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22. Introductory

VuGbZ

Consider…

Trust. Loyalty. Honor.

Family. Love. Devotion.

The Ransoms. The Merricks. The Hunters.

Three’s always been my favorite number. I can’t explain why, but there’s just a mentally satisfying effect to it. Two or four are even, balanced. Five just seems…redundant. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

Legends are tricky. Usually they are the result of death; only after the source has passed away can the legend concept take hold. A legend is a story that lives on and is told repeatedly with mixed tones of pride and wonder. Every so often, the rules are bent. And on a very rare occasion, they are shattered.

The pieces are scattered on the floor, begging to be picked up. And the few that try will get cut. And those cuts will leave permanent scars. The pieces must remain. Only these three are capable of working with the pieces. If they get cut, I doubt they feel it.

Here’s to the Trio of Treason. Reborn.

As Merrick. As Hunter. As Ransom.

“It was all a circus, a three ring circus, that’s all life is. It keeps so much going on at once that you don’t know where to look, but you have to keep going. That’s why the Trio of Treason worked so well. Each of us had our eye on only one ring and we’d explain it to one another slowly. It helped us communicate and understand. We had each other to lean on. Always. The Trio was born of hate and deceit, yet it survived many a cold winter and persevered a desperate existence. We made it work because it was necessary that we have each other. Faith, hope and love, the pillars of true human expression.”

– Volume III: We, the Damned / Part 1: Fiction / Chapter 28: Renewal

 

That’s where the idea started. Of the three. Of the Trio. That’s where the concept was born. And they took it and ran with it. They ran with it to Hell and back. The originals were nothing like this. And they couldn’t be if they tried. It required a special upbringing for something like this. And the new generation had it.

The wheel turns, the cycle continues, but we’re only returning to where we’ve begun. We were here years ago, with different kids, during different times. Society hasn’t changed much since then, the world’s rotted away that little bit more. Time and oxygen spent, nothing more. This is the beginning of another rotation. And this rotation is merely part of a larger course. Everything is part of something more.

The truth is this. It starts here. Everything up front with as few surprises as possible. My name is Harley Morrow. I’m…in my early 30s now. Time flies…I’m an artist. I’m a writer, a guitarist, a barkeep, a freak…I’m an adopted child to my family of freaks. I’m an outcast, a misfit – different. I’m unique.

Our main players are simple:

Miss Angyl Hunter – Age 19. Works at the Black Dragon tattoo parlor. Up and coming…whatever she was, she had connections. Trouble walking. Child of Entropy Hunter and Elysium Merrick. Parents both killed by Toryn Ransom. Loyalty – to oneself. Family – devoted to. Warning: Rabid.

Miss Maven Merrick – Age 16. Works at the Drowning Raven bar, and my replacement as ringleader of the Gothik-Serkis. Up and coming artist. Trouble walking. Child of Pandora Riddle and Doyle Merrick. Doyle killed by Serkis Solace. Trust – misplaced. Love – abundant lack of. Warning: Subconsciously insane.

Mister Revere Ransom – Also known as Rev. Age 16. Works the streets or at the Gothik-Serkis in his spare time. Up and coming street boss. Trouble walking. Child of Vagrant Ransom and Requiem Draft. Parents killed by Layne and Serkis Solace. Honor – preservation of. Devotion – to family. Warning: Contagious.

And there they are. To better understand who and what they were would require a long explanation of history. To know them is to know where they’ve come from. Putting it into their own words might be more effective in understanding how they perceive themselves and others. I’m just here on the side, telling the story as I see it or hear it. You’d be surprised how much I’ve been able to just…stumble across in my time. All types of information seem to just fall in my lap these days. I work at the bar still. Being with Lucidius, I’m at the tattoo shop often. And I was there as two of the three grew up. I had a hand in helping raise them.

Lucidius was the old street boss, the second to retire since Doyle. Layne’s let him mostly take over things on top, the actual traffic of things. Lucid’s replacement was a kid less insane, but that’s probably what got him killed. Lucid reigned for about half a decade before someone else took charge. They ruled for maybe a year. There was another two or three, and then we got to Rev. He was a natural to take over – he was raised with this.

Maven took over my spot as the ringleader of the circus. It bore its old name, and always would, because that’s what established it. I was glad to be done with it, to be away. She was enjoying it. She hung around the shop or the bar whenever she got bored, knew everyone everywhere. But when they hired that girl at the shop, the family insisted that the kids stay away. And they did as they were told because they were good kids. And we had purpose for our actions. We had good reason for concern.

 

Miss Angyl Hunter had come into town. She’d always been around, but now she was out in the open, in the free world. And she had a job. Pike and Syn, the owners of the shop, left kids in charge more and more. They probably okayed the hire but never actually met Angyl. They wouldn’t come to meet her for a while. And when they finally did, there wouldn’t be time to regret it. That girl could smile daggers, and you’d still move closer to her for each doubt that crossed your mind. She was something wicked.

And that’s the basic set up, that’s the ranks. That’s how things are to start with. That’s where we come in. The set up. Times are about to change, there’s going to be some shaking up along the way. But here’s the establishment, up front. Here are the facts and from here on in, I’ll be your trustworthy source for the whole truth. When you are led astray by our young friends here who live through lies and deception you can always turn your glance over to me. I’ll always be here.

Lucidius and I. And of course, our daughter – Relic Fallen Mason, her first name inspired by the lost Hunter. Angyl’s departed aunt, killed tragically during her child’s christening. I almost forgot to mention her. She’s almost 13 now. Our own baby girl.

So trust in me.

My word is gold.

21. Damned – Click. Bang.

21 - Angyl

20. Torn – Click. Bang.

EffY8

We walked home in silence. Not a word was spoken. Whether or not she knew what had happened, what I had done…I didn’t know. I was cold and tired; I could feel the shakes deep beneath the layers of my skin. It was deep, held in my bones. I didn’t have to ask if she knew. She was my mother. She had to know. Mothers have a way of figuring things out without trying. She was just that good. My mother knew everything. I had heard the stories; I knew the truth. Her upbringing made her how she was. She had every reason to be like…this. She had her arm around my shoulder, holding me close to her. Her fingers dug into my shoulder almost in a desperate manner, as if she could lose me by not holding on tight enough.

We walked home in silence. Then again, I might have only imagined it. I was having problems discerning what was and wasn’t real. The Dragon had burned. I had seen the frame, still smoldering. I had smelt the ashes. The evidence was all over my clothes, in my hair. My eyes seemed to be covered with a thin sheet of ash that made everything seem…unclear. I couldn’t tell you the date or the time. I couldn’t tell you why I did what I did. Why I followed Angyl. Why I trusted her. I don’t know. I honestly don’t. Believe me.

