You know, there comes a time even in the most noble endeavors when one begins to think “maybe this wasn’t such a great idea”. Like when you’re getting the crap beaten out of you by a five-foot-four bunny girl in a red dress.
I backed away desperately, pulling the trigger on my shotgun and sending a deer slug downrange at four hundred and seventy-five meters per second. Theo just sliced it out of the air with her trench knife, and punched the crap out of me.
That was the sound of my solar plexus caving into my chest cavity in the shape of a fist. The grunting, heaving, grinding sound that came immediately after was that damage knitting itself back together again while the less manly part of me I like to pretend doesn’t exist curled up into a ball and started crying. A tenderized steak was in better shape than I was, let’s just leave it at that.
“I’m sorry!” Theo sobbed as she punched me over and over, her face running with tears and specks of my blood. “I’m sorry oh god I’m sorry!”
I smiled reassuringly to her before I feebly kicked her in the stomach and scrambled back onto my feet just in time to dodge one of her punches. Believe it or not, this was me faring comparatively better than I expected. Funny thing about me and my little memory palace. Turns out that I don’t just remember people, places and things. I remember the way they move, the way they walk, talk, and throw a punch. It’s like super muscle memory. The longer you beat the crap out of me, the better my body gets at fighting you. It was the only thing that was letting me dodge Theo’s more serious attacks.
Well, I say dodge, but what I mean is more like me moving out of the way just enough so she hits me in places I can afford to get hit in, and making it difficult for her to use her knife instead of just punching me. Yeah, it’s not very fucking dignified, but getting the shit beaten out of you is better than dying. And in a fight between a human and a non-human, that’s about the best you can hope for. Unless you can cheat, but I am positively fucking delighted to confirm for you that silver and crosses do not in fact work on homunculi.
I took a hit right to the face, and it felt like I was being shot with a goddamn cannon ball. Briefly I began to hallucinate that I was a schizophrenic French girl living in the fifteenth century, but then my brain remembered I was in fact a second-rate gunhand currently suffering from massive cranial trauma and a criminal lack of money and morals in the twentieth century. Or, in simpler terms, a fuckwit. And I was in a lot of pain.
I felt something in my leg break completely independently of Theo as I struggled to remain standing. Was it a muscle, a bone? Or something that ran deeper than that? I stumbled and made some room but I didn’t run. Even though rejection was fully starting to kick in, my body literally falling apart before just barely picking itself back up again, I wasn’t going to run.
Why was I in such a sorry state (besides the obvious reason of course)? Well, I could tell you but then you’d probably shut the book or close the window on your browser, or however the bloody hell you’re reading this right now, and promptly tell me to fuck off because you’d realize you were clearly reading the memoirs of a shitflinging madman with a messiah complex and a death wish. But I promise, when I tell you it’ll make sense. Just bear with me a little longer.
I got up, huffing, puffing and forcing myself onto two legs that felt like a pair of chopsticks trying to support the weight of an Olympic body builder. Nayeli’s blood and its life-giving properties were growing thinner and thinner. I didn’t have much time left before I’d really die in one hit. I had to sell this.
Mickey held up his hand, calling off Theo.
“You know, it occurs to me that I just don’t get you. I mean, I always knew you mobsters were fucked in the head something special-”
“Look who’s talking,” I wheezed.
“But you’re something different. Nah, not just different. You’re a whole new fucking ballgame of crazy. Or are you just a shit-for-brains idiot who thinks with his dick instead of his fucking head?”
“Again, look who’s talking.”
“Why the hell are you doing this, mafioso? You doing this because you think you’re better than me, you holier-than-thou cocksucker? You degos, I swear to fucking christ. It’s like you think that just ’cause you’re some kind of institution that it makes it okay for you to break every law anyone’s ever fucking put down. Like God is gonna judge you any differently than the rest of us just because-”
“Just because we wear the nicest suits and fuck the nicest dames,” I said, finishing for him. “Look Mickey, I’ve heard it all before. Your ‘manifesto’ is like a kid’s vinyl on repeat. Baby’s first labor union. The plight of the proletariat, the criminality of the common man. That’s what you’re always on about, right?”
I spat out a fat wad of blood and mucus.
“The mafia is the corrupt ruling-class to the working-class common criminal? If that’s what you wanna think, that’s fine. Maybe you’re right. But you think I’m doing this because of any of that shit? Because I think I’m a good person?” I laughed. “I am not a good person. I’ve put people in the hospital, put them out of business, and even put a few in the grave.
“Why am I doing this? Well, leaving out the part where you tried to kill my kid sister, and that’s a big friggin’ part, I’m doing this because I want to. Because when I look at a girl like her and see her stuck with a fucked-up, egotistical loser douchebag like you, it makes me sick. She deserves better. And I’m gonna give it to her.”
