CHAPTER 5: GODS AMONG MEN
3 months ago…
When he opened his blue eyes, Cedric first noticed the fan above him. It was quiet and still with a cobweb around it. He soon remembered what had happened; why he was alone in bed, why there were crushed beer cans among his scattered clothes throughout the floor, and the reason his last 300 pesos were missing from his wallet.
“Bitch wasn’t even that good,” he murmured with a slight grin.
There he lay, belly up and nude, his massive arms and legs outstretched past the corners of his bed. The persistent winter cold air in the room didn't seem to bother him; it still forced his lips, nipples, prepuce and scrotum to become firmer and made the thin blond hairs over his limbs and torso rise like quills, but he made no effort to robe himself. He lightly turned his head right. His cell phone would soon buzz and ring the 6:00 alarm. He then turned left, on the night table was a photo frame turned over.
Cedric sat up, tending an itch on his underarm. His ensuing yawn like a lion’s, exposing the array of fangs inside his mouth. He turned off his alarm, his cold fingertips forming rings of vapor over the touch screen. His attention then back on the photo frame on the table, he gently picked it up and brought it close to his chest. He flipped the photo over, and a small pair of blue eyes met his with a joyful smile.
“Morning, Titus,” he said.
The Theo boy in the photograph, who despite being 10 years old already had the looks of a full-fledged adolescent, remained frozen in time and forever young. The boy would always smile back, in spite of Cedric’s downcast expression. He closed his eyes, a warm feeling stinging around them, and set the photo face down over the table again. He sat on the side of his bed, with his elbows resting over his knees and hands over half of his face. An involuntary shiver ran through his nude body; he rubbed his shoulders in discomfort at last.
In the shower, Cedric firmly scrubbed himself with the bar soap, eager to wash off the remnants of the sexual encounter he had the night before. He looked up at the showerhead, water streamed down his face. He had taken to hitting every strip club in the city and last night he came home with Dulce under his embrace. She was an attractive girl, early 20s with olive skin, wild curls, large curves and breasts.
Like Dulce there had been a dozen other finds. Each one with different ambitions and he admired their hard work. Among them he had met law students, graphic designers, divorcees, unemployed porn stars and every now and then came one like him. They all shared one thing in common: as long as he could pay, he would relish their company and ego-boosting compliments about his magnificent endowments.
Unfortunately, Dulce had not lived up to her name, and she made no effort to make him enjoy her services—in fact he could not wait to get rid of her! From a rushed and painful blowjob to getting yelled at for having only $300 in his wallet, one thing was certain to Cedric: she had been his last.
Now he stood still, letting the water run down his back and buttocks. He turned the knob for the cold water and gasped, feeling his rapid heartbeat. Whenever he thought he was used to the numbing temperature, he realized he was still a man of flesh. At times, he hoped his heart would freeze so he could finally join the boy in the picture; the two would gaze at each other, smile in remembrance and walk together over the fabled Bifrost Bridge under the cold embrace of death. He was a coward despite his bulk and today he would try again.
Suddenly, an echo caught Cedric’s attention. He stepped out of the shower, water pooling under his massive legs and feet, and ran into the room. He just managed to answer the phone before the last ring.
“Hello… Lance,” he responded with a raspy voice.
“Suit up, champ!” Lance’s voice said, “I’ve got you a job opportunity you can’t refuse!”
7 weeks ago…
Cedric, clad with a black mask and hoodie, marched with heavy boots across a fenced basketball court in the dampened no man’s land known as Phantom Town. The darkest of moons leaving infinite trails of stars to bear witness. He spat and cracked his knuckles as he approached two shapes lost in the murky field.
“NO! Please, don’t!” plead the whimpering voice of a man. Barely distinguishable, he stood on his knees as the second figure held his arms from behind.
“Can it, Gonzalo!” Cedric spoke, a billow escaping his mouth as he jabbed the kneeling man in the stomach. The cold night sting had its claws on them.
“It’s time to pay your dues to Junker!” He struck again. Only a soft grunt tainted the dark from the man at his mercy.
“Yo, fucker! Don’t think Boss would forget!” Cedric’s accomplice added, still holding onto the man as he continued to get pounded like a boxing sack.
“G-good Gods… I swear ah… d-don’t have his money,” Gonzalo helplessly muttered between labored breaths.
Cedric felt a bestial urge overcome him as he threw his foot unto the man’s ribs. Hehehe! I own you, sly worm! Cedric’s accomplice laughed and grabbed the man from the hair, saying,
“Did we give you permission to talk, fucker?”
“Deox Logos… Mother Lux… ah-ah pray to thee… my soul to take…” Gonzalo wept and blood spewed from his mouth.
“SHUT UP!” Cedric bellowed exasperated, his left hook bouncing off the man’s skull.
Amidst his partner’s empty laughter, Cedric could have sworn he heard a loud crack. Cedric could not tell in the shadows if the man was still awake. He got closer and held his chin up to his eye level. Instantly, a warm stream dripped over his hand.
