July 16th, 2017
Was it time?
A distant sound of gunshots. A few bangs. Then silence.
So it was.
The first thought that came to Apollo’s mind was the image of bloody and dead Dion. But then he heard the radio transmission and the dismal sound of a tired Dion. He was alive, exasperated and low, but alive. He listened and after a while, a second thought started to form. The idea that he, Apollo, would have to deal with the beast himself.
Apollo put his back against a pillar of concrete and waited minutes, that felt like days before he heard footsteps. He wanted to believe they were Dion’s and asked as much in the small intercom in his mask. No, Dion responded back, he wasn’t there. He listened in again to the treading sound of nimble footsteps and the way they slapped on the floor like wet flesh. They got closer. He held his breath. The silence in the air felt like another enemy, another thing to kill. A draft blew and dragged small pebbles of dirt and shook sheets of rusted metal. It sounded like the city was groaning.
Tarp slapped against the trucks they covered.
There was a whistle above him, where an unfinished concrete pillar stood with the metal bars sticking out like lines of hair.
Apollo waited. He waited long. Until he could hear a screech. Until he could feel the beast’s breath next to him he waited. This was the worst part, with his hand in his jacket and his heart beating fast. He turned. His eyes darted. Looking past his cover he saw…nothing.
Nothing. Not a thing was there but the unfinished wood and stone walls. He slowly dragged his face up. His eyes widened. His sucked in his breath, like a high-pressure vault at the ocean’s bottom floor. He put his hands against the stone pillar and pushed. Hard, fast, so he could vault himself outward and into the air.
The pillar collapsed into a storm of shrapnel that shot out every which way, that blew dust like a mushroom cloud up in the air and towards Apollo. The warring mist covered everything in close proximity. In it, the long dark shadow of the demon.
The pike was coming for him, straight to his rapid beating heart. He had no time to move. No, he did not move his legs. Instead, Apollo dragged his hands out from under his coat. There was a sudden clank of steel and a rain of sparks. As if Satan had spit into the air in front of Apollo. Another clash, then Apollo leaning into his weapon and killing the momentum of them both. The dust settled on their shadowy bodies again. They looked like a ripped picture of those Hellenian vases, like two dark silhouettes in tandem of battle. A sword and a spear. A man and a beast.
Apollo eyed the thing in front of him, the lengthy and veiny black arm. Stiff, quick, strong. He could only just hold himself in his position against the strength of the creature, and only could because of his own instrument, one he had taken and removed from that clever jacket of his.
Stopping the demon and the pike was Apollo’s own weapon. Though it was unfair to call it a weapon, or anything dignified really. It was a slab. A hunk of metal. Silver-steel that only seemed coincidentally in the shape of a sword, but not really being one. It was large, this behemoth of metal, larger than Apollo, larger than any man and all along its thick center was a band of wavy and undulating lines of silver. Everything else seemed a decayed grey. You could not see a reflection past its muddy patina. It had no hand guard. It had no sharp edge. It was no weapon designed for any man to use against any man. It was a demon slayer, a chipped piece of Vulcan’s mighty anvil.
The tip of the sword was in the ground, plunged deep like a stake. Apollo picked the handle up. The concrete scabbard shook, the floor underneath them shook. The beast watched with expanded yellow irises. He moved away, far from Apollo, staring and wondering if the blade even had an end. Apollo kept pulling. A clown prank, almost.
Apollo picked up that piece of metal, raised it high and let it cast its shadow on the demon. He moved it around, arced, and set it on his shoulders. His feet bit into the floor from the added weight. All along its rusted body were the cracks and creases that spilled dirt from their crevices. His broken piece of metal, though intimidating from a height, seemed only barely intact. Likewise, Apollo who only seemed barely intact. And the jagged cleaver of Apollo’s quivered with him, cried with him, worried with him. And the beast was not afraid. Not anymore, of that unruly man and his unruly weapon.
Apollo swung. It slow and long, almost choreographed. But it was as swift as he could and whatever he lacked in speed he made up for in strength. One swing is all it took to split the air into a shrill cry and drag dust across like a wide vortex. Everything seemed to break, whether work of man or God, under the blade as he chased after the demon. They went at it in the complex. The metal poles shattered. The water pipes broke. The wood turned to sawdust. The floors collapsed.
It was hard to tell if Apollo was even hitting. He was too afraid to stop and think about much of anything. Under-prepared, under pressure, Apollo could not manage a strategy past hysteric sword swinging. The beast smelled it, that frightened sweat.
The intimidation of the blade was starting to wear off as they dragged their fight back out, towards the unfinished pillars and trailers and pickup trucks that rose and pushed up with each messy blow.
