“No, Skrimp… it’s just you.” Delilah’s gaze drifted off towards the dark corners of her apartment.
“W-what?” He almost couldn’t speak past his stutter. There was too much raw emotion flooding through his head. The weight of everything pressing down.
Both of them lingered in the midday gloom of the apartment.
Slowly, he asked. “So… you’re not coming?”
“No.” She put it plainly, “I need to think. You can go grab up your friend and run in if you want, but… I won’t be a part of it. Not today.”
“Then I… hope you change your mind.” He forcibly unclenched his fists. Suddenly, he no longer felt welcome. Shifting in place, looking over the room, the next question hung wordlessly in the air.
Delilah threw out an unexpected answer to it. “Take the car,” she said. “It’ll drive you wherever you tell it… and it’s off Smiler’s grid as long as you detour through the blackout zone. Just be careful with it.”
Skrimp nodded tightly. The next unspoken question was far grimmer.
“Leave him,” she demanded, a grave sadness in her voice. “I can take care of him.”
With that, there was nothing more to say between them. The dead expression she gave Skrimp let him know that for certain. Though he was simmering with rage, grief was a smothering shadow for now. Still, as he left her sitting, he moved with malice.
The sound of his footsteps dwindled until the lonely house remained.
Snow provided no distracting noise for the rush of blood in her ears.
Delilah remained at the desk. In the pale light of her computers, she leaned forward, heart pounding. Her hands gripped the desk’s edge as she tried to calm down. She knew what she had to do, but the very thought caused her body to tremble.
She had barely kept it together this long. Sobbing and quivering were nothing.
The wall crackled as she tore her monitor from its mount.
Its shards rained over the tile.
A raw scream poured out from her mouth. It was an ugly, angry, and lost cry. When her knees hit the floor, the sound had cracked and wavered into a mere whimper.
She wanted to curl up. To forget all this had happened.
She had lost the ones she’d loved before. Everyone had. But now, weeping against the floor like a child, it was like the first time again.
Only in such a low place could she see the truth. It quieted her, bringing her back into the dark realization she had had on the slaughterhouse steps.
Ashmedai slinked around the corner, seeing her now vacant expression. There they remained, together unsure of everything but their purposes.
What could you do but play dead?
He had shouted and sworn. He’d said every curse and doubted every belief. But when the drive drug on, as his every escape became no more than a way to cope, he settled into stoic misery.
Though he continued to scratch at his raw skin, Skrimp’s unblinking focus took in the passing city without thought. Only the low rumble of spite buzzed in his head.
Until, finally, he had ridden long enough.
Completely unchanged, the familiar grey monolith brought a chill down his spine. The tiny windows, the cavernous underhang and its sea of vagrants, all led to that black revolving gate.
He had come because a call wouldn’t cut it. Not for this news.
As Skrimp parked the car and got out, the homeless began to draw closer. Though they were usually docile and placated, he had made himself a target, rolling up. With each one a zombified freak, some ten or more hoarding together made for a nightmarish wall of outstretched hands.
He did the only rational thing.
Skrimp drew his gun and watched the crowd quickly disperse in shambles. He saw the black cameras above, Smiler’s eyes, and flipped them off. He saw straight into that blackness, and it into him. Now it wouldn’t be long before their mutual murderousness got a chance, here. But he was done running.
The walk seemed like an eternity. Though it came to its end at the wrought iron bars of the building’s entrance.
Skrimp rubbed his hands together, trying to get warm, procrastinating. Getting it over with, he swiped in and dialed Dag’s apartment number.
As a nightshift cop and crowd controller, he knew Dag was home. Asleep in his bed, probably. Completely unaware that…
Frode is dead.
He still didn’t believe it.
Though the ringing went on for some time, Dag did answer. Groggily, he came over the speakers asking, “Who is it?”
“It’s…” Skrimp paused. The very stutter of his voice would give it away. And once Dag knew who it was, there was only one reason for this visit. One reason in the whole world that Skrimp would come out of hiding, straight to his house in the middle of the day.
It’s time to finish it. No more emptiness and endless regret.
It was justice or death. At that moment, Skrimp found his voice. “It’s m-me.”
In a whisper, Dag knew it all. “Oh, God no.”