“Fuck… he ain’t gonna talk now!” Paco replied, swinging the man’s limp arms around.
Cedric let go of Gonzalo’s chin and saw his head hang down loosely. His eyes widened and his body froze momentarily. Paco then poked at the body. There was no response, no sobbing, no pleas… nothing.
“He… he’s dead!” Cedric exclaimed, stepping away from the body, his breathing heavier.
“Cedric, you broke the fucker!” Paco laughed, letting go of the body like a sand bag.
“You smashed his fucking brains in!” Paco chanted, kicking the corpse.
Cedric looked down at his cold bare hands. They were soaked in blood not his own. I… I killed a man! He murmured to himself in disbelief.
“Wooh! You’re a fucking psycho!” Paco shouted excitedly.
Cedric eyed the helpless man; not once did he try to fight back. Seeing Paco jump around suddenly terrified him. He had gone too far.
“Tsk. What the fuck? This shit is what yo signed up for!” Paco shook his partner by the shoulders. Disgusted, Cedric pushed him away and fled the scene.
2 days ago (March 22)…
A very uneasy Cedric had been walking down the streets of Denver, when someone grabbed him from behind. His natural reaction was to elbow whoever it was and fling him over his shoulder and into the ground. The loud thud that followed alerted him it was no foe… at least not one he should worry about.
“It’s me, retard!” Paco exclaimed from below.
“Don’t do that again!” Cedric grabbed his arm and yanked him up. They both noticed Paco had left a dent on the sidewalk.
“Asshole! What yo fucking problem?” Paco rubbed the back of his head.
“Me? It’s you who can’t fucking act your age for once!” Cedric snapped back.
Paco then tried cornering him, but Cedric pushed him aside. They were walking together in peace, until Paco slapped the back of his head and dashed ahead of him. Cedric let out a loud growl in annoyance.
The two soon left the city limits and entered Phantom Town again. The quiet land gave Cedric a bad feeling; he could always sense being watched despite there not being another soul in sight.
“What a dump! No wonder they call this hole Phantom Town…” Cedric said, looking around at all the barren-down buildings and empty streets.
Suddenly, he caught glimpse of a rare sight: another human, one of the infamous Hommes, sat with his back against a wall in what was considered the crime lord Junker’s unclaimed territory.
“Hey, look!” Cedric pointed at the man. He then saw a malevolent grin form on Paco’s face. Uh-oh… shouldn’t have said anything!
He immediately followed with the question, “Think he’s dead, bro?”
“Nah, he fucking ain’t,” Paco replied, something lit in his darker eyes.
“Yo! Give us all you got!” Cedric demanded, aiming his handgun at the guy’s head. He felt a knot on his throat. Why am I doing this?
“Yo deaf, fucking weese? Give us yo fucking wallet!” Paco spat, kicking the guy’s foot. The latter kept his head down and moved his head sideways, much to their surprise.
“I don’t think he knows where he is, Paco,” Cedric told his fellow in hesitation. This ain’t right! Have to get out of here!
“Don’t give a fucking shit! If he doesn’t give out, we’ll just have to get fucking rough!” Paco said, cracking his knuckles.
Cedric’s heart began to beat faster; his eyes were on Paco who charged towards the man on the wall. He wanted to stop him, but he had to aim his gun. Can’t back down now! If Junker and the others find out… I’ll be next! An intense sense of dread overcame him as he narrowed his eyes on this guy. It was like intuitively he knew of the terrifying events that would unfold afterwards. As if he knew he would soon find himself above the clouds.
“You… d-don’t have to do this…” the guy spoke in a hoarse voice.
“What’d he say?” Cedric lowered his gun at last. Is he… is he talking to me?
“Told yo mutha fucker was pretending!” Paco chuckled and grabbed Skye by the shirt collar to lift him up.
“Give up the pesos, puny brain!”
Cedric sensed something inside his body. Whatever it was it petrified him. What’s the matter with me? He pondered, still exchanging glances with Skye.
“You’re… good person… don’t…” Skye said to Cedric, who noticed at last his eyes were glowing bright gold. That unnatural gaze pierced him. Cedric found it harder to breathe, like someone was wrapping a noose around his neck. It’s like he… he’s inside me! Cedric realized in horror.
“Shut up, fucking weese!” Paco slammed Skye against the brick wall and then jabbed him in the stomach.
Cedric dropped his gun and fell on his knees. An involuntary painful holler escaped from his lips. Somehow, that strange little man had made him feel Paco’s punch in his gut.
“ARGH!!” Paco heard Cedric screaming.
Cedric looked up again and saw that pair of glowing eyes still fixed on him, as every nerve in his body imploded with sensation. Oh, Gods! No! He pleaded. His insides were on fire. C-can’t let him… hit him again! He then grabbed onto Paco’s leg and implored,
“Stop! Put him down!”
