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Annual #1

 

 


Issue #4

Apollyon City Chapter 4:"It Abides"
by David Marshall


Apollyon City, Apartment of Alan and Molly Scott, Just After Midnight.


Alan Scott opened his eyes and sat up in bed. His muscles ached in places long forgotten. This Beelzebub business had taken more out of him than he realized. Of course, being cramped into a shrinking coffin can do that a guy. He blinked his eyes, trying to adjust to the pale darkness. The rising and falling of Molly’s soft, rhythmic snoring broke the monotony of the air conditioning’s steady hum. Alan ran his fingers through his hair and turned to watch her sleep. She was facing away from him and curled her body into a tight, placid spoon.

Alan smiled. God, she was so beautiful! Why had it taken so long for him to recognize his true feelings for her? Molly’s cascading red locks and her milky, white skin were always a source of fascination to him. More than once, he admired the way her ample cleavage and her firm, well-rounded bottom filled out her tight Harlequin outfit. At first, he dismissed such feelings as raw lust, an unfit characteristic for a man wearing the ring, but there was more. Her smile. Whenever they encountered one another in battle, the faintest trace of Molly’s infectious grin forced a brief pause in the melee. He wondered for some time whether or not she possessed some power of enchantment that allowed her to distract him so easily.

Molly rolled over, and was now facing him. Her right hand sneaked out from under the blankets and searched the bed. She felt around his pillow.. After a few moments of pause, the slender hand renewed its search with purpose. She found his back and relaxed.

Alan lifted Molly’s hand and kissed it lightly, before easing it to rest again on the bed. No, it was more than simple lust, even back then. It took him years to admit it, but he loved her. He felt silly for hiding his feelings for so long. Why did he allow guilt to haunt him, in those days, when his heart jumped at the sight of her? Because he was a hero and she a villain? How could he have ever believed that being in love with such a magnificent woman somehow diminished his work? Alan cursed his pomposity. He once traveled to the moon just to carve their names into a rock formation, so no one on Earth would ever see it! He never told anyone about that, even Molly. Of course, their present situation wasn’t much better.

Molly was known as Alan Scott’s wife, but an older Alan Scott. For Alan, posing as his own son was a pain, but it was just too easy for others to put two and two together. No, "Alan Scott, Sr." continued to tour the world making business contacts, while his "son" took care of the station and his "mother".

Alan rolled out of bed and shuffled to the master bath, just off his and Molly’s bedroom. The soft, white glow of a nightlight bathed the marble vanity. Alan reached for the faucet, and turned on the cold water. He scooped the cool wetness into his hands and splashed his face with it. God! He felt old, older even than his true age. He grabbed a towel monogrammed with a bright, green ‘S’ from the linen closet and dried his face. So many things to work through. It wasn’t fair to Molly that his youth had been restored. Personally, he was torn. On one hand, he got to live every old man’s fantasy; he was young again! He could face life armed with the experience of an octogenarian, and the body of a thirty year-old. Still, he would trade it all for a quiet retirement with the woman of his dreams.

Alan let the towel crumple to the floor. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t be so messy, but tonight he just didn’t feel like folding it neatly onto the towel rack. He retrieved a Dixie cup from the disposable cup dispenser and turned on the water once more. The water quickly filled the tiny paper cup. Alan turned it up to drink, and caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror.

"What the...?" Alan leaned toward the mirror. The reflection staring back at him was that of an old man. The paper cup joined the crumpled towel on the floor. He was more wrinkled than he remembered. Thankfully, most of his hairline hadn’t receded this time. "Molly!!! M-Molly!!! Get in here quick!"

Molly wasted no time in joining her husband in the bathroom. "Alan? What is it? Are you....AAAGGH!!!"

Alan displayed a toothless grin. "Surprise!"

Molly stared in disbelief. "You’re....old again. Older than...I remember. Alan?"

Alan looked in the mirror. It was true. He was older than he was supposed to be. In fact, he was older than when he saw his reflection in the mirror just moments ago. "Molly, I’m aging at an accelerated rate! I..I ..."

Alan clutched his chest. The strain of accelerated aging was too much for his broken body. He thought of his friends in the JSA who were rapidly aged to the proper measure of their years. Did they hurt this badly? He always thought death would come quickly, but not quite so painfully. He calmed himself, more for Molly’s sake than his own. "I love...."

Alan Scott fell dead on his bathroom floor....

Alan bolted upright in his bed. He gasped loudly, waking Molly.

"Alan, what’s wrong?" she asked.

Alan rubbed his eyes, and turned to her. "How old am I?"

Molly looked confused. She rubbed her eyes and propped herself up, her weight resting on her elbows. "What? About an hour older than the last time you woke me up with a nightmare. You think they’re related to this... Beelzebub?"

Alan nodded. "He’s toying with me, Molly. He’s playing on my fears, toying with my reality. Each "dream" is worse than the last. This time... I was too old to fight back.

Apollyon City, North 1st and Main, The Next Morning.


