The Other Guy, Part II

“Is this some new kinky game you’ve got going on? Man, you must be lonely. Where have you been? It’s been like… a year since Atë left. You just disappeared, no word, no note, nothing. Feeling guilty for running her off?”

My fist slammed into the table, sending a crack right down the middle. “Enough! You will pay me everything you owe me and not a penny less.” I stood and pushed back my chair. The metal legs scraped across the cement floor of the now quiet warehouse. My shadows grew tired of this circus in front of me, circling and encroaching on the group of well-armed men that sat across from me. They didn’t shake with fear like most humans I came into contact with. The leader of the men sat in the middle. His eyes were black, but not as black as mine. The man scratched his chin through his long salt and pepper beard, no doubt contemplating the looming threat that danced on the edge of their minds. His wrinkled forehead was the only sign that he was taking me seriously. A foot soldier sitting to his left leaned to whisper something in his ear, but he quickly dismissed him and cleared his throat.

“You will have your crates before the sun sets over the horizon.”

I couldn’t help but snort at his comment. What was this, the wild west? Slowly, I snickered. Yes, it was. I nodded and allowed my shadows to wrap around the wrists of the armed soldier who dared speak against me. Holding him in place, the inky black clouds infiltrated him through his nostrils. The man’s brown eyes slid to the back of his head so you could only see the whites of his eye. Images he only imagined in his nightmares played across his vision. The whimpers turned into cries, then full-out screams. The remaining men drew their guns on me.

“You will be wise to drop your weapons.”

None of the men moved. 

My shadows snapped the wrist of the screaming soldier without any hesitation. Immediately, the men started yelling in another tongue, angrily stepping toward me with their rifles aimed at my head. All I had to do was think it, and my shadows broke into five separate clouds. Like a gust of wind blowing through the warehouse, each man was instantly cowering on the floor, writhing in pain, howling with blood-curdling screams. One by one, I snapped each of their necks, leaving the leader shaken in his seat.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” I looked down at the men before straightening my tie. “Don’t mess with me.” Walking away, I turned my back on the lone survivor left in the large warehouse in Sudan. Pleased I would have what I came for. Illegal arms trading was a lucrative business. In the days of drug smugglers and human trafficking, I would much rather deal with terrorists than the other low-lifes of the world. Especially since I never had to worry about retaliation when I killed a few of their men. I was unstoppable. 

Bethany waited for me, a bag in hand as I slid into the black suburban. “They only had a quarter of what you asked for.”

I snatched the bag from her greedily and looked inside, salivating. It had been a few hours since my last bump. I was running low. This body sure could take a hit. I’d burned through the earlier stuff in hours. It wasn’t the same as what I got back home. The hair on the back of my neck spiked. Home. His voice echoed in my head.

“How many hours until wheels up? I want to go into town before we leave.”

“What about the cargo?” Bethany asked.

“Ten crates will be waiting at the hangar before dark.” Dipping my pinky into a baggy, I was able to satisfy the all-consuming itch.

“Wheels up at 21:00. Will you be needing an escort, or can I go back to the hotel?”

“I’ll be fine, Bethany.” I crossed my heart, dismissing her obvious concerns. The girl I so ruthlessly disposed of before coming here flashed in my mind. 

Will you? 

The other guy was desperate to come out. I took another bump before Bethany could notice my irritation. The last thing I needed was to lose my assistant because I couldn’t keep my shit together. 

Maybe you should see a therapist? 

Cracking my neck, I looked out the window of the car, ignoring his comments. They would subside soon enough. 

You can’t keep me quiet forever. I’m a god. 

I let out a boisterous laugh at his comment. Bethany’s brow raised curiously. I shifted in my seat and let out a cough, trying to cover up my outburst. 

“Funny joke?”

“Something like that.” 

“Care to share?”

Boy, she’s awfully nosey this evening. “No.” 

“Are you sure you’ll be fine?”

“Bethany, the last person to doubt me, is dead on the floor back there. Do you want to join him?”

Bethany bit down on her lip and started scrolling through her tablet like a good little assistant. The car pulled into the city center and circled the block before my security team deemed it safe for me to exit. The security team was a joke. My shadows were all that I needed.

“Be back here at 20:30,” Bethany said, not looking up.

“Yes, Mom.” 

I walked around the big square aimlessly before going down into a market. The sun was starting to lower, and the air was cooling. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. Nothing in particular, I had everything I needed. But being locked up in a stuffy hotel room was the last place I wanted to be right now.

Scared I might give you away? Just because you found a way to shut me up. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the baggy. This time I took some powder, rubbing it directly on my gum line. I am Erebus. You will remember me. I am a god. You are a god. 

