By: Martin Linson
The heat was thick, suffocating; the sweat dripped off Ric’s bald head as if it was a faucet. He stretched upright, loosening the tight muscles in his back as he scanned the small maize field. The few other villagers were focused on their tasks at hand to get out of the sun as fast as possible. His gaze wandered back to the farmer’s hut where he saw him waving him over. Picking up his basket, he made his way back to the hut. Setting it down with a sweaty huff as he stood stretching his lower back once more as a pop or two could be heard.
He winced and smiled at the farmer, Kabil, was his name. His face was sun worn and dark, appearing like leather. His hands were thick and scarred, telling the story of the harsh life he lived, his field of maize he’d kept up his entire life. It was Kabil who provided for those near him, he’d always provided for his family, but it was his idea to expand his field and gather help from his neighbors in exchange for food. At first it was thought of as odd, but now, years later due to his idea, him and his neighbors were flourishing and growing.
The beginnings of a village, one of the first signs of civilization in 1996 BCE, but Ric was happy to be at peace for a change. His nightmares had subsided for the time being and he was just trying to enjoy it while it lasted, as things never stayed peaceful for Ric, not for long at least.
Kabil smiled broad as Ric approached, “Reek, thank you again. You have been such help to me and Itzel. She looks up to you, and thanks to you, we were able to turn the farm into this… After the savages attack and your aid, I can’t thank you enough”
“Kabil, please… if it wasn’t for your kindness and taking me in… I can’t think of any other way to help you and Itzel out. It was the least I can do, besides you’ve inspired those around you to pitch in and work together, aiding each other as a whole rather than letting each individual suffer.” he grabbed a jug of water that Itzel came up carrying and struggling, the jug was almost half her size, brimming with water as he brought it to his lips, water pouring over each corner of his mouth as he quenched the dehydrating thirst he’d worked up. Itzel just stood there smiling ear to ear as he drank the water she brought him.
About a year and a half ago Ric appeared out of the surrounding brush, to find Kabil, bloodied and hunched over Itzel, his house was smoldering, his wife, burned alive, but the two were still alive. He put the fire out, made what shelter he could, and nursed the two of them back to health, as well as the farm. The savages had strangely never been seen again after that attack as well. Ric had been with them for two years now, helping and watching Itzel grow.
Setting the jug to the ground Ric picked Itzel up and gave her a short toss in the air, her laughter filled the air bringing smiles to all around who was in ear shot. “What do ya need Kabil?” He turned to Kabil as he set Itzel back down ruffling her hair a bit as he did.
“I was hoping you could walk the neighbors back. I’ve heard word that more, unwanted have been showing up again, and… I worry.” He picked up Itzel and hugged her tight.
Nodding Ric smiled brightly, “you know I’d be more than happy to Kabil, but I’m more concerned about you and Itzel here… Are you two going to be ok?”
“Yes Reek, thank you for your compassion. We’ll be fine until you get back, besides we have the hiding space you made under the floor if they come around this way. Please, don’t worry of us, we will be fine until your return I’m sure,” smiling he kissed Itzel’s cheek as she playfully waved at Ric.
“Alright then Kabil, I will return shortly. If anything happens, please get into that hiding spot we made, and I’ll be back.” Smiling big he returned her wave as he walked out to the trail to meet the neighbors.
At a full sprint Ric rushed passed those standing next to the blackened husk of what was left of the hut. His speed was blinding as he blurred past everyone leaving puzzled looks behind as he was inside the residence in a blink. Throwing a piece of floor across the farm like it was a Frisbee, under it was the charred remains of Kabil. His arms were reaching out and what was left of his face was frozen in sheer horror. Whatever did this to him had instantly burned him, and in his experience only one thing could do that, and it wasn’t from Earth.
Snarling he turned to the closest neighbor, “did you see what happened?” Before he could even get a response he looked to the next man, standing with his mouth shocked open, “how about you?” He then moved to the next, “you?! Anyone?!” Tears began bud as he glared at the scene falling to his knees.
