I awake to the methodical pitter-patter of rain driving itself against the ground, like individuals leaping off buildings, plummeting to their deaths. As if needed to be said, I had a great night of sleep.
The calmness soon leaves when I feel a jolt of pain begin to make way up my spine. I open my eyes to take sight of a ceiling looking back at me, but this isn't my ceiling. I am resting on a couch that is a navy-blue color, so dark it is nearly black. This isn't mine either.
The memories of being beaten begin to enter my mind. I remember the sound of bullets singing me to sleep as well. I look around and see a room that is all but empty. Even worse than my own.
The carpet is a faded white color with noticeable muddy footprints scattered about it, and the walls are a sapling color with the paint showing signs of peeling. A medium-sized television across from me rests on a metal stand.
Beneath the stand is a shelf with a DVD player, and under that, tangled-up wires plugged into a power strip. I can't help but wonder whether a puppet will tell me he wants to play a game. The whole room feels neglected for the most part. The arrangement is how my living-room would look without James occupying it. The pain recedes out of me fast, and to my surprise, I start to relax as the panic lessens.
Here I am, in an unfamiliar room, with faint memories of being almost beaten to death, and I haven't much in the way of a care in the world. I sit up dizzily and realize I am still dressed to kill, but am no longer wearing my balaclava. This helped scratch past that pesky calmness in me, and before long, I begin to feel sick. Not sick, but something like it. A numbness. The shock is setting in. That must be it. A warmth of sorts carrying through all of my body. But it feels forced, like something else is trying to repel it. Whoever stopped Branden Cutler and his goons from ripping me into smithereens has seen me without my mask.
I can't say I am terrified.
Something about me, something in me, isn't capable of grasping hold of what is happening. But even in my right mind, I am not sure I would be terrified. I have covered my tracks well. There isn't anything that can link me to the conclusion of anyone's life. All I can be found guilty of is falling off of a rooftop onto a car, and getting the living hell beaten out of me while wearing a bizarre outfit.
I stand to my feet, and just like that, the world spins around me. I instantly collapse to one knee.
Something is wrong.
Is it possible the bullets that slapped against my eardrums last night were mere coincidence, and Young has decided finishing me off isn't enough?
Ain't no one wanna believe me when I said I was attacked by you. I have a feelin' they'll believe me now, if I bring you to 'em.
Allen Young could have easily dragged my lifeless body to his vehicle without detection, especially with his colleagues acting as walls, guarding him from view. Does that collective thinking seem reminiscent of something Branden Cutler would do? Not really, but what else could it be? I try to ascend back to my feet, and succeed, but it still feels strange. I can feel my knees swaying from side to side while I attempt to advance onward.
I look out through a dirty and unkempt window near the doorway. It appears to be sealed shut by too many sloppy paint-jobs. I take sight of a shiny, silver motorcycle parked outside the building. I take a step forward and drop to my knees once again.
“There's no need to strain yourself, you aren't in any danger,” a man utters.
I look up to see an older gentleman looming over me, a wrinkled expression on his face, conveying no identifiable emotions. A face of a person that has had more than his fair share of sleepless nights. It takes me seconds to piece one and two together and remember I have seen this haggard face before.
The bastard that sent me to the worst beating of my life.
The elderly man should consider himself fortunate I can't stand. Had this not been the case, I would have already taken out my switch-blade and given his flesh the old in and out with it, real savage. I don't feel angry though, I feel a little bit of everything, but not angry.
“I hope the morphine isn't feeding you too many aftereffects. It is the strongest I had to offer to you, along with a couple of other pills I had you indulge. None can do anything too damaging, but they might very well alleviate the pain for a couple of hours.” The man spoke matter of fact, then, for a slight second, he smirked. “Although, if you start seeing a hookah-smoking caterpillar then it would be beneficial for you to let me know. That would be something of admitted wonder though,” the man's comments were delivered dryly, sharing with me his warped sense of humor. “Honestly, I didn't expect for you to take nearly as large a beating as you did.”
“I'm sorry to disappoint,” are the only words I can piece together in response to the man's lunacy.
I am having trouble keeping my eyes on the man. The room is spinning way too fast.