Yesterday (March 23)…
The cell phone vibrated over the table, then rang. Nobody answered. It rang again. There were clothes scattered throughout the floor of the one bedroom apartment. Fist sized holes decorated the bare thin walls, trailing around from the small kitchen with grimy stove and discolored mini-refrigerator in the corner, to the opposite end where a chair and door-less closet posed in welcoming. Beside it, the holes stopped at the washroom, its disjointed tiles and calcified piping worn from decades of maintenance deprivation. The mirror on the wall non-existent, with remnant glass shards on the sink and around the edges of the walls.
The cobweb that branched over the fan in the ceiling, the same one Cedric silently stared at from the rigidness of his bed. His eyes were a pair of sad blue pools. The phone rang again but he calmly chose to close his eyes and sigh, making no effort to pick up. He guessed it would be Lance to confirm he had indeed died yesterday, which he technically did. For a moment he could have sworn he was still among the clouds, the cold gone, rising until he found himself next to Luna. He hoped to see Petros’ spiral shell on its surface, like in the story he read when he was little. The phone continued to ring. Cedric curiously lifted his arm, only to glimpse at his hand, his knuckles had healed. The peeled skin from when he punched the brick wall behind Skye was dry and crowned the patches of new grown pink flesh.
Beside his bed stood opened an orange bottle made from bio-composite polymer. The label running across it read:
Algol Pharmacy – Citalopram (Antidepressant tablets) – 15 tablets (Rx only) - 50 mg – KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN
The picture of the young boy, Titus, sat next to the bottle, facing up and smiling at Cedric.
“Morning, son,” Cedric said, gently caressing the frame with his fingertips. His phone had ceased ringing at last.
He brought his hands to his face and covered his eyes.
“Deox Logos… Mother Lux, I pray to thee my soul to take…” he muttered softly.
Voices echoed inside him, familiar ones.
“W-we’ve all hit rock bottom… at some point in our lives,” Skye said calmly.
Cedric shivered. Skye opened his golden eyes and saw deeper into the man’s frightened blue eyes.
“But that doesn’t mean we should lose hope…”
“What’s that supposed to mean?!” Cedric showed his fangs menacingly.
“Your life… turning to crime wasn’t in your plans,” Skye clarified.
“What do you know ‘bout my life?” Cedric asked as he gripped tightly onto Skye’s neck.
In that instant, Cedric felt immense pain throughout his torso and neck. He then dropped his guard, letting Skye kick him in the face to free himself from his grasp.
“To answer your question… I know enough to realize you aren’t a bad person… after all,” Skye responded.
Cedric hunched forward and held onto his stomach. Blood dripped down from his mouth, staining the concrete below. He looked up confused, a small red mark on the side of his mouth.
“What a-are you?” he asked weakly.
“I am just like you, pal,” Skye said.
Cedric felt the side on his mouth. He could still feel the boot against his cheek. He frowned to the memory and felt his body shiver. His hand ran through his smooth stomach, the pain was gone but he still sensed its phantom trails and could follow with his fingers where it had run.
“Not a bad person after all?” He pondered.
His voice started to break. He was frightened still. Never in his life had one person, who stood no taller than his bicep, left him this vulnerable. Soon the only audible sounds in the apartment were of his sobs.
Now (March 24)…
Skye was staring out of Cedric's eyes. The giant Theo sat across from him in their table near the window of Munch-U Café, a small brick establishment with a green terrace, found at Market Street. Behind him, Skye could see a television connected to the ceiling over the main counter. Besides them there were only two more guests and the waitress in the building.
“I… I’m sorry,” Skye apologized, feeling dizzy himself.
“What was that?” Cedric spoke softly and swallowed.
“Well, you see… that was called a flashback…” Skye began to explain when he saw Cedric looking sickly like he was about to either vomit or faint any moment.
Cedric had to rest his head over his hands. His breathing was abnormally heavier and he had grown much paler in the last 10 seconds. Cold sweat ran down his temples and his body was shivering uncontrollably. Every memory they had revisited flashed before his eyes.
“What… what did you do to me?” He asked with fright.
Skye lifted his hand and gently reached across the table for Cedric’s forehead. It felt cold and moist. Cedric was beginning to cry.
“Shhh… Just relax, it will pass in a minute,” Skye whispered to him, focusing on his mind. On the surface of his brain he sensed fear and confusion were overpowering the brute, so he searched within himself for the tranquility Cedric needed.
He immediately remembered when he had his cardiac episode at Phantom Town and to calm down he listened to the sounds of a distant passing train. The locomotive had soothed him and he wanted it to do the same for Cedric. So he narrowed his eyes until they began to glow a more intense golden color, almost white.
Seeing this, Cedric whimpered for a second. In his head he could feel something crawling over his brain, soothing him, before his breathing normalized and he was calmer at last.
“T-thanks,” he said, wiping the tears from his eyes.
