu the world has ever seen. However, at that speed it didn’t need to be good, it was faster than anyone else’s.

 

            A small child ran into the room, a big gray hat on her head and a coat in her arms. She ran towards The Weirdo and looked up at him, holding the uniform of his office up for him. He looked at the chaos being caused by a man who apparently kept a hurricane deep inside his chest and a marksman who made bank shots because it was too boring to bother otherwise. She smiled up at him, her little face glowing with smiles and she offered up the coat and hat. He took the coat from her and picked the hat up off her head, he then bent down to her level.

 

            “How?” He asked.

 

            “You never told me how many friends you had.” She said.

 

            The hospital began to melt around them and he saw the other him, a thin gray haired man take a guard’s gun and look back at him. The maniac nodded and gave a signal as he ran out into the hall and towards freedom. The Weirdo, oddly enough, wished him well. He would kill the man if he ever saw hi again, but he wished him well.

 

            “You can’t do this!” One of the doctors demanded. “This is not reality! You are taking a liberty with reality! You must fall in line, you must conform, you cannot have this world!”

 

            The Weirdo slid his hands into his coat pocket and pulled out a pair of sunglasses. They were the sort favored by John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd in their most beloved movie. He held the glasses up for inspection as the doctor fumed in front of him. He blew a bit of dust from one lens and then at the doctor. The head doctor had managed to now have just a waxed mustache, and wore a large three-cornered hat.

 

            “I’ll bet you’ve got a hook for a hand.” The Weirdo said as he slid the glasses on. “And before I’m done you’ll have just become the Grendel, and at that point I have to kill you hand to hand.”

 

            “So you know me.” The doctor who had become captain hook became now something else. “I could have had you inside Doctor Herman, and killed you in there. How did you get back here?”

 

            It might be difficult for the reader to envision such a thing but The Weirdo was once a child. He often was found sitting with a book before him, absorbing the tales. He hadn’t really had much of a preference of one thing over another; he absorbed everything that came to him. He was like a man with acute mental diabetes, always thirsty for more.  The Weirdo had always sort of imagined the Grendel to be a large hairy beast, looking like a cross between a bear and a bug. He always gave it a sort of flattish face and huge yellow eyes when he envisioned it as a child. So it was natural of course that the doctor should turn into that version of the Grendel.

 

            “So afraid to show your true face?” The Weirdo asked. “I’ll be you couldn’t do a dragon.”

 

            “Dragon?” Grendel asked.

 

            “Yeah.” The Weirdo said. “It was, after all, a dragon that finally felled Beowulf.”

 

            Grendel then became a large dragon, to large to fit into the small space. The room had to expand and the battle between the guards and the old man’s company had to go far away for the Dragon to have sufficient room.

 

            “Well it’s a good dragon,” The Weirdo said, only slightly impressed. “As far as that goes.”

 

            “As far as that goes?” The dragon demanded. “I breath fire!”

            “Yeah.” The Weirdo said. “But there’s a patch in your left breast as bare as a snail out of its shell.”

 

            “I could crush you with a lash of my tail.”

 

            “You know.” The Weirdo said pressing his hand to one side of his face. “What’s really impressive these days is how small you can make it.”

 

            “Small?”

 

            “Yeah.” The Weirdo said. “Camcorders, MP3 players, cell phones. If you want to impress me you’d have to fit all that power into something really, really small. I suppose if you could shrink down to an mouse, I might be impressed.”

 

            The Dragon’s head turned this way and then that. Because of poor planning the dragon had actually chose a head which was far more suited to a prey animal, even though a dragon is quite clearly a predator. To this extent the eyes were set on the sides of the head and the dragon had to turn its head first right and then left if it wanted to squint. The dragon then began to shrink down and though it took a few seconds, did manage to get down to the size of a mouse. Then the body began to change and it became a soft, and lovely little gray mouse. The Weirdo looked at it and thought again. He couldn’t just kill a cute little gray mousy. He could kill a person, yes he could do that, but The Other would get upset if he killed a little cute mouse.

 

            “Hmmm.” He said. “Still a bit big really. Can you do an ant?”

 

            The Mouse’s eyes seemed to roll and it shrunk down even further, until it was just a small carpenter ant. Now a carpenter ant isn’t a terribly small thing, but it’s pretty small compared to a dragon. The Weirdo nodded his head, and then brought his foot down on the ant.

 

            “Ijit.” He said. “Should have spent a little more time reading Puss in Boots.”

 

            He twisted his foot and then scrapped it across the concrete floor, which became rougher stone as he dragged along it. When he looked up again he found he was back in the Mitnal throne room, and there was a long streak of black where he’d dragged his foot.

 

            “Is that all of it then?” The Other asked, setting her hand in his.

 

            “Does appear so.” He said. “You found your uncle Karl then?”

 

            “Yeah.” She said.

 

            “Well he’s just finishing up, let’s go say hi.”

 

            The old man had actual grown to become quite a young at this point, and was glowing with cheerfulness. He looked at The Weirdo and The Other as they came walking towards him.

 

            “Ah, hello my lad.” He said swinging his legs up and over his horse to dismount.

 

            “Hello Karl.” The Weirdo said taking the older man’s hand and accepting the embrace of the older man.

 

            “I see you’ve gotten into another of your interesting scrapes.”

 

            “Seems so.”

 

            “Is there more that needs to be done?” Karl asked.

 

            “Oh.” The Weirdo said smiling and shaking his head. “You’ve no idea.”

 

 

April 11th, 2003

11:46 a.m.

 

            “So he’s on the other side is he?” Cassimano asked as they approached the huge iron doors.

 

They looked thick and solid, and yet he was unsure. There was something about the design that suggested to Cassimano that maybe they were just built to look thick and solid but they were actually hollow and made of thin sheets of iron. His right hand rested on the butt of his holstered pistol and his left hand rested on the pommel of his sheathed sword.

 

He looked at the doors and drummed his fingers on the stock of his pistol. The heran wood felt warm when his fingers touched it, but then it always did. The heran wood had been treated to accentuate its natural properties, which made the wood always feel just about body temperature. It couldn’t be burned, but it also couldn’t be frozen, which meant the weapon would never over-heat or freeze up. The gun was always at its optimal operating temperature.

 

“Do you have an idea?” Max asked.

 

“As a matter of fact I do.” Cassimano said drawing his gun out.

 

“Which is?”

 

“We shoot this fucking door down and go in there and get him.”

 

“Good to know we’re not rushing into things.” Athena said.

 

“Do you have a plan?” Max asked her, a bit more snappishly than he had planned.

 

“No.” she said, her cheeks flushing. She was embarrassed by the question, which had put her off a little. She looked into his burning hazel eyes and she softened. “Sorry. I know I’m supposed to but I’m not at my best today.”

 

Max looked at her and internally he groaned with desire, she was absolutely beautiful. He hadn’t actually noticed this before, but she was gorgeous. As her cheeks flushed she bit her lower lip, which made his heart skip a beat, and made him have to turn away. He was going to make a rebuke, but it had somehow left his mind. Kestrel watched as he turned away and looked at the door, and then at the goddess who was looking down at her shoes.

