Part 2- The Storm
I stand with my back pressed against the rough wood of the storage shed, a hatchet grasped firmly in my hands—Walter had left it lodged in the chopping block after his previous log-chopping session. I've always scolded Walter for his absentmindedness, but today I am grateful for it.
I’m only a short distance from the house, the shed keeping me hidden. I peek around the corner at the house and see one demon at the front door, two out back, and a quick glimpse of one in the window. I total them in my head; I don’t know how many are actually in the house, but I’m dealing with four at least.
Take out the one at the front first, then the two in the back.
I shake my head. No, that won’t work. Attacking the ones on the outside will draw the attention of the ones on the inside; they’ll overcome me, no problem. Besides, I can’t take on more than one at a time.
An idea sparks in my mind. I need to lure them away from the house and methodically pick them off one by one.
I pick up a rock from the gravel beneath me and throw it as hard as I can. It strikes a tree nestled to the rear of the house, rustling the leaves. The noise grabs the attention of the demons at the front door, and they both start towards it. I stomp my feet on the ground and bang a fist against the shed wall. The demons halt their progress and turn towards the new racket. They move in my direction. I cease the commotion and throw another rock at the tree. It hits its mark again. The demons stop and look around, confused. Finally, they diverge, one heading for the tree and one heading towards me. Perfect.
I steady my breathing and ready the hatchet, arms raised to strike. I hear the demon approaching, slithering along the ground like a snake. It moves silently, save for the sucking noise it makes. I readjust my grip. The hell-spawn rounds the corner of the shed. I swing the hatchet down.
It’s a perfect hit. The sharp blade of the hatchet cuts cleanly through the demon’s body, slicing it completely in half. It doesn’t even have time to scream. Ebony blood sprays from the wound and soaks my clothing, but I am unfazed. You brought this upon yourself.
The pungent smell hits me and I gag, plugging my nose with my hand. I glance at the head of the hatchet; it’s covered in the dark sticky substance. My stomach lurches at the thought of what I am about to do, and it takes everything in me not to vomit. Carefully, I wipe the blade across my garments, staining them black. The stench is nauseating and makes my eyes water, but it completely masks my own scent. As far as I can tell, the demons rely on scent and sound to stalk their prey; if I’m quiet, I should be able to sneak up on them.
The second demon is back at the house. It shifts its body around as if searching for something; it’s now-dead comrade, most likely. I take up my hatchet in both hands, breathing through my mouth to keep from smelling anything. I stomp my feet and knock on the wooden shed walls with the hatchet, the clamour drawing the attention of the second demon. It whirls towards me and takes off, slipping soundlessly across the gravel. I duck back around the corner of the shed and wait.
Seconds tick by, and still I wait. Minutes pass. There is no sign of the hellish creature. Confused, I glance back around the corner of the shed.
The demon leaps at me, and I slash wildly with the hatchet. My reflexes surprise me, and I get in a good slash across the hell-spawn’s body. It shrieks in pain and rage. I jump back, distancing myself from the demon. It hisses and spits at me, blood dripping from the gash in its back. I make the first move this time, launching myself forward and swinging the hatchet. The creature tries to dodge, but I am too fast. I slam the hatchet down and slice the demon in two, blood spraying everywhere. It splashes on my bare skin, and I grit my teeth in pain. I quickly wipe the blood away on the clean parts of my clothing, and the burning subsides a little. This kill wasn’t as clean as the last, but it would do in a pinch.
I peek back around the corner at the house. All clear. I take a deep breath and then dash out from my cover. I sprint across the yard to the house, pressing myself against the wall once I get there. I hold my breath and look around. The way is still clear. I release my breath and creep along the wall to the front of the house. I glance around the corner and see that the demon is still there, unaware of my presence. This should be easy.
I crouch and grab a small pebble, then throw it at the demon. It hisses and turns towards me; I duck out of view. Without looking, I toss another pebble around the corner, and then another, and another. The demon approaches me now; I hear its hisses growing louder, drawing closer. I ready the hatchet. When the demon rounds the corner, I swing the hatchet with all my might. It slices the hell-spawn clean in two. I smirk in satisfaction.