“You shouldn't be. You have been forced to duke it out with your personal demons without guidance or assistance. I've been left nothing but proud of how you've dealt the cards handed to you. The urges to inflict punishment, to cause pain. They have to have been growing inside you as the days went by. Increasingly. Nobody understands that more. Lesser men would have merely decided to place their cards on the table and taken themselves out of play, but instead you put on a poker-face for those around you and at the same time, you discarded them without anyone even knowing. You have done nothing to disappoint me, Orion.” The man walked around the room as he spoke, but he was looking me dead in the eye by the end.
“How do you know my name?”
“I'm your father,” he says nonchalantly, seeming not to understand the magnitude of his own words.
I start to feel a strange disturbance in the force. Something tells me it is provoked by whatever narcotic the man has given me that has left me feeling … odd.
My father is dead.
I glance at him as he stares back entirely mirthless, it is apparent he means the words he has said. Unfortunately for him, my father is still dead. The magical ability to make the room spin like a twister won't change that.
“It is impossible for me to describe with words,” the man stopped speaking for a moment, doing it deliberately for theatrics, “the remorse I feel about not being there for you when you clearly needed it. Especially when I discovered you were a victim of the very same restlessness and evil that I feel inside of me. I know it might be difficult to comprehend what I am saying right now, considering the current state you're in, but I swear it's true. I never intended on abandoning you like I did. When your mother died in a car accident, I made the decision that you were better off without me. I hoped you wouldn't be consumed with what I had that devoured me at such an early age. If you want to be angry at anybody for the trials and tribulations you have been forced to endure then I stand as the culprit,” the man, my father says.
He looks at me with a plain-face but I can tell he is advocating for forgiveness. In a complete and utter daze, my eyes continue to wander, it is obvious the impact of his words aren't going to hit hard now. I can only assume this is the reason for him telling me this in my current state. The words did make a ringing in my head though. I can almost hear the rattling of the information, it is going much too fast for me to grasp.
“You shot me in the chest,” is all I say in response. And, for what it's worth, I think that's a fair statement to make.
“I understand our initial meeting was out of the ordinary,” he started, a small smirk, “And I wish I could offer you a better justification for why I did what I did. But I just wanted to get a grasp on how much you knew, and how much I could teach you,” he continues coldly, his eyes are fuming with intensity and sincerity. “There is hundreds of things you still have yet to unravel about yourself, and let me start off by saying you've fallen into a trance. It has persuaded you into believing you have to disguise who you are to the people around you, and that isn't the case. You don't have to be ashamed of what you are, and you certainly shouldn't believe these people are your superiors. They're not! You don't have to explain anything to them, and you sure as hell don't need justification for what you do!”
His voice was fiery and paved with brimstone and his eyes were as black as charcoal. He was now carrying a detectable viciousness in his voice, and the amount of passion spewing out of him as the words leave his lips couldn't be denied. I don't know if I want to accept the words though.
“I'm not ashamed of what I am,” I retort with emptiness in my voice replacing confidence.
“You've made a point out of targeting only individuals that have committed crimes. The bad ones. The ones that deserve it. You believe that it justifies your actions, and I know you're not doing this for a reason of your own, I know that you don't care. You and I both know this isn't about saving lives, or helping the innocent. Perception might change how you behave on the outside, but on the inside, you know that this isn't why you do what you do. We don't do what we do for justice, we do what we do because without it, we can't survive. You want their approval, but it should be their decapitated heads resting on your wall that substitutes.”
I closed my eyes as he spoke. My head was starting to hurt more and more. Throbbing. Uncontrollably. He continues: “I named you after the constellation, Orion, because you're more than anything in this world. You are the hunter. And you've been blind to that. You don't care about any of these people, so don't pretend,” the man known as Cepheus finishes, once more showing the same sincerity as when he first started.
The sharpening pain in my head has become worse. And along with it, my ability to think straight has as well. I look up one more time. I take a final glance at the man claiming to be my father. The man telling me that I am living a lie. I want to piece together a response but I know I am not going to be able to form one.
The prickling pain is becoming unbearable.
My view fades to black.
I drop to the floor.
Unconscious once more.