AMALGAM REVISITED #4
"GONE, GONE, FORM OF MAN"
Starring Speed Demon
Written by D. Golightly
The cindering smell of burnt flesh wreaked the nostrils of both human and demon alike. Blaze Allen was no longer a mere vessel strapped to the mortal coil…his very soul had been intertwined with that of a hellish spawn from the depths of Hell itself. Whenever he wrought vengeance upon an unfortunate being, the stench of sulfur not only invaded his own sense of smell, but that of the demon he was bonded with.
"Your crisp corpse tenderly melts into a flesh paste," the Speed Demon spoke, "a true sign that your life was but a waste."
Smoke wafted from the ashy husk of former life now lying at Speed Demon's feet, its own distinguishing features strangely similar to his own. Blaze Allen had little control over the demon when it was in control of his transformed body, but he still retained a small amount of conscious exertion over it's thoughts.
There is no pleasure in this, Blaze's mind said into the demon's. Wally deserved better.
"Perhaps you wouldn't feel sorry for this child," Speed Demon replied aloud, "if it was you lying, burning not so mild."
Blaze kept his open thoughts to himself. There was no arguing with the demon. He thought a quick prayer for his murdered nephew, Wally West, managing to race through the words before the demon sped away into the night. A fiery trail was left in the Speed Demon's wake as his unearthly power carried them away faster than any normal convention could hope to travel.
The moon shone beautifully on the deceased corpse, perfectly demonstrating the irony that was Blaze Allen's life.
SEVERAL HOURS AGO
"Come on, Uncle Blaze!" the youthful Wally West screamed in irritation. "Give me one good reason why I can't join your search?"
Blaze Allen, garbed in his red tunic that was laced across his chest with a single yellow line, stared daggers into his nephew. The reading glasses he constantly wore slid down his nose, a sure sign of annoyance that he knew his nephew wouldn't miss. Over the last several months the two had become closer since their triumph over Night Spectre. # As much as it pained him to admit it, Blaze knew that it had only been of necessity. Now that the Souls of Power were once again freed, there were more pressing matters Blaze had to attend to, the most important of which was keeping an eye on Wally.
# (Remember that little scuffle in the classic Speed Demon #1? – D)
"How about because I said so?" Blaze retorted.
"Not good enough."
Blaze sighed, knowing that the stubbornness that ran through his own blood undoubtedly thrived within Wally. He noticed more and more that ever since Wally had been bonded with a mysterious demon, thanks in part to the enigmatic Merlin, he had been acting more cavalier in his approach to their missions. It troubled him, but there wasn't much he could do other than keep a watchful eye on the young man.
"Look, kiddo," Blaze finally said, "what we're going after tonight isn't something to bring the kid gloves along for. You've got to be careful, precise, and most importantly—"
Blaze smirked. "You got it."
"So who are we going after tonight?" Wally cracked his knuckles in anticipation of the information. He would never tell his uncle how important it was that he help with his unholy mission to save the world, regardless of how dangerous it may be. His uncle was the only family he had left, and he wanted to make sure they both lived long and fruitful lives…even if that meant getting his hands a little dirty in the process.
"Well, as you know, ever since the Souls of Power were freed and Etrigan effectively gained the keys to Hell, we've had our hands busy keeping the ethereal borders protected." #
# (But you already know that since you've read the Speed Demon: Angels' Borders mini, right? Of course you do! – D)
"Yeah," Wally replied. "As much of a jerk as Night Spectre was, he kept a tight leash on the evil spirits. Etrigan doesn't have quite a grip on things yet."
"Being bonded to a human isn't helping much, either," Blaze added. "But, we're kind of stuck with each other, so we have to make the best of it. It's our job to keep the spirits that slip across onto the Earth plane in check. Just before dawn something crossed over that's bigger than anything I've ever felt before. It's been hiding out and avoiding the sunlight, but dusk is almost here. That means we need to get moving."
