General Fiction posted January 24, 2017

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A day in the life of a demon hunter

Soldier of the Empty Tomb

by McCat

Hell found me. Granted, I wasn't exactly hiding. I lounged on my bench in Central Park, sipping a frappe and watching the air in front of me. First it shimmered, then rippled, and finally it slid away, as if someone were opening a curtain. Behind said curtain there appeared the black and gold door that led to Hades, and from it stepped one of the most handsome men I had ever seen.

His eyes were always the first thing I noticed. They matched the colors of the door and glowed like the embers of a fire. His long black hair hung in a glossy braid down to his hips and he was dressed in a pair of work worn Wrangler blue jeans and hiking boots. He didn't wear a shirt, but by now I was used to the sight of his bronze chest decorated with only a bandolier of wicked looking knives.

"Clara," he said in way of a greeting.

"Terence," I returned.

"You know why I'm here?"

He phrased it like a question, but we both knew he wouldn't have found me if it hadn't been allowed. I finished my coffee, flipping the empty cup into a nearby receptacle, and played off his query.

"Did the boss man send you after me?"

"He's been longing to speak with you."

Terence's voice was always so monotonous and deadpan. I often wondered if he had ever felt any kind of emotion. Probably not. Demons weren't exactly emotional types.

"I hope he's not expecting a pleasant conversation between friends," I said, casually crossing my legs, "because I'm really not in the mood for devilish small talk."

"If you do not come willingly, my orders are to take you by force."

"Oh please, let's not resort to violence. I'm saving that for later."

Was it my imagination, or did Terence almost smile? Considering the possibility of such a demonic anomaly, I followed Terence through the foreboding door and into the depths of Hell. He led the way toward Lucifer's residence.

Not that I really needed anyone to show me around. I had been here more times than I cared to count. Once would have been more than I cared to count, but I had ventured in numerous times on various missions. The demons weren't going to fight themselves, after all.

It had been on one such journey to Hell that I had met Terence. As a Soldier of the Empty Tomb, I had been sent to find and destroy a group of demons plotting to spiritually eliminate a small town in rural Idaho. That particular mission hadn't been scheduled to take me to the land of the fiery lake, but the leader of these demons- a well built, college-aged-looking fellow who called himself Trust- had fled through the door before I could catch him.

After performing the hour long process it took for one of God's human soldiers to open the door, I stepped through with the knowledge that Trust was long gone and I would probably never catch him. I looked around. In the tremendously humid heat that passed for a cool day in Hell, I saw a young-looking demon sitting in the dubious shade of a flaming tree. He would be no help. Demons hated humans like me. I looked to the ground for any sign of Trust's passage.

"You're not going to find him that way," said a smooth but emotionless voice.

I whipped my head up and searched for the speaker, but the only other being around was the demon.

"What did you say?"

The gorgeous demon watched me with glowing golden eyes whose pupils seemed like voids of darkness.

"As soon as Trust set one foot through the door he began flying. He appeared to be terrified, I'm assuming of you."

It was definitely the demon addressing me. This, combined with his flawless appearance, had me a little terrified myself. Trying to keep my exterior calm, I searched until I managed to find a lone footprint that I judged to belong to Trust. It was the same Nike imprint he had been leaving as I was chasing him on Earth. Judging from the deep pressure on the toe and the angle of the print, Trust had indeed taken off flying, seemingly in a southwestern direction. I began walking.

"That would be the wrong direction, Clara," said the demon behind me.

I was startled he knew who I was, but I continued on.

"For all your deceitfulness," I called over my shoulder, "a demon rarely betrays another demon. That you say I am going the wrong way confirms I am right."

I heard him stand up, and I had a sudden fear that he would throw one of the knives I had seen him wearing. I spun around just in time to see him fling a long dagger in my direction. Out of instinct, I ducked and swung my left arm in front of me, triggering my shield. The great blue, gold and white defensive weapon appeared on my arm, able to protect me from even the hottest dragon's breath or the sharpest enchanted sword. A dagger stood no chance.

As it turned out, the dagger wouldn't have hit me in the first place. I watched as the glinting weapon sailed by at least eighteen inches wide. It sank harmlessly into the grass off my left shoulder. I peeked around the edge of my shield to see what would happen next. The handsome demon was casually walking toward me, his hands in the pockets of his blue jeans. I began to back away.

Before my first step had made contact with the ground, the demon rushed me. He wrapped his right hand around the lip of my shield and flung it and myself several feet behind him. He turned around and stood watching me with his hands on his hips. He was fast.

"As you yourself just stated," he said, "demons are deceitful."

He reached down and pulled his dagger from the ground. Stuck to the blade was an object I failed to recognize. The demon read the confusion on my face, and he explained.

"This is the heart of a Gaia. Gaia eat anything and anyone. Trust was counting on your going this direction."

The demon tugged the so-called heart off his dagger and crushed it to dust in his hand. I watched in terror. This sort of behavior was not typical for a demon; it was completely antonymous. Saving me? I needed to get away before this came to a head.

