8/4: “My wound existed before me; I was born to embody it.” Michael hates hands and won’t even think the word, hence the oddity.
Michael flexed his—(hands)—and gritted his teeth in a feral snarl. His reptilian-yellow eyes flicked up to find Jack, who looked patiently down upon him. Patronizing—everything about the god struck sparks from the demon. But it had been Jack who’d summoned him from his eternity beneath the pier, and Michael, like it or not, felt beholden to the god.
“Who are you?” Jack said, standing across from Michael on the rotting wood of the pier, the ocean hushing beneath his boots. The god stood with his arms crossed across his chest, his head tilted just enough that his long black hair fell away from his face.
A fine face, clear and elegant. The kind that Michael, in another life, had yearned to break. A sound erupted like a gunshot in the back of his brain—the sound of a single bone sundering beneath just the right amount of pressure from his—
–“Nothing like you.” Michael peeled his lips back away from his teeth, leering at Jack, willing a scintilla of fear to light in the golden cat’s eyes. Nothing happened. The ocean sounded dim and distant from where they stood, but if he looked down, Michael could still see the dark water twisting and sloshing against the land. If Jack thought the water sounded like a vague hush, a gentle reminder of the sea beneath them, to Michael it sounded like a prison, dark and foreboding.
He’d not return there again.
“Then tell me who you are, O Michael the Demon,” Jack said, a smile lighting across his face, striking the fine features into bright relief. “If you are nothing like me, please elaborate! I live to hear the antipathy of waterlogged demons.”
Michael wanted to hook his thumbs into that glib smile and tear. Rage washed over him as he dripped on the pier, engulfing him, so that when it passed he stood panting and bent. It had been too long—eons, maybe—since he’d felt emotion. It hurt.
“You imbecile,” he said, his voice low and hoarse. “Do you want to know who I am? I am the embodiment of earthly evil. I am the tortured vessel of all the bloody anger and hatred and pain in this world.”
He gasped, drawing in a long, painful breath. It felt like fire running down his throat and into his lungs.
“The wounds I have, they are not mine. They are the world’s. Do you understand, Immortal? Do you understand what it is to be born a child the world has decided must die? Must be damned to hell?”
“No,” Jack said, tilting his head a little further, his smile unperturbed. But there lurked something else—a certain hardness, almost anger but not quite. Something taunting and bitter and utterly provoking. Michael panted like a bull.
“Stand up,” Jack said, and Michael did, stretching back to his middling height, the bones in his back popping.
“Wreak hell upon the world.” The god’s smile flashed a trifle wider. Michael had a moment to regard the god, his yellow eyes pale and bloodshot, before the god snapped his fingers and vanished.
Jack Immortal had always been a showman. And Michael had always been a wound. Raw and festering, he set out away from the pier, his footsteps echoing in the fog.