"Awesome!" Wally exclaimed. "Let's saddle up!"
Blaze shifted his stance, preparing to invoke his demon half so they could begin their nightly patrol. Etrigan, the demonic spirit of a former hero named Jay Garrick, eagerly waited to be unleashed onto Earth. Blaze shot a quick look at Wally, thoughts of doubt and worry crossing against his mind, but he knew that he needed to have a clear head when running into battle. So, with an effort of will, he forced the concern away and concentrated on summoning Etrigan.
"Gone, gone, the form of man," Blaze muttered as he felt the burning power well up inside of him, "rise the demon Etrigan!"
A flash of orange light quickly arose from the floor and engulfed Blaze Allen, immediately replacing him with the tarnished white bones of the Speed Demon. The smooth, pink features of the human Blaze that had moments ago filled out the red and blue costume had been burned away to the bulky and contoured skeleton of Etrigan. His eyes were devoid of pupils, lest twin sparks of mystic fire were seen by those that would feel his wrath. The skin and flesh had boiled down to jagged bone and twisted teeth.
The Speed Demon breathed in the cool night air, needlessly inhaling its oxygen. He looked over his reformed body, seeing the iron sigil imbedded in his belt buckle gleam in the moonlight. The metal spikes that adorned his wrists and forearms brought about memories of vicious fights with demonic forces. Lastly, the thick, red boots on his feet invoked a smooth euphoria that served to amplify his need to exact swift vengeance.
"Ready to ride?" a harsh voice beside him asked.
He turned his head, cracking the exposed bones that comprised his spine. Where once Wally West had stood now sat a similar creature to himself, resting on top of a red motorcycle that many humans would gladly sell their soul for. Etrigan knew he had seen the blazing skull somewhere before Wally had bonded with it, but he couldn't remember where.
"Our flight begins with the dying of the sun," the Speed Demon answered. "But it is you who shall ride while I simply run."
In the blink of an eye, a whirl of flame splashed against the ground as the Speed Demon raced away from the scene with unbridled fury. In the time it took the second demon to kick start his hellish bike, Etrigan was already thirty miles away.
Flames rippled in the place of hair as Wally West blazed down the highway on top of his infernal motorcycle. His uncle, now embodied by the spirit Etrigan, was at least a mile ahead of him. His trail was easy enough to follow, however, as slick scorch marks in the blacktop road were hard to come by.
Racing down the center of the empty road, Wally enjoyed the air smacking against his face. He had no worry of being tagged for speeding, as any conventional means of transportation would never be able to catch up to him. That was one of the gifts he had received upon being bonded with a demon of his own.
There was always one thing that bothered him, though, and that was the fact he had no idea who he was bonded with. No matter how many similarities he shared with his uncle, Wally's connection to his darker half was vastly different than Blaze Allen's. When Etrigan was present his uncle seemed to have very little control over his physical form. Wally, however, was the exact opposite. Not once had he ever conversed with his demonic half. The power was there but Wally was always in the driver's seat.
The familiar backlash of his uncle's presence became evident as he poured on the speed. His unearthly vehicle had no need for fuel, thus never needing to worry about relaxing on the throttle. Wally kicked the bike into a higher gear and prepared to race up beside the Speed Demon. If his uncle was beginning to slow down that must have meant they were near their prey.
Suddenly, sparks pelted forth from the front of the chassis of his motorcycle. Wally felt a swarm of panic enter his mind as he watched the handle bars of his machine begin to unfurl and loosen. The front tire slipped completely out of the frame and the bike lurched forward, grinding into the desolate highway. Wally flipped over the front and slammed down hard into the pavement, feeling every inch of torn blacktop as his momentum dragged him several yards.
His demonic form was mainly unharmed from the vicious crash, but his nerves were shaken. The bike had been born from the very flames of Hell and shouldn't have just fallen apart like that. Wally stood up and looked around, sure that someone must have caused the crash to happen.
