The Drowned God, Chapter 5

Nile leaned forward and grabbed my crotch. “Ram. Who gives a shit? These miserable pissant pipsqueak people don’t matter at all when you’re one of us. You have a lot to remember.” My cock felt huge and tight in my jeans. “We’re landing now. No one’s going to punish you. If Jim is one of us, he’s alive out there somewhere, and if he’s not, he’s not worth anything. Those girls? Whatever. You’re just another prick to them. Everyone on earth could die in the next few months. It won’t matter.”

“But I mean, like, what’s the point? Why do anything? If it doesn’t matter if anyone lives or dies, if there’s no one out there to punish me for what I did, is this even leading to anything? I’m just supposed to fuck and die and live again and fuck and die?”

“Did you do all that shit because you wanted Santa Claus to be real? To prove yourself wrong?” I sat back. Did I? She squeezed my crotch again and sat back. “Your brother was an asshole. You were in an impossible situation. You’re a fucking warrior. Everyone wants you to be a slave.”

The wheels of the helicopter touched down in a field with a thump. “I didn’t want to hurt him. I loved him. He should have been my friend. We should have worked together. Instead, he wanted to hurt me. He wanted me to disappear, to never have been born. Without him, I don’t know who I am and what I’m about. Other people look at me, and they see Jim.”

“Your dick is still rock hard,” she said, pointing at my obvious erection through my jeans and giving it a pat. I squirmed in my seat. “That means you’re not dead yet. Think about all the girls you’ve never fucked. You can’t tell me you don’t want to live anymore.” She released her safety harness and climbed out of the cabin. I followed suit, and we climbed out into an empty field in the mountains. She saluted Frank, the pilot, and we walked to the edge of the field. The rotors started, and he ascended into the cloudy sky.

She turned to me. “If you want to save people’s lives before the coming purification by fire and water, we can. It’s up to you. Like I said, it’s all happened before. I’m going to take you to the Kingdom of Arcadia and we’ll see if we can get your memories back.”

The air smelled so clean and pure; I felt better than I had for a long time. She led me to a hedge where there was a huge stone gate, its door hanging open. I tried to ask her more questions, but she wasn’t listening.

Inside the gateway the sky had cleared. The light was pink in the sunset, and peace came over me. Rabbits skittered around the grass, and birdsong filled the air. It was like the death and horror of the cities had no impact on them on the animals whatsoever.

We approached a low stone building. A staircase wound round the interior, descending into darkness. Nile turned to me, breaking the silence. “You have a light, Ram?” She reached up to the wall of the staircase and pulled a lantern from a dark recess. I dug into my pockets and found a lighter. Torchlight blazed, and she smiled at me in the new light. “It’ll be nice to have you back on the team.” I nodded, and we made our way down the staircase. “So when can I start calling you Xarque again?” A chill ran down my spine. 

“You know about … my name?” We made our way down the stone steps. 

“I’ve always known you as Xarque Ozyeus in your previous lives. What’s wrong with your name this time?” 

“That was my birth name. It got changed officially to Robert Beezle by Witness Protection, but everyone had been calling me Bobby or Ram before that. I just wouldn’t answer to it. It pissed my Dad off.”

“You know what it means?” 

“Not really.” I shook my head. I probably could have looked it up, but I had never bothered. 

“It means ‘the dry bones become flesh.'” We came into a dark room at the bottom of the stairs, and pink sunlight lit the chamber at the rear. 

“So it means I’m fated to turn into some sea monster death god?” 

Nile laughed and led me to a water basin in the sunlight. She fitted her torch into a holder on the wall. “It means you make dead things come to life. You have the power to destroy and the power to create. If you choose to kill everyone … that’s what will happen. Now get your clothes off.” 

She started unbuttoning her blouse. My dick was way too confused to react. I pulled my shirt over my head. “We’re entering Arcadia. We have to purify ourselves of this world before we can pass these waters.” She dropped her slacks and stepped out of them. I goggled at her slim, golden body, now only clad in black lingerie. I kicked my shoes off and pulled down my jeans. My dick was stirring. 

She undid and discarded her bra, revealing thin breasts with dark nipples.  Her G-string vanished. My erection was now so huge that I could barely get my briefs off of it. I stood naked in the stone room. Nile slowly leaned over the basin and filled a chalice nearby. 

Previous chapter: https://hermanshermitage.com/2020/12/11/the-drowned-god-chapter-4/

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The Drowned God, Chapter 4

The helicopter broke through the clouds, and the rotors quieted. The fat orange sun hung lonely in the afternoon sky, staring right at us. I was still shaking. The Eye of the Needle sat across from me. She motioned to her ear and mine. I found a switch on my ear protection and switched it on. I pulled the microphone closer to my mouth.

“They didn’t tell us what you’re calling yourself.”

“My name is Ram. What’s your name?”

“Nile.”

