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American Atheist 28

by Nelly 

Posted: 20 November 2006
Word Count: 1555
Related Works: American Atheist: 26 • American Atheist: 27 • 

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Angelo crawled across the crumbling tunnel’s roof like some obscene spider hunting its prey. The soft velvet of his purple robe blended seamlessly with the shadows, a faint sliver of light revealing the hook of his nose and the cold intent locked deep within his brown eyes. With nothing to hold in the smooth rock he had forced his fingers into the stone and fashioned grips, as if it were no more than putty in his hands. He raised his head and sniffed in the darkness as he went, occasionally muttering to himself or chewing the corner of his swollen lip. His movements were unnatural, his long limbs striking out to secure new handholds before slowly drawing his torso further on into the gloom. As he neared a bend in the tunnel he froze in position, his muscles rigid and taught, his head raised with a snarl. Then with the briefest of glances Angelo willed the lights to fade, until one stopped altogether, the change casting pools of darkness across the tunnel and obscuring him from view.

He waited until the eight soldiers he had sensed earlier passed beneath him. Each was dressed in the uniform of the Vault’s secret militia, not the pomp and splendor of the Swiss guard, but rather a dress of dark leather and cloth with only the crucifix of the Christ sewn into their top right hand pockets marking them as loyal to the Holy See. In their gloved hands they held onto snub-nosed machine pistols and their faces were grim silent affairs.

He watched the soldiers continue through the tunnel before dropping wraithlike from the ceiling and attacking the last man in line. The cardinal’s first blow struck with enough force to tear away flesh and explode blood vessels within the soldier’s eyes. The second blow threw the soldier into the wall, where his bones shattered like porcelain dropped from a great height. Before the body crumpled to the floor, Angelo had kicked out at the next soldier, his heel firmly connecting with the man’s mouth, smashing out his front teeth so they flew like tiny tobacco-stained missiles across the corridor, exploding against the walls in a hail of breaking bone.

The six remaining soldiers brought up their weapons, but Angelo moved amongst them as an indistinct blur, his claws ripping through their leather to find the soft flesh beneath. He cut through muscle, tendon and arteries with impunity, a whirlwind of destruction that left a trail of death in his wake.

One soldier, a grizzled bear of a man, had the presence of mind to throw a series of punches rather than use his gun. Angelo blocked each with barely a pause. Grasping the man’s head he applied enough pressure to crack the skull, pushing both eyes from their sockets so they hung upon long greasy cords.

Each of the cardinal punches and kicks was coordinated with complete precision, utilizing neither too much strength nor too little. It was a perfection of combat. A culmination of the Vatican’s teachings, comprised into the body of a man who excelled in the art of war.

The guards never stood a chance.

Within seconds of Angelo’s first blow, the battle had reached its inevitable conclusion. All the men – trained soldiers of the highest capability – lay dead or near death with Angelo standing victorious amongst them.

One soldier had collapsed upon the floor, partly covered by the dismembered body parts of his fellow troops. His breathing was ragged and he was missing the first three fingers of his left hand from the knuckle up. Yet he still lived.

Angelo regarded him as a minor oversight, an error to be quickly corrected before he moved on. He stepped forward and extended the two claws of his right glove.

The soldier tried to scramble away, but the blood and gore of his immediate surroundings made it an impossible task and he slipped, ending up flat upon his belly and writhing in the sludge like some grossly enlarged worm.

Standing over him, Angelo placed his hand upon the man’s skull and pressed the soldier’s head into the ground. His claws glittered crimson, and a faint tendril of flesh dripped from between their edges.

“Wait!” the man screamed, desperation bubbling in his throat, “please...”

Angelo forced the soldier’s head lower into the rock – partly to drown out his voice and because it struck a sudden cord of emotion within him, a whimsical flash of a distant feeling, something he hadn’t felt in many years and left a dull ache in his heart. What was it? Guilt? He wasn’t sure; it had been so long since he had felt anything like it. He pressed down harder and the feeling faded, there was a minor resistance as the soldier’s teeth buckled then snapped with the strain.

