Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Cleaners chapter 8

     At a younger age, Jack would have been proud to stand with his family. The family motto that had been handed down from generation to generation of Goodbody’s, all the way back to their founding father, would not allow it. The motto “Truly Alive” had come in one of those fortuitous moments that history bestows to those she favors, said with little thought for the consequences or those that followed that path. To be truly alive a Goodbody had to follow their heart, no matter where it led. It also meant that a Goodbody could not allow anything that stopped him from being truly alive to exist in his life and that included family. Jack wiped the sweat away from his brow, warily keeping his eye on their opponent the whole time, “This is why I don’t normally let you draw me into these things. You and our whole blasted family, trying to clean a world that creates monsters like this.”

     Sam circled to her left, drawing the attention of their target who clearly viewed her as the more imminent threat. “Preach to me about how I’m such a bad girl after we kill the mean man.”

    Their opponent wheeled and slowly started for Sam, walking with measured determined steps. Gritting his teeth, Jack trailed behind them, allowing the familiar sensations to sweep over him. That measured tread of their opponent, its talons held out carelessly before him. This was a predator unused to having his prey bare their teeth at him. That was why he would fail, because for the first time he was the prey. Moving with a speed that caught both of them off guard, the killer lunged at Sam, barely missing her as she skipped to the side. Closing the distance in a flash, Jack brought his foot up sharply into the side of the towering figure’s knee, using all his strength. Again, the speed of the talon turning its arc to seek Jack’s head caught them both off guard. Jack swayed lightly to the side, letting the blade pass near his face.

     As he swayed, the edge of the talon caught his glasses, clipping them and sending them flying into the mud. The talon rose high again, coming crashing down towards him. Jack stepped further to the side, putting some distance between him and his attacker even as the talon swerved further out of its intended arc. Sam had shot forward in that split second and sliced the same side of their attacker’s knee before hopping back out of range again. The problem with unstoppable killing machines like this one was that they seemed to feel no pain. At first thought, that seems absolutely terrifying but this apparent invulnerability came with an inherent weakness. The damage to that knee would slow him down regardless of whether he noticed it or not, and slowing him down was all Jack and his sister needed to do.

     For the first time since the fight began, their assailant began to slow. His face slowly turned from one side to the other as Jack and his sister managed to stay on opposite sides of him. Jack finally had the time to pay attention to the appearance of the thing that had tried to gore him with a machete only minutes before. The clothes he was wearing were worn to the point of being threadbare. The transformation was only halfway through, but it was clear that it had been going on for a long time. Random spines shot out through what was left of the shirt. Clearly, something had happened to this killer that had sent him into deep hiding. It seems he had never been able to figure out a cure, or maybe he had never even looked for one. A sudden wind burst through the opening to the field, sending dead leaves blowing past all three of them. It seemed that their interloper had seen enough of this campsite and craved the familiarity of old hunting grounds. Without turning towards either sibling, he set out for the edge of the clearing not slowing down or changing his route in the slightest.

     “Ah, shit! He’s buggering out, little brother. We have to stop him or I don’t get paid.” Sam sprinted to the edge of the clearing, digging in her feet and raising her own slim dagger up defiantly. The bug creature slowed to a stop and seemed to cock his head in confusion. Jack found his place behind their opponent again, reminding himself silently of the other reason he had quit this line of work. No paycheck was worth this amount of overtime.

     When Jack and his sister had fought against things like this before, it had always led to a quick fight. Unlike more human opponents, their monstrous friend wasn’t interested in bargaining. He no longer had human desires that could be used to sway him off and he had no specific goals that be used to bribe or distract him. It all came down to those opening moments of the fight when their opponent was still able to move freely. Those moments were the ones which decided whether their opponent would escape to fight another day or die.