“I don’t understand what I’m doing here, Nile. You’re going to protect me?” I eyed her up and down. She was about five feet tall, ninety pounds. She had short-cropped hair, and was wearing a dark green turtleneck, skin-tight, and black slacks. If she was carrying a gun, it was well hidden.

She met my eyes and pursed her lips. “The Penitents won’t touch us. We are the children of the light. We are clean. Their mouths would burn to even pronounce our names. If they put a finger on us, they would die in agony.”

I shook my head and stared out the window. “Everyone’s gone insane,” I muttered. I felt so tired.

Nile kept her eyes on me. “When they told me to escort ‘the Beast’ to Anwyn, I didn’t expect a handsome young man. You don’t look like a monster.”

I looked back at her. “I’m not a monster. That’s just a nickname because I got drunk and puked freshman year. I’m just a dumb kid. My Dad was a Satanist, and some cult thinks I can do something for them. I can do landscaping and drink beer; that’s pretty much it.”

“So you don’t remember who you are or what you can do. Interesting.” She stroked the side of her face idly, like she was watching a movie. “And you don’t remember us at all.”

“We’ve met before?”

“Not in this lifetime, Ram, but we’ve known each other a very long time.” She leaned over and squeezed my thigh. My dick woke up and wondered if he could make this happen.

My brain was still too confused to put my dick in charge. “Robin was saying that I’m … connected to the drowned god? I didn’t get it. Then he started acting all weird, like he wanted to kill me too.”

“You are the one they want. The Penitents can’t wake the drowned god without you.”

“They can’t talk to him?”

“The sensitives among them have dreams, and they preach these to their masses. But they want to see him face to face. They think he’ll talk to his seed and manifest in this reality. If you can make it happen, they can take power over this world, and smash our sanctuary to pieces.”

“Are you psychic?” I was picturing her topless, cupping my balls, and suddenly got scared she could see it too.

She laughed. “I can do anything I want to, Ram. And so can you.” She smiled and licked her lips suggestively.

Dumb me, I had to kill the mood. “I thought he got broke out of his tomb in Atlantis. He’s not swimming around or walking around somewhere?”

“He’s only physical if someone manifests him. The tomb and chains were part of a containment spell which should never have been broken. Without that, he can only speak in dreams.”

Birds began to fill the red sky. They were brown, huge, and everywhere. The pilot adjusted, rising higher into the sky. “These birds are flying above the clouds? How’s that possible?”

She watched the sky calmly. “Vultures. They can fly remarkably high in the clouds. It’s all the dead. ‘Where the corpse is, the vultures gather,’ like the saying goes.”

The birds clustered forward, and the pilot gained speed. The sky went black behind them as vultures filled the air. My stomach twisted into a knot. “The corpse? What corpse?”

“There are thousands dead already. Didn’t you know?” She tilted her head toward the window as the clouds cleared and I saw the city below. The streets were filled with dead bodies, stretched out, on top of cars and in the streets. A horrific smell filled the cabin, and I started to retch.

“Frank!” Nile called into the intercom. “Take us up higher. This is disgusting.”

The words formed on my lips before I knew what they were. “Abomination. Abomination of desolation. This is it. It’s here. Go for the hills.”

Nile cackled and crossed her legs. “Now you’re remembering. We’ll be there soon. Don’t be afraid; this has all happened before, and it’ll all happen again.”

Mercifully, the pilot took us back up into the clouds away from the carnage below.

And I looked at me. “So sentimental, Ram, so worried about their masses of people down there dying and dad. Get over it.

“What do you mean, get over it? Aren’t you the good guys?”

“I mean, they’re all going to die anyway. Fire is going to devour this world. And then water will flood it. When and how they die is immaterial. When you’re as old as we are, things like this just don’t matter anymore.”

“I’m 20 years old.” 

“You’re not. We’ve done this a million times before, Ram. You, me, the rest. You don’t remember any of it? When we fucked while Rome burned? When we drank and ate while the plague consumed millions? This apocalypse is no different.”

I felt like everyone was playing a game and I didn’t know what the rules were. I was swimming in a sea of bullshit, trying to breathe. “You’re saying we’re reincarnations?”

“We like to call it ‘metempsychosis.’ The seers and prophets are saying that you’re an incarnation of evil and destruction this time around. Tell me about your life-line, this time. Your father was a Satanist, and the Penitents want you to manifest Abaddon and kill and enslave the whole world, then wreck everything. That’s your story?”

“You make it sound really simple. My life has really sucked. I’m the one who had to live it.”

“Tell me your story, Ram. How did you get to be the most wicked man in the world?” She flashed a mischievous grin and giggled. She was making fun of me.

“I don’t tell anyone this story. No one at my school has heard it, not even my … my friend who’s a girl, Birdie. But I had a brother, Jim, and he was a real asshole. I used to be a sweet kid, but I had to survive.

“My Mom was in her room at the top of the stairs in the house where we were staying. Jim and I had rooms on the ground floor. She was on the phone, yelling at my Dad, telling him what a piece of shit he was, and how she needed him and he was never there. Then she started screeching about sex stuff, about how he couldn’t get his dick hard and how good his buddies dicks tasted. Jim and I were sitting in the kitchen, and I was watching his face get darker and darker. He was so pissed.

