I’m naked. My body pressed up against cold steel. I’ve screamed so much that I’ve lost my voice. There weren’t enough tears to cry. I can’t believe I’m here again. I look up at the walls. They seemed to almost be closing in.
“Help me…HELP ME!”
I curl up inside of myself wondering to myself what would Desire do. I idolized him really. The legendary Desire that so many other assassins throughout the world knew was Tom’s weakness. He wouldn’t be sitting here crying the way I was. He would get it together. He’d be thinking of a way to escape. I’ve been sitting in this room for hours, days perhaps. They’d have to come sooner or later, otherwise I’d starve. Otherwise I’d get dehydrated. They didn’t want that. Right?
They’ll come. I know it. They had to come. And when they did, I’d attack them from the back. Naked and all. That’s what Desire would do.
It happens sooner than expected. The door opens, creaking slowly and a figure stands behind it. A woman with a blank face as though all the life had been sucked out from her and behind her men with guns…perhaps low level assassins.
“You all keep calling me that name. I’m not Wrath. This has to be some horrible mistake. This has to be—–”
“Follow us now.”
They turn. They start walking away. Now was the time. Now is when the legendary Assassin Desire would disable the guards one at a time, thrusting his knees into the closest one’s back, grabbing the gun, shoot the other guards and have the moderator escort him out of the holding cell at gunpoint. He’d find his way back to his super sexy lover, Urge and they’d make passionate love celebrating defeating the Assembly once again.
But I wasn’t Desire. Desire had escaped the Assembly. I hadn’t.
Desire was dangerous. I wasn’t.
Desire had someone waiting for him. I didn’t.
The only person I ever loved was gone. I was alone and I wasn’t going to do a fucking thing but nod, smile and pray to god they don’t kill me.
I’m in a room with a bunch of other figures. I count six of us including myself. They sit us on a bench and we’re all naked. I’m the only one that seems uncomfortable with it. It isn’t because of my body. I guess some people would say I’m attractive. I’m lean with a surfer’s sort of body. I’m a bit pale though, so pale that a lot of people assumed I was white even though I was actually biracial. My hair had a bit of kink to if I grew it out but I barely did and It doesn’t help that my eyes were a foggy blue tint.
I notice him sitting on the edge of the bed. He’s the only one I recognize. These other people were strangers. If Love is happy to see me, he doesn’t show it. I should be the one upset with him. He’d shot me last time I’d seen him. He shot me to slow me down. Still I’m desperate for some sort of comfort. Some sort of anything. I’m scared to death and my heart is beating out. Tears are rolling down my eyes. I’m cold, shivering. Why was it so fucking cold in here?
“What’s wrong with the kid?” another guy says.
The guy who speaks is muscular. I mean he’s exceedingly attractive but most of the assassins that Tom trained were. It was by design, quite literally. He seems a little bit older than me but not much, which seems to lend to the idea that he’d graduated from a different assassin class than I did. Well…I shouldn’t say graduated. I never made the cut, which confuses me even more why I’m in here in the first place.
“You know that look, Glut, It’s called terror,” another almost equally attractive man says.
“Get used to seeing it with him,” Love echoes.
The two muscular men next to him seem somewhat amused and they seem to stare over at me for quite some time. There is one who smiles a lot more than the other and I swear he asks the other man if I’m going to keep crying the whole time. The others are silent besides the two attractive men. They are completely silent. I Ignore them and press my hands over my dick, not only trying to secure how private I am but also desperate to keep warm.
“There he is…” one of the girls says.
I know what she’s referring to.
This is coming from me. I don’t realize I say it. A part of me hadn’t realized I’d ever say the name myself. That is until Tom himself comes walking into the room. Looking at him there isn’t much to look at if you didn’t know better. If you didn’t know better you’d think he was just a sitcom dad. Some guy who worked a 9-5 in an office somewhere and complained if his dinner were cold. If you didn’t know better you wouldn’t be scared.
The problem was that I knew better.
“Did you just piss yourself!” The girl sitting next to me jumps up from the stool we’re sitting on.
