Chapter 3 – The Demon’s Arrival
Jet wasn’t sure when he had fallen asleep, but he knew he woke up at some time around one a.m. as a loud boom echoed throughout the bunker. His head bolted upright so violently he felt the hot pain of tired muscle pushed too far. He was on his stomach, with one arm laying over the side of the bed. Jet was still in the clothes he was wearing when he had started the movie, a white t-shirt dirty from night sweat, and blue striped pajama pants with no socks on.
A fog permeated Jet’s mind, unsure if he had really heard anything. The DVD menu continued to repeat incessantly on his television set and the clock on his DVD player revealed to Jet it was after midnight. Jet looked around the room in confusion, inspecting the scene and his clothes, as he tried to register what was going on.
“Paladin must have sealed the latch too tight…” Jet yawned, and then he began to roll over and lie more properly in bed. He’d let the television stay on, its glow comforting him.
Then there was another echoing crash throughout the bunker that rattled Jet into a seated position. Jet stared at his door as the noise continued, a loud grating noise of metal on metal like fingernails on a chalkboard, it only drowned out by a loud thumping. His eyes were wide as the noise seemed to get closer and closer until it was in the hall his room was in.
“Okay, maybe not Paladin,” Jet whispered to himself.
The screeching racket punctuated by booms grew closer and closer to Jet’s door. Jet looked around his room and picked up the DVD case of the romantic movie he just watched and held it like a weapon. The noise came to a deafening stop outside his room. With the dreadful grating noise gone, Jet could hear what sounded like a heavy panting noise, a deep guttural wheezing. Jet unconsciously counted the breaths of whatever it was outside his door as if that would help him in some way.
Then there was a grunt, and the screeching returned with loud thumps as whatever it was continued to move. Jet exhaled desperately, not even realizing he had held his breath for so long. Looking at his makeshift weapon, Jet rolled his eyes at himself and placed the DVD case on his bed. Getting out of bed gingerly, walking on his toes, Jet edged closer to his door. Whatever it was had moved further away from the door, but was still in the hall based on the way the noise was echoing Jet figured.
Jet very carefully placed his hand on the door handle, and then with sharp inhale he slowly opened the door. Looking through the small crack he created for himself Jet searched for the source of his current terror.
At the end of the hall, standing eight feet tall with its head almost touching the ceiling, was what Jet could only define as a monster. It seemed to be wearing a kind of dark thick overcoat that reached down to its feet. In its hand that was being dragged across the floor looked to be a long black cleaver that was almost the size of Jet. The creature’s skin was an off-yellow that seemed to have scales in certain places, underneath its ears, and along its neck. Jet could only see its back and wasn’t able to discern its face.
Then it stopped moving again, and its head began bobbing up and down like it was sniffing. It then turned its head to look over its shoulder slightly. Jet was then able to make out the details of its face, it’s blood-red eyes with black slit pupils, its snake-like slits for a nose, and its large open mouth with dagger-like teeth. Jet quickly shut the door and backed away, praying that he hadn’t been seen.
A large, terrifying roar resonated through the bunker.
“Well, crap,” Jet commented.
Acting on instinct, Jet locked the door to his room and backed up to his bed as the pounding and screeching noises intensified as it grew closer again. Jet looked around the room for resources, something he could use to fight this threat, but the only thing he could think would help him was in the gymnasium where he trained. The monster was between him and there, however, so Jet was trapped in his room.
The monster grew closer and closer to his room, and as Jet felt dread setting in, he looked and saw the DVD cover of the movie he had watched sitting on his bed. He stared at it longer than he should have until determination became his overriding emotion.
“I’m not going to let a romantic comedy be the last movie I watched,” Jet stated to himself.
As he continued to search, his gaze found its way to the roof, where he saw a grate he could fit through if he tried hard enough. Jet leaped from his bed and grasped the grate with one hand. Pulling up his other hand, he gripped tightly and tugged with all his upper body strength. The grate gave away easily, much to his surprise, and Jet fell back to his bed. He looked at the grate in his hands and the size of the screws, and while Jet knew one of his powers was strength he didn’t realize he was strong enough to tear metal.