“Jim finally jumped up and charged up the stairs. My mom must have gotten scared and shut herself in her room and locked the door. I went up after him, and he had already ripped the molding off the top of the door.

“Jim always liked to say, ‘I’m bigger than you, stronger than you, and I always will be.’ He had already blackened both my eyes that year on the way to school for saying something that he didn’t like. I was fourteen, he was sixteen. He had forty pounds on me and he might have played football in college, according to his coach.

“Jim was screaming at Mom to let him in. I told Jim I wasn’t going to let him get to Mom. She was crying behind the door, telling him she had already called the police. He was raving, ‘I just want to hit her once, and teach her a lesson. I just want to hit her once.’ I was afraid he was going to really hurt her. I put myself between him and the door and told him to back off. Jim grabbed me by my shirt and dangled me over the stairs, demanding for me to let him through.

“The police weren’t showing up. They’re never there when you need them. I got my arms up. I heard a little voice in my head saying, ‘pull him down with you.’ I grabbed his forearms and yanked, and he fell over me; we both tumbled.

“I pushed him off me as we fell and he hit the first floor landing first, fast and hard, with his neck. I slid to the bottom and crumpled into him. I heard the sick wet sound of his breathing, and I smelled his shit. I got up as fast as I could and tried to turn him over. His head flopped back and forth loosely as the police walked in the front door. I had broken his fucking neck.”

“The police finally showed up, and they walked when my Mom was scrambling down the stairs, screaming and crying. I stood next to Jim’s twitching corpse. They pulled me toward them, cuffed me and led me to the car. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have anything to say. They saw everything.

“I got booked and put into juvie, the juvenile detention facility. I sat around for a couple hours before Agent Robin showed up. I didn’t expect him to, but he got me out and took me to a hotel. My Mom was waiting there, and she couldn’t even look at me.

“Robin explained that Jim was dead, and that instead of me going through a trial, or whatever through the court, we were just going into witness protection. He said it was an accident and I was defending my mom and defending myself. Which was true but it was bullshit. They just didn’t give a shit about us, and they didn’t want me or Jim wrecking their court case. My Dad was just about to testify against the Satanists for those kid murders. He testified, and I never saw or heard from him again. Robin thinks he’s dead.

“I got stuck in a new school, and my new name was Bobby Beezle. Here’s what I figured out: No one wanted to hear what I had to say. I learned to shut the fuck up and lift heavy ass weights. I got started boxing. I got started lifting. I ate like a motherfucker. I made my body huge. I got strong as hell. Nobody was coming to save me. Nobody gave a shit about me, so I got my kicks where the fuck I could. Yeah, I was a bad kid. I am a bad kid. But that’s what they made me. Been good would’ve got me killed.

“I got wicked so I could earn the shame that I felt all the time. If I can murder and get off with no consequences, then I could do anything. Maybe I could make God come down from heaven to smite me if I was evil enough.

“What I really loved was hurting people. When I was boxing, I would hit them in ways they hadn’t dreamed of. I could make him hurt so fucking bad. Then I started fighting at nights, underground boxing and wrestling. I got the shit beat out of me enough times that I learned to beat them even harder. No rules, no mercy.

“I got so aggressive I scared people. I got so big and strong and ugly. Because I’m not afraid of them. I’m not afraid of anyone. Death and I are friends. You can’t hurt what’s already dead. Having no expectations or feelings to hurt made me invincible.”

Nile licked her lips and smirked at me, like she was about to start opening my pants. My sins were turning her on. I kept going.

“What I liked to do the most, though, was humiliating guys. Someone picked a fight with me, I took his girl. I’d find her when she was out, make her laugh a little bit. I’d get real close and put my hands on her. Maybe she’d tell him about it, maybe I would, just to fuck with him.  up his life, even if you know, I didn’t get with her. But I usually did. Girls really like the whole bad guy routine. They don’t want some little pussy.

“Sometimes I would kind of stalk the guy, find pretty women in his life, his sister, mother, whatever. I’d find a spot to watch through their windows while they changed and jerk off. Eventually I start creeping into their houses, stealing their panties, their diaries, whatever was intimate and personal.

“Eventually I got to college, and the guys like somebody who can fuck and fight and party. So I’ve been doing whatever the fuck I want for a long time. The problem comes when there are girls who really like me, and I can’t even come anymore if I’m not humiliating somebody. It’s like I have to hurt somebody just to get off.”

Next chapter:

Chapter 5: https://hermanshermitage.com/2020/12/26/the-drowned-god-chapter-5/

Previous chapter:

Chapter 3: https://hermanshermitage.com/2020/12/01/the-drowned-god-chapter-3/ 

The Drowned God, Chapter 3

When I slept, I dreamed of giant, black open mouths swallowing me. I was falling forever into blackness. It wasn’t just death, it was … worse. I heard those wet thumps; I smelt the burning flesh. I woke up shaking. After a couple days, they took off the cervical collar, and the swelling around my throat had improved enough for me to talk. They moved me to a regular hospital room to watch my airway one more night before they sent me home. Robin came to see me.

