Month: September 2015

Tokyo Drift 4.10b

Previous || Next

Earlier…

The door slammed shut. There was an uncomfortable squelching noise as Yoshirō’s claws violently ripped their way out of Sostene’s back and spine, pulling entrails out like leftover strands of spaghetti curled around a fork. Sostene gasped for air, vomiting a little in his mouth. Motherfucker!

Lashing out with an errant kick he by no rights should have been able to perform, Sostene tripped the man-strosity. It tumbled to the floor onto Sostene’s level, staring at him unmoving with blind eyes. His sudden stillness extended for long seconds, his petrification eerie and frightening, like a coiled snake. Sostene blinked.

Yoshirō roared, spraying Sostene with flecks of blood, his voice a violent and inhuman scream of anger and pain. The cry seemed to carry on forever, far longer than was natural. His sheer rage and the indescribable agony of his existence surpassing the capacity of his mortal lungs, the cry ripped apart steel and defied space and time, buckling the foundations and tearing a hole in the ceiling of the car, an impenetrable atelier now violated. It seemed as though his voice would crush the car around them like a can of tuna fish.

Yoshirō reached out with a metal claw and clamped his orichalcum hand around Sostene’s leg as he tried to crawl away, his grip crushing like a vice. Sostene cried out in pain as he squeezed, crunching the bones in his leg and forcing it apart around his clenched fist like a collapsible tube of fluoride toothpaste.

There was a brief click and then a boom like a shotgun as the Marquis fired his gun, trying to stop Yoshirō from torturing his subordinate. The shot hit Yoshirō in the shoulder and bounced off the orichalcum armor harmlessly. But it was enough to get his attention.

Yoshirō squeezed even harder, unhindered, and ripped the leg clean off at the shin. He hurled it at the Marquis with enough force to simulate a car crash all over the capo’s face, but the supersonic boot pulled back at the last second, attracted to the pull of its body, and the Marquis was only knocked back, his nose snapping with an ugly crunch.

Slipping away only by pure luck now that his leg was flying around trying to find him like a bloody neon sign, Sostene put distance between him and the monster that was once a man. His leg was back but his body needed time to start catching up with his wounds. Any time at all.

And anything that could make that shit go faster, he thought as he haphazardly shoveled loose coils of his small intestine back into himself as it lazily snaked its way back into place, would be fucking fantastic.

He grunted. Immortal though he may be, a working class vampire like him did not feed often enough to repair this kind of damage. Already he could feel the rate at which he healed noticeably slow down. If he took too many fatal hits, eventually he’d be reduced to a motionless pile of quivering jelly on the floor. Same thing would happen if he went without feeding for too long. He’d dry up, like a dessicated corpse. Then all he could do would be wait and pray that something would come along and just happen to spill blood on him and revive him. The odds of that happening were fantastically slim, especially if Yoshirō went on to kill Marquis, which is why overtaxing his regenerative abilities was just about as close to a death sentence as a vampire could get. He couldn’t let that happen.

He hated to say it, or even admit he was thinking it, but right now, he needed help. What would dear old dad do?

An armored foot came smashing down on one of the loose ribbons of carrion still trying to crawl back into Sostene’s stomach, and it felt like someone squeezing the air out of his gut. Instinctively he pulled back and ripped the ribbon away so it could crawl back inside and finish healing in there. The Yoshirō monster laughed deeply with the sound of many voices both young and old.

Of course. Dad wouldn’t have gotten us into this fucking mess of a situation. A monster of that level wouldn’t even see this kind of shit as a challenge.

Laughing hurt. Guess it’s true what they say. Vampire newborns are like fruit. I’m still way too fucking green compared to someone like Dad.

Sostene wheezed.

Well, at least Al got away. Knowing that guy, he’ll figure something out. He and the boss, they make the real magic happen.

A few months ago when he first joined up, Sostene wouldn’t have been loathe to dismiss him as just more fresh blood, meat for the grinder. But the kinda guy who could take down an entire gang singlehandedly, the kind of guy even the boss relied on… a guy like that deserved Sostene’s respect. Maybe one day he’d even tell him the story of how he got here, about the debt he owed the Marquis of the Allesandri family… and about daddy dearest.

You decrepit old bat. I bet you’re watching this right now, aren’t you? Having a laugh on my fucking dime? You always were a fucking sadist. So come on, tell me. What the fuck am I supposed to do here?

It was mostly an appeal to inspiration. To any of the powers that be to give him something, anything. This guy was way too fucking powerful. If he didn’t figure something out soon, he’d be about as close to dead as a vampire could get. Then he’d kill Boss Marquis, and then he’d really be fucked. He wasn’t expecting his father to actually respond.

Remember.

As if on cue, Sostene’s brain erupted into a five alarm migraine so intense he felt like he was whiting out. He roared, something halfway between a scream and a groan, as patches of grey like a worn out film reel crept into his peripheral vision.

Aaaaghhhhh!! Fuck you!

Don’t resist, Sostene. Just remember.

Remember what-?

But suddenly, he did. Time and space fell away, and he found himself in a world of grey, muted colors all except for the emerald grass beneath his feet surrounding him. Brief flickers of an ephemeral feminine face crossed his eyes, her name so close but completely out of reach. Who was she? Where was this? Was he supposed to know what this meant? He needed a sign here, dammit!

Poor thing. It seems you still do not remember things properly, said a feminine voice. Here, let me help you, Sostene.

The woman’s face changed, becoming older, more mature. The voice deepened as the clouds darkened, distorting into something and someone completely different. His father’s voice.

You…!

Look down. Do you remember now, Sostene?

He looked, and saw the grass beneath his feet stained bright red with the color of blood. Bodies and flags and blood-stained swords surrounded him for miles in every direction. This was a killing field, and he was the last one standing.

He lifted up his hands and found them covered in blood. His own. A large worm-like tube attached to his stomach stretched for nearly seven meters behind him, ending in a fat protuberance that had gotten stuck in the hole, and a knotted rope on the other end. He felt his own hands slip away as he lost control, lost all feeling in his body. What was happening to him? Was this finally it? Was this… death? Funny… it felt a lot less peaceful than he’d imagined.

