Heathens

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

Chapter 65 (v.1) - Chapter 65

Submitted: January 17, 2018

Reads: 68

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Submitted: January 17, 2018

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Dion

They circled the dinner table round and round the feast of fruit and meat, round the thin dim light of the candle, and among the crackling wood, grew a hostility in Dion. He looked to the door and to the stranger and although not knowing who he was, felt his gut shift up and down. 

Perhaps it was the way Alestor stood that made him off-putting to Dion. How his shoulders hung and rags pulled like a fresh poach or how his eyes blinked, small and beady like rats of mice. Maybe it was the pudgy feet and hands, the long hair and the unshaven face. He did not know why he felt the growing contempt, only watched.

“Who is he?” Dion asked. Astyanax walked towards Alestor and wrapped his arms around him. 

“He’s a friend and more importantly, a normal person,” Astyanax said. “One of those people you’ve sworn to protect, right?”

It should have been easy. He was just a man, after all. But he couldn’t compel himself to agree. Dion eyed Alestor. His face seemed bitter, not defeated or victorious, just bitter. His face was old and wrinkled and his body was worn.

“Again. I’m here to be humiliated, again.” Alestor said. He didn’t look at anyone in particular. He stood lopsided and dull and stupid.

“No, you’re here to appease, like a whore. Though of a different kind of seduction.” Astyanax looked back to Dion. “You know this man. You’ve known each other for a while now, behind closed doors. You’ve heard of each other, smelled of each other, but never, ever, have you seen each other. Until today.”

Dion’s hands clenched into fists. He was expecting something. He could feel it coming like flood waters and him a lone tree at the center, torn and stretched and ripped out from the roots.

“Who. Is. He?” Dion asked.

“Go on. Tell him your name.” Astyanax moved his hands up Alestor’s forearms almost in comfort, before he stopped on his shoulder and his neck. He rubbed them. Alestor showed no signs of resistance. 

“Why should I?” Alestor asked.

“You’re being defiant again?” Astyanax tapped his fingers along Alestor’s nape like a spider crawl. “Don’t defy me. There are worse things than death that I can show you if you compel me enough. So it’s in your best interest to listen to me. Tell him your name.” 

Alestor rubbed one of his elbows. He looked around the room towards a servant holding a jar of oil in one corner, then to two soldiers standing by the door, spears in hands. They breathed heavily. And at last his face went towards Dion, who stood furthest from him, behind the colorful table. He was neither interested nor confused by the man and simply assumed he was either another victim or another of God’s abortion. Alestor tightened his face and said briefly, with an annoyed tone almost, “My name is Alestor.”

It was enough to make the room silent.

Dion felt his hand hurt. It felt like every blood vessel in his body back up all of a sudden, halted and started production on his adrenaline filled body all at once. He felt the blood, like small marbles of anger-laden blood, were forcing their way through his veins, into his head where he felt them break and scatter amongst themselves. It felt like they were crashing and scattering, those marbles of his, in his brain. He felt pain and an intense blood rush and a light-headedness all at once. The first dimmed for a moment, in fear almost and their tongues receded back to the ashy wood.

“He’s not saying anything,” Alestor said. “You’ve brought me here to meet a mime. Why do you waste my time like this?” 

He shook his head and turned to go out the door. Astyanax stopped him.

“That’s the second time you’ve acted without my say so. I’ll admit, you have courage. But watch. Stay quiet and watch.” Astyanax held him by the arm in that iron grip. It looked like his hand would turn blue. Alestor turned again, back to stare at Dion. There was a moment in that silence. He didn’t feel much but looked around to see the expressions on everyone's faces. Some of them were smug, others afraid, Astyanax’s was only curious, with one raised eyebrow and his yellow eyes thinned to slits. 

And the room became quieter and quieter. And Alestor aroused now, awoken from the lull, waited. They saw Dion shake, they saw his leg tap into sporadic beats. They saw the fire rise and the stoker collapse and the burning logs roll out into livid white pools of ash. Dion brought his face up again. It was horrifically featureless. Neither strained nor joyous nor sad. His eyes were red, no different than the fire and they looked at Alestor. And Alestor knew at the moment, as he stared back at those eyes, who and what he was facing. In that brief moment, he broke away from Astyanax. He looked for the door and thought, the bloodhounds have tasted me. They have searched me far and wide to see what they could have that Astyanax has not taken. 

He put his hand on the door and smacked it. Nothing but the loud banging. A guard grabbed him, put both hands behind his back and threw him to the floor where his face collapsed onto the tile. There was a knee on his neck. 

Dion tensed his legs. He leaned forward. He flipped the table and thought to fly forward him, to leap and to rip Alestor’s head off. All wine and manners of food spilled across the floor like a wrecked voyager, its passengers thrown, bludgeoned and bruised.  Dion pounced towards Alestor and he too felt the guards hands around him. Not without any effort on his own part to retaliate though. He squirmed and threw his head out and punched and saw the guards fall into a bloody-nosed mess. Astyanax whistled. The doors flew open. Two more men came out. These ones didn’t have noses, they had puss-filled wounds and gaps replacing features on their faces. They fell too, thrown against the walls and scattered. Armor clanking and helmets rolling like silver pots. 

