Red Noon - Moony - 02-04-2008 01:05 PM
My first original story, hope you like it~!
“In the years after World War 2, the people of the time began to hope for peace and prosperity, much as they do after any war. For a while, there were never any serious conflicts, although at that time the survivors of the Cold War, Vietnam, and the like could argue that point. In the years of the new millennium, the two thousandth year on the “modern” calendar, things began to change. New leaders brought in by false pretense destroyed the economies of the world, setting the stage for a massive battle that they and the future of human kind would come to know as World War 3. The survivors blamed it on those leaders and false prophets, but in reality they were just puppets pulled by the strings of an even bigger show working under the table. And under the skin. Rebellion had spread through the different realms, and angels joined sides with demons and attempted a universal reformation. Many of the world leaders were possessed, used to wage pointless wars against other nations in an attempt to spark a fire. Most of the world would be destroyed, and countless investigations would reveal nothing conclusive. Most of the remaining population knew nothing of the real war being raged. And to find out they never did, a secret society that called itself the Black Feather united under a cloak of secrecy in an attempt to kill the Rebel leader, Ashura, a fallen angel. They never succeeded in the task, but during the largest battle in the history of the angels, Ashura’s forces were pushed back and in the end, defeated until it was only himself and his most faithful followers remaining. The three of them fell back, but some were caught and sealed away, and in the final -”
The last words of the paragraph were lost as the pages of the book closed. Firelight illuminated the title, “A History of the Angels,” but it was hardly a truthful book. For one, the book hadn’t even been written by “angels.” It seems most people these days could only guess at what goes on around them.
“It’s like they’re wearing blindfolds.” The Demon Hunter said to himself, placing the book back on its shelf. The Black Feather Library had enough books to last a lifetime, enough even to dwarf the one at Alexandria. But they only served as a reminder to him.
He checked his pack one last time, before exiting through huge double doors and out into the night.
Red Noon, Chapter 1 – The First Target
It was unusually dark tonight, Russell noted as he made his way down the dusty steps of the Blue Harp tavern. To make things worse, it was raining and the fog only turned the world into a blind man’s paradise. Staring into a puddle, he could barely see his reflection enough as he tightened his tie. It was a dark shade of red, like his eyes, and he couldn’t help but notice as he took the final step down that he looked good in a business suite. His jet black hair fell down into his eyes as he checked his pockets – pen, check; spare paper, check; wallet, check. He paused for a moment, searching through the pockets of the suite’s jacket before – pistol, check.
It was eerily quiet, too, he suddenly noticed. Not that it had anything to do with him, but lately the city – and apparently the entire world – had been beaten down by a series of odd events, one after another. This was no coincidence. Even a civilian like him could see that, hence the pistol, but there was just something unnatural about it. No city – especially a city like New York - loses power at the same time for a week straight. After the third World War the economy was in its final dive, and there was no need for money anymore. It was worthless everywhere, regardless of the note and things seemed to be at their worst. Most of the cities world wide had been obliterated in the crossfire, leaving only the larger cities, and even these were in almost disrepair. Some people called it the Apocalypse, and had barricaded themselves in their churches or places of worship hoping for the Messiah that would never come.
But mostly, people continued as normal as possible under the conditions of the time. Even now, Russell could hear the sounds of cars passing on the street behind him, and could almost feel the city breathing with life – the human was computerized, mechanical, but still soft, like a mother’s caring touch to her new born baby. The animal, cautious and unwavering. But despite all the “normal” happenings, there was something else in the city tonight… No one else seemed to be able to feel it – a menacing presence bearing down upon them. At least, he didn’t think anyone could. Russell had never met another like himself, trained in the art of Demon Hunting. It didn’t seem to have much use these days, even if there were plenty of hunters out there, but in all honesty it had saved him on more than one occasion. His mother had insisted he learn, although he never knew why. But it was the exact reason for him coming to this run down old tavern.
A set of silver bells that hung on the reverse side of the tavern door sang their song as Russell opened it and stepped inside. The tavern was almost as dark as the street outside, with only a few candles to light a room of about twenty-five feet in width because of the power out. The few of its round tables that weren’t decorated with whiskey bottles and cigarette butts were cloaked in neat white tablecloths, and the blue-backed chairs mimicked the carpet on the floor. A jazz tune played quietly from a radio on one of them, but the signal was weak and the song could hardly be heard. There were a few pictures behind the bar to his right, but otherwise the place was barren and empty. The neon sigh next to the door read “Closed,” which explained the lack of customers. The only other person in sight was the bartender, a tall, skinny looking fellow with blonde hair and a tired look on his face. He had been washing the countertop, but he looked up at the sound of the bells and his appearance was suddenly that of a concerned parent.
“Are you the Demon Hunter?” he asked, rushing over to where Russell stood. Whether the man could see his right hand slip into his jacket pocket or not, Russell didn’t know. “Are you Russell Goldsmith?”
“Yes,” Russell said cautiously, careful not to loosen his grip on the pistol he now held, still concealed within his jacket. “And you are?”
“Oh, yes, of course. Excuse me, Mr. Goldsmith!” the bartender almost smiled, seemingly embarrassed by his own negligence. “My name is Jonathan Hughes.” He extended his hand, but Russell didn’t take it.
