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Nox Atrum Ist
The sun on the horizon was slowly sinking down into nothingness. The small buildings that lined the streets threw long shadows away from the sun, submerging the area in darkness. Shadows of the sparse trees crept from side to side as though trying to break free of the harsh breeze that blew through their branches. Muffled sounds of the city not far away could be heard; car horns, blaring music from the opening clubs and the occasional barking dog.
A dark figure strode down the street. He walked briskly like he needed to be somewhere but was not in enough of a hurry to run. He wore a black coat, the hood pulled up over his head, and was quite tall. His coat billowed out behind him, showing a fashionable blue shirt, dark, skin tight jeans and black army style boots. He was probably in his mid twenties. The man’s face was one that would be classed as handsome, with high cheek bones, perfect lips and a straight nose. But something about his deep brown eyes made him seem sinister, cruel. Like he was hiding something.
Peering behind him to check he wasn’t being followed, the man quickened his pace. He glanced up at the sky and quickened it some more, as if he found something motivating in the darkening heavens. When he finally arrived at his destination, a door that would attract no attention to any passing human. But that was probably because no one knew who lived there.
The man rapped twice on the door with his knuckles, then looked up to the sky once more. His eyebrows knitted together in frustration.
“Come on,” he murmured under his breath, “not long now. Hurry up.”
He heard footsteps approaching the door from the other side, and he quickly straightened out his expression into a friendly smile. His eyes only flicked to the sky once more before the door opened.
The man behind the door was short, middle aged and balding, almost the exact opposite of the figure standing in front of him. He took a second to focus in on his visitors face, and when he did fear crossed his face. He quickly composed his features before smiling. But the guest had noticed the fear. He could smell it around the man, like a tangible shroud. He was glad he had this affect.
“Damien,” said the man, “what a pleasant surprise. Do come in.” He stood aside.
Damien smiled and stepped inside the little house. The hallway he entered was plain, with a grubby, grey carpet and plaster walls that had not even been painted yet. There was no furnishing.
“I‘ve been meaning to come and see you for a while now. I was in the neighbourhood, so I thought I’d pay you a visit. That‘s not a problem, is it?” Damien’s voice was low and persuasive, almost hypnotic. But the man wasn’t fooled- he had known Damien long enough to be able to resist his mind tricks.
“Not at all!” he smiled. “Please, come into the living room with me, have a seat.” He made his way down the hall and into a small room at the end. The walls and carpet were the same as in the hall, but this room contained two sofas and a wooden coffee table that looked like it would collapse at any moment. Damien followed behind him, listening carefully to the sounds of the house to check that there was no one else in. There wasn’t. Good.
“As you probably know, I don’t live here that often so the furnishing and decoration has a lot to be desired.” said the man, sitting on one of the sofas and gesturing for Damien to sit on the other.
Damien sat down, noting with annoyance that the sofa was lumpy and not in the least comfortable, like a sofa should be. Never mind, he thought, this will be over soon.
“Don’t worry about it, Marcus. I understand that your job involves travel. I was lucky to catch you while you were at home, I suppose?”
“Why, yes. In fact, I only returned from India last night. Investigating a case of flying carpet exposure to norms. Messy business.” He grimaced. Damien could imagine the trouble that would cause- lots of memory wiping involved, probably a ton of paper work. He still didn’t sympathise at all.
“How unfortunate.” He said, leaning back into the bulges of the sofa. “In fact, I have come to talk about some of your work with you tonight.” He saw Marcus’s Adams Apple leap as he took a gulp.
“Of course. But first, can I interest you in a drink of some sort? Or something to eat?” He stood up, waiting for Damien’s request.
Damien smiled politely. “No, thank you. I will be eating after I have finished my chat with you.”
Marcus gulped again, and slowly sat back down. Damien could see sweat on his forehead, and the smell of fear around him increased as he licked his lips and started talking again. “Very well. What is it that you wish to talk with me about?”
“Well, first, I believe I should ask you if you remember the case you worked on a couple of months ago. The murder case with that witch? I believe Tanya Kimble was her name.” When he said the girls name, Damien could feel Marcus’s terror edge up another notch. He knew what Damien was here for now. He knew he was in grave danger.
