Archive for the ‘Prose’ Category

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Another Long Night part II

March 10, 2011

Part I

All eyes turned on Larson as he walked into the Vitriol. The regulars all lost interest almost immediately. Well, almost all of the regulars. Cy was watching him with a small, knowing smile on her lips. She was at her customary perch at the far corner of the bar. The rest of the regulars new better then to mistake him for a snack or groupie. Cy on the other hand had already nearly killed him. Twice.

Larson paused, glancing around for other options. He was kidding himself, really. He didn’t exactly tend to make friends with this crowd. So long as they played nice and stayed off the radar, he was perfectly happy to leave them be, but he had a reputation at this point.

Finally, he let out a small sigh and crossed to slump onto the seat next to Cy. He waved to the bartender, an extremely large man with scars criss-crossing his body. Without asking the bartender set up a shot of whiskey for Larson and something fancy looking for Cy that probably didn’t normally show up on a bar’s menu.

“Detective Larson,” Cy said, her voice a honeyed purr. “I don’t know why you only ever stop in here for business.”

“Of course you know why, Cy,” answered Larson knocking back the drink and then setting it back down on top of $20 bill, which he pushed back to the barkeep. He took the hint and found something to keep him busy at the other end of the bar.

“I keep telling you, I wouldn’t actually let you die. You are far too much fun for that,” Cy said, her smile widening slightly as she sipped her drink. She was tall, slender, with shoulder length dark hair and dangerously deep eyes. She was also a demon and fed off of lust, love and other… things of the like.

“All the same, I’m just here for information,” said Larsen, trying not to get drawn in.

Cy let out a melodramatic sigh and settled her cup on the bar. “Fine. So what sort of bumps are upsetting the delicate sensibilities of those you fight so hard to protect this time?”

“I’m not sure. People are being ripped apart. In a very literal sense. The pieces are arranged in neat little piles. All of them former residents of various mental institutions,” said Larsen.

Cy ran a finger slowly around the rim of her glass as she thought. “Mad men, then. Did you find eyes with any of the remains?”

Larsen paused, mentally going over the previous cases. “Shit. I missed that.”

“You’re normally better then that, Detective,” said Cy, taking a moment to lick the drink residue from her finger.

“Yeah, well, I’m not exactly working with a crack team or anything on this,” said Larsen.

“You never are. So, I have an idea of what you’re after and what I’m charging for the information,” said Cy.

“Still not willing to help out people out of the goodness of your heart?” said Larsen, already knowing the response.

“Of course not. That would just be bad business. I’ll give you what you need to find it. Figuring out how to deal with it is your own deal,” said Cy.

“Not asking for trade secrets tonight, just a direction to look in,” said Larsen.

Cy nodded. “Good. Just making sure we’re on the same page. It’s a demon, as you might have guessed. I’m guessing your run of the mill brute. Dangerously strong and fast. Looking to get a step up in the game. It’s looking for visions.”

“Visions. Are we talking tripped out on a drug visions, or seeing the future visions?”

“The second. If the pieces are being arranged it may be to try and guide the visions. It might, in fact, be looking for something. So it keeps killing. Are the killings getting closer together?”

“Of course they are. Which means I best find it fast before it finds whatever it is looking for,” said Larsen, climbing up off his stool. “How does it find new victims?”

“It can probably smell the madness on them. You’ll need bait,” said Cy.

Larsen stopped, looking back at Cy with a deep frown. “Bait.”

“You’re not going to find one specific demon in a city like this. You need it to find you,” said Cy.

Larsen cursed softly and turned to go.

“When this is over, take a long weekend,” said Cy to his retreating back.

“Thanks for the suggestion,” said Larsen.

“It’s not a suggestion. That’s the payment.”

Larsen stopped again and looked back at Cy, confusion obvious on his face.

“If you’re up for it, stop by and see me while you’re out and I’ll help you forget your troubles for a while. But whatever you do, take the long weekend. You need it. You’re getting sloppy,” said Cy.

Larsen stood quietly for a long moment, then gave a slow nod. “Alright. Thanks, Cy.”

“Don’t mention it. I’ve got a reputation to keep up,” said Cy.

Larsen smiled a bit at that and left quickly. Cy’s information was always good, which meant he was playing catch-up. His smile was gone by the time he got back to the car. Looked like he’d be grabbing something from a drive-through for lunch tonight if he wanted to eat at all.

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Another Long Night

March 7, 2011

It was lunch time. Or what passed for lunch time when you worked nights. Tonight? Lunch was going to have to wait. Detective Larson sighed. It was nights like this that he wondered why he bothered bringing along lunch.
Detective Larson ran a hand through his sandy blond hair and stepped out of his car. The fog was tinted yellow again with pollution and the street lights only added to the effect. Inside the warehouse a pair of uniforms were waiting for him, staying near the door.

“So how bad is it this time, boys?” Larson asked. He had been specially called in. Which most likely meant that further inside would be a a particularly torn up set of remains, laid out like some sort of art installation.

“Could be worse. Hard to say when it starts out this nasty,” one of the men offered.