“Reek,” a very quiet voice pipped up, small in comparison to those trying to explain what they’d seen him do. Slowly Ric turned to see where the tiny voice came from to find a small boy peeking around what he assumed was his father’s arm. “um… Reek… I saw… bad men…”
Faster than anyone could draw breath Ric was in front of the boy, at one knee, at his level, keeping eye contact with him. The father startled took a step back, but the boy didn’t falter, in fact he stepped toward Ric and met his eyes. “You saw something?” His hands came up and held the boys in a comforting and calming manner.
“Yes, I… I saw…” his voice kept retreating, as if something was preventing him from continuing.
Ric smiled as his eyes seemed to brighten, and the air around them lightened, the entire mood seemed to lift somehow. “It’s ok son… If you help me I’ll be able to make sure what happened here doesn’t happen to anyone else….” His gaze didn’t falter from the boy’s.
The boy’s confidence grew with Ric’s encouragement, “There was a group that ran in… one big man… they were mean, and made sounds like animals… There was screaming from there,” he pointed to the remains of the hut. “Then there wasn’t… and they left, and there was crying… and then none….” The boy’s eyes dropped as tears began to fall down his cheeks.
Ric’s hands moved up as he wiped the tears from his face, “it’s ok, you told me everything I need to know, and now,” he stood up, nodding at the boy’s father, “now I will take care of it.” He turned toward the brush, and with one last glance over his shoulder and a reassuring nod to the boy, he was gone. A burst of wind was all that was left hinting to the direction he went.
The air was still with a heavy feel from the lasting humidity. The five men were all lean and muscular, wearing very little, only covering their genitals. Each was hunched over a piece of meat which had been torn from one of the three animal carcasses that had been dragged from the farm. It was obvious they weren’t afraid of being followed as the trail they left was hard to miss by someone not looking. Ric paused as he observed the group, seeing five, but not a large one like the boy had described. Glancing the outskirts from the fire at center, he still couldn’t see a sixth person. Perhaps he was sleeping or had a private area for himself as some sort of alpha of this group of, unwanted.
Unwanted was the term for all the lost undesirables who’d found some way to survive in the wild after their family, home, or village was overrun or killed off by other unwanted or even wild animals. Those that would survive would end up banding with other groups, and those who fell behind were left behind or sometimes even killed to help the others survive; it was strongest survive mentality. Most of these groups were nomadic so they wouldn’t get caught or stopped along their way. This group for some reason had started exhibiting odd behavior by setting up what seemed to be a territory.
Ric kept low to the ground and hidden in the surrounding brush as he observed the strange camp. The five seemed beastly in their behavior, unlike that of the other savages or unwanted he’d seen or dealt with. Ric picked up a rock, and tossed it in a direction away from him to observe their reaction. As soon as the rock hit, making a sound, all five took positions of attack in the direction of the rock. The closest one sniffing at the air, as it stood to its full height, then scanning the distance. It was then that Ric saw its face for the first time. The eyes were clouded over, yet it seemed to be able to see, and across its forehead seemed to be a reddish black mark. With nothing further attracting their attention all five returned to their fresh meat.
Ric fell back into the brush, cursing softly under his breath. The evidence was clear of demonic control. As he had feared, this large one must be a demon, a rather bold one to be walking around in plain sight, albeit at night. That meant it was probably powerful, perhaps the strongest he’d encountered, but that had yet to be seen. He looked back up towards the camp, keening his vision to see better in the dark as he searched the outskirts for evidence of their missing leader. That’s when he heard the soft faint cries of Itzel from the remains of a dimly lit hut in the distance.
The brush around where he’d been standing rustled from the sudden burst of speed as in a flash Ric was standing in the dark doorway of the hut. Taking in the interior he saw the broad reddish hued skin of a demon. Its black feathered wings spread across as it stood up and dropped Itzel’s body to the floor. Her body unmoving as it lay on the ground, what appeared to be lifeless. Ric’s blood began to boil; he couldn’t have been too late, was he?
