Hellions Unlimited 11

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Hellions Unlimited #11
Post by Alexander "Cadmus" Baptiste on Feb 7, 2007, 4:39am

Hellions Unlimited
This Man… This Monster.

Cover Description: On the right side of the page is Erebus' head in profile, gazing off towards who knows what. On the left side of the page is… Erebus’ head in profile? Facing the other direction, it looks just like him - in terms of features at least. Same shaped head, nose, mouth, hair, all that. But his skin is normal. His hair is blonde. His eyes have pupils. Turns out they're blue. Towards the bottom of the page where the two Erebus' meet is the Ying Yang symbol.

Setting: At an unspecified point in time after Erebus left the X-Mansion.

***

He was having the dream again. No surprises there. It was essentially the only dream he ever had anymore. Ever since Star first meddled with his soul. Sure, she tried to undo it… but he was changed irreparably. The dream goes thusly: Erebus is standing in the middle of his backyard. Only he isn't Erebus yet. Back then he is the decidedly unspectacular Arthur Allan. Nothing has even happened yet, but this is always the part of the dream that Erebus hates the most: reliving being him. Reliving being convinced that he was destined for greatness, that he was better than everyone else. For no reason at all. It took the Fall for him to realize that his opinion of himself at that point was shaped by nothing more than an undeserved, completely off base, overbearing ego. Often when he had the dream it would stutter at this point. As if Erebus' rage at being his former self all over again was holding the dream back. The opening ten seconds of the dream replay over and over again as Erebus' disdain for Arthur Allan was such that it warped his sense of time and space. But eventually rage and hate dull into anger and disgust and that is enough to get the dream going again.

So he is standing in his backyard. But he is not alone. Far from it, in fact. He is surrounded by people. Not many that he would stoop to considering as friends, but the majority of them being people from school who he judged as being potentially advantageous to be acquainted with. He could not, after all, let the fact that his classmates were inferior to him be a reason to shove off into a quiet corner of superiority and let them label him a freak. Kids are cruel, after all. Give them reason, and they would make a joke out of him. So seeking popularity was his only option - so that he could be the cruel kid labeling others as freaks - and he had held a vice grip over it for as long as he could remember. Which really paid off when he got to decide who would be cool during the upcoming school year and who would not be by writing the invite list for his birthday party a week into the school year. Sometimes the dream begins to stutter at this point as well because it reminds Erebus that writing this list made Arthur Allan feel like a small god. That he used to derive feelings of divinity from something so ultimately inconsequential often enraged Erebus' unconscious mind - but not this time. Things remained relatively calm as the dream rolled on.

So it is his fifteenth birthday. His backyard is filled with the people who he has hand picked to be able to mingle with his crowd this year. A few family members - his parents, cousins and the like - are intruding but that was unfortunately unavoidable. They aren't currently doing anything to embarrass him so he does not mind their presence for the time being. Things are going admirably. Not perfect, but well enough to satisfy him. Just like always. This year he decided to throw a barbeque, with some underground band whose name he never bothered to remember playing to satisfy the Indy kick his school seemed to be into that month. People were having fun, he himself wasn't terribly bored, and the punch was spiked. At least three couples had snuck into the house to make out so far, guaranteeing that guy talk in the changing room after gym class for the next week would eventually have to drift to "who hooked up with who at Arthur's party." It was shaping up to be a success. Eventually things paused. The band said a corny happy birthday shout out to Arthur and the help rolled out the cake, with another table displaying all his gifts following behind it. It was time for the rabble to sing him "Happy Birthday." He never liked the song but always enjoyed the assurance that all eyes were on him. His guests were rounding it off with "Happy Birthday, dear Arthur! Happy Birthday to you!" when the first blotch appeared on what Arthur Allan considered to be a near perfect day.

