One monster wants my soul. One man wants my magic. Me? I want to be left alone to live my life out like a dull, one of the lucky people who were born devoid of magic. But that won’t happen because being born a Wyrd Blood gives me two choices in life: ruler or slave.
I’d rather die than be a slave and I’m not cut out to rule. Instead I’ve been hiding out in the Valley. Life is pretty good here, with food in my belly and a warm bed to sleep. If I didn’t get harassed constantly by Ryker, the man who wants my magic, it might be good enough to lull me into thinking life could continue on like this forever.
UntiI I get a message from Bones, the monster who owns my soul…
My foot slipped in the mud and my back slammed into the ground, splattering the last few clean parts of me. It oozed through my fingers, finding its way into every nook and cranny I had, which was quite an accomplishment, since I was wearing long pants and sleeves. I dropped my head back onto the ground. Might as well seize the moment to get air back into my lungs, since my hair was covered anyway
Two seconds later, Ryker cleared his throat of some imaginary nothingness. “Are you going to lie there and quit or do you plan on getting up sometime today?” He turned the page of the book he was reading, making a snapping sound.
In my mind, I let out a raging scream that people a country away, maybe even across the Great Ocean, could hear. They all lifted their heads, wondering who had been so wronged they could create a sound of such rage. In reality, I simmered silently.
I raised my head an inch and angled it toward where he sat, clean and comfy, on a boulder. It was the only dry spot in the field.
He glanced up from his book. He always brought one. Torturing me wasn’t enough amusement to keep his attention. A dark, arrogant brow arched, the same color as his raven-black hair and his shriveled heart. He watched me lie there for a few seconds before he sighed, shook his head, and turned his attention back to the book in front of him.
“I have to say, I’d hoped you’d be a faster learner.” He cleared some more annoyance from his throat as another page snapped forward. “And perhaps some more stamina.”
This was one of those moments that made me wonder how I’d ended up here. At what point had my life taken a jagged turn? When did the boot kick me screaming off the cliff into some crazy existence I could no longer wrap my brain around? Where had I gone so wrong that I was covered in mud, being tormented by someone I considered an ally? Was it when I’d left the Ruin City to find food for a starving crew and gotten caught by Ryker? That had definitely been a wrong turn, but my gut said I’d screwed up before then. Had it been the moment the slavers had caught me way back when? I wasn’t sure that had been avoidable, as young and stupid as I’d been.
I should’ve listened to the worm when it told me to leave here, even if it had made no logical sense to my survival. Ryker had said I’d “juiced” the worms, given them a little hit of magic. Therefore, it was my magic that had answered the question of leaving. How had I not listened to myself?
Not to make excuses, but it had been hard to leave the food they had. Before my crew had come here, we’d been nearing starvation. Hijacking chuggers, the big machines that transported trades from country to country, had turned up nothing for months. The only time we weren’t hungry was when we’d been living off hollyhoney, which tasted nothing like bumblebee honey. Hollyhoney came from a nasty, wasplike creature that didn’t pollinate flowers but lived off the blood and guts of the dead. That was what hollyhoney tasted like, too. Liquid guts. My gag reflex jerked with the memory of the stuff.
Food had been the first draw but not the biggest. Threats worse than starvation loomed, like losing my very soul. I was the walking dead. Somewhere in my past, I was supposed to have died, but didn’t, because two people had agreed to forfeit their lives for mine. Two for one might not sound like a good deal, but when you wanted to cheat fate, it wasn’t an eye for an eye. There was interest and penalties on that sort of thing.
Penalties that never got paid, either. One of the two people who’d made the deal didn’t sacrifice their life. They’d either died naturally or welshed on their promise. (Who would blame them?) Once that happened, the life was unpaid, and the Debt Collector stepped in.
Ryker was currently the only one that had any knowledge of this man, woman—creature? One could say Ryker was my angel of life, except he acted much more like the devil. I’d always heard the devil you knew was better than the one you didn’t. I wasn’t so sure about that right now. I might need to roll the dice if things continued.
If the devil were here, walking beside us, I imagined he’d look something similar to Ryker. Even as he sat on the stone as clean as could be, he had an earthy ruggedness about him that made me think he wouldn’t hesitate to roll around in the dirt a little. He’d probably gotten dirty plenty of times and with plenty of women. I could imagine it now: his muscles bunched, a sheen of sweat coating all that glorious tan skin as he moved above her…
I shook my head, shaking off the thoughts. His magic was getting to me again. It always did something funny to my senses, and it seemed worse every day. I tried to smooth out the hitch in my breathing that came with the tingle of flesh. That was when I noticed I had grit on my tongue. I rolled over onto my side, trying to expel it along with all the thoughts of sweaty flesh rubbing and grinding against each other.
It was time to try and stand again. Not because he wanted me to but because I was becoming comfortable lying in the muck. It wasn’t a good sign for future standards. Considering my past of thieving, I couldn’t afford to let those standards drop any lower, or who knew where I’d end up—and with whom.
I rolled over, all the way on to my hands and knees, and pushed up, trying to utilize my core—and fell again.
Ryker made a noise that was a cross between a laugh and a huff of exasperation.
“Is this amusing?” Eyes narrowed in his direction, I wished for a nearby rock to lob at his head.
He continued to stare at his book as he answered. “What is amusing is how you made it this many years without learning to use your magic in even the most basic of ways.”
He acted as if being one of our kind held no threat. He knew the perils of being a Wyrd Blood in this world. My very existence made me a target. If I’d walked around the Ruins trying to practice magic, flaunting myself, I would’ve died or ended up chained to a stronger Wyrd Blood. That was what always happened to magic folk. We were commodities, traded and used, unless we eventually became strong enough to be the user. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have a taste for either used or user.
Better to be born a dull, without a lick of magic and an equal amount of value in the minds of most Wyrd Blood. At least no one gave a shit about you then. You could live your life in peace, kind of, if you found a country run by a Wyrd Blood who wasn’t maniacal.
They weren’t that easy to find, but they existed. Take this place, the Valley, for example? Sometimes I didn’t think Ryker gave two shits what happened here, as long as the wheels kept moving and no one got out of hand. This place was packed full of dulls living gloriously boring lives. As a person cursed with a never-ending tale of close encounters and near-death experiences, boring was heaven. It was what I aspired for. Dinner at sundown and a book by candlelight. I’d filled my quota of excitement by my teens and wasn’t looking for more.
“I was too busy surviving in the Ruins.”
“Surviving” came out like I was chewing on a mouthful of dirt. Actually, there was more dirt on my tongue. I leaned to the side, trying to use my front teeth to scrape it off.
“I told you, stop saying Ruins. Only people from the Ruined City call it that, and the only people who live there are ones hiding. You’re broadcasting that you were indeed hiding. If you’re going to be a part of my team, you can’t be sloppy.” Ryker spoke as if it were a foregone conclusion that I wanted to be on his team.
“I’m not on your team.” I didn’t have any problems working on a team, but I didn’t work for him.
“If Bedlam shows up at our door, you aren’t going to be much help in your current state.”
Bedlam would only be showing up because he stole their dumb magic stone and killed a bunch of them while he was at it. Ryker didn’t mention that little point, though.
Maybe death had been a better choice. His death. I should’ve killed him. Not that I’d had the chance, but only because I hadn’t put my mind to it. If you wanted to kill someone who was stronger than you, it deserved some hard thinking and dedication. After all, he didn’t want me to be a quitter, did he?
I maneuvered myself and changed direction, using a different tactic. I’d crawl over toward a patch of grass and get to my feet that way. Once I got up, I’d kill Ryker and take my chances with the Debt Collector.
Ryker made a tsking sound. “That’s not using your magic. How many days are we going to have to do this?”
He wanted magic? I channeled everything I had and gave it a mental shove in his direction instead. It was strong enough to shift his hand a couple of inches. There’d been a time I’d punched him in the gut with my magic, but he must’ve seen this one coming.
He shrugged. “Not good enough.”
Unfortunately, I agreed. Still, I stared, hoping he could see the rage building in me.
He saw nothing. He wagged a finger in my direction as ice-cold blue eyes remained glued to his book.
I glanced at the title, wondering what was so intriguing that he couldn’t pull his nose out of, but I’d only begun mastering my letters. The leather was chipped and the title on the cover was worn away.
I could’ve asked him but didn’t. I ignored him, making my way to the small patch of grass in a sea of mud. My hand landed on a solid clump, and I felt as if I’d just swum across the ocean. I pulled a knee onto soggy blades of grass, happy to have found land.
Ryker’s magic wrapped around my other ankle. A tug pulled me back. I landed on my stomach with an umph. My fingers dug in, until I was leaving a trail of lines in the mud as he pulled me away from my oasis. He finally stopped after I was back in the worst of the slop, with the added benefit of a mud paddy underneath my shirt.
“You waited until I crawled all the way out?” My teeth clenched together. I would’ve slammed my hand down, except it would’ve splashed mud in my face.
“If you’d make a ward around yourself, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.” Another page snapped.
“My magic doesn’t work like yours. It won’t cooperate.” There was no doubt about it, since I’d been at this for long enough to know. I’d told him repeatedly, but he refused to believe mine might be different than he deemed.
“Yes, it does. This is something the weakest Wyrd Bloods can do, so don’t tell me you can’t.” He was finally looking, but with eyes accusing me of stubbornness or something else he found equally annoying.
There had been some very bad people in my life. People who had abused and stolen from me, lied to me, performed all sorts of trickery and manipulations on me. Still, I hadn’t known real hate until this very moment.
“I’m telling you, my magic doesn’t work the same way.” My words came out punchy, as if I were hitting him in the gut with every syllable.
A suspicious thought niggled my brain. Could it be? Would he do that? “You did something to this mud, didn’t you?”
“You shouldn’t have to ask. You should know. Use. Your. Magic.”
What did that mean? Did he do something or not? Now I was really gritting my teeth, no mud needed.
“If I get out of here, I’m going to kill you. You are not a nice person.” I still needed him. Maybe I wouldn’t kill him, but I’d torture him for a very long time. I gave him my worst stare, because he needed to see how furious I was.
He closed his book and leaned back. “I’m the Cursed King. You’re really going to threaten me with death? That’s all you could come up with?”
Dammit. He was right. He’d killed more people than I’d probably met. That had been lame, and with this, I definitely could do better. Every battle waged involved a variety of ways to win.
“I think you torture me because you’re still mad I stole your supplies and got the better of you.” Eyes narrowed, I waited for him to come clean about holding a grudge. There had to be something, because this wasn’t the way you treated people you liked.
He stood and walked over as close as he could get before he’d sink into the mud. He crossed his arms and looked down. “Yes, I love watching you toss and turn in the mud. Can’t wait to get out of bed to sit here. All. Damn. Day. This has got to be the highlight of my existence.” His voice was as dry as the desert.
I’d never been to the desert, but everyone in the Ruins used to say it was worse than the summers we’d have when the wells would run dry and people happily chugged hollyhoney.
My eyes snapped to Bobby, a ten-year-old boy who ran messages, as he appeared at the top of the path. The kids loved getting message duty, because it got them out of school and chores for a couple of days a month. They didn’t know how lucky they were to have a school in the first place. The kids in the Ruins—Ruined City—would’ve killed to take their place. Like, literally, they would’ve killed them and swapped their clothing.
Growing up there gave you a different type of education. I might not have known how to read or write until recently, but I could take care of myself. I guess everyone got some kind of learning, whether it was books or survival. Considering my current situation, mine might be more useful.
Ryker walked over to where Bobby waited. The kid handed him a rolled-up paper with an eager–to-please look on his face. Out of all the messengers, he stuck in my head the most. I wasn’t sure if it was the riotous golden cowlicks that refused to lie flat or the way he looked at Ryker as if the man were laying a blessing upon him with each glance.
“Thanks.” Ryker took the paper and then did something so un-Ryker-ish, mud must have blurred my vision. He ruffled the top of Bobby’s head. The kid’s eyes went round, his little jaw falling slack, as if a god had bestowed a miracle upon him.
Ryker gave the kid a nod, sending him off. Bobby floated toward the path, running his fingers over the spot Ryker had touched.
I was gaping myself. Did the devil like children? How could that be? I’d think hating children would be evildoer basics. Must be some sort of long game where he was nice to them so in twenty years they did whatever he wanted, like his guys Burn and Sneak.
Ryker was oblivious, though, as he read the missive. His expression was flat, but even from here, I could feel a tingle of agitated magic seeping over. He shoved the paper in his pocket and walked toward the path.