The creature turned to face him as blood dripped down its chin. “Her innocence was delicious, I must say,” he wiped the stray fluid from his chin with the back of his hand, then licked it off with a black almost lizard like tongue.
“You… you… d…didn’t…” Ric was frozen, the rage filling him unlike he ever felt before. He was too late to protect her, the innocence gone.
The demon smirked at him as he spoke, “I was not aware that of your kind actually lived amongst the mortals. I’m impressed to say the least; you are all so… full of yourselves”
Ric’s rage continued to rise, as he was suddenly aware of his surroundings, sensing the five others positions, and the power of the demon in front of him, which was greater than he’d estimated. “As I’m equally surprised one of your power is here…” he said through gritted teeth, continuing to assess the situation.
The demon stretched popping his neck as his wings spread their full twenty feet wing span then curled back up behind him, and his gaze focused on Ric. “Well, here, the possibilities are endless, and no one to answer to.”
Ric’s rage was barely hanging on, “Oh, you will answer to me” His rage exploded as there was an explosion of energy from Ric. As the smoke cleared, all that was left standing was Ric and the demon. There were five sets of smoldering ankles sticking up from the ground, as the unwanteds had been incinerated from the blast of energy.
“I am Bahlreq! Your light show does nothing to me,” faster than Ric expected, Bahlreq’s fist came smashing downward into his face, sending him hard into the ground, leaving cracks in the ground from his impact from the force of the punch.
Shaking the fog from his head, Ric looked up at the demon, wiping blood from his cracked lip. He looked at it in a slight awe, had he not seen his blood in some time since he’d come to live among the mortals. “It… can’t be…”
“I expected more from the first, to be quite honest. Seems your time among the mortals here has softened you. Not the warrior I know from the Creation War.” He was at Ric’s throat, cutting off his air slightly as he straddled over him, stronger than he’d expected.
“H..hhhow?!” Baffled, Ric had no clue how he was so easily bested, was his rage his weakness? Was the demon right, had he forgotten who he was, let it go?
Grinning down at the gasping man, Bahlreq responded, “Well, I can’t just end you that would take all the fun out of your defeat here. I’m going to let you live with your failure, and with the knowledge that I’m still out there…”
Before Ric could gasp out a response the solid impact of Bahlreq’s foot took the conscious world from him.
Ric froze, looking into the little girl’s glossy big brown eyes. For a moment his migraine subsided, never going away fully.
“She didn’t say anything man, just climbed right in. I figured she knew you or summfin…” Jake said as he took another big bite of his sandwich.
“W..who..wwwhat…I… what the hell?!” Ric stuttered as he tried to figure out if this was some girl he’d forgotten about.
The little girl, also frozen with her eyes locked on Ric’s, trying to muster words, “p..p..ppplease…” she sobbed out whimpering.
Ric’s mind traveled back to Itzel, and how he couldn’t protect her then as he stood up and backed away slowly, “no… un uh…. nope… no no no, you can’t be here. It’s not safe to be around me.”
“What the fuck man?” Jake responded, “She’s just a kid dude. Just take her to the cops; I’m sure her parents are worried sick.”
Nodding, Ric glanced back at Jake, “You’re right, that’s exactly what I should do,” he reached down to the little girl taking her by the arm and pulling her from his so called home.
Fighting back the girl tugged, trying to dodge his grab to no avail. “No!” She sobbed loudly, “don’t take me back to them, please!” She cried.
Leaning down Ric came to her level, “Ok look, it’s not safe around me. That’s the truth; I don’t want you to get hurt because of me. The cops will take you back to your parents where you’ll be safe.”
She just started shaking her head back and forth tugging at Ric’s grip, “No! Please! I don’t want to go!”
Ric shook his head looking to Jake as he caught a glimpse of a squad car pulling up to the alley from the back street. “It appears the cops may have already found her. That… seems fast…” He arched his right brow as he let go of her and stood up. “Keep an eye on the girl Jake, I’m going to check this out,” he said as he made his way to the cops emerging from the cruiser.
