Chapter 1: Rise and Reveal, Hell Beings and The Hungry Ghost
Chapter One: Rise and Reveal, Hell Beings and The Hungry Ghost.
The house reeked of mold and damp. The living room carpet, I assume, had never been washed. It was covered in dark, patchy stains of frightfully unknown origin. The sun had fallen behind a line of trees to the west of the house. The less light there was, the easier it was to hide myself behind glamour, out of human sight.
I was tired of waiting; my legs cramped from couching in the dark corner for so long. They begged me to stand and reveal myself. They were desperate for relief. The stalking began months ago when I noticed a child playing in the backyard by himself from the dark tree line. The city of Cottonwood was dotted with untouched forests, it gave us just enough distance from humans, but close enough for us to harvest food and entertainment when we need it.
The boy, Akira, would not have been a concern if it weren’t for the cacophony of abuse in the background. The boy was unphased by the fighting between his parents. It was obvious that the yelling, crashing, and slamming doors were a normal occurrence for him. I had been lurking patiently for months in the house’s nooks and crannies, observing the dynamics of their family. The adults before me were mostly unaware of my presence.
Today was the day my patience ran out. I watched the mother, Angel, scrubbed dishes furiously in the kitchen. The father, Colin, was slumped in his dark armchair in the corner of the living room. He was trapped in the deep hell that was his mind. How could two people be mere feet from each other and seem so far away? Distant, resentful, hopeless. I moved at the edge of the shadows lining the walls of the dark living room.
I devoured all warmth from the room for energy. Colin had never seemed to question the subtle chill in the air that my presence caused. How my energy makes the air hum, the bulbs flicker, or my ghostly footsteps that made the floorboards groan.
To your credit, Angel, you have stopped and stared in my direction, unsure of what you’re looking at. You sensed it; a predator was nearby. My glamour isn’t always full proof. Poor Angel, you have gaslit yourself to assume gut feelings are just paranoia, not a primordial skill to keep you alive. You refuse to listen to the voice that nagged at you from some ancient void. It was telling you that you were being watched.
I see you turn on extra lights to pacify yourself, though. I see you climb the basement stairs a little more quickly. I see you always looking over your shoulder. I see you hum made-up songs to yourself hoping to quiet your fear. The fear whose origin is unknown to you.
I walked softly from the dark corner of the living room to drink in the misery of Colin and Angel.
I would kill the both of you if it was worth the effort.
I find it more pleasing to endure the shame for a sin I deem unforgivable.
These past few months confirmed to me that this was a house had no signs of a happy child. It was one of many I had visited in the city of Cottonwood. I was at a loss for choice of neglected children here, tonight it was their turn.
I was disgusted and disappointed, the fridge had no sloppy artwork pinned to it. No sunny landscapes made by tiny hands. No toys strewn about. No crumbs dotting every surface or crack in the furniture. All the money, time, and love went to drugs and liquor. There was no room for Akira here.
Angel paused as I loomed behind her. Her jaw tightened. Her unease and anguish seeped into the space between us.
You know, deep down, how awful you are. You know you have failed as a mother.
I lived for her self-loathing.
“Darling,” I breathed into her ear. “Clean all you want, but things will never be pure again.” My words left my mouth as feelings instead of sounds.
She felt my message linger in the air. The horrid blue lights droned and vibrated. The appliances hummed softly and shook the walls. The air smelled of chemicals and her cheap, drugstore perfume. The tile peeled and recoiled. Angel became acutely aware of everything around her, and her body slowly grew heavy.
Her reflection stared back at her from the bottom of the kitchen sink, distorted and mangled. The plate in her right hand clattered against it. It was so satisfying to see her emaciated figure pulled helplessly to the floor.
You are weak, stupid, and numb.
You’re a failure. You horrible ugly thing. What have you done to your child?
The tears she fought so hard to hold in for so long escaped and spilled on the floor. I continued to whisper to her as a ghost in an unseen realm.
You don’t feel remorse for the lives you’re destroying with drugs. You only feel self-pity. You feel life owes you so much more. You deserve nothing and you know it.
Your husband Colin is just as selfish as you are. You both find ways to desperately flee reality, searching for a fantasy world and using drugs as a ticket to get there. You lie to yourself about what an abusive, drug-peddling, deadbeat Colin is. Your codependent desperation is a prison with no escape. Keeping Colin around is more important than your child’s wellbeing. So, you deserve the pain that will come from my act of justice, since the courts can’t help Akira. I hate you, but not as much as you hate yourself.
Angel cried softly, something she did often, but it was never enough to make her changes her ways. I withdrew and passed under the white archway separating the kitchen from the living room.
The unknown stain in the carpet formed a crescent moon around the ragged velvet armchair. Colin was listless after a day of binging. He rolled ice around in his crystal glass, the “tink, tink, tink” was a broken song of his discontent with life.