“Are you leaving?” I sounded shocked, but I had no reason to be. He was the devil. This was what the devil did: leave people in lurches and be nice to children so they could sway them to the dark side later. Nothing surprising.
He walked past my outstretched hand as he said, “Keep practicing.”
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Bitch, harpy, she-devil, demon, the best lay ever, queen.
I’ve been called all these things at least once in my life. What I haven’t been called, is Earth’s last chance at survival. Believe me, nobody is starting now. However, this is where I find myself, living topside, minding my own business until a I hear the words that could make a dick crawl back inside of itself.
They’re planning to free him from his cage.
All I want to do is save this world – yes, you heard me correctly – from destruction so I can live a peaceful life of drinking, screwing and whatever the hell I feel like doing. My ex though, has other plans. He wants to raise an evil so diabolical, it’s going to spur on the next apocalypse.
With the help of some very unlikely bedfellows, I’m about to face the biggest challenge of my damn life.
All I need to do, is prevent the future from becoming a reality.
I turn to the demon sitting on the chair situated in the middle of a trap I had created for him, spinning a dagger on my index finger and staring at him with a smirk plastered on my face. He stares back at me with a look of indifference.
His relaxed and casual posture portrays that of someone who is either unaware or uncaring of their potentially gruesome end. He will soon learn that he should be concerned for his well being. Especially when it’s me he has to deal with. I am the one with his life in my hands, his puppeteer, the one holding the metaphorical rifle with my finger on the trigger.
I will do what is necessary to obtain the information I need without so much as a second thought. I’ll rip it from him, anyway necessary to know the details of the plan, the very one that will obliterate the life I’ve fought so hard to maintain.
Okay, I should probably back up a bit. So, a few days back, while minding my own damn business in a bar, innocently having a drink, I overheard a couple of demons chatting away about Lucifer attempting to raise an ancient and powerful evil. One I hadn’t seen, nor heard about in a long time. Ever since it’s imprisonment centuries ago.
After cornering the unsuspecting demons, I…convinced them to hand over the information I needed. Regardless of the little information I believed they actually knew or the simple fact that demons don’t entertain the concept of information sharing, I was able to belt the little they were privy to out of them like a gumball machine. They acquiesced, after I had well and truly made them my bitch.
With what I had managed to obtain, I tracked down a demon who had apparently obtained this information from a mid-level demon. I know what you must be thinking. Lower-level demons, upper-level demons. What the hell am I talking about?
Well, demons are ranked, just as you would find in soldiers in the military. A hierarchy that starts from the lowest rung on the ladder to the highest. Low-level demons are at the mercy of upper-level ones, who are quite powerful.
I, myself, look upon the hierarchy like chess pieces. Low-level demons beings the pawns – disposable, limited power and basically useless. They perform the menial tasks, like information gathering. They are considered a level just above humans – so you can imagine how highly they are regarded in the Underworld. Mid-level demons are like Knights and Bishops. They have a bit more power, more pull and are given tasks that are of some importance.
Upper-level demons are like your Rooks. They not only perform the jobs that Lucifer and his commanding soldiers hand down to them, they also have the power to do whatever they want that will please and benefit Lucifer in his quest for power. They deal with mid and low-level demons and help cause hell on Earth by wreaking havoc.
There are only one set of demons that are above the upper level ones, the top tier demons. This small group sits beside Lucifer, they are the demonic equivalent to King Arthur’s knights and are the sister entities to the Archangels of the Lord. His most trusted advisors and soldiers; his lieutenants, commanders and sergeants.
These demons are called in to create the most amount of destruction in the shortest amount of time. The ones who called upon The Four Horsemen in the very first apocalypse. Humans are of the belief that the Apocalypse was created as a way to cull the bad apples of the world. Oh, how wrong they were. The soldiers of Lucifer didn’t help create it.
They are the Apocalypse.
Wherever they go, death and destruction follow.
Now I’m faced with yet another Apocalyptic event, one I am intent on preventing from happening. Why? Because this one involves the very demon that needs to be wiped from existence.
A demon dick like no other. He was – I guess still is, otherwise he wouldn’t go to this much trouble to raise him – Lucifer’s most trusted soldier in the fight against the forces of evil, much to my discontent. He had proven himself to be an incredibly valuable asset. There is no end to his level of violence and malevolence. He will barrel through like a bowling ball, knocking over and crushing everything in his path until there is nothing left to annihilate.
The last time Malphas was set free on the world, he had caused such destruction that it had taken Michael to take him down. Yes, that Michael, the one and only. No one other than his dear master Lucifer would be able to do the job. However, for some reason he wasn’t killed, he was only caged in a fortress – granted it was one that was pretty damn impenetrable to anyone who dared to break in or out. Especially out.
Or so it seemed.
Someone, somewhere, has figured out how to release him and shared that information with Lucifer, who intends on bringing him back to finish the job he started all those centuries ago. Which brings me here. Now I have to deal with these wretched fuckstains to stop the world from literally going to shit… Again.
Why him though? I wonder. Lucifer has plenty of other demons perfectly suited to bring on another Apocalypse and take control of the Earth. So why Malphas? What is so important about him? I know he has missed his brightest, grade-A student like a fat kid misses cake, but it still didn’t answer the question of why him. What is his damn plan with him?
This whole thing is doing my head in and all I want to do is ignore it all, but where will that leave me? Dead. That’s where it will leave me, cause if Malphas is freed, I will be the first demon he will come after.
Okay, so now that I’ve cleared that up, back to the matter at hand.
“Tell me why Lucifer wants to raise Malphas,” I demand.
“I don’t know,” the demon seethes.
I let out a loud exasperated sigh.
Demons. Bunch of idiots.
In the end they always squeal like little piggies.
In the end, one can only take torture for so long, torture I’m going to rain down on him until I get what I want; because I always get what I want.
“You know, I can do this all day, for the rest of our lives in fact. I have nowhere to go, this is your decision. Tell me, or….” I walk up to him, take the dagger and slice his cheek, working diagonally from his right ear, down to the top corner of his lips. He howls in pain as I grin menacingly at him.
He sneers at me and all I can do is let out a laugh at his futile attempts of intimidation.
You are not the intimidating scary demon you perceive yourself to be ass-douche.
“Why do you care about these pathetic humans anyway? You’re a demon,” He states, informing me as if it’s something he needs to remind me of. His cheek ticks at every strained word. He tries to hide the pain, but I know it’s there. It’s obvious. Unlike top tier demons and myself, low- to upper-level demons can’t heal. Why? Well, every single one of them are dark human souls. Whereas the rest of us were fortunate to be created by the king of darkness himself.
“I don’t care about the humans, I care about this world. I have built a pretty damn good life for myself and nothing, I mean nothing, is going to ruin this for me. So, we can do this the hard way or the easy way. And like you said, I’m a demon so I know how to slowly torture someone until they beg for death.”
Why don’t they ever choose the easy way? In fact, why am I bloody surprised, or complaining?
Shaking my head, I reach out to the wheelie tray next to me and pick up the syringe, dipping the needle into a bowl of holy water and filling it up to the brim. I don’t bother to push out the air from it as it doesn’t matter to me whether it will affect him or not. I saunter over to him, grabbing his wrist and yanking it hard to straighten his arm.
I jab him with the needle and inject him with the holy water. His veins pop out, neck muscles tense as he struggles to keep the scream from spilling off his lips, as the water makes its way through his body. Because I’m a sadistic fucker, I increase his suffering by stabbing him in the gut with the dagger, just a little. Then, I slice into his flesh, creating a deep gash in his body. Slowly, I remove it, inch by painful inch, making sure that I’m causing the maximum amount of torment.
With bulging eyes, he stares me down, silently cursing me and plotting my death. I release him from the agony, and for a brief moment I give him the relief he’s searching for; a sense of finality before I repeat the process over and over again.
When I finish, he lifts his head, eyes the colour of onyx boring into me. If looks could kill I would be disintegrated, becoming a spore and floating in the air with the rest of the spores.
“Why is Lucifer planning to bring back Malphas?” I question again.
Panting, he responds, “It won’t matter, he will rise again, and when he does, I will take pleasure in torturing you for the rest of your miserable life!” His strained voice diminishing the threat.
I let out a raucous laugh. “You? Torture me? You don’t seem the type to be able to torture puppies, let alone a demon of the Underworld a lot more powerful than you.”
“If I don’t, then he will… when he’s released. And it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
The blackness of his veins, once inking his body, start to wash away like waves receding into the ocean.
He isn’t entirely wrong there. If Malphas is released and finds me, he will revel in the chance to give me my comeuppance. He will literally scour the globe to come find me and give me what he thinks I deserve.
“Don’t you worry about me demonling, I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself.” A saccharine smile lifts up on my lips.
There is nothing better, than a demon who underestimates the situation they are in. It’s so delicious I wish I could fuck it and have babies with it.
Facing my tray of torture instruments, I run my fingers over them, contemplating which one to use next, passing over four and stopping at a tool I had yet to use. There aren’t many out there that can be used to torture or kill a demon, apart from the usual holy water, runes and a dagger that literally poisons and kills the demon from inside it’s vessel – known as the demon dagger.
I actually have very little need for tools of torture. I no longer worry myself about the dealings of demons and keep out of their business. They have, however, become somewhat like a security blanket for me. Over the centuries, I have had run-ins with the odd demon here and there. I don’t need them, but I’d hate to not have them. You know the saying, it’s better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them, like condoms.
“Why do you have to torture all the time Dee? You can easily just get the information from him by seeing into his mind,” my vessel, Vee asks. I can actually picture her pouting. Her petulant act is laughable.
“This is much more fun though Vee. If you don’t like it, go back to your little corner like you always do.”
I feel her sulking. She hesitates but leaves me in peace anyway. My vessel, Esmerelda, is a gypsy. Actually, she’s Gitano, who are basically Romani, but Spanish. I’ve been advised by Esmerelda that gypsy is incredibly derogatory and should never be used. When I first came across her, she was living in an abusive relationship with her dick of a husband. He was all kinds of asshole, beating her, cheating on her, controlling their financials and degrading her. I can’t stand people being treated in such a way.
Whilst I have the smallest regard towards humans, I hate it when people are stepped all over and treated like scum because they look upon them as weaklings. Destroy a life because it’s so easy for them to do so. I know, so unlike me. I had been checking her out – not in the creepy way – she looked like the perfect host for me when I had run into her accidentally on the street. After I had done some digging around and stalked her like a level-ten stalker, I knew I had to take her away from her own living hell.
So when she was praying to the All Mighty, the biggest of all douches and the Le King Twatbag, I intercepted her call and came to her rescue instead.
I had grown tired of my vessel and it was about time I upgraded to a new model. It’s a practice I keep to stop Lucifer from hunting me. There is no way I wanted to show up on his radar. So when my vessels had served their time I traded them in for a new model and moved on. Just like buying a car. It’s a lonely life, sure, but I have little room for friends, ‘cause that’s when shit sneaks up on you and backhands you in the face. The more people that know you, the easier you are to track.
I had taken it upon myself to perform my civic duty and get rid of her husband. She was eternally grateful and asked what I wanted in return. I was ecstatic. Here was this woman, asking me what I wanted! So I told her that I could use a new body and surprisingly she agreed to house me. Stupid? Probably, no scratch that, she was definitely stupid in agreeing to house me. Stupid for thinking I was an angel, or Le King Twatbag himself.
She hadn’t even hesitated but jumped at the idea for me to take her away from the life she once led. Away from her heritage, her culture. The very essence of her being. She had no idea what she was getting into. I had no intention of lying to her. I was very forthcoming with what I was, but it didn’t seem to matter to her. I had inquired with her at the time why she never told her family, they seemed very close. She just said she didn’t want them to know and clamped up, and with that our relationship kick-started.
For the most part we have a very good working relationship with each other. On the odd occasion I would slip into demon mode, like right now, I could feel her shouting and cursing at me to stop doing what I’m doing. I usually tell her to go away and leave me alone. Sometimes she puts up a fight, but other times – like now – she would just sulk and go away into the background.
She has actually built a little home in my… err, her… mind. She is literally a passenger of her own body. I am the driver, taking lead and making her body do as I wish. When she first spoke to me after I possessed her she called me demon. She refused to call me Esmerelda because she knew the difference, unlike the people around us. In return, I called her vessel. She hated the name, so obviously, like the bitch I am, I continued on calling her that. Over the years we ended up shortening it, and now we just call each other Dee and Vee.
