Yea, He Speaks Only Truth
Featuring: Thrax, one original female character, and two unlikely newcomers...
Warnings: Mature language, adult situations, Thrax being... well, Thrax, baby.
The city of Guillaume "Willie" Beaumont. 1983.
A black clad figure, usually erect with confidence, passed silently and wearily through the lonely alley. He searched for any nook, any niche, any open door or window, any sign of affordable privacy. The chain of near captures and outright unsuccessful hunts had left him aching, not at all physically, but emotionally. He needed a room, a safe corner in which to recover. He could threaten a local motel owner with ease; just a flash of an incandescent claw, and any one would be brought to bow with terror. But he did not have the strength for menace at that moment, his mood already foul and draining him of his last reserves. He had no time to put up with stubborn, old motel keepers, and so, he continued to wander.
The virion Thrax had recently taken upon himself the initiation of striking out on his own. He longed for fame, and for too long, the Red Death had been overshadowed by many other plagues. As old as the black plague that had crippled Europe, the Red Death had slain its share of victims during those dark times. The virus had all but vanished as it travelled north to colder, less hospitable climates. Nevertheless, the virus periodically claimed the lives of some villagers or townsfolk. Men often blamed the Red Death on witches, blasphemers, and heretics, and racist ideas surrounding the Romani, the Jews, and other outsiders followed the appearance of the virus. More humans perished at the hands of other humans than the Red Death.
Nicknamed the Devil's Fever, the fiery plague caused the body to burn for weeks, even mere days. Red Death virions enjoyed blazing temperatures, but inducing deadly fevers was not their only forte. Hunger and thirst either diminished or increased. A person might fly into a rage or uncontrolled sobbing; their memory distorted by the infection. Though no large than a bean, the hypothalamus controls many functions in the brain, including hormone regulation and memories, and Thrax's family often did more than light the body ablaze.
Thrax snorted. He did not need them any more—they had begun to hold back his potential to be someone greater, someone famous. They were all a bunch of Old-Worlders, stuck on subtle means of taking a body down, positioning themselves slowly like old politicians, manipulating their way to the literal top.
"We ain't in France or England or Ireland," he had said. This was the New World, where organisms took hold quickly and violently. Eukaryote, Bacterium, or Virion, you either took charge now to be someone or were taken charge of—there was no other way. But they had scoffed at Thrax. They just would not speed up for, in their collective opinion, 'some upstart hot shot.' So he had left, and at first, he thought he had a plan.
Not now, though. There he was, wandering through one of the more desolate and depressing parts of Beaumont. He had made too many mistakes, trusted the wrong thugs, made Plans A and B but never got beyond C, D, E... for back up plans.
Thrax growled. He needed someone to kill, if only to release his frustrations.
Eukaryotic cells and bacteria wandered the same streets and alleys as Thrax but not that many and very few in a hurry. Night had always been the perfect time for the Red Death to invade the brain, when the body's defences were least suspecting. Unfortunately for Thrax, he had been cocky enough to take on a relatively healthful body. He had not appreciated that nearly every immunity had a Holmesian approach about him or her. A challenge might give most hunters a rush, but this was outright ungodly hard, nearly impossible.
But the hell I'm leaving, he then thought, not without my trophy, damn it.
Thrax awoke from his trance. He wrinkled his nose and pulled his collar harshly up, keeping his attention diverted firmly away from whomever called him. He had enough problems already and did not have the tolerance for dealing with 'friendly' ladies-of-the-night.
"Yo, man," the voice called, "whatcha doin'?"
Disgust turned his nose further up, and the virion glanced over his collar. Cruising closely beside him, in the cellular version of 1977 Plymouth Road Runner, was what he knew to be a white blood cell—a lymphocyte, most inconveniently. She was in plain clothes, driving her civilian car, but Thrax was keenly aware that immunities never stopped being immunities. Night and day, for as long as they lived—weeks, months, years even—they defended their cities vehemently and kept close records of all maladies passed. He needed to treat this cell with caution.