The bartender - Hughes, - didn’t seem to mind though. He seemed to understand the reason, because he turned towards a flight of stairs at the left of the rear wall and said, “I’m not the demon. I know that my word isn’t enough, so I’ll show you. My sister is this way.” He made towards the stairs.
“So you’re the one who hired me then?” Russell said then, his grip loosening slightly as he followed the young man. There didn’t seem to be much of a difference between their ages. Russell, in his early twenties, could see the inexperience in Hughes posture, almost similar to himself: a little too relaxed for the situation – but maybe that was because he knew what was going to happen to the girl upstairs.
“Yes.” Hughes replied. For a moment his smile was replaced by a look of pure sadness, but he must have noticed: he quickly corrected himself and sped up his pace before reaching a small wooden door, cracked and worn with age. Its withering locks were rusty, and its hinges groaned in protest as Hughes slowly opened the door and stepped onto the second floor.
Like many shops in this area, there was a living space above them for the owners. What was obviously the living room of the apartment was painted a creamy white, and the walls and ceiling were cracked with age. There were no pictures hung on the walls; they were too close to the subway for them to stay in place. Hughes didn’t have much to call his own, apparently. The only items Russell could see (aside from more lit candles) were a small couch for two, a television, phone, and a small lamp that was seated atop a milk crate. The kitchen was empty, aside from a thirty-year-old refrigerator, covered in a child’s stick figure drawings. One was of a girl and a boy, taller than she was. A rainbow highlighted the sky behind the pair, and the grass under their circular feet was green, aside from nearly illegible text: “To Jonny, love Sheena.”
“My little sister drew me that picture a few days before she got sick.” Hughes said quietly, obviously noticing where he had been looking. “She doesn’t deserve this… The poor thing…”
Russell had heard those words before. He himself had even said them once, during his first assignment for the Black Feather. But he wasn’t the same boy of sixteen anymore. He knew Hughes was only expressing his concern but he would have to be stronger than that if he wanted to save his sister.
“Exorcisms are very painful, physically, mentally, and spiritually.” He told Hughes bluntly. “Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. If you can’t handle the sight of your sister in -”
“No, I can!” Hughes said sharply. “Don’t think that I don’t know I could be the next target. I’ve read all about these kinds of demons, and I know what I’m up against.”
The two men stared at one another in silence for a moment, each measuring the other up. Russell wore an indifferent expression on his face, and Hughes one of unquestioning determination. In the silence they could hear themselves breathing.
“Jonny…?” came a quiet voice suddenly, shattering the veil of tension as both Hunter and Client turned to the new sound. The voice was almost faint, like the girl who said it was dying. But Russell knew she wouldn’t, even if her body had reached its limits. Not with a demon inside her…
Hughes rushed into a nearby room, much different from the ones outside it. Sheena Hughes’ room was a dull pink, decorated with flowered curtains and a large bed of the same style. The floor was covered in toys and get well soon cards, obviously from her friends and whatever family she may have had. Her nightstand held a picture of the girl and her brother. The girl in the picture had blonde hair like him, but her eyes were green, unlike his blue ones. She wore a red ribbon in her hair and a smile on her upturned face, reveling in the sunlight of the day. But the girl who now lay in the bed was a shadow of her former self. She looked to be on the verge of death: the “light” had gone from her eyes and she appeared to be staring at nothing. But yet, she was awake.
“Jonny…?” she called again, weaker than before. It was clear to Russell that this girl had a special gift before he had even entered her room. He hadn’t moved a muscle, and had remained silent because her door had been opened. But even so, she knew he was there.
Was that why she was a Target…?
“Who is that man with you?” she asked quietly, still not looking at anything in particular as if she couldn’t see anything to focus on. “I’ve never met him before.”
“He’s here to help you, Sheena.” Hughes said, kneeling down beside the bed reaching for her hand.
“Don’t touch her!”
Russell grabbed the back of Hughes’ shirt just in time. If he had gotten any closer to her, he would have been killed.
“S…Sheena?” Hughes stared open mouthed in disbelief: this was no longer his sister. When he had reached out to her, she had pulled out a hidden blade. She had come close to killing her target, too. Russell could see a horizontal streak of blood form from a small cut on Hughes’ neck.
Russell didn’t hesitate. “Hughes, can you restrain her?”
“Y-yeah…” Hughes was obviously shaken, but it was apparent that his love for his sister won over his fear of the demon inside her. He cautiously began to approach her, wary of anything else she may have been concealing. Russell turned to the windows. Pulling back the blinds so that the racks fell to the floor, he opened the windows and flooded the room with fresh air and as much light as they were going to get. An exorcism would normally be done at noon, when the sun was brightest. But this case was different. And his method was the complete opposite of the norm. Russell hoped the backup generator would work long enough as he turned on all the lights in the child’s room before turning back to Hughes, who was restraining the girl with extreme effort – he barely had a hold on her. He would have to do this quickly.
“Stand her up.” he said, and Hughes did his best to do what he was asked, but the demon had given the girl almost supernatural strength, and she was struggling against him for all he was worth.