Standing erect like a statue on the grassy knoll, even though he had long since lost his ability to move even a finger, Sostene stared, immobile, at the setting sun behind the clouds, trapped in his own body like he was watching a movie. A single bright red tear fell down his face.

Yes, that’s it, Sostene. I want you to remember. Back to those days. Remember who you truly are…

The Marquis got back up and set his nose back into place with an equally unappealing crunch. Nayeli would never forgive him if he came back with some goon having smashed up his beautiful face.

He leveled his sights at one of the openings in his armor and pulled the trigger, squeezing out another enchanted round at the rampaging Yoshirō. The bullet was true to its mark but without even looking up from the subordinate he was mauling, Yoshirō swatted the shots the Allesandri capo had fired out of the sky with the tail-like tendrils growing out of the cracks in his armor.

“Damn,” Marquis said, reloading and switching to Mr. Wang’s special armor-piercing bullets.

He looked outside the window. The sky was blotted with an ash cloud that took up his entire field of view, and it was coming this way. But he hadn’t seen or felt any earthquakes or bright flashes of hot light in the last couple minutes. Was the battle drawing to a close out there? There was no way to tell if they were safe, at least not until the ever-increasing sinkhole outside decided to catch up to them and swallow the train tracks too.

Damn… I told her to be subtle and keep to the forest, what the hell is going on out there? At this rate this shit’s going to make the world news, nevermind the national or the international! This was not part of the plan!

Sensing an opportunity, Kichirō lunged and tried to grab the Marquis’ gun hand.

“What the hell?!”

Kicking him and shaking him off with all his strength, the Marquis wrestled the ex-Yamada group representative to the floor and pointed the barrel of the enormous gun at his face.

“Okay Kichirō, start talking,” Marquis said. “That oni’s a lot stronger than you let on. And your brother… he’s possessed, isn’t he?”

Kichirō frowned. “… Yes.”

“By what? Where the hell did you three come from?”

“Does it matter?” Kichirō said, laughing. “It will be the death of both of us. A fitting end for one such as myself, to meet with his sins and in the end be slain by his own twisted creation. I only wish I didn’t have to spend these last few moments with you.”

The Marquis grabbed Kichirō by the lapels and lifted him up.

“Listen pal, I don’t have the patience for any more of your self-deprecating martyr complex bullshit. Always going on about how terrible you are and how you deserve whatever it is that’s coming to you. That’s your bullshit, not mine. You may like playing the sad tragic hero, but I don’t, so don’t drag me into it. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have no intention of dying here. So what is that thing?”

He heard a crashing sound in the background and saw Sostene wrestling Yoshirō to the ground in a blind rage, Yoshirō’s talons digging deep into his sides as Sostene slammed him through a marble table, powderizing it, before he was whipped aside by tendrils that had burrowed deep into his ribs.

Both men stopped to look. The berserker Sostene got back up immediately, seemingly blind to all pain, and rushed back into the fray. The sound of dull impacts and clawed fingernails scraping against impenetrable metal screeched in their ears as Sostene destroyed himself in his attempts to inflict any damage he could to Yoshirō, no matter what the price.

The Marquis frowned indecisively like he was swallowing something bittersweet. Sostene normally didn’t act like this. Fighting like an animal with no regard for pain wasn’t his style. Even that which is immortal is not indestructible. Like this, he might be able to match Yoshirō, if only barely, but how long could it last, and could he survive the attempt? This could buy him a lot of time, but it could also cost him one of his best men.

Kichirō wheezed, clearly becoming more and more unhinged. “Alright. You want to know then, Marquis? Fine. I see no harm in telling you a story before we die. After all, it’s not like either of us will be getting a chance to repeat it. Without Ren or your demigod here to subdue him, Yoshirō has become unstoppable. Tell me Marquis, have you heard the story of Tamamo-no-mae?”

“I’m familiar with it,” Marquis said through gritted teeth. “A shapeshifting fox spirit posing as a courtesan gets outed by the court’s onmyoji for trying to poison the emperor to death on behalf of an evil daimyo, and is hunted down by two legendary warriors and all the emperor’s best men. The night before the battle, the fox spirit appears in the warriors’ dreams to beg them for its life but is killed anyway. They say her angry spirit attached itself to a nearby stone and poisoned the land so thoroughly that nothing would grow, causing anyone who touched the stone to immediately die. What of it?”

Kichirō smirked.

“No… no you didn’t.”

“We did. Or at least we tried.”

“But I thought the stone was purified by the priest Genno in the 19th century!”

“It was. What we dragged up from that stone was not the spirit of Tamamo-no-mae.”

“Then what was it?”

“Have you ever met a fox spirit, Marquis? I have. They’re quite powerful. The more tails they have, the older they are and the stronger they’ve become, with the maximum number of tails a fox can have being nine. Tamamo-no-mae was one such nine-tailed fox. Their power is said to be great enough to cripple entire regions and bring a blight to the land with a single curse. This fox in particular was said to be capable of taking on many different forms, and could make the very forces of nature itself bow to her every whim. What do you think it would take to subdue such a beast? A squadron? A division? What about a platoon or a regiment?”

The Marquis’ eyes widened. Kichirō smiled wickedly.

“Yes, it would truly take an entire army just to kill something like that, and that’s what the emperor sent. Eighty thousand sacrificial pieces to distract the beast and create a big enough hole in the fox’s defenses for the two true heroes to step in and slay it. Those two brave warriors survived. The rest all died, no doubt terrified and cursing their fate, their hearts filled with hatred for the fox and the emperor who sent them to die. Now, what is it that makes the ideal conditions for poltergeists again?”

