The Guardian Demon

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The Head of the Snake


The pickup that just escaped pulls up to a warehouse.

The robbers inside alight the vehicle. A comrade of theirs comes from inside the warehouse to greet them.

“Where is everyone else?”

“They were attacked by that thing,” says the man in the vehicle illustrating the writings on its face with his hands.

“And how did you guys escape?”

“I have no idea,” says the driver, “I’m fighting the thought that maybe it just turned invisible so that it could follow us.”

“And you just came straight here?!”

They cock their guns and start searching around.

A car pulls up beside them. They stop searching and look towards it. Its windows roll down. A golden gleam shines through it. The men recognise the man inside without having to see anything more. They assume stiff stances in salute. The car’s occupant opens the door and steps outside. They would have been scared if this were the first time they were seeing him. Why? Because he has a lion’s head. Golden, yellow, brilliant. It is angular and harsh, made of edges and faces like a stone cut gem. Its mane is stiff golden leaves shooting radially from his face spreading around and down the back of his head. His face is frozen in the royal expression of the kings of the savannah, of having power, knowing it and being ready to use it without impunity.

“Are there mosquitoes or something?” His deep voice booms like thunder, reverberating in his mask and exiting as a roar.

“No sir, we were just making sure that they weren’t followed by that demon thing.”

“You were attacked?” The roar enunciates.

“Yes boss, three men down.”

“How did you escape, last time it took down a van with more men who had deadlier arms.”

“I have no idea, it seemed weaker, we got lucky.”

#So it can get weak?

“Describe it to me.”

“What?”

“I want you to describe that thing, what it looked like.”

“Ooh, okay. I didn’t take a good look at it, I was too busy running for my life…” the robber looks around, no-one’s laughing, “...but its face had white markings on it.”

“What kind of face, a goat’s face, a cat, a crocodile, a human…”

“It was hard to tell... it was wearing a hoodie.”

“A hoodie?”

“Yes, sir, a hoodie, and it was bright out so the only thing I saw was those white markings floating in the blackness of the hood’s shadow.”

“What else?”

“It has a shield, like a tortoiseshell surrounding it, I only saw it when Stevo tried to shoot it, and swords… or spears, it was hard to tell. It wanted to burst a tire when we were escaping so it threw one, but it missed.”

“It didn’t try to follow you?”

“It did, but then it disappeared, I mean one moment it’s catching up with us then the next moment it’s gone.”

“Is that its blood?”

The man looks down at his chest, “This… no, this is from the old man. That thing probably doesn’t even have blood.”

“Did you kill him?”

“No boss. We just roughed him up a bit. He was causing a ruckus. We know what happens when you kill without consulting.”

“Then load those things in,” The masked man gets back into his car and starts the engine.

“Mr King?” The man guarding the warehouse calls.

The King’s golden head turns towards the young man.

“I don’t know any other way to put this so I will just say it. I’m afraid. I’m afraid of this thing, and it’s not just me. That thing out there is unkillable and its mere presence is a guarantee of broken bones and lost teeth. Some of my friends who are in the hospital are saying that they won’t come back, and those that will want desk jobs. It’s that serious.”

“Do you believe in what we are doing?” The King asks like a man of the cloth asserting a believer’s faith.

“Yes, I am all in on making this city better for everyone.”

“And do you see what this demon is trying to do?” The man’s eyes dart around trying to figure it out, “It is trying to undo what we have done,” The King continues. “It does not have an agenda of its own, nothing to aim towards, it just wants the destruction of the peace we have built, the destruction of the haven we have created. It decimates cars but does not kill a single one of the people inside them. It ‘saves’ people without asking for anything in return. If it weren’t for its being non-human, I would have thought it to be a naïve hero trying to stop the bad guy without even considering whether it is right or wrong. But we aren’t the bad guys, are we?”

“No sir, we are the heroes.”

“That’s right. We are the heroes who took our people’s safety and well-being into our own hands since the ones who were put in charge couldn’t care less. So go to your friends in the hospital and remind them, remind them of what they are fighting for.”

The King puts his foot on the pedal and drives away.

“We are the heroes,” the guard repeats to himself as he bathes in the inspiration of the King’s personal address to him.

He walks into the warehouse.

“What were you talking about?” The robber from the van asks as he carries a box.

“I was telling him about how some of the guys who are hurt are afraid of coming back.”

