The Hellion (or, the Demoniac)
A bottle flew to crash against the door against his back. Light leaked through under the door, and through could be glimpsed the shadows of legs staggering. That was the only light; none could afford candles on Scrathlow, not even the skinny ones that smelled so horrible as they burned and left puddles of acrid wax hardening in foul pools. He hugged his legs closer to his chest as roars of rage and drunken madness blazed around his ears through the splintery wood of the door. Unkempt and matted hair fell across eyes already blurred by tears, as words that had been so oft repeated ripped through his hearing, again, again, razors flooding his ears. He shut them out again. Again, and again. His fathers mephitic words flowed around him as a river of acid. He fell inside. Down and down and down, until he was so far away nothing could hurt him anymore. Rage filled him. Violent, horrible passion ran through his veins, against anything, and everything. The people, the town, his debilitating impotence in the face of those who hurt him. His father appeared and fell screaming inhumanly into the jaws of the fires within. The rich fat man with the lazy eye and beard that always seemed to hold at least half of his dinner bellowed in pain as his flesh sloughed off in the furnace of loathing. All of them. Everyone. The guards who did nothing when he was robbed or beaten. Further, further inside he went, barreling through flames and inferno. Sometimes, when it hurt enough, he could almost feel the inner fires talking back. But that didn’t matter either. In the end, everything, the half-heard voice with it’s promises, it’s lies, the people, the hate; in the end, it all burned. It was simply fuel for the fire.
Harsh light glanced through the glassless windows upon a boy sitting against a door, arms wrapped tightly around his knees. Sleep had come fleetingly, as always, if it came at all. It was the fifth morn of the boys seventh year; seven filled with the same exact days, the same nights. But today was one of the different days. It was Masn, the first day of the week, and the day of the Faith. Masn could be better from the others. Or much, much worse. The boy buried his face in his knees as his father’s rough fist pounded the door in impatience. “Wear you best, boy, or it’ll go bad for you.” That, at least, was the same every Masn. The child found a pair of trousers that lacked the holes that formed like gaping wounds on much of his clothing, and paired them with a shirt that was not especially fetid. The door opened, and his father looked him over. “Good enough. Don’t let me see you near the Claimant again. Good Father’s got better things to do than put up with your stink, boy.”
A fevered warren of streets ran throughout Scrathlow, in much the fashion of the termites that crawled through the boy’s home. It was their place. The only place for those whom poverty struck hardest in Timbyrrl. The only day that they were welcomed anywhere else was today, Masn. Man and boy walked up manorstreet, man seeing the possessions of his betters, boy seeing smouldering ruins surrounded by bodies and blood. At last the church came into sight, a wonder-filled seat of the Suzerain, or a fallen pile of rubble, proud spires razed while blood flowed like candle wax through shattered stained-glass.
They, with the rest of the more distasteful element, stood behind the many long, low benches that constituted the majority of space within the church. The Claimant of the Faith stood before the gilded font, overflowing with the purest of pure waters into a shallow indention pressed into the striped marble of the pedestal. That pool was for the affluent and holy, since the two seemed to walk hand in hand, or so the Claimant taught. Would that the world were fair; would that it were, and the Claimant would loose his bowels in fear and death as the monstrous gold-veined candles came crashing down upon him, spilling boiling wax across his overly perfumed and pampered self.
It could, a small voice called at the edge of his hearing. But it lied. It always lied. All of the voices lied to him. They would call and sermonize and fill his head and heart with dreams and visions of pain and destruction, but dreams were all they were, in the end.
The three hours of Masn passed quickly for a boy who was not there, a boy who did not hear the droning of the Claimant or the bleating of the sheep in their responses. As with every Masnend, a grand rush of the newly repentant flooded the streets to again roll about in the filth of their disgusting desires, and then back to the church again to shower in the cleansing presence of the Suzerain and then to fall in dross and then to fall before the Claimant and then to wallow in pollution and then wallow in the waters of Faith and then to die. Man and boy again walked down manorstreet, man holding his head high, boy thinking what it would be like to hold his fathers head high on a spike. The crowd crushed in upon them, squeezing them together like the sagging tits of the whores whom the Claimant seemed very interested in saving from their clothing. Then, suddenly, the boy was more alone than he had been previously, without even the promise of a swift beating to remind him of family. The crowd flowed, and the child found himself in a closed alley beyond the walls of the rich, and in the realm of the Lowmen, paragons of and desperation. Three men stalked toward him dressed in the rags of the rich. Eyes met eyes and the boy stood his ground, a pillar of wrath against waves of wretchedness. The men charged, one bringing an scooping an object from the ground. A boyish fist crashed into a manish stomach causing a spew of foul breath, and then something rough, red and heavy hurtled towards a young temple, and a juvenile soul flew from a broken body.
Voices screamed at him, around him, through him, a thousand choruses of anguish and anger and violence. Eyes opened blearily in a head cradled by black rocks.