I suddenly felt like writing again, so I just sat down in front of my keyboard and well, wrote...
This is where I'll be posting stuff that I've written, probably mostly short stories although I also have a manga plot brewing in my head. I'll probably also post some short stories and poetry from the Contest forum.
So here is the short story I wrote, just because I really felt like it;
Audrey Miller appeared in many ways to be a completely normal 15-year old girl. She probably was too, for that matter, but she didn’t enjoy that thought very much. She wanted to go on adventures, to beat up bad guys and dragons and save the lives of her companions, just like they would have saved hers in epic battles before. She often fantasized about this, and some of her friends sometimes teased her about it. Had your head in the clouds again eh?, they sometimes asked after she realized she hadn’t been paying attention to the conversation, but instead flying on the back of her ferocious tiger Leema in a world far away to fight The evil Prince of Darkness.
The old tram shook and thundered as it made its way downtown. Rows of families and couples, sitting patiently in their seats, waiting to enter the Kingston mall or visit one of the few museums the small city had to offer. It was a boring, shitty place in the middle of nowhere, and Audrey knew she’d be moving elsewhere as soon as she had the opportunity. This was the only reason she had to try and perform well in school, which was her only hope for a rescue from this hellhole.
The tram shook one last time and stopped outside of the mall. As Audrey exited the tram, she saw a pale man in a dark leather coat standing on the roof of the fruit shop across the street. He had red marks running down across his cheeks, almost as if he had been crying blood. He looked interesting, and Audrey silently imagined how he was the main bad guy in some mockbuster urban fantasy movie. Then she shook her head to make those images go away. The sun was bright, it was about 2 pm and she had to buy pens and notebooks for the upcoming school start. I have more important things to focus on, she resignedly thought as she entered the mall. And she silently sighed as she pushed those fantasies aside for later. It looked like it was going to be another boring day.
Gheiren Na’Sanchin, baron of Zagh, was reborn. Standing atop some sort of mortal construction, he inhaled tainted air as he took in the scene. Dozens of mortal heads bobbed as they moved forward beneath him. He could feel even more inside of the huge colorful glass building before him. One or two even seemed to possess the spark of magic.
Gheiren slowly walked across the roof and peered down into the dark alleyway between the mortal shop and the next building. His benefactor had left soon after reviving him, leaving him with nothing but a promise that the Elmeth demons, his fallen kind, would soon rule the continent again. Being brought back had not been without pain though, he could still feel how every muscle in his body twitched and ached. Behind him on the roof, the circle painted in mortal blood reminded him of his painful return. Living had always been a pain for as long as he could remember, but these mortals seemed to be an exception to that rule. He dropped from the roof and landed silently behind the middle-aged man walking through the alleyway. He was speaking to someone into a black device. A cellphone, he realized it was called as he skimmed through the mortal man’s memories. The man shuddered slightly as Gheiren looked into his soul, but he did not turn around.
Gheiren slowly approached the man. He was much taller than the mortal man, and much more muscular as well. Even without the demon’s magic, it wouldn’t be a fair fight. This mortal man was mentally wounded as well. He had recently gone through a divorce and was now fighting with his wife over the custody of their kids. All because of his compulsive gambling and drinking. All of this, Gheiren found out as he looked into the man’s soul while walking towards him. The more he saw of the mortal’s life, the more disgusted he felt. And as soon as he was close enough, he reached out and grabbed the man’s neck, pinching softly as he felt his victim’s arteries open up. The man stopped in the middle of his sentence, he was barely able to let out a brief scream before coughing up the blood that had found its way into his air pipe. He could still be saved, at least by an expert magical healer, but there was none to be found miles from there; and with no way for oxygen to reach his brain, the man died within minutes.
By then, Gheiren had already stepped out into the street and killed another dozen mortals with the purple energy streams he channelized through his hands.
Gregory McHadley did not have a gentle awakening. Nor was it willingly that he opened his eyes after feeling a weird sensation over his face. Sitting up slightly and groaning, he could hear how his two younger siblings immediately hurried out the door, slamming it loudly after exiting. He could hear their thundering footsteps through the wall as they rushed down the staircase together, shouting wildly about something Gregory was far too dazed to understand.
He sat up fully and stared into the eyes of a 17-year old boy with a ridiculous cartoon moustache and Harry Potter-glasses. Gregory raised a hand to touch his face, and saw his reflection do the same. He frowned at the mirror and stood. He glanced at the clock on the wall above his desk and noted that it was about 2 pm. Seemed like a reasonable time to get up on a summer break Saturday, especially considering that he had stayed up all night playing League of Legends.
He went into the bathroom and washed his face, removing all cartoonish signs of his siblings’ gleefulness. He buried his face in a white towel for a few seconds, before looking up into the bathroom mirror. He didn’t need to shave his face yet, but a few signs of maturity could still be found in the youngster’s face, not counting the faint outline of a painted moustache above his mouth. One or two scars from zits could be found for sure, which few teenagers were exempt from. But there was something about his eyes, about his gaze that told that this particular teenager had experienced things most normal people could only see in movies. At some point, something had changed this boy and turned him into something else. Not quite a man; because he really was not, at least according to most peoples’ definition; but more like a boy who knew very well what it took to be one.
Gregory got in the shower. He took an infuriatingly long time; at least for the person banging on the bathroom door, shouting at him to finish; to comb back his long, dark hair so that it was just the way he wanted it to be. He exited the bathroom and went into his own room again, completely ignoring his dad’s complaints. He picked out and put on a white shirt, way too long for him and he didn’t even bother tucking it into his black trousers.