“No problem. Like I was saying… just now we revisited part of your life… though to be honest I couldn’t see a thing,” Skye replied.
Cedric gave him a sudden look of outrage.
“Not see in the traditional sense… telepaths are the ones who actually experience memories like movies. Me, I am more like a radio… just got the sounds, the emotions, the feelings… I still knew what you were showing me even if I couldn’t see it,” Skye clarified.
“That thing… it was like you were inside me! How did you do it?” Cedric inquired.
Skye looked over his shoulder: the other two guests had paid and left the premises. The young Homptilian waitress approached them, carrying the dirty dishes in a tray.
“Can I get you something?” she asked.
Cedric looked at her, noticing the waitress had been staring at him, more likely the horns on his head. When he nodded at her, she quickly turned to Skye.
“Yeah, for me… a cup of tea, please,” Skye said, looking sharply at the young waitress. Her name tag read DANA.
“Okay, I’ll be back,” Dana said, walking away before Cedric could say a word.
“How rude, she didn’t even take your order!” Skye exclaimed angrily.
Cedric eyed him, surprised at his reaction.
“That brat won’t be seeing a tip from me!” Skye added. He then noticed the way Cedric cocked his head at him.
“Didn’t you see that?” Skye asked him.
“Course I did… what I don’t get is why it bothers you… not like she was rude to you or anything,” Cedric pointed out.
“True, but still, I hate when they do that! You’re human too!” Skye responded
Cedric slammed his hands on the table, startling Skye.
“That! What’s the matter with you, huh?” He demanded, showing his fangs to him.
Skye then noticed the waitress stood by the counter near the pot of brewing hot tea, glancing at them. Skye knew she wanted to pick up the phone and was waiting for his signal.
“I think you should calm down, otherwise we are going to have the cops surrounding the place faster than you can say ‘weese,’” Skye gave Cedric a serious glance.
“Fine… you the boss, dude,” Cedric agreed, crossing his arms and leaning against his seat.
At that moment, Dana came over carrying a glass of steaming hot tea in a round tray. She stood beside Skye and set down his beverage in front of him.
“You… Dana,” Skye turned to look at her so suddenly he made her gasp.
“Err… yes, sir?” the girl uttered.
“I believe my friend over there was going to order too,” his voice sounded discontent.
Dana nodded rapidly at him and then slowly turned towards Cedric, who patiently looked at her with both hands under his chin and his elbows on the table.
“H-hi… sir, what can I get you?” her eyes looked at Cedric for a moment and quickly shifted in the direction of the television.
“Got any beer, kid?” Cedric gave her a quick smirk, which Dana did not notice.
“Yes, coming right up!” she said, dashing off to the counter.
“Stupid, she only fears you because you’re taller than both of us,” Skye divulged.
“I’m used to it,” Cedric confessed.
“It’s not right,” Skye said firmly.
“You were saying earlier,” Cedric pushed back on topic.
“Yes, about how I do what I do… every soul has a story and for every story there is an audience… I can read people like books,” Skye said. Cedric gave him a confused look.
“I made contact with your soul… I’m an empath, you see, I can sense your emotions and all that which makes you who you are… I could pinpoint you in a crowd easily,” he snapped his fingers at the end.
“So, are you like some divine person?” Cedric asked, “Did the Gods send you to help me? Are they trying to punish me?”
“No-no… I’m just a guy who wants the world to be a better place,” Skye replied, “And besides, if there are Gods up there, I doubt they can punish anyone. I bet you they are powerless spectators, who can only sit in front of a screen and watch us suffer.”
“Oh… so, are you like a superhero?” Cedric quizzed again. Skye gave it some thought and nodded.
Cedric tried to find the words to say what he really wanted to, “Are you sure you’re not my guardian angel or something?”
“I’m flattered but NO. I can see why you may think there’s more to our last meeting… truth is, there isn’t,” Skye stated.
“So you just chose me at random?” Cedric began.
“No… I did look into your friend Paco too, but unlike you he was just… rotten,” Skye admitted.
“He ain’t my friend,” Cedric corrected.
“So you have no friends?” He shook his head.
“What you said to me last…” Cedric began.
“That we were alike?” Skye pondered.
“Yes! What did you mean by that?” He could see Cedric looking at him expectantly.
“Because we are,” Skye said, “You and me… we may not look alike, but what we’ve been through… we both lost so much that year, I would have turned to crime too.”
“The flood,” Cedric interrupted. Skye nodded slowly and took a sip of his tea.
“You still have a daughter to hold… I have no one!”
“I do know what it is to lose a son, Cedric.”
Both remained in silence. Cedric clenched his fists and avoided eye contact. Skye took a deep breath; a small hint of gray colored his irises.
“He was going to be our first, I couldn’t believe I was having a son… my wife and I had decided to name him Duncan… everything about the pregnancy went well until delivery… he never cried or breathed,” Skye took a sip of his tea.
