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|This is the rough draft of the last showdown between former friends in one of my stories. Jack is my oldest and most oft used characters. He has some serious angst.||
Staring down at the cold, stone floor, Jack thought it odd that an old, abandoned church in Kentucky would have this, rather than one made of local wood. Nevertheless, it was a fitting place to die. He tipped back his gray-brown felt hat, brushed his black trench coat out of the way and drew his pistol, a massive, chromed Taurus Raging Bull, and stepped over a rotting pile of debris that had once been a pew.
Jack threaded his way through the center aisle, avoiding the remains of roof timbers, old fixtures, and other assorted bits of garbage. In places, sunlight streamed in thought the holes in the ceiling, landing on pieces of litter, highlighting them. Here an old beer bottle with bugs living in it; there a porno magazine moldy and engorged with rainwater. He slowly made his way towards the figure seated on the old stone altar, under the massive brass-capped wooden cross that still hung from the rafters.
The figure sat lotus-style, in jeans and a tight white tank top. His battered black Converse high-tops rested on his thighs, and his olive drab long coat fanned out from his sides. His eyes were closed behind his Lennon-esque glasses. “I knew you would be coming, Twitch,” he said. “It’s been a long time.”
“Don’t call me that.” Jack sucked in a deep breath through his nose. The old church smelled heavily of the rot that pervaded its wooden structure, but underneath that, there was still the tang of long-ago incense. “She’s dead, Steven. Jennifer’s dead, and I know you had something to do with it.”
Steven opened his eyes. “Do you remember when I gave you that nickname? It was just before high school; that summer between middle school and freshman year. There was that night, when one of the guys who had just graduated was accosting her. You saw him slap her when she wouldn’t go along with him, and you went over and beat him to a bloody pulp. I warned people not to make you ‘twitch’ like that.”
“That was ten years ago. I remember. But she’s dead now, Steven.” Jack’s hand tightened on the pistol’s grip. He wanted to raise it, but it was just so heavy. Now, after everything else, when it should be like a feather, it was too heavy
“You used to give her your fries at lunch every Wednesday. That’s why she liked you more than me.”
“Shut up, Steven. I don’t need a history lesson.” Jack struggled to bring the gun up. It began to rise, ever so slowly.
“I saw you ‘twitch’ again that summer. When we were down in those caves we found. You twitched when that thing we found was going to kill her. It was a good thing you had that knife, Jack. You probably saved us all with it. Did you ever find out what that thing was?” Steven cocked his head to the side.
Jack nodded, sighing. “I did. Genesis 6:9 ‘The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them.’ I’ve seen others since.” He shuddered, remembering.
“I saw another the year after the both of you had gone. She went south, you went north.” Steven ran his hand through his short red hair. “It came to me, and offered me the power to get what I wanted. It offered me something you didn’t have. Something I could use to get her attention if I could ever find her again.”
Sparks of static electricity crackled around Steven as he began to levitate, floating up from the altar. The sparks became a sizzling aura of angry red as he straightened out. “I finally found her, but once again I was coming in second to you. You’d already taken her away, protecting her from another deadbeat. Not only that, but I found out you’d somehow acquired something like my powers. How did you learn this sort of thing, Twitch? Did one of them show you too?” Steven’s eyes bored into him.
“No. It started after I killed the one in the cave. I found I could do things that could only be magic of some kind. I hid it, and tried to figure things out on my own. In college I met others who could do it too.”
Steven nodded. “So you stole this power. You stole it from a half-angel.” He laughed. “That’s why I was given it! I am to be God’s messenger of justice. You stole something that was never supposed to be yours, and so I must punish you.” He chuckled again. “Do you remember the Yoma ‘Counting Song’ Jack? It seems rather fitting to me.”
Jack nodded. “One. It was a love in one generation.” The revolver suddenly lost all of its oppressive weight and he snapped it up, aiming at Steven’s face.
Steven smiled. “Two. Two of us go to hell.” He gestured and red lightning lashed out as Jack fired.
The two .454 caliber bullets slammed into Steven’s aura and bounced off, chewing away large chunks form the timbers nearby. The magical blast tore into the floor where Jack had been standing. The shockwave caught him as he leapt aside, and flung him into a rotting pew. The fragile wood exploded in a cloud of splinters and chocking dust as Jack crashed through it. Most of the cloud was incinerated as another volley of lightning reached for Jack. Again, it just missed. Jack shook his head. His hat was missing, and dust billowed out of his blonde hair. He fired his pistol again. Once more, the bullet was deflected by Steven’s barrier.
Cackling, the floating sorcerer unleashed more of his scarlet bolts. Jack raised his own magical barrier in time to keep himself alive, but the force of Steven’s onslaught hurled him backwards. He crashed though a wooden pillar, then bounced once before skidding to a halt against the wall near the door.
“Come on, Jack. You should have known you couldn’t hurt me with that popgun. Show me what you’ve taught yourself. Come on Twitch, let yourself go.” Steven floated forward, gently sinking to the ground. “I know you can do better than that. Don’t hold back just because we were friends then. I won’t stand for any of that foolish sentimentality.”
