49,070 / 50,000
Holy potatoes I wrote a lot today. I was determined to finish the chapter, and it just kept going. =)
If there was a better time, and a better reason to have been called a fool, Charlie was hard pressed to think of one. Maybe something with less monsters crashing into a room, but other than that, he was more than happy to be called a fool.
The creature had the attention of every member of the Cerulean Order. Every head turned, every blue cowl shifted. Only the ones in the back of the room did not have to move to get a glimpse of what was coming.
Even Charlie and Adrienne were more focused on the entryway than anything else in the room with them. Adrienne was almost calm in her captor's arms. Her struggles had stopped, her crying had ceased. The fevered look in her eyes had returned, however.
It was Richard who broke the silence of those in the room and the staring. "Move!" he shouted out. "Move!" he cried again, making the entire congregation snap to attention. They were still torn, some turning back to Richard, some continuing to look into the block of blackness within their amber coloured wall. Others still could not decide which commanded more attention.
Richard shouted once more, and even the creature stopped it's yowling cries, and advanced no further. Charlie could see why the others followed him. Gone was the 'golly gee whiz' happy go lucky war vet who thought everything would be better with hugs and seaweed. Now Charlie saw him as he truly was, a leader among men, a grizzled, old soul who had seen too much fighting, and a force to be reckoned with. If he had a staff, the man could almost have been a double for a blue robed Moses.
The members of the Order began to move about the room, opening a gap in their circle to clear a path to the opening. They waited standing at attention, flanking the hole in the wall like an honour guard awaiting a processional to pass between them. If they pulled swords or guns out of their robes, Charlie would not have been surprised. Although he doubted they would have held them aloft over the passing monster.
Richard turned his attention away from the resuming cries of his pet freak, and instead his gaze fell back upon Charlie. "Are you going to help us?" he asked through gritted teeth. The request felt as if he had swallowed a quart of battery acid.
Charlie gave it less than a moment's consisderation. The request for aid wasn't even out of Richard's mouth before Charlie was shaking his head, and smiling. He was quite content to stand back and watch the chaos. "No no, I'm good right here. Have a good run at it, though."
"That thing will kill us all!"
"You know," Charlie said as he crossed his arms and leaned against the fountain, "I'm rather ok with that."
The smugness upon his face was washed away in an instant when Richard grabbed Adrienne away from the man who had killed Markus. She offered no resistance and the only movement she made was that caused by being dragged by the arm. Even though Richard only held her by a forearm, she still stood as if she was being clasped as tight as she had been all around.
"Then we have no need for you, or her." Richard's lone hand disappeared underneath his cloak once more. He had to let her go to do so, but she seemed complacent enough.
The moment Richard's hand returned into view, Charlie saw a flash of metal in the candlelight. He didn't know if it was a gun, or a knife, or something else entirely, but he didn't care. He had abided their treatement of Adrienne this long because they had not threatened her. And he was somewhat outnumbered, but mostly because they had not threatened her. As soon as weapons entered the playing field, all bets were off.
Charlie lunged into the air, using the wider platform the base of the fountain was sitting on top of to push off of and get some added lift.
No one made a move to stop Charlie. It all happened so fast, none of them could have done a thing, their attention was so drawn elsewhere. Charlie had forgotten all about the creature. Lost were thoughts of mishappen monstrosities the moment he saw metal being drawn.
Outside of the occasional barfights that Charlie would claim were never his fault, he had only ever committed one violent act in his life. An act he did not even remember committing. He almost considered himself a pacifist, but he knew there was a time when one had to fight. All thoughts of pacifism were lost though as he leapt into the air. There may have been murder in his blood that day nine years ago, but it was not an act he had any connection with. Now, he was fully aware, and while enraged, he was acting of his own free will.
However, Charlie's reaction was far from necessary. By the time he landed and had expected to have tackled Richard, there was nothing there to hit. Instead, he stumbled as his feet hit the wet stone, and almost sent him spilling down to the ground.
He kept himself upright, and looked around like a crazed man looking for the strange creatures only he could see flying around his head.