Rev trusted her. But he’s a guy, of course he would. Why did I trust him? All guys are liars. I don’t know what’s wrong with me sometimes, why I make such foolish decisions. Why I never seem to trust my better judgment. If I even have “better” judgment. I don’t think I make many judgments at all these days. I should have known better. Should. Key word. Then again…no, there is no excuse. This happened. It’s real. And as hard as I try, as much as I shake my head or blink my eyes, it won’t go away. It won’t just…disappear. This is here. This is the now and the always and I have to deal with the consequences of it now. There’s no other choice. I tried to clear my head, make the thoughts and the ranting stop, but it just wouldn’t go.

 

We got home. My mother went her own separate way, walking to her room and closing the door quietly behind her. It wasn’t a slam or anything; it was just a very quiet, very careful, click. And that was that. I went off to my own room, minding my own business. I knew better than to get on her nerves right now. I knew better than to push her buttons. That would be asking for trouble. I was a wreck and there was no point putting her through it too. I’d be a wreck all on my own. No point in getting others involved. Especially my own mother. You could say that I loved her too much for all that. But I’m not entirely sure if it’d be true. Like I said, I’m not quite sure about anything anymore. How can anybody really be sure?

I sat and thought about the family. Not this. My real family. The Merricks. I thought about them all – Cicero and Vincent, I thought about my great-uncle Magus. I thought about Elysium, my grandmother. Long since dead. She was insane. Most of them were insane. Doyle was dead now too, my father. All of them, gone, lost. All of them mad – save Magus. He was the only sane one of the entire bunch. My great-grandparents were a joke. The entire line, all of it. There was no fighting the truth. As much I loved them, hearing about them, pretending I knew them once upon a time…the truth was there, shining in blood red. They were dead. All of them. And I’d join them someday. And the family would be ended. There would be no more Merricks. Save my mother. And she refused the name anyway for the most part. She was her father’s daughter. She was Pandora Riddle, now and forever.

I went to my room and sat on the bed. Sitting turned into lying down. I put my hands behind my head and tried to relax. I should shower. I should have tried to clean the mess. But I couldn’t. It was too deep now. It was below the skin, burning within the bone, in my heart and soul. There was no getting rid of it now. I closed my eyes and opened them again; nothing could make the fact that I was here go away. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t rest. I couldn’t clear my mind. I just couldn’t make the raging ideas…stop. I rolled over, tossed, turned, and quit. I looked around the room, trying to come up with something to waste my time on. There was nothing to be done. The past was gone. There was no present. And because of this, the future was screwed. And I had to accept this.

I got up and paced around my room for a while. Nothing to be done. My mother had no words for me. She knew though. She knew I took her past. She knew I burned it. I didn’t know how to make amends with her; I didn’t know how to make amends with anything or anyone. I would have to start over. I didn’t want anything to do with Angyl anymore. And Rev was on her team. I’d make my own way.

That’s right. I’d start over. I’d get by on my own steam somehow. Rev was on Angyl’s side; he would side with her over me any day. It didn’t make sense, and above all, it wasn’t really fair. I couldn’t talk to him about my uncertainty. I didn’t trust Angyl. Something was wrong. Something was very…wrong. But he went with it. And for a while, so did I. And to this day, I still don’t know why. I have no idea. No clue. But here I am. And here we all are. And this is what needs to be done.

I paced around some more and sat down again. I sat and thought. I thought until it hurt and I cried without feeling. The tears just seemed to slip out of my eyes without my knowledge. I had my face in my hands and the only way I knew I was crying was when I pulled my hands away and saw the tears. Nothing made sense. Nothing seemed real. But this is here. This is now. And this is dealing. This is my trying to cope. This is adaptation.

It was at that moment that the phone rang and I reached over to pick it up. It was Rev.

And naturally, there was trouble.

 

I picked up and I was told not to talk. I was told to listen. I was told to run. I was told to trust him. I was told that Angyl was the enemy. I was told that he was sorry. I was told that he loved me and no matter what, he’d be there for me. I was told that we were in this together. I was told that he was sorry until the words seemed to get lost in his voice. He kept telling me the same things, over and over.

The last thing he said to me was –

“Break the cycle. To the last, kid.”

And I heard Angyl’s voice, a tone that could never be mistaken or forgotten.

“Smile,” she said.

And with that, I knew that Rev was dead.

And I didn’t know what to feel. Or if I even honestly cared all that much. He was like a brother to me – we were raised together. We were kids from families that never should have been able to breed. But we were here. He was gone. He was dead. I was left.

And she was left.

He told me to run. He told me to go to the sewers. And I picked up my coat and bolted out the door. My mother didn’t even know I’d left, then again, if she did, I doubted she’d stop me. She seemed so indifferent sometimes. Now wasn’t the time to be concerned about that. I got outside, down to the street, looked up and down slowly, then made my way to the bar. From there, I could get down into the sewers. I’d be safe. She’d never get to me there. And I’d be home. Always. It was my domain. My safe haven.

I got to the bar to find Harley still there. She looked up slightly when she saw me. I felt terrible, and she looked just as bad. I went over to the bar, not too quickly, but quick enough so she could feel the urgency.

“Harley, I need a favor.”

She looked up at me. She was sitting behind the bar, trying to zone out. Her eyes took a moment to wander back in my direction. She nodded indifferently.

“I need a gun.”

She raised a brow curiously, standing up as she did. She stretched out, looked around. She looked me up and down, put both her hands on the bar, and bent down low to my level.

“For who?”

“For me, who else?”

She smiled a silly little smile. “No, I mean, who’s on the receiving end?”

I shook my head. “I don’t have time for this. Rev’s dead. Please?”

Harley must have known from the sound of my voice, or the look on my face. She walked a few steps, looked around idly, and produced a gorgeous weapon. It was a gun of beauty I’d never seen, then again, very few had ever let me hold one. She came back and placed it in my hands carefully, as if the impact might shatter it. I looked up at her.

“Be careful kid, I’ll be expecting it back.”

“Is it loaded?”

“Yes,” she nodded.

“And if I don’t come back?”

She looked around, shrugging. “Then I guess I’ll just have to collect it myself.”

 

And with that, we shook hands. We locked eyes for a moment, as I turned to walk away, I looked back at her. She had such a lost expression, as if she didn’t belong, as if she were beyond all this, by years and centuries. But here she was. In the loop. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to apologize. But I couldn’t stop. I made my way down into the sewers. I started to run. And I was almost at the door – I was nearly gone, when I stopped.

