On the Side of the Angels

Posted: March 20, 2014 in Fiction, horror

This week’s Chuck Wendig challenge. I went with something akin to HellPunk, though with definitely a different spin than maybe I was anticipating. I could see expanding this out a bit. Oh, and yes, fair warning: contains strong language, disturbing scenes of a violent nature, me playing fast and loose with Catholic imagery, and a devil. Not THE Devil to be sure, though I’m sure he’s lurking somewhere back there, but a devil, surely.

On the Side of the Angels

“Come on, hurry up, get him in here!” I shouted at Kevin and Liam. They were dragging the clawing, scratching form down the stairs, being none too careful about it. I heard the wet thump each time his skull hit one of the concrete steps. I focused on the keys, unlocking each of the four deadbolts holding the metal door closed. A light swept over the street and I heard Liam praying under his breath. Finally, I kicked the door in and moved out of the way.

Liam and Kevin dragged the body inside, slamming it down on the table. It was barking something, its voice harsh and unintelligible, speaking in the lingua franca of the occupiers. Kevin slammed our captive’s head down on the table three or four times as Liam wrestled its arms into the manacles. It bit and spat, but this wasn’t our first time doing this. Kevin and Liam could do this blindfolded. I slammed the door shut behind me, locked it, turned the lights on, and slumped against the wall.

“Do you know who the fuck I am?” the figure on the table asked. I fumbled in my jacket, found my pack of crumpled cigarettes. Thankfully, the lighter was still tucked inside. The person on the table was wearing a nice three piece suit, although to be fair, it was more than a little rumpled and torn at this point. “You will die slowly for this.”

Kevin opened a wallet. “William DeVry,” he said, reading off the license. He rifled through the rest of the wallet, pocketing the cash. “A better question might be if you know who we are?”

Liam was over in the corner, getting ready. He removed the purple stole from a cabinet, kissed it, and placed it over his head. He pulled a cross from under his shirt, forbidden in the new regime, and went about his preparations.

DeVry snorted. “I’ve heard about you lot. We have a name for your kind. Losers.”

“Here that, Kat?” Kevin said. He’d pulled his own cross out as well. “He thinks he knows us.”

I shook my head, lit the cigarette. A bad habit from the days before everything went to, well, you know where, but one I found comforting for all that.

“What do you think is going to happen when they find me? What do you think is going to happen when I get free from here?” Our captive craned his neck, his eyes blazing with an unholy fire. Onyx horns bulged out from his forehead, ripping out from skin gone brick red. A tail tore free from his pants, thrashing wildly, and his shoes burst forth no longer able to contain the massive hooves.

The devil on the table smiled, rows and rows of sharp teeth set in a shark’s grin of a smile. “Oh, I know you,” he said, his voice sounding like it was coming from the bottom of a gravel pit. “Kevin and Liam O’Shea, brothers. One a defrocked priest, the other a soldier dishonorably discharged. And Kathryn Barris, a doctor, stripped of your medical license. Why was that again?” DeVry chuckled.

Liam chose that moment to place a Communion wafer on the devil’s forehead. DeVry screamed as his skin smoked, the overwhelming stench of sulfur bringing tears to my eyes. Kevin came over to me, and I handed him a cigarette.

Liam discarded the charred wafer in a small bowl, poured a small measure of water over it. A small round scar was branded into the demon’s forehead, still smoking.

“That’s not how the Rite of Exorcism goes, Father,” DeVry spat. “No wonder you were removed from the priesthood.”

Liam shook his head, his green eyes hard as emeralds. “That’s because this isn’t an exorcism, foul beast. This is an interrogation.”

The devil narrowed his eyes and laughed, low and deep. “You think to torture me? I was subjected to the immeasurable torture of Hell. Anything you can muster cannot but pale in comparison.”

“Oh, I think you’ll find my brother very persuasive,” Kevin said. “Might want to skip straight to the water though, Father.”

Liam nodded. “I think you’re right. Open his shirt for me.”

That was my cue. Staying far enough away from his claws, I took my knife, cut open his shirt and bared his chest.

“Like what you see?” DeVry asked, his tongue snaking out of his mouth and curling lewdly.  “Maybe I’ll have some fun with you after I deal with these two. I bet I can make you moan the way these two never could.”

Liam dipped his finger into a vial of water, started tracing letters on the devil’s chest. Where he touched, the skin turned black and scorched, peeling away from the muscle. DeVry strained against his bonds, thrashing his head back and forth, teeth bared against the pain.