“Hello Ram,” he said, clapping me on the shoulder. Robin Bearshak was the FBI agent in charge of my family’s case. He was a huge black guy, shaved head, 6’6, 250 lb at least.

I knew him because I’d been in Witness Protection after my Dad freaked out and disappeared. He was in some Satanic cult. My Mom had testified against him and the cult, and I got put in witness protection with her. She’s still out in the Utah desert, and I hadn’t been home in two years.

“Fuck, Robin, I’m so sorry, man. I promise I didn’t tell anyone who I was. They’re dead because of me.”

“Slow down, buddy. You didn’t kill those kids. You’re sure they knew who you were?”

“The leader called me Xarque Ozyeus.”

Robin shook his head. “No one’s supposed to know that’s you.”

“I swear I didn’t tell anybody.”

“I know, I believe you.”

“Is my Dad alive?”

“He hasn’t popped up on our radar anywhere. These guys are fucking scary. They’re not Satanists like your Dad. They’re something different.”

“How the fuck did all of them disappear?”

“Hold on, Ram.” Robin picked up the phone receiver on the bedside table and took a small speaker out of his pocket. He switched the speaker on and put it to the mouthpiece. A shrill whine made me wince; he adjusted it so we couldn’t hear it anymore and put the receiver and speaker on the table. “You should assume from now on that you’re being recorded. This should ruin any recording devices listening in.”

“So what’s happening?”

“The FBI is compromised. I’d suspected it for awhile, and now I’m sure of it. They shouldn’t have been able to find you. If they all got out of custody, that means that a lot of guys are working for them. You’re in serious danger.”

“You can’t figure out where these Penitents come from?”

“No idea. The USA just had college students murdered and kidnapped by a death cult from terrorists who we can’t identify. We’re being invaded and we don’t know by whom. We’re being attacked and we don’t know by which country. They’re everywhere and we don’t know who they are. They wear those hoods and stand in rows, and we can’t figure out who they are even if we kill them. Their fingerprints aren’t in the databases, their pictures don’t match anything we’ve got. We’ve sent pictures to our allies but haven’t got any matches. Just random fuckers trying to kill everybody.”

“The leader said they wanted me to be king, or an offering to their god. Who the fuck is the drowned god?”

Robin shook his head. “It’s something that came up with Atlantis.”

“That shit is real?”

“The tabloids don’t get everything right, but, yeah. Basically, a huge chunk of a sunken city floated up to the surface after an underwater earthquake six months ago. The researchers found idols with inscriptions in no language they’d ever read before. Stone idols and pillars worshipping some horrible sea beast. There was a giant tomb; when the team went down there, it was empty. There were massive chains, discarded.”

I started shaking. “How did the Penitents find out about it?”

“Everyone who went onto the Atlantis site is dead or disappeared. Once they got to mainland, the researchers started losing their minds and became so violent they had to be restrained. We think there was a cult to that sea beast that had been maintained in secret throughout human history, and the surviving researchers are with them now.”

“Does the sea beast have a name?”

“Abaddon. Apollyon. The Destroyer.”

My whole body was shaking. “Is he from the Bible?”

“He’s mentioned, but probably much older than the Bible.”

“What do they want me for?”

“There’s a legend … it says that millions of years ago, Abaddon fucked a human, probably one of your ancestors. There’s a bloodline that goes through history of some of the worst dictators and murderers ever. That’s your Dad, and that’s you. Your Dad is probably dead. So are his other kids. You’re the only one left. You can probably do crazy shit you don’t even know about.”

“What’s Abaddon going to do?”

“No one really knows. This is all guesswork based on myths and legends. The Penitents believe that we should serve this evil fuck, and that he’ll make them gods like him. They want him to take over the world and kill everybody.”

“Who are they going to rule if everybody’s dead?”

“These guys haven’t thought that far ahead. They just want to wreck everything. They want the world to stop. They want you because they think Abaddon will talk to you, because you have his genes. You’ll let him manifest, have a corporeal body in the material plane.”

“So what the fuck do I do?”

“Don’t trust anybody, even the FBI. I’m sending someone to get you out of here. We call her the Eye of the Needle. You’ll go with her to some place safe. I’ll meet up with you if I can.”

“The Eye of the Needle?”

“It’s a codename. You have to go through her to get to the Kingdom.”

“What about Birdie? What about my friends and the Betas?”

“The best thing you can do for them is stay away. They’ll be a lot safer if you’re nowhere near them. Get some clothes on and get ready to move.”

He put on a pair of latex gloves and pulled the needle out of my arm, sticking a bandage on it. He looked at me and looked sadder than I’d ever seen him. Robin cleared his throat. “This whole thing is an existential crisis for those of us in the government. It’s like, ‘ok, that was history, that was myth, and now, we’re living in it.’ Nothing makes sense. Suicide seems entirely reasonable. You die, you go insane, you commit suicide. Those are your options.”

