They called him the Creature.
They called him the Monster.
They called him the Pride Beast.
But at the moment he felt more like just Pride. I am in the grass. This figure over me. This body. The Pride monster. He’s handsome in all honesty. I look back in his eyes and I see just how ferocious it is. I get a better look at this Pride person. I see his full lips. He has high cheekbones that add some carnivorous look to him, especially now when he looks at me with a serious facial expression and his head tilted forward. Those cheekbones made him seem so confident and strong. And that’s when I see veins. There’s something sexy about tensed arms as he has his fists buried into the ground. He’s shirtless and has a smooth chest and those veins add texture from his solid chest all the way down his tight abs. He had the body of an Assembly assassin, but there was definitely something different about Pride. But somehow when it looks at me it seems to almost recognize me.
“Where’d it come from?” Lust asks.
Lust takes a step forward and that’s the wrong move. I see the creature’s stomach tense up and tone. He lifts his body up from the ground. The Pride beast then literally takes off as though he had a rocket in his knees and before I know it he’s vibrating and crashing to the ground. I lean up at him and look at him.
The Pride Beast has been immobilized by Tom who has activated an electrical collar. It was as though this man. This sexy, fast, powerful looking man was some sort of animal. And when he hits the ground the only thing I can think of is I feel sorry for him.
“Why did he save me?”
I’m in a room. I’ve been taken to a room and I’m assuming that the reason is that an hour ago I tried to jump off a cliff. I should be nervous and I am especially when Tom comes into the room and takes an opposite seat across me. I’m nervous but I’m also curious. Why did the Pride Beast rescue me?
“It—-doesn’t save people,” Tom corrects me.
“I saw it show a level of interest. A level of curiosity,” Tom explains, “It is curious about you. It has exceptional instincts.”
“What is wrong with him?” I ask.
“Biological engineering. Part of him is human and sometimes something else comes out. Something else I have called the Beast. What you saw earlier seemed to be more the man than the beast. But don’t be surprised. The Beast is in there.”
Remembering how fast Pride was able to pull me from my death, I’m surprised that there was another part of him even more threatening. I’m a little terrified of what this Beast thing is.
“You said his parents did this to him?”
“Yes. His parents were cruel. His father was a medical doctor and his mother a serial killer. His mother would bring his father victims where he would perform unorthodox scientific experiments. When the Feds caught up to the couple, they were forced to retreat out of the country to the woods. She was pregnant at the time. The FEDs raided the hospital she gave birth in and she was barely able to escape. Without any test dummies, they decided to have a child and do their testing on him. This is what occurred.”
“And how’d he come to you?”
“Given to me,” he explains.
“Oh my god.”
What kind of parents would do something like this to their child? Almost immediately I feel so heavy. My parents were kind. They loved me. They were sweet to me. They cherished me. I couldn’t imagine anything else but love.
“How does he know me?” I ask.
“He knows you?”
I stop talking and thinking about him. The look of recognition. Him saving me the way he did. There was a reason he did it but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.
“I think so.”
I didn’t want to say much more, this was Tom after all. He was still a threat. He was still dangerous and he was still my enemy.
“Well you’ll figure it out for me,” Tom explains, “I first realized he had an interest in you when I was scrolling through pictures. I liked to work by his cage. His ferocity sometimes entertains me. The perfect weapon but for some reason, I can’t use it. It won’t do what I say. It isn’t afraid of death like other humans. It doesn’t show any signs of fear, or regret, or sensibilities. He was underground and I would go underground to see him in his isolation. Imagine being locked up underground? He was quite angry. The Pride monster just so happened to be in a cage next to me at the moment. I had been scrolling right past your picture trying to pick out my 7 sins and that’s when the Pride monster goes calm. He stares. The closer I bring your photo the calmer he gets.”
“That’s why I’m here because the Pride Beast reacted to my picture.”
“You mean something to him. I’m not sure what it is but you will find out for me. And you’re going to have to stay alive until then. After you get the Pride Beast to kill Desire you can die if you’d like. Jump off any cliff you want. But not until then.”