I pick up the tool which I call Maggie. It was aptly named after a girl I knew who liked to fuck people. A lot. This weird looking instrument has two forks that branch off from the handle. Attached to the forks are circular iron meshes with a pentagram surrounded by runes engraved on both sides. On the frame holding the mesh are hooklike teeth, when plunged into skin, embed themselves into the flesh.
I acquired this magnificent tool when I came across a hunter who had been killed by a demon. The demon, being of a one-track mind, missed the most valuable item. I’m not complaining though, it was a win for me that day.
What makes it so insanely perfect is its ability to inflict a constant stream of pain. This comes from the pentagram and runes and, if you are so inclined, you can twist it and allow the little hooks to do their job. It is truly a magnificent instrument of torture.
Without giving him the chance to figure out my plans, I rip open his shirt and jam Maggie into his chest. A shrill sound emanates from him, echoing into the dark stone walls.
I pick up an old pistol I had attained over a decade ago, which is loaded with bullets that are not only coated with holy water, but filled with it. Once the bullets make themselves at home in the body they dissolve, releasing a slow stream of the holy water.
The hunter who had made it was a genius.
If he hadn’t been killed, I would have given him a high five.
I fire a couple of rounds into his stomach. His screaming becomes even louder. I can’t help the wide devilish smile from forming on my face, satisfied with the pain I’m inflicting on him.
“Now, before I proceed, will you tell me why Lucifer wants him raised?” I ask in a sickly sweet manner.
He’s going to break soon, I can tell by the way beads of sweat are forming on his forehead, slithering down his face.
All it’s going to take is a little extra convincing for him to squeal like a little piggie. I inject holy water all over his face, one shot straight after the other. In the end, he looks like he’s received six degree burns. Quite a horrendous sight. If I wasn’t a demon, I would have upchucked from the sight of him.
“I told you, I don’t know why he wants Malphas!”
“Bullshit! As if you don’t know!” I shout.
I grab the hilt of Maggie and twist it whilst pushing it in further.
“Okay, okay!” His breath comes out wheezy.
“I don’t know why he wants him raised, but I do know he is looking for the Book of the Dead which is located at the Church of Notre Dame in Washington, DC, America.”
“You mean Paris?” Not trying to stop the condescension flowing out with my words.
“No, you need to go to the one in America.”
“Right.” I patronise, extending the word and clipping it off at the ‘t’.
I eye him, squinting, taking it all in and assessing the truthfulness of his words. Can I actually trust him? This could be some ploy to stop me from furthering my torture, though I feel he is not omitting the truth from me.
“Okay, I believe you.”
A relieved sigh escapes his lips. “Good, can you let me go?”
“Hmmmm. . . . Okay!” I flick my hand out at him as if flicking water off my hand and his whole body explodes before me.
I pick up the hand towel from the railing on the tray table and wipe away the blood and guts. I usually don’t dispose of demons this way, it’s too messy and smells rank. Like a hat full of flatulent assholes. What an image, aye? I don’t know whether it’s because I have lived amongst the humans for a lot of my life or whether it’s always smelt this bad, but the gut wrenching, vomit inducing odour of burnt flesh is not something I find appetising. Not like I used to anyway.
It’s a smell that stinks up the room for days, seeping into all the little crevices. It clings to your clothes, and your skin if you are exposed to it for too long. You can’t even begin to understand the rancidness of the smell of having your epidermis permanently marked by rotting flesh. And the bones! Don’t get me started on the bones.
I once found the bones of a demon I had killed a year after I had done it when I was living in the Underworld. Honestly, I don’t know how I managed to see them because they were so damn small, but I had gone to pick up an instrument of torture I had dropped on the ground, and there it was, pierced into the wall. They snap like glass, shattering into splintered pieces and lodging itself firmly into you.
Not wanting to touch the remnants of the demon covering most of the room, I snap my fingers and allow my powers to do the job for me. Sometimes it’s great being a demon. I know, totally lazy, but I hate cleaning. And when I mean hate, I mean despise. With every fibre of my being. It’s the bane of my existence.
I walk out of my little den of torture and head up the stairs and to the bathroom connected to my bedroom. I need to remove this disgusting smell of sweaty ball sack, rotten farts and excrement. I walk into the bathroom, strip, fiddle with the taps until the water is a perfect temperature and step in.
There aren’t many things in the human world that I love, even having lived here for centuries. I’ve never understood how humans could be into half the shit they’re into. The ridiculous television shows they call “reality” TV. We all know there’s nothing real about it. It’s all scripted, who are they fooling? Oh right. The mass of pathetic, doltish humans that watch that shit. The so called high class fashion, which, to be honest looks more like a fucking pack of crayons threw up on a burlap; and don’t even get me started on the most pointless shit of it all. Religion.
Though there is one thing that they got right, and that is the ability to live in luxury. Living in the deep and dingy depths of the Underworld, my room was not as bad as others, but it was nothing like what I have now.
Now I’m living like those rich people in that show about annoying bitchy, howler monkeys, in a mini mansion. It is an older style Spanish home on the outskirts of Sarria-Sant Gervasi in Barcelona, Spain. The beautiful white stone home with it’s red rooftop is tucked away on an acre. It’s peaceful and relaxing and I can go about my day without anybody bothering me. It’s also so secluded, that I can walk around naked.
I finish scrubbing myself raw, and satisfied I smell clean and decent, towel myself off and walk to my cupboard. I have acquired quite a wardrobe. I’m very materialistic, which surprises me, but I’m in a hot ass vessel and she needs to be shown off.
After being repressed for so long, Esmerelda needed some time to let loose and get all loosey goosey. At first she wasn’t a fan of my very, ummm… promiscuous lifestyle, but eventually she just dealt with it and took a backseat whenever I would go hard on some guy. Yes, as much as I hate humans, the men are very useful.
Not all were though, I’d come to discover that quickly, when I had picked up a very delicious American guy who had muscles on top of muscles on top of muscles. It was like babushka dolls. What I hadn’t realised at the time of picking him up was that an excessive amount of muscles meant a small prick. Since then, I made a habit of checking the goods before I made the purchase.
I fish out a pair of navy blue shorts, a black tank top and put them on along with a pair of socks and my black combat boots. Grabbing my phone from the bed I look at the time. It’s 3:00 am here in Spain, which means that it’s roughly 10:00 pm in America. This is a perfect time to go to the church, there shouldn’t be anyone there.
I look around at the church vestibule after teleporting myself here. I expect to be greeted by the sound of silence, but instead, I’m greeted by the sounds of a struggle. Opening the door to the main part of the church slightly, I peer in and what I see actually stuns me.
“Woah, who’s that?” Vee asks mentally. A little too eager.
“You’re seeing the same thing I am, at the same time I am. How the hell am I supposed to know?” I snap at her.
I feel like I’m watching a movie and have a sudden urge to cook up some popcorn, sit in one of the pews and watch the scene that’s unfolding before me. A man is fighting off three demons and doing a rather good job of it. He is definitely no stranger to fighting them as he expertly kills them one at a time. Just as he is about to kill the second one, he is suddenly thrown across to the side stone wall and pinned there. I look to the demon responsible for this. He is in a relaxed stance, hand held up and walking, no, stalking towards the man.
I’m so enthralled that I almost miss the demon that is slinking in the shadows, his movements lithe as he heads my way. If it hadn’t been for the moonlight catching the brass on the book he’s carrying and catching me in my peripheral, I wouldn’t have even seen him. I need to bloody focus. This is not the time to be enthralled by some guy.
“Are you going to get him?” Vee asks quietly.
“No, I can’t just go in and wipe the demon out. I have to do this with as little hassle as I can and as quietly as I can. I don’t want the other demon to know that I’m here.”
“Do you think that’s the Book of the Dead?”
“Demons in a church and one is carrying a thick book, sneaking away? I have no doubt.”
I wait in my spot like a statue, not wanting to give my position away so I can take out the demon swiftly and silently, without alarming the other one in the room who is still preoccupied with his little pet. I wait with bated breath as he comes closer and closer.
He is close to the last row of pews when my attention is torn away from my demon target. I hear the distinct sound of a person being choked to death. The gurgling and rasping of someone trying to inhale against a force that is pushing down on their windpipe. I ignore the sound; he can take care of himself, and if not, well it’s not my damn problem. My job is to get the Book of the Dead and destroy it so it can’t be used to raise Malphas.
“You have to help him!” Vee shouts, creating an annoying ringing in my head.
“No, I don’t. He’ll be fine.”
“HELP HIM!” She screeches.
Ouch bitch! That hurt my head. “Fine!”
Just before the demon can reach me, I burst through the church doors and throw the demon that pinned the guy across to the back of the church with my powers. His body hits it with the force of a wrecking ball at full swing. I teleport right in front of the demon holding the book in his vice like grip and punch him. This unfortunately doesn’t have the effect I need, and I immediately regret not doing something more when he throws me across the church. I land right on the back of the pews, a crack resounding off the walls.
Ugh, you fucking cocksucker.
Slowly, I drag myself up on my hands and knees, waiting for the sharp pain to dissipate before I stand up and brush myself off. The demon carrying the book attacks me with a kick but I’m ready for him, grabbing his leg and snapping it, the sound of bone breaking meeting my ears. He screams out in pain as he drops to the floor, the book sliding and stopping between two pews. I take this opportunity to make a grab for the book but before I can run to get it I’m kicked in the back of my legs. Still falling to my knees, he whacks me in the back of my head and I land flat on my face.
I’m jerked from my resting place on the floor and brought up to above his height by my neck, my feet flailing around below me. My entire body is jerking back and forth so much that I look like I am either having a fit in the air or fucking a ghost.
Damn he’s strong.
I manage to look down and see that his broken leg is resting on the ground, putting all his weight on his good leg.
With all the power I can muster, I shoot him across the room and fall to the ground, grasping at my neck and rubbing the sore spot while my breathing returns to its regular pace. I look up to see the demon stalking towards me. Well, stalk limping towards me? This guy must be made of rock or hopped up on energy drinks or something because nothing is bringing him down. Great, I’m dealing with the man of steel.
I decide to bring out the big guns to end this fight so I can grab the book. I freeze him in place, closing the distance between us and placing my hands on either side of his head. Using my powers, I start to drain the life away from him. I watch as the colour slowly fades from his face. His skin turns a sickly grey and blood starts trickling from his ears. He must have put this vessel through hell and killed it.
Most demons do, they don’t like the human fighting against them. Killing them keeps the voices away.
I usually follow the same practice, but I had saved Vee from certain death at the hands of her husband, I wasn’t going to go and kill her after saving her life. To this day, I don’t know if that was a good decision or not. She’s given me my fair share of annoyance.
Maybe I’m becoming more human. Great, juuuuust great. Can you even imagine that? A demon becoming a little bitch with a crap tonne of humanity? I would rather off myself than become…human.
A wide grin forms on my face, I can’t help feeling extremely satisfied at my kill. I walk over to where I see the Book of the Dead and pick it up. Taking a look over at the demon and the man going at it, I’m shocked when I see wings spanning behind the man as he lifts himself off the ground. A tail floats behind him, the end of it coming to a point like an arrow.
The gargoyle flies straight at the demon, knocking him into the ground with a loud thud. Whomever this gargoyle is, he is mesmerising to watch. He moves with such fluidity that he’s more like water than an actual gargoyle which is made of stone and known to be quite stiff.
He’s so graceful and sensual it’s almost sexual in nature. His dark grey shirt unable to hide the corded muscles on his back.
It’s a beautiful dance of swinging fists and flying feet, his movements elegant. For the majority of the fight the gargoyle has been the one in front, he has had the upper hand. And then somehow, in the blink of an eye, the demon has him pinned against the wall again. It doesn’t matter how strong the gargoyle is or that he can fly, he appears to be no match for the demon. Demon boy strides towards the gargoyle, his movements lithe and calculating. Animalistic, like a panther stalking his prey.
I don’t want to help him, hell knows I need more complications in my life, but I find myself oddly drawn to this humanoid creature, and as the demon moves his arm back to take a swing at him, I intercept. Using my own powers, I throw him across the church. The hold that has the gargoyle pinned against the wall breaks and he falls to the ground. Like the annoying little demonic parasite the demon is, he uses his powers on me. Well tries to, anyway. I smirk as he attempts to take me down, throwing shot after shot of energy at me. I freeze him in place and watch him try to move, the tension evident on his face as beads of sweat start dripping down.
