Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful

Chapter Sixty-Four

“Sir, we’ve got to leave.”

Carrick Uren stood at the lip of the offices overlooking the lobby, sheathed in darkness as fires burned below. The windows had been punctured by multiple bullets and he stood next to the body of one of his men. He recognized him, along with the tattered remains of the body in the hall, as the men sent to relocate Urban. He supposed that meant that Urban had escaped. While he should’ve been furious at their failure, he found his thoughts instead going back to his arm, to its purpose, and why Theon had cursed him with it. A plague of discontented youths seethed below as they tore at the foundations of Na Creidmhigh, but failed to notice him behind the reflection of flames.

The engorged flesh of his arm set his nerves afire. He pressed it against the cool glass, relieving the heat. His veins coiled into the metal of his revolver. His fingers had become one with the handle, ready to erupt. Every breath allowed another spike of fury to carve through his body.

“Sir?”

The radio filled the room with the steady scratch of white noise. He shook his head. “I’m not giving this place up.”

The guard shuffled behind him, then an uncomfortable voice said, “We can’t stay here.”

Carrick smiled cruelly. He made a grand gesture down to their invaders as he turned, his heart fluttering. “We are Na Creidmhigh, the Faithful. And when I tell you something, you don’t contradict me.”

“Y—yes, sir.”

“Do you have faith?”

The guard considered him with an unsure glance. His words came out steady, deadpan. “Always.”

“Do you trust me?”

His eyes said no, but he mouthed a “Yes.”

Carrick tapped his disfigured hand against his thigh. He tried to flex his fingers, but tendrils of pain snaked through him. Violent tremors followed suit. Carrick shuddered, breathing in through his teeth.

“Are you okay, sir?”

“I’m fine,” Carrick managed. The creep of oncoming footsteps left him agitated.

“We’ve got to go—”

“I said I’m not leaving!” Carrick screamed as he turned, his disfigured hand brought up to ward off the guard. The man jumped, hand caught outstretched, eyes worried. Carrick’s arm spasmed as the first shot tore through the man’s cheek, dousing the cracked glass with bits of fleshy tissue. Patches of beard held the skin together as blood poured down his face.

Carrick held his arm close to his body, the guard forgotten as he waited for the flesh to reshape itself. The wretch hadn’t made a sound, then a low, mournful wail escaped. No, that was laughter. Carrick’s head shot up and he watched the guard sway, hands working at the air. His eyes widened. The guard’s features contorted into a mask of insanity, as if a valve had been triggered and there was no going back. He reached up, digging his hands into the wound and began to tear at them, stripping away muscle, sinew.

Carrick felt an awful pressure then, deep inside his gut, almost as if he’d started the timer on something he couldn’t stop. It felt like the seconds were ticking away to some fatal conclusion. He regarded the man, disgust shooting through him as he retreated from the crazy guard who was much more interested in ripping himself apart than in his attacker. “For fuck’s sake,” Carrick started, then the guard’s eyes focused, landed on Carrick. His hands still worked listlessly in the air as he lowered them in front of him, as if he was threatening to tickle Carrick with those fingers coated in flesh. Guttural sounds emitted from his throat as if he was trying to say something but had lost the ability. Then the guard lurched toward Carrick. Carrick raised the arm, this time with intent, and focused. A shudder of pleasure rumbled through him, focusing in the shoulder, then down, down into his hand.

Then release.

Two, three quick bursts erupted from his arm, slamming into the taut skin of the man, one in the shoulder, the other in the stomach. The guard rocked back and forth, then doubled over, seemingly unsure of which pain to care for.

He strolled forward with the confidence of a man that has yet to have the anvil come smashing down. He tipped the butt of the flesh-infused gun against the guard’s temple. “You okay, boy?!”

Another eruption.

The guard slumped to the ground.

Soundless, the internal ticking came to an abrupt and violent end.

The wall exploded, fanning Carrick with bits of glass. He drew up the arm to shield himself, retreated a step, as his protective screen tumbled to the ground below. Shouts lifted to his ears.

Tick.

Carrick froze to see the guard move. The shoulder jerked, rolled, then shattered and, tick, his stomach acids sprayed the floor.

Tick.

The man’s head disappeared, chunks of brain splashing the wall.

Carrick wiped his face, breath coming out in shallow, ragged gasps. His body lurched over. That shuddering in his shoulder grew frantic, violent as it roiled inside the skin of his shoulder, travelling along the muscle in huge boils. The flesh wrapping the gun pulsed, stretched further up his arm, past his wrist, warping his body, becoming something harder, more twisted.

Something more like a god.

Carrick cried out, a weak sob, but it was quickly replaced with laughter, hard fought, painful, mocking Theon’s own. The Trickster had made him a ticking time bomb, a fucking grenade launcher of flesh and bone. He wasn’t using live rounds anymore, he had lost the ability to reload his gun with the first unconsidered shot. No, he was using bits of his own flesh to fuel this gift. His eyes opened wildly, blood filled them then spilled over.

He pushed himself from the wall. Spasms rocked his body, but with each step he felt stronger, more able to take on anything thrown his way.

Lifting his scarred arm, he gripped the end of his shirt with his teeth and pulled, splitting the sleeve, exposing the limb to the air. It burned, but he enjoyed the rush. He glanced to the lobby below, saw the quiet stares of the people, felt their heat rolling toward him.

He stopped, hovering on the edge of the drop, searching the mass that now stared back at him. Even as he pulled him to his full height, he knew he wasn’t done with the transformation. He had to find the Trickster, to push him to further limits that he hadn’t imagined. As the youthful congregation stared up in disbelief at their new god, he snarled, his voice coming out strained and unfamiliar. “Burn the fucking place to the ground. You’ll be judged soon enough.”

He turned from the crowd, stunned silence pervading their malcontent, and headed into the darkness of Na Creidmhigh. He’d had enough of hiding. A god wouldn’t hold onto some long established foundations — no, he needed to break out and make a name for himself. Even if he had to become a monster to do so.

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Justin D. Herd

Justin D. Herd is a purveyor of the weird and strange. He occasionally squawks at friends and family, but does so only under the cover of night. Okay, that's not true. He squawks in full daylight. Drinking games have been built around his peculiarities, but the truth of it is this: he is a loving husband, with two wonderful dem--children. One growls at things he likes, including pretty women. The other has started to learn hand-eye coordination. Neither had made it to the tender age of three. From there, things will only get more interesting. He spends most of his writing time either at a coffee shop or sitting at one of his many desks around his house. Any other place makes it nearly impossible for him to write. He uses horror movies and rock music to help get the juices flowing. His favorite authors are Jeremy Robert Johnson, Alan Campbell, Terry Pratchett, Justin Cronin, and Patrick Rothfuss. He consumes most of his books through audiobooks, but still loves his personal library and getting lost in the printed word.