I just started writing this and I liked where it was going. Sorry there aren't many OC's in it- there are a couple of AU OC's tho. More to follow, I suppose! Enjoy :)
(In other news holidays are alright and I've started Sherlock- it's awesome.)
The man with the old trenchcoat stands on the corner of the street and eyes you warily as you approach. His glare cuts right through the crowd and locks onto your face even as you try to avoid it. You bump past boring civilians with their boring lives and feel a spark of fear well up inside; He knows, you think to yourself apprehensively. You’re about to unholster your gun and go ‘loud’ then and there, but suddenly his gaze switches to an elderly woman waiting at the zebra crossing and you calm down a little. You let loose the breath you were holding and smile as you close in. Hello, Israel, you rehearse inside your head. My name’s Hubris and I already know you’re going to die.
You’re five feet away when he spots you again. All it takes is that one look and you know that he knows who you are. Your hand slips inside your jacket and unclips the holster so you can reach your gun. The man in the coat simply shakes his head and walks away.
Wait, what? He’s gone. You’ve just lost him, dumbass. He melted into the crowd and you’ll never see-
Shut up. I’ll find him.
You push past through a group of teenagers and sidestep a pram to get to where he was standing. But he’s definitely gone. You screw your eyes shut and think for a moment. Ok, come on. Use that old brain of yours. You are finding it hard to think because your hand is still pulsing from where that other goddamn creep drew that goddamn thing on your arm. You have to stop thinking about it though, because
It really, *really* hurts when you think too much.
You could call the guys who hired you, though. They’d know what to do. Your hand goes to your cellphone but, hang on a second… did they even give you their number? They just contacted you out of the blue. Why the hell did you accept this job, anyway?
There’s the sound of screeching tires and your legs automatically propel you towards it. A civilian has slammed his brakes around the next corner and he’s yelling out the window at a man stumbling across the road. The man takes one look at you running towards him and he ducks behind the car for cover.
Is it the target? You don’t know. You saw a flash of brown leather, possibly his coat as he ducked behind the car. You cease advancing and stand within two metres of the car, knowing the man is on the other side.
You have a few options. You choose the one you often do; When in doubt, empty the magazine.
The gun comes out and the screams are just starting by the time the fourth bullet leaves the barrel and slams into the side of the car. The driver is pulped and yet you keep going, slamming round after round all along the length of the vehicle. You eventually stop firing and listen for a while to the screeching of panicked people.
Throughout it all, you counted the shots and you know the score. One bullet left in the mag, one loaded in the chamber. You count the steps, next; three steps to the edge of the car, four to reach the dying man on the other side.
Ahhh, so it is the target. His brown coat is in tatters, his torso open and bleeding, and is that his left ear lying a few feet away…?
The sirens have stopped getting closer and instead there’s the thunk of police car doors being slammed. The dying man goes to say something through his broken teeth and crushed windpipe. The gun bucks in your hand again and, well, there goes the other side of his face. Job done, mission accomplished.
The squad of officers reach you and shout various things that officers so very much love to say like Geddownontheground! and We WILL shoot!
You’d oblige happily, because one of the reasons this job was paying so well was because you were required to spend just a little time in prison before you were busted out by those who hired you. But even as you raise your hands to signal your forfeit to the authorities, you realize something’s wrong. Your arm is pulsing again, right on the spot where the guy who hired you drew that thing. You can see it out of the corner of your eye and it surprises you to notice that it’s a bright and painful red. The symbol hurts to look at but you realize that it’s not the symbol that’s the real danger here.
Your hand is still gripping the gun, even when you are telling it to let go. The tension is only getting worse and any second now the cops will put you down like the dog in the highway that you deserve to be.
The hand moves of its own accord. The gun angles downwards a little way, just enough for the barrel to be kissing your temple. You squeeze your eyes shut just in time for the symbol on your arm to pulse and your finger to move of its own accord, pulling the trigger.
And then you wake up inside the café with a jolt and a grunt, swinging your arms wildly at the man opposite you at the café table.
“Calm down,” he says, grabbing your arms and slowly lowering them to the tabletop. “My name is Israel. Right now, I’m the only friend you’ve got. Convenient that you were sent to kill me, hey? Hey. Hey! If you would just-“
If you would just let go of me, I could reach my pistol, you think to yourself, wrestling an arm free and checking your underarm. You heart sinks; there’s nothing more depressing than delving into your holster for your gun and finding that your gun has apparently disappeared.
