The Demonic Scale

The Demonic Scale

a piece of fiction by The Overlord Bear

beta-read by TheOtherGabby

cover illustration by The Overlord Bear

Summary: A mysterious “Herald of Justice” saves and raises a poor young pair of brother and sister away from the cruelty of the streets, but the Herald named Scale has quite a process of succession…


WARNING: MATURE CONTENT!


Back then, we didn’t think that we were being exploited.

When Paul and I were kids, all that mattered to us was our parents’ love. They weren’t happy all the time, often shouting about having no money, and we didn’t understand their work much, especially since they told us not to ask about it so much.

With all that, they had us go out to the streets and ask for money from people. Some just passed us by, some gave us some. The former happened more than the latter, and by the time the setting of the sun and the blanketing of the night forced us to head back home, we often found ourselves being shouted at by our parents as well. We even got beaten up at times, too.

But with our minds back then, exploitation was a concept we didn’t understand much. We just did as our parents said, and we ended up not playing with other kids much. The other kids’ parents shouted at my parents at times as well, but my parents had us run away, telling us that our neighbors were out to hurt us.

Of course, we believed them. We believed that Mang Jop was high on drugs, that Aling Nen was stealing all our hard-earned money, that those DSWD people never understood us well, and so on. Our parents would never exploit us, the ugly ones were bad people, and the nice-looking ones were worse.

One day, though, some regular parishioners from one church we often begged at took us to their house. We were hungry back then, and their offer of food had us accepting. Fortunately, we ate meals more delicious than what we often managed to have at our own house, and we stayed there for a long while, getting ourselves cleaned in the tub and shower, playing fascinating games with our fellow kids there, and, well…

We also ended up stealing from that rich family. Paul and I thought that we would make our parents happy with so much money and jewelry and gadgets, things that our parents often shouted and wished about. Our parents also complained about rich people stealing money from poor people like us a lot, so we thought “If we stole our money back from the rich, then our parents will certainly be happy!”

And so, we ran off, taking kids’ backpacks and filling them with all the money and jewelry we could put in and carry. We played tricks on the family, making them look for us as if we were lost, and then we stole, and then we ran.

One problem, though, was that we found ourselves lost in their subdivision and the roads outside it. We had never gone into the richer parts of the city, and so we ran around and around without knowing much about where we would end up next.

Suddenly, we were lifted and pulled into a van by some shady guys, wrinkly and misproportioned dudes who reminded us of the ugly goons we often watched getting beat up on the TV we often watched at Mang Jop and Aling Nen’s carinderia (and we never questioned why we still went there despite my parents’ shouting matches with the carinderia owners), and we were brought to some blue-uniformed mestizo who always frowned and didn’t like looking at us much.

Quickly, Paul and I realized that we were looking at someone like Joaquin Tuazon, and we ended up giving him words like “Mahuhuli ka din!” and “Magnanakaw kang masama!”

He just laughed at us, though, especially after taking our bags and looking at their contents. Then, he had us eat with a bunch of other kids, street kids who looked at us like we were weird. A bunch of those kids there also told us that noisy kids who talked back were beaten to death, and when we told them about how he laughed at our money-and-jewelry-filled bags, they had mixed reactions, ranging from awe to disgust at our thievery.

Still, one reaction they had in common was fear. After all, with how much we managed to steal, we were bound to be expected a lot from.

And so, we were sent out to beg again, with the goons keeping watch on us separately from stores and eateries, their vans parked somewhere distant, ready to take us back and beat us if we didn’t get a lot of money.

With heavier fear within us, Paul and I then ended up pickpocketing from pedestrians to get more money faster. Despite that, though, we often found ourselves beat up, and when we told the Joaquin look-alike that getting brought home by a rich family isn’t easy, he beat us up for what he called “smartassery.”

Eventually, we grew a very big dislike for the Joaquin look-alike and his syndicate. That, and we grew a more noticeable reputation within the syndicate, with Paul’s submissiveness and my aggressiveness rising to prominence.

And speaking of my younger brother’s submissiveness, he had been going to church whenever he wanted to avoid doing the usual work, and he had began spouting out nonsense like forgiveness and mercy and all that crap. Honestly, I gave him beatings for being such a wimp as well.

Still, he followed me around, and we followed the Joaquin ripoff some more, even with Missing posters of us up and around. We were pretty uneasy about the ripoff finding out about us trying to escape, especially with how rich the guy already was. And of course, we were moved to another city in Metro Manila to have us under the radar less.

That was where we first met him.

It was nighttime, and with Paul and a bunch of other kids, the ripoff’s goons were bringing us to another hideout of theirs, another abandoned warehouse like in those typical action shows.

Then, as we exited the van and entered the hideout, the goons fell to the ground with multiple explosive BANGs, blood spilling out and hitting our faces.