 

“You want to go in?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “I do indeed.” Cassimano said.

 

            “You gonna say something stupid like ‘Tanteroy is mine’ or anything?”

 

            “Nope.” He said. “Just want him dead, don’t care who does him.”

 

            “Good.” She said, her left hand touching the big revolver’s handle.

 

            “You gonna say something silly?” Cassimano asked, drawing out his pistol. “Someone has to say something silly. If The Weirdo was here, he’d say something silly.”

 

            “Trees are made of wood D’var.” She said. “Trees are made of wood.”

 

            “I couldn’t agree more.” He said as he aimed and fired.

 

            The door didn’t explode so much as simply shatter. It was like using an acetylene torch on a piece of tin foil, only much faster. The doors actually blew away from their hinges before they ever had a chance to melt or even try to hold back the brunt of the flash. They bashed and careened their way down the hall, smacking bits of stone away from the walls as they flew.

 

“Not as strong as they looked.” Athena said, sliding the rifle from her back into her hands.

 

            “No.” Cassimano said. “Worries me just the tiniest of tiny bits.”

 

“The other gates were stronger?” Max asked.

 

            “What do you mean?’

 

            “This door was up for flash.”

 

            “Flash huh?”

 

            “They looked impressive.”

 

            “That they did.”

 

            “Are we ready then?” Nike asked.

 

            “We are indeed.” Athena said.

 

 

April 11th, 2003

12:30 p.m.

 

            The Weirdo, the old man and his companions and The Other were walking through the caves together. The old man was telling the child a fascinating tale, which had her enraptured. She was sitting in front of him playing with the Horse’s long strands of hair on his mane.

 

            “And that was my first trip to the moon.” The old man said to The Other as they rode.

 

            “That’s silly.” She said.

 

“Quite possibly.” He said.

 

“How could you tie a rope around a shadow?” She asked.

 

            “Ah, well you see in those days the moon acted differently.”

 

            “Did it?”

 

            “Would I lie?”

 

“I’m beginning to wonder.” She said.

 

“Good girl.” He said. “You should always wonder.”

 

            “I can’t help but think you’re twisting that idea around.” She said.

 

            “You should always think as well.” He agreed.

 

            “Is he winding you up?” The Weirdo asked as he sat in the running man’s arms.

 

            “I’m thinking he might be.” She said.

 

            “I see something sir.” The tall one dressed in black said. “A woman, over there.”

 

            The Weirdo turned to look where the tall man with the telescopic eyes was seeing. The man lifted his glasses and glanced in her direction. The Weirdo knew who she was immediately and felt something ripple in him. He looked around at the group and looked at The Other for a long moment.

 

            “I think I know who that is.” The Weirdo said. “Karl, look after her a bit please.”

 

            “Of course dear boy.”

 

            It didn’t take very long for him to walk across the massive bleak cave; it was merely the length of a football field, so fairly short really. In this place the caves had mile long expanses and then tiny passages not big enough for water to pass. She didn’t hear him, or didn’t care to show she did. She was sitting on a large stone, the back of her dress lifted up a bit to make a cushioned seat out of petticoats. Her small back was turned to him, and he could make out the delicate patterns in her black dress as he approached.

 

            “Hello.” He said and her head turned quickly.

 

            Her hair was nearly white, yet still held a little color. He had noticed earlier that her hair was lavender tinted before, and it still was now. Her crystal blue eyes fell on him and he saw the tears that were streaking down her face. She wasn’t wearing a hat, and he suddenly remembered that it was because it was on a desk near a globe in the house. She had forgotten her hat, and she wasn’t wearing it now.

 

            “Weirdo?” Ashe asked, unable to believe what she was seeing before her.

 

            “You left your hat at my house.” He said nonchalantly.

 

            “Have you come to return my hat?”

 

            “Nope.” He said, “I don’t have it. Didn’t know I was going to bump into you.”

 

            “I don’t understand.” She said standing up.

 

            He looked around the cave and then at her. She looked up at him and her death like pallor blushed slightly. Her soft pink lips seemed to darken, just a tiny bit. She had the marble complexion of a corpse, but just now it was warming. He suddenly realized that everything she had ever told him was true.

 

            “It wasn’t my intent to take this road, but here I am, and here you are.”

 

            “They cast me out, I think. I woke up here, um, a while ago. I kept thinking of all the things I did to you, and what I did for you. I didn’t want some one else to take your ladylove when she died. I didn’t even think of it till later that you would blame me for taken her. I could have held off and given her a bit more life. You might have saved her if I wasn’t trying to minimize her pain.”

 

            “I only saw you for a moment.” He said softly

 

            “I thought you hated me.” She said, her voice leaving on the last word.

 

            “I know.” He said. “I think I was resentful.”

 

            “I’m sorry.” She said. “I wish I could go back, but.”

 

            “And you were supposed to take me.” He said.

           

            “And I couldn’t bear it.” She said. “And I am now being punished for it.”

           

She had never, not once, ever lied to him. She had always looked out for her, and he had treated her poorly for it. She had quietly watched, in deep pain, as his life had spiraled downward. Now she was standing before him, with tears in her eyes and he felt something for her. She reached up with one hand to wipe away the tears, but he grabbed her hand and pushed it away before she could manage. He brushed her arms away gently as he could, sliding his hands around her waist. He took hold of her back and pulled her to him so suddenly it forced air from her lungs when she collided with him. His mouth pressed to hers and she accepted him, accepted him fully. Her lips were still cold, and her mouth was still warm, tasting of fresh strawberries. Her skin felt cool, yet it also felt like it was warming with his touch. They held each other for a very long moment, neither quite sure what would happen when they stopped this mad kiss.

 

            When it ended they both held one another’s arms and looked into each other’s eyes. They each waited for the other to say something, but neither of them did. Her left hand let go of his fore arm and slid into his right hand. She was breathing deeply and she licked her lip, and begun to shake her head. She knew it wouldn’t work because they would never be left alone. They would never let them live quietly; they would peruse her and make sure she was punished. They would never let her live in the world and have joy. So she began to shake her head in despair.

 

            “No.” He said, “Don’t start shaking your head.”

 

            “We…” She began.

 

            “No.” He said sternly. “No.”

 

            “They’ll never accept.” She said, her voice shallow and weak.

 

            “I should care?” He asked.

 

            “They’ll come after…” She stopped because she still hadn’t caught her breath.

 

            “Fuck them.” He said holding her close to him. “Fuck them. Let them come. We’ll see who isn’t in more of a mood.”

 

            “You would tell…” Her head rested against his shoulder and tears came again.

 

            “Damn right.” He said. “I’ll tell them all to fuck off.”

 

            “I… I don’t know what we can be…” her voice failing again.

 

            “Shh.” He said pressing his hand onto the pale locks of lavender hair. “It doesn’t matter. If nothing else comes from this, than this moment, it’s enough. I’m not going to leave someone I like down here.”

