Contusions and bruising would heal quickly, but the boy’s mind was irreparably damaged. He was bullied at school because he was different. His parents expected the boy to mirror the lifestyle they chose for themselves. He could not. The expectations and bullying turned the boy against himself. He created a guardian in his mind for protection. The guardian was a monster named Mr. Hamm.
Mr. Hamm has no regrets. He lurches from room to room and from one disaster to the next. Hamm is an abomination and he delights in that reproof. He inhabits dark cellars and desiccated tombs dressed only in raiments stolen from graveyard corpses. For years, perhaps centuries, he served the Archons of Red City, propping up the regime with blackmail and murder. Hamm is a clever blood sucker who managed to stave off death by tricking other decrepit souls to take his place. But no one outsmarts death forever. Hamm’s day of reckoning has finally arrived at a fortuitous time as Red City descends deeper into the volcanic fires in the earth’s core.
Mr. Hamm stares into the green miasma of his favorite drink, absinth with a dash of embalming fluid, as if it is a crystal ball. He sits at his reserved table in the Charnel House Bar along with other denizens of the underworld. Every few minutes the earth rumbles sending another tremor through the warrens of Red City. Hamm is mumbling out loud and yelling obscenities. No one approaches or even looks at Mr. Hamm. He can do whatever he desires in the Charnel House; indeed, he has free reign anywhere in Red City. No one is feared or hated more than Mr. Hamm. Rumors abound about Hamm’s predilection for cannibalism and his fraternization with demons.
Mr. Hamm moans as if expelling his last gasp, “Been running a long time. It finally caught me,” he hisses, “I’m old. Old — and death is snapping at my ass.” Hamm gulps his drink and bangs the table for more. “I’m no smarter than when I was a piss-ant kid — I’m just slower. My bones creak. My head aches. I hear voices that criticize. They run daggers through me and cut me to shreds. I never had a choice. My bones are turning to liquid. I piss my pants at night. No one knows the truth. Mighty Mr. Hamm pisses his pants,” He cackles like a wheezing whore.
The rumors are true. Hamm committed horrendous crimes; but, he rationalized, it was for the benefit of Red City. He kept the city alive. He supplied the city’s lifeblood, literally — by draining victims who fell under his spell. “None of the donors were innocent,” Hamm relishes, “they were greedy nobodies eager to take advantage of anyone weaker than themselves. It was a delight to suck them dry and hang their bodies on meat hooks to mold and rot. I sold contracts to skulkers consigning them to hell for an eternity in exchange for a little fleeting power, money, or sex. I provided a service by eviscerating corrupt malingerers. I delighted in consuming their flesh and eating their souls.”
Although the people hated and feared Mr. Hamm the living-infrastructure that was Red City loved him. The city relied on Hamm to provide necessary ingredients — fuel for the machines and systems: blood, sinews, flesh and offal. Hamm was granted extraordinary powers to perform his tasks — in effect, making Mr. Hamm the power behind the government. He controlled the Archons who ruled the city. He was the shadow behind the curtain. The Archons were fed the blood of Hamm’s victims — they were nurtured and kept alive by blood.
Mr. Hamm recalls how he tricked the man who became Anton Bane who fell down a rabbit hole and entered Red City like an innocent pilgrim from another world — but it was a lie. Hamm read the man like a book, a bad pornographic novel filled with remorse and lust. It was easy to sign him up, change his name, and turn him into a killer — and, finally, condemn him to hell. Hamm fondly remembers a young Jupiter Fogg, an aspiring hedonist who enjoyed the art of murder. Hamm ruled Jupiter’s life, forging him into a powerful alchemist/scientist, forcing him to follow orders. Many lives, both living and dead, were effected or effaced by Mr. Hamm. Many plots were in play. The city was changing and Hamm was required to change as well. Mr. Hamm did not like change and he did not like feeling old and wary of death, but it was inevitable. The only wild card that remained was known as the Harlequin-beat Angel. No one controlled the Angel. (to be continued)