There was a loud crash at his door, and Jet turned to see a large dent form in the large metal door. That snapped Jet back into the moment, and not hesitating anymore Jet leaped up again to the vent, and scrambling his whole body into motion he managed to pull himself upwards into the vent. It was a tight squeeze, with less than half a foot between him and the steel of the vent on either side of his shoulders. Nowhere else to go but forward, Jet began wiggling his way through the vent.
Shoulder over shoulder, Jet inch wormed his way through, as a loud bang echoed behind him. Jet looked over his shoulder for a moment back to the vent where he came from and heard the monster entering his room. He shuddered at the thought of the monster in his room. Then the monster roared again, and Jet remembered why he was fleeing in the first place.
“Man if that monster steps on any of my favourite movies I’ll rip him a…rip him a…something,” Jet remarked to himself as he continued to move forward, blanking on what exactly he wanted to rip that monster.
Reaching another grate, Jet pushed down with his hands and the grate popped off its screws fairly easily. Jet inched forward and down the hole, turning his fall into a controlled flip. He landed on the ground softly, being mindful of the monster. Seeing he was in one of the hallways, the one around the corner where the monster was originally turning, Jet quickly took a look down either direction of the hall, and then entered an all-out sprint towards the gym.
At times in the bunker, every hallway seemed identical, the steelwork of the walls, floor, and roof not doing much to distinguish themselves from other halls. It felt like running through a hamster maze at times, and even with Jet’s five years of experience in the bunker, that rapid sprint through the maze was a dizzying blur of grey metal. Jet trusted in his muscle memory as his bare feet slapped against the cold floor and he moved as fast as he could, trying hard to not let himself be turned around.
As he ran, the terrifying bellow of the monster echoed behind him and the pace of the monster’s footsteps quickened. As Jet reached one bend in the hallway, he skidded to a stop as his momentum almost carried him into the wall. Once he maintained his balance, Jet turned to keep running, but for a moment he gazed back the way he came to see the monster at the end of the hall. It stood there, sword still resting on the ground, huffing and growling at Jet, its facial features contorted downwards in what could only be described as an inhuman scowl.
“Um hey big guy,” Jet commented, talking over the terror lest it controlled and seized him. “Do you…do you want a dog treat or something?”
An awkward silence followed, the monster still huffed angrily at Jet and Jet continued to stare at in terror.
“I mean, I don’t think we have any dog treats, but you’re definitely not a person so I don’t feel comfortable offering you real people food, I wouldn’t want you forming any bad habits, you know?” Jet rambled.
Then the monster roared and broke into a run towards Jet. Jet yipped in response and his feet kicked into motion as he sprinted as fast as he could towards the gym. He didn’t look back again, didn’t want to deal with the reality of the moment. The loud terrifying thumping and screeching of the monster’s run chased Jet down the hall. Taking one last right at another turn, Jet ran the last short distance into the gym.
He pushed the large double doors open and then threw them shut quickly. The monster grew closer, and Jet quickly sealed the door by closing the latches at the top and bottom of the door. Just when Jet thought he had given himself a moment to breathe, the doors almost blew off their hinges as the monster rammed into it.
Jet jumped backward in surprise and horror. The doors rattled as the monster pushed on them, and Jet noticed the latches wouldn’t hold. Backing away from the door, Jet ran to his sword. Right where Paladin had left it, his sword called to Jet. Jet grabbed it and spun around.
Standing at the opposite end of the doors in the large gymnasium space he and Paladin had been using for training Jet quickly glanced around the room. All of the equipment, tables, and everything else they used for training had already been pushed off to the side for their last skirmish. That left a lot of empty room between him and the monster, it would be a lot of room to maneuver and he would have to try and take advantage of it. Even though the lights were dim, the monster seemed to rely on a sense of smell, Jet had noticed, so he wouldn’t be able to use that against the monster. It was going to be as straight up a fight as Jet ever had with Paladin. Only there wouldn’t be ring outs or knockouts. This was do or die.
Bringing his sword into a fighting stance, Jet let out a cool breath as he thought about all of Paladin’s training. Ready or not it was time to put it to the test.
“Let’s dance, ugly,” Jet said as he watched the monster.
With a final push, the monster knocked the door off its hinges as it roared. It let out a second roar as it stormed into the room and began to move towards Jet.
“Come on!” Jet yelled, and he charged at the monster.