Larson nodded and braced himself before taking those last few steps in. Pieces of the victim were arranged with small electric lamps set to light up each section of the ‘gallery.’ He took a slow tour of the scene, letting it soak into his brain and join with the other nightmares he was starting to collect.

“Another mysterious tip on this one?” asked Larson.

“Same as before. We bagged the note in advance this time, not that it seems to help,” said the officer.

Larson offered a non-committal grunt in response. Somebody was letting them know where the bodies were. Four this month. The I.D. would come back as some homeless person who had been in and out of mental institutions. It was a pretty firm link, but his boss would still sit on it. He didn’t want another media blitz. He just wanted it to go away.

Larson crouched near one of the arms, shining a flashlight over the sever mark. Pulled apart. He frowned and pushed himself up, careful not to disturb anything.

“Make sure the photos are on my desk before the shift is over,” said Larson as he turned and headed for the door.

“That’s it?” said one of the uniforms.

“No. That’s just as much as I need from here. I’ve been through three of these scenes,” said Larson without slowing down.

He climbed back into his car and closed his eyes, rubbing them lightly. He was getting nowhere with the standard by the books route. This was not surprising to him. Cases like this tended to… drift his direction. Why? Because he new how to make unusual problems go away. People ripped apart by what seemed to be human hands and then left on display? That qualified as the type of problem his superiors just wanted to go away. He was going to have to tap some sources and figure out what precisely was making a mess in his city this time.

Larson opened his eyes and started the car. It was time to visit the Vitriol. A bar for the less then human. He really hated the place.

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Slipping

November 17, 2010

The storm had been going strong for hours. Amitiel would know. He’d been out in it most of the night. The coat made it less unpleasant, but the bandages on his hands were still soaked and chaffing against the burns. He registered the discomfort, but just as an annoying background sensation. Now the kick from his .38 as he put a slug in the man at the door, that stung. The gun hissed softly in the rain as he lowered the weapon and walked up to the man, kicking aside the other man’s semi-automatic and crouching down in front of him.
The man he shot was big. Scary looking. The kind of guy you put at your door to keep people from even wanting to ask questions. Of course, clutching at his stomach as blood mixed with rain probably ruined the effect.
Amitiel caught his chin, “Focus now. Next few moments will make all the difference in the world to you.” Amitiel pulled the man’s sunglasses off with his other hand and tossed them into the gutter to wash away. Idiot might actually have seen him coming if he hadn’t been trying so hard to look cool. “How many are inside?”
“You’re a dead man…” said the guard, reaching for a knife at his hip.
“I’ve heard that more often then you might think. If you pull that knife, I’m going to have to make this unpleasant. Just answer the question,” said Amitiel.
“Fuck you,” said the man, pulling the knife and making a weak swipe at Amitiel with it.
Amitiel caught the man’s hand easily and slammed it back into the building hard enough to crack bone and send the blade flying. Amitiel considered the man another long moment, watching his gaze become slowly less focused. Finally he sighed and shoved the man to one side. “You might want to tell them to send more then one ambulance when you call. Maybe you won’t be the only one to get lucky tonight.”
Amitiel took a moment to pick up the other man’s gun and tucked it into his coat. No sense getting shot in the back now. Plenty of bullets in front of him. He checked the door the man had been guarding and sure enough, the bruiser was supposed to be enough. It whispered open and Amitiel had a few steps to think maybe this would turn out not so bad.
Then he heard the girl scream. The kind of scream that even if your body survives, pieces of you don’t.
Amitiel came around the corner with his gun in hand. He put two rounds in the head of the man standing over the girl before all hell broke loose. He tracked right, firing at two more men as he threw himself into the guard left of the door, catching the guard’s arm as he pulled his weapon and sending him flying.
By this point, the men were shouting orders and curses as they opened fire an Amitiel. Normally, he would have tried to make at least a few of them miss. Normally, he wouldn’t let trash like this see the ash colored wings. He didn’t even notice the burning this time. It haunted him even worse when he took on his aspect, but this time his attention was on the men.
Amitiel took eight rounds as he systematically began shooting down the other men, drawing the automatic in his off-hand to finish the job as the .38 ran dry. The last bullet went in the man he had knocked down on his way in. His coat was tattered and bloodied. Some of it his own. He dropped the spare weapon as he crossed to the girl.
Somehow, he’d managed not to screw it up worse. She wasn’t shot. Of course, that was about the only thing going for her at that point. Amitiel cursed to himself as he crouched next to the blooded girl, untying her as quick as his shaking hands could manage.
She lifted her head slightly to try and look at him through swollen eyes, “What are you?”
Amitiel shuddered softly at the question, letting his aspect fade. Pain flooded in and he embraced it, accepted it as penance. “I’m sorry. I should have been here sooner,” he said. He tossed aside the last of the rope. “I’ll help you to the hall and get an ambulance called.”
The girl leaned heavily on him. “Thank you.”
Amitiel was quiet as he brought her into the hall, then carefully helped her sit down against the wall. She looked up at him as best she could. “Who are you?”
“Just a guy looking for answers,” said Amitiel as he stepped to the door and pushed it open. Sirens coming through the rain. The place was sound-proofed up pretty well. Figured. He glanced at the guard, laying still in the rain now, cell phone still in hand. “You should tell the cops everything.”
“So someone else can finish what these guys started?” said the girl.
“You never know. Sometimes the truth can save you,” Amitiel said, smirking faintly to himself. He drug the guard over to prop the door open. “Paramedics will be here soon. They should find you easily enough.” Amitiel stepped into the rain.
“Wait,” said the girl.
“Sorry, already running late tonight. Terrible habit to get into. Take care of yourself,” said Amitiel as he vanished into the rain.