“So the things that Yoshirō is possessed by-“

“Correct! They are the psychic imprints of those dead soldiers given form as poltergeists, fused into one massive concentration of twisted malfeasance and hatred. A super-ghost made up of the dying thoughts and emotions of eighty thousand terrified, angry men. Once they were kept subdued within the stone, kept in check by the presence of the fox. But with the fox removed, they were free to well up from within the stone like a pus, waiting to inflict an even worse fate on the next fool who dared touch the stone. They call themselves ‘the children of the fox’,” Kichirō said, sounding almost sickly satisfied. “That is the curse I have foisted on my brother. That is why his body is rotting from the inside out, and why we need the philosopher’s stone to fix him. Do you understand?! I killed my brother a long time ago, and this was my last chance to bring him back to life! I was planning on saying something like ‘I’m not going to let you ruin this for me, Marquis’, but it seems we’ve both already done a fine job of that. There’s nothing we can do to stop it now.”

“Okay…” Marquis said, patiently. “How do we kill it?”

Kichirō frowned. “Like I’d let you. And besides, weren’t you listening to anything I said? Yoshi is host to over eighty thousand angry poltergeists. We’d need someone as powerful as Ren or your demigod to subdue him.”

“Okay, I can do that.”

Sostene crashed into the bar missing his bottom half. His top half toppled over behind the bar, and two terrified yelps could be heard. The possessed Yoshirō held the legs aloft and roared like he was Tarzan beating his chest.

“Okay, I might be able to do that.”

“It doesn’t matter if you can or can’t. Did you forget? There’s no way to exorcise those spirits without killing him. That is something I refuse to do. Even weakening them would take at least eight experienced exorcists working in unison to apply exorcism rites and holy sacraments.”

“What kind?”

“It… Doesn’t matter, I suppose. But where would you even get that kind of manpower on such a short notice-“

The door to the compartment burst open. White-clad banditos with rosaries burst open.

“Everybody freeze! You’re all under suspicion of harboring the undead and one of the ones possessed by them. The verdict is guilty! The sentence is death!”

They all raised their machine guns and swords.

“The jury is adjourned. The convicted may step forward.”

“Well isn’t that just convenient,” the Marquis said. “Looks like we don’t have to worry about where to find the men anymore, huh Kichirō?”

“Wha-“

A hand jutted out of the wrecked suits of armor the Marquis had shot to pieces earlier. Steaming and in pieces, it slowly wrenched itself back together in a regenerative process all too different from vampires. Old flesh was replaced by the new flesh that knit itself around it, expelling it. The newly restored digits grasped for the edges of the hole in the armor, and once they had found it, they began to pull, slowly separating the invincible metal apart with great difficulty. Finally, a head poked its way out, panting and gasping for breath.

“Oh fuck this!” Purnima Avninder swore as she squeezed herself through the hole, neverminding the sharp edges. “Etsy! Get your sorry ass out o’ there!”

There was a meek whimpering from within the scorched shell.

“Get out o’ there before I drag your sorry ass out!” the British-Indian woman yelled, ripping apart the armor. Grabbing Etsy Jones by the wrist, she yanked him out tail-first and dropped him on the ground. He tried to crawl away but Purnima stomped on his shaggy, foul-smelling burnt tail.

“Get up you useless bastard! It’s our turn to fight. First the Marquis, then that fucking armored piece o’ shit over there!”

The Marquis stuck his head out. “For all our sakes, may I suggest the other way around?”

“First the Marquis, then that armored piece o’ shit over there!” she repeated.

With a sigh, the hulking shape of Figaro stretched itself out from behind the bar, donning a hockey mask.

“Come on Leo buddy-boy, it’s our turn to fight too. We ain’t getting out of here if we don’t.”

“What?!” the cowering doppelgänger said as he was picked up by the scruff by the chainsaw-wielding maniac. “Didn’t you hear the boss, Figaro?! Our job is to observe! O-b-s-e-r-v-e!”

“Can’t do that if we’re dead, can we?” Figaro said, chucking the doppelgänger at Yoshirō. Slowly, they all closed in, backing up the berserker Sostene.

“S-Sir!” one of the undercover Vitali hitmen said. “We’ve got four more, sir! Two lycans and a doppelgänger. Fourth is unknown, sir!”

“Damn. These subhuman freaks just keep crawling out of the woodwork! Everyone, get ready to fire!”

The white-clad men all leveled their guns at Yoshirō and the crowd surrounding him, preparing their chants and incantations, rosaries aglow.

“See?” the Marquis said to a stunned Kichirō. “We got this under control. Kinda, at least.”

Kichirō grit his teeth. “No…”

“What?”

“I won’t let you kill him…” Kichirō said with ragged, gasping breath. “I won’t let you kill him… That’s my little brother!!

Kichirō ripped a small cloth bag off the string hung around his neck and emptied the contents on the floor at his feet. Dozens of tiny bones spilled out onto the floor.

“Come to me…” he whispered.

Miles behind them, the roof of the train station exploded outwards. At the same time, Yoshirō roared, his voice carrying across the state and into the sky. Seconds later, something large and heavy knocked against the side of the car, grabbing hold of it in bony, death-like hands. The vacant eyes of a giant skeleton peered into the car through the hole in the roof.

“Gashadokuro…” Kichirō rasped, smiling.

Now…

“That,” she said, pointing to the monstrous giant skeleton clinging to the outside of the train. “That is why we should not be outside the train.”

A thunderous roar brought their attention to the skies. High above them, the clouds of ash that had so quickly covered the entire state were beginning to broil and roll themselves into giant elongated spears that pushed themselves out of the greater cloud bed, as if the sky itself was giving birth. Thunder and lightning crackled across the tips of the mile-wide spearheads, creating enormous atmospheric weapons truly befit of the most thunderous of gods. Quickly, and with great speed, they began their descent, ready to cover the land in plasmatic fire and brimstone.

Alfonso balked. Theo stared above, remaining calm and analytical. She turned to her newfound master and pointed at the clouds.
“Also that. That is another good reason not to be outside, I suppose.”

Previous || Next

I’d honestly rather be taking care of a dragon

So for anyone wondering why the new chapter isn’t out yet, I had hoped to have it published last night, but unfortunately I’ve been spending the week alone, having been enlisted to take care of the house and watch our family’s aging and frankly most likely incontinent dog. Between going through my usual routine and having to deal with her peeing on things as well as whining non-stop every five minutes until you let her out, I’ve been a bit distracted, hence why the chapter is late. It’s possible I could have it out by later tonight, but considering I just spent all morning spraying and washing all the sheets and the mattress cover from the master bedroom….