“What’re you gonna give to her, you little shrimp? Your tiny two-inch cock? Because I know that ain’t gonna satisfy her.” Mickey grabbed Theo, squeezing her cheeks and feeling her up in a way I can only describe as rapey on a level deserving of Zeus. “Oh, you should hear her when I fuck her. You’re never gonna be able to make her scream like I do. What’re you gonna give her that can top that?”
“How about a home? And a family? One that looks after her and appreciates her. You know, the things you could never give to her. The things Erik could never give her. The things that matter!” My trembling hand brought the shotgun back to life. “But most of all, I’m going to give her a life without you in it, Mickey.”
I pulled the trigger, and shot right at Mickey, praying I wasn’t so shaky I’d miss. My shot was good but way too fucking slow for the human Terminator I was fighting, who took the bullet for Mickey without hesitation, catching it in her teeth even though she whimpered from the pain. Once her mouth began to heal, she spat out the slug and punched me again, knocking me across the room, through a dozen stage props, and into a concrete wall. I felt the wall break, and my back along with it. I coughed up blood, and I knew I wasn’t getting back up again in any hurry.
Mickey called Theo off again. “Leave him.”
So that’s how it was, huh? He wanted to finish me off himself? If he reached me, he could. I wasn’t healing fast enough anymore. If he destroyed my brain, there was a chance I wouldn’t live to see another sunrise. I decided to put up one last futile display of resistance, raising my shotgun in my broken arms.
Mickey smirked, and kicked my gun away. I didn’t have the strength to hold onto it, and could only watch as it spun out of view into the dark recesses of the warehouse where I couldn’t reach it. I took out my knife, but he just stomped on my arm, and I dropped it, screaming. I couldn’t do anything.
“Family, huh? That’s a real nice word, isn’t it? Family. I never had one, but it seems like it’s all you fucking degos talk about. So what’s it really worth, huh? What does it mean? Family?” He got on top of me, and flashed me that grin. “Family means nothing!”
Without holding back, he punched me as hard as he could, my face so beaten and broken it was more like putty beneath his fist than skin and bone.
“Family is nothing but a crutch, a parasite. They’ll use you and take advantage of you, then once they’ve bled you drier than gramgram’s stale cunny they’ll throw you to the dogs because it’s convenient. It’s an obligation they never need to repay you for. You think I need, let alone want anything to do with that? Nonono, fuck that. I choose to not have a family. I choose to stand alone, and look where it’s gotten me! I’m on top of the fucking world! I am the Piss King of Shit Mountain, hefting my turds down the cliffside on top of your fucking heads so you peasants can all have a taste of what it’s like to shit bounteous craps of gold like me! Right now, I am the fucking god of New York!”
I laughed wheezily. “You fucking dumbass. You’re just the king of an anthill under a boot. They’re gonna fucking squash you before you even get to pop the top off the champagne.”
He kept punching me, over and over, and it just didn’t stop. My healing ability was almost nonexistent, and it’s a miracle I still look as good today as I do after that kind of punishment. I felt teeth fly out of my yap and then grow back in again. I felt my eyes bulging in their sockets, bobbing up and down as Mickey tried to punch them out of me like some doll. My nose was pressed flat against my face, and blood pooled in my mouth from my gums and my nose. Everything was bleeding. I really did look like a tenderized steak.
Finally he stopped, panting and laughing. “So what do you have to say about your posse of buttfuckers now, mobster?”
I smiled, showing off my bloody teeth. “This.”
Not so much throwing a punch as swinging my broken arm at him, I launched a haymaker right at his face, socking him in the jaw with the same spiked knuckles I’d used to take out his lycan. My monster-killers. Blood trickled down on me from above, mixing with mine through the bevy of open wounds that were still nobly trying to heal themselves. I felt the spell take effect.
“Ach!” Mickey grunted, stumbling backwards. “You son of a bitch-”
Mickey didn’t even get to finish his sentence. He started panting and heaving like he was desperate for breath, clutching at his sides. He croaked, making a noise like a dying animal, and then, right as he looked like he was about to die, he started yelling and screaming like nothing I’d ever seen.
“Heh,” I said, trying to make it back on my feet. “Yeah. Doesn’t feel so good, does it? To have something forced inside you by another man.”
“Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” he screamed in pure agony. The sound was strangely melodic.
“What’s that?” I said. “You’re gonna have to speak up, I can’t hear you over all the screaming.”
He whimpered and cried in frustration, and in pain. “What did you do to me?!”
“Heh. Well, it’s a long story,” I said, brushing myself off as the blood finally had a second to rest and focus on healing me. “Let me explain. But first, do you know anything about magic, Mickey? ‘Cause I friggin’ don’t. But I got a friend who does. He tells me you can’t enchant anything more than once because the strain an enchantment puts on an object means it’s always on the verge of breaking. That pain you’re feeling? That’s my pain, after I enchanted my whole body with sympathetic magic. It activated as soon as I got a taste of your blood. The way I am right now, I’m like a walking voodoo doll.”