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Prices

October 31, 2010

As the sun sank behind the mountains to the west, a long shadow crept up the road. This particular road, just another nameless path of well packed dirt in the country, had one person standing upon it that evening. He had been walking since that morning and had pressed on to try and make it to his destination by nightfall. His hair was jet black and drawn back into a tight tail, making his startling blue eyes even more noticeable. Even as the small man read over the slightly crumpled paper in his hands, he kept stealing glances at the surrounding countryside, watching for he knew not what. His eyes were the only spot of color in the landscape, everything else seeming to fade into the drab dark colors of his clothing and the tattered long coat he pulled tight against the wind. It was the note that had drawn him down the road away from the comfort of the village. The words of it echoed in his head and passed his lips in a soft murmur as he looked over it a final time, a mantra to fend of the cold.

Dear Mr. Petrus
We regrettably send you this letter as a notification of the death of your associate Mr. Arthur Penn. He suffered a violent heart attack and was pronounced dead on the night of October the Twenty-First. His will names you as the party to which his most recent property acquisition is to pass in the event of his death, if you are willing to move in immediately. Please notify us of your intentions, as the old chapel is to be auctioned for charity if you hold no interest in it.
Finneas Thorrn

Jarvis Petrus drew a long breath of cold air, fussed with his coat for another moment, and looked down the small path branching from the road he had traveled in on. Jarvis had not even considered giving away the property. As a bastard son, he had nothing else waiting for him, beyond an insistence he not make too much of himself. That he not draw too much attention to his father’s wanderings. A home far off from anything seemed as good a place as any to stay quiet.
Jarvis made the long walk into the countryside. It seemed silly that an old chapel would be built so far from anything, but the people in town had informed him that a new town was planned and the chapel was built in anticipation. Something happened and people abandoned the idea with just the chapel finished. Nobody seemed to know what. Since then, the chapel had bounced from owner to owner. Most recently, Arthur bought it. Now Jarvis would have his shot at making something out of the old building. He had some vague ideas about converting it into an inn. An escape from the bloated city.
Jarvis folded the paper and tucked it into his pocket, picked up his two battered suitcases, and hurried down the path. The trees flanking the path wove a ceiling of half dead branches. In the dying light they seemed a solid tunnel drifting towards the chapel. He reminded himself that what money he had should be spent refitting the building, not spending the night in the next town over. That and night was crawling quickly across the countryside. The old chapel was far closer.
As he walked, the branches scraped one another with a low grinding noise. Leafs and twigs snapped under foot in a symphony of disconcerting noises. He looked about warily, refusing to run. Refusing to give in to childish fear. That was what his discomfort had to be, childish fears bred from the stories of drunken old men. Ghost stories to explain away the continuing failures of the old chapel. Jarvis should not have stopped for a drink.
Before he could entirely bury his fear in logic, he came free of the trees. The effect was almost paralyzing. The path had been cut in such a way that a clear view of the building was not available until you stepped into the clearing the building occupied. A clearing slowly being swallowed by the surrounding trees. The church was large enough to house the entirety of a town, comfortably. A bell still hung in the tower, looking aged and cracked. White paint peeled away from the building to show graying wood beneath. The front door stood solid, but the stained glass window on the right side had been shattered into the surrounding weeds. Some boards had been used to fill in the window. The window on the left side was an image of what was probably Saint Christopher, his hand held out in invitation. A small crack ran through the figure’s mouth, changing the smile into a grimace of pain.
Jarvis shook himself free of the scarred Saint’s gaze and walked up the steps to the large doorway. He set the suitcase in his left hand down and pulled a ridiculously ornate key from his pocket. He could not imagine why someone would bother making something so impractical. With a reluctant groan the lock turned and the door swung inward. Jarvis slowly tucked the key away as he leaned his head into the dark room.
“Hello? Is anyone in here?” he said.
His own voice echoed back at him softly, almost mockingly.
Jarvis shook his head, annoyed with himself. Why would anyone be sitting around in what was now his chapel in the middle of the night? He was just being ridiculous again. A good night’s sleep was what he really needed. That would clear his head of all the non-sense. In the morning he could start cleaning the place.
He carried his two suitcases into the room, and then pushed the door shut behind him. The latch gave a solid, almost echoing click as the door stayed in place. Jarvis stood a moment in darkness, then pulled a book of matches from a pocket and lit one. The soft glow pushed back the darkness enough to give him some idea of his surroundings. The ceiling was lower then the building was tall. A second level then. That suited Jarvis’ plans.
At the front of the room was a set of half-rotted, formerly grand chairs on an other-wise empty platform. The windows set behind them were boarded over. A few old benches were pushed forward in something that almost resembled order. The middle of the room was almost entirely bare. Candles and sconces lined the walls. A pile of broken benches lay stacked near the door. To the other side, past the window, a small confessional stood. Just past that a doorway leading to other parts of the building, the door closed tight.
Jarvis found a candle before the match could burn down to his fingertips. He was just too slow and the match burned down to his fingers as the candle lit. He muttered a curse as he tossed the match aside, the gust of air from his hand blowing the candle back out. Darkness engulfed the room again. Sucking his fingers and pondering the effects on one’s soul for cursing in an abandoned church, he pulled his matches back out to try and light the candle again. This time, without incident. He carefully picked up the candle and moved along the wall, using it to light other candles.
The sconce on the left side of the door leading further into the church building resisted the candle’s flame. Jarvis began to look for something to stand on so he could get a better look and see why it might not be lighting when a large wet thud seeped through the nearby door. Several smaller squelching thuds followed after, almost like a broken melon rolling down a flight of stairs. Jarvis straightened his coat a little. With his free hand, he picked up a piece of broken bench leg, and slowly approached the door. He put his ear against it to listen.