I stared at him. “You’re supposed to be the one who knows what’s going on.”

He chuckled mirthlessly. “Ram, you know, I get it, you’re young, dumb, and full of come, and so you have every reason to go back out there into that fucking shit-show. But what about me? Shit’s already happened. I don’t even fucking know. My wife is dead, my daughter is gone, probably wearing that mark, everything’s lost. Let’s just let those assholes kill us all. Who cares?”

“Fuck you, man, you can’t just say that to me.”

He got a creepy look in his eyes, and his voice changed; it went higher. “You know, maybe you were right in the first place. You’re the reason for all of this. They need you to make it work. You’re the missing link. If you don’t lead them, Abaddon probably can’t manifest in this plane. You’re the secret seed. I should just kill you, but I can’t. I can’t. I should. No.”

I stood up and put my fists in front of me. I didn’t want to fight him, but I would if I had to. “It’s time to go, Robin.”

He got up and shook himself. “I’m going to go stand guard at the nurse’s desk. I’m sorry, man, I was talking out of my ass. I don’t know what came over me. I was talking shit.”

I nodded, and he backed out of the room. I sat on my hospital bed, and then got dressed in the clothes Birdie brought me and waited. I tried to watch TV, but I felt like I was choking. I must have fallen asleep.

“Xarque.” I sat bolt upright. There was a stranger sitting next to my bed.

“That’s not my fucking name,” I snapped, instinctively, to a surly looking maintenance guy with a cap pulled low over his eyes. “Who the fuck are you?”

“I knew your Dad, Xarque. I’m with the Penitents. We got off on the wrong foot. Let’s start again.” He reached a hand out. He smelled like piss and I couldn’t see his eyes.

I moved up the bed and hit the call button for the nurse. “Don’t touch me.”

He held his hands up and put them back in his lap. “We’re just talking here. I’m not here to fight you. This is an invitation. You and I are the same, Xarque. We know that everything is just a fucking joke. There’s not going to be any survivors when Abaddon comes. Let’s go out in a blaze of glory.”

“You guys are monsters. I’m not like you.” I hit the call button.

“You’ve always known this was coming. You’ve been waiting for your entire life. What do you think you like to stick your fingernails in peoples eyes and nose when you fight? Because you’re a fucking cannibal. You’ve got no respect for humankind or human dignity. Why don’t you just give up this farce? You’re an evil piece of shit.”

“How do you know how I fight?”

“We’ve been watching you for a long time, Xarque. You like to fuck and fight. So do we. We can get you girls, pretty ones, too, or fat ones, if you like that. Everyone’s going to fucking die, might as well get your dick sucked while you’re waiting. Come with me and you can fuck whoever you want to, whenever you want to. We’ll line them up for you.” He smiled with a mouth full of rotten teeth. I winced and hit the call button again.

“I said ‘no,’ goddamnit, would you get out of here? I’m not going anywhere with you. You stink like shit.”

He laughed, which sounded like pig snorting. “Xarque, you’re a killer. We know it. We’ll make you our king. No one else is ever going to tolerate you for long. What do you think you’re going do when they find out? Everyone’s going to find out. Maybe they already know. You’re just going to get them all killed.

“You’re going to see how long it takes for everybody to start. Family, church, country, school, love, marriage, not of that is going to mean a big hill of shit in the end. You gonna watch people fuck and kill each other in the fucking streets. It’s all going to fall apart. What the fuck do you think you’re going to do, go to business school? You’re an animal. They call you “the Beast,” right?”

“Get out of my face. You don’t know me. I’m not going with you.”

He leaned forward and lifted the hat from his eyes. That red hexagram was scarred into his head. His eyes were narrow, yellow tinged, full of hate. “Your mom thinks you should’ve been the one that died. She has dreams that you’re dead. She wishes with all her heart that you were dead instead of Jim. Everyone does. They know just how disgusting, evil, and pathetic you are.”

My eyes teared up. “You’re making shit up. You don’t know my Mom.”

You remember the sound that morning, Xarque? You woke up, and you heard the crackle of the police radio? You heard your mom sobbing, ‘no no, it can’t be true?’ And you closed your eyes and tried to go back to sleep, just in case it might be a dream and you would wake up and it wouldn’t be real. This is real. This is no dream, you little jerk-off.”

Robin’s huge figure appeared in the doorway and he grabbed the Penitent’s shirt and dragged him out of the room, kicking and spitting. I breathed and tried to pull my shit together. I heard commotion and shouting in the hallway. Robin was shouting, the gunfire echoed. I went to the window and looked for a fire escape, something I could climb out on.

When I turned around, a tiny Asian woman was there. I almost screamed; she clapped a hand over my mouth. She pointed to her forearm, where there was a syringe tattooed, and then to her eye. The Eye of the Needle.