Across from you, Israel sighs. He brings to your attention the two items on the tabletop between you; your mobile phone and the notepad you like to keep in your breast pocket. Israel points out to you that on the notepad you have signed your name and consent to “Listen to the good man in the brown coat”, where there is a small smiley face that was unlikely to be drawn by you. However, the signature definitely is your own.
Israel explains that due to his previous explaining there is some temporary disorientation and slight memory loss. You say That’s stupid and he replies I know and suddenly you start remembering slight patches of things from the day.
Even though you were just out on the street shooting Israel to death, you somehow remember walking into this café with him as well. You both ordered drinks- yours is half full and his is empty. Someone ordered breadsticks but judging from the position of the small basket- definitely skewed towards Israel- you’re guessing that he was the one who decimated the supply to a fifth of the basket size.
You hear loud laughter and you crane your head to the woman sitting on the other side of the café; she’s laughing with someone and you can remember her laughing some time or place previously. The thing is, you’ve never seen her before. Right?
“Holy shit,” you mumble. “Weirdest case of de ja vu I’ve ever had…”
“And that’s de ja vu for me, mate,” says Israel. “Fifth bloody time you’ve said that since we sat down.”
You give him the look, and he meets your gaze steadily with a look of his own before backing down. Of course you were triumphant in the look. You perfected the look and the look cannot be beaten.
It’s the aforementioned look that sets the wheels in motion for his explanation to begin. “Right, so… Hubris. I can understand that you’re currently a little disorientated and weirded out by what you’ve just seen, but I was just showing you an example. Basically, Hubris…”
He trails off because you’re looking at him again. But it’s not the look. You’re giving him the look of a puppy as it transitions from confusion to sudden, bitter realization that while playing fetch you only pantomimed throwing the ball.
“Well I’ll be damned,” you say as you start to remember a lot more. Israel smiles at your obvious comprehension. “So you really are a magician who can see the future?”
Israel winces and mumbles the word ‘sorcerer’. He gestures to your phone and hits a key to make the screen light up. “I started the timer on your phone the moment we sat down. As you can see, we’ve been sitting here for a little over an hour.” He takes a breath and looks you square in the eyes. “In this last hour I have shown you with a few breaks in between, a little over eight-hundred and sixty-two possible paths for your assassination of myself. I’ll jog your memory by telling you that instead of choosing to kill me, I managed to sit you down inside this café so we could work out what the hell was happening.”
You’re silent for a bit as you try to work out whether he’s lying or not. You go to open your mouth but he cuts you off.
“You want a test, right? Just like you’ve wanted a test the other five times that we’ve had a break from looking at the possible paths.”He reaches a hand out and puts two fingers on your temple where your gun had been resting seemingly minutes ago. “I’ll show you a tiny glimpse of the future. It will only be a small glimpse, so there won’t be any disorientation.”
The world reels and goes black and then, in the darkness, a blue light shoots forward. You follow it as it encompasses the black and everything evens out until you’re sitting at the café again and Israel is ordering a new basket of breadsticks from the waitress. She nods, smiles and trips over Israel’s outstretched leg, crunching her nose into another table on the way down.
The world reels once more and you open your eyes, not realizing that they were shut. Israel is across from you and the moment your eyes are open he points wordlessly to the timer on your phone.
“Question 1,” he says. “What was the timer up to in that future that I just showed you?”
“One hour, six minutes,” you respond without even thinking.
“Correct. And yet the timer currently sits at one hour, five minutes. Watch.” Israel raises a hand and calls for the waitress. She smiles as she approaches, notes Israel’s order for more breadsticks, and walks away safely and soundly to the kitchen. The timer has advanced to six minutes.
“Question two. Why didn’t I trip her?”
“Because you tucked your legs in.”
Israel smiles. “Simply, yes. I moved my legs because I didn’t want to see her suffer in the real world after I had already seen her suffer in the future.”
“How?” you ask him as the timer clicks on. “Why didn’t the future play out like you predicted?”
“Because what you have to remember is that there are always different paths forward. The vision I showed where you shot me through that car, that’s just one of the paths. We’ve looked at hundreds in the past hour, but I’ve stayed away from any path that enters the café; no need to go all Inception with this.”