Silence.
He juggled his weapon and light, finally setting the bit of wood aside so that he could properly open the door. The candle in his hand slowly penetrated the darkness, the other candles seeming to shy their light back from the newly opened door. He pressed the candle in slightly ahead of himself to ward back any waiting surprises, and then peered into the hallway. From that vantage point, a glint of silver caught his eye for a moment. Silver could be valuable.
Jarvis reclaimed his weapon and stepped into the hallway, his courage lifted by the possibility of some good luck and his make-shift weapon. His footsteps echoed back, distorted. He paused, trying to orient himself in the small stone corridor. It seemed to slope slightly downward, and the odd echoing almost made it sound as though he were being followed. Jarvis tugged his coat lightly, and then continued on to the spiral stone stair-well at one end of the hall. It continued both upwards and further down. Another passage lead off to what he could only guess might be extra rooms of some sort. None of it was the glint of silver that helped draw him in.
Jarvis reasoned with himself that if he checked down the stairs, he would know for certain that the noise was nothing, and could then easily enough drop off to sleep. Once morning came he could thoroughly look through the building and put all of the foolish thoughts from his head. The walls around the stairs closed in on him as he walked slowly down them. Each step seemed slightly smaller than the one before, until he had to turn slightly sideways to continue down the last several steps. He held the candle high and looked at the ground. A gasp escaped his lips. The floor appeared to be covered by a large puddle of blood. Jarvis scrambled back and tripped. The resulting hard land on the stairs jarred him.
Sitting closer to the ground, he could see that it was actually just a small circular rug placed at the bottom of the steps. In the candle light it was indeed a deep blood red color, but still only a rug. Jarvis laughed lightly to himself, a slightly maniacal tint to his voice. “All I’ve done since I arrived is jump at shadows. It is a good thing that no one is here to see me making such a fool of myself,” he said loudly into the darkness, purposefully adopting the overly proper speech he used when trying to pass himself as upper class. “Ghosts leave churches be, everyone knows that. Even deserted as this is, it is still holy ground.”
A breath of cold stale air washed through the room and over Jarvis. He scrambled back against the stair, brandishing his club. His own laughter from echoed back at him, softer, but warped in a way that it seemed laughter more fit for an asylum than the world at large.
Jarvis pushed himself up, trying to squeeze his way back up the stairs, mumbling to try and re-assure himself: “It’s just a drafty basement. Just a hole in the wall catching wind from outside and echoing me oddly. I’ll find something to plug it up. In the morning.”
He spun and rushed head-long up the stairs, forgetting about his earlier troubles getting through. Without turning, he forced himself through the narrowed passage way. The force from pressing through the small gap sent him pitching forward. He managed to catch himself on the stairs ahead, gloves keeping his hands safe from scraping, if not from bruising. His candle clattered across the stairs, somehow staying lit. A sharp cry echoed through the stones a moment, then died. Jarvis stood up and leaned back against the wall, wondering when he had screamed. With his teeth, he pulled the glove from his left hand and checked for injury. No reason for him to have screamed.
“I was just startled. I yelled a bit when I fell and it just echoed in a strange fashion,” he said to himself, before carefully reclaiming his candle and club.
The rest of his retreat up the stairway was slower and more cautious. The door loomed ahead, shut once again. “More drafts,” he assured himself. Jarvis leaned close to examine the door latch. In the flickering candle light, Jarvis saw something that he obviously did not want to be seeing. From this side, the latch mechanism was nothing more then a grotesque wolf-head with a key hole. Jarvis tossed aside his club and dug about his pocket for the key. He had to imagine that a place like this could only have one key.
Relief washed through him as he drug the key free from his pocket. Then faded. The key looked more like a grotesque body then stylized patterns now. Before he could study it any further, the key shot from his fingers and bounced off down the hall in the direction he hadn’t explored. With an annoyed sigh he stepped after it. All of the jostling left the candle unevenly burned and starting to grow dim.
Jarvis looked about, and then moved to light a nearby wall sconce. As the candle touched the first sconce flames leapt nearly to the ceiling. Jarvis drew his hand back sharply, dropping the candle. Two other sconces flickered to life, illuminating the end of the hallway clearly. The stone was spattered with blood.
Jarvis went wide eyed in terror. He couldn’t help but take a few steps further into this new area, retching slightly at the sights. Chained to that wall were two bodies. One was little more then bones with a few scraps of flash and cloth clinging to it. The next body was still whole enough that the expression of horror remained transfixed to its face.
The wet thudding noise came again, echoing in a way that made them seem to come from everywhere. Jarvis clenched his coat closed with a white knuckled grip as he slowly turned around. Coming ‘round the corner was a fur and feather topped head with a wolf-like muzzle. Leathery wings drug across the ground, but the sound of them was drowned out by the noise of the body the demon drug along. The corpse was a bruised mess, as if it had been drug up and down the stairs repeatedly for days.
Jarvis backed into the room slowly, pale and shaking now, looking for anywhere to run.
A quiet voice rasped inside his skull, “You cannot run. You accepted the key. All who take the key are mine.”
Jarvis shook his head, “No. This is just a dream. Just a dream.”
“You had your chance to break the curse. Face me and face your fate,” the demon said.
Jarvis stopped, not willing to back into the bodies chained to the wall. His eyes locked with those of the demon. The gold and silver eyes flooded Jarvis’ mind. He could feel the demon rifling through his thoughts.
A low, hollow laugh came from the demon. “You wish to make a bargain then? Trade your life for the life of someone you care about?”
Almost without hesitation, he began babbling, “Aidan. Aidan Ross. He’s a much bigger prize then me. I’m just a poor bastard. Take him. Take him instead.”
“It is done,” said the demon, and stepped to one side.
Jarvis hesitated for a moment, watching the demon. Finally, he ran. He ignored his bags. He ignored the darkness. He ignored the path, just seeking to put distance between himself and the church.
The church closed itself up behind him.
Inside, the demon walked over and picked up the key. He turned and motioned with his free hand as he chanted in a dead language. A paper folded into existence from the air and text slowly crawled across the page.