I followed her into the hallway, jam packed with cops and FBI. I saw purple hoods on the ground, and wanted to throw up. She led me into a stairwell, up several flights of stairs, and then opened up the door to the roof. A black helicopter was waiting on the hospital’s helipad. The pilot opened the door for us and handed me ear protection. We ascended through the clouds.

Chapter 4: https://hermanshermitage.com/2020/12/11/the-drowned-god-chapter-4/

The Drowned God, Ch. 2

The giant man was quickly pulled off me by a swarm of robed Betas, pouring through the doorway, a tangled mass of fists and feet, screaming “fuck you!”

“Ram Jam – show ‘em how you got your name!” Hank shouted at me; I squared my shoulders and rushed at the leader, who had gotten back on his feet. I threw a right cross over his incoming fist, a left hook into his liver, and thrust hard head butt in the middle of his hood, my signature “ram jam.”  I heard his skull crack, and he went down.

I settled onto the leader’s chest as he landed, pinning his arms with my knees and smashing his face over and over. I crushed his tall purple hood. The gang of torchbearers in the courtyard quickly dispersed with the onslaught of Betas. Some of the guys had grabbed baseball bats, and were smashing at the Penitents, laughing and snorting.

We were a house that liked to fight, and we were good at it. We had a lot of lacrosse, hockey, and rugby players with us. They loved wading into the middle of a crowd and starting shit. I spent a lot of time as fraternity president just bailing guys out and talking the dean out of expulsion.

I’d done some boxing in high school, and I fight dirty as fuck. You get thrown out of enough bars, and you figure out how to win no matter what. Groins, teeth, eyes . . . people got really scared when you went for the face. The face is the center of our personality. Protecting it is powerful; people don’t want to be maimed or crippled for life, and they see getting a facial scar as a sign of that.

The fight didn’t sound right, though. More screams than grunts, and the Penitents were still on their feet. Toby, one of the Seniors, came stumbling back in my direction. “Bro, you OK?” I asked. He looked dazed. A trickle of blood dropped from his lips, then he fell forward. A huge Bowie knife was stuck between his shoulder blades. “Fuck!” I screamed.

Glass shattered, and a Penitent fell with a beer bottle in his back. Two of them tried to pull me off the leader, and some of the Betas pushed them into the bushes. Where the fuck were the cops? I spent so much time trying to get rid of them, now I needed them.

I heard wet coughs around me and saw Betas falling. I ripped the hood off the leader’s head. Staring back at me was the angry face of a horrible looking man. His eyes were narrow slits of hate, his beard was a wreck, and he had an awful looking scar on his forehead. It was a hexagram carved roughly, still oozing and bubbling. My mouth dropped open, and he threw me off him. “Penitents!” He cried out, standing, as the fighters dispersed. “Wail for these dedicated to destruction! Sing the death of the gods! Give them a taste of what’s coming.”

The Penitents began to sing the worst fucking song I’d ever heard. The sound carried throughout the standing Betas, and I felt a crushing weight on my shoulders. Every depressing thought, every hangover, every guilt and shame I’d ever had came to me. I felt like someone puked on my soul. I remembered my mom passed out on the couch, half naked, with a boyfriend cutting drugs on a coffee table. I remembered my Dad raging, spitting on me. I saw myself with a pill bottle and a pint of whiskey. Dimly, I heard sirens.

My feet stood me up and shuffled forward. I moved into single file and dropped to my knees, one white robed beta facing a line of purple robed Penitents, singing and howling together. Most had lost their hoods. They all looked rough, like homeless people. There were women mixed in with the men. Their faces were Indian, black, white, and Asian. They definitely were not the Klan.

The leader stood between two Penitents. One had a fireplace poker in his hand, glowing red and smoking in the evening darkness. Two others carried huge scimitars. It sounded like they were chanting and buzzing, “mark, mark, get the mark on your head or we put it on the ground, mark, mark.” There were whimpers, screams, gurgles. There was a sizzling smell like bacon, and I felt like I was choking. The sounds of wet slicing and hacking gave way to terrible thumps, then silence. The silence were the worst.

I could move enough that I could see Hank next to me. He was defiant at first, sneering and snarling. I cheered him silently, but then crumpled as I watched him bow his proud head. They pushed the hexagram brand into his forehead. He writhed and screeched as he fell to the ground.

Finally my turn came. The wretched face of the leader stared at me. “Robert Beezle, called Ram, who we know as Xarque Ozyeus.” That fucking name, I hadn’t heard it in five years. Goddamn bastards. They did know my fucking Dad. “We give you the mark, a gift. It is their bondage, but your crown. Take it, and ascend to the throne as our king. We will incarnate the kingdom of the drowned god and burn up humanity as an oblation to his unholy name. If you refuse, we will burn you alive in the fires. You will be sent through the flames to honor his ugliness and horror. You will redeem us in his eyes, that we can serve him forever in Tartarus.”

