Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wither The Vain: Q and A

Q and A

Being the youngest of the family, they always question my judgement.

"Did you have to kill him?"
"Why'd you bring that one back?"
"Do you have any idea where we're going?"

Blah. Blah. Blah. It never ends.

"Wither, why did you bring Moon back?"

"Because I had a job for him Seth."

"Care to tell us what that job was?"

"Not particularly."

Seth would be fuming about that. His feathers would be ruffling and his neck would be shrinking. His beak would be slowly grinding together.

"Then will you at least tell us where we're going?"

I shrugged.

"North. That's all I know. I follow my hands. Once I get there, I get a glimpse of what has to happen. No more. No less."

Christoph and Holly came up beside me. One on either side.

So soon?

"I haven't spoken to you since the first day I met you Eli."

"I've noticed Christoph."

"I wanted my words to sound just right when I said them."

"I can understand that."

"Holly's been helping me."

"Always good to have a helping hand."

Christoph nodded and stopped. I sighed and stopped as well, looking up as his bark-encrusted face.

He was faster than I remembered, lashing out with a sapling arm, flinging me through the air.

"She was mine Eli. Why did you take her away from me?"

I landed on asphalt and slowly got to my feet.

"She was never yours Christoph. She isn't anyone's. She's Delilah, the seducer and betrayer. That's what she does."

Pain. A blazing stripe of it across the back of my neck. It drove me to my knees. I looked up to see Holly sneering down at me, a bamboo whipping rod in her hand. How nice of Christoph to provide her with a toy as well.

"What about me old man? I was dead. Why did you bring me back? That freak Crow had to stitch me together. Look at me? See these? If I cut these stitches, my body would fall apart. I would be a corpse just like Neil left me. Another piece of trash. Why did you bring me back?"

She swung at me again with the bamboo rod. I caught it this time and rammed it back into her stomach.

"I did it because it was part of my job. You're our fifth. No getting around it."

Christoph grabbed one of my arms in each of his hands, lifting me into the air, pulling slowly.

"It's not nice to hit a lady Eli."

"It's not nice to tear your little brother's arms off either, but I don't think that's going to stop you."

"You're right Eli. It's not. I think Seth should lead. And with you gone, we'll be four again. How does that sound?"

"It sounds like you didn't learn your lesson at The Bastille."

I dislocated my shoulders and rocked my body forward. My legs swung behind me and I drove them both into Christoph's mouth. Teeth chipped and he bellowed in pain, his grip loosening aroudn my left arm. I tore my left arm free and pried his fingers away from my right arm.

Pain again. A new pain. I looked down and vines were wriggling into my skin, hooking tight around muscle and bone. I heard a soft whisper. A woman's. Holly.

"Let's see what I am."

Her stitches.

The world exploded and I saw the back of my skull as my eyes rolled back into my head.

Sulfur flooded my veins and rotten egg stench boiled in my nose as the vines explored me, tasting and drinking of me. And just as suddenly, they ripped themselves from me again.

Later, Seth and Arturo described the scene for me. The vines had ripped themselves from Holly and as she peeled apart, flames filled in the gaps. They licked at the edges of her skin as yellow orbs swirled within the fire.

The gate to Hell had opened within her.

I dropped to the ground, blood dripping the dozens of wounds as they healed over.

"His name... His name isn't on the list."

Holly was pale as the melting snow still littering the ground as she fell over backwards. Christoph snarled and lumbered towards me. He snared my throat in a thorny fist.

"What did you do to her?"

"What did she do to me you mean?"

Arturo and Seth stepped forward, eyes still wide. It was Seth who interrupted Christoph and I.

"Yes Wither, what did she just do?"

"She performed her function as Hell. She's tasted it. Seen the fire. Snorted brimstone. She's seen the list."


"Of all the good little boys and girls. The ones that don't have to be beaten or scourged or flayed or mutilated. That don't have to be seduced or set to impossible tasks."

Holly sat up shaking, raising a finger at me accusingly.

"And you aren't on that list."

I shook my head, laughing softly. Poor girl. Poor naive fool. Could be said of all of them really.

"Your name isn't on it either. None of us are. Do you think there's a happily ever after for us? We're the world enders. There is no place for us when this world is over. That's why I don't rush to kill the planet. It will end when it's scheduled to end. Not a moment sooner or later."

"If... if we'll die when it's all over, why end it at all?"

I snickered and pulled a cigarette from my pocket, sticking it between my lips. I struck a match on the bark of Christoph's hand (the one still around my throat) and lit my smoke.

"To say I did. Who else can claim that, eh? We all have our talents. Christoph can spoil food, taint water, cause starvation. Arturo inspires the pride of a conquering hero who needs to conquer again to maintain his rush. Seth sets the peoples of the world at each others throats, then teaches them how to kill better. And you Holly, you use those vines to find out if our targets are on that list."

"And if they're not?"

"Then they're mine."

Christoph loosed my throat and I took a drag on my cigarette.

"Now then, you crybabies are done asking questions, and we have somewhere to be."

"And just where is that Wither?"

I held up my hand.

"I distinctly remember saying you're done asking questions for right now."

Christoph helped Holly to her feet as the vine stitches pulled her flesh back together. Seth and Arturo fell in beside them and we started to walk again.


Holly again.


"Doesn't... doesn't this prove that the Bible's right?"


"But... There's a list. And a Hell. How can it not be right?"

I took another drag on my cigarette and held in the smoke awhile. I blew it out my nose and tossed the butt of the cigarette aside.

"Everybody's got hells. The Egyptians. The Chinese. Everybody. Punishment for the wicked and salvation for the pure. But I'll tell you this and it's the honest truth."


"Everybody knows the bad guy loses. They just aren't sure who the good guy really is."

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