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25. Mother

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Steve was once again out of the cage, tied up in the chair. The trio had returned and bound him again. Currently, Mouse and Bird were away somewhere. Only Sausage remained. He leaned against the dining room table to Steve’s left. He was standing still, staring right at Steve. Though his face was covered by that stupid mask, Steve was almost convinced that Sausage had not blinked once.

The Mother was coming. Vulcan Hephaestus wasn’t expecting her so soon. He had only just begun mentoring Steve–he only got in about an hour of training him in the art of Muay Thai boxing when the trio had returned.

“We must prepare it for the Mother,” Bird had said when they re-entered the theater. “Do you remember what we must do?” he asked the other two.

“I will remove it from its cage,” Sausage said, turning to look at Steve.

Mouse nodded. “And I will retrieve the rope to bind it,” she added. She pointed at Bird. “And you will bind it with the rope,” she continued.

Bird placed its hands on his hips in mild disappointment. “That is correct, my friends,” he replied. “But you have forgotten that first we must clean ourselves up. The Mother hates messes, and we want to look so clean.”

Forgive us, friend,” Mouse responded. “We did not mean to forget. Let us go make ourselves clean.”

And with that, they had left the theater once more.

Vulcan frowned. “This is a most unwelcome development,” he stated.

Steve was not quite as fazed. “Just who exactly is the Mother anyway?” he asked.

Vulcan adjusted his glasses. “She calls herself Mother Martyr,” he began. “Though it seems most people just refer to her as the Mother. She’s delusional. Believes the world has been corrupted, and that she alone has been appointed to save it.” He began pacing. “Not too long ago, she was little more than a nuisance. Vandalizing night clubs, stealing R-rated movies from electronics stores, that sort of thing. But as of late, she’s become–how do I put this?–more feared. She’s become more powerful somehow. And unquestionably more ruthless. The things she’s done to those she’s deemed as beyond saving…” He trailed off then looked back at Steve. “I fear for you, Stephen,” he said.

Steve wasn’t too worried. After all, he had spent the past hour learning Muay Thai. He had probably mastered it by now.

Vulcan seemed to sense what Steve was thinking. “Stephen,” he said. “I know you think you can probably handle what’s about to come, but if you want to survive the next hour, I highly stress that you avoid anything that would agitate the Mother.”

Steve didn’t want to admit it, but Vulcan was probably right. One hour of training was probably not enough time to master the art of Muay Thai. He probably needed a couple more hours before he would become an expert.

So Steve restrained himself when Sausage came back and pulled him from the cage. And now he was once again tied up in this chair, waiting for Mother Martyr to show up.

When she finally came through the theater door, flanked on both sides by Mouse and Bird, Steve found himself feeling pretty underwhelmed. He thought about how this woman who was now approaching him looked kind of like what you would get if a crazy cat lady found a nun costume in a dumpster. Her arms were flayed outwards, palms facing up. As she approached Steve an unmistakable look of disgust formed on her face.

“What a wretched child,” she sneered.

I’m 27, I’m no child, Steve thought to himself, though based on the Mother’s demeanor, it didn’t look like this fact would mean anything to her.

Mother Martyr reached out and stroked Steve’s cheek. “You are just all so wretched,” she said. “You have corrupted this world. Devoured its soul with the sinful lives that you live. You act only for yourself, seeking new ways to enjoy yourself.” Her hand retracted away from Steve’s face, much to Steve’s relief.

“But life is not meant to be enjoyed,” she continued. “It is meant to be endured. We are meant to suffer through this world so that we may find ourselves reborn in the next! But you and your kind do not listen. You refuse to suffer. So it has become my burden. My burden to suffer alone. It is only through my suffering that this world may be saved.” She gestured towards Bird, Mouse, and Sausage who stood behind her with their heads bowed. “If it means I must associate with these dregs, then so be it. For these ordeals will only strengthen my resolve. I shall destroy this world so that I may save it.”