“Now, I’m going to unfreeze you so we can talk. Try anything and you will regret it,” I explain.
I release him.
He goes to throw me across the room but I stop him short and pin him to the floor where he can’t move and put up an invisible wall so if he uses his powers, it will be on himself. I walk over to the gargoyle, who is now standing, watching us.
“Are you okay?” Are you okay? Damn it, what kind of question is that? Why do I care about how he is. He means nothing to me.
“Yes.” he says gruffly, the deep and rich tone of his voice is music to my ears, hitting me in all the wrong places. Right places for a regular human, but not for me. Not for a demon.
“Do you need help? You took quite a beating.” For fuck’s sake, shut the hell up! If I were a man I would seriously be checking to see if I had grown a vagina, but seeing as though I already have one… There’s nowhere I can go from here.
He grunts as he pushes passed me, making his way to the demon to stand in front of him.
“Wow, dick much?” I mumble.
I hear Vee groan.
He swings his head around so fast I’m actually worried it’s going to snap off. “What did you say?” He growls.
I hate it when people play this stupid little game, like they have no idea what you said. They know very well, it’s so irritating.
“You heard me. I said Wow. Dick. Much,” I respond in a condescending tone. “I just asked a fucking question and instead of answering me you grunt at me like a Neanderthal and push past me. Oh, and by the way, you’re welcome! It was no problem saving your life.”
“I had the situation under control,” He says.
“Oh yeah, you were in the winning position! If this was a paid fight, I would have totally bet against the demon,” I respond sarcastically, smiling.
All I receive is a low, rumbling growl.
Oh for shit’s sake, are you serious?
“Is that deep throated growl supposed to intimidate me? Scare me? Have me shaking in my boots?”
Does this gargoyle have any other threat at his disposal other than growling like a dog? He is seriously in need of a 101 lesson in intimidation.
“Okay enough of this, what do you want with the demon, and who are you?” I demand.
“That’s none of your concern, demon,” he spits out, hate and disgust evident when he says the word demon.
“Well it is, otherwise I wouldn’t be standing here. Instead, I would be in Aruba, soaking up the sun and getting even tanner than I already am. So, out with it. Who are you?”
Ignoring me, he turns his attention to the demon in front of him. “What are you doing here?”
“Fuck off!” Well that went as well as expected.
He takes a step forward, so close to the demon that they could potentially make out. The gargoyle straightens up, trying to appear much taller. He isn’t. It’s a very futile attempt at intimidation. Shit, this guy needs help.
“I won’t ask again. Tell me, what you are doing here?” Again, the low timbre of his voice hits me in all the right places. Just at the wrong time. Is it normal for someone to feel incredibly turned on when in a heated situation like this?
“No, no it isn’t. But he is hot though. Incredibly. Are you sure he’s a gargoyle? Aren’t they usually ummm. . . ugly?” Vee asks.
“I’m definitely sure, but I get what you mean. Gargoyles are usually ugly, stumpy little stone things. Not the dirty blonde haired Adonis standing before us.”
“You’re a fucking idiot if you think I’m going to tell you anything, Gargoyle.” I turn my attention back to them.
“I was hoping you would say that.” The menacing grin and voice dripping of death makes it clear of the gargoyles intention to torture it out of him if he doesn’t comply.
His tail snakes up the demon’s body, coiling itself around him slowly as it works its way up. I watch as the tip of the tail which is made of metal, and not skin and muscle like the rest of it, align itself in the air with his head. Before I know it, the arrow tip of the gargoyle’s tail pierces straight through the ear and out the other side, crimson liquid flowing out. The shock of it has the demon jolting, convulsing from the intruder inside his skull.
“Are you willing to talk now?” He asks almost nonchalantly.
The demon twitches and nods. Quickly, the gargoyle removes his tail from inside the demon’s head.
Crumpling into a heap on the floor, the demon hunches over. He spits out blood and starts cackling, as if hearing a joke only he was was privy to.
“You can do whatever you want to me, I will never tell you.”
“He’s right you know,” I interject, inspecting my nails as if they’re the most fascinating things ever. “You can do whatever the hell you want to do to him, he’s never going to tell you. Well, not with your tactics.”
The gargoyle moves so quickly in front of me that I take a step back to distance myself. This close, he’s even more sexy then I thought. Thick wavy hair frames his face, a piece of it falling over his eye, which he blows on to shift it aside. Piercing, blue eyes drill into me, the intensity of it creating a shockwave of hormones to blast through me.
“And what would you know?”
“Hellooooo. Demon! For shit’s sake, where did you get your lack of knowledge on demons from? A school for bunnies?” I go to shove him out of the way but the guy is a brick house.
“Why don’t you let me demonstrate my knowledge of demons on you then, Demon,” he sneers.
“The little that you know would do nothing to me. Now step aside, while I actually get the information out of this guy.”
He sidesteps, blocking me from the demon with his wings.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
While he is so concerned with my presence at the church, he’s failed to notice the demon that was once crouched on the floor has moved and is making his way towards the church door. My concentration on holding the invisible wall and hold on the demon falls away, allowing him his escape.
“Look, this isn’t the time to be bickering like an old married couple.” I turn and freeze the demon . . . again.
I walk over and stand in front of him and smile. Waving my hand in front of his face, releasing the freeze from his head only.
“Hiiii, now, here’s how things are going to go. You will tell me, one way or another, what Lucifer wants with Malphas –“
“Malphas?” Gargoyle asks.
I roll my eyes. “Yes, Malphas. Now shut up and let me do my thing.” I face the demon and flash him a smile. “Now, as I was saying, before I was rudely interrupted. Sorry about that, gargoyles right?” I chuckle, which earns yet another growl from the gargoyle behind me. “You will tell me one way or another who is behind the plan to raise Malphas. I already know that it involves one of the few gates to the Underworld, and the Book of the Dead.”
“The Book of the Dead.” I whip around to face the the annoying gargoyle behind me.
“What are you, a fucking parrot? Shut. The hell. Up!” I bark at him. He goes to speak and I hold up my finger. “No! One more word out of you and I will sew your mouth shut, you hear me?” No protest. “Good.”
I whip back around to the demon. “So, what is it going to be? You can either give up the information now, or I can literally force it out of you. The ball is in your court.” My jovial tone not sitting well with him.
“I’m not telling you anything she-devil, so you can shove it up your ass.”
Why do demons never go for the easy option? It always ends badly for them. I always end up killing their demonic selves.
I place my hands on either side of his head and focus on seeing into his mind. Instantly, images flash before my eyes, seeing what he has seen and experienced. I’m hoping for and searching for something that can tell me what Lucifer wants with Malphas. I know it’s a long shot. Lucifer only trusts the very demons he created with everything. He wouldn’t tell the lower demons what he plans on doing, just what he needs. There is nothing. All I can see is him going about his pathetic and boring life. I’m just about to give up when an image of him meeting with a demon I recognise comes into view. Kane, a mid-level demon who thinks he’s much more powerful and stronger than he actually is, and they’re talking about the plans to release Malphas. Discussing how they need to find the Book of the Dead and the keys in order to release Malphas from his cage and that is it. What was I expecting? Them to sit down, have a tea party and immerse themselves in office gossip? I can’t help but feel a little deflated at the lack of information though. I guess a part of me was hoping for something useful.
I remove my hands, stopping the images that are playing like a film, after the discussion between the two demons.
“I’d say thank you for the information, but you really didn’t give it me of your own free will.“
“How did you do that? Only upper-level demons have the power to see into another being’s mind.” The shocked expression on the demon’s face brings a sense of satisfaction to me.
I think about how I manage to be in the presence of two stupid, stupid beings. What were the odds that not only would I run into Tweedle Dee, but also Tweedle Dum? “You just answered your own question there Einstein. Geeze, are you naturally this dumb or have you had one too many hits to the head?”
“Tell me who you are!” He demands.
“Tell me or I’ll –“
“Or you’ll what? May I remind you that you are in no position to be threatening an upper-level demon? One that can kill you with the snap of her fingers.” I snap my fingers to demonstrate just how easy it could be. “Actually, that gives me a brilliant idea.”
“Don’t. Stop!” Gargoyle shouts behind me.
I snap my fingers and the demon drops to the floor.
He is dead.
“What the fuck was that for!” He exclaims.
I feign cluelessness, placing a hand on my chest and putting on my best southern belle. “Why, whatever do you mean?”
“Why did you kill that demon?”
“Because he was useless, he was getting on my nerves and the information he gave I already knew.”
“And what if I had questions?”
“He honestly wasn’t going to tell you anything else. Were you not present for your whole charade before? I got everything I needed from being inside his teeny weeny head, which was nothing.” Then the brightest idea comes into my head. Or the worst. Depends on how you look at it, and I guess it depends on how this whole thing turns out. Either way, I’m sure I’m going to end up regretting my fucking decision. “You know, we could always team up? You look like you could be useful to me.” I look him up and down. “Somehow. Maybe as a lackey or something.”
“No,” he says shortly. “Just tell me what you fucking saw.”
I let out an exasperated sigh. “He was having a meeting with another demon, Kane, real slime ball and massive prick. I still don’t know what the plans are with Malphas, but I do know that in order to do so, the demon will need to know the locations to one of the main gates to the Underworld and this book.” I pat the book that’s sitting under my arm. “And three keys, whatever that means.”
“Okay, now hand the book over.” He holds out a beckoning hand.
I stare at his outstretched hand and then at him and scoff. “Are you stupid?”
“Are you stupid?” I repeat slowly.
“What does that -”
I interrupt impatiently. “Because only a stupid person would think that I’d hand over this book, the Book of the Dead, the book that is said to contain the spell needed to raise a demon of Malphas’ strength and power to the surface. I’m going to burn it, so it can never be used.”
“You can’t do that.” His tone a mix of shock and anger.
“Oh I can’t, can’t I? Says who? You? HA!”
“There are other spells in there that may be worthwhile one day, there is a reason why it’s been kept intact for all these years. Give it to me and I’ll protect it.”
I don’t try and hold back the laughter that forces its way out of my mouth. I can’t believe this guy. “Oh shit man, there are not enough ways to say no to you. I’m going to burn this thing and there is nothing that you can say or do to stop me.”
He grabs my shoulder and squeezes hard.
Going to play that game huh?
I immediately throw him against the wall on the other side of the church and teleport over to him, crouching down to where he is crumpled on the floor. “You know, even though you have been a grade-A dick to me this whole time, my offer still stands. I will no doubt need help with this whole stopping a potential apocalypse from occurring. I don’t know anyone here, and if you hadn’t noticed, I don’t have any friends to help me. You’re the first being I’ve encountered that could be of any use to me. Are you in or out?”
“Fuck off!” He sneers
I shrug. “Suit yourself!”
With that, I teleport out of there and back to my home in Barcelona.
Standing in my room I toss the book on the bed, flopping down next to it and letting out a sigh. It has been a long day and damn exhausting. Demons don’t usually get exhausted, we have enough power to sustain us for weeks. We can even go without sleep for days on end and be totally fine. Between getting my ass somewhat kicked and having to deal with Mr. Broody McDicknuts back at the church, I’m spent and in some serious need of a good massage by a hot Spanish man.
I close my eyes as I picture getting covered in massage oil, a smoking hot masseuse moving his skilled hands over the contours of my body, up my legs, before settling on the sweet spot between my thighs. I shake myself out of my erotic thoughts when I notice my hand has dipped beneath my shorts and panties. Pulling my hand out I spring up to a sitting position.
“Need a cold shower?” Vee giggles.
“Oh quiet you!” Her loud laughter fills my head.
Ignoring her, I grab the book and start flipping through it.
I need to find the specific spell that they were looking for, if it exists, in this book. Unfortunately, with a book titled Book of the Dead there are many spells that can be used to conjure up such a demon. The rumbling sound and empty ache in the pit of my stomach breaks me from my current task. It’s been days, weeks since I last ate something. The one bad thing about needing to ride around in humans is, whilst we don’t get hungry, well, humans are plagued with the annoying requirement of sustenance.
I get up and walk to the kitchen, taking the book with me. I’ll whip myself up some food and read through it while I eat. I place the book on my dining table and walk to the fridge. Peering in I realise I haven’t done any grocery shopping in awhile. It is a good thing that I have some readymade meals in the freezer. Grabbing myself a creamy chicken pesto pasta, I open the throw away container and hold my dinner in my hands, allowing heat to radiate from them to defrost and heat up my meal. When it’s hot enough, I open the lid, grab a fork from a drawer and sit down at the table where I had placed the book.