Laughter breaks out from the two guys who were teasing me earlier as they notice what I’m doing. I’m embarrassed, flushing with red but scared at the same time. I’m not sure whether to be horrified that these two ridiculously handsome boys just watched me piss on myself or horrified at the figure that is walking in the room.
I choose the latter and my eyes settle on Tom. I can’t stop sweating. I don’t want to chew on my nails or lips because in moments I’d already proven myself to be a coward, so I find myself gnawing on the inside of my cheek. It still hasn’t healed from the hours I’d spent in isolation some time ago. Soon the taste of blood fills my mouth.
He’s speaking to the girl standing up. I’m shocked. I know the codename Greed is one of the names dedicated to the very top assassins in the Assembly. There were probably hundreds of assassins that had codenames. Hundreds in the world, but there was only one Greed. Could I really have almost peed on one of Tom’s Deadly Sins?
She sits and the vicious look in her eyes lets me know that there if we were anywhere else I’d probably be picking my organs off the ground. I shutter and sink in myself hoping to God that I could be forgotten here.
The room is so dark when he begins to speak.
“Do you all know why you’re here?” Tom asks.
“To kill you…!”
I don’t expect it. I don’t think anyone does, but for some reason Love jumps up off the stool. My neck snaps as I watch the stool he’s sitting on be tossed at Tom. The stool was quite heavy and Love wasn’t exactly the biggest guy. He fast though, faster than I could remember. I barely see Tom knock the stool aside before Love follows up with his attack.
He throws his body at Tom as though he himself was some sort of throwing star! His hands and feet spread out and whirling like a fidget spinner.
And when he arrives at Tom he’s manages to land on Tom’s shoulders. Love is little, but I’d seen him in action. There was no one in the world who could manipulate their bodies in the way that he could. If anyone could kill Tom right now it would be him.
He has landed on Tom’s shoulders, wrapping his body around Tom’s head like an Anaconda…ready to snap it straight off at the slightest tension.
The sound comes from the girl sitting next to me, Greed. She seems more bored than nervous as Love attacks Tom. She flickers her long brown hair away from her face and rests her hand underneath her chin as though about to watch a show.
That’s when we see it!
Tom raising Love’s body over his head like some sort of teddy bear and slamming him to the ground with one hand only to pick him up a foot or so off the ground and repeatedly slam him again. I hear a crackling of bones and look away.
“Clean up,” Tom says.
Moments later the moderators come in and I hear a squirming Love being pulled away, desperately screaming at his dislocated arm. I want to cry almost for him when I see how much pain he is in.
When he leaves the room the silence floods in and Tom looks back at us, “Does anyone else want to try to seek vengeance or attempt an escape?”
No one moves.
No one dares.
Tom nods as though expecting this, “You all should know by now what the score is. I own you. I own your lives. You will not escape me. You will not disobey me. The punishment for such things is unimaginable. You should be blessed actually?”
“Blessed?” Greed asks.
She seems defiant. Not to the level of Love, but she was defiant. I could understand why Love would be defiant. I could understand why Greed looks irritated. The Assembly was a nightmare that we had all gone through when we were children. And Tom…he was the boogeyman. But we all thought the nightmare from our past was over. We all thought we’d survived the worse of it. But we were wrong. We were back here, back in these familiar walls and the boogeyman was stronger than ever.
“I’m giving you all a promotion,” he states, “You are all now Deadly sins.”
That’s why they were calling me Wrath.
I shoot my hand up.
“Put your hand down,” the other girl next to me says.
This one doesn’t look at me like Greed. She doesn’t give me a look of disgust. This girl gives me a look of concern. It’s a bit of a haphazard concern as though she was sitting at home watching a horror movie warning the virgin girl not to hide under the table. This girl is black as to where I believe Greed may have been Hispanic. Both girls are pretty but this one is pretty in a different way. Not sexy like Greed but somewhat cute in a way.
I ignore the girl’s warning. It’s too late. I’ve already called attention to myself.
