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Doom Patrol #12 - The Song of Love (Part 12)

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posted by alias The Sea Monster on Saturday 5th of September 2020 05:46:37 PM

Cliff sits hunched over in the corner as he watches the puddle of flesh begin to stir under its unwearable clothes. He props himself up against the cave wall and watches as the mass begins to re-mould itself, growing limbs and filling out the clothing around it. After a few moments it transforms from the mass of flesh into a fully grown person – now with a head and hair. Rita groans as she sits up and steadies herself, looks at her body and adjusts her clothing. Cliff isn’t sure if she’s noticed him quietly sitting opposite, but his suspicions are confirmed when she glances across to him and gasps, wrapping her arms instinctively round her body. Cliff: I… I… Rita lets out a long breath and holds up a hand. Rita: You don’t have to say anything. In fact, I’d prefer it if you didn’t. Cliff: I… I’m sorry. I had no idea. Rita: It’s fine. Now forget it. They say nothing, Cliff feeling like a scolded child as he stares at the ground. Rita: Are you okay? He looks at her. Cliff: I’m alright. Don’t think these freaks realised you can’t exactly knock a robot unconscious. Rita: Who are they? Cliff: No fuckin’ idea. Rita: How long have I been out? Cliff: Couple o’ hours or so. Rita: And when did I… Cliff: Not that long ago. None of them saw, I promise. She nods curtly and looks around the cave. To the side of them is a crude selection of uneven bits of metal, assembled in the shape of a cell door. Rita: Where are we? Cliff: A cave. Rita: Yes, thank you Cliff. I had worked that out. Do you have any idea where this cave is? Cliff: Not sure. They dragged us through the trees for a while, kept tryna cover my eyes so I couldn’t see where we were goin’. It kinda got confusin’. They dumped us in here and told us to wait. Rita: And Larry? Cliff: Dunno. Think they left him in the van. Rita says nothing. Cliff: They kept callin’ me The Idol. Know what the fuck that means? Rita: No idea. Cliff pauses for a moment, the elephant in the room rearing its ugly head and getting ready to trample them. Cliff: Do you think this has got somethin’ to do with that weedy little fuckjob? Rita: Assuming you mean Eric, I doubt it. He was unconscious on the floor last I saw of him. Hardly a well-executed plan if he did. Cliff: I guess. But if this wasn’t him then who was it? Rita: I think we’re about to find out. From outside the door comes the sound of voices as a skinny woman with long wild hair swings it open and steps inside. Woman: Our Lord requests your presence. Both of you. You will come. From behind her emerge two more gaunt figures, both wielding spears. Rita recognises one of them as the man in the Hawaiian shirt from before. They approach Cliff and Rita and motion for them to stand. Rita gets up and offers a hand to Cliff as he struggles to his heavy feet. The woman turns and leads them out of the cave and down a rocky tunnel. It doesn’t take long for them both to realise they are underground. Cliff leans in to Rita and whispers as best as he can. Cliff: This is some real Manson family shit right here… She glances over her shoulder at the two spearmen and says nothing. They’re led down another network of small tunnels, before they’re brought to a halt before an opening in the cave wall. Warm, orange light radiates upwards, but it’s blocked by the woman as she turns around to face them. In the light, Cliff and Rita notice her mangled nose and bloodshot eyes. Woman: You will now be granted an audience with our Lord. Show any sign of trouble and we will not hesitate to send you to the Great White God. She turns back and Cliff and Rita shoot each other a glance. The woman goes through the opening and they follow her into a large clearing. Flames roar around them in crude sconces wedged clumsily into the jagged wall, and Cliff realises this to be the source of that warm orange glow. Above them hang pointed stalactites tangled with vines and dark vegetation, which every so often send droplets of water falling to the rough ground below. The rock around them is carved haphazardly into different nooks and crannies for one to stand upon, and all around them, stood on different levels of the cave are skinny, dishevelled people – watching them like a vulture would a fresh carcass. Some are barely clothed; others are wrapped in shreds of material that once could’ve been bright clothing. Cliff glances around at them and notices some have painted white lines across their faces. Some of them gasp as they see him, others whispering quickly to each other in an incomprehensible language. They walk a few more steps into the clearing and stop before a mass of wooden stakes tied together to resemble a throne. Cliff: What the fuck? Okay, forget the Mansons, this shit is one hundred percent Apocalypse Now. But no one hears Cliff as the woman leading the procession throws her arms into the air and drops to her knees, prompting everyone else in the cave to do so. Cliff and Rita stare at each other, now the only ones standing, but their