The Bleeder by Jesse C. Dedman
It was a few minutes past midnight when the commotion subtly uprooted the diseased calm that lingered in the ally way. The back doors of the van flew wide open, but the pocket of darkness offered a great cover that the brake lights contested, glowing with a hue that seeped into the darkness, revealing a glimmer of movement. A body, or something that resembled one, was thrown out to tumble along the rough pavement. The heap splashed into a puddle of water and stayed without the slightest twitch. Just like that, the van was gone, driving off into a distance unseen by the huddled homeless.
Curiosity lured a few, which later grew into a modest crowd. They observed and discussed the strange form of the man’s condition. His arms and body were swollen with bulging muscles, and metallic etchings throughout his skin invoked a wave of questions. They pointed at his face, explaining the oddity of his mask, which was a modified wielding mask. There was a metallic cube of extreme weight that illuminated with flashing dials, which connected to his body by a series of tubes and hoses.
Being starved for most of their time, the homeless crowd was only as humble as their basic needs. They tried as hard as they could to pillage from the helpless manifest. Swooping as if they were vultures over a rotten corpse, attacking the pockets of his jeans only to fine lint. It was only the strange bulk of metal that was profitable, but it wouldn’t come undone. They beat the connections with bats, and the failure led to a bigger consumption of desire. One of them was wise enough to use his knife, but the sharp edge of his blade was dulling to the surface.
His arms moved, flopping in the puddle, but nothing significant. The mere fact that he was becoming aware scared off most of the people; the three that remained were the most rugged, disgusting, and unclean of the bunch. They were the alphas of their ken, or perhaps just the most desperate. They watched him move and grew with eagerness; their victim was weak, shaking to keep his own weight. Caught in a desperate cycle, the desolate fiend struggled to even kneel.
The boldest one acted first, placing his gritty, contaminated palm upon the surface of the cube. He brushed against the surface, feeling the cold untouched metal, while toying with a clever idea. A series of chords detached from the sides of the device and lunged at the man. One by one, three different lines snapped into his body with a force he couldn’t contest. His cry and torment was not given a reply he hoped for. His brethren ran off, but their attempt was without success. The remaining lines expanded into the distance, piercing through their chests.
A web of chords drained them of their blood and other valuable fluids at a rate that their body couldn’t adjust too, a strong piercing pain, followed by a searing vacuum gave allowance to a creeping coldness. The dials on the device flourished with an assortment of lights, while the entity attached suddenly had the strength he needed. He rose from the ground, carrying the device in his hand, which he clipped to the narrow bars that ran along his back. The being took notice of his surroundings and couldn’t help but feel the overwhelming sensation of being lost, alone, and without any help. He could see the damage done to him, but not feel the pain.
He took the overcoat from the bold one and used it to cover his shirtless torso. The fabric loomed over the device, rendering him as muscular hunchback. He walked throughout the narrow pathways as if to find something, while studying the sudden change in place. The shadows were thick, but his eyes were keen to resolving that. He saw with illumination, everything beamed at the seams with a slight golden tint, but it started to fade as his eyes have endured the torment of electrical shocks and chemical injections all too much.
The smell of tobacco redirected him to another narrow passage, where a slender young woman stood with cigarette in hand. She wasn’t aware of his presence and that offered a moment of invitation. He approached with an opened hand with its machinery infused fingers and lunged for her frail neck. She screamed but was silenced by a sudden slam to the wall. A gash was indented into her skull, which bled out onto the crusty pavement.
He knelt over her and opened the visor of his mask. His pale skin was riddled with crust lines and scars. The eyes were of a more enriched story; strained from the constant injections, the whites of his eyes were of that of a waterlogged, blood-soaked sack, and drooped with intense saturation. With careful fingers, he released himself of sight, and began to take hers. His fingers were tipped with a silver piece that housed many uses. They adjusted to what his body needed in order to complete the exchange of eyes.
It was shortly after this procedure that he heard the low rumble. It was a subtle bass that pounded from a source unclear. He searched for it, following the noise. It grew in texture, expanding into a chorus of speeches and mid-topic rants. It was difficult for the lab designed creature to follow, but what he found were basement doors that had seen better days, bared with an iron piece, chained by a web of iron and padlocks, all of which were destroyed in contest against his strength.