 

            She couldn’t speak for a long moment, and just looked down at the ground. She shook her head at the ground and looked up at him, her eyes filled with tears. She looked confused and bewildered, lost on a wave of emotion. He pulled her close to him again and gave her a kiss so strong he actually bent her backwards and swept her feet out from under her.

 

            He was amazed at how light she was, like holding a pile of sticks. He then remembered that technically all she was right now was a pile of bones. She held his shoulders as he swept her legs out from under her and held them with one arm. She didn’t feel like bones, she felt like flesh to him. Her shivering hadn’t stopped, but now he thought that it was a different variety, one he could deal with. He didn’t know how long this feeling would last between them, but it might go for a while. He placed both hands on her hips and lifted her into the air and then set her down again.

 

            “Any more arguments?”

 

            “No.” She said. “I’m not sure I could argue with you.”

 

            “Oh I think you could if you tried.”

 

            She smiled again and again there was the blushing in her cheeks that belied the corpse like pallor of her face. She looked, for a moment, like a living human being. Her teeth were very white, strait and perfect and they bit gently on the pink lips.

 

            “The place I come from,” She began, “Women aren’t supposed to argue with men.”

 

            “Well they place I come from they are.” He said.

 

            “You want me to argue with you?”

 

            “If needs be.” He said. “I want you to be able to talk to me.”

 

            “You want to sit in a dank cave and have a discussion?”

 

            “Well I didn’t think a quick shag would be appropriate.” He said. “You’d end up with bruised buttocks, these stones are hard and sharp.”

 

            “I would have to be under you then?” She asked.

 

            “Or I’d hold you up against the cave wall.”

 

            “I don’t think we should engage in that sort of activity.” She said. “Propriety still has a place in the world.”

 

            “See, you can argue.” He said.

 

            “Yes.” She said, touching his hand. “I know you don’t love me.”

 

            “Doesn’t mean I won’t later.” He said.

           

            “Will you?”

           

            “I don’t know yet.” He said. “I know you love me, and I know you’ve never lied to me.”

 

            “That carries weight?”

 

            “I can ask for no more than honesty.” He said.

 

            “I’ll give you that at least.” She said.

 

 

April 11th, 2003

1:31 p.m.

 

            The hall of the Olympian gods was still a mass of cracked marble and spent shells. The bodies had been removed, and the two young gods were sweeping up the main hall with a pair of brooms. The shells clinked as Alice swept them against the wall. I looked so odd, that the now head of the family should be sweeping up the shells of bullets up off the floor. Keyrran was sweeping the shells into a dustpan and then dumping them into a small garbage can he was dragging behind him.

 

“Are they still hanging out here?” Lucifer asked.

 

            “I guess they are.” Judy said.

 

            “They should have gone by now.”

 

            “Maybe we should talk to them.” Sheila said.

 

            “I guess we’ll have to.” He said.

 

            “We?” Judy asked.

 

            “You were there when they were born.” He said. “You helped with the birth.”

 

            “We’re not their parents though.” Judy said.

 

            “Takes a village to raise a child.” Lucifer said.

 

            “Really?”

 

            “Probably not.” He said. “But we can hope.”

 

            They walked down the hall where the nearly apocalyptic battle ensued only a few hours ago. There was still blood splattered on the floor, drying to a brown crust on the marble. It would take a lot of effort to clean that up, Sheila thought to herself. The two young gods weren’t cleaning like they had been told to, or even like they wanted to. It looked like they had simply looked around and saw that the place was a mess.

 

            “Hello Alice.” Lucifer said.

 

            “Hello.” She said looking up at him. “Have you come to help clean up?”

 

            “I was hoping we might get you to help us.” He said.

 

            “Help what?” She asked.

 

            “They’re not going to stop you know.” Sheila said. “You ran them off but they’re still going to try and destroy everything.”

 

“And you would like us help you to fight them?” Alice asked.

 

            “Well,” Sheila said. “Yes.”

 

            “Look around us.” Alice said. “Did it ever occur to anyone that all this violence makes a huge mess? Who’s going to clean up after all this? It’s very nice for everyone to have a big fight, but they never consider the mess they leave behind.”

 

            “The state of the house isn’t worth much if the house is destroyed.” Judy said.

 

            “Each fight causes another fight, which in turn causes yet another fight. So many fights have come through that it at this point it doesn’t really matter if the house is destroyed or not. There is such a mess that no one can even live in this house anymore. If some one doesn’t start cleaning, the mess will destroy the house itself.”

 

            “So we’ve got to clean our house and then we can help with the rest.” Keyrran said.

 

            “Maybe.” Alice intoned. “I’m not sure we want to get into a war just now.”

 

            “Yes, maybe.” Keyrran said.

 

            “Maybe?” Judy asked.

 

            “Yes.” Alice said. “Maybe.”

 

            “Maybe is a pretty shitty answer.” Judy said.

 

            “We can’t just run off to any battle that comes along.” Alice said, resuming her sweeping. “Some of us have to take responsibility.”

 

            “No.” Lucifer said holding his hand up to prevent the other two from talk. “No, I can see that. Sorry to have bothered you.”

 

            “That’s all right.” Alice said.

 

            “We’ll just be on our way.” He said.

 

            “Good.” She said, looking diligently at the floor.

 

            “Just have to find some people who want to be heroes.”

 

            “Fine.”

 

            Lucifer turned around and Judy and Sheila watched him go a few steps before following him. Alice swept a few more of the spent brass shells and looked at her brother, who had stopped cleaning. He was holding a single spent magnum shell in his hand, rolling it around his fingers. Keyrran watched as the angel took the two immortals up and began to fly away.

 

            “Heroes.” Alice muttered. “Think he can trick us with that sort of crap.”

 

            “Would be nice though.” He said.

 

            “Are you going to say that you’re falling for that passive aggressive bull?”

 

            “I’m just saying that, well, maybe this place is… not so important.”

 

            “Not so important?” She asked.

 

            “It’s not where we were born, not where we learned, not how we were raised.”

 

            “Keyrran, you weren’t raised. You flew fully formed from our mother’s body.”

 

            “I was imbued with certain ideals.” He said.

 

            “So was I.” She said, a little more truculently than she meant.

 

            “I just wonder.”

 

            “Wonder what?”

 

            “All those stories, all those legends, all those tales.”

 

            “What about them?”

 

            “Will they tell one about us?” He asked. “Will they talk about the brave brother and sister who dusted the furniture while the house fell down?”

 

            “Things must be put into order here?”

 

            “Why?” He asked standing. “Why must they?”

 

            He threw the pan and broom down on the floor, knocking the can over. The spent shells rolled away form him like a small metal wave, making long clinking sounds as they rolled away from him in circular patterns. He looked at her with indignation, trying to find a way to make his argument the right one.

 

            “This is our ancestral home.” She said.

 

            “So?” He asked. “Not our home. This is a place where our ancestors inbred and raped and murdered and… and.”

