Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Boy Named Nod: Latch-Key Part 4


You are inadequate.

You never could beat me little brother.

I hit the wall hard, biting my tongue, spitting out a mouthful of blood.

"Trevor, get him out of here. Now."

Mr. Rook was in the doorway, the metallic shards of a White Guard's skull in his fist. Gunfire echoed throughout the apartment building as a war broke out between the Disciples and Judges. The two barracuda squealed, a shrill cry that punctures your eardrums. They were dead before the sound reached my ears, torn apart.

"I told you Trevor, go!"

And I was under Trevor's arm, being rushed to the stairwell. I twisted to look back as Mr. Rook exploded through the doorway, thrown backwards. He lumbered back up to his feet and charged back into my apartment. A fountain of sparks gushed outward from the wall and a severed robotic arm followed them. I was smiling.

Then someone was twisting my bones in candy cane stripes. A hailstorm of stones exploded through doorway as tattered black wool drifted to the ground. Dust. Dirt. Rubble. Ruin. Sand on my tongue. Too late. Already gone.

Trevor never looked back. We were to the stairwell. Three pirahna were storming the stairs. Trevor put a bullet between each set of eyes and leapt over the railing. We landed another floor down. A moray eel riddled a White Guard cyborg with gunfire, driving it back down the hallway. We ducked past them, headed down.

A behemoth of a White Guard blocked the stairs. Even less flesh than the others, all metal and hydraulics. It grinned with laser sights and piston teeth. It swung once for us and hit the wall. Manfred and Whitfield were atop it, leaping from the stairs above.

"Go go. Other end of hall, other stairs. We finish this one."

Trevor nodded silently and jerked me away.

They slapped a satchel onto the White Guard's back, digging through wires with their cutters and their pliers. It caught hold of Manfred and began to squeeze. Air gone. Asthma. Coffin.

"Blue... blue..."

"No red. Red!"

They looked at each other as its other hand snared Whitfield.


The satchel exploded, and all three burned. Ashes to ashes.

A fever, sunburn, scalded, my skin bright red. No. I can't bring you back. I can't. I can't fix that.

Back up the stairs, to the moray and the White Guard. The White Guard gushed oil and opened its jaws. Over-heated car scream. As the White Guard fell, the eel turned back to us.

It's eyes widened, choking out blood and curses. James was there, scaling its back with his knives, slitting its throat. He rode the moray to the ground and licked off his knives. He was a pincushion as a barracuda lunged from an open doorway, firing erratically. The purple-red imp grinned, winked, and fell over, seeping, weeping red from a dozen holes.

My scars were awake, screaming for attention. Too fast. Dying too fast. I can't... I can't heal death. I can't fix...

Trevor put a bullet in each of the barracuda's eyes and kept moving.

The ceiling exploded, drywall, old boards, and my brother dropped through. My skinny, too-tall, nerdy brother. Trevor never stopped, never flanced over his shoulder.

Charles rolled out of a doorway, grinning, unhinging his jaws. A gout of flame belched from between his lips.

It split and surrounded Abe but didn't touch him. Didn't singe his robes. Didn't sink its teeth into his flesh.

The fire turned and engulfed Charles, swallowing him whole.

"The Lord Adam is my shepherd. He hath marked me so that no man nor beast can harm me. He has taught me the power of the mind. I have been Upgraded."

Trevor slowed, the hand that held me reaching for his other pistol. Mr. Jonathan was there, touching his brother's shoulder.

"The boss is the one that matters. Move it brother. I'll hold him here."

"He'll kill you Jonathan."

"I know brother. We can't stop him. You need to get Nod out."

What? No. No. Don't. You'll die. We can't. They died. Have to go.

Trevor went over the railing. I was still a bag under his arm. I couldn't see Mr. Jonathan. No.

He'll kill you.


I rolled my top hat down my arm and slid a straight razor down each sleeve. The Righteous Reverend Abraham Cain was laughing.

"He'll never stop me. I will kill him. Because I am real and he never was."

I raised my blades, crouching low.

"You're a cheap magician. Will of the Lord Adam. You're a psychic, just like your father, just like your brother."

"I am nothing like my brother."

"We will die before you will hurt him again."

"So be it."

I was moving before he could focus on me, coming off the wall to the right, under his gaze. The wall exploded behind me, showering me with slivers. I drew a line below his kneecap with one hand, opened a gash in his arm with the other.

"The Lord Adam forgot to protect you today."

I was still moving, sweeping for his spine, but an elbow met my temple. Adam turned on his heel and planted a foot against my jaw. I was in the air, spinning, hitting the ground and losing two teeth.

"Not just my mind has been Upgraded, figment. My body as well."

Beneath the torn priest's robes, wires sparked and metal gleamed. I was up again, lunging for him.

He caught me in mid-air with his mind, twisting my arms backwards, driving me against the wall. My shoulders gave, popping from their sockets. I clenched my teeth, refusing to give him any noise.

"Repent figment, and when we wipe his mind, we will save you. We will provide you with a new body."

"All I have to do is renounce Nod?"


"And the evil I have done?"


I spat in his electric eye and it slid down his cheek.

"I refuse."

"Then you slit your own throat."

My elbow twisted, cracking as he moved my arm, lifting my hand. My wrist bent backwards and drew my razor across the soft skin of my throat.

My hand was wet and warm.


First floor. Pinned in the corner of the stairwell by the dumb waiter. Throat burning. No. No Mr. Jonathan. I need you. I need your help. I can't do this.

The Judges were dying, torn to bait by White Guard. Trevor had the Twins out, roaring over and over. I had out my .38, firing, tears pouring down my cheeks.

Trevor was hit, twice in the leg.

"I can fix it."

"Don't. Don't you dare Nod. We need you out alive. You can't do that with a bum leg."

"We can't do that pinned down here, either."

He was silent for a moment in the deafening thunder of the Twins.

"You're right."

I nodded.

Then he grabbed me by the lapels and shoved me into the dumb waiter.

"Get out through the windows and run for the station."

"Trevor, I can't lose you too. I can't bring you back if you die."

"And if you die, we'll have died for nothing."

He shot the controls and I fell. I landed in the dark, the door bursting open. I tumbled out, scrabbling across the floor. Kicked twice in the chest. No Trevor. No. Not you. I can't... I can't be alone. No.

I pulled myself to my feet and stumbled through the darkness. I bashed my knee on an old washer. The laundromat in the basement. Right.

Light. Basement window.

No. No no no. Bars crossed it, welded into the frame.

The outside door. A ramp leading out to the street. I pushed, throwing myself against it.

Locked. Can't be locked. I fumbled for my revolver. Shoot the lock out.

It was gone. Dropped. Upstairs.

No way out.

I slid down, curling up tight, glasses falling. Alone.

The door to the basement steps shook.

"Come little brother, it is time."

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