The song was over. So you blow out the candles, right? Ideally, you would attempt to catch them all in one breath. On a cake as big as his was, with so many extra candles - as per his request… he thought the extra candles created an aesthetically pleasing look- Arthur did not even intend to attempt to catch them all at once. He did not, however, expect that he wouldn't manage to catch any of them. He had stooped slightly and inhaled as he prepared to make a show of trying to blow out all the candles at once because it was what people liked to see, but then it hit him and he essentially forgot all about blowing out his candles, his party and everything else. You could call it a headache but at the intensity with which this hit, there ought to be another word for it. The pain was crippling - it knocked him off of his feet. Arthur was writhing on the ground and everybody in attendance began to crowd around him. It was understandable, then, that nobody had noticed the first sign that something was seriously wrong: the behavior of their shadows. They had lost all definition and were not even remotely mimicking the actions of their owners. Some were spinning around in circles, others were cycling through several different shapes but the majority of them had splintered into tentacles that were lashing about on the ground. Odd as things were then, the fact that the shadows were still upon the ground meant that things were going infinitely better than they would be in the minutes to come.

So. Arthur. Writhing in pain. People attempted to approach him, to help him but it didn't take. Whenever somebody would try to touch him he would sort of lash out. Most of it stemmed from the complete and utter loss of rationality brought on by his brain being set on fire. A small part of it, though. stemmed from the fact that even in as much pain as he was in he did not want to stoop to being assisted by these whelps. So on the ground he stayed. Multiple people whipped out their cell phones and called 911 without really checking to see if anybody else was doing it. The combination of the rash of calls, teenage babbling incoherence, and the garbled impression that there was an epidemic causing kids to drop to the ground left and right caused emergency services to send multiple ambulances instead of the one that it would take to carry Arthur away. The misunderstanding would turn out to be surprisingly convenient. Everyone had begun to give Arthur some room since he seemed to get worse when they tried to near him. It was about then that they began to notice the decidedly unshadowlike behavior of their shadows. Some of the guests who had partaken too much of the spiked punch were caught up in how awesome, surreal and wild it was. The slightly more level headed people were asking the question of why their shadows were acting up and were starting to feel a healthy dose of fear about it. In about thirty seconds some of them would be kicking themselves about the dose of fear not being healthy enough.

It did not take long at all for the more paranoid partygoers to put two and two together and look towards Arthur. Their opinions were almost instantly vindicated as they was the black blotches begin to pop up in random spots all over Arthur's skin. Arthur himself was oblivious to it - understandably, given his brain being on fire. The accusation of "MUTIE" was on the edge of somebody's tongue when things went from odd to catastrophic. The shadows, you see, had apparently decided the ground was played out, and that existing in three dimensions was where it was at. The tentacles seemed to spring into action first. Leaving the ground the whipped back and forth through the air aimlessly. But with the backyard being packed as it was, aim was hardly necessary. The lucky ones were those caught by the "bodies' of the tentacles. They hit like blunt objects and merely threw people about. People were bruised and bones were broken but no mortal injuries were delivered in this manner. You could not say the same for the poor bastards who became acquainted with the area towards the tentacles' ends. They were razor sharp. That, added to the speeds that the tentacles whipped about, was enough to tear people apart. A few people got of lucky with shallow cuts and others were less lucky and lost a limb or two. The majority of those who met the tentacles ends, though, suffered an evisceration. The leader of the forgettable band got decapitated, which would go on to get the band more press than their music ever did.

The misbehavior of the shadows, strangely, alleviated Arthur's pain somewhat. It was still rather intense, but he was now becoming aware of what was going on around him - which happened to be right on time for the second wave of shadow monstrosities. It was the other shadows, the ones that had been cycling through seemingly random shapes. They had emerged and taken solid shapes, and much like the tentacles, were thrashing about wildly. People were getting crushed and swatted about in addition to being torn apart by the tentacles but it was the shape of the monsters that most grabbed Arthur's attention. He recognized each and every one of them. Some of them he had drawn as a child. Most of them had haunted his nightmares during the same time period. And here they all were. An old instinct that he had not felt in years made him want to curl into the fetal position but he fought it. He also noted that as more of the monsters that used to chase him at night appeared, the pain in his head began to dull. It was not until about now that it truly dawned upon him what the shadows were doing to people. And the fact that not only was he unscathed so far, but the shadows seemed to go out of their way not to go near him. Confusion reigned. Arthur screamed.