He had just started his PC when his mom entered his room.
“What do you want?” he asked in the typical manner of a teenager before she had barely even set a foot inside.
“Are you going to actually do something this weekend or are you just gonna spend another day in front of your video games?” she asked while frowning at him as she always did.
“I do things all the time, mom.”
“No, you don’t. All you do is sit at home in front of your computer. Your father and I are very worried about you. You should start helping out more at home, how else are you going to get enough experience to get a job?”
“…I won’t get a job more easier from doing the laundry or taking out the dog”, Gregory said and frowned.
“Not with that attitude, you won’t. But if you think it’s so easy to get a job in this economy, then go out and get one”, his mom responded. Why couldn’t she just leave him alone?
“I don’t wanna talk about this right now.”
“Gregory! I am serious when I say this! You are almost an adult and yet all you do-…”
Then the black work-phone Gregory kept in his desk started buzzing. He couldn’t help but smile briefly when his mom stopped in the middle of her sentence, waiting for him do something. What a bliss, he thought, even though he knew he only ever received calls on that phone when something important had happened.
“Get out”, he said as he opened his desk drawer and sat down in his chair. “This is important.” He gestured violently at her to make her leave.
He saw his mom’s eyes narrow as she looked at the black cellphone he held in his hand.
“What’s that phone? That’s not the one I bought for you.”
“Get out!” he said, and lowered the phone to hide it beneath the desk. It was probably yet another mistake, but he didn’t feel like he cared at the moment.
His mom stepped out of the room and looked with suspicion at him.
“Don’t tell me you’re selling drugs or somethi-…”
Gregory slammed the door shut with his foot before she could finish her sentence.
“Timothy, I think Gregory’s a drug dealer.” he heard her say to his father through the door. Gregory rolled his eyes and then pressed the green answer key on the phone.
As soon as he pressed the answer key, weird symbols carved into the phone lit up and blocked all outward sounds from his annoying family. Naturally, the people standing outside his room wouldn’t be able to hear him either.
“McHadley here”, he answered the phone. He could hear someone snarl on the other side.
“Took ya long enough. Family again?” Will Thierry barked into his ear.
“As always”, Gregory responded. “What’s happening?” He had learned to keep things short and concise when speaking to Thierry, something he seldom did otherwise.
“We’ve got a situation in Kingston. That’s where you live, right?” Thierry muttered, and Gregory could hear the tapping sound of a keyboard accompanying his words.
“Yessir, that’s where I am right now.”, Gregory confirmed. He stood now, opened his dresser and leaned down to pick up one of the many shoeboxes inside.
“Good. We don’t have many other operatives nearby. Santello and London should be there within 10 minutes. We have a few others we’re trying to contact right now.”
“Roger that. What are we dealing with exactly?” Gregory asked while nodding, Rita Santello and Noah London were both reliable and experienced monster hunters.
“A rogue demon, from the looks of it. We have at least two dozen causalities confirmed. A MEDNA operative was the one who alarmed us. She and her kids were at the mall when they heard people screaming”, Thierry explained in a sad voice.
“So Kingston mall is where we’ll find this demon?”
Gregory found the right shoebox and opened it. He took out the gray-painted pistol and magazines and put them in the bag on the desk. He felt the weight of the pistol in his hand for a few seconds before putting it next to the combat knife he always kept in the bag. It felt good in his hand.
He heard more tapping from the keyboard.
“Yes, or anywhere in the surrounding area. I don’t think finding it will be the hard part to be honest. Do you have your mystometer?”
“Yup”, Gregory said as he took out the small device from the shoebox. It looked kind of like a hand-held shopping scanner. “So how will we deal with this demon? The easy way or the hard way?”
“Preparing a teleporter or a transportation circle will take at least 30 minutes. Nor do we have any skilled enough operatives to seal a demon anywhere in the vicinity of Kingston.”
Gregory threw the mystometer in the bag, and patted the spot where he knew his pistol was safely placed.
“The easy way then.”
He could hear how Thierry sighed before the call ended. He placed the black workphone in the bag and, after a brief moment of hesitation, threw his Samsung in there as well. He closed the bag, grabbed it and headed for the door. As he left his room, his mom tried to continue their conversation with both further insults and threats. Gregory ignored her as he ran down the stairs, grabbed his heavy black coat that reached all the way down to his thighs, put on his sneakers and left through the front door. He smiled as he, for the second time that afternoon slammed a door in his mother’s face.
Audrey Miller was frightened. She had heard the screams from the entrance of the mall, from the top of the escalators. She had turned around, and seen them get… Disintegrated. It sounded weird, she tasted the word in her mouth. Disintegrated. From the purple beams that the pale man was throwing. The same pale man she had seen earlier on the rooftop. For a second she had remembered her thoughts about the whole thing being a movie production, allowing her to take another breath. But no, it had looked too real. It wasn’t clean disintegration these beams were causing, like some vaporizing beam from StarGate or something. No, there were bodies with holes burned right through their chests and bodies that were only a pair of legs and blood everywhere. This was real, Audrey realized amidst all the screaming. Everything I’ve fantasized about is real, magic exists, evil exists.
