Here it is:
The sewer was dark. Water rushed through a canal made from brick and dried mud, carrying with it the scent of piss and shit. The sound of the rushing water pressed itself into Gat’s ears. He imagined that he was falling from some great height, or that he was sitting by a creek in the woods. He hadn’t seen a forest in a long time.
Gat was sniveling. He sat on the floor with his knees pulled close to his face. “She will love me,” he said. “She will.”
No, he thought. She’s just a bitch. I just have to forget about her.
No, she’s not a bitch. It’s too hard to forget. I’m nothing, everything is nothing. The world is dark without the light of her love. She’d love me if I was dead. That’s how it works with women. They don’t realize what they have until it’s gone.
Gat’s Stone was glowing. It was on the low point of a necklace that he wore. “Why are you glowing?” he asked. “I’m trying to think.”
Now is the time.
“No, no, no. Not yet.” Gat shook his head. Tears formed in his eyes. “She’ll love me soon. I just have to…I have to show her. I’ll write her a poem.”
She said she would kill you.
“She…she’s just confused. She doesn’t know what she wants.” Gat laughed, chuckling into his knees. “She’s so beautiful like that.”
Gat kicked out his legs and pushed his palms against the crusty floor. “Okay, I’m up. What should I do now?”
No, Gat thought. Don’t listen to the voice. It doesn’t know what you want. I know what you want, because I’m me.
“Yes, this all makes perfect sense now,” Gat said. His mutterings echoed against the sewer walls, although the water somewhat dampened the sound. “Everything is just coming together on its own. I don’t even need to try, because I control everything. I control the City, the world.”
An animal chittered some distance up the tunnel. Gat peeked toward the direction from which the noise originated. He saw a large rat.
A shadow formed behind Gat. It grew, morphing into intangible shapes that formed a constantly changing blob, a geometrical disgrace. The shapes, dark shadows, reached out toward the rat.
“No,” Gat said, willing the shadows to stop their motion. “It’s not time yet. I need more time.”
A thousand souls screamed out from the darkness, tearing into Gat’s mind.
They want to be used. They will perish if you neglect their power.
“No, no, no,” Gat said. He slapped himself across the right side of his head. “Stop it! Stop it now!”
The shadows receded and fell int Gat’s true shadow, an outline of the man he was. I am a man, he thought. I’m a man and Mary should love that about me, but she doesn’t. She’s neglecting the power that I have to make her feel good. She doesn’t realize the love I have for her. I have to show her.
He needed food. The rat snickered at him. “I hate you,” Gat said. “You’re just a fucking rat. You’re just something else that needs to die.”
Gat walked toward the rat. Its back faced him. He silently moved behind it, lifted his bare foot, and violently stomped on the rat’s head.
He lifted his foot and looked underneath it. “Ew,” he said. “Gross.” He flicked the bloody mess of brain and bone and teeth. Blood dripped from the sole of his foot. “It hurt me.” The words exited his mouth with a pitiful tone. “It hurt me.”
The pain made clear the way for new thought. Why should he accept that a rat could hurt him? He had the power of a thousand souls.
“Souls,” he said, looking down at his Stone, which glowed to provide light enough for day in the darkness of the sewer tunnels. “Souls in this Stone.” He touched it.
“I have human souls, thousands of them stored here.” He rubbed the Stone between his greasy fingers. The power was enough to tempt the most pure of men, and Gat was far from purity.
“I need to think,” he said and the words were tinted with pain and hesitation. He gathered the body of the dead rat in his arms, caressing it as a mother would her baby, and began to walk.
“Hey, Ga…Gat!” one of his roommates shouted at Gat as he entered his small apartment that was cramped with randomly placed tables and chairs. This roommate’s name was Tick Joffree.
“Hi,” Gat said, frowning as he entered his apartment. A circle of his roommates and their friends sat on the floor, apparently unsatisfied with the rigidity of the chairs. Smoke filled the common area and a large hookah with several hoses attached stood in the middle of the human circle.
“Man,” one of the friends said, looking up at him with glazed eyes. Gat didn’t recognize the woman. “You gotta get on this.” She laughed.
“Oh,” Gat said. Her eyes mesmerized him; all deep blues and glowing. She wore a simple brown dress that didn’t look to be enough to shield her from the chill outside.
“Hey,” she said with a smile. “Are you checking me out?” She laughed again.
“Gat!” Tick shouted. “Come on and smoke some of this! It’s fucking great!”
“What is it?” Gat asked.