My voice is a little louder than a whisper, “ Maybe you meant to recruit another assassin. I failed the program…”
I shouldn’t admit it. As soon as the words come out of my mouth I get stares. Not even laughter this time. Confused stares. They all look over at me almost immediately I realize that I just put my foot in my mouth.
“You didn’t pass the program?” one of the good looking boy ask, “Why are you still even alive?”
Everyday I wondered the same thing. When we were children we were taken and put into classes under a master. My master at the time was Love. I didn’t pass. I should have died, but I didn’t. I survived and I was brought back. Why me? And why was I brought back now of all times and given the title of Wrath
Tom shakes his head.
“I make no mistakes.”
Moments later Tom leaves without saying another word. That is when several moderators come in. They let us know that rooms have been prepared for us. They let us know to get some rest. All the while they are talking and I can barely understand a word of it.
This was a mistake.
He had the wrong person. I wasn’t supposed to be here and no one is listening to me.
I failed the program. I failed the PROGRAM!
“The new program begins tomorrow,” a moderator states, “Tom will be overseeing your advanced training…personally…”
It’s the next day and I collapse over my feet. I fall to the ground. I can’t sleep that night and I think this is just my latest idiot move because my body is drained when the moderators come to wake me up from the cell that they call my room. They keep us locked in these 8 by 8 cells with a tiny bed.
We are in a gymnasium going through an obstacle course. It’s grueling path that requires Tom’s new Sins to complete 400 obstacles in 40 miles. Challenges range from carrying a traffic cone and crawling through wired electrical nets with high voltage to a 30ft tower jump, the world’s longest monkey bars and a wall climb. It was enough to make military training look like child’s play.
.I don’t see Tom anywhere when I give in, but his moderators are here with stop watches.
I spit out blood and sweat. This is day one.
I look around the gymnasium at the extreme obstacle course. I look up at the light streaming into the gymnasium. I still don’t know where the Assembly is. I still don’t know where I am. I could be anywhere in the world. Who knows where he took us. I recognize it completely. I remember the smell from when I was kid. I was so scared. I still remember how horrified I was every time I came in here. Nothing much has changed since then.
“You too?” she asks, “Too lazy?”
“Hell he has other deadly sins. Tom will be OK. I wonder what happened to the 7th…”
I wondered the same thing. There should be 7 of us, but there were only six. I shrug in response to what she said. I was the last person to know what was going on. Maybe the 7th got away or something. Hopefully at least.
“You not participating?” I ask.
“If Tom thinks my lazy ass is going to perform physical stunts to impress him than he has the WRONG bitch. ”
The voice next to me is the girl who had warned me to put my hand down the day before. She snaps at me with all this sass as she lays back. She has big eyes and pearly white teeth. She has interestingly big breasts and is a lot more shapely than most girls I knew. She seems to be using her big butt with intent and sitting on it. I recognized her as the girl from yesterday. The one who didn’t look at me like she hated me.
“This is different from what happened when I was a kid. We didn’t have to jump into the physical stuff. We had time to…you know? Grow stronger…”
“Guess he’s assuming we’re strong already.”
“He assumes wrong.”
She smiles at me, “I like you. Less is more. I’m Sloth…”
“Ardor—-I mean, Wrath,” I respond back to her.
She laughs at the name, “I’ll call you Ardor, if that’s OK with you. At least while Tom isn’t around. You don’t really suit me as a Wrath…not quite yet at least. Maybe more like a Whimper, no offense…”
“If I was offended by deprecating jokes I’d be a Wrath for sure.”
“Well, take a break Ardor. The moderators seem to have enough entertainment without us. We can watch those shirtless boys up there swinging their dicks competing.”
She was talking about Gluttony and Lust. I’d heard the Moderators used the codenames to speak of them earlier. They were quite a sight. Gluttony was the one who seemed to smile a lot. Looking at him you’d probably think he was a nice guy but who knew. He was an assassin after all. Lust on the other hand had a less welcoming look with this dangerous glare behind his eyes.
The men were built like war machines, their chest muscles bulging and their biceps balls of strength. Even their short legs were swelling with muscle.