Thrax turned carefully and eyed her. A small Afro crowned her head, and thick lips, painted hot red, pouted proudly and rather lovely on her doe-like face.
Not that Thrax felt any particular attraction to her. He appreciated the finer appearances in different organisms, and just like most other cells in this body, she could please any eye that turned her way. Still, Thrax much preferred the haunting but regal appearance of his ghastly kind.
The problems with that were all virions were male, and as a result, no virus could replicate with another virus. An already rare species, Red Death children were very hard to come by, and always, the other parent needed to be a non-virus…
… most definitely a living cell…
Thrax resisted the impulse to smile in his usual, menacing manner.
"Well?" The lymphocyte did not seem to suspect him yet. She smiled and asked, "You got any ID on you, or am I gonna have to frisk you?"
Thrax feigned a sombre frown and turned toward her. "I'm afraid I don't, ma'am. I don't have the proper proteins; don't have a penny to my name. I haven't even got a family to take care of me."
The lymphocyte sighed and shook her head. Parking her car on the spot, she mumbled and stepped out, leaning against the car door with her arms crossed.
"So what are you doin' in Guillaume Beaumont?" she asked.
"Passin' through and nothin' more," said the virion with a shrug. "I'm a little lost trying to get out. I could use a reliable someone to help get me out of this burg."
"Oh, really?" she asked, a slender eyebrow raised.
Thrax nodded. "The sooner, the better. I've got family that ain't too keen on me leavin'. They want me as good as dead for turnin' soft on them, and I don't wanna turn up carved up like a Christmas goose."
The lymphocyte cocked her head, taking the bait, no doubt. "Which family?"
"I don't dare say, ma'am," replied Thrax. "I ain't got much love for them now, but I'm no snitch."
"Hmm… I getcha. Well, we can always go to one of the stations—"
Thrax tensed but maintained a straight face.
"—but I'm in no mood to deal with paperwork right now."
What a relief… for now…
"Now I know I'm gonna hate myself in the morning," she said, " 'cause I ain't a soft woman. And don't usually help out strange-lookin' boys like yourself. But if you promise to behave, I'll drive you around until we can find you a safe place to bug out. Ya dig?"
Thrax smirked. "Officer, I'd be very honoured if ya'll would do that for me."
The cell smirked back and waved a hand dismissively. "Don'tcha'll be makin' a scene now. And don't think this means I'm easy. I'm just doin' this because I'm lazy. Just got off duty, and I do not wanna be cruisin' all the way back to my precinct, just to bust some poor gypsy's ass. I got better things to do with my eight hours off."
"You're the boss, officer," said Thrax, and he slid into the passenger's seat as soon as she unlocked the door.
The cell turned on the engine and proceeded to cruise away from that quiet and desolate neighbourhood. Thrax's charm had worked, not that he cared to use it very often. He had the strength and the skill to take what ever he desired by force. However, he had made a few too many missteps in his mission to kill Beaumont. He had been rash, he would admit that, and killed far too many cells—and one too many immunities. This body was on red alert, and even with his resilience, he needed to make sure this cell did not get the slightest inkling about who he really was.
As if some unseen force had read his thoughts and compelled her to speak, the lymphocyte asked, "So just what are you anyway? You don't look like any organism I've ever seen."
"I'm a virus, if that's okay with you," he said.
The lymphocyte rolled her eyes. "I knew that, smartass. I meant, what kind are you? Are you new? Some kinda mutation? Ya'll hopefully not that HIV thang that just cropped up in cities all over the place, are you?"
Thrax laughed. "HIV? Baby, if I were HIV, would you still be alive right now? Those boys get their rocks off violatin' officers of the law—officers, for Guillaume's sake! No, no, ma'am, I am most certainly not HIV." And he chuckled and cursed in thorough amusement.
"Okay, okay, it's just my job to ask," she said as they entered the bloodstream. "You certainly look exotic. And you mentioned there were more of you in Beaumont? About how many?"
Thrax feigned a morose demeanour: leaning his arm upon the open window and laying his cheek wearily upon it. "Let's just not talk about them, okay, baby? I've had enough trouble in my life as is."
