July 16th, 2017
Apollo reached into his pocket for the red stone. He had taken a bite before, only a small nibble. He thought to share it with Dion, but seeing it pulse in his hand had made his stomach grumble. The rough feeling, chalky, stone. He bit, it felt like granite on his palate before it dissolved on his tongue. And the more he ate, the more voracious he became. He almost ate his fingers as he slobbered on the little red rock. The drool came down past his palms, down his arm. He was walking on top of the rooftops of Havenbrook, dragging more like it. His feet dragged with that tired friction as if he was lugging hooks down a corrugated path. His breathing was heavy and desperate. His clothes were bleeding out. His healing, most important of all, seemed stunted. He took another large bite. It tasted like candy now, sweeter and helped his tired body. Fuel for Vicars, as he had remembered long ago. Not in the same way food was (though it was a kind of food). The little red philosophers stone that helped him walk along and helped him heal. He kept eating as he remembered.
Footsteps appeared behind him. He didn’t bother to turn himself though, the sound was familiar.
“Are you alright?” The voice said. Apollo hung by the edge of the building and started to lift himself. Dion grabbed him by the arm to help.
Helicopter sounded up above, slicing wind. There were screams from busy firefighters and the sound of high-pressure water currents cutting flame.
“I don’t need it.” He pushed Dion away.
“Don’t be so stubborn, you look hurt,” Dion said. He took his mask off and put it inside his coat.
“I can make it home.” Apollo said.
“Let me carry you, it’s a long way.” He reached his arm over to Apollo.
“Don’t touch me.”
“Well, if I can’t touch you, I can at least lead you. Come on.” Dion said, a bit half-hearted and hurt.
Apollo followed, reluctantly. He put his mask away too. Dion ran to the side of the building, down metal stairs that clanked and shook. Apollo held the guardrail, his hand felt uneasy.
“What’d you do? That was a big explosion. Hit a gas line?” Dion asked two floors beneath Apollo.
“No, I didn’t. It’s nothing you have to worry about.”
“We’re partners. Of course, I need to know all your tricks.”
“The only thing you need to do is manage that impatience. What the f*** was that back?” He squeezed his hand and heard the metal rail bend into a sharp cry. It dislodged.
“What do you mean? You saw him, the guy came running ate. He was being chased. What kind of man would I be if I just let him die there and then?”
“A smart man.”
“I’d rather be stupid and good than smart.”
“You’re neither smart nor moral. You’re just stupid.” Apollo threw the shard of the metal bar away. It hit the alley walls, then the floor below. It was low, they must have been high. “You almost killed me – Us, with that stupid bravado.”
“We’re not dead and even if we did, we would have died helping the common man. The good man.”
“Yes, and if we did die? What if we did help and fail? What do you think would have happened next?”
Dion swallowed spit. His throat was dry.
“Do you think that thing would just stopped with us? With that dumb stooge? Of course not. He’d go on and on, eating endlessly. And then the problem wouldn’t just be three dumbasses dying. It would have been the city dying. Did you think of that?”
A helicopter light dragged above, it missed them only by an inch.
“Four.” Dion looked proper in his stance, with his chest primed with courage and his head, tall and straight. “There were four of us. I saved another man too, did you add that to your maths?”
Apollo was two feet further, up the stairs and yet he looked small in front of the man like he was shrinking against the light of that naive justice. So angry Apollo was, he decided to even out the difference. He grabbed Dion by the coat and pushed him against the ledge.
“You listen up, Superman. We aren’t heroes. Didn’t I tell you before? Are you deaf or stupid? Maybe both. The words must have gotten lost in that empty f****** skull of yours.” Apollo said. “So let me remind you. Consider this my piece of advice. Do us a favor and kill that pretty picture in your head, the picture of us going around town with our wide capes, dancing in our underwear. We. Are not. Heroes. Heroism gets you killed. Heroism gets everyone killed. We’re not heroes, we’re not warriors, we’re hunters.”
“Let me go.” Dion grunted.
“We’re Vicars. Get it through your head. We fight unfair, we plan, we outnumber. We do everything necessary to kill the enemy, demonic or otherwise. Let go of that s*** called honor and pride, let it die. We’re here to hunt.”
