It wouldn’t be dark for long, but it was still dark. Lightning was flashing in the distance and rain was starting to fall in a mist that the freezing wind was blowing around in a frenzy. Bryan ducked his head against it and marched. The station was just three blocks away. Hussein’s words repeated over and over in his head.
Busy work. Busy work.
Is that what they had all been doing all this time? Running around capturing demons that only multiplied more and more every night, proliferating faster than they could catch. Looking busy. Looking like they were preventing some catastrophe. But the catastrophe was coming regardless.
…they’re coming here.
Bryan’s brain kept trying to throw up defenses against the inevitable: we can fight them, we can defeat them. But he had only to remind himself that countless other Earths had likewise fought and lost. Once the gates were finally open all the way, how many demons and eternally Possesseds would file through? A world-full? How could anyone defend against that?
…been following you.
He stopped on the sidewalk. He hadn’t quite heard the voice in his head.
She’s behind you.
His breath halted. The voice was so clear now that he was actively listening to it.
He didn’t turn around. Instead he reached into his pack and pulled out a deck.
He stopped in the middle of pulling out a card. Was he doing this because the voice was telling him to, or because he chose to? He couldn’t tell.
He spun around. The rain was falling in large drops now, spattering on the pavement and in his eyes. But no one was there.
Still his heart sped and his blood pumped hot.
“There’s no one,” he said, mostly to himself and partly to the voice.
She’s going to kill you!
It shouted in him with such genuine fear, a fear he felt, that he pulled the card out. He checked it to make sure it wasn’t the gamma – of course it wasn’t, the gamma was alone in its own pack, but still he checked – and after almost dropping it, tore it. He fell to a knee on the sidewalk and grit his teeth, and looked up to see something coming his way. Something almost a demon, but not quite.
He threw up a protective barrier, just in time. A force hit him so hard that even with the shield there he was thrown back several feet. The remaining deck flew from his hand, and cards scattered down behind him, sticking to the wet pavement. Several landed in the gutter, one directly in the path of a passing car. Bryan felt the tires crossing over it.
Thrashing, he pushed himself up to standing, reinforcing the barrier. The thing was still there in front of him, a figure that should have been dark in the night rain, but for him it glowed a radiant crimson, like nothing he had ever seen before. It was beautiful. But it was running straight for him.
He cast a ring of containment around it, and it halted. It held out its arms towards him and suddenly there was fire all around him, and he couldn’t move or make a sound.
It was doing the same thing back to him.
But it was walking towards him.
It came slowly, in fits and starts, fighting against the containment he had around it, but winning. He strained his own muscles and couldn’t move an inch. He didn’t even feel that he was standing, instead that he was pinned in the air, the fire scorching him. He had never been contained this steadily, not outside of training. Possesseds didn’t fight each other. Not this way, at least.
And still it came towards him. It had no weapon out. He wasn’t sure what to expect. Then he remembered the cards behind him.
If it got to those cards…
How many demons could he handle inside him?
He focused everything in his mind to a point, looked past the pain of the fire, threw it into the fire around the thing. It jerked and was frozen for the slightest moment. Then it continued forward, slower, jerkier. But forward.
Bryan couldn’t move. Every inch of his skin screamed, his flesh searing. People passed by on the other side of the street, oblivious to what was going on.
What do I do?!
Nothing answered him. Maybe there was no answer to give.
It came close enough that he could see its face – a woman’s face, twisted in a snarl of concentration. It made to pass him by. It was going for the cards.
What was it doing that he wasn’t? He couldn’t think anymore, couldn’t see through the pain of the fire. However ethereal, he imagined he could feel his skin crackling under it. The demon in him felt it too, was screaming in his mind. For just a moment he lost himself, and it seemed the fire overtook him, burned his bones, and then he and the demon thrust it out.
The force of it dented cars and broke windows, and tossed the thing beside him into the building hard enough to crush the bricks. It lay on hands and knees and coughed blood – striking crimson blood. Then the thing was getting up.
Bryan was on the ground, nerves singing. He struggled to rise, his arms and legs like jelly. He felt for his pocketknife, the one he used to cut open packages and boxes, the little three-inch thing that had never tasted blood. He wanted to gut the thing, punish it for hurting him. A growl rose in his throat.
It was up, but its limbs sat at odd angles, broken. Its arms dangled and it limped on its crooked legs, and came towards him. That beautiful striking blood flowed from its open mouth, and Bryan reeled at the sight of it. He saw the blood of the thing and salivated.
Again that fire wound its way around him. But this time he knew what to do.
He drew the fire into himself, into his heart and lungs and marrow. Screaming, he launched himself at the thing. He only wanted to destroy it now. Wanted to tear it apart. Wanted that beautiful red blood for himself.
He thrust the knife into it, slicing open a flood of red, and he sank his teeth into the wound, ripping it wide, tearing at the muscle. Blood filled his mouth, drenched his tongued in life sweet and bitter and everything at once. The muscle ground between his teeth and the bone cracked and he was thrilled to the core.
A scream brought him back. A scream and running feet, running away and then gone. And something
else stirring in the back of his mind. He slowly came back to himself, came to a realization of what he had done like surfacing through murky water. The copper taste of blood was still in his mouth. The remains of the body lay beneath him, bloodied meat and empty open eyes.
He backed to the curb and vomited, spilling blood and raw flesh into the gutter. He stared at it, disbelieving, shaking, his vision wavering, his limbs numbing. About to faint. He stumbled to the cards still stuck in puddles, fumbled for an empty one, and threw his demon into it. He hoped he would faint then, in the rush of absence. He wanted to, to just black out and deal with all of this later. But he didn’t. He remained on his knees in the rain, copper and bile on his tongue.
When he looked back at the figure, he saw something red moving along the sidewalk, rising from the gutter to crawl towards the body that still sat against the wall. The body whose leg at that moment twitched with the snap of a bone fitting into place.
TO BE CONTINUED…
I’m taking a brief hiatus from this site while I put together some more work. I have written beyond this point, but I don’t want to get caught unexpectedly with nothing to post. I also need to put together some short stories. In the meantime – if you haven’t already – check out my other stories! I’ll be back!