"All right, no need to pout," she said. Then she turned on the radio and turned the dial until she reached the jazz station. The piano in the tune played solemnly, while the horn blew strong but smoothly, the vocalist crooning thoughtfully. Fate seemed to pick that track appropriately to match the mood, which then pervaded in the car: a mood of sorrow and contemplation.
"Name's Basal, by the way," she suddenly said, "Officer Anjelique Basal. "How 'bout you? You got a name or is that too much a part of the past you wanna forget?"
Thrax smiled. "It's Othello," he lied smoothly, using one of his many aliases.
"Like the Moor?"
"Yeah," he said. "You a Shakespeare fan?"
Basal flashed him a pout of a smile. "We immunities aren't just keepers of the law. Whenever my mama had time off, she used to take me up to the eyes as a kid whenever Beaumont would start reading. She wanted me to grow up to be an officer, yeah, but she also wanted me to grow up a cultured lady, ya understand? My daddy didn't like Shakespeare—said it was too un-lady-like—but he never done stopped us." Then she laughed. "I always got a kick out of all them different characters, they problems, and you always knew when someone did something, it was a set-up for tragedy. People would do things, and you knew well the mistakes been made and…"
She sighed as she trailed off. The tiniest inkling of weakness suddenly showed in her, and the predator in Thrax paid close attention.
"… then things would just… fall apart," she continued. "And you knew that no matter how much you cried out to them, tried to set things right for them, that everything was in motion. And then you'd get hit by another surprise, and you knew it was over. It was over for all those characters…"
Thrax eyed her carefully. She glanced at him many times and smiled. "But I guess you know how that feels."
The virion nodded slowly. "Yeah. Yeah, I do." Then he looked out of the passenger window and smirked.
Kindness alone had not compelled the lymphocyte to help him; and if she were truly dedicated to her job, she would have taken him to the nearest lymph node immediately, probably even cuffed him. Normal human bodies treated all foreigners with fervent hostility. No organism moved in or around a city without close supervision or the right identification. If one officer stepped out of line or did not operate in tip-top condition, then a city could be put in jeopardy.
However, despite Beaumont's overall good physical health, the human carried some heavy emotional burdens. Humans often underestimated how their minds could affect their bodies, and to Thrax, Beaumont's demons had begun to manifest slowly within his very cells.
Perhaps this job won't be a bust, he thought.
Thrax glanced at the different freeway signs. Thinking fast, he said, "You know, we can stop off at the liver real fast."
"Yeah?" said Basal. "What's at the liver?"
The virion shrugged. "Pardon me for sayin' this about a lady, but you ain't lookin' so hot right now. Y'might wanna stop off unless you wanna crash on the side of the freeway."
Basal smirked. "Okay, smart ass, we'll stop, but only for a little while."
As soon as the off ramp for the liver appeared, Basal drove off the freeway and began to through the organ. The upbeat light on her face instantly dimmed, and the grim face of caution suddenly set in. Even in a relatively healthful liver like Beaumont's, the organ and the areas around it tended to be rougher than most parts of the body. The liver was a bustling hub of transit, a rest stop, a place to renew. It was storage facility, a massive garage housing public and private belongings, mostly chemicals. The liver served also as a garbage dump. It was the place where old cells came to die, where all worn out persons and things went to be converted and disposed of without a second thought.
The dregs and the scum also lingered here, breaking into the facilities and stealing chemicals for whatever un-Beaumontly purpose they had in mind. Shrivelled and ruined creatures, they crawled into their dank apartments and motel rooms until the immunities kicked them out, arresting them and driving them to other parts of the city so they did not accumulate and put the liver at risk.
Both Thrax and Basal needed to be careful. Despite the fact that he had won over the lymphocyte, her comrades could be cruising nearby, and he could not risk being spotted. Likewise, being a pretty gal and immunity all in one did not work to Basal's advantage. If some thug decided to go for her first, Thrax owed her no allegiance. He would take her car during an ambush and leave her to her attackers' sick whims. He had no qualms about it, having committed a similar betrayal in another city.
