I waited beside the woods, leaning against the old T-bird and sucking on a cigarette to settle my shaking nerves. 20 years. It had taken 20 years for the right alignment of stars to happen. We had avoided the subject a lot, but we couldn't deny it any longer. The time had come for us to bring him back.
The sun was finally growing red in the west, dipping down over black-green hills and distorting the air above the winding road. Funny how even after being on the top side for so long, I never bothered with watching sunsets, let alone a sunrise. It was beautiful, I suppose, but whatever enjoyment I may have taken from it was tainted by what it foreshadowed. He would've wanted this night to be as serene as possible. Give us all a taste of what we took for granted, then take it away forever.
Once the sun was gone, I stood up, arching my back and feeling my body groan with protest. How long had I been sitting hunched over on this hood, an hour? Two? I can't tell, my watch had stopped working over a week ago. Every clock in my apartment had stopped actually the minute he reared his literally ugly head. It started with dreams, dreams that made me wonder if they were real, dreams I thought I had escaped from.
I was in hell, no fire or brimstone, just decay. Hell was the world, coated in slime, organ, tissue and disease. Hell was everyone you loved, mangled and turned inside out. We make our own Hell, he once told me. And he made sure I remembered that in my dreams. The first night of dreams, was simply a warning. My version of hell appeared before me, growing and shaping in front of my eyes. The walls of my apartment had grown into something that was alive; the lights pulsated and gave off a nauseating heat, the carpet resembled coarse animal hair and the blanket I clung to had grown into a thin, translucent veil of flesh. The entire room was breathing, panting like a hunted animal. Then I started feeling my body quiver with the same pace as the room. Looking down I watched my hand blot and turn a bruised violet, the blood rising to the top and sweating out of my pores. My flesh began to boil, bubbling and crackling like water till it finally dried and turned into cracked leather. I watched this silently, before gingerly touching my arm and watching it slip into ash and soot and fall into my lap.
I screamed that night, waking up cold and damp. My home was normal again. I was normal again. The only reminder of my dreams, was a bruise on the same arm. It grew each night, along with my nightmares, and began to form a string of letters. Right now, it read Amon. I thought it was unoriginal until I remembered Amon was just a demon, a voice for him and a King over one circle in hell. Amon or Satan ruled over Wrath. Yeah, figures I'd be stuck with that one. I guess that means I'm considered the Queen of Wrath? Who knows...I wonder if the others have the same markings...
Speaking of others, I had better start heading into the woods. The sun was gone now and nothing but a dusty purple at the edge of the hills hinted that it had been there. Soon, the entire roadside would be indistinguishable. I had to get going or risk being lost. I cut through the trees, not really knowing where I was going, so much as feeling my way to...to...where was I going? This was just a thin timber on the side of the highway, what could possibly be here? Curiosity pushed me forward, and just this sense of urgency I felt tugging at the back of my skull.
After a steady upward climb I reached a clearing, a grassy outcrop that ended in a cliff. Beyond it stretched the horizon, violet sky melting into black water. The ocean. It made sense now...Gingerly I stood near the edge and whispered to the crashing wake beneath me. "And I stood upon the sand of the oceans, and saw a beast rise up from the sea..."
"Having 7 heads..." a voice, playful and smirking.
"10 horns..." another voice, stern. Blunt and polished.
"And 10 crowns, and upon his head the name of Blasphemy." echoed the two in harmony.
"Good to see I'm not the only one having trouble sleeping," I say casually without turning around. I rolled up my sleeve, raising my arm to catch the bit of moonlight peering through the clouds. The bruise turned black in this dim lighting. Look over my shoulder, I could see the new women raise up their shirts to reveal similar bruises across their chest and stomach. "Well, Mammon, Leviathan, where's our last member?"
"Probably on her way," smiled Jak. She hadn't changed. Red hair down to her waist and clothing tighter than need be, she looked like she'd been up all night partying. Or maybe just not sleeping, couldn't blame her there.
"I doubt she'd miss such a momentous occasion," Noriko, her voice dripping with impatience and snark. She sounded like me, but looked like she was running for senate. Hair in a bun, pants suit tailored and trim. My how the years have changed some of us... "She had better hurry, I've got a meeting at 7 tomorrow, and I'm exhausted as is."
"Cool your jets, Kira'll be here," Jak plopped down on a boulder, her legs open like a man would sit. "If anyone would skip out on this, it'd be me. But looky loo, guess who's here."
"Kira? Really? Come on, we're past the childhood nicknames by now don't you think?" quipped Noriko.
"I'll call her whatever I want, princess. And take that stick outta ya butt, we got other things to worry about," Nory's expression soured but Jak just turned to me. "Hey, can I bum one from ya?"
"Uh, yeah, sure," I pulled out my pack of Camels, took one for me, lit it and tossed the rest to her. Nory's face pinched as I slowly exhaled a plume of bitter smoke.
"You know those thing's will kill you right?" She remarked as she dusted off a rock and sat down on it.
The somber expression I had steam pressed onto my face cracked, I laughed. Loudly. It's suddenness startled even me and I finally reined it in to simply give Nory a shit eating grin. "Really? After tonight, I think lung cancer is the least of my worries."
"We don't even know why we're here," Jak offered.
"Don't play dumb" I said, tilting my head back and looking up at the stars. Silently I traced Capricorn, "He's ready."
The weight of my words settle uncomfortably between us, causing Nory to shift and Jak to puff a little faster on her cigarette. "All there is to do is wait for Akira."
"If she shows..." Nory said looking past us.
"Of course Akira will show," boastfully announced a voice from between the thicket. Akira stepped into the clearing, her stance was meek but she seemed her perky self. She laid into Jak about not being around, but I didn't see it as something meant to really hurt her.