Chapter I: Requiem Aeternam - Part III
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING STORY CONTAINS THE DEPICTION OF EXTREMELY VIOLENT SCENES AND ALSO ADULT LANGUAGE. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
This is the continuation of Chapter I: Requiem Aeternam Part II
Meanwhile, south of New London, the ominous shadow of a man moves impetuously between the Brixton’s dark alleys. Over the wet pavement, the reflection of some large and old blinking neon signs can be seen. It’s possible to read the word "Motel" written in red in one of these until it is suddenly distorted when the man steps on it.
In the background, a shrill siren sound of the G.C.U.N. Police patrol cars is heard drawing away from the district emitting a sound that resembles a dying animal.
This man is in one of the most recognised marginal areas of England; places which barely know the order. In his path, the man treads some small puddles splashing his shiny boots. The hard soles of these are notoriously heard emitting a dull sound whose echo reverberates amid the quiet alleys. The man goes dressed from head to toe in a vermilion suit, almost purple, which has a cloak on the back that flies subtly in the cold night breeze and the movement produced by his quick steps. On his face, he wears a golden mask, radiant mostly, but has some scratches on it. Discerning the countenance of this man is impossible.
The man in the golden mask is escorted by two guards of the Black Watch, the paramilitary security organisation at the service of the G.C.N.U. Both are dressed entirely in black, including their armoured helmets, which have two polarised round-shaped lenses on the eyes that not only protect them but also improve their night vision. At the bottom of the mask, there’s a grilled nozzle that serves as a vocoder settled between two cartridges which in turn work as air filters. The design of these is reminiscent of the anti-gas masks used by the Third Reich.
—Sir, we have arrived —one of the escorts indicates with the harsh, choppy voice produced by the vocoder.
When the escort announces this, the three men stop in front the facade of an old abandoned building, which, after giving a slight glimpse upwards, the man in the golden mask calculates this has about five floors. When he looks up, the hollow eyes of the mask he wears reflect the moon's glare for a fleeting moment showing that, like the escorts, his eyes are also covered by polarised lenses.
—Is this the place? —Golden Mask asks the escort with irony.
—Yes, sir. This is where the surveillance drone-bots have identified the faces of several alleged Wolves of the Resistance —he confirms by showing him some aerial photographs in his PAD in which several outlaws can be seen entering the old building.
—You mean dogs of the Resistance —he replies with irony—. Well, what are you waiting for? Knock the door down! Or should I do it myself? —he orders them with his always calm but ironic voice.
The escorts immediately proceed to kick the rusted metal doors of the compound to knock them down. These are so old that fall to the ground raising a thin dust cloud, which makes it difficult to see the interior of the building, even with the lamps incorporated in their helmets. When the cloud disperses, the man in the golden mask enters the place with the two escorts behind him. From within, only their dreadful backlit silhouettes are visible moving among the dust particles due to the external light.
With their weapons in hand, the escorts move forward behind their leader; they peer in all directions with the expectation of finding someone hiding inside the smelly and musty build. Suddenly, an enormous rat crosses in front of them emitting a chilling screech that causes one of the escorts to startle from fright.
—It’s just a rat —Golden Mask exclaims mordantly as he barely flinches.
Having to go deep into the building, the man in the golden mask instructs the guards to send each a reconnaissance drone-bot to examine until the last corner of the place. They both take out of their bags a pair of small units in the shape of beetles, which they place in the palms of their hands. These are lying with their limbs shrunken. By pressing the escorts a button on their wrist PADS, these devices are activated thus displaying two pairs of legs that in turn extend a propeller over the top of each of these. A couple of red LEDs light up on the front, and the propellers start spinning making them fly while producing a bumblebee-like sound. The drone-bots begin to scan the perimeter stealthily while one of the escorts monitors on his tablet PAD what the infrared cameras glimpse. The metallic insects separate until they explore the entire ground floor, and when they find nothing, they head to the next level through the stairs to scan it too.