“Sorry,” Cedric said.
“We lost not just our homes, but also someone dear to us… someone who trusted we could keep them safe,” Skye saw Cedric’s eyes become glassy.
“I meant every word I said the other day, Cedric. There’s good in you, more than you think. I’ve felt it—twice!”
Cedric sniffled and reached for the napkin holder, clumsily knocking it over the table. Skye took another sip of his tea. Cedric was tearing and pulling out dozens of napkins, trying to fight back the warm tears and snot oozing from his face.
“You’re just saying that to be nice… I’m a fucking monster!” he bellowed and blew his nose.
“Both wrong. Your words may lie but your soul doesn’t. The soul never lies… it’s us at our most honest,
“Besides, if you really were a monster, would you have followed me all morning just to come here to talk?” He gave Cedric a warm knowing smile.
“You… I’ve been thinking about what you said to me that day. The things I did, I regret them… you’ve changed me,” Cedric pinched his nose bridge, more tears came down.
“I didn’t change you, that was your doing,” Skye confessed.
When Dana came back with a glass of beer, she looked at Skye for approval and then at Cedric, who blew his nose again. The waitress saw the man’s reddened eyes and the tears on his face. She gulped and quietly placed his drink in front of him.
“Thanks, kid,” Cedric sniffled.
“Can I get you anything else?” Dana asked. Cedric and Skye both shook their heads in silence.
As soon as the waitress was gone, Cedric began to sob more loudly. Skye rose from his chair, frowning, and walked towards him.
“The boy… Titus, he was my boy… he would have been 16 this year… wild kid with a big heart, was mad about cars… he would’ve gotten his driving permit without trying,” Cedric sniffled again.
“M-my parents never made it out of the house in time. When I got there, everything was underwater… I couldn’t save them,” Skye looked down and gulped.
“I’m sorry, dude… ‘bout everything,” Cedric said and then looked up at Skye, whose hand rested on his shoulder.
“There’s nothing to forgive. We all make mistakes, we’re all imperfect. That’s why we learn from our wrongs,” Skye said.
“I never wanted to end up like this,” Cedric confessed. Skye gently patted his back.
“None of us do, but sometimes things don’t go according to plan,” Skye said.
“Growing up, I lived near a big corn field and people used to tell us stories about these creatures; some said they were aliens from space. We called ‘em jellyfish will-o-wisps, they looked like fireballs with tentacles. I wanted to see them badly, so one night I hid in the fields after work and waited for them. I waited hours and for a moment thought my faith had been crushed. But then, I saw something… it was radiant and floated above me. It was them! I told no one what I saw, but from that night on, I vowed I would find out where those ‘fish came from!” Cedric laughed.
“How far did you go?” Skye asked with a wide smile.
“Not far. I had no one to help me. For Theos any dream’s just that… nobody wants you going to college, they just value your muscles and you get thrown in the nearest mine, field or construction site for a piss wage an hour,” Cedric’s smile faded. He sighed and chugged down his beer in one lift of the glass.
“Hey, we all start the same way. Dreaming is not useless, it keeps us going. It’s not our fault along the way we got lost in some dark alley,” Skye told Cedric while feeling his own chest, “Even if we never achieve our dreams, in the end, it’s the heart within that matters, right?”
However, listening to his own words made him uneasy. After all, he was the one with the bad heart. How could he help others when he could not believe in himself?
“Yeah, tough luck,” Cedric sighed. Now sad too, Skye returned to his seat and stared down at his tea. It had gone cold.
“My dream as a child was to someday become a Theo, of course I knew it was impossible to achieve… you can’t change how you were born, but I guess it helped me see things from a different perspective,” Skye focused on his own reflection in the crimson liquid.
“Are you fucking brain-dead? Why would you ever want to be a beast like me?” Cedric snapped. Skye continued to look into his tea, when a new smile formed across his face.
“Think me mental, but I’m not ashamed to admit that even today I still wish I were a Theo,” Skye looked up.
“You’re mental big time!” Cedric exclaimed and Skye laughed.
“Do you know what the word ‘theo’ means?” Skye asked Cedric. The latter shook his head, puzzled.
“Theo is the word Ancient Greeks used for god. In their myths, they spoke of demi-gods with great strength… they were referring to you! Theos are true gods among men!” Skye said passionately.
“Geez, bro, you sound a lot like my boy. He too was proud of what he was,” Cedric gave a soft chuckle.
“Hope you don’t mind me asking, but how old are you, Cedric?”
Due to the physiology of Theos, it was difficult to tell their true age without asking. They could be 20 and look a decade older. Even with children, most Theos were already hairy and taller than their teachers by the time they reached the seventh grade.
“Me? Uh—I’m 31.”
“No way!” Skye’s mouth dropped open.
“Why, how old are you?” Cedric reciprocated.
“I’m 36,” Skye mumbled.
