But, yes, he's right. I'm a fraud. Sue me.
Cheer, sneer, spit, I don't care. I didn't start this for your damn amusement, or mine. I don't even LIKE writing. But writing was Sam's deal. Even when we were married, writing was Sam's deal. It used to fantasize about publishing a novel or two. Used to make lists OF lists, for pete's sake... so I had to play my part. If Sam enjoyed writing, then I had to figure it out. Red-Fuck would expect it, after all. He'd expect updates about all the going-ons just like Sam used to... all the long ass posts....
Posts that I wrote and rewrote then rewrote AGAIN. Then got Cypher to read them over. Sometimes sending them off to Banks for his two cents, once he involved himself. Words like "Alex-y" and "Scream-ish" became common terms around here. I picked and pieced my way through EVERYTHING. Every word, every ACTION, every THOUGHT...
AND IT WORKED!!
The fuck actually BELIEVED it! The son of a bitch actually believed that the Plague Doctor had brought Sam back. I actually pulled it OFF...
I called "Redlight" out.
I pushed every button that I knew. Every one that I'd learnt from reading and rereading Sam's blog. And even one of two that I guessed at and hoped that I had as good a aim with words as I do with bullets. I fired off that last post with EVERY intent set as sending that son of a bitch's temper into burning overdrive. I told Cypher to be ready for it. I TOLD him...
I've seen a lot of shit since I started with this bunch.
Nothing prepared me though for when that... thing brought with him when he appeared. I had myself all set. "Waiting" in a nice isolated spot where none of the locals should have stumbled into the Hell Hole we were setting up. I was maneuvering my way through. Making it look like I was headed somewhere important.And the very first thing that hit me... was like a vibration. not a shiver FROM me but one OUT of me that hit INTO me and clung. And then warped. Everything swaying as a weight came down on me HARD. Like someone had slammed down and was sitting on my chest. Making breathing near impossible as the trash and walls all around me pulled and stretched. Blurring. And, from this twisted concoction... came a staggering figure.
When I saw that burning amber... I understood fully why Sam called him the Devil.
Made me take a step back.
Which seemed to actually confirm it for the bastard.
That sick grin spreading out. Tearing up so wide and sharp that I expected to see blood as that borrowed face contorted for it. A young boy. Maybe fifteen. Had on red sneakers. Guess that was all the asshole needed to force his way in. The body shuttering and twisting in ways that snapped bones. I HEARD them snap, but it didn't seem to impair anything. Motion evening out as that fucker took complete control. Straightening to level that gaze at me. That grin. Sickening. Mocking. Making a comment about how special a toy I always was. How he never got tired... of making me shrink away.
I said the only thing I could think of. Remembering everything Cypher and Banks taught me. What EVERYONE in the group taught me. Forcing myself to loosen. My stance to relax. Forcing that smirk that I spent HOURS in front of a mirror practicing until I got it perfect.
"Well, well, my dear... aren't you a sight for sore eyes~ You're looking as sickly as ever.
Honestly. You don't call. You don't write. I was beginning to think I'd done something to UPSET YOU."
That earned a laugh. Twisted and warped and WRONG in so many ways. Everything about him was wrong. Each movement blurring and stretching. As if... as if EXISTING itself recognized him as an error. A glitch. His voice vibrating before evening out. Asking if I was really that eager to return to my place under his boot. Asking me if being tangled in his strings was that much fun. Asking me how much I remembered. Recalling memories as he started forward. Red sneakers bringing that THING closer and closer to me with every step as he recounted how I'd thrashed on my strings. How I'd begged him for release. For death. For anything but what WAS. Asking me... if I missed FEELING the white BURN through my mind - a sharp SPIKE of pain - when I disobeyed. If I missed all the delusions. All my worst nightmares playing over and over and over. If I missed CLINGING to him because he was the only thing I had left by the end of it. The only thing that I knew was Real...
