Gray God
rating: +55+x

Jakeob Aldon watched the makeshift cast of The Hanged King's Tragedy sway back and forth. Almost a dozen anartists hung from nooses that extended all the way up to the warehouse's rafters. The initial shock was still there, albeit grounded by the realization that the being was not the Hanged King. It was just some clay poser. A poser that was capable of forcing so many people, who had likely built up resistances to various forms of magic, to hang themselves. Without all the prep the King seemed to require. Aldon swallowed heavily, as Hollywood had taught her.

"Well, this is happening," she muttered.

Felix hissed a string of unhelpful curses as his arms seemed to be collapsing in on his chest. Finnegan examined the scene quietly before nodding to himself.

"Any suggestions, Critic?"

Felix ceased his fidgeting. He thought for a moment, then asked, "Kill it?"

"Oh yes, let me just pull out my big god-killing gun."

"You have one of those?"


"Oh. Because that would have been extremely helpful, given our current situation."

Aldon decided, for her sanity's sake, to drop the conversation. Which was good, because it looked like her little outburst had garnered the being's attention. It cocked its head before snapping back much farther than a human neck would allow. It strode over to them, by now leaving clay chips and dust behind rather than half-wet clay footprints. When it was within stomping distance of them, it stopped. The ring on the center of its chest shifted into a mouth, which the being promptly used.

"Welcome back, Clipper! I see you've brought some friends." It stooped over to look at Aldon and Finnegan with its nonexistent eyes. "Care to take part in the encore performance? Although. The Critic hasn't shown up yet, so I guess the first might have just been rehearsal."

"Not much of an actress," Aldon replied after glancing at Felix. "Mind if I just watch?"

The actress comment seemed to give the being pause. Lips within the ring smacked together, only to come apart as eyelids. With its new eye the sculpture examined Aldon closely, namely centering on her face and chest, before it rolled back and the mouth reformed.

"Course not. Could always use a bigger audience. Let me gather the cast, should only take a few minutes."

Aldon nodded and politely waved as the thing departed, her mind kicking into overdrive. She watched it extract almost twenty anartists from their seats before lumbering over to the stage, where the curtain drew itself. All the while she wondered how she was supposed to kill the bloody thing.

Her gaze whipped to Felix. "Why does that thing think you're still The Clipper?"

"That clay we had you use? We got it from The Old Sculptor's workshop. Apparently it was clay he had imprinted his mind on. When he was trying to murder The Old Critic."

"Fan-fucking-tastic. So why is he murdering these guys?"

"When he first started talking, Sandra recognized his voice. She pulled a gun and started shooting, but… I mean, he's all magicked up. So he put on a play so The Critic will come to… well, criticize it."

"Okay, okay, okay," Aldon said. Her eyes darted back and forth as she searched the warehouse for anything that could be of use. There really wasn't much of anything, except maybe dropping one of the magic 'windows' on him. Hopefully the magic within the things would hurt him, even if the physical impact didn't. She'd have to fight fire with fire, magic to destroy magic. She looked to Finnegan to think about what they had brought.

"Well, that's a frightening look," Finnegan said.

Vaguely aware of a powerful tugging sensation at the corner of her mouth, Aldon looked her roommate dead in the eye. It made him lean back slightly.

"I have an Idea," she said.

"Oh. It's that look."

Grabbing him by the elbow, Aldon spun Finnegan in place and began rooting around in the backpack. Everett slinked out of the pack and onto Finnegan's shoulder, allowing Aldon easy access to the various elemental golems within. She scooped them up and grinned at the little creatures clinging to her arms. There were now somehow ten despite the fact Finnegan had most definitely placed nine in the pack back at the apartment.

"Seriously, where do you guys keep coming from?" she asked, more herself than them. Glancing into the backpack, she noticed there were significantly less CDs than Finnegan had actually put in there. "I don't even know what element some of you are."

The new golem waved its arms and tapped itself on the head, and then tapped Carbon on the head. Boron nodded and scratched at Zinc, filing the number 30 into its dome. The others followed suit until they were all labeled. Hydrogen, Boron, Carbon, Oxygen, Aluminum, Iron, Nickel, Copper, Zinc, and Gold looked up at her as Felix and Finnegan hurried off to untie the anartists.