He puts the box down, “and he didn’t kill you?”

“Kill me?” the guard asks.

“What, you think that man is your uncle? I heard that anyone who tries to get out he kills by his own hand.”

“Far- fetched conspiracy theories,” the guard brushes it off and starts walking away towards a crate.

“It’s true, he has probably gone to finish them off right now.”

“I heard that he’s a good guy,” the guard says coming back.

“Good? By what definition?”

“He takes people off the streets, people who would have eventually turned to crime and provides them with jobs for a livelihood,” he knows since he is one of them.

“He also collects the worst of criminals and gives them tasks that serve to satisfy their obscene urges,” he also knows since he is one of these.

“What? Where’d you hear that?”

“Who do you think is sent to beat up defaulters and kill rapists.”

“But that’s just being smart, right?” the guard says after a moment of thought, “Those people would be out there doing those evil things to people who don’t deserve it.”

“And who decides who deserves it or not?”

“Him obviously.”

“And you don’t see anything wrong with that?”

“I trust his judgment.”

“You trust his judgment?” The robber scoffs, “Say what you will, but someone who can keep murderers and thieves in check is someone to be feared.”

“So, will you two keep gossiping or will you do some actual work?” The driver yells from the other side of the warehouse.

The two men grab a couple of things to take to where they are supposed to go.

“But I haven’t heard you talk about something important,” the driver says.

“What?” The two men chorus.

“The reason he wears that mask.”

“That’s obvious, it’s the same reason thieves and other criminals wear masks, to ensure that his actions can’t be traced back to him,” says the robber.

“That can’t apply in his case,” the guard counters.

“Why?”

“Because he is the law, he is justice. How can his actions come back to haunt him if he is the one who decides what is right or wrong?”

“Okay professor, why do you think he wears it?”

“I think it’s because it creates a persona, when you see the mask you can’t see the man underneath; you can’t see his flaws, his struggles, you only see his actions and his successes. That mask allows him to rise above the limits of humanity, into the realm of legends, myths and gods,” the guard’s eyes gleam and glow in pietic wonder.

“Wow, you sound like you want to marry him.”

“Shut up.”

“What if he is just paranoid?” The driver conspires.

“Paranoid?”

“Yeah, it could be that he wears that mask to hide his identity not from his enemies but his friends.”

“Why would he do that?”

“To maintain power. If they knew who he was they would probably try their best to kill him and take his place.”

“Makes sense, if they don’t know who he is, they can’t attack him at home or anywhere else; his real identity becomes camouflage. But it also means that if you do manage to kill him and wear his mask the whole organization is yours. Since no-one knows who he actually is there will be no power struggle; he who wears the mask is the King, like a crown, the man underneath is irrelevant,” muses the guard.

“Maybe that mask and his clothes are bulletproof,” the driver adds.

“I think that is enough gossip for a day. Let’s do some work before he sends for our heads,” the robber picks up a box and walks to a pile in the corner.

“You are terrified of him, aren’t you?” The guard says as he watches the robber look busy.

“Yes, and I suggest that if you don’t want to die early you should be too.”


There’s an empty field brown and barren, naked to the elements because many generations of children have played on it. Several people are crossing it going to the roads on either side.

*Spacious, not many people around. This is the perfect place to test it out.

Something suddenly appears in the middle of the field. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s a young man in a hoodie who also wears a long white scarf that coils around his neck. The scarf seems to have something drawn on it.

*I hope the permanent marker will be enough.

He looks up with his spirit runes glaring. The writings on the scarf start glowing and the ends of the scarf start rising.

*Okay… up.

He takes off in a gust of wind leaving the unlucky passers-by wading in a cloud of dust.

The rapid ascent wrings the blood from his head. He clenches the muscles of his legs to keep himself from fainting. He tries to will the wind to change direction but it just keeps blowing him higher and higher. He looks down and his feet dangle above an ever-fleeting earth, he looks up and his face meets a cloud.

*All right, gone too far, time for the hard brake.

His spirit runes turn off and the wind stops blowing. His momentum wafts him upwards until he emerges from the cloud and he finds himself surrounded by a plumage of brilliant white clouds rising on one side in sheer snowy cliffs and completely absent on the other showing the earth’s slightly curved horizon immersed in the endless blue.

“Wow.”

It is dead silent. His eyes are dazed by the serene beauty and, he closes his eyes...