"Stop."

They did. Right on the spot. Turning away from whatever else they were doing at the time, the beasts from a child's mind stared towards Arthur Allan in silence. the screams of his guest also died down but nobody seemed to want to stare at Arthur like the shadow beasts were. Nobody wanted to look at him. As if they were afraid that to do so would start the chaos all over again. Nobody and nothing moved for a about a minute. Sirens could be heard far off in the distance. Then came a burst of activity. The shadows melted. All of them - tentacles and monsters alike. Moving like water through the air they rushed towards Arthur and surround him. All eyes were on him again, the peculiar sight drawing their eyes - fear be damned. The shadows swirled around Arthur in a fluid motion. It went on for some time, long enough for the ambulances to be pulling up to the front of the house. Fear was still enough of a presence that nobody made the slightest move. Then, abruptly and somewhat anticlimactically, it all stopped. The shadows did not slow or wind down - they simply ceased to be there. They were back where they belonged and were representing the people and objects that they were attached to. And Arthur was nowhere in sight. A collective sigh of relief was let loose as the story of the survivors ended.

Arthur's story was a different matter. He was falling. He proceeded to fall for some time. He eventually lost track of how long it had been. He did not have any idea of how much longer he would be falling either. He was falling through sheer darkness you see. He could see nothing. He had no idea of how long he had yet to fall. Days passed, though the concept of "day" in such a place seemed alien. His thoughts sometimes wandered to why he felt neither hungry or dehydrated since food and drink were not exactly existent during a fall through a great void. His thoughts had actually wandered there yet again when he met the sudden stop. And it was not the ground. In fact, as far as he could tell, he had not touched anything. He was sort of floating in a single spot. Such a sudden stop ought to have killed him, he thought, but he didn't feel so much as mildly uncomfortable. These were things to be questioned, and he was about to do so, but he never got the chance.

Arthur found himself barraged by voices. Dozens of them. Most of them were nearly undecipherable whispers, though a few odd ones stood out as being gruffer or downright angry in a couple cases. He also realized a couple seconds into it that the voices bypassed the whole "sound" thing and projected themselves directly into his mind.

"Another."

"Lost?"

"Fallen."

"He intrudes?"

"He dares?"

"They all dare."

"The Cloaked one."

"Darkhawk."

"Vanisher."

"Asylum."

"Shroud."

"That one entire alien race…"

"Leeches, all."

"A dimension of unimaginable despair indeed…"

"More like power brokers, lately…"

"And here we are."

"Another. Here for power."

"What's going on?" Arthur called into the eternal night.

"A mutant."

"Another mutant."

"Earth suffers an epidemic of them."

"We suffer an epidemic of them."

"Another mutant here for power…"

Arthur yelled forth again, "I have no idea what you're talking about!" but they continued to speak about him as if he wasn't there.

"And not a particularly impressive one either."

"Weak of will."

"Weak of heart."

"Weak of soul.

"Week of boredom. May we eat him, already?"

"Not this one."

"You say it as though we've been picky in the past…"

"Burn him. Burn the weakness. Rip it to shreds. Sew it together as something more."

"Create our own?"

"A champion?"

"Nothing so cliché."

"An experiment then. To break the monotony."

"The idea has merit…"

"Is it agreed then?"

The last thing Arthur heard was a thousand voices whispering, "Yes." in tandem. The last thing Arthur saw was the darkness moving towards him somehow. The last thing Arthur felt was indescribable agony.