He bled from the tips of his fingers at an invariable rate until the last drop. He didn’t faint, nor did he suffer. It was this exploitation that was seen as a miracle by those around him. This ability blessed him with continuous tribute, placing him as an idol before their praised lord. They tested him, searching for flaws in ability, but all the questions were answered with a notion that their faith was honest. The men and women in this chamber serve a god not to alien from common beliefs, one that rules with intolerance and justifies punishment, pain and torment, by any means, Nzulmbi.
The third day of their trials delivered onto them a fatality that bolstered the creature’s reputation. It was during a ceremonial chant. The head of the Covent praised the work of other members, discussed foul showcases of violence, while reading a passage from an ancient tome. He spoke in Latin about a deity that rules with righteousness, blessing those that should be blessed, those willing to make great sacrifices. The speech was what made his accidental death something of a novelty by the group. They watched as the creature drained the head priest until his flesh was cold.
With natural reason diluted by actual practice, the Covent was quick in their efforts. They appointed a new head priest and developed a network of trusties that would allow them to offer sacrifices to their newfound idol. The first victim was a meek little man that seemed too scared to either resist or run away. The others were snatched from a status that made it almost impossible to trace. Compared to the previous, they faced more elaborate chanting and festivities, while standing in his shadow. The moldy basement became more alive after each additional victim, until the day she was offered.
A little girl, not much older than ten was delivered in front of the idol. He sat on a handcrafted stone throne, a tribute from one of the more talented individuals, with an unshakable calm, the same he expressed with the others. The network of cables launched out from his backside, but they didn’t strike into her flesh. Instead, he studied her more carefully and saw in her a gentle innocence; she was young, fresh with life, and blessed with a clean slate something different from the others.
“The sacrifice must be made, as it claims it so in the tome of the ancient king. Don Laviall was an honest man willing to make our lord happy no matter what the means. The death of this young girl will bring his eyes onto us and enlighten us with a type of kindness never seen before. Wealth will rain down onto us from the heavens once we know how valuable our lives are in comparison to the lord,” said the Priest.
“She is so little. She has no life yet to take, seizing a beginning,” said the masked creature.
“But you, as the bleeder, must surely understand. You did after all come to us and give insight.”
The light within him had been contested before, but the memory of it was faint. Searching for it, digging through a dark hole, scratching at any photographic image. He breathed slightly and never felt his lungs expanding. He thought with an active mind, a mind that has been conditioned and void of deep wondering. He was a shell of a man, but inside was something animated by carefully designed mechanisms. It was partly because of these machines that he lived in this numb state. Even when he bled, it poured out of his body without the slightest awareness.
The image of the girl, her flush cheeks and blond hair, freed him from the nothing he was so accustomed too. It was for this feeling that he moved to defend her against a group that had housed him for months. He felt nothing in response to the thought of fighting them, only slight confusion, as he never registered anything they have ever said.
“I have to think, does your messiah really profit from her loss?”
“He profits from our existence, but we don’t exist without his blessing. This is for us to begin a new cleansing.”
“You exist right now, you feel it don’t you. You feel it when you breathe, when you move. The one that doesn’t exist is I. I don’t exist and neither does this lord that you speak of.”
“The Bleeder might have misspoke, he wouldn’t denounce his creator, not with full intent. Perhaps we were wrong about the level of your servitude. You are less of what you seem, the Bleeder is thus a shadow of another idol. We will find that such idol, and we will create a better platter for it. Right now, we have this dear child to offer to Nzulmbi and that must be done. To not, will bring this Covent down to a low unimaginable.”
“No one will hurt this child, no one will even touch this child. A group of men like you stand before me, with a mind much more diluted than mine. That bothers me and makes me feel something I have long forgotten about. The absence of emotion had left me stale, but that has been revoked. I dare you all to challenge me, but I dare you even more to challenge each other. This lunacy has gone far enough,” said the Bleeder.
“You are part of what you just labeled as lunacy. You are a totem of worship. Your body is not by design from the god we neglect, but by the god we worship. You are him. You will feast.”