“There we go, there we go. It’s ditzel. None of that cheap crap either. Mary here grew it herself.”
“Mary?” Gat said. He frantically scanned the room for her.
“Easy Gat,” Tick laughed. “Not your Mary. Another Mary.”
“I’m another Mary,” the blue-eyed woman said, laughing. “I’m the only Mary. Mary Silver.”
“Hi,” Gat said, standing there like a moron. Her eyes held his in a vice-grip. “I’m, uh…I’m Gat.”
“Sit down, Gat. I want you to sit down, next to me.”
His five roommates, including Tick, and the two other friends watched this exchange with open and interested expressions. “Woo, Mary,” one of them said with a smirk, whose name was John Underbelly. “Are you trying to get some?” She just laughed. The hookah bubbled as Tick inhaled its smoke.
Gat shuffled over next to Mary and gingerly sat on the ground.
“Put your arm around me,” she said, shivering. “I want you to keep me warm.”
Gat did as he was told and found her warm already. A burning desire grew within him and he struggled to pace his breathing. Mary lifted her chin and closed her eyes with a satisfied smile.
“Hey, we don’t need no show,” Tick said. His eyes looked on with ferocity.
“Relax, Tick,” Mary said. She shuffled under Gat’s arm.“He’s alright, I like this guy. I want the hose.”
Tick handed her the hose. “Hey John, when was the last time we had a drink?”
“I think about three hours ago, Tick,” John replied. He smirked and watched Mary and Gat in a spirit opposite to that of Tick’s. “Is it time already?”
Tick stood and retrieved his long coat from its resting spot on the floor. He put his arms through the sleeves and buttoned the front and looked at John, nodded his head, raised his eyebrows, and walked out the door, saying, “It’s been time.”
John sighed and then stood. “Gat, don’t worry about him. He’s still sore ’cause Mary turned him down.”
“John, leave him,” one of the friends said. Gat assumed she was a friend of John’s; he didn’t recognize her. “Stay here.”
“Me, Mary,” Mary said, replying to John. She handed the hose to John for a final hit, looking at Gat all the while. “Not your Mary.”
“Right.” John handed the hose back to Mary. He looked over to his female friend. “I’d stay, but you know Tick. He’ll need somebody to watch his back.”
“Ohh,” his friend complained.
“I’ll be back.” John donned his coat and put his wide brim hat on his head.
“John,” one of Gat’s roommates said, whose name was Tuck Joffree, Tick’s little brother. “Dagger.”
“Right.” Gat saw the hesitation in John’s eyes. John slowly strapped the belt, with the dagger sheath attached, around his waist. A weak man. He walked out the door, saying, “And I’m off.”
“I swear,” Tuck said. “Tick does that just to get John to follow him.”
“Does what?” John’s female friend asked.
“Picks up fights.”
Another one of Gat’s roommates muttered some joke that he didn’t catch, and everyone laughed. A conversation picked up, but Gat paid little attention.
Mary Silver rubbed herself against Gat’s body. He felt good, better than he had in months, years even, with her left breast pressed against his ribs and the scent of her hair sliding into his nostrils. The desire in him grew into a more physical form.
“Someone’s happy,” Mary said. Gat noticed that she no longer held the hookah hose. “I want to take a nap. Show me your bed?”
“Okay,” Gat said. He stood first and assisted Mary with his strong arms. “It’s, uh…” Gat’s voice trailed off as Mary walked in front of him, toward the bedrooms, as though she had been there before.
The others ignored them as the pair left the room. They carried on their conversations of how much merchants were willing to lower their prices during the festivals.
“Is this it?” Mary asked, entering the bedroom. A single window broke the wall to let in the smallest amount of light. Bunks lined the walls, stacked three high. “What’s up with the cages?”
“So you don’t get robbed,” Gat said in a near whisper. Anticipation welled inside him. “People, they sneak in, at night, sometimes.”
“So you what, stack everything behind the cages with you when you sleep?”
“Everything you can’t replace,” Gat said, leaning into her.
She backed away. “Which one is yours?”
“The top one. Here.” Gat directed her to the top bunk on the left side of the room. “Do you need any help?” But she was already climbing into his bed.
“Brr,” she said, shivering. “It’s cold up here.”
“I’ll just get your coat,” Gat said, disappointed. “For a blanket.”
“Oh. Why don’t you come up here instead? I want you to keep me warm.”
“Okay.” He climbed up into his bunk, perhaps in a too hurried manner. At first, he simply laid next to her warm body. She rested her head on his chest, and Gat worried that she would notice his quickened breath.