I stopped because if I ran now, I’d always be running. I’d never get away from her. If she were determined to find me, she’d follow to the ends of the Earth to make good on her word. She would find me; she would track me down. And the longer she had to wait, the harder she had to try, the more I’d have to hurt for it. It was just that simple. I turned around, gun in hand. And I waited. I stood there, body locked, square. And I waited until I heard the steps echo in the empty hallway. The quiet, even but definite steps. My damnation crept my way in the wavering light.

She called my name in a haunting tone, multiple times as she crept closer. I tried to make it stop. I fought to hold my ground. I wouldn’t back down now. I was here. I was armed. We would end this. There wouldn’t be a fight or a struggle. I had the motive. I had the means. This would end, here and now. I would avenge Rev. I would end the madness. And she’d pay for her crimes. I would do this alone because I had to. Because she put me to this option. Because she had killed the most important person in my life. I would stop her. She would hurt like I did. I wouldn’t suffer anymore for her madness. No. She would pay, as we all did.

“In case you haven’t heard – Rev’s dead. Aw, poor dear,” she said.

“I thought we were the new Trio? You drop out of nowhere and you expect us to trust you? It’s not all that surprising that Rev’s dead.”

I knew that she’d killed him. I had heard the final shot. The sound had blown through my mind at the same instant the bullet had gone through his head. I wanted to shoot her, right now. I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to hear her. I didn’t want to fight or try. This was it. This was the standoff. But I had to face her – I had to take it. If I didn’t let her have her say, I’d never live it down, I’d always wonder. I had to let it all run its course. I couldn’t fuck it up.

“Well it’s no surprise to me, I was there, I killed him myself. I planned this.”

I was prepared for this. I had my comeback ready, to try and damage her front, to try and break through – “Rev and I are the last of the great families. You’re just the fuck up, the kid nobody wanted. Isn’t it tragic that you have to destroy better names to make yours survive? “

“Maven, darling, I don’t really have time for this. I’m just here to end it.”

I put my arms out, the gun in plain sight. I wanted to appear vulnerable but not too weak. I wanted to be confident, I wanted her to back down. I didn’t know how much longer I could hold on. I didn’t know if I could push her. “So come on, end it, kill me – get it over with.”

“I’ve pulled the trigger before…I don’t believe you have. Wouldn’t you want the privilege?”

I laughed out loud, my body fighting back the shakes. Was she even remotely serious? What was she on? “You’re going to let me shoot you?”

“As suicidal as this whole plan may seem, that wasn’t exactly my point.”

“So what is the point?” I yelled. I was losing patience fast.

“The point is…Maven, darling, I don’t really feel like killing you. I’ve been running around killing people all night, and I really think you should save me the effort.”

I quirked a brow almost offended by the audacity of her request. She was being foolish. I had no reason to kill myself. Right? I could hack it. I could do this alone. I would have to. She left me no choice. I tried to think about what to do. I wanted to shoot her. It ran through my head, the actions, the effort involved. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t just do it, pull the trigger and get it over with.

 

“Now why would I want to do that?” I questioned, too softly.

“Because you just burned down the Dragon. You’re a criminal. You conspired to murder, and Rev’s gone. Which is really kind of tragic…considering he was the stronger one. What are you going to do with yourself?”

She was hitting on my heart and for a minute I faltered. I let her in – I let her get the best of me. I opened up just enough that the shakes got worse and I could feel myself falling. I could feel the games slip away and I could feel myself losing, inch by inch. She was taking over and the longer I stood there the more I was certain that she would beat me.

“You burnt down the Dragon! You planned everything. You’ve got no proof!”

“You’re just as guilty as I am. If you’d told Rev that I was evil, he wouldn’t be dead now, would he? I might’ve pulled the trigger, but you were the bullet in the gun, kid.”

Something in me snapped, I felt the tears slowly sneak from my eyes. I couldn’t hide them. I tried to turn away, wiping my eyes immediately when I realized, angry with myself for breaking. But I couldn’t stop the fall now. There was nothing to make it end. I screamed at her at the top of my lungs. She was the object of my hate:

“You’re lying!”

“Rev’s gone, what are you going to do without him?”

“I’ll make it,” I whispered.

“No, actually, you’re going to kill yourself. See, I don’t have much longer to stand around and talk.”

I tried to straighten out, to stand tall. To be brave. I tried to show her that this wasn’t hurting as much as it was. I was still crying. I was shaking almost uncontrollably. I couldn’t get a grip. I’d have to shoot her and walk away. But I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger. In an effort to be strong, I laughed at her in a hollow tone.

“Why would I take orders from you?” I demanded.

“You did everything else I asked. You had a hand in everything – without you none of this would have been possible. Why should now be any different? And besides, you’d get to be with Rev. You really can’t hack it alone, and you know it.”

Having nothing left, no better defense, nothing more than tears to lose myself to, I heard myself whisper simply – “What were his last words?”

“He was a fighter to the last. He said he’d “save you a seat”. I don’t think he wants to be alone either.”

At this point, I couldn’t stop crying. I stopped standing, finding myself curled up on the ground, shaking – curled up in a ball like a child. I couldn’t fight anymore – I couldn’t run. There was nowhere to go. Nowhere was safe. The game was over and I had lost. She had won. She had taken all the pieces and owned everything. She had my life in the palm of her hand – it was just that simple. There was no fighting her now. I tried to, but I couldn’t even get my voice to come to a convincing level.

“I can’t,” I whispered.

“Kid, everything will be okay. You’ll be with Rev, and he’ll take care of you, just like always. It’s not that hard.”

 

“How can you just walk away?” I said, between tears and coughs and all else, from my place on the ground, below her. I was beaten and I knew it. I had nothing left. My family didn’t care – Rev was gone. We were in this together. His mistake was mine. I was responsible. I would take the blame. I would take the fall. How could she be so cold? How could she just turn away and let it be? I couldn’t understand. I wanted the truth – I wanted answers. I wanted…compassion.

“Just like this.”

And she walked away.

And she left me there. Curled up, crying. Arguing with myself, pleading for release. I sat there for a few seconds, considering my alternatives. There were none. She was right. I was beaten. And she’d known it the moment she pulled the trigger on Rev. I had known it too, but I was too stubborn to admit it. The one time in my life I try to stand up, and I’m only fighting time. This was inevitable. I can’t hack it alone. I know it. She knew it ages ago. She was always better. I just refused to admit it. I didn’t want to see because I always knew it too.

I was beaten by the Queen of Lies. She truly was every bad thing I could come up with.

And then some.

But as the line goes, we really never did see her coming.

Maybe, in some sick, twisted little way, we deserve this. Maybe.