Well, I make no promises. Anyway, hopefully next week’s chapter will be released on Monday as I originally intended so we can get things back on track.

Tokyo Drift 4.10a

Previous || Next

Everyone in the goon squad took a step back, whispering to each other and just freaking out.

What the hell is that thing?” One of them hissed softly.

“It killed Boss Syl… just like that!”

“Holy shit…”

“Goddamned monster!”

“They didn’t tell us shit about this!”

“Oh god… I don’t wanna die!

“Christ almighty!”

Theo looked back at me, her knives still dripping with the same color as her dress.She kneeled down in front of me, oblivious or uncaring to the confused and frightened stares of the men behind her.

She put her hand on my forehead.

“Alfonso…” she said. “Are you okay?”

“Theo…” I gasped. “How didju-“

“That is not important. If you must know, I received a ride from the Marquis. His assistance was quite… helpful.”

“Theo ahm sorreh. Ahm so, so sorreh. I shoulda known tha… I mean I shoulda… I didn’t-“

She put her finger to my lips. “We shall discuss this later. Rest assured I shall have plenty to say to you about the stupidity of your actions. Right now, I need you to do something for me.”

“Huh?” I said. “Wuzzat-“

She kissed me. That’s what she did, she kissed me. She bit her tongue too, so I could taste the sweet metallic texture and flavor of her blood. As our fluids swirled around our tongues, I felt a warmth start engulfing my entire body, and not just lil’ Alfonso. Suddenly it felt like the drugs were just dropping out of my system, being flushed out through my pores like squeezing a sponge. My broken leg that should’ve been in a cast if not for the cocaine, my crooked nose that was still dripping all over me, they were both being healed. My mind and my eyes were finally opened again, free from the impenetrable haze of what had to be my worst fucking high in recent (or for that matter, not so recent) memory.

She broke the kiss, and memories came flooding into me. Familiar memories. But not mine. They were my memories through someone else’s eyes. That’s how I realized what she’d done.

My eyeballs twitched back and forth in their sockets. The warehouse. The van. The restaurant. The Empire State Building. The park. I recognized all those places. And I recognized the shadow that hung over all of them. Mickey Donahue. He was everywhere, inside of everything, even the good memories. Inescapable. As I relived her memories I relived her experiences with him, through her eyes. Suddenly I knew what it felt like to be violated, inside and out.

Then, just as it felt like I was getting ready to dry-heave, it stopped. The last thing I saw was a scrawny-looking face smiling at me. His lips didn’t move, but I imagined him saying something like “take care of her for me”. That must’ve been Eric.

I coughed. She’d done it. She’d formed a probationary contract. Once we completed the exchange of vows, it was officially a master/servant relationship. A pact for familiars.

My heart dropped and soared at the same time.

“Theo, you-“

“It was your idea, not mine,” she reminded me. “Besides, you are going to take responsibility for lying to me and robbing me of my agency in matters involving my own life. After everything you’ve said I expected better from you, Alfonso.”

I felt an ember of indignation flare up inside me. I stood up.

“I know it was a shitty thing of me to do. But what did you want me to tell you?”

“The truth.”

“The truth? That Marq was going to let you be sold into slavery just so he could be a brown-noser with his dad? That you were going to go right back to where you were a few weeks ago if we couldn’t satisfy his psycho half-brother on what was looking like a goddamn suicide mission?! Why in the hell would you want to know the truth?!”

“Does it matter? It was my choice. It was what I wanted. I thought you wanted me to have freedom and choices. Is that not why you rescued me from Mickey Donahue?”

“I rescued you from Mickey Donahue because I wanted you to have something better after all the shit you’ve been put through! Forcing you to become my familiar or selling you out to Franky and letting him have you… I didn’t want that for you! I wanted you to have a good life, a better life than… than this!”

“Yes. That is what you wanted. Your version of a better life. But never for a moment did you consider what I wanted,” she said strongly. “You have been kind to me, Alfonso. I wish to repay you for that. Even when you wrong me, you do it because you think you are looking out for me, in your own misguided, stupid way. That is why I am trying as hard as I can to be understanding. But when you make these decisions for me, you are taking away my free will from me and controlling me for your own convenience, just like that man did to me when I was his possession. You do the same thing to your own sister too. You don’t consider what she wants, only focusing on what you want for her, what you think is best. Every time you lie to her for what you think is her own safety, you are being…”

She hesitated, like she was afraid to say his name. “You are being like Mickey Donahue. Lying to people. Selfishly toying with them for your own ends without ever considering their feelings, their wants and desires over your own. But you are not him. You can be better than him. You are better than him. Now can you see why acting like that and reminding me of him might make me a little bit upset?!”

I was at a loss for words. Did she really feel so strongly about this? I’d never known. Thankfully, I didn’t have the time to think of a response. The Vitalis were moving in. Apparently they ran out of shit to shat into their white granny panties and remembered what it felt like to have actual balls.

Theo got back up.

“We shall finish discussing this at a later date. Well, Master Alfonso? What shall I do with them?”

I thought about it for a moment. Just a moment.

Theo twirled her knives in her hands, itching and impatient. I sighed. No hesitation then.

“Theo…” I said. “Do whatever you want.

“… Understood.”

Breaking out into a swift jog and quickly gaining speed, Theo lunged for the closest thug. The stupid mooks all opened fire at the same time. I felt sorry for them. After all, she only blocked the bullets aimed for me.

The bullets ricocheted back, bouncing the damage from Theo back to the Vitalis in a classic return-to-sender. They were riddled with bullet holes before Theo even got to them, and after that they were in even worse shape. Each motion was cool, calculated, and controlled, knives flashing and slashing through jugulars and femoral arteries, disabling the enemy by cutting out their tongues and slashing their eyes before driving the blade straight up through the base of their chin, or slicing through the flesh of their necks.

