FFC - 11/24/19 - Derek

dpaterso

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Content warning, blood spatter and worse. 90 minutes? No.

-Outcast-​

His jangled thoughts reluctantly came together. He was in bed. Or lying on a bed. It was night. He glanced at the clock. Three in the morning. Who called someone at three in the goddamn morning? Then he remembered who he was, and what it was that he did. And knew who it must be.

Kort stared at the ceiling and listened to the ringing. Maybe it would just stop? Maybe he could get back to sleep and return to his nightmares? Instead of facing the real life ones.

It didn’t stop. Well, shit. He sat up, putting his bare feet onto the cold floor. One of these days he’d have to get a rug. He reached out and picked up the receiver. Everyone had cell phones these days. He didn’t like them, they gave him a headache.

Someone in the apartment above shouted, “About goddamn time!”

Kort ignored him and said, “Can’t it wait till morning? You’re annoying the neighbors.”

“It’s bad,” the familiar voice said, sounding as rough as Kort felt. “The all-night diner on Fairfield and Ninth. We have five, six people trapped inside. And three of your buddies, at least. There’s already been casualties.”

“Don’t call them my buddies. Why can’t SWAT take them out?”

“Too many ‘specials’ signs on the windows, poor visibility. And there’s the blood. Hell of a lot of blood. SWAT doesn’t want to set them off, that could endanger everybody.”

“So you want me to go down there and...?”

“Clean out the vermin.”

Kort glanced at the fireman’s axe standing in the corner, filthy with dried blood. Blood he could never clean off. He didn’t want to pick it up again, but knew that he must.

“I’ll be there,” he said.

“If you could maybe speed things up a little—”

Kort slammed the receiver down, cutting him off.

He grabbed his worn leather boots and trust his feet into them. He stood up and took his coat from over the back of the only chair in the room, and slid his arms into the sleeves. Gorman had given him the boots and the coat. He’d picked them up at some place he said sold “outsize” stuff, which Kort supposed meant big. He wrapped the scarf Gorman’s wife had given him for Christmas around his face. It had the effect of making people less scared of his appearance. Kort didn’t give a damn what anyone thought of him but Gorman had asked him nicely. For the same reason, he put on the beanie hat, concealing the horns that grew from his forehead.

He picked up the axe and sensed it was glad to be with him again because it liked killing, it liked killing a lot. Kort could take killing or leave it, it wasn’t an obsession or anything. When he did kill, it was out of necessity. The axe, now, it had other ideas. He hoisted it up so it rested on his shoulder, and told it to be quiet.

He stepped around the dead pentagram that was burned into the floorboards, and pulled the door open. A guy wearing just a vest and shorts stood there in the hallway, holding a baseball bat and looking as if he was about to explode. He opened his mouth to speak, but then looked up at Kort. Kort looked down at him, waiting. The guy’s eyes swiveled so he was staring at the bloody axe.

“You’re in my way,” Kort said, but he was talking to empty air, the guy was sprinting along the hallway. Kort went the other way, to the fire escape. He unlocked the window and lifted it up and climbed through. He paused on the fire escape landing and took a deep breath of the cool night air. Stars shone above, brilliant pin-pricks of light that looked down upon him and whispered, What are you even doing here? A question Kort asked himself every day.

He asked a homeless man at the end of the alleyway how to get to the diner, and received comprehensive directions. Kort thanked him and offered him a bill from the roll of bills money Gorman had given him, but the homeless man refused. People were strange.

Kort ran through the rain-washed streets, remembering the directions. Soon he saw flashing lights in the distance. As he approached, he discovered the lights did indeed belong to the vehicles of the type law enforcement officers employed. They were parked near the diner Gorman had described. Many policemen were armed and using their vehicles to shield them.

Gorman was there also, with his assistant Patrice, who made no secret of distrusting Kort, if not outright disliking him. Kort cared nothing for the man’s feelings, the flunkey was Gorman’s concern, not his.

Some of the policemen pointed their weapons at Kort but Gorman shouted at them and they lowered them. Kort understood that people who had not seen him before sometimes reacted in a cautious manner. His axe told him to kill them all but Kort ignored the whispering voice and nodded in greeting to Gorman.

“I see you’ve come prepared,” Gorman said. looking at the axe and then looking away again quickly. “Are you getting taller, or am I shrinking?”

“You said three,” Kort said.

“Maybe three. There could be more, I just don’t know, sorry.”

“All right.”

“If you walk in there with that, it could kick off a bloodbath.”

Kort had been thinking similar thoughts. Hiding the axe under his coat wouldn’t work, those within would sense its presence — or more likely smell it.

“Do you have a plan?”

“Well, you could try diplomacy, couldn’t you? Ask them to leave. Return to whence they came, or however you say it.”

“They might not want to.”

“I get that, but try to convince them.”

“Use your charisma,” Patrice said.

Gorman turned his head a fraction, as if about to say something, but he stopped himself.