“Please,” the man gurgled through a shattered mouth, “I’ve got family.”

Angelo hesitated, his hand clenched and unclenched, the claws responded by sliding in and out of their bloodstained sheaths.

“His name is Orion…”

Angelo wavered in doubt. He wanted to finish the job, but all he could see was a desperate man, weak and ultimately beneath him. A mindless drone working for powers that were beyond his comprehension. Just like Angelo had been, before his second death… before Unita.

He could not ignore the symmetry.

His hands relaxed, the claws clicked back into their thin metal slots. Was it necessary to kill everyone he met? What difference would a single life make? He stared hard at the back of the man’s head. To the soldier’s family, he would make a great deal of difference. A father returning home each night could be the center point of his son’s life. Take that away and destroy the innocence of the child. Could he have that upon his conscious as well? He knew the answer and sighed. “Go,” he said, “just run. Don’t talk to anyone. Get in the lift, ride it to the top and don’t stop.”

The man scrambled away with barely a backward glance, clutching his bleeding hand, spiting out broken teeth and staggering into the wall.

Angelo watched him go, a smile touching the corner of his mouth. Here was a true display of power, not enough to grant death, but rather to allow life. This was a strength he had not considered before.

The idea intrigued him.

“If I release you,” Unita stated, “how do I know you won’t kill me? Or Dekel? And even for that matter anyone else?”

“It should not matter. Death is transitory. The deaths of others are beneath you and should be dismissed.” Lucifer’s voice flickered with annoyance; Unita felt it mixing into her thoughts like sour milk in coffee.

“Death is important. How we face it doubly so.”

“You are not human, nor where you ever human. You were bred for this. My seed passed down from human sow. Yours is a not a random birth, but a complicated tapestry dating back hundreds of years. You must free me.” Lucifer’s voice shifted dangerously. “If you do not, I can make your existence uncomfortable. Dekel is not beyond my power, should I choose. Your little Jew can be easily broken.”

Unita edged closer and risked a quick glance down towards the three metal bowls, filled with Lucifer’s blood. “I won’t release you if it means the deaths of others. You are a tortured beast Lucifer….”

“Lucifer is just a name. I am far older than this world, even this universe. I have had many names. I am not evil, I use hate as a medium of travel, but there is no duplicity about me.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“You doubt my power?”

“The church has kept you imprisoned here for centuries. If you had the power why not release yourself.”

The ground shook uncontrollably and Lucifer shifted his head to the right. “You dare to mock me. If it’s a test you require…”

His voice trailed off and suddenly Unita became anxious.

“Wait, don’t,” she began, “I believe you, you are a powerful entity.”

Lucifer didn’t respond.

Footsteps resounded throughout the cavern and Unita could see a figure emerge from the main entrance. A guard dressed in black, with a machine pistol clutched tightly within his hands. He wore a black helm that obscured most of his face, save his mouth which was smeared red as if he had been careless in drinking red wine.

“Who?” she began, but was cut off by the guard abruptly opening his mouth and vomiting his insides across the floor in one great steaming mass, like so much tripe, spilling and splashing down his uniform, in great raw chunks.

Unita brought her hands to her face, but could not look away at the unfolding horror.

The guard’s body bent backwards, and there was a sickening crack of bone. His trousers stained quickly through with blood and Unita realized he was also bleeding from his anus. In one final heave, shredded internal organs erupted out to fall upon the floor. Unita recognized the guard’s heart and liver glistening wet upon the pile of steaming mush. Eventually the dead guard collapsed amongst his exposed innards and Lucifer asked in a voice filled with malice.

“You believe me now? “

Yes,” Unita screamed, “please no more…I do!”