When Richard had drawn his weapon, a silver coated gun with a black ebony handgrip, more than one Boxer sprang into action. Adrienne was no scared waif in the cult's hands. She just played the part expected of her, biding her time as their hostage.
Much like her brother, the instant she saw a glint of metal, she dropped her facade. In the fractions of a second that it took Charlie to see it and pounce like a lion upon its prey, Adrienne attacked the man with only one arm.
Richard had underestimated the small girl, as she hoped he would. With only the one hand, and that hand being occupied, it made for the perfect opening to strike.
Where Charlie had to take the time to pull back and leap through the air then land, all Adrienne had to do was give Richard one good punch. Her balled little fist struck with unexpected force into Richard's nose.
Rivulets of blood flowed down Richard's lip, forming tiny crimson streams on down his chin. He stumbled backwards from the blow, and in his haste to grasp at his broken nose, he dropped the gun.
All this happened before Charlie hit the ground. The force of his leap carried him beyond the two, and through the gap that now stood between them. He spun around on his heel, sneaker squeaking against the wet floor.
To his left stood Adrienne, fists still curled up tight in front of her. Her feet were planted firm upon the ground. Any fear that was in her eyes had disappeared, if there had been any real fear there at all in the first place. She was ready to go another round.
On Charlie's left was Richard. His hand covered his crumpled nose, and it was covered in blood. Blood was staining his once perfect blue robe. As the blood dried, it became an almost royal shade of purple.
"You missed out on my kid sister taking boxing classes in your little history lesson of the clan Boxer. Or clan Connelly, whichever. Care to take both of us on?"
Richard pulled his hand away, and shook it, spraying blood down by his feet. The lower half of his face was a darker red than either of the Boxer's hair. He spat out even more crimson ichor, and a few flecks of teeth went with it.
Once more, he reached into his robe. The hand smeared more blood upon its surface, the fibres standing up from the sticky juices in a streak upon his chest. This time, clutched in his red, right hand was a dagger. It's surface did not shimmer in the firelight like the gun before it. The blade was smeared with the blood from Richard's hand. His fingers flexed around the hilt.
This time, Charlie was upon the leader before his sister could react, much to her disappointment. Her lips curled into a pout as her brother and Richard toppled to the ground in a heap.
The sound of the knife clattering upon the stone was lost in all the noise that broke out the moment Charlie connected with Richard.
Thick tentacled fingers grasped at the sides of the opening in the wall, and the monster pulled itself into the room. It howled like a dog to an invisible moon, shaking the entire room. The members of the Order in the room nearest to the creature rushed at it, but were swept away easier than a toy mouse batted away by a cat.
It pushed its way through the throngs of followers, towards the writhing pair upon the wet floor. Many of the cultists took the opportunity to run past it and out the corridor it had just used.
Others though still fought the creature. They jumped upon it, but it flicked them away as no more than mosquitos upon an arm. One of the Order grabbed the standing pole of a brazier and brandished it as weapon at the creature. It backed away from the flames, but not much. The threat of burning kept the creature little more than occupied.
Charlie was oblivious to the creature's antics, and pinned Richard's lone arm down to the ground. He sat atop the man's bloodstained chest. The robe had fallen open up to the neck, spread out from the slit running the length of it. Underneath, Charlie could see through the red stained clothes that he was wearing the same outfit Richard was wearing that day.
"What are you going to do now, huh? Hit me with your stump? Maybe we'll just sit right here, and see how our friend feels about you. He doesn't sound happy." Charlie took the chance to gloat.
"What's the big deal about letting him out, anyways? You didn't exactly have him under lock and key."
Richard spit blood at Charlie, which made him rise back, but not let go of the arm. "The door was enscribed with magical wards, you idiot, it couldn't get out! We were keeping it, a child of our masters! A harbinger of things to come! But it's still dangerous!"
As if on cue, the monster grabbed one of the Cerulean Order in its tentacles, and with the other arm's tendrils, tore off its head. The creature let out a sound that from any other throat would have been laughter as scarlet fluid shot forth and covered its chest.
Charlie was distracted by the brutal display of amusement, and was almost unaware when something grabbed one of his arms and yanked him clean off the cult leader.