I’ll be seeing you.

Smile. For me?

19. Exiled – Click. Bang.

19 chap

It was gone. The Dragon burned down to nothing more than a frame of ash. Eventually, that too would collapse. And there would be nothing but the memory. Nothing else would remain. The dust and ash would blow away into the wind and be lost from us. Just the memory – preserved in the minds of those who were there.

The Trio.

We would remember because we’d seen it. We would always know, until the end of time, that we had been the Dragon’s downfall. Nobody else was there. Nobody else had seen the truth. Only from our lips could flow honesty. And it would never happen. We didn’t know the meaning of the word “truth” and it wasn’t humanly possible for us to live through honesty. We were liars, cheats, thieves…we were demons.

Angyl had gone. Maven took off. I started home, thinking things over. The question that we were all stuck on was what to do next. I wasn’t entirely sure. I figured I’d go home, sleep it off, and attack things the next day. Start new.

The only thing that kept going through my mind was Angyl. She was something else. She was a force of nature and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t get her out of my head. She had singlehandedly destroyed our history. She had accomplished something in a matter of days that I could never do. I could never have done something of that caliber…ever. She was a girl. She was older. Theoretically wiser. The bottom line remained – she was better. She was better than I could ever be. She beat me at my own game. I prided myself on running the streets, on having complete control. In the end, she had more control than I ever had.

I debated calling Irish over. She was a great comfort, but it had been a long night. We’d have a lot of talking to do. I decided to save that for tomorrow. Right now, my mind was on overload. I wanted nothing more than to just sleep.

The streets seemed emptier, or maybe they were just darker. I had no idea what time it was. Sometime in the morning I’d assume, or late night. I felt like I’d been awake for years. I got to my place after an eternity’s walk, trudging up the steps. I had to go up a few flights to get to mine. I could feel the dirt and ash on my skin; the smell filled my lungs. I put the key in the lock and pushed the door open, my eyes to the ground. Sleep never seemed so welcoming.

Everything was where it should have been. I listened to the quiet tick of clocks in the place, the sound that never ended and would drive me crazy at night. I shrugged and moved off to the bedroom, sliding my jacket off to throw it on a chair. Something stirred and I pulled my gun from the back of my pants, where it’d been tucked into the waistband. Wheeling around, I found I had my gun leveled at Angyl.

“Can I help you?” I demanded.

“I’m glad you don’t shoot first and ask questions later,” she replied simply.

“What are you doing here?” I tried to calm down, but her presence didn’t make sense. It just didn’t sit well with me.

“I just dropped in to talk to you…and you weren’t here, so I figured I’d just let myself in.”

Hearing that she had no particular purpose, I decided to ease up, putting the gun down on the dresser, emptying out my pockets as I spoke:

“What’s so important that you had to “drop” in?”

“We have debts to settle. You still owe me something.”

This made absolutely no sense. I turned around again, walking a few steps while we spoke. I was pacing involuntarily. I needed to keep moving to keep my mind working. If I sat still, if I stopped, I’d lose focus. I was falling asleep standing up, and now was not the time to doze off.

“What are you talking about? I did everything you asked.”

 

“I set this whole thing up. I know you didn’t get Harley’s story.”

She knew the truth. I tried to play it cool, I would have to. To make this work, to get away with my screw up, I would have to pretend like I had no idea what she was talking about. She had me figured out. She knew the truth. But I couldn’t let her win. I was bigger, I was better. This was my home. This was my safe haven. She was in restricted territory as it was. I came up with the best defense I could –

“It burned, I did just as you asked, I kept up my end.”

“This is Harley we’re talking about. She doesn’t like you, and for that matter, she doesn’t like anyone. She’s been through this all already and she’s not going to give some punk street demon her story. And you might be really good at what you do, but I don’t quite think you’re talented enough to steal it from her. I knew you weren’t going to get her story.”

This conversation was going in circles. But it was going in circles around me. We’d switched places in the room – I stood near the bed while she stood near the dresser I had started at. The door was out of reach. And besides, what kind of reputation would I have if I ran now? I couldn’t be beaten by a girl. By a stranger. Who the hell did she think she was anyway? No. I couldn’t let it come to this.

“So you go through all this trouble, break into my apartment, just to kill me? Aw, I’m flattered,” I replied to her, mockingly. I felt the false smile spread across my lips, as I strained to make it look more…accurate. I tried to mimic her familiar gestures of confidence.

“Yeah babe, I kind of thought you would be.”

I laughed. I was losing my calm, but I had to make it look like I knew what I was doing. I looked her dead in the eye, trying to stare her down before saying: “I’m every bad name you could think of, and then some. But nobody ever saw me coming.”

I looked around the room, scanning the top of the dresser – the gun was missing. I had left it there when I emptied my pockets. I tried to run the conversation back in my mind, thinking, desperate to figure out what happened, where it had gone. I came up empty. I looked around the room in a bored type of way, trying to intimidate her. I wanted her to see that I wasn’t amused. I wasn’t impressed. I had other weapons stashed, but for the life of me, I couldn’t think of where I’d put them. Of all times, of all days…this couldn’t be real. A girl, a fucking female…my downfall. No. It wouldn’t happen, it couldn’t. I returned my sight to her.

“Actually, I believe it’s – I’m every bad name you could come up with, and then some. But nobody ever saw me coming. And I’m the best you’ve ever seen. And darling, I saw you coming a mile off. Sorry to break it to you.”

I took this cue to make a dash for the bed. There would have been a gun under the pillow. I keep it there for safety reasons, it was just…convenient. It had been a wise decision that had worked out for the better in more ways than one over time. I had barely gone to motion for it when the pain tore through my stomach and I hit the ground with the all-too-familiar thud.

Click. Bang.

“You fucking bitch,” I muttered.

“Rev, do you really think I would let you miss out on this? That I’d just let you die? This is pain you’ll never get to feel again. This is being able to feel the difference between living and dying. You’ll know what it’s like to slowly die. To watch your own life end. I would never let you miss out on something as memorable as this.”

 

“I’ll save you a seat, Angyl,” I swore. This was the end – this was my downfall. I was going to just lie here and bleed out. She wouldn’t end it quickly; she couldn’t do me that simple favor. I could expect no mercy. Part of me knew better, but it was worth trying. Getting help was out of the question, but I’d make an effort in attempting to stop the wheel from turning again.

“Revere, darling, how does it feel to be endless? Please, give Toryn my regards.”

And she stepped out of the room. I looked past her, watching the shadow disappear, hearing the steps die. Digging through my pockets, I found my cell phone. I hit as few keys as was necessary to get the phone to ring Maven. I prayed desperately that she’d be home, that she’d trust me – that she’d listen.