Audrey was frightened, yes, but she was also excited in a weird way that she couldn’t explain. Demons are real. Dragons must be real, too. I wonder if elves exist? What kind of magic system is in use in the real world? All these thoughts hammered at her brain, as she sat crouched behind lines of clothes stands in the H&M store. There were other people in the store as well, she could hear some of them at the counter, clearly going through some phase of panicking, and another person sulking in the corner behind her.
If only Hannah could see me now. I was right about all of this, she thought even though she hadn’t even considered beam-firing demons to exist in the real world before. I wonder if this is going to get on the news? The secret of magic – leaked to the world! That’s a headline, right there.
A blinding light from outside lit up the entire store for a second, accompanied by the crackling sound of an explosion. The people at the counter screamed, and Audrey heard herself whimper at the noise. Peeking through the rows of clothes, Audrey just managed to catch a glimpse of the blonde, middle-aged lady outside the store fire another orb of light at the pale demon. But it was no use, the demon easily sidestepped the orb and fell into a fast dash that closed the thirty meters between them to decimeters in a matter of seconds. The demon stopped before the woman, purple energy forming in his right hand. He had black fingernails, Audrey realized.
The demon tilted his head.
“I see that you have children here with you, sorceress.”
The woman turned for a second, glancing somewhere across the mall, but stopped her movement and faced the demon with gleaming palms.
“Leave them alone, you monster!”
Her voice was angry and desperate, and Audrey felt time stop as she realized that this woman, this only hero of the story, was about to die. It can’t be, right? That would be… Unfair-…
The demon swung out his palm and the woman screamed and the gleaming lights in her hands crackled. Then there was a flash of purple, and the woman’s body fell, her head disintegrated from her neck. Her blood, springing out of her neck, immediately joined the blood of the half a dozen others’ around her.
The demon simply stood there, possibly admiring what he had accomplished. And then he raised his head and looked straight into Audrey’s eyes through the store’s window. No!, thought Audrey. It’s… It’s too soon. But she was frozen in place; if it was because of the demon’s magic, she didn’t know. All she knew was that she stared into the cold, grey eyes of a merciless killer. That everything she had ever dreamed of was true, and that she would never get to experience any of it. That it would all end right there.
And then a child’s cry found its way through the sea of noise. People had been screaming, Audrey knew, but she hadn’t felt like caring. But she heard this boy’s cry for his mother, and she knew that he had too. She felt all her frozen muscles relax and saw how the floor rushed towards her when she realized that this boy had saved her life simply by crying out for his mother. She didn’t even have to look to know she had been spared just because of this distraction. The demon went after him instead, a life for a life.
Burrowing her nose into a men’s suit jacket, all she could do was roll over and sob silently into this only comfort that she had. But the tears didn’t come, despite how awful Audrey felt. All she could do was lie there and hope someone with more strength than that woman would come around and save them.
We live in a fantasy world… Where the hell are the heroes?
Gregory opened the door and jumped in Rita’s black sedan as soon as it rolled up beside him. He was breathing heavily after running several blocks down to reach the square, and felt like going into a coughing fit over something in his throat.
Noah turned around in his seat.
“I didn’t think I’d ever see the most promising recruit buckled over in his seat like this. Did you, Rita?”, Noah London asked with a laugh. He was a friendly man in his late twenties with light brown hair and already a receding hairline. Gregory had been on missions before with him, and they had both saved each other’s lives before.
Despite this, Gregory felt like a snarky response would be in order, so he took one of his many carefully chosen witty phrases from the storage in his head and opened his mouth with a confident smile before going into a coughing fit over whatever the hell it was that was stuck in his throat. Some phlegm neatly found its place on the back of the seat in front of him.
“Oh, don’t say that, Noah. You might piss Gregory off. Besides, his days as a recruit are over since a couple weeks back, remember?”, Rita Santello said with a friendly smile, adjusting the rear-view mirror so she could see into Gregory’s eyes as she drove. Gregory looked back at her as he cleared his throat one last time. She was a twenty-year old dark-skinned woman with braided hair and a pierced nose. A tough and capable monster hunter, she was also known for knitting, of all things. Gregory still had the gore-shaped kettle-holder she had given him for a Christmas gift.
“Come on, I was just joking”, Noah responded, sounding slightly upset. Despite loving jokes, he could only rarely differ between when people were being serious or not. He was a bit eccentric in that way.
“Are you fit for combat, Greg?”, Rita asked Gregory, abandoning the conversation with Noah before it turned into another discussion.
“As always. What are our orders? And are there others coming except for us?”
“Mhm”, Rita nodded as she sped by another sedan on the highway. There were sirens in the distance, but none of them were probably meant for them anyway, and they were in a serious hurry.
“Three more operatives in the vicinity were contacted, all of them on vacation leave. There is also an elite squad on its way from the headquarters, and another one is prepared to leave as soon as they can get the bloody transportation circle up”, Noah said, his eyes on the road and one hand on the handle above the door. He looked nervous.
“Our orders are to protect as many civilians as possible, by taking out the threat if possible. If it’s not possible, we will try to evacuate as many as we can while keeping the demon away, until the reinforcements get here”, Rita explained.
They passed a sign reading Kingston Mall, and Rita switched lanes. From here, they could see the mall in the middle of Kingston’s western district. Gregory had been there many times. The sirens were louder now, both coming from the mall and approaching from behind them.
“Is the mystometer reacting?”, Gregory asked as he saw Noah stare at the instrument in his left hand. He reached into his bag on the seat beside him to take out his own. He also used the moment to take out his pistol of the bag and slide it into the inner breast pocket of his coat.