Meanwhile, Golden Mask and the escorts continue advancing and knocking down door to door inside the enclosure to inspect the areas to which the drone-bots could not access. They reach the last door on the ground floor, and when they kick it, they find nothing but a bunch of stacked boxes.
Suddenly, a gunshot is heard on one of the upper floors of the building. The escort with the tablet PAD gets ready quickly to monitor on the screen what the drones have found, figuring that one of the squares no longer displays anything. Then, he shows the screen to the man in the golden mask, who immediately tells them to follow him to the next floor to find out what the drone-bots have found. The old wooden stairs creak as the three of them begin to climb through these. After a few moments, an alarm is activated on the PAD screen indicating that the remaining drone-bot has found something on the third floor. This makes the three men hasten their steps, omitting the second floor when they reach it, and going directly to the third. When crossing the entrance, they’re greeted by a series of shots coming from behind some archivists, and when they notice this, one of the escorts throws an immobiliser bomb in the direction of the origin of the shots. The silhouettes of three men are seen moving violently as they try to flee between the darkness and the smoke produced by the bomb. Golden Mask along with the escorts begin to chase the men to capture them while they are throwing boxes, furniture and everything they find in their path to hinder the way of their persecutors. One of the outlaws stumbles and falls to the ground in the middle of the chase, and immediately, the escorts are thrown over him to capture him. The fugitive tries to put resistance, but the escorts being much stronger than him, they submit him without a major problem, taking him by the arms and kneeling him down against his will. The man in the golden mask approaches and then, he appreciates the criminal hides his head and face under a hooded sweater and a mask shaped like a wolf's skull that would cause shivers to anyone, except him. When observing this, the other two fugitives stop thinking about coming back and rescuing their partner. Golden Mask orders one of the escorts to remove the mask from the head of the hooded man, and in doing so, they realise it is only a boy not older than sixteen years. The look of his eyes irritated by the gas of the bomb is a mixture of anger and terror.
—We have your friend! —the man in the golden mask shouts out to the other two outlaws—. Throw down your weapons and surrender if you want him to stay alive! —he says pointing at the boy's head with a gun.
Noticing this, the two men resolve to surrender looking to save the boy's life. They approach cautiously raising their hands and dropping their weapons to the ground. Next, the escorts go to them to register them and make sure they don’t carry any more hidden weapons. The pounding heartbeats and panting breath betray them from afar. Without an escape, the Wolves wait resigned to their captors to go for them.
—Put your hands on your head! The hands on your head! NOW! —the escorts admonish them removing the hoods from their heads and the skull masks from their faces.
Both men, whose appearance is vagabond, wear a beard. One of them has long dark hair that covers his ears, while the other, has short gilded hair. Both seem in their thirties, but their faces look emaciated.
—Who are you?! What are you looking for here?! —The man with the short, golden hair asks nervous, breaking the silence while one of the escorts searches him from head to toe.
Having registered the two outlaws, the escorts drag them with tremendous force to where Golden Mask is so he can proceed to interrogate them.
—Let me go! —exclaims the Wolf of short, gilded hair—. Who the fuck are you?! What do you want from us?! —he asks Golden Mask with great rage.
—Hush! —the man in the golden mask answers by lifting him up to his neck—. You will speak when I tell you that you can open your filthy mouth —he says looking at him with his hollow eyes while the Wolf only notices the reflection of his terrified face on the lenses.
—Name? —Golden Mask questions pulling him forward with great strength.
—Are you— Are perhaps— —he replies coughing and almost unable to breath—. Are you from the Great Confederation?
—I asked your name —he says insistently to the man, punishing him with a punch in the abdomen that leaves him breathless.
—Frank— Frank Nilsson —he responds with effort, coughing and trying to catch his breath.
—He tells the truth —an escort confirms, having made a biometric scan with his tablet PAD to corroborate his identity.
—Well, Frank Nilsson, tell me, where is he?
—Where is who? —Nilsson responds nervously, avoiding to look him at his hollow eyes for fear of receiving another punch.
—Kyle Wolff, where is he? —he asks insistently. His voice is loud but simultaneously serene.