attention is drawn to a shape stirring in the makeshift throne before them. Unsure how they could have missed him, a man dressed in bright red robes sits up in his seat and shakes a shock of fantastically white hair out of his face. His pale white eyes illuminate his rough, pockmarked face as he looks at the pair of them and smiles a wide, yellow smile. The woman on the ground raises her head. Woman: My Lord – The Idol of the Great White God, and his muse. Rita: I am no one’s muse thank you very much! Cliff looks around confusedly as the robed man stands. He reaches into a small pot on the side of the throne and pulls out a pinch of white powder, which he promptly lifts to his nose and snorts violently. He convulses, his long white hair cascading around his face, and snaps his neck upwards to look at Cliff. Snowflame: This-is-a-divine-moment! His words come out in a volley of excitement. He snorts, flinches and continues. Snowflame: My Children! Stand! F-f-f-for this day a glorious sign has been sent to us! A sign f-f-f-rom the Great White God himself! The cave dwellers get up off their knees and stand in silence. Snowflame: I am Snowflame; cocaine is my God! His divine knowledge burns in white-hot ecstasy through my veins! Cliff and Rita are dumbstruck. Neither says a word. Snowflame: Snowflame’s people have seen you yes-they-have. They watch you f-f-for hours. They tell Snowflame a sign – an Idol of the Great White God – has entered his Kingdom. Let-me-look-at-you. He jumps down off his throne and faces Cliff. Cliff: Uh… hello? Snowflame: So the Idol has addressed Snowflame… Cliff looks around uncomfortably. Cliff: Uh, yeah… about that. I think you mighta got the wrong guy, man… Snowflame: Heresy beyond thoughts above! He jumps up wildly and kicks the air. Snowflame: EYAAAAAAAAAAH! Cliff says nothing. Snowflame: Look, Idol… look upon your shrine and tell Snowflame he is mistaken! Snowflame calms himself and turns and points above his throne. Painted on the cave wall is a golden head surrounded by hundreds of white dots. They all look at it for a minute before Rita scoffs. Rita: Wait a minute… you think that’s Cliff? Snowflame looks at her as if she has just pulled her pants down and soiled herself all over the floor. Snowflame: Silence, heathen! Snowflame takes heed only of the Idol, not his muse! The Great White God has sent Snowflame a sign – his Idol, in the f-f-f-flesh! He steps forwards and places his hands on Cliff’s metal cheeks. Snowflame: Gaze upon his might. GAZE, HEATHENS! Voices: We gaze upon his might o’ Lord! He removes his hands from Cliff’s face. Cliff looks around and faces him. Cliff: Wait a minute wait a minute… you think I’m like, a sign? From God? Snowflame: The Idol has conf-f-f-fessed his sanctity! Cliff: Well that ain’t so bad, right? He turns to Rita. She looks at him with a mixture of annoyance and bewilderment, half convinced she’s still asleep. Cliff: So, mister Snowflame. What do you uh… want me to do? Say a few prayers? Form a crackhead, gospel choir? Joyful-joyful Lord we snort thee and shit? I could get into that… Rita grabs his arm and hisses at him. Rita: May I remind you why we’re here? Cliff: I know I know! Rita: I’d hate to think you’re enjoying this. Cliff: I’m not. But you gotta admit – it does look a little like me. Rita: Are you- Snowflame winces and spins on the spot. Snowflame: SILENCE PLEEEEEEASE! He looks at Cliff. Snowflame: The Gods have sent you here to test Snowflame. Snowflame sees it written in the Snow. He pinches some more powder from the pot and blows it into the air. Rita grunts and bats it away like an irritating wasp. Snowflame: Snowflame shall prove his worth to the Gods by sending them your head – or die trying! From the crowd of onlookers, a voice pipes up. Voice: Throw him to the Hemo Goblin! Snowflame: No, Mary. We don't... fuck no. Jeez… Voice: Sorry. Cliff and Rita shoot each other a glance. Snowflame: We shall duel at the setting of the sun! A fight to the death! With the powder of the Gods on Snowflame’s side, he shall prove himself worthy to them! The winner will be victorious! YES! What say you, Idol? Cliff: Uh… Snowflame: It is decided! Tonight! Prepare yourself! He claps his hands and Cliff and Rita are seized by the two spearmen. He jumps onto his throne, snorts a line, and throws a fist into the air. Snowflame: May the Snow fall everlasting! Voices: May the Snow fall everlasting! Cliff and Rita can only gape silently as they are dragged out of the cave and back down the tunnels. ==================== Eric stirs, feeling the bristles of the van’s old carpet brushing his face. He sits up and groans, pain radiating from the spot where his head landed on the floor. As he massages his head, he doesn’t notice Larry sat staring right at him. Larry: You alright? Morden: I think so. Larry stands abruptly and uses all his strength to seize Eric by his sweater. Now he notices him. He yelps as Larry pulls him to his feet and pushes him against the wall. Larry: What happened to them? Morden: To who? Larry: Cliff and Rita! Where did they take them? Morden: I don’t know! I don’t even know who they were! Larry: Don’t lie to me Eric! Morden: I swear! I didn’t