I laughed out loud again. I didn’t know if I was high or if the other guy inside of me had finally lost it. “Sure, I’m a god.” I spoke loudly as I passed a group of women in full burkas. My feet shuffled over the dirt road. 

If you would stop with that shit and listen to me, I could make things clear. 

“I don’t need to make things clear. I like things the way they are,” I answered out loud, not caring who looked at me. 

My shadows danced around me. They seemed agitated. The last time the other guy took control, they killed the girl. Confused at this thought, I rubbed my temple. I mean… I let the other guy out so that he could see what I was capable of. Things were becoming jumbled in my head. I didn’t have room for another voice talking to me, confusing me. I grabbed a dark bottle from a table and shoved some coins at the old man who was selling it. Quickly I pulled off the cork and downed its contents. I was in control. Not him. 

Think what you want. Maybe I needed a vacation? Maybe I wanted to disappear? Maybe I was fine forgetting everything. 

Why hadn’t he shut up yet? Taking another long gulp, I polished off the small homemade brew and went back to the good stuff. I reached into my pocket to find the baggy, but it was empty. My skin began to crawl and itch. 

What’s wrong? Fresh out the white stuff? Guess you can’t trust the sources here. Or maybe it’s Bethany. Maybe she knows what’s up. How much do you trust her, really?” 

“Quit it!” 

Let me handle her. 

“No! Leave Bethany alone. She’s mine.” 

But what’s yours is mine too, remember? We are one. I am you, and you are me. 

“Fuck off with the lyrics already.” 

Suit yourself. 

Not noticing where I was walking, I turned down a narrow corridor. Rats scurried furiously into hiding spots, my presence vibrating off the walls. The black clouds I had grown used to were behaving erratically, and for once, it seemed I had no control over them. 

You would be correct. 

My body flew against the stone wall in a blink of an eye, the shadows holding me captive. “What the fuck! You listen to me.”

Oh no, no, no, my dear friend. They listen to me. I’ve had enough of you traipsing about, using me for your dirty deeds, smearing my good name in the mud. I may have had some heartache that allowed you to take over, but that is enough. It’s time I take back what is mine. No more gun deals, no more drugs, and the only killing will be on my terms. You. Are. Done. 

“Erebus? What fresh Tartarus is this?” 

I heard Eris’s voice ring through the dark corridor before I saw them. They looked at my shadows, holding me against the wall. Thankfully, I had been able to slip Bethany a note. Albeit confusing as it was, she happily obliged when I asked her not to retrieve any more drugs for me. She smartly disguised the baggy with something else… I licked my teeth. It seemed to be baking soda mixed with flour and something else I couldn’t put my finger on. While the high had been nice at first, numbing the pain, it was time I got back to my life. 

“Is this some new kinky game you’ve got going on? Man, you must be lonely. Where have you been? It’s been like… a year since Atë left. You just disappeared, no word, no note, nothing. Feeling guilty for running her off?”

I could tell by their tone and the unblinking glare that they were less than pleased with me, to say the least.

“Eris, so good to see you.” My shadows released their hold on me once they realized I was in complete charge. “We were just practicing some new security techniques.” It was a blatant lie, but I didn’t think Eris would push it anymore. I brushed my shoulders off, looking down at the cheap suit the pseudo me had acquired, and shuddered at his/my taste. This had never happened before. In all my years as a god, I had never “lost it.” And I had been through more than a few rough patches in my life. I guess losing Atë made me snap once and for all, but I wasn’t ready to admit that to anyone else.

Eris stood there examining me, unsure what to make of what they were seeing.

“Ahh yes, these…” I pulled at my clothes. “Roleplaying, it’s fun. You should try it.” 

Eris pondered my words, then shrugged. “I invented it.”

I put my arm around their shoulder and began walking out into the busy market. “I have a plane leaving here soon. Need a ride home?” I stripped off the cheap jacket and handed it to a kid in the street. Running my hand through my hair, I ruffled it, freeing it of the slick, sticky mess the other guy had made of it.

“Care to give me a reason why I’m not ripping that out of its socket?” they snapped with a wry glance at my arm around their shoulders.

The big suburban pulled in front of us, and Bethany rolled down the tinted window. “Boss? Everything alright?”

Eris gave me a sideways glance and mouthed, “Boss?”

I leaned in and whispered in their ear, “Roleplaying.” Pulling back, I gave them a wink. I turned to the oversized SUV and flashed Bethany a smile that she definitely had never seen before. Some old Erebus charm never hurt. “Yes, Bethany. Everything is as it should be.”

Erebus (Melissa Stoddart)
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