“Lucky bastard,” Cedric said bitterly.
Suddenly, facing the T.V., Skye caught a glimpse of a news report that made him jump from his seat.
“DANA, TURN UP THE VOLUME!” Skye yelled.
The waitress complied and used the remote control to turn the volume up to 36.
“…with what appears to be the third kidnapping case of the month. Authorities have disclosed this could be a serial kidnapper. All three victims have been described as brunette girls of the Homme subspecies, between the ages of 9 and 15…”
The reporter’s description of the victims made Skye cringe. Cedric listened too and saw the guy’s reaction when he sat back down.
“You’re worried about your daughter,” Cedric said.
Skye shifted in his seat and nodded. He looked out the window and then at Cedric.
“She’s still at school, right? Should be safe in there,” Cedric reassured him.
“You’re right, I’m worrying too much,” Skye exhaled in relief.
“Hey, I was wondering. Do you two live in that store at 16th Street?” Cedric asked.
“You stalker!” Skye exclaimed. Dana the waitress heard Skye shout and looked at them with concern.
“Don’t get mad, I only wanted to see where I could find you in…”
“Listen! Very careful now!” Skye interrupted and pulled Cedric closer from his shirt. Their foreheads were almost touching.
“I’m listening, don’t hurt me!” Cedric plead.
“Be honest… have you told anyone else about me or my powers?” Skye and Cedric locked eyes. They remained in silence for a minute.
“Okay, you’re good… thank you,” Skye said calmly, letting go of Cedric’s neck.
“The only one who knows besides me is Paco, but nobody takes the guy seriously…” Cedric tried to not sound worried.
Skye’s eyebrows furrowed. Suddenly, Cedric had the feeling he was being watched. It could not be the waitress Dana; she was watching the T.V. Skye then noticed Cedric’s brooding expression.
“What’s wrong?” He inquired. Cedric was looking out the window.
Across the street from them, parked in front of a liquor store, they saw a peculiar automobile—the first of its kind: an Icarus 2023-Model A, the first commercial hover car ever released to the public. Nobody was inside the car, which had a unique phoenix sticker on the roof.
“Just that car… seems familiar,
“Thanks for hearing me out,” Cedric began digging through his pockets. Skye drank the last of his tea and raised his arm in the air.
Dana then came skipping to their table. Eyes big and curious.
“May we have the check, please?” Skye glanced at Cedric, who desperately searched through every pocket he had.
Skye reached down to his boots and pulled up his sweatpants. He unzipped his right boot and took out his worn out black wallet. From it he pulled out several coins. When Dana had finished writing their check, Skye already had over the table the same amount she had: $18.50. The waitress took the payment and remained beside Skye expectantly. He turned away from her and licked his lips. I don’t give tips to racist bimbos like you; he wanted to say but realized his silence more than sufficed. Dana got the message and soon left their table.
“You didn’t have to,” Cedric said in a low voice.
“It was my treat, pal,” Skye smiled at him.
Both men then made their way out of the café. Dana gave them a quick bitter look and continued wiping her counter. Skye stood beside Cedric and could not help to look up. Their height difference was so significant it made Skye seem like a child by comparison.
“Listen, if you ever want to talk again… you are always welcomed at my store,” Skye said. Cedric’s doleful eyes became brighter.
“Thank you… for believing in me,” He said.
“Just do me a favor, stay out of trouble,” Skye held out his hand to him.
“I will, promise,” Cedric brought his monstrous hand and clasped Skye’s.
The latter became wide-eyed and gasped; who knew a simple handshake could be so painful. Cedric instantly realized he was squeezing too hard and let go. At that moment, Skye moaned loudly and held onto his hand, moving his reddened fingers. Fortunately, nothing was broken.
“My bad,” Cedric offers an apologetic smile as he rubs the back of his head.
Heading back from Market Street to 16th, Skye realized Erebus had not been around for hours and began to feel awkward without his nagging and sarcastic remarks. If he was indeed a real entity, then he must have really upset him for them to have not spoken but a few words in the last 48 hours.
“Erebus? Hey, Erebus, where are you?” He pondered.
As he passed by the old clock tower in 16th Street, he saw to his dismay the time was 15:49.
“Great! I forgot to open the store again! Now Gurru won’t stop japping about it when I get home!” Skye groaned.
“Might as well go wait for Julie,” He sighed.
Getting to Searise Elementary on foot was going to take at least 40 minutes and he was not in the mood for long walks or crowded train rides and the sensory overload (migraines) they gave him. Let’s do this! Flying a mile or two won’t hurt me… as long as I don’t go too fast! He thought running into the nearest alley.
Before long, Skye flew out of the alley, grateful to the street performer dressed like a living statue for unknowingly providing a diversion from him. His dark silhouette quickly faded into a dot in the sky.
