“So, the question still remains,” David said, “What exactly are they?”
The four of us were sat on Phoenix’s double bed. She and I were snuggled in a knitted blanket, Alexander was cupping a mug of hot chocolate in his hands and David was sketching a ghastly looking beast on a sketchpad. School was closed for the rest of the week. Phoenix’s mum was away for the autumn in New York for a photography shoot so we all agreed that living there for a while would be best for us all. Strength in numbers and all of that.
Phoenix had her glasses on and her nose deep inside a ‘Monsters of Magic’ book, “Still looking.” She murmured with an absent-minded.
Alexander said, “We need to know before it gets dark, we need to be able to protect ourselves.”
Phoenix sighed, “Patience is a virtue…”
“I’m not a Saint.” Alexander winked flirtatiously, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
She waved vaguely towards her bookshelf, lines of old-fashioned leather bound books crowded the shelves, “Grab yourself a book, and flick through it. If you spill hot chocolate on any, I will turn you into a toad.”
“We’ve been at this for hours.” I whinged, ignoring Daisy as she lay on her back and played with a strand of my dangling hair.
“We could look on the internet.” David suggested.
Phoenix pulled a face, her violet eyes flashed with disagreement, “There is never anything rural on the internet.”
I laid a hand on her arm, excited by the thought of faster technology, “It won’t hurt to look.”
All that could be heard for the next few minutes were the rustle of turning pages and David’s fingers clicking away on the keyboard.
“Listen to this!” David said abruptly. He began to read from the web page, “Many suspicious murders, where there has been no motive for the murder and the murderer has not been found, have taken place from as early as the 15th Century up to the most recent one in 2008.
“On 25th July 2008, Marie Gardiane, aged 20, a woman immigrating to Holland from London was found dead at the bottom of the stairs of the house her father recently purchased, in Purmerend. Forensics ruled out the possibility of her falling down as there were no bruises or marks consistent with a fall, in fact there was no visible cause of death.
“An autopsy revealed that her heart had been removed from the chest cavity, no incisions could be seen on her skin. It’s as if her heart had never existed in the first place. The lack of her heart is the only logical cause of death. This case quickly disappeared from all media stations and was dismissed as an unfortunate accident.” David grimaced, “Does this sound like what we’re looking for?”
We were all watching intently. “Even if it’s not, finish the story.” My eyes glistened wildly.
David grimaced but carried on anyway, “Nothing from the house was taken. The doors and windows were all locked, no sign of forced entry and no one else was present in the house or for miles around. The only thing that was declared missing by the father was an antique pocket watch, which she kept on her person at all times, it related back through the family line for three generations, it was passed down to the youngest of each family member, originally belonging to Marie’s great-great-great grandfather, who died from what was considered a heart failure in the frontier of early 18th century colonial America.
“The death was not considered suspicious because of his relatively old age of thirty-nine. Also as official documentation was scarce during these times it’s widely speculated today that he died under the same circumstances as his descendant Marie, with the only thing linking these murders to the others in history was the pocket watch and the jewellery which connected the descendants to their ancestors.
“Another recorded death is that of 14 year old girl, Nancy Fleischer, she died at her great aunt Dorothy Butcher’s farm outside Tileda in Germany. She was evacuated there during the Second World War disguised as a Polish immigrant who had come to work as a farm hand for her safety.
“Nancy then died, in similar circumstances to Marie, in 1941. She was found in the cow barn during a storm, she had been sent out to calm the cows. The tendons in her legs had been severed violently from her body by a rough instrument. Marks similar to those caused by a canine bite were found on her neck, although they contained traces of wood splinters in the wounds. No other injuries were sustained, but as with all the other deaths, Nancy’s heart had vanished with no visible assaults on her chest.
“Missing from her neck was her great-grandmother’s broach, her great-grandmother also died of a violent heart attack in the early 19th Century. The authorities at the time covered this up as ‘relevance to the current war’ situation and a German spy had killed Nancy. The supposed assailant was never caught and the broach was taken as a trophy of the attack.”
