Of Life and Demons
Of Life and Demons
Copyright © 2017 David Quintana Conejero <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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This is a Work In Progress. It has NOT complete, and it has NOT been proofread or edited in any way.
If you find any error, flaw or mistake, feel free to write about it in the comments and I will try to fix it.
Keep in mind that I’m not a native english speaker, and my knowledgecomes from websites, IRC chatting and reading untranslated fantasy novels (a lot of them).
As the darkened night sky flashes above me, I walk through the dark, lonely alley at the back of the building I call home. The thunder roars around me, and large droplets launch themselves at my soaked clothes, poushed by the mocking wind. It may sound bad, but at least it doesn’t feel like a very angry sky is dropping rocks on my back like it was just a few minutes ago.
I hear footsteps splashing behind me. I turn around to see a woman in a red dress, partially covered by a cape. Her long black hair is stuck on her face and drops of water are dripping from her smooth cheeks. I immediately recognize her, and seeing her in the rain like that can only mean bad news. “David?” she says. “It happened again.”
I hate being right.
I walk her to my house, my home and office. But she’s not there for business, not anymore; this job got personal a long time ago. We walk through the back, into the kitchen. I offer her a towel and hot cup of coffee and she accepts both gladly. “When?” I say as she dries off. “Yesterday.” she replies, sitting down while I heat up the coffee machine. “I didn’t find out until this afternoon. I tried to call, but the phone service is out in your area. I had a friend drive me to that bar you love so much, but you were gone already.”
I hand her a cup and drop onto the closest chair with a sigh. “Always so sudden… it could give some warning, dammit. How bad is it?” “Worse. It’s always worse.” I wish that didn’t always prove to be true. I don’t say that, though, there was no need. “She will be back” I tell her. “She always comes back.” So far. “I know but… I fear for her.” she says, “What if you are wrong this time? She’s too young… the world is dangerous…” She doesn’t know how much, though, and I could never put that weight on her. “I know. I will try to find her, as always, but you know she’s always back before I have a chance to find her.” That’s not quite true, but she does not need to know everything. “At least you are trying.” She concedes. “Always.” I love them both. It comforts me to think I am able to protect them. That’s why I need to hide things from her. That’s what I tell myself to sleep at night — what keeps me sane.
“Will you stay tonight? I don’t want to have you walk back home in this weather.” It is a pointless question, since I already know the answer, but I have to ask. “I don’t know, David, I shouldn’t.” I can’t help but notice that she didn’t just say no. That’s how bad things are for her — not that they are any better for me. “Then at least let me drive you home.” I implore. It takes a moment for her to answer “… I suppose I can agree to that.”
As I drive my ex-wife to her current home, old memories flow into my head. In the awkward silence inside the car, I relive the worst moments of my life. Those moments are my shame, for it is my fault that the situation became what it is now. I can’t tell her, though. She must never know. She’s happy most of the time, she has a nice home, a nice boyfriend, a nice job. She takes care of our daughter during the periods when she’s still herself, as she has been doing for the past years. Meanwhile, I torment myself.
They knew I had a daughter, I knew they knew, and yet I failed to reach her on time. My daughter is now a demon. A young one, though, slumbering through its first years. There’s no human way to fix her. Once it grows, once it wakes up, the world will fear her. My job is to find her and bring her home… alive. I have managed it before, but with each passing day, the demonling grows stronger. The only reason she is still living is because the demon that’s taking over her is already stronger than death. The question is not if she will survive — the demon will take care of it –, the question is if I will survive long enough to bring her back again.
My official job title is Private Investigator. As far as the world is concerned, that’s all I do. My real title? Demon Hunter. This is my life. Complicated? You can’t possibly imagine.
It is a known fact you shouldn’t walk through dark alleys at night, unless you are searching for trouble. I am looking for a demon, and I can’t imagine any statement that sounds more like that.
Let me make something clear, when I say demons, I don’t really mean the religious kind. I have no doubt the beings I hunt have existed for a long time, and I’m fairly certain they have inspired most of the tales involving things that eat you in the night. And really, it just saves me a lot of time trying to describe them, because there’s many kinds.
The nice ones just kill you. The truly bad ones, take over your body, your brain, or — if there is such a thing — your soul. You all have heard this in the news: He was such a nice person. He would never hurt a fly. He was friends with everyone.
The demon I am searching for, though, is not one of these. I’m looking for a weak, pitiful creature. A broken remain of a once great race that proudly hunted in the night thousands of years ago. The moon was their source of power, the stars were their friends. There is no mortal alive to remember how they looked like, and their descendants would rather forget who they failed to be. The legends that remain, are just stories.