 

            He faltered and waved his arms around in a mute attempt to encapsulate everything that was wrong with the previous generation’s way of doing things. He wanted to ask her to take in the friezes on the very walls, which celebrated the victimization and subjugation of women. The fine marble which had been brought here on the breaking backs of the lowest classes. He wanted to point out the jugs of wine that were stolen from vineyards and served by slaves who had no say in weather they would live another day or be killed in the most perverse manners possible. He didn’t have the words to express all of this, which was possibly his greatest failing. It didn’t really matter though, because she got it. She understood what he was trying to say.

 

“If we let them start their world over, we’ll never get the chance to start this over. They’ll just come back and rebuild all of this the way it was before.” He said. “I don’t know if that makes any sense to you, it didn’t sound like I wanted it to. I’m going to go put that armor back on though, and I’ll be a dutiful son to my father. You do what you want.” He walked away.

           

 

She thought about that for a while, and tried to work out how she felt about it. She just stood, for a long time, leaning on the broom. She leaned against the wall, sliding her hands into the back pockets of her jeans. She leaned her head back and hit something, one of the friezes her brother tried to talk about. It was of abduction, and the subsequent rape of the woman abducted. She knew the story, but it was really the first time she’d thought about it. One might try to point out that she was very young, but she had been given time to think. She saw the smile on the face that was meant to be the grandfather she’d killed, the very large smile on his face. There was a genuine and sheer look of terror on the face of the woman whose wrist he had taken. A few panels down showed her bent over, her face in a pond as he took her from behind. The frieze became more graphic as it went on and suggested in many ways that this violent attack on women was a thing to be proud of. She hadn’t really looked at the walls of this hall before, but much of it was like this. Was this what she was trying to save?

 

Her brother came down the hall, beating the bent helmet back into some sort of shape with his fist. He had the spear, and shield slung across his back and the sword in its sheath on his hip. He barely glanced at her as he went by, and she knew she would have to help him if he was survive.

 

“Don’t go with out me.” She said, still leaning against the wall. “I’ll come with you, just don’t go with out me.”

 

“Okay.” He said nodding.

 

 

April 11th, 2003

1:51 p.m.

 

            Tommy wasn’t particularly claustrophobic, but the caves were beginning to make him question that idea. They were tight, and restrictive, and many of the large warriors could only just squeeze through or had to go find other routes. Odin didn’t seem to have any great trouble, which worried Tommy. Did Odin know they couldn’t squeeze through every crack he could? He didn’t know but thought he’d mention it when it became pertinent. If they had come prepared he might feel better about it. There was no rope, no clips, nothing. They had only what they had walked in with.

 

            Now they were sliding on their bellies through a path not two foot high, and less in places. It was becoming a tight squeeze in places, but Odin seemed to know what he was doing.  He wondered if that woman he was able to pull from the Trade Center felt like this. She said she had been crawling along for hours, trying to find a way out. Snaking along, dragging her broken leg behind her, till Jack lifted the section of building away and he reached his hand in.

 

He had reached in and she had actually screamed and recoiled for a moment, lost in her terror. She had even bit him as he dragged her out into the light of day. She had come to her senses as soon as he pulled her out, but it had been a tense few seconds. He had thought she might take a finger off if she bit again, but he’d pulled her up anyway. She had then thanked him and said god must bless him. She had blessed him in Jesus’ name and now here he was crawling towards hell, fighting the servants of Jesus.

 

“So if we keep heading down will we eventually reach the core do you suppose?” Jack asked as they continued to march down the dark paths.

 

“I was rather hoping we’d find dinosaurs, and an underground ocean.” Tommy said. “Then I could name it after myself.”

 

“The chamber of pain is supposed to be along this cave system.” Odin said. “By crawling through these narrow caves, they won’t suspect we’re coming.”

 

“That’s very clever Odin.” Tommy said, carefully pulling his coat off a jagged rock. “But it does mean we had to leave the bigger lads behind.”

 

“Oh they’re not left behind.” Odin said. “Their going through another path. We’ll teach them this time.”

 

“How many times have you come down here?” Jack asked, suddenly afraid.

 

“More than a few.” Odin said. “When ever they steal a soul, they first bring it down here to break it.”

 

“When who steals a soul?” Jack asked slowly.

 

“Those filthy bastards.” Odin said squeezing through a crack in the rocks, his boots vanishing from sight. “Come on.”

           

Tommy looked over at Jack, who was sitting up next to the crack. He looked into the crack, his eyes flashing back to Tommy. It was almost impossible to see, but their eyes had grown accustomed. They looked at each other and the same question flashed between both of them. What the hell are we doing here?

 

            “I have no idea.” Jack said.

           

“Well that’s both of us then.” Tommy nodded. “I’ve never felt so claustrophobic in my life.”

 

            “Feels like we’re trying to crawl out of the birth canal.” Jack said. “But momma’s got the longest twat in history.”

 

            “It’s like being buried alive.” Tommy said. “Like those poor bastards we tired so hard to save.”

 

            “I was trying to avoid that thought.” Jack said. “Trying not to think about them, we’ve got someplace to crawl to at least.”

 

            “Yeah.” Tommy nodded. “Yeah we do.”

 

            “What do you think?

 

“Do we go on?” Tommy asked.

           

“You see a way not to?”

 

            “No.”

 

            “Me neither.” Jack said.

 

            “So we go on.”

 

            “If we find and ocean, I’ll let you name it after yourself.” Jack said.

 

            “So kind.”

 

 

April 11th, 2003

2:01 p.m.

 

            “Hot as hell down here.” Kestrel said, at first with no sense of irony.

 

She noticed that the other four all stopped and then stood looking at her. They each had the same look on their face, which was not amused. If their faces could be said to be speaking they would have said ‘I’m very hot and tired and that better not be a pun.’

 

“What?” she asked, and then it struck her. “Oh yeah. Sorry.”

 

“Yeah.” Max said.

 

“Would it help if I said it wasn’t intended?”

 

“That assumption is the only thing keeping me from shooting you right now.” He said.

 

“Well good.” She said wiping her head.

 

“Where the fuck is he?” Athena asked.

 

“There were a few paths.” Nike said.

 

“No.” Cassimano said. “This is still his path. He’s the only one walking these dusty halls in size ten Hush Puppies.”

 

“So where is he?” Max asked.

 

“Down this path.” Cassimano said.

 

“Living people?” A voice from a cave asked. “Are you living people?”

 

The figure came out; looking ragged and made mostly of beard. His long beard seemed to cover his entire body, from head to toe. He ran towards them and bent down and actually went so far as to poke Max with an extended index finger. He poked again and looked at Max, standing up strait.

 

“You are living people.” The man said.

 

“Yes.” Max said.

 

“That’s good.” He said. “I was afraid I might be going mad.”

 

“Were you?”

 

“Yes.” The man said. “Mad! That’s a word I know.”

 

“Is it?” Max asked.

 

“Yes. I’m always saying good morning Mad Gerald.”

 

“Stop acting silly and get out of the way.” Kestrel said.