I blinked at the tears that had built up in my eyes, realization settling in, “That can’t be true. That can’t be my fate.” Daisy nudged my elbow in attempt to comfort me, her nose cold and wet on my skin.
Phoenix smoothed my hair, “Hey, we don’t even know what we’re dealing with yet, just suspicious deaths and old jewellery.”
A thought ran through my mind, I don’t know why I’d never thought of it before. Well, I’d never had to, until now. “Search ‘Elizabeth and Barry Taylor’.”
Alexander looked at me with soft eyes, “You don’t think that you’re linked to these deaths?”
I brought my great-great-great grandmother’s locket out from under my shirt, “This was given to me by my mother the day I was born. It belonged to an ancestor of mine, her name was Elizabeth Taylor. I need to know her story, my mother never told me, and my grandma refused to speak of it.”
Reluctantly, David typed in what I had asked into the laptop and clicked on the first result he found.
“Read it?” I asked.
“The mysterious story of Elizabeth and Barry Taylor is said to be an old wives tale to scare children. Barry Taylor, born in Boston, Massachusetts 1845, and Elizabeth Taylor, born in Salem, Massachusetts 1850 (her family bloodline can be traced back to 1692 during the Salem witch trials), bore a child together in 1871.
“During post labor the doctor aiding the delivery pronounced Elizabeth dead from severe blood loss, Barry Taylor was inconsolable he refused to leave his wife’s side for days. It is said he heard whispers calling to him, and those whispers came with a silver tongue coaxing Barry until he gave in to his desire, calling forth the evil around him in a crude ritual, the whispers grew into voices. An unnatural presence surrounded the widower.
“A deal was struck, a selfish one for somebody that couldn’t let their love go, his wife for the life of one from his descendants within the bloodline. A golden locket appeared around Elizabeth’s lifeless body where the debt was sealed containing only a withered silhouette of Elizabeth, containing her soul, one that would be collected when the time came. It is believed that he begged the demons crying out to them, sealing his pact as with all others made with the Hades, ’Ego postulo succurro, adiuva me.’ Chanted over and over in a frenzy.
“Elizabeth Taylor lived for a further 29 years fulfilling the deal made, but died at the age of 50 from heart disease, it was considered that she died of a broken heart, as her husband had been died a week prior to her, leaving both deaths investigated, but it is still believed in certain parts of America that Barry Taylor’s ancestors’ are cursed – Ivy you don’t really believe this do you?” David stopped reading. “This is ridiculous.”
“I want to know what these things are, and why they are trying to kill me,” I almost pleaded, “I need you to trust me, I need you to believe this. I’m going to die unless we can stop this.”
“But it’s so, so… far-fetched,” He frowned.
“So many things make sense. In the report on Marie and Nancy; both of their ancestors originally owned the jewellery, both died of a supposed heart attack. Don’t you think that’s a little suspicious?” I raised my eyebrows, “It’s hard to explain, but I am linked to those girls, and I want to find out why.” I was desperate for him to believe me.
“Ivy’s right, the deaths are linked and ancestor’s jewellery has something to do with it…” Phoenix said quietly, “It’s often used for sealing spells or for locating spells.”
Ignoring her, David went on, “Ivy… I don’t think this is helping us. It’s sending you a little bit insane, and it just doesn’t make sense.”
“Well I think it does,” I snapped back at him, like a bear-trap. Daisy flinched away from me and skittered from the room with the slink all true felines possess. “Look,” I said, “If you’re not going to help me then fine, I’ll find someone else who will.”
David chuckled, “This is crazy, and you sound delirious. Who in this world is going to believe you?”
“Leave her alone, if you don’t want to help us, fine. Go and waste somebody else’s time.” Alexander sighed.
After glaring at us all for a while, waiting for somebody to fight for his cause, David got up and left.
We sat in silence for a moment.
“He was never going to be much help anyway,” Phoenix whispered to me, “He’s all negative about the positive things.”
“I think he’s on his man-period.” Alexander smiled at me.
