She was pouring over a map circling a dot in pencil, then writing the contact for that place on a separate piece of paper when he walked in with two steaming mugs of coffee. He paused in the doorway watching his partner who had a look of fierce concentration on her face. As a human, he had come to know that face as well as his own; he knew every emotion that crossed her face, he knew the fire of her passion and determination. Her black ears flicked forward and backward picking up on the small sounds outside the apartment.
“You know, coffee is best drunk hot.”
She smiled down at her map, before looking up at him standing in the doorway of the living room. He smiled back going to sit down next to her.
“I know, but I like watching you while you work and plan.”
He leaned over the map and kissed her cheek. Handing her the cup in his hand, he leaned back against the couch.
“So where are we going, what are we looking for?”
“I’m not sure yet… I haven’t gotten the mail.” She gave him a sideways glance and a sheepish lopsided grin. He returned her smile with one of his own.
Boy, did she ever take his breath away when she smiled. Ever since they were kids she had made him weak in the knees when she smiled and looked at him with her eerie eyes. Since he had become a Reaper, and had brought her back from the middle ground, he was now able to see her other side more clearly. And because of that, she was also able to see the Reaper beneath the human façade.
“Well, it’s a good thing I found this in the mailbox today then.”
He handed her a large manila envelope that he knew would contain their contract.
Taking out the piece of paper, she scanned it quickly then returned to her map, marking down the location and scanning the contact. “So where are we going?”
She glanced at him, a corner of her mouth quirked up. “We’re going to Scotland.”
“Who’s our contact?”
“Lord and Lady McNaughton; they own the Naughton Castle off the moors of Ibernaugh.”
He laughed at her fake harsh Scottish accent, took a drink of his coffee and watched the woman with the eerie yellow green eyes as she was scribbling madly on a piece of paper while kneeling across a map littered with tiny dots with circles in them. She glanced out the window, her eyes searching for something unseen.
“What are we looking for?”
“A family sword; it’s been in the McNaughton family for generations, survived two major battles and was last seen in the late 1800’s.”
Again, her eyes flickered to the window, while he pondered about what she had said. Through her military training, she had become nearly an expert in handling melee weapons of every kind. And since he was a Reaper, he had his own training with weaponry; though most times he preferred his reaping scythe. As he watched her eyes flicker from the window to the map again, he noticed there were other dots circled, not just the location they needed.
“Did we get more than one contract?”
“Umm, no; just the one.”
He put two and two together and it wasn’t just the prep for a new mission, it looked like she was running. “Who’s after you?”
His voice was quiet, bur had a hard edge in the undercurrent. She gave him a haunting look, before her eyes shifted to the window again.
“Just a piece of my past that’s never quite been put to rest; we need to go now.”
He reached out and pulled her against his chest, capturing her parted lips with his. She relaxed slightly against him, drawing strength from her partner and his steady presence. His lips moved from her mouth down her throat and back to her ear.
“Whatever it is, we’ll face it together, just as we always have. I promise.”
JB whispered as he continued to trail kisses up and down her neck, across her shoulders and down her chest while she straddled his lap. She nodded in silent acknowledgement. She could feel the bulge in his jeans pressing intimately against her core.
He adjusted the high sighting scope attached to the C14 Timber wolf bolt action Canadian made sniper rifle. The chill of the night had seeped into his bones and left him feeling stiff and damp. He had been in much worse conditions; in Germany, and Afghanistan.
They had made sure he had survived; mainly for the sole purpose of tracking down and activating the other two members of his team. They were unique like he was; and now he needed to bring them back. He rolled his shoulders, cracked his neck and stood up stiffly to shake the cold from his bones. He had been watching the female target and her male companion for more than hour.
An Elitist soldier, he along with two others; had been part of a team. Unstoppable, invincible, unknown and invisible. Super soldiers the military had experimented on countless times; ruthlessly wiping away previous identities and training them endlessly until they were the best of their class. A team of three that were beyond measure individually; combined, they were lethal, and dangerous. They made the Yakuza, and the Italian Mafia look like children.
Once activated, the three of them would synchronize and be unrelenting in their pursuit of their target.
He remembered the activation process; the intense pain lancing through his head and burning through his body, until he was numb and blank with pain. He breathed out slowly, letting go of the memories and blanking his thoughts like they had taught him.
Kneeling on the matt behind the sniper rifle, he looked back through scope, only to pull away quickly his face flushing as he caught sight of his targets naked backside. He glanced at his watch and determined he could leave them for an hour without them going anywhere. He didn’t want to watch them having sex again.
