Monday, September 24, 2012

I Think I Was A Cat...

...And I hadn't used up my nine lives before I died in my previous life. Hence why, in this life, I seem to be able to slip in and out of certain death over and over again. I'm still insured!

Anyone who believes that, please stand up.

Sitting here now, it feels nearly surreal. Yet another unexpected turn in a series of almost unbelievable events.

I sit here... beside an old friend of mine, The Butler, in silence. Encased in the darkness of a car with only the glow from this screen to break the blanket shadowed over us... and the passing glow of headlights of the cars in the opposing lane. Their light splashing through the inside for just an instant before they speed right by - lost in a journey all their own. Completely unaware of how their lights illuminated what the glow of the screen only hints at...

Dried blood covers me.

It is crusted down the side of my face in my hair. Down my neck and arms. Body and legs. Thickest around some areas (like the tears in my clothing), and slowly getting thinner where it had once bled down. I've no doubt that I look like a right mess. I can even feel The Butler glancing to me out of the corner of his eye each time a car passes before he returns his gaze forward. One hand on the steering wheel. The other on the gear shift. Not saying a word. Not asking a single question. Perhaps holding true to some belief that I will explain when I am ready to... or he has assumed I'm hiding some severe injury or another and expects me to collapse any minute. Either/or.

His worry, though subtle, is touching. Truly.

But pointless, all the same.

I am fine.

Only a dull ache remains, especially through my joints. Only that. As if my body can't quite understand... how what Had Been only a few hours ago, no longer Is. Gashes, stabs, tears, bruises, and shattered bones... all healed. Sown back together with the help of acidic glue. Even with that true, however, the exhaustion from my ordeal remains. Pulling at my counsciousness. Taunting me. Inviting me to shed my worries and fears for the night. If only for this night... but I've too much at mind to allow myself sleep.

I'm - or we're - headed for somewhere that I haven't been in three years. I know I could have just used The Path to get there and, by all rights, I probably should...

But I need time to think.

Too much is happening too fast. Everything is being reduced to ruins, and I'm not just speaking personally.

"Morningstar" and his company are dead. Broken as puppets always are by those who pull the strings too harshly. I am not aware of full details, but I was told that they "broke" while Eliminating a few of the Highers. They were the first swing to sever the head of the Organization... and then, once they fell, it seems their Puppeteers took over once the blood began to flow. Once the panic began to set in and Key Figures began to duck low and Run...

That's when Valtiel stepped in. Along with a figure I've only just been introduced to. Ramael. A fellow "Valtiel" the same way that Amber Eyes is Valtiel and Red Eyes is Valtiel. You'd probably know of the latter from his Games with Spencer and company... and Amber Eyes might seem familiar, as he was the Original Morningstar's "Handler", for lack of a better term. Personally, I always viewed it as more of a Master and their Pet than the typical Organization system, but I suppose it doesn't matter. It is what it is. Amber Eyes has also dropped in on yours truly in the past... more frequently as of late than normal, I will admit...

I'd be lying if I said that on its own didn't worry me, but, even still, I'm not an ungrateful "Pet", if that is the term to be used. I am fully aware that I skirted away from Death yet again. Being pulled out from under his swing at the very last moments...

What a stupid way that would have been to die.

I had trusted him.

The infamous Sherlock.

I trusted the son of a bitch... and he returned the gesture by burying a blade in my spine and twisting.

When I tracked him down, I had wanted to look him in the eye and see that he was being set-up. That it was a lie. I wanted to SEE IT... but I didn't. I matched Sherlock's stare for a single instant...

And I saw the guilt and fear of a traitor.

There was no need to talk.

I remember my hand grabbing an old pool cue from a broken table through a haze of red. I remember the jar that rattled through my arm as I cracked it across Sherlock's skull - the old wood splitting the stick in half from the force as the man crumpled to the tired floorboards. There was crimson on his brow, I recall, but I only dropped my piece... to pick up the heavier end that had clattered to the floor.

I started with that.

I beat him.

And then I went more... "hands on".

He took each swing. Not once fighting back. Not even moving to defend himself...

His Life was Mine. And I was going to take it from him an inch at a time.

Then They were there. On me before I even knew it. A stab into my back - just below my shoulder blade - gave me my first shot of tranquilizer before I'd even had the chance to turn... but that didn't stop me fighting with everything I had left. Struggling through the haze of drugs injected with every dart. Struggling against the current of electricity that tore through me from each taser. I fought against every hit. Every kick. Every hold.

All in vain.

