Heathens

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

Chapter 66 (v.1) - Chapter 66

Submitted: January 19, 2018

Reads: 78

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Submitted: January 19, 2018

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Apollo

The Hyena mounted his back as he came up, past the hill where the rocks slid into small avalanches. He was out of the cave, back into the desert. To his rear were cacti and the pools of thick syrup, that they spilled out. There were small shells inside the droppings of the plant, oyster-like things that yawned at Apollo aa he came up. Eating the small things was a furry four-legged animal. Curled tail, pronounced mouth that dug into the earth like a spade. The Hyena leaped off of Apollos back and swatted it away. Then followed its flying body and paralyzed it with a neck bite. Apollo puffed his cheeks and blew slowly. He dried sweat from his face with his sleeve and sat on his ass on the hot dirt. 

He was out. Finally. He looked back down to the small hole he had come from, it made him feel like a mole. A ferret, perhaps. It was a hole coming out of a bulging corroded boulder, half embedded into the floor. He turned around again and atop the hill he could see it all. A forest of Joshua trees and the spiny vultures perching themselves atop dead stumps. 

“How far are we from those barracks you were talking about?” Apollo asked. The Hyena was finishing his meal. Coughing, and spitting out small bones from in between his teeth. 

“I’d say a couple miles off. You’d have to go past the trees.”

“And then? Any landmarks to help me navigate?”

“You won’t need them.  I'll lead you. Trust me.”

“Trust you, huh.” Apollo blew out. His hair pushed aside by the exhausted air.

It was hard to tell how long he sat, it felt like a long while, though the sky did not change. Nor were there clouds to pass, some wind, that was it. He could no longer hear the coast or feel the cool wind and behind him was the horizon, wavy and broken through the series of undulating grooves. He stood himself, the Hyena’s ears rose curiously. The tail wagged and they both went forward.

“I wouldn’t walk that casually if I were you.” The Hyena said. “Relaxed men are dead men here.”

“Why’s that?” 

“You’ll see. Be wary. Keep your head low.” 

Apollo did just that. His whole body maintained behind stone or dirt or tree. He did not know what he was looking out for, though felt the warning like a strong reverberation in his bones.  He was shaking. And somewhere along, when he cupped his hands by the side of a cactus and the water it spilled (or what looked like water), he felt the small pool vibrate. The sand disturbed and flowing in long threads from within the water surface. He looked up. The Hyena was aloof, biting his own tail. Grooming.

Apollo dragged his feet up to a corner, in between a small plateau and a Joshua tree with its long hands covering most of his body. His eyes peered out, past the little spines of green. He couldn’t see anything, just glistening from below like the stars had fallen. He rubbed his eyes. He swore those stars were moving, traveling and leaving little lines of white light from where they walked in synchronized tempo. 

He felt the earth tremble. The rocks skid downhill, the vultures with their bony wings traveled high. Four-eyed birds they were, all staring at a rough road ahead.

They were looking, all of them,  at the moving bodies. Clunky, shiny bodies like stars. 

Then he saw the banners. The giant red rectangle flags with the wolf head silhouette. He saw chariots driven by amputated creatures, not steeds though definitely burdened beasts, some of them walked lame and slowly, others with their missing lower halves crawled on their front hooves. Broken bodies forced to travel like a mistrung mannequin. 

The wheels spurred along. They made streaks in the soft sand and drove rote next to the warriors. 

Bastard Trojans, bastard Greeks, bastard Romans, with armor fashioned from trash and stone and bronze. Some properly armed, others more makeshift.  Some with metal, some with bone. Few with tags. Most completely nude with nothing but leather straps to contain them and their members. 

“Impressive. Isn’t it?” The Hyena said.

“Nudists and cosplayers, but can they fight?” He did not laugh. 

“They’re disciplined. I’m sure you could best them individually though.”

There were smaller mammals with them, predator types with long snouts who vacuumed the dirt in search of smell. Something of a cross between a hound and an anteater. Something both ridiculous and frightening. 

“Salpin. They're called salpines, after the instrument.” The Hyena  said. 

Apollo looked elsewhere. To the geared men with the odd leather. Odd in how faded color and amber the color was. Strange tanning, Apollo thought. What animal was that made out of? If it was made out of an animal, that is. He scratched his great head held his breath. His heart went still. 

Human, he thought. 

“It’d be stupid to go down there.” Apollo came down from his spot. “I can see my death already. All the numbers, all the people they’d throw at me until one of them would get lucky. Through carelessness, though tiredness. I’d be stabbed full of holes. Killed, if I’m lucky.”

“Oh, it can’t be that hard.” The Hyena smirked. “How many do you count? I’m sure you can wipe out a platoon or two.” 

“Logistics don’t matter. If I can’t kill all of them, there’s no point in even trying. I just need to get past them.”

“There are search parties all across. We’re entering their territory, after all. How do you expect to dodge them for however long we need?”

Apollo looked on again. His hand was above his eyes, shading him from the light. The fields were too wide, the Joshua trees too short in between. But there, to the left from where he stood, he saw a small cliff ridge. There was a long oak there too, growing by its side. He hissed, he clenched his teeth and looked back.

“Can you do me a favor? I have a plan.”

And the Hyena’s ears pointed up.