     The bug creature made a snap decision in its newfound desperation. Why choose fight or flight when you can do both at the same time? Surging forward into a rumbling dash, the creature headed for the woods and to the safety of distance from these hunters which didn’t run from him. Sam ran to meet him, leaping into the air and throwing her whole weight into a desperate stab at the creature. Her blade pierced its exoskeleton, but the bug creatures momentum carried Sam along with it and tossed her to the ground. The creature continued forward a few more paces before tumbling to the ground, rolling over a few times before grinding to a halt.

     Sam held up her knife and slowly circled the creature again. As it had passed her, from where she lay on the ground, she had managed to cut a leg and send the creature falling to the ground. The creature rose again as well, still struggling towards the edge of the clearing, flailing its sharp talons around to stop anything from getting too close to it. The situation had gotten out of hand. The only thing left to do was end it.

     As the bug creature debated his options internally, still whirring its claws in all directions, Stan came back into the clearing on the opposite side, panting heavily. “I got the bag. You sure you wanna use them things?” The mop still stood in the ground, with its head hanging loose in the air.”

     “No, not really. I don’t want to risk him getting away, though. I’ll bear the burden.” Jack sprinted across the field and pulled the mop from the ground, giving it a quick spin to test the weight. It had been a very long time.

     Sam’s eyes grew wide with panic when she saw him wielding the mop, somehow seeing him actually hold it made things far more serious, “Wait, that’s your secret plan!? I want to get paid when this is over. Jack, I swear if you use that thing I’ll…”

     “You’ll what? You brought me into this and I will finish it.” In appearance, Jack’s mop was simple. Just a mop with a wooden handle and a mop head for cleaning. But somehow the mop head was already damp. Jack swung it gently through the air, letting a few drops fall off and touch the ground. Anything those drops of water touched, be it grass or dirt simply vanished as though it had never existed, taking the water with it. Jack blurred into motion, swinging the mop around and taking it through their assailant’s arm at the elbow. The mop struck through cleanly and the lower part of his arm hit the ground, still twitching slightly.

     Fear. Even though Jack couldn’t see any other emotion  in his eyes Jack could see the fear. It was a foreign experience to this thing standing in front of him. New and alien, it was a sensation this creature couldn’t even begin to understand, though he had seen it many times himself. Jack would not give him the time. Sweeping his mop back around, Jack brought it down through his thighs, erasing them and cutting off his escape. The killer fell forward onto the ground, raising himself up as best he could. Jack raised the mop above his head, looking down on his attempted murderer. “I wish nobody ever had to learn your name. I wish you had never been inflicted on this world and you deserve all the horrible things that happened to you. When I’m done though, nobody will remember it anyway.” Bringing the mop down, he cut straight through the middle before mopping up those bits that had escaped him the first time. Cleaning was the ultimate fight of good against evil.

     Sam waited until Jack had put the mop back into the leather bag before running over and grabbing his collar, jerking him close and not letting him go, “How can I get paid for killing a monster that nobody will even remember? This wasn’t part of our deal, little brother.”

     Jack brushed her arms aside, pointing to the ripped shirt sleeve around the wound he had received, staunching the blood a bit. “This wasn’t either. If you had been more honest with me and told me everything you knew, then we wouldn’t be in this mess. But now, in payment for my injuries and my ruined suit you are going to help Stan and myself bury the remains and finish cleaning this place.”

     “Whatever.” Sam brushed past Jack, bumping her shoulder into his injured side as she passed him. “What do you need me to do?”

     “I need wood. Lots of wood. Stan and I can take care of the rest of it ourselves.”

      Jack was about to leave the clearing when a small glint of metal caught his eyes. It lay in the grass where creepy bug guy had been wiped out of existence. Jack leaned over and plucked it up. It was a small metal cylinder that looked old. The entire outside was covered in arcane writing that Jack couldn’t even begin to read. In the center of the cylinder there was a raised surface with one word on it. Flemel. Jack tucked it into his vest pocket and turned back to the tunnel entrance.

