Val walked into the bar, ignoring the sign that said “Closed.” This was his last stop before journeying to the Celestial Wall. He had a gun strapped to one hip, a sword strapped to the other.
There must’ve been a broken pipe somewhere, because Val heard a steady dripping sound.
“Fuck you,” Evan said, polishing a glass behind the counter. He’d given his father a glance — nothing more.
“Son,” Val said. “I’m leaving.”
“I know what you did,” Evan said. “George came in here asking questions.”
“And you knew I was the one who’d killed Stellavia.”
“I didn’t believe it,” Evan said. “But seeing you here, now, with the sword and the gun and that look on your face? I know you did it.”
“It’s Hostem, Evan,” Val said, moving towards the bar. “Think of all the pain he and his creations have caused. Think of all the bad they’ve created.”
“Can’t have good without bad. Can’t have life without death.” Evan chuckled, casting another glance at his father. He shook his head, putting the glass away and picking up another dirty one. “Fuck you.”
“Whose values are that?” Val asked. “Who is it that says, ‘You can’t have good without bad’? Is that you? Is that me? Is that humanity? Or is it the gods, planting convenient thoughts in our heads, exploiting our infantilism?”
“I’m what my Father made me,” Evan said. “A naive, fucked up bastard.”
“I want to change that,” Val said. “I want to make things better for everyone. If I can break through the Celestial Wall–”
“What the fuck would make you think you could do that?” Evan asked, slamming the glass on the counter. The glass shattered, but no one seemed to notice.
The broken pipe continued to drip. Val didn’t notice the bucket in the corner of the bar, collecting water.
“This sword can do anything,” Val said.
“You’re past your prime, Dad,” Evan said. “Should’ve stopped before you started.”
“If I can break through the Celestial Wall, I can become a god.”
“I want you to come with me, son.”
“I need you to come with me,” he said.
“And if I don’t?” Evan asked.
“I,” Val said, searching for his meaning. “It’s not a threat. I just want you to come with me.”
Evan stopped for a moment, confused and misty-eyed. “Dad.”
“I know I haven’t been the greatest father,” Val said. “But with this power, I could make it all up to you, to the world. Find us some purpose. Give us something to really believe in.”
“I’ve caused a lot of bloodshed. I understand that. But it’s all been in the service of a greater good. All I want is for someone to really lead this sad, rudderless world. I’m sorry I never told you that. I’m sorry I never properly put that into words. I guess I just didn’t know how to say it.”
“You don’t have to come with me,” Val continued. “But do you want to?”
“Dad, I–” Evan began.
He didn’t finish, because time suddenly froze.
The broken pipe was still broken, but the sound of dripping couldn’t be heard. Instead, a water droplet hung in midair — all potential, no realization.
A portal opened up.
Out of the portal stepped a man — no, a monster — no, something that wasn’t quite either of those. For the sake of convenience, we’ll call him Monster.
Monster looked just like Val Rador. He carried a plastic bag in his left hand.
And so, the creature that looked just like Val Rador stared at his mirror. The mirror didn’t stare back. He didn’t know what was going on, since time was frozen.
Monster whipped out his sword, cleaving Evan’s neck from his body. The head stayed right where it would have a half-second after the attack, floating just a centimeter above the body, because it hadn’t yet responded to the kinetic force of the blow.
Monster grabbed the head from mid-air, and stuffed it into the plastic bag. He then divided Evan horizontally and vertically, breaking the man into four more pieces. Each of these pieces didn’t respond to the kinetic energy. Each of these pieces got stuffed into the plastic bag.
The portal still glowed with a light bluish tint. Monster tied up the plastic bag, throwing it into the portal. He then grabbed Val Rador, taking care not to hurt a hair on the man’s head. Taking the Godkiller out of its sheath, he threw Val Rador into the portal.
Monster placed his hand on the bar’s counter. Took a deep breath, then severed his elbow from the rest of his body. The arm didn’t fall to the floor. Instead, it grabbed onto the bar’s countertop.
But Monster paid the independent arm no attention. He watched as slivers of metal grew out of his wound, silver growing into a forearm, five fingers, a hand. The silver hardened, and changed color. An inhuman smile slipped onto Monster’s lips, as he looked at his new hand.
Meanwhile, right next to him, a man was being grown from his severed arm. The arm stood up. It wore Evan’s face.
Monster cast a glance at the portal. It closed, and time started up again.
A drop of water fell into the bucket. Then another.
“Calibrating the time stream,” Monster said.
“Calibrating the time stream,” his arm replied.
Monster burst out the door, running where Val was supposed to run, on the sidewalk, where George would soon be chasing him.
George was chasing him, and so Monster ran.
“What are you, crazy?” a driver yelled, but not at Monster.
“Val!” George yelled, somewhere behind Monster. “Val, how could you?”
Monster didn’t turn around. No emotion on his face, no moment where he asked for forgiveness. He paused for half a second. Then he ran.
George missed. The window to Evan’s bar shattered.
George missed again. Brick cracked.
A pause, and then another gunshot.