She picked up and I told her not to talk. I told her to listen. I told her to run. I told her to trust me. I told her that Angyl was the enemy. I told her that I was sorry. I told her that I loved her and no matter what, I’d be there for her. I told her that we were in this together. I told her I was sorry until the words hurt in my throat. I kept telling her the same things, over and over, as the steps came back into the room. As I felt the shadow looming over me. As I considered, for a moment, how it felt to be on the receiving end.

The last thing I ever heard, the note that I died on, echoing in my ears with the sound of the shot, right after I had nearly finished repeating my warnings for the third time, was a solitary word that Angyl said to me. Maven was still holding.

“Break the cycle. To the last, kid,” I whispered.

“Smile.”

Bang.

18. Damned – Forgive Me, Father

18 - Angyl

17. Torn – Division of Assets

vXY3s

I woke up at the circus, in the sewers, in my own little den. It was dark. I couldn’t remember how I got here, how, why. I got up carefully, staggering around in the darkness. There was a note from Rev. A really long note. It explained what had happened. It explained that the Drakes were dead. That Angyl had killed them. And that there was more to be done. As I read it, I could feel a tear slipping down my cheek.

Who would carry them away?

The note continued to explain that I’d go back to my mother. And I’d take all her negatives, the pictures, everything, all proof of the past. And I’d bring it to the Dragon. I’d put together all the pieces. Anything she had that proved the existence of anyone I would take with me. This was my assignment. I was to get everything to the Dragon as soon as possible. And I wasn’t allowed to screw up. I would make it work. I got my bearings and started home, the letter stuffed into a pocket. It listed things that we would have to assemble, most of which Angyl would procure. I was responsible for everything in my mother’s possession. Listed were a few things that they weren’t sure of, so I was to search the place, see if we had them. I repeated the instructions to myself, over and over again. Just in case. Just in case. Leave nothing. Nothing.

The point was this – to completely destroy all evidence. The stories that were going through the streets would be reduced to mere fairy tales. There would be no proof that could be procured. The survivors were dead. The documents – burned. There was nothing. But this. We would end it. Once and for all. We would wipe the slate clean. And it wouldn’t matter anymore. We’d put all the old dogs to sleep. And there would be nothing. If anyone came looking for it, it would be gone. Done. For always. It was just that simple. I made my way home.

I cleared my mind of guilt by the time I got to the door. It was dark. It was late. My mother should be sleeping. Hopefully. I opened the door, closing it behind myself as best as I could without making a sound. I crept to the bedroom, peering in. My mother’s back was to me, her body heaving peacefully as she slept. I let out a sigh of relief, and started searching the apartment.

It took me about an hour to assemble everything listed. And I found some extra stuff too, stuff that I didn’t even think my mother realized was there. I left everything out in the hall, quietly moving through the place. I had a series of boxes sitting out in the hall. How was I supposed to get this where it needed to go?

Seems that Angyl and Rev thought of that. I looked down the hall and found one of Rev’s closer lackeys. He trotted over simply.

 

“Need a hand?” he said. I recognized Colt. He was Rev’s second in command. I nodded and he picked up the larger of the boxes, while I picked up another. Between the two of us, we managed. We crept down the stairs and out of the building, sweat pouring down my forehead. I could only imagine my mother’s reaction if she woke up to this. She’d want answers. And sadly, I had none. I was merely following orders. I didn’t know what they were up to now, or why. But I did as I was told. I collected pieces of the puzzle, picture evidence. I kept the one picture that I had tucked in my pocket. It was mine and handing it over was never part of the deal. Colt helped me get to the shop and quickly took leave. He was gone before I could begin to ask where he was going. I looked around.

The lights were on in the Dragon, even though it was late, or early. It was uncertain if the place ever closed, but this was different. This just felt…out of place. I looked around. Nobody around. I started dragging the boxes inside.

Rev was sitting behind the counter aimlessly when I got inside. He was leafing through papers, skimming information. He seemed interested in a very dull sense of the word. He looked up as I came in. I dropped the box I was carrying in the middle of the floor and went outside for the other one. He hadn’t moved from where he sat, feet up, relaxing.

Angyl was floating around, busily moving around the place. I couldn’t understand what she was up to. Until I smelt the air, until I heard the splash of the gasoline on the tile floors. I turned my eyes from one to the other, searching for answers of some kind. There were none to be had, just the overwhelming silence. I could feel a scream welling up in my chest; when it got too hard to contain I went outside. I collapsed onto my hands and knees, heaving gasping breathes. I couldn’t breathe that well – I could feel tears streaming down my cheeks. And I couldn’t begin to understand what was wrong. Like a part of me was dying here. Like this had gotten out of control, too fast. I heard steps and found Rev next to me. He put out a hand to help me. I stood next to him.

We stood together, side by side. Angyl came out last. She produced a lighter, flipped the top back, and threw it back in. A small trail of flame crept up at first, and before we knew it, the place was engulfed.

The end of the Black Dragon was here before us. The flames danced in the early morning, escaping only to the air. They seemed constrained, only dangerous to the Dragon. They didn’t move on to other buildings. This catastrophe was reserved for the Dragon only. Lucid would have nothing. This would be the last straw – he’d go insane. But that didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Except the flames.

We were burning down all proof of anything. We were burning down thirty years of pain. Thirty years of madness. Burning the obituaries of the lost. Burning their written words. Burning everything that screamed their existence. It was the end of all debate. The stories that remained were nothing more than fairy tales now. There was no proof to be had. None. I had one picture. That was the only reminder I had. That was the only remnant of the past that I had. As I stood there, I wondered if the others had pieces that we didn’t know about. Wouldn’t matter.

This was the end of it. She wouldn’t need us anymore – I could feel it. She finished what she set out to do. And that would be the end of that. From here on out, we were individuals. There would be no trust, no unity. I stayed a step away from them as the place burned, desperate to be out of reach. I was beyond this, ages away. My mind was falling apart – I could feel it. I wanted to scream. But I couldn’t. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I took off running. And I ran until my legs couldn’t hold me anymore.

 

I ran and I tripped and fell and I got up and kept going. I ran all night. I ran until the morning came. And when there was nothing left, no thoughts, no actions…I stopped. I stopped. I took a breath and looked around. And there was nothing. There was the fog, the mist that made all else uncertain. I couldn’t believe it. But here I was. I looked around. And I collected my thoughts. There were no thoughts to be had. I felt the still wet tears. And I looked up.