      It would be two more days, working day and night, before the rest of the lair was cleaned out and the bodies were laid to rest in Jack’s endless Bag. The wood that Sam gathered went into either fixing up the various sheds around the sizable property or shoring up the tunnels and replacing boards that had been used for unsavory things. At first, Sam objected to all the work and wanted to simply board up the whole place so nobody could get in, but,as Jack pointed out, it never hurt to have a place to lay low that almost nobody knew about. In those few short days, everyone who had ever met that walking terror or knew one of his victims would have forgotten he ever existed. Even Sam was having a hard time remembering what exactly she had been so mad about mere days before. Though the days seemed to pass slowly before either Jack or Sam were ready to admit it, it was time for them to part ways again.

     Before he had been turned into a giant creepy bug monster, Boris Orlovski had made his home in what could charitably be called a swamp. Jack considered it to be more of a blight on the land comprised of slime and a water park for nasty insects, but it was very close to a summer camp that had another special guest each year. A serial killer that, according to the stories, had once been a camper at that very location. It was a clichéd tale but Jack couldn’t find Sam anywhere and so that meant she was at the one place where the kid would likely surface before they left. That’s where he found her, sitting on a dock and skipping stones over a lake surface that shimmered a rainbow of stagnation and industrial run off in the morning light.

     “There’s no real challenge to skipping rocks if you’re basically skipping them on waste run off from chemical plants that is about as solid as concrete, Sam.” Jack called out as he walked along the dock carefully. A dock that had been sitting in this water could give in at any moment.

     “Shut up.” Sam slumped forward and grabbed another stone from a small pile she had next to her, tossing it up in the air idly.

     Jack sat down next to her and absently tugged at his tie. The wind blew through the tree tops and ran over the lake, blowing small ripples through what water could be seen. “I’m sorry I took your money from you. There’s no way they’ll pay you for killing something that never existed.”

     Sam laughed once, “You killed it anyways, Mr. Cleaner. I never do the heavy lifting. Not if…” she trailed off and leaned into Jack, “Why don’t you come home? Things have been really weird since you left. I’m not even sure what Father does anymore.”

     Jack stared down at his reflection in the lake. It was slightly oily and looked more like a mirror than clear water. “I left for my own reasons. You tried to stop me then too, as I recall.” Jack grabbed a stone from the pile and skipped it as hard as he could. It went across the whole lake and landed on the forest floor across from them.

     “I did. You shouldn’t have left. The jobs keep getting harder and harder.” Sam skipped the stone that she had in her hand, landing it right next to Jack’s.

     “There will always be another, bigger job to Father.” Jack snagged another rock. “I think you should leave too. Before it really gets out of hand. Even as a cleaner I can see it. There’s more and more of this darkness every year, and whatever happened to Boris I don’t think even he deserved that. How many changes have there been like Creepy Bug Guy? That’s unheard of, even in your line of work.”

     Sam nodded and sat back up straight. “It used to be your line of work too, little brother.” She shot him a quick glance. “But for now, let me just enjoy some quiet time with you, Jack.”

     Jack nodded contemplatively as he skipped another rock. The sun beamed down on their shoulders, warming them through the occasional bursts of wind that came down across the lake. They kept skipping stones when suddenly there was a loud splashing noise. The poor kid who normally haunted this camp surfaced just into time to get caught in the forehead with a rock the size of a small, flat baseball. He went down as quickly as the rock that hit him.

    Sam stood up quickly, wiping off her boots. “My work here is done. See you next summer, little brother?”

    Jack slowly stood up, “Not unless I’m really unfortunate with my work schedule.”

     “I hope it is,” Sam stopped at the head of the trail and looked over her shoulder at Jack, “You always freak out when I get one of your suits ruined.” With that declaration made, Sam dashed off for her bike, leaving Jack standing on the docks.

     The statement sank in. “Will I never be rid of that sister of mine?” Looking up, he dashed after her, yelling at the top of his lungs, “You’re paying for my repair and dry cleaning! And if it can’t be fixed up, you’re buying me another!”

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