—I don’t know who you are talking about. I don’t know any person by that name.
—I'll help you a little to refresh your memory. Kyle Wolff, the leader of the ominous subversive insurgency laughably called the “Resistance” —Golden Mask expresses strutting around him—. He has in his possession something that belongs to me: The red book. Have you heard about this among your nasty pack of hounds? Does it sound familiar to you? Think hard about it before answering me. I know exactly who you all are and if I receive one more lie, I will rip your tongues out. I will start with the youngest, and I will make you witness each second of his suffering while his mouth gorges on his own blood until he drowns with it. He will want to scream, to ask for help, but the only thing that will come out of his mouth will be blood. It’s beautiful. Isn’t it? —he says laughing—. Then I will do the same with you two.
—No, no, please! Don’t hurt my brother! Do whatever you want with us, but let him go, please! —the man of the long dark hair replies immediately, holding the cloak of the man in the golden mask from behind with desperation.
—Let go of me, hound! —he orders in a prepotent manner—. What's your name? —he inquires turning back to see him.
—My name’s Leon Woźniak. Do you belong to the Great Confederation? We— I— I could give you valuable and confidential information about the Resistance —he says stuttering, making a vain attempt to persuade him.
—I don’t. I belong to something more significant than that ineffective and disastrous order which the thing that less provides this society is precisely that. They’ve been unable to eradicate these districts which are nothing but holes that attract hounds like you. Migrants, poor, sick, beings of defective genetics who, like you, hide in plain sight to plan their anarchic acts against authority. In essence, your enemy is the same as ours, but our goals differ from yours. These are purest. We will provide real order to the coming new world. We will end insurrection, hunger, disease and wars. You only crave anarchy —Golden Mask utters.
—Kyle Wolff is just a myth —Woźniak declares to him—. None of us has ever seen him. He’s a ghost, or maybe, he’s just from another world. There are emissaries of him throughout the Great Confederation spreading his message of union, freedom and hope. However, he is instead a thought, an ideal —Woźniak replies.
—You can spare me your profane propaganda. Myths are nothing but tales, fairy tales, which are the result of the excessive imagination and collective idleness. So, tell me: do you suggest you’re also a figment of my imagination? If so, can you feel this? —he asks, stabbing him slightly and quickly in the ribs while Woźniak only writhes moaning in pain.
—Sir! It is verily all we know! We don't have the slightest clue of he whereabouts of that man Kyle Wolff —the youngest Woźniak utters immediately standing up as the guards push him back to the ground.
—Do you see it, boy? —Golden Mask asks the boy, showing him the bloodstained knife that protrudes from his glove with which he just stabbed his brother—. It’s blood. Impure blood. Do you know what the only way to purify it is? —he asks the boy, who scared, just shakes his head—. Certainly, you don't. You are just an ineligible, impure and ignorant. The only way to purify your blood, boy, is to spill it to the last drop. Some of our people like to use modern devices developed by our scientists, which extract all the blood from the body. Fast, clean and painless. Modern science knows no boundaries. But, where is intimacy and recreation in making a sacrifice if you don’t have to get your hands dirty? Therefore, I prefer to use more traditional methods. I like the classic things, come to think of it. A small cut on the subject's neck and then you put it head-down. The blood will begin to flow until the last drop under the influence of gravity. Of course —he adds, making an explanatory gesture with his hands with a joyful voice—, it’s messier and much more brutal, as you can imagine, but it’s also sumptuous and solemn. My father, let me tell you, he never approved I did it. It seemed right to him if my younger brother did it, but not me. He has always had the privileges in our family. You remind me a lot of him when he was your age, by the way. So impulsive and dominant. However, he had a flaw: he showed feelings when he killed, and feelings are only supposed to make you weak. Tell me, have you ever had privileges in your family?
—I don't have a family, sir. My parents were killed during the war. All I have is my brother and his— and Frank. They take care of me now —he reveals by looking at both of them.