While moving freely through the air, Skye realized his chest was not hurting anymore. Lucky me! He thought with a smile. Looking at the large clouds he passed made him think of his new friend, the mountain man Cedric. My judgment of people hasn’t failed me before, hope I’m right about him. Seems like a nice chump… impressive frame. Yeah, he has issues and all, but who doesn’t? I can’t help worrying about him, though. He seemed suicidal and…
“Now talking to yerself? What a nut!” A familiar voice made Skye cringe midair.
“Erebus! Is that you?” Skye asked excitedly with a smile on his face.
“Whoa! Yer glad to see me? Who are ya and what did ya do to Skye?” Erebus replied in surprise.
“Me? I-I’m not glad… no way!” Skye quickly brushed off his smile and became defensive.
“Whatever, ya missed me! Admit it!” Erebus chuckled.
“You seem pretty cheerful. You’re not mad at me anymore?” Skye resumed his trajectory.
“Could care less about ya, wimp!” Erebus snapped.
“And here I thought we could finally be friends,” Skye said mildly disappointed and then took off in flight.
At that moment, he heard an engine coming closer. It was a low sonic hum. He turned around. A hover car came zooming his way. He shrieked and moved out of the way. He found himself in the path of aerial transit. The holographic street signs in front of him showed six signs, three were nearby restaurants, two were exits and the remaining one the speed limit (55 MPH).
“Oh snap!” Skye tried moving but crossed paths with two more cars going in opposite directions.
“This is ridiculous!” Skye then flew up, just above the hovering cluster of colorful ovoid automobiles.
He soon thought how fortunate he was to have flown up. A pair of metallic black orbs with red and blue flashing lights had detected a disturbance and were scanning the area for vehicles exceeding the speed limit. He had avoided the Patrol Orbs. Had he remained down there, they would have taken his picture and his secret would have been exposed.
One close call had already caused his family and he a lot of grief years ago, courtesy of the late Captain Donovan Frostvie, a military man who upon discovering what he could do became obsessed with capturing him. Skye shuddered, recalling the gruesome end Frostvie met. He was the first real super villain he ever had.
“Seems today I’m being quite reckless,” He said to himself.
When he finally arrived at Searise Elementary, he could see from above parents and children swarming the grounds. He had to find a place to land without attracting too much attention. He never had this problem when he arrived early.
“Damn it! Guess I’ll have to walk after all!” Skye groaned, descending over the roof of the nine story tall Double Creek hotel building, just two blocks from the school.
Standing atop the building, Skye had a magnificent view of the city landscape, the school, the bridge, the amusement park, The Can multi-purpose arena, and of course Phantom Town. All looked like varying shades of gray and maroon, blending into a complex matte of a skyline.
“I dare ya to jump all the way down,” Erebus taunted Skye.
The latter cringed in awe, seeing Erebus standing in place of his reflection in the window.
“Damn it, Erebus! Don’t do that!” Skye snapped feeling his chest. His heartbeat was fast but steady. Erebus laughed hysterically in the mirror, holding onto his bony chest.
“That wasn’t funny! I could have died of fright or worse… soiled myself… and then died of fright!” Skye remarked pounding at his reflection.
“Ya too chicken! Ya would never take the leap!” Erebus went on.
“Alright! Game over, asshole!” Skye said firmly, putting his aviator goggles back on and slowly moving closer to the edge of the roof. Looking down, he saw foremost people in the parking lot and as he looked up, the school in the distance. He waited for everyone to vacate.
“Ya ain’t got the guts,” Erebus hummed into his ear. Skye shook his head and tightened his fists.
“How’s this for a coward, eunuch!” Skye shouted as he lifted himself and jumped off the building.
“OH, SHIT!!” Erebus hollered.
Skye felt the wind against his hair and clothes. His goggles kept his sight clear as he fell down, by the hand of this planet’s natural gravitational pull. Inside the hotel, the few who could have seen him falling down were too distracted to look out the windows.
Once he had reached the fifth story, he broke off the pull midair. The bottom of his boots surrounded by a blue aura, he was now in his own field of gravitons. Skye grinned and dashed forward, his feet moving in the air. Having made it past the Double Creek parking lot, he was ready to touch ground near the dumpsters. As he came down, his eyes had a radiant gold-white glow again. When his feet made contact, a small crater was formed by the surrounding aura. His heart seemed to stop for a moment until he had both feet on land. He was coughing and his chest was beginning to burn.
Call me eunuch again… and I’m gonna piss all over yer precious kiddie memories! I’ve still got the nozzle! Erebus warned.
“Geez can’t take a joke!” Skye coughed again.
When he looked up, he sensed a strange and familiar feeling. He stood still, his eyes wide and alert. He continued to walk when he came to the edge of the street. There the feeling intensified and he began scouting from side to side frantically.
Skye, to yer right! Erebus warned. He turned and spotted a car across the street, several feet away from him. It was an Icarus 2023-Model A, with a phoenix sticker on the roof. This time the windows were rolled up so he could not see the driver through the dark polarized glass. Skye looked to his sides again and cautiously crossed the street. He leaned against a wall, from which he could see the back of the vehicle.