“Yeah, you heard me right. I’m turning her magic against you,” I said, pointing to Theo. “If you try to make her take the bullet for you, and I’m sorry about this in advance, Theo-”
I wound up and punched Theo right in the face. Not very gentlemanly, but it was chump change compared to our fight before. She’d hardly feel it. Mickey on the other hand, did.
“-that happens. The damage gets reflected back to me, then on to you.”
“How did you-“
“I’ve been dosing up on demigod blood from a mutual acquaintance to control the damage, and I’ve been taking pills for the pain. Keeps me going long enough to punch you right in your smug fucking face, you rotting pile of horse-shit. You though? You don’t have either of those things. So you know, good luck with that.”
I kicked Mickey right in the stomach, sending him rolling. They say you should never kick a man when he’s down, but I think we can all agree an exception could be made for Mickey Donahue.
Instead, Theo rushed me again, running to her master’s aid by punching me again. Except this time, Mickey felt it too, adding to his pain. He screamed even louder than before as his head started to bleed.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing you crazy bitch?!” he yelled. “He’s trying to kill me! Don’t just stand there, help me up!”
“Yeah, I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”
As soon as Theo touched him, I punched myself in the gut, and Mickey felt that too. He screamed even louder, and Theo set him down.
Again she tried and again I punched myself, causing Mickey more pain. Though it wasn’t a walk in the park for me, either. I spat out a wad of blood.
“Every time you try to call her for help, I’m going to punch myself,” I said, ignoring the agonizing pounding in my head that grew louder and louder every second the blood kept thinning. “I’m a walking voodoo doll, remember? I’d advise you not to stick pins in me. So leave her out of this, Mickey. It’s time for you and I to have a little heart to heart. Man to man.”
I let Mickey try to get back up on his own, then headbutted him back down to the ground, enjoying the cracking sound our skulls made as they bounced off of each other. As I kicked him in the stomach over and over again, I focused on why I was doing this. Partly because the pain of the enchantment only kept getting worse and worse, but mostly because every time I hit him it felt like taking a hit off a mountain of cocaine. I just wanted more.
“This! Is what! You get! For hurting! My sister!” I grunted, punctuating every other word with a kick to his stomach. “You fucking! Piece! of! shit!”
I got carried away. I could’ve killed him any time I liked. But I enjoyed it too much. I enjoyed extracting every last ounce of misery I could from him with my foot as penance for what he’d done. It felt so good to make him suffer for everyone he’d hurt that I paid no attention to how much time I may have had.
“But most of all,” I said, reaching for my shotgun. I was huffing and wheezing with every breath, my body long past the point of quitting and letting me take over through hate and gumption alone. A distance of twenty meters felt like an eternity in my condition, but I walked it, got my shotgun, and dragged my ass back to Mickey, one of lying on the ground, and both of us in so much pain we could barely speak.
“Most of all,” I finished. “Most of all, this is for what you did to Theo, and everyone else you used. Goodnight, sweet fucking prince. I hope your time on top was everything you’d hoped for. All five seconds of it.”
I told my body it was time to pull the trigger. But like I said, I’d waited too long.
I tried again. No matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t pull that trigger. I couldn’t move my arm either, the pain of keeping it upright holding that shotgun getting worse and worse in the backdrop until my entire body finally gave out on me, unable to endure the pain I’d been inflicting on Mickey. Difference was, I didn’t even have enough left in me to scream. I just slumped to the ground, my body finally having passed the point where it would even work at all.
A minute passed where neither of us moved. Fighting against what felt like the weight of our entire world, Mickey was the first to move. He got back on to his feet, and hobbled the three feet over to me. He looked like a mess. Good god, was that what I was going to look like?
He picked up the shotgun, wrenching it from my flaccid, noodle-like fingers without much resistance. I wanted to laugh. Fucking dumbass. You shoot me, you’ll just kill yourself, too.
He flipped the gun around so the butt hung over me like a fucking sword of Damocles. I didn’t much feel like laughing after that.
Jamming the stock into my mouth like a gag, Mickey leaned into the gun, putting all his weight on it so I couldn’t resist. I could barely breathe. I started to gag. So that was his angle. He couldn’t kill me, so he’d choke me to death instead.
“Hey,” he said, barely audible. “Wanna make a bet on who can hold their breath longer? All or nothing. Winner takes home the pot, loser dies.”
I couldn’t struggle anymore. I just didn’t have it in me. I wanted to rage against the dying of the light, like that poem said. I wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. But it just wasn’t possible for me anymore. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything but sit here, sputter and gag, and hope that Mickey didn’t do much swimming as a kid. My life was completely in his hands.
“Where is your family now, mobster? Huh? Where is your family now?!”
There was a crack and a gunshot that sounded like God slamming his car door, and suddenly Mickey’s gag had no force to it. He lost his balance, and tumbled to the ground. Before I passed out, I heard someone reply.