The monster returned the charge, and for the first time Jet could see its short, almost stubby legs pump furiously to carry its giant mass. Its large claws brought the sword up into a position to swing at Jet, the nature of the attack easily telegraphed. Jet held up his sword vertically, his hands high in the air and his blade pointed down and blocked the attack as the monster swung in with a wide arc. The block protected Jet from being cut in half, but the strength of the monster sent Jet reeling backward as his arms flailed.
Jet quickly chastised himself, realizing he shouldn’t have tried to block an attack from an opponent obviously stronger than himself. Then Jet quickly looked back to the monster and saw it was already upon him. The monster raised its sword up high and swung down, and Jet rolled forward out of the way, landing in a crouch position. A loud thunderous bang echoed as the monster’s sword hit the floor. Not lifting the sword again, the monster dragged it across the floor as it swung at Jet again.
Seeing the sword come in low, Jet sprung forward towards the sword from his kneeling position. Just as the monster raised the sword to swipe at Jet, Jet leaped and planted one foot on the monster’s sword as it swung in. Using it as a springboard, Jet jumped higher in the air and pushed the monster’s sword back down. The monster’s strength and momentum forced into the ground, it was defenseless for a moment as Jet jumped high in the air in front of the monster. Twisting his body, Jet spun in the air and kicked at the monster. His foot impacted the side of the monster’s head, making the monster recoil for a moment. As Jet landed from his jump, he brought his sword close to his body and then he spun again and slashed at the monster’s side with his sword. The monster howled and shuddered.
As the monster turned with its massive sword heading in towards him, Jet flipped backward. He cleared the sword as the monster swung it, and when Jet landed he quickly dashed forward seeing an opening the monster had just left. Jet ran past the monster, slashing at its torso with his sword and leaving a large gash and cutting off a chunk of the monster’s overcoat. Jet turned and expected the next attack by the monster to be as telegraphed as the last few. However, the monster had powered through the last hit he had received from Jet and was already on the offensive faster than Jet expected.
The monster spun its body, letting go of its sword in a massive throw. Jet just managed to bring his sword up in time to avoid becoming a skewer as a loud clang echoed when the monster’s sword collided with his. The impact sent Jet off his feet, his sword being knocked out of his grasp from the force of the blow. Jet crashed onto his back and his whole body felt rattled, every bone in his body reverberating.
Before he could get up, the monster was over top of him. Its claws managed to grab his whole torso in one grasp, fingers going over his shoulders and around his legs. Jet had a moment to try and wrestle against the strength of this monster as it lifted him up. Then it slammed him hard into the ground. The back of Jet’s collided with the ground with such force that he saw white for a moment. He snapped back to as he was lifted up again. Before he was crashed into the ground again, Jet managed to brace his head, knowing that hit couldn’t have been good for him. The impact still made his ribs and spine scream in agony, but at least he could still think clearly.
As the monster prepared to slam him again, Jet wrapped his arms and legs around the monsters’ claw and forearm. The monster slammed him again, and again, each hit hurting more than the last. But Jet was working furiously, his entire body straining against the monsters’ strength. Before one last slam, Jet leaned to the side with all the strength in his body. There was a sickening snap as the monster’s whole arm contorted the wrong way and Jet was released from the monsters’ grasp. Jet fell to the ground on his back, and he quickly rolled over onto his hands and knees, knowing he had to keep moving. The monster was stumbling backward in shock and pain, but Jet couldn’t take advantage of the moment because as soon as he tried to stand he found himself coughing and wheezing in pain.
His ribs likely broken or at least cracked, Jet found himself desperately scrambling to get back to his sword. Just as he managed to get his hands off the ground to start running, he received a kick in the stomach from the monster. It’s long, claw-like feet left long deep gashes across his chest and he felt his ribs further crunch from the kick. The force of the hit sent Jet hurtling across the room, and he crashed into a roll.
Jet stopped on his back, his head lolling on to his side. He looked to the monster, who huffed angrily at Jet, then turned and walked towards its sword. Jet careened his neck to look at his sword. With a few deep inhales and exhales, Jet tried to stand, but he fell onto his back, unable to move. The monster grew closer to its sword, and Jet tried and failed again to stand.
“No…not like this,” Jet muttered to himself with a grunt.
