Bavandersloth sat in front of his computer, conversing with several other liches.
“Gentlemen,” he said. “Thank you for coming. I am here to discuss recent events.”
“You mean you’re here to rationalize your failure to safeguard the first convention,” said Kgobauru, one of the liches he was speaking to.
“It was a lost cause when I came here,” Bavandersloth said. “I should have seen that from the beginning. However, I believe it is possible to make the best of this turn of events.” Several liches raised their eyebrows. “In fact, I think it might be possible, with great effort I admit, to turn these events to our favor.”
“That’s nonsense,” Kgobauru said.
“On the contrary,” Bavandersloth said, wagging his finger. “It is in fact quite achievable if we work together, and it will be the greatest gain in the history of our kind.”
“Those are quite the boastings,” Ntullnarlth, another lich present, said. “Have you any means of supporting what you say?”
“Indeed,” Bavandersloth said. “In fact, I believe you will understand the very moment that I explain my plan.”
“You’re what?” Cody and Justin asked in unison. Cody’s eyes were wide, but Justin was beaming.
“I’ve convinced the broader community of liches to soften aspects of the First Convention.”
“How?” Cody asked.
“Simple,” Bavandersloth said. “By reminding them that everything these changes will allow them to do has already been done by you. Public ignorance of the supernatural is gone. It was gone as soon as you set foot in that hospital a few months ago, and it is impossible to get it back. All these revisions are doing is accepting that and allowing us to use it to our advantage.”
“So I can tell everyone that I’m a superhero?” Justin asked.
“No more than you could have before,” Bavandersloth said. “There are still rules, including the rest of the seven conventions, one of which requires you not to put my identity in jeopardy, along with some new ones.”
Cody sat down. “What?” Justin sat down too, then Bavandersloth.
“First, we’re not to be seen in our true forms. That is to say, our clouds are to be extended at all times, or else we are to be invisible. Second, we are to keep all information regarding the source of our powers secret. If one were to propose that we gained them from pixie dust, there must be nothing known to the public rendering that less probable than the truth. Third, we must never allow anyone to know of our feeding habits. Fourth, it must be believed that the mainstream among liches is to never harm innocent people, which entails, fifth, that we should not make a habit out of harming innocent people.”
Cody’s eyes widened. He smiled. “Does this mean I can start going into hospitals again?” he asked.
“Absolutely. In fact, both of you two are to spend a great deal of time in them.”
“This is amazing,” Justin said, standing up, his mouth wide.
“Oh, one other thing,” Bavandersloth said. “Cody, I intend on giving a news interview posing as you.”
“I want to establish good publicity, Cody, and I don’t trust you to do it well enough, no offense. I expect to have that interview airing shortly, perhaps even today. I imagine any network would be eager to accept my offer.” Bavandersloth left the room.
Justin scooted closer to Cody. “Isn’t this amazing?” he asked. “We’re going to make things so much better.”
Cody smiled. “Yeah, I guess.”
Justin patted him on the back. “C’mon. What’s to guess? We’re superheroes. We’re going to go around fighting crime and healing people.”
Cody smiled. “True.”
Justin sat back. “Just think. With every lich in the world out helping people, how long will it take for everything in the world to be mostly awesome? Diseases will become less of a problem for everyone. People will hurt each other less. With us out there, I wonder how many people will even be willing to do bad things.”
Cody’s eyes widened. He looked at the wall, away from Justin. “Yeah.”
“What’s the matter?”
Cody took a deep breath. “Justin,” Cody turned to face him, “we’re eating people’s souls. You can’t take that lightly. The people we stop from committing crimes, they may be trapped with us for thousands of years. What we’re doing to them is worse than what they ever intended to do to anyone else.”
Justin looked at Cody for a moment. He sat back. “Huh, I never thought of it like that. I mean, I’m making them allies of good, right? Giving them the chance to redeem themselves? I think any criminal would want that,” Justin looked down, “even if they don’t realize it.”
Bavandersloth walked, invisible, to an alley. He activated his cloud. He hadn’t done that in a long time. Within the cloud, he became visible so his scent would escape. He needed to match Odelarch’s appearance in its every detail. He stepped out into broad daylight, feeling the sun hit his skin. He looked to either side of himself. People gasped as they walked down the street. Their eyes widened. One mother held her child closer as he walked by. Several people pinched their noses. Bavandersloth could smell fear on them.
Bavandersloth crossed the street. A few people had their cell phones out, possibly calling 911. Bavandersloth walked up to the news station. The door was unlocked, so he entered. The inside was sleek, painted white save for a blue stripe high on each wall. There was a receptionist behind a desk. She stood up, eyes and mouth wide. She stumbled backwards. Bavandersloth walked up to her. “Hello,” he said.
