“BLOOD AND WATER”
The screams of the damned echo throughout the Underworld, the sounds of their agony piercing the blood red sky, a swirling vortex of souls whipped through the air, the eye of the storm revealing only the blood moon, its pale rays shining down upon me, upon my throne.
The sounds of my victims begging for mercy should have been but music to my ears, and yet… there was a scowl upon my face, my perfect smile reduced to a mere shell of its former self. No matter what I tried, what sin I indulged in, be it wrath, lust, gluttony, I still couldn’t help but feel empty inside.
My throne sat high above the Underworld, an endless tower of bone and sinew that immortalized my place as King among the damned. I had everything I could ever want, and yet, something was missing.
To my side stood a servant cloaked in black, his mouth sewn shut, a perpetual look of fear in his eyes as I loomed over them. I leaned their way, looking them up and down before acknowledging them. “You, what is your name?”
I didn’t know what I expected as he looked up at me, pawing at his mouth like a pathetic little puppy begging for table scraps. I merely snapped my fingers with a sigh, his stitches pulling back into his flesh, the man gasping for air as blood poured from his fresh wounds. “I said speak.”
He looked at me for a moment, licking his lips gingerly for a moment before finally finding it in himself to speak. “Miguel, my name is Miguel. Thank you for-”
“Silence. I asked for your name, not your story.” The servant, Miguel, shut his mouth as soon as I spoke, seemingly remembering his place. I stepped down from my throne, placing a hand upon his shoulder as I spoke to him, walking him towards the edge of my tower and looking down upon the crowd of tortured souls who meandered about my domain.
“So, Miguel, do you see what I see?”
“And what is that?”
“The souls of the damned, sir.”
I chuckled, pulling him in close to me with a bit of my smile returning, if only for a moment. “No, please, call me Lee. Now, Miguel, would you be happy if you were where I am? A lord among peasants, a God among heathens?”
The boy looked at me for a moment, pondering my question before responding, a look of unease on his face. “Well, sir- I mean Lee. I don’t think I would be. I’m not a sadist or anything, I mean, I’m only here because I’m told I was slothful in life. The killing and torture… is barbaric to me.”
I merely looked at him for a moment, furrowing my brow before finally responding. “I see, barbaric. Well, Miguel, what do you think would bring you happiness? Anything in the world, anything at all.” I chuckled again, watching as his face lit up like a child on Christmas waiting to open his gifts. He looked towards me with large, innocent eyes.
“Anything? Well… my family. I just want to see my family again! Most of them aren’t here, they’re either alive or,” He paused for a moment, eyeing the crowd below us. “Hopefully some place better.”
I felt my heart skip a beat at those words. Family? Family. It was a damning word, one I hadn’t used in… it felt like milenia. I looked to Miguel, the smile on my face connecting with the scars on my cheeks. “Family. Why yes, that’s it, family. Please, Miguel, could you do a favor for me?”
“Of course, Lee. What do you need?”
“I need you to tell the ferryman to prepare for me. I have a trip to make. So please, allow me to send you his way.” The smile on Miguel’s face went away in a instant as I plunged my hand deep inside of his chest, pushing past muscle and bone, tearing his heart from his ribcage like pulling a prize from a cereal box, the color draining from his face as I tossed him from the top of the tower, his crumpled form careening towards the ground, destined to reform upon Charon’s ship.
Boys? You’re coming home.
The fresh air in my lungs, the sun shining upon my face, and a strangely content smile sitting upon my lips. It had been weeks since I set foot in the world of the living and not found myself in the halls of the Tap Room, in fact, it felt like years since I had gone a day without violence on my mind. Truly, I felt out of place, as though I was unwelcome in the realm I once called home.
The area I was in was a far cry from my usual residences. It was oddly peaceful, the perfect example of a suburban neighborhood. Children on the streets playing amongst themselves, cars in driveways with nowhere to go but home, and the smell of poorly done barbeques wafting through the air. I was… out of place. I didn’t belong here, and the kids shying away from me on the streets made it known, most of them running away with but a single glance. In truth, I was thankful, they allowed me to be truly alone on my walk.
No one had accompanied me as I left the Underworld, as per my commands, and I checked behind me every step of the way. Neither David nor Jensen nor my revenants nipped at my heels. It was just myself and the pathway beneath my feet as I strolled through the tiny town my… brother called home. I looked down at my hand, an address scrawled poorly on a piece of paper. His address.