“If God created me, then he owes me an explanation.”
“We are the messengers of that. You must know it to be true, you found us.”
The Bleeder paused and his hesitation grew as he thought about that notion. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt aware, or even felt at home with anything. His mind was diluted into a despairing loss and was of no use other than to further dissolve any stable radiant. He moved from his place and felt an instant gain of pressure and had to use the arm of the stone chair to keep his place.
“You see, you are weak without her blood. You body needs to be revived so that it can flourish at full strength. Your ability to live is because of the way he crafted you. You steal blood, gain nutrients and bleed out the rest. You are what you hate. Do not let this girl be the end of you.”
The chords launched from his back, piercing through the air at rate faster than before. The metallic lead of the cable stabbed through the priest’s neck, causing him to gasp for air.
“…This isn’t his will…,” were his last words before the clamp readjusted so that it could absorb the blood. The other cables launched out, attacking random people in the thick crowd. The rest were speechless and not sure what to make of it. The head of their command, of their view, was cut off and now they are bleeding for their idol.
“This isn’t his will, then he is a traitor and must be punished,” said a bearded man.
The bleeder regained his strength and swallowed the frail girl into his arms. He bolted for the door, while offering his thick skin and muscles as protection against the rain of attacks. The rioting crowd was of no contest to his will; he reached the door and left with his web of cables springing back into place. The sporadic movement of the cables caused further injury onto the people, slicing through the skin of many.
The fallen idol slammed through the door shattering it into a thousand splinters and kept on running. He ran through a network of passages, running past several sleeping homeless, junkies, and social misfits. He was in a place much worse than before, even though it was more open. It was a forgotten part of the city; a place that once had a great view of the river bend. Now it contained only a collection of scattered cars, buses, and other junk that acted as housing for the people that lived there. They were the type that considered a morning injection of heroin to be a good way to start the day, a type that wouldn’t care at all for his intrusion.
Using the overlapping shadows of the place as a cover, the Bleeder began to pace much slower and wandered without any direction. The escape had dissolved to an expanding calm, he stooped behind a brick wall releasing the girl from his grasp. He examined her and sighed to the strange feeling. Her eyes moved, twitching to a disturbance known only to her. She squirmed for a moment, startled for a second that went by slower than how it started.
“Home, I want to go home,” she cried while crawling out of his arms. “Where am I?”
“You want to go home. Home, that is where you should be, where is it, your home.”
“What happened to you? You look weird, eew gross, is your hand bleeding?”
“Yes, it bleeds, and what happened to me is the reason of my being. That is the only thing I can make out of this misery.”
“Why are you so sad?”
“Is this sadness? I don’t know. I saved you from those people. Do you remember the people that brought you before me?”
“I thought that was just a dream. Does that mean I get to go home now.”
“Yes, but where is it.”
“I don’t know, not here anyway. We should leave this area. Head for a much wider street.”
“I will try, but I’m not sure where here is.”
A group of people gathered at the opening of the ally, and the sound they made brought onto them his attention. He poised his dark image before them, empty of fear. The cultists made their taunts, but the empty reply drove them impatient. They charged at him, leaving him with only seconds to think. He glanced at the girl and spotted a latter. He offered her cover and rough persuasion as she climbed to the rooftops. The rushing mob swarmed him like ants on a spider, weak and pathetic, but the surge of their numbers was a greater advantage than first thought. He spun his fists, pounding for release, but they stayed with their fight. He grasped a kneecap and smashed it with his fist, causing the pile of bodies to cave.
He fled from the scene, but turned around to find a man with shotgun in hand. The barrel was pointing directly at his chest, and the man didn’t hesitate any longer. The shot was fired and the bullets punctured through his chest creating a cavity that exposed the fumes of his inner workings; a musky green essence seeped out, causing the man to churn with a repulsed stomach.
The Bleeder climbed the ladder with difficulty at first, but he proved to be too strong for the others to hang on. Upon reaching the top he lunged for the face of a follower and smashed it against the brick wall. The body fell unto the others, freeing the ladder from their efforts. The little girl was at the edge of the building seemingly amazed by the sight of the busy city.
“You are okay, but only if we hurry?”