“LET GO OF ME!” The girl shrieked, clawing and biting at Hughes. When it didn’t get anywhere, the demon tried another trick: “Brother, please, you’re hurting me!” it cried, using the girl’s voice as a tool to manipulate Hughes’ mind. But he withstood, focusing only on restraining his sister.
Russell took a deep breath before taking a step towards her, preparing himself for whatever he would see. There were plenty of Demon Hunters out there, but the reason Russell had never met one like himself was because of his unique abilities. He had the gift of what some would call magic. It was his way with these unknowns that had landed him with this job, and his title – Red Noon.
Placing a finger to his forehead, directly upon the spot of the “third eye,” he whispered a chant. He closed the distance between the three of them, and placed the same finger upon the forehead of struggling girl. Taking another deep breath, he stood for a moment listening to the sound of her struggle against her brother’s restraint. He could almost hear the demon trying to escape the tiny body.
It knew what was coming.
“Release!” he cried, and instantly he fell into darkness.
RE: Red Noon - PadFoot - 02-05-2008 07:22 AM
w00! I can't wait to see what happens.. ^-^
RE: Red Noon - Moony - 02-26-2008 12:51 PM
Ok, I STRONGLY recommend that only mature readers read this from now on. This chapter has some pretty gruesome parts to it, and I might just have the whole thing like that. SO. Only read it if you can handle it. My stuff is pretty mild to some other stuff I've seen, but even so...
Anyway, chapter 2. Enjoy.
Red Noon, Chapter 2: The Dive
Although he had done this sort of thing many times before, each person was different. Russell didn’t know exactly what to expect, but it was bound to be something unpleasant. Not to mention, the Black Feather considered this act – “Diving,” as it was called – more harmful than any other exorcism method due to the risk it carried to the victim. The soul was the most protected, sacred part of any being, and to violate its sanctity in such a powerful manner could, in rare cases, cause a sort of fusion between demon and host. Even if that didn’t happen, there was no telling what would happen to the physical body just due to the Dive itself. There was always some sort of price to be paid.
Regardless, Russell looked now upon the inner “world” of Sheena Hughes. This part of a life form would normally take the form of their most treasured place, and would have changing weather much as a real environment would. This was part of the order of things, and it can be described as natural for a being – most often human – to project themselves in a familiar place when confronted by something unpleasant, somewhere they felt most comfortable, or happy. For Sheena, it seemed, this place was an old village, surrounded by snow-capped mountains to the north, and a small evergreen forest to the direct left of where Russell stood. Snow fell from the overcast sky, flecking his dark hair and clothing with spots of white. However, it wasn’t cold. Even upon making contact with his skin the snow didn’t melt, nor did his breath become foggy.
‘Strange…’ Russell thought to himself, before taking his first step towards the village. ‘At least I’m leaving footprints behind…’
The snow was only a few inches deep, making the search through the village that much easier. It was crucial to get out as quickly as possible, and Russell could feel a deep sense of foreboding increasing the further in he went. Although the sun was hidden he could see very clearly, and the look of the buildings didn’t help matters any: the once livable structures bore mars of battle – recent marks – that could only have been created from a creature with incredible strength, and weapons to match. There were broken windows, doors that had been smashed in, and apparent claw marks all over, and things looked more like a war zone than a small town. Russell ran his fingers over one of the marks, noticing how deeply into the dark wood of the house they went. Even more disturbing was that whatever had made it had almost human hands.
The center of town wasn’t much of an improvement. The only sign of life ever having been there was a stone fountain in the middle of a circle of houses. Frozen icicles of water flowed down from the flutes and horns of many cherubs, like crystalline streamers, trapping small coins and tokens at their bases. The main focal point of the fountain was a tall, fierce looking woman, with her face upturned to meet the rising sun, and her long hair blowing in a non-existent breeze. Although each of the figurines was smiling, their grey, stone faces were all lined with frozen tears of ice, and it seemed to Russell that for a moment he could hear one of the happy-looking figures crying. But suddenly he realized that it was no trick of the mind. He turned, and to his right he noticed that behind a large building (probably a church of some sort, judging by the stain glass windows) was a small stack of boxes, a small shoe appearing in between a gap in the wall they formed.
“Sheena!” Russell called, but he got no response. Nor did he spot any movement, so he tried again, louder. This time the girl pulled her foot back, at least trying not to be seen, even if it was already too late. She was obviously planning on running.
“I’ve already seen you, Sheena.” Russell said, inching towards the boxes so that she couldn’t hear him getting closer. “I know exactly where you are, there’s no use running. I’m not here to hurt you.”
Russell mused over the way he sounded – he had never been “good” with children, much less in a situation like this. He probably sounded the exact opposite of his intent, and he felt stupid for not being better at this sort of thing, but chose to ignore his faults: he was only a few feet away from the closest box now, and stealth was everything. Only a few more steps and he would be able to at least catch her if nothing else. He certainly wasn’t going to be able to talk her out…
He took one more step, the final step, but the minute he put his weight into it there was a slight crack and he realized with a sudden jolt that he had failed to notice a stray piece of wood while he had been lost in the moment. Instantly, the box towers began to shake with the force of Sheena trying to make her escape. She broke past her protective fort and tried to flee into the town, but Russell was faster. He barely managed to grab hold of one of her sleeves, and he pulled her back taking hold of one of her arms. She was still struggling, and so he wheeled her around to face him, and knelt down to her eye level. Sheena was only about ten or so, he noticed. The ribbon in her hair had come undone long ago it seemed, for her golden blonde hair fell down into her eyes and over her shoulders. Her eyes were closed, and she refused to meet his gaze.