Halfway through the book, I find the spell that could be used to raise Malphas. I feel rather triumphant and incredibly pleased with myself. Why? It is a boring ass book to read, I’m surprised that I lasted this long without falling into a coma. Seriously, it’s better than a fucking sleeping pill or counting sheep. I have no purpose for most of the spells in it. There is no interest there anymore. If I was the old me, I would be grabbing the ingredients to perform them as quickly as possible. I am just about to read through the rest of the spell when I’m dragged out of my perfect little haven and standing back in the church again.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Oh I’m absolutely livid. I’ve been summoned, and not just by anybody, but by the asshat gargoyle. I stand there and glare at him. “What the hell do you want?”
“Well hello to you too,” He smirks.
“What the hell do you want?” I repeat.
“I want the book and seeing as though you won’t give it up, and I have no idea what is really going on around here, I thought that, well, I thought that we could work together,” he says, mumbling the last bit.
“He wants to work with you now? I wonder what made him change his mind,” Vee muses.
“Mmmhmm. . . . I’m thinking exactly the same thing.”
I can’t believe he wants to work with me now. Does he really think that I’m going to just say ‘Okay! Let’s do this!’. Who the hell does he think he is?
“And what makes you think I want to work with you? As I recall, you knocked me back not once, but twice when I offered so nicely for us to partner up. So, before I tell you to go fuck yourself, why do you want to work with me? Why the change of heart?”
“Because since you left, I’ve had more demons crash the place, looking for the book. A book that is no longer here because it’s with you. Where is the book?”
“Hmmm, interesting. Well, I’m sorry, but no. . .Oh, and go fuck yourself.”
“Where is the book?” he barks at me.
“I was reading it back at my place when my ass was summoned back here. By you.” I go to leave, but I’m stopped short by the gargoyle.
“You are in a trap, so there is no use trying to teleport out of here this time. You need my help, otherwise you wouldn’t have asked me to begin with, so why are you changing your mind this time?”
“He’s got a point there.”
I mentally growl at Vee.
I look down and sure enough, there, clear as day, are the placement of five crystals in the shape of a pentagram with runes painted on the inside. This gargoyle has done his research since our first encounter. I’ll give him a C for effort.
“Look, you don’t trust me and I get that. I’m a demon, we aren’t to be trusted. But I really don’t want to try and convince you that I am not going to fuck you over and that I will never hurt you, like we’re in a relationship and you’re some needy chick. So that’s why I retract my previous offers. I don’t want to have to constantly reassure you.”
He sighs and says reluctantly, “Look, I can’t watch the church the whole time and during the day I revert back to being a stone gargoyle sitting on top of the church. I need another set of eyes and a body that is free to walk around in the day to help me.”
“Wow, are you actually admitting to needing me Gargoyle?” I ask, relishing the moment.
He grimaces, his jaw clenching tightly as he nods.
Oh this is sweet.
“I wanna hear you say it. Tell me that you want me, and need me. . . Desperately,” I say seductively.
He just stands there, glaring at me.
“You really think I’m going to make this easy for you? You fobbed me off twice, insulted me countless amounts of times and now that you have hit a brick wall, you want to work with me now?” I scoff. “You’re going to have to do better than that my dear.”
Queue growl in three. Two. One. A fierce growl rumbles through his chest. Ahhh, there it is.
I hold up my hands in a placating gesture. “Okay, okay, fine. I’ll work with you.”
I step out of the trap that was placed on the ground and walk over to him.
His face contorts in disbelief, my shoulders lift up into a shrug. “What? You really didn’t think a trap like that could contain me? Oh please, I’m much more powerful than those weak little traps. I guess, now that we are working together, I will need to be here in America, which means I need a place to stay. Where do you live?”
“You aren’t staying with me. I may have agreed to work with you on this because you are useful, but you aren’t staying with me.”
“Fine, well I’ll need a hotel then. I’m Esmerelda by the way. What’s your name?”
“Quinn? Isn’t that a girl’s name?” I chortle.
“It’s a unisex name,” he bites out through clenched teeth, sounding more like he’s constipated than pissed off. The expression matches as well.
“Okay, okay! Whatever you say.” I lift my hands up in an act of surrender.
“Wow, he’s sensitive,” Vee says.
“It’s so a girl’s name right Vee?”
“So, where are the good places to stay around here?”
“You can stay at the Washington Hotel uptown.”
“Cool.” I pull out my phone and search on Google for the hotel, finding a map of the place. “Let’s get going.”
“I’m not going with you,” he says flatly.
“I don’t know about you, but I actually like this world and hope to live in it for as long as possible, which means that we need to act on this ASAP.”
I take his hands in mine, feeling him pull away but I hold my grip. Without saying a word, I teleport us straight to the outside of the hotel and behind a tree so as to not be seen. Forgetting the toll teleportation can have on a person who has yet to experience it, I smile as he keels over, hands resting on the tree in front of him, face sheet white, looking like he’s going to vomit. I bite my cheek to stop from laughing. What, I can’t help it, it’s funny. Why? Because that has been the reaction of every human vessel that has ever housed me over the centuries.
“You okay there Quinnie boy?” I ask mockingly.
“Don’t. Call. Me. Th…“ Retching sounds meet my ears as I watch him throw up the contents of his stomach – which, for a man, isn’t much. I thought men were supposed to have appetites like fucking gorillas.
“You’ll be fine. Give it a few minutes. The first time is always a little painful,” I say giving him a wink.
A few minutes later he is good to go and all the colour that had previously left his body like it was repulsed by him, returned.
I conjure up two sets of luggage, garnering an odd look from Quinn. “It’s about perception Quinnie boy. If we go in there and I book out a hotel room with no luggage, you are going to look like a man who has just paid a prostitute for a root.”
“You aren’t dressed like a prostitute.”
“No, but it’s late at night and you’re arriving at a hotel with female company. I could be in a pair of pyjamas and it would still send the same message.”
We walk into the grand lobby of the hotel, marble flooring stretches out as far as the eye can see. All white with only a splatter of colour here and there, browns and maroons mostly. To the left is a little sitting area where people can sit and chat. A set of steps lead to the front reception area which we make our way to, shoes clicking along as we walk, echoing throughout the expansive hotel lobby. We are pretty much the only ones there, allowing us the luxury of walking straight up to the reception desk without having to wait in line.
“Hi, welcome to the Washington Hotel, are you checking in?”
“Yes, we are,” I answer sweetly
“Okay, wonderful. Now what kind of room are you looking to book with us?”
“A suite if you have one available.”
“Fantastic! We have three different types of suites available. There’s the penthouse suites, business suites and the honeymoon suites.” She winks. “Which one are you looking to book and for how long?”
“I’m not sure how long we’ll be here but best to make it a couple of weeks for now, it’s a spur of the moment trip for us.” Giving her a coy giggle. “And we’ll take the honeymoon suite thank you.” Batting my eyes at her, I cozy into Quinn’s arm and he stiffens against my touch.
“Relax, it’s for appearances only. Now pretend we are in love okay?”
“Esmerelda, how are you?-“
“Telepathy numnuts. Now, act normal until I have everything booked and paid the receptionist.”
“Wonderful, okay, so for fourteen nights that comes to a total of thirty-thousand dollars. I’ll just need some form of identification and your credit card to put on the file please. This will be used for any charges made to your room, which will then be taken from your card at the end of your stay.”
The woman smiles widely, she is not well put together and the ghastly red lipstick she’s wearing is staining her teeth. Her hair is pulled back way too tight and it is stretching her skin taut, making her look like she’s taken a ride on the Hollywood celebrity surgery train. Whatever convinced her in that brain of hers that she looked presentable, is beyond me. I give her a polite smile and using my powers, create a credit card and drivers licence. I take it out of my purse and hand it over to the woman wearing a name tag with Tiffany written perfectly in block letters.
She taps away on her computer and once everything is finalised she hands me back my credit card and driver’s licence, along with an electronic room key and a little paper slip which has the name of the suite on it and the password to the hotel’s Wi-Fi.
“Okay, so the elevators are to the left there, you will need to use your room key to access your floor, just tap on the touchpad and then press the button to your floor. Your room is on the thirtieth floor. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact concierge.”
She motions to someone behind me and next minute, there is a man dressed in a suit with a tag that says Trevor on it. “Good evening ma’am, please allow me to take your luggage for you.”
I give my thanks and, still clutching Quinn’s arm, make my way to the left behind Trevor and into the elevator. I am thankful when we aren’t greeted with the horrible sound of Muzak. I don’t know what is with humans and their constant need to fill the void of silence with noise. I would much rather stand in an elevator in silence than listen to some stupid piano music. In fact, I welcome silence, I don’t care much for idle chit chat and stupid conversations about the weather. It’s all meaningless and we all know they don’t actually care, because if they did, the conversation would be a lot better than, ‘It’s hot out right?’ Ugh. We finally arrive at my floor and the elevator doors open straight into the suite.
I gasp at the sight of the luxury suite with its comfortable sofas, expensive looking dining table and the rather amazing view of the twinkling lights of the city scape.
I give an indulgent and satisfied smile, grateful I never have to worry about the issues of money, so I can live in luxury. I love the finer things in life, from luxury hotels to the little mcmansion that I live in back in Sarria-Sant Gervasi. It’s just one of the amazing perks of being a demon, and possessing a vessel that is sex on legs.
Let’s just say, there is rarely a time I have to pay for my own things. I’m smoking hot and I know it. I may seem like I’m up myself, but I’m just stating the truth. I’m blessed with a human with model good looks.
Quinn and I step out of the elevator, Trevor follows, rolling our luggage to the side and stands there, waiting patiently to be tipped for his service. I take some notes out of my purse and hand them to the bellboy who bows slightly and enters the elevator, leaving us alone.
“Wow,” I breathe.
“Do you always waste your money on frivolous shit?”
“Yeah, what of it? I like the finer things in life, so sue me.” I shrug.
I make a beeline for a set of double doors where I assume the bedroom will be. Opening them, I am welcomed by the glorious sight of a king size bed with a chiffon and lace canopy.
I sigh. Content. Even though I know I won’t be doing much sleeping, it doesn’t hurt to have a comfortable bed to rest on if I ever need to.
I proceed to explore the rest of the massive room. Through another set of double doors to the left is the adjoining bathroom containing a spa bath.
I will definitely be enjoying you later.
On the other side of the room is a walk-in-closet. It’s not as impressive as mine, with the shoe carousel and chaise in the middle where I can get changed, but it’ll do.
“Are you done in there?”
I groan. “Yes, I’m coming,” I snap back.
He can’t give me a few minutes, can he?
I walk into the open living/dining/kitchen area where Quinn is standing awkwardly at the dining table. He looks quite cute, unsure of what to do with a strained look on his face, trying to decide whether he should sit down or not. It’s not something I expect to come from the big tough man. In fact, he reminds me of a nervous puppy. All this picture needs is a trail of piss staining his pants.
“So how did you get mixed up in this mess?” I ask Quinn, curious. I know gargoyles are protectors of churches and the city in which they overlook, but they usually ward off all evil from entering a church, not just demons. Although, gargoyles now are extinct, and if you do happen to see any perched on a church, they’re fake.
“I’m a demon hunter.” he responded gruffly.
“So a gargoyle humanoid creature that hunts demons,” I nod my head. “Okay, I’ll buy it.”
He frowns, “There’s nothing for you to buy, it’s the truth.”
“I know. Why would anybody in their right mind lie about that?”
He goes to speak and I lift my hand up. “Okay let’s regroup, right now, the only thing we have is the Book of the Dead and that’s it. We need to know where the gate is and what the three keys are. Since the demon back at the church was talking to Kane, that’s exactly who I plan to summon.”
“And what makes you think he’ll talk?”
Seductively, hips swinging from side to side, I walk up to him. “Because,” I lean in really close, so that my lips brush his ear lightly. “I can be very persuasive,” I say ever so softly, breathing out the last word.
An audible gulp can be heard and I feel him take a step back. Oh, how delightful. It seems that I affect Quinnie boy in more ways than one. A smile creeps up on my face.
Moving over to the living room, I shift the contents placed symmetrically away, from the middle and snap my fingers, a mat with a pentagram and runes written on the outside appears along with some symbols written a few centimetres from that. This is my trap for Kane. I speak the words of the summoning spell, repeating it a few times as is required.