Monster got hit in the calf. It wasn’t enough to affect his ability to run. In fact, it was just what he wanted.
He turned the corner, which gave him roughly thirteen seconds until anyone would see him.
He fell down in the alleyway, absorbing the bullet and breaking it down in his bloodstream. The skin on his calf healed, while a piece of skin on his chest concaved. Another piece of skin on his chest concaved. Then one on his head. The concaved pieces of flesh broke, bits of blood spilling out. The metal from the bullet in his calf — combined with the metal that composed his body — solidified into three small bullets: one placed in his head, the other two in his chest.
All the while, the Godkiller sword was absorbed into his hand. The metal broke down into its resilient bits, becoming one with Monster.
George turned the corner. Sirens wailed.
Monster wanted to smile.
— — —
For twelve hours, Monster didn’t open his eyes. He didn’t breathe, he didn’t look, he didn’t move. By all reasonable modes of detection, he didn’t seem to be alive.
Problem was, he thought. And he listened.
The police had declared him dead at the scene. They’d him carried off in a truck, bringing him straight to the morgue, where they’d wanted to get an autopsy done.
Lusu had refused. “You know he’s dead,” she said. “That’s what matters.”
They’d argued some more, going back and forth. But ultimately they couldn’t do anything without Lusu’s permission. So they didn’t.
Lusu left and the cops left and Monster lay in the morgue for two more hours, before he was carted off to the funeral home.
He lay there for another three hours in the darkness; closed casket.
All was going according to plan: 92% chance of success.
The man at the pulpit said, “Val Rador was a good man, a kind man. Val Rador was… He was–”
With the way that the man stuttered, Monster calculated a drop in the likelihood of success: 89%.
“It’s a little late to get the soul, isn’t it, Angel?”
With the Angel’s involvement, success rate dropped to 54%.
“You snivelling, incompetent worm,” the Angel of Death roared. “That man isn’t dead.”
Monster recalibrated his plans.
“Well, uh. You are the expert, Angel. But I’d like to point out that he seemed pretty dead the last we– uh, saw of him.”
Monster switched to X-Ray vision. There were a lot of people here, but not so many as you’d expect for the funeral of a hero. That said, most of the people didn’t know who Val had really been.
This also wasn’t a real funeral; there was no hero in the casket.
The Angel of Death flapped her great big wings, approaching the casket. Monster curled his fists into balls. As the Angel of Death’s feet reached the floor, Monster broke through the casket.
He broke through it. He and the Angel of Death fought.
When everything was over — when the Angel of Death had ripped his head from his body, walking through the pillar of light that led to her home of sorts — he knew everything he needed to know.
He could hurt her with the beams of his eyes. Her wings in particular were a weak point.
And here was where the dead were laid to rest. The Angel of Death raised the head, facing the massive skull on one of the walls of her abode. Her home was a strange place — filled with cobwebs and made of stone. It looked like a plane belonging to another reality.
The skull on the wall opened its jaw, sound emitting from it, though Monster couldn’t tell where from. It didn’t have lips or a tongue, but still it spoke: “This is not a soul.”
“It’s a perversion,” the Angel of Death replied. “I found it in a coffin.”
“It looks like your lover.”
“It does,” she said. “That’s who it was imitating.”
The wires dangling from Monster’s neck suddenly grew longer.
“What is this?” the skull roared.
No matter; the metal began to wrap itself around the Angel of Death, specifically tightening itself around her wings. She struggled to get free, but it was no use. Two more pieces of metal sprung from Monster’s neck. He used them to balance himself on the floor. Another piece of metal grabbed the Angel of Death’s wrist, pulling her hand away from Monster’s head. Monster turned his gaze towards the Angel of Death.
With a blink, a baby blue portal opened up behind the Angel. With his metal arms, he pushed her towards it, but she resisted.
Beams left his eyes, striking her right wing. The impact pushed her through the portal.
Monster grew a new body, using the metal from his various newly-grown appendages. Then, he turned to look at the skull.
“You are Death, gateway to Life,” Monster said. “The Skull that leads to the other side of the Celestial Wall. Now, I break the Celestial Wall. The new gods are here. They’re here to destroy the old.”
“Good,” the skull said. “I’ve been at this a long time. It’ll be good to have someone else take the reins.”
Monster smiled as the skull began to open for him. He was surprised that the skull was making things easy, but he wasn’t about to complain. He was ready for the light of death, which would ironically lead to life. He was ready to create the future for his masters.
Light poured out of the skull. He began to feel a burning sensation, all over his body.
Chance of success: 82%.
His body was being disintegrated by the skull’s divine light.
The metal of his body grew, trying to compensate for the loss, but it couldn’t grow quickly enough
He walked closer to the light, which only consumed him more.
The light was outpacing his own ability to create.
His metallic skin began to boil.
If he could just reach the light. If he could just crack the wall.
Major systems began to shut down.
Chance of success was unknown.
In the light of the Celestial Wall, Monster perished.
Many miles away, Monster’s arm felt the loss, halfway through pouring a drink to one of his customers. Standing in Evan’s bar, he began to recalibrate the plan.