The flickering of the television set illuminated the room in random flashes, depending on what was happening on screen. Intermittently, between scene cuts or commercial breaks, the entire bar was drowned in darkness before sparking to life again. Life may have been a bit of a stretch. The bar was silent with the exception of a low steady hum from the elevated box, its volume turned too low to actually make out what anyone on it was saying. The subtitling was switched on, however, to allow for some unspoken compromise between patrons who wanted to watch it and those who didn't want to be interrupted by it.
Jericho absorbed the pictures and words flashing across the screen, the end of a news report about a potential terrorist attack taking place out West. An explosion of sorts. Almost a week had passed since the event and still little information was known. There were possible links to a specific individual who on the same day had gone on a killing spree and was last seen in the vicinity of the bomb. Faraday Park.
That unnamed man was the very reason he was where he was at that very moment. Jericho felt an odd kinship with him. From eyewitness accounts, the killer was described as having unheard of strength and speed. The media liked to downplay the claims, crediting them to trauma and shock as the incidents were horrifically gory and disturbing in nature. So much so that no actual footage, or very little, was ever used.
He supposed that the media really did believe that there was little proof that such a thing could happen. That someone with such heightened abilities could exist. Or maybe they knew and were covering it up. Bought and paid. It made little difference to him, though.
His eyes shifted downwards and across the counter. Through the blips and flashes he could see his haunting reflection in the mirrored shelving, between bottles of liquor. The long, thin strands of red hair draping to one side of his scarred face. Stranglers that had somehow survived atop his equally scarred and pitted scalp. He wasn't balding, just sporting small, random tufts sporadically positioned in a fleshy wasteland. Jericho contemplated the notion of buying a hat, to hide it all away, but he knew that wouldn't obscure what would be visible underneath.
Jericho understood that he was never exactly what most of society would deem a handsome man, but what he had to deal with now sometimes even sickened himself. Maybe just the realization that he should have cherished what he had before. Before the reddened, orange tissue and the crevices and blotches accompanying it. He scoffed at his image in the mirror. It appeared as though he fake baked every waking moment of his life until his skin shriveled, but then decided to continue the process regardless. The thought elicited a chuckle, even though knowing that his face and scalp wasn't where the damage ended.
His eyes — cold and grey — along with his sandpaper voice is what he imagined would solidify his new lot in life. Knowing that there were potentially others like him had sealed his fate. The paradigm shift had completed. He was among Gods now. Or some equivalent facsimile when compared to the rest of Humanity.
The bar plunged into darkness for a moment and when it lit up again he wasn't so entranced. Jericho saw a hidden beauty in what he saw before him. Unspoiled bottles of booze. Not long ago he was certain each and every bottle would be shattered and possibly set ablaze, losing control of himself. The bar nothing but a husk of what it once was.
But earlier, under stress, he had done well. He felt he demonstrated quite the feat of restraint. As much as it wanted to consume him, to unleash its full potential, Jericho had reigned in the urge. Progress was made.
"I'll drink to that." Jericho raised his shot glass to himself and swallowed the whiskey down.
The thought of having another drink crossed his mind, but knew he would have to serve himself. The bartender, whom he knew was slumped lifeless just behind the counter, was no longer of any use. The man — Jerry, he thought he recalled his name being — tried to do the right thing by breaking up what was potentially going to be a squabble, even if it was mostly to avoid an altercation in his establishment and not concern for Jericho's well being. Even tried explaining that it was all just a misunderstanding and that the locals always gave outsiders a rough time.
But when push came to shove and the assholes had decided to take things to the next level, Jerry's choice to jump in on their side was the wrong choice. Jericho understood it, however, business security. He wouldn't ever be back to Jerry's shithole bar, so protecting his regular clientele was smart. Except when it wasn't. But he had put him down fast and clean. In fact, everyone was put down in that same fashion.
Except Frank, he looked down to his right, where a plump, ham-fisted drunk lay sprawled haphazardly on his back. The man's flannel and undershirt were soaked in red. A splotch of smeared gore on Frank's jeans marked the spot Jericho had wiped his knife clean.
Jericho sighed, knowing he had lost it when dealing with the original instigator of the evening. But he had wanted to treat him to his original skillset, not his newfound obsession. Frank should have felt special. As for the mess, where he had gained some much needed control in one area it made sense to let loose and celebrate in another.
He shrugged it off, twisting and dismounting the stool, his leather, steel-toe boots contacting the ground with a dull thud. After a silent salute, he started for the exit, stepping over Frank and then one of his companions in stride. He paused at the door, turning back to the scene, and snapped his fingers.
There was suddenly a prickly static in the air followed by a spark that lit up the room. It was centered on a liquor bottle which simultaneously exploded and caused a chain reaction, setting ablaze the entire wall behind the bar. He knew that the one body would be harder to explain away, given the carnage he had rained upon it, but by the time the authorities would uncover the full extent, he would be long gone.
Jericho spun back around and exited the establishment. He had a friend to find out West.
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