The apartment was small, but then Jennie-Lynn owned very little furniture to fill it. She sold most of it, to avoid moving it. Of course, she could use her power pulse to create a moving van, complete with movers, but that would spoil the fun of shopping for new furniture. Her old furniture looked good, in her old apartment. No, this was her new life, her new job, and a new city. The situation demanded new furniture.

Her career as a photographer was going well, but Jennie was the kind who wanted more. As long as there was a challenge, she relished meeting it head-on at full speed. Her career in front of the camera was great experience for moving behind it. She mastered the world of still pictures, now she longed to conquer motion as well.

Robert McNamara agreed to keep her identity hidden from the personnel department at WABS, as well as from her father. She wanted to land this job on her own. Armed with nothing more than her admittedly thin resume, and Bob’s recommendation, she was named Director of Film at WABS. Hopefully, she didn’t bite off more than she could chew.

Jennie paused and stole one more glance at her nearly empty apartment, before turning out the light. She locked the door behind her and walked through the narrow hallway, making a sharp left at the end of the hall. Finding the elevator doors open, she stepped inside. She pushed the button labeled ‘Lobby", and in a moment, her stomach jumped as the elevator came to life.

The elevator doors opened again and Jennie stepped out into the lobby of Polk Towers. A large fountain dominated the center of the room. At the fountain’s heart, seven white cherubs poured water from oversized cisterns, to become one with the clear pool beneath. Jennie passed by the fountain and smiled to the girl behind the reception desk. The girl ignored her, but Jennie wouldn’t let that spoil her day. She made her way out the distinguished revolving door and into the street.

The sun warmed her green skin. She cursed herself silently for forgetting her sunglasses, and settled for shielding her eyes from the sun’s brightness with her own hand. A taxicab approached. Holding her index fingers up to her mouth, Jennie whistled then yelled, "Taxi!"

The yellow vehicle wasted no time in making its way to the curb. Jennie opened the rear left-hand door and sat down. The cabbie, a young black man with long dreadlocks, glanced at her and turned pale. "Er...where to...lady?"

Jennie grinned. She was used to such a reaction. "1015 Sycamore Blvd....and take the scenic route, I want to see my new hometown."

Trenton, New Jersey, The Rabbit’s Hat Nightclub, The same night.


"So how did you know to find me here? This was supposed to be a small, unannounced show." Zatanna nudged her black top-hat into the position she preferred, resting back a few inches off her brow, allowing her raven-black tresses to part neatly in the middle.

Sentinel grew impatient with Zatanna’s primping. "I used some connections."

Zatanna smiled as she walked across the room. She retrieved her vest and double-breasted jacket from the back of an antique Victorian chair and slipped them on over her body suit. "Oracle?"

Sentinel nodded. "So? Any ideas? I’m all ears."

Zatanna rested the gloved fingertip of her left index finger against her red lips. She looked away thoughtfully. "You say he mentioned something about owning the city?"

"He said the people of Apollyon ceded it by an act of their will."

"These minor demons often lay claim to certain areas. Some of their claims may be hundreds or even thousands of years old." Zatanna straightened her crimson bow tie several times, tugging it first to the left and then the right.

"Minor? Zatanna, he nearly killed me! I thought maybe he was the Dark Prince himself."

Zatanna’s bright smile dissolved into a stern, cold face. "No, my guess is this ...Beelzebub wishes to honor his true master, by acting in the spirit of his name. He was testing you to see whether you represented a threat to him. From what you have told me of these recurring nightmares, you have his attention."

The Sentinel threw his hands into the air. "Great! I have his attention! Now what? I moved to Apollyon to protect it, not hand it over to some devil-wannabe with delusions of grandeur."

Zatanna inserted a fishnet stocking-clad foot inside a black high-heeled pump. The other foot followed suit, and she made her way to the stage door.  "He’s obviously bluffing to some degree, or else the city would be his already."

Alan perked up. "You mean...

"Of course! There’s a loophole! We just have to find it. I’ll help, but first I have a public to please.  A girl's gotta make a living." The stage door opened for a brief moment. A polite ovation drifted into the dressing room . Zatanna walked onto the stage and shut the door behind her.

Sycamore Springs, New York, 1893


They would laugh no more.

Polly Blackbear sat on the floor of her room. The time was near. She had waited seventy years for her vengeance, but the white man would finally pay. She had scoured both Europe and the Americas for her knowledge and power.

Ah! How she loved Europe! In Dublin she lost her virginity to an Irishman, a trapper, like her real father. After discarding that last visage of innocence still left in her dark soul, she drank wine from the cup of evil on a nightly basis as she toured the white man’s native home. She gave her mind, her body, and her soul to sin and debauchery. She sought a heart of evil and found it! In Paris she discovered Opium. She was faithful to the tiny white flower for years, dealing away her conscience in a drug-induced stupor. London proved to be a gold mine of Arcane enlightenment. There, she learned of the spell she was about to cast. It would be her final act. Polly held the silver dagger to her throat, savoring the feel of the brisk metal against her skin. Steadying her hand, she lowered the small knife to the first button of her blouse. The sharp blade easily sliced through the vulnerable threads holding the button in place. She popped each button in succession, until she sat naked from the waist up.