And the remains of the Dragon were before me. I couldn’t stop crying. I collapsed to my knees again, alone, in this desolate place. There was nothing left. Just a dismal frame and ash. That was the end. There was nothing to withstand the shift and the madness. All that would remain was the feeble reminder of what was, and the sifting ash, floating through the air listlessly. This was it. I couldn’t stop crying. And I stayed there until a hand took hold of my shoulder. I could feel the fingers dig in. I took a feeble glance over my shoulder.

“Let’s go home.”

And I got up. I shook my head. And I turned away. There was nothing left here. As in my mind, there was nothing of substance. And I fell in step. I avoided her eyes.

“Yes, Mother.”

And we went home.

16. Exiled – Trimming Loose Ends

ANfUt

I came full circle, back to Maven’s in record time. From there, the bar was just a trip upstairs. Harley was still there. I swear, that place never closes. Lucid wasn’t around. Neither was Harley’s daughter. She was alone. There was a lot of that going around lately. I came in as she was cleaning tables.

“Hey, look what the cat dragged in,” she said, smiling up at me.

“Hey Harl, got a minute?”

She looked at her watch. “A couple. What’s the trouble?”

I sat myself down at a table that she’d already been to. I looked at myself in its shining surface. I looked terrible. I looked like a liar. I looked like I hadn’t slept. Like I was dying. I put my hands over my face, trying to rub my eyes and make it go away, I reopened them to find the same sight awaiting me. I shook it off and looked at her. She was sitting on a table, waiting. I was wasting time.

“Um, you wrote down stuff, right?”

“What do you mean?”

I was being too obvious. I took a breath and tried to compose myself.

“You wrote, you know, what happened. You were one of the narrators. You were the ringleader of the circus, once upon a time. You wrote down how you got there. Right?”

She shrugged. “Maybe. What is it to you?”

I shrugged, sitting back, trying to look comfortable. “Oh, nothing. Just curious. You know. Being there’s so many stories going around, and being you saw so much, it would have been a good idea for someone to write it all down. You know?”

She shrugged. “I suppose it would have been.”

 

I wasn’t getting anywhere. If anything, I was losing ground, and fast. I looked around desperately for something, anything to play off of. I was going to lose. And I knew it. Angyl would kill me for this. I needed that story. She knew it existed. It was known. But Harley wouldn’t give it up. She was denying ever writing it. This was going nowhere. Losing time. Think, think…what am I going to do?

“Come on Harley, everyone knows you wrote it down. You had to get it out.”

“Get what out?”

“The pain, the madness. All those people, dying. You had to write it down.”

She got up. “Some things are better left unsaid.”

“Like what?”

She narrowed her eyes at me. “Like why you’re an orphan. Why Maven’s father is dead. Why the great family we have is down to the very few of us.”

And I dropped the chair back to four feet, from the two I was leaning back on. They’d never explained my parents’ unfortunate deaths to me. They said it was gang related. An “incident” – as they called it. No names. Nothing. Harley choked on her words and went back to cleaning. I got up.

“You know what happened, don’t you?”

She stopped cleaning and turned back to me. “You’re not getting it. Understand me? Nobody is. I know that something’s up. And I won’t allow it to get destroyed with the lives that are already going downhill. Maven’s too far gone to be saved, and so are you. I’m not giving you cause for vengeance now. I’m not creating another war. You have enough to handle. Just remember. The family takes care of itself. Of its own.”

And she walked away. She went into the back and continued cleaning. I stopped breathing for a moment, unsure of what to do. I had failed. I wouldn’t get it. She wouldn’t help me. I didn’t expect her to, but the truth still had me shocked. She wouldn’t bend. She wouldn’t yield. What now? What do I do? I needed that story. I needed it like I needed oxygen. I had failed. I was screwed. I got up, looking around nervously. And I ran home.

I ran home with every ounce of strength I could muster. I tore the place apart, compiling every sheet I could find. I put them in a box and put the lid on it and tied it shut. I made it look like it had contents of some importance. It was a lie. It was just so that Angyl wouldn’t kill me. So I wouldn’t look bad. I would keep my honor intact. I had achieved my purpose. I would keep it close to me, throwing it wherever it needed to be exactly when it was needed. And if Angyl opened it, I’d take off running. And never stop. Never.

I put the box under my arm and trotted back to the Dragon. Angyl was there. I could smell gasoline. I went to help her, dropping the box on the floor, in a corner far away from anything. Nothing was said between the two of us. She wanted to ask if I’d achieved what I set out to do. But she looked at me, I nodded, and that was it. Conversation wasn’t necessary. After a few minutes, I decided to leaf through everything, before we burned it. Or parts of it. I went through some of the boxes, reading selections here and there. I read some of them several times, trying to memorize them in the few moments I had. I had to hold on to as much as I could. It would all be gone soon. I had to try and remember. I had no other choice.

Colt would help Maven get here. I looked up from my page when she came in. I nodded and continued leafing through the pages. She looked worse than I did. But we felt the same. This was wrong. And yet, we were here. Ending the chain. Starting fresh. We would make it stop. Forever. Angyl came out of the back, trailing gasoline. We both moved outside. I had left my box at the bottom of the pile, covered by other material. She never knew.

 

And she lit it up. The Black Dragon burned. It burned for ages. As it would always burn. It took with it memories, ideas, years of madness. All the pain and misery that was left in there. It had everything. Angyl had arranged the bodies, collected her pieces, and we’d set the place ablaze. This was the end. This was where everything started. And this was how and where it would end. With us. Here and now.

We had burned the place down. Soon, only a frail frame would remain. And ashes. Nothing more than that. No words. No pictures. Nothing to prove that the blood spilt here was real. And it would all fade out, become a bedtime story, a fancy fairy tale. Nothing more than fiction. And so, we come full circle. As it started, it has ended.

Brought to you by the Trio of Treason.

Always and Forever.

And Never.

15. Damned – No Gods – Only Man

15 - Angyl

14. Torn – End of Absolutism

wFlCD

My assignment was simple:

Get Set to the alley. Employ any means necessary. Don’t get killed.

Where would I find him? The bar. He had business to tend to with Harley. So I headed there early, so I could be there first. Rev would take care of getting Payge where she needed to be. And Angyl was waiting for us in the alley.

There was one alley where all-important events took place. My grandfather died in it. Angyl’s aunt died in it. I think Rev’s cousin died there. It was a center of tragedies. It was just that simple. All things came back to it. You could feel the pain there, blood permanently soaked into the walls. It wouldn’t fade – it would never die. If you listened, you could hear the screams and the cries for help or mercy. Listen well. It’s there. Trust me.