"I don't come here often enough to have gotten acquainted with the wildlife," I said. I cautiously attempted to stand and the demon made no move to stop me.

"And yet the wildlife seems to know you quite well, demon hunter. Not the mindless creatures like Gaia or Ofuus, mind you. Your prey. The demons of Hell. We all know your name, Clara, and many of us despise you. Others admire your skill and want to test your mettle."

I was working up the courage to run for the door, which the demon had kindly moved me closer to.

"And where do you factor?" I asked, stalling for time. "You've just saved me from being swallowed by a Gaia."

"I'm in the camp that admires you. I helped Trust open the door so you would be forced to follow him."

This was not good. If a demon challenged a Soldier, it meant they were very strong, and quite possibly bored. Recalling the ease with which this one had thrown me behind him, one-handed no less, I doubted my chances of returning to Earth.

"My name is Terence," the demon continued, "and I hereby challenge you, demon hunter, to fight me and fall at my hand."

Back in real time, I giggled at the memory of Terence's introduction. Demons were big on formality in business dealings, and therefore the statement of one's name was highly critical. However, the name "Terence", while a fine name in its own right, was not the sort of thing that inspired fear in one's enemies. Then again, my reply had been less than intimidating as well.

"My name is Clara Matthews," I responded, "and I am terrified of you. I call upon my Father to arm me as He sees fit, and I steel myself to accept your challenge."

While the sight of armor appearing around your body and a deadly sword materializing in your hand is truly something to behold, it kind of fails the par when compared to a demon's transformation. It seemed Terence was going all out for this battle.

His jeans tore, Incredible Hulk style, as his legs changed to those of an enormous cheetah. He sprouted a pair of terribly sharp oryx horns from his scalp and the fistful of knives he grabbed with each hand morphed into sets of wicked, six inch claws. To top off the whole ensemble he grew a long monkey tail tipped with spikes like a stegosaurus'. His chest and arms remained the same, though maybe a tad bulkier, and he snarled at me, revealing his fangs.

I tried to remember details from the battle as I followed Terence along a path that cut through a sea of gently waving ferns made of ash. It seemed all that came to mind were flashes from slashing metal and terrifying images of sharp demon appendages getting a little too close for comfort. One moment was clearly set in my mind as I pressed my shield against Terence's horns while using my sword to cut off the threatening end of his tail. I shuddered at the memory of the black blood that had run from his wounds. Gross.

Terence looked back at me.

"You realize this may be your last hour alive," he said.

"You know I wouldn't have come here if I didn't have to; Luci doesn't scare me, though."

"Even some of the most powerful of demons fear him, Clara. You should not act with rash bravado."

"It's not rash bravado, Terence. I have the backpack, remember?"

The backpack was how I had managed to best him.

"Okay, this isn't going well," I grunted as Terence rammed into my shield.

"Of course not," the demon said blandly. "Humans are no match for demons such as I."

"I'm not your average human, goat breath."

I shoved him away as hard as I could and we stood facing each other. I had scored several cuts across his chest and legs, and his tail was seeping blood at an alarming rate, but demon hunter or not, I was wearing down. Soldier armor protected us from slashing and piercing attacks, but we still took damage from the force of the blows. If we got hit hard enough, internal bleeding wasn't as uncommon as I would like. I was losing the strength to wield my sword.

"Dad," I panted, "this demon is too strong and I doubt my chance of success. Please send me some help."

I felt a weight materialize on my back. Looking over my shoulder I saw that I was now wearing a silver and white backpack that matched my armor.

"Okay," I said, still addressing God, "but how does it work?"

"The backpack will do you no good against Our Lord, the Bright Morning Star. Only the presence of he who creates can even hope to challenge the One Who Destroys in Glory. You have no chance."

"Unless maybe you misunderstand how the backpack works."

The backpack sprouted metallic wings and carried me into the sky. I heard the sound of sliding metal plates behind me and in an instant the landscape before me was bathed in a bright light. The fiery and ashen ground, for a solitary moment, was lush and green. Terence grunted harshly as he was forced to return to his previous dazzling state, and his eyes seemed to glow a little brighter. I slowly was returned to the ground, and the backpack disappeared.

"The backpack is a mirror of the presence of he who creates. Exposure to it destroyed some of my demonic powers, and each time I am around it I lose more, but it will not even phase the Bright Star of the Fiery Kingdom."

"If you say so."

My eyes wandered across the landscape, taking in fire and smoke everywhere I looked. I had never found Trust after my battle with Terence, but use of the backpack had granted me a powerful ally. I had called upon Terence's help on several later trips to Hell. At first he would only subdue to the unseen threat of the backpack, but each time I saw him, he was more and more compliant, until the mere sound of my footfall would bring him to my side. Since this could be my last time seeing Terence (I was going to see the great Lucifer for crying out loud, what were my chances?), I decided to ask him why he had become so loyal.

His answer was slow in coming.