“You think you can stop me from killing myself?” I ask him.
I feel brave at that moment, but it just lasts a moment. Tom’s eyes settle on me and I know he is calling my bluff.
“Your little sister is at John Edwards Middle School right now talking to her best friend Susie. I have two assassins tracking her, ready to tie her up and disfigure her. You die and I make your mother eat your little sister and her best friend Susie before I murder the rest of them. Is that what you want?”
He was gruesome. The hatred in his eyes is almost stifling. I shouldn’t expect anything less from Tom.
“I’ll help you. I’ll…help…you…”
“Good. You’ll have some alone time with the Pride Beast. He’s curious about you now. He’d been locked up for quite some time without any curiosities, and then there was you. The first thing to cause him not to act like some sort of wild beast. That curiosity is potent. Turn that curiosity into love. And turn that love into an obsession. And then turn him into a weapon. And point that weapon to Desire.”
I nod, “I’ll do as you say.”
I get up, ready to leave but Tom stops me, “Oh Ardor.”
I realize he is calling me Ardor instead of Wrath. I have a feeling he didn’t look at me like the others and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But my title was still Wrath. For some reason, even someone who could control the Pride Beast was valuable to him.
“Don’t let him know that I am making you seduce him. I told you that Pride has unique instincts. If he knows you are manipulating him, he will kill you. And this is a death that you won’t desire, Ardor. Do you understand?”
For the first time, I understood the idea of being between a rock and a hard place.
The days go past before Tom lets us know we are going to have another interaction with Pride. We are in the locker room. I’m sitting next to Sloth. She’s been the only one kind to me. Lust and the others still have been rather crude with me but I haven’t felt any immediate attraction and I am assuming it’s because I’m under Gluttony’s protection. What I had to do for that protection however makes me sick.
I see Gluttony staring at me even now when I turn to the locker and pull out some black robes. We’d be doing another training session. My body was sore and the last thing I wanted was the idea of Gluttony wanting to force himself on me again. Strange that someone so put together as Gluttony would be so rough but someone so wild as Pride would be…well…
Pride was soft with me.
I’m nervous knowing that I was going to have to try to communicate with this Creature. What was weird for me was I knew nothing about him. Did Pride even talk?
“They are finally bringing out Pride to train with us,” Lust states, “We need to kill him.”
I’m not surprised Lust has presented this to us. He’d been whispering around the corners for days and I had just imagined it had something to do with Pride.
“Tom wouldn’t like that,” Greed states,
“Tom would thank us for proving to him that we are actually more powerful than Pride,” Lust explains, “Don’t you want to prove to Tom that you are more powerful than this creature he can’t control?”
I see Greed thinking about it, “I would like to kill Desire myself. Imagine the cred of the assassin who is able to rid this world of Tom’s greatest threat.”
It seemed at times the thing that they valued most in this world was pleasing Tom. This was the Underworld and Tom was a king…no a GOD in this world. He pulled all the strings and he wanted to tighten the strings around Desire’s neck.
“You guys think it will be so easy?” Love asks, “Even if we kill Pride—-whatever that thing is…you don’t think it will be easy, do you? Urge, Desire and the REAL Wrath will tear you all apart.”
Love-Envy seems sure about this as he crosses his arms and smiles as though feeling a sense of entitlement from the powerful reputation that his friends have amassed. I would have liked to feel that same sort of pride but truthfully I didn’t think I was friends with those boys. Desire was kind to me but at times I felt like it was only because I dated his dead best friend.
“We’ll figure out Desire when we get around there,” Lust explains. “But Envy would you rather us against Desire or that…CREATURE out there?”
Envy gets quiet. I know he cared about Desire and his other friends. They’d been through a lot together. So many times I wished I could be a real part of that group. I never could keep up with them though and it showed. I wasn’t a part of the Love, Wrath, Urge, Desire, Craving, and Allure group. I never was and now that Craving was dead I never would be.
I know he must make sense to Envy because he nods, “Fine. I’m down. If nothing but to piss off Tom and take away one of his toys.”
