Buddy opened his eyes and jumped to his feet, fists clenched tightly. Instead of his enemy, he found himself face-to-face with Alexa.. Alexa looked at him with a frightened grimace. She and Agent Parker were alone inside the vehicle with Buddy. Agent Parker looked to be in some sort of trance. Buddy fell onto one of the chairs, exhausted.
“Buddy, what happened?” Alexa asked.
“I don’t know. We were fighting. I was winning, mostly. Then, all of a sudden, everything goes white and I’m back here.” He looked out the view screen to where Damon was and saw nothing had changed outside of the tank no longer being attacked by Damon’s army. “Where did everyone go?”
“Take a look for yourself,” Alexa said, gesturing to the bottom of the altar. Zero, Ryan, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Frederick were in the midst of battle with the hordes of dark minions.
“What are they doing out there?” Buddy asked. “I thought we had agreed I’d try your idea first.”
“Yeah, well, Zero was getting fidgety, and then Damon fell to the ground and so–”
“Wait, D.A.W.N., zoom in.”
“On Damon, Buddy dear?”
“Yeah, it looks like he’s saying something.”
The image zoomed in, but was still silent.
“Would you like me to let you hear what he’s saying?”
“Ah, look, I didn’t even have to tell you–”
“D.A.W.N., really, this isn’t the time.”
“–out of hiding, Buddy. I have a surprise for you.”
“That’s bad, isn’t it?” Buddy asked, reaching for the ladder.
“Where are you going?”
“I’ve gotta get out there and help them stop Damon. I can’t let them fight him alone.” Buddy climbed the ladder and reached for the hatch as Alexa grabbed his leg.
“What? No! You don’t stand a chance against him right now. Look at you, you look terrible.”
“Doesn’t matter, Alexa. This is my fight. I have to end it.”
Buddy opened the hatch and stepped onto the top of the tank. Alexa followed.
“Come on Damon,” Buddy yelled. “Haven’t you had enough already?”
“Ah, there you are, Buddy,” Damon replied. “Are you ready for your surprise?”
“I think I’ve had enough surprises. Why don’t we just call it a day?”
“Oh, but this one,” Damon cackled, “this one is just too perfect.” Damon clapped his hands and two of the small demons appeared at his side. He whispered something to them and they disappeared.
Moments later they reappeared, creating a smaller version of the purple portal behind them. They pulled Maggie through this newly created portal and it disappeared as quickly as it had arrived.
“Maggie?” Buddy asked Alexa. “But how?”
“That’s right, Buddy Hero,” Damon continued. “Or should I say, Buddy Jackson. Oh yes, I know who you are now. Such a silly trick you played on me. It would appear to also serve as your undoing.”
“Maggie!” Buddy yelled. He crouched down, ready to jump at Damon.
“Oh, but I haven’t even gotten to the good part yet,” Damon laughed. Buddy leaped into the air, wind flying across his face, flushed with anger.
“You see, I know how to control our connection, and–” Buddy became overwhelmed with exhaustion. He landed face first on the level of the altar immediately below Damon.
“–I’m going to make you watch–” Buddy tried lifting himself up, but collapsed under his own weight.
“–as you kill her–”
His eyes closed. He felt the world wash away.
“–with my hands!”
“Buddy!” she yells.
“Oh, dear girl. Come, look at your pathetic brother.” I pull her to the edge of the altar. I push her head forward, forcing her to see him, see his pitiful state.
My minions lift him and deliver him to my feet.
“Thank you,” I state as they place him on the ground in front of me.
“What have you done to him?” she yells.
“Oh, don’t worry. He’s fine. For now.” I laugh and kick the limp body off the side of my enormous throne. His body tumbles, bouncing as it makes its way to the ground.
I grab the woman’s wrist firmly and pull her close to me, looking deep into her eyes.
“Who are you?” she screams with fright. “How did I get here?” It’s delicious. I shudder with anticipation of my coming vengeance.
“Do you see?” I ask, knowing he shares my eyes. “Do you see what the LORD has done for me? I shall finally have my vengeance. You took away my family. It is only fitting that I should be given yours.”
The woman struggles to pull away. I know I could end this quickly. A simple thought and she could be nothing more than a pile of ash. That’s too kind of a way to die for the sister of the wretched Buddy Hero.
“Do you hear that? She will not die that easy!”
“Who are you talking to?” the woman protests. “There’s no one–”
“Silence!” I scream. Her free hand swings at me wildly. I allow her this last bit of bravado. It will not last long.
I look out upon the havoc I have created. It is a proud moment.
“Can you see all I am capable of, Buddy?”
“Buddy!” she screams, looking all around for her salvation.
“Oh, your brother is not capable of saving you now,” I laugh. “No one is.”
“I’m not as helpless as you think,” she screams as she manages to escape my grasp. I allow her to run a couple feet.