Another day wasted, and you still amount to nothing, Colin.
He sighed, darkness washing over him, my soundless whispers and near telepathic messages dragged him down further. The glass was long empty of the spirits he used to drown out the screams that echoed incessantly in his mind, screams that no one else heard. His hollow eyes were flooded by dark images.
You could be anything, but you made yourself hollow and miserable.
I knew his type. Before I was the vigilante I am, I was a human child. I grew up around people like these two. To me, they were not longer human. Colin’s body was just a worn sarcophagus that guards nothing but the desecrated remains of what was once a man.
He could have been something strong and worthy, full of greatness if he could realize that his body as a temple of divine consciousness, but he couldn’t. He was rotting and waiting to die.
The poison of alcohol radiated from his pores, it collected in Colin’s aura and created a foul smell. This reeking drew demons that feed on human suffering. They swirled about him as he seethed. They coiled themselves about him, latching onto his shame and plunging him deeper into the hell he created for himself. I realized I don’t have to kill either of them. They’re killing themselves already, but I won’t let them drag the child down too.
Your descent into misery is a dying flower drifting slowly down a whirlpool, an effervescent asshole in the universe.
“Colin, don’t let your customers fall asleep here.” Angel broke the silence with a forced politeness, sniffing and leaning into the living room from around the corner. She was furiously drying a glass like the one Colin was drinking from. Colin’s eyelids fluttered, his head looking this way and that.
“They’re already clocked out; I can’t kick out two people too strung out to stand up.” Colin argued, hacking a wet cough.
The two crusty guests remain unreactive on the couch next to him. A tall, lanky male stared with eyes open, listless, and unfocused. After a moment, his head of filthy and matted hair rolled in my direction, slowly blinking. His friend, a frail and sickly woman, laid unconscious next to him, drool seeping into fabric. Colin obviously hated these two, but they were frequent customers.
Angel scoffed and threw her dishrag down on the kitchen table, speed walking past me and stomping up the stairs. Angel wanted control of her life so badly.
“I’m going to bed; I don’t want them here when me and Akira wake up.”
Angel did not bother with eye contact or waiting for a response.
The blinding fluorescent lights flickered in its own Morse code as I stood beneath them. Angel turned and stared suspiciously at the kitchen lights from the stairs.
“Please fix those.” She pleaded helplessly.
“It is hard to stand in that kitchen with the bleach fumes rotting my brain.” Colin’s words tumbled haphazardly from his mouth. He had a point, the smell of cleaning supplies sliced into my nostrils like thousands of spiteful razor blades.
Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes as an encore, flavored with her resentment and her fear. I followed, catching the scent of her soft brown curls. The hairs on her arms stood on end as I passed, and the floorboards groaned beneath my feet.
The drunken father in the armchair raised his head at the sounds. For a moment, he stared in my direction from his old chair. For an instant, his mind released him from the endless torment with a sigh. The demons feeding on his energy hissed at being interrupted. His eyes were an abyss devoid of rapture. He dismissed the creaks, blaming them on Angel and recoiled within himself again. He was chained to his chair by his thoughts, trapped in a nightmare. I hovered over him soaked with contempt.
You’re not deserving of parenthood.
I offered you chances to get your act together. You’re too weak.
A long time ago, parents knew what a blessing having a living child was. They knew not to neglect, mistreat, or ignore their children lest we, the Fae, pluck them from this world and carry them to ours. Or worse yet, leave their bodies scattered in pieces at the edge of the family’s land to serve as a warning to others.
Humans knew about predators like me, and rightfully feared the woods, our home. They warned their children, valued them, kept them safe nearby. They respected nature to leave offerings for us outside their homes, so we didn’t prey on their families, even though we still did regardless. The good old days. Things have certainly changed.
I am going to take you Akira, far away from here. I will save you from this miserable life of being unwanted. You are waiting for me. It will be frightening at first, the transition will be painful, but this is temporary. You’ll be so grateful. I won’t let you suffer the way that I did.
I ascended the staircase silently, a pathway to my prize. I slithered past cold, lifeless photographs of this tiny family. It was too late to repair now. The child would be mine soon. Their soul would reside with me in my realm.
Your soul, Akira, will be used to sustain my immortality. You’ll be free of pain and wander in the confined meadows of perpetual springtime. You will dance, play, and laugh. Granted, it’s an illusion of my own creation, you won’t really be there. Your soul will reside in a bottomless box with the other children as I feed on your energy slowly, but it is certainly better than being here.
The house never felt warm, or smelled of home cooked food. Yet, Akira loved his parents with such power, even though he was so insignificant to them. I would give him attention he deserved. He would be seen and serve a magnificent purpose, as food. For once he would know what it felt like to be valued, to be savoured.