“What about you, weirdo girl?” Lust asks Sloth.
I don’t think Sloth had gotten over Lust slapping her. But I think she did earn a tiny bit of respect from him for licking up her blood like a weirdo. Maybe I should start acting all weird like Sloth and they’d leave me alone.
“Too much work,” she states.
“Lazy bitch,” Gluttony laughs standing up and stretching, “You not going to ask Ardor?”
Lust looks over at me, “No need. He’s useless.”
I walk out of the room last hearing the words that Lust spoke echoing in my brain like some sort of rotten smell. I was useless. He had asked every assassin to help him take down the Pride Monster except me.
“Tom will not be attending this series of training,” a moderator announces, “You are to spar with weapons. You will be scored with your weapon use.”
“This is a test?” Gluttony asks.
“It’s always a test. Don’t fail.”
I don’t think anyone needed the talk. We’d seen what happened to those who failed. Some of us, me including had experienced first hand what happened when you failed. Maybe that’s why my stomach rises up into my throat and I get wheezy. A part of me wants to vomit and the other part of me wants to cry. I end up standing towards the back with Sloth. Lucky for her, even Ms. Lazy outshined me when it came to her tired attempts to try these things.
“One additional thing,” The moderator states, “Pride will be joining you.”
It gets quiet. I can see the other assassins in the room looking laser focused at the door. I know why. I see about 10 moderators walk into the room. Five are heavily armed with guns and the other five aren’t. As they walk into the room they carry Pride’s cage. I watch the familiar cage and see through the bars to Pride. He’s kneeling, staring at nothing at all but staring intensely as though it is the most important nothingness in the world.
Goddam he’s so handsome and I think the others recognize it as well. We were all bisexual after all. They wouldn’t recognize it though. He was far too dangerous to enjoy his good looks. I can tell that just by looking at him.
“You might want to take a step back. Let them all kill each other,” Sloth whispers to me.
She had the right idea and I do what she says just in time to see Greed walking towards a weapons rack. The weapons rack were supposed to be for sparing. They had some sharp weapons but most of them were wood swords. Practice swords. Clearly, Greed isn’t going for one of those.
“Hello, Pride,” she states, “I’m Greed.”
Pride doesn’t look her way. He just sits there. If he heard the instructions that we had to spar, he was disregarding them as though he could care less what Tom or the moderators had to say. And I really wonder how do you control someone who was uncontrollable?
When he doesn’t respond Greed seems to be even further pissed off. I see her tying up her curly black hair in a loose ponytail. She was pretty at times and other times you see the killer come out. No makeup. No pretty things. She cuts the bullshit and turns into a sweat dripping, dirty, baseless killer. She reaches to the sai and at the same time tosses Envy a spear.
I watch shockingly as Love makes the first move, not hesitating to toss the spear right at Pride. I watch his hands release the weapons and I panic.
This wasn’t how this was going to happen.
I don’t know why I let the words leave my mouth so willingly. Sloth looks at me like I’ve lost my mind interfering in this. And maybe I have. Maybe I’ve gone crazy but I’m warning Pride that these people were after him. Not just one of them. All of them.
The spear misses Pride, only by an inch. And perhaps I was the reason for that inch. I’m not sure but the look that the others give me lets me know that I have just drawn a line that I shouldn’t have drawn.
“Dammit,” Greed says.
She runs forward with sai in her hands. Sai were a weapon that originated in Okinawa. I knew much about them from reading all the books when I was in the first Assembly. They were a blunted, prong shaped metal ball with curved prongs coming out of the handle.
She approaches fast and I’m impressed almost immediately with her when she thrusts her sai as though it’s an extension of her arm. Pride is fast though. He’s smart. He backs up blocking her attack. As he attempts to strike with bare hands, Greed spins the Sai in her dominant hand around. In this manner, the Sai acts almost like an exoskeleton, allowing her to block the blow without damaging her bones or muscle since the blow only comes into direct contact with the hard steel of the Sai blade.
“She’s going in for a hook,” I state.