I flick my wrist and my minions return her to me, holding her in place.
“Now, Maggie, look into my eyes. Look deep into them and see.” I lean in close to her face. She closes her eyes tightly. This part of the performance isn’t for her. No, it’s for you. Watch her squirm. Watch and be helpless to save her.
I slide my fingers slowly up the side of her body, allowing them to feel her form. Ah how I’ve missed the caress of a woman. How I’ve longed for the days since before you stole that from me.
Perhaps I should use this moment to correct that which you have wronged.
My hands slide up her arms to her neck, playfully touching the underside of her chin.
“Get your hands off me, you–” I throw her to the ground and land on top of her, placing one hand across her mouth, thrusting the other upon her collar bone. My fingers slide up and wrap around her slender neck and slowly I increase the pressure.
Her eyes widen as the oxygen begins to be cut off. I can hear her muffled screams through my hand.
I hope you can.
I feel giddy. Very giddy.
I squeeze tighter, her legs kicking wildly beneath me. Her arms scratch at my face and at her neck. The look of fright overwhelms her. It’s exhilarating. I have never felt so alive.
She’s still kicking, but I see her eyes begin to fade. I cackle wildly.
But, what’s this? A tear forms at the corner of my eye. Within seconds a storm of water escapes from my face. My mind floods with sadness. I’m–
–go of her Damon!
My grip loosens at the sound of this new voice in my head. I hear my victim sputtering beneath me as oxygen rushes into her lungs.
Can you actually hear me, you jerk weasel? Let go of her, Damon, or I’ll come down on you so hard–
“Buddy Hero?” I yell out. “Is it possible? Are you the idiotic voice appearing in my head?
“Buddy?” the woman croaks, reminding me of the task at hand. My grip tightens around her neck once again.
Oh no you don’t.
My hands pull away from her neck. Am I losing control? How is this possible?
It’s simple, Damon. Nobody touches my sister.
My arms are flung behind my head and I am brought to my feet. “You shall not succeed, foul demon!”
Yeah, I know, the power of Christ compels you and all that crap. How about we just take you out of the picture for a while?
“You have no place here! I am not a man to be–”
“Hey Mags,” I say, smiling softly as I reach my hand out to help her to her feet.
“Buddy?” she says, still quite scared and obviously not knowing what to believe. “Is that you?”
“Yeah, it’s me. I don’t know how long I can hold him. You’ve gotta get out of here.”
“But,” she begins.
“That’s right, little Maggie, you better run.”
“Run!” I yell.
Maggie steps back away from me slowly. I feel my control over Damon disappearing. Before it’s too late, I command the monsters to return to their home with but a thought. Maggie’s still standing before me.
“Go!” I scream. “Now!”
“But what about–”
“STOP!” She looks at me perplexedly. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect way for this to play out. Fear crosses her face. She knows rescue will not come.
A face appears in front of me. She looks deep into my eyes, as though looking for the one who lies within.
“Buddy,” she says, “if you’re in there and can feel this, I’m sorry.” She pulls her hand back and holds it in place for a short moment before bringing it forward at a speed faster than light, hitting me directly in the face.
I fly backward through the air. I see the two women disappear from my throne.
The world moves in slow motion as I hurtle toward the purple void behind me.
Fear fills me. I hear screams coming from a corner of my mind.
Is it my mind? I feel control coming back to me as he screams in fear.
It’s becoming harder and harder to separate my thoughts from his. I can feel him clawing to regain control. I feel myself fading.
He yells my name in curses and calls for judgment.
My body has now twisted so I am facing the rip in space. What will happen to you when we enter, I wonder. Will you come with me? Or perhaps you will cease to exist. Either option would make my return to that place seem perfect.
Plus, I can always return.
He’s right. This would just be temporary. If even that.
But. . .
The entrance to the gaping purpleness nears at an impossibly slow speed, as though someone has stopped time.
They have before, you know.
I peek into Damon’s memories. A flood of pictures of a lifetime of horror and destruction flicker through my mind.
What are you doing? Get out of there!
As each image appears, I take it, knowing I am taking a part of him. Images of Christmases as well as images of death. Images of boyhood days and images of battles. Images of being in the seminary, and images of the dark days that followed.
Those are mine!
I find the days with his wife, happy days. Of these I take all but one. I leave him one happy day with his wife. An unimportant day, but a happy one.
Everything else I take and I pocket within myself. As I finish I come across one final image. An image of two boys in front of a fishing boat. Damon’s jet black hair covers the boy on the left. And the boy on the right looks even more familiar. I take this one as well, leaving him nothing but one image, one memory.
The void nears. I am prepared. Damon’s screams have become nothing more than a whimper now.
My task has been completed.
Go to Chapter Twenty-Seven