*There’s nothing else up here but me.

He opens his eyes and looks around.

*Is this what silence looks like?

He floats there among the clouds taking in the absence of a sense that he never knew could be blind. The space is overwhelming, his mind stretches trying to fill it. He breathes in and the cool air washes through his body driving hot humid filth to his extremities where it beams out and flies ever further away leaving him feeling cool, clean and new. Up here, in this vast celestial cave where he is indistinguishable from a tiny bird in the sky, he is a towering giant.

Something appears in the eye of his immutable sixth sense. There is a flying bird below him. It accelerates closer and closer towards him with every passing moment.

*Oh wait, I’m falling.

The cloud below him sucks him in. He turns his face towards the ground and his spirit runes turn on. He exits the suspended fog and sees the ground rushing forward to embrace him once more in its smothering suffocating arms.

He must fly, for the chance to be truly alone again, to not be different because he is the only one, to just see the silence, he must fly. The runes on the scarf blaze in white flame.

*Forward.

Nothing happens.

“Come on now, forward!”

The scarf snaps and cracks submissively to the air it’s supposed to command as the ground opens its cold hard jaws to devour the boy that thought he could fly.

*It worked before didn’t it? Or else how am I even in the air right now?

He falls past the top of the highest building in the area. He is not sure whether he would survive the fall even if he used the shield. The people below notice something falling from the sky and take out their phones to get proof that they witnessed the falling divinity with the limp white wings meet his demise.

Matthew regrettably shifts his focus from the wind rune to the animal rune. Not all spells work the way he would want them to, the proof is on the walls of his apartment.

*Kobe.

But he had really high hopes when he sat for twelve consecutive hours to channel this one. It would have been amazing to be able to fly like the wind.

To fly like the wind.

Like, not with.

He clears his mind. He pictures the clouds in his newly found fortress of solitude, how they waft and breeze placidly to and fro changing shape and form though never moving a step in any direction. He pictures a butterfly… no, the air underneath its wings that keeps the drunk bumbling insect afloat, changing ever so slightly but all the while unfazed and ignorant of the insect stirring it.

He slowly opens his eyes, long screwed shut from the fear of seeing the ground ram into him and sees that his face is an arm’s length from the ground but curiously, it’s not getting any closer. He feels that his feet aren’t perched on anything and his fingers wiggle empty in the air. Nothing is in contact with his body except for his clothes. He’s flying. He turns his head to the side and instead of seeing his scarf strong and stiff like the wing of a plane or a majestic eagle, he sees it wave and flow slowly, mindlessly changing position and shape, silently floating around his body, like the ever-morphing clouds or the ignorant air underneath a butterfly’s wings. He can’t feel his own weight, his body is solid but he has become the air itself.

He perceives people scrambling towards him in the narrow street coming to take pictures of the fallen demon.

He imagines a gale.

He shoots off towards the direction of his head almost colliding with one of the approaching people. He looks up and he is headed straight for a building.

*Up!

He gets shot upwards and clears the height of the building.

*Off.

His spirit runes are still on. The wind stops blowing. He is heavy again. The forward momentum carries him over to the other side of the building.

*Forward.

Weightless. He shoots off forwards again.

A small boy following birds with his eyes sees a white flash streak across the sky followed by a gust of wind.

“Mom! Mom! A shooting star!”

His mother pushes her billowing hair from her eyes and peers upwards.

“During the day?”

*Left.

He makes a sharp left turn.

*Right.

He shoots off to the right.

He looks up and he arcs backwards and flies facing the sky with his hands spread. The sun warms his face. He rolls to his right and faces forwards. Below him is the cityscape, disappearing behind him as fast as it appears in front. He looks at the buildings he recognizes and those that he doesn’t and wonders at how fast he reaches and passes them. He slows down to a halt to admire how the buildings glow and shine in the sun’s light. He holds his position in the sky, stagnant except for the flowing and waving of the scarf.

Everything looks so beautiful and peaceful from up there.

*It’s nothing like the actual truth on the ground.

The view suddenly disgusts him. He turns his face away and flies off to the right.

*If that’s what they see, then no wonder they never intervene.

He looks at a building and heads towards it.

*I’m home.

He slows down and descends on the roof. He blows off some dust as he lands.

He turns off his spirit runes. He looks up at the sky. He smiles.

*This will be fun.
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