“Don’t you want to lay on me?” Mary asked. Her voice weakened him, banishing to the recesses of his soul any resistance that existed within him.
Words failed to enter Gat’s mind. He rolled over on top of her and sat up on her thighs, staring down at her body.
She lifted her dress above her waist. “I want you to fuck me.”
Gat’s pants entertained her hands for a moment before dropping. He lowered himself down and slipped himself inside her.
Mary groaned and closed her eyes, gripping the bar that served as a headboard.
Her face. Her eyes. They made him angry. “Fuck…you,” he groaned between panted breaths.
“Yeah, fuck me.”
He wanted to hurt her, to cause her pain. He drew from the strength of his body with each thrust into hers.
“Yeah, rough me up, yeah.”
He bent down and ground his teeth against her taste buds. Their shadows in the dim light melded together and began to take shape. Gat wanted them to grow, to consume her and drown her screams.
He gripped her shoulders and he wanted to crush her bones. Her screams broke into his mind and he wanted them to be screams of torture. Tears formed in his eyes as he restrained himself. Anger gripped his face.
He blacked out.
Outside, under the moonlight and in the oil-lamp-lit streets, drunks staggered their way to their abodes. One slapped another upon hearing some fine joke. Another was bent over with his head between his knees, vomiting onto the street. The inebriated would find their resting places in beds of rotting straw, in broken shacks in the slums. They were the first to enter the City and the last to make their exit, drifting in and out as anonymous strangers amongst her denizens.
Gat hated all of them.
He watched the night through the small window in the bedroom. The pair of jokers’ laughter echoed against the walls of apartments, invading Gat’s ears. That someone should feel such joy, such companionship while walking drunk in the street, made anger rise his mind, like the wind before a storm.
“This is my city,” he muttered to himself. The person who vomited would be the first to die.
“Gat, that was wonderful,” Mary Silver said for the second time. She lay in his bed, on her back, with her eyes closed and legs crossed. She was a dark shape, a slim figure in the night. “Come to bed.”
“Okay,” Gat said, but he remained still. Light from a fire in the common room cast shadows against the walls, and remnants of spoken words carried themselves unbidden to the bedroom. Dreams of the City, of a new vision or version of life, held him captive. He examined the street below, imagining that he possessed clairvoyance. The future held for him the ultimate power over the City. Over the world.
Gat watched as dark shapes formed outside, as though the night street was a painting and its artist had spilled black colors onto the canvas. The shapes grew and slithered, not quite unlike snakes, but stealthier, quieter, and with a twisted rigidity that serpents themselves, whose bodies flow in graceful fashion, would be ashamed to admit. The sick frown on his face morphed into a smirk.
A man in the alley, dressed in an assortment of rags, stopped his walk as suddenly as one moment passes into the next—at one, he walked, but at the next, he was still. A force visibly constricted his limbs, or else the man was insane or a very good street performer, though no audience witnessed this act. The shadows squeezed into him, striving to rip spirit from body.
A scream broke for just a moment before Gat muffled the man’s mouth with viscous darkness. Shadows covered the man’s torso and spindled around him, stretching tighter and further constraining his already meager resistance. He looked up at the sky, and Gat wondered to whom the man prayed, or wished for, in this moment of dire need.
“Gat,” Mary said his name with a tired, dream-tinted tone of voice. “Are you awake?”
Gat said, “I’ll be in bed soon,” and his smirk changed into that sick frown. The man in the alley below fought and struggled. “Just let me…”
The man broke free and begged for breath with his hands on his knees and then ran into the street, scanning the area with wide eyes all the while.
“Damn.” They needed practice. His souls were weak, but they could be strong. Perhaps that was why they had attempted to consume the scavenger in the sewers.
Gat had spent his years from childhood into adulthood attuning his soul to his Stone. Anyone who was able to identify the Stone for what it was would either kill him on sight, or embrace him as a brother. With it, he had the power to conjure fire, to hail strong winds, or to stop a person’s beating heart. With each of those acts, a piece of his soul dissipated, draining his very being as the Stone projected his will unto the world. But there was a way around this…
A stranger gave him a gift a few years past, in return for which the stranger had asked no service nor material. The gift was a secret, and the secret was known to but a few—how to consume the souls of others. The stranger imparted this knowledge to Gat in a kind of way that Gat still did not understand. One single existence had encompassed theirs for less than a moment. When that blink of existence had passed, Gat had felt the presence of thousands of others inside his mind.
