Short Story – Sins of the Past
Hands clasped together as he stared at his shoes on the black and white tiling that smelled of bleach, Arieus Severio sat hunched over in the visiting quarters within the psychiatric ward. Large rectangular lights flooded the room, making it appear far brighter than it was, as though he had woken up from having drank too much. In a way, he had. He had postponed this visit for far too long as it was and now, sitting on the silicone-covered chair, he feared looking up at his surroundings, awakening to the reality of it. The ward was not unwelcoming by any means, right down to the cheery secretary at the reception, but the place served as a reminder of where he could have ended up for his transgression years ago.
His head of messy copper-coloured hair laced with hints of silver finally lifted when he heard the sound of wheels gliding across the floor coming towards where he was. Through the doors walked a young man in light green scrubs to match his bright aquamarine eyes, sporting a shock of curly short blonde hair. He pushed a wheelchair, upon which sat an older man with greying brown hair and a square-jawed clean-shaven face. His nose appeared to have been broken once and never properly set, making him look as though he were constantly scowling. The only thing that gave him away were his green eyes, which darted around the room, taking in every element with keen senses, though how conscious Arcanthur Kinsman was of everything that was happening at that very moment remained a mystery.
“How is he doing?” Arieus asked, running a thumb across his bushy mustache.
“One of his better days,” the young man began to reply.
“I can talk just as well myself, you know,” Arcanthur interrupted gruffly. “Now, out with ya.”
The youth, not showing a hint of anger, simply nodded and motioned to Arieus that he would be outside if he was needed before leaving. Arcanthur glowered at him the entire way out the door before turning to face Arieus.
“So, now that we are alone, explain to me what the hell you are doing here,” Arcanthur barked, glaring at his reflection in Arieus’s blue eyes. “And don’t tell me it’s because you’re sorry. We’ve been down that path far too many times.”
Arieus sighed, slumping further into the chair. At least his friend had his wits about him. On his last visit, the man had been pumped full of medications, rendering him in a vegetative state, a sight that was hard for Arieus to bear, knowing how lively Arcanthur had been before all of it.
“That’s not why I’ve come here today,” he finally said. “In truth, I meant to come much sooner, but…”
Arieus paused as he tried to find the right words to say and looked away, causing Arcanthur to raise an eyebrow. Suspense overtaking the elder Kinsman, he asked, “Well? What is it?”
Turning his head back to face his friend, Arieus spoke again. “Mislantus is dead.”
Though white from lack of sunlight due to the winter months that had just passed, Arcanthur’s face paled even more upon hearing the proclamation. Pushing against the bindings that held him down, he straightened in the chair. “How? When?”
“Last spring, early summer,” Arieus recounted. “He tried to take over the Eye to All Worlds, but Annetta and Jason rallied the Four Forces. They fought and won. Your son is a hero.”
A slight smile formed on Arcanthur’s lips upon hearing the comment. “Yeah, well, I wouldn’t expect anything less from him, nor from your girl either if she’s anything like the rest of you Severios.”
“To the very core,” Arieus retorted.
“Which is what also has me worried.” Arcanthur stated.
What good nature there was between the two men faded with that one sentence. Memories from a fight that had happened between them long ago in Toronto resurfaced, and Arieus watched as his friend’s eyes clouded over yet again. His gaze hazed over, Arcanthur coiled before trying to lash out from beyond the restrains that held him to the wheelchair, covered beneath the blue blanket draped over him.
“Never trust a Severio!” he hissed. “I told him and I stand by it!”
Forlorn at the disappearance of his friend under the mask of his madness, Arieus turned to the door to signal the nurse back in to take Arcanthur away to his room. He had done what he could in delivering the message he knew somewhere deep down Arcanthur wanted to hear, and now it was clear that his friend was not coming back. When Arieus focused on the door fully, however, he saw no one in sight.
Strange, he thought, for patients were never left alone with their guests under any circumstances. Not fully, at least. There had been too many incidents in the past to allow for the possibility of harm coming to those visiting. Getting up from his chair and ignoring Arcanthur’s continued verbal assault, he moved to the small glass window on the door and looked down the hallway both ways. It was empty. Or so he thought.