There were rows of five men, with four men to a line. A square then, of twenty, that walked together and in between one platoon from another,  a sizeable gap of twenty meters. It was a long chain and every other block hosted the strange hounds or the chariots. It was a sequence that went on for hours and that coughed up dirt and that filled the air with the noise of thunderous footsteps and a loud, blaring horn. An instrument hollowed from a double pointed tusk. A tusk of an alien creature. 

And by chance they chose a random block. And they stalked it. 

The two hid behind a small mound of dirt and watched it with scheming eyes. They looked at every person on that particular platoon, watched who lagged and who didn’t and when they were comfortable with their choice on the menu, Apollo moved. He went left.

The Hyena stared forward. There was a soldier with his gladius dangling uncomfortably low, who hesitated each couple of steps to fix the strappings of his weapon. And on one check, he had been too slow. The Hyena had ran low to the group, had camouflage its beige skin with the beige dirt and had swooped up to rip the weapon from this particulars hip. He ran with it. And all around his platoon, this unlucky soldier heard the hollering and the lip-smacking smear of insults.

“Must have confused it for a bone.” One said. He had an eye patch.

“Limp hands, limp dick.” More banter. 

“What? Legs broke? Go catch it!” Another one with two puss-filled holes for ears said. He pushed the unlucky soldier forward. And this soldier, angry at the school of laughter behind him, stuck his sharp tongue in the gap between his front teeth. He played with his gums and chewed on his inner walls and slapped his helmet firmly in place. 

“Bested by a bitch!” Another imbecile cried.

At last, he sprinted. Through the even dirt, pushing himself against trees, wrapping around trinks. Running, kicking dirt into the air. And at every corner, the Hyena outwitted him, forced him to trip on brushes.  Switched sharply, stained his ankles. 

It made the unlucky soldier angrier. And enraged, he threw his shield. The Hyena jumped forward, fell to the cliff and ducked the shield. It looked like a saucer as it flew, and crashed like one too. 

The soldier came to the cliff side and sighed. He looked the far distance his shield had traveled, not necessarily a steep fall but a long way ahead. He shook his head. He wiped the drool from his lips and with his stupid, bitter face, looked down. 

His mouth collapsed inward.

The soldier's teeth scattered. For a blade had been stabbed in his neck and out through his mouth. Apollo, whose feet gripped at the cliff wall and whose eyes stared up as the blood fell on his face. The demon twitched. He tried gripping the blood. And at last, through the shock of the blow, through the constant bleeding, he stood still and lifeless. Apollo could finally breathe safely. He undid his knife and heard the desperate attempts to scream the demon had tried, it sounded like gurgling where the gape in his neck was.

After a while, the demon fell like timbre, down the cliff and past Apollo who followed the corpse below.

Apollo lifted the corpses head so the blood could spray outward. He tried too at least, but the helmet slipped from his hand and the face planted itself into the floor. The blood would seep through the cracks into the floor, into the cavernous sewage of the desert below. He looked at the helmet, see how it fit and wearing it, began to strip the corpses armor. The bandages he wore on his legs, the skirt, the chest plate, the sandals. Every piece and every accessory until he too was rattling with bones and bronze.

Anything he could not keep he put inside his coat and let disappear through his insignia, that pocket dimension of his. Everything else he wore armor over. He fitted himself, strapped it tightly to his body and started to adjust himself to the claustrophobic gear. Not flexible, not good.

From behind he heard cutting. Then the spreading of muscle and flesh like surgery. He looked behind him, the Hyena was holding the demon's heart. It had some crystal like growths on it like a mineral tumor. It was brightly colored, delectable even (he was afraid to call it delectable though his mouth salivated). But it was human. Very human, still beating too.

“No, that’s not for me.” Apollo put his palm up.

“You need this, don’t you? You’re getting weaker.” 

“I do need it but not from him. Not from a human.”

“What human being do you see?” The Hyena slapped his tail against the lifeless face of the soldier. “All I see is degenerate trash.”

“So what? It was a human being once, long ago maybe, but once.”

“Oh, is this not the categorical example of a demon? Is it not in your textbook, in your code? Find me a difference between what you see and what you would call a demon so I may tell you how arbitrary it really is.”

“It’s not fucking arbitrary if it makes me feel awful. Alright?” Apollo knocked on his helmet. “It may seem odd to you but it makes me feel sick, the thought of eating that. It’s like cannibalism.”

“You’re not human yourself.”

“I’m human enough.”

“Oh. Rational Apollo? Thoughtful Apollo? This is your fence line?” The Hyena smirked. “How do you expect to survive through this with your trivial inhibitions? This is war. Eat it.”

“I’d rather eat shit.” He did not give the Hyena a chance to appease. He did not want to stare at the heart any longer either. Between his wobbling feet and his gelatin arms, he was being tempted and it was making him feel weak.

“We’re moving out,” Apollo said, dismissively. 

He couldn’t turn his back.

“Hmph. Fine.” The Hyena swallowed the heart whole. “Where are we going then? Back to the group?”

“No. They’ll find out where the body is eventually and I have no interest in hiding it.” Apollo walked. “We’ll go far enough, try to fool as many scouts as we can and hopefully we can make it to barracks before he does.” He pointed to the corpse. The blood was staining the naked body. 

“Hopefully they won’t find the murdered too soon.” Apollo tied his sandals.

“Calling it murder, now? They’re already dead.”

He did not answer. He fixed a balaclava on his mouth and rubbed sand out of his eyes as he pushed his body through the fleeting waves of sand.


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