You could see the precision and calculated efficiency of each movement, but I could feel the anger and the hatred seeping through it. The hatred she felt for the Vitalis for ignoring her… for treating her like a thing or a monster. I saw flashes and brief visions of Mickey Donahue’s face. The sheer sexual sadism that he’d inflicted on her for his own pleasure. Then I saw it all superimposed over the Vitali men’s faces, like a latex mask or a layer of wrapping paper. When she killed them, she saw him. She was taking out her anger on them, but it would never be enough. For the first time I felt what it was like to be Theo.

And I felt… the frustration she felt with me. What it felt like to be marginalized, and lied to. To be treated like a prize or a bargaining chip instead of a person, without consideration for your feelings.

… I’d made a huge mistake.

The last man dropped to the floor. Theo walked back over to me.

“I’m… I’m sorry, Theo,” I said.

“Yes,” she said. “I know you are. You did not want this. But this… this is what I want. To repay my debt to you. To be a part of your family. I am a homunculus. I was created to serve, so let me do this for you.”

She looked me right in the eyes. Our faces were so close we were practically touching.

“You’re going to have to… feed on me,” I said. “You know that, right?”

This is what I’d been afraid to tell her since the beginning. That again, someone was going to have to take advantage of her. If not Frankie, then me. Even with Mickey dead, she’d still be a slave by design, a person without freedom.

“Yes. It is alright,” she said, to my surprise. “I have known about this since the beginning, so I have had time to plan. In fact, I had thought of doing this at some point anyway…”

“What?

Theo shook her head, maybe a bit too much, batting me in the face with her bunny ears. “It is nothing.”

“Then… now and forever?” I said. I still wasn’t sure this was the right choice, but I’d be damned if I was going to let Frankie or Milo have her. Even if we failed this job, she was still coming back home with me.

“Now and forever,” she affirmed. The contract’s magic began snaking its way through us.

“You’ll stay with me when there’s trouble?”

“Especially when there is trouble.”

“You’ll always be by my side?

“Always.”

“As servitore e confidente?”

. E’ certo.”

“I didn’t know you could speak Italian,” I said, smiling.

“Not much. You tend to learn a bit in the company I seem to keep these days though,” she said, returning the gesture. Smearing her blood across her lips like cherry red lipstick, she sealed it with another, deeper kiss. The contract was complete. Theo and I were officially now master and familiar.

She broke off. “Now you are a proper mage, Alfonso Anastasio.”

I looked at her, confused. “Wait, what do you mean by that?”

She tilted her head. “Do you mean you did not-“

“Alllll!” I heard a familiar voice holler. Shit.

Suddenly Theo was gone. I looked around, and immediately saw her standing stock still behind a thin potted plant.

“Theo what are you doing?” I hissed.

“I am hiding,” she whispered back.

Y’know, sometimes I can’t help but think that this super-smart homunculus is actually super-dumb.

“It’s not very good. Why?”

“I said I would stay by your side in times of trouble. I said nothing about helping you to explain yourself to Mistress Anastasia. That is your problem.”

“Forget hiding, we have to run! Before she sees us!”

“But why?” Again with the head-tilt.

“Why do you think? We don’t have time to explain this shit! We have to finish this fight!”

For a moment Theo looked like she had something to say, but then she shook her head and said, “You are right. Let us go, quickly. If we are to save the Marquis… and ourselves.”

Nodding, we broke cover and ran.

“So?” I said. “What’s the situation? I’m betting Marq has something to do with this, right? Why you’re here?”

“I should not have to explain this, and we do not have the time. We have already wasted thirty one minutes and fifty six seconds since you called me. Read my mind if you must.”

“What?” I said for like the fifth time that day.

“You are my master now, are you not? You should be able to glean as much from my memories.”

“Oh. Right. Sorry.” I focused, and the treasury of memories I experienced earlier came rushing back. Theo flinched. Briefly I felt that assault again, that defilement of my mind, but I brushed it aside and moved past it. Not easy, but you’d be surprised what you can do under pressure.

I saw the letter arriving in the mail, along with a platoon of Allesandri henchmen. I saw the totally one-sided fight and the following interrogation by Theo. I saw the explanation, written in fresh black ink, saying that she had never truly left the Allesandri’s sights, and that she’d need to help the Marquis if she was to assure her own freedom. I saw the dragon whistle.

I turned to look at Theo, who was recovering from the memory probe.

“So does that mean-?”

A giant black mass flew past the window next to us, and I saw a burning slit eye.

“Sigurd…”

We ran past the empty dining compartment and slammed through the door, and I finally got a good and sober look at what passed for collateral in a fight between demigods.

“Holy shit…” I said, unable to say much else. The devastation was incredible. Dark skies. Fires for miles. You could see it from fifty kilometers away. But that wasn’t the “big no” apocalypse part. Tonto National Forest was collapsing into a pit.

“We should be inside,” Theo said.

“The shockwaves, right?” I said. “Or is it the ash?”

“It is true, we have approximately one hundred and forty seven seconds before the shockwave from the most recent blast hits us. There may be additional shockwaves from previous impacts on the way in the meantime. But that is not why we should not be outside.”

“Why’s that then?” I asked. She pointed at something gigantic clinging to the side of the train. 
“That,” she said. “That is why we should not be outside the train.”

Previous || Next

Tokyo Drift 4.9

Previous || Next

Yes, I know what means. Take care, Alfonso. I shall see you soon.

The phone clicked, indicating the call had been dropped.

“Thass good…” I garbled.

I passed out.

At first I saw nothing except an endless abyss. Okay, well, maybe not endless. Maybe just really deep, or really dark, or maybe it was just some kind of tunnel or loop instead of an abyss, it was really impossible to tell… It seemed like it was endless is what I’m trying to say. Jesus, leave me alone. I was high as a kite.

And then, there was a light. In a world without up or down, black or white or side to side, that one pinprick of blinding light finally gave some hint of direction, a sense of purpose. There was something just beyond it, something I knew I needed, instinctively, like I needed food or water or breath in my lungs. I moved towards it in any way I knew how, crawling, swimming, climbing and running just to reach it. The closer I got the more beautiful it became, but it felt like that fucking thing was only moving farther and farther away the more I tried to grasp the truth. What was it? What was that light and what was it hiding that I wasn’t supposed to see?