 

“Sorry.” He said striating up and talking in a normal tone of voice. “You ah looking for someone?”

 

“A guy just came down her a while ago.” Athena said.

 

“Size ten hush puppies?” Mad Gerald asked.

 

“That’s right.”

 

“Oh he just went by here a little while ago, probably trying to get all the way down to the titans. You could catch him more quickly by going down the second cave on the left there.”

 

“Thanks.” Kestrel said in a strangely awed voice. “Would you like to ah, come with us?”

 

“Oh, no thank you. I’ve got a job to do.” He said snuggling back into the small cave he had jumped out of.

 

“Job?” Kestrel asked.

 

“Yeah.” He said. “Thirty thousand a year, room and board taken care of, all I have to do is jump out and freak out new comers.”

 

“Oh.” Kestrel said as the others moved down to the second cave. “Does that, um, have a good dental plan?”

 

“Well I’ve had better, but they did pay for my lasic surgery and you can’t fault them for that.”

 

“No. I suppose not. Excuse me I should follow my friends.” She said and began to run along.

 

“No problem.” He called after her, then sank back into his easy chair and picked up his Scott Turo book. “What odd people.”

 

 

April 11th, 2003

2:05 p.m.

 

            “What the hell is the point of this?” Piedmont demanded.

 

            “What?” Cydrill asked.

 

            “How long are we going to just sit around and look out the window at the snow?” He waved his hand towards the window.

 

            “Have to defend the home Dagron.” Cydrill said.

 

            “Cydrill.” He said as patiently as he could manage. “This place has not been your home in nearly five millennia. Besides, its time has passed on. All you’ve done since we got back has been to look out that window.”

 

            “Azgana is worried about me.” Cydrill said.

 

            “She is worried about herself.” Piedmont said.

 

            “She… fears.”

 

            “Cydrill Valdebran Blackheart.” Piedmont said deliberately. “I am going back, to help The Weirdo save the world. You can come or you can stay, but I am leaving. I don’t expect to ever come back to this place. You know how to find me.”

 

            Piedmont turned swiftly and walked towards the door. He didn’t know if living five thousand years as Blackheart’s second would be worth anything to the giant, but he hoped it might. He was fairly certain that Cydrill would follow him, but he was worried that Cydrill would simply turn to Azgana to help him with this jacket.

 

            Cydrill watched as Piedmont closed the door behind him without ever once looking back. He then looked at his sister as she walked into the room, her finger holding a place in a book. She sat down before the massive fireplace, where several tree trunks could burn at once. She opened the book and looked up at him with a smile, he did not return the smile. He looked out at the frozen wasteland where now only the demon shadows of people he had once known lived.

 

            “You owe your life to one of them.” Cydrill said, directing his comment apparently to the window.

 

            “Pardon?” Azgana asked.

 

            “That little girl, your niece, saved your life.” He said to the window again.

 

            “Well, yes.” She said.

 

            “And we ran out on them.”

 

            “That place was dead brother.” She said standing and beginning to walk towards him.

 

            “This place is dead, it’s just not rotted away yet.” He said. “That place has yet to live. If a few drops of water were to fall on that desert, flowers would bloom instantly.”

 

            “Flowers that would be dead a day later.” She argued.

 

            “Unless we kept the flow coming.” He said.

 

            “No one controls the flow of magic.” She said.

 

            “There are ways.” He said, and finally turned towards his sister. “The thing is, you owe that little girl your life. You are indebted to her, and that debt must be paid.”

 

            “Cydrill.” She began. “I.”

 

            “Would you shame our family Azgana?” He asked.

 

            A bit of color came to her cheeks and she looked down at her knees. She couldn’t understand why he was doing this to her. She looked up at those dark and inscrutable eyes, searching for an answer.

 

            “I cannot protect you here and help them there.” He said. “There fore you must come with me.”

 

            “Cydrill.” She protested.

 

            “I will not be argued on this.” He said standing. “Gather some things, we will return for the rest later. I will not be argued on this. We are going to return, and we are going to bring an army. Gather the troops, I will gather the rest.”

 

            He stood and walked towards a small room where he might change into some other clothes. She heard a large wardrobe open and saw him produce a heavy cape and a pair of riding boots. She knew what he meant to do and turned to find the guards to tell them to prepare to leave.

 

 

April 2003

2:09 p.m.

 

            The cave had grown progressively tighter until the group had to crawl on hands and knees. Max worried about this but tired not to let it bother him too much. He knew that if they found they could not progress any further he was going to have the start of a panic attack on his hands. He could just barely stand the enclosed space as it was; just the idea of having the back up through it gave him the shakes. He was trying not to fall into shakes as it was and only the view before him kept him from having one.

 

            It was odd how in this dark place there was enough light for him to make out the shape before him. He kept thinking that staring at Athena’s buttocks straining against the jeans she wore was probably the wrong thing to do at a time like this. It was terribly bad for him to enjoy watching her legs pump back and forth as she crawled along the path. He had never actually noticed how attractive she was before, but now that he did he couldn’t get the idea out of his head. Crawling just behind her where the only view was of her shapely and shifting tail end didn’t help a lot either.

 

            “I see a light.” Nike said.

 

            “On coming train is it?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “What?”

 

            “Oh nothing.” Kestrel said.

 

            “I think it’s a volcano.” She said, “Red light.”

 

            “There’s always red light.” Athena said. “Red light and stalactites.”

 

            “Oh yeah?” Max asked.

 

            “Yeah.” She said with a little laugh. “Haven’t you ever noticed that? Stalactites and stalagmites are actually pretty rare, but in a movie or drawing, they’re all over the place. That’s how you know you’re in a cave, is the stalactites.”

 

            “Oh.” Max said, looking down at his hands, which were padding along the ground. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

 

            “Was this the short cut?” Cassimano asked.

 

            “That’s what he said.” Kestrel said.

 

            Nike’s head was the first one to exit the long tunnel, and she had to place her hand over her mouth to prevent herself from screaming. The scene was not one a person would enjoy reading about, nor would your gentle narrator enjoy relating it. However, we’ve come this far and I feel that there would be a betrayal if I stopped being honest at this point, thus…

 

            There was a lake of blood, with people trying to climb their way out of it. A gang of demons kept shoving them in, stabbing with spikes and using pitchforks to lift them up and throw them deeper into the lake. There was some sort of oil on the surface of the lake because it burned in places, the flames snaking out and catching people. It was like a living thing with a taste for flesh.

 

            There were other tortures being meted out as they climbed out of the tunnel. Max exited and looked at a large red demon stab a person with his fork and lifted them over his head. Max’s face looked into the familiar eyes of someone he knew. He didn’t speak, simply began to walk. His right hand reached behind him and pulled out the Glock pistol.

 

            The demon held the fork over his head and laughed as he shook the woman on the long thin tines of the fork back and forth. She screamed from the pain as he twisted the fork around this way and that. If you approached him you might notice that he had actually once been a human soul, but had changed over time. He still wore his united states marine uniform, still had his crew cut, but he also he the bat wings and horns as well now. He felt something amazingly cold and solid against the back of his head. He had noticed since he first got here how nothing felt real, but now something did. His head turned slightly and saw the barrel of a pistol aimed at the side of his head.