“Um, Hello, Mr…”
“I’d like to talk about giving an interview. I imagine you’re interested?”
“Oh, uh, I’ll have to call about--”
“I understand. Oh, and stop pushing that alarm button. I have no intention of hurting anyone.”
“I uh, see. I’ll make that call then Mr…”
“Angel of Death is fine for now.”
“I see. I’ll have that ready as soon as possible.”
“Splendid.” Bavandersloth turned around and left.
Pretty Pink Ponytails was in her playroom, holding a tub of liquid. The walls were painted with bright pinks, yellows and blues. Hand-drawn rainbows and unicorns decorated them. In front of her, on the table, was a naked man.
She looked down on the man. “I wanna play a guessing game,” she said. “Here’s how it works, you have to tell me who ratted about our shipment, and if I guess that you’re lying or not answering the question, I’ll pour a bit of this sulfuric acid on you.”
The man on the table yanked on the ropes that held him in place. “Piss off!”
“I see. Hmm.” She shook her head. “No, I don’t think you’re answering the question.” Pretty Pink Ponytails tipped the tub over, letting a bit of the acid drip on the man’s chest. He screamed. She closed her eyes, and smiled. She opened them.
“That was fun,” she said. “Let’s play again.”
“I’ll never tell you anything.”
She shook her head again. “Nope, I don’t think that was an answer either.” She moved the tub to the man’s leg, and poured a line from his thigh to his ankle. He screamed.
“Fuck you bitch!” he shouted.
“Oops. Being a potty mouth means you get extra points.” She opened his mouth, and poured the sulfuric acid down his throat. His screams were muffled as he gargled it. He tried to spit some out at Pretty Pink Pony Tails, but couldn’t work up the strength. He choked. “Darn!” Pretty Pink Pony Tails said. “I forgot that people can’t talk when their throats are dissolved. Oh well, I guess I don’t have any use for you now.”
She flipped him over, and lowered his face into the vat. She giggled as bubbles formed from him trying to breathe and shout. She skipped out of the room into her brother’s bedroom. She put her head down. “Hey, bro, I’m sorry. I accidentally killed another prisoner.”
Zachary’s eyes were glued to the TV. Pretty Pink Ponytails looked at him, then at the TV, then back at him. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
Zachary pointed at the Television. Pretty Pink Ponytails looked at him, and then sat down next to him on the bed. She looked at the TV.
“…an exclusive interview with the Angel of Death. That’s right. Earlier today, he approached our network, offering to give an interview. During the scheduling, he told our network that he was not responsible for his most brutal killings, but that instead, they were committed by another person with his powers. Speculation as to the implica…”
Pretty Pink Ponytails looked at her brother. “What’s the problem?” she asked.
“He knows my name!” Zachary said.
Pretty Pink Ponytails’ eyes widened. “He what?”
“It was in the heat of the moment. He was able to get it out of me while I was spying on him, okay? He had me pinned. It’s not my fault.” He put his head down. “What if he says something? All he’d have to do was say that he got my name when I was doing work for Selechii and I’ll be screwed.”
“How would he know it’s us, though, and why would people believe him?”
“They wouldn’t have to know it’s us, they’d just have to know it was someone. It wouldn’t be too hard to figure this stuff out.” He put his head down. “They don’t even have to believe him really. They just have to take it seriously enough to look back at that stuff. If they do, they could find out that I’m here and… it’s too dangerous to let happen, okay? We gotta kill him.”
Pretty Pink Ponytails thought for a moment. “Well, we already tried luring him into a fight. No reason not to try that again, but we should probably make sure it works this time.” Pink looked up, and snapped her fingers. “I know. We’ll get him somewhere that I can trap him. We’ll prepare that place ahead of time, and bring lots of back-up, and vats of acid, or burning tar. I think the tar would work better.” She looked down at her brother. “If we plan this right, I’m sure we can get him.”
Zachary looked down at Pink. He smiled. “Yeah, maybe.”
“There’s no maybe to it. I’m sure we can get him.”
Zachary nodded. “Yeah, I guess.”
Pink tilted her head. “What else is wrong?”
Zachary took a deep breath. “I’m just thinking, he said that there are more creatures like him. If that’s true… I don’t know. But I think it means something; like, something big.”
“Maybe,” Pink said, “but it doesn’t really matter for us, does it?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
Pink smiled, and skipped towards the door. “Pink,” Zach said.
Pink turned around. “Yeah, bro?”
“If there are things out there with magical powers, do you think maybe there’s a hell?”
Pink thought for a moment. “Hmm… Well, maybe, but I don’t see why there’d have to be.”
Zach closed his eyes. “Yeah, probably not.”