"Oh. Huh. Thanks, Hydrogen. Nice thinking." She glanced between the others as they freed more and more anartists. Her gaze hovered on the stage before she looked down to the golems again. "So, uh, I need you guys to make yourselves into a weapon. I guess a sword will work."

Hydrogen, being the smart little fellow that it was, began pointing at the others and making elaborate gestures with its arms. The group leaped to the concrete below and began striking at it, chipping themselves and the ground in the process. Hydrogen and Oxygen were completely amputated by their comrades, releasing small blasts of energy in the process as their limbs instantly warped back into gasses. They were then gradually fed the chunks of loose concrete. As they ate, their limbs grew back, and the two golems spat out small globs of compounds. The globs were passed around between the golems until they were honed into chunks of dull grey metal. The golems were stripping the concrete down into calcium, which was then molded to give birth to a skeletal golem named Calcium. Its skull was adorned with a 20 and it did a little dance to celebrate its birth.

Aldon watched with her jaw wide open. She had noticed that Boron, the lowest numbered element prior to Hydrogen, had been a bit sharper than the rest. Or less dense, rather. But this was just shy of ridiculous. Meanwhile, several rows of anartists were free, and more were only being released faster. The curtain had still yet to move.

Zinc and Iron went about smashing themselves into Carbon, who was squeezing at its own torso as if it was in an invisible straitjacket. With each collision, Carbon seemed to be getting skinnier and skinnier, until eventually it ejected a diamond the size of Aldon's thumb onto the ground. Awe struck Aldon as somewhere in her mind, she was reminded that diamond was only an allotrope of carbon. Then Carbon ate some of the aggregate compound left over from the concrete, fattened up, and they repeated the process. Aldon laughed like a madwoman when she saw Gold shaping the diamonds into bullets.

Boron, Nickel, and Oxygen now were conjoining their bodies into a flintlock pistol. Even their little faces remained on the grip and the end of the barrel. Meanwhile, Oxygen was half-embedded in Boron and looked to be chewing on air, its arms now positioned where the hammer of the pistol would be. No doubt it was the firing mechanism. Aldon picked up the golem gun and fed Boron diamond bullet after diamond bullet so that Nickel could spit them out later. She readied the gun, finger on the trigger, and Boron's little trigger-limb held her finger in its tiny hand.

"Oh fuck, this is awesome," she choked out, hard of breath from laughing. It was heavy, though she wasn't sure how it compared to an actual gun. But she could lift it with one hand, and with two she could keep her aim relatively steady when she wasn't busy giggling.

Finnegan hurried over, also short of breath, but from running. "Okay, everyone's free. Are you done thinking or- where… where the hell did you get a gun?"

Aldon giggled some more and gestured to the bullet factory at her feet. Finnegan stared at them blankly before looking back up to Aldon.

"Okay, I was not expecting them to be able to do that."

"Surprise!" Aldon exclaimed, brandishing the pistol.

"Well, Felix has the aussies working on something to strip the statue-" His sentence was cut short when he whipped his head around to the opening curtain. "Fuck."

For a few awkward moments, the unlucky anartists up on stage began the play. Their movements were jerky and their eyes wandered, but they filled their assigned roles. The anartists among the pews collectively held their breath while they waited for the demigod they had created to notice they were no longer paying all that much attention to its work.

Aldon hastily scooped up some more bullets and loaded as many as she could. Nine shots total. A short distance away, Finnegan was fiddling with his backpack. He withdrew one of the few surviving CDs and placed it within the gauntlet. He cranked the volume dial to the max setting before nodding to himself. The anartists hastened their ritual as best they could. Or some of them did, several fled the moment the curtain began to open. Felix, to his credit, was not among them. Because he was too busy hiding under one of the pews.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. What the hell is this?" The Old Sculptor stomped out from behind the stage. "Who said you could stop being hostages?"