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Comments by other Members

toshi at 11:19 on 22 November 2006  Report this post
Hi Nelly,

Great to have some of AA to read again, and this piece did not disappoint. I'd almost forgotten what a predicament everyone was in. It doesn't look like things are improving for anyone either. This was a very powerful section - quite hard to read in places though - made your toes curl! In this part Angelo is shown as becoming greater all the time (more powerful and also sympathetic) whereas Lucifer came across as a bit petulent and childish (though I have to sympathise with someone chained to a wall for centuries with their blood draining out).

Here are a few typos/suggestions:

"Each were dressed in the uniform of the Vault’s secret militia,"
Should be "Each was dressed..."

"Grasping the man’s head he applied enough pressure to crack the skull. Pushing both eyes from their sockets so they hung upon long greasy cords."
Should be all one sentence with a comma after skull?

Pretty gruesome this!

"Each punch or kick of the cardinal was coordinated with complete precision, utilizing neither too much strength or too little."
sounded a little awkward. How about "Each of the Cardinal's punches and kicks was coordinated..."? Also, should be "neither too much strength nor too little"?

"A culmination of the Vatican’s teachings, comprised into the body of a man"
"comprised in the body of a man"?

"The church had kept you imprisoned here for centuries, if you had the power why not release yourself."
Should it be? "The church has kept you imprisoned here for centuries. If you have the power why not release yourself?"

"He wore a black helm that obscured most of his face, save his mouth that was smeared red like he had been careless in drinking red wine."
You use "that" twice in this sentence? Also "like" should be "as if"?
Suggestion: "His black helm obscured most of his face, save his mouth which was smeared red as if he had been careless in drinking red wine."

Yeuch! This was all a bit gory. Probably for the best though - I wondered when Angelo let the guard go how he was going to recover from a shattered jaw and broken hand - it didn't seem all that merciful to me, though obviously Angelo is considerably up the humane ladder compared with Lucifer!

Hope we don't have to wait too long for the next installments!

Best wishes

Nelly at 11:46 on 22 November 2006  Report this post
Hi Toshi,

Thanks for the input. Quite a few mistakes creeping into this one, some of which I really should have caught before uploading. I hope to contribute to sci fi a little more often over the next few weeks. So should only be a week or so before the next part is finished(ish).


Patsy at 13:15 on 07 December 2006  Report this post
Hi Neil,

It looks like things continue to fall apart down below in the vault. This chapter was really intense. I sincerely hope Unita kicks them all to the curb!

I can't figure out which side Angelo is on! It will be very interesting to see how this comes to a close! so don't wait too long to give us more.

No nit picks, as Toshi beat me to them all!

Patsy :)

hmaster at 18:01 on 15 December 2006  Report this post
Ok, finally putting these comments to the electronic page at last!

Seems like everything is moving along with plenty of tension, even though I can't profess to understand the story =). Not much for me to say because I am so story-challenged, except to move on to the nitpicks!

a faint sliver of light revealing the hook of his nose...

Not a biggie, but this is a dip into omniscient - I don't think he'd be able to see himself.

rigid and taught

Angel willed the lights to fade, until one stopped altogether
I cannot put my finger on why, but something bugs me about this sentence. I think I feel the need for "one of them" but can't explain why.

threw the soldier into the wall, where his bones shattered like porcelain dropped from a great height
When I first read this, I felt that something was off here, but took me a while to work it out. It's a subtle thing - the action and the metaphor are in different directions! The "fall" metaphor didn't track neatly for me as a result. But "shattered like porcelain against its surface" works for me.

exploding against the walls in a hail of breaking bone
Referring to the teeth as bone may be accurate (I have no idea) but it didn't sound right?

"Please," the man gurgled through a shattered mouth,
Thought this might sound better if you distorted the word/sentence to match the sound.

be the center point of his son's life

nor where you ever human
were you ever

Yours is not a random birth
Yours was not?

You dare to mock me
I think the "If it's a test you require" sounds far more menacing without the "you dare to mock me" bit, which then suggests immense control rather than anger easily provoked.

All the best for the next chapter! I share your hard drive pain - mine died an electronic death this week.

- Joel

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