Kort drew his arm back as a precursor to throwing the axe, and fixed his gaze on Patrice. The assistant made a whimpering noise and threw himself to the ground. Kort made the throw, aiming at the diner window instead — but halted the axe before it struck. It hung quivering in the air, its inertia suspended by his will.

He walked to the diner’s door, opened it and stepped inside.

As Gorman had said, there were casualties. Three customers who’d been sitting in a booth beside the windows were dead. They slumped in their seats or had fallen forward over the tables. Their life fluids decorated their surroundings.

Four men and two women — one of the latter wearing a uniform that suggested she worked in the diner — cowered in a corner, watched by a tall demon Kort didn’t recognize. He held a black scimitar in one of his massive paws. He grinned when Kort took off his hat and scarf and tossed them onto a clean booth seat.

“What have we here? Is it mortal? Or is it one of us?”

He was talking to two other demons who’d stepped out of the kitchen. They were chaos twins, their ankles shackled together. This multiplied their strength. Their hot gazes flicked to the door and the windows, as if making sure no one else was coming inside, then came to rest on Kort. He sensed their rising bloodlust. This was not going to go well.

He held up his hands, palms outward, a universal gesture of peace. “Cool it. I’m just a messenger. You’ve had your fun. It’s time to go home, hey?”

“Now why would we want to do that?” one of the twins said. “This is such a fun place.” He glanced at the cowering customers. “So many souls to reap.”

Kort jerked his thumb back over his shoulder, indicating the small army of policemen gathered outside. “They’re ready to fill you full of holes. Sure, they can’t kill you. But if you take enough damage?” He whistled and made a diving motion with his hand, giving them a clear picture.

The other twin snatched a black scimitar out of the air and ran his thumb along the blade’s edge, as if testing it. “What happens if you take damage?” he asked, baring his fangs.

Kort often wondered that himself. When he’d been summoned to this world, he’d fused with the idiot warlock who’d thrice called his name and demanded he attend. That was the fault of the witch whose face Kort had never seen, who’d deliberately pushed the warlock into the pentagram just as Kort rose up through the portal. Perhaps she’d been removing a rival, or perhaps some unknown act of revenge was playing out, Kort didn’t know and might never know. Here he was, an outcast trapped in this cold place, unable to return to the lower depths. If these demons killed him, would he be released from this half-mortal husk? He was tempted to let them so he could find out.

The twins leapt at him together as if sharing the same thought, which they possibly did. Kort restored his axe’s inertia and when it came hurtling in through the window he grabbed its handle and swung it into the skull of the twin on the left, pulling him forward so he fouled the second twin’s swing. The black scimitar missed Kort by inches. He didn’t give the wielder another chance, he wrenched his axe free and turned the motion into a back-handed stroke that sliced through crimson flesh and yellow bone, completely severing the second twin’s head from its neck. His axe cackled with pleasure.

The remaining demon said, “Fuck.”

Kort stepped over the twisted bodies, taking care not to trip on their chain. The demon roared and ran at him, twirling his scimitar above his head. Kort was still considering his strategy when his boots skidded on blood. He hit the floor hard, landing on his back. The demon leaped and brought his deadly scimitar down. Kort slapped the wide blade aside with the palm of his hand and drove his axe up into the demon’s crotch. The demon split up the middle and hot guts exploded over Kort. Something heavy thumped to the floor.

Kort rolled over, gagging. He pushed himself up onto one knee and wiped at his eyes until he could see again. All three demons were dead. Not bad, for a half-mortal mutt.

He might have expected the living customers and the waitress to make a break for the door, but then again he was between it and them. He didn’t imagine he looked very nice. In fact to their eyes he probably looked a lot like the demons he'd just killed. He picked up his scarf and beanie and put them on again. There wasn’t much he could do about the blood, though. His coat was reeking with the stuff.

He went into the kitchen, where the twin demons had been lurking when he came in. A lump of pink flesh and splayed ribs decorated the floor; from the tattered white clothing, Kort presumed this was the cook. He saw nothing else of interest. Certainly not what he was expecting to find.

When he returned to the dining area, the door was slowly closing. The customers had fled outside. Only the uniformed waitress remained, hugging herself as she stood with her back against the wall, staring in horror at the booth.

Kort examined the dead customers again, more closely this time. They seemed to have much less bulk than they should — they appeared shrunk, as if they’d been deflated. Or their insides had been scooped out.

He stared at the waitress, whose badge said SHIRLIE. She reluctantly met his gaze, before looking away quickly. He saw the fear in her eyes and thought at first she was afraid of him. But no, it was something else, something he was missing. What?

Kort had entered this world via a pentagram and the warlock’s spell of summoning. But that wasn’t the only way a demon might pass from the underworld into the upper world. The longer Kort studied the corpses, the more he accepted that the three demons had exploded out of the customers sitting in the booth.

The waitress was nervously playing with something around her neck. Kort moved closer to her, but not too close, he didn’t want to scare her any more than she already was.

She realized the focus of his attention and stopped playing with whatever it was, tucking it down inside her blouse, out of sight.