The second level of the house was devoid of any nightlights. The air was tense, buzzing with agitation. A large crucifix knocked quietly against the bedroom door as I gently pushed it open. I could easily melt through walls, but the eerie creaking would heighten the experience, making it more fun.
I heard the child gasp. He sat up abruptly, fearful eyes darting about the room. The rush of panicked breath heaving out his flared nostrils. He shifted uncomfortably in his bed, unsettled by the approach of night and its noises. Akira had been on high alert every night since I arrived.
My malicious intent flooded the room from the doorway. The boy was no older than seven but had sharp instincts. The sun slithered slowly behind the horizon and out the window. My excitement bloomed and my hunger rolled. I lifted the veil of glamour just enough to be seen as a formless shadow. The light had retreated enough to make it comfortable for me to drift along his wall as a passing shadow. His gaze followed me, but his body was frozen in place. My coat rippled quietly as I moved stealthily into the sanctity of his open closet.
Your situation is grim, Akira.
His head slowly shifted toward the closet trying to make sense of what he was looking at. I was amorphous, fluid, a churning plume of darkness. He regained control of his body, rubbing his eyes of sleep, and stared again, the glint of my orange and blue eyes peered back at him. Akira whimpered.
I lifted the glamour completely. I felt my own materialization. I had weight and the floor pushed back against my black shoes. The walls became solid. I was no longer a shadowy silhouette, or a settling house. I was no longer an uncertainty, or the product of an overactive imagination. I was a solid, dark threat. I was cohesive.
Akira shook as I revealed myself, I could taste his panic. I was within arm’s reach of him, my energy broadcasting the same vibrating song into the universe. The song of his death.
His little eyes grew larger still as they stared into mine. His lids peeled back into his skull to take in the sight of me. I slowly inched forward with lips pinned to either side of my face in a Cheshire-like grin. I already knew I had won. He cried out, expectedly.
I retreated into the closet adjacent to the bedroom door to humor his attempt at rescue. There was an exasperated sigh from the next room and flap of his mother ripping her blankets back. Her bed creaked as she pulled herself from it. Angel was already aware of the reason for her summons, anticipating the same conversation to play out as it had every night for weeks. The same discussion about monsters in his room. She stood in the doorway with her body begging the question. The boy motioned his tiny hand to the closet, pleading to her without words.
“Honey,” She paused, her arms folding themselves over her chest. “There is nothing there, we’ve been over this. There are no monsters in the closet.” The boy’s head darted sharply to meet my form. I stared back, engrossing myself into his large black eyes, grinning wildly.
Oh mummy, you clueless-
The boy hugged his stomach, remarking how nauseous he feels. Angel feigned compassion and felt his forehead but had already dismissed him before her hand even graced his skin.
“Go to bed. You’re not sick.”
The edges on Akira’s mouth tug at themselves, distorting his face into a heartbroken frown. His lips pursed and his little black eyes squinted and watered. He hung his head low, eying me from his peripherals. Angel mumbled how he is “too old to be afraid of the dark” and lackadaisically closed the door. This sealed his fate. The poor boy.
The way he looked at me, clutching his blanket in his tiny fists, his shoulders curling trying to protect himself from the inevitable. I could not contain my eagerness. The child tilted his head forward, inclining towards me as if to help his words carry through the air.
“There is no such thing as monsters.” he affirmed to my figure.
I stepped from the closet. The horror in that boy’s eyes was intoxicating. His last chance at safety had already walked out the door. His hope was drowning. I took a small step towards him, he instinctively moved to the edge of the bed in return.
I lunged at him from across the room, barreling through the flames of darkness that trailed behind me like a whirlwind. Spinning about and caressing the floor like a cool mist. I stared at my own distorted reflection in his wide, teary eyes full of primal horror.
Yes, dear child, this is really happening. Yes, Akira, you are in danger, and there is no one here to save you. It will be over quickly though.
I stopped short at the foot of his bed
for a moment, his body locked and froze. He held his breath as I slowly crept across his sheets, limber and relaxed like a thirsty spider. I always loved the feel of cotton, the last thing their bodies touched before I took their lives.
His face, so full of fear and confusion. He finally clamped his eyes shut, bracing himself, whimpering like a frightened animal. Perhaps he was hoping I would disappear like I had so many nights in a row. Not this time, Akira.
You’re afraid of the wrong person.
I am here to be a saviour of your innocence.
Akira’s tiny voice still echoes in my mind from time to time.
“Daddy says you aren’t real. You are just my imagination.”
Guess what, Boy? Daddy is wrong.