No, I decided. I wasn’t going to let it. I wasn’t going to let this get away from me. Not when I was so close. Not when I was finally seeing it for the first time. So I ran harder. I ran faster. I clawed and I climbed and I pushed, struggling for every step and every handhold as I navigated this invisible abyss to get to that one fucking point of light, that one tiny piece of brilliance shining its light in my face, taunting me with its spellbinding magnificence. And eventually, it started getting closer.

I paid for it, struggled for it every step of the way. I kept grasping and crawling until it felt like my skin would bleed away, and my fingers and toes were nothing but bloody stumps. My eyes felt like they were on fire the longer I looked at it, and my every sensation seemed to burn away with them. It was like trying to touch the sun. Eventually, inevitably, even my body turned to ash.

And then I could see it. I could finally fucking see it. Just the tiniest glimpse, an outline or a silhouette, like the single facet of a gem that was being obscured by its own brilliance. It was barely anything at all, but it was fucking beautiful. It was everything I’d ever wanted, and I didn’t even know what this thing was. It was just simple to me, plain, clear and evident. I needed it to complete me. This is what I was meant to have. This silent melody. This surface memory. A sound symphony that would become a part of me. Yes, a part of me. This is what I was meant to be. This was my missing piece.

Whatever was behind that light was mine, and I wanted it.

Then the gem turned, bouncing the light off itself and into my eyes, blinding me. I woke up.

“Al, are you okay?!” Annie said for the fifteenth time, shaking me awake. She was shaking me so hard my head was going back and forth, which was honestly getting kind of annoying on top of not helping with the whole barf situation.

“Urghkl…” I muttered, coughing. Well, the hallucinations seemed to have stopped. I wouldn’t be sober or totally lucid for at least another eight hours, but at least the waking night-terrors and the floppy, mountain-sized dicks had stopped being a thing for now. No idea if they’d come back though.

“Al!” my little sister shouted again. Oh my god Annie, please shut up. Your voice sounds like a bullhorn in stereo right now.

“Ahm fayne,” I said, telling her blatant lies she could never possibly fall for either because it was habit or because I was still trying to figure out the distinction between what’s up and what’s down. “Lemme goach-

I choked on a little bit of throw-up that had found its way back into my throat and I spit it out on the floor. Annie held me down despite my limp flailing.

“Not until you tell me what you’ve been taking, Al,” she demanded. “Is it the cocaine again? How high are you right now? Jesus I’ve never seen you this bad before…”

She held up five fingers.

“Nah, jus sum yaggy-yag,” I slurred. “Iss fine, iss fine. Ah jus need afew minuteses.. seriousleh, ahm nawt haiiiii…”

I felt my stomach churn and then I grabbed Richard and puked all over his leaves. Apparently we were still doing this.

I coughed. “Okay, mebbe ahm a leetle high… maybe a lawt…”

Don’t. Move,” Annie said. “I’ll be right back and see what I can find. There’s gotta be something on this train that can help you. Maybe some smelling salts…”

She propped me up against the wall and left, carefully jogging down the hall so she wouldn’t trip.

“Anneh wait…” I said stupidly. I was still worried about her, even now. Why hadn’t Felicity been here with her earlier? Could she make the trip herself? What if she went outside and got hit by the ejecta or something. Even when I could barely think or remember what worry was supposed to be, I feared the worst. I guess this is what you’d call the overprotectiveness of a big brother, huh?

Minutes passed. I don’t remember how many. It’s an odd situation for me of all people to be in, but time was irrelevant then. Even when I wasn’t flashing back or flashing forward anymore, minutes could still feel like hours and hours like minutes. Eventually, I heard a loud noise coming from the dining compartment. A deep thumping like a heartbeat on fast forward.

“Alright everybody, heads and hands on the ground! We don’t want to see anybody here get ‘accidentally’ shot, comprende?”

Gunfire. There was a person in there with a gun. No, people with guns. Were they looking for me? Were they looking for Annie? There was no one else important to the crims here right now. The better question was, in my state, which one of us was really more vulnerable?

Annie, I decided. Even if I’m the one who’s weaker than her, the answer is still always Annie.

Plus, I remembered something important just then. I knew karate.

I stumbled out of the doorway and into the hallway, where I saw a bunch of armed thugs wearing white suits and red scarves over their faces. Crosses jangled around their necks in shades of gold. I would later recognize this as the signature uniform of an undercover Vitali hit squad. But right then, my brain knew one thing and one thing only.

“Hey buddy, hands on the fucking ground-“

“Hwachaaaaaa!” I screamed and punched the bozo right in the face. It was lunch hour at Cafe Alfonso, and all I knew how to make were knuckle sandwiches.

The mook fell over clutching his face and his bloody nose. Of course, I doubt I actually know karate. I could check but that’d take too much time, walking through that much of the brain palace. Point is, my stupid, drug-addled brain thought I did, and that’s all that mattered.

“Why you shitty fuckin’ little weasel… You think you’re such hot shit you fuckin’ wiseguy?”

The other guys with Tommies brought their machine guns up to aim them at me.

“Fire!” the guy in the back giving the orders yelled. “Kill this shithead!”

These dudes weren’t fucking around.

“Rising Tiger!” I said, calling out the name of some move I remembered from a kung-fu talky before slamming the palm of my hand into the barrel of the gun closest to me. The guy fired, sending the butt of the gun smashing into his face with the recoil.

“What the fu-“

“Charging Tortoise! Headbutting Ram!”

I did a bunch of weird shit then jabbed my elbow straight into the guy’s gut, tossing him straight back into his buddies. I turned around to whip my arm at the guy standing next to me, dumbstruck.

“Limp Soba Noodle! Soggy Wonton! Stupid Broken Fortune Cookie! I-am-totally-running-out-of-names-for-these Attack! Why-is-coming-up-with-names-so hard Fist!”

Flailing like a drunken madman I managed to knock out or disable at least three of them and then took some of their guns and opened fire. I didn’t hit shit, but it was enough to scare them into hiding.

“You scared o’ me? Huh? Ish that it? You scared ‘o me you fucking pussies?!” I screamed, firing my guns into the air. It was stupid of me to do that, but I felt so overwhelmed. So this is what they meant by drunken mastery.