A shadow flickered in the corner of Areius’s vision. Had he not known any better, he would have dismissed it as nothing more than his imagination playing tricks on him, but Arieus had been raised to know better. While some creatures who remained invisible to most humans were indeed harmless, there was something different about this one. Tension grabbing the elder Severio, he moved his hand to his mouth, attempting to silence Arcanthur, whom continued to rave.
“Why should I listen to you?” he spat, having paused his ranting.
Arieus narrowed his eyes to a squint as he glanced around the room, his gaze fixed on the walls. He spoked back without breaking his eye contact. “Because if you don’t, we may end up dead.”
As if on command, the silver glint of a knife came towards Arcanthur. Arieus kicked the wheelchair, causing it to skid far enough for the blade to miss them both. His sight focusing, he then noted the knife had been attached to a grey-robed figure that now crouched on the floor where its missed blow had hurled it. There was something uncanny about the robed figure, as though it were a spectre from Arieus’s past. It did not occur to him from where until it rose and turned the face them.
Face hidden beneath the cowl completely, the grey robe was adorned with blue markings. Upon its left breast, a crimson heart brooch with three drops of blood adorned it, feeling overly rich in contrast to the rest of the outfit.
“An apostle of the Unknown?” Arcanthur gasped, his wits having momentarily returned.
Arieus’s eyebrows knitted together as he too made the connection. He did not waste time on staring, however, and had moved over behind Arcanthur’s wheelchair, ready to flee at a moment’s notice. The worst part was that he was yet again in a public place, and the use of his powers would need to be kept to a minimum. He knew things were serious, however, if an apostle of the Unknown had been sent. They were the anointed priests of the Unknown, always hooded, and it was said that their orders came directly from him. They were peaceful by nature, and so Arieus was shocked to find this one being so violent towards them.
“What did you do?” Arieus hissed in Arcanthur’s ear.
“I had my abilities bound, remember?” he retorted.
“Death to those who would expose the nature of the universe to those not yet deemed ready to be touched by his light,” a feminine voice spoke from under the hood. “May your blood, taken this day cleanse your souls of their transgressions.”
Confused as to who the lines were aimed at, Arieus barely dodged an attack as the apostle came crashing at him this time, instead of Arcanthur. Knowing there was a camera in the room, Arieus’s first instinct was to rip it from the wall with his psychic abilities and then hurl it at his assailant. Having temporarily distracted her, Arieus then threw the table, toppling it over the apostle. He then grabbed Arcanthur’s wheelchair and made for the door, turning around every so often to see if he was followed.
“And where exactly do you think you are taking us?” Arcanthur barked the question.
“I don’t know,” Arieus replied automatically, “but my hope is if we are around other people, then she will not follow. Whoever sent them is after both of us. That much is clear.”
“I think the bigger question is why?”
Arieus frowned as he continued to wheel his friend down the overly-empty hallway towards the elevator. He was unnerved how empty it was, as though they had been sucked into an alternate universe without even knowing it. He recalled what the apostle had said just before he had thwarted her attack. It had been in reference to their fight in the streets of Toronto many years ago which had threatened to expose the nature of psychics and the existence of the multiverse as a whole. It had not been Arieus’s idea, he was merely defending himself from Arcanthur, who had become obsessed with the concept of exposing Q-16 to the world along with all of the technology present within it. Their fight had been halted when the angels had gotten involved. As punishment for what they had done, Arcanthur had been locked up and the memory of all of those present in the streets had been wiped. It had been a closed case for many years now, or so Areius had thought.
Coming back into the present, he replied. “I don’t know, and that is what worries me most.”
Reaching the last stretch before the elevator, Arieus used his abilities to press the button before he was within arm’s reach of it to save them time. Things were not to go so easily, however, as the robed figure emerged from the room, having recovered from being stunned and darted in their direction, the knife held to its chest in an attack position.
Arieus cursed as he halted the wheelchair, hearing the skid of the rubber on polished floors. He then got in front of his friend, trying to think what he could use to his advantage. While his senses were still sharp, it had been years since Arieus had been placed in a situation where he had to rely on his abilities alone and without a weapon at his disposition. Taking note of a discarded mop in a broom closet on the opposite end of the hall, he called it towards him just in the nick of time to hear the dagger collide with the metal pole.
Pushing his opponent back, Arieus got into a defensive stance, the tangled head of the mop pointed at his foe.
