Armitage turns and looks at its stump of an arm, severed below the elbow, leaking black tar. The Scrubber takes a step forward, reaching out with its good hand. I drop the sword and draw my Desert Talon.
Only the force of the shots themself have any affect on Armitage. Even the large portions of its body flying off concern him little. Scrubbers are built, not born. Damaged tissues do little to shut down the overall mission of the Scrubber. To defeat it, you must destroy it completelh.
I fire madly to keep this monster from advancing. It walks right into my shots, ruining the rest of its severed arm, blowing off part of its hip. Even when I blast off almost the entire right side of Armitage’s head, it still clubs me with its remaining good hand. I’m knocked down and nearly drop my gun. The Scrubber menaces. I'm not sure how many bullets I have left, but it can't be many.
With a furious cry, I hurl my Desert Talon at Armitage and hold out Nepotism’s sword before me. The Scrubber’s lips have been reduced to a ragged mess by the gunshot. Black oil seeps in the wounds forming pale flesh. The roar of the audience drowns out all noise. Cameras televise our combat on giant screens. I back up to Kara motionless in the center, Armitage only as far away as I can keep him with the sword tip that he is pressing further and further into its stomach.
Nepotism jumps on Armitage’s back, wrapping his arms around the Scrubber’s neck and face, covering the last good eye. Armitage slaps its remaining hand at Nepotism, clawing with nicotine yellow fingers and twisting its body to shake the parasite free. The band continues to play, and Solomon continues to sing.
Nepotism punches what remains of Armitage’s head. Kara's eyes are half-lidded and show no recognition of what is happening. I remove Armitage’s hand that still clings limply to her throat. I pitch it aside, helping Kara to a sitting position. The hand melts to black goo.
Armitage gains hold of Nepotism’s leg, peeling Nep off its back, swinging him around like a sack. The Scrubber hurls Nepotism into a PA stack. He falls motionless. No time to dwell, Armitage has already turned his attention to Kara and me. The lips grin, and its remaining fingers crackle with energy. Nepotism is racing past me, broadsword raised high, chopping overhand, splitting the rest of Armitage's head in twain to the bottom of his sternum. The Scrubber jerks violently as Nepotism kicks him in the stomach to knock the carcass off the sword. Armitage stumbles back a few feet.
But it's not enough.
Armitage finds its footing and stops. The split upper halves of its body flops about, squeezing out black ooze. The one remaining eye sways back and forth, never losing focus. Armitage steps forward.
Like a toppling angel, Solomon drops from above, landing between us. Even Armitage seems surprised, backing up a step as Solomon stands to full height. He has stopped singing.
Taking a few deep breaths, Solomon bellows, “Dra-bib-huta!” The force of his word knocks the Scrubber back, melting it like heat to a black splash that sieves through the grate of the stage.
The singer turns on me, grinning. His eyes are split and bloody, and one is nearly swollen closed. He’s lost his top dentures, giving him an underbite with the lower set. They are shattered and bloody. Solomon’s body is a webwork of wounds, and most are self-inflicted. Slivers of glass stud him like jewelry, or a lizard’s spiny scales. Smears of shit are wiped across his legs and torso, and blood drips in rapid intervals from the tip of his middle finger.
Still locked eyes with me, he bends his knees to retrieve his sword. Solomon raises the blade over his head.
Without considering the consequences, I ram Nepotism’s sword through Solomon’s belly.
Solomon gags as he’s pierced. The blade has gone through both sides, but the wound is mostly sealed around the steel. He does not look down, he will not justify the wound that defeated him.
The audience cheers madly.
First I needed to defeat him. Solomon already reached, fingers near claws, burying himself deeper on the blade as he grabs for my eyes. I heave upward, lifting his tiny body off the floor, splitting the wound to his rib cage and tossing him back. The sword is loose in him, and blood flows from the wound into the grate.
I need to finish this. Joshua Solomon will not make himself into a god. Nepotism is leading Eva away. Solomon’s fire has not gone out. Choking and twisting, Solomon frees himself from the sword blade. A normal man would be dead, and I fear what necromancy has been completed before we ever arrived on the scene. I take the sword pommel in both hands and tear it from his body, pulling the frayed ends of his intestines with it. He lays flat on his back, but does not rest. Solomon is sitting, then he stands. I back off two steps. Nepotism and Kara are gone.
Solomon takes one step toward me and I swing. I brace with my shoulders and catch more force than I realized. The sword is far lighter than a normal blade of its size, and balanced precisely. It didn’t matter that I don’t believe in symbols. Solomon believed in symbols, and he was out to make others believe as well. I knew before I could stop, this had all been scripted. I couldn’t stop the proceedings if I tried. The blade hit Solomon’s neck and does not slow, purely by luck in my blind swing that had been intended to do no more than knock him aside. I barely lose motion as it passes through muscle and bone to the other side, taking Solomon’s head with one clean shot.
No one saw it happen.
As soon as the blood sprayed down, the Scrubber sprayed up, tendrils of black slime catching and absorbing every spray, the severed head, and the body that no longer held it. Armitage reformed around Solomon’s body, solidified to the original form, then the face recast as Solomon, then took a blank, featureless mask, and the whole body melted into the grate.
For all anyone knew, I hit Solomon with the sword and he deteriorated before them like Obi Wan. I don’t believe in symbols, but I’m scared to find out what that meant to everyone in the audience.
Dr. Filth in:
The Alarm Clock at the End of the World