 

            “Set her down gently.” Max’s voice was a soft rasp of silk across an old sword.

 

            “Right.” The demon said gently letting the woman down.

 

            “Are you alright Mom?” Max asked.

 

            “Max?” She asked, trying to push the fork away from her body. “Are you my son Max?”

 

            “That’s right.” He said, taking the end of the fork and drawing it gently out of her.

 

            “What is this?” The demon asked.

 

            “I didn’t say you could talk.” He said and gave the demon and smack against the side of his head.

 

            This little drama was beginning to attract attention, Kestrel saw as other demons began to turn their heads and watch as the demon went down from a blow to the head. She pulled her two pistols and began to walk towards the small drama. Cassimano tossed his pistol into his left hand and drew Coast Runner from its sheath.

 

            “And so we cross into hell.” He said.

 

            “Or something.” Kestrel said.

 

            “Are you sure about this?” Nike asked.

 

            “No.” He said, walking after Kestrel, adjusting his gun.

 

            “What are you doing with my mother?” Max asked, his gun pressed just under the demon’s left eye.

 

            “We torture.” He said. “They send the lost ones down here and we teach them a lesson.”

 

            “That lesson being what?” Max asked.

 

            “What do you mean lost ones?” Kestrel asked, watching as a few of the other demons began to slowly make an approach.

 

            “The ones who were in the waste land, when the angels gather them up they bring them here.”

 

            “These are Lucifer’s people?” Cassimano asked.

 

            “Until we gather them.” The demon said.

 

            Max maybe didn’t want to shoot the demon; it might have just been an involuntary tightening of his finger. It is more probably true that he did want to blow the things head off, which he did. The blood splattered into the greater lake, the brain particles sinking quickly. He then stood up and looked at the oncoming rush of demons.

 

            “Shit.” Kestrel said as she pulled back the hammer of her gun.

 

            Athena raised her weapon and began to shoot, as did Cassimano. Kestrel aimed carefully and Max just fired at whatever was coming his way. The shooting was quick, and it only took the death of three of them and the wounding of two others for the rest of them to deice to hold back. The circle wasn’t particularly large, but it was large enough. They were also trapped, if rushed they couldn’t get back up that tunnel fast enough.

 

            “I thought you said this place was secure.” Tanteroy said as he began to walk down a long stairwell.

 

            “Son of a bitch.” Kestrel said looking at him.

 

            “It is secure.” The shambling thing next to him said.

 

            It was made up of layer upon layer upon layer of black cloth and furs, strapped down with large belts and pads of black leather. The face was lost in a series of masks and scarves.  The figure began to make its way through the red skinned demons.

 

            “They cannot escape from here.” The figure said. “No one can escape from my realm.”

 

            “How did we get in then?” Athena asked, raising the rifle to her shoulder again.

 

            “A minor tunnel that will be plugged before the hour is out.” It said, waving its black-gloved hands.

 

            “If there was one.” Nike said. “Then there is likely another.”

 

            “Minor inconvenience.” The figure said.

 

            “I think maybe we’re more than that.” Max said raising his two hands up.

 

            “Oh, your little guns, how quaint.”

 

            “Quaint?” Max asked. “Who the fuck says quaint?”

 

            “He does.” Tanteroy said, walking around the figure. “You made a nice try, but it’s over. Why don’t you drop the guns and just give it up?”

 

            “Why don’t you suck the shit out of my ass?” Max asked.

 

            There was a long pause and Kestrel looked at him.

 

            “That was a delightful mental picture you made, do you know that?”

 

            “They can’t all be gems.” He said.

 

            “But they shouldn’t be that disgusting.”

 

            “Sorry.”

 

            “Are you two done with your banter yet?” Tanteroy asked.

 

            “Not quite.” Max said. “Can we stall for just a moment or two more?”

 

            No one had really been watching Athena through this, despite they fact that she was the one with a rifle held to her shoulder. They had been watching the two bickering heroes at the front. For whatever reason, no one watched as she very carefully got a bead on Tanteroy’s head. She hadn’t looked at anyone or anything else, simply aimed the rifle very carefully. When she squeezed the shot off, no one had been ready for it.

 

            The bullet was expelled from the gun and flew strait into Tanteroy’s head, and then failed to break through the other side of the skull. The bullet ricocheted around Tanteroy’s head for a full second before coming to a stop. He had fallen almost instantly, but the bullet had kept going. She then aimed at the mass of black and fired four times into it. Cassimano aimed his pistol and a thin bolt of energy blasted the black robes apart.

 

            “Interesting.” Athena said. “I think we’re in more trouble than we were before.”

 

            “You killed him.” A demon said. “Killed them both.”

 

            “Right.” Kestrel said. “So you’re all free now.”

 

            “He was the only one who’d employ us.” The demon retorted. “You just lost us our jobs.”

 

            “Oh shit.” She said under her breath. “When The Weirdo says that it always works.”

 

            “We fucked then?” Max asked.

 

            “You are.” The demon said as he moved in just that much closer.

 

            “Hello, hello, hello?” Jack’s voice came across the huge cave with the clear ringing tones of a man who intended to be heard. What made it all the worse was that he was also trying to sound like a London Police officer. “What have we here my lovelies?”

 

            “What the fuck?” Cassimano muttered.

 

            “Looks like these boys are trying to cause some trouble.” Tommy said, sounding much like a New York Cop himself. “You boys trying to cause trouble?”

 

            “What the fuck you want?” A demon said.

 

            Tommy didn’t exactly answer, but instead gave the demon a taste of the back of his hand. The knuckles tightened as he made the backhand slap, causing a slight spurt of blood to come from the demons mouth.

 

            “You talk to your mother with that mouth?” Tommy asked.

 

            “You little punks are in a lot of trouble.” Jack said.

 

            “We’re in trouble?” The demon asked.

 

            “Kidnapping.” Tommy said. “Assault, grievous bodily harm, stupid hair cuts.”

 

            “We also have reports of wearing white trousers after Labor Day.” Jack said.

 

            Max began to sidle over for a better view of this little tale. They had all managed to completely loose interest in the little group after these two lunatics showed up. They were all watching Jack and Tommy, who were acting like each of them had cajones the size of bowling balls. Max then saw the Norsemen, lurking at the edges, hiding in the shadows.

 

            “We don’t even wear pants.” The demon said gesturing down at his naked genitals.

 

            “AH!” Jack said pointing his index finger. “Fell into my little trap did you? That’s indecency that is. Oh, you are in a whole pot of trouble you are mate.”

 

            “Whut?” The demon asked.

 

            “Trouble.” Jack said. “You are in a lot of it.”

 

            “I think perhaps you have the place your in confused with someplace else.” The demon said.

 

            “Nope.” Tommy said. “We know where we are.”

