Chapter XXIV: VaccinationDamsel had also mentioned the vagrants of the city coming down with the blood disease that had killed Paul. Near the hotel building, I found an old woman searching through a dumpster. I went up to ask her a few questions.
'Excuse me ma'am...'
The woman backed away suspiciously, clutching a torn and weathered bag to her chest. I kept my distance, hands raised, talking slowly and calmly.
'No, don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you. I just wanted to ask you about the illness that's affecting the homeless people here in L.A.'
I tried to remain patient.
That's right, you miserable old sow, with my immortality, my ability to rend you limb from limb without breaking a sweat, my knowledge so arcane that Crowely would be jealous, I seek only to separate you from your precious fucking cans.
'No, don't you remember me? It's your friend. The one from the shelter. I need to know what's going on so I can help.'
Now we're getting somewhere. Monster? Nosferatu maybe?
'Where can I find Bill?'
I thanked the woman, giving her a ten dollar bill, which she tucked down the front of her shirt. I walked off, shuddering, knowing that the note would be safe from any monster that may seek to take her. I followed her directions, heading down the alleyway across from The Last Round. As I walked further, my ears attuned to the sound of sniffling and coughing. It reminded me so much of Hannah that I increased my gait. A pity if the old man would die before you can reach him.
'Hello? Tin Can Bill?'
If Hannah had looked rough, Bill looked like shit. The cold had exacerbated the illness, rendering the old man's eyes ruddy, his skin a pale grey.
'It's not Fred, Bill. It's just a guy, wondering if you could answer a few of his questions.'
I smiled ruefully. Even as sick as he was, mere hours from death, the old man still knew how to work someone over.
'Sure, here's ten. If I like the answers, I'll double the figure.'
'Of course', I responded, nodding piously. 'Now, I need you to tell me what happened to you the other night. It's important.'
I leaned forward. 'So, what did you tell them?'
Piss yellow? Sounds like Jezebel's eyes...
Bill was starting to shake, his coughing becoming louder, more of a tearing sound. He continued, stuttering as he spoke.
The old man's eyes were beginning to glaze over, and he squeezed at his chest, coughing again. He began to pant like a wounded dog. Shit. I need to know where he was taken!
'C'mon Bill, stay with me man. When he grabbed you, where did he go?'
Bill started to collapse, but I grabbed him as he fell, holding him in my arms. He looked up at me, but I'll never know what or how much he saw.
'Don't worry Bill, you'll never go back there. I'm sure there's a better place for you, one with no monsters.'
He smiled then, if only for a second, before the candle of his life was snuffed. I rested him on the ground, just another statistic. A life so bitter, I would have wept if I could. Sighing, I walked towards the end of the alley, finding the manhole cover. I pulled it up as the voice whispered to me.
A better place? What do you think will happen when you fall? Where will you go?
I crept nervously through the sewers, not sure what to expect. Even for a sewer system it was eerily quiet; no squeaking of rats, no buzzing flies. Everything here felt stagnant, dead. Crawling through a suspiciously uncovered pipe, I saw light.
A large opening. A maintenance bay perhaps? I wasn't sure. A different kind of light came from my right. Thick, dark, orange light. Woodsmoke, perhaps. I followed the trail, stopping in sick fascination when I approached.
With the pillars on each side of the room, the hooks hanging from the ceiling, and the body in crucifixion pose on the far wall, the scene was from a horror movie, a satanic ritual. I walked closer.
A figure began to coalesce out of nothingness, yet I suspcted he had been there the entire time, watching. His features were hideous, mutated and flawed, grim eyes glowing yellow under split brows. He had to be a nosferatu. Nothing else was so perfectly grotesque.
'The way this meat smells, I'll pass. What's your name, prettyboy?'
'Lucky herd. You parasite, why the homeless?'
I thought back to Bill's terror, his fear of the dark and oncoming death. I thought of this creature, this verminous animal, spreading it's disease with fervor. My rage began to overcome me, seeping through me, covering me. I looked down, barely registering the covering of blood around my skin, the feeling of invincibility I felt. That nothing could hurt me, so long as I had the blood. I bared my teeth, growling barbarously at the creature before me.
'I see Brother Kanker, you've lost your goddamned marbles.'
I drew the shotgun from under my shirt, and smiled.
'Come on then...brother.'
The creature jumped at me, claws bared, yet I knew so long as I was the blood, I could not be harmed. I stood my ground, calmly aiming the shotgun. As the creature came down, I lowered the gun slightly, unloading the barrel into the monster's stomach at point-blank range. Kanker was thrown off the gun in a fountain of blood, sprawling on his back in the tepid sewerage. His intestines hung out of the bloody gash, the disease he carried hindering his ability to effectively heal. I strode forwards, as the creature walked back slowly, holding his stomach. I raised the gun again, and fired, this time through his chest, leaving a wide hole. His body dissolved as it fell backwards, causing barely a ripple.
Holstering the gun, I walked back to the makeshift altar, looking up at the man hanging from his wrists. I shook my head. Nothing I could do there. I turned to leave the sewers when something on the floor caught my eye.
The symbol was oddly familiar. I'd seen it here somewhere before.
You know what this means, don't you? It's not over yet. You're going away again...to a better place.
The voice chuckled. I wished I could laugh with it.