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Further Downward

Further Downward Anaxagoras liked to smile, he liked to laugh. More than anything, he liked to be amused. Before the Unity had existed, before any of this, he’d been a drifter, driving around looking for the next high, whether that be drugs, sex, or murder didn’t matter to him. Until the Truth had found him, left a dent in his windshield the size of a golf ball and nearly driven him off the road. As soon as he’d touched it, he knew what he had to do. He’d built this community, this Unity, with his bare hands. Well, maybe it was more accurate to say that his mouth had instructed others to build this Unity with their bare hands, but it was all the same to him. That’s why he wore his sunglasses, so people would only focus on the moneymaker. All he had to do was proclaim some gobbledygook about purity and the universe, and they all loved him. He was a god to these people, a philosopher, Anaxagoras reborn. His name really was Raz, the longer version was what he told women he wanted to love him, and men he wanted to fear him. And, usually it worked. If it didn’t, he had other methods. That girl Cindy needed some other methods, but when she was finally broken, the victory would be so sweet. Her lover, that bloodsucking scum, was the key. He could pretend to be noble, good even, all he wanted, but all he needed was a little push, and his true colors would show. As much as he hated the thought, to get him there he was going to have to have a little heart to heart with the vampire, had to see how close he was to breaking. Soon, he wanted it to be soon. The thought of that girl finally throwing herself on him was too much to bear. He licked his lips, savoring the imagining. Yes, that would be the day. Once Raz got his mind set to something, absolutely nothing could get in his way. Except when someone did. “Oh, Rasputin,” called a voice, and Raz turned to see Abigail Hodge waving at him from across the common. “Anaxagoras,” he corrected her as she skipped over to him. “Oh! Of course,” she gasped in embarrassment. “My apologies. I get my cult—er, collective leaders so confused.” Abigail had been a thorn in his side for a while, but she had proven very useful. She’d been the one who had set up all of the machines for his arena, and beyond that she had a lot of knowledge of the creatures, things that Raz wanted destroyed. She knew how to contain a werewolf, starve a vampire, disable a witch. “What can I do for you, milady?” he dipped his hat to her slightly. Even if he was in a hurry, he was always a gentleman. “Well,” she said. “I wanted to have a discussion with you... about the Truth. You see, that Cindy girl isn’t the only one who knows something about it.” Alright, now he was interested. Raz touched the fragment dangling from his neck. It was slightly warm to the touch and sorta scared him. There was something in it. It would taunt him sometimes, in his sleep with images and words, but he could never quite make out what they meant, like trying to have a conversation through frosted glass. It was broken. What could be done with a broken Truth? “I’m listening,” he said. “I’d love to tell you everything I know, but not now,” she grinned, as if she had him wrapped around her finger. She didn’t. “Tomorrow night, perhaps. But I have enemies nearby. I need to see that vampire you’ve got locked up will soon be broken before I can make a move. Can you do that for me?” He laughed. “Already in the process, darlin’.” He began to slide past her. “In fact, I was just going to see him now. We’ll be having that discussion awfully soon.” “Ooo, I can’t wait,” Abigail clapped her hands together. “Good luck!” “Oh, Ms. Hodge,” he crooned. “I don’t need luck.” He walked on by, towards the towering structure of the arena. A wonderful metaphor, if he did say so himself. All of that excitement and rage and ideals up above, and all of those undesirable things caged down below, out of sight. Half the reason he’d had the system automated was because he didn’t want to think about all of the nasty, unnatural things being kept down there. But every once in a while, he had to get in his elevator and pull the lever down instead of up. He had to make the trip down to where the bad things lurked. And so he did, if reluctantly. The chains clinked through the pulleys somewhat menacingly, while the pale light above him slowly faded to nothing, and as the cobbled-together, plywood floor clunked to the ground, he began to hear the noises of the unnatural. Cages rattled as some of the more bestial specimens fought against their imprisonment. Bears roared, spirits cried. In the corner, several wood nymphs followed him with their tree-knot eyes. But he ignored them all, past the man made of stone, past the injured werewolf whimpering in the dark, and focused his attention on the furthest cell. The vampire sat against the wall, his head slumped forward, chest heaving in and out, almost in pain. In the few days since the arena match, most of his wounds had closed. But the act of healing himself had made him weak. Hungry. Because as soon as he came close, the vampire’s head shot up, his eyes red and bright, his lips parted to reveal his sharp teeth. Yes, just try it, Raz dared him. But then he blinked, regained his composure, though he still let out an occasional wince of pain.

“So you’re still holding out, hmm?” Raz asked, leaning against the bars. “Don’t worry, you’ll get your fill soon enough.” “You’re the man in charge, right?” the vampire asked, seemingly ignoring his words. “Where is Cindy?” “She’s safe, for now,” Raz gave him. He blinked once, some of the tension leaving his limbs. “Good. Keep her away from me,” he pleaded. “I won’t hurt her.” Raz made a note to lower the guard on the basement. “I wouldn’t be worried about her, if I were you,” he said. “Maybe worry about yourself, if you’re even capable of it.” “What is that supposed to mean?” Laughter bubbled out of Raz unheeded. “You’re good. You’re very good,” he admitted. “But I know what you are. You may have fooled the girl, but you can’t fool me. You’re a goddamn animal. You eat us. You can try not to. You can pretend with your rodent diet and human girlfriend, but we both know it’s only a matter of time before you lose yourself again, have a little snack.” “Not if I had a choice,” the vampire stared him down. “You’re the one backing me into a corner.” “I’m just helping the process along,” Raz stared right back. “It would have happened sooner or later. Maybe you would have started licking her tampons, and it would have just escalated from there. It wouldn’t have been enough. You would have drained her dry and felt no remorse. Because you’re a goddamn monster. I saved that girl’s life.” “We’re not talking about Cindy anymore, are we?” The sudden silence hung in the air. “What happened to you?” the vampire asked. “Don’t worry,” Raz changed the subject. “You’ll be fed soon. Tomorrow. Resist if you want. It’ll only get worse.” There was no response. Raz turned and walked away, trying not to think about teeth and ragged necks. He’d prove him for the monster he was. They all were, all of unnaturals he had caged up. Every single one.

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