Dear Mr. Aidan Ross,
We regrettably inform you that your friend Jarvis Petrus has gone missing and is presumed dead. It is his record wish that this piece of property
should pass to you. If you are not interested, please return the key to the
care-taker, present at the mentioned address. Finneas Thorrn

The letter folded around the key. An envelope folded into existence and the letter slid in. Finneas laughed his hollow, rasping laugh. All of the candles in the room extinguished themselves and Saint Christopher’s grimace seemed to grow slightly. The envelope faded into darkness. Finneas settled in to finish his meal.

In a small room of a large stone building Jarvis huddled in the corner, gently rocking himself, fingers clenched in a death grip around small scraps of coat. The shutter on his door slid back and a doctor peered in for a moment. A key rattled in the lock and the door opened. The doctor stepped in with a large man behind him. The doctor stepped forward and crouched down in front of Jarvis. “Are you feeling any better now? Perhaps we can talk.” said the doctor.
Jarvis shuddered softly and then went still. Slowly his eyes focused on the doctor, seeming to peer into the depths of the man’s soul. The doctor shifted a bit uncomfortably. Jarvis continued to stare. As the doctor stood to leave, Jarvis began to talk. “I traded my soul and I traded my friend. I thought that would be enough. That he would let me go. Only, there is no escape. I can still hear him. Whispering. Waiting.”
The doctor frowned and looked back to the orderly. “I believe it is time to begin treatment.”
The orderly nodded, walked over and picked Jarvis up. Jarvis gave no resistance, just a soft, pained laugh as the orderly began dragging him off down the hall.

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The Six – Part 3

June 2, 2010

Read Part 1
Read Part 2

The modified helicopter made good time. They were in Montana before the bickering could really gather steam and Jackson managed not to shoot anyone. The place the helicopter set down was several miles out from the small town. Jackson was the first off the chopper, with Hugh close behind and the others following after. The chopper pulled back into the air, leaving the small group.

A soft beep went off in each of the sixes’ ears, followed by Tesla’s voice. “You are now transmitting and recording. Even if you get spread apart, you’ll be able to hear each other.”

“Can we direct our communications to individuals, or is it all broad-band?” asked Tacey.

“Currently it is all set to broad-band. I’m working on a way to let you easily direct, but it isn’t quite up and running yet,” said Tesla.

“Grand…” muttered Tacey.

Hugh was already moving in a slow spiral pattern outward, crouched low to the ground. He paused a ways out from the group, “This is strange.”

Jackson stepped closer, careful to not move past Hugh and into what he was looking at, “What have you got?”