He lay there on his back at the foot of the fountain, staring up at the ceiling. In the stonework above was carved a similar scene of orbs and tentacles as the base of the fountain. However, it was more detailed due to its size. Charlie wanted to take the time to take in any new features, but it was more important to see just what had happened.
Rolling over and back onto his feet into a crouched position, Charlie faced Richard as he was getting up as well. The left side of his cloak was thrown back over his shoulder, and the sleeve covering the stump where his left arm had once been had been torn away. Thrusting out of the torn fabric was a series of flailing tentacles. They were red, redder than even the blood caking upon Richard's chin. Purple spots dotted their surface, each one pulsing with life of its own to some unseen drumming beat.
"These too," said Richard, gesturing with his human arm at the tentacles where an arm should be, "are also gifts from our masters. I gave them my arm, and in return they gave me a piece of their greatness. This alone is what makes me better than any of the bitches from your family. Especially your grandmother."
Charlie grabbed the rim of the fountain's basin to help him clambor to his feet. He wiped blood off his cheek, and wondered if it was his or Richard's. Or from any of the growing pile of bodies of followers that lay in front of the monster.
"I never got along with gran. She cut me out of any inheritence. Now that I know who her friends were, and where that money was going to and coming from? I'm glad. Say all you want about her."
Charlie leaned forwards and grabbed Richard by the collar. The man monster crossbreed made no response, he just stared with dead eyes.
"But you never EVER speak of my sister that way. And especially not my mother. I killed her, and I loved her. What makes you think I won't do the same to you?"
Richard grinned, a wide toothy grin, and Charlie could see the teeth were sharper, more fang like, meshing together in a perfect sawtooth pattern.
"Because I know you, Charlie. Maybe not everything," he spat out blood to emphasize his point of failure. "But enough. And I know you're not a killer. Not deep down."
Despite his best efforts, Charlie knew he was right. As much as he may have wanted to, as much as he may have actually done it in the heat of the moment, Charlie could not bring himself to kill this man. Not even this foul, lying creature.
Instead, Charlie just gave the man a forward jerk, and he spun out of the way. Richard's head cracked upon the stem of the fountain, making him cry out as pain doubled upon pain. The creature howled to match it's owner's own cry.
Adrienne ran by the fountain, through the room which was fast becoming empty. Charlie followed her, and saw she had grabbed Richard's gun and stuffed it in the waist of her pants.
Charlie glanced back and saw that the creature was being held back by two men, each with braziers, but still it flailed out with what passed for hands, grabbing the occasional man in blue robes that got too close.
Closing in, clutching at his face, and reaching out with his own slender tendrils was Richard. Charlie reached into his coat pocket and found the twin pins from the hinge to the church basement door. He doubted it would work like it did in the cartoons, but Charlie thought any chance was better than no chance at all, so he tossed the pins to the floor. They rolled across the ground and Richard stepped right on top of both. If the floor was a little less smooth, if it was a little less wet with water and blood, if Richard wasn't half blinded with rage and pain, then he may well have not tripped up and pitched backward onto his ass.
Adrienne was ahead of Charlie and already ascending up the ladder built into the walls. Their slick feet squeaked with each rung of metal, but the surface was worn enough that their feet found more purchase than they feared they might.
They climbed up and up, into the small hole in the ceiling, and the dark, cramped tunnel the ladder followed. The square of light faded behind them with each groping step upwards, with each clang of foot against metal.
After what felt like an eternity, Adrienne stopped climbing, and swore. Her curse sounded louder in the small confines of the shaft than it otherwise would have.
"What is it?" asked her brother.
Adrienne swore again, and her fist hit something, and Charlie heard something else rattling. "There's a door, and it's locked. Damnit!"
Charlie climbed up another rung, squeezing up against his sister's legs, making them both uncomfortable. He reached up and pulled the gun out of her waistband. There was just enough light creeping upwards that Adrienne could see it, and grabbed it.
The sound of the weapon being cocked startled Charlie, and he grabbed his sister's leg. "No, don't shoot, damnit! If the bullet riccochets..."
