Chapter 21

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July 16th, 2017

2:35 AM

“I alibe.” Apollo gargled blood. His tongue had just begun to reform. “I’m alive.”

The jaw was the second to last thing that regenerated for him. And with it came a feeling of balance finally. His legs shook as he stood. His arms could not straighten out and held his chest. He fell, his body limped on the ground before he tried again. He was bleeding everywhere, atop the dandelions that grew in the cracks of the culvert, atop the small stream of gutter water at the center. He bled on top of the fragments of his mask.

“No evidence.” He mumbled. He leaned on his sword as he stood. When he finally felt comfortable, he put it inside his coat and waited in an almost prostrated position. He shook and slapped his head like an old man to a broken television set. It didn’t help him heal, that was for certain. It never did. Vision came. Finally. He looked down and picked up what remained of his mask as if they breadcrumbs and him a bird. And he put what remained of his mask in his coat. Looking above, he could see the guiding star. And beyond it, choppers. Their searchlights were coming down like some angelic arbiter.

“No evidence.” He said with that nasal voice. He had no nose, not yet, that was still taking time.

He hid underneath a large stretch of unfinished freeway above him. It was a ramp, barely being built and after today, it was a construction to be delayed. He spat and grit his teeth and picked out the mask lodged in between his toothless gums. They were like toothpicks. If he had the tear ducks to cry, he would have.

At least there were some conveniences to getting your face blown off.

“Cover every track, leave nothing to these bastards,” He ran across the stretch of land leading to the flaming car and gutter. Along the way, he picked up every bullet he could. His blood would disintegrate, all he needed to hide was the solid stuff. The guts and the bullet casings and the teeth and the bone. Like a child picking flowers in the forest, red and white and golden copper, all bountiful in his tender hands.

He came to the wreckage and the car that had crashed into and up the wall, only to stop midway, lopsided against the wall with the top portion ruined into a scrunch. He dropped the evidence into his coat and listened with his half-grown ears. He swore he could hear breathing, though his half-blown off head filled him with false sounds or made those real, distorted. But he was sure – sure! That this was a person, sure that it was no schizophrenia.

He leaned in, and the soft noise of coughing lungs responded back. He walked closer to the car, put a hand on the trunk and jumped when it burst open, fire ejected out. There was nothing inside. The smog burned his face, and he leaned away. The car was just so wrecked that it seemed to explode and combust on its own. The wheel rims remaining on it ejected out like explosive bottle caps. The glass shattered with bursts of fire. And he the woman. Somewhere in the cluster of metal, he heard her.

He also heard the choppers.

The heavy blades that cut through the air, the light that was far off yet closing in. The helicopter lights that followed the wreckage from its origin, the chain link fence, going down the trail of carnage towards Apollo.

“I need to go.” He said. “I can’t get caught.”

He turned his legs to move and heard her breathe again. Softer now, more desperate like she was drowning. He heard the loud sirens of the police too. And wondered why they even bothered if the whole point was to catch people, why make any sound. That seemed counter-intuitive. But who was this hunter of demons to complain about other hunters? He had lost. Was beaten.

He looked like a ghoul and felt like an idiot.

“You’re not worth it.” He told himself. The backseat began to ignite into flames. He wished he had no nerves to feel the heat. He turned his legs to run, but could not compel himself. The woman coughed again.

“I really did get f***** up in the head, didn’t I?” He said. Though he wasn’t, he was very clear and very honest. He looked at the giant cloud of smoke and threw himself in, searching in the smog, for a door handle. He found one. It would not open. The woman was coughing behind what he assumed (for the smoke was thick and he could barely see) was the broken door. He punched it. He removed the door and threw it like a frisbee, away from him. Then he deflated the airbags, ripping them out. They wheezed as they fell and the woman appeared behind them.

Apollo fanned the smog with his hands.

“Come on,” He said. The girl looked up at him, she almost looked as bad as him, and when her eyes opened to the light of the engine fire reflected from his fleshless face, she cried. It wasn’t loud. She could barely breathe.

“Zombie.” She choked the words out. She tried to push him away, her arms were trapped behind the dashboard. Thankfully.

Apollo punched the dashboard, got a grip of wires, and removed the whole thing radio and all out the way. And it seemed the more he helped her with his inhuman appearance and his inhuman face, the more frightened she became. She slapped him. Over and over and over. Had it not been for the lack of oxygen, she might have fought him at the spot.

“Keep slapping me bitch, and I’ll leave you here.” He parried a slap, then brought his hands under her. He ripped the seat, her on it, seatbelt and all and carried her out the fire and smog. She winced, crying all the way.

“Stop bitching, you’re fine-” He stopped, midway. In the fire lit aura of the car, he saw her figure. What was left of it, at least. Her legs were mutilated, bent and broken like some poor balloon-shaping parlor trick. It was a terrible joke.

