July 16th, 2017
Oh, the stars would fall tonight.
They stood in their rented apartment room but could not fit themselves in it quite yet. For the last few hours they had been in a fumble of fear. They sat around the kitchen table, below the low hanging spinning lights, hand out as they watched the pulse of the string of life. There was no movement, in one moment. There was, in another. Sporadic things.
“Are they working?” Dion asked.
“Yes.” Apollo said. It made Dion stand and wander about. Apollo kept his eyes on the string. He did not want to see it move, he did not want to admit to a fear that was pulsing in his heart. He wanted this whole thing to be over and done with, simple, neat, orderly. But on the third hour, he saw the coiling again. The string, like a snake, wrapped around his arm, burned his arm, stung his arm with a tight hot grip. The faint glow of the string reciprocated in his eyes. Dion could see it across the room like torchlight and began smiling. He undid his sleeves to show that his too, was moving and that this was no mistake.
“What do we do?” Dion asked.
“Well, we…” He held his chest. “We find it. If it’s even here.”
“We know they’re out there.” Dion spat and could not hide his jovial face.
“Maybe. We’ll see.”
“Alright, let’s go then. Why wait?” Dion said. Apollo put his palm on his heart and counted his heart beats. He looked to Dion whose irises turned red with the manipulation of his excitement. Apollo’s did too, though his was more a case of fear than anything else.
“We’re leaving,” Apollo said.
“How will we find it?”
“Hotter the better, colder the deader.” Apollo chanted low and steady like mantra. His voice seemed ready to break. “That’s what she taught me. At least…”
“Well, alright.” Dion smiled. “Hotter the better, colder the deader.”
Apollo reached into his coat and put his hand against an esoteric design stitched on the inside of his jacket. He outstretched it against the felt. Then it sank in, like the surface of water. It slipped deeper inside, into his coat, into that magic hole. When his hand came out he had in it a strange mask. Waxy looking, almost, white except for the area and shadows around the eye sockets that seemed tainted with black lines. It looked like a Rorschach, odd design. Was it wild plumage? Leaves on pale dirt? A broken porcelain road, black veins perhaps? Who knows what others saw, he didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t his design or choice, after all. He just wore it. He wore that odd mask and strapped the leather belts around his head.
Dion revealed his own, a simple smiling mask with crescent eye holes that dripped with blue-painted tears across the contours of its round cheeks.
These were their life masks, one a thief, the other the joker, both leaving their rooms into the night.
Apollo put his feet against the window sill, he looked up to the edge of the rooftop across from him and looked down to the singular ladder shoot and lonely street. He jumped like a leopard across the sky, narrow-bodied, and landed like a storm. Shattering brick, disturbing gravel. For the night came and the hunt called.
Standing high above the edge did not help Apollo’s pores from leaking. He felt death upon them both. His hands shook and he could feel the vibrations and heat of his little gadget squirming around his arm. They were above, on an apartment rooftop, where the steam and smoke of a ventilation shaft contaminated them with the hot air. Across from them was the faint meaty smell of a factory. Rancid and processed, like bleached animal rot. It did not help Apollo calm his breathing. He was nervous and it made him put on that cold sweat. His limbs felt tight as if hypertrophied, full of an anxiety that was bound to explode. A balloon animal, shaped and bent by a clown. Pressed, pressed, pressed. Pop.
“What do we do?” Dion asked.
Apollo looked down with crimson eyes at the construction site that spanned half a block. They could hear noise. They could see details no normal man could, small features in the apparent blind darkness. They were, after all, designed for this.
A tall figure moved across the second floor. It made Apollo’s stomach clench.
“We’re going to wait until we have a clear sighting. We’ll follow it, trap it, kill it. Let’s not give up the high ground.” Apollo knelt on the edge of the roof. He was surprised his gloves did not slide off his wet palms.
Dion tapped his foot. He crossed his arms and tapped his hands and began to kick around some plastic bags that floated. Apollo would have complained but his throat was too dry.
Then he stood.
Both of them got closer and reared their heads up as they saw the first thing to come out. A man running, blood on his body. The man falling. Something was thrown at him, a can of paint that spilled white all over his back and the blue tarps. It splattered, blood and dirt and paint as Pollock had taken his brush across the front fence. Dion tightened his hams to jump. Apollo grabbed onto him, tried to at least.
But it was too late. The figure inside the door frame revealed himself and all the petty thoughts and plans evacuated Dion’s head. Now primal instinct remained. Live, kill, eat. His stomach dropped. The universe blurred, time slowed. The adrenaline high hit them both, beat by beat. Apollo looked down at the creature. Tall, big-bellied, but thin limbed. Neck-less, with a giant beak and birds head for a face. They almost mistook it for a plague doctor until its horrible mouth opened and the small ridges of its teeth showed like a serrated blade. The tongue forked, slipped out, cartoonish almost.
There was a shriek, the creatures squawked. Both of them felt the vibrations in the air, their hairs stood up.
“I’m not waiting any longer,” Dion said. Apollo wasn’t paying attention. This again, he thought, not again, move, move. Dion jumped forward, to a closer rooftop. He reached into his clothes and out came his instrument of death. Something too heavy to call a revolver, something too heavy for any mortal man. Best to call them cannons, thunder bringers, for the noise they made with a simple click of their hammers made a loud pop for a clap. Both pointed below the creature, Dion was still trying to steady them but their weight adjusted them to point low. His biceps strained. He aimed them right and true and pressed down on the trigger.