She had been on edge all day, and not even JB’s soothing words and actions could help calm her down. Pushing thoughts and memories from her mind, she continued to pack. Out of unconscious habit she strapped an ankle belt with daggers on either side to both calves just above her ankles and well hidden by her boots.
A variety of other knives and daggers were strapped to other places on her body; a belt of daggers wrapped around her hips, on either side of her torso, and finally on the underside of her arms. When JB walked into the room, she had just finished strapping a short sword across her back.
“Are you planning on going on a stabbing crusade?”
He asked, his brows pulling together in a crease. Eryn stood there, looking slightly confused at his question.
There she was standing in front of him, loaded to the hilt with daggers of every size strapped to her body, looking for the entire world like a confused mercenary. She gave him a sheepish smile; which added to the oddball effect. Eryn looked down at herself; finally realizing that she was loaded to the hilt and armed to the teeth for Armageddon.
“I thought we were going to Scotland to look for an ancient family sword. Not going on a covert assassination mission. Go on and change, Jared’s going to be here to take to us to the airport soon.”
“Well, maybe I wanted to be prepared… “
She started to say before she burst out laughing and began removing her weapons. JB raised an eyebrow in her direction but said nothing.
The female target and her companion were on the move; and he watched them leave the apartment and get into the dark green sedan that was pulling up in front.
“Do you want me to follow and activate target?”
He spoke into the mouthpiece.
“Follow target; do not engage and do not activate just yet.”
“Understood; following target.”
He slid the scope off, dismantled the sniper rifle, and folded up the standing tri-pod; and organized everything in the black duffel bag. No doubt she would be activated by the end of the week; he merely had to wait for the order by the General. He walked back to the door; and into the elevator; immediately hating the tight, too small, claustrophobic box that in his opinion was the worst possible thing to travel in.
His chest tightened, constricting his breathing as he watched the numbers move slowly downward.
He focused on the blanking his mind, and erasing the fear that was dragging at him; the way they had taught him to do… over and over until he could do it on command. The soldier stood there waiting with his hands behind his back, his feet shoulder width apart, and a blank expression on his face. At ground level, he left the adjacent apartment building and followed the dark green sedan as it made it its way to the airport.
There was something familiar about her that tugged at his memory; but as he tried reaching for it, it slipped like sand through his fingers and was lost to the darkness that was his mind.
“The past has a funny way of creeping up on us; don’t let it define your future.” He frowned as the saying went through his head.
“I’m sorry; what were you asking?”
“I asked if you would like something to drink for your flight today, sergeant.”
He smiled; “As long as you’re the one serving it, my dear. Tell me would that drink also come with something extra?”
He winked at her making her blush which made her cheeks turn a bright pink color. A pretty girl with long light brown hair that was tied in an elegant knot at the back of her head, holding up her stewardess hat; innocent large brown eyes, and full lips.
She had to have been in her early twenties because she had peppiness about her that matched her youthful appearance.
“I’ll see what I can do Sir.”
She winked at him, before moving on to the other passengers. Despite his training and mind wiping he continued to watch the pretty little attendant. The plane began taxying down the runway and then the upward decent. He felt his ears pop as the plane rose in to the stratosphere.
He was sitting three rows ahead of his target, and her companion. He could feel the charge between him and his target; and a very weak charge between him and the other target he had to find.
It would be much stronger once they were synchronized and activated.
The stewardess passed by his chair a minute later, stopping by with his drink. He would definitely take advantage of that later on. He waited until the plane was high enough and it was safe to move around the cabin, then he got up whispered something to the stewardess and made his way to the bathroom. As he passed his targets seat, he felt a shiver go up his spine. Eryn glanced up as the soldier in the combats passed by her seat, a shiver going down her spine. A long-forgotten memory surfaced like a bloated body coming to the surface after being held underwater for too long.
It couldn’t be… she had been so careful; she had remained off grid and low key since she had gotten back from the military.
A few minutes later Eryn watched the stewardess head in the same direction the soldier had gone. No doubt for a quick lay; and on a commercial aircraft to boot. He was handsome and built enough with plenty of confidence that told the world he had it wrapped up and ordered special.
A deadly swagger that made heads turn and a charming personality that had women eating out of his hand.
Eryn had hated him the moment they had met; ten years ago. She turned towards JB whose fingers were gripping the armrests so much the knuckles were white.
“How can you still be afraid of flying when you’re… you know… other?”
She whispered un-gripping his fingers from their death grip on the armrest.
“I never liked flying, and I much prefer flying on my own than this.”
“You would think it would make a difference.”
JB barked a short laugh, but latched onto Eryn’s hand instead of the armrest. “Do you remember what happened the last time we were in a plane?”
“I try not too… it’s only one of the many nightmares that keep me up at night.”