“Are they even human any longer?” I ask.
“That bitch sure isn’t helping, either,” Sloth grunts.
She’s pointing at Greed, who is holding her own and definitely representing a strong woman. Greed is covered is sweat and not too far from the boys. Clearly seeing a woman keep up with these Pitbulls was quite the sight to see. They’d been going for hours already without stop. I didn’t get it.
“Am I in the twilight zone?” I ask her, “Why am I here? How do I fit in with…THAT?”
Sloth looks at me with a concerned look on her face.
“Tom sees something…”
I roll my eyes, “I don’t know why I’m here. I really don’t.”
“Prepare for what?”
“Oh be real, like you don’t know.”
“He wants us to kill his enemies,” Sloth says as though this is the most normal thing in the world, “Hired bug exterminators.”
I look over at the three others who are still doing the obstacle courses. They must have been some very big bugs for him to have sought out the likes of a Gluttony, Greed and Lust. Whether it’s Gluttony’s brick-like abs, Greed’s perseverance or Lust’s frightening nature… I knew these people were good at what they did. And it frightened me to know what they actually did.
“We’re the bad guys now…”
“What was that?”
I thought I said it underneath my breath. It had risen up to my thoughts as soon as she mentioned that we were killing Tom’s enemies. Tom was an awful person. He was a terrible person in fact. The idea that we’d be helping him meant that we were bad people as well.
I shake my head and say, “Nevermind…”
I don’t know this Sloth girl. She seemed nice enough but I don’t know any of these people. That meant that I also couldn’t trust them. Not now. Not ever.
I look towards the door. There is one person I did know when I arrived here though and I’m not sure where he was. He hadn’t come back.
“You’re worried about your friend…” she states reading my mind.
That’s the thing about these Assembly members. It’s the reason I couldn’t trust them. They were smart. Too smart. It’s almost like Sloth was a mind reader. I don’t want to answer but when I turn I see her curious face staring back as though daring me to lie.
“Love isn’t my friend.”
“You mean Envy?”
These name changes would be the death of me.
“Envy. He isn’t my friend,” I state, “He hates me actually.”
“We dated the same guy. An assassin named Craving. The guy preferred me over Love. He died in my arms and I don’t think Love has ever truly forgiven me.”
Sloth pauses. She yawns to the point that I think my story bores her but lazily she turns to me and shrugs, “How’d he die?”
She shrugs, “Figures. I had a husband once. A kid too. He was five. Tom got em too.”
“Oh my god…”
She shakes her head, “You don’t start a life. Once you are part of the Assembly, you are Assembly for life. No matter where you go, no matter how long you try to hide. No matter what happens. He finds you. This is our life.”
She sounded so…defeated. I look at her wondering if I can say anything to comfort her. Anything at all. But I can’t. It would be insincere. That is because there was no comfort in the Assembly. All people like us knew was pain and sadness. That is all we ever knew.
“Envy may have a plan,” I state, “Did you catch by any chance where they took him?”
“Infirmary. It’s down the hall…”
“You think they’ll let me go see him.”
“Doubt it,” she states, “But you can try. I’ll make a distraction for you…”
I think about stopping her after she offers because I get nervous but I don’t. Maybe a part of me really wants to escape. It’s unlike me though. Even just by not begging her to stop. Maybe the fear of punishment for disobeying Tom’s rules is only trumped by the fear of knowing exactly what is going to happen to me when he finds out that he kidnapped the wrong guy.
I don’t stop her though. I don’t stop Sloth as she gets off her big butt and walks over to the obstacle course. It’s strange how sure she is because I see her pull at a rope. It’s the slightest tug and she crosses her arms.
I think she’s confused but realize that the net that Gluttony and Envy are sliding underneath begins collapsing. The two boys struggle to go through it causing the moderators to turn with attention.
And that’s when I walk out.
The hallways are long, empty and never-ending. A part of me wonders about escape. How though? What if I got outside? If I remember anything from my childhood this place was surrounded by forests. How many miles would it go? And even then how long would it take for Tom to send his assassins out to catch me…or worse.