Pink turned back around.
“Oh, and about the guy…” Zach said.
Pink turned back to him. “Yeah, bro?”
Zach sighed. “Get someone else on the other one, and try to be more careful next time.”
Pink put her head down. “Okay.” Pink walked out of the room, but then turned back around. She looked at her brother. He’d turned back to the TV. After a second, he grumbled, and changed the channel to his favorite station. It was running a documentary. “…Goldfalls, CA, mere miles from the thriving city, lay an abandoned urban wasteland. Once as busy as any other part of the city, the Northwest District has been abandoned since the Nineteen-eighties….”
Zachary lay back and smiled.
That night, Cody crept up to a hospital. He stood outside, looking into it. He smiled. He stepped into an alley and changed forms, activating his cloud of darkness. He dashed to its fire escape, and ascended it. He smashed the window, and looked at the person inside the room. He put his hand on her, marking her diabetes for transfer. He moved on to the next room, then the next. After he’d been in fifteen rooms, he heard security outside. He rushed out of the building through another window.
He sped off, smiling. He’d gotten twenty-seven people while he was in there. He stopped in an alley, and sniffed around for a crime. He wasn’t able to smell anything in the area. He wandered around town until he picked up a trail. He followed it to its source. As he neared, he heard a man threatening a woman with a knife. She was screaming. Cody rushed into the alley, tackling the man. He heard the woman run off. He knocked the man out and chased after her, grabbing her and inflicting her with his usual unconsciousness and amnesia. He dragged her back to the alley and sat her down. He turned to the man. As he kneeled over him, transferring the diseases, he noticed something taped on the back of the man’s jacket. It was an envelope. Cody’s eyes widened. On it was a picture of three pink Ps, their loops interlocking.
His jaw dropped. He thought Pretty Pink Ponytails had died in that fire. He grabbed the note, his hands shaking. He put it beside him and ate his victim’s soul before picking it back up. He stood up, looking at it. He took a deep breath and put his hand to his side as he ran home with the note. He snuck into his window and lay down on his bed, on his side. He took his human form and opened the note. The text was red. It looked like dried blood.
“Dear Angel of Death,
“I, Pretty Pink Ponytails, cordially invite you to 4963 Manice St. in the Northwest District at 1:00 AM on Saturday, October the Twenty-fifth for a tea party I am holding with several local children. I have knives, and drills, and sanders, and acid, and a special blowtorch. It’s pink! I hope very much that you’d have the courtesy to attend, sincerely, your friend Pretty Pink Ponytails.
Cody’s eyes widened for a moment. He lay back. This was the most obvious trap possible, and there was no doubt that Pretty Pink Ponytails knew that. She must have had something there that she thought could beat him. Still, she probably did have real children, so he had to go. Besides, he had the upper hand. He could get Bavandersloth as backup, and that’d mean having Valthakar too.
The next morning, Agent Lambert scrambled into his office with a cup of coffee to listen to a conversation Cody had had. The office had been frantic after the announcement that the Angel was going to give an interview.
Agent Lambert took a deep breath. He sat down and smiled. This conversation was just another talk with his daughter, so it was probably nothing. Finally, something he could relax to.
“Yes, hello?” Cody said.
“Cody,” Cherie said.
“Oh, hi Cherry.”
“What the heck is this I’m hearing about you giving an interview? You said that your thing had to be kept a secret.”
Agent Lambert’s eyes widened. He dropped his cup of coffee. His jaw hit the floor. “Cher…” She knew? She knew what Cody was? How? Lambert took a few deep breaths. Maybe she didn’t know everything? Maybe she didn’t know what liches ate? Still, she had to know that Cody was a murderer.
Cody sighed. “Apparently the guys in charge are changing the rules up.”
As Lambert suspected.
“From what I gather, my healings seem to have blown everything out of the water. I think they’re changing tactics. Instead of pretending not to exist, they’re going to pretend to be good guys. By the way, that reminds me, you still need to keep the thing where we eat souls a secret.”
Lambert gulped as he put his head down. He shed a tear. She did know? How could she? Why would she tolerate that? What had he done wrong? How could she side with a monster?
“What? Cody, what’s going on?”
“Look, I don’t know much myself, okay? All I know is that the guy behind this knows how to make this kind of thing go well.”
Bavandersloth was behind this then? Probably. That wasn’t really surprising.
“Oh, that reminds me. We got Valthakar.”
Lambert’s eyes widened. They what?
“The one who attacked you. He’s neutralized. You’re safe now, Cherry.”
Lambert’s jaw dropped again. Valthakar was the most threatening devourer out there. Bavandersloth had really killed him? And what was this about him attacking her? Had he been the one performing the false Angel killings?
