I know, I know, I’ve had way too many posts with song titles lately, but I’m also not even a little bit sorry. This week the deviant and demented Chuck Wendig decided to torture us with TV tropes. Our random trope-selector chose the tropes we had to use in our story.* I’m not sure I entirely followed directions, but I like to think these challenges are more like guidelines than actual rules.
*contains swearing (but it’s British, so I consider that not to count.)
Royston Humphreys stared down in shock at the mangled body at his feet.
The building wall had completely crushed Shafer in a welter of falling bricks and mortar that filled the air like snow. Royston waited for the bent fingers to twitch, for the crumpled, bleeding figure to rise. Nothing happened. He swore loudly and crouched down to shove some of the bricks away from the body.
“Un-bloody-believable,” he said, staring down at the crushed skull, blood oozing through the dark hair. “How the bloody hell does someone let a bloody wall fall on them while they’re standing in an alleyway? Oh, right,” he addressed the dead man. “Someone got them self sloshed at the pub and couldn’t wait until they got home to use the loo. No,” he stood and glared down at the body. “Someone just had to bleeding piss in the alley.”
The dead man made no answer. Royston’s shoulders slumped and he scraped a hand through his disheveled brown hair.
“Christ. You were supposed to be the one–the bleeding prophecies had it all laid out,” he glanced around the alley suddenly. “Can’t say I like leaving you like this, but I think I’d better skive off before someone shows up and I’m completely buggered.”
He strode down the alleyway in the opposite direction. Someone would have noticed a wall falling even at 3 a.m.; he couldn’t afford to deal with the authorities. He turned up the collar of his coat as it began to drizzle, his mind racing as he tried to process. It was a bloody mess and no mistake. The Council said al’Uttarak was the final piece—the One destined to save them from the destruction of the world. What that meant, exactly, he wasn’t certain. It was above his clearance. When the Council found Shafer, he fit every part of the prophecy: the physical type, the place of birth–Jerusalem–even his tattoo. They named him al’Uttarak.
Of course, Shafer seemed like a prat to Royston, but that, again, was above his clearance. And now Shafer more dead than the language of the blasted prophecy. How could Royston know Shafer would piss on a condemned building? He was a bloody handler, not a babysitter. He was only chosen since he looked enough like Shafer to act as a smokescreen. Some of the Council members still couldn’t tell them apart.
“Oh, sod it,” Royston muttered, pulling out his mobile and ducking under an awning. “Hello? It’s Humphreys. Put him on the phone? ‘fraid I can’t. Well, he’s rather…dead.”
Royston held the mobile away from his ear as his handler, Felix Crowley, roared. When Crowley’s voice lowered to a safer decibel, he tried to explain.
“A bleeding building fell on him. I know he’s supposed to be immortal—or indestructible. His head was completely buggered. I know a stiff when I see one. Sir,” Royston tried to moderate his voice. “Well, the blooming prophecy is wrong then, innit?”
He ground his teeth as Crowley uttered a stream of invective laden demands. The rain worsened and lightning lit the roiling sky; Royston sighed.
“Yeah, I’ll be there in ten,” he said.
He stepped into the pouring rain, hunching his shoulders against it. By the time he reached the imposing brownstone, he was soaked and his dark hair was plastered against his face. Royston placed his palm against the door and was granted access after a moment, stepping through the huge wooden panel as if it didn’t exist. The plush Persian rugs drank in the trail of water he left as he trudged down the long hallway. The walls were lined with pictures of the Councils past and occasionally busts of the Chairmen. Some were women, but they always called them “Chairman.”
Royston grinned bitterly, “Probably above my bleeding clearance, too.”
When he entered the room at the end of the hall, the large oval table was full. The Chairman would have called the entire Council for this. He sat at the head of the table, his bulk as imposing as ever. Royston wondered if the Chairman slept in his immaculate three piece suit–if he even slept at all. The faces turned towards him; some easily recognized by any British citizen, others known worldwide, and some that might never have existed. Royston stood stiffly, water running down his face.
“Report,” the Chairman’s voice always made Royston’s skin prickle. It was right unsettling a man that large had such a soft voice.
The pale faces stared in silence; Felix’s was the only one with any colour and he was slowly turning the shade of a tomato. “A bleed—a wall fell on him and splattered his brains all over an alleyway.”
“There must be some mistake; the prophecy was clear,” the woman who spoke kept her voice steady, but Royson saw her hands tremble.
“A partial sanskrit tablet thousands of years old surprises you when it’s wrong…again?” Royston couldn’t stop himself. He was tired; Shafer had been a git all night and Royston wasn’t entirely sorry the prick was dead. The table erupted at his outburst until the Chairman hefted his massive frame out of his chair. Silence fell over the room.
“Royston, you were an orphan, yes?” he asked, gently.
“Yeah, what about it?” Roystan wanted a drink and his bed.
“You never knew your parents, or where you were born?” the Chairman asked.
“No sir, that’s why they call it being an orphan,” Royston said. I’m dead, he thought.
“You never knew, but someone did,” the Chairman smiled slightly.
Royston’s stomach clenched, he chewed his lip, willing himself to stay silent. The Chairman continued to smile at him. He turned back to the Council.
“Did you know, ladies and gentlemen of the Council, that our man here was born in Israel? In a city called Jerusalem. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?” The silence rang. “Pull up your sleeve, Mr. Humphreys.”
“Oh bugger,” Royston said faintly, sinking into the chair in front of him that once belonged to Shafer.