But there was no one. The highway was devoid of all life, save his own.
I wonder, said an eerie voice inside Wally's head, what it would be like to commit suicide without the repercussions of my own death?
Wally looked around but again saw no one nearby. The red and yellow flames licking over his body quickly died down to a softer shade as he the shocking realization overcame him: the voice was coming from inside him, which meant that it could only be from his quizzical demon half.
The boney fingers, against Wally's will, clutched his own throat and began to squeeze.
Something's wrong, Blaze Allen thought.
"The trouble with your human qualms," Etrigan replied, "is that you never put them into psalms."
Can't you feel it? Blaze asked anxiously. Wally's in trouble. We have to go back. Turn around.
Annoyed but weary of Blaze's concern, Speed Demon shifted his momentum and abruptly turned around in the middle of the barren road. Wind whipped around in tiny tornados from his swift change of direction, his incredible velocity kicking up clouds of dust in his wake. Placing one red boot in from of the other at a remarkable and unending pace, the demon turned around and launched himself back the way he had come.
Small indentations formed beneath his treading feet as he ran. Yard after yard, mile after mile, the road was nothing more than putty under him. He may as well have been jogging on air for all the friction it caused his against mystic body. His sweeping gaze covered the landscape as he quickly approached a fiery blaze from which smoke billowed out into the blank sky.
Etrigan puffed out a bit of smoke from the hollow section where his nose would have been. "We don't have time for this scene, our quarry only gains more chances to preen."
You're really stretching for some of those rhymes. Just go check it out. Our target tonight may even be the one responsible for this. You know as well as I do that Wally wouldn't have just accidentally crashed. We need to—Etrigan, look out!
Bone scraped against bone as Wally suddenly appeared beside Etrigan and hit him with enough force to knock the demon down. The Speed Demon was sent flying head over heels, skipping across the road and into the dirt like a stone across a pond.
"Get…get away, uncle!" Wally warned. "I can't control him!"
Etrigan managed to right himself and began to dash for his fellow demonspawn. His superior reflexes allowed him to dodge the feeble hand-to-hand combat that Wally was trying to engage in, as Speed Demon dodged left and right between the punches with ease.
"I come close to hear your strategy," Etrigan stated. "Tell me who holds over you total supremacy?"
"I'll never cease despising that wretched rhyming you insist on doing," Wally replied, but in a voice not his own. His usual casual tone had been replaced by a darker, harsher voice that seemed to assault Speed Demon with every syllable. "You never talked like that in life, Jay Garrick…I wonder why your afterlife demands such constant tomfoolery?"
Etrigan hesitated and was struck down by the flailing bone fists now pummeling him. He was shocked to have heard his original human name, a name that very few people knew besides Blaze Allen. Rolling with the next punch, Speed Demon jumped to his side and moved back a few feet to try and asses the situation.
"The name you call is my own. Whose name will they carve on your stone?"
Wally West suddenly burst into magnificent flames, with deep resonant laughter to match. The charred teeth around his mouth began to elongate into a sickening smile. Power emanated from every fiber of his demonic being, power that had been sent from the depths of Hades.
"Don't you recognize your old friend Thawne? You murdered me along with that bastard Strangefate!" #
# (A twisted view of what occurred in Speed Demon Annual #2 – D )
Sweet Lord above, Blaze thought. Etrigan! Be careful! When Merlin bonded Wally with a demon, he must have called upon Thawne's dead spirit just like he did with you!
"I see the confusion in your face, you putrid demonspawn," the villain continued to explain. "As our kind is so accustomed to doing, I made a deal with the devil. After you took my life I was whisked away to the depths of Hell, where I confronted the Dark Lord himself, and begged for the chance to seek revenge. He smiled and pointed me toward his servant, Merlin. Your nephew here was so eager to help you that it was a simple matter to bond us together. I've been slumbering within his very soul, waiting for the right moment to strike!"