Turning the corner, I head for the front door, making sure to keep out of view of the windows. I crouch in front of the door and peek through the massive hole the demons made when they first invaded. There’s a few creatures milling about inside.
One… two… three… four… five.
Five demons on the inside. I don’t know how I’ll get each of them on their own. They’re not completely daft; they wouldn’t leave the safety of the house for just anything. I’d have to take them all on at once.
My odds aren’t looking good. My grip on the hatchet tightens. My heart hammers away in my chest, threatening to burst free at any minute. Sweat dampens my palms and drips from my brow. I can hear the blood pounding in my head. I feel dizzy, nauseous. I can’t do this. I can’t. There’s no way—it’s impossible! I don’t want to die. Not here. Not now.
I see his lifeless eyes. I see the blood.
Walter was right: there is a storm coming.
And that storm is me.
I steel myself, then vault through the opening.
The demons whirl towards me as I enter. I stand upon the kitchen table, pushed against the door as a barricade. I raise my hatchet, and with an angry war cry, I leap from my perch, ready to rain death and destruction upon the demons who dared to cross me. Adrenaline crashes through my veins. My vision’s tinted red.
I swing the hatchet down and the demons scatter, hissing and sucking and grinding their teeth. My attack misses, striking an angry gash into the floorboards instead. I tear the hatchet free and fix the hell-spawns with an icy glare. “This is it. This is where we make our final stand.” I say, my voice low, threatening, “Only one of us will make it out of here alive.”
The demons form a circle around me. They creep closer, slowly converging on me. Despite the imminent danger, I smirk.
“And it sure as hell won’t be you!”
The demons leap. As they fly towards me, I duck. The hellish creatures collide in mid-air, just above my head. I slip out of harm’s way as the demons crash to the floor. Maybe in another time, in another place, I would have laughed, but now my heart knows no joy, only rage. I don’t give the hell-spawn any time to recover as I attack, swinging the hatchet wildly. Fury consumes me, blinds me. My assault is clumsy, uncalculated, and the demons evade easily.
My frustration grows. I grit my teeth, and with a mighty grunt, I slash at my adversaries with the force of a great typhoon. The blade misses its mark by mere centimetres, embedding itself deep into the wooden floor instead. My eyes narrow into slits as I attempt to yank the hatchet free, but despite my efforts, it doesn’t budge. The demons draw nearer, saliva dripping from their razor-sharp incisors. I give the hatchet one final desperate tug, then abandon it all together; it’s useless to me now.
One of the hellish creatures crouches in front of me, ready to attack. As it bounds forwards, I reach out and grab the closest thing to me—a rickety wooden chair—and swing it with all my might. It connects with the demon’s body, splintering on contact and sending my assailant flying backwards. The creature crashes into the far wall, then slides to the floor. It doesn’t move again.
I toss away the broken chair and take up another in my hands. I point it at the remaining demons. “You’re looking awfully tired today.” I say, my voice dripping with mock sympathy, “Here, why don’t you take a seat!”
With that, I launch forward. I slam the chair down across the closest demon’s body, breaking the wood against its back. It collapses to the floor in a heap. Before I can grab a new chair, another hell-spawn leaps at me. I smack it away with the broken chair, shouting, “Let’s chairs to this!”
My attack only stuns the demon, but it buys me more time to replace my broken weapon with a whole one. I finish the creature off with a swift blow across its back. With a smirk, I ask, “Are you satisfied with your chair?” The demon doesn’t reply.
Only two demons remain now. They approach me side-by-side. I reach for another chair, but there is none. I’ve broken them all already. All that remains is the old oak dining table. I shrug. Might as well give it a shot.
I grasp the edge of the table and heave upwards. It’s heavy, but I manage to get it off the ground. As the hell-spawns reach my position, I push the table over. It topples on top of them, squishing them with its great mass. I jump onto the table surface for reassurance; if they weren’t dead then, they definitely were now. I smirk and cross my arms across my chest. “Looks like the tables have turned.”