Astyanax began to laugh. He clapped now. Five more men came in. That was the number he needed. And it was there, finally, after three of them laid on the floor with spinning heads, that Dion was finally restrained. One pair of bleeding hands wrapped around his chest and neck, a bruised knee was against his back. He was forced to the floor and forced to face Alestor. Both of them in that wine-stained floor, where the food squirmed and flew out underneath their wrestling bodies.

“He’ll kill me,” Alestor screamed. “You knew it. You knew he would kill me, you-” 

He bit his tongue when he saw Astyanax stare back at him.

“I’ll do worse than kill you.” Dion could barely hold his breath. His respirations were loud, quick-successive, sharp. “I’ll show you my Hell!I’ll bury you alive, shallow enough so you may hear yourself suffocate, deep enough so you’ll know you’ll have no chance to escape. You’ll suffer alright. You’ll suffer!”

“Oh, my,” Astyanax scratched his head. “Is vengeance part of Catholicism? Sodom and Gomorrah must have inspired you a bit too much.”

“I’ll kill him, I’ll show him wrath.” Dion tried to inch himself forward with his chin.

“You take those books too seriously, Christian. Why don’t you relax?”

“Relax? Relax!” Dion closed his eyes. He grunted and began, with shaking knees, to stand himself against the force of the two men behind him. Then he was silenced.

Astyanax punched him. He felt his chin hit the floor again and break the stone, his lower jaw leaving an imprint the shape of his mouth. 

“I’ve brought him here to make a deal. You’d do best to listen. And the deal is, your life for his. Your life, for everyone else’s. The innocent go free, the guilty-”

“Alestor.” Dion repeated with bleeding teeth.

“Yes, the guilty, I will up to you, as a gift if and only if you accept my terms of submission.”

“You’re selling me out?” Alestor screamed. “You promised me a home here.”

“And as your master, I have all the power in me to revoke that.”

“Demon,” Alestor screamed at the floor. His teeth scraped and made a long, scratching noise. “Everything a lie. My wife, my unborn. My son.”

Alestor thought it over in that loud room, with the two screaming men and the laughing demon. He thought, It’s been years and my eyes have been dried. It’s been years since I cried. He felt his dry channels grow just as Astyanax’s roaring laugh grew, just as his dagger-shaped teeth widened into that grim smile. Alestor cried. Two tears turned to two streams, his face contorted in between anger and regret. All a lie. All of it. Maybe he knew it, somewhere in his soul. His son definitely did, and he killed him for it.

“I’ll kill you, you son of a bitch.” Dion slammed his face into the floor and Alestor could only repeat it in his mind, the words, I killed him for it. I killed my baby boy for this.

Alestor sank. He couldn’t lift his head. His muscles seemed lax. He stayed, face down on the floor, mumbling and crying. From the turned table, the wine spilled, flowing from its bottle down to the floor and into a pool. A dark, red pool, tart and deep, that swallowed his body, head to chest.

“Is this all you wanted? To bring everyone down to your level. To see me rip him apart? To see me sold?” Dion jerked his head back. It hit someone. He felt a punch back. 

“Get off me!”

“Is it really my fault?” Astyanax put his palm up. The demon with the bloody hole for a nose stopped his assault. “Is it my fault I found something worth keeping, worth stealing and lying for?”

“Be quiet, demon.” 

“No. I’m no demon, only a man.” Astyanax brought his chin up. “A man with strange desires. If you could call any desire, strange.”

“Don’t act like you’re blameless.”

“Oh, but I am. For who was it that put those desires in me? I was certainly never asked. Is anyone really, ever, asked? No. And you of all people should understand what strange desires fuel men. After what I saw from you, in that small hole in the earth. The sewer, was it? Or that half-built sanctuary, a construction site was it?” Astyanax rubbed Dion’s smooth chin. “Aye, that’s where I first came upon you. In those thrilling hours, with the inklings of joyous violence in you. Behind that mask of yours, I knew it, I could see it, the giant smile you wore. Didn’t you? 

Dion stayed quiet. He sucked his lips in and tightened his skin.

“How could you call me demon, how could you accuse me of any strange desires. You, you who lives in the shadow of your own vile nature. You, angry and toxic human, you. How could you accuse me of anything? Thankless, cur. I’m offering you your people back. I’m also offering you homestead, a warriors homestead. For where else can you exist? Certainly not back there, with the plain people and the plain laws and the plain morals. You’ll never fit in. You know that, better than anyone else.”

“You’re not normal,” Dion repeated. “Not normal. Not normal.”

“And what is that? What would you consider the normal nature of man? Tell me. Tell me.”

“Man is…” He closed his eyes to think, to deny. “Man is. Well. Man is…He’s good. He can do good. He should be good.” Dion shook, he was still in the twilight of his anger though. Still pulsing, still raging deep inside. 

“He can reflect and grow.” He tried to think. All thought, all vision, seem contaminated with a superimposed screen of red.

“Acts of charity are as obscene as acts of violence, both are done out of an inherent and arrogant moral superiority one person assumes over another. What else do you have?”