I look over at Sloth who raises her eyebrow, “How did you know that?”
I shrug. I just did. Maybe from watching so many fights. I’m right though. She attempts to hook the sai. Once she blocks another fist she uses the sai in her other hand to do a straight up thrust in the area of Pride’s wrist and lower forearm. The idea was to hook his flesh or clothing and break Pride’s. She then thrusts downward with the other Sai. The edge of the blade is not sharpened, but the tip does come to a point that can penetrate human flesh.
Only it doesn’t. Pride manages to neutralize her sweeping her to the ground and stomping her before her sai attack can land.
Seeing Greed take the fall she does causes alarm for the others. Greed was no walk in the park. I’d seen her train with Gluttony and Lust. I’d seen her being able to hold her own with two titans easily. How was this possible?
“Goddam. All of us, at once,” Lust states.
They all attack. Gluttony, Lust, and Envy.
“I should help him,” I tell Sloth.”
“You can’t do anything for him but get in his way,” Sloth states.
I turn and notice Pride getting surrounded. I would have thought the Moderators would stop this but they don’t. They don’t stop it. They allow Lust and Gluttony to get swords. They allow Envy to pick up 10 shuriken throwing stars.
My heart beats as I watch what happens. I watch in denial as Gluttony goes for him slashing through the air as though he was cutting a path through the universe to Pride. But even with his fierceness, Lust gets to Pride. The swipe down causes Pride to stumble a bit. Lust was fast enough to get a part of his pants but not much more than that. He was weaponless.
I had to help.
So as they are fighting I’m running toward the weapon rack, jumping over Greed’s immobilized body to get to the weapon rack.
What would he use?
What would he fucking use?
“Why don’t you die?” I hear a growl from Envy.
At this point, half of Envy’s stars are gone. Envy had been throwing them at Pride and not yet managed to make contact. It seems the smaller of the men stand from a distance struggling to make contact while the two bigger swordsmen attempt desperately to cut Pride in half.
Pride moves in a way like an animal. As though he was more comfortable with his body than we were. He uses his hands sometimes to leverage his body as though they can completely handle the weight of his body naturally. I watch how he slides across the floors like a snake moving between the slashes of Gluttony and Lust.
I’m overwhelmed scared that any moment they may make contact. They may kill him.
And I didn’t want him dead.
At this point, I’m tossing him a sword. I manage to get it close enough for him to grab. He looks down seeing the 420 stainless steel with a coated non-glare wrapped in nylon.
And that’s when I realize the others are more distracted by me throwing the sword than he is. He doesn’t even seem to really care that I’ve thrown it. When Gluttony looks down on the ground I watch his face getting smashed to the ground by Pride. And as soon as he hits the ground Pride literally lifts his foot underneath Gluttony and manages to send him spiraling directly into Envy a few feet away to cause an epic clash that causes both men to hit the ground.
That leaves Lust.
That’s when I see Pride literally lift off the ground like a panther. He leaps onto Lust in a way that surprises me. I mean I’d seen many fighting techniques but this wasn’t one of them. I’m not surprised Lust doesn’t see it coming. I’m not surprised when Lust is knocked to the ground and Pride begins to slam on his chest like a baboon over and over.
I hear the bellowing moans of Lust as he takes the hits over and over.
Over and over.
Over and over.
Finally, the moderators step in and activate Pride’s collar causing him to squirm over in a violent panic of pain from being electrocuted.
I’m standing looking at the group of dangerous men disabled within minutes by Pride as they drag Pride back to his cage and ferry him away.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Sloth states, “You shouldn’t have gotten involved.”
“I had no choice.”
“The choice was to stay out of it,” she explains, “It was nice knowing you, buddy. You just made yourself enemy number 1, Ardor. I don’t see you surviving here much longer.”
She was right.
I see the look of the other assassins as they get up off the ground. Some of them are going to need serious medical attention especially Lust who can hardly breathe after having his chest beat on like that. He’s coughing up blood and looking over at me.
And I might as well have written my will.
Sloth was right.
I was dead.