Twenty seven hands flew up, twenty seven fingers pointed at Aldon and Finnegan. Twenty seven ungrateful assholes. The Old Sculptor marched to Aldon for the second time, this time leaning over slightly to loom over her. A line tore across his clay face until it split into a toothy grin. The maw stretched open, revealing an abyss within the sculpture. Paint splashed and paper shuffled and clay thumped and power screamed within the yawning chasm. Then the little mouth on his chest, which was about even with Aldon's eye level, opened.

"Hello," he said with soft venom.

"Goodbye," she said hastily. Aldon jammed the barrel of the golem gun into the open mouth and yanked on the trigger. Boron felt the tug and kicked at Oxygen, severing a tapered point from the body. It immediately expanded into its gaseous form, blasting the diamond bullet forward and out of Nickel's mouth. Oxygen started eating the air around it to reform the tapered limb for the next shot.

The entire exchange would have been entirely silent if The Old Sculptor hadn't started screaming about his new gunshot wound. For a little less than a second Aldon pulled at the trigger futilely because of how long it took Oxygen to reform the firing mechanism. By then The Old Sculptor had bit through the barrel, likely murdering poor Nickel in the process. But shortened barrel or no, the gun still fired, shattering ceramic teeth and embedding itself somewhere within clay. Which only caused The Old Sculptor to scream even more.

Still writhing in what semblance of pain his clay body allowed, The Old Sculptor tried snapping at Aldon with his gnashing maw. Before ceramic teeth could clamp down around her neck, Finnegan pushed Aldon out of the way. Using the momentum of rushing forward, Finnegan threw a punch with his music-encrusted fist. The hardened clay was able to absorb most of the blow, and combined with the sheer amount of it, the punch did little.

"What the fuck?" The Old Sculptor demanded with both mouths.

"The fuck do you mean, 'what the fuck?'" Aldon asked. She felt the pistol shift in her hand, but she ignored it for the moment. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

The massive head-mouth closed, its front/lower lip jutting out. "Nothing. Shut up."

Aldon glared at him for a moment before raising the pistol with both hands, which had since expanded its barrel considerably. Oxygen's severed limb was considerably bigger to compensate for the larger bullet, and as such the recoil nearly ripped the golems from her hands. It did, however, manage to put a hole in The Old Sculptor's face despite his hardened exterior. So he responded in kind by morphing most of his upper body into a revolver, the barrel extending to just shy of Aldon's face.

From his precarious perch on Finnegan's shoulder, Everett tackled the barrel. He exploded into droplets of water, soaking into the clay. Finnegan followed up by swinging his fist around in an arc, crushing the barrel. The Old Sculptor misfired, a mouth just above the grip yelling the word "fuck" repeatedly. Perhaps more than necessary, even.

"Owe ya," Aldon said before unloading a second slug into the screaming statue.

"Okay, fuck this," The Old Sculptor growled. He ripped the twisted barrel off of himself, tossing it to the ground where it writhed slowly. A new head, more closely his original human self, extended from the shoulders. He turned to face the stage, where the hypnotized anartists were still performing a play. "Hey, shitbirds! Stop dicking around and help me."

Aldon unloaded the final shot into the back of his head as the performers hopped off the stage. He didn't scream, and Aldon smiled nervously. Had that done it? Were headshots really all the rage? Then a face emerged from the back of The Old Sculptor's head and he just glared at her, the bullet wound forming the right eye.

"I'm going to kill you now," he said.

Aldon held her arms out, the weight in her right hand shifting. She glanced down at the other golems, who were forming a tower on each others' shoulders. She leaned slightly toward them extending the already morphing pistol to them. "Come try it, bud."

The face protruding from the back of his head extended, bringing an entire body along with it. Once detached from the main statue, the clay clone launched itself at Aldon. Although she was somewhat taken aback by the new tactic, she had been a bit prepared. She brought her right arm up at an angle, lashing out with a crude blade fashioned from most of the golems. It honed itself as it slashed through the fresh clay clone, deftly slicing it in half. It splattered to the floor on either side of Aldon.

"Nice timing," she said to the tip of the blade, where Hydrogen's face was. It smiled in return.

