Crimson & Cloven:2

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I feel the need to take a moment to explain certain things about mortality versus immortality. You might feel like you have a handle on this discussion, but do the guy in the greatcoat a solid and humor him for a few paragraphs.

Mortality and immortality in almost all cases is something separated by the effect that time has on a physical body. A mortal being, like you and I, ages over time. As we age, our physical form deteriorates. We can prevent this with clean living, even though clean living doesn’t do anything about the bus that might jump the curb and make a mess of things.

Immortals don’t have the same constraints. They aren’t affected by time. Their physical forms remain intact. They don’t get bogged down because of several decades or even centuries of living.

But remember that hypothetical bus jumping the hypothetical curb?

Yeah, that’d smear an immortal into the afterlife just as quickly as a person that got old and gray by 55.

Immortals, in short, bear a title that isn’t exactly honest. They can die.

But, after centuries of life experience, they might just know a few tricks that makes them much harder to take out.

Even if they do take two bullets to the frontal lobe.

Ok, back to it…

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Weirdness is something that just won’t do people a favor and stay under proper guidelines. It breaks molds before said molds have a chance to even be formed.

So it was that when Leon shot the being known as Cazael, that things took a turn that nobody could have seen coming, unless they likes rubber walls.

The fat form rippled and bulged a Leon walked away, and I couldn’t look away. It reminded me of a hot dog in a microwave, bulging and shuddering from the waves of radiation. Parker was making a soft groaning sound next to me. Leon noticed our expressions and turned to face his latest kill. His form stiffened.

Cazael might have appeared to be a man with some poor health choices, but in truth I knew him for his true nature: a demon with a gluttonous appetite and a mean streak. In my investigation, I also learned he was over a millennium old.

What I witnessed after the assassination attempt in the diner was that Cazael wasn’t going to be quite so easy to put down.

Remember what I said about learning things over time? Yeah. Cazael busied himself with some homework over the years.

With a soft, wet, tearing sound the fat man began to split, halving as if some unseen zipper beneath his skin pulled itself open. Less blood than I would have expected poured from this rift. There was a burst of colored gas that belched forth from the new opening.

The waitress fainted. I did my best to do the same, but as luck would have it, I remained conscious.

The body sagged further, the skin wrinkling and folding into deeper creases as the split widened. A wicked trio of rose-colored claws emerged from the base of the tear, jagged and horrifying. The body bulged perversely.

The rift exploded open with a horrible rending sound, and there were a set of arms for each set of claws, and a muscular form. Leather wings flapped wetly, spraying gore and bile against the walls. Hoofed feet clopped along the floor, clicking loud and hollow. All of this seemed secondary to the snarling, angular face that scowled upon us, and the curved crown of horns that seemed to tickle the ceiling.

It shrieked, high and piercing.

Leon opened fire, hopping back on the balls of his feet, moving with profane quickness. Parker lunged forward, drawing his own gun and joining into the firefight. The true form of Cazael twitched and roared, speaking in a strange language that was never meant to be heard by men.

I drew my own weapon. I liked my .380. It was small but efficient. It was easy to hide in a pinch and would drop most targets with a well-aimed shot. I considered the best vantage point to take a shot.

I chose out the door and as many blocks away as my feet could carry me.

I think Parker shouted something at me as I rushed out the door, but I wasn’t wasting time to engage in whatever conversation he had in mind.

Before I am judged too harshly, keep in mind that there’s a minuscule line that separates cowardice and a keen sense of survival. Chances are that I have stepped over that line on occasion. Things happen.

The crowds outside were rushing away from the diner. The echo of rapid gunshots will disperse a crowd with unparalleled effectiveness. I joined the masses in their panicked flight.

A crowd of people huddled at the mouth of an alleyway and waved me toward them. Their pale faces and wide eyes marked them as crisis virgins. I ducked into their mass and froze. I found comfort among their numbers, even though I was well aware that there was nothing that these people could do to stop something nightmarish from happening.

A large, dark-skinned man in a threadbare suit grabbed my shoulder. His face trembled with an ashen expression. “Did you see who was shooting? Was it terrorists?”

“No,” I assured him. “Not terrorists.”

“Oh, you saw then!” called another voice in the throng. “Was it gangbangers?”

“Um…” I considered.

“Mobsters!” bellowed a third, sounding supremely confident. The floodgates spilled open, and they all began voicing their analysis of the matter at hand. Most of the ideas seemed to be gleaned from watching too many police procedurals. Others ranged from the end times to kids and video games. My head hurt.

The conversation ceased as a red, winged, shrieking form zipped through the air nearly a hundred feet above.

The dark-skinned man blanched. He leaned close to me and whispered,”Terrorist satanists?”

I sighed and shook my head. “Close enough.”

The End

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