“Yep. A relatively big registration too. Thierry didn’t lie to us.”
“Noah, call the other three and see if they’re anywhere nearby yet. We said we would meet them outside the Ben&Jerry’s on Falner Street”, Rita said, skillfully maneuvering the car through the streets way above speed limits. “Gregory, try to pinpoint the epicenter of magical activity and locate the target.”
There were dozens of people on the street; most of them just confused, but some were frightened beyond all belief. A few policemen were trying to calm people down so that they could be evacuated, which probably meant Thierry had already contacted the authorities and made sure they would be able to deal with the demon without the police interfering.
They reached a junction and Rita took a left, stopping outside the small Ben&Jerry’s bar. It almost looked like someone had forcefully crammed the small ice-cream shop in between two other buildings. They were only three blocks away from the mall now.
There were lots of people on the street, most of them running in the opposite direction from the mall. But there were three men, standing beside a blue minivan parked outside the shop, that weren’t running. All three of them MEDNA operatives, Gregory realized. He recognized all three of them, but could only recall the name of the tall, muscular one in the middle; Chris Myers. The other two, a bearded man with a long face and a chubby man with a characteristically big nose, were both looking at the mystometers in their hands with troubled faces. They were probably not going to be of much help; while MEDNA operatives were trained in fighting among other things, they weren’t professional monster hunters like Rita or Noah.
Noah opened his door and leaned half-way out of the car.
“From MEDNA, I presume?”
The man with the long face nodded.
“We were all on vacation leave at Chris’ house when we got the call. Just like the Commander said, we’ve been picking up huge signals from the mall. I would assume we have at least thirty dead by now.”
Gregory leaned forward in his seat.
“It does seem like the signals are coming from the mall still. Are we walking there?”, he asked, trying to keep as straight of a face as possible. He always felt like this before a mission; excited. He had stared death in the eyes so many times that he knew feeling any other way was simply not worth it. Besides, he would much rather do this than listen to his parents’ nagging.
He saw how Rita considered their options for a split second. Depending on what kind of demon it was, it might be able to feel the magic energy from their cars as they approached and prepare for an attack. The barriers installed in the car might prove a huge advantage though, and if the demon was powerful enough; it might even have felt their presence already from this far away anyway.
“We’re taking the cars. Boys, get in your van. Are you armed?”
As an answer, the long-faced man and Myers both opened their suit jackets and revealed the pistol holsters they had strapped to their chests while the chubby man started the car. Noah closed the door, and both cars left the small parking space outside the ice-cream shop.
A minute later, the cars stopped outside the mall.
Audrey stood at the sound of gunshots. She felt different now, somehow the pain had subsided and been replaced only by a feeling of nothingness. She was pretty sure now, this would be where she died. She had seen others try to make a run for the exits and seen how they got slaughtered; not a single attempt at running escaped the pale demon’s eyes. He had easily killed them all.
“You humans have gotten too comfortable!”, he had shouted. The rage in his face and in his voice had been clear. “You need to learn your right place in the world!”
What a fool, would be her normal reaction to that when reading a book. Humans are stronger than you think; we have earned our place in this world. But now all those thoughts were gone. They had disappeared in an instant when the magic she had dreamed of had appeared and slapped her in the face. Sure, the world was a fantasy world, but it was still not a story. If it was, she certainly wasn’t the main character at least.
And yet, when she peeked out the entrance into the atrium, she couldn’t help but feel a slight spark of hope appear again. On the ground floor, she saw several people at the entrance. She saw their muzzles flash and heard how the gunshots made the demon writhe and scream. Every bullet seemed to make a small hole in the pale demon’s skin, only for the wound to immediately heal. One of the people in front of the entrance lifted his hand and it was filled with fire that he threw at the demon, forming a small ball that exploded against its torso. Another man, he was already balding, ran up to the demon from the side, avoiding the gunfire. The demon raised its hand and fired a purple stream of energy at the man, but it passed right through him. A young boy in a dark coat, he looked to be about Audrey’s age, shouted something and loaded another clip into his pistol.
Meanwhile, the braided woman had formed glaives of clean metal out of thin air, and threw the shining weapons at the demon, who avoided them by jumping behind a vending machine. The balding man pulled something out of his coat pocket, it was small and beeping with a faint glow.
Audrey’s eyes widened when she saw how the balding man phased through the vending machine and dropped the beeping thing at the demon’s feet. The demon hissed and reached out for him, but the man was already gone; having retreated through the machine as soon as he had left his gift. A split second later, the atrium was lit up by a green explosion, and the demon screamed.
With smoke now surrounding the atrium, Audrey could not do much else than sit in silence and hope for another miracle. She was filled with new hope now, but she treasured it so much that she felt like losing it now would kill her off for real. If only there was something I could do to help, other than just sitting around waiting for death…
She started looking around the store for something to use.
As the smoke cleared, Gregory could do nothing but wait with his finger ready on the trigger. Behind him, Myers and the chubby man were drawing up some sort of magic circle in front of the entrance. Rita and the man with the long face were on his right side, and Noah was covering his left side, now clutching his beloved Colt Python in his hands.
“I can’t believe you did that, you could’ve gotten killed”, Gregory mumbled to him as he continued to slowly back away from the vending machine.
“Our weapons don’t seem to have much effect, you might have to use your magic on him, Greg”, Noah simply responded. He looked serious, as he always did during a mission.