have anything to do with this! Larry: You’ve never seen those people before? Morden: Never! Larry pauses. He tenses his fists for a moment but releases Eric. Larry: Dammit. He leaves Eric and goes outside, careful to avoid the bits of broken glass scattered across the carpet. He stands at the edge of the road and opens his arms. Larry: I could really use your help now buddy. He looks at his chest but nothing happens. Larry: Come on, help me! For once in your life work with me! Nothing. He lets his arms drop disappointedly to his side and sits against the van. Eric pokes his head out nervously, assessing the situation and determines it’s safe for him to come out. He makes his way down the steps and notices one of their attacker’s spears left abandoned on the floor. He picks it up, testing its weight in his hands, and edges carefully down next to Larry. Morden: Are you okay? Larry: Niles is still out there, the van’s a mess, I’ve lost Cliff and Rita and the parasitic entity that lives inside me doesn’t care about my feelings. So yeah Eric, I’m great. Eric inspects the spear silently. Larry: I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. I don’t think it is, anyway. Eric sighs and looks at him. Morden: I’m sorry too. I should never have got tangled up in all this. Larry drops his head and watches an ant crawl up his boot. Eric continues to inspect the spear. Morden: Don’t you get hot in those? Larry: I don’t really feel heat anymore, so no. Not really. Morden: Oh. He looks around for a moment, working up the courage to ask Larry something. Morden: That thing inside you… do you mind me asking you what it is? Larry considers for a moment, then just as Eric thinks his inquiry pointless Larry replies. Larry: We call it the Negative Spirit. Eric gives him a wan smile and nods. He doesn’t really know why, but Larry continues. Larry: I was a pilot – a pretty good one, too. Flew everything. You name it, I’d do it. People started to realise this and some higher-ups recommended me as a test pilot. Of course I said yes – I jumped at the chance. I test anything and everything, fast stuff, slow stuff, stuff that’s safe, stuff that isn’t, so much so that I start to think I’m invincible. Shit happens and I get reckless; find myself signed on to this experimental project, KF-2 they called it. I remember it like it was yesterday – probably because every time I close my eyes I relive it. Everyone said it was a bad idea; that I shouldn’t do it. So like the fool I was I still did, and sure enough they were right. Flew the damn thing through this radiation belt, fried myself and the jet and, long story short, landed myself this. He points at his chest. Larry: It turned me radioactive, hence the bandages. Don’t worry, you’re not in any danger. People ran tests on me, and later Niles helped me to try and better understand it, but honestly? I know hardly any more about it than the day I took that flight. He trails off, watching as the ant crawls off his boot and scurries away across the dirt. Eric takes a moment to process Larry’s tale. Morden: Don’t you ever just… talk to it? Larry: I’ve tried. Anyway, what the hell would I ask it? Morden: I don’t know. Anything. My mother always used to say there’s no danger in a simple question. Larry doesn’t reply. They share the silence for a few minutes. Morden: I don’t think my mother ever thought I’d amount to much. Can’t say I blame her. Father left us when I was young, and I tried to be the man he wasn’t. I never was much of a leader, always the follower. But I tried. I failed, but I did try. She loved me though. I think she did. We only really had each other… Larry: If it helps, I wasn’t much of a father either. He picks at the spot on his boot where the ant had been. Larry: I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. Morden: S’okay. He looks at the ground sadly. Morden: You must really trust Niles, to come all the way out here. Larry: We all do. Morden: Must be nice, having people you can rely on like that. A family. Larry: We’re not that close. Morden: I think you are. Sure, you argue – who doesn’t? But I’d give anything to be respected the way they respect you. You might not see it, but I do. They followed you all this way, didn’t they? Larry says nothing. Eric leans back against the van and stares into the mid-afternoon sky. Morden: I wish I was a part of something… something bigger than me. All my life I’ve been the follower, and look where it’s got me. No offence. Larry raises a forgiving hand. Morden: When you found me, you said I could be a part of something. No one has ever been like that to me. I don’t know… I wanted to say thank you I guess. Larry sits up and looks out into the trees for a moment. He takes a breath and looks at his chest as it begins to slowly pulsate. He pats it carefully. Larry: I guess I’d better start thinking of something to say to the Spirit, huh? He gets up, brushes himself off and offers a hand to Eric. Eric grabs it and with his other hand picks up the spear. Larry: Come on, let’s go find the others. The van stands alone once more as they trudge over the ditch and into the trees.

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