A strong stench tore her from her thoughts. On either side of her the two halves of the body were morphing into a more detailed corpse, gore steaming as it slid onto the floor. Aldon surveyed her murder for a moment before looking back to The Old Sculptor. He was spewing out more clones, which were taking their time to fully form. Some were more impatient, and glomped onto nearby anartists and formed a shell around them with nothing but their faces showing. They then stalked the unwilling anartists toward Aldon.

"Let's see you deal with this," The Old Sculptor said. "And none of you kill them! I want that pleasure myself."

Aldon beheaded the first clay clone that came at her. It was pretty easy to differentiate between the full clones and the anartist puppets, and they didn't seem to exhibit any particular strength. The Old Sculptor didn't even seem to be able to form them well enough for them to fully morph into flesh and blood humans. They were very good simulacrums, but they maintained the same gray-brown color throughout their bodies. And they were only becoming worse as The Old Sculptor tried pumping them out faster.

"Shitty clones or no, they're going to overwhelm us soon," Finnegan said before jabbing at an oncoming clone. The music around Finnegan's fist splattered clay everywhere. "And it looks like them being clay is actually working in their favor against the others."

Indeed, while Aldon and Finnegan had art on their side, the other anartists only had what few tools they had managed to find lying around. The clay clones they struck absorbed the attacks without flinching and encased them. Luckily, at least from certain perspectives, the hypnotized performers were easily brought down.

"So we have to deal with him," Aldon concluded. "Right, right. Okay."

The Old Sculptor took a few moments to laugh mockingly with his massive mouth, and the chasm within caught Aldon's attention. A few seconds of mental connections led her to pick up Aluminum from the ground and decapitate it with the sword made from its siblings. She then jammed the back of its head into Finnegan's gauntlet.

"Can you explain-" Finnegan yelled when the gauntlet came to life, moving his fingers farther back than they probably should. "Ah! Calm down little guy. What are you doing?"

"I'm going to need that in a minute!" she yelled as she sprinted for The Old Sculptor, completely ignoring the question. She slashed through two clones and dodged a puppet, then The Sculptor stood face to face with her predecessor. He looked down at her for a moment before leaning forward, roaring near-deafening music in her face.

And she dove inside the chasm within the statue.

She fell for several seconds before colliding with a tower of papers. As much of it as there was, she might as well have been striking stone. It knocked the wind out of her and nearly knocked the golem blade out of her hand. She resumed falling until she landed in a pile of shifting clay. After fighting her way out of it, now somehow floating through the ethereal nothingness, she tore bits of the clay away as music assaulted her eardrums. That seemed to be all it was, a congregation of art mediums in a black expanse of nothingness.

"Okay, so… Let's see if this works," she mumbled to herself as she kneaded the clay.

She rolled it into a cord and pulled at the ends, forming a three-prong plug on one end and a something resembling the Space Needle on the other. She stumbled through the blackness toward what she decided was a wall, her new little creation shifting out of its clay form. The cord itself became an elastic polymer, both ends taking on a chrome shine. When she decided she was far enough from the writhing art supplies behind her, she haphazardly stabbed the air. The tip of the blade disappeared from her view.

"Well, shit," she said, almost laughing. "That actually worked."

She put all her weight onto the sword, slowly slicing through whatever veil separated the art abyss from the outside world. Somewhere near the tip the blackness switched the gray-brown, and beyond that she could see the warehouse. She pushed her way out, exiting The Old Sculptor from the back of his right shoulder. She rammed the blade into the bullet wound in the back of his head to get some leverage and hauled herself out into reality, the blade slipping out. She landed in an unceremonious heap on the ground.

"What the actual fuck was that?" The Old Sculptor yelled, wrapping his arms around himself to push the split clay together. "How did you do that? Why did you do that?"

Aldon just chuckled and shrugged as she stood. The Old Sculptor swung one of his massive arms, colliding with her back and sending her sprawling again. A pair of almost fully developed clay clones pinned her down. She tried struggling, but a pain in her chest kept her from putting much effort into it. That last blow must have cracked a rib or something.