Another hour of flipping through books, their musty smell filling my nostrils and we found nothing. I twisted Elizabeth’s locket around in my fingers, the gold chain was cool on my skin. I knew nothing about her, she was just an ancestor with a story to tell. I wish I had known her; she would be the answer to everything.
“I think I’ve found something!”
I smiled at Alexander. “Read it?”
“The Shadow.” He began, “Type: Earth/forest demon.
“Origin: The Elderberry trees of South America.
“Communication: Clicks or clucks similar to a cricket, which is inaudible to the human ear. The humans linked to the demon kin, through bloodline, are able to hear the whispers, this is usually done to taunt their victims before killing them, or if they plan to break a deal and wish to barter with Hades.
“Strengths/Abilities: They have control over electricity and the ability to change the direction of the wind to their advantage. They are noted to favor stealth, often opting to take their victims by surprise before their presence is discovered. They are able to move silently with speed and agility along with strength to tear limbs from their chosen, they are truly formidable predators. As inhuman beings they have attributes which have been recorded, most importantly their ability to remain hidden to mortal beings, cowering amongst the shadows. They remain unseen to the human eye. They are venomous and one bite can kill a human, slowly and painfully (unless the mortal is strong in soul), where history repeatedly shows us twisted humanoids bounded to the demon and made to do its will.
“Weaknesses: Unable to interfere with battery-operated equipment, this is due to them only being able to control flowing electricity not stored. They are material beings and can be hurt or injured like regular humans, to an extent, regular weapons cannot be used to kill although they will maim and injure. If forced into visibility against their wishes or captured under light, the fixed gaze of a human eye will cause them to burst into flame, releasing their soul into oblivion. The burning wood of an elderberry tree can weaken their abilities, e.g. slow their speed and strengthen the sound of their footsteps.
“Description: ′The Shadows′ are lost souls who gave up on their lives, they are said to be Hades’ minions or debt collectors. They collect owed souls, usually from pacts sealed by Hades himself, within family bloodlines. For example; a woman in the early nineteen hundreds loses her husband during the war. She then makes a deal with Hades; asking for her husband’s life back, Hades gives it to her on the condition that she swap her husband’s soul for the youngest males in her bloodline in one hundred years’ time – the debt is sealed in gold (e.g. a bracelet or ring) and holds a portion of the soul within. A hundred years later Hades sends out his ′Shadows′ to collect the family debt. To protect themselves from the sight of humans, their method of attack is to turn off all light sources they possibly can, such as, candles and lamps but not torches.
“They are beings of the forest and so formed from the wood of their birthplace, owning claws with elongated fingers that mirror sharp stubs of branches. Their talons are razor sharp which enable the demons to cut through metal, easily being able to tear through the flesh of all creatures. Their diet is a selection of human hearts, which they feast on after murdering their victims, apart from those specified by their master which are stolen from the dead body through magic and hidden away.” Alexander gulped.
We refused to make a sound; we didn’t look at one another. I was taking in all this new information that actually made sense for once, it wasn’t just an idea or a hunch. It was information that fitted with my situation, but it was the most absurd. Wood-like demon’s from South America that burn to ashes if you see them was a crazy idea, a far-fetched and stupid idea. But they were what were after me; they were here to collect Barry Taylor’s debt.
Alexander broke the silence, “Is it me, or did that actually make sense?”
I swallowed, refusing to cry again, “It wasn’t just you.”
“I mean the claws tie in with the slices on David’s leg and on the locker doors.” Phoenix stared straight at me.
My eyes were as wide as hers, “And the way they can control electricity and candles is why my house went dark, and the school.”
“…But not the torch because it was battery-powered!” Phoenix exclaimed.
“I think we’ve got it.” I said, “We’ve found our demon.”
Nobody said another word for a few minutes. I knew what was on everyone’s mind, it was also on mine, but everybody was afraid to ask it.
I gulped once more, “Does it say anything else?”
Alexander quickly dived back into the book and his eyes scanned across the page, “Something about Hades, souls, lots of death and we already know their weakness.”
“You know what we have to do,” Phoenix whispered, “We have to kill them, before they kill us.”