"I don't see no fuel station," she said. "I'ma pull up to a motel in a minute."
"That's fine with me, baby," he said, hands behind his head. "Long as you got your gun with you, this place don't scare me none."
"I'm sure it don't."
Soon enough, she pulled into a motel and parked by the office.
"Just sit tight, and I'll be right back," she said. "And don't be pokin' your nose out too much. I don't want no patrol car come by and see you in my car."
"No problem," he said, and with that, she headed for the office.
Thrax leaned back and eyed the neighbourhood. This was not the most stunning part of Guillaume Beaumont, of that he was certain. In fact, if he did not know any better, he was certain that Beaumont might have been a bit of a lush, a condition brought on by the recent hardships into which he had fallen. Thrax chuckled. It never ceased to amuse him that no matter how much money humans invested into their bodily health, many failed to recognise how important mental health was. A mind that had fallen into despair, that allowed all the overwhelming pressures of existence to crush it, was a gateway for dark comings. Humans abused their bodies either in staggering repentance or pure apathy once the world overcame them.
When the mind went, the body followed, and an organism would be foolish to not exploit the opportunity.
Basal quickly returned. She opened her door long enough to roll up the window and to say, "Well, they only got one room left."
Thrax raised a hairless eyebrow. "You wanna stay the night? With me?"
The lymphocyte laughed. "Honey, you're sleepin' on the couch, whether you like it or not. And I'm registered to carry my gun after hours, so there ain't nothin' you can pull on me."
The virion still suspected that there was more to her story. Either she was smarter than she let on, knowing exactly who and what he was and planning to capture him through trust; or she was one of those kinds of cells…
Thrax smirked. He would be luckier than hell if she were the latter, the risk-taker. It would make his plan much easier to fulfil.
"Baby, I would never think of doing anything un-to-ward with you," he replied melodically. Then the virion drew out and donned his sunglasses.
With the car locked tight, the pair weaved through the motel: through the lifeless courtyard, ascending a flight of rickety stairs, and diligently passing open doors and any cells who loitered on the walkway.
Thrax wrinkled his nose as he passed a pair of female red blood cells. They were the equivalent to fifty-, maybe sixty-year-old humans, scantily clad and leering at him, barely clinging to dignity and failing miserably at youthful seduction. He nearly gagged at the barrage of odours, chemicals stolen from the liver's storage and used in illicit means. Just because Thrax parleyed with the dregs of society did not mean that he liked them. To the contrary, he despised the addicts, the hustlers, the whores, and the deadbeats. At least he had purpose; he had focus. He was not some escapist, low-life peddler or thief. He did not kill rival mobsters or gangsters for cities that were going to perish anyway. He killed because he desired fame, true; his race had been for too long overshadowed by other infections.
But he also killed for act in itself: killing purely for the kill. It was a part of his RNA—it was all of his being. And so he was far purer than these twisted and lingering creatures.
Finally, the pair arrived at the end of the hall. The lymphocyte unlocked the door of this lonely room and flicked on a pale light, entering cautiously.
The place was no Hollywood suite, but it smelled cleaner than the rest of the building. It looked rather all right, too: soft blue walls, a small kitchen to the left, and a living room right after that. The couch was long and dark caput mortuum violet with a simple, black coffee table sitting before it. The television was humble, and to the left of that was a door, leading to the bedroom and small bathroom.
"Don't get too cosy," said Basal as she closed and locked the door. "I'ma git my sleep, and as soon as I do that, I'ma head out of this creepy joint."
"Amen," Thrax murmured as he replaced his shades in his inner coat pocket.
Basal walked into the kitchen while the virion sat on the couch and kicked up his feet.
"Of course," he heard Basal say, "ain't nothin' in here but water. You need some?"
"No, thank you, ma'am," he said.
Basal joined him with glass all her own in hand. "That's right. You viruses don't need nothin', do you?"
"I got no problem with water," he said. "Everything else I don't need."