It was my turn to be beat down. And then I was pinned to the floor at The Author's feet. The "Highest" that Sherlock ran to. The one who ordered my arrest. Apparently, he saw fit to oversee my capture personally...

That smug smirk of his is still burned into my mind.

In all honesty, my friends... I had thought in that moment that I'd finally been dealt my losing hand. I was cuffed behind my back tight enough to cut skin and taken somewhere where the cuffs were replaced by a straight-jacket. Though that was after, of course, they stripped me of my gauntlet. My hoodie. My mask. After they had finished tearing into me for the day. After my skin was slicked with sweat and blood and my throat was raw from what screams I hadn't been able to bite back... which I always tried to follow up with a cherry laugh, of course. Wouldn't want them to think I wasn't enjoying their efforts now, would I?

I was beaten.

I was tortured.

I was put on trial.

They knew how to make me bleed.

They knew how to make my bones splinter and crack.

They knew how to take aim at my pride and strip it down to its core...

But they didn't know how to break me.

They demanded information on Redlight and Valtiel as if I was their favorite Pen Pal. As if they each told me their personal agendas every Sunday over tea and biscuits. They didn't care if it made next to no sense - they were desperate. After all, The Devil has disappeared completely - making EVERYONE more than a little nervous - and to say that Amber Eyes and his ilk were "on the move" was a little bit of an understatement. My captors wanted their plans. They needed information. Any information. And I had been in contact with both "recently". For them, that was more than enough.

I was barely conscious for my trail.

Brought in with the straight-jacket. Forced on my knees. Same old drill. Predictable outcome. Would have preferred to be back being tortured than having to listen to that garbage, in all honestly...

For my crimes against the Organization. For murders and assassinations. For having pretty little bonfires that engulfed entire skyscrapers. For slaughtering the "cows" of more than one Farm, along with their "Farmers" and all the "calves".

I was found Guilty. Sentenced to Death.

Tough crowd, I must say.

Straight after my trail, I got my wish. I returned to being tortured for more information with hosts that promised me that, once Alex and Leo were found, that I'd be begging to help in any way I could. Trying their very best to pick at my psyche. To undermine whatever Redlight or Valtiel may or may not have discussed with me. Which in itself is rather cute, if you think about it...

I was being returned to my cell - dragged back with even more injuries and even more broken bones - when It Happened. I'd... tried once again to take advantage of a slip of grip when the buckles of my straight jacket were released. I snapped up my arm - curving it back to hook a chin. Jericho staggered back cursing as the needle of drugs in his hand fell and broke to the floor, but I was already spinning. Aiming a kick at my second host, which did connect with his side... but Jericho was on me before I could turn back to him. My brassknuckled friend then repaid me for him having bit his tongue. Twin cracks split pain through my jaw before his fist rammed into my stomach. I sucked in a gasp for breath, folding nearly in two as all air left me and broken ribs screamed a familiar pitch. Internal organs aching in protest - no doubt damaged in their own ways - but I was already being secured to the wall. Chains pulling tight to hold my arms out on either side of me. My legs secured next...

Jericho left to get more drugs to sedate me... and, through it all, I couldn't help but wheeze out a chuckle at the glare I was receiving from my second host. I was touched, after all. Flattered. All this security for little ol' me...

And that's exactly what I told him.

A twitch of an eye was my reward even as he walked back over to me. Grabbing a metal piece that had been dangling beside my head, and forcing it into my mouth. Long hooks that curved inside each cheek - edges sharp as a knife... and ending in sharp points at the back of my throat. Threatening a gag reflex just from being there...

And then I was punched in the stomach again.

I had tried to hold myself, but I still lurched forward. The bit quickly tightening. Stabbing the back of my throat. Cutting my mouth. Tongue. I gagged and coughed... neither of which a reaction that HELPED my situation any as blood greeted my taste buds yet again...

The words "Suck on that, faggot," were spit in my face just before the bars to my cell slid shut and I heard the lock click closed.

And then there was another sound.

The shrill cry of metal was born from the shadows in that moment. A sound that shivered as much as it echoed through the cell block. Crawling across the walls... as slow, deliberate footsteps echoed down the corridor...

My second host, Crossfire, tensed.

And I knew why.

The air itself had seemed to constrict all at once. Tensing. As if it carried a buzz that was anything from natural. A feeling that could only ever be described as "Wrong" stretching out from the shadows even as Cross called into them. Asking who was there. Then demanding it.

The name "Hector" whispered from the shadows. Echoing in the space like a drop of blood into a pool of still water. Rippling out over itself... even as Crossfire, or Hector Marshall, called back for Jeri to stop messing around. Taking a step back even as he threatened to shoot, retrieving his gun from his side...

