Death is a woman,
Cold, waiting for me.
Death is a woman,
Cold, waiting for me.
You have to give up.
Hope is what is killing you.
It will never change.
It will always hurt
Like this. Nothing will improve it.
Release it and breathe.
I try out dramatically reading poetry:
“Tomorrow” speech from Macbeth, by William Shakespeare.
Outside my window,
Raging destruction, I just
Can’t care about it.
Galloping horse am
I, my blood streaming down my
Flanks, never stopping.
Throttle, crush, smash, just
Nonstop devastation and
I will make you so
Sorry that you ever crossed
Me. Choke you to death.
Rip your snide little
Grin right off your fucking face.
Struggle and suffer.
Burn in agony.
I hope you die blue in the
Face, gasping for breath.
I am pitiless.
They have pitted us against
Each other. Only
One can arise from
This pit, and it’s going to
Be me. No mercy.
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?”
“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.”
When he came to eat
My planet, it was the one
Hope for salvation.
But when Galactus
Died, the weapon kept firing.
I was neutralized.
Seeking a charge to
Spark me to life again so
I can continue.
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.