Black fingers of dread and evil clutched at my torn and broken heart, encased in inky nausea. I felt as low as I’d ever been. I wanted to sleep, I wanted to die. I wanted never to have been born, I wanted to erase myself from existence. I wished my suicides has gone through, I wanted the pain to cease, I wanted the noise to end. I wanted to lie down and take the kicks. I wanted the brand.

From my deepest places, something rose. Something strong and angry and alive, who resented being awakened, but who wasn’t about to bow to these ragged fuckers. This dark fire rose in me, despite the black sadness of their dirge. I twisted my head and smiled wide. “You guys know my Dad? Give him a message for me. ‘Fuck you, motherfucker.’ And while you’re at it, every single one of you motherfuckers can go fuck yourselves and fuck each other and whatever the fuck else you want to do, because I’m not doing shit with you. You better kill me now, you piece of fucking shit, because if I ever get the chance, I’m going to put a knife through every single one of your fucking chickenshit lizard dick hearts and piss in your fucking mouths!”

My shit-talking got through the leader’s surly resolve, and he screamed in rage, words unformed, like a yelping seal. He clamped a giant fist around my throat and lifted me from my knees up into the air. He shook me like a rag doll as he crushed my throat. My vision went black.

Things were peaceful. Gradually I became aware of beeping, slow, quiet. My eyes opened, blurry. I couldn’t move my head. My hands were tied. There was something in my mouth; it reminded me of horses. My head felt like cotton. I still smelled the burning flesh and remembered the screams. I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

Over the next few days, I became more and more awake. I was in a hospital, intubated and sedated. I was wearing a cervical collar because of the trauma to my neck and throat. My hands were restrained because I kept trying to pull the tube out of my throat. Whenever the medicine started to wear off, I hurt like fuck, worse than anything I ever knew. Where were the Betas? Where were my friends?

Eventually they extubated me. They let Birdie come see me, but she burst into tears as soon as she saw me. She showed me a mirror. My face was all puffy with the fluids, and one of my eyes was swollen shut. I had a huge cut in one cheek that had been stitched. Worst, I couldn’t speak. Whenever I tried, it hurt like hell, and I only accomplished a high pitched squeak. I wrote some questions out for Birdie, and she told me a little about what had happened.

The police had shot the Penitent leaders seven or eight times while he was choking me. He let me go and fell. The Penitents were arrested. Six Betas were dead. Three had died in the fight, and three had been beheaded.

Birdie pointed to the door. “There’s a cop out there checking all your visitors. They’re watching you really closely because they expect for them to come after you again.”

I wrote her, “did the leader survive?”

She looked away, and her voice broke as she spoke. “Yeah, they kept him alive. Then he disappeared. Right out of a protected ward. The other Penitents never made it to the police station. The whole police transport van disappeared. The cops who were driving it are gone too.”

I heard my heartrate monitor start to beep faster. Fuck. Fuck. I wrote, “what about Hank? What happened to the guys who got marked?”

She looked me in the eye. “They’re gone too. Hank and the other five. Six guys who took the mark were screaming and belligerent when the police came. They got sedated, put into ambulances, and then the ambulances disappeared. Nobody has any answers. They never made it to the hospital. We don’t know if they’re dead or …”

The nurse came in the room and told Birdie she had to leave; my heartrate and blood pressure were off the charts. I was shaking. They gave me blood pressure medicine and sedatives, and I slept. Everything was so fucked. I made numbers in my head. Six dead. Six gone. One left, me.

Chapter 3: https://hermanshermitage.com/2020/12/01/the-drowned-god-chapter-3/

The Drowned God, Ch. 1

I had been fucking Birdie all night and all morning, and finally I was getting tired of it. I hadn’t come, couldn’t come. So now it was time to get her the fuck out of my room. She dried out an hour ago, and she was done. I would’ve had her leave and walk home by herself, but she made me feel bad.

Birdie was going on about how the worlds going to end. “So you know, Edgar Cayce said that Atlantis was going to rise in 1999, which is this year. Right now. The oceanographers have been testing all kinds of weird stuff surfacing from the bottom of the ocean. And people all over been showing up with these weird hexagram tattoos on their hands and their faces, and a lot of them can’t even explain how they got them. I think it’s the Mark of the Beast or something.”

“Yeah, OK, the world’s ending.”

“This is important Ram! Haven’t you ever read the Bible?”

“Not really. My head hurts.”

“Do you think it’s because you drank too much that you couldn’t come?”

“Maybe. I don’t really want to talk about that either.”

“Listen Ram, it’s the end of the millennium. It’s 1999. This is a big year for astrology and it’s a big year for prophecy. Stuff is happening right now and we have to pay attention.”

We reached her door, and I went to give her a kiss. She put her finger on my lips and blocked me. I shut my eyes. I was really annoyed. “Does this mean I’m your girlfriend now?”

I leaned back and shook my head. “Can we talk about this when my head doesn’t hurt so much? I got to go back and get some sleep.”

She leaned forward and gave me gave me a little peck on the cheek. She whispered, “you’re such an asshole.”