"Your story is wrought with poison and is no more than a lie," Speed Demon countered. "For the young life you seek to usurp, you shall surely die!"
"You'll be the one to be sent back to the Pit tonight, Jay Garrick! And from now on, call me Vengeance!"
As soon as the last word parted from his fleshless lips, Vengeance lunged forward at the demonic hero and struck him with all his might. Speed Demon fell back from the shock, unprepared for the swift attack. Vengeance had moved so fast that he had barely seen the punch coming.
Etrigan ducked under another blow and delivered three uppercuts to Vengeance's chin in the time it would take a butterfly to flap it's wings. Not only was his enemy just as fast, but he was also just as strong. The single hit had been enough to nearly knock the spirit off of the earthly plane and return Blaze Allen to the landscape. He had to move fast, or else they were all as good as dead.
"I'm aware of your little hunt," Vengeance as he began to encircle Speed Demon, using his speed to box the demonspawn in. "I felt something large cross over this morning, too. Once I'm finished with you, I'll rally the dark forces under my command and bring this mortal planet down to the Pit itself!"
The vortex Vengeance was creating began to lift Speed Demon off the ground. In mere moments he was swirling haphazardly through the air, caught in the control of the demonic madman that so desperately wanted to see his end. He could feel the pressure against his soul to exit the Earth Realm and return to the Pit. Once that happened, Blaze Allen would be left alone with Vengeance, helpless and weakened.
Create a counter-current, Etrigan! It's our only hope!
The Speed Demon began spinning his arms, slowly at first as he fought against the roaring winds. He soon began to build momentum, however, and felt the raging windstorm holding him aloft begin to die down. He spun his arms as rapidly as his body would allow, mashing his on windtunnel against that of the vortex he spun in. Against the protests of his enemy, the winds finally buckled and broke, landing Speed Demon back on his feet upon terra firma.
"Now that we are free," Speed Demon said curtly, "to your own death we shall see!"
Flames belched forth from Etrigan's throat as he coated Vengeance in a blaze of scorching heat. The Hellfire, almost liquid like splotches of hot magma, seemed into the crevices of Vengeance's limbs, melting down the white bones into useless sticks. The costume he wore quickly burned away, leaving nothing but a charred skeleton.
As Vengeance screamed from the agony of being cast off the mortal plane, the tattered bones began to shift and change. Through Etrigan's eyes, Blaze watched in horror as Wally's frail human body merged back into sight, replacing the defeated Vengeance.
Recall the Hellfire! Blaze demanded. He'll die!
"I'm sorry, but I cannot," Etrigan replied aloud. "It is already too late, as the fire burns hot."
Speed Demon rushed through the night along the desolate highway, unsure of what to say to his partner. He had come to know Blaze Allen as a noble man, a man of integrity and heroic deeds. He wished that he could have saved Blaze's nephew, if for nothing more than the fact that it would have made Blaze more content. They needed to focus on their mission, lest the forces of Hell gleefully escaped their confinement in the Pit to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world.
As Etrigan pushed off from the ground and allowed the momentum he had built up from his great speed to carry him across the open canyon, he tried to feel the unending thoughts of Blaze within his mind, but he found he could not.
Blaze had retired deep into his own mind and cut himself off from the world.
Etrigan landed and regained his footing, sprinting off once more into the night at unfathomable speeds. He decided to focus on his mission and destroy whatever powerful entity had crossed over that morning.
The moon provided light for him to see as he raced through the desert, kicking up mounds of dirt with every footfall. With each and every step he felt the humanity provided to him by Blaze Allen's presence slip away as his partner retreated further and further into his mind.
For the first time since his fiery reincarnation, Etrigan was scared.
Holy crap! Wally's dead and so is Vengeance! Or are they? Plus, how will Etrigan be able to function now that Blaze has apparently given up hope? Find out in Speed Demon #37, due out next month!