"The backpack has changed me," he finally said. "At first it was simply the loss of power, but the more exposure I received, the more I also realized I was losing the desire to do evil. Before too long, I felt it was my duty to protect and help you on your missions through Our Glorious Land of Flame."

"But if you've lost the desire to do evil, why do you still live under Lucifer?"

"While my powers are no longer demonic, I am yet a demon. I am still allegiant to the Grand Ruler of the Damned, even if I find myself driven to protect you."

Terence then grew silent and kept any further reply to himself, for we had arrived at Lucifer's front door. It swung open on its own and we entered a grand lobby. A sign, erected delicately on an ornate coffee table, read "Demon hunters to the right". Terence and I turned right and entered the only door on that side of the room.

Lucifer sat in a plush leather office chair behind a desk of charred mahogany. His fingers were steepled and he smiled as I entered the room. Luci was the only demon who was known to openly show emotion.

"Clara," he said, "so good of you to come by."

I said nothing, taking in the appearance of this fabled fallen angel. He was gorgeous, even more so than Terence. His creamy blond hair fell to his shoulders in a soft wave and his skin seemed to glow an attractive shade of olive. His smile was perfect, filled with flawless white teeth, and his eyes were an enrapturing hazel.

Unfazed by my stoic attitude, he continued.

"It seems that you have visited Hell a greater number of times than most demon hunters your age. Why is that, do you think?"

I continued my silent facade, listening to his dark, honey-like voice.

"The answer is simple, really. It is because you're a threat, and I needed to dispose of you. The more you visited Hell, the more careless you would become, thinking you knew your environment, until eventually you could be captured and brought under my justice."

I glanced at Terence who had moved to stand against the wall. Lucifer thought Terence had forcefully captured me in Hell, but my deadpan friend had found me on Earth and warned me Luci was after me.

Lucifer caught my look and misunderstood.

"Yes, he was working for me. All demons work for me. Feel tricked? Hello, I'm the father of lies. Deal with it."

"That's why I'm here, Luci- to deal with it."

"Please don't call me 'Luci'," the demon said darkly.

I winked at him cheekily, though I was scared to the bone. I prayed for the plan to time out.

It did. My demon defeating backpack appeared and it flew me into the air. I heard the tell-tale sound of sliding metal plates and watched as the light, stronger than ever before, flooded from behind me. Maybe my backpack was just a mirror, but some mirrors go two ways.

A voice emanated from my backpack. It spoke a language I recognized, but couldn't seem to understand. The voice itself was as soothing as a winding brook, but as terrifying as a tropical hurricane; quiet, and deafeningly loud. I wanted to melt into its comfort and yet run from its awesome might as it addressed the lord of the demons.

I closed my eyes and hugged myself as my mechanical wings kept me aloft. I was hearing the voice of my Creator. I was paralyzed in awe, and when a pair of strong arms wrapped around me I simply let them carry me down to the floor. Finally the voice died down to a whisper and it said my name.

"Clara," I heard, "thank you. Without your commitment to this task, Terence never would have been rescued. He was the true purpose of this mission. Lucifer had trapped him in Hell, and without him you were much more vulnerable to spiritual attack."

"I... I'm confused," I forced myself to whimper, terrified and yet overjoyed to hear my celestial Father speaking to me. "Who... who i... who is Terence that Lucifer would trap him in order to trap me?"

"Oh my sweet Clara," God said, "he was your guardian angel, but trapped away from me he began to change. I gave you the backpack so he could become himself again."

"But what about Lucifer?" I asked. "When the backpack disappears, won't he attack and capture us both?"

"Clara, the backpack is just a weapon built from what is in your heart. Wherever you go I will be there to protect you. And this attack will not leave poor Lucifer unscathed. No longer does he have the power to trap his old companions. You have done well, my faithful and precious child."

Just like that the light disappeared and the weight of my backpack vanished. Even though my eyes had been closed throughout the whole interaction, I could see nothing, and all I felt were strong arms carrying me to the sound of flapping wings.

My sight returned as Terence landed by the great Hades door. I could blearily see two white, feathered wings fold up and disappear into his back as he set me on the ground. He seemed to be different in other ways, too. I took a careful look at him as we crossed the threshold. Terence had opened the door on to the street I lived on in Colorado instead of at Central Park. There, in the autumn sunlight, I could see just how he was different.

Most noticeably he was wearing a shirt, a fetching green Polo that accented his new emerald eyes. His bandolier of knives had been replaced with a sturdy belt and a diamond encrusted scabbard. The sword the scabbard belonged to was at rest in his right hand, a beautiful blade surrounded by orange flames. His work worn jeans and boots remained the same.

"This explains my urge to protect you," he said, half to himself. His deadpan manner of speech also remained unchanged.

I nodded agreement to his statement and set off down the street toward my apartment. I needed a good long nap and some ice cream. The new and improved Terence expertly sheathed his sword and vanished into thin air. I wasn't worried. He would be there if I needed him, as he had even as a demon.

No sooner had the door to my apartment closed then I was asleep on my couch, snoring away aches and pains until Hell would find me again.

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