“Struggle at least started here. But whatever took this man down was so light it almost didn’t leave a trace,” said Hugh.

“Maybe long range fire and then cleanup?” said Jackson.

“Nope, it was definitely here. Faint trace of what almost looks like little tiny shoes,” Hugh motions to a small bit of dirt. “And didn’t bother to clean up any of the trail signs. Though what it did with the men and why their aren’t drag marks or blood, I haven’t a clue.”

Dionysus moved to join them. “Disintegration, teleportation, eating them whole. Any number of ways to remove a body without any real signs.”

“That all sounds so pleasant,” said Tomoe, as she joined the others. “I suppose we follow then?”

Hugh slung down his rifle and double-checked that it was ready to fire. “It moved back toward the woods. Going to be slow going to find it, unless it decides to find us.”

Jackson drew one of his pistols. “I’ll take point with Hugh. Tomoe, think you can handle rear guard?”

Tomoe smiled slightly and bowed her head, “I believe that I can. We are a small enough group.”

Jackson nodded and motioned Tacey and Dionysus to the center. “Loose spread so we have room to move if we get attacked. Be ready for anything.”

Dionyus glared a little at his stun-baton. “Oh, I sure feel ready for anything…”

“Don’t be such a baby. I’m sure you’ve got enough tricks to get by,” said Tacey, a slim black .22 Beretta Neos suddenly in her left hand. “Besides, I’ll keep an eye on you,” she winks.

“When we get back I am so demanding a gun…” grumbled Dionysus, though he did seem to relax a bit.

Hugh lead the way, occasionally pausing and circling out to find another trace. Actually getting at it seemed to smooth the group out a lot, everyone falling in and paying attention, weapons ready.

The path lead them into the woods and Hugh had to trail out to find tracks more frequently amidst the trees and brush. The third time he muttered, “This makes no sense. Something this small shouldn’t be able to do so much damage…”

Dionysus spoke up, “That’s why we’re here. If it was something normal, they’d send more guys with guns. We get to deal with the spooky shit.”

Hugh made a non-committal sound and crouched low to examine a patch of dirt. Suddenly, something dropped from a nearby tree toward Hugh’s back. Jackson snapped off two shots, both seeming to miss. Hugh shifted, but was caught in the shoulder by the small three foot tall figure. Hugh rolled with it, struggling with the thing.

“Is that a doll?” said Jackson as he closed in.

“At least in appearance,” said Dionysus, taking two steps back.

Hugh managed to toss the doll to one side. It rolled through the dirt once and bounced to its feet. It looked hand-made, with dull black stone eyes, a rough cloth body, a suit, and a rather creepily stitched grin.

Tomoe quickly moved in front of Hugh to give him time to regain his feet. Jackson leveled his gun and fired again. The doll seemed to lurch to one side, the bullets whispering past. It’s grin seemed to widen at that.

“It’s fast, I’ll give it that,” said Jackson, circling to the right.

Tacey jumped and caught a branch, pulling herself into the tree and easily moving upward. “Dionysus, any suggestions on slowing it down?”

“Dump honey on it?” said Dionysus, edging to stay behind Tomoe and Hugh.

Hugh stepped out from behind Tomoe and leveled his gun at the doll, “Maybe we can get Jackson to shoot him next?”

Before anyone could snap back, the creature was in motion again. Hugh, Jackson and Tacey opened fire on it, but the thing seemed to dance between the bullets and then leap toward Hugh. Tomoe stepped forward, sword a blur of steel as she drew and planted herself to catch the doll.

The force of the impact pushed Tomoe back into Hugh, who manage to brace her rather than falling over. The doll had it’s tiny hands and feet on either side of Tomoe’s blade. It’s grotesque grin parted, revealing two neat rows of sharp teeth, and let out a snarl of dismay.

Tomoe whipped her blade out, flinging the doll back, “Fast, strong and hungry, it seems.”

“You’d think it would be all full up on soldiers by now,” said Tacey, flinging a knife down to catch the doll out of the air. The blade went through the doll’s shoulder and pinned it to the ground.

Tesla’s voice came over their communicators, “Less joking, more taking down the creature. This team should be more than up to the task.”

Jackson stepped forward and shot the doll twice while it squirmed to pull free. “Of course we are. Now let us do our job.”

“Shit,” said Dionysus suddenly.

Jackson turned away from the doll, “If you’re going to be a coward, you could at least do it before we have the thing dead to rights.”

“Actually, I think we probably just made things worse,” said Dionysus, stepping forward to peer at the doll. “Oh yeah, we are screwed.”

Jackson raised an eyebrow at Dionysus and reached his hand back to finish emptying his second gun into the doll. “I fail to follow your logic.”

“Because that was actually a binding holding the demon into a more manageable form,” said Dionysus.

Tomoe and Hugh closed in as well. Hugh nudged the doll with his foot. “Looks pretty dead to me…”

Tomoe sheathed her blade, “I have to agree with Hugh.”