Werewolves, you might be tempted to call them. That would be misleading. In the stories, they are men with wolf features like claws and fur. They walk as men except at night or during a full moon. But in truth, while the moonlight makes them stronger, there’s no humanity in them.
They are big. They can stand on their hind legs, but they favor using all four for moving. Their front legs are longer, slightly resembling a hyena, and the nine claws at the end of each limb are very sharp and barbed. Their bodies are covered with something akin to fur, and starting at the back of their head and all along their spine grow spiky needles. The spine turns into a tail, where the needles grow all around. The worst of it all is in their faces.
When I say weak, I mean for a demon. On average, they are still stronger than most people. If you were to meet them face to face, the first thing you would see are their eyes, which glow red in the dark. If you were lucky enough to survive that sight, the next thing you would notice are the crimson markings around their eyes and forehead, the shape of which seems to depend on their birth clan. Next, they would open their mouth, which have multiple sets of fangs. At that point, your life is over. You could struggle for a few more seconds, but the sheer strength of their jaws would crush your body while they rip it apart. Thankfully, the one I’m talking about would have a hard time fighting a young boy.
“So you have come again…” a voice says. “Sadly” I reply, turning towards the voice. “I see you are as strong as ever” the sarcasm goes unnoticed. “Of course! I train all night, hoping that next time I may be able to finally eat you.” “I can’t say I’m looking forward to that.” He jumps at me, as usual. I was ready for it. The upside of fighting wolf-demon is that some of the instincts of the wolf still remain. I turn to face him right as he jumps down from the lowest platform of the building’s emergency staircase. I step to my right, avoiding the attack and push him off-balance. While the beast is trying to recover, I hold his body with one knee while I pin his head to the ground, holding his face down until he stops struggling.
“Not fair!” he says. “Life’s not fair” I reply. “True.” I let him go. He’s no threat to me, but I know I still can’t let my back exposed. As much as his wolf side seems to dominate, he’s still mostly a demon, so him stabbing me in the back would not be unexpected.
“I suppose she’s gone again?” “That’s right. You know the drill, You give me clues, I give you meat.” “Not human meat, though…” “Exactly.” I try to pet him in the head but I take the hand away as he tries to bite it. “Less biting. More talking.” “Talking… always talking. No one needs me for anything else!” I shrug. “But I know things, that I do. Demons don’t see me, I’m too weak, too ugly. I don’t exist to them…” “My daughter, please.” “Right, right! I heard a crawler say she was seen on the west park last night, talking to a man. I also heard the Nightwatchers took her to the Oven, but I’m not sure how reliable that one is.”
The Oven… definately not the name I wanted to hear. You could say it’s the center of the demon’s power, some describe it as “the place closest to hell.” I suppose it may be true. I have tried to avoid that place many times, in the past I always succeeded, but my hopes are low today.
I leave the alley trusting the creature I leave behind won’t harm me, and certain that it does not know anything else of importance, yet annoyed because the hidden truths are always pieced together from those details that we tend to discard. Details the creature of limited intellect failed to even consider.
As much as I would like it otherwise, I’m perfectly aware that was it smarter, the demonic beast would have figured out long ago that if it decided to pounce me to the ground and give me a few little scratches in the right places, i would by now be yet another name in the list of missing persons, and another tick in the counter of alley corpses, eaten beyond recognition.
I like to feel ‘green’ so I often take the bus whenever its not too impractical. This was one such case, which means my car is parked not far from home, which is far from here. The West Park is a few blocks down from the alley, though, so I walk the quarter hour it takes me to reach it. It’s early in the morning, which means the place is full of people jogging or walking their dogs, many of them doing both at the same time.
I always carry a relatively recent picture of my daughter on my wallet. I show it to the people around the park, but no one seems to recognize her. After two hours, I’m about to give up. It was a weak lead, and I was aware of it. Why would any early riser spend time at the park at night? Damned hope making me waste my time.
I sit on a bench and lay back, looking at the sky. The soothing sound of the breeze flowing through the leaves should have allowed me to calm down and think, but I’m apparently not in the mood for that, since all I feel is annoyed. Annoyed probably because I already know the answer, yet I don’t want to even ask myself the question. I try to move through the possibilities, to find some alternative, but there’s none
that I can find. I couldn’t have been that lucky.
Let me explain: demons are not the only thing that hides from us. One of those things, the one I dread, can point me to the right direction and even possibly help me on the way, but it will come at a price, and that price grows with every time I resign myself to pay it.