“Oh.” Cherie laughed. “Thanks, I guess.”
“You’re welcome.” Cody hung up.
Lambert looked down. D.I.A.P.P.’s standard policy for devourer’s accomplices; at least if they were adults, and knew about a devourer’s diet, was covert termination. They had to be punished, just like someone assisting a human murderer. Lambert clinched his fist. No. That wouldn’t do. He wouldn’t kill Cherie. There was another way. He just had to get her on D.I.A.P.P.’s side in time. He looked up. He grabbed a pen and paper, and filled out a form. It wouldn’t be the first time D.I.A.P.P. had approached a devourer’s loved one to use them as a spy.
As soon as he arrived at school, Cody went to the library to see Bavandersloth. “Oh, hello,” Bavandersloth said. “Is this something we need to talk about in the back room?”
Cody nodded. “Yeah.”
“I see. Well, follow me then.” Cody followed Bavandersloth into the back room. “Yes?”
“I’ve gotten a message from Pretty Pink Ponytails.” Cody handed Bavandersloth the note. He took it and read it.
“I see. So what is it you want?”
“I’m going. I know it’s a trap, but she’s probably got real kids. Since she knows how to fight me, I think it might be best if you and Valthakar came as backup?”
Bavandersloth put his finger to his chin and thought for a moment. “Well, I don’t really have anything planned for tonight.” He looked down at Cody. He smiled. “Sure, may as well.”
Cody smiled. “That’s great. Thanks.”
“Oh, it’s no problem. I’m going on the criminal diet anyway. I’ve nothing to lose by coming along, really. Now, get to class.”
Cody nodded. He headed off.
That night, Cody snuck out and went to Bavandersloth’s mansion. Bavandersloth let him in. “Welcome, Odelarch,” Bavandersloth said. “Come inside.” Cody nodded. He entered, and sat down in the great room. Justin and Valthakar were already there.
“I’ve scouted out the location,” Bavandersloth said. “It’s an abandoned warehouse in the Northwest district. According to my souls, the room is completely dark. There are about a hundred humans waiting there, including Pretty Pink Ponytails and her brother. Each of them has at least five Molotov cocktails ready. The children, about twenty of them, are in the back of the building. The main room, the one in front, has two levels: the ground level, and a network of hanging walkways. Large sections of the walkways lie over pits of burning tar, and they’re rigged to give way if triggered by a remote Pretty Pink Ponytails carries. As consequence, it is crucial that we never go onto them.” Bavandersloth got out a map of the area. “They’re expecting you to enter at 1:00 AM,” Bavandersloth pointed to a spot on the map, “here, through the front door, above which sits a bucket of napalm, intended to douse you. As such, we will not be entering through this door or any other. Instead, we will make the walls here,” Bavandersloth pointed to another spot, “decay, and then we shall burst in. Valthakar and I will remain invisible at all times, while you two remain inside your clouds, off-center, so as to be harder to hit. Once we’re inside, you are all free to devour the human’s souls at your discretion. Corpses of fallen humans should be immediately reanimated and ordered to attack the humans in the room. Any questions?”
Cody looked down. “Do I have to use my souls?”
“Yes. You need to get used to doing it anyways.”
Cody took a deep breath. He clinched his fist. He thought about the children. “Fine.”
“Good. We’re going now, two hours before they expect us.”
Justin turned to Cody as the four walked towards the door. He smiled. “Isn’t this awesome? It’s my first big mission as a superhero.”
Cody looked down at Bavandersloth. “Wait, Justin’s coming?”
“Yeah, I’m coming,” Justin said. “You got a problem with that?”
“Are we sure he’s old enough for something like this?”
“He’s fine,” Bavandersloth said. “If any of us were to not go, it’d be you. After all, you’re the one who can least afford to disappear for a month.”
Cody looked down. “I guess I see your point.”
Pretty Pink Ponytails stood at her post. It was likely that the Angel would decide to arrive early and she needed to be ready. As she stood, she felt herself fading. She clinched her fist. It stopped. She put her hand on her forehead. She’d been having episodes like that all day. Nita was getting harder and harder to hold back.
Pink smiled and put it out of her mind. It would probably fade after a while. It usually did.
The liches approached the building. It was an old, rusty, abandoned warehouse from world war two, when Goldfalls was an important manufacturer of planes and tanks. Countless warehouses were built for this purpose, mostly in the Northwest district. Cody saw the chipping green paint on the warehouse as he neared it. The four liches crept up to the warehouse. They positioned themselves on the walls on either side of the largest room. Cody placed his hand on the wall. He closed his eyes and rusted the steel. A ten foot tall area of the wall browned. Once the wall was weak enough, Cody activated his energy shield. He burst in.