“Sheena, calm down!” He said, trying to sound as gentle as possible. She didn’t open her eyes, but she stopped struggling. Maybe she knew she was caught, or maybe she could tell there was something different about him – after all, the demon had only known he had been by her bedroom because it used a gift that had originally been hers. “Sheena, calm down. I’m here to help you.”
Russell loosened his grip as proof and brought his hand away, but just enough so that if she ran again he could still catch her. “Your brother –”
“What?” she asked suddenly, opening her eyes and looking into his. He heard her gasp and she took a step back. “Your eyes…” she said quietly.
“You’re not a –”
“No,” Russell said, “I’m not a demon.”
“Then where is it?” she asked, obviously suspicious of him. Russell was used to that kind of thing – people often felt his red eye color was unnatural, but he couldn’t help being born with them like that.
“I don’t know.” he replied truthfully. He stood up and looked around again. It was possible that it was nearby if it had heard them talking, and he knew Sheena hadn’t been hiding for nothing. He reached into his jacket and pulled out his pistol, checking it to make sure it had been loaded. It looked like an ordinary gun for the most part, aside from the “RN” etched near the edge of the barrel. He had built the gun himself, spending hour upon hour learning how to use and construct a weapon specifically for him – so much time that it had almost become a part of him. Russell knew that if he ever lost it somehow, it would be the same as losing a close friend or parent. But he hadn’t given it a name yet. Other demon hunters from the Black Feather had given their weapons names, but as he looked past the barrel of his oldest ally he knew he could never come up with one that fit just right.
Still, he knew he would at least find one eventually. He had left just enough space for a name when he built it, and momentarily set his eyes on this spot just below his initials before returning to gaze past it. The area around him seemed empty: there was still no movement, and even Sheena seemed frozen, although perhaps by fear more than anything else. The snow had almost stopped falling now, and a slight breeze had moved in, blowing what remained of the snowflakes anywhere but to the ground. The cloud cover that had been thick before was now starting to dissipate.
‘That’s good…’ Russell thought to himself. ‘More light means that if it’s only a lesser demon it won’t be able to stay outside for long.’
But while that was true, it was still important to learn anything he could about his foe – while he was here, he was equally as vulnerable to the demon’s influence as Sheena. He relaxed his stance and brought his gun down, but he didn’t put it away.
“Sheena,” he said turning to meet her gaze again, “do you know whether or not the demon is close?” She probably didn’t, but asking the question was both for information and to keep the girl calm as long as possible. She seemed uneasy, and kept shifting her weight from foot to foot. She looked ready to run if she had to.
“Its close.” she replied quietly. “Or it was. That’s why I was hiding. But it’s not now, and even so, if the sun is out –”
Russell registered what she had said – apparently she and her brother weren’t just ordinary people if they knew anything like that about demons.
“- it shouldn’t be able to attack us as easily. Maybe it went into a building of some sort. I for one intend to relax as long as possible before whatever happens now that you’re here.” She climbed on top of the pile of boxes and stretched out on top of a rather large moving box. For a minute the newly blue sky was reflected in her eyes as she stared into its depths, but suddenly she looked back at him. “What’s your name?”
“What?” To be honest, Russell had been a little taken aback. This girl, who had – at first glance – seemed like any other, was now relaxing and making small talk when she could be attacked at any moment. He hadn’t encountered someone like this before, and he didn’t think it likely that he would again.
“I asked you what your name was.” she replied, thinking he had misunderstood her.
“That’s a weird name for a demon hunter.” she said smiling to herself.
“No, it’s not.” Russell shot back, but it only made her start to giggle.
“If you say so...” she said finally, and began humming to herself to end the conversation.
The tranquility didn’t last long. Even if the sun was slowly emerging from the clouds, there was no guarantee that there wouldn’t be a demon around. Russell knew that keeping tabs on all the shadows was important, but so far there were only two: his, and Sheena’s. The snow had stopped falling completely now, and in the stillness it was hard not to hear everything around. Russell could hear even the slightest of movements as if they were close up. The only other noise came from the breeze that had started to pick up in the absence of further snow.
‘Maybe we’ll get lucky this time.’ Russell thought to himself, but only half believed it. It was highly unlikely that his presence was not already known to the demon, and every moment he prolonged the Dive the risks of serious damage increased.
Finally, he decided it was in both their interests to leave the church building and see what else they could find in the town. Sheena didn’t seem at all troubled by the thought of running into anything while on the move, which, while a good thing, meant that she could be at risk for a surprise attack, so Russell avoided enclosed areas. The town was much bigger than he had previously thought, although most of the buildings shared the same damage as those he had first seen. There were no people, either. Although this was the norm, Russell vaguely recalled one of his first Dives where there had been townsfolk, and they had all been slain by the possessing demon. The victim had gone insane as a result.
The darkened buildings were arranged almost like a maze, and it was hard to find the right path. Often they found they had crossed their paths, only to take another wrong turn and end up back where they started. It was certainly a unique layout, but it was no coincidence, Russell was sure.