You raise your eyebrow a little way and he sighs like someone who has done an incredible amount of sighing in the last hour of his life. “It’s a movie,” he explains. “Forget it. Moving on.”
Israel takes your arm and rolls up your sleeve for you. The symbol pulses gently, trying to fade into your skin unnoticed. “Now,” Israel says, scratching his stubble, “What the hell is this thing?”
He presses a thumb on it and suddenly it’s burning and you’re struggling to pull away and contain your yell. “Quiet,” he says, and presses deeper. The burning subsides, your yell gives up trying to escape and slinks away, and all the while Israel tilts his head to the side in thoughtfulness.
The symbol has changed colour to an icy blue. A small part of it appears different than before, and Israel studies this closely.
“Alright, let me answer some things you’re probably thinking to yourself right now. If you’re ready to accept that I’m a magician or sorcerer than you should be ready to accept that whoever hired you is one too. He carved this thing onto your skin and never explained it, just told you it was like a special tattoo, right?”
You nod, dumbfounded. You don’t even remember the guy’s face but you do remember the things he said.
“Ok,” Israel exhaled and sat back. “I’m just gonna go say it. You’re the third man to try and kill me this week. And you’re the third one to have this same symbol on your wrist. And yet, I’m no closer to finding out what it is or who wants me so very badly dead.”
Your head starts to hurt again. It’s frustrating, listening to Israel and telling the pain to shut up and get lost.
“Tell me,” he continues, “what is your name?”
“Hubris,” you say without thinking. It’s always been Hubris.
“Really? You don’t find it weird that you don’t have a last name?”
“I don’t need one.”
Israel takes your phone and opens up the web app. He clicks away for a minute before sliding the phone across to you. An online dictionary is lit up on the screen.
excessive pride or self-confidence.]
“So,” he says, “is this you? Why would you choose a name for yourself describing a sense of arrogance? You don’t seem like the type.”
You doubt your own voice when you answer. “It’s a good name. I like it. I like the sound of words.”
“No, you really don’t.” Israel tilted his head a little and hesitated before continuing. “But I think someone else does. The names of the other two were similarly unique.”
You don’t quite understand him, but sometimes it pays off to just sit in silence and let someone do all the rambling. And if there was one thing this Israel guy was good at…
He taps at the notepad between you and rolls a pen in your direction. “Are you sure it’s your signature? Try it again.”
You’d hate to disappoint the guy you were sent to kill. You scrawl your signature in a heartbeat and slide the notepad back. Israel barely looks at it; he just sighs. “Look at the signature. Spell out the letters for me.”
“Because it’s childish and you’re just being boeotian, Israel.”
“Boeotian? Do you even know what that means? Where are you getting these words from?”
“Yes, it- ah-”
“Dull.” Israel clicks away on the phone again. “Says here that it means dull and it refers to an ancient region of Greece. But you didn’t actually know that, did you? You just had a feeling of where the word should go.”
“Stop!” you shout, snatching the phone from his grasp. The woman with the shrill laugh pauses her nonstop laughter. The waitress’ unbroken smile remains fixed upon her face.
“I’ve had enough,” you tell him, gathering your notepad and scraping the chair back, “of your passive-aggressive bullshit. You’ve given me some pointless information to think about, but that’s all.” You drop your voice to a rough whisper. “And sure, I won’t kill you today. For the sake of the drink you bought me. But I’ll be back tomorrow.”
And that’s it. You turn to leave and yet you just know that he’ll stop you with a couple of words. It’s how these things go, isn’t it?
“You didn’t drink it,” he says, causing your feet to fall victim to the classics and halt in front of the door. “Don’t you remember? We sat down and you commented on how thirsty you were. You ordered the drink yourself but every time you went for a sip you put it down again without having any. I ended up sculling it instead. I don’t think it’s possible for you to even have food or drink.”
“Three,” you say over your shoulder. “My signature says Three. So what the hell does that mean? I’m the third assassin. The name I thought was mine actually isn’t. Every time I write my signature I end up writing ‘Three’. What does it mean?”
“It could mean anything, but I reckon ‘Three’ is not just your name; it’s an ingrained production number. I tell you now that this is the third time I’ve had to explain this in this week alone: you are not human. You were made in a lab by a highly intelligent mystery man. You cannot eat and drink because you do not need to. You say words you do not know the meaning of with the confidence of a man who does, all because the man who made you had to use his own mind as a template for yours.