Gregory nodded. His magic was good for disturbing all kinds of magical defenses, simply by overloading them, or something like that. He hadn’t listened too closely to the scientists that had tried to explain the qualities of his power to him. All Gregory knew was that his magic tended to have a bigger effect, the more magic the target possessed. The white energy streams he threw would be useless at this range though, the agile demon would easily be able to avoid them.
They had a plan though. If killing the demon proved too hard, they would pretend to run to the cars, only to use the sealing barriers that Rita’s car had installed. If that proved inefficient, all they could do was run for real.
“You know, mortals. You’re really starting to piss me off.” The demon’s low voice came from somewhere in front of them. The smoke had all but cleared out now, and Gregory thought he could see the figure of the demon standing beside the now broken fountain. Water was pouring out on the floor, mixing with the red blood of countless dead people around it.
Gregory saw in the corner of his eye how Rita prepared to form more metal in her hands. How the long-faced man beside her raised his gun. He heard how Myers lit another fireball behind him and how Noah took a deep breath. They were ready to enact the plan. Throw all possible attacks at the demon, then run away. Nothing would be easier. Gregory also took a deep breath.
The demon looked at them with contempt, a face which soon changed to surprise. Then he smiled and tilted his head in a gloating manner.
“Oh, so you had a plan? Luring me out to the car? Now that sounds-…”
He’s a mind reader! Gregory realized, and he understood that the others did too from their chocked faces.
“Attack now!”, he heard Rita shout right before the demon got into a sprinting stance, and then with exploding speed charged at them. Muzzles flashed, and Gregory gathered white light in his left hand.
“Run to the cars!”, someone shouted moments before purple flashes corroded the ground around them in a crackling explosion. Looking to the right, Gregory saw the demon punch Rita Santello across the room right through a shop-window. The long-faced man screamed and discharged his gun at the demon, who easily sidestepped the bullets with purple light gathering in his hand. Gregory lifted his own hand and let a stream of white light hit the demon in the back. It burned through the demon’s overcoat and scorched his back, and the demon turned around with a snarl.
“Move!”, Noah screamed as he grabbed ahold of Gregory’s shoulder and threw him to the side. Purple lightning pierced through his chest the second after, but was unable to harm his intangible body. A fireball from Myers exploded against the demon’s chest, and Gregory took the moment to drop his gun and charge up more magic in his hands. Then he froze, the purple stream had stopped halfway through Noah’s chest and was now simply floating in the air. Noah could only stay intangible for three seconds or less, a fact most monsters he had faced never found out. But Noah had never fought against a mind-reader before.
“Move!”, Gregory shouted at him. He could see the panic in Noah’s eyes as he knew what was about the happen. He jumped to the right, away from Gregory, but the purple light followed him as he fell. Part of Noah’s torso disintegrated mid-air and his body, now with a hole right through it, hit the floor along with a lot of his blood.
The demon laughed.
You bastard! I will kill you! The thought went through Gregory’s head, and he had to bite himself in the lip to force himself not to lose control. The demon raised his hand to set loose another stream of purple lightning, and Gregory threw his own energy stream at the tall demon. Then he touched a small symbol on the inside of his coat causing his fist to light up, and charged the demon with a low kick towards the shin. The demon easily avoided both attacks, and countered the next attempt, a fist powered by a paralysis hex, by simply punching Gregory in the stomach, sending him flying across the atrium. It really was hopeless fighting a mind-reader after all.
Gregory hit the wall of Starbucks with a painful dull sound. It was only the magical qualities of his coat that saved his spine from being broken in half. His stomach felt much worse though, which made him question his own idiotic decision to not button his coat. It just looked a lot less cool, is all.
Gregory coughed and slowly crawled into a sitting position. Every part of his upper body ached, and he could taste blood from the lip he had bit. Through blurry vision, he saw how the demon killed Myers with a purple beam that disintegrated his entire upper body in front of the entrance. The chubby MEDNA operative was still there, doing a poor attempt at trying to lure the demon into the magic circle on the ground. The demon was not impressed, and executed the MEDNA operative in a flash of purple. The long-faced man was nowhere to be seen.
The demon now turned its eyes towards Gregory, who got to his feet with the wall as help. Inside the Starbucks he saw two faces peeking over the counter. Charging up more white light in his hands, he mouthed the word run before he turned back to the demon.
“Gregory McHadley”, the demon pompously announced. “This is where you die.”
Like hell I will! He wanted to scream it out loud, but just didn’t for some reason. Since the demon could read minds anyway, he figured it didn’t matter.
The key to fighting a mind-reader, someone had once told him; was to try to think of something else at the same time. No one could do something like fighting without thinking of it of course, so the trick was essentially to try and spam the mind-reader with as many other thoughts as possible and hope that he wouldn’t be able to keep them apart from the important ones.
The demon raised his hand, lit up with purple, and Gregory lifted his own hands to fire a stream of magic back at the beast. The streams collided in mid-air, slightly closer to the demon, and lit up the entire atrium with a puffing explosion of white. Rolling to the side, Gregory pulled the combat knife out of the holster inside his coat and charged up another stream of magic in his left hand. He heard the demon shriek inside the thin cloud of white smoke and knew he could not afford to wait with his counter-attack.