“Three, two,” said Dionysus, taking several steps back. “One…”

And suddenly the doll lurched upright, falling apart completely. Out of the shreds a large furry, reddish-brown, large creature began to emerge, easily three times as large as the tiny doll, and quickly towering over the nearby humans. It flashes a big point toothed grin at them. “Thank you,” it said, voice a low rumbling growl, words awkward in the big-toothed mouth.

Jackson raised an eyebrow and tucked his left revolver away, and begun reloading the other as he stepped back. “Fall back and regroup.”

The group scattered and the creature almost absently backhanded Jackson, sending him flying.

“I need a situation update,” came Tesla’s voice, “that sounded bad.”

h1

Third Host: To Kill the Dead

April 14, 2010

(The first section of this is a redux of an existent story-bit back in the archives of the blog, but there is also a nice section of all new stuff.

The phone rang, breaking Henry’s attention away from the girl. He stared at the phone with a concentrated frown, almost as if it were actually taking his brain an extra minute to comprehend what he was looking at. Alexia watched him, face streaked with tears but eyes now gone cold and dry. After three rings, Henry finally stepped away from Alexia and over to the phone.

Once Henry was obviously distracted, Alexia started inching backwards, trying to stay focused on the man and not the sticky red substance soaking into her jeans. A small shudder traced through her, then she stiffened and continued scooting herself through the mess.

Henry slowly put the bloody knife down on the counter, but kept the gun in his right hand. He cradled the phone to his ear and waited silently.

The man on the other end hesitated and papers shuffled in the background before he spoke, “Henry? Is that you on the phone? My name is Bryce O’Connel and I’m here to talk to you.”

The corner of Henry’s lip twitched upward slightly. “Hello Bryce. So how many of you are out their, waiting for me?”

Alexia didn’t really hear the man talk. She was focused on what she could touch, fingers working through the blood and water and spilled food. A large shard from a ceramic bowl sliced open her finger and she bit her lip to hold back her reaction. She slowly worked the shard up into her hand and started sawing at the ropes holding her wrists, eyes still locked on Henry’s back. His attention had moved to a window and he tried to peer through the blinds without actually stepping over to adjust them. Alexia tightened her grip, ignoring the cuts to her palm as she slowly sawed through the rope. She let the rope fall away, but kept her grip on the pointed bit of bowl.

Henry shook his head, “Oh no, can’t let her go. Poor little girl would be all alone in the world if I sent her out their. A family should stick together.” He edged closer to the window, as if he would be able to see the man’s reaction from their.

The last Alexia’s reservations slipped away with those calm words. She slid to her feat almost silently and stepped toward the man who had killed her parents, raising up the shard of ceramic in a two handed grip. One hard motion into his throat. He might have time to turn and shoot her, but her parents would be avenged.

Henry was pushing down a small section of blinds with his gun to get a better look when he heard the beginnings of a terrible scream starting to well up from the girl behind him. Instinctively he sidestepped and turned to face the possible danger, leveling the gun. Alexia missed him and stumbled into the wall while in that same instant the window splintered with a loud crack and the side of Henry’s head vanished, adding another spray of gore to the room. Before his body finished hitting the ground, two men were smashing out the window and leaning in to check the room while another set smashed open the door.

Alexia stopped, just in front of the now limp body of Henry and fell to her knees, still holding her long nasty curved shard of ceramic. One of the men retched slightly in the background of the scene. It didn’t take the officers long to pull her to her feat and rush her out of the house The praises for the sniper who had taken Henry down “just in time” were going on nearby, but Alexia didn’t seem to hear.

Alexia was lead to the paramedics, who eased her onto a stretcher. The word shock was passed back and forth and after several tries, they managed to pry her hands open enough to let the make-shift weapon fall to the ground. It clattered off the pavement and into the gutter.

The ambulance left quickly, but it took some time for the rest of the vehicles to leave the scene. Full night had fallen when a figure in a black suit with a black shirt and red tie came walking out of the gloom and up to the house. He tsked softly at the police tape around the house and made his way to the spot where Alexia’s make-shift knife had fallen. The man picked it up and examined it, a slow wide smile spreading across his features and slowly turning into a deep and disturbing laughter. He walked back into the gloom he had entered from, but that laughter seemed to hang in the air far too long after he left.

Alexia lay in a hospital bed, staring at the ceiling. The doctors had insisted on putting a few stitches into deep cut in her right hand where she had gripped the piece of ceramic. They itched now, but Alexia couldn’t be bothered to do anything about that. She hadn’t said a word since they had taken her away from her parents. The sedative they had given her fogged the edges of her resolve, but she held on, focused on the patch of ceiling. It was bland and white and uninteresting. Completely safe. Unlike the questions and worried stares from the staff at her silence.

A bit of sound in the room snapped her eyes down from the ceiling and onto the man in the black suit with the red tie. Somewhere in the back of her head, a piece of Alexia begged her to scream or fight or anything. But too much of her was laying in a pool of blood in her parents kitchen. She managed a small frown at the man.