“I’m sorry, but no. It’s true. All the proof you need is in that symbol. You just have to give me ten minutes to look at it.”
You try to ignore him, you really do. But his explanation, however crazy, does explain some things. You don’t even know where you would go otherwise. Do you have a home? The more you think about it, the worse the headache gets, and the more afraid you become.
“Nine minutes,” you say, “Nine minutes and fifty seconds, Israel.”
He stands up and drops some money on the table. “You made the right decision, Hubris. Step into my office.”
Israel leads you out the front of the café to a large silver van. He raps his knuckles twice on the back doors and they swing outwards to admit you. Inside the van, a teenage girl with purple streaks nods to Israel and then backs up to make room for you. Israel shuts the doors behind you and everyone sits down on the bench-like seats lining the insides of the van. If you were looking on the bright side you’d have regarded the van’s interior as comfy or possibly quaint. You eye the cold metal and regard it as cramped instead.
“Go,” Israel tells the driver, who looks you up and down and licks his lips nervously.
“Did you search him? Is he cuffed?”
“It’s fine. He hasn’t got a weapon on him.”
“Israel, he is a weapon! I swear to God if he wanted to he could kill all of us in five seconds flat.”
“Four seconds,” you murmur and the driver flinches. You can’t help but smile.
“Just drive,” Israel sighs as the van starts up and begins merging into traffic. “Hubris, meet Arcturus Fracture. The quiet girl with the gun is Skyril Oblivion.”
Skyril pulls the slide back on her gun and kicks a crate over to your side of the van. She chucks a length of tubing over to you and your eyebrow can’t help but elevate itself a little.
“Tie it around your arm, doofus.” She pantomimes with her free hand, wrapping an imaginary piece of rubber tube around her elbow joint. You oblige while Israel readies a syringe of something noxious.
In the front of the van, Arcturus taps the steering wheel and takes a left turn. “We’ve got movement,” he says over his shoulder as a black car weaves a path closer in the rear-view mirror. “Same car as before. License plate MRSMTH.”
“Mrs. Meth?” Skyril says aloud.
“No, it’s…” Israel shakes his head and turns to you with the syringe ready. “It’s like the Matrix. Mr Smith. The agent? No? They’re obviously a Matrix fan…”
“Either way, they’re on to us.” Arcturus swerves and then swears, tapping a nonsensical rhythm with his fingers as he does. “Ok, I got it. This time, we don’t mess with the living weapon and instead leave him on the side of the road so we don’t get followed. Yeah? How’s that for a slice of fried gold, hey guys?”
“Just drive, Arc.” The syringe jabs into your wrist and in seconds your skin is turning an unhealthy shade of indigo. The symbol on your forearm begins to burn again but Skyril reaches out a glowing hand and tightens it around the symbol. The other hand still holds the pistol, barrel currently bumping into your forehead.
“Hurts,” you say aloud, and Skyril ignores you. Israel pulls a roll of ancient bandages from a satchel and starts up at your shoulder with them before wrapping them all the way down to your wrist. In the dim light of the van you can see symbols dancing around the grotty gauze as Israel avoids the burning symbol on your arm.
“Why’re you wrapping up everything else but the symbol on my wrist? That’s the part that hurts goddammit.”
“It’s ye olde magic,” he replies, tying the bandages off around your hand. “If it touches that symbol, I can imagine it will hurt very, very much.”
Something bangs into the back of the van and suddenly Arc loses control and you’re spinning, curses and bodies flying freely. Skyril is slammed sideways into Israel and they both cry out, but your eyes are only locked onto the gun on the ground, out of Skyril’s grip. Arc regains control and Skyril sees your gaze.
“Why?” You shout before she can say anything. “I could have killed him at any time in the café, why do you still not trust me?”
“You’re dangerous!” She shouts back as Arc makes a tight turn. “We just want to help. We want to disarm you.”
“Disarm me?” You try stepping forward but the confines of the van hinder you. She dives for the gun, snatches it up, and aims at your head, freezing you in place.
“Three,” Israel says, “Sit down. We don’t have much more time to help you.”
“Hubris,” you extend your arm again for Israel to examine, and see the both of them quietly exhale. “Three’s not a name. It’s a production number.” You spit the last words out.