That initial strike is often the most fulfilling. It’s an explosion of shock, pain, fear, dismay, and detachment. It’s amazing the denial that even children go through in their final moments. I tore into the neck, teeth sinking softly into his flesh. Jagged claws digging deep into his shoulders and the blood pours from the wound filling my gut.
I could feel pain flooding his body as he struggled to cry out, the hold I had on his neck depriving him of any success. No air could enter, no screams could escape. My nails dug deeper, sinking effortlessly into his soft flesh, creating the leverage to pull apart the fibers of his body. Yanking away the muscles from his arms, shredding them to pieces and sending his flesh in all directions.
The warmth of his blood against my cheeks chilled quickly, cascading down the sides of his throat and soaking the sheets. He fell back onto his bed, his blood gushing from his sticky wounds, pooling around his face, flowing carelessly across his skin painting his body in red streams.
He choked, desperate to replace the blood in his lungs with air. The life inside of him began to collapse. His lucidness eddying about in his eyes as his soul begins escape from his body into the air around him.
The muffled gurgle escaped his throat, fluids shift and erupt from his mouth. He blinked, the last threads that bound his soul to his body unraveled. His final moment was his spirit spent staring down at himself from the ceiling, watching his white blankets turn black and crimson. I sat up, wiping the mess from my face, smearing it further. I motioned and beckoned his spirit from the bed to my hand. It did so willingly. I guided it to a satchel at my side for it to rest comfortably. A red sea dripped from his corpse and onto the floor.
The job was over. The blood from the boy soon drew a gaggle of hungry semi-conscious spirits that huddled outside the window, watching with an anxious hunger, and filled with envy. Their emaciated bodies and long, boney limbs slowly inched their way in through the open crack in the window. I stood, sniffing lightly, permitted them to clean up with a dismissive wave of my hand.
“Have at it friends.”
They eagerly scrambled through the window, giddy for their turn to fill their empty gullets. I stepped away from boy’s bed to avoid the splatter as they ripped his body into manageable chunks. Satisfaction and satiation weighed my body down. I fell heavily into a rocking chair to give me an ideal view of the beasts enjoying their spoils.
The chair creaked each time I rocked. At one point it was used to ease the weight on a young mother’s body, to feed, croon, and cradle her young one to sleep. A chair that for many nights was the perch of the concerned and doting parent, sacrificing their own sleep to ensure that the boy was still breathing. A chair where the safety of their child took precedence over everything in their lives.
Before they neglected him.
The scavengers snarled, grunted, screeched, shoved, and snapped at each other as they competed for scraps of flesh, the tender body of the boy ripped like Velcro with sickeningly wet sounds. His tendons and muscle stretching into thin webs between the beasts as they engaged in multiple games of tug-of-war. Bones cracked and crunched in the larger jaws of older scavengers. Leftover blood splattered the bed, floors, and walls. The emaciated bodies of the ruthless spirits clambered desperately over one another; their bellies felt empty no matter how much they ate.
They were a disgusting sight of hanging skin stretched over skeletons. Some had resorted to sucking the blood from the sheets and carpet. I waited patiently to ensure they left the scene clean. I hoped to leave the mother wondering. I wanted to see if they would even bother looking. As I watched, an all too familiar aromatic zest wafted from behind me, a signature scent of my mentor.
“Disgusting, aren’t they?” His voice drew out each syllable with arrogance and disgust. I stifled a laugh. Luke sipped delicately from a wide, long necked glass filled with blur, ethereal spirits.
“The scavengers, you mean, or the people?” I replied. Luke groaned.
“Was that an attempt to be witty?” He sneered. “You are a delight to watch, Mori, so stop forcing it.”
I clutched my heart at the compliment.
“I do love a sincere show of praise from the Fae Lord that brought me into this life and safely under his wing.” I cooed. Luke was only creature to care enough for me in my youth. His mercy saved me and gave me a life of purpose.
“Usually, it’s the voices in my mind that remind me of my talent.”
“Don’t get used to it.” Luke mumbled into his glass. “Most of them will never exist outside your head anyway.”
Luke was incredibly rude.
“I’m your favorite and you know it.” I scoffed.
“You’re the only formerly-human pupil I have, and even then, you seldom listen and always go your own way.” He replied.
I bit my knuckle, narrowing my eyes at the shrinking and gruesome remains of Akira.
“Our relationship is founded on defiance.” I said incredulously, hands gripping the armrests.
“You’re very passionate and involved in this work. So, we all let you get away with a little more than most.” Luke’s face hinted at what seemed to be a smile.
“Humans are a festering wound on the earth. Case by case, child by child, I will take what good is left in it. I am the last working scale of justice that exists. I am judgement. I act as a God. I am going to stop this cycle of suffering.”
Luke sighed, the melodrama settling in the air.
“Is that another thing your voices tell you?” He mumbled into his glass.