The stranger had given him souls. Unthinking masses that were merely practice rounds for the new weapon that Gat would train in. Over time, Gat had learned to attune these souls to his Stone and use their energy in its spells rather than his own. The souls were weak, but they would become stronger with more practice.
Gat glared out the window, watching as the man ran away and escaped the shadows. The walls that lined the streets displayed skulls and carcasses in their design. The pavement roiled with boiling death. The people who walked on it were ants, nothing but ants who lived only upon Gat’s mercy. It was time to practice.
The accomplishment would be to add souls to his own. The existing souls would gain strength as others joined them. Gat had to first join the shadows and meld in with them, both physically and mentally, before he would be able to fight against the City. He would create a world where he controlled the City and ruled it in his own name. Next…no, better not think about next. The time for work had arrived, and Gat turned around and began to make his exit.
Mary Silver snored as he walked past her. He left her in his bed.
“Gat, where are you going?” Tick said to Gat as the latter grasped the doorknob. The pair was alone in the room. Gat turned around and saw a fire going. The fire blazed and hissed. Its flame cast dangerous shadows that fought along the walls.
“Um, nowhere,” Gat said. His eyes itched for the door and his body turned in that direction.
“Yeah, nowhere. Right.” Tick sat in a chair. The chair was as far away from the fire as it was possible to be. “Like you went nowhere with Mary Silver.” His eyes burned into Gat’s own.
“Hey, I heard…”
“Heard what, Gat?” Tick leaned forward in his chair. “Heard what?”
“I’ll tell you what you heard. You heard I wanted Mary Silver.” Tick leaned back in his chair. “So you fucked her.”
“Tick…” It wasn’t like that, Gat wanted to say. But maybe it was.
“Well, I’ll tell you what. I fucked Mary Gold.”
The shadows conquered larger areas of light.
“You didn’t.” Gat took a shaky step in Tick’s direction, pointing his finger at the sitting man. “You’re just trying to make me mad.”
“Prove me wrong.” Tick leaned forward in his chair. “Go ask her. She won’t even talk to you.”
“Maybe I will.” And images of Mary ‘s body flashed through his head. “I’ll just ask her.”
Tick laughed. “You won’t ask her. You’ll just follow her home like you always do and turn around.”
Gat, with maniacal eyes, stepped toward Tick. The shadows grew along the walls, and some of them jumped from the surface and into the air.
Tick stood. “Well, we’re done here. I’m going to bed.” He turned around.
“You’re a coward,” Gat said, expounding lungfuls of breath with each word. The shadows fanned out before him. “Just a…just a weak person.”
“Yeah, whatever.” Tick stopped before he reached the hall, but didn’t turn around. “I’d kill you, but you’re not even worth it. You’re sick.”
The shadows wrapped themselves around Tick. Solid night held him against his struggles and silenced his voice. Tick’s eyes darted in wild directions, bursting from his skull.
Gat said, “You need to understand that I’m not fucking around here.” Power coursed through his soul, the room and the world. He soaked the feeling into the essence of his being, the core of his existence. “You’re going to die.”
Shadows consumed Tick, covering the man until Gat could no longer see his figure. They contracted and then exploded outward in a shadowy blizzard that blanketed the room in night. Gat was blind, and during this moment of impairment, he felt as though the bliss of the universe had collapsed into him, as Tick’s soul melted into his own.
Gat’s vision returned after a short amount of time. The fire played about in the corner of the room, spreading light that slithered tenuously along the walls. Bits and pieces of Tick’s remains littered the chairs, the table, the floor, everything. Gat flicked torn flesh off his shoulder and shivered.
All was quiet. He examined the room in his solitude, staring down the walls as though they were witnesses of this murder. “He deserved it,” Gat said. Still as a statue, he looked around with zealous eyes.
“I have the ultimate power,” he whispered. The power to absorb souls into his own. The Stone’s light shone out from its place on his neck. He laughed and tears poured forth from his eyes. His body shook with the joy of having attained perfection after years of effort. Gat was ready.
He wiped his face and walked, with his body covered in gore, through the hallway and into the bedroom. Mary’s chest rose and fell as she slept beneath the sheets. He watched her for a long time.
“I don’t need you,” he finally said. The next words almost remained beneath his breath. “He’s right. You’re just scum.”
He exited the bedroom and left the apartments. The night’s street was dark. The lamps cast his shadow long across the empty road. The only people left out were criminals, who hid in the alleys and dealt amongst themselves, and the drunks, who lay snoring in the street itself. Gat ignored them all.
Now is the time.