“Excuse me, Mr. David Summers?” a voice says. I open my eyes and look at the figure standing right behind the bench. It’s an old man, dressed formally. Judging from his attire and the very expensive car waiting not very far from where I am, I can tell this is most probably a butler for a rich person, sent to talk for the lowly private investigator. “That’s me. Can I help you?”, I reply. “I would hope so.” I don’t usually like when the conversation starts that way.
“My name is Albert Young, I am here on behalf of my boss, whose name is not to be said aloud or in public.” Great… as if I didn’t have enough problems already.
“And what is it your anonymous boss wants of me?” I say, sarcastically. “He has a need of something to be found. And is prepared to pay appropriately.” Which means I most probably will not like the job.
“I’m somewhat busy at the moment… is there any chance the request can wait a few days? Or maybe I can give you the name of some fellow private investigators that I trust…” I try, knowing by the situation, that this man’s boss — who’s possibly not even human — is interested in finding something the general public should never be aware of, which means there’s very few people who can take the job.
“I’m sorry, Mr. David, but my boss asked specifically that it needs to be you. As I already said, he’s prepared to pay appropriately. In this case, he has information that may interest you.” Now he has my attention.
“My boss is a very powerful… person. He has sources of information that most people would rather never meet. He’s very much aware of your… situation, regarding your daughter and what’s inside her. He has a special interest in this item that he asks you to find, and is not of the same faction as those who would use human flesh as their own.” A ‘friendly’ demon? yeah, sure. “His tastes lay elsewhere.” See.
I try not to show my eagerness, as any kind of job in exchange for information is better than my last resort choice. “So… what is this object your boss wants me to find?” “It would be best if we talked in a more private space, we wouldn’t want someone to overhear. If you follow me, I’ll drive you home and we can talk along the way.”
In the car, the man tells me of a relic named “The Void Compass”, which has always puzzled the archaeologists who found it because while being in perfect state, and the body being sealed, it has no needle inside. They also cannot figure out how such an item was created in an era that didn’t have the technology for it. Of course, that just applies to humans.
The demon societies are much older than humanity. Although not much is known about their origins, it is believed by some that they are species native to other “place” (plane, universe, timeline, …) and they moved to ours in a desperate attempt to survive after they had wasted their own world. Whether that’s true or not, we may never know for sure, but what we do know is that regardless of which kind of demon you look at, they all enjoy eating our flesh, our blood, or our minds, and some also like to keep us as slaves.
It is not the first time I hear the name of that relic. There’s a long trail of mythology around it, most of it involving magic. Except there’s no such thing as magic. There’s powers that could be called upon, abilities that defy the human ability of comprehension and perception. Such things are so dark and evil that comparing them to magic would taint the concept itself. And I suspect I will not be able to avoid making use of them before this all is over.
At this point, I realize I have ignored the man’s words for some time already, and snap back to reality. “… but I suppose you already knew all that.” he says. Right on time, then. “What you may not know, is that the Compass has been stolen from an exposition in the basement of the Arts, Science and Humanism Center. The theft has been kept from the public because it would not be in our interests for the general public to be involved in this matter, as it would cause unnecessary deaths. Although my boss may not care much for the lives of humans, he does care about the unwanted attention such deaths would bring upon him.”
“Understandable.” I say. “Do you have anything for me to work from? Some clue, or list of potential suspects?” “Essentially, the whole non-human community is in the list of suspects. But we can agree that there’s some specific groups that are more likely to be behind it.” The man puts his hand in a pocket and takes out a folded piece of paper. “This is what my boss decided you need to know. If it’s not enough then you will have to come up with the information on your own. As you can assume, if we already knew everything, there would be no need to use a private investigator.” The man calls the driver and tells him to stop.
“This is close enough. My boss doesn’t want this association to be publicly known, and there may be people watching your home.” I agree. “Before you leave, a warning: don’t take too long to solve this, the information my boss has could become obsolete at any time.”
Fuck, I hate this.
The driver opens the door for me, and I step out of the car. The man was smart enough to leave me very close to the station I was supposed to arrive from. I walk the few blocks that separate it from my home, enter, and close the door behind me. As I let all the tension flow, I realize just how much of it I had accumulated. I take a shower and eat lunch.
I’m tired. I couldn’t sleep after talking to my ex-wife, and I spent the rest of the night walking around the study. I left the house early and waited at the bus stop for the first bus of the morning, to take me to the wolf’s favorite alley. I have been awake for far longer, but its not the same when you have something to do.
I plug in my old record player and undust one of my favorite classical pieces. Usually, the music soothes me and leaves me in a state of mind that helps me think.
[to be continued…]