The heavens collapsed down unto the earth. They came down with a crash and a loud roar. Apollo felt the air break and push out. He flinched and when his eyes opened, he caught a glimpse of what seemed like a meteor falling down towards the demon.
A body of pure silver, a streak of neon blue. It aimed at the creature’s head. But the creature had heard it too. It began to duck in what seemed like the fraction of a fraction of a second. It still wasn’t that fast, not fast enough to dodge at least. And the demon’s arm tore off into splatter and matter, black specks to add to the painting in front of him. Dion smiled behind his mask. He felt glee, true joy. So excited was he that he did not notice his own hanging wrists, there was a cut where hand met arm, bone was sticking out from it and his skin and few tendons barely kept his hands attached. He only noticed them after the fact, as the creature began to stand. He looked down, grunted and pushed both arms down on the floor. They reattached, healed quite literally. Red mist came from the wound as all small ribbons of flesh and muscle realigned themselves. He was like a machine, a diagnostic, healing machine, red wires, red oil, all coming back together.
“You idiot, don’t push him that hard.” Apollo leapt down to where Dion stood. He put his hand on Dion’s shoulder. “Follow my lead this time.”
But Dion would not move. He watched the arm of the demon regenerate as well, cell by cell, skeleton, then muscle, then that onyx flesh.
Both of them seeds of the same breed, germinated in the same unholy soil.
The creature looked back. It screamed, challenged Dion with its black hole for a mouth pointed at the Vicar. Dion who maintained his smirk and who pulled himself from Apollo’s grasp.
The demon stuck its long hand into its mouth, like a sword swallower, and out came the weapon. The bony, white weapon. Truly, a carnival show. Clown and freaks, all damned. The demon now stood next to his blade. Long, with fleshy tumor-growths, like he had made a lance out of his vertebrae. Apollo looked carefully at the demon and how he turned and put his leg in front of him.
“Move!” He screamed and pushed Dion to the side. The spear whistled by and struck through the metal vent behind them. The fan went flying, the building shed bricks. Down below the monstrosity was fixing itself up from its bad throw and vomiting out another weapon.
“Now’s our chance. We can rout it, start moving.” Apollo said. He began to jump rooftops but looked back, Dion still stood. He was on the edge, with his own foot in front of him. He galloped forward and with his arms and hands, skated down the side of another building, dragging his hand through stone like a surf-wave.
“Hey! Pay attention.” Apollo screamed into the microphones of his mask. There was nothing but static.
Dion landed on a balcony. He hopped off it, like a feline, into an unfinished plane. He landed with the dust and metal scattering about him, like a deforested metal jungle. Pipe and cement and black asphalt were strewn everywhere.
He was laughing. Laughing through the comms, laughing through the static.
He looked for another platform to descend, found it, and shot as he jumped. Small stones were thrown at him by the creature, stones, some sharp poles, all chucked his way. Both of them felt the glancing blows of bullets and shrapnel, the small cuts that formed on their bodies.
Dion landed on a shattered floor. To his side, the unconscious body of Jeremiah, to his front, the beast staring back. And all Apollo could do is watch them, watch the curious desire for violence. It was disgusting, it made him grit his teeth, curse, then leave.
“Fine then.” Apollo hissed. “Just keep him f****** busy.” Static again. Apollo rubbed his head. He’d go then, go past them both to a flat foundation where the cement was only beginning to harden. There were pillars there, like albino evergreens. It’s as good as it’s gonna get with this psycho, Apollo thought.
Dion couldn’t even pretend to listen, to care. There was another muse in him, Mars, and his song was deafening. Dion pointed his gun at the demon.
He shot. The thing ducked. It was quick. He was impressed. Both at the creature and his wrist that managed to stiffen itself better for the recoil. He was only aching this time around and did not wait for his pain to subside. He shot again. Careful now, with a calculated randomness to his rhythm, an uneven pressure of bullet shots as if a drum line had fallen into chaos at the show, drunk, drunk all of them. Drunk on blood.
Dion saw a leg fly. It didn’t even stop the demon though. It used its own stake to balance itself and hop away. The monstrosity hid behind the tarps and threw his spears under the cover. Dion winced. There was a spear through his foot. He grabbed the skewer and broke it, shattered it into bone dust. He felt the steam rise from his foot injury and took a step to follow the demon who ran (hopped) away.
There was a voice though. A low breathing. It made Dion stop.
He looked to his rear. To the clenched, hurt face of the man on the floor. Dion looked back to the bird. He was leaving his field of view.
“You coward, come back.” He shouted at the drifting footsteps. “What dignity is there in running.”
Dion stepped forward, it squeezed blood from the shrinking hole on his foot. He heard groaning again. The withered cry of death. There was another one civilian here. He heard it again, the distinct foreign moan and it tore his heart in two. Two voices, two desires that roamed in Dion’s mind. To help, to kill. He looked back to the face of the man on the floor, to his broken body that writhed and twitched. It disarmed him, softened his eyes from red to humble black. He held his breath and pressed on the small communication device in his mask.
“It’s not heading your way. I hope you can handle it. I’ve got a problem over here.” Dion said.
“Fix your f****** problem and get here as fast as-” Apollo started. Dion cut the sound off his mask with a press of the button.
He looked around himself and it seemed like the world was finally clear again, like the black lines around his tunnel vision had disappeared.
Dion rested Jeremiah against a wall. He looked up to the moaning inside the castle of wood.
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.