And then we found more lying bodies ahead of us, distant from each other, yet surrounding one man with a pistol in his hands.

He was tall, he had a hood over his head, he had gloves covering his hands, and he also had a piece of one of those crappy Halloween ghost masks over one side of his face.

Oh, and with that smile on his face, he looked awesome, funny, and scary at the same time.

And so, I, being the weird kid I was, then ran to him, asking him “Superhero ka ba?” and “Ililigtas mo ba kami?”

He gave a small laugh at that, and he raised his hand, calling us kids to follow him.

That was the start of our new lives with the man who called himself Scale, a man who also introduced himself with a pose and a shouted “HERALD OF JUSTICE!”

Years were spent with him in a large house he once called an orphanage. Everyday, we had delicious food. Everyday, we had fun games to play. Everyday, we had awesome shows to watch. Everyday, we had interesting lessons to learn. Scale was a funny guy, too, often impersonating popular villains – ranging from Joaquin Tuazon to the orange man from across the seas – and their defeated or offended forms as he lived with us and kept on wearing the same outfit everyday. We didn’t question the same outfit thing much, though, especially since he was such a nice guy.

When he told us about abuse and exploitation, though, that was when I decided that Paul and I would consider Scale’s Orphanage (because even with some of us having actual parents, they didn’t deserve to be called such) our home.

Of course, Paul was a wimp, still wondering about those people he dared to call “parents,” but another beating still had him following me.

What, abuse? No way, Paul was just getting discipline. If he can’t follow, though (which is certainly false, considering our past), then I’d ask myself to be arrested.

Oh, and we still ended up living with adopted parents. Scale said that we had to blend in and have some normality, especially if we wanted to change the rotten society, and to have that, we had to live with more normal families.

Still, he didn’t discourage us from being our “unique selves,” as he liked to call us.

With that, all of us rescued kids parted ways one by one, kind families taking us in after dropping us off in certain areas of cities. Scale often left firecrackers after dropping us off, making us look like we had been involved in something dangerous along with us looking like the greasy street kids we once were.

And indeed, that invoked the pity of our adoptive parents, Niko and Helen, a couple of entrepreneurs who wanted kids but still couldn’t manage to have one. They easily fell for the lie I made, a half-truth formed with the help of memories of being exploited by heartless parents and a cliche syndicate (and that made me think about reality being weirder than fiction for a moment).

And so, life went on, and Paul and I were now part of a more normal family.

Still, it looked like being weird was still a problem. The school we went to, some Catholic school which had an annoying amount of strictness and strict enforcers, had problems with me in particular, especially when I went to beat up some wrongdoing classmates, especially those who dared to beat up my brother.

Again, I got all those lectures about mercy and forgiveness and all that crap. The teachers, the clergy, and Niko and Helen…they all sounded like Paul and his still wimpy ass.

And so, drawing from Scale’s lessons, I decided to deal punishment upon my evil classmates via subterfuge. I had boys look like they were doing naughty things in the comfort room via plastic balls which popped look-alikes of certain suspicious fluids out when they pulled the urinal flush down, and I had girls get some bald patches via acid drips they would cause to fall by bumping onto whatever tall thing their little containers were on.

I did get found out and expelled, but I do admit that I don’t regret doing all those things.

Transferring to another private Catholic school (Niko and Helen were really insistent on having me go to such schools), I then decided to build myself a reputation as Queen Bee Rosa, drawing inspiration from watching dear Ivy Aguas a.k.a. Lily Cruz in my room or at a friend’s place after school as well. I mellowed down and away from the whole cruel pranking thing, but I did go more public as a tough girl who had the guts and squad to do things like crushing the snuck-in smartphone and kicking the sorry ass of a guy who thought that he could also get away with watching porn with his sleazy dude friends in the classroom. I didn’t need to worry about not being able to bring my smartphone to school either, all because the idiots went up against were easy to get a rise from, so prideful and shameless that they would dare to disregard the dignity of their classmates and teachers and do their own noisy things as much as they wanted.

Also, in those idiots’ attempts at bringing me down, they eventually knew of my reputation in my past high school, but by the time that happened, I had already established a solid squad for myself, the defender of the talented yet shamed misfits and the relief for the rookie and underestimated teachers. With that, the threat of retaliation, the possibility of getting kicked out again, and the loss of a few followers weren’t such a big deal. I always had some nice escorts taking me home, I taunted idiots into making the first attack, turning any attempts at retaliation from the bullies and sleazebags into the digging of deeper holes for themselves, especially if they were guys, for in this day and age, the victim woman gained more sympathy than the suspect man.

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy that sort of refreshing setup.

As for lost followers, well, those additional idiots would just be making their own lives worse by being wastes of talent and lambs to the slaughter, anyway.

And so, high school went pretty well.

And then came college.