I went to the bar early, sitting idly. Harley was busy helping people. My mother was home tonight, working on her latest project. I was glad for that, I didn’t want her to know about this. She’d be suspicious if she saw me talking to Set. Gin was here tonight, cleaning things idly. She had a job. Harley was looking after her. Harley’s own daughter was floating around tonight as well. She was younger; she sat in a corner and drew mostly. She just liked to be with her parents, and the people. They inspired her.

 

I sat at the bar, sipping at a drink idly. They let us drink, “us” being Rev and I. And “they” being the family. But only as long as they monitored our progress. We weren’t allowed to get totally smashed. Which made sense. And worked out well for us. We needed to have our senses about us at all times.

Harley was watching me, I could feel her eyes shift to my end of the bar every so often, but she kept at her pace anyways. I was sitting there, minding my own business. My mind was racing; I was trying desperately to calm it down, slow the pace. I had made my decision. And I would stick with it. This would be it. We would help kill the Drakes. She needed help. She needed us. And we would do as we were asked. I was told to simply deliver a message. And go with him. And that was it. I had the simplest job of all. Barely hands on. Rev had the tough part. And Angyl. She would do the actual deed. I just had to lead the lamb to the slaughter. That’s all.

Every time I heard the door close, I wheeled around on the stool. And every time, it wasn’t whom I wanted. I saw strangers come in that I’d recognized from the funeral. They must have been in town for a while. Their features were indiscernible. I didn’t think about them, continuing to sip my drink, thinking to myself. I heard the door open yet again. I wheeled around involuntarily. No.

Another few minutes went by before the one slam I was waiting for. I could feel it. The door open and close, the sudden rush of wind, sweeping in dirt, a person in the cloud. I wheeled around, seeing him in the doorway. He took a quick glance around, moving steadily to the bar. He sat down at a stool a few away from me, running a hand through his hair. Harley came over to him. They had a few words, they smiled back and forth, and she moved away to get him a drink. I decided I’d let him get through most of it before I broke the news. He seemed nice enough. I sat there, watching him.

He was smooth in his movements, nothing out of place or clumsy about him. At all. He spoke beautifully, most of his sentences short and to the point. He seemed like speaking was unfamiliar. It made sense. But he also had warmth to him though mostly vague warmth. It was only present in the rare genuine smile, the gleam of the eye. Mostly, he was indifferent. He simply was. This was whom I was waiting for. This was Set Drake. His true name was Dante, but it was deemed too formal. So, he was referred to by Set, his middle name. He was one of a pair of twins. The only son of the long dead legends. I could feel his eyes sweep over the place, resting on me for a moment. I’d turn – take a few more sips. Ignore him. I’m not here. Not now. Don’t figure it out – don’t be obvious.

“Aren’t you a little young to be drinking?” I heard. I looked next to me, finding that he’d gotten up, shifted down the bar, and sat next to me, without so much as a sound. Or maybe I was just that oblivious. I shrugged.

“Maybe. What’s it to you?”

He shrugged. “Curious.”

“Curiosity killed the cat.”

“You don’t say, huh?” He smiled a little grin. “Guess what then?”

“What?”

“Meow.”

And he went back to his drink. And I went to mine. We just sat there, staring straight ahead. When he got bored of that, he turned his eyes back to me. I kept drinking.

“Do I know you?” he questioned. I nodded.

“My mother introduced us the other day. My name is Maven Merrick.”

He nodded his head a few times. “That’s right. You’re Pan’s kid.”

“Pandora,” I corrected him. He laughed.

 

“Yeah. Her.”

And the silence settled back in. For a few minutes more.

“What brings you here?” I asked him. He shrugged.

“Business.”

“Oh.”

And silence. Another few minutes passed. I decided it was time, before he moved off. He was zoning out a little.

“I have something to tell you,” I coughed out. The sentence seemed to get stuck in my throat. He looked over.

“Like what?”

“They’ve taken Elysium.”

He coughed on his drink, narrowing his eyes. “Excuse me?”

I realized for a moment that he didn’t know that he was found out. He didn’t know that his cover was blown. That I knew who he was. That he was really Entropy. That he was part of a very important pair. That he was a living legend. He was found out. He carried away the bodies in the shadows. With his sister. Elysium. But in the real world, they were born Payge and Set Drake. But out there, on the streets, in the world that matters to us, they were the Endless. Entropy and Elysium. Chaos and Heaven.

“Elysium’s been stolen.”

He smiled. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, do you, child?” His eyes were burning through me, a human lie detector, searching, searching…coming up empty.

“The streets took her. The demons will damn her. Do you trust me?”

He smiled. “You’re insane. And no, I don’t trust you. How much do you think you know?”

“I know enough.”

“Did you know that your grandfather, Cicero, killed your grandmother, Madison? Did you know that our parents were almost victims of your grandfather’s? That he was a madman? He too had problems seeing what was real and what wasn’t. I know more about your family than you can ever pretend to know about mine.”

I nodded. “Are you willing to bet her life that I’m lying?”

And he stopped. He looked around and he thought about it. And he got off the stool. He took a step away, and he grabbed me. I fell off mine.

“For your sake, you better be lying. Because I’m more prone to forgive a silly little girl than I am to forgive a group of suicidal street demons.”

And I was forced out of the bar. He had a firm hold on me, pushing me ahead of him. I didn’t fight and kick and scream. I knew that Harley had seen what happened. And she’d let it come to pass. We would have to learn on our own. I knew that. He shoved me along. I kept pace.

“Why would I lie to you?” I asked along the way. He tightened his hold on me.

“Because you’re a fool. Like your dear grandfather.”

I shoved away from him. “I can walk on my own you know. You’re hurting me.”

And he held on tighter. “This is nothing compared to what I’ll do to you if you’re lying to me. Do you understand?”

“I’m just the messenger.”

He laughed. “Kill the messenger, no more messages.”

And we were silent until we got the alley.

 

Rev was there, with his lackeys at his sides. They had Payge on the ground in front of them, on her knees, facing us. She was bleeding here and there, nothing major. She looked disoriented, roughed up. There was a gun pressed to the back of her head.

Set shoved me ahead of him. “An eye for an eye,” he demanded. He had a weapon on him somewhere. He was a clever guy, he’d know to be armed at all times. I trusted Rev. I couldn’t completely say the same about Angyl. But nonetheless. Here we stood.

I was about to lose faith when Angyl crept out of the shadows. And everything after that fades to black. The memories are too confusing to understand. Where she came from, I’m not sure. She might have come from behind.