“What do you expect to find?” Sheena asked after they had circled the area a few times. “We’ve been passing this same place over and over.”
“That’s the point.” Russell explained. “Most likely the demon already knows I’m here, so if we keep moving, we’ll leave a trail behind.” He pointed back at their footsteps. “It’ll know exactly where to find us.”
“You WANT it to find us?” Sheena asked, for the first time confused. “But what good could that possibly do?”
“It’ll do all the good in the world.” Russell replied simply. “You’re trapped here because of it, and the only way to fix that is to get rid of it.”
“But the other demon hunters would never-” she stopped mid-sentence, before hesitating and adding, “It’s not what I would think to do.”
The sun finally burst from its shadowy veil, flooding the area with bright noonday light. Again Russell counted the number of shadows to be safe – but discovered there were not two, but three. It had finally found them.
The demon stepped out from behind a small house and revealed itself to the group. Standing before them was a shadow darker than coal. It had basic human shape, but it was several feet taller than Russell, and had no facial features other than circles of fire where one would expect to see eyes. It’s skin was strangely pulled back, forcing it to have a permanent scream upon it’s face. It opened its jaws and a strangely metallic shriek of laughter escaped its lips. Russell could see flames inside its throat.
“Sheena, get back!” he warned, as the demon advanced on them. The girl nodded, and took cover inside a building, climbing over the broken door and not daring to look back. Russell held up his pistol and aimed it at the things forehead, but it merely laughed again.
“What do you expect to do with that?” it asked, it’s voice a screeching mix of what sounded like a dog in pain and the human voice. “That gun alone isn’t going to leave a scratch.”
“Maybe so,” Russell said staring down at his weapon. “But it’s not the gun that matters.”
He pulled the trigger and instantly the gun roared to life, sending out a single bullet. The demon tried to dodge, but at point blank range it was nearly impossible, and the bullet penetrated it’s left arm, sending dark matter swirling up and around the wound like smoke.
“AAAARRRGH!” the demon shrieked in pain, and plunged it’s right hand into the wound after the bullet. It pulled it’s hand out after a few seconds, and in it’s smoking, bloodied fingertips was a bullet made of pure silver, a large magical symbol similar in shape of a classic transmutation circle decorating the tip.
“What is this?” it shrieked, cradling it’s now useless arm in the other.
Russell didn’t answer. He instead fired several more shots, but this time the demon knew what was coming. It lunged at him, it’s wounded arm trailing awkwardly behind it. It was easy enough for Russell to avoid being hit – with it’s wound slowing it down, it was possible to anticipate it’s next move and counter before it had a change to strike. It’s arm also made it clumsy in motion, and in an attempt to turn it accidentally smashed a group of barrels, splintering the wood and shattering the metal into razor sharp blade-like pieces.
‘This should be easy enough,’ Russell imagined as three additional bullets sank into the demon’s abdomen. Again it tried to attack, and again he dodged, but to his surprise the demon did not stop. He turned to face it’s direction and to his horror saw Sheena climb out from the building and begin to walk towards him – towards the demon. Her eyes were sightless, and it was clear she had no control.
‘Shit, shit!’ Russell fired again, hoping to bring it down before it got to her, but if it had the energy left to control her even with such severe wounds – Suddenly there was a sharp click and the shower of bullets stopped dead. His gun had jammed.
Russell searched desperately for another weapon. The demon had closed in now, and extended it’s claws, raising it’s good arm for attack. He had to do something, anything, but there was nothing he could use, and without a weapon the demon would surely – It didn’t matter, if he didn’t act now Sheena was going to die. He grabbed the closest object to him and prayed.
The next thing Sheena saw would be etched into her memory forever. Russell knelt with his back towards her, a piece of metal from a broken barrel held above him, glaring in the sunlight. Crimson blood rained down on both humans as the demon collapsed, bent over the steel that now impaled it’s heart. The Demon Hunter shifted his weight and let the corpse fall onto the newly reddened earth. Instantly, the black, smoke-like skin of the demon peeled back, revealing the body of a middle aged man. Or so it looked, it was nearly impossible to tell by his face: there was almost nothing left of it. The skin and most of the other tissue appeared to have been melted off, leaving only bits of rotting flesh clinging to the jaw, nose, and empty eye sockets. What was left of the hair was dull and graying, the color of the jogging outfit he wore, now bloodied and full of bullet holes.
“What is this?” Sheena screamed as she fell to her knees. She stared in horror at the body, trembling violently and tears streaming from her eyes. She closed her eyes and turned away, sobbing quietly. “What is this….”
It had begun to snow again. It wasn’t cold, but Sheena bundled up in the jacket of Russell’s suit. It wasn’t much comfort. The dried blood that now dotted the black fabric was an ever present reminder of what had happened. She sat down on a nearby bench, deciding to watch the snowflakes rather than what was happening– after all, a grave yard was the last place she wanted to be right now. They always seemed to have something unnatural about them, and this one was no exception: without the sun, everything had a strange grayish look, like a black and white film from before the War. The trees were bare, covered only by a group of jeering crows, and the headstones that weren’t broken had been nearly lost in a sea of weeds. Her home town had really changed…
She brought her gaze back to Russell, and watched as he finished covering a newly dug grave. He stood up and bowed his head as if praying, before casting protective charms over the grave site and for an instant Sheena thought she could see the faint outline of wings coming from his back, but she knew that it must have been an illusion created by the weather. Still, she couldn’t help but wonder otherwise as a black feather fell slowly from the sky and landed at her feet. She picked it up and examined it, slowly twirling it in her fingers and watching how it moved in the air.