 

            The demon looked around at the lake of flaming blood, of the stalactites and stalagmites. His eyes ran over the victims, strapped to tables and hung from hooks. Those who had been in the lake were beginning to lower those who had been hung high overhead and unstrapping those on the tables. He had his brothers around him, and this strange man before him. He was very cocky for just the one of him, and that struck the demon as odd. He had been a football player before his car accident, which sent him here, and hadn’t ever really been trained to think as it were. He looked around and then back down at Tommy and Jack.

 

            “This is a place of torment.” The demon said.

 

            “Yes.” Jack said. “We can see that, your hair do would torment any one with an active soul.”

 

            The other demons began to crowd in around them, and Tommy wondered about the validity of Odin’s idea. He was supposed to draw them out and then the Asgardians would rush in. The problem was, what if they didn’t rush in fast enough. Tommy looked behind him and saw something that looked like one of Dr. Moreau’s subjects after a bad night in Hell’s Kitchen. He felt his gorge rise up to look at the walking skinless thing. The flesh and organs were exposed for him to see and whatever it was had never actually been human though it took human shape now.

 

            “As you can see.” The once human demon said. “There are millions of us here.”

 

            “If I’ve said it once,” The voice was strong and powerful. “It’s probably an old joke, but I’ve got lots of bullets.”

 

            They all looked up to the top of the long stairs, which cascaded along the edge of the room, to form a full circle thousands of feet above them. They could just make out a figure at the top of their view, and he was looking down on them. Then there was a second figure, a much smaller one, who seemed somehow to shimmer in the gloom. It might have been possible to mistake the taller figure, but The Other kind of stood out in a place like this.

 

The Weirdo actually leapt from the place where he had stood at the top of the long stairs and both his hands began to flash. 

 

Max watched the two flashing hands for a moment as The Weirdo fell towards the gathered minions of whatever dark force this was. Then the sound came to him and the long rat-tat-tat sound gave rise to the idea that his hands weren’t what was flashing. He kept falling, and the bullets began to strike the ground and the demons in the line of fire. The bullets that struck the ground caused the stone below to fly up in plumes of dusty smoke. There were bright wet plumes of blood flying up from the demons as they were struck, and the line of fire began to widen into large circles.

 

It took seventeen seconds for The Weirdo to fall to earth, firing the whole time. His body should have turned to no more than a cherry liquid, which would splash the faces of those around him. It might have happened like that somewhere, in a place where things changed just a little. Science, well some science, tells us that there could be alternate realities where miniscule differences in the vibrations of the tiniest particles allow for every probable outcome and reality to be explored. This wasn’t that sort of place though; whatever being watched out for The Weirdo wouldn’t allow it, not this time.

 

He landed on the ground as if he had simply stepped off a two-foot high railroad car. It was a sort of hill he landed on, or at least a stone platform. His left foot landed first and then his right foot and for that one moment, he looked like he could get away with a beautiful woman clutching one of his legs. He didn’t even bother to look around him; simply dropped the two empty Thompson sub machine guns to his side. He reached under his coat and produced the two colt forty-five model nineteen eleven’s that we’ve all come to know and love.

           

He looked around at the gathered demons around him and looked out at Max and Kestrel who had begun to form a box where they could create some cross fire when Jack and Tommy started shooting. He smiled and he looked over his shoulder, his eye meeting Odin’s. His thumbs extended and tugged the hammers of the two pistols back.

 

            “You have a choice.” The Weirdo said loud enough for everyone to hear him. “You can step back and let us take these nice people who you’ve kidnapped away, or you can start a big fucking fight. I’ll tell ya now, I’m not really looking forward to you complying with any great relish.”

 

            “You’d rather shoot us all?” The big red skinned demon who now appeared to be the spokesman of the group asked.

 

            “Oh yes.” The Weirdo said. “I’ve had an interesting day and I’m looking for some mindless violence to help me relax.”

 

            “Doesn’t seem to be a lot of you.” He was trying to outsmart The Weirdo, it seemed.

 

            The problem with trying to outsmart The Weirdo was that there was only a one millionth of a percent chance that you were smarter than him. The other big problem with trying to outsmart him, was that he didn’t always sit around and wait for that. He was known in some circles as a shoot first and never really get around to asking the questions kind of person. It wasn’t really true, but he milked that reputation because it made people think they were lucky when he asked questions. This time, he shrugged and fired.

 

            The gunfire was cacophonous in the large cave. The sound echoed, and then the sound was drowned out. There was not just one shot, there were several. Then there was screaming and the Asgardians came from the shadows and the battle was truly over. The Weirdo’s two guns ran dry in a few seconds and he let them fall as they quit and drew out Excalibur.

 

            The blades made faster work somehow than the guns did, The Weirdo wasn’t really able to account for it later but as they moved through the red and blue and white and black and orange skinned demons, he and the Vikings seemed to make faster progress than the people they were trying to get to.

 

            It took only a few minuets to cut down all the demons and to meet their compatriots in the middle. The Weirdo stopped slashing when he could clearly see Tommy and thought he might hit him if he kept slashing.

 

            “Hello.” The Weirdo said looking around and then looking at the group, counting. “Where’s Mike?”

 

            “We should talk about that.” Kestrel said.

 

            “Tanteroy turned on us.” Cassimano said.

 

            The Weirdo’s mouth closed for a moment and he looked down at the ground. He turned and looked at the battle, which had already ended and then sheathed Excalibur. When his eyes raised up there was no sense of anger, no sadness, just resignation.

 

            “Did you get the ferryman to agree?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “He said he’d give us pretty much what ever we wanted.” Cassimano said.

 

            “Then he wasn’t wasted then.” The Weirdo said looking around. “We should get on with it then.”

 

            “Right.” Tommy said, and noticed The Other coming down stairs with The Lady Death. “I thought she was gone.”

 

            “She was.” The Weirdo said. “And now she’s not. We’ve come to an understanding she and I.”

 

            “We’re going to talk about this later at great length.” Tommy said, as if stating that she was wearing a black dress.

 

            “Oh yes.” The Weirdo agreed.

 

 

April 11th, 2003

2:31 p.m.

 

            Lucifer looked at the stiffened form of Michael Darrian, and he cursed himself for being away so long. He sat on the bench that his mummified body had been laid down next to. He simply sat and looked at the dead form of the vampire and looked at the rest of the throne room. He then looked at the vampire again.

 

            He was a good man actually, one of the last real believers in the world now. He had remained a believer in the betterment of mankind through the Christ. He had wanted man to be better than he had been, had wanted them to be more Christ like. He looked at the place were the bullet had entered him and looked around the throne room. Michael Darrian had tired to be a good Christian, and maybe had failed many a time. He had never given up on the betterment of his soul though.

 

            Lucifer looked down at the dead vampire and extended his hand.

 

            There was a light, the sort that one would be unable to properly describe. There was no way to explain it. You could only talk about this sort of light with a person who had also seen it. If some one had never seen light of the sun, how could one properly describe it? If one had never seen an archangel that had taken off all its trappings and covers, how would one describe the light it gave off? One could say golden or one could say bright, one could say beautiful. What can we really say though, if you’ve not seen it, you can’t say.