His gun missing, and using the wall for support, Jack forced himself to his feet. He glared at Steven and reached back, pulling his knife from its sheathe. It was an elderly knife, over a hundred years old. The very tip of the blade was missing, but the whole edge glinted as if it cut the very light falling upon it. The faded steel was set with a small cross guard of brass, which capped a handle made of pressed leather disks. A simple steel pommel held it all together.
“I’ve still got it, Steven. If I can kill one of the real Nephilim with it, you should pose no problem.” He forced a grin, hefting the weapon. “Three. Even though we kill everybody,” he said, surging forward.
Jack vaulted a ruined pew and charged his enemy. Red lightning splashed against the blue aura of his protective spell and melted away. He lunged with the knife, and Steven swatted at it. Instead of pressing the attack with his weapon, Jack punched with his left hand. He felt something give in Steven’s jaw as his fist connected.
Steven jumped back as Jack swung the knife in a flat arc that would have disemboweled him. He reached up and popped his jaw. He winced as the joint reseated itself. “Better, Jack. But still not enough.” He gestured and a pew lifted from the ground. It crashed into Jack’s unprotected flank and knocked him sprawling into a pile of litter. Jack rolled away, coming to his feet in crouch near stone steps leading up to the altar. “Four. Signpost for the land of the dead.”
Jack snarled and spit out a piece of rotten wood. He jumped into the air, willing gravity to lessen its hold on him. He twisted in the air and kicked off a rafter, he bounced towards a pillar, and launched himself at Steven. As he passed, Jack slashed with the knife. Instead of slitting Steven’s throat, the blade scored across his blocking arm, biting through the flesh and into the bone. Jack landed with a roll, and came to his feet.
“Five. The blood rain because of the war.”
Steven held up his arm. The cut ran almost the entire way from his elbow to his wrist. Blood flowed unchecked and spattered on the dirty stones. “This is almost what I was looking for.” His face twisted as he willed the flesh to knit back together. “Still not enough Jack.”
Swearing silently, Jack heaved the knife at Steven. It whirled towards his heart, but he deflected it. The blade spun away and embedded itself in the great wooden cross. As Steven gloated, Jack’s eyes narrowed. He clenched all of his muscles and focused, preparing himself. His body began to tremble and shake. Jack pulled almost all of his energy into himself, fuelling himself for one last, desperate attempt.
Jack was aware of himself, Steven, and the space between them. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else existed. Time slowed down around him as his blue aura strengthened. A piece of the ceiling fell between them. It moved like a rock sinking through gelatin.
Jack darted forward, blasting through the falling wood with his fist, and pounding it into Steven’s chest. He unleashed a barrage of punches, kicks, and other strikes.
Still moving in time with the rest of the world, Steven was too slow to stop him. He forced him backwards, towards the altar. Steven’s feet hit the first of the stone steps as Jack’s heel connected with his chin.
As his last kick knocked Steven to the ground, the world caught up with Jack. Time snapped back into a single flow, jolting him. Jack looked down. Steven was bleeding from corners of his mouth, his nose, his ears. One eye looked crushed. The other fixed him with a stare.
A sizzling bolt of lightning shot from Steven’s upraised palm, and slammed into Jack’s chest. He felt ribs splinter as he was lifted off his feet and thrown into the air again. He landed against the far wall, his head cracking painfully against the wooden structure. Stars danced into front of his eyes and he fought against the swelling darkness. When his vision cleared, he could see Steven struggling to his feet next to the altar. A ball of red static pulsated around his hand.
“Six. Just like a dead body,” Steven said, spraying blood from his lips, as more dripped off his chin. He weakly raised his arm, pointing it towards Jack.
Jack felt something rounded under his hand. A bit of silver glinted in the dust. He snatched up the gun, and fanned back the hammer with his other hand. Like a gunslinger at siesta, Jack fired from the hip. Steven grinned as the bullet went high, and far to the left.
The chunk of lead, .454 inches across, destroyed the eyebolt which held one of the to two cables supporting the great, brass capped cross. With only one side still held up, the massive thing tilted and swung down. Steven had only enough time to turn and begin to gape before one of the brass corners drove itself into his chest. He was knocked back, and crushed against the wall. The cross rebounded swunging away, and he collapsed, the ball of energy surrounding his hand dissipating.
Jack lay panting for a few moments, the gun glistening in his lap. He forced himself to rise, pushing himself up the wall. Jack clutched his body with one arm, trying to keep the few shattered ribs from grating around as he staggered towards the front of the church.
The cross swung lazily, creaking, as it reached the nadir of its oscillation. Steven lay at the base of the altar dais. He hitched in rasping breaths and lolled his head at Jack’s approached. He closed his eyes and smiled tightly as Jack pointed the revolver at his head.
For what seemed like hours, Jack stood, staring down the length of his pistol at Steven’s face.
“At least I’ll get to see her before you,” Steven whispered.
“Seven,” Jack said, pulling the trigger. The gun roared and bucked in his hand. “My tears run out.”
|Wakeup Call||Working Title: Sushi Western, Prologue|
|Los Locos||Et in Arcadia Ego|