“In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spritus Sancti,” Liam muttered. I didn’t know what he was writing on DeVry’s chest, and I didn’t want to. That wasn’t what I was there for anyway.

As Liam worked, Kevin checked his gun, a heavy revolver. “Expecting trouble?”

Shrugging, he placed it in his holster, glanced over at Liam and DeVry. “Always.”

“Tell me where they are, Fallen One! Tell me where they are keeping them, Unclean Beast! Tell me!” Liam was standing on the table now, straddling DeVry. The devil’s chest was burned to bone, the holy water eating away at his accursed flesh, the bonds creaking.

He spat words in the Devil’s Tongue, a corruption of Greek, Aramaic, and Latin. I didn’t speak it, but Kevin did. His was the gift of tongues.

“That’s not good,” he said.

“What?” I asked.

“The people we’re looking for are being held in the cathedral.”

“St. Patrick’s?” I asked, my voice sounding small even to me.

DeVry laughed. “Why not surrender yourselves now?” he spat. “This world is ours now, and all you are doing is delaying the inevitable. The Old Man and his Brat are dead and gone. Why else would we be here?”

“Get away from him Liam,” Kevin said.

“What? There might be more that he knows.”

“Step away from him, brother.” Kevin’s voice was calm and steady, the one he used when he didn’t want to argue.

Liam and Kevin shared a long look, then Liam sighed. “I suppose you’re right, brother.”

DeVry laughed. “They are looking for me you know. And when they find you they’ll-”

I don’t know what he was going to say next, because Kevin put a bullet through his head. It didn’t make quite the mess I expected, but it did shut him up. A consecrated .357 bullet will do that.

Liam packed up his gear while Kevin and I checked outside. It was all quiet, the car where we’d left it. A passing patrol went by, a couple of low ranking Hell’s Legionnaires on foot. The black chitin of their exoskeletons gleamed wet under the streetlights, and they chattered at us with the mandibles, but otherwise paid us no mind. They weren’t like the higher ranking devils, the ones that could smell sin and blood and death. Dark winged shapes flittered overhead. Imps. The Devil’s own eyes and ears in the city, this bastion of Hell on Earth. Liam came out, threw his suitcase into the trunk before getting into the front passenger seat.  Kevin was already behind the wheel, leaving me with the backseat.

“Why would they take them to St. Patrick’s?” I asked, but I knew the answer. Knew it in my gut, a cold hard ball of fear that didn’t go away.

“That’s where they’re doing the conversions,” Liam said. He reached into his jacket, pulled out a flask, and took a long draught before passing it to Kevin.  “The damned need a way out of Hell, after all. Push out somebody’s soul, and you have a nice empty husk for them to move into. Industrialized possession. What better place than a desecrated cathedral?”

I swallowed hard. “So, what’s the plan then?” I asked.

“Give me a cigarette, Kat,” Liam said. “Last one,” I said. I tried to keep the bitterness out of my voice, but I don’t think I did a very good job.

He lit it; blew smoke out the window. Overhead, the skies glowed a fiery red and orange. Not for the first time I wondered if I was already dead, already in Hell, instead of Hell being here on Earth. Kevin drove through the city, past the burned out cars, past the empty souls, past the lost and the damned. To be sure, there were other cells out there, other pockets of resistance, but the less we knew about them the better. If we didn’t know, we couldn’t betray them when we were captured.

“This isn’t the way to St. Pat’s,” I said.

Kevin chuckled, took another long swallow. “We’ve got a package to pick up,” he said, seeing my look in the rearview.

Liam nodded. “Can’t be going to the cathedral without making some preparations.”

“What, so you’re not going to tell me?”

Silence greeted me, so I closed my eyes, got some shut eye.  The car stopping woke me up. I looked around, not recognizing where we were. I saw some warehouses, heard the lap of water. The docks maybe?

Kevin was already outside, standing next to a white panel van. Liam was standing nearby, heads close together, hands folded. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but then Kevin was getting into the van. I slipped into the front seat. Liam hated driving, and was better as a gunner anyway.

“We’re taking the van?” I asked. It was a stupid question, as Kevin was already pulling out.

Liam nodded. “Just keep your distance, okay?” he said. “We don’t want to be drawing any more attention than we have to.”