Then both of my drums ran dry and I got dogpiled by two goons wearing each other’s farts for hats.

“We got him, Boss Sylvester!” they said as I struggled beneath them.

“Good!” the guy in the back said. “Bout time you fuckin’ faggots did something right. Now let me get a better look at this fuckin’ piece of shit.”

He kneeled down to look at me, this spindly, bug-eyed, cockroach-looking asshole who looked like he did his hair with grease and animal fat instead of brylcreem.

“How’s it goin’ down there, tough guy?” he said mockingly. He spat in my face, which was… oh god it was so gross. I’m so glad I was high, otherwise I might’ve started hyperventilating.

I grinned, flinching when he spat at me. “You’re one ugly mother-“

He kicked me in the face.

“Don’t you say that to me. Don’t you ever fucking say that shit to me, you fucking cocksucker!”

He kicked me in the face again and again and again until my nose was bent out of shape and blood was pouring down my face, dribbling. Finally when it looked like he was done, he unsheathed a shortsword. More like an elongated dagger than a true sword, a red cross was emblazoned on the circular nub at the bottom of the grip. A creed was inscribed on the base of the blade:

Non Nobis, Domine, Non Nobis, Sed Nomini Tuo Da Glorium

A crusader’s sword. This guy was gonna kill me with a suped up museum piece.

“Boss Romeo says we can’t use our usual pig-stickers on account of all this fucking cloak and dagger bullshit, but this should be good enough for a fucking heathen like you, don’t you think shortshit? Or should I say ‘shitstuff’? Ah, who cares!”

I closed my eyes. I had no prayers to say. After facing down death so many times in these last couple of months, I really had nothing new to contribute to my eulogy. Plus y’know, I was still super fucking blitzed and couldn’t really think of anything to say if I wanted to. Don’t know how many times that bears repeating.

“Konnichiwa and sayonara, you fucking cocksucker! Time to die!”

“Yes. Yes it is.”

There was a deep, sharp ripping sound as bone was plied apart from bone and a huge knife emerged from the bug-man’s chest. He looked down in abject horror.

“Muh… Mommy!” he screamed before he was silenced by another knife entering the back of his skull. In one smooth motion the knives moved up and down his body parallel to each other, and split his upper body apart lengthwise, peeling him into two pieces like a banana. Everything was quiet.

“Honestly, you make such a show about how you’re going to protect me and then you can’t even protect yourself from a bunch of amateur thugs,” a familiar velvety voice said as she pulled the knives out of the man’s partially quadrisected corpse.. “How am I supposed to trust a savior like that for anything?”

My eyes widened like everyone else’s, but unlike them, so did my smile.
“Theo…”

Previous || Next

Bonus Interlude (Sigurd)

Previous || Next

The dragon known as Sigurd was a proud creature, as many dragons were. When He was first brought to the metal forest as a hatchling, He would not sleep in Marquis’ hollowed tree of fired stone. He had insisted on finding His own cave, by Himself, and would not move from it even when tempted with the price of a free meal. He had taken twenty men to move Him even as a hatchling, and He would return to His cave every night in defiance of Marquis. This was the way things were. This way the way things were supposed to be.

In time He had grown to respect Marquis, and would even acknowledge him as being like Him and let him feed Him. He had done this partially out of hunger, for there was little to eat in the metal forest besides the things called humans and the yappy things they called their pets, and they were troublesome and not filling. They would satisfy as a quick snack, but He would need larger things if He wished to grow. Hooved things. Perhaps clawed things too. The dragon known as Sigurd hungered for hooved and clawed things, and hooved and clawed things did Marquis provide. But the respect was still there. No ordinary human man-thing was allowed to feed the dragon known as Sigurd.

Now normally for the dragon known as Sigurd, feeding time meant venturing to the edges of His cave where He would find the carcasses of dead things to strip of their meat. Sometimes hooved and clawed things, like He liked. Other times many smaller things, enough to satisfy His appetite. These offerings, whether they were the tributes of lesser things or gifts from Marquis, were what sustained the dragon known as Sigurd. Because He had chosen to live in the metal forest there was little to eat, but He was also too stubborn and proud to leave it. It was His now, even if there was little to hunt.

But the other day He had been given an offering most satisfactory. Four fully grown hooved things stewed in the meat juices of the hooved vegetable things of Barbary, many tiny feathered things, and the torso of a wolf-man-thing for dessert. He had seen fit to consume it all, although He now had begun to think perhaps such a large meal was meant to be spaced out. Now it had been two days since he’d last seen Marquis, and he had run out of food the evening of the first day. The dragon known as Sigurd grew hungry.

He returned to the chained-up wolf-man-thing at the edge of his cave, eager to see if its lower half had regrown itself yet. The sight of the meat was a welcome one, but it frustrated the dragon known as Sigurd that the upper half had been placed just beyond his reach. It kept his meal alive, but two human-thing legs was hardly a satisfying meal, only a snack.

The dragon known as Sigurd dug in to His meal of human-thing legs, the wolf-man-thing which had been so quiet after the first time screaming in agony. Sigurd finished, and the wolf-man-thing went quiet again. Was it undergoing the short death again? Or had it just understood that it was His meal, and He did not like interruptions?

The dragon known as Sigurd paced, still hungry. He roared with righteous elemental fury at the mouth of his cave, which had been blocked off by rocks to discourage any outings (except when Marquis needed Him, He understood that much about the permanency of this prison of his choosing). Perhaps the noise would awaken the littler things and remind them to feed Him.

Fifteen minutes passed with no result. He roared again, this time making sure to express His anger by roaring twice.

“Shut up down there!” the unfamiliar voice of a man-thing echoed. He listened. Marquis? No, not Marquis. Voice too different.

He knew those words. They meant “be quiet”. Denial. Dismissal. The dragon known as Sigurd roared again. How dare these inferior creatures deny Him a meal?

“I said shut up!” the human-thing cried, stomping on the floor. “We already gave you that furball’s carcass, what more do you want?”

The dragon known as Sigurd roared again. He would continue to make His demands known until these inferior things remembered their place.