Jake nodded as he got up; wrapping the remainder of his sandwich in its wrapping while he pocketed it. Kneeling down to the little girl, “don’t worry; he’ll take care of things… I hope.”
As Ric approached the cops his migraine returned as he sighed rolling his eyes, thinking to himself ‘of course’. “Evening officers.”
“Evening sir, we were wondering if you could help us out. We’re looking for a little girl, and our last lead said they saw her around this alley” The three cops approached him.
Ric glanced around, seeing three he figured there was at least one more, which he spotted trying to hide around the corner of the alley, seeing the second car now parked further back. Arching his brow as he cocked his head to the side slightly, “That was rather fast I’d think…?”
“Oh good! So she is here!” The fourth came out from around the corner.
“Oh I never said that, I’m just saying…” He glanced back to make sure Jake and the girl were out of sight. Wincing as the pain of the migraine increased, he turned his remaining focus back to the four. “So… what are you guys? I know you’re not cops, she’s terrified, and you don’t show up this quickly, nor do cops give me this big of a headac…” He was cut off as the three closest to him pounced. The first clocked him with a surprise uppercut with rather surprising strength. Not that of a mortal for sure as he was taken back slightly. The second moved to flank him while the third pulled their firearm.
“We’ll be taking the girl to where she belongs, thank you very much,” the lead cop said as he recouped from throwing the punch. As Ric shook his head to recover from the punch the third cop emptied their clip into his chest, letting a couple rounds go off in his face. If it weren’t for the one flanking him he would’ve fallen back, but he seemed to hold him up into the gunshots, then push him down to the ground.
Ric slumped onto the ground face first, as he sighed to himself. The cops started down the alley as Ric stood back up, turned to face them and shook the bullets out of his jackets. He glared at the lead one as they turned in shock to see him standing while he pulled the two bullets lodged into his face out and tossed them to the ground. “Now that didn’t help my migraine one bit…”
All four turned in shock, the lead glaring at him and tilting his head, “what the hell are you?”
Ric grinned, “not dead.” Before they could react he was behind the last one with the gun. Grabbing the arm holding the gun as he ripped his arm off like it was the leg of a bug, the wound spouted a foul black blood as he tossed the limb to the ground. “Ahhhh Demlo, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen your kind around. Oh that’s right, you don’t like your real names, you like being called demons don’t you?”
The one armed demon fell to the ground, now squealing in some unearthly demonic voice. The other three turned to him as their façade fell away showing their true appearances. They were covered in greyish black skin, almost appearing charred and scarred. Their eyes were pitch black with red pupils, the lead one had about one foot horns craning out of his head, as the other two had horns a couple of inches in height. All three had large black feathered wings that spread out as they cried in a horrific shriek towards Ric.
Grinning again, Ric cracked his knuckles as his foot came up and crushed the writhing demon’s head on the floor. Exploding in a burst of gore and viscera as his squeal was silenced in a sick final cry as his head popped like a grape. “Let’s do this…”
The two behind the lead moved faster than before, not faster than Ric, but faster than mortals for sure. Each grabbed an arm seemingly pinning each as he seemed to tug at their grip. The lead closing distance, “Oh we don’t take kindly to those that kill us.”
Smirking Ric responded, “Well we both know he didn’t die, he just went back to the pit and can’t come back for some time now. He’s on timeout, for being a dumbass and challenging me. You really don’t know who I am do you?” He grinned at each that held his arms as they gave a sudden look of worry. Before each knew it, his arms flew out of their grip and right through their chests. His fingers grasping inside around their spines as he ripped them back out through their chests. Their lifeless bodies falling to the ground as Ric turned his attention to the lead demon who was now backing up.
“What the fuck?!” He shouted backing away from Ric, and how handily he had taken his backup.