Running up to the demon; while trying hard to think of silly things like alarm clocks or nagging mothers, Gregory fired another stream of magic as soon as he got close enough to make out the demon’s figure. It hit the pale beast’s shoulder with a satisfying sizzling sound, accompanied by a low hiss. It was only now that Gregory realized that instead of square, white human teeth; the demon had rows of grey sharp teeth curving inwards.
Not even I can predict what effect my magic will have on his spells or skin, Gregory realized. You got too confident, you fuck.
Gregory jumped and twisted his body in mid-air to perform a relentless kick towards the demon’s left knee cap. Then immediately stabbed the knife downwards with both hands towards the demon’s wounded shoulder.
The kick proved fruitless, instead perfectly capturing the feeling of trying to full-power kick a concrete wall. The knife slid gently into the shoulder though. The demon’s flesh around that area felt like mushy pudding, with the skin being a dried layer on top.
Now pull out the knife, block his punch from the right, fire another beam at his face and stab the shit out of-… Oh crap.
The demon’s right fist stopped right before the elbow Gregory had raised to block it. Gregory let go of the knife, and threw his entire body back; away from the demon, but it was already too late. The demon twisted his entire body, and Gregory felt how an elbow crunched into his shoulder.
As he hit the fountain, Gregory’s second thoughts went back to overconfidence and the like. His first thoughts were primarily dedicated to whether his spine was still intact and the whole pain thing.
Well, this is ironic, he thought as he slid off the humongous fish that was constantly spewing out water and hit the thin surface of water that was still left in the broken fountain. At that moment, he felt a lot like dedicating a whole post in his blog to how deep the hatred was that he harbored towards mind-readers.
As he tried to stand, he realized that something was most likely broken. He could not feel or move any of the fingers on his right hand; instead it slowly felt like an immense pain was building up starting in the back of the hand.
That cannot possibly be good.
He managed to get into a standing position using his back against the fountain rather than his hand. About ten meters away now, the demon pulled the knife out of his shoulder and dropped it to the ground.
Charging up more energy in his left hand, Gregory opened his mouth and gave the demon a smile. He felt how a drop of blood from his bleeding lip rolled down the cheek. Awesome, I must totally be looking like an anime protagonist right now.
Gregory raised his left hand and fired a stream of white light towards his opponent. He cut off the stream half-way to conserve some energy for the upcoming charge, which was way harder than it seemed.
You could say I have a hard time not blowing my load early… Shit, don’t think about that. It’s weird enough telling people that I fire “white streams”. Shut up! Shit, how could you think about stuff like that at a time like this?
The demon dodged the stream of energy with ease, and got into another sprinting position. To Gregory’s amusement, he could see how the demon raised an eyebrow at his weird thoughts. As the demon’s explosive speed brought him to the fountain, Gregory fired another beam towards him where he thought he might appear, which the beast also dodged. As the demon jumped over a broken bench and landed in the thin layer of water mixed with blood on the floor with a splash, Gregory lowered his arm. This really is it, huh.
And then a stream of beige powder covered the demon from above. Gregory saw how him stop moments before with a surprised look on his face. Looking up, Gregory saw a teenage girl with a fire extinguisher in her hands on the second floor. She somehow managed to look excited and frightened out of her mind at the same time.
Can he only read the minds of one person at a time? Or is his concentration breaking down? Either way, he-… Gregory cut off his train of thought and started thinking of strawberry jam instead. Chances were the demon currently had no idea what he had just been hit with, and he would have to read the mind of the girl in order to find out exactly what it did. Gregory jumped out of the fountain, stumbling over the edge, and started sprinting for Noah’s body. There was little time to think of anything better, but if he could just get to one of Noah’s magical hand grenades, he might be able to stun the demon again for long enough to kill him.
A sizzling sound behind him unfortunately revealed to him that his plan was not exactly working out as he had hoped. Gregory threw himself to the side, landing on his broken arm, and saw how the purple light passed him where he had been a moment earlier. Then he saw the purple beam stop in mid-air, and he knew he was screwed. There was no time to charge up any magic. No time to dodge. It was all over.
But when he tried to roll to the side anyway, he saw how the demon, with a gloating smile stretched across his face; which was also covered in beige chemicals, got his head smashed in by a fire extinguisher. In the hands of the teenage girl. Who had just jumped from the floor above. Gregory hoped that he looked even half as badass every time he did something like that.
Above him, the purple light dissipated with a low, crackling sound. Gregory rolled over to his knees again, and started crawling towards Noah’s body. Reaching into his dead partner-in-justice’s pocket, he immediately found what he was looking for.
I have to save her, I can’t let more people die because of me…
Gregory stood and, clutching the grenade in his left hand, filled his hand with magic which he poured into the grenade. The small glowing symbols on it lit up with a bright, white light instead of the usual faint, green glow. In the corner of the eye, he saw something move inside a shop through a shattered window, but he forced himself not to think of it. This will work. This will definitely work. There is no doubt about it, Gregory forced himself to repeat inside his head.
“Stop!”, he screamed, fully aware of the uncool voice-crack. That tended to happen after he stayed quiet for too long.
The demon looked at him, the fingers of his right hand forcefully wrapped around the girl’s neck. She was struggling to escape his grip, but to no avail.
This will work. This will kill him. This will kill you, you fucker.
“Let go of her, right this instant!”
Gregory looked at the demon, right into his grey eyes, and the demon looked at him. His face was impossible to read, although Gregory could make several guesses at what he was thinking. For a few seconds, they stood like that, and then the demon smiled.
