Apotheosis Blues

I hate being kept waiting to kill someone. I’d been sitting in my car for so long that my backside had forgotten what it was like to not be numb. The abandoned church across the street looked exactly the same now as it did when I pulled up six hours ago. An old Three Doors Down tune drifted up from the CD player – softly, so that no one could hear it outside the car while the windows were up – and tried vainly to
tweak my soul in places that were as numb as my ass. I pulled out my bone-handled lighter and lit my umpteenth cigarette of the evening. As I took that first deep draw my familiar drifted up beside me. “Those things will kill you, boss,” he quipped.

I gave Dyson my best “up-yours” glare and blew a smoke ring where his face should’ve been. Dyson was a featureless ball who usually floated at about shoulder height (on me, anyway). He appeared to be made of glass, but God knows what my mentor had crafted him out of. Glass wasn’t bulletproof, and I’d seen Dyson
take a .38 slug at point blank and show not so much as a scratch. His color slowly shifted to match my mood, which meant that right now he was deep, non-reflective black. “Not likely,” I responded, “If guns and knives can’t kill me, I don’t think bad habits will.” I shifted in my seat in a vain attempt to restore some feeling to my nether parts. “How much longer is this gonna take, Dyson? I have other appointments to

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, boss,” Dyson said jauntily, “I scan that the mark will enter the building in 11.023 seconds.” I turned my gaze to the door just in time to see two figures fade out of the night shadows. I blinked the darkness out of my eyes to see them clearly. It was a girl and a boy, both Latino teens. She was a bit chunky but firm, cute if you like chubby girls, with a jiggle to her middle that suggested baby weight. He was tall and wiry with multiple piercings and the half-mohawk haircut that all the wannabe hardboys were wearing in these parts. No doubt about it, this was the mark and the expected companion. The boy jimmied the lock with the ease of long practice and pushed the girl through the door, then he slipped in behind her.

“About time,” I grumbled as I tossed my half-smoked cigarette into the Shadow. I opened the car door as the church door clicked shut, unfolded my six-foot-three height from the cramped confines of the Firebird and crossed the street in what I hoped was a confident swagger. Dyson bobbed along beside me in silence, all business now that it was go-time. I stopped at the door and eyed my familiar. Dyson gave an electronic sigh and willed the sounds inside to percolate through the wood and into my ears.

“I don’t know about this, Raphael,” the girl whined, “Isn’t there some other way?” I could hear her clothes rustle as she fidgeted and a squeaking sound that was probably one of her hands twisting a ring on the other. Various thumps and bumps told me that Raphael was moving things around. I needed more information than my ears alone could provide. I signaled Dyson to oblige, and he extended my other senses into the church. My projected vision revealed desolate absence. The pews and pulpit were long gone, probably broken up for firewood, and any curtains or hangings that had once adorned the walls had long since been
converted to blankets. Such is the way of the world after civilization collapses, yet the locals retained enough piety that the stained glass windows were unbroken. Jesus remained on the wall, staring forlornly at the empty space where the sanctuary used to be. I knew how he felt. The girl stood next to her boyfriend while he knelt on the floor surrounded by boxes. He was unloading ritual paraphernalia and carefully arranging it according to some formula. A ring of candles surrounded a thin sleeping mat that lay where a more suspicious girl would’ve thought a sacrificial altar might go. One box remained unopened as he worked. I didn’t see them carry any of this stuff inside, so Raphael must have stashed it here ahead of time. The
room stank of mildew, but over that I noticed an aroma of peaches from the girl’s hair. I couldn’t tell if it was homemade or pre-Burn, but it was distractingly pleasant. I grabbed my attention by the scruff of its neck and pointed it back to the business at hand.


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