“Fair enough,” Israel says, squinting at the symbol on your forearm. It’s yellow and every movement Israel makes is careful; every point of touch a searing bolt of pain. “It’s active. Volatile. Same as the rest of them. I can do this, though, I just need a minute. Arc, how’s the black car? Has it backed off?”
From the front of the van, Arc sounds unsure. “I guess so, Israel. He’s right up behind us but he’s not trying to get any closer. Hang on… what the hell? Where’s the driver?”
And then the rear doors to the van are blasted off and away in a flash of white.
To his credit, Arc keeps the van steadily going straight while cursing and asking what the hell is happening. Good question, you think to yourself as you peer through the shards of sunlight blazing through the spot where the doors had been.
The black car previously described to you is perfectly matching the speed of your vehicle, although how, you can’t tell. The driver is indeed missing, the window open where he might have climbed out. He currently stands with all the unnatural grace of a cat on the hood of the black car, one hand casually in his pocket and one hand outstretched, making minute twitches that correspond with the steering wheel inside the car. Somehow, he’s controlling the vehicle from the outside.
“Ah, Hubris,” the man calls over the wind. “So nice of you to still be alive. I see you’ve befriended the target instead of killing him? Surely you must know Mr Elysium has no intention of keeping this friendship.”
“Is this him?” Skyril whispers from behind you. “Is that the guy behind all this? Just move aside and I’ll put him down.”
“No, he’s…” You glance at the way his hand is in his pocket. “What number?” You shout across.
He smiles and pulls his hand out of his pocket, rolling up the sleeve to reveal a symbol almost identical to yours. It glows softly, unlike the angry wasp yellow that yours is. “Four. My name is Pavid. I was sent to make sure you were going to be alright, Hubris. Would you like to come home, now?”
And even though you know there’s no home to go to, you can’t help but want to jump to the other car and drive away. The way he speaks makes it sound like there is something more than just the target, and for the briefest of moments you lift your foot to step across.
“Sorry. Not a chance, buddy,” Skyril says from behind you and fires.
You expect the bullet to hit you, and maybe that’d be nice- to just embrace death and be done with it. But she was never aiming for you.
Pavid’s body whips backwards, head over heels in a flash of his thin black suit. The black car swerves sideways into a spin without anything to control it and you turn around with rage.
In the front of the car, Arc turns around to see what the gunfire was about, missing the red light and barrelling the van straight into an intersection. You don’t see the truck that hits the van but you feel its power as the van is tossed through the air. You’re chucked out of the vehicle and hit the ground hard, descending straight away into an unpleasant unconsciousness.
The pulsing of your arm wakes you up more than anything. Not the shouts of concerned pedestrians or the flickers of flame racing along an ever-growing puddle of spilt gasoline towards your face, but the sheer waves of pain throbbing from the symbol burning there.
And above all of that, She killed him. He was like me and she just shot him like he was nothing. They were afraid of him like they are afraid of me, and that makes me...
You stumble to your feet and shove past an alarmed mortal. You don’t know how long you were out but it must have only been a few minutes. Flames dance around your feet and you trace the path of them to the van; the gas tank must have ruptured in the crash. The van itself lies on its side akin to a discarded chew toy, the interior too dark for you to spot anyone.
The driver is slumped half in, half out of his seat. He stirs and you ignore him. It was the girl that shot Pavid. It was Israel who complicated things.
You round the corner of the van and see her coughing in the confines of it, holding a hand to her side. Israel staggers out of the van and sees you, chuckling haggardly. “Well that could have been worse, hey? Come on, we have to get out of here.”
“Move.” You stride towards the van and Skyril looks up. She swears and digs around the van as you get closer. “He could have been telling the truth. He was just like me. You killed him like he was nothing.”
“Hey. Hey!” Israel grabs you in a lock from behind and you grunt in irritation. “Calm down! He saw you were defective and he was trying to get you to lie down and die!”
“Defective! Bah!” You spit at the ground, struggling against the arms locking you in place. “You keep talking about me like I'm some piece of malfunctioning hardware. All you want is to know who is after you; then you’ll dispose of me like you did Pavid.”
“Three. Hubris. Stop. If you kill us, you’ll just be following orders-”
“I DON’T CARE!” you wrench your elbows outwards and hear a limb snapping that isn’t yours. Israel cries out behind you and you ignore it, headed to the van where Skyril continues to search for her weapon, cussing all the while. Israel knocks into you with an aimed shoulder from behind and the two of you go sprawling on the asphalt. You let loose a scream of frustration and whirl on him, quickly pinning him down with your knee. You grab the arm you broke seconds ago and twist it in anger, wondering how long it will take for him to pass out.