“My home is over there,” she said while pointing at a collection of rundown apartments. The Bleeder glance at the sight and became one with the objective. He pulled the girl closer to him, further staining her white dress. She was more repulsed by his roughness than his skunk-like stench.
“I will take you there.”
“What about those people? Aren’t they trying to kill you?”
“I believe so, but their intent shouldn’t last too long. I am stronger than they are and will succeed.”
“You might want to see a doctor, I never seen green smoke come out from a person’s chest before,” said the girl.
“I can’t say I haven’t and I doubt a doctor would be able to do much. I’m a monster, after all.”
“Yeah, you are, aren’t you? But than that makes you my monster, I don’t mind.”
“I see that you don’t,” he took her into his arms and jumped across to the other roof. He ran over the rooftops with the speed of a bull and was nothing close to being acrobatic. The pavement would crack to his landing, any glass surface would shatter to the vibration of his stomping, and the ledges crumbled easily to his presence. The air was the only thing he didn’t harm as his coat flapped on every jump. The girl screamed with fear at first, but that soon changed to excitement.
He crashed onto the roof of an apartment and shattered it, causing a great commotion as the residents were rudely wakened. He ignored the shouting and continued towards the girl’s direction. He navigated the grounds of the place, stomping over grass, bushes, and flowers until he reached a fence that was instantly taken down. She was amazed by his strength and laughed at him for his seer determination. He didn’t respond, as he didn’t know what to say. He stopped suddenly at her door and gave no indication of being out of breath. He set her down and turned his back.
“Wait, where are you going? You should meet my father, he should thank you.”
“If he is like you than yes,” he said.
“He is, he taught me much about the world and trained me to be smarter than most.” She opened the door and ran into the small apartment. For a place that was centered in a rat’s nest it was actually well kept, taken into high regard in appearance and smell. The Bleeder had difficulty walking in, but once he did he found the girl rejected by her own father.
“You are not to be here. How did you get here?”
“Daddy, I was saved by this man here, I think some bad people were going to do some awful things to me.”
“That awful thing was what they needed to do, what we needed to do. You are my only daughter and to offer someone like you with your importance is a sacrifice I am willing to make. Humanity needs to be redeemed.”
“So, you let them take her. You just give her up for a belief?”
“What are you supposed to be?”
“They worshiped me, I think. The people you gave her to…”
“Dad, I don’t get it, what is going on,” asked the girl.
“Abigail, this is the thing that was to take your life. Salvation is close… all he has to do is strike.”
“That is not happening. I might be lost and some sadistic manifest, but I am not some tool. You, as her father failed, and the only salvation is in your death,” yelled the Bleeder. He lunged for the father and raised him by the neck.
“Wait, he is my dad, my family.”
“Do you have a mother?”
“No, she died when I was born.”
“Hmp… Her death was my awakening,” said the father.
He squeezed his hand just enough to give a stern warning. The girl cried a trembling wave of tears, “You monster.”
The Bleeder closed his grasp, teetering with a cold delivery of death, but she stopped him. She wiped her tears and looked too clever for her age, “He wants to die, don’t give it to him. Instead take me to my aunts and I will explain what happened.”
“She’ll never believe you and I will win in court. You are my property,” said the father.
“What about the cult,” asked the Bleeder.
“We do not exist, nor do we give detail of anything we do.”
“Then your death will free her”
“My will locks her into another, there is no way to stop what must be done.”
“Then he will die too. I made my decision, and I will protect her, as she is just a girl.”
“Then Nzulmbi will take you back and he isn’t passive like the others, he will find you and set you back.”
“I’m a creation of something human, that I believe to be true and it is your cult I have to thank for that.” He squeezed the throat with full might, snapping it into a flatten mesh of flesh, bone, and blood. He dropped the body to watch it fall and noticed the girl’s repulsive reaction.
He left her there with a promise that he would keep watch. She didn’t want her only sense of security to be far and away, but her cries were of no use. As much as he wanted to protect her, there was a growing curiosity of his creation, a longing for a sense of purpose. A monster such as him shouldn’t be real, but that is a moot point when considering what man can do so long as there is desire and drive to do it.
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