July 24th, 2017
Apollo couldn’t stop fidgeting, and he really wasn’t sure why his blood felt hot.
Irritated was a word he thought of, but it wasn’t quite that. It was a little more.
A little more in a way that scratched his neck until nearly bleeding, or that his slicked hair stuck to his suit or the quick jerks of his neck that pulled them off. Or that he couldn’t stop jerking and scratching. He had felt this way on in the early dusk, all throughout the gray day. The sky had not done him favors. It seemed like everything ran thin, sunshine, patience, emotion. Days that ended too fast, nights that ended so quickly that he didn’t even have enough time to dream. He wanted the antihistamine for his ruthless insomnia, the soft pillow, the clearing emptying chamber for his heavy and full heart.
It was Sophie.
He didn’t say it or even think it. The opposite. He repressed the memory, the scene of red. Forgot it, pretended to forget it. And now it was a dagger wound in his chest. Like a drop of mercury poisoning the will of reason in him. Her memory, poison. He was deteriorating.
His head hurt as he looked down. An old cable antenna to his rear like a pitchfork to the sky or a lone hand in prayer. He could hear the person below him watching, laughing, a heckle he thought, aimed at him. Apollo bent the antenna. The man screamed at his static-filled television and Apollo jumped from the edge of the roof. The birds scattered to drop s*** elsewhere, but not here, not anywhere near the lone figure in the night. His slick mask, cracked and glued with gold. He slid across the cornices, kicked off of statues that split and broke off. The gargoyles looked away, faces down in shame.
He was following a car. Not just any. One of the many lists of collected names he had gotten from the pimp at the club. Or drug dealer. Or murderer. Or God, as he called himself.
On the car, a license plate read ‘AS5MAN’, below it was a pair of moving dice. Darkened plushies, wrapped around the spoiler. Like testicles, old, saggy, desperate. Apollo followed the car and the skittish hands within that he saw through the rose-tinted windows.
And the man inside (maybe had spotted Apollo?) was turning his wheel fast. Quickly, so quick that it almost looked like four different hands turning that damn wheel. A real, living Shiva.
He pressed on the gas. The trail, the smog ran down the street, it made all the sad homeless cough and turn away.
This man was running.
He was a drug dealer. A particular one. One Apollo had confirmed after many an interrogation and many a threat. And he was coming around the bend, trying to catch the freeway, going through the mountain range and wrapping around the black serpentine track. Drifting, slithering. Apollo followed him there, out into the open mountain range.
The pines glared at Apollo like a platoon of archers. He was above the trees. His hands injected into a little mountainous range, his feet dragging like an anchor. He looked like a swimming shark, with his sleek and rapid moving body and his hand extended out like a fin. He was fortunate there was no one else driving along the hallway. That was luck. The rest was skill.
He looked ahead of himself and predicted where the driver would go, he saw the sharp turn up ahead and a yellow banner to flag a fallen pine tree. He ran on the wall, ran ahead of the car with that inhuman speed and strength. He waited then, it wasn’t long. It was only a few minutes. He could feel the air vibrate with that masculine car engine, the assault of a two-thousand fifteen Dodge Hellcat. And Apollo knew, all the engineering and strength of that vehicle would be reduced to nothing. For it was just metal. Metal and fuel and sparks. Science and man, the devil’s instruments as he was taught.
His eyes flashed red as the car came around. He challenged the headlights. His shadow moved forward, head on towards the car. Darted, he sped faster and faster, and the car could not turn. The driver screamed, but his closed windows left his voice powerless. The car turned right, Apollo tackled its left.
His shoulder struck the body of the car.
It flew. Five feet into the air. On its side. The tire rims popped out, the sparks shot out. It looked a derailed train, the massive lugging machine. Apollo laid on the floor. His shoulder hot and bleeding and dislocated. A tire rolled passed him and spun circles, undecided before it finally sat. He stood. With his only good arm, he used it to find where his socket was supposed to be attached. Pop. It went in, he winced. His bone clicked and rubbed. This time he slammed it against the pavement. Field aid, that’s what he called it. I.T.A.R. Or TAR for short is what the Vatican called it.
(Immediate) Treatment and Repair. Repair. Like Robots, like machinery themselves. Like instruments of science, engineered evil to be used at the Vatican’s discretion.
Whatever. Apollo wasn’t pissed about it.
The bulge on his shoulder receded. It still felt raw, like a bruise, muscle, and nerves twisted and shredded and forcing to work when they shouldn’t have. They’d heal like everything else.
Like everything. It all goes away. Pain, too…
In front of him, the car waited on its side. The hood touched the ground. Beyond the guard rail, the metal and tree were warped and bruised.
The man groaned. The door propped open. The man extended his hand out like a white flag. Apollo walked to it, looked it, grabbed the arm.
He bent it and broke it, and bone protruded from the man’s forearm.
“What the f***?” The driver retreated back inside, he looked for the other exit. Crying. Holding his dangling arm.
But there was no other exit, the front windshield was shattered like webbing. He tried kicking it. Apollo heard the faint struggle of the broken man. He came up the car and let him try, almost out of pity. After a few minutes, Apollo reached beneath the car and flipped it upside. And one of the lights from the car’s front came out of its socket, like a retina. It flickered, hopelessly, constantly.