Russell had finished with the protection charms and was eager to be on the move. Sheena nodded, and placed the feather back on the ground. They walked past the old man’s grave and into the adjacent churchyard. Here Russell had drawn a circle into the snow and surrounded it with swirling symbols she had never seen before, and they stepped inside it one after the other. There was a clear difference between the atmosphere in and outside. Sheena found that she could breathe easier, and the mood was somehow brighter. But as she looked one last time at the new grave she couldn’t help but feel sorrow at the thought of leaving the man behind.
“Will he be alright?” she asked.
“He’s already gone on.” Russell replied, not looking at her. “The angels came for him.”
Sheena didn’t entirely understand what he had said, but there was something about it that had reassured her regardless. She glanced around at the broken town one last time and as her eyes reached the site of the bench she had sat on she noticed that the feather had disappeared.
‘But there’s no wind…’
Repeating what he had done before, Russell placed his finger in the center of his forehead and touched it to hers, preparing to exit the Dive. He couldn’t help but notice an uneasy feeling that things were only about to get worse, but he but his fears to the back of his mind and returned to the task at hand.
“This will only take a minute.” He told Sheena. He took a deep breath, and readied himself for whatever was about to happen.
RE: Red Noon - Moony - 05-10-2008 10:31 AM
Alrighty, so this is sort of a "hot off the press" chapter, so I might edit a few things between the here and when I'm fully satisfied. It's also the first chapter to be published from a different software, so I'm not sure how "long" it will be. But, the story is the same, and we're getting in to the serious stuff. Heads up, 4 has already been started, so sit tight.
Red Noon, Chapter 3: The Calm Before the Storm
The situation was grim, helpless even, Hughes thought as he paced around Sheena’s bedroom. This sort of thing had happened before, and certainly neither he nor his sibling was any stranger to things “paranormal.” Ever since her birth he had been warned that something like this could – and would – happen. Sheena was, after all, an esper. Hughes could vaguely remember the day his sister was born. He remembered a much younger version of himself holding his new baby sister in his arms as she smiled at him for the first time. He smiled himself as he thought about it, but it slowly faded as he delved deeper into the memory.
“Why are you holding it? It’s going to cause bad luck, Jonathan.”
“But father, she’s just a baby! Why do we have to –”
“Be quiet about things you don’t understand! Espers are dangerous! If we allow her to live there’s no telling what will happen to us! Are you willing to take that risk solely on the life of something like that?”
From the beginning, he hadn’t cared that Sheena was different. He hadn’t cared about what “trouble” she might have brought about. The fact was she had never caused any trouble. If anything, she was the victim. But their family had always been superstitious, even before the third World War. But with the appearance of the Demons, and with the highest death rate in a century, people were beginning to become paranoid about everything and everyone they didn't know. Being an esper, creatures like demons were always going to be drawn to her, and it was unlikely that she would be welcomed with open arms, even by her family. She had been possessed before, and so after he and Sheena had been cast out from the family because of her abilities, Hughes had taught himself minor exorcism techniques just in case. This time, it seems… he had failed her.
When he went to find a stronger exorcist, he had heard of Russell by name… or nickname rather. The organization he worked for – Black Feather – certainly had an odd way of doing things. It was almost obvious that they send Red Noon to him for a reason other than a simple exorcism, even if Hughes wasn’t sure exactly what it was. Perhaps it was just Russell’s unusual method of doing things… Hughes swallowed hard, wondering if he and his sister weren’t dead… It certainly seemed that way: they weren’t even breathing. It had been almost an hour, and still nothing had changed. In the stillness, he could hear his heart, beating faster than normal in his anxious state. He could hear his breathing as well – at least until the subway rolled by. It was the first train of the day. The sun had now risen and people all over the world had started living their lives again.
‘Not here though,’ Hughes imagined vaguely. ‘Not for us. Not for Sheena…’
Hughes sighed heavily, rubbing his neck as he sat down on his sister’s bed. His fingers ran over the small cut she had given him, and it began to sting from the salt. Russell had saved him from nearly being killed by his own foolishness. He should have been more careful… It seemed he grew more and more useless as time went on. All he could really do in the end it seemed, was wait for them to wake up…
It was cold… And it was dark. So dark that it seemed pointless to open her eyes because she could barely make out the room. But she was obviously underground… The only window was six inches tall, with evenly spaced bars. She could make out the sky, a few stars, and saw the brightness of the full moon dimming as it hid behind a cloud. She didn’t know where she was or how she got there. But she knew she was being watched. There was someone else in the room with her. Something… inhuman. Sheena watched as a Shadow Man stood silent, staring down at her. He was big, much larger than she. His mere presence inspired evil, and the room itself seemed to bend and shift around him, like the air he came in contact with couldn’t bear to touch him. His breathing was short and heavy, as though he couldn’t draw in enough air and his form quivered from time to time with the rhythm of his breath.
