Jake spent most of his time in isolation, crouched over a desk with a magnifying glass, his counterpart, birthday twin so to speak, had a very different life.
Michael lived in the heart of corruption, Washington DC. He had hundreds of solid contacts and thousands he could reach out to based on his reputation as someone who could find money to fuel the game and fix things when dirty little secrets threaten to peek out from the mud. Though he never put himself in the game. He was never the subject of any Sunday morning news shows, no one asked his opinions on Fox news.
If used Jake’s magnifying glass to study the smiling pictures of the political elite, you would find him in the background and any important gathering. You can also be sure, insiders made a point of stopping by to shake his hand. He was frequently offered political jobs that would have made him noticeable, but Michael had followed his father’s advice and remained in the shadows where the real power flowed.
After he finished college and passed the bar he had been quickly picked up by a major law firm in the District, but it didn’t take long for him to have a loose affiliation with them. He was often taking a leave of absence to work on campaigns under his own flag and always collecting favors and contacts.
He spent most of his energy with the Republican party as he found no resistance to his most sinister methods there, but wasn’t above picking up a paycheck from an unscrupulous Democrat. He also liked seeing the face of the Republicans he worked against when they realized who they were up against. It kept his price high to let them know he wasn’t an ideologue.
Washington was paradise for someone who had done their best to burn away any emotion, because emotion was painful and distracting. Whenever the memories would creep in he would take his fill of the debauchery power that his power allowed him. Taking advantage of his strength to violate women and crush men just to see them fall into despair.
The machine welcomed the unscrupulous lawyer as one of their own and he was always in high demand. One of his specialties was arranging shady contributions for democrats, with and without their knowledge, so he could use the transaction as blackmail further down stream. He handled such deals though his network of intermediaries, so his marks had no idea who they were dealing with until it was too late. No one who’d been burned by Michael cared to share their pain with others. Partly out of fear to have their indiscretions revealed, but more out of fear of Michael.
A Congressman had slapped Michael at public dinner when Michael revealed to him that he had the Congressman’s dangling genitalia in a vice. The dinner froze like a picture out of time until Michael laughed, put his hands on the Congressman’s face pulled him tenderly towards him and kissed him on the mouth. Michael whispered in his ear, not even the Congressman’s wife, who was standing shoulder to shoulder could hear Michael say, “For this I will take more than your life. I will take everything your life ever meant.”
Michael began by very publicly dating the Congressman’s twenty-one and eighteen year old daughters. That was just a little dig compared to file that Michael sent him with the total revelation of every slight indiscretion of the Congressman’s life, including the well documented, illegal foreign contributions Michael had duped him into taking. As well as the explicit nudes of his daughters Michael threatened to publish. Michael called him and told him a man would be there in the morning to discuss a business deal, there should be no questions.
The business deal was all phony. A nuclear waste disposal company, on paper only, wanting to build a dump in the Congressman’s home state. The man famous for his environmental work and his protection of public health, accepted a bribe, not knowing the man’s glasses were transmitting the entire transaction. For good measure, Michael continued with the daughters until they were both so strung out they ended up at Betty Ford, but the Congressman had already resigned and was living in seclusion by then.
No one fucked with Michael after that and he was in greater demand than ever. He also supplemented his own income from the funds that traveled through his grasp. He was sought out by people on both sides of the give and take. Whenever the party needed something done they came to Michael and it was done.
As usual the game lost it’s challenge and Michael became bored. He became extreme in his actions to entertain himself. At one point he was told to bury someone, he took the phrase literally, killing the man and paying himself for the hit. He had been training at a civilian combat shooting range with an ex special forces guy. He basically played soldier once a month and learned tactical shooting. Rolling around in the dirt taking shots at moving mechanical targets. He wanted to see what it would be like to kill a man. When the man who had asked the favor came back in horror, Michael only laughed and told him to be more specific next time. Then let him listen to the recording of the man telling Michael to bury him.
But like any junkie the harder he pushed, the farther he crashed. And when he came down his dreams were twisted nightmares and she came to haunt him. Marjy. It always brought his whole existence into question. He wondered if he had been normal if they would have been together, more importantly would they have stayed together. Would he have not… broken her, would she still be alive.
On one of these nights, or rather early mornings, he put the short barrel of the stainless steel, Tarus 357, he kept under his pillow, into his mouth. He hold the barrel with his lips for a long time, wondering what would happen if he could bring himself to do it. The 5 shot pistol was made for concealment and had no hammer. All he had to do was pull the trigger. He kept it clean and his mouth filled with the taste of gun oil. Sweat flowed down his brow stinging his eyes and his finger tightened on the trigger.
“What the fuck, dude?”