“Good job, maybe the spell is broken,” He says sardonically. Ignoring him, I wait a few more minutes, and nothing.
“Son of a bitch!” I exclaim, spinning on my heels and storming off.
“Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” A deep voice asks.
Kane. How nice of you to drop by.
“Well, it’s about time.” I spin around and stumble back at the sight of him. Damn, he’s chosen a good-looking vessel, unlike the one I had seen before in the demon’s memories. A thatch of dark brown hair which is slicked back adorns his head with sapphire blue eyes with flecks of hazel. He is definitely a sight, not as good looking as Quinn, but I’d say close enough.
“No, definitely not as good looking as Quinn,” Vee pipes up. “Though, I have yet to find anyone as good looking as Quinn. When did gargoyles get so hot?”
“This is so unlike you Vee, you’re usually the prude.”
“No I’m not!” Vee’s voice becomes high pitched and defensive. “I love men, just because I don’t jump every guy I see like a harlot, doesn’t mean I’m a prude!”
“Is that meant to be an insult? Because I’m not insulted. I love men and I love sex. It’s natural.”
“What do you mean it’s about time? It’s been a few minutes. God, you’re impatient.” I snap back to the real world and out of my own head.
“Well I’m sorry, but time is a factor. I hear you are the demon to talk to about a plan to release Malphas from his fortress.”’
“What’s it to you?”
“Does that really matter?”
Kane shrugs. “No, but if you want any kind of information then you’ll tell me.”
“Have you heard of this plan?” I throw back, completely ignoring his question.
My power flows out and wraps itself around his neck, strangling him where he stands. Kane clutches his throat, gasping for breath.
“Are you going to quit lying to me or will we be here all day?”
He makes a gurgling sound, attempting to speak, so I release my power’s grip on him.
“Fuck you,” he manages to say before I exhale and tighten my grip on his neck, watching his face turn blue.
“No thanks, you aren’t my type. Let me tell you how this is going to go. You will tell me who is behind this. How, is up to you. This can be done, as they say, the easy way or the hard way. You either just give me the information I need or I force it out of you. And believe me, you don’t want the latter.” I release my grip on his neck a little and walk to stand in front of him. “Now, what’s it going to be?”
He spits in my face. “Fuck you.”
I wipe off the spittle and my true demonic side comes out in a rush, overwhelming me. This is a side of me that belongs to the old me, the darkness that lingers deep in the recesses of my soul, inching further through my body the more I use it, like a virus. Over the years I’ve refrained from going to such extremes, which is why I favour weapons.
I can do as much damage with them as I can with my more subdued powers. I need to remain in control of them and limit the usage. The more I tap into them, the stronger the darkness becomes and the bigger it grows. I’ve worked too damn hard to tamp them down, there is no room for slip ups, especially when the alternative is me returning to my former self. My former demonic self. A sadistic and cruel mistress who takes pleasure in the torture of others.
Not willing to use my powers, I rely on pure demonic strength, my arm shoots out burying deep into his body. My fingers grip his heart, squeezing it tight. Kane cries out in pain, his knees buckle for a moment before he straightens back up again. A look of agony wipes away the smugness.
“Tell me what you know about the plan to release Malphas from his fortress!” I shout.
“This is going well isn’t it?” Quinn sniggers.
“Oh shut it, Quinnie boy.”
“Don’t call me that.” His voice is dark, deep and gravelly, he sounds incredibly sexy which sends shivers through me, making me wish we were alone and I didn’t have my hand inside another man’s chest cavity.
This is not the time to be having these thoughts about the gargoyle! I scold myself.
Vee giggles inside my head.
“Okay, I’ll tell you,” Kane says, his face still contorted in pain.
Turning my attention back to Kane, I remove my hand from his body and grab a hand towel from the kitchen, wiping it. “I’m so happy that you have come to your senses with this. Now let’s start again,” I say cheerfully like I wasn’t just wrist deep inside him. “What does Lucifer want with Malphas? Why now? After all these centuries.”
“I don’t know, but I do know that it is all in motion.” His voice strains as he attempts to get his breathing back to normal, hand clutching his chest.
“How close are they to releasing him?”
“They need to find a main gate to the Underworld, the three keys and the Book of the Dead.”
“How close are they to finding the location?”
A deafening silence greets me, the air thick with it.
Several minutes pass and still no answer from Kane. His piercing eyes which have gone from the sparkling blue to obsidian, are focused on me like a laser as I contemplate my next move. I can’t go any more demon than I already have, it’s hard to come back from it. I know it seems that I’ve gone full demon, but this is nothing. The torture, the pain inflicted, all of this. Nothing, compared to how bad I can go.
I walk up and yank Kane’s arm, twisting it at the same time. He wails in pain, the sound equivalent to that of a female fox’s mating call. I wince from the excruciating sound that assaults my eardrums.
“You aren’t the first demon I have tortured and you certainly won’t be the last. Now tell me what I want to know!”
“Fine!” He hunches over and pops his shoulder back into place. “We have narrowed down the location of the gate to the Underworld to three locations. The Washington Cemetery, a haunted house on Beckett Street and the Church of Notre Dame. The keys to unleashing Malphas haven’t been figured out yet.”
“The Church of Notre Dame?” Quinn asks softly.
I look up at him, knowing exactly what he is thinking, it’s the same thing I am. What if it is the church and the demons already know? The main gate to the Underworld would give off a rather powerful energy, like a beacon, and if they have sensed it then all they would need to do is get the book and the three keys. It will be a dark day for humanity if Malphas comes back to Earth.
I had just come from the church and hadn’t sensed anything, so it can’t possibly be it. However, with the power and magic radiating from the two demons at the church and Quinn, I could have confused it for one of them. This is something I need to check out, just in case. No one can afford to have Lucifer have the upper hand in all this.
Malphas is the most fucked up of Lucifer’s soldiers. His first in command, Satan – most commonly mistaken by humans as being Lucifer himself – is a psycho motherfucker, but none matched up to that of Malphas. He is in his own realm of crazy that one, with enough love and devotion to Lucifer to choke a puppy.
“Yes, you know that building where ‘God’,” he says, making air quotes with his fingers, “lives.”
“I know the church scumbag –“ Quinn barks out.
“Ooo, big words for the little human.” Kane turns to face me. “Really? This guy? You’ve turned away from your fellow brethren to help these hapless losers? The others are going to love this.”
“The others aren’t going to find out.” I feel my power curl itself around his heart and with a simple thought I tug on the end of the tether. Kane falls to his knees, struggling to keep himself up as I tug on it a little more. I’m uncaring, cruel. I can feel my demonic side rising further up, just like when I had plunged my hand deep into his body, enjoying the feeling of the blood dripping down my arm, his heart in my hand.
Okay, so I said I couldn’t use my powers anymore, but sometimes the need to exact a little bit of punishment kicked the logical side of my brain in it’s metaphorical balls.
Back in the day, I was known as the Black Widow. And no, I didn’t fuck guys and then kill them. I used my skills, seductive nature to get what I wanted and then killed with no remorse. I loved the kill, hungered for it. I was one of Lucifer’s best weapons, so kicking that habit took a lot out of me. I was an addict, trying to kick hard drugs.
I fell off the bandwagon so many times because I couldn’t handle the pain, the torture and the restless nights, until I came across a shaman. He fixed me right up and gave me a soul. I know, how Buffy the Vampire Slayer does that sound? The only difference between myself and the painfully annoying Angel from the TV show, is that I wanted it to happen.
It was a way to still feel the power swirling around inside of me, but remove the effect it had on me physically and psychologically. A way for me to control the usage so that I could kick the habit without breaking into a sweat and falling into a fit.
A soft hand lands on my shoulder bringing me back to reality. I look up at Quinn, and instantly get lost in his beautiful blue eyes. All I can think about is how his eyes are drilling into me, travelling down my face and straight to my lips; quickly, but enough for me to notice and savour the moment. My eyes roam his face, his oh so perfect face. I drink in every inch of him. His strong jaw, 5 o’clock shadow and plump, kissable lips. He is an Adonis, that’s for sure. I can’t be thinking about how he makes me feel, the warmth that is quickly spreading, covering every inch of my body, making me yearn for his hard. . . .
Snap out of it!
“You okay there Dee?” Vee asks, amused.
“Yes, I’m fine Vee. Totally okay.”
I release my hold on the tether.
“What do you say? Do I have to worry about you or not?” I ask Kane.
He looks up at me with pleading eyes. I love when they have that look of desperation, begging me to not continue with my torture. I don’t know what he’s worried about. I haven’t gone nearly as hard on him as I did with the first demon back in Spain. I’ve reined back my torture.
Okay, maybe I haven’t. Don’t judge me.
I bend down so I’m face to face with Kane and place a hand on his shoulder. He flinches. “Good, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about you. But, just to be sure,“ I start to say before I’m interrupted by him.
“Just kill me already if that’s what you plan to do.”
I bring my index finger and tap my lips while feigning deep thought. “I was going to, but I have a much better idea.”
I place my hand on the back of his neck and mutter a spell. He twitches under my touch.
“What was that!” A yelp forces its way out of his mouth. I smother a laugh that is fighting to break free from me. It’s not every day you see a demon yelping like a puppy.
“I marked you. You will act as my little informant, getting me the information that I need from your buddies down in the Underworld and report back to me. If I find that you have lied to me, double crossed me or, told anyone that you have spoken to me, you’ll come straight back to me. I will then proceed to torture you, slowly, continuously and aggressively. All of which will go on for days, making you beg for death. I will slow your healing abilities down slightly so it takes you longer, and you can feel the pain for longer. I am accustomed to torture tactics and will not hesitate to use them before I kill you, Cockroach. Have I made myself perfectly clear?”
His Adam’s apple bobs up and down, the classic response to fear in a male. Men are strong and pigheaded, always trying to save face and never wanting to seem weak, but their Adam’s apple can give away so much about how they are feeling. I relish this, bathe in it. Completely satisfied I stand up, help him back up on his feet and release him from the trap. With a wave of my hand, I send him back to wherever he came from.
“We’ve got work to do.”
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Some think seeing into the future, even if it’s death, is a gift. For me it has always been a curse. Magic rules this new world and my form of it is no blessing. Neither are the walls around me that I’ve been told are for my protection. If there is anything more cruel or vicious in the Wilds than what I’ve experienced here, I can’t imagine it.
After being sold to the highest bidder, a more ruthless monster than the one who controls me is looming. My life is on the razor’s edge of disaster and about to get worse until I’m broken free, aided by one of the most unlikely allies that roams the Wilds.
I’m willing to do the unthinkable and imprison another to remain free. But now my new master is hunting me and the one I’ve trapped is all that stands between me and an existence more horrific than death.
Everybody wants to be a superhero. They want to be special, believe that they can save the world and all that blah, blah, blah, bullshit. Well, that would be everybody but me. All I wanted was to save my own ass, and maybe one other person, before I ditched what was left of the human race as soon as I got the chance.
Why? Because when the Bloody Death wiped out most of the world, what it left behind was pretty much crap. I’ve only known a handful of decent people and I’ve lived on this earth for eighteen years, give or take a couple of months. That was a large enough sampling size for me.
Of course, because all I’d ever wanted was to be normal, stands to reason I’d end up as anything but that. I’ve been cursed from the day I was born with this strange gift. You know what was worse than having a power you never wanted? Having one that was absolutely worthless to you when you needed it.
Like right now, being super strong would have been great, so I could kill the asshole standing in front of me. Or what about flying? So I could escape. But I’m not killing anyone or escaping because, as I mentioned, my power sucks. It was worse than having no power at all.
“You think you can leave here?” Baryn’s spit flew between the rotted teeth he had left and a foul odor blasted my nostrils as he screamed. His fist, covered in my blood, waved inches from me, as his pustuled face served as an unwanted backdrop.
Baryn wasn’t my curse. He was just the nightmare that kept reoccurring. Every. Damn. Day. And my superpower couldn’t do a thing about him.
“You’re going to pay for every second my men had to look for you.” His face grew as red as that last fall tomato he’d eaten for breakfast.
That was how long I’d been gone too. Since breakfast. Not even a full day. Not that long in the scheme of things, but I guess if you were counting every single second, it added up. “You sure you’ve got the balls to back up something that big? That’s a whole lot of seconds you’re throwing around there, bud.” I hit the B hard, knowing that calling him bud would take him over the edge.