The name "Hector" breezed forward again.

Dearest Cross-Eyed made his choice then. There was only a second's pause when he lifted the gun to the approaching footsteps... before he cracking off a number of shots in the general direction. The footsteps stopped and I straining my ears to hear the sound of a body falling...

I heard nothing... except for a final "Hector" that rose like a ghost from the silence.

The shadows suddenly shifted around Crossfire... and a deep voice I didn't recognize whispered in a way that seemed to stretch into every corner. The tone itself holding a strange echo.

"Do You Believe?"

Crossfire spun to someone out of my view... but I could still watch his body tense and freeze him in place. Panic gripping him as he struggled for words at what he saw in those shadows. The question repeating again like a sharp blade's first taste of blood. Tone unbelievably calm and controlled. Cold and calculated. Yet... so very alive. My host's muscles strained as if he wanted to move back more... but something stopped him. Something held him. Planting him in place with a voice bubbling a mess of words and sounds and pleads as the question repeated a final time with a glint of steel in the darkness...

Crossfire screamed that he did. That he Believed.

There was a moment of silence as I watched a hand appear to caress my host's cheek.

"Then You Need Not Fear Death."

I couldn't help but shiver at the screams that followed those few words. A gleam of steel flashing before it disappeared deep inside Crossfire's gut. Twisting inside as the body convulsed and blood no doubt surged into my host's throat. Gurgling accompanying the cries of anguish and absolute terror...

"Be My Victim...

...A Sacrifice To Restore Faith."

...And then the metal ripped out. Bringing with it a mess of intestines and organs that splattered to the floor. Dangling from Crossfire's cavity as some force help him in place. The metal sinking in again. And again. Each movement drawing out more organs to pile in a sickening mass at the Proxy's feet. Coating him in his own blood as his screams finally started to fade after what was far too long for Life to remain...

And then the hollowed shell fell with a gut-churning, wet thud.

The darkness seemed to darken enough more around me. Leaving me in not but a black abyss. Alone. And so very vulnerable. I couldn't move. I couldn't see. I strained my ears to hear anything - anything - that would give me a hint as to what was next...

And then I felt the kiss of sharp metal trace across my cheek.

"And You? Do You Believe?"

The voice was Low. Looming. And right damn in front of me.

I was the next contestant on The Price Is Right.

I just prayed that I knew The Rules.

"I believe in many things. In He, most of all. For I am just a pawn under His Will. A humble servant. Nothing more."

The metal - a hook on the end of a stumped arm - dug deeper into my cheek. Earning blood that beaded down my face to run against what was already dried there. My stomach turned - being more than able to visualize that hook burying into me like it had Crossfire - and so I braced myself for something much worse to follow... when a hand came to my chin and turned my gaze to the side. Into where the shadows seemed darkest of all in my charming little cell...

Amber Eyes stared back.

"Hello, Sam."

I knew that voice.

And I knew those eyes.

And I knew... that this was either going to be very good... or Very. Very. Very. Bad.

I offered a greeting to Vivi. Dearest Valtiel. Wearing my usual smirk as I broke the bad news right off the bat that he had missed my trial, if that's what he had come for. A crying shame, for certain. Though I made sure to reassured him that the finale hadn't been much of a surprise ending. I was guilty, as anyone could have guessed. I did my best to keep up the idle chit-chat as Valtiel went on. Trying not to gag on the metal in my mouth... or pay too much attention to the hook attached to the Nameless Entity that seemed determined to trace the sharp tip down my cheek and neck. My jawline and hairline - brushing back any hacked-and-chopped hair (I tend to cut it with my gauntlet's blades) that he came across. All with his hook. As if he was seconds away from skinning me - the image of the Human Anatomy Mannequin from my old High School Biology class flashing forward in my mind.

I asked Vivi if Captain Hook was a friend of his. Valtiel only informed me that he was his Big Brother (Obviously, I was not particularly settled by that fact.) before moving the topic back onto me. Asking how I was feeling.

I just smiled and told him I was peachy. That I'd rate this charming little hotel five stars. Recommended it to all my friends.

Amusement flickered in those eyes. A good sign, if there ever is one.

He praised me a touch for not breaking under Them. Commenting that he didn't think I would, and going on about how that was what always amused him the most about me. Wondering out-loud if I would carry that mindset - that defiance - straight through to my grave, or if I'd land up shattering somewhere along the way. Spurring a smile that I could hear in his voice as he admitted he was looking forward to finding out. And then, as though to not doddle on such a subject, he asked if I was hungry... and then suddenly seemed to realize that I was still very much pinned in place. Giving a "Silly Me" excuse with a wave of his hand, as if he'd forgotten to pick up milk on his way home.