Basal sipped her water and smacked her red hot lips together. Then she asked, "So… what else is there about you that I don't know?"
"Besides what you already asked?" he said.
Basal shrugged and set her water upon the table. She folded her legs beneath her and leaned her cheek against her knuckles. "Now, baby, just 'cause I'm clocked out don't mean I mean clocked out. I'm just doin' what comes natural, and that's asking questions. I ain't a detective, but I am an officer and a nice one at that, y'dig? Now, no virus just waltzes into a city, just 'passin' through'… 'nless you're the common cold, which you ain't. Course, I don' know, maybe you're a vaccine; 'cause other people can tell the difference, but I can't. I can't until I see some papers. So now, if there's anything you wanna tell me, anything at all, just—"
Thrax smirked and smirked harder and smiled. It figured. She just had to go and play 'good cop,' Miss Catches-more-flies-with-sugar. He shook his head and retorted, "Now hold up! There's something about you that you're not telling me."
"Yes, real-lay," he said melodically. "Now how do I know that you ain't some kind of… cop gone wild? That because one virion done crossed you, now you step beyond your badge? You lure poor me to a motel, and instead of cuffing me up all proper-like and takin' me to the station, you torture me for several hours, just to feed your vengeance."
"What?" Basal grinned in disbelief. "What kind of whacked-ass imagination you got?"
"Now hold on, baby, it's legit! How do I know?"
Basal shrugged. "Okay… you don't!"
"Okay then, good! Now…" He leaned his chin over his open palm and said, "You have got some reason, some deep, deep reason, why you're bein' kind to me. Somethin's happened to you, and I ain't gonna feel safe 'til I find out: was it just me or am I not as cute and allurin' as I hoped I was?"
The lymphocyte unfolded her legs and averted her gaze. Her hands knitted together, and Thrax spied the inkling of quivering in them. The predator in him awoke again, and he eyed her weakness very carefully:
"Your family don't love you, you say?" she began quietly. "That they tossed you out 'cause you soft? Humph! How's it make you feel, bein' a cop, supposed to be on top, and all of a sudden… something… something straight outta Shakespeare happens to you? And you're… you're f-feelin' lower than Caesar, getting' stabbed forty times… Just…" She shook her head.
Thrax moved a hand in the feigned effort to comfort. She waved him away dismissively.
"Guillaume damn it, Othello or… whatever your name is!" she cursed, on the verge of sobbing. "I lost my baby boy—my baby! Just got into the second grade, too, and then boom! Some dumbass red blood cell, high on ammonia stolen from this liver—this frickin' liver—comin' the wrong way down the aorta—boom! Smashes into to us when I tried to manoeuvre from danger. I lost my baby, and though my husband tell me, 'It ain't your fault,' I could see in his eyes and hear it in his voice that he wanted to blame me. He wanted to.
"And then," she said as she held back a huge sob, "I get another one on the way—a baby girl. A sweet little baby girl… Miscarriage!" she said as she threw her arms high. "Miscarriage! And when I need frickin' help, where's my man? Divorcin' me! Divorcin' me, and finally he outright said, 'It's your fault. It's a-a-all your fault.' My fault!" she cried pointing at herself. "Like I could control any of this—oh! Oh man, I just… I just don't know, man. I just…"
The hungry opportunist in Thrax smiled its perverse and deadly smile. She was perfect.
"Oh baby, come here," Thrax cooed, arms opened. "I know just how you feel."
Basal's laugh choked and came out more as a cough. "Baby, I don't do that sympathetic hugging shit."
"Come on, it'll make you feel better."
Basal laughed beneath her tears. "You better keep them claws away from the wrong places, you dig?"
"Ab-so-tive-ly, my dear," he said as they embraced. "You are ventin' to a bonafide gentilhomme."
The lymphocyte sighed and eventually recovered her composure. She smiled at Thrax, touched his cheek, and marked, "And being such a gentleman, you won't mind if I take the bed and you take this here couch."
"As if I would do anything untoward to you?" he said.
"Even if you didn't fly straight, I still like the extra room," she said as she rose and walked to the door.