Baryn’s bald head gleamed, a bead of sweat dripping a trail to the side of his nose. I might’ve imagined he was bursting some blood vessels as his heart hammered through his chest. He was entitled to his surprise, considering I was changing things up unexpectedly. Normally, during our times together, he did most of the talking, while I played more of the silent, mysterious type.
But something had snapped in me this morning when I’d taken a step out of the village, and then a second. It was as if that first breath of free air had seeped into my lungs and then grabbed a hold of my soul with an iron grip that wouldn’t let go. All the feelings and emotions I’d kept caged within me, beaten back so I could make myself so very small, halving myself so I’d hopefully go unnoticed whenever possible in my fight to survive—they wouldn’t go back in. I couldn’t beat them down anymore. It was as if the iron grip had spread out from my heart into everything that was me. That part I’d pummeled for so long, it was refusing to listen to reason. It didn’t care if Baryn killed me. Didn’t want to hear how it was better to be careful and survive. It couldn’t seem to fit inside that little space I’d allowed it.
Craziest part was—I. Liked. It.
I didn’t want to beat it back, force myself to shrink within, and the cost didn’t matter.
“Don’t you ever speak to me like that.” His arm pulled all the way back, loading up for another swing.
That wild thing that had broken free inside of me still refused to be cowed. “Fuck. You.”
His fist struck my nose. The familiar crunch told me it was broken—again. It was already a mangled lump on my face, so it wouldn’t look much worse, and I’d moved past vanity long ago. My head bounced off the wall and then wobbled back. Blood dripping down onto the packed earthen floor, I waited for my head to clear. Waited to see if that thing inside of me, that part that wanted to live large and fuck the consequences, was ready to shrink back into its small box and hide again.
It still didn’t give a fuck.
My skull leaning against the wall for support, I angled my head back to get a look at Baryn. “Be careful exerting yourself too much. You’re not as spry as you used to be. The ole ticker might get tired out and quit.” The nasally tone of my jibe lessened the delivery, but the ragged intake of his breath said it hit its target well enough anyway.
Baryn’s biggest fear was death, not that you’d know it the way he wasted his days. The problem with Baryn was the same problem lots of people had. They acted like tomorrow was a guarantee. Yes, logically they knew they could die today, but that wasn’t what they truly believed. They walked around as if they had an eternity at their disposal, wasting minutes as if they were nothing. Minutes piling up into hours and days. Years later, they had nothing left but a spent life. Then the reaper knocked on their door and they prayed to the gods of the Wilds for just a few of those minutes back, because then they’d treasure them. Then they’d do this and that and everything in between.
But everyone has a moment when it all ceases to exist, and the reaper doesn’t care if you beg, get on your knees, and cry. The reaper isn’t an ex who might give you one last go around. When the reaper shows, it’s a date with death.
And the one thing I knew all too well was death. That was my gift, if you wanted to call it that. I couldn’t always tell you when the reaper was coming, but I knew how he was going to collect and how ugly it was going to be. I knew who’d beg and who’d go out standing tall. When Baryn’s time came, and it was going to be soon, he wouldn’t have a chance to beg.
Of all the deaths I’d seen, and hated every glimpse of, Baryn’s was the one I’d been waiting for. What a death it would be. Way too grand for the likes of him, but I’d take my opportunity to dance on his corpse any way I got it. Even if it were only for a minute, that minute couldn’t come soon enough.
Baryn’s face scrunched up as delayed rage finally set in. “Worthless bitch. You deserve everything that’s coming for you.” His fist connected with my ribs.
The pain was shocking. I didn’t care what anyone said, you never really got used to taking a bad beating, but I knew I’d survive. Once in a blue moon, seeing a person’s death before it happened had an upside. Long ago, I’d realized that I saw fewer deaths with babies and children. Since I couldn’t see my own either, it made me think maybe I only saw the deaths that preceded mine.
Winded from doling out the beating, he stepped back, the bulge in his pants obvious. A beating was his foreplay. The swelling and the blood all added to his arousal. Most people didn’t find me attractive, but Baryn did. He got off on the many scars he’d given me through the years. The way my right leg bowed from a crudely healed break he’d caused. The scars that covered my body.
He moved to his bed, sitting with his legs wide open and leaning back, rubbing between his legs. He mumbled and spoke softly, sick words I drowned out in my head.
He wouldn’t touch me, no one would—not like that, anyway. That was the only blessing of my gift. There were too many superstitions around my kind. They said I had Death Sight, that I was tainted by the reaper. To sleep with me might bring instant death. But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t look his fill while he did his business.
His stares and grunting used to make bile claw its way up my throat, gagging me. I didn’t feel anything now. Wouldn’t let him have that part of me. I stared out the window above me, with eyes that were swelling shut, at the tree tops beyond the wall that enclosed our village. I pushed him from my mind until I was alone with nothing but the stars and the sound of owls hooting in the distance.
What it had been like to run free through those trees. They said that everything out there, in the Wilds, was too dangerous. That bloodthirsty beasts ran the forest at night, killing anything they came upon, and that pirates would kidnap you and sell you at slave markets.
They said the world wasn’t what it used to be a couple of hundred years ago, back in the Glory Years, when there were great machines everywhere. Mechanical birds soared through the air and great metal boats cut through the oceans like whales, carrying people all over the world on their backs. And that was only the beginning of the stories I’d heard.
So many people had been alive then that they’d lived in huge cities of towering buildings, and when they walked, they’d bang into each other accidentally.
But then the Bloody Death came, wave after wave. And with each wave, the human race became weaker and weaker. Now? We’re hanging on to the bottom rung, prey to the beasts and all the other creatures that rose after the fall, and continued to rise.
People said it was safer here, enclosed in five square miles of hell. But those people didn’t live my life. Maybe for them it was, but for me, death was preferable.
Since I was a baby, I’d never been outside of those walls—until today. I’d take my chance again as soon as I got it. I wanted to run through the trees with no one watching and no one telling me when to stop or when to start. I wanted to be alone and away from here.
And I had to get away soon. Worse was on its way.
I woke sometime near dawn to Baryn’s fingers digging into the fleshy part of my upper arm. Eyes barely open, I tried to untangle my legs as he dragged me after him toward the door.
Ivan was waiting for him right outside the door, as always.
“Put her in the circle,” Baryn said, and then went back inside.
Ivan did the bulk of the dirty work and was a stellar employee, always doing his duty with a smile. I was handed off, this time by my hair, as I stumbled to keep from being scalped.
Minutes later, I was chained to the post, a half-circle of stones around it. Three inches of iron bit into the skin of my wrist. The circle of shame, they called it. This was where they put you when you did something bad, which could be anything from glancing the wrong way or saying the wrong word.
I settled in, leaning against the wood, knowing I’d be here for at least the day, if history told me anything.
I pulled my knees up to my chest, resting my chin upon them and letting white-blond hair curtain my face. People would be rising for their duties soon, and it was much easier to not see them than to pretend I hadn’t. It was mutually beneficial, as they didn’t want to pretend to not see me either.
I’d gotten as comfortable as I could when Baryn’s door opened again. It had a very distinctive double bang when it closed, and his house wasn’t that far from the circle. Sometimes I wondered if he liked the view outside his window. I glanced over, and he had that look in his eyes as they met mine.
I’d thought he was through with me for now. This wasn’t how things went. He’d beaten me. He’d done that thing. Normally he’d be content for at least a day and move on to some new amusement. Why was he walking out of his house and toward me?
He paused, looking around the ground near the wooden wall. What was he doing? Maybe he was done with me? Except I’d seen that look. I knew that look. I’d had nightmares over that look.
Suddenly he was on the move again, but this time in the opposite direction, and I sagged against the pole. It wasn’t until I saw the thick branch he picked up, saw him pivot back to me with it in his hand, that I truly panicked. Baryn liked to use his fists. He’d only used a branch one other time, when he didn’t think he could get the job done.
I tried to pull my hand from the metal. It scraped over my skin, bunching it like crinkled fabric, but it wasn’t enough. I would’ve broken it if I could’ve. I would’ve done anything if it would’ve gotten me free.
Baryn walked toward me with brisk steps now, determined in his path, the branch swinging at his side.
Ivan, who had been twenty or so feet away, fell into step with him, as they both now charged in my direction.
Baryn turned to Ivan. “Hold her down.”
“Whatever you say.” Ivan turned to me, smiling widely and probably wishing he was going to wield the branch.
Ivan’s steps nearing had me slicing skin from my wrist, but unless I could sever my hand, I was caught. Ivan’s foot was planted on my back, shoving me to the ground.
“Flip her over,” Baryn said. “I want to watch her face as she gets what’s coming to her.”
Crows cawed from their perches, mingling with Ivan’s laughter. He grabbed a shoulder, swinging me back around. A boot dug into already-hurt ribs and kept me there.
Baryn took the thick branch in both hands, smiling as he swung at the air. “That will be the last time you run. Anywhere.”
I should’ve shut up and lain there, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. That thing inside me, the piece that had broken free, kept saying, Don’t live small. Don’t let them rob you of what little you have left. If you’re going to die, so be it. At least do it on your terms. So, instead of shutting up and hoping he wouldn’t hurt me too badly, I smiled at him, even as my stomach churned and I choked on its acidic swell.
I took the only swing at him I had left: “Do your worst now, because you won’t have much longer.”
“Why is that?” he asked, white-knuckling the branch.
“The Bloody Death will be coming for you soon. I can see you in a pile of your own shit and puke after you lie rotting for a week.”
He smiled. “Liar. There hasn’t been an outbreak of the Bloody Death in years. First I’m dying from a weak heart, now it’s the Bloody Death.” He laughed like a man whose heart was shriveled and black.
“We’ll see,” I said.
He was right. He wouldn’t die either of those ways. I’d never tell him how he was going to die. Didn’t want to give him a chance to stop it.
Baryn used his branch to point at me as he spoke to Ivan. “Don’t let her move. This takes very precise aim.”
Ivan kept his boot steady, but he was no longer smiling or looking at me. He was afraid of what he’d hear was in store for him. His death was nowhere near as satisfying as Baryn’s, so he needn’t worry about me sharing.
The branch came crashing down on my shin. First it stole the air from my lungs and then it stole the light from my eyes. If nothing else, I finally got the oblivion I’d longed for.
* * *
I huddled on the ground, my back to the wooden wall that circled our village, clinging to any break from the wind I could get. It was cold for fall, and even colder now that night had fallen again.
People gave me a wide berth as they made their way home for the night, no one wanting to look my way and acknowledge me. If they did, they might feel like they had to do something. It was easier to not see me. I kept my eyes downward, so I didn’t have to watch the people walking past, pretending to not see me.
The bowl of broth I’d been brought minutes earlier lay turned on its side a few feet away, after Ivan had accidentally bumped me.
“Clumsy,” he’d said, before walking away.
They wouldn’t starve me to death, though. Not on purpose, anyway. They’d already sold me.
Tuesday, the only person left alive I cared a wink about, had overheard Baryn and Turrock, his brother, talking about how much they’d gotten for me. She didn’t know to whom I’d been sold, or maybe she didn’t want to tell me. Her refusal to look me in the eye was a sure sign she’d been holding back some of the details. No matter how I pressed her, she hadn’t said a peep. All she’d kept repeating was I had to leave. That was how I knew whatever was coming was really bad.
Even though I had no supplies, or warm clothing to bear the brutal weather coming, after she told me, I’d decided to run the next moment I got a chance. The plan we’d concocted was flimsy at best, but all we had.
Tuesday had flirted with the guard manning the gate, and I’d slipped out. Even knowing I’d most likely be caught. With my limp, speed wasn’t an option, but I’d been determined to escape.
My freedom hadn’t lasted long, and with pain shooting up my leg, I wasn’t sure I’d ever have another chance. Curled on my side, I let my heart harden a little more, knowing it might be the only way I’d survive.
The last noises finally drifted away, and the only thing left was the wind whistling as it blew through the gaps in the wall.
Fingers whispered across my scalp, as if fearing to apply any more pressure than a feather.
“Teddy.” My name was spoken even softer.
“Tuesday?” I opened my eyes to see chaotic, dark curls framing a pixie face so ethereal that she could have had fairy blood in her veins.
She had big, soft eyes, like Maura’s had been before they’d closed for the last time.
Maura—I still felt the loss of her like a knife slashing through my heart, even though she’d been gone for over eight years. I’d known her death was coming, but more often than not, you couldn’t escape your time. When the date was stamped deep inside the flesh, not even knowing could help you avoid it.