But he doesn’t, and that only infuriates you more. He started this whole goddamn mess. If he hadn’t meddled then everything would have worked out fine. If only he’d just let himself die.
The symbol on your arm reaches a new level of pain and yet you only laugh. It’s possible, you realize, to pour the pain through your arm and into Israel’s. He yelps and squirms but you only send more of the magic coursing through to him. It’s too late to stop; it’s too late to save him.
His cries of agony and your merciless laughter intertwine into the flaming air around you. Everything that he explained to you was just bullshit, just him pleading to be saved. To his credit, he doesn’t plead, not even now as his arm withers in your grip. His screams continue even as the magic starts blistering and boiling his skin, veins bursting and spraying their contents along the road. And yet, you keep going.
The bones shudder, snap and are eventually pulverized into intermixed splinters of radius, ulna and humerus. What’s left of his arm begins to weaken completely and it becomes the easiest of tasks for you to rip it clean off of his shoulder. There are footsteps behind you, but you ignore them. You feel more alive than you ever were, and your heart beats along with to the rhythm of the words Kill him, kill him, kill him...
Skyril wastes no time in theatrics when she puts the bullet through your skull, and you feel only darkness and empty threats.
“Now then,” he said, grinning, “What do you know about the Matrix?”
“Virtually nothing,” she replied, rolling her eyes and snatching the remote back from his grasp to channel surf. “Do we really have to watch it? It sounds so boring.”
He recoiled in mock horror. “Boring?! How dare you! I shall smite thee where thee stand!” He made a grab for the remote and started enacting the worst fencing moves she’d ever seen. “En guard!” He shouted, and quickly span around to load the movie into the DVD player.
She sighed and got comfortable on the couch- there was no escaping now. Once her older brother had set up a film, there were few things that would stop him from watching it.
As the opening scene started, however, he frowned and placed a hand on his breast pocket. “Sorry,” he mumbled and left the room hastily. “Phone’s buzzing. I’ll be two seconds.”
She raised her eyebrows and decided not to pay him any attention. Then she noticed his mobile sitting on the coffee table in front of her and her eyebrows creased worriedly.
“Out of the car! Right bloody now!” Skyril shouts at the man in the pickup truck halted in front of her. He scrambles out at the sight of her gun and hits the ground running. She looks over her shoulder at Arcturus and asks him how it’s coming along.
“Not good, not at all.” He’s on his knees, at a loss to how he should help the man bleeding out in front of him. Skyril runs over and takes a breath before kneeling down and looping the man’s remaining arm around her shoulders and half dragging, half walking him to the pickup truck.
“Get rid of anything that the fire won’t take care of, and hurry!” she calls to Arc, and he runs to the overturned van. He almost trips over the body of a large man, Hubris, with a bullet wound where his face used to be. Upon climbing in the van, he checks the glovebox and retrieves a gun, a noxious-looking cigar and a small vial labelled Holy Water. He’s about to jump to the ground and make a run for the pickup truck when he spots the half-used roll of bandages wedged down the side of the passenger seat. He snatches it and leaps down just as the fire reaches him.
He helps the unconscious Israel into the seat of the pickup truck with Skyril and wedges himself next to the man. At least without his arm there’s a little more room for all three of us to fit in the front, he thinks, shuddering in revulsion at his own mind. Skyril gets behind the driver’s wheel and guns it as the sirens begin to arrive to the chaos behind them.
He fishes the inscribed leather from his breast pocket as he climbs the stairs, leaving his sister to watch the film. His strong arms push aside the green door and he makes a beeline for his desk. He drops the steaming hot leather onto the table and grabs a set of tweezers and a scalpel. Trying his best not to touch the leather again, he slices it and uses the tweezers to pull away at the material until he can see the void inside.
There aren’t many ways to describe it, but he likes to think of the void as being like a sorcerer’s mobile phone. It gave him updates on everything he needed to know and right now, the void was speaking to him in hushed undertones and ancient cusses. Quite embarrassingly, the void had a small case of Tourette’s. He wasn’t really happy about this but he knew it would cost too much to go looking for a new void.
“So number four’s dead?” You frown. “Did you find out what happened to number three this afternoon?”
