The financial stockbroker had worked on Wall Street for fifteen years of his life, where he dealt with rich thieves and snake-tongued politicians. After receiving his eighth death threat, he finally quit, not out of fear but rather a desire to move out of the urine-stench-filled streets of New York City. He had built a thick skin over the course of his career, yet nothing out of his work experience could ever compare to the tragedy that struck when he returned home a few hours ago.
He now stood on the 25th floor of an office building downtown, an hour past midnight, propped up on the ledge, the wind brushing against his skin in a way that both exhilarated and terrified him.
His wife’s bright red blood splattered across their family couch still lingered in his mind, his son’s intestines displayed on his living room floor. Horrible images haunted him, but no matter how often he closed his eyes or how much brandy he drowned in, the memories remained. And the pain it brought him... like a hand wrapped around his throat, his grief suffocated him. The feeling was worse than a rose bush piercing his heart from the inside out.
There was no escape, not in the land of the living, so here he stood on his feet, hovering near the edge of a tall building near his home. Here, he would meet his demise.
A bitter smile graced the stockbroker’s lips. The wind blew again, this time harsher, and he lurched forward, nearly falling before he was ready. He stumbled back with a horrified gasp, his breaths short and heavy and his hand against his chest. Then he cursed himself for his cowardice and pulled his shoulders back. He had already made his decision and accepted his fate.
Slowly but surely, he inched his way back to the very edge of the building. Sweat dripped down his forehead. He closed his eyes, thinking back to his family when they were alive—his wife’s bright, beautiful eyes and 12-year-old son’s playful grin. With warm thoughts in his mind, the man took his final step and flung himself from the 25th floor of the office building.
He stopped breathing, and his stomach plunged as he awaited slapping against the concrete and fading into oblivion. Seconds passed, and nothing happened. He had already fallen, he felt the wind move around him, but he never hit the floor.
The stockbroker opened his eyes, and a scream left his throat. A woman’s face hovered in front of him, melted and disfigured as if she’d been torched alive. Her eyes were black and cruel, and her parched lips were pulled into a wicked smile.
A few inches lay between them; the woman’s body was parallel to his above the ground. They were a little more than two feet above the concrete that he was meant to die on.
The woman placed a crooked finger on the man’s cheek, her sharp nail drawing blood.
“Did you think you could escape me that easily?” the creature said in a voice that sounded like chalk grinding against a blackboard.
The man should have known better. Ever since he moved into the new house in Southern California, this thing had haunted him and his family. She had murdered his wife and son to torture him, and even in his moment of mourning and vulnerability, she would not let him die.
The woman disappeared almost as suddenly as she appeared, and the force holding the stockbroker’s body in the air vanished. He smashed against the concrete at a nonlethal speed, splitting his nose open. He howled in pain but remained prone on the ground, defeated. There was no escape from this creature, no peace, not even death.
“It looks as though you have a demon problem,” a sharp voice called out from the dark.
The man looked up, searching for who had spoken.
“Who’s there?” he cried.
A girl no more than the age of 18 stepped out of the shadows, wearing all black and two swords strapped to her back. Her face, though young, was marred with frown lines while the ends of her lips quirked upward.
She had called the creature a demon, but how could the girl have seen her? The stockbroker had gone to priests, friends, and police with complaints of the woman who haunted his family, but none other than him, his wife, and his son could see the creature.
The man crawled shakily to his knees.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
The girl unsheathed one of her swords and held it out in front of her. The moon’s light reflected off of the blade. “Let’s just say I’m a hunter of all things magical.”