***

The first time he relived that he awakened in madness and screams. But time had removed the novelty of it. As the final images of the dream fade away, Erebus stirs slowly. Yawning and stretching in the recliner that he fallen asleep in, apparently, he tries to remember where he is. Not the house - that's fairly irrelevant. New York? Jersey? Austin? L.A.? Chicago? … Canada? It's hard to tell from inside a den. He sighs. It probably doesn't matter… not really. He had done a fair bit of traveling recently but it had become apparent that nowhere he could go would make his problem diminish. Even his old pastimes felt hollow. He looked down at his lap. A family photo album. Not his, thank God, which is what he found himself looking through the last time he came back after losing control. How unsightly. No, the photos belonged to the family that had lived here up until the previous night. He had been looking for something to add to his collection but… it just seemed so pointless. His mind was constantly being pulled in the direction of his problem and it kept him from enjoying things that should be fun. He just sucked the enjoyment out of everything.

"Miss me, starshine? Because you just know that I missed you."

Like clockwork. Erebus looked up to the apparition before him. While he slept he had to deal with being him. While he was awake he had to suffer his existence. Joy.

"No Arthur." He mutters as he closes the album and throws it off to the side. "Not in the slightest. In fact I came this close." He holds up his fingers to illustrate. "To forgetting about you."

Arthur looks down on Erebus, smiling at him with his own smile. "You're a terrible liar. Anything new on the agenda today? Or is it the usual?"

A wry smile crosses Erebus' face and he nods his head over to the corner where your typical nuclear family was resting in pieces. "What do you think?"

Arthur looked on and the smile faded from his face and he stood in silence for a moment before breaking it with, "You're an abomination upon my soul. I want my body back."

Erebus got up off the recliner, his spirits seeming to rise as Arthur's fell. He makes his way to the kitchen. "I assure you, you can't even comprehend what a true abomination is. The good people over at the X-Mansion though… they're probably going to learn first hand someday soon."

The manifestation of Arthur follows, not really moving his legs to do so, but sort sliding across the ground as Erebus moves. He sighs. "You talking about anything in particular? Or just reveling in being cryptic?"

Erebus arrives at his destination and opened the refrigerator, frowning as he looks inside. "What, did these people live of take out or something? How five people could live off so little food is beyond me… Maybe I just caught them towards the end of their grocery cycle…" Settling on grabbing the milk (Milk in bags. What do you know. I am in Canada…) and then the Corn Pops, Erebus acknowledges his other half once again while he searches the cupboards for bowls. "I would say that I'm just being cryptic. Our gift let us see a fair amount of things. Your complete unwillingness to use them amuses me. So, naturally, I intend to lord knowledge over you."

"Using our… gifts… makes me feel more like you than I'm comfortable with, to be frank."

"You are me."

"No. You are me. The bad parts anyway. Multiplied a billion billion times."

"You say tomayto, I say tomahto." he found the bowls and started pouring out his breakfast.

"Not at all. I'm the man. You're a sad little wraith."

"Really?" Erebus said, smiling and stuffing his face as he speaks, "A sad little wraith? The whole me actually having a body that can interact with the world thing seems to disagree with your little theory."

The apparition pulls out a chair from the breakfast table and sits down. "Don't get used to it."

A puzzled look passed across Erebus' face for a moment before he came out with, "Cheater. You used our powers for that. How does it feel by the way? A little more like me?"

"Hmph!" Arthur scoffs as he leans back into the chair - reminding himself not to lean through it - and folding his arms. "I can stomach it. The better question, I would think, is how does it feel to be a little more like me?"

Downing another mouthful of corn pops, Erebus crunches on them a few times and points towards the door leading back to the den. "Ask the Smiths, or whatever their names used to be. Before I hacked them to pieces."

The apparition very badly wants to conceal how much that bothers him but he lets on anyway. He continues, regardless. "I think you're overcompensating. Trying to convince yourself that you are still you. I mean, when was the last time you did this to a family for no reason? Over a year, I think… It got boring. Your words. Yet this is the," he falters for a second, "third time since we left the Hellions. I think you can feel me. And that you're desperately trying not to."

Erebus stares at his ghost blankly for a moment before polishing off his cereal and saying, "Leave the psychoanalysis to actual psychologists. Or psych majors, at the very least. You, sir, suck at it."

Arthur gets smug. "Then why are they still there?"

"Who?"