Suddenly the moon burst from behind its gray veil, flooding the room with watery-blue light. Sheena heard herself scream as the true figure was revealed – suspended in mid-air by chains, her brother stared blankly at the floor. His eyes were glazed over, and he looked as though he was either unconscious… or nearly dead. Blood streaked his hair and ran down his expressionless face, and his clothing was torn to bits. Behind him, half hidden in darkness was Russell – but there was something odd about him. His eyes were closed, and as he twirled a black feather in his hands she could see prisoner’s cuffs and a collar chaining his limbs together. He was leaning against the stone walls, muttering madly to himself. She couldn’t move any closer, but she could almost make out what he was saying from where she was:
"Are you happy, Father? I am doing what you wanted me to… You killed those innocent people without remorse…. I know now that what you did was right. The others… They just don’t understand… So here I am, still your puppet even after you’re nothing but a corpse in the ground... Aren't you proud, Father..? Blood means nothing to someone without a heart…”
Suddenly the rest of his words were lost to a low growl. Sheena turned to look behind her, fear taking root in her chest for the first time. Masking itself in the shadows, the creature – what looked to be a large, sickly dog – circled around her, it's luminous eyes watching her as it readied itself for attack. Suddenly Sheena couldn’t move. She looked down to see pair of clamps strapping her down to the stone floor. Without knowing how, she was pushed onto her back as more straps came over her chest and mouth preventing all method of escape. They were all adorned with symbols like the ones Russell had drawn in the circle before– ancient-looking symbols of magic. The dog-like creature moved toward her until it was so close Sheena could feel its hot breath on her face and its saliva as it drooled onto the arm closest to it.
This was it. It was over.
It finally attacked, running its claws down her arm. Pain exploded inside her mind, but the fabric smothering her prevented her from crying out. In fact, she wasn’t even sure she had a voice anymore. It quietly lapped up the blood before turning and lunging towards her neck - -
A sudden white light temporarily blinded her. Sheena could hear voices around her, but it was impossible for her to make them out. It was almost like an explosion had taken place next to her head – her vision swirled, there was a slight ringing in her ears, and she felt sick to her stomach. But soon she was able to make out lights over her head, along with two dark figures standing nearby. She was lying down, and even though her vision still swam she tried to sit up. Vaguely, she heard the soft rustle of sheets and silky clothing as the scent of lavender reached her nose. Looking around, she was able to make out a stand next to her bed with flowers and a glass of dark liquid atop its darkly stained surface.
One of the blurry figures came in to her view, and Sheena watched as her brother ran over to her bed. He looked tired, as though he hadn’t slept in a few days, with dark circles under his blue eyes, but he had the most sincere look of relief on his face that it was all Sheena could do not to cry. She smiled as he scoffed at her for sitting up so fast– he had always been the overprotective type. But she could understand why…
“Where's Russell?” she asked, before she could stop herself. Half of her mind was just curious, but there was another side of her that was still suspicious of the dream world. The images of the two men flashed across her memory, and she turned away so her brother wouldn't see the look on her face.
“I don't know.” Hughes replied. “After we got here, he disappeared. I haven't seen him since.”
The other figure came in to view. A nurse, she had short brown hair, angled down towards her face and styled with two hair clips to hold her bangs back and out of her dark eyes. She was about fifteen, Sheena noticed, and only a few inches taller than she was.
“How are you feeling?” she asked, handing her the glass of liquid from the stand. “Drink this.”
Sheena nodded, and took a sip from the glass. It was a foul substance, its smell no better than its taste, but instantly her vision became clearer and her limbs were more inclined to move again. “A little sore,” she answered, “but otherwise I'm okay.”
The nurse seemed surprised by this. “I thought for sure you would be more ill than this...” she said, a curious expression on her face. “It's a bit ironic, actually.”
“What do you mean?” Sheena asked, taking another sip from the glass.
“Well, it's just that when people are sent here after a procedure their prognosis is either bad or unknown. The Hunter that brought you both in is also receiving treatment, but I don't know where. Apparently that method he uses is more costly to himself if used, but it saved you a lot of trouble. He's somewhere up in Intensive Care, I think. Excuse me.” She exited the room through a sliding glass door on the right, her expression still one of anticipation and curiosity rather than concern.
Hughes had known from the start that Russell was in trouble but had avoided telling his sister right away. However, the nurse had ruined all possibility of breaking it slowly. For a moment, he wasn't sure whether or not Sheena was worried, but she couldn't lie to him. She yawned casually and stretched out in her bed, careful not to show any signs of concern, and he would have missed it but for the look in her eyes that only he could read. She always tried to make nothing of something, it was just her nature.
'Always trying to protect everyone else, huh Sheena?' he thought as she tried to finish the medicine, a foul expression appearing on her face. 'What about you though...? Someday you might lose yourself from caring too much about others...'
“Why are you staring at me like that?” Sheena put her glass down on the nightstand next to her and began to wonder if something was up.
“Oh, it's nothing.” Hughes said quickly, an awkward smile appearing on his face.
“Fine, be that way.” she crossed her arms and let out a huff of irritation.