“You don’t get it,” Dion said. “It’s about love. A person is here to love and to spread love. That’s what it means to be good.”

“There plenty of things one can love, truly, that would be considered sick obsessions to other people. What’s the difference between the two, between a disease in the mind and love? Is it in the harm it causes to the self or the other? Any innocent love can do that. Is it in the causal origin of the love? Well then, take it up with God then. For that is God-given. Every miracle, God-given. Every tragedy, God-given.”

Astyanax walked back to Alestor who was still moping.


“Look. See. Observe this fine specimen, Dion.” Astyanax grabbed Alestor by the hair and raised his face. “He follows your aesthetics to a T. He thought what he was doing was good. He thought he was helping others, himself. You should have seen the men and women he employed, the sick and lonely he comforted in his little club. All of it, out of a love. And what great love it must have been! Killing your own son, that’s something even Abraham couldn’t muster. 

“You killed your son?” Dion asked. His voice sounded broken. Alestor couldn’t say much, only mumbled incoherences.

“Yes, yes he did. And what immense strength of will that must have taken. Can I blame him then, for being stronger than the weak? Can anyone blame him? No. He took, and took, and took. And the weak either joined him or feared him, neither did anything to stop him. It took another strong will, your will, to end him. Can I call anything you did, necessarily evil or good? No. None of it was sin. It was just war. Just war…” 

“It’s wrong. It was all wrong.”

“You’re saying that as the victor. I ask again though, who cares? What’s wrong with any of your actions or any of Alestor’s? Nothing, really. Nothing really matters at all.”

“Just wait until I break out of this.” Dion tried to stretch his arms out again. The death grip tightened on them even more.

“Still throwing yourself around again? Good. That’s what I like about you. That’s what I love.

“How can you say he didn’t sin?” Dion screamed. The memory came back, the wildfire. “He killed children. Shamelessly killed them!”

“Oh? A child? Who decides why one life should mean more than other? Why any life should mean anything?”

“I do. You hear me? I do.” He tried again. His knees locked and then he felt a fist come down the back of his head. It felt like it would dislodge his eyes and his vision scattered for a bit.

“Well aren’t you a passionate tyrant. Well, okay. What was this child’s name? The child that meant so much to you, seemingly.”

They all stood quietly. Alestor head fell back down as Astyanax let go. Dion’s lips fumbled and he looked around, hoping for some reason, to see Apollo. There was nothing, no one to even jump-start his memory. That foggy, blurred memory of his. His head spun and he closed his eyes to concentrate, to see hopefully, a snippet materialize in the darkness of his mentalscape. What was it on the news article? The television headline? The Internet article? What was her name? 

“So…” He started. Then stretched his neck out, almost desperate to answer. “Her name was Sophie!”

“And who was she? What did she do? What was she like?”

Dion could not answer. He felt cold. He felt the wine and sweat dripping from him. It soaked deep. It made him heavy, like lead. He just stayed there, crouched and hurt and spinning, confused.

“What a lively answer. I’m sure she must have meant a lot to you, then!” Astyanax broke into laughter. It haunted the room with its echo. “She must have been important, right? Or was she just an excuse to validate your violence?”

He walked around, towards the door and stood Alestor on the way there. 

“I asked you what the nature of a man was and honestly, I find your answers lacking. Disappointing.” He left his mouth open and grinning. “Would you like to hear my answer? I’m a bit of an anthropologist, you see. Three thousand years of voyeuristic solitude does that for you.”

“No.” Dion put his face down. “No, shut up.”

Astyanax picked up his jaw.

“There are only two desires about a man that really matter. Only two. First, he fears death and does everything he can to avoid it. Second, he fears boredom. Which is another kind of death, the death of the soul. That’s it. There is nothing else to a man. Just those two. Read history, watch it, for it proves me right. That regardless of breed or color or place or time, all man seeks to do is resolve himself from boredom and death. Science, art, spiritual growth. All of it, frivolity. A dress up game for what is really just war. War of the mind, war of the heart, war of the soul. Children know this. That girl, Sophie, must have known this too. That games and war are the only noble things a man can do.

“Demon,” Dion repeated in defeat and denial. “Demon, demon.”

“Demon, man. You and I, all the same. A few minutes ago you were bent on decapitating this fellow.” He drew Alestor closer to him. “You act like your moral code mattered so much, but you can’t even argue the points. You’re a hypocrite. A compassionate, courageous, violent, hypocrite and I love it. I love you.”

The door opened again. Astyanax pushed Alestor through it. More people stepped through, and the door closed down to a sliver of light that began to cut down in between Dion’s body. From it, a warped voice.

“Think it over, Dion. It’d be no fun to just put a chain and collar around you. Why break a toy so early, right? So think it over. One soul for the many. That’s a very Jesus-thing to do so it should be right up your alley. Aha.”

They were gone and Dion was left almost comatose and lifeless. All the noise he made was simple and cold, the rhythmic breathing and rhythmic rocking of his head, like a storm had just passed through him. 

Eventually, he balled up. Alone, with the fire of the lags receding, he curled. Neither prisoner nor free agent, just hostage of a kind of guilt and fear.


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