JB nodded, and pulled her close, burying his face in the crook of her neck. She whispered something in his ear, and he nodded almost relieved.
When the plane reached altitude, they made their way towards the back of the plane, all the while JB made sure to keep them invisible. It was slightly unsettling being in the middle ground and being able to see people’s souls or in some cases the lack thereof.
These people she glanced away from quickly, shivers dancing warnings up and down her flesh.
“Alright, now will you tell me what’s going on? You’ve been edgy and panicked all day.”
“I know, and I’m sorry… I promise I’ll explain everything later; but right now, we need to get away from the other soldier who’s after me.”
She was determination and steel. No doubt she would get off the plane one way or another.
He admired her for her fearlessness and worried about her for her recklessness. The feral look in her eyes told him she meant business. Sighing heavily, he nodded knowing she would tell him later; and waited for the wheel compartment to unlock and lower.
The sound of metal groaning and gears grinding followed by high screeching winds tearing through the darkened compartment hurt Eryn’s sensitive ears as she crouched low holding the massive wheel.
Looking over at JB she grinned a moment before she let go and was sucked out through the opening.
She was an adrenaline junkie and after much swearing he disappeared from the wheel compartment knowing she would most likely be plummeting towards the earth at paramount speeds.
She watched as the plane sped further and further away into the blue sky; while the adrenaline singing through her veins numbed her to everything but the sheer joy of free falling from nearly 30,000 feet in the air.
She laughed, feeling the crazy rush of exhilaration and wind buffeting her body from all angles. A shadow passed by her and she looked over to see JB flying beside her, his red tipped black Reapers wings keeping him upright and beside her easily.
Her ever watchful guardian and protector; but most of all he was her partner. Smiling he reached out a hand and she took it, grinning like a mad man. She gasped and choked as she went from a level of low oxygen to a level of high oxygen in the blink of an eye.
“Breathe, Eryn; breathe.”
JB rubbed her back while her body readjusted.
“Where are we?”
She gasped out between breathes, JB was looking at the map.
The field they were in didn’t appear to be on the map, and the waist high grasses stretched on endlessly in all directions. It undulated and waved like the ocean.
“My guess is somewhere between Canada and Scotland… maybe in the prairie regions….”
His phone beeped. “I have to go, but I’ll find you later ok. Love you.”
“Love you too….”
She adjusted her pack and began heading away from the fading light of the setting sun, hoping the town she had seen from the air, wasn’t that far away. It was nightfall by the time she reached the outskirts of the town.
Thanks to her genetic enhancements she could see better in the dark, of course that also meant her eyes were yellow green and glowing slightly. Warily the townspeople watched as the girl with the strange eyes made her way into the center of town.
They didn’t move, just watched her with a blank look in their eyes. It was highly unsettling and she wished JB were here, so that he could explain the creepy feeling she was getting from these people in this town.
Vaguely she wondered if they had souls or if they were simply curious; whatever the case, her animal side was straining at her control and wanted to leave as soon as possible. It was as if she had stepped into a town right out of the Twilight Zone. It gave her chills and she pulled her coat higher around her head.
She had just reached the inn when she heard it: a low constant murmuring that was slowly getting louder. Looking behind her, she saw the mob of people moving as one unit towards her location. The closer they came, the better she could hear what they were saying and it chilled her to the bones.
“We are of one mind. We are of one collective. Outsiders will not be tolerated.”
It was the singularity with which they talked and moved that was eerily unsettling. It reminded her of certain memories best left forgotten. The animal within bristled at being cornered and captured by the unrelenting mob of blank faced people.
“We are of one mind. We are of one collective. Outsiders will not be tolerated.”
They were closer now, surrounding her from all sides. Suddenly the door behind her opened and she fell backwards into the inn.
The owner; a gruff looking man with dark eyes and a face full of hair wearing an apron that had multiple stains on it looked down at her startled expression.
“What can I do for you?”
Rolling around onto her knees, she stood up and appraised the innkeeper standing in front of her.
The man stood close to six five and was built like a tree; thick and heavy with muscle. She glanced outside, the town was quiet once again and there was no one there. He raised a thick eyebrow that sat above his dark eyes.
“Something wrong miss?”
“Uh… no… umm… is there a room available?”
The innkeeper looked at her for a long moment, before turning and whistling. A girl around the age of 14 came running from the back of the house carrying a tray of drinks, which she distributed to the tables. All the occupants in the lounge were watching the exchange between the backpacker who had fallen into the inn and the innkeeper who always looked ready to throw out anyone he didn’t agree with.
“Show our guest, to an open room will you… and then be off to bed; it’s an early start tomorrow.”