He nodded to his Brother, and it was only then that the silent figure's fingers finally released my chin and his hook fell away from tracing his invisible "cut here" dotted lines. I felt my binds begin to release. Hands making quick work of the chains before removing the bladed hooks in my mouth. My straight jacket hitting the floor last. Leaving me in little more than my black pants and undershirt. Both of which were torn to all hell (far more than normal), but I was not about to complain. It felt so good to move again, despite everything else, and, during my release, either the darkness of that cell began to light just slightly... or my eyes suddenly decided to adjust that much more. Letting me make out my visitors.

Valtiel looked the same as he always had. A decidedly Arabic man with slicked, back hair and amber eyes. A relaxed posture done up into a classy, black, business suit. Red tie. Dark red vest. And a blazing red, silk scarf draped around his neck. His signature piece, I think. He tended to play with ends of it when he spoke sometimes. Flicking the ends as if in relief from the sheer boredom that came with whatever he was dealing with in that moment.

His Brother, however, was something else entirely. "Ramael" had dark brown skin, short, black hair and strange, vibrant blue eyes. He wore a long, dark blue coat that went down to his ankles. Trimmed with thick, black fur around the collar, sleeves, and bottom. A hook being the substitute for a left hand on a gruesome stump - a feature that I had such an itching curiosity to ask about, but figured I best not. Unlike Valtiel, he held himself straight and stiff. I could honestly imagine being gutted only half-way through my question... and not just THAT question, either. Any question.

I had to admit. I didn't see the family resemblance, but I spoke not a word of it. Instead choosing to play the role Valtiel had either accidentally, or purposely, cast for me - speaking of how touched (and relieved) I was that he had come to rescue the "damsel in distress". Even as I spoke, Ramael turned and walked back to Crossfire's corpse across the cell. I couldn't held but watch him out of the corner of my eye as the being dipped his hook in the blood and began to draw on the walls. 

As though to reclaim my attention, Valtiel suddenly produced an apple - tossing it into my hands with a stereotypical "you must be hungry" opening. Forever the smartass, I did remind him that he was supposed to tell me "there's no need to stand on ceremony, nor call to impress" before offering me wine first, THEN the apple. At which point I'd get to huff like a spoiled brat and accuse him of trying to poison me.

Because it's ALWAYS an apple, isn't it?

When I did help myself to the fruit, Valtiel's smirk was nothing if not mocking.

"That's a Good Child. Feeling better?"

I know as well as anyone when I'm being mocked, but, in that moment, I - specifically my stomach - really didn't care. Only pausing in my snack to pick at an old piece of wisdom I'd gained over the years about how Good Will doesn't normally arrive without strings attached. Especially in this Game. So I inquired as to if there was something I could do for them. Or him. Or Him, for that matter.

Valtiel, of course, answered by not answering. Choosing instead to fill me in on several details, including the death of "Morningstar" and the others. Going on to say that, thanks to him and his Brother, the Organization itself is in chaos. Rank cut from rank. The confusion trickling down one level to the next as the Highers run for their lives, abandoning all else...

He assured me... that my execution, among other things, would have come sooner rather than later. I was just a loose end to tie up at this point. Especially since I so stubbornly refused to cooperate. Securing my own End with a nice little bow. Just like my "beloved Alex."

The comment gave me pause before I asked if they had found my spouse yet. Admittedly, I wasn't sure if I wanted an answer.

The grin that grew on that face told of a laugh bubbling just below the surface.

"You mean... you don't know?"

I gave him my best dead look. Reminding him that I might be a lot of things, but, omnipotant, I am not. I always assumed that my captives would jump at the chance to tell me if they HAD found them... but I could also imagine that they'd get an even bigger thrill in just dumping them on the floor at my feet as a special surprise. So. I asked again. Asking what They had found so far.

"Everything. Fortunately for you, your good friend Valtiel has ensured that they cannot act upon that information any time soon. Too disorganized. Still, they will get around to it eventually..."

Irritation began to gnaw. Swearing under my breath as I stared at the apple in my hand. Thinking. Contemplating my next move. Promising that I was going to massacre Sherlock when I got the chance... only to make a decision. A decision that turned my stare back to Valtiel. Asking what the price of a "Get Out Of Jail" card as these days, as I knew for a fact it wasn't free. The look he gave me could have almost passed as torn - questioning my state of mind. Questioning my "desperation" to save my spouse and that "adorable little pride and joy" of mine. Questioning my ability to function still as a useful servant since I seemed so distracted...