 

            Michael Darrian sort of saw it, but he saw it through closed lids. By the time he could open the lids, the light had already begun to fade. He opened his eyes and the world was so bright, and everything was so beautiful.

 

            Judy came down the hall and for a moment saw Lucifer as he was. She stopped because in the sight of his true visage all the truth was reveled to her. She had to stop and catch her breath after looking at his true face. It was so beautiful and filled with the light of truth and knowledge. She slid to the floor and tears began to trickle from her eyes. She had never known, but now…

 

            Lucifer covered himself again and the moment passed. Judy would be able to gather herself after a few minuets, and then they would be able to speak again. He looked down at Michael who was beginning to stand and looked at his right hand as he did so. He seemed fascinated by the extremity, the gentle movement of each digit at the end of the hand. He moved them and he looked like he had never seen such a thing. He wondered if this was what it felt like to be on one of those hallucinogenic substances. He had become fascinated by the image of his fingers moving, and then it struck him why.

 

            “I was dead.” He said.

 

            “Yes.” Lucifer said.

 

            “You brought me back?”

 

            “I need you.” He said.

 

            “Persephone’s been shot.” Judy said as she sat on the floor.

 

            “What?” Lucifer asked.

 

            “She’s in a coma.” Judy muttered like an awed child looking at the floor.

 

            She looked up and squinted at Lucifer, trying to see what she had just seen a moment ago. The image wouldn’t reform in her head; it drifted away like a dream that melts with the dawn. She had seen what he really was, and she wanted to see it again. She knew he couldn’t let her see it, but she wanted it any way.

 

            “Persephone?” Michael asked.

 

            “She’s dying.” She said, her eyes still locked on the archangel.

 

            “Athena couldn’t save her life.” Lucifer said. “I have no jurisdiction.”

 

            “You had some over me though?” Michael asked.

 

            Lucifer took a step closer and his voice dropped to a bare whisper. His tone wasn’t threatening, or menacing in anyway. It was a private tone, meant only for the vampire to hear. The archangel’s lips parted and words drifted across the air into the vampire’s ears.

 

            “You can fool the rest of them, but I know you still carry a rosary.”

 

            Michael looked at the angel and nodded, he then turned on his heel and ran. When running was too slow, he began to fly towards her. She hadn’t been moved, but a few footsteps had been marked out in her blood. He saw a path leading away; he recognized Kestrel’s shoe print. Odd that he should remember her shoe print above all others, but he did. She had simply stepped over her and walked away, she went to finish the job. He looked at the open eyes of the beautiful woman and closed his eyes. He knew why Lucifer had done what he had done, or did he? He had sounded surprised to hear that she had been shot. Darrian could just hear the heart beat, slow and spiraling away. There was a slightly longer pause between each successive beat.

 

            He might kill her if he tired what he was thinking, of course he could kill her by simply standing around thinking about it. He looked at his hand, which had so fascinated him a moment ago, and stuck it into his pocket. He pulled a small pocketknife out and opened it one handed. He placed the blade against the back of his left hand and moved his hand swiftly. The cut went to the bone and he was surprised to see it such a deep red blood. There was such color instead of the pale or even clear liquid he often had. He wondered for a moment if perhaps he had been cured, but he knew better. Lucifer had simply made sure he had a full supply. He held the blood spilling hand over the woman’s mouth, dabbed it at the bullet wound on her head. He squeezed and let the blood dribble around her, and then the wound closed. He sat down on the wall, his back against the polished stonewall. He looked up at the window, at the sun that drifted down across the both of them. The window had been bolstered with a working of iron bars, which would prevent large animals or people just climbing through it. He looked at her, and she began to convulse. He reached for her, held her, and steadied her.

 

            “I’m sorry.” He repeated over and over again. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I had no choice, I’m sorry.”

 

            He held her as she convulsed on the floor, nearly throwing him off of her. Her strength would never be as great as his though. She was a woman who had never so much as done a single sit up; she didn’t have the build to fight. He held her as she struggled and writhed. He kept apologizing, but was struck by the fact that she never screamed, never said anything.

 

            After a time of nearly two minuets the struggling ceased. She lay in his arms, and just breathed heavily. She still didn’t say anything, just waited. When she did speak it was with a voice that sounded like spring personified.

 

            “What did you do to me?” She asked.

 

            “I made you a vampire.” He said simply.

 

            He knew it was a stupid way to say it. It would have been nice to explain everything, but he was out breath just at the moment. He also wasn’t sure he had the words to truly explain all that he had done to her. He was sure that if she wanted to kill him, he would sit still and probably tell her the best way to go about it.

 

            “Why?” She asked.

 

            “You were dying.” He said. “It’s not a good reason I know. You had been shot in the head and you were slowly dying. You would be dead by now, if not for my doing what I did. I’m sorry. The virus will keep you alive, but it uses your red blood cells. You can get regular transfusions these days though. You pretend to have a specific kind of hemophilia, you get weekly transfusions. You can use any mammal blood really. You don’t even need human blood. On the up side though, your free to leave this place now.”

 

            “Oh.” She said.

 

            Her hand rose up to his and traced along his arm. She wrapped her hand around his and gave it a squeeze. It was then that he realized he still had his arms around her. His right arm was wrapped around her waist and his left arm was draped about her shoulders. She touched the place where his left hand was, just at her right shoulder. He hadn’t thought about the fact that he was still holding her in such a familiar embrace. He suddenly felt self conscious and also conscious of how close she was to him.

 

            “Thank you.” She said finally. “I think I can live with the consequences.”

 

            “We should um.” He began, moving his arms.

 

            “Oh.” She said, and began to stand up. “Right.”

 

            It was then that both of them heard someone coming up the corridor. The shoes were soft, and they didn’t make a great deal of noise. Darrian heard them though, as did Persephone. He shielded her with his body, and was having trouble concentrating as she managed to press her self against him in a way usually only performed by water to sand on a beach. She had rolled in so easily, almost lazily.

 

            “I can hear so much.” She said.

 

            “You’ll get used to it.”

 

            The Weirdo walked around the corner and looked at Darrian. He smiled a little to see the vampire and the beauty behind him. He took his sunglasses off and stopped for a moment. He didn’t look surprised in the least, and when he spoke it was just his normal way of talking.

 

            “Hello Mike.” The Weirdo said, “I thought you were dead.”

 

            “You think you’re the only one who can come back to life?” Darrian asked.

 

            He hadn’t really known what reaction to expect from his news that he had been resurrected and thus snatched from death’s door. He hadn’t quite formed a reaction to it himself if the truth be told. He was fairly certain that saying fair enough wasn’t a very good reaction though. Maybe he had other things on his mind.

 

            “Fair enough.” The Weirdo said.

© 2014 Autumn Knight Productions

Advertisements

May 15, 2014 - Posted by | Fiction | , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: