Heathens

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 57 (v.1) - Chapter 57

Submitted: December 23, 2017

Reads: 51

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Submitted: December 23, 2017

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Apollo

“How long are you going to keep following me for?” Apollo looked back to the Hyena who made circles in the sand with his tail and his ass, who kicked away giant clouds of golden dirt. He was like a child at the beach, destructive, maliciously kicking down the sand castles. 

“I won't stop until you meet him.”

“Astyanax? I don’t care about him. My concern isn’t with him, it's with the people he's taken hostage.” Apollo returned to walking. The land was flat and he could see from the distance the small plateaus that sat on the horizon. They looked like stone tables. 

“And do you think you’ll be able to avoid him?” The Hyena scratched his abdomen with his hind legs. “I’d be surprised if you could. Nothing lives without his knowledge that lives without his consent.”

“Is that so? Real Napolean type, that guy. Maybe he should find a hobby.”

“This is his hobby. One he takes very seriously, haven't you noticed? The lack of people on this island?”

Apollo stopped to look. He felt stupid, of course there was nothing, nothing but desert. He shook his head and walked forward, a mountain was coming upon his view and he put his hand against the orange stone and worked around the volatile terrain, the boulders lodged on the side and on the floor. The Hyena was jumping around, he looked experienced.

“You consider this an island?”

“A small one, too. There are bigger lands, as you’d imagine. Purgatory has to be a giant place to accommodate all the dead. You should see how dense it can get after a war.” It laughed. Apollo frowned. 

“Am I to assume that Astyanax is responsible for the population? Does he kill them, any unlucky soul stuck here?”

The Hyena laughed. A wind blew past Apollo, he felt sand in his mouth.

“Kill? Don’t be silly. They’re already dead.” The Hyena dropped and began to lead Apollo through a small underpass beneath the mountain. There were arches and encrusted inside were Topaz gems, stalagmites that pointed down. There was no shining light reflected though, everything was overcast.

“But you're different, aren't you? You're still alive, not like these marked men.”

“Marked?”

“Those that come here by destiny’s call are marked. Those who come unnaturally, like you, aren’t. It’s simple, dummy. You’re trespassing. And that means you don’t get the same treatment as the dead. So if you were to be killed here, well…” His snout came down, his mouth was wide and his tongue slipped out, red and swollen. “Well, even I don’t know what would happen to you. Maybe you’d be sent to that atheist oblivion? Maybe you’d be trapped? Saved? Reborn? Who knows. Do you want to find out?”

“No.” Apollo walked past him. His stare was strict and disciplined as he spotted a small bundle of tarps in the distance. “I get the point. I die, I'm done. What happens if you’re marked though? If you suffered that so-called, natural death twice?”

“Supposing you never got sent lower into the deeper circles, suppose you didn’t get placed in the river Styx. Well, you’d just be reborn and dragged out of the waters. That’s the cycle here, a death and rebirth. And forgetting. And repenting. And with time and hope...”

“A ticket. To heaven? If it exists.”

“Skeptic 'till the end. Here you are facing death and you still can't fathom the idea of heaven."

"Some things are just too good to be true."

"You might be right. Maybe." The Hyena's eyes wandered for a bit. Melancholy, almost. "No, most people get reborn. Reincarnated. New body, same soul.”

“Great, you get another shot at fucking up life. That’s just great.” The winds eased, his eyes were already red though. Red, throbbing, hurting from sand and dirt. It made him teary-eyed.

“You still didn’t tell me what any of this has to do with Astyanax. Or why there aren’t any people here.”

“There are people here. Just few of them, fewer than there ought to be.”

“Doesn’t matter to me. What’s your point with all this? What do I care about the cycle of death and rebirth?”

“Most people would be excited to know salvation awaits them. I thought you were Catholic?”

“Most people are stupid. The same fucking soul, the same fucking person making the same fucking mistakes. It doesn’t matter how many tries you get at life. It’s all a shot in the dark and you’re more likely to put yourself in a worse position being reborn than a better one. How’s that for a cosmic gamble? How's that for salvation?” Apollo looked back to the Hyena who sat with its ass on the floor and his head high. “Why would you guess I'm Catholic?”

“I just figured you’d be Catholic. Your friend was at least.” The Hyena said.

“What are you-” His mouth opened, his tongue was arid. It had white spots growing on it, near his tonsils. “Who are you talking about?”

“The man in the suit like the one you’re wearing. Right? Your friend, Dion. He went to fight the good fight a long time ago. I wonder how he's doing.” The animal was smiling, it seemed to revel as it licked itself and chewed on its arm.

Apollo didn’t know how to feel. His eyes became spastic. Around him were two giant stretches of stone if you could call them that, they looked like walls. Giant stone mountain walls that stretched miles left and right, with no end in sight. There was a crack though, a small valley where the wind passed. It was behind Apollo.

“Where’d he go?” Apollo reached for the animal;s throat. It kicked dirt at Apollo. 

“Don’t get so touchy! You haven’t even taken me out on my first date.” The creature laughed, its body was low to the ground as it beamed its yellow ringed eyes at Apollo. “I’ll tell you where he's going. That's the point. He went North.

“And what the fuck is Northward. There’s no compass. No time, no anything!”

“I’ll give you a tip. And don’t forget it, sweetie.” His laugh sounded like a howl, it was booming in the small enclosure between the two mountain ranges. “That hole in the sky. You see it, don’t you? It rests South in the sky. If you want to go North, just walk away from it. Run away from it, the further you are from that dark pit, the closer you are to Astyanax. And through him, your exit. You still have that cup, don’t you?”

Apollo’s glare focused in on the hound. He must have not been more than two meters wide but held in him all that grief and tension, it made Apollo freeze.

“Who the fuck are you?” He drew his sword, he rested it on his shoulder. His feet dug into the sand. 

“We’ve already been through this line of questioning.” His voice sounded warped. Was it the wind, the echo of the narrow valley? “I’m just a Hyena.”

“Bullshit, what’s your name?”

“What’s a name?” The Hyena asked. Apollo swung, out came the cloud of destruction and the small stones that shot out like shrapnel. He lifted his sword, there was nobody, no animal, just a hole and empty space and a few elongated creatures that scattered. The Spotted Hyena was behind him now. It did not growl, did not breath, simply looked on with its beady eyes. 

“A name is what tells me whether you're a friend or a foe. That's what it is to me. Now speak up before I chop your ass in half.” Apollo felt spittle coming down his chin.

“It’s a label then? An identifier? Isn’t that a bit too close minded for you? I can be anything you want, honey.”

“Call it that nasty human habit, call it a biological tick, call it whatever you want motherfucker. Cataloging the good and the bad is a great way to avoid trouble. And you, you are trouble. So you tell me right now where I put you, which file cabinet do you belong to, fucker? Who are you?”

“I’m an angel, aren’t I? Otherwise, your little cat string would have gone off, wouldn’t it have?” 

Apollo felt the chill down his spine as all revelations usually do, inspire fear. Yes, why hadn’t his little string gone off, rattled, shaken with that unhinged excitement? It should have worked, more so down here in Hell and Purgatory than any other place, more so with this creature in front of him. But it didn't. It was mute, dead. Why hadn't it gone off? What was the Hyena?

“I probably have as many names as there are stars in the universe. I don’t understand half of them though. They always call me the deceiver, the liar. But to you, Apollo, to you I am a friend.” It laughed, innocent and gentile. Or at least tried to appear as such. “Though I guess that’s a point of contention isn't it? The lying friend! How about that? Hah.”

Apollo walked around the creature, began to calculate his range and his method of attack and his speed and his momentum. The Hyena, however, simply rolled. Rolled in the sand.

“It’s not like you’ve been honest, Apollo. Or should I call you by your real name? Well, as real as any name could be. Your first name, I believe. The one your degenerate crack whore of a mother gave you. Oh, what was it again? Hmm? August? Agustín? Yes! Agustín Octavio del Rio Jr. Did I pronounce that right? My, my that's a Mexican mouthful if-” 

Apollo swung again. Faster, much more malicious. His nose was flared, his eyes were crimson and shown through the cloak of gold dust. He was pointing that blade, pointing it to the sound of the voice, for he had struck nothing and in missing, seemed to feed his anger more.

“I thought you were the cool one? Even Dion seemed more together."

Once again he swung. The earth cracked and broke. 

“Who are you?” Apollo screamed.

“I am the Virgil to your Dante.” Apollo swung at the voice. 

“The Obi-Wan to your Luke.” Again, this time with more gusto. 

“The Alfred to your Bruce Wayne.” Apollo turned. He felt his ankle twist and he fell face first into the desert. His sword spun a bit in the air before it injected itself some meters off from him. It looked like a nameless tombstone.

“Well, that’s fantastic! I was running out of examples.” The Hyena seemed to materialize out of that cloud of smoke. 

“What do you want?” Apollo asked, mouth full. His voice was shaken.

“I want what's best for my son. Though I must say, I am rather disappointed. I thought I reared you better, but it seems like you still have some ways to go before you’re ready to kill that man.” He walked towards the blade and bit the handle. He dragged it along the sand, it made a whistling sound as the wind passed.  The Hyena dropped it a few inches away from Apollo, though Apollo had no urge to grab it. “There are some things about yourself you still need to confront. That's kind of obvious though, don’t you think? And I'm not talking about your useless father or your useless mother. They're dead to you. I know that. No, I'm talking about your surrogate and more importantly, your friend."

“How do you know-” He didn’t bother finishing. He wasn’t even sure if the Hyena was real, maybe it wasn’t, maybe it was. The id manifest? Just an Illusion? His self-contempt materialized, finally, in this hellish plane. He thought that for a moment, tried to persuade himself at least that the Hyena was just an anomaly of the mind. But he felt a knock on his forehead, a paw that bopped him softly on the face. 

“Your friend had much more courage than you. It’s a shame you didn’t see him off, you could have learned something from him. You could have copied that big heart of his.” He howled. “And only his heart! He doesn’t have much of a brain, from what I could tell.”

Apollo laid flat on the earth, eyes open and staring into that hole in the sky. It seemed like something desperate, something sad and small was trying to escape from his pouty, black eyes. 

“You’re an important investment to me, Apollo. And it’d be great if you could show that same enthusiasm.” 

“That’s a lot to demand from a stranger.” Apollo coughed. His throat felt clogged.

“You’re no stranger to me, you’re my child. And one who’s needed a bit of discipline for a long while now.” The Hyena began to walk away. “This is all a loving warning, you see. So why don't you let me help? Heed my words. Tattoo them into your skull if you have to. You'll travel past this little valley. You'll survive too, it won't be easy though.  Northeast you'll find a barrack, find your survivors. If there are any, if not, make your peace and move on. Keep going north until you hit the dome.  Then you can see for yourself that fragile kingdom Astyanax has built, one of sand of one of hubris. I'm sure by then, he'd have found you. Go to him. Kill him. And listen well, don't you listen to him. No matter how much of yourself you see in him, remember this, he must die.”

“So that’s what you want. An assassin.” Apollo stood with both of his hands.

“No. I wan a messenger. I want a flag bearer. I want you to become a better man.”

"Why? What do you have invested in me?"

"What does the father want, of all things small and large?" The Hyena asked. Apollo stayed silent. "He wants to be killed by the son, he knows that to be his end."

"Well, if you just stood still, I could have done that for you right away."

"A symbolic murder. You know that. I want you to become a better person than I was." 

“And I want you to never talk to me again.”

“Wanting and willing are very different, Apollo. You need my help.”

“I don’t give a fuck about your help. Stop being so esoteric, give it to me straight. What's our relationship?” The sand was coming off his clothes. Apollo stood hunched. 

"I'll tell you if you survive. Sure." The Hyena unhinged its mouth. Its teeth were pronounced, sharp and stained yellow.
 
Apollo looked at him, he could feel his legs turning, begging him to move. His eyes wouldn't turn away though. It took some effort, a push by the wind, a distant cry, to finally make Apollo move towards the valley. The Valley where the tarps flowed gently on metal lines and where the little-broken huts of villages past sat aging in the sand. 

The Hyena looked on. His tail was wagging. He sniffed the air and began to dig a small foxhole. When he was ready, when Apollo was far and away and entering the shadowy valley, he sat on his bed. A grin on his face.


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