I step down from my perch and gaze upon the wreckage I’ve wrought. Broken furniture is strewn asunder, and the floor is littered with the corpses of my enemies. The carnage is satisfying.
That satisfaction is short lived.
I hear an angry hissing behind me, and I spin. Through the gaping hole in the door I see a horde of demons approaching; there are far too many to count. They slither across the sparse grass towards the house, screaming for my blood to be spilled. I want to stay. I want to fight. My heart burns with the desire for vengeance, but logic says that if I stay, I will die.
I don’t want to die. Not yet.
I have too much to live for.
I need to get out of here, and quickly. I remember the broken window in the bedroom and decide it’s my best bet for a smooth getaway. I turn my back to the door and hustle to the bedroom.
The atmosphere gets noticeably warmer as I near the rear of the house. I smell smoke. My eyes narrow in confusion. Why would there…?
I throw the bedroom door open.
Smoke pours from the room into the hallway. My eyes water and my body is wracked with coughs as the smoke fills my nose and my lungs. Scorching orange-red flames engulf the room, consuming the curtains, the rug, the end tables—anything to fuel the insatiable fire.
I slam the door shut—a useless thing to do, really. It is foolish of me to think that by closing the door I could contain the blaze to that room, but fear clouds my judgement. Where did this fire come from? Did the demons do this?
No, a voice inside me says, You did this.
The match. The barn. The flames.
They must be spreading to the rest of the yard, burning rapidly across the arid landscape. In just a few more minutes, they would consume the entire house. I don’t have much time to waste. I have to get out of here, have to go now. My life depends on it.
But where do I go? My only escape points are blocked by a raging inferno and a ravenous mass of hell-spawns. My best option is facing the demon horde—do I dare chance it?
Fire licks at the doorframe, its flaming fingers straining towards me. It looks like I have no choice.
I have to try.
I turn tail and run as the blaze engulfs the bedroom door, spreading rapidly to the hallway. It nips at my heels as I flee. Thick black smoke fills the house, obscuring my vision and making it hard to breathe. I press on, the flames chasing close behind.
I burst into the kitchen and my hearts stops. The room is bursting with demons, their ebony bodies writhing against each other. They surge for me as I barge through the doorway. I muster my courage and rush towards them.
I meet the throng head-on, my limbs flailing as I try to fight them off. Slime oozes from their bodies and coats my skin, stinging and burning me. I fight through the pain.
Suddenly, the demons stop dead in their tracks. I don’t need to look to know what has them so petrified; the fire has reached the kitchen. The hellish-creatures whirl around and swarm for the door, screeching as they clamber through the hole in the door and out of the house. They aren’t keen on dying either.
I move to follow, but a weight crashes into me from behind, knocking me to the floor. As I collide with the wooden planks, the air rushes from my lungs. I gasp and choke, struggling for air, but all I breathe in is smoke. I crane my head to catch a glimpse of the thing pinning me to the floor; apparently, some demons do have a death wish.
The creature hisses and digs its razor-like claws into my back. I shriek as they puncture my skin, needles of pain racing through my body. It rakes its claws down my back and the pain intensifies. Tears stream down my face and my throat is raw from screaming. The demon makes a weird clicking noise with its tongue; it sounds like laughter.
The flames have caught up to me by now. They consume the kitchen, burning away the furniture, the walls. The heat is stifling. It presses me from all sides, and sweat pours from my body. I struggle under the demonic creature’s weight, but I am weakened from lack of oxygen and unable to escape.
All I feel is pain. My back stings, my skin burns, and my lungs scream for air. Black spots appear in my vision, and it takes all of my willpower to keep my eyes open, to cling to consciousness when I want nothing more than to slip away, escape the pain in the black void of nothingness.
Don’t fight it. Sleep.
Give into the darkness. The pain will disappear.
Go on, close your eyes.
The room blurs around me, a mess of oranges and reds and greys. My eyelids droop. I’m tired…so, so tired… and the pain… it’s too much… for me… to bear…
My eyes close.
That voice… that voice isn’t my own. Whoever’s it is, they’re being too loud. I just want to sleep. Just for a moment…
I recognize that voice. Walter? No, that’s impossible. Walter… he’s—
Don’t you dare give up on me, Lizzie!