The void made him wait a good while before answering him. “He’s dead too?! Shit! What about the target?”
He pressed his mouth into a hard line at the void’s next response. “I’ll make arrangements, then. Thanks for telling me.”
And with that, he sealed the void back up and returned to the living room.
Skyril swerved to avoid the oncoming traffic, blaring the horn of the pickup truck nonstop. “How’s he going?”
Arc was cutting strips of the ancient bandages and dousing them in the holy water he had retrieved from the van. He spared a glance at Israel and instantly regretted it; the man already looked dead.
“I have to put these on now,” he told Skyril, readying the first strips of bandage. “What did he call it? Ye olde magic?”
“Yeah, it’s...” She glanced at him too and flicked her eyes back to the road. “It’s going to hurt him, a lot. It’s the kind of magical bandage that burns.”
“But I'm guessing it’ll help,” Arc said, and started wrapping the bandages around Israel’s armless shoulder. He moaned in his fitful sleep but thankfully didn’t come to.
“Call ahead,” Skyril told Arc. “Tell them we’re fifteen minutes out.”
The movie had finished. He had laughed for the brief amount of time that he was there, she had smiled and nodded along and wondered what was really on his mind. He kept leaving and shutting himself behind the door at the top of the stairs, mumbling crappy excuses as he went.
That was it. She was getting in, tonight.
He excused himself after the film, said goodnight, and left the room with his mobile in hand. She got up and waited until he had locked the bathroom door behind him before she climbed the stairs. He didn’t seem to realize just how thin the doors were in the house- she could hear him talking to someone on the mobile now with worry in his voice. Although she had listened in on his “private” phonecalls before, they had only proved frustrating as he spoke using some sort of coded system to whoever was on the other end. But right now, she was going after the motherload.
She knew he was a sorcerer. He was the one who had taught her the trick she was about to perform- the simple lockpicking skill that had proven more than useful over the years.
The green door clicked open and she entered, looking around in shocked wonder.
“They’re not picking up,” Arc told Skyril, dialling the number for the third time and pressing the receiver to his ear. “I wouldn’t be surprised though, not with this storm. Power’s probably out. Should I try one of their mobiles?”
“Don’t bother,” Skyril gritted her teeth. “We’re here anyway.” She turned the truck up a small road that winded around a hill before showing them the building hiding there. In any other situation, Elysium Asylum would have been magnificent in all of its luxurious glory. Today, with the rain beginning to fall heavier it appeared to almost whimper, cowering away from the overcast sky. The fountain in front of the manor was overflowing with the downpour and the ring of flowers surrounding it were a sickly green. “Psychic flowers,” Israel had said they were. “The kind that picks up on major events around the manor.” Skyril glared at them and braked sharply outside the double doors.
The walls were covered with faces.
Pictures, of course- she couldn’t imagine her brother displaying real faces in the room, peeled straight from any man or woman that had tried to cross him...
She shuddered at the morbid thought and looked on. There was a table directly across from the door, covered in papers and more pictures. A coat rack sat in one corner, a heavy wooden chest sat in the other. She moved quietly closer, looking for a hint as to what the room was for. The pictures were of ordinary faces; some where mug shots and some were blurry, zoomed in from a distance. Red and white string was tied to pins sticking in certain faces and it crisscrossed around the room, high above her head. She reached upwards and followed a red string with her fingertips until she was brought to the table. The red string was pinned where the majority of the strings ended- right on the image of a middle-aged man with green eyes. He stared out of the image with something almost like a glare, but the more she thought about it the more she swore it was something else. Experience, maybe.
Below the picture was the table full of scrambled documents, sheets haphazardly strewn with transcripts and more pictures of the middle-aged man. She saw a shot of him from the distance- he wore a heavy brown trenchcoat to match his hair and stubble. Whoever the man was, the entire room seemed to be focused on him.
She didn’t know what to think about this.
So maybe her brother was a stalker. That was definitely a little creepy and it was something she’d have to talk to him about. Unless there was more to the whole thing? She was getting ready to leave and confront her brother, but she still hadn’t looked inside the chest.
There was a lock holding it shut and it opened with a wave of her hands and a click. She lifted the lid and peered inside-
“Well, shoot,” he said from the doorway, making her jump. “I suppose you’ve been in here a while?”
“John, what the hell? What is all this stuff?”