Still I had to try.
But first I had to find Envy.
I turn down a hallway. My mind is going blank. I’m clearly around the infirmary but as I open a door I think I don’t see a bed. But there is definitely someone in here.
I look around for moderators and walk into the room. My heart is racing. The room is pitch black. I flick on the nearest light and see at the end of the huge room something that looks like some sort of opening to a cell. And I swear I hear something back there.
What is it though?
An animal? It had to be…
“Envy?” I repeat again.
I get closer to the cell. My heart racing. Whatever it was, it was angry. Either it dragged it’s feet or tail through the cell. Whatever animal it was made a popping sound as I crept towards the bars. The rattle of his breath was lost under the steady drone of a scratching noise. The scraping of his claws could be mistaken for some noises I used to hear at construction sites.
That’s when I get to the bars and I’m shocked at what I see.
“Hey who are you?” I ask.
That’s when I notice how the man crouches down. It’s as though he is depending on his hands as well as his feet. Could it be that this man was making that noise? That’s when I see how it lifts it’s head. Almost like an animal stalking it’s prey.
That’s when I see him raise his nose in the air, sniff and RUN!
The run is quick, fast. Before I know it he’s loping towards me quicker than I could imagine was possible any other way. And that’s when he jumps leaping a distance that I didn’t know possible clearing his entire huge cell to get to the bars and clings to them. His body pressed up against them looking at me.
I fall back on my ass.
And somehow looking at this thing I knew that if these bars weren’t here that it would RIP me entirely apart. He’s more beast than man.
And while I look at him I have the strangest thought.
He was attractive…
“You shouldn’t be in here…” a voice states.
I turn at that moment and I see Tom. It all happens in a flash when he slams his foot up against my head and I black out completely.
I wake up wanting to scream in a room but realizing I’d just been unconscious for a while. I’m sitting in a chair but this time I’m tied up. Not too far away from me is Tom. He has a newspaper in his hands when I wake up and doesn’t seem all that interested in my activity.
“What was that?” I ask him.
“The 7th sin…”
It hadn’t even seen a human. In the Assembly I’d seen many things but I hadn’t seen something like this. A man who could run on all fours with the speed of an animal and leap great bounds with a single pounce. My heart was racing at the idea of what exactly this thing that Tom kept hidden away from the rest of us were.
I tried to remember the face of the thing but I couldn’t in that moment. Maybe it’s because Tom knocked me over the head but I remembered something strange. I felt…connected to that thing for some reason and I don’t know why.
“Yes,” he states, “Physically that is. Mentally…that’s another question. But you shouldn’t have seen something like that. You disobeyed me…”
I’d never spent time with Tom personally. I’d never been important enough when I was training as a child. This was the first time I’m in a room with him by myself. This is the first time he was taking time talking to me alone. I knew there had to be a reason for this and I knew I wouldn’t like it.
“Sir I’m so sorry I’m so sorry—-”
“Look through the glass…tell me what you see…”
I hadn’t even realized there was a glass in the room until the light flicks off and I see the what I thought was a wall illuminate to show a two-way glass. Behind the glass there are two people standing there. They weren’t just any two people.
“Oh my god!”
All of a sudden I lose it. All of a sudden I realize that this is my mother and my father standing behind the glass. They are staring there looking at me. I hadn’t seen them in so long. They seem so confused as though they’d waken up from a dream and found themselves in this nightmare.
“That is your mother and father,” he tells me, “But of course you know that. I had them brought in. Your mother just had a baby. You have a little brother. Your two sisters are at home right now unaware of the fact that your parents are being taken…”
I’m begging at this point. I can’t move but even if I did I knew it would be pointless. At this point I had nothing else I can do but beg.
“You are not allowed to wander. Didn’t the moderators make that clear?”
How long had I been out? Had he brought them in after I wandered and saw this 7th sin. Clearly he didn’t want me to see the 7th sin. Clearly it was a big enough deal to arrange such an elaborate punishment as bringing me here. Why was the 7th sin such a secret?