“What do you want from us?” he questioned. “The brawl in Toronto was answered for. We carried it all out as Fulgura and Bwiskai asked.”
“Not enough,” it hissed. “Only death will suffice.”
The apostle leaped for Arieus and stuck once again in a series of attacks. Arieus blocked with his makeshift staff, the maneuvers awkward in his hands as he struggled to comprehend what was going on. It felt wrong to be fighting back. Despite this, he did his best to counter when an opening presented itself to him, and after a few moments, the mop landed a blow head first into the gut of his foe. The victory was short lived when the apostle vanished into this air before him. Using his peripherals, Arieus quickly picked her up again, barely dodging an airborne attack, the knife slicing through his tensed up right forearm. Coiling back in pain, Arieus gritted his teeth and brought the mop up to eye level.
“Why? Why now?”
The figure under the hood seemed to recoil somewhat at the question as if disgusted by the mere fact that Arieus dared to ask such a question. Before it could speak, however, the elevator door dinged to signal its stop, and out came the youth that had wheeled Arcanthur in for the visit. His demeanour was far from the chipper one that he’d had on before, his thin, clean-shaven face bearing a grim expression.
Turning on his heel without warning, the man threw his hands forwards as lightening shot from them, hitting the robed figure straight in the chest, causing her to fly back and collapse.
Arieus simply gawked upon seeing this and watched as the youth walked over to the now-still apostle of the Unknown. He had expected many things to happen, but certainly not that.
“Remind me why I’m locked up in this joint again when this one just pulled a Palpatine?” Arcanthur cocked his head at his friend.
The youth pulled something off of the apostle and examined it before even noting their presence. He then replied to Arcanthur, “Because this one was sent to watch over you in the event such a thing would happen.”
Arcanthur’s jaw slacked as the young man turned around to face them, holding what they both now saw as being the brooch their assassin had worn.
“This one belonged to a sect known as the Bleeding Hearts,” he explained to them, dropping the trinket, hearing the thud of metal. “They believe anyone who has ever had an altercation with the angels should be put to death. Us angels like to think differently. Your next question will, of course, be who I am. My name is Raffaele. I’m an associate of two other angels you may both be familiar with.”
“An angel.” Arcanthur shifted uneasily in his seat.
“One sent here to protect, I assure you.” The youth faced him.
“These Bleeding Hearts as you called them, what do they want?” Arieus asked.
“That is exactly what Bwiskai charged me with finding out,” Raffaele told him. “I apologize that it came to this altercation. We have been doing our best to keep it all in the shadows.”
“Well, a damn fine job you’re doing then,” Arcanthur snorted.
Raffaele shot him a disdainful look before turning back to regard Arieus. “You can rest assured your friend will continue to be safe here. This incident will not go unreported and backup will be added.”
Arieus regarded the man continuously. “You still didn’t answer my question, really. What assurance also do I have another one won’t come after me tonight in my sleep? What about my daughter that now knows of this world?” “The one named Annetta Severio is not on their radar,” Raffaele replied as he walked into the supply closet and returned with bandages for Arieus’s wound. “A guard will be placed around your dwelling for extra measure. All we know about the Bleeding Hearts is that they follow the old code and do not believe in the concept of mercy as far as disobediences against the Unknown go. They are a new sect, only having existed these last few years. Your fight in the city is what drew them to you today. Now, I suggest we get off this floor so that my superiors may take care of this mess without anyone noticing.”
Arieus nodded, lowering his head a little as he allowed Raffaele to patch up his wound. “Will there be no escaping these sins of the past?”
“Doesn’t look like it,” Arcanthur scoffed in reply.
His work complete, Raffaele then walked past Arieus and checking to make sure Arcanthur was intact, began to wheel him towards the elevator without giving second thought to the body of the apostle still on the floor. Arieus, seeing as there was nothing more he could do, followed them.
As they reached the main floor yet again, Raffaele finally spoke. “It is not a matter of escaping your past sins as it is being able to embrace and live with them. Or so I find for your species.”
The elevator dinged and Raffaele began wheeling Arcanthur out onto their floor, leaving Arieus alone to complete his journey to the reception as though nothing had happened at all. His mind still hung on the last words the angel had spoken, however, filling him with pensive contemplation and the dread of what this attack could mean for the future Annetta and Jason may one day have to face.