One of Pink’s henchmen looked straight at him and lobbed a cocktail. It hit Cody’s shield. Cody rolled out of the way as several Cocktails rained down on him. He looked up. He selected a human at random. He lowered his shield and fired a magical burst from his hand. He raised his shield again. The catwalk the human was on broke. The human fell into the burning tar. He screamed. He trudged toward the edge of the pool, screaming. Cody ran to the spot on the edge where he was trying to get out. Cody put his head down. He took a deep breath. He remembered how he’d handled the Black Death’s leaders, and what he’d said about the justice of the underworld. He also remembered that the others were around, and would eat this man if he were left alive. Cody scythed and ate the man’s soul. Cody looked up. He fired another burst at a human whose catwalk was right above him. The human fell into Cody’s arms. Cody ate him.
Cody heard an explosion behind him. He turned around. A grenade had gone off, and one of the tubs of tar was leaking. Cody’s eyes widened and he ran away from it. The human who’d thrown the grenade smiled. He threw several more, rupturing the vats of tar, causing the liquid to spread. Cody ran to a flight of stairs and scrambled up it, onto the catwalks. He looked around, and saw the other liches doing the same. Cody ducked under a cocktail coming from his right. He turned. He saw four humans on his side of the gap in the catwalk he’d created when he shot the first human. He stood up, blocking their way forward, and put up his shield. He endured the cocktails they threw at him.
The eyes of the human in front grew wider with each unsuccessful shot. He was sweating. Cody knew there was nothing for him to do but exhaust his supply. He did, as did the humans behind him. When they were out, Cody dashed to the one nearest to him. The human tried to jump off of the catwalk, but Cody grabbed him, holding the man’s body with his feet about a foot off the ground. Cody scythed the man’s soul, and ate it. He put the man’s body behind him. He grabbed and ate the next two men in the same manner. As he approached the third one, the man backed up, falling off of the catwalk. Cody reached out to catch him, but he fell into the burning tar below. He screamed. Cody stood up.
Cody turned and looked for Pretty Pink Ponytails. She was near the center. She had a large store of Molotov Cocktails around her waist, and in two boxes next to her. She threw one at Justin, but he was able to dodge it. In the distance, people were collapsing, presumably at Bavandersloth and Valthakar’s hands. Several corpses were reanimated. Cody turned around. He didn’t reanimate his own. Cody looked ahead. He saw a human. He dashed across the catwalk to him, but stopped when he remembered Bavandersloth’s warning. The catwalks were trapped. He looked down. He could make out a crease where the trapping began and another where it ended. It was too far to jump. Cody couldn’t reach other areas of the catwalks. He held out his hand, and fired at the human. He hit his target.
Valthakar ran up to a human and kicked him onto the ground, leaning down to devour his soul. He stood up, turned around, and smiled. There was a human stranded between two fallen sections of catwalk. Valthakar jumped over a trapped area, a feat trivial for one powered by four-million souls, and ate a human who was throwing cocktails at Justin. Valthakar loved the human’s taste. There was a hint of murder in it, but first and foremost, it tasted of pride and lies. Valthakar turned back to the stranded human. He was crying in fear. Valthakar leapt over to him and devoured him. He tried to throw the man’s body onto another catwalk, but he missed and the human’s body fell into the burning tar below. Valthakar jumped over. As he fired beams of magic about, he smiled at the scent of burning flesh in his nostrils. Valthakar took deep breaths as he let the sound of screams and the smell of flesh entertain him.
Justin looked around. He saw a human. “Alright, just gotta…” He ran over to the human. He grabbed his soul and ate it. He loved the way souls tasted. He animated the body with one of the few human souls he’d gotten before.
Justin felt heat on his foot. He looked down. His eyes widened. He’d been hit. Putting his shield up, he grabbed his foot, and placed his hand over the flames, attempting to smother them. After a few seconds, he was able to make the fire go out. Justin looked over at the human who’d hit him. He was throwing more cocktails, but now they were only hitting Justin’s shield. Justin walked over. He could see sweat on the man’s face. The man’s eyes widened as he threw more and more of his cocktails at Justin. They had no effect. As Justin neared, the man tried to leap over the side of the catwalk, but Justin grabbed him.