“It’s that car again!” Skye peeked from the wall.
I wasn’t here, care to fill me in? What’s so special about that old piece of junk? Erebus inquired.
Suddenly, Skye spotted two large men in black suits and hats approach the vehicle from the corner perpendicular to him and he knelt down, further concealing himself from view. The pair were Theos, one balding and the other with dreadlocks and darker skin. He instantly recognized them. They were at Peggy’s Hair Salon two days ago, and he knew they had been responsible for the hover bus accident the week before.
It’s them, the murdering scum… time for them to pay their dues! Erebus muttered in his mind.
Skye then saw the two men stand around the Icarus. He could only see the window side-ways, but he caught glimpse of the driver’s large arm reaching out to the balding man in black with something in hand. The bald man turned his back and then passed something to the dark-skinned Theo. Narrowing his eyes Skye realized the dark man was reading something.
Skye, do something! Now’s yer chance! Crush ‘em monsters! Erebus shouted. Skye pounded on the wall.
“I’m not a murderer,” he whispered. Besides, if I kill them now we won’t know how to stop whatever nefarious thingy they’re up to!
The driver rolled up his window and started the engine. The men in black stepped back and the hover car released a white cloud from underneath. Skye looked up as the hover car lifted stories above them and flew off. He then saw the two men in black walking down the street in his direction. He had no place to hide.
Oh, snap! Skye thought, leaning against the wall. What do I do now?
The men in black were only feet away from him. Skye looked around, no more corners to hide. When the brutes passed by, they looked at the wall… nobody was there. The darker man stopped. His nostrils expanded as he caught a whiff of scent.
“Reeks of weese,” he grunted.
“Like the rest of this damned city,” the balding man spat.
Unknown to them, on the balcony above them stood Skye, his body pressed against the brick wall. He did his best to go unnoticed and not disturb the pigeon cooing beside him. Don’t… you… dare! He gave the bird a sharp stare. The pigeon moved its head from side to side and pooped on its spot.
The men in black were halfway down the block when Skye sighed in relief and levitated to the roof. The pigeon fluttered away. He wanted to follow those fiends, but could not risk being seen either. Fortunately, every building on the block was connected, enabling him to run over the roofs with ease. When he got to the first alley, he stopped cold. The wide dark chasm nearly swallowed him. Skye stepped down from the edge and backed away. He then bent down and adjusted his boots. He took a deep breath and ran towards it, took a leap and flew over the alley. He landed in the middle of the next roof and readied to jump the next alley ahead. He was taking the same turn east they did.
Hey, aren’t those morons headed to the school? Erebus noted. Skye’s eyes widened.
“OH SNAP!” He exclaimed.
At that moment, Julie sat on the bench at the main entrance, where he father usually dropped her off when they were early. She moved her feet around in boredom. Her father was 20 minutes late. Her teacher, Mrs. Sadira, came out of the building.
“Ms. Travell, your father is not here yet?” she inquired.
“No, but my dad should be here any minute,” Julie said hopeful.
“Would you like me to wait here with you?” Sadira offered.
“No! I mean, no thank you!” Julie said. She did not want Sadira and her dad talking yet, especially with today’s classroom incident.
“Are you sure?” Sadira gave Julie a suspicious glance. The girl nodded in response.
“Have a nice weekend, Ms. Travell,” Sadira waved at her student and began walking down the stairs of the main entrance.
“You too, Mrs. Sadira!” Julie waved back and then added, “NAMASTE!”
Sadira smiled and pressed her hands together in front of her chest and then made a slight bow in response.
“Namaste,” she repeated.
Julie sat alone again, still waiting for her father to come. I hope Daddy’s not late because of his bad heart. She thought and brought her book bag up close. She opened it and carefully retrieved from inside the holographer device she had used in class today.
“Dad’s going to go nuts when he sees this!” Julie chuckled, reviewing holographic renderings of the flowers and insects Yuki and she found around the school yard.
Most of the renderings showed one or both girls standing next to their findings. In the one Julie contemplated she was had a gargoqua crawling on her arm and was sticking her tongue out.
Suddenly, saw someone approaching. She turned the holographer off and put it back in her bag. She curiously stood from the bench and walked closer. Two very large men were walking towards her. One bald, the other with dark skin and dreadlocks. Upon seeing the second man, however, Julie had a terrifying déjà vu. She had seen that dark man before and she knew right away he was not friendly.
When Skye finally made it to the front entrance of the school, he no longer found the men in black. Instead he found Julie looking up at a mountain of a man.
“Daddy, what took you so long?” she asked.
He came closer, feeling relieved. The giant beside his daughter then turned around to face him. He was much like an upright polar bear, but gentler, with short blond hair and downcast blue eyes.
“Cedric?” Skye was mildly surprised.