“How are you alive?” His voice sounded normal, his nose must have come back.

“What-!” Between seeing him regrow a limb and finally coming to terms with her legs, words were the last thing she thought of. Her head just looked up and down.

He too was at a loss for words. He bit his lips, they were still sensitive and pink. He offered a hand to her, as she held her broken legs and cried.

Then he heard a gun c***.

“S***,” Apollo said. “I know it might not seem this way right now, but it’ll be alright,”

That was all he could offer the crying woman. Behind him, he could feel the glare of a freshly formed up firing line. And him, the idiot perpetrator.

He reached down and ripped a sleeve from her shirt. He wrapped the beige cotton over his face.

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“Freeze.” He heard an officer say. They opened their car doors with extreme caution, their bodies carefully boxed in behind cover. Their guns pointed from the hood tops, and the windows of the black Chargers surrounding him.

Only allowed on

“Want some advice, lady?” He had that guttural sound to his voice, that natural bitterness that came from a man who just had his face blown off. “Next time you should f****** use those car brakes.”

She wasn’t listening, simply mumbling, holding her legs, crying ‘They’re dead, they’re dead.’

“Right…” Apollo said. Turning around, he saw the army of gun barrels looking at them.

“All units to 4622 Edmond St., near the freeway. Yes. Yes, the half-finished ramp,”

He looked up, towards the warehouse buildings to the side and the columns adjacent to them.

Can I make the jump?

“Freeze, or I’ll blow your f****** brains out.”

You’re a little too late for that.

“No one has to die today.”

Is that why you got two dozen guns looking down at me?

“Put your hands up. You’re surrounded.”

Like it matters.

They sang their warnings like a choir of fear. Apollo grimaced, with what little face he had to frown. The officers steadied their arms. He heard ten simultaneous clanks of safety-off, trigger happy, cocked guns.

“Go f*** yourselves,” Apollo whispered. He ran. Up the side of the culvert, he felt the bullets hit his shoulder, and he kept his head low. He felt his knees shot. He jumped with the single good one he had left. He stabbed his arm through the column. He put his single leg to the concrete, then kicked off it. A barrage of bullets struck the spot he was just on. He slid down a wall, then worked his hands up, up the storage house. The bullets came flying, striking the windows and the metal and something grazing him. A pistol struck his ribs. Then more bullets struck him, small caliber rounds. And for being small, the hurt they did was pretty big. It was the deadliest episode of acupuncture of his life, and he was still climbing. Bleeding, dragging his bloody body up to the roof. But he stood, somehow, at the top. He turned, just to growl.

The light came on him. He ran, jumped building to building with the choppers struggling to catch up to him. He put a hand on the bullet hole in his leg, he shouted and put his other hand against the blinding light.

“F*** off.” He mumbled.

He grabbed a brick and threw it at the chopper window. One of them, at least. It swerved.

“F*** off!” He shouted.

He led them. A few gallops, a few miles away, he led them. And exhaled a sigh of relief once again, as the Colonel Weiner sign flashed neon across from him. Perfect. The smokestacks of this little industrial corner were just enough, and the signs were just large enough for him to slip through and hide. He walked through the trails and puffs, he walked over to the giant E of the Colonel Weiner sign. With what little strength remained, he put his hands underneath the sign and pushed with his legs until the E portion of the sign separated. The metal screeched, the wiring sparked, like veins to a removed organ. They squirted sparks everywhere.

“You should have left me alone.” He said. They could not listen, if they did, they would have avoided it. Apollo spun and launched the metal piece of the sign at one of the helicopters. It hit the glass and shattered it. One of the choppers had to make an emergency landing. The other (there were only two here) persisted. It would not stop. He grabbed and L this time, L’s were sharper. This one he aimed for the light, and he closed one eye to aim. He kicked this one, with his good leg. And he watched the L swerve in the air, spinning, and decapitating the light off the helicopter bottom like Medusa’s head. There was no lights, period now. Not from the sign or from the helicopters.

The sign read “Colon Weiner.” It would have been funny if anyone could see it.

They floated above, instead. And when support came, it was too late.

He went nowhere far, really, and the police hadn’t expected that. He hadn’t gone anywhere at all. He was resting, laying atop a bed of plastic bags and half eaten food. He had fallen into a dumpster somewhere in between a jump, an accident really, and had decided just not to move. And when the noise of the chopper was too loud, he pulled down on the dumpster door and rested his eyes. They were shouting above and ran off, chasing after a man they rated too highly.

Because Apollo was tired. He couldn’t run anymore if he wanted to. He just hid in a dumpster.

They never found him. No one did. Not till morning came and some pimple-faced employee came to throw the trash, and he shouted when he saw Apollo. Until then, he slept. Soundly.

It had been a long time since he slept that well.

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