“You’re bluffi-…”, he started right before he got a steel spear thrown through his right arm. Several glowing symbols were carved into the spear, and the demon froze, then howled in pain. All the muscles in the demon’s arm relaxed for a moment, and the girl undid herself from the demons grip.
“Run!”, shouted Rita as she raised her arm and fired a dozen glowing metal arrows at the demon through the broken shop window. Beside her, the long-faced man discharged his gun several times at the demon, some of the shots hitting him in the face and temporarily blinding him.
The teenage girl rolled to her feet and started running, towards Gregory. Once Gregory assumed her to be out of deadly range, he tapped one of the symbols on the grenade with his index finger and then threw it. What followed was a strong explosion of white light.
The elite squad, with several capable demon sealers in the front, arrived soon thereafter. While the hand grenade charged with Gregory’s magic had undone all the paralysis and other spells set to the demon, it had still wounded it badly and disrupted its ability to read minds. The reinforcements were able to, with the assistance of the present operatives, easily subdue the demon and seal it with no further problems or causalities. As always, that bastard Ren Armant, from the Sealing Department, knew exactly how cool he looked when he performed those gestures during a demon sealing ritual.
Sitting in the temporary medical tent, Gregory and Rita were both tended to by Roger Dane, a very skilled magical healer. On other beds in the tent, wounded mortals were being healed by other sorcerers. Thierry had just confirmed over the mission-com that a mind-wipe team was on its way to see to that the knowledge of magic wouldn’t be revealed to the world. A huge time-slowing barrier had already been set up around the western district of Kingston to make things easier. The hardest part to deal with were mortals who had filmed the events, or sent text messages to their friends about the situation. Often, the best thing the mind-wipe team could achieve after an event of this grade was to explain the whole thing as a terrorist attack or a gas leak. Any reporters trying to dig any further into it would be mind-wiped and silenced.
“I’m glad you managed to play along, Greg. It really gave us the time to prepare our counter-attack”, Rita said after Dane was finished healing her knee. It had looked really painful.
“I didn’t even know what you were doing until the last few seconds. From that point onward, I just tried to make it seem like I was hiding my uncertainty about the bomb”, Gregory said with a shrug.
Dane was now preparing to heal his broken lip since all of their more serious wounds had already been taken care of. Even though there were plenty of more seriously wounded mortals, the sorcerers got prioritized in this situation. It kind of disgusted Gregory in a way, but everyone around him had come to see it as normal since long ago.
“Well, to be fair. I was knocked out for a little while there, Belck only managed to wake me up as that brave girl distracted the demon with the fire extinguisher”, Rita admitted with a faint smile on her lips. She was trying to pretend like nothing, he had seen it before. But no matter how experienced a monster hunter was, the death of an assigned partner usually hit hard. Gregory had experienced that himself after his first partner’s death.
Though, to be completely fair, he wasn’t entirely sure that he wasn’t pretending like nothing either. Noah’s death had shaken him quite hard. Not that he would ever admit that to anyone else, or himself for that matter.
Dane lowered his hands from Gregory’s face and smiled. Getting healed always felt weird, like feeling the contraction of the muscles without doing anything, but it always felt extra weird when performed by someone who actually enjoyed it.
“All better now, aye?”, he said in a creepingly endearing way. “If you get hurt again just come to me.”
If this was in a manga, Gregory was pretty sure Dane would end all of his sentences about wounds with a “<3” emoticon.
Gregory touched his own lip, first with his tongue and then with his hand. It felt like normal, and except for a faint, stinging sensation he could barely tell where the wound had been. Gregory stood up, using his hands to get off the bed. His right hand still ached a lot, but the pain was nothing compared to before.
“Where are you going, Greg?”, Rita asked, looking somewhat confused.
“I’m just gonna try and find a public restroom.”
Gregory grabbed his coat of a small foldable table, but it was still soaked with water from all that rolling around the floor. On a second thought, he left it on the table and exited the tent. Outside, grey-dressed MEDNA operatives and other sorcerers were standing around everywhere. A few other tents had been set up outside the mall. Outside one of the tents, two sorcerers were struggling to control a mortal who refused to stand in a group with the other civilians that were just now being brought out of the mall. A third sorceress, her name was Lauren Caithness, made her way through the crowd with glowing hands, with which she grabbed the mortals face. The mortal’s body immediately went limp in the other sorcerers’ arms, and Gregory saw how his eyes rolled back into his head.
“Gregory, are you alright? I heard you were sent to the medical tent…”, Lauren asked Gregory as he walked by her. Behind her, the two sorcerers carried of the mortal’s now unconscious body.
“Everything’s fine, Lauren”, Gregory assured her. “We’ll talk later, I gotta find a restroom.”
As he continued to walk towards the entrance of the mall, he saw multiple body bags lying in front of the building. And how even more were being carried outside by a handful of sorcerers. He silently wondered in which one Noah was.
When he came up to the glass doors and stared into his own, faint reflection in the dark glass, he realized it did actually look like he had just made it out an apocalypse or something like that. His white shirt was drenched in dried blood, almost none of it his own, and his face, although unharmed, looked much more troubled and grieving than he had thought. Stopping before the glass door, he took a moment to fix his hair and revert back to the usual expressionless face he liked wearing.
Entering the mall, it took him only a moment to find the person he had failed to locate outside. Walking up to her, he actually put on a faint smile.
“You said you wanted to talk.”