Ric smiled reaching up grasping each of his horns and he pulled him down into his knee, breaking each horn off at the base of his skull. The sickening bone splintering cracks echoed through the alley over the demon’s hellish cries. “Well I guess I’ve been in hiding for too long if one of your age doesn’t know me.” He glanced at the long horns chuckling as he tossed them to the ground.
The demon lay on the ground, his nose, and jaw broken from the impact of Ric’s knee. Writhing on the ground making nauseating gurgling noises through what was left of his mangled mouth.
Smiling down at him as he knelt beside him, “I’ll give you a secret to take back home with you… the names not Ric… it’s Alaric, the first.” And with that Ric’s still up knee fell onto the demons head, popping it in similar fashion to the first.
Sighing Ric stood up as the migraine faded finally, and then brushing the gore and blood from his pants as he began to bitch to no one, “Damn it, now I have to get new pants… this damn black blood, fuck! Gah… oh well.” He turned to make his way back to Jake and the girl, as he did the four bodies that lay on the ground all turned to ash and blew away in the wind.
Jake looked up at Ric with eyes wide as saucers, “what the fuck Ric!”
Ric knelt down at the two, looking at Jake, “hold it together buddy, I’ve tried to protect you all from my bullshit, and it seems I may have failed.”
“T…t…tttthey shot you!” Jake’s eyes were locked in wide shock at Ric.
“Yes, that they did.” Ric looked around the alley and then leaned in towards Jake, “I’ll let you in on a secret, I’m immortal. I try to keep people at a distance so no one else gets hurt by me, or become an indirect casualty.” He glanced down sighing, “it seems I failed that again.”
“No one’s been hurt yet Ric, and we’re behind you.” A new voice came from behind them as they turned to look, seeing Matt, the vet who suffered from PTSD. “No one fucks with my friends, and if you’re in this alley Ric, you’re a friend.”
Jake, finally pulling himself together up righted his posture and nodded with Matt, “he’s right! B..bbbut… immortal?! Are you saying scary stories aren’t all… stories? What the fuck man?!”
Matt chimed in behind him, “I’ve seen some shit out there, and after what I just witnessed on top of that, I don’t think much of anything would surprise me.” Jake looked at Matt in bewilderment.
Sighing heavily, “yes, I’m immortal, those were… well, you guys call them demons. They’re technically Demlo, a race of beings who’ve taken up the mantle of demons, been a pain in my ass for a long time.”
“So… how old are you then?” Jake said looking at Ric in awe.
“To be quite honest, I don’t really know. And we can’t really get into this now, I know it’s a lot to take in, and there’s a ton of questions, but we’ve got to get rid of those cars. The bodies vanish but those cars don’t, they probably killed the cops and stole them.”
Nodding Matt responded, “I think I can take care of that Ric. I have some buddies, the cars will be disposed of and their camera footage will be disposed of as well.”
“Shit, I hadn’t thought of that, thanks.” Ric shook his head, “that would’ve screwed us all if anyone saw that.”
Chuckling Matt nodded as he pulled out his pay as you go phone and sent out a few texts, “ok, I got my buddies on it. They’ll be disposed of before the sun is up. I’ll go get started and meet them there. Jake has my number, keep me updated.” Matt trotted off down the alley towards the cars.
Jake still had a look of wonder as his gaze couldn’t break from Ric. “So you’re telling me…”
“Jake, I’m sorry man, but not now. We can discuss the wonders of the weird world later, I know this is crazy, but for her sake, just pull it together for now.” Ric turned his attention to the girl. The girl huddled in a ball, her tears having dried away, as she looked at them both in fear. “They were looking for you weren’t they?”
She nodded in response.
“It’s ok, they aren’t going to hurt you” Ric said, looking into her big brown eyes. He sighed, hoping he wasn’t going to also regret this, “you are safe now, no one will hurt you, I promise.”
Her posture softened, as she made her way to Ric.
Reaching toward her, Ric opened his arms and let her climb up against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, “It’s ok now,” he comforted and soothed her. “Now, how about your name, and why are demons looking for you?”
To be continued…