The ground was hard, and wet. And that’s all I remember. Fade to black. The world went away and I wept in my dreams for I wanted stable ground to hold onto but could only find shattered dreams and lost ambitions instead. Fade to black. To black. To nothing. Now. The now is nothing. The nothing is now. And I’m here. I’m there. I’m alive. I’m dying. I’m waking.

“I’ll teach you some good bad habits,” she told me.

And I believed her.

13. Exiled – Only Human

LLCtt

Naturally, I had an important part in the plan that Angyl laid out. It was my job to kidnap Payge from the Dragon. And make sure the place got closed and locked up all right. It was a heavy responsibility. No room for failure. This had to be executed perfectly. And it would be.

I would have Colt and Irish help me. They’d leave when everything was set up. This had to be done perfectly. I trusted them. And right now, that was most important. That would get us through.

I was following orders. It was just that simple.

I would go into the Dragon and talk to her. I would receive the last words of the condemned. This was history. And I was a part of it. The way we were going about this, all cloak and dagger, would ensure that nobody knew the truth. Maybe it was better off that way. Maybe nobody should know. For security reasons.

Anything that needed to be done was postponed or reassigned. My entire evening was cleared out. I got to the Dragon exceedingly early. It was late for the place, leaving Payge alone. She was sitting in the back doing paperwork when I came in.

“I’ll be right with you,” she called.

“No rush,” I replied. There was no reason to rush into this. To rush the guillotine. She came out eventually, looking around.

“What do you need?”

“To talk.”

She quirked a brow. “Why? About what?”

I found myself a place to sit down. She sat next to me. I cleared my throat.

“Tell me – how does it feel?”

“What?” She looked bewildered.

“To be Endless.”

She jumped up, looking around. I just smiled back at her. I let nothing show.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

I got up. “The truth. I know who and what you are.”

She laughed, backing away from me. “You think you know.”

“Think? Your predecessors were murdered by my cousin, Toryn. They are Angyl’s parents.”

“What?” She looked genuinely shocked.

“I repeat – how does it feel to be Endless?”

And she was silent. I smiled wider.

“What really scares you? That I know who and what you are, or the fact that you’re just as mortal as the rest of us? You bleed too.”

And we stood. Daring each other.

“You don’t scare me,” she responded. Her body was straight – proud.

 

“I don’t, huh?”

“You and your games serve no other purpose than to annoy me. You have no idea what you’re talking about, or what you’re involved in. Get out.”

I stood there, listening silently. I nodded to her points. I pretended to be interested. I was still fairly close to her. A bead of sweat slipped down her forehead. I smiled.

“This is the true end of ends, my dear. After this, nothing will remain to piece together. You are a very important part of this. I’m the only confessor you’re going to get. If you’ve got anything to say, now is your chance. Your last chance.”

“If love proves real,” she told me.

I smiled, nodding.

“To the last,” she concluded.

And she swung at me; I went reeling to the floor. I saw her feet move toward the door, only to be met by two familiar pairs. Colt and Irish. I was on my feet to see them standing before the door, arms folded. Payge was wheeling around between us, looking for a break. She couldn’t take on the three of us. But she’d try like hell.

We had orders not to do serious damage – to merely get her where she was needed to be. Between the three of us, we managed to hold her still enough for me to get a grip on her arm. To drug her up. To put her on a chemical cloud. There was hate in her eyes, even when they softened and the fighting stopped. She was awake, but seemingly mentally paralyzed. We got her up, binding her arms behind her. I moved around, patting her on the head.

“Say hello to them for me,” I whispered. “The lost.”

And we set out for the alley. Payge in front of me, pressed close so as not to look too suspicious. Colt and Irish moved behind me, silently. They would stay until everyone was in place. When we got there, we were alone in the shadows. We got Payge on her knees, holding a gun to the back of her head. Even in her chemical stupor, she had common sense. She silently waited with us. Pride wounded, honor in tact – this was her just reward. Or so Angyl made it seem.

The night was passing slowly, seconds dripping by.

There was another drip, from Payge. Blood was seeping from God only knows where. It had been a rough fight to get her down. She just wouldn’t quit.

Maven and Set showed up, he held her firmly in front of him. She didn’t seem uncomfortable. She just stood there, watching silently. She had done her job. And now she was in the line of fire. She’d be all right through. Angyl was missing. We waited in the stand off like that for a while. Set demanded a trade. I cocked the gun. He stopped moving.

I watched as his body was heaved backwards. Angyl had him from behind. Colt and Irish look the hint from my glance and took off. I hit Payge with the gun, leaving her to collapse to the ground. Maven had passed out; I went to her aid. Angyl was doing just fine on her own anyway. She had him with something by the throat – I couldn’t see what was going on. But she seemed competent enough. So I picked up Maven and brought her home. And I’d come back and check on things when I was done.

 

Maven was limp, her body cold. I don’t know what happened to her, but she wasn’t all right. I carried her home, holding her close, wrapped in my coat, even though she had her own. She was still cold. I wouldn’t bring her to her mother, no, she was going through a lot. I decided to take her to her little nook in the sewers. Her home underground. Her true home. Where she truly belonged. I moved quickly, attracting no attention. I was the street boss. My life was my own business. As were the girls I carried.

I got her there in record time. And I put her down carefully, covering her. I left my coat there. So she’d know how she got home. If it dawned on her to realize. I kissed her on the forehead and went back, back to the alley. To learn the outcome. I moved faster, my steady steps turning into a disoriented run. I got back out of breath, coughing, gasping for air. For life. For salvation. And she just stood there. The two bodies were on the ground. Bloody. Broken. Bodies. They were dead. I knew it just by seeing them. How she’d killed them…I wasn’t sure. But she had, in fact, killed them. I turned my back to walk away when she called me back. I turned around and went to her, staying a safe distance away. She was covered in blood.

I was told to go to the bar. Find Harley. And talk to her. I was told to write instructions for Maven. They were dictated directly from Angyl. I took them down, stuffing them into a pocket. I was supposed to find Harley. And I was supposed to get her piece of the story from her. She had the history of the circus. The spread of the other stories. She was a narrator. She was an onlooker. It had to be taken. It had to be destroyed. Everything would go tonight. The history, the proof. Everything. And I would help in the compilation of it. I did as I was told. As I was told.

For once in my life, I was following someone else’s orders. I wasn’t calling the shots. And it didn’t bother me. In the least. To not have to think. To consider the consequences. It was nice to be secure. To feel protected. Safe.

I left the note with Maven detailing her next job and our next meeting. And I went to the bar. To talk to Harley. To make everything end. To do as I was told.

The Drakes were dead. Angyl had made sure of that.

This is the really real world, ladies and gentlemen.

There’s no coming back.

Here’s to being Endless.

To the last, right?