This strobe of light flashed onto the driver, the drug dealer. Apollo faced him wearing his grim mask. The light did not reflect from him, it almost was sucked into him, like a black hole. He looked like a walking shadow.
The drug dealer twisted his key into the keyhole, he turned twice. Cursing both times and begging twice as much. It couldn’t even mutter a purr. The engine coughed and went quiet.
“What the f***, man. What – ” The driver spat blood. “I thought.” He coughed.”I thought I ran you over, man.”
“You must have me confused.” Apollo pulled him out of the car. “I’m no man.”
“I’ll give you whatever you want.” The driver tugged Apollo’s arm the same way a child would at the father, pleading. Please, please. Apollo dragged him to a nearby tree beyond the guard rail.
“I know you will,” Apollo said. The car burst into flames on fire. He grabbed the drivers twisted arm and turned it even more. Behind him, the fire roared and illuminated the scene. The drug dealers skin, green and purple with pain. The driver let out a cry. Then his voice went silent. Apollo twisted the dislocated socket in him. The drug dealer opened his mouth, nothing came out. His eyes rolled back.
“You’re living tonight. That’s a promise.” Apollo said. “But how you live after tonight is all up to you.” The fires fanned in his eyes, behind an uncaring mask. “Are you going to leave a cripple? Dick-less? You tell me.”
“Tell you what? What!”
A twist. A groan.
“I want a name,” Apollo said.
“Anyone! I’ll tell you, anyone.” The man said. His gold stained teeth hinged by the nerve ends of his gums. His Rolex slipped from his broken hand. He pointed down, crying.
“Take it, man. Take it and stop!” He cried.
“I told you, I want a name.” Apollo stood still, impassive, stiff against the exploding fire behind him.
“Every drug on the streets of Havenbrook has seen your hands. That’s impressive, you’ve got a big reach. You have every route, every small-time dealer and big-time drug trafficker in your phone book.” Apollo said.
“Who? Who do you want?” The man cried.
“I want neither. Not your constituents, nor your employees. I want the man you sell your hallucinogens too. This man. This man alone will suffice.”
“Hurry up dude, I’m losing blood!” The drug dealer said. “Give me a f****** name, category. Anything!”
“Give me your largest consumer,” Apollo said.
The man bit his lips. He shut his eyes, in pain or in the imagination of a pain.
“Him? You’re looking for him?” The driver asked.
“So you do know who I’m talking about?”
“Yeah, the freaks.” He said. “The Weirdos. Yeah.”
Apollo reached for him, he dug his hands into the bruised skin of his abdomen, cut through the purple blazer and the black dress shirt. His fingers wrapped around a gold chain, then they went deeper, into the ribs. He didn’t penetrate skin, no. He found one of those long curved bones and, with dispassionate glare, broke it. Crack. Apollo put his arms to cover the dealer’s mouth.
The dealer bit his fingers.
“Hurts, doesn’t it?” Apollo asked. “Hurts almost as much as the hurt you give others.”
The dealer cried.
“You’re a polluter. A beast. A whore. A money-changer.” He said. “Give me his f****** name. No excuses.”
“They’ll kill me.” He moaned.
“When I’m done with you, you’ll hope they do.”
And the dealer looked into Apollo, he looked to make those mental scale judgement and judging by his groaning face, the pain seemed to weigh a lot more than threats.
“Alestor.” He shouted. “Doctor Alestor. He uses an assistant but…it’s him. I know.”
“How?” The fire roared.
“I spied on him. Man.” He wheezed. “I tracked him down. I was getting scared, you know? You get curious when someone buys so much at once. With all the weird ship happening around. With people. People like you!” It was a half-hearted scream. Apollo punched him in the gut. “F***. Alright. I track Alestor, he’s into freaky s*** man. I got caught too and he… man…he was saying some weird stuff. Almost killed me too.”
“How are you alive?”
“I kept selling, how else do you think?” The world muted. Apollo heard the words, and he felt, a little…cathartic was it?
No, ashamed? No. Stupid. Alestor? What a stupid name.
”Man, you got to keep me same from him. F****** s***, man. Do me that at least? He does things, things you wouldn’t believe. It’s f****** magic. I swear, no one believes m-” The driver reached for Apollo’s legs to plead. Apollo picked him up. He slammed him against the tree.
“I promised you’d live. That’s it. I’m not your executor or your guardian.” He said. The driver cried, his mouth agape.
“You f*****-” He held his ribs, screaming. “I’ll f****** kill you!”]
Apollo knelt down.
“I won’t kill you.”
The dealer shouted. He spat.
“But I will punish you. It’s only right, fair.” Apollo said. The dealer went cold, quiet. “Don’t be upset with me. I’m just the tribunal, and this is my work, like any other.Just a harvest. A shepherd with his livestock. A bounty. Or burden. This is just a chore.”
Apollo leaned down with his gaunt eyes and gaudy, gold mask. The man quivered, he took deep breaths because he’d need them – need them to sustain his crying howl into the night.