Thrax shrugged. "That's fine with me, officer."
Basal shot him a teasing smile. "If you need me, just pound on the door and whoop and holler. I'ma lock it just in case…"
"In case what?"
"You try and smother me with a pillow." Then she shut the door and locked it tight.
Thrax grinned. His left index claw flared with knowing and malice. Reality is far more riddled with misfortunate than any Englishman's plays.
"When are we goin' up to the hypothalamus?" asked one.
"Soon," replied a soothing voice. "Soon."
"But not today?" asked the other.
The patriarch smiled. "No, Cassius. Not today. Too many people watchin' out for us. We might have to leave the car soon, too."
The other sighed. "But I like this car. It's got comfy seats."
"Well," said the patriarch, "it can't be helped. We gotta be careful now." Then he turned round and said, "You two are very strong and very fast, but you don't have enough experience." Then he smiled warmly and marked, "But we'll work on that."
The one cocked his head. He was the more inquisitive and attentive of the two. "Do you really think we can do this? I mean, do you really think we make it?"
The patriarch chuckled. "You just listen to yo' daddy, do everything he says to do, and he's gonna make sure everything's all right."
The other, Cassius, crossed his arms and plopped back. "I wish we'da burned down the whole building. That would'a been a pretty sight."
The patriarch rolled his eyes and shook his head. God love the initiative of children! But enthusiasm always needs to balance with discipline.
"So what's plan, dad?" asked the inquisitive one.
"We'll hang low in one of the extremities 'til the not-so-fun heat cools down. Daddy needs just a few more recruits to distract the immunities so we can get in."
"When we get there, can I take the DNA bead?"
"Nuh-uh!" protested Cassius.
"I called it first!"
The children gazed at their father's face. He looked frustrated enough, but he did not deliver his trademarked, deadly scowl to them. He reserved that for minions… and for when the boys were older, of course.
"This time, I get the DNA bead, then Claudius—"
"Then Cassius, then… I dunno, we'll figure somethin' out. Ya dig?"
"We dig," they replied.
"Okay," and as soon as the sirens had long passed, the Road Runner, windows blackened by an incandescent claw, pulled from the alley and cruised the streets of Beaumont, seeking any affordable privacy and momentary peace.
Footnotes: virion (A single virus particle. Coined in 1959.)
Men often blamed the Red Death on witches, blasphemers, and heretics, and racist ideas surrounding the Romani, the Jews, and other outsiders followed the appearance of the virus. (Based on historical fact regarding passed infections, and even today, in less developed countries.)
Cruising closely beside him… was what he knew to be a white blood cell—a lymphocyte, most inconveniently. (Lymphocytes are white blood cells that target viruses specifically.)
"It's Othello," he lied smoothly, using one of his many aliases. (Laurence Fishburne, the actor who played Thrax in the English Osmosis Jones, played the title character of Shakespeare's play in another film.)
Cassius and Claudius (Named after two other Shakespearian characters: Cassius from Julius Caesar and Claudius from Hamlet. I have excluded the details of their conception and birth for now, but they are currently aged at the equivalent of 10- to 13-year-old children and are born fully formed at such "ages."
For now, I've excluded the lemon scene between Thrax and Basal but may incorporate it for later publication on a more mature website.)
Synthesis by HeartofSilence—this psychological thriller takes a unique perspective on Thrax's past. Stella Purkinje takes on the challenge of communicating with Thrax, a silent young boy who may be the only hope to save a little girl. But youth is deceiving, and the boy may not be as innocent as he appears. Available on Fanfiction dot Net.
Burning by Sad Mudokon—another psychological thriller. Frank's good health is not set in stone. Jones is beginning to lose grasp on reality, and a ghost of a vengeful serial killer might have the last laugh. Definitely for mature audiences but well worth the read. Available on Fanfiction dot Net.
Disclaimer: The author, Danners, does not own any part of Warner Bros.' Osmosis Jones, and I make no monetary gain from writing this fanfiction story. This is for pure entertainment.