As I neared the home at the end of the street I could feel a strange knocking in my chest, an emotion that felt like it was tearing my insides to pieces! I’d have believed my stomach was tearing itself apart until I paused and took the time to access the strange feeling. It was wrath, or disdain, no. It was something long since unfelt in my soul. Could this feeling be anxiety, nervousness?
I shook my head at the notion. No, I wasn’t here because of something people called love, I was here to regain what was mine. Tobias Crowley was my creation, he would come home to the Underworld to sit by my side where he belonged whether he wanted to or not. I was no longer Smiley, I was no longer the being who turned my back on him! No, I was his brother, the patriarch of the family he became part of. He would not deny me.
I broke free from my own inner thoughts and stomped towards the door of the quaint little shack he called a home, raising a foot to kick it in when I heard a strange sound, something that stopped me dead in my tracks. A voice, not Tobias’ voice, no. A woman’s voice. It was such a soft, enchanting sound to hear coming out of this little home. I hadn’t expected it, in fact, I was sure I had the wrong house until I heard an ever familiar name.
“Tobias? Toby? You about ready to leave?”
I held my breath, caught off guard by what I heard. I couldn’t help but investigate further as I snuck around the side of the house, finding myself peering in the windows into a rather opening dining room to see him. Yes, my dear brother, dear Tobias. He was a far cry from what I remembered him being. What was once a long, wild mohawk was now a respectable mop of wild hair. His clothing itself even hid his scars and broken form, being comprised of jeans and a polo shirt. This man was Tobias, but he was not my Tobias.
The bloodlust was gone from his eye as I saw him walk into the room. There was no hatred or anger to his voice as he spoke. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as he leaned in towards the woman, planting a kiss upon her lips with a smile on his face. A genuine smile from ear to ear.
“Yeah, I’m ready to get going. Do you have the car keys?”
He looked so content with his life, so happy. I wanted to bust inside then and there, to tear him away and drag him to his real home… but something wouldn’t let me. My body was frozen in place as I watched him and his wife? Girlfriend? I wasn’t sure who she was, but until him and her were gone, I found myself unable to move a muscle. Once their car had roared to life and left the house, I walked to the front door, needing to do something to get his attention. I needed to let him know I needed him.
I bit into my arm, chewing deep into my skin, blood pouring forth from my wound as I jabbed my own finger into it, pulling it free drenched in my own crimson ink. With but a few strokes, I wrote upon the door.
‘Meet me at the Underground in three days. Come alone.
And with that, I was off, blood still dripping from my flesh as I walked out of the neighborhood.
It was but a day later, one whole night of travel and I found myself with yet another change of pace. I was in a city, nothing huge, but large enough to have people on every corner and a never ending string of men, women, and children walking through the streets. The world around me was dull and gray compared to the sunny neighborhood I was in a mere day prior. Its sky was a permanent overcast, and smell specks of snow peppered the ground, leaving a depressing visage in its wake. However, despite the appearance of the city, something about it was strangely comforting, as though people used the appearance of the city as a reason to become closer to one another.
Everyone seemed to be joking, or laughing amongst themselves. Not a face carried a frown, and of those who weren’t smiling, they merely looked… content. I felt all eyes on me as I snaked through the crowd, the scarf worn on my face doing little to detract attention, possibly not even hiding the scars upon my face or the look of discomfort in my eyes. I wanted nothing more than to be rid of this place and its people, but I had a reason to be here, a mission to complete.
I had no address to follow as I practically shoved civilians aside, only knowing the location of my former family member by word of mouth. He was to be at a local establishment promoting himself for… a talk show? Or was he a weatherman? Truth be told, I had been given many explanations about what he was doing now but without allowing my servants to meddle in this affair I had only rumors and speculation to follow.
However, when I finally stepped foot into that establishment, a local mall in the middle of this city, I knew I was steered in the right direction. For standing on a stage, in the middle of the food court, was Damien. He, like Tobias, was the same man I had once called brother, but he was not the same person. The man on the stage was not obsessed with publicity, he was not engulfed by his own self image. No, he was at peace with himself. The scar I once etched upon his forehead was gone, seemingly covered up with makeup and left hidden from the public eye.
He had finally let himself age, or so it looked. A few gray hairs were present in his hair, and a salt and pepper beard adorned his face. But the most damning thing of all was the look of relaxation about him. The man I once knew who did everything to promote himself, to become known for not only his skill but his brutality, was gone. In his wake was a middle aged man with a podcast, at least that’s what I gathered from the many signs and posters adorning the walls of the food court and the stage on which he stood.