I only rose a brow - tilting my head in just that certain way as I tried to hide my nerves the closer he got. Asking him how long he'd been working that speech out while twiddling his thumbs in the Grove.
One second, I saw his eye twitch.
And, in the next, I was taken clear off my feet with his grip crushed around my throat like a vice. That amber BURNING. That grin torn down into a snarl feral and rabid. Not blinking. NEVER blinking. That oppression that choked out the very air doubling. Tripling down. Fucker only needed to start foaming at the mouth as he snapped and snarled...
"DO YOU WANT TO DO IT OVER AGAIN, SAM?!! Should we go back to the BEGINNING of it all!?!! Did it not BURN to disobey me before?!! TO CHALLENGE ME??! Weren't you supposed to be my tool; reduced to nothing more than a shambling puppet?!??? I know how WEAK you truly are. I expected it from you. It was understandable. Excusable, even. Given what you went through. And I FORGAVE you for it, didn't I?! DIDN'T I, SAM?!! Didn't I keep that broken body of yours going, no matter how much it SCREAMED for you to stop? Didn't I keep you BREATHING? And how did you repay me for PROTECTING you from your own USELESSNESS?!! With disobedience?!? With stupidity?!??? You thrashed and thrashed on your strings and earned NOTHING from it! Don't you REMEMBER? Don't you remember how I REMINDED YOU over and over and OVER until it was CARVED INTO EVERY PART OF YOU?!??! You are MINE!! You belong to ME! Don't you remember....?! DON'T YOU REMEMBER, SAM?!?!
I WILL CONTROL YOU UNTIL YOUR LAST GASPING, DESPERATE, PATHETIC BREATH!!!!"
I WILL CONTROL YOU UNTIL YOUR LAST GASPING, DESPERATE, PATHETIC BREATH!!!!"
It took everything in me not to ram my gauntlet down his damn throat.
And yet... something flashed over him then. Like he noticed something. Or didn't notice something. A frown twisted over the glare... just as the walls of a loop rose around us. Sweeping around and closing in mere seconds. Catching us. Catching HIM like a fish in a net. And I couldn't stop my smile... even as that searing glare snapped back onto me. Snarl torn across his expression again and, in one swift motion, my mask and hood were torn from my head.
The bastard recognized me.
The second he tore off my hood. Just one SECOND... and he knew. He knew who I was. And it makes me SICK to think he'd been that mixed into Sam's memories that he wouldn't even skip one fucking beat. Not even ONE.
And then everything was a mess of motion. Cypher literally DROPPING in from above. SECONDS away from contact before Red-Fuck jumped back. Cypher barely touching the ground before lunging after him at full speed. Straight and ready and SO FUCKING CLOSE...
And then there was a shot.
And it was all over.
The body of the teen dropped like a rock. The glow of amber eyes fading away, taking that oppressive weight around us with it. It... took a moment to really sink in. For both of us. What had just happened. Because it COULDN'T happen like that. It was supposed to have fucking STOPPED here. Everything was supposed to have stopped. Cypher himself near blew a fuse before taking off in a raging fit. Screaming for the head of the sniper. Someone he calls the "Wiseman".
That left me with the body of the kid.
And the scrap remains of a ruined plan.
It fucking WORKED.
And we screwed it up. Somehow, we screwed it UP.
But you know what? I wallowed. I sulked over my dead idea. Vengeance and justice so damn close that I could TASTE it only for it to slip from my fingers. I disappeared for a while. I had a few more drinks than I should have. I got it out of my system. And now... I don't give a rat's ass that Redlight knows my name. I don't give a FUCK that this plan fell apart. It changes nothing.
Sam... is probably going to spend eternity in that goddamn Crumbling Castle.
Nothing I do is going to change that.
But I can figure out how to kill The Devil.
I won't stop until I do.
My name is Alex Prescott.... and I swear that I'll have Redlight's head.
Sooner or later