I shrugged, wished for a cigarette. My stomach grumbled at me, reminding me that it had been I-don’-know how long since I last ate.

We were a fair bit away, but still in Manhattan, driving North.

“What’s in the van?” I asked.

“Party favors,” Liam said. His eyes were closed, head back on the seat. Looking at his lined face, his white hair, I realized how old he was. He should have been retired, gone someplace quiet. But here he was, a partisan in the fight against the forces of Hell.

“Hey, we’re almost there,” I said, catching sight of the marble edifice of the cathedral. It had been desecrated, stained with blood and excrement, defaced with blasphemies in a hundred languages. Even in the small hours of the morning, a throng of people gathered outside, all of them desperate. Some were dragged there by the devils, others came willingly, tired of fighting, of scrabbling to survive.

As I watched, the van’s engine gunned, jumping forward into the crowd.

“Wait, what’s he-”

I never got to finish that sentence. An explosion split the night sky, a fire ripping through the crowd gathered around the cathedral, shattering the stained glass and blasting the structure.

“Kevin,” I whispered, my hands tight on the steering wheel.

“Drive girl,” Liam said, his head bowed.

“Why?” I asked, knowing we had to get out before the Legionnaire’s got there, before all the imps converged.

“Because, my girl, we are on the side of the angels, but must do what they cannot. Now drive. We’ve much to do yet.”

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Comments
  1. aeternalumen says:

    Hi Matt,

    Somehow, I just feel like his life was wasted. Maybe, you could clarify the entire structure was blown to bits? Cathedrals are usually huge. Also, the innocent people being dragged into the structure are also being killed. Or, is it just too late for them anyway? If there is so much work to be done, how is Kevin sacrificing his life for this one event justified? Many different ways to bomb the church.

    So this is HellPunk! The story, set-up, and details you have here are awesome! There were a few places that caused me to pause and reread. It is just difficult for me to figure out who is speaking, at times, in this section:

    “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spritus Sancti,” Liam muttered. I didn’t know what he was writing on DeVry’s chest, and I didn’t want to. That wasn’t what I was there for anyway.

    As Liam worked, Kevin checked his gun, a heavy revolver. “Expecting trouble?”

    Shrugging, he placed it in his holster, glanced over at Liam and DeVry. “Always.”

    “Tell me where they are, Fallen One! Tell me where they are keeping them, Unclean Beast! Tell me!” Liam was standing on the table now, straddling DeVry. The devil’s chest was burned to bone, the holy water eating away at his accursed flesh, the bonds creaking.

    He spat words in the Devil’s Tongue, a corruption of Greek, Aramaic, and Latin. I didn’t speak it, but Kevin did. His was the gift of tongues.

    “That’s not good,” he said.

    “What?” I asked.

    “The people we’re looking for are being held in the cathedral.”

    “St. Patrick’s?” I asked, my voice sounding small even to me.

    When Kathryn is not interested in what Liam writes on his chest and says, “That wasn’t what I was there for anyway.” What is she there for? Just to be a look-out and a car driver? Could you use her medical skills, somehow? The way you write her character doesn’t really give me a sense of her being a woman, other than she seems to be in the dark about some of the details, when Liam and Kevin are discussing them. Like, she isn’t totally given privy to their plans.

    I love how you weave action into detailed description concerning characters. You do this beautifully with the hell-character DeVry. Your sense of movement through out the piece is exciting, and continually moving us toward what is going to happen next.

    Excellent Read!
    Becky

    • Matthew X. Gomez says:

      Hey Becky,

      Well, given that I was supposed to only write 1k and ended up closer to 2k…

      Agreed, there are many different ways to go about blowing up a building, but truth be told, a truck bomb like that is one of the more effective ways. I don’t go into the detail for why it is so important, suffice to say, they really wanted to shut down the possession process post haste. I’m not even going to lie and say that Kevin and Liam made the best possible choice, but then I kind of imply they are all flawed characters.

      As for Kat’s gender and viewpoint: I wanted to go with 1st person, and as a result the reader is kept as much in the dark about what is going on as she is. One of the dangers of that particular POV. She is there for her medical expertise, and an extra pair of eyes. If I expand on it (yes, this to gets thrown into the “one day” folder) I might do a serious bit of revision to the ending, as well as expand on Kat’s role. 2k words isn’t a lot to work with, not really, and it is hard to work everything in and still keep it interesting.

      -Matt

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