Michael was so startled he almost pulled the trigger. He pointed the gun in the direction of the voice by reaction, not thought. There was a man lying backwards on the fainting couch a designer had insisted on putting in his bedroom. His head hung upside down and he arms were hanging down to hold his I-Phone in front of his face while he scrolled through Instagram. He had a scraggly brown beard and was wearing an over sized, thick yarn, beanie. Michael had the random thought that there was a man-bun under it. He had an unbuttoned flannel shirt that opened on a gray t-shirt that said No Brands in white letters. His jeans had threaded tears, but were new, and he had unlaced Adidas, with no socks. Again Michael was taken completely out of the situation, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen a pair of Adidas. He only recognized them because his stepfather thought they were the greatest shoe there was.
“Your mouth hangs any lower your going to get a rug burn bro.” The man did not look away from his phone when he said this. Then he made a peace sign at his phone and took a selfie and typed in Chillin, before hitting send.
“Who are you and why should I not pull this trigger?” Michael’s voice cracked harshly.
Chad spun his legs off the couch and stood up in one motion. “Chill, Boomer. The name’s Chad.” He slid his phone into his back pocket. “Dad sent me to stop you from pulling that trigger.”
“Yeah, the old man.” Chad pointed down. He scratched his face and looked around the room. “Your place is kind of basic, dude. You need some color in here. Maybe that’s why you like to suck on gunpowder lollipops.” Chad turned back to Michael as he spoke.
Michael continued to blink at the man.
“I have to admit you’ve got this whole adulting thing down. You go into a furniture show room and buy all their set up rooms?” Chad said looking out at the door at the rest of the apartment.
Michael shook his head to wake himself up from his stupor. “I hired a designer.”
“Must have been one of those old boomer ladies that wears leopard patterns and enough jewelry to blind a rapper.” Chad looked around some more. Michael didn’t give him the satisfaction that he’d been pretty close to the mark. She’d been recommended and Michael didn’t care he just wanted it done.
“I know a babe who has her own design company. Well she works at some office, bank I think, but she’s been working on the side and she’d starting her own company. She could slay this place. I mean the view is fire.” Chad turned to the window and spread his arms to the view.
“Look, I got to bounce. Dad didn’t think you were really going to do it, but he felt like you were to close and didn’t want your sweaty little finger to slip.” He took his phone out of his pocket and looked at it. “Ha. 30 likes just since we started talking.”
Michael got up and marched over to Chad and put the gun inches from his face.
Chad raised his eyebrows.
“Who the fuck are you? And what the fuck are you doing here?” Michael’s hand was shaking.
“Salty.” Chad put his finger in the barrel of the gun and lowered it. “I was sent here, because duh.” Chad moved his eyes quickly between the gun and Michael, then raised his left eyebrow. “You need to swerve.”
“Swerve? What the fuck does that mean?”
Chad rolled his eyes. “Change you lane, Boomer. Dad’s going to see you tomorrow.” He turned away from Michael and spoke over his shoulder. “Later. Got an Ultimate game tomorrow. Raising money for hungry kids. I’m a pro you know.”
“A pro at what?”
“Frisbee, duh. Didn’t you hear me say I have an Ultimate game tomorrow?” Chad answered with out looking back and went through the bedroom door.
Michael chased after him, but when he got through the door, Chad was gone, but the chain was still on the front door.
Michael sat brooding at his desk, staring out the window of his 8th floor, K Street, office at a gray November day. He was angry and cursing a man who had committed suicide, rather than help him. He was sure the pictures of the man with the young male page would be his express ticket. How could he have known the man was so afraid of his own homosexuality it would push him over the edge? Now he had to start over with someone else and that was tedious.
The blaring news report, coming from the flat screen mounted on his wall, confirmed the fact that he’d been found dead, in his office, an hour after Michael had left him. The sound of the TV sizzled and popped, then fell silent. Michael looked away from the window and saw the one he’d been waiting years to see again.
“Father…” Michael said with a horse whisper.
“You disappoint me Michael.” Apollyon walked to the window and looked out at the traffic passing by. He continued speaking without looking at Michael. “You have to let go of this girl. She will end you.”
Michael nodded and looked down at his hands. He unconsciously clasped them together and wrung them slowly.
“It is a weakness. I do not approve of weakness.” Apollyon’s voice was forceful and demeaning, without being loud. “You must be free of emotion, if you are to succeed. Your emotions are why you are getting so caught up in these training manipulations. You should no more be feeling a rush from success, than feeling the anger you experiencing now. You should just be succeeding and moving on, but you treat it like a drug.”
Michael placed his elbows on the arms of his chair and held up his head by pressing his finger tips against his forehead.
“Who was that guy, you sent to me last night?”
“He’s your brother. Half brother. I told you I have many children. He is your…” Apollyon rolled his hand in the air. “Your spirit guide, so to speak, the champion I spoke of.”
“He’s My champion?” Michael raised his head as he spoke. His eyes widening with every syllable.