“It’s my job,” he said, sighing. “You really think I do construction work? Well, you’ve come this far. Might as well look inside the chest.”
“It’ll clear some things up, I promise.”
So Scarlet Hope- for that was her name, of course- peered under the heavy lid of the chest, letting her eyes adjust to the gloom inside.
The chest was full of neatly stacked and bound bills, each and every one of them American hundred dollar notes. It was more money than Scar has seen in her life.
And lying atop the money was a small assortment of curved blades. Next to them was a shotgun and a pistol, and for good measure, what looked like a couple of grenades.
Scar looked up at John. “Are you... are you a murderer?”
“Not quite. I’ll give you a hint; that money was payment for a job.”
She set her mouth into a hard line. “That’s still murder, John.”
“Yeah,” John said, looking down at the floor. “Except they call it something else these days; ‘assassin’.”
Kallista Pendragon was lighting candles in the kitchen for light when there was heavy knocking on the door. The scene before her when she yanked the double doors open was terrible; Skyril and Arcturus were soaking on either side of Israel, both supporting his weight with an arm each- except, when Kallista looked closer, she realized they weren’t. Skyril was the only one with an arm around her shoulder, because Arc has nothing to hold on to on his side. Israel was missing his left arm.
“Inside! Infirmary, go!” she ushered them in and locked the doors behind. “OCTABOONA! INFIRMARY, NOW!”
A tired man appeared in his nightgown at the top of the grand staircase, muttering as he descended. Sometimes, just sometimes, he wished they wouldn’t wake him up after he had already gotten into bed. He glanced at the missing limb as he walked into the infirmary and shook his head sadly. What did they expect him to do? Conjure up another arm? He sighed and cleared his throat. The others ceased their mad dashing and he began to recite a poem he had used many times before, one that would at least soothe everyone and at most help Israel get out of this thing alive. He ignored the thunder growling outside; it was going to be a long night.
“So that’s it?” Scar questioned him. “And you just didn’t tell me because you thought I wouldn’t handle it?”
“Not at all,” John replied, stirring the fresh tea he had ducked into the kitchen to make. “I was going to tell you real soon, actually. Glad I've gotten the whole story off my chest now, though.”
“I guess first and foremost I want to know if this changes anything- am I in danger, John?”
“No. Never.” He shot a smile at his sister, and she glared back, withering it. “Okay, sometimes you’re in danger. There was a lizard man here who almost killed you last week.”
“Yeah. I mean, it’s bad that I was in danger and you never thought to tell me, but at least you never moved me to safety or anything. I'm probably safer here with you anyways, right?”
John gulped his tea down. “Uh, sure. Yep. I'd have never have let that green lizard thing get you.” She smiled and he thought to himself, ‘Finally!’ “That’s why I showed you the Matrix tonight. Can’t let you be killed without seeing all the good films, honest.” She frowned, and he wondered what he had done wrong.
“I guess I shouldn’t have been snooping, John. But you can’t just keep things this huge away from me.”
“Yeah, well. I should have gotten a better lock- hey, no punching!” He rubbed his arm and looked up at the wall of faces. “Don’t apologize. Curiosity’s a sign of bravery, kid.”
“What? No, I just made that up. Curiosity is what gets things killed- or so I hear.”
“Just be serious for a second, can you?” Scar pleaded. “Can I at least ask...who is that guy in the middle of the wall?”
John’s face contorted, all mirth gone. “He’s the current job.”
She digested this and finally nodded. “Okay. Have you killed him?”
“I planned to.”
“And... what changed your mind?”
“Nothing did,” John shook his head and left his sister alone in the room. “I just have to plan things a little better.”
Israel woke, alone. The smell of antiseptic tickled the inside of his nose as he breathed slowly in and slowly out. Soon, someone would probably come in and fret over him. He didn’t want that company just yet.
He glanced through the window and looked at the bone-white moon hanging low over the hills. Eerie light spilled across the sheets he laid upon and he shook his head, trying to remember what had happened in the last few hours. But first, he needed to get up and about. Sometimes the only way to fix yourself was to get up and do it on your own.
So Israel moved his toes, then his feet and legs, finally working his way up his entire body. His right arm twitched and he clenched the hand open and shut experimentally. He tried the same with his left arm and received no response, only ghostly remnants. He craned his neck and saw where his arm ceased to exist after the shoulder.
He started screaming.