“I can’t let you burn to death,” Justin said. The man’s eyes widened as Justin threw the man’s cocktails over the side of the catwalk before grabbing and eating the man’s soul. Justin heard a human panting behind him. He turned around and looked up to a window to another room. He saw a muscular, white man pressing a button. Justin heard a noise behind him. He turned around. Two of the wires holding up the catwalk had caught fire. Justin saw the human was pressing more buttons. Justin took a deep breath. He bent his knees, and leapt up to where the human was, smashing through a window and into a rusty metal room. The human’s eyes widened and he ran out of the room. Justin gave chase, but before he could catch up, he heard a Cocktail slam into his shield. He turned around, salivating. He tackled the human who’d thrown the cocktail and ate his soul. He turned around to pursue the other human. He followed him into the back room, where children were gathered on bleachers to avoid the burning tar. The human stood in their midst, holding a gun to one child’s head. Justin’s eyes widened. He looked down. The human whispered something into a walkie talkie.
Cody held his victim as he scythed his soul. He held the soul in his hand. He stared at it. He salivated. He placed it in his mouth and chewed. Souls were chewy. They had to be. Really, their consistency was more like gum than anything else. It was impossible to rip them, or break them in two. One merely softened them with saliva until they were fit to swallow.
As Cody animated the body of the man he’d just eaten, he looked over at Pretty Pink Ponytails. She was listening to a walkie talkie. She nodded, and then turned around. She held up a button. Cody’s eyes widened. He leapt to a catwalk corner, tackling and devouring two humans. All of the catwalk traps went off, braking off most of the catwalk. About a dozen humans fell into the burning tar. They screamed. Cody closed his eyes and tried to cry, despite how musical he found their screams. Cody turned as he felt Valthakar leap over to him. Valthakar de-cloaked.
Cody looked up at Valthakar. “Get on my back,” Valthakar said. “I can carry you toward her.” Cody looked around for a moment, and nodded. He stood up, and got on Valthakar’s back. With ease, Valthakar leapt between the sections of catwalk that remained. He headed to the back room. He jumped up and through a broken window, then headed downstairs into another room.
Cody got off of Valthakar’s back as he stood, looking across the room. Pretty Pink Ponytails and Zachary were each standing on bleachers in a group of children, holding weapons to one of them. Bavandersloth came up behind them.
Zachary’s eyes were wide, and he was panting. “Don’t you come any closer,” he said. “For every step you take, a kid gets it.”
Pretty Pink Ponytails nodded. “As much as I’d love to play with a friend, I’m gonna have to ask you not to come any closer.”
The children screamed and cried.
Pretty Pink Ponytails held her knife up to a child’s neck. Secretly, she hoped one of the Angels would try to come over. It wasn’t often she had this much burning tar around when she was playing with someone.
Light-headedness came over her. She looked down. He brother turned to her. “Are you alright, sis?” he asked.
“Yeah. I’m fine. I think I--”
Zachary’s eyes widened as Pink collapsed. “No,” he muttered. “Not now.” He couldn’t move his gun from the Children. There was no telling what the Angels of Death would do. He scooted toward his sister, taking a child with him. His sister woke up. She stood, looking around. She looked at Zachary. “Sis?” he said.
Cody’s eyes were wide. Pretty Pink Ponytails spoke back, but in a different voice. She normally seemed to be disguising hers, heightening it, but now, she sounded just like a normal woman. “Guess again, Zachy,” she said.
Zachary’s mouth widened. “Nita!” he shouted.
Pretty Pink Ponytails smiled. She laughed. “That’s right, big brother,” she said. She walked over to her brother, brandishing her knife. Sweating, Zachary took the gun off of the child’s head and pointed it at his sister. She tackled him, tossing the gun aside.
Zachary turned to Cody and his friends. “Help,” he shouted. Cody wasn’t sure what to do. Before he could decide, Justin tapped on Valthakar’s shoulder, and ordered Valthakar to jump him across. Valthakar did. Justin ran up behind the woman, grabbing her.
“Let me go!” the woman shouted. Justin pinned her against the bleachers.
“What’s going on here?” Justin asked.
“Kill her!” Zach shouted. “She’s dangerous like this, more dangerous than usual. Kill her, quickly, before she runs out of here and goes on a rampage. She’s liable to kill dozens, no, hundreds of people.”
Pretty Pink Ponytails looked up at Justin. “Don’t listen to him! He’s a liar. He just wants to save himself. I’m not the little demon you’ve been battling.”
Cody looked on. His eyes wide. Something occurred to him. Cody tapped on Valthakar’s shoulder and got a leap over. He stepped off of Valthakar and walked over to Pink. He looked down at her. “Are you an alter?” he asked.
Nita looked over at him. “Right,” she said, nodding.
Zachary moved to grab one of the Children. Justin ran over and seized him, manhandling him two feet above the bleachers.
Cody sat down next to Anita. “Why were you trying to kill him?”
“Because of what he did to me,” Nita shouted. She looked over at him. “That piece of shit sold my body for years.”
“She’s a liar,” Zachary shouted. “Kill her, hurry!”