“I told you, I can not assist you directly once you begin. He has faced trials, taken his punishment, and grown.” Apollyon stared harshly at Michael. “I chose him specifically for you. Do you think I would make that choice lightly?”
“No… I don’t.” Michael felt instantly slapped down. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “He seems young.”
“To return to earth he had to be born into a new shell.” Apollyon said dismissively as if that should be obvious.
“How old is he?” Micheal dropped his hands into his lap and leaned back in his chair, looking up at the ceiling.
“He’s a Philistine.”
“The bad guys.” Michael said without emotion.
Apollyon shook his head. “More Bible propaganda. They were a great people and have been much maligned by history. Don’t let his facade fool you he has multiple millennia of knowledge.”
“He’s very annoying.” Michael said with a sigh.
Apollyon laughed. “Yes he is, but that is part of how he will teach you. You take yourself too seriously, Michael. He’s very good at pointing that out.”
“Great.” Michael rubbed his face with his palms.
“Don’t question my methods, Michael. You endanger everything that I’ve waited through all time to have!” Apollyon’s voice rose with his anger. He took a breath and looked down at Michael, studying him. After he relaxed, he continued.
“It’s time for the first trial, you must come with me.”
Michael, rose without speaking and walked to his father, careful not to let his eyes meet with those of his master’s. Once Michael was standing next to him, Apollyon waved his arm. In the instant Michael had taken to rub his eyes, they were standing on a street in a run down section, of a city, Michael didn’t recognize. Apollyon pointed across the street to an old black man sitting on a bench in a run down park, with little grass, only one swing left on the set, and no nets of the basketball court.
“Do you see that man over there? The one sitting on the bench with the white cane.”
Michael looked across the street, it was impossible not to know who his father was talking about, he was the only one in the park.
“He lives there.” Apollyon pointed at a gloomy hotel, next to the park. It was hard to imagine it had ever seen better days. Michael doubted it had any upkeep in decades. The word hotel was crudely painted, over the entrance, on the face of the building. In the office window, only the last three letters of the vacancy sign glowed, to let you know the hotel was open for business. Michael turned back to his father.
“OK, I see him, now what?”
“He is your first trial.” Apollyon replied.
“That old man there? Are you kidding?” Michael looked at the old man again.
“Michael, I do not kid.” Apollyon replied, disgusted. “That man has absolute faith in the positive force, my enemy. He is a rock in the foundation of their power and therefore dangerous to me!”
“Why not simply, finish him off. If you stuck your foot out, the fall would probably kill him.”
“You have gotten locked up in this planet and it’s pleasures. You fail to look beyond the body. You keep forgetting the value of souls. If I were to personally involve myself in the taking of his life and he died in his present state, he would add an even greater power to my enemy. There’s a lot more to this than physical strength.”
“Then what is it you want me to do?” Michael’s voice showed he was feeling unsure of himself.
“Bring him to me!” Apollyon said, his eyes lighting up like a jeweler looking at a perfect stone.
“Bring him to you? How?” Michael’s head shook as he spoke.
“That’s the trial. To make him forsake his God, and accept me. He must do so voluntarily, you may not physically force him in any way. Do you understand?”
“I think so.” Michael answered looking back at the man.
“You can not afford to think, you must know. If you fail, and he dies in the arms of the positive force, your flesh will die in the same instant in the most horrible way.”
“Pretty extreme isn’t it?” Michael said, hoping for a glimmer of levity.
“When the rewards are high, it would be foolish not to assume the price of failure would not be just as substantial.” Apollyon said in his best condescending tone and as you might imagine, Apollyon is the second best at condescending in the universe. Presbyterians are first.
“Well what can you tell me about this man?”
“He’s blind, in his heart he knows, even hopes, he will die soon. Time is not on your side, whatever you do, you must act quickly, or all will be lost. For me it will mean a wait for another aligning of the stars, or whatever nonsense makes everything line up. The last time it took a thousand years. For you…” Apollyon turned away from Michael.
“For you, the price is much higher. Your last brother to face the trials has been screaming since the day he failed me a thousand years ago.” Apollyon turned back to Michael to assure he had sufficiently starched his shorts. He noted Michael looked as if he had been drained of all his blood and smiled. It was good that he be afraid of failure, it would help him override his useless emotions.
“Is that all you can tell me?” Michael said, his voice showing the rare feeling of apprehension he couldn’t deny.
“If I see you again, it will be to show you the second trial.” Before Michael could voice another question, Apollyon had disappeared as beings of the supernatural are inclined to do.
Michael stared into the space his father had occupied, and for the first time in his life, he was sinking in quicksand and didn’t know he he’d be able to pull free.
“To scream, for a thousand years.” He whispered, and turned facing the old man across the street. “Your time is short old man, I will make you bow to my father!”