My eyes snap open.
I’m still in the kitchen. My entire surroundings are consumed by a raging inferno. Smoke fills my lungs, and my entire body screams in pain. I whip my head around, despite the protest from my aching muscles, searching the room. Walter?
But he isn’t there. He was never there. It was only a hallucination. It wasn’t real.
It was real enough for me.
I rest my forehead against the rough wooden floorboards and take deep, calming breaths, trying to get as much air and as little smoke into my lungs as I can. I brace my palms against the floor, my muscles tensing.
Don’t you dare give up on me, Lizzie!
Walter is right. I can’t give up. I refuse to give up. Not now, not after everything I’ve been through, everything that we’ve been through.
This place will not be my grave.
I grit my teeth and, using what little strength remains within me, I push myself up from the floor. I surge upwards and onto my knees, but the demon clings stubbornly to my back, digging its claws deeper into my skin. I bite back a scream. I need to shake this thing. But how?
I move before I can think, twisting my body around and throwing myself to the floor. I land hard on my back, crushing the demon between my body and the ground. The creature shrieks and loosens its grip. Hastily, I roll away, freeing myself from its grasp completely. I scramble to my feet and take off at a run, but something trips me and I crash to the floor. Claws dig painfully into my ankle; the demon refuses to give up as well. I almost admire it. Almost.
I kick at the hell-spawn’s hand, dislodging it from my ankle after a few shots. I bound to my feet and dash away. This time, nothing holds me back.
Flames dance across the doorway, but I still see the hole in the door, beckoning to me. I sprint towards it and dive through the opening. I emerge into bright sunlight, and fresh cool air surges around me. I hit the ground hard and tumble a few times before finally coming to a stop, my body screaming in pain through it all.
I lay with my back to the ground, my face to the sky. I greedily drink in the clean air, my lungs crying for that sweet, sweet oxygen. My heart beats erratically in my chest, and I lie there a moment and wait for it settle.
I did it. I really did it. I escaped.
Euphoria fills me; it spreads like a cool wave through my body, encompassing it in a pleasant tingling sensation. A grin breaks out across my face, and I can’t fight back the giggle that rises in my throat. I laugh. I laugh until I can’t breathe, until by diaphragm cramps and it hurts to laugh anymore. I can’t help it. It feels good to laugh.
My stomach heaves, and the feeling is gone. I slowly roll over onto my belly, and then climb to my hands and knees. I tip my head down and vomit. It’s painful, but I cannot stop myself.
It’s over soon, and I lean back on my knees. Exhaustion clouds my mind. All I want to do now is lie down and rest a while, but I know that this is not possible. To sleep now is to die. I’m not in the clear yet.
I shakily climb to my feel and set off again, away from the blazing homestead, away from the fear and the destruction and the pain.
I don’t look back.
I believe that it is only when faced with great adversity that we discover who we really are—not the person that we want to be, not the one that we envision in our mind’s eye, but the person that we have truly become.
The sun hangs low on the horizon, the sky ablaze with shades of orange. I sit atop a gentle hill and gaze out across the endless expanse of the prairies. It’s a peaceful scene, and I am almost able to forget the destruction I escaped from, the Hell I endured.
The pain is still there, the wound raw and bleeding out. Someone once told me that strength is born from heartbreak. If that’s the case, then why do I feel so weak?
I’ve had my fair share of adversity. I’ve tasted the thrill of certain death, the trepidation that comes with losing yourself in the darkness, and the relief of finding your salvation within its cold embrace. I’ve wrestled my demons and danced in the fires of Hell, and I’ve lived to tell the tale.
But I don’t want to pretend that I’m stronger for it all.
I’ve had everything I ever loved ripped away from me in an instant. I’ve seen my dreams go up in flames.
But revenge… revenge is all I haven’t lost.
What burns within my heart now are not dreams, because I will make them a reality. I am going to find whoever is responsible for the demon invasion, and I will make them pay for what they have done to me, to my family, to my home. By my hand, they will suffer, for that is who I truly am.
I am an avenger.