I was quick to correct him.

I wasn't planning to "save" my old family.

Or, rather, not in the way he was thinking.

I was going to kill them.

The words tasted like bile, but I swallowed it. I had done my best to bury them three years ago. I did what I could to get them Out... but it wasn't enough anymore. I got too close to someone that had warning signs from the start... and, from that stupidity, I brought them back In. I did that. But I will be damned before I allow Author or any of those idiots to get the chance to so much as brush the hair from their eyes...

I'd rather kill them myself.

And, once I did... I was going burn the entire Organization to the ground.

I want to watch the flames paint the sky orange and smoking gray as every shred of this ridiculous "business" of a Cult comes crumbling back down to reality.

I want to watch it crumble.

I need... to watch it crumble...

I asked only for time to fix matters. Only that. And then I would return to my duties.

When Valtiel spoke again, I was already thinking of how to do it. The quickest way to end their lives.

His hand on my shoulder brought me back in time to just catch his offer when he made it... and, even then, I just stopped and stared at first. Trying to process what I heard. Turning it over in my head again and again. Questioning if I had heard him correctly at all...

He told me... to only kill Alex. That doing so would prove my "dedication" adequately...

"...and Leo would be able to continue to live in peace with trusted and protective fosters. Now, doesn't that sound nice?"

He said he would assure this for me. For him. For us. 

But I had to kill Alex first.

I agreed.

And the pure heat that scorched my system from his hold on my shoulder... felt like I was being incinerated from the inside out. I had to grit my teeth to bear it... but, no sooner than it began, did I start to feel my bones and flesh begin to shift sickeningly beneath my flesh. Healing, one injury at a time. All so I could perform as I was always meant to. As His Servant. His Tool. His Pawn.

I'm no use broken yet.

The rest happened fast. The two Valtiels went through the building. Killing everyone inside. I saw many a corpse on my way out. Far too many, in fact... and in far too many pieces. Several looked as though their faces had been melted off... and others had their eyes burnt right out of their skull. Bleeding black down their cheeks as they lie still in the frozen agony of their last moments, while others still twitched and convulsed where they lay. Blood and organs posed as decoration - pulled from their owners and splattered down the halls. Nearly slipped and landed in a mess of intestines as I'd jogged down the hall. Trying to not pay too much attention to the mutilations. Trying not to think of how it reminded me... of how the Plague Doctors sealed their best into the walls to rot away...

We're all built on Death.

But, I'll admit, in that moment, I was silently thankful for which side I stood on.

The Butler and I found each other amongst the gore. No doubt a "coincidence" that Valtiel had planned for. The fact that my friend hadn't joined the mess of corpses was proof enough of that. Though he looked pale enough to pass as one. He looked absolutely shocked upon seeing me. I don't think he's ever seen me without my mask before. I was - and still am - thankful that he hasn't made any comment about it. We stuck together and killed several of our Kin on our way out. Me, by using with one of his larger kitchen knives, and him... using everything from toothpicks to a letter opener to scissors to a stapler. But nothing we did to our fellow Proxies was anything close what would cause someone to scream like what we heard echoing up and down those halls...

Even for me who is no stranger to torture - given or taken - it was haunting.

Butler helped me find my effects, and then we were gone. On the road. 

I told him where to go. A mental hospital a few states over.

I could just use The Path... but I need to think this through. Too much has happened too fast. I need time...

It's too easy. Too simple. I know there's a catch. There has to be.

But, even if I do take flak... even if Valtiel does have plans for me which are less than ideal...

If I have the chance to keep Leo Out, how could I possibly say no?


  1. My apologies for not being there. I had to welcome another lost child into our family. Regardless, I'm very pleased to hear that you have made it out in one piece. I wish only the best.

    -The Grigori

    1. Yeah, yeah. Congrats on being alive and whatnot but guess who had to clean up this fucking mess thanks to your friends. US! Yes, I'm appreciative of you killing off all of these Highers but fuck me if my comrades wouldn't have been cleaner about it. We are still cleaning and we aren't even close to finished. God damn it all, with you, Valtiel and his brother, Morningstar and Co. (may they rest in peace), Ember, and Swan, I have barely gotten any sleep!
      - Holbrook

  2. Oh you worry too much. I bet your precious Leo will get wonderful foster Proxies, I mean Proxy Parents... Err, foster parents. That was the right one, right? Yes, wonderful foster parents. No doubt in my mind.