Polly regarded her breasts carefully. The years had been unkind to her body. She never nursed a baby, as her mother done before her. Polly’s breasts were reserved for rituals too unholy to mention outside the secrecy of her own dark circle of associates. She clutched the heaviness of her left breast slowly and brought the point of the dagger to bear underneath. She closed her eyes, steeling herself for the deed.

She would free the demon and, with her death, avenge the atrocities that wrecked her life. Just as there was no Protector for her people, none could stay the demon’s hand. His justice would be swift. This time she would spill her blood, not raspberries. Hers would be first to flow, but not the last. In exchange for his freedom, the demon could have the land that was once her home. Polly neither knew, nor cared, why he would want such a desolate place after the violence was completed.

Holding the blade to her breast, Polly cursed the thin walls of Vera’s Saloon. She hoped to hear silence at the end. Instead, the last thing she would hear would be the throaty moans of a prostitute in the next room. With one quick motion, the silver dagger sliced through her heavy, wrinkled flesh. The pain was unbearable, but sweet.

Polly lurched forward to the floor. A howling wind, that seemed to come from everywhere at once, filled the room. Her mouth filled with ghastly screams that would shame even those of the pits of hell itself. Blood poured forth from her wound, soaking the floor around her. The blood inexplicably stopped, as darkness began to gush forth from the wound in her chest. The darkness took on a shape. Two large horns crowned the creature’s head. There was no body only a swirling form. "I am Beelzebub! You have freed me from the underworld once more! I have heard your cry for vengeance and will mete it out with my unholy sword of evil! I accept your inheritance, Polly Blackbear! Your town will be mine!"

Polly nodded and point to her wounded flesh. She managed one final word, "Polk!"

The words that dripped from Beelzebub’s mouth permeated the room with their hellish venom. "Do not worry about Polk. He will watch his beloved town die, before I drag his own soul into hell. The Protector dies or I renounce my claim."

Polly managed a final weak smile before vomiting reddish-black blood. All was still for a moment. At last, the minions of hell laid claim to her tragic soul.

Sycamore Springs, New York, 1893, One Hour Later


As sheriff of the small community, it was Bill Polk’s job to save the townsfolk. He failed miserably at every turn. Now, the hellish wind that ripped his town apart came for him. He was a good shot, but not even the Wyoming Kid could gun down nature with a mere bullet.

Debris blew by Bill’s face, forcing him to dive for refuge behind the rubble that was once his jail. Moments later, the gigantic saw blade from Hatter’s Mill sliced through the air where he stood only moments before. There seemed to be nowhere to run from the terror.

The storm’s fury pinpointed him wherever he ran, forcing him to first one hiding place, then another. "I am free once more and you will die, Bill Polk! Feel my fury! I am the voice of vengeance!"

Bill couldn’t believe his ears. Was the thunder speaking to him? He looked closely and saw the face of the devil himself in the heart of the storm. Sheer terror forced Bill’s eyes closed. He thought of Brother Krebb, the itinerant minister who warned them of unleashing Satan’s hordes on their little town with their wantonness and sin. Polk squared his jaw and opened his eyes. He tracked Claggett too far to die like this! He stilled his nerves and drew his six-guns. Shot after shot disappeared into the swirling demonic form.

The demon roared with laughter.

Just as he was ready to resign himself to the hellish tempest, an idea popped into Bill’s head. He made his way through the torrential storm to the building that once housed Gilliam’s General Store. Quickly rummaging through the debris, he found what he was searching for. Dynamite!

Bill suspected the giant demon was toying with him, hurling object after object after him as he made his way from one pile of rubble to the next. A pitchfork whisked his white hat off his head and pinned it to a hitching post. Ducking and dodging the splintered remains of his town proved difficult. At last, Bill found his target, Harran’s Gunsmith. Old man Harran kept enough powder in there to blow half of New York sky high. He fought through the wind to deliver the explosive close enough to throw it. He struck a flint against the heel of his boot and lit the fuse. Quickly gauging the wind, he hurled the fiery stick into the rubble and debris that was once Harran’s.

Bracing for the intense explosion, Bill lay flat on the ground and hoped for the best.

The demon wind drew near. "And now the Protector dies."

Folks as far away as Martin Corners swore the explosion shook their town. The explosion worked, for the demon turned his attention away just long enough to give Bill a clear shot for the town’s well. He lowered himself into the narrow shaft, placing his back against the earthen shaft and his boots against the opposite side. Down he descended into the earth. The well led to an underwater spring for which Sycamore Springs was named.

Years later, Bill Polk recounted the tale time and again, noting the swim was a short one into the caves beneath the New York countryside. He guessed correctly in assuming the demon who boasted of being free wouldn’t follow him into the earth. Bill never forgot the demon’s final words.

"The Protector must die!"

Next Issue: The Conclusion.

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