I trudged back from her dorm up the hill to the Beta Sig house. The door slammed behind me, and the guys were all sitting in the cafeteria, watching TV. Their heads swiveled, saw me and started shouting. “BEAST! BEAST! BEAST! BEAST!” They were stomping their feet, hollering. It was disgusting.

I screamed: “SHUT THE FUCK UP! I HAVE A HEADACHE GODDAMNIT!”

“We heard her moaning all night! She’s totally your girlfriend now! You’re screwed dude!“

“She’s not my girlfriend! She’s just around all the time so we hook up. Yeah, I fucked her all night, but I couldn’t come. So that’s got to be a sign we’re not supposed to be together.”

The cafeteria erupted in laughter. “What’s wrong? Scared of a little birdie?”

“Man, fuck you guys. I’m going to bed.” I stomped up to the second floor. I had left my door open, and there was too much fucking light in my room. I slammed the door, got into my dirty, stinky bed, put my head under the covers and passed out.

I woke up to someone pounding my door; as dark as my room was now, I must have slept the whole day. I opened up to Hank, looking lost and jittery. I walked back to my bed and got in. He dumped himself on my couch and lit a cigarette. My eyes hurt and my head was pounding. Fucking brown liquor. Never again.

“Man, you would just think that God took a big shit on you? Like there was some cosmic joke with him and the angels, and you’re the dumb ass who has to go around getting laughed at all the time?” Hank was too smart; he kept himself wired on caffeine, trying to do a physics major, and making himself sick with worry while he did practice equations.

I groaned. “If you’re going to talk bullshit to me, at least give me a smoke.” I sat up, he passed me his lit cigarette and lit a second one for himself.

“You’re not a joke, Ram. I am. You’re a good-looking guy, you’re a fraternity president, you’re in college, you’re probably going to get some rich banker job and have a heart attack and die when you’re forty-five or something. You’re like the living American dream. Every girl wants to sleep with you, every guy wants to be you, you’re like the king of this fucking shithole college.”

“Hank, I’m not the guy to talk you down from the side of a building. My life is just fucking pointless. Like, why even go to college? Why do anything? Birdie was telling me this morning that the world is going to end. I’m kind of excited about it. I wish it was over right now.”

“It’s coming up, man. January 1st, 2000, 12:00 AM, we’re all dead. It’s been foretold.”

“You’re a scientist, for fucks sake. Who says that day, that time, those prophecies mean anything? The guy who wrote it was probably high. It was a thousands of years ago. They didn’t know anything, just like we don’t know anything. Nothing’s ever going to change.”

“Atlantis came up, dude. The dead are rising out of their graves. Plagues of locusts are devouring everything again.”

“I’m going to take away your radio if you keep staying up all night listening to Art Bell.

“I’m learning all this shit, all this higher order math, and I just think it isn’t going to make a difference to anyone. You get to the edge of the circle, you see the set of all the numbers you’re graphing, and there’s nothing there. I thought I was going to transcend this existence by the time I got this far in my studies, but I’m still the same Hank, just an asshole who’s going to be selling insurance in a couple years because no one pays anyone to do this kind of work.”

“We got to get ready for chapter tonight. It’s ritual practice. I got to make sure none of you fuck it up when the pledges get initiated. Get the fuck out of here so I can take a shower.”

Hank left, I stubbed out the smoke and got my shower stuff from the under the bed. Birdie must have bit me overnight; one my pecs was starting to swell up. It looked like a huge bug bite. Damnit.

I got myself showered and cleaned up, and met the executive officers in the chapter hall in the basement. We got our robes on and were walking around the pillars lighting the candles when Damon burst in. “There’s a demon at the door, a fucking demon!“

Hank was pissed. He had just gotten his candle lit. “What the fuck man, what’s going on?”

“There’s a demon at the door, he wants you, he wants you, Ram!

“That’s bullshit man, demons don’t just walk around. You’re fucking crazy.”

“Come on!”

I set my lighter down and the guys crowded around behind me as I walked to the door. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, but I forced myself to be calm. I swung the door open, got scared shitless. There was a huge figure there on the doorstep, with a peaked purple hood and mask, and a purple robe.  He must have been ten feet tall, silhouetted in the darkness.  I looked over his shoulder and I saw a bunch of robed and hooded figures with torches in the darkness outside. A dog was barking somewhere.

When he spoke, he sounded like the fucking crypt keeper, deep and resonant. “Robert Beezle, called Ram, son of John, today you inherit the kingdom. Come with us.”

I shouted back “Who the fuck are you? Are you the Klan?” The whole house was behind me now, thirty guys, all ready to brawl.

“We’re not the Klan. We are the Penitents. We serve the drowned god. We demand your presence. Come with us.”

He reached out and put a huge hand on my shoulder. I jumped back and screamed: “Fuck him up, Betas!” Then the fucking melee started.

Chapter 2: https://hermanshermitage.com/2020/11/29/the-drowned-god-ch-2/