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July 16th, 2017
The walls of rusted metal expanded to seeming eternity into the small tunnels. Dion could feel the s**t and piss up his leg and his feet that tried desperately to stay stable as he swam through the murk. His feet felt like a sponge. The ceilings dripped with gunk and filth with a smell almost as hostile as the creature. He covered his mouth and pinched his nose. Rancid, putrid, a scent so pungent in death it was almost beginning to smell sweet.
He brought in his shoulders, the walls were getting smaller.
It was in this dripping darkness that he had stopped thinking. All that drove him was a compass of seeming anger; a forward stubbornness leading him, the beating heart that paced him and the tingling trigger finger waiting for trouble. He was close. The string on his arm proved it. He came to a crossroad, he looked at all six directions and the small lights that came down at intervals from curb gutters. He could hear clacking, car hums, the deep moans of the city night. They came like small whispers through the holes, and he made sure to steer clear of the light. He lifted his arm and chose the third tunnel, it seemed arbitrary though.
Is this it?
A bag floated past him, a dirty Coke bottle cracked underneath his feet. He turned!
Nothing. Just cardboard, hanging from a metal grate and fluttering.
He looked down and began to see the murky water-floor. His eyes fell into the trance of his image, and his muscles relaxed as his shoulders slumped. His heart relaxed, his eyes eased to a more gentle red. Each breath after the other was easier on his lungs and throat that had tightened and dried out.
Calm almost killed him.
But the air behind him flexed. It cracked, like a whip. He felt air shift, his neck hairs rose.
He rolled forward. The blade went past him and up the wall. It scraped along and broke pipes that spilled water across his face and made his vision blurry. The water filtering the creature into a smudge behind it.
Sprinkles landed on his forehead, soothing. And steam came off the side of Dion’s face where he had gotten cut and where he was beginning to heal.
“I was looking for you,” Dion said in seeming excitement. He wiped the remaining blood from his face.
The demon took a step back, devoured by darkness. All Dion could tell was the snarl, the scratching walk like a dragging executioners chair.
He cocked his gun. The creature ran. Under him. It aimed to trip Dion. It would have, had he not jumped. Bad move.
Dion almost cursed. His eyes widened. The monster aimed his mouth up, the tongue shot out. Dion caught a broken metal pipe and using it, leveraged his body out of the way of the tongue. A piece of cloth from his pants drifted in the air. He sighed.
Letting go of the pipe shifted it, the water sprayed above both of them now, like an emergency sprinkler. He touched the ground. Whatever was on his face he wiped away; blood, sweat, piss.
It seemed a careful creature because it had given Dion all the time to pick up his dropped weapons, to observe cautiously.
That’s a mistake, buddy.
Dion moved his body to a steady rhythm, jumping off the balls of his feet. He tried shooting, pretending at least. The monster did not react to the feint.
So he tried again. Nothing.
On the third, he actually pulled the trigger.
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He shot. And a bullet in this narrow of the space must have been like a canon going through a pipeline; inescapable to dodge. Should have been, at least. But the creature scaled the walls and made its body flat. The bullet zoomed past. Black hairs shaved off, some were burned. He could see its shape then. He could count a dozen legs and the stump he had made one of them into. It still dripped blood. But that was nice, the smell of blood. It beat the scent of the septic canal, at least.
They walked in circles around each other. The light segmented them into slide shows of anger and rage, a new face, a new growl with each passing shadow of the bars. Dion counted the space between them. A few meters.
He winced and looked down for a moment, he didn’t realize he was cut. And just before he could see it heal, he raised his head. The creature was gone.
His eyes danced around the room. He circled once. Twice. Three times.
He shot. His wrist snapped. The tunnel filled with the noise of his frustration, the ricochet of blue bullets, the smoke that rose up and his muted scream that had died underneath the buzz of his deaf ears. The cloud of smoke rose. It rose and cleared and from the mist, the mouth. The jagged teeth.
He groaned and felt the teeth dig into his shoulders. They clenched down.
“Get off me!”
They clamped and once in position, the rows of teeth spun and eviscerated his flesh. And the monster dragged him down, and he felt his flesh being cut and blended and pulled by the weight of the creature. He felt like a gazelle in the grip of the lion, being held by the lion’s maw.
The blood fell down his shirt. His shoulder and chest muscles spasmed. A bone (or two) snapped.
And Dion began to laugh.
That’s all that went down the holes and the pipes, the laughter and the drop of his pistol into the murk. As if in ecstasy from the pain, like an embrace from a lover. A hug.
His arm came around. He tightened it around the demon. The stupid thing didn’t even notice, not until its own spine began to snap and bend. And by then, by the time it had gained the agency to think about getting away. It was too late. All twelve legs could not pry Dion’s good hand.
He heard a pop. The wide mouth opened up like a flood gate. Out came the scream of the demon. His chest felt lighter and he eased his grip to almost let it fall. Almost. Dion caught the demon midway, a good grip by its frizzled hair. He grabbed the demon and slammed it against the metal walls. The concrete wall left a hole where the demon was slammed onto. Then Dion dropped it, he felt tired. The monster tried to crawl away. Dion got one of its feet just in time. He slammed it against the pipes now. The floor. Every inch of the small enclosure took a beating, as Dion bashed the demon with tasteless brutishness. Screaming, laughing as he did so.
He exhaled at last and let go.
The monster laid on the floor. He stood, breathing heavily as the wound on his shoulder exhumed smoke from the healing factory.
The demon was drooling, black blood.
Dion slumped over. The demon turned on its belly. Its teeth, broken. Its face, bloody. It roared a broken cry and exposed its sharp tongue.
A final retaliation, it shot out. Dion, tired, thigh injured, only half dodged. He stuck out one palm. The tongue-blade went through it. Keep going, keep trying through his cheek, Is that all you got left in you? and through the ceiling. That’s it. That’s the spirit. God bless. The smoke of rubble fell down. More water sprinkled on them.
“Tenacious. I respect that. But would you even accept my respect? Could you even think of it?” He heckled. As the tongue retracted, Dion put his foot down on it to hold it in place, like a rope. With his hand, the punctured one, he closed it and yanked the creature towards him.
The demon came to him. And he got a barrel inside its mouth when it reached Dion, at last.
Dion’s stomach fluttered – a sick pleasure – as he looked down to the black-pits-for-eyes that were on the demons face and the fear they expressed, and the shivering snout it wore and the broken mouth that tried to cry out. A demon crying, laughable. It made Dion happy. So happy. Too happy.
He didn’t want to shoot it.
It was a disgusting thing to admit, and to be conscious of, he’d know that later. But he put the gun down and went at the demon with his hands. And he did things to it only butchers would, or surgeons, or other trained gutters.
His stomach fluttered all throughout, his arms shook with joy which he confused for revenge.
He didn’t really remember much of what he did, but he’d remember the feeling.
He remembered the body though. The guts on the floor. The philosopher’s heart he had surgically removed, and now put in his pocket.
“Oh, my god.” He didn’t say those three words. A woman did. A drunk, staring from gutters that looked down below to the sewer level. Dion didn’t know what she saw, only that she gasped, only that his eyes were burning red like two ruby’s in the night.
Dion was eating. There was flesh still on the philosophers stone, he didn’t mind. He ate. And the drunk woman above the metal grates cried. She slipped off her heel and left it there. Then she ran, screaming:
He sighed, put the other half of the demon’s heart in his pocket. He put his mask down and stretched his neck.
He almost forgot why he was there.
I need to get back to Apollo.
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