He turned his head to look back at the booth. Then returned his gaze to her. She was connected to this. She had caused it to happen.

What had they said to her, what had they done? An insult, an ass-slap? Complaints about the service, the food? Whatever it was, it had caused her to respond with rage. Had she cursed them? Curses meant nothing unless they were backed up with power, they were just words. But what if she had power?

He reached out and before she could stop him he took hold of the thin chain and yanked it with enough force to snap it. She yelped and put a hand to her neck. Kort dangled the little silver amulet in front of her face. It didn’t look anything special, just a molten blob, but when it slowly turned around on the chain, there was a hint of a sloping head, of bulbous eyes, of horn nubs, of pointed demon ears. An image of some nether demon-thing that someone had made, a worshipper perhaps, a cultist. Kort didn’t even recognize it.

She tried to grab it back but Kort jerked it away and put it down on one of the tables. He lifted his axe and brought it down on the amulet. There was a flash of light and the table burst apart, pieces of plastic and wood flying everything. The waitress emitted a high-pitched cry that turned into a gurgling sob as she slowly slid down the wall, a pathetic figure who’d just lost something important.

Kort put his finger right up to her nose. Her sobbing stopped and she looked up at him. He didn’t say anything, didn’t have to. She knew he was delivering a warning.

“Go to church and ask forgiveness,” he said. “It might not be too late.”

Even as he said the words, he sensed it was too late for her, but there wasn’t anything he could do about that. He was only an outcast, not some higher power who could wave his hand and manipulate the balance.

He left Shirlie to ponder her life choices and went outside. All the policemen were pointing their weapons at him. He wanted them to open fire. It might end his torment. But Gorman shouted at them again and one by one the guns were lowered. Some more reluctantly than others.

Gorman glanced inside the diner. Kort just nodded.

“I’m going back to bed. Any objections?”

“No.”

“Don’t call me again.”

“I can’t promise that.”

Kort sighed, knowing it was true. He hoisted his axe up so it rested on his shoulder, told it to be quiet, and set off for home. He couldn’t remember the directions the homeless man had given him, but he didn’t need to. The pentagram in his apartment might be dead, but like a homing pigeon, he always knew its location. Like it or not he was tied to it. Just like the axe was tied to him.

On the way he passed a Chinese take away that was still open. Maybe this was his lucky night after all.

-The End-​
 
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JuniperJ

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Ok, in spite of the exploding guts and such, I actually liked this better than your last one. :) Waay better! Stuck, lonely, neutral-about-killing half-demon who's on call to the police and loves Chinese take away? Yes, please! Now, THAT's complex and compelling! You had me endeared to Kort from the moment he mentioned not liking cell phones. And then the way he doesn't want to pick up the axe but knows he has to, the Christmas scarf... you have the reader on his side before we find out his full story, and when we do, we (or at least I) only like him more for the hard things he's been through. But the real kicker is closer to the end. The demon telling the waitress to go to church and ask for forgiveness. WHAT!?!?! YES. I have so many questions about how Kort got to this place (that's good, I like some mystery), and of course you bring up the questions of the balance of the universe and forgiveness and all that, which are just as mystifying, but I like me a story that throws them out there in a non-preachy way. Well done.
My only suggestion is to mix up some of the genders. You have a male police officer (or chief or captain or whatever, I don't know about that stuff), his male assistant, 3 male and one unidentified demons, and a female waitress. Admittedly, the latter has some unexpected stuff up her sleeve, and sexual harassment as a potential motivator, so I'll buy that, but all the roles in combination just seem kinda stereotypical. Which nothing else about this story is. ;)
 

10trackers

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Dammit, Derek! You're going to have to turn this one into a full-length WIP TOO.

I enjoyed this one a lot, the characterization of Kort is spot-on. The bit with the waitress is great. I would definitely read more if you have it!
 

dpaterso

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Thanks to you both for reading, glad you kinda enjoyed it, I ran in circles and flapped my arms trying to think of something to suit the prompt, and out came this. In addition to writing a story I think I was trying to create a franchise character (!) who might appear again in other tales down the line. If I was starting at square one then I think I'd have led off with the warlock's pentagram summoning scene, or maybe even moments earlier when Kort is minding his own business down in the hot place and the equivalent of a phone call comes in through the ceiling. Something to think about. Subsequent tales will surely feature non-male characters!

-Derek
 

eileenmcilwain

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Can this please be a Netflix series? Please??? I would binge watch the hell out of this (pun intended). Kort reminds me of Hellboy and Marv from Sin City: gritty, unaccepted by society, and yet somehow he still carries this tiny flicker of hope.

I like that he doesn’t punish the waitress, and instead gives her the opportunity to do the right thing. It differentiates him from your standard hero who would turn her into police “because it’s the law.” I need to know who this witch was, and what the hammer’s story is, and so many other things. Consider me officially intrigued.
 

dpaterso

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Thanks for reading and thanks for saying so! Nice to hear Kort's got appeal. I will write to Netflix immediately!

-Derek