He kept trying, but his body wouldn’t obey him like he wanted as the monster picked up its sword and walked towards him. Jet refused to quit, refused to give up. He was going to find a way out of it, he just needed to move.
As the monster, one hand brandishing the sword while the other hung limply, walked over to Jet, the teen realized he was running out of time.
“Come on…come on…” Jet said, and after inhaling deeply, his lungs in agony as they pushed against his broken ribs, he rolled onto his stomach. Using any strength he could muster, he pushed himself up and ran to his sword. His momentum almost carried him past it, but Jet managed to grab the hilt of his sword as he tripped over the blade. Rolling forward, Jet spun and held his sword out in front of him while in a seated position.
The monster snorted and continued to walk towards him. Jet’s breathing was raspy and heavy, and he watched as the monster approached. It took almost all the energy he had to just get up and get his sword, so he wasn’t sure how he was going to fight the monster.
All Jet knew was he was going to try.
Jet and the monster both turned to the double doors the monster had destroyed. Standing there, his sword in hand and helmet on, was Paladin.
“Step away from my sidekick,” Paladin instructed.
The monster grunted and turned towards Paladin, leaving Jet to stare at his mentor. Never before had Paladin looked so regal, or majestic than he did at that moment. Standing up to the monster, the knight in shining armor, it brought back feelings of the first night Jet had met Paladin. He was no longer the person, he was the hero, Paladin.
But something stuck with Jet at that moment.
“Sidekick?” Jet asked himself quietly.
With a roar, the monster charged at Paladin. Paladin leaped forward, and his feet never seemed to touch the ground as he closed the gap between him and the monster. The monster swung in, and Paladin returned the attack, batting at the monster’s sword with his own. As the two swords connected there was a loud ring and the monster lurched backward in surprise. Paladin had not only matched the monster’s strength but had overcome it and pushed it back.
Paladin didn’t waste any opportunity, bringing his sword down low and stabbing it into the monster’s side. The monster roared and tried to swing its massive blade down. Paladin extracted his sword and spun. With his spin he slashed his sword, tearing into the monster. Coming out the other end of his spin, Paladin ducked down low, dodging a follow up horizontal swing from the monster who was trying desperately to hit Paladin As the monsters’ sword cleared over top of him, Paladin stabbed his sword in the monsters other side and then leaped into the air, trailing a large deep incision up the monster’s side.
His leap trailed him up and over the monsters’ shoulder, and Paladin slashed his whole way through. The monster’s already broken limp arm crashed to the ground in a hard, amputated from the rest of the body. Jet stared wide-eyed at the spectacle, his eyes fixated on the severed limb. The arm then began to dissolve, and Jet watched in wonderment as black flakes seemed to float off it, and the rest began to melt into dark ash into the ground. In a matter of moments, the arm was nothing more than a stain on the ground.
Not for the first time that night Jet wondered if he was still dreaming. Then another large crash caught his attention, and he looked up to see that action continuing to unfold. Having just blocked an attack from the monster, Paladin kept his feet planted on the ground but he skidded backward. The monster roared and stomped in, almost more terrifying with one arm missing. It swung downwards at Paladin, and Paladin leaped to the side and dodged the attack. Then jumping backward Paladin threw his sword at the monster and like a rocket, it connected in and stabbed in the monster’s side.
Paladin gave the monster no time to rest, as he jumped up in the air. The monster looked down to the sword and began to pull it up, but then its head darted upwards as Paladin descended upon him. Rearing back a fist, Paladin punched down at the monster as he descended. In a flash Paladin descended through the monster, punching through its whole being. It exploded into the flakes and ash like its amputated arm before it. Paladin landed on the ground fist first, covered in the ash as flakes descended slowly to the ground. Paladin’s sword clanged to the ground, its support now literally disintegrating.
After a moment’s pause, Paladin stood up with a sigh. He turned to look at Jet, who was still only watching in disbelief. Paladin walked over to his seated apprentice, and Jet shakily tried to stand.
“Are you okay?” Paladin asked.
Jet went to respond, but as he put weight on his feet his ribs screamed at him. In a flash of pain, Jet saw white and black flashes before he fell to the ground. He swore somewhere in the distance he could hear Paladin shouting his name, but it faded into silence.