—Of course, how blind have I been! Lovely! They’re husbands. They’re your parents now. Should I ask who is top and who is bottom? No. I think that would be a bit rude on my part. I never know what to say in these situations. By the grace of the Highest, we will end all degeneration, so that I no longer have to feel uncomfortable with aberrations like you. Tell me, boy, would you do anything for your brother?
—Absolutely, sir —he replies without hesitation.
—Then, take this —Golden Mask says handing him a blade—. Kill your brother's husband. Kill him now.
—Fuck you! I won’t do that! —the boy Woźniak says angrily.
—It's him or your brother. You choose, boy. If you kill him, I’ll let you and your brother go —he says insistently, waiting for the boy to take the knife.
Frightened, the boy stares at his brother Leon without knowing what to do while he dissents telling him not to do it. The boy finally takes the knife and stands up fortuitously; his knees tremble like a pair of jingle bells and in an impulsive moment, he decides to stab Golden Mask with this.
—You're going to need more than a blade to kill me— he says stoically.
Realising that he has not inflicted any harm to the man in the golden mask, the boy Woźniak starts to amble towards Nilsson as he wipes away the tears that begin to well up in his eyes with the long sleeves of his sweater. Nilsson just stares at him in astonishment, waiting for something to happen that could save both of them in such an unfavourable situation. Desperate, Leon begs Golden Mask not to force his little brother to kill his partner, offering even his own life in exchange for preventing that from happening.
Meanwhile, the boy noticing how Golden Mask places Leon between him and the claws protruding from his hand, impulsively and awkwardly sticks the dagger into Nilsson's neck. Immediately, he falls to the ground and begins to choke on his blood.
—Wonderful, boy! You really have dexterity! —Golden Mask exposes utterly delighted—. Alas, for impure people like you and your brother here present, knowledge and eternal life are virtues impossible to reach all at once. Either you live, or you gain knowledge. And now, I am afraid you know too much, my little friend —he explains looming behind him as he holds his head and slides the lightning claw quickly down his throat, slaying him. The blood splatters gracefully through the air, and then, the boy collapses starting to bleed in the same way Nilsson did. Immediately, Leon rush to his rescue, however, Golden Mask orders to the escorts to take Leon so that he can interrogate him later. They then quickly grab him by the arms and drag him away.
Next, the man in the golden mask uncovers a wrist PAD he wears on his right arm. When he rolls up the sleeve end of his shirt, it's possible to get a glimpse of a prominent and frightening scar that crosses the arm perpendicularly. Immediately, he prepares to call the autonomous vehicle in which they arrived at the place to pick them up and at that precise moment, he receives a call on the device, which he answers immediately.
—Knight Inquisitor. Report —Golden Mask requests answering.
Apparently, I missed in my augury regarding what would be this day when I greeted you in the morning. I’m here, with this news that should be tragic for me, next to a stranger who shows ephemeral gratitude in response to my intrepid feat of saving him. Of course, I’m sure he will forget it in a matter of a couple of days. What motivated me to save his life? Was it you who decided to prolong his life to have the time to savour him? No. I’m the architect. I’m the erratic painter of a destiny that I can’t but aim to control. I’m helpless in this bed which will become my recurring place for many days. Living without expectations has its advantage because I never saw this coming. Could I show myself more stoic to the situation?
—Why did you lie saying we're friends? —I ask Constantine, resuming the conversation.
—"No man hath greater love than to lay down his life for his friends." I am in your debt; I owe you my life. I think it should be me who is lying in that bed, but you, in a heartbeat and without thinking twice, delivered me from that fate that haunted me. So whatever I can do for you, I’ll do it without hesitation. Because if this is not friendship, I don’t know what friendship is.
Absolutely yes! At this moment I should be preparing myself to present my last art exhibition to the world; standing on my two legs and obtaining my share of the traditional and banal glory that this entails.
—What does it feel like to be a renowned painter? —he asks me after not receiving any comment from me.
—How do you know? —Can he read my mind? If so, I shouldn’t have thought that last. Maybe he will take me for an arrogant person.