There was a sickness that had grown in her for a long time. She’d fought it, but death had won, as it usually did. Tuesday, her daughter, the sister of my heart, if not my flesh, was all I had left of her. We’d been raised together, after they’d given me to Maura to nurse.
As I held Maura’s hand on that last day, she’d promised me the pain would eventually dull from her passing.
I was still waiting.
“Tuesday, you have to get away from me.” I scanned the area.
People were always looking, even if you didn’t see them. They were searching for a way to get a few more crumbs for themselves, a ration of meat on the few occasions the hunters brought back more than Baryn or Turrock could eat. If it cost the blood of others, they simply made sure they turned around before they had to see the outcome of their deed.
Last time Tuesday came to me when Baryn had chained me here, she’d caught a few blows herself. The circle was isolation. A spectacle to be seen by all but not approached. To cross the stones around the post was to risk being chained here yourself.
She pulled a bun out from under her jacket. “Here. Take this.”
“No, you keep it.” Food was tight, even if her lot wasn’t as bad as mine.
Kenny, the guy in charge of keeping the walls around this place intact, was sweet on her. He’d lightened her lot while he clung to the hope she’d turn equally sweet on him. He’d managed to get her a job in laundry, which wasn’t the worst you could do. After all, it kept her clear of Baryn and Turrock.
Kenny didn’t seem like the worst as far as people went, either. I’d never seen him look for trouble, but she hadn’t sweetened up yet, and she probably wouldn’t.
She shoved the bun back toward me. “You know you won’t get much while you’re stuck here. Please take it.”
I laid a hand on hers and pushed it back.
“I can’t eat it anyway.” The inside of my mouth was so chewed up from the last punch that hunger pains were preferable. Besides, my mouth was too dry for bread, but that wasn’t something I’d share with her. She’d risk her life to come back with water.
“I’m okay, Tuesday. You’ve got to go away before someone sees you. Please. I can handle anything but seeing him get to you too.”
She was barely hearing me. She stared at where the threadbare fabric of my pants was pulled tight across the swelling of my leg, purple flesh showing through the ripped seam.
“Will heal.” I’d walk on it again, and refused to think anything else.
She forced a smile even as her eyes nearly flooded, tears pooling on her lower lid. She squeezed my hand. “But you almost made it.”
Not even close. I tried to smile anyway, but the effort made her grimace, the gash on my lip straining. I dropped the pretense and returned the squeeze instead.
“Next time, I will.”
That was the plan. I’d escape one day. I’d settle somewhere far away and send her a pigeon in a month or two. Then she’d follow. She could leave here whenever she wanted. It was me who was trapped, but no matter how many times I’d told her to go, she wouldn’t.
Part of it was fear. I didn’t begrudge her that. If I had her life, this place might have been just enough to keep me here. Nothing good, but nothing too horrible. Just enough. Maybe you could do worse than getting by in this horrible place if what they said about everything out there was true. Or maybe this place was truly hell.
Would she be brave enough to set out into the Wilds without me beside her? I didn’t know. But dreaming about it for hours was one of the things that had kept us both going, so I didn’t delve too deeply into reality. I didn’t have the strength to strip the colors from the mirage when the mirage was all we had. So we’d talk about the day we’d get out of here and neither of us said a word otherwise.
A last squeeze to my hand and she stood, making her way back into the shadows of the buildings. I watched for flickers of movement from hidden watchers as she did. If a beating came her way tomorrow, I wanted to know who to blame.
Sometimes I wondered if hate drove me more than hope now. It didn’t really matter. Maybe hate was better, stronger. I had something to fuel the hate. Yesterday, when I’d run through those trees, I had hope. Somehow, it made the fracturing of my dreams that much worse. Hate was so much easier to hold on to.
I was still huddled against the wall, wondering how much longer they’d leave me here, when the gates creaked open. It was surprising they worked at all with the way they groaned at doing their job. Maybe they were trying to do their part and warn off newcomers.
At this late hour, it was probably Turrock returning. I didn’t look up, lying limp, too injured to come awake. He might go inside his house and get settled then. If I looked alert, he’d be drawn to me for sport, just as his brother was. Whatever their sickness, it seemed to run in the blood.
The night grew silent again. The danger had passed. My head on the ground, I tried to sleep, tried to ignore the pulsating pain that refused to stay in my one limb.
I didn’t know anyone was near me until I heard the crows caw and then a gasp. I cracked the eye that would still open to see two men, halted about eight feet away. Strangers, probably here to see Baryn or Turrock.
One of them had crazy blond hair that reminded me of a lion’s mane, like I’d seen in Tuesday’s picture book. He was staring in my direction, oblivious that he’d step over the stone ring as he stood in leather pants too rich for anyone I knew. It might have been the white-blond shade of my hair that was a curiosity, or sometimes it was the scars. I was a walking sideshow.
His stare wasn’t the dirty kind that made my skin crawl, but pity. As much as the lion wouldn’t look away, his friend seemed to have the opposite problem and wouldn’t look at all. That I was used to.
There was a time in my life, when I was younger and naive, that I would’ve asked for help. I wasn’t that girl anymore. I hadn’t been her for so long that it seemed as if she’d never existed at all. The only one that was going to save me from this hell was me, and I would. I didn’t know how yet, but the time was coming and I didn’t need anyone. I’d be my own savior. I’d leave this place one way or another, if only to watch it burn to the ground from a few feet away.
I laid my head back down again, trying to ignore them.
“Koz, come on. We don’t get involved in other people’s business. She’s probably a thief or something. Leave her be.”
I didn’t need to open my eyes to see the scene, but I did anyway. The one who couldn’t look tugged at the arm of the lion who was fixated on me.
“I don’t know if I can,” Koz said.
There was something in Koz’s voice that tugged at an innocence within I’d thought I’d murdered a long time ago. I couldn’t afford expendable emotions. Innocence and trust were among the first that had to go.
But maybe, just maybe, this one would be different? It wasn’t like there hadn’t been a few others that had tried. Nothing ever came of it, though. There’d always been a price to pay, either in their blood or mine. Usually both.
But what if he had the strength others hadn’t? He looked strong, much tougher than most of the men here.
“Koz, we need to handle our business and go.” The other man tugged at Koz again. “Come on. It’s not the same.”
Not the same? Same as what?
I wished they’d go about their business. I needed to forget them and not get crazy ideas, like asking for help. If they turned me down and then told Baryn, I might end up so bad off that I wouldn’t even be able to crawl from this place.
“Isn’t it though, Zink?” Koz asked.
Zink’s head angled slightly toward me but didn’t complete the turn. Then he gave me his back, shutting the door on my situation. “She’s one of them. Their business. Not ours. You know Callon’s rule. We keep to our own, take care of our own.”
I finally took a long, hard stare at this Koz. He didn’t break eye contact and took a step in my direction. He wanted to help, but that didn’t matter. People wanted to do a lot of things that they didn’t do. But if there was even a chance, how did I not take it?
Zink took a few steps away, waiting for Koz to follow him. “Come on.”
If Koz kept staring at me for even a few more seconds, I’d do it. I’d ask.
Our eyes held, my turquoise to his brown.
Did I dare? His eyes hardened, as if he were gearing up for action. My heart pounded with life and I opened my mouth, silently forming the word “help” on bloodstained lips.
“Koz,” Zink shouted.
His eyes shuttered, Koz turned and walked away. My heart slowed, then stuttered out into a sluggish beat. I laid my head back down. It had been nothing but wishes on the breeze, as Maura used to say. Not worth the air it took to utter them before they blew far away, as if they’d never been said at all.
A boot nudged me in the ribs, bringing me awake. I knew it was Baryn before I opened my eyes. I could tell by the rancid smell of him. Turrock liked to bathe, even if it was simply because he enjoyed watching the serving girls lug the hot water buckets as they splashed and burned their skin. “Boiling hot,” he’d yell. “The water must always be boiling. Then you add the cold.”
He said it was better that way, to steam the room before he was ready to bathe. It was bullshit. Hard to steam a room with windows wide open.
Turrock liked the subtle tortures, though. An artist of abuse, he took a chisel and hammer to his victims, slowly whittling them away, piece by piece. Baryn was more direct.
It was Baryn leaning over me now. Baryn and Turrock were the only ones allowed to go near me. Every scar on my body was due to one of them.
My good eye opened a small slit. The place was sleeping and a full moon had risen, making his shirt look blood red.
I’d never seen this shirt before in person. Only in my mind. It was the one he’d die in. In my vision, it had been vibrant and clean, just as it was now.
His death would come soon. Maybe even tonight? I took the rest of his form in. He was wearing his prized ring on his pinky finger, the one that looked too feminine for him, as if he’d taken it from a woman. I had a hunch that the blood-red ruby hadn’t been the only bloody thing when he’d acquired it.
The full moon.
It was happening. Would it happen tonight? Could it line up this perfectly and not?
He squatted close to me. “What do you know of Turrock’s death?”
He’d never asked me about his brother. Did he think to kill him? Not surprising that he wasn’t even loyal to Turrock. I needed to make something up. Baryn was obviously up to something. Was he planning on killing his brother? How would he do it? It wasn’t going to work, but Baryn couldn’t know that.
I swallowed, trying to act natural. Baryn must not read the worry in me. His wasn’t a death that had to happen. His wasn’t going to come from within. This one could be avoided. I needed to act normal.
He. Could. Not. Know.
“Answer me when I talk to you, girl, unless you want two bum arms as well.”
Think! Baryn would make it a gruesome death, that was for sure. “There’s a lot of blood.”
He’d be sneaky about it. Poison. He’d definitely use poison. What happened when you poisoned someone?
He raised his hand but then paused as a growling sounded nearby. We both turned, listening for the noise that seemed to come from the other side of the wooden wall. It disappeared as quickly as it had come, but that sound would linger in my head for a while, maybe forever.
We were both still frozen when the wall exploded, sending chunks in every direction. The wood splintered around us.
A blur of fur and claws flew past me as something barreled through the huge hole in the wooden wall. A beast lunged at Baryn. Its massive jaws clamped down on his neck and then severed his head in one bite. It was exactly as my vision had shown, right down to the spurts of blood shooting from his body and pouring onto the dirt as the beast pinned what was left of him to the ground.
It had happened. It finally happened, and there was a gaping escape route right behind me. There was also a beast crouched in front of me.
I remained frozen at the sight of it. I’d never actually seen a beast, and to see one up close was terrifying. Its fangs hung beyond black gums, blood dripping from the tawny fur of its jowls. Claws the size of my fingers were partially sunk into Baryn’s still chest. It was a perfect killing machine.
This creature would never be vulnerable. I should’ve been repelled by the creature, but I wasn’t. It wasn’t only terrifying. It was amazing.
Its head turned and its body shifted toward me, claws leaving pools of blood behind. Red eyes burned into me.
I nodded slowly in Baryn’s direction as I watched the beast.
“Thank you,” I said, even knowing I might be next. Maybe it was my time, and what a death it would be. Much more worthy a death than the life I’d led. I’d lived in a whimper, but I’d die with a roar. It wasn’t what I would’ve chosen, but it was something. If I died now, at least I could go knowing Baryn was dead. Years of torment lay bleeding in front of me.
The creature stared at me, then the chain that led to my wrist, and I could feel the growl in its chest vibrating outward. Blood still dripping from its muzzle, it lunged for me. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, waiting for teeth to dig into already-battered skin. The bite didn’t come, just a graze of wetness. There was a clanking of metal as the weight of the iron fell from my wrist. My eyes snapped open, looking first to my free wrist and then the mauled three inches of metal lying underneath it.
I was still staring at the metal when the beast’s claws wrapped around my bicep. It leapt forward, yanking me backward as it did and then dragging me through the hole in the wall. The last view of my village was the horrified faces peeking out from behind buildings as they watched a beast carry away its dinner.
The startled faces were soon forgotten as soon as I was dragged over the first bump. My broken leg was jerked over a log, then a stone and a list of other unidentifiable objects as I was pulled like a rag doll through the forest at a pace no human could hope to match. If not for adrenaline pumping thickly through my veins, I would surely have passed out immediately.
I’d survive this. I’d survive. I had to survive. There were too many deaths I’d seen that hadn’t happened yet. I wasn’t sure how, or in what shape I’d be, but I would.
I reached out with my free hand and managed to graze my fingers across a stick. It was too slick to catch and we were moving too fast. I reached for another, but missed again as the beast continued at its crazy pace. Every new bang and bump crowded my vision with black spots until there was nothing left.