"Well, who cares? Gotcha now, you little shit."

Aldon ground her chin against the concrete to look for Finnegan. He was attempting to fend off puppets, but was unable to put up much of a fight for fear of hurting the anartists within. Soon he too was overwhelmed and pinned to the ground. The aussies were similarly subdued, in one way or another.

"Now," The Old Sculptor said loudly. "What to do with you two? Should have some fun, I think."

"I think you forgot something," Aldon choked out.

He sneered. "What, The Clipper?"


A pair of anartist puppets hauled Felix out from behind a pew. The Old Sculptor turned to face him, which was exactly what Aldon was hoping for. Now if only he would say something to further the distraction. Felix stared at Aldon while the puppets dragged him over, at least until something caught his eye. He only glanced at it, but after a moment he turned his attention to The Old Sculptor.

"I've still got one more trick up my sleeve," Felix proclaimed.

"Oh yeah? What's that?"

"Something actually really obvious, you're just too much of a goddamn idiot to notice."

The Old Sculptor laughed. "Oh, do tell."

One of the clay clones holding down Aldon found himself suddenly lacking a head as the golem sword bent and swung on its own. His associate likewise found himself permanently disabled thanks to an oversized Aluminum hand crushing his face in. Said hand skittered over to Aldon's right hand, and she jammed it inside after setting down the blade. Aluminum clamped down on her, fitting her hand snugly, and together they picked up most of its siblings.

She stood without making any noise, twirling the pronged cord in her free hand. A glance at Finnegan told her he wasn't sure what she had planned. Time to give him a show, she figured. She waited for Aluminum to merge with the sword, leaving her unable to release it. Then she slid the three-pronged side into his mouth and eyes, which were situated on the back of her hand. She stuck her tongue out at Finnegan as she continued to spin the mini Space Needle around. She then locked her wrist, flipped it, and jammed the very sharp needle directly into her chest.

The reaction was near immediate. Finnegan screamed at her in confusion, Felix yelled in alarm at Finnegan's screaming, and The Old Sculptor was left looking between them until his fragmented mind thought to look to Aldon. By then a blue light was shining from what little was visible of Aluminum's orifices, and the translucent section of the CD player within the gauntlet was ejecting the same shade of blue. One by one, up the length of the sword from the handle to the tip, the golems winced and then began to scream with their eyes wide open. Blue light surrounded the sword in tiny beams.

Aldon grasped the cord of the music gauntlet. She pictured herself as the hero of a horror flick, ready with her trusty chainsaw. But when she yanked on it, rather than the growl of a motor she heard nothing. However, both the sword and the gauntlet were now encased in a shimmer, which refracted the blue light and sent it spinning in all directions. After a moment to giggle over the success of her little experiment, Aldon slapped the flat of the blade into her open palm.

Or tried to, at least. Just like before, the blade stopped short by several inches. Except instead of just feeling a song from a CD, Aldon felt what the CD player was plugged into. Which just so happened to be her soul. It burned like nothing else she had ever felt, seeping so deep into her bones she wondered if her marrow would boil. Rather than instruments, or even a choir, she felt only a single voice. A very angry woman screaming louder than a jet engine.

"Yeah, that seems about right."

With what technically counted up to ten separate anomalies and a soul smashing against each other, Reality decided to take a brief paid vacation in Aldon's immediate vicinity. Light bent in strange ways, carrying a wordless roar into the eyes of all who beheld it. The air shook as the golems screamed twofold, deafening all those who heard it to everything but the sound of Aldon's soul.

Which, because of the small radius of alteration, was only Aldon. Senses overloaded with her deepest sense of being, Aldon began to laugh. It started as a broken chuckle under the weight of two cracked ribs, but developed into a cackle when she felt nothing but a burning sensation as her nerves ebbed and flowed with tangible rage. The laughter extended into a yell until Aldon was little more than frustration made flesh and bone.