Mastema smiled at her. A smile that was not altogether friendly, but still full of promises. “You dropped something when they were bringing you here,” he said and produced the bloody piece of ceramic. “I thought you might want it back.”

Alexia stared at the bit of ceramic and that moment of white hot fury started creeping back into her. It had turned sour and fled with the death of Henry. Her chance at revenge gone in a split second of cockiness from the careful killer. But for some reason, seeing her impromptu weapon stirred emotion in her again. Her frown deepened.

“I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘what good is that now? He’s already dead.’ You think that he’s beyond your reach now. Despite all that, you still want something, don’t you?” Mastema stepped in closer to the bed. In the faint light of the room his eyes looked like living pools of shadow, dancing points of darkness.

Alexia shifted, uncomfortable with the man’s stare. Yet, something about his words offered something she had given up on. Possibility. Where that could come from with a dead man escaped her, but she pulled herself more upright. Her voice felt choked to her. “I’m listening.”

“You say the word and take up your weapon, and I’ll tell you how to get it. I can see it in your soul. You’ll never be whole again without it,” said Mastema, holding the bloodied ‘handle’ of the makeshift weapon toward Alexia.

Alexia hesitated a moment. Something in the back of her head screamed in wordless terror. Somehow, this decision. This strange man. This was bigger than what had happened in the house. She shoved it aside anyway and took the shard of ceramic, letting it settle against her stitches with a soft rasp. “Revenge,” she said, her voice a hoarse whisper.

“Revenge,” echoed Mastema, the word rolling out of his mouth with a hint of ecstasy. “Three things and you will be able to exact your vengeance on Henry Trinn. First, a key to the gates of Hell. Second, a door to use that key in. And third, a weapon that can destroy a soul.”

“That sounds like riddles and not answers,” said Alexia, a hint of cold creeping into her roughened voice.

Mastema laughed, a sound that sent a chill down Alexia’s spine.

“There is a woman who… has quite a bit of knowledge at her disposal. She can make you a key. I will give you a way to reach her. Death offers a doorway and he is… coming to terms with his new position just now. He should be easy to make use of and again, I can’t point you in his direction. And your weapon is most of the way ready. You’ve anointed it with blood and fury, with the vengeance of family. Plunge it in the fresh grave of Henry Trinn before you travel to Hell to find him. I have already touched it with the end of times for you,” rattled off Mastema, his pointed promising smile still in place.

Alexia looked at the bit of ceramic and found another shiver tracing down her spine. Only this time, it was anticipation. It was crazy. It was outside the bounds she had created for herself on how the world worked. But then, so were serial killers and men in suits appearing in hospital rooms with promises. She wet her lips with her tongue and took a slow breath before speaking again. “Why?”

“Why?” Mastema blinked at her question.

“Why tell me all of this. Why help me?” said Alexia.

Mastema settled onto the edge of her bed and lightly took her hand, the weapon still in it. “Because, my dear, somebody has to. And because I am one of the few people with the knowledge and resources to help you get what you actually need to be whole again.”

Alexia drew in a sharp breath, suddenly fighting back the tears that she thought used up while she still lay in the pool of blood. “Tell me where to start.”

Mastema patted her hand, “Of course, my dear. Of course. I’ll tell you everything you need to know.”

h1

Death and Berries

April 13, 2010

“Death tastes like raspberries,” said Z.
Malachi stopped and looked up from his cooking. “What?”
Z was sitting on the counter, absently strumming at her guitar. “I said, death tastes like raspberries.”
Malachi gave her a confused frown, then turned back to the stove. “As much as I’ll probably regret saying this, I don’t remember death tasting like raspberries.”
“I don’t imagine flavors were your main point of interest. Also, that was just a little bit of death.”
Malachi opened his mouth to argue, but thought better of it this time and clicked his mouth shut, shaking his head softly and moving to finish the naan bread.
Z watched him for a moment, then set her guitar aside and hopped down from the counter. She slipped up behind Malachi and gave him a squeeze. “Don’t get all mopey on me. You’re still the big scary death mage. You just now happen to know that death tastes like raspberries.”
Malachi smirks, looking back over his shoulder at her. “Tasting like raspberries doesn’t sound all that scary.”
Z stands up on her tip-toes and kisses Malachi, catching his lower lip between her teeth with a teasing growl before letting him go. “There has to be some comfort along the way, right?”
“What if the person doesn’t like raspberries? That wouldn’t be very comforting then,” said Malachi, a teasing tone to his voice.
Z rolls her eyes and pokes him in the side. “Now you’re just being difficult.”
Malachi spun and wiped a streak of flour down Z’s nose. “Hey, you’re the one saying weird cryptic things that no human was meant to know.”
Z wrinkles her nose, then sneezes. “That one isn’t all that forbidden. Besides, humans are well known for obtaining forbidden knowledge. They can’t resist it.”
Malachi laughed and leaned in to lightly brush his lips against hers. “What can I say. Some forbidden knowledge is worth angering whoever forbid it.”
Z blushed softly and smiled, looping arms lightly around Malachi’s waist. “You know, you might be right about that…”