He spoke to the girl who nodded curtly and then began moving towards a staircase beside the bar.
The innkeeper watched them go, turned a glare at the rest of the occupants who quickly went back to their meals; before turning and making his way to the bar itself.
Eryn followed the girl, wary now of the people in this unnamed town in a part of the world that had been overlooked for a long, long, time.
“Your room has a working shower, and a dresser; along with most modern conveniences and overlooks the outdoor back courtyard. If you need anything during the night, press one on the phone and I’ll come to give you what you need.”
The girl was saying as she led Eryn down a hallway on the western side of the building.
“Thank you for your hospitality. Can you tell me what’s going on in the town that the townspeople are…? Weird?”
They had stopped outside of a room near the end of hallway. The maid turned towards her and looked at her appraisingly.
“Yea… when I got here everyone was staring at me blank -faced and crowding around me when I got to the inn. Do you know what’s going on?”
The girl became instantly uncomfortable, avoiding Eryn’s gaze and shifting her weight from one leg to the other. She glanced down the hallway, before leaning forward and whispering frantically in her ear.
The girl fled down the hallway and disappeared around the corner, leaving Eryn staring warily after her. Something weird was going on.
She went into the room, locking the door tightly. Flipping open her cell, she messaged JB about her location; filing him in on what had happened and then went to shower.
Outside thunder clouds rumbled fiercely and lightning jaggedly lit the clouds and town in intermittent white brilliance. Unable to sleep she watched the storm rage outside while she pondered what the girl said. JB still hadn’t contacted her. The panther in her was straining at her control, it wanted to hunt but more than that it wanted to leave town. The thunderstorm outside was making her anxious and edgy. An electrical current ran down her spine and she looked behind her to see her partner materialize in the room.
“Glad your back, I was getting worried.”
“Mm, sorry it took me so long. There were a few things I had to research.”
“Is everything alright?”
Instead of answering he dipped his head down and captured her lips with his; after a moment, he pulled back only slightly just so he could see the heat and passion in her eyes.
He backed her towards the bed, slipping the house coat she was wearing off her shoulders. His own clothing disappeared as he kissed her senseless while laying her back against the bed. The storm and the town slipped into the background as JB made love to her.
“Something weird is going on in this town.”
She mumbled sleepily against his chest. He nodded, and held her closer. “Whatever’s going on, we’ll figure it out tomorrow. Get some sleep now.”
Something tugged at her memory and suddenly she sat bolt upright, adrenaline coursing through her veins as the memory of what the girl had said to her surfaced with crystalline clarity.
“Don’t go to sleep tonight, for the dream monster will come and you will become trapped here.”
She booted up her laptop, searching frantically for references to a dream monster or a creature that ate people’s dreams, and by extension their souls. JB watched her quietly from the bed, used to by now by her unusual behavior when an idea came into her head.
“What are you looking for?”
“Any reference to a dream or soul eater… “
“There are several; two most prominent references are the Bodach which is Celtic in origin and the other one is the Baku which is Japanese in origin. Is that what’s haunting this town?”
She started at the revelation; startled slightly that JB would have knowledge of something like this.
In his human life, aside from exploring and retrieving artifacts with her, he was a top researcher and journalist. She was the teacher who taught interdimensional travel and Geographic’s.
“What do you know about it?”
“It falls in the category of malevolent ghosts, poltergeists and other supernatural powers. They feed off the energy produced by dreamers causing catastrophic nightmares to produce more energy. They aren’t corporeal and exist on a different plane.
If they remain in one place for a long time they can absorb the human’s souls through their dreams.”
“How can we kill it? Or get rid of it?”
“You can’t… and neither can I; like I said they exist outside the realm of life and death. You could essentially starve it by cutting off its food source. But that would mean killing everyone in town.”
She nodded vaguely, glancing out the window at the storm battered sky. JB groaned and disappeared in a flash of black red light. Outside the storm still raged fiercely; battering the windows in sleeting rain while thunder clashed in the clouds. Going to the window to watch the storm, she pulled the house coat tighter around her and looked out into the vicious storm.
There was no one out tonight, and she could barely see in front of her face. Lightning flashed starkly in sudden brilliance, illuminating a nightmarish creature with yellow slitted eyes and curved horns at the window.
Eryn jumped back, startled. Outside the creature gave a chilling wail while it scratched at the windows. She could hear the slow flap of its leathery wings above the raging of the storm. Baring her own fangs, she growled and hissed back, her fur standing on end. The mouth of the creature was a black oval and had a dual layer of teeth in its mouth.
It looked at her a moment longer, cocking its head to the side before giving another eerie screech and flying off into the night.