Cody looked over. “Bring him here, Justin,” Cody said. Justin obeyed. Zachary was breathing heavily as Justin set him down, still holding on to him. He was sweating.
“What’s she talking about?” Cody asked.
“She’s a lying--”
Cody grabbed Zachary’s shirt. Justin let Zachary go. Cody pulled him forward. “Do you remember our last talk about you lying to me?”
Zachary took a few deep breaths. He was sweating. “Fine,” he said. “My parents died when I was fourteen. She was six. By then, I’d already done my first stuff for the Synd--, the gang I work for. My parents had raised me in it.” He looked down. “But that meant I was going on missions with them, for training. I still wasn’t good enough to do anything by myself. I couldn’t work for them. They have higher standards than that. I couldn’t go into the foster system though. I’d done enough to be locked up. I had to go out on the streets. Without any skills, I had to do what I had to do to make money.”
“You rented me out to fucking pedophiles!” Anita shouted. “I was six.”
“I fed you,” Zach shouted. “If I hadn’t done what I did, we’d have starved to death out there. Don’t you think it was hard? Don’t you think I tried to think of another way?” Zachary looked down and shed a tear. “But there wasn’t another way. You think they’d try me as a child just because I was one? That’s not how it works. I could well have been locked up for the rest of my life.”
“You wrecked me! You created a fucking demon inside me. Do you not think I know how you nurture it? How you manipulate it? How you make it use my body to do what you want? Then again, that’s all you do! You could have given me away.”
Zachary’s face went red. “Quiet down you bitch! I should have let you fucking starve, is what I should have done!” Zachary was seething. Cody looked over at him, and then over at Anita.
Anita shed a tear. “I still remember the first time. I was screaming for you. I thought you loved me.”
“I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t love you!”
“Bullshit! You love yourself. That’s your problem. That’s all you love, yourself.”
“What’s everyone talking about?” Justin asked. “How do you sell someone’s body?”
“Get Bavandersloth to tell you later,” said Cody.
Anita leapt over Cody. She held a knife to Zachary’s throat. “Now, you di--” She collapsed. Zachary took some deep breaths. Cody looked down and saw that the burning tar was draining out of the room. Justin guided the children outside. Cody looked back over. Anita woke up. He heard a voice come out of her mouth as she turned around.
“What… what just happened?” Anita asked.
She sniffed, and turned around. Cody rolled out of the way as she reached for a Molotov cocktail. Pretty Pink Ponytails stood up. Cody dashed away as she threw another cocktail. Pink looked around as Cody looked at her, putting up his shield. He salivated, but then thought about the woman trapped inside her. Anita. He put his head down. Pink smiled. “You’re siding with that Nita girl, aren’t you?” Pink put a gun to her head. “Go on, shoo, unless you want me to do it. She’d die too,” she said. Cody dashed away. Pretty Pink Ponytails gave chase, but Cody was able to outrun her.
The next day, Bavandersloth approached the Channel Five News Station for his interview as the Angle of Death. With his cloud of darkness covering him, he entered. “Hello,” he said. “I’m here.”
The receptionist took a deep breath and gulped. She nodded. “Yes, sir. Come this way.”
Bavandersloth followed her down the hallway into a large room. He was instructed to sit in a chair across from the anchor woman. She was tall, and had long, blond hair, which was brown at the roots. She wore large hoop earrings and bright pink lipstick, blue eye shadow and a bright pink suit. She held her nose as Bavandersloth sat down.
“I’m sorry,” Bavandersloth said. “There’s nothing I can do about my scent.”
The woman looked at him, then looked away and pressed some lipstick against her lips, as though she was under the impression that she didn’t have any on already.
“We’re on in five!” Bavandersloth heard. The woman finally seemed to realize that she was already wearing lipstick and handed the tube to a young man. They sat across from each other for a few minutes before the interview began.
A cameraman motioned at the woman across from Bavandersloth. “We’re live in five, four, three, two, one; go!”
“Welcome, everyone,” the woman said. “I’m Violet Fox, and this is Channel Four News at 5:00. I’m here in our studio for an exclusive, live interview with the Angel of Death, renowned vigilante. Angel of Death, first, tell us, what exactly are you? There’s been a lot of speculation about how you do what you do.”
Bavandersloth chuckled. “Well, Violet, I hope it’s alright if I call you that, I’ve read much of that speculation. While I don’t want to say too much, for personal reasons, I will assure you of this: I am not an alien, not in the usual sense at least, and what I do is not based on any technology. My powers are pure unadulterated magic.”
“I see,” Violet said, suppressing a widening in her eyes, “and where did you get your magical abilities?”
“That’s something I think I’d best keep to myself for now.”
“That’s a shame, sir.”