“Lou, just feed the damn thing,” another human-thing voice said. He knew that word too. Feed.

There was more shouting outside his cave. Finally, one of the voices seemed to relent and, timidly, the still-living carcass of a hooved thing was poked and prodded into his cave by quivering hands at the end of a long stick. It mooed frightfully, and the dragon called Sigurd was on it in a millisecond, ripping and tearing it and breaking its spine so it could not flee. His prey subdued, He gave His own thanks for a live meal (though he still wished desperately to hunt), then began to eat.

He first heard the waves of a sound familiar to Him when He reached the creature’s liver, though He could not remember why or how he knew them. It was slow, as sound would be to an animal such as He that was built to surpass sound itself, coming to Him in individual waves or packets instead of a whole, complete sound as the human things perceived it.

He raised his head to listen for a moment, then continued to eat. He knew many sounds. This one would not interrupt His meal. The dragon known as Sigurd would not answer the call of a lesser creature, much less in the middle of a meal. Then He heard the rest of the sound, and knew it was the sound. The sound Marquis had told Him to look out for.

With a new purpose and wind beneath His wings, the dragon known as Sigurd dropped his meal and everything else He was doing to bull-rush the sealed entrance to His cave, breaking down the embankments and squeezing His way out of the cave and into the sky. The dragon known as Sigurd was smart, smarter than a five year old human child. And even children knew better than to ignore their parents when they were being called. Below, two man-things wet themselves.

In seconds the dragon known as Sigurd was coasting the winds between New York and Montreal, flooding his nostrils with the smells, trying to pick apart the ones He was supposed to be looking for. This was a difficult task, except for one such as Him. He could smell many on the terrain below, each scent pungent and unique. He smelled Marquis, the man-thing called Alfonso, and the faint smells of an adolescent woman-thing as well as the pungent smell of his last live human meal and many others that smelled like it. He did not question this. Had some of it been saved for Him to eat again? He hoped so. Live prey was better than dead meat.

Flapping His wings gracefully, he cleared the snow beneath Him so He could have a proper place to rest on the ground. He did not need to see them to smell them, but He still kept his well-trained eyes focused on the forest where they lay in wait. He would not deign to appear unguarded or weak in front of such puny human-things. However, He would show his underbelly to Marquis if He was so asked.

A single human woman-thing walked out of the forest carrying a bloody knife and some other thing in a large sack. She was not Marquis.

Her appearance startled the dragon called Sigurd. There should have been many here, but He could only see one, and He could not smell her stench. The things that touched her left traces of their smell on her, but even when she sweat, she herself was clean. Sterile. Scentless.

That was how the dragon called Sigurd knew. This was not a human thing. Artificial, in the shape of a human woman-thing. Life created. Not life born. Did not smell.

Then He remembered. He had seen this one before. This thing was there when He had His last live human meal. When He fed on the man-thing Marquis had called “Mickey Donahue”. When Marquis was surrounded by bad things.

Then… was she bad?

He thought to Himself. This one was not Marquis. This one was not safe.

The dragon known as Sigurd bared His fangs. The worm-thing in His mouth wriggled, boiling His saliva and making a hissing noise while putrid steam poured out from inside His cavernous jaws.

The not-human thing that was not safe did not falter or change her expression, and she did not display any outward signs of weakness. But she placed her hand on her chest. To her, this was safe. She felt nervous. Afraid.

Sigurd arched His head back, preparing to strike at the next sign of anxiety or fear. Those who fear are only afraid because they have something to hide. This thing could not be trusted.

“Oh, that’s right. The Marquis told me that I would have to feed you,” the woman thing said. She held something in her other hand. A leg of a hooved thing, still raw, still attached to the bottom half of the carcass. She held the hooved thing’s haunches and lower quarters out in front of her as an offering before slowly kneeling and dropping it on the ground in front of the dragon known as Sigurd. Having done this, she took a step back.

The dragon known as Sigurd eyed the woman-thing suspiciously. Was this a trap? Bait maybe? Was it safe?

The dragon called Sigurd sniffed the meat. Fresh. Still bloody, but cold. Kept fresh. Thawed recently. Couldn’t smell poison. Smelled good.

The dragon called Sigurd eyed the woman-thing. She was not displaying any signs of aggression. She was still nervous. Was she lying or was she scared? Scared of Him perhaps? Yes, scared. Trustworthy?

With slight hesitation, the dragon known as Sigurd licked the meat of the hooved thing. The blood tasted like blood. No poison. Tasted good. The dragon known as Sigurd was still hungry…

Without much hesitation, the dragon known as Sigurd snapped up the meat of the hooved thing, whipping it around in his mouth before pinning it to the ground and tearing it into strips and pieces he could eat. Safe. Safe and good.

He ate while keeping an eye on the woman-thing, which seemed to have resolved itself to approaching Him. She walked slowly, with careful, calculated steps. The dragon known as Sigurd stopped eating, and she stopped. If she dared interrupt His meal, He would destroy her. A few minutes passed, and He started eating again. She approached.

Slowly, the smaller creature reached out to touch Him. Wrong. She was not afraid. Should have been, but was not. Fearful of something else. What was it? Reluctantly, He let her touch him.

She stroked his scales gently. Felt good. Made for a nice meal. The dragon known as Sigurd relaxed, and laid His head down on the ground to continue eating lazily. She was no threat to him. The woman-thing was safe. Could maybe be trusted, so long as she kept feeding the dragon called Sigurd and didn’t try attacking Him.

She hoisted herself on top of the dragon known as Sigurd, sitting with both legs saddled around his neck. She praised Him for not moving. He did not mind. The small, annoying creature was safe, so long as it moved quickly.

The woman-thing retrieved a piece of leather and a scrap of cloth that smelled like Marquis. The dragon called Sigurd supposed that was one question answered. But what did she intend to do with that strangely-shaped piece of hide?

“Now, how did he say I was supposed to ride you…?” she asked herself, placing the piece of leather beneath her before tying the cloth bundle that smelled like Marquis to the end of a rope.
His earholes perked up as she dangled the cloth in front of Him. Ride?

Previous || Next