And clay. There was something distinctly clay now sticking into her abdomen. Her vision cleared and she saw The Old Sculptor, his arm extended and refined to a point, which he happened to have placed in Aldon's stomach. Blood dripped from the wound. It looked like his mouth moved to say something, but if he did Aldon didn't hear it over the throbbing in her ears. She took a moment to consider all this, and then decided that it was bullshit. She was supposed to be killing him.

So she swung her soul, channeled around the sword, and struck The Old Sculptor's arm. As the blade neared it, the clay became more chipped and began to warp, before shattering entirely when the blade made contact. Without Reality around, there was nobody to tell Aldon that The Old Sculptor had stabbed her. And so he hadn't. The wound in her abdomen was gone, and as far as Reality was concerned it never existed in the first place. Aldon slashed in the opposite direction, splashing almost half of the statue into paste.

The legs of The Old Sculptor stumbled back, and a large rock with ornate designs on it rose from his waist. It was still coated in wet clay, and more was pouring off of it. Aldon tried attacking it but the statue hopped away, kicking at her when she tried approaching. Which she found profoundly difficult due to her rib injuries, but she pressed on.

Abandoning his oversized form, The Old Sculptor shaped himself in his normal human form. Aldon slashed at his neck, hoping to separate the stone now embedded in his head. She succeeded, but his decapitated body reached out and snatched the rock from the disconnected head. He jammed it inside his chest, and she swung at it wildly. She missed, but flayed enough of the front of him to expose it.

"Give it up!" The Old Sculptor yelled. "Magic sword or no, I'm a fucking god!"

"While I still highly doubt that," Aldon replied. She had meant to yell back, but her lungs had apparently decided they had had enough yelling for a few weeks. "I'm going to have to point out…"

She palmed the bottom of the hilt with her off hand and stabbed. He tried blocking it, throwing up both arms, but the blade went right through both limbs and slammed into his chest. While the stone wasn't immediately torn apart like the clay, it had very clearly been pierced. A single crack stretched from the slit to one of the runes, which lost its glow.

"Deicide is a word for a reason," she finished, taking a step and burying the blade up to her fist. She twisted her wrist as he began to scream, and then she slashed horizontally, blowing up the stone and obliterating most of the statue. When it didn't begin to reform Aldon let out a single "Ha!" and then fell on her back. Which hurt. She probably should have thought that through a bit more.

There was a long pause. Nobody said anything. The clay clones continued to suppress Finnegan, Felix, and several other anartists. The puppets kept their captives, though they remained still.

Then one of the anartists asked, "Now what?"

"Well," said another. "They don't seem to intend to kill us. They're just gonna hold us here, like he said."


"I guess."

"But we'll die if they do that."

"But does that count as killing us?"

"Wouldn't it?"


"Allie!" Felix called. "Idea! Tell them to let us go."

Aldon coughed as she ripped out the Soul Needle, the bent light around her disappearing. "Oh. Yeah. Do that."

And so they did. Without fully realizing what they were doing, the very basic minds of the clones and puppets forced them to release their captives. After all, they were created with the express purpose of serving The Sculptor. Aldon devoted what little brain power she had left and decided to have the clay constructs destroy themselves. And so they did. Some simply stopped moving, while others slowly turned to a clay slurry. The anartists gathered themselves around their savior.

"We should get her to a hospital," said one.

"And tell them what?" said another.

"Here," Finnegan said, pulling out his phone. He went to Contacts, which contained all of four names. "I know who to call."

"Ghostbusters?" Aldon squeaked. Reality was back on the clock, and it turned out having broken ribs and stabbing yourself in the soul was a bit exhausting. Especially when dumped on you all at once.

"…Yes, Allie, Ghostbusters."

"Cool." And then she passed out.

Aldon woke up in what she assumed to be a hospital. Her wrists stopped halfway to her face when she tried rubbing her eyes. She looked down at herself to find herself shackled to the hospital bed she was lying in. To her left was a curtain a set of monitors displaying her vitals. They all seemed to be beeping pretty well. On her right was Finnegan, sleeping in a padded chair. And also shackled to said chair.

"Finn. Finnegan. Wake up."

He stirred, catching his hat as it attempted to fall. "Oh. Hey. Feeling alright?"