“Something the matter?” Hughes was careful not to say anything stupid as he tried to provoke his young sibling into talking. He knew that by now she could tell what was going on, but she played right into it.
“Nothing at all.”
“Don't lie to me, Sheena.” he said, and his eyes met hers. She quickly looked away, and he knew she had been caught.
“I just -”
There came a smart tapping at the door, and a woman entered the small infirmary room. She had long, wavy auburn hair held back with a headband, and small white hooped ear rings. Her bright blue eyes matched the color of her jeans, and they checked over what were obviously Sheena's medical charts as she removed a pen from her lab coat.
“How is everything, Jonny?” she asked, smiling.
“Um... Miss Dalton, I-”
“What did you say?” the woman's smile was replaced by an icy glare, and Sheena suppressed a laugh as her brother's face turned red.
“Um... Nothing, Miss – I mean...”
“I thought I told you not to call me “miss”.” she said quietly, taking hold of his shirt collar.
Hughes's face darkened in shade. “Yes, you did, b-but -”
“But what?” she began to tear up. “Am I really so old? So decrepit looking? Or do you just want to insult me?”
“N-none!” Hughes was beet red now, and he was clearly uncomfortable. The woman's face was so close to his own Sheena was almost expecting them to kiss.
“Then why can't you call me something nicer, like I asked, Jonny?” she asked in a sweet, child-like voice.
Hughes was visibly relieved when she let go of his shirt. “There,” she said, her smile returning in full. “Was that so hard?”
Hughes collapsed into a nearby chair, his face slowly returning to its normal color, and the woman turned now to Sheena.
“So, how are you feeling?” she asked, her previous level of happiness returning at full force.
“Like I seriously need mouthwash.” Sheena said, holding the empty glass away from herself.
“That happens,” Elizabeth stated matter-of-factly. “But it has to be done. Some mandatory policy, I don't know much about it.” She smiled again, and went through some papers next to the medical chart in her hands. “Better hurry up and get dressed though, looks like they've scheduled a meeting for you.”
“A meeting? With who?”
Elizabeth pointed to a nearby door. “That's the bathroom, all your clothes are in there on the second shelf. There's a shower and everything you might need in there, as well.” She turned on her heels and made for the door, waving casually as she passed. “I'll stop by when it's time to head up. Bye-bye Jonny!”
Hughes turned red again.
This was like no organization Hughes had ever seen. The place was simple enough: above ground, it was a simple building and it masqueraded as a church. But below ground, the true nature of it's existence was revealed with heavy-duty bolts on the doors and securely barred ground-level windows. Bullet-proofing on every surface gave the whole place a monotone feel, the only real color coming from the various potted plants scattered in corners, and the red and gold direction arrows lining the walls. As for the people of this underground fort, there were no two alike. Some dressed in suits like Russell, sporting smaller hidden weapons, and others looked like they were preparing for war, with rings of bullets around their torsos, guns and cannons swinging at their shoulders. Then there were the scientists and doctors, with their simple white lab coats. Some of them were stained with unknown concoctions, and others with...
Whatever seemed to be happening, it was serious. Everyone went about their business as quickly as possible, not stopping to talk or even apologize for an accidental collision. It was if they wouldn't dare to, let alone want to. Their small group, which consisted only of himself, Sheena, and Elizabeth, had to worm in and out of people who too focused on where they were going to notice them or even stop if there was something happening. An they them selves could not stop: this meeting, whatever it was, was important. Hughes knew it, and so did Sheena. Neither of them would show their worry or confusion, but they could both feel it emanating from one another, like a thunder cloud rolling in, and the winds just beginning to pick up.
Certainly, there was going to be lightning. This was the first time something like this had ever happened, even if Sheena had been possessed before. Usually, she was looked after before being sent home with a “be careful”. But this time, things were different. This meeting proved that. They were totally clueless about anything that was happening, and for the first time in a while, Hughes felt as though he couldn't do anything about it. All he knew was that He didn't know how big of an event it would be or how life changing, but the winds were not in their favor.
“In here.” Elizabeth said when they reached their destination. They had gone down an older hallway it seemed, because the floors were well worn and the paint dull. Now the siblings turned toward a simple door, decorated with only a simple black feather painted on the front.
“What is it?” Sheena asked, as she went over and grasped her brother's hand.
“Everything.” She slowly drew out a key from one of her pockets and, as though it were delicate, carefully placed it into the lock and turned it gently into place. There was a quick click and the door opened, seemingly of its own accord. The room beyond was too dark to see father than a few feet inside, but Elizabeth went straight in, Hughes and Sheena following in her wake.
They had only gotten a few feet in when the door closed behind them, casting them into total darkness. Sheena squeezed her brother's hand remembering her dream, and he did the same to hers offering what support he could. Suddenly, a lantern from above shattered the darkness, and in the circle of white light sat a long wooden table, with one large chair in the center, and three seats on either side. Each seat was occupied by older men, the six wearing suits and the seventh and oldest man with elegant robes of the finest silk and embroiled with flowers and cranes. He looked towards the small group as they approached, a faint crease forming between his dark eyes.
“Elizabeth,” he said slowly, “who are these people? Why have you brought them here?”
“Because, Father,” she replied, her gaze strong and confident. “I believe these are the people you were searching for.”