That was when Paul and I met Scale again.

“How’s university life doing, Rosa? Still surrounded by choking hypocrites? Guhe-guhe-guhe?”

He still looked and acted the same after all those years, alright. He guessed our problems right, he could see a kid wordlessly begging for help a mile away, and he could make us laugh very hard.

And honestly, out of all the guys who kneel and have knelt for me, he’s the only guy I actually had eyes for.

“Paul…still the same, hm?”

Of course, Paul still shriveled up, even while standing. He was here pretty much because I had to hammer in how Scale saved us from our dumb biological parents and that dumb syndicate.

“Don’t worry, he can still follow, Boss,” I told Scale, using the endearing title most of us rescued kids used to refer to him.

“I see…” Scale then answered. “Well then, I’d like to apologize for having to call you into this darkened and sunken spot of trees tonight.”

“Oh, no worries, Boss,” I replied, smiling back. “As long as it’s you, we know that it’ll be no problem.”

Boss’s smile then grew wider.

“Why, I thank you very much for your trust, Rosa,” he responded. “Still, this is a very important matter…and one that makes me concerned about Paul, especially.”

“Huh?” I wondered. “You mean this wimp?”

“Ate…” Paul whined. “Can I go home now?”

“No, he doesn’t need to worry about going home,” Scale cut in. “I changed my mind, actually, and I think Paul’s presence is even more important here now.”

“Ehh?” was my reply. “Considering how he grew up, how do you think he’d be more important?”

“Ate…” Paul whined again.

“Well…first…”

And then I found Boss Scale pointing a gun.

It was a pistol.

It looked like the same one he used on those goons years ago.

And it was pointed at Paul.

“What the hell?” was what I managed to say at that.

It wasn’t like I totally hated Paul, really. He was a wimp, yeah, but he was also a part of me, one I would protect and help, even through being a harsh older sister.

But this?

“Haven’t I taught you two that the weak and ordinary ones always lose?” the hooded and half-masked man told us, echoing a nightmarish past that I thought Paul and I had managed to escape from. “And dear Rosa, I thought you were better than that. Why haven’t you finished off your brother after all those years of him being a dead weight presence? I can see his dreams, and he’s dreaming of all that God crap, getting told about how I’m such a bad man, which I’m certainly not.”

Paul was now gasping for air, and he had also fallen on his rear, scrambling backwards on the grass as Scale crept up.

Me, well, I was stepping back slowly, speechless while I had my eyes trained on the pistol and the half-masked face.

“Haven’t I taught you two that only the strong and the standouts can only properly use the scales of justice?” Scale continued, his eyes glinting with a strange light I had never recognized up until now. “Why haven’t you started standing out some more, Rosa? Your brother’s already dim, so why not blow it out already? It’ll be easy…and you just need to use this gun.”

I only had one answer to that.

“No.”

And then my brother fell down with multiple explosive BANGs, his blood spilling and hitting my face.

“So what now, then, Rosa?”

He told me that so casually.

He killed my brother so casually.

He wants casual, then?

Well…

“Yes…”

I’ll take his gun casually, then.

“Yesss…”

I’ll point it casually.

“YES!”

And I’ll shoot him casually.

“AHAHAHAHAHA!”

And then he went from howling to hissing laughter.

He was also melting.

Wait…melting?

“Oh…Oh my God…”

I ended up dropping the gun I was holding…and then my fingers started boiling.

“Wha…What…?”

As the monster before me laughed and laughed, I looked at my melting fingers, fingers which had a boiling feeling similar to the feeling on my face.

Oh.

My face was also melting.

It was hissing, burning, digging, scraping, and I was resisting, resisting, resisting —

And then I saw his face, the face with one side which received the bullet…and the other side…the now unmasked side…

“You know…” he said, “This is actually my hundredth body…and yours will be Body Number One Hundred and One!”

And so I screamed.

Sometime along all that, he began screaming, and I begun laughing instead.

Eventually, I didn’t know whose was whose anymore. All there was was screaming and laughing and laughing and screaming…

And then there was the demonic Scale, waiting at the end of a road paved by good intentions.


Author’s Note:Β Gothic Fiction classes had something to do with the making of this. That, and Philippine literature in English. Also, Flannery O’Connor being a Catholic got me surprised during those classes. And Nick Joaquin’s “The Mass of St. Sylvestre” is quite fascinating~ πŸ˜€

Also, this isn’t going to be a novel. I wonder how you thought that this was going to be a novel, Gabby…? Is it how past tense the writing is? Like, “past tense” in the sense that this seems like an introduction to a novel?

Anyway, as for the cover illustration…I think it’s the most complicated drawing I’ve drawn so far? Perhaps that’s just me being full of myself, though…

And again, honest constructive feedback is highly encouraged and will be highly appreciated, yo~

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