—Even with all those bruises, I must tell you that you are recognisable. You’re Mads Madsen, the famous and prodigious painter.
—No, it is not like that. I mean, yes, I am Mads Madsen, but I must say that I hate all those qualifiers and flattering titles used by media and snobs to refer to me. I loathe labels —I reply, noticing that I have aroused in him a new and surprising interest towards me.
—But why? If you're a walking legend of art! Do you not find contentment in the laurel wreath that you wear as a crown?
—At this precise moment, I do not see myself as a "walking legend" of nothing. What I do responds only to a need, to natural instinct, as well for a wolf is to crush its prey and ingest it, not for evil but to satisfy its ravening appetite, without seeking the contentment of nothing else than its own instinct. I wouldn’t even define myself as an "artist".
—I beg your pardon for my recklessness. You know what I mean. You’re inspiring an entirely new generation of artists that would give anything to be a single day in your place.
—"Art is our only salvation from the horror of existence".
—And sometimes, from the non-existence itself. Art provides us with the possibility of becoming real —he replies cleverly.
—Tell me, Constantine, do you make art? —I ask immediately, feeling compelled to continue the conversation for the shrewdness of his reply with which I’ve undoubtedly felt identified.
—I declare myself an inveterate lover of art. Coincidentally, I like painting, but more specifically, the watercolours, besides, I like to play the piano. I must confess I am a great follower of your works and I’m really —he says. Apparently, he admires me in a reciprocal way to the wonder he causes me with every word that flows from his mouth.
—I’m not a devotee of coincidence. To have known us in this extraordinary way must have some purpose —I manifest letting him see my enchantment—. Given my situation, which seems to temporarily isolate me from the art exhibitions scene and lust for fame, I could show you a couple of things that I'm sure will fascinate you, of course, as soon as I leave this putrid place.
—It would be an honour! —he expresses enthusiastically—. Among all your works, the most exquisite I find is The Typhon Beast, and even if it's a cliché, I'm fascinated to think about what inspired you to paint it.
—My paintings are nothing but portraits of my own life. I transform the infamous vulgarity of the pain and suffering of life into pure art —I reply as I begin to remember the events that inspired that work.
'How would I show my wrath? How could I capture it in the subtle canvas of immortality? How to unleash this beast thirsting for bloodshed in the way of justice to prevent it from continuing to grow unbounded inside me until it explodes and cancels my will?
'I can see this fierce beast, inviting me to the bacchanal of blood in which my humanity will be immolated. Once defenceless and paralysed, this will be pierced by the sharp incisors of brutality and insatiable violence. I see its eyes. I witness how it snatches all away from me in a matter of seconds, starting by my will.'
'Its gaze is the look of hatred itself, merciless, like embers that paralyse my senses. I find myself trapped amongst his claws, whose wounds pierce the marrow of my reason and leave me an excruciating pain that drags me into incessant delirium.'
'All I see is red, accented by the overwhelming black of the night. All I see is blood, coming out of me, scattered everywhere, its face covered with it.'
'Its figure, which resembles the red dragon of the apocalypse, although with a single head of a burnished golden colour, with multiple and sharp horns over this and a covering of scales, feathers and hairs of the most vivid red colour. It is a monster so dreadful and deadly, a murderous beast that feeds on the entrails of my deepest fears and that I can hardly capture in this canvas that mystically comes alive drawing itself.’
'I design each detail so that this beast passes to posterity, so that like a herald of my rage, announces the gospel of my vendetta, and thus not forget the siege of this nightmarish monster, rekindling forever my desire to avenge myself of this heartless being that changed me forever.'
'Let me paint the dread of the precise moment when you appeared elusive among the dark night of my existence. You rose threatening and inhuman, with the sole purpose of dye your claws and fangs of the garnet colour of an innocent's blood. Allow me to leave you portrayed in my raw art with all the splendour of your macabre beauty, without seeking the contentment or pleasure of nobody or nothing but my relentless instinct for revenge.’
‘Behold my masterpiece.'
To Benjamin Guzman, for his help with the translation of this chapter and invaluable support.