“Let go!” Dion punched Apollo on the chin. He let go of his coat and stepped away with buckled knees. Apollo fell, slumped down and sat on the stairs, his head hung crookedly from his body. His eyes felt drowsy.
“Striking a weak man. At least you’re learning.” He said. He was seeing doubles in his vision, a dislodge of left and right eye. “But you haven’t learned enough. You don’t know how much failure costs. That’s why you strut around with the f****** finger on the trigger, shooting your gun, shooting your mouth. Acting high, just because you can. But don’t worry, you stay alive long enough in this business and you’ll figure out the cost. The cost of failure. It’s a price so high you’ll be taking out loans for years just to manage it.”
“You’re sick in the head,” Dion shouted. He was running down the stars, far ahead of Apollo. His voice echoed in the narrow passage they were coming down to. The spotlight seemed to take notice, it dragged around in circles around the noise. “You’re reprimanding me for saving two people? So what if I shot early? So what! It ended up alright and that’s all that matters, right? The end game, whatever the cost. Right? We killed it my way, we saved more people doing it. That would be good enough for anyone. But not you. Oh no, not you!” The stairs rattled. He sounded like a storm with the drumming of his footsteps. “You’ll call me a narcissist just because I help people! You’re a psychopath! Calm. Cool. Heartless. Like the very demons, we kill.” When he had the chance, Dion jumped on to the floor.
“That won’t sate God’s tribunal. I promise you that.” He wagged his finger up to the beaten Apollo.
“Oh, you’re so selfless, Dion. So. F******. Selfless. Selfless when you jumped down laughing like a maniac. Selfless when you started spraying down with joy and excitement.” Apollo struggled to stand. “You’re so f****** selfless, with your kill-crazy-boner. A real Gandhi type of guy.” He was shouting down the alley to Dion who turned the corner. “You’re a modern day John f****** Lennon, aren’t you? “
He wasn’t even there at that point. Apollo kept screaming.
“You god damn violent retard.”
A man in his peripheral opening a door. He looked like a blur, a blur wearing an apron. And he threw a bag of trash onto the floor, like a bed for Apollo. The man stared up, disgusted and a little confused. He couldn’t see much of Apollo, only the ruined rags of clothes and the messy, greasy hair.
“Another drunk.” The man said.
“F*** off.” Apollo raised his middle finger. The man responded in equal and walked back inside and Apollo climbed down the ladder. He tried walking but stopped, next to the dumpster and the bag of trash. It’d make a nice bed, Apollo thought.
He threw the lid back and started climbing. His head looked up, like a drowsy man before the covers are put down on him. He looked to the mainland street in front of the alley. A few cars came whizzed by and the sirens were low. Up above, past the blurring lights, the smoke raged on. It was a distant chaos, somewhere seemingly far off in the city. A warning, almost, like the preemptive shake of earth before the seismic raze. Everyone saw it, everyone felt it. With their windows lifted and their eyes peaking, they stared with their eyes reflecting the ravaging glow of the fire. Sophie, The Priest. All watching.
Alestor who had left to his office after the murder and had spent the last few hours in his study. He was leaning out his window, with the plastic curtain call conformed to the shape of his back. Even from the edge of town, he could see the little red dots. Fires, helicopters. They were clear even in the cloudy night. His arms shook, his chest jumped up and he felt an urge to sit. It was the first time he felt afraid in his own office. He seen rapists and murderers and pedophiles here, in this small office and even they did not inspire the fear in his heart.
He turned reached for the door near the therapy couch. He locked it. He looked around to the bookshelves and desks and small figures for something to entertain himself as his arm fidgeting began to infect the rest of his body. He closed the window. He shut the curtains, but the chill was still inside. A strange, summer cold.
He sprawled out on the sofa and let his arm fall to the floor.
“Should I call my son?” He asked the ceiling. “I’m sleeping tonight.”
No, he wouldn’t care. He thought.
The cold was strong and his body turned stiff, like a long, rusted antenna. His heart skipped. He heard a voice. He turned his head, something was mumbling into his ear. The cold continued, paralyzed him like a kind of faux-death. He felt a grip on his neck, the long cold fingers.
It was his master’s hand and finally, the words became clear.
“You’ve failed me again, haven’t you?”
And Alestor froze.