"You know who. The Hellions. I'm fairly certain that you had no intention of leaving the team in one piece when you eventually made your leave of it. I know that because I was there when you thought it. Yet, lo and behold, you left quietly and indiscreetly without making a fuss or anything. Every night, at the height of our powers - on Earth at least, you think about plunging the entire mansion into Darkforce. But it's been quite some time and you never do anything. I wonder why…" Then Arthur rises in a flash of movement "Oh, right. ME."

Erebus is quiet for a moment before dropping his bowl in the sink and walking through Arthur towards the living room. "Like I said: You suck at it. Don't think about it too much. I haven't done it yet - note the word yet - because I haven't felt like it."

Erebus picks up the remote to turn on the television in search of cartoons but a shadow whips it out of his hand. Arthur is behind him.

"Words. You can feel me within you and I'm holding you back. I care about the team and the people on it. That's why you can't touch it."

Erebus scoffs as he sits upon the couch. Deprived of the remote, a shadow wraithling forms and flicks on the television manually. Foghorn Leghorn and Barnyard Dawg are at it again. "First off, you vastly overestimate yourself. Second… care? The closest thing to a friend we had over there was Kelly. And guess what, boy? She doesn't even know who you are. She has only met me and a slightly emofied version of me. You have no allies there. And you said I was overcompensating… You're just convinced that since you're the 'good' side of the coin that is our soul that you have to be compassionate and friendly towards everyone. Know what? I'll admit to overcompensating if you'll admit that your dreams of being good old, popular, everybody loves me, Arthur Allan again are a delusion."

It was the apparition's turn to scoff. "I'll do no such thing. I don't need you to admit that I'm right, for one thing, because I know that I am. For another… those dreams don't exist so I couldn't possibly admit to them being a delusion. The things you've done with my body have completely ruined my chances at being well adjusted when I take it back because I know that the blood will never wash off… And for the record? Kelly being the closest thing you have to a friend doesn't say much. You may never have misrepresented yourself to her, but I'm fairly certain that she simply doesn't understand the extent of your evil. Five nets you ten - she would want nothing to do with you if she did."

Erebus chuckles. Foghorn versus Dawg in a boxing match. Classic. "Guess what, sonny Jim? I completely reconciled my feelings on the matter of Kelly before your ghost ass even showed up. You can't taunt me with her. You're just jealous anyway. Downplaying my… understanding - for lack of a better word - with Kelly to make up for the fact that you have had no interactions with others of any kind. Wittle Awthur is lonely."

Arthur is opens his mouth as if to fire back with a retort but immediately pauses. Then, letting himself fall backwards into the couch next to Erebus, he sighs. "That's completely beside the point."

They watch cartoons in silence for the next fifteen minutes. Erebus breaks it. "Want in on a secret?"

"Are you going to tell me whether I want to hear it or not?"

"Yes."

"Then does it matter if I want to hear?"

"Not really. I was being polite."

Arthur sighs yet again. "Fine. What's the secret?"

Erebus grins. "For a little while there, before you emerged, what you said was completely true. Your existence within me, despite Kelly trying to remove her influence, was effecting me. The way I thought. The way I saw the world. I had to force being myself. But since the fight with Nexus… since you started showing up… I've been feeling like myself again. No… more so. That little smidgen of light that's always been at the core of my soul? Almost entirely diminished now. The only bit of it that remains is the part of me that doesn't hate (on good days and likes outright on bad days) Star. But the rest of me? Pure. Unadulterated. Darkness. I haven't been overcompensating for anything, Arthur. I've just been doing this because I know it gets under your skin. Metaphorically speaking of course. There's no good left inside of me… because you've taken it all. So pat yourself on the back - again, not literally - over being able to pester me and manifest-yourself-sort-of and tap into our powers. But keep in mind that the price of doing so was making me, me again. Making me pure again. Enjoy sentience, but let every death I cause from here on out be the price you paid for it."