Apollo was being pressed. Had been for a while really, but only began to realize it. For in between each thrust of his own blade, out came five thrusts back. He had to weave, to shake and dodge. It was no dance of death as the poets would say of war and battle. It was the butchering of a chicken, the chase, and the dissection.
And Apollo was getting cut. Many-fold, all across his body. It looked like he had walked through thorns. The smoke came out from his wounds, his clothes were turned to rags. He was healing, bleeding, sweating all at the same time. Apollo retreated. He stuck the sword back down like a worn white flag. The beast was not appeased. He screamed out, Apollo hid behind with width of his blade. His elbows were sticking out, they were the first to be stabbed through.
“F***.” He repeated under his breath. He stuck his head out to see, his eye was almost plucked out. The pike edge slashed him across the forehead, he felt the blood drizzled down. He retreated back behind his blade. Whatever the creature was doing was beyond him at this point, he could only hear the orchestra of violence, only feel the blows of the demon as they hit his sword, but he could not see them. He tried to make out a pattern, but it was too erratic. Too dark.
“F***.” He shouted it now.
He tried removing the blade, tried swinging. But Apollo was kicked. He flew, blade and all, past a wheel barrel of bricks, where they scattered. His body landed on pallets and everything around him was ruined. He felt it, the shards of wood stabbing at him like deadly acupuncture. He saw the clouds of pulverized wood and brick like the aftermath of a TNT blast. And slowly he worked on the wooden daggers in his back. His uncoordinated arms bent on removing each of the splinters. The creature was running. He was still trying to heal, the bloody smoke of his rising from his wounded body. A screech, the sound of a high pounce. His body was covered in that bloody mist, his eye looked up. His whole face drained of color, accepting almost. Dead now, he thought with that almost primitive simplicity. Just dead.
“Move.” Apollo heard through his mask. His legs reacted.
There was a noise. A pop at first, then the sound of metal scratching.
At the sound, he immediately kicked his blade up, back to his shoulders. He jumped back. He felt the air push aside and then watched it, the collapse. As if he was staring at ground zero of a meteor strike. Dust blew out to every angle like a giant pulse. He tried to make out what he had jumped from and rubbed his eyes.
It was the crane that fell. High and mighty, collapsing onto the beast and leveling the floor. Apollo landed on a metal container and watched the aftermath. He looked up, Dion was resting his smoking gun on the floor. Good for something, he thought.
Apollo looked down. He felt his muscles tense up. His back curled forward like a cat. The beast was ripping its trapped limbs beneath the crane. It chomped down on its stomach and began to crawl. From the severed half outgrew the muscle fibers and legs. He was pulling his limbs, piecemeal, from underneath the crane. And it was healing, like Apollo and Dion. Savage, excited. The demon could not wait to stand and showed as much with its gaping, hungry mouth. Like a starved cannibal, biting and chewing on himself.
It would have stood. It would have continued, endlessly, like a program of evil left to run. The thought brought something to life in Apollo. Maybe it was pride, or shame (if they were any different).
Apollo put the sword to his side and watched each crack inside his metal blade ruffle and deepen, like bleeding veins. Some kind of substance ignited from the handle, up the cracks of the sword. Apollo spun. One, two, three, four. He counted. And on five, threw his sword out. It flew straight, landed inside of the creature and out came fury. A pillar of fire and molten earth, as if the planet had erupted before them. A long high, destructive fire that raised itself past the floors of the apartment complex.
The whole city saw the explosion and the smoke that jetted up. The police were hesitant to go inside, opting to watch from afar for the fire to settle. They made out a lone figure walking amongst the camouflage of devastation. A figure someone reaching down to a charred corpse and stabbing his hand through the chest of said corpse. The lone perpetrator who picked out the heart of the burned body and eating it, like a hungry crow.
“Stop, put your weapons down.” They said from afar. The man in the fire kept eating the heart. Words didn’t mean much, not in the middle of Hell, they didn’t.
“Hands up!” The same officer cried. The figure ran up the ribs of the fallen crane. They were loud steps, even from a distance.
“F****** stop!” There was a gunshot. The figure stopped. Everyone looked nervous, fingers on the trigger. There were gasps all of a sudden, a few fainting officers. The rest looked into that Hellscape at what they could clearly see: a pair of eyes staring back, crimson red in the center of the cloudy darkness. The Vicar leapt up. The searchlights from a busy helicopter tried to chase him down. An antenna was thrown at its direction, severing the light from the helicopter.
The lone red-eyed figure ran out. Jumping high, like a nightmare in the sky.
No one could shoot. No one could look away.
“Monster.” One of the officers said.
So it was.