Adrienne turned the gun around in her hand and used the butt of the handgrip to hit at the lock dangling down from the loops that kept the door from opening.
With a loud snapping crack, the lock broke, and Adrienne pushed the wodden door up and open. The siblings climbed out of the shaft and into somewhere that smelled almost as musty as the series of caverns they had just escaped.
"Where are we?" Charlie voiced the question on both of their minds.
Adrienne turned on her light and looked around. There were boxes everywheren, and Charlie at first thought they were in yet another storage room like before, but found it an odd place for storage. Although he did think it would be like an attic to the underground caverns.
His sister started to move with a certain sureity, and found a pathway through the junk piled around them. Adrienne found a staircase of wood that led up to a doorway. Charlie was surprised at how fast she had found it, and how direct she had been in getting to it, as he watched her climb the stairs and open the door.
Charlie followed her on up, and when he stepped out into another room, he was surprised to find the familiar dining room from his youth. He could even see the sweater his sister had pulled out of his hands and tossed on the table.
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," he said. Charlie was amazed that they had spent all that time, all that effort going to the church, and they could have gotten where they were going just by going down into the basement. His parents had always tried to scare him with stories of monsters down there, and Charlie now found himself wondering just how much they knew.
"Why are you surprised? I told you your grandmother built the chamber. Why do you think they bought this house? She led us, and wanted our worship to take place at her feet, no matter what."
Both Boxers spun at the voice, and saw Richard standing there, bloody and bruised. He held the knife in his hand, and a phone was somehow cradled in his tentacles.
They could hear the phone dial and pick up. The tentacles move the phone closer to Richard's face, and he yelled into it, his voice filled with desperation.
"Off...officer Franks! Please, you have to hurry! I'm at the Boxer house, up on Essex! That Boxer kid, he's...he's gone mad again, and started chasing me with a knife!" Richard punctuated the words by waving the knife in his hand, and grinning even through his act. "You've got to hurry, he'll find me any...oh god, he's here, hurry, you've got..."
Richard clicked the phone shut and tossed it aside. The phone broke into several pieces upon the floor.
"My sacrifice will seal me a place at the side of our great God, and see you burn in hell, Charlie Boxer. I do this for the greater plan, and my lifeforce lives on upon the might sea of space."
Charlie saw him raise the knife, but he was unable to move fast enough to stop the blood stained silver weapon plunge deep into the crazed man's throat, slicing it from one side to the next. The cut matched Richard's grin, but filled with red flesh and muschle instead of white teeth.
Adrienne grabbed him held him fast before he could do anything to help Richard. Despite what the man had done, Charlie still wanted to try and save him. "Don't touch him. You've already got enough blood on you, and you do not want to go near that knife."
Charlie knew she was right, and just nodded, watching as the man's lifeblood poured out from the gash and pooled upon the rusty brown carpet he had played on as a child.
In the distance, Charlie heard what he thought at first was the sounds of the creature far beneath his feet, still crying out. Instead, he realised that it was the sound of approaching sirens.
Adrienne realised what the sound was long before her brother did, and had already grabbed his suitcase and brought it to him, even returning the sweater she had mocked earlier to its contents.
"You can't stay here. There is no way we can explain this that doesn't look good."
"I could try saying that I was in the throes of a nightmare?" Charlie asked, trying desperately to lighten the mood.
It succeeded in making Adrienne smile just the barest amount, but it was enough for Charlie. "You've already played that get out of jail free card, bro. It doesn't work twice. You've gotta run, gotta get out of here."
He nodded. Charlie knew she was right. He never suspected that having avoided it for so long, and wanting to leave since his arrival, that he would not want to leave Kraftsbury. That was precisely where he found his feelings, though.
They exchanged a quick hug, and Charlie made his way to the back door, and ran through the backyard. There were woods in the distance, and while he and Brendan had both played there as kids, and set things on fire, no one knew them like Charlie did. The police would be able to follow his footrpints to the tree line, and they might bring dogs, but they wouldn't find him before sunrise. By then, he'd be long gone.
Once again, Charlie Boxer was getting the hell out of town.