“I know it must seem it, but it’s as things have to be for now.”
Violet sighed. “I see. So tell us, why have you come forward when you used to fear the spotlight?”
“Well, trying to stay secret hasn’t really worked for me. So I figured that if I was going to be known and discussed anyway, I should probably have an influence on the conversations surrounding me. The public seems to be taking me as some sort of serial killer.”
“Are you not?”
“No. I’m afraid a great deal of confusion has been going on recently. There are several creatures like me in the world, not just myself, and it is another who has done most of the brutal killings to which my name is given.”
Violet raised an eyebrow. “Yes, you said that. So you’re saying you were framed?”
“That’s a way of putting it I suppose. The perpetrator of those crimes has been subdued according to our community’s policy of taking care of its own business. That’s why they’ve not been happening in the last few days.”
“Your community? How many of you are there?”
Bavandersloth smiled. “Oh, about two-thousand or so, distributed across the world. Most of them are expected to go public soon, as I have.”
Violet’s eyes widened. She gulped.
“So, to clarify, sir, which killings were yours and which ones weren’t?”
“The criminals are mine, though I didn’t kill them out of malice. Each of them was perpetrating a crime, and I took their lives only because I had to in the process of stopping them. There were others that I spared.”
“What about the healings then? Don’t you count on killing someone each day to move diseases between people?”
“I patrol for quite a bit of time each night, and I can usually count on that situation coming about at least once in the process of the several crimes I stop. I simply perform the healings to maximize the benefit I bring to the world.”
“And what about Cherie Lambert? The police were making quite a big deal of her.”
“I’m sorry, but I will not answer questions that have bearing on my identity.”
“Alright then. So you say others of your kind are expected to go public?”
“Yes. Now that our secret is out, almost all of the others are following my lead. There are three others in this town alone, and, as I said, a few thousand more throughout the world. Most of us plan to take up crime fighting all night long, from now on.”
Violet’s eyes widened. “Excuse me?”
Bavandersloth chuckled. “I said that most of us plan to start fighting crime each night, like I do. Most of us were held back before by the need to preserve secrecy, but now that I’ve gotten rid of that, we’re all going to go out and do the right thing with our powers. Only a few have indicated their plans to do otherwise, and I fear that some of them might take malevolent action, but as with the one who killed in my name, we will take care of them. It is nothing for you to worry about.”
Violet’s jaw was wide open. “So you’re planning to engage in vigilantism world-wide? As a community?”
“Indeed we are. Do not worry. We will work to keep the law enforcement agencies of the world on good terms with us. To what extent it is possible, we will not break the law at all.” Bavandersloth turned to the camera. “Which reminds me, can hospitals please start letting me in at night? I’d be able to do my work without having to break your windows, and I might try to get everyone in your care, rather than the few I’m getting as of now.”
The interview went on for several minutes before the network had to cut back to other stories. At the end of it, Bavandersloth agreed to come back again. “I might even try to get my own show on,” he said.
Zachary sat in a red chair, watching television with Pretty Pink Ponytails asleep in his lap. He looked down at her, and smiled. “Wake up sis,” he said, shaking her.
“Wha?” Pink asked.
“You need to move to your bed.”
“Oh.” They stood up. Zachary walked Pink to her bedroom, and set her down in her pink bed. He rubbed her forehead as she lay down.
“Good night,” he said.
She smiled. “Good night, bro.” As Zach turned to leave the room, she called him. “Wait.”
Zach turned around. “Yeah, sis?”
She hung her head down. “I’m sorry about the Nita attack earlier.”
Zachary smiled. “It’s fine,” he said. “It’s not your fault.”
Pink took a deep breath. “You know, I usually don’t understand anything she says, even when I know I’m inside her, but I know it’s all a lie.” She sat up, and smiled. “You’d never hurt me.”
Zachary went up to her and rubbed her hair. He nodded. “That’s right little unicorn.”
“I love you,” Pink said, pressing her head into his hand.
“I love you too,” Zachary said, smiling and stroking her hair.
Pink yawned and fell asleep. Zachary set her head down on the pillow as he looked up at the pink animal mobile above her bed. He put his head down, and then looked back up. “Everything I ever did was for you,” whispered. He turned, moving back to the television. There was a special about “Killer Children” on. He watched. When the show came back from a commercial break, he heard the narrator speak of a fourteen year old boy in his city, acting in 2000. His eyes widened as he saw a picture of himself, at fourteen, come on. The narrator detailed his going on a killing spree for the Syndicate. The end of the segment mentioned that he was wanted with a reward of fifty-thousand dollars for information leading to his arrest. He turned the TV off. He clinched his fist. “It was for her,” he whispered, before getting up and going to bed. “I did it for her.”
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