"Finnegan, you did not call Ghostbusters."

"No, I did not."

"Finnegan, you called the Anartistbusters."

"That's a bit of a mouthful."

"We're cuffed inside a hospital!"

Finnegan nodded. "It's not that big of a deal. Flight risk or whatever. Navarro's got it handled, says we should be fine after some questioning."

"That guy?" Aldon mulled it over. "Y'know what, fuck it. I can't even pretend to hate him right now. So what did I miss?"

"You have two cracked ribs. I'm okay. Most of the aussies are in prison wards rather than medical ones." Finnegan shrugged. "Apparently The Critic got away."

"How the hell?"


"Well, fuck. And I wasn't able to nab any of that morphing clay. Peachy."

"I think we should look at it in the light of us not being dead or incarcerated."

Aldon jiggled the cuff on her right wrist.

"Right. Well, it could be worse."

"I guess."

Finnegan grabbed her by the hand, since only one of his was cuffed. "Are you okay?"

Aldon sighed. She watched his thumb move circles around the skin between her thumb and pointer finger. "No. I guess? Whatever."


"Like, all that shit for nothing. I dunno, I just…" She trailed off, and he didn't pursue the issue. "I wish I could just be done with it."

"Well, you made some progress. Maybe not on an immediate level, but you've laid the groundwork now. And as far as I can tell the Foundation isn't going to dog you over it."

Aldon nodded. She decided to take what she could get. But her mind wandered to the events of the warehouse, and it made her queasy. Adrenaline was a hell of a thing, and Aldon was nothing if not good at distracting herself with activity. But now, just sitting in a hospital bed, her mind stagnated into pools of blood.

Daniel Navarro stuck his head inside the door, grinned his stupid grin, and then slid inside the room. His gaze bounced between the two of them despite the fact he never moved his head. Eventually his eyes landed on the duo's hands, and then he snapped his fingers.

"Let me get those handcuffs off you guys," he said. He produced a key and freed the two of them. They rubbed their hands and stared at him. Although the wording tried to edge into friendly, his posture and tone felt abnormally pressing. "So. Now that the gang's all here. What happened?"

When Aldon remained silent, Finnegan picked up the question. "Apparently the harmless statue they had her make was built using clay that contained some of the mind of The Old Sculptor. Then they magicked it up."

"Wow." Navarro looked to Aldon. "And then?"

"I killed it," she said simply.

Navarro nodded slowly. A sudden bulge in his cheek indicated he was thinking. When he reached whatever conclusion that he did, he nudged Finnegan and gestured to the door. Finnegan looked to Aldon, who shrugged and motioned for him to go. The two stepped outside, leaving Aldon to her thoughts.

Within four seconds Aldon was gripping the plastic railing along her bed frame and trying to tear it off. A coiling snake of frustration and anger and depression shifted within her. It reminded her of that moving emptiness when she felt sick to her stomach, only it was within her head and unfurling into her chest.

Grinding her teeth didn't help. Shaking whatever she could get a hold of did nothing. So she just sat and seethed, waiting for someone to come to her so she could do something other than be by herself. After what felt like half her lifetime, Finnegan stepped back into the room. He informed her she was free to go. That her clothes were in the drawer next to her bed, and her possessions had already been moved to her apartment. Navarro had probably delivered Everett and the golems himself.

The duo departed after Aldon got dressed. They walked in silence. When the front doors of the hospital slid open, they took a moment before actually leaving the building. They both took a short but deep breath, and in tandem stepped outside. A harsh winter gust blew through them, but the sun basked them in a pleasant glow.

"You going to be okay?" Finnegan asked, trying not to shiver.

Aldon hadn't really noticed the cold yet, and just stared at the parking lot. "Eventually."

Finnegan took a step closer. "Can I do anything?"

A crooked smile worked its way up her left cheek. "You know, now that you mention it. I'm hungry. Buy a girl a meal?"

Finnegan grimaced. "I'm a bit strapped for cash."

Aldon bounced with the next few steps, jostling the growing serpent within her. "Pizzeria?"

Finnegan just sighed and began to walk.

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