Audrey looked up at him. She had been sitting on the bench when he had been taken to the healers, and he assumed she hadn’t moved at all since then. She had seemingly been doing nothing but staring forward into the shattered shop window on the other side of the atrium.
“Yes, I did”, she responded somewhat quietly. She looked… Not nervous, but confused? Well, who wouldn’t be?
“Your name was Audrey, right?”, Gregory asked carefully, and was ready to tear up his lip with his teeth again if he somehow got that wrong. He was pretty sure he had a grand aunt named Audrey somewhere.
“Yes”, she simply responded. Then she smiled. She was cute; there was no way Gregory could deny that. She had a petite build and auburn hair, and Gregory remembered how her green eyes had been burning with determination when she smashed that demon’s head in with a fire extinguisher.
“Are you sure you don’t wanna have a heal-… um, doctor look at your neck? Things like that could be pretty serious, y’know. Especially when you think of the-… uh, his strength.”
“Maybe later.” Audrey lowered her eyes, looking down at her feet instead of at Gregory. “And don’t bother pretending. All of this is real, right?”, she added after a few seconds.
“…Yeah. It is,” he admitted. He sat down beside her on the bench, ever so carefully. “…Pretty amazing, isn’t it?”
A moment of silence followed, and Gregory turned his head to look at Audrey. He saw a faint nod, so he reckoned she agreed. How nostalgic, he still remembered the first time he had found out there was a whole world of magic to be explored… Oh shit.
“…You’re afraid, aren’t you? That all of this will be taken from you.”
Audrey turned towards him. Gregory could see how tears were starting to form in her eyes.
“I overheard them talking. They said they would wipe the minds of all the mortals”, she finally said. And Gregory understood how she felt. It was not fear of having someone poke around in your mind, but the endless regret that would come with the realization that the amazing dream turned out to be real; and that you would get to experience none of it.
Gregory chewed on his lip, trying to think of something to say. Trying to think of something to do, but nothing came to his mind.
“You knew, didn’t you?”, Audrey asked and Gregory saw how tears were rolling down her cheeks now.
“I’m sorry”, was all he could give her as a response. He hadn’t known her for more than an hour, yet he felt heartbroken over those words. He immediately regretted saying it, it was like he had sealed the conversation; trapped it in a pit with the only way out being the inevitable…
She looked away again, and Gregory looked down at his shoes. He knew what she wanted to ask, because he had been there. Why are you keeping this from us? He had no good answer.
They sat there for another few minutes. Audrey asked the inevitable question and Gregory simply shook his head. He felt like he owed her something, just something for saving his life. Something for doing what he failed to do on that night so many years ago now… But he couldn’t.
And then the mind-wipe mages arrived. Gregory slowly rose as one of them; Gregory couldn’t care less about his name, entered the mall and walked up to the bench. Walking beside him was Will Thierry, a tall, charismatic man with a lot of beard and little time for small-talk.
Usually, at least.
“Gregory, I heard about London. I just want to express my deepest sorrow for his death. He was a good man.”
Gregory nodded, his face etched in stone.
Thierry tilted his head slightly at Gregory’s laconic behavior. Then patted him on the back.
“It’s likely that you six managed to prevent the deaths of at least another 20-30 civilians. Only the fact that you managed to defeat such a high-rank demon is admirable. This is going to look nice on your record, McHadley.”
“Thank you, sir”, Gregory simply answered. Audrey had stopped talking to the mind-wiper behind him, and he was afraid to look back.
Thierry gave a faint smile, one of the only times Gregory had seen him smile before, and turned to go back outside through the glass doors. Gregory hesitated, then followed him.
Gregory froze when he heard Audrey’s voice. Before him, he could also see how Thierry slowed his steps.
It’s too dangerous. Please, no…
Stop, you’re gonna die… I’ve seen it happen so many times…
“Why don’t you want me to-…?”, he heard how she started and he knew what she was gonna say. She didn’t sound like she was crying anymore.
“Why don’t you want me to know about all of this?”
“It’s…”, he started, but he couldn’t find the words to express it. It didn’t seem fair. She already had much more experience as a monster hunter than he had when he had first started. He still hadn’t turned to face her, because he was pretty sure he could not look her straight in the eyes.
“Mortals who know about magic have a much lower life expectancy than normal mortals. Especially since most of them are spouses to a sorcerer or sorceress, they are commonly targets during wars or by more intelligent demons that have gotten away from monster hunters”, Thierry explained in his harsh way. But Gregory knew that he had nothing against her, or mortals in general, it was just juridical matters.
“Mortals are also in danger, even if they are unaware! Just look at what happened here today!”
“Surely you must realize that we sorcerers are so few that the sorcerer to mortal death ratio today is still way-…”
“Commander Thierry, sir!”
Thierry turned his eyes towards Gregory.
“Forgive my selfish decision, sir! I am invoking the 1943 Relationship Act, please do not mind-wipe Audrey!”
Thierry looked surprised, then smiled again. This better not become a habit of his.
“Roger that”, he laughingly said. “Loburn, let’s leave. There are lots of other minds to wipe.”
As the two sorcerers left through the glass doors, Gregory fell to his knees. Behind him, he heard how Audrey approached. He felt her fingers tap his shoulder and he frowned.
“…You have no idea what you’ve just gotten yourself into.”
I've written 2 more stories in the same universe, which I will try to post...
Any and all criticism is much wanted. Thank you in advance!