Steve blinked and remained silent. It was clear this woman had an ethos, but she was just doing a scattershot job of getting it across. She thinks people are supposed to suffer? Okay, sure, whatever. She’s going to make herself suffer and wants to destroy the world so everyone will suffer? Yep, Steve thought. This woman is crazy.

Mother Martyr–which now sounded to Steve like it may be a little on the nose, crouched down in front of him. “So now I have been brought to you,” she continued. “I know who you are. The reptile from another world, the one who has granted me the power to save the world. He has told me. You are the Steward of the Endocrine. The mortal enemy of our salvation.”

Steve frowned. Steward of the Endocrine? That’s what Barnaby Willacre called Davy. Steve’s suspicions of a case of mistaken identity had been confirmed. Steve had known for a while, but was hesitant to accept that he actually was, according to the Librarian, the useless friend. Still, he wasn’t ongoing to let this circus sideshow know that Davy was still out there.

Mother Martyr rested her hands on Steve’s shoulders. “I should kill you right now and be done with it,” she said. “But the reptile from another world needs information.” She looked into Steve’s eyes. “Steward, where is the possum? The filthy creature that told you lies about destiny. Tell me and I will make sure your suffering is intense, but brief.”

Steve kept his mouth shut, partly out of respect for Vulcan, and also out of loyalty to Davy, but also largely because if how little he thought that offer merited a response.

Mother Martyr could tell Steve wasn’t going to talk. She clenched her fingers into Steve’s shoulders and moved her face right in front of Steve’s. She stared Steve in the eyes, seemingly glaring into his soul. Steve tried to avoid eye contact. He looked up to the top of her head at her–Steve didn’t know what to call it, her nun hat? It was greasy and black, but it was a slightly different shade of black than the rest of her outfit, as if it came from somewhere else. Something looked off about it, but Steve couldn’t pinpoint what made him feel this way.

Steve looked back at Mother Martyr’s face and saw a look of monstrous rage had appeared. Mother Martyr wrenched her head back and screamed in fury as she swiped at Steve’s face with her hand. Steve wasn’t expecting to get scratched, but was expecting the burning pain he felt on his face even less. It felt like acid boiling on his skin. He clenched his mouth shut and used up all his willpower trying not to scream. When was the last time this lady took a shower?

Mother Martyr turned back to the mask trio. “This is not the Steward!” she shrieked.

Mouse, Bird, and Sausage fell to the ground in supplication. They began caressing the Mother Martyr’s feet. “Forgive us, dear Mother!” Bird cried. “We have failed you.”

Mother looked down at them with contempt. “It does not matter, The Steward is out there, and we will find him. And once we do, I can finally commence my plan to cleanse this city.”

That last sentence piqued Steve’s attention. “Cleanse this city?” he said before he realized it. Mother Martyr broke out into a twisted smile. “So it speaks,” she said with malevolent glee. “Yes, tonight I will cleanse this cesspit of filth. The reptile from another world has given me so much. But most importantly, he has given me the technology to flood this city. Send it and everyone in it, including us, underwater, where we belong.”

“And then we shall be reborn,” Mouse added, standing up again.

“So you’re going to drown all of us?” Steve asked.

“No, such a fate it too good for the ally of the Endocrine,” she replied. There is a different plan in store for you, and…” She looked at Vulcan Hephaestus who had been watching her from the cage. “Whoever that is.”

“Pleasure to meet you as well,” Vulcan chided.

Mother Martyr sneered and looked back at Steve. “No, I’ll leave you two to my apostates,” she said, pointing towards the masked trio. “I believe they can arrange something more akin to what you deserve.”

Mouse jumped in the air in excitement. “We get to decide, Mother?” she exclaimed. “May we burn them alive?” she continued.

“Yes,” Bird added. “We shall be saved with water. They must suffer through fire.”

Mother Martyr began walking to the door, thinking over the proposition. She reached the door and opened it. Before walking out of sight, she looked back at Steve with a wicked grin.”Yes,” she answered. “Let them burn.”


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