They hadn’t given many instructions, but I don’t want to argue that fact with Tom. I knew it wouldn’t have worked with him. I knew the rules. You did what Tom told you to do and you did it when he told you to do it. That’s how it always worked.
“I apologize. Sir.”
“I accept. Choose one.”
He scares me when he fingers through his newspaper. I knew what this meant. I knew what the fucking this meant. I stand there, breathing heavy strapped to this chair. My chest is beating hard. It scares me even more how calm Tom is. This means nothing to him. This was just some sort of transaction. Nothing more than swiping a card at a gas station.
He wanted me to chose one. But for what?
“Only one survives. You apologized and I took mercy on you. I planned on killing them both,” he says, “So choose one.”
“If you don’t choose one both die….”
I look over at my parents. A part of me thinks this is some sort of nightmare. Maybe I was still unconscious. Could they possibly be really here after all this time? My dad seems so lost and he’s saying something to my mother. He’s trying to calm her down. She’s panicking. She always panicked just like me. She was so afraid. I think that’s where I got it from. I never looked like my parents, but I took up after them. They raised me to be careful. Always to be careful. Why hadn’t they been careful? How had they gotten here?
My mother is crying. My dad is trying to calm her down. This was torture for them.
“You had your chance.”
Someone walks into the room with them. A masked figure. Some nameless assassin. It didn’t matter who it was. He was just another hand of Tom. That’s why we were all here. We were here to be hands of Tom. This was Tom. This was always Tom.
And we were nothing more than puppets.
We did what he said. When he said it.
Finally the words crawl out of my throat as though being squeezed, “Mother—–”
I don’t have to say what happened. I don’t recall. I’ve never cried so much that my mind goes blank. The strange thing about it is that Tom allows me to cry. Even when the moderators fill up the room and scrape my dad’s body off the floor. Even when they scurry my frenzied mother out of the room. I pitied her now…even more than my father.
How could it possibly feel to have your son gone missing and now have your husband killed? And the worst part of it is that she was so close.
She was so close and yet so far.
“You never went home when you escaped,” Tom states, “Why?”
I can’t speak.
Tom’s eyes glare at me, “I won’t ask again.”
“You’d find them if I had gone home.”
Spit falls out of my mouth. I feel weak. I feel numb. I could do nothing for my father. I could do nothing for my mother. I felt responsible. I had chosen her over him. I chose her for my siblings. They needed her. But my mother wasn’t strong. She needed him. She needed my father. I had gotten my weak nature from my mother. She taught me how to be passive. She taught me how to be sweet.
“I would have found them anyway. She misses you,” he tells me, “She cried for you every night when you went missing. She never stopped looking for you when I kidnapped you as a child. She wrote letters to everyone. They sold their home to hire private investigators and detectives. For years they looked and they never gave up on you. Never. You were their Roland. Their oldest boy…”
Roland. I barely even remember my own name anymore. It’d been so long. A part of me wished they had just forgotten about me but I knew better. It hurt me so much more knowing that they never stopped looking at me.
I want to scream. I want her to hear me. But I know she can’t. She can’t see me. She doesn’t know I’m here.
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because you have a chance to save her,” he states, “I’m going to send her home to be with her kids but if you don’t do what I say I’m going to visit her. I’m going to kill her, slowly in front of her children. Then I’m going to kill the older two. Then I’m going to leave the baby…to die…slow…”
He was a monster. This was what he was. This is what he always was. The definition of cruelty. I’d done nothing to Tom. My family were good people. My mother worked for non-profits all of her life. My dad was a priest dedicating his life to his faith and his community.
“I’ll do anything.”
Who did he need me to kill? I’d find a way. I was weak. I was terribly weak, but I’d get stronger. I’d do whatever it took. WHATEVER. IT. TOOK.
I just didn’t want my mother to be in pain anymore. I didn’t want to see her cry anymore.
“That creature that you saw earlier. You’ll make it fall in love with you. And you WILL make it kill Desire.”