Arthur listened on in silence as Erebus spoke to him and remained that way for some time after he finished. He just sat there, gritting his teeth. Erebus was clearly amused. He even seemed to be about to do a little bit more taunting, but was interrupted. Arthur tackled him. Erebus was about to say something about how such actions were better left to those with bodies, but he stopped when he felt a pervasive influence at his core, clawing its way to the surface and dragging him away. As the apparition thrashed about at Erebus, it faded. The more it faded, the less Erebus felt like Erebus. In fact, the more it faded… the less Erebus felt at all…

***


Re: Hellions Unlimited #11
Post by Alexander "Cadmus" Baptiste on Feb 7, 2007, 4:39am

He wakes up. Only minutes have passed. Wile E. Coyote is chasing the Roadrunner. No, wait. He's chasing Bugs Bunny, standing in for the Roadrunner. Classic. He gets up off the floor. He doesn't look at his hands because he's nervous about what he will see and wants to prolong the amount of time before he gets his answer by as much as possible. Leaving the room (pity, because he really doesn't see that particular toon enough) he heads to the front door of the house. There is a mirror there. He looks into it.

"I'm… me…"

He was him. Arthur Allan. Back in the flesh. His body restored. Ebony skin gone, blue eyes and he was a blonde again. He felt a sense of elation inside but was incapable of expressing it beyond a smile. He couldn't really move at all, to be honest. He stood there, frozen, looking at his reflection.

Me again…

It was because he was looking directly at the mirror that he saw it when two black, immaterial arms reached out from behind the mirror and into his chest.

Sorry. Shouldn't have let that go on as long as it did. But it makes this all the more priceless.

The pain Arthur felt was familiar. He felt it on his birthday, three years ago. There was no physical element to it - it was all in his mind or his soul or something. But it hurt all the same. Standing there with the arms reaching inside him he was still paralyzed but it was no longer from elation. He watched his reflection change. The skin darkened and roughened. His hair became white. His pupils faded away. His last corporeal action was the release of a single tear before he was jerked from the body. from his spot on the ground he watched Erebus turn towards him and look down.

"I'm impressed, to be honest. You had enough willpower to wrestle control of our body away from me. That was far more than I expected. But, unfortunately, you did not possess nearly enough of it to maintain control. It's almost sad. To be reminded of what you're missing like that. I almost pity you. Almost. Oh, who am I kidding, it was fucking hilarious. I'll tell you the exact same thing I told Nexus. You are a passenger here. I am the captain of this vessel. Get used to it."

Arthur shoves himself up off of the ground. He wipes away the tear that carried over to his astral form. "Know what? Fuck you. You don't control the universe… you can barely control yourself. You certainly don't control me. I'll get used to nothing. You just lost control of your body, Erebus, and it can happen again. You can talk big and grandstand all you fucking want, but you know what it doesn't change? That you're a one note, one dimensional, small minded, loser, alone with a bunch of corpses, talking and screaming at yourself!"

***

Erebus blinks. Gone. Was he ever there? Probably. Or probably not. How would he even know, really? He wouldn't. Disconcerting. He walks back and forth in the doorway for a few minutes before punching the mirror in frustration. His shadow rises from the ground and envelops him, taking him away.

If she consigns the people that she "doesn't hate" to babbling insanity, I would hate to be somebody who really pissed her off…

His shadow wraps around him entirely and then melts into nothing. He is gone.


Re: Hellions Unlimited #11
Post by Alexander "Cadmus" Baptiste on Feb 7, 2007, 4:53am

Writer's notes:

- I started this back during the week when the Hellions first started. Originally, it was ultimately going to be a story of how Erebus was found by Shaw. But all my ideas for that bored me terribly, so I just sat on it. Clearly, the plot has been through a massive reworking…

- The scene with the voices talking to Arthur is pulled more out of my ass than from anything from the comics. At least as far as I know. The idea is that he's either hearing forces within the Darkforce discuss him or that his little human mind started hallucinating due to being incapable of dealing with his new powers and his connection to the Darkforce. Frankly, it's up to the reader. I've no preference.

- Whee! Erebus has always been evil but now he's crazy as well. Or is he?


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