This is a Flash Fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig. The Challenge is this: Write a story about vengeance. It is also the third in a trilogy of Shinings so check out the other two if you like.
*Psst! Here’s Part Two*
Emilio spent the better part of a week on bed rest. His shoulder ached and throbbed and for a while it looked as if his hand would swell and pop right off like an overripe plum. But, eventually, the swelling subsided, the nightmares ceased, and the world became less like a twister in his head. One morning he sat on the edge of his bed, feet dangling. He wasn’t sure how he knew it was morning, or how he could feel the chill morning breeze in this city within the hall, but he felt it all the same. His shoulder wasn’t nearly healed enough, but he was getting tired of being indoors so he left the building with the red cross on it and went to see if he could find the stranger who’d brought him here.
The streets were bustling with activity. Dozens of men and women were frequenting shops, ordering food at street side cafes and conversing on their way to and from wherever they were going. Emilio wasn’t sure if it was because this was Sappa or the secret hall of the brotherhood, but he noticed right away how everyone was dressed. From the bright and garish to the rough and practical, not to mention the assortment of weapons strapped to everyone’s hips and backs. Everyone here must have been a hunter of some kind. He felt extremely out of place and it didn’t help that everyone looked at him like he was a beggar in a king’s court. Just as he’d given up hope, he bumped into the stranger as he rounded a corner.
“Careful, son. Should you be wandering around in your condition?” the stranger asked.
“I’m tired of laying in a sick bed all day. I want to find my father now,” Emilio said.
“Restless, eh? Not to worry. I was actually about to meet with someone who had information on your father this very morning.” He called for a carriage and from seemingly nowhere, a rickety old thing sped around the corner, pulled by two men. It was not unlike the one that had brought him to this place. “What’s on your mind?” he asked once they got situated.
“What do you mean?” Emilio asked.
“You’re as wide-eyed as the day you came to Sappa.”
The carriage took off, the carriage pullers huffing as they brought it up to speed.
“There are just… a lot of strange characters here. Are they all with the brotherhood?” Emilio asked.
“Most of them. Some are brotherhood adjacent. All have experienced the Shining. It is impossible to understand our mission without it,” the stranger said.
“What is your mission exactly?” Emilio asked.
“It depends on who you ask. The Perseids think that men are the rightful rulers of this Earth and that all monsters should be slain or subjugated. The Cadmiums believe that all slayers are destined to become the very things they hunt. Such is our nature. So they study and dissect the adversary to better understand what awaits us and some of the more extreme ones even graft monster parts to themselves to aid in the fight. Our friend Clara considers herself a Cadmium. The Bellerophites… are you familiar with the myth of Bellerophon?” the stranger asked. Emilio shook his head. “Before the age of Herakles, the three greatest monster slayers on Earth were Cadmus, Perseus and Bellerophon. Bellerophon was the grandson of Sisyphus. You heard of him?”
“I think so.”
“Let’s just say impossible tasks ran in the family. Bellerophon rode mighty Pegasus and slew the fire breathing Chimera; an impossible task given to him by an ancient king. Bellerophon completed every task the king gave him. He fought the Amazons of myth, pirates, cannibal tribes of men and on and on. So it is with Bellerophites. We know that to hunt and slay monsters is an impossible task that won’t end in our lifetimes, and yet we persist. Because we must, even if the hubris of the idea will one day end us.”
The carriage sped through a hole in the wall that closed behind them, sealing the hidden city away. Once again, Emilio found himself in Sappa proper. It was just as magnificent as before, but in the harsh light of morning, the long shadows of the surrounding buildings reminded him of jagged teeth, like the ones that almost skewered him a week ago. Emilio wondered how he could have been so dazzled by this place. The longer he stayed, the more it seemed to hurt his eyes and his soul.
“Why do you do it?” Emilio asked. The stranger was quiet for a moment.
“We Shining Ones have awoken to the truth of this world. After my Shining, I saw my life for the lie that it was. I wanted revenge.”
The carriage came to a halt in front of an old office building. They walked through the fancy new revolving door into the lobby where an old man waited for them. The old man handed the stranger a key. The stranger thanked him and took the stairs to the third floor.
The stranger came upon a door and unlocked it with a soft click. Inside was a boardroom with a long table and many chairs. A man sat at the end of the table. He was wrapped in ancient cloth bandages and his skin was grey and taught over a bony frame. He wore a fine suit and magnificent Aegyptian jewelry; like a pharaoh of old on his way to the royal ball. On either side of him, several men waited on him like servants, holding fans and jars of sweet smelling Sap, their eyes a dull expressionless yellow.
“Well, this is unexpected,” said the stranger.
“Come in, Ezekiel. You too, little Auric boy. Have a seat. We have much to discuss,” the man said in a thick Aegyptian accent.
Emilio wanted to run. He wanted to melt into the floor. Then he saw a familiar face holding a jar of Sap. It was his father, looking a decade older since the last time he’d seen him.
“What’d you do with Josiah?” the stranger asked.
“He came over for dinner last night,” the man said with a raspy chuckle.
“Father. Father is that you?” Emilio asked. His father stared at him with a blank expression.
“You remember me, Ezekiel. Though you don’t know it,” the man said. “You’ve been a pain in my side for a while now, mucking up my work. I think it is time you served my interests instead.”
“I don’t work for Sap Fiends,” the stranger said, though apparently his name was Ezekiel. Emilio realized he’d never actually asked the man his name.
“A nest of Ka Sharib… sorry, Sap Drinkers, have gathered beneath an orphanage I am supporting. I need them gone. Surely you can spare an evening getting rid of them?” the man asked.
“Let me guess. They’re threatening your supply?” the stranger asked. The man pursed his dry, cracked lips.
“I haven’t gone for under ripe meats in a thousand years. My palette is much more refined these days,” he said. He signaled a man holding a jar and scooped a handful of Sap from it. He seemed to breathe it in as much as drink it and its energies surged through him; a yellow circuit of veins swelling back to life. He didn’t seem so desiccated anymore.
“No deal. Release your thralls now,” the stranger commanded.
“They are bound to my service for eternity. I will not,” the man said. The top of his head exploded. Then the table in front of his chest. Then his chest, which sent him flying back.
“Let him go! Let my father go!” Emilio shouted, pumping the stranger’s shotgun again and again until it ran empty. The man rose from the floor like a rigid board, his wounds sealing themselves like sand filling a crevice.
“Forget what I said before. I’m curious to see what your thirst for vengeance tastes like, boy,” the man said.
“You fool! That don’t work on things like him! He’s too powerful!” the stranger said, grabbing Emilio and bolting out the door.
“No! He has my father!” Emilio screamed.
“It’s too late for him! As long as that creature draws breath, your father will never be free!”
When he looked back at that moment, Emilio realized this was when his Shining truly happened. When the light inside him burned away all other thoughts and outshined all other desires save for one. Revenge.