A million little ideas went through my mind as I looked at him. I should release a horde of revenants upon this gathering and slaughter his wayward fans, I should kill them each one by one myself and show him what fun a bloodbath once was!
But I didn’t. I didn’t do anything like that.
No, instead, I stood back and watched as he finished up his talk, the time seeming to tick by both fast and slow, as though I was trapped in his domain and only allowed to be done once he said so. By the end of it I had learned nothing about him, and everything. He was happy with his new life, he was hoping to go bigger. But most importantly, he was proud of what he had become.
I shook my head, once again biting at my skin, pricking it from my fingers. I grabbed a nearby napkin and wrote upon it.
‘Meet me at the Underground in two days. Come alone. Lee’
I let my wound seep into the paper beneath it, unable to bring myself to deliver it to Damien myself and instead, when his back was turned, placing it upon the stage where he stood, leaving as quickly as I came, not wanting to let him see me before he saw the note beneath him.
If he saw it, then good. If not, then I suppose I have no one to blame but myself.
Two days later. The place where it all began, the first domain of the Crowley Family and the final resting place of the Asylum’s brotherly bond. Two of my families rose and fell within these hallowed halls. Both of them perished just the same. And as I waited for them at the entrance to the soot covered pit where the Asylum once stood, I felt something. My emotions welled up in my chest as I looked down upon the burned remains of my former home and I couldn’t bear to look any longer. I retreated to the shadows, watching, waiting. If they showed up, then I know I would have a smile, a true, genuine smile. And if they didn’t… I’m not sure what I’d feel. Apathy? Anger? Or maybe I’d be happy they never showed. I couldn’t be sure.
And when I heard the sound of footsteps from either direction, I knew I wouldn’t have to guess. I retreated further into the darkness and watched in silent awe as from both ends of the clearing walked… my brothers, my family. They stared at each other for a few moments, the silence tearing me apart piece by piece, second by agonizing second I wanted nothing more than to reveal myself to them, to apologize for what I had done. But I just couldn’t.
Even as they approached each other wearily, I held my tongue, biting down upon it so hard that more crimson blood filled my mouth. They were both here, they were mere fingertips away… then why couldn’t I speak? Why wouldn’t my body allow me to move?
Instead of acting, I was forced to sit back, silently watching as they met at the entrance of the underground.
“Did you get a message as well?”
“Scrawled in blood?”
They were silent, a feeling of awkwardness in the air before Damien placed a hand on Tobias’ shoulder, taking a deep breath and looking around them. “Do you think he’s here? Or, rather, do you think we should stay to find out?”
Tobias eyed the treeline, his sights practically set right on me before he responded. “I don’t think he is. Lee would have announced himself as soon as we walked in, right? You know him. I know him. If he’s this quiet he’s either inside of the Underground or he’s not here at all.”
“Or,” Damien held up a finger, “we were never meant to show up. He brutalized up, Tobias. Left us beaten and broken on the locker room floor. He didn’t reach out to us, he was trying to trap us. I showed up because I was worried of what he’d do if I didn’t. But he’s not here, maybe not yet. We should leave while we still can.”
“And what if he comes after us? What if he wants us back?”
“He doesn’t want us back, Tobias. He tossed us away like garbage. If he comes after us, we face him. But don’t let him try to fool you, Tobias. He’s no longer our brother. And maybe he never was.”
Those words hit me in the center of my chest and pierced through my heart like a knife. A ringing went through my ears as I saw Tobias nod his head, him and Damien, him and his brother walking away from the entrance, not even bothering to go in, instead, simply leaving me and our home behind.
I tried to call out to them, but the blood in my mouth ran over. I wanted to look for them, but the tears in my eyes cascaded down my face. Blood and water dripping onto the dirt beneath my feet. It was only when they were out of reach that I could finally speak.
“No, please, come back!”
“… I love you.”
But my words fell on deaf ears, and my kingly visage was ruined by the emotions that overran me. I fled into the woods, returning to my Kingdom, rushing to reclaim my throne. I needed to sit among my people, I needed to be where I belonged.
The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb, and my brothers, no, my former brothers, had washed me from their lives.
I loved them. I always have, I always will.
And maybe one day, they’ll love me back once again.