“Yes, I remember the case. But, if you remember, I handed it over to another detective when I was called away to Africa.”
“I know that.” Damien said, keeping the polite façade with his voice, facial expression and body language. “So how did you handle that case, exactly? For the period you were in charge of it, that is.”
Marcus clasped his hands together, then pulled them apart and wiped the sweat off them onto the sofa. “I’m afraid that’s classified information, Damien. Belongs to the Night Police.”
“But we’re both friends here, right, Marcus?” Damien chided, his eyes taking on a mysterious, threatening look. “You trust me not to tell anyone?”
Marcus saw the look in his eyes and his eyebrows pulled together infinitesimally. “Well… Well, the girl had been killed brutally. Torn to shreds, which isn’t exactly abnormal for murders of the Night. So I just did what I normally do on cases like that- I checked out her background, to see if there was anyone with a motive…” His sentence faded into silence.
Damien nodded slowly. “And what did you find, Marcus?”
“I…” Marcus breathed deeply. “I found her diary.”
“What did you find in her diary?”
“A man with a motive.”
“Good,” Damien smiled, like a parent praising a child for good behaviour. “And who was this man to her?”
“He was a man who’d been having a… a relationship with her.” admitted Marcus, shaking slightly. “They had been seeing each other for two months. But she had recently broken up with him. She believed that he didn’t love her, that he was using her. For… other purposes.” He broke off.
“And you think this man killed her?”
“Well, he was a suspect, but I didn’t-”
Damien interrupted. “Marcus, did you or did you not believe that this man was the murderer?”
“Well he was one of the main-”
“Marcus,” Damien growled, dropping the politeness for the first time that night and glaring at the other man, “yes or no.”
Marcus stopped breathing under that terrifying stare. He stayed like that for a minute, before exhaling and muttering, “Yes. Yes, I did.”
Damien smiled again, baring his teeth so that it looked like a grimace. “Okay. Progress, Marcus. Progress.” He stood up, Marcus flinching at the movement, and crossed the room to the window. The curtains were drawn. He leaned against the window sill and looked at Marcus. “Lets fill in the last piece of the puzzle then, friend. Who was the man?”
Damien could hear the mans breathing quicken. He could see more sweat pouring out of his pores. He could feel the terror rolling off of him in waves. He liked it. He inhaled, tasting the panic and sweat and sheer fear for life on his tongue, and he smiled.
“You.” he whispered. “The man was you.”
Damien was across the room in a flash, and on top of Marcus before he knew what was happening. He clamped his hand over Marcus’s mouth before he could scream. Glowering into his eyes, Damien saw pure terror. He smiled, showing his teeth. They were already sharpening into savage points. He could feel it coming.
He leant forward so his mouth was next to Marcus’s ear. He spoke quietly. “Yes. It was me. You were right, Marcus. I killed her. She betrayed me. So what if I was using her? She was more than lucky to have someone like me. I provided for her. I bought her things. I gave her so much money for her petty little things. I only asked for one thing in return. And still she did not appreciate me. She deserved what she got.”
He jumped up off of Marcus, returning to his place by the window in a split second, and continued as if nothing had happened. Marcus remained flattened against the back of the sofa, not daring to move, frozen in fear.
“So then you handed the case over to this other detective, am I right?” There was no response. He sighed. “Marcus. Answer me.”
Marcus nodded, once. A quick, sharp movement.
“Right. And he used the information to take me to the Night Court.” He moved the curtains aside, looking quickly out the window. He smiled and closed the curtains again. “I managed to worm my way out of it. I got lucky.” He looked Marcus in the eyes. “I wont allow that to happen again, Marcus. I assume you heard what happened to that other detective.”
Marcus nodded again.
“What happened, Marcus?” asked Damien, crossing to sit on the sofa once more. Marcus’s eyes followed him the whole way.
“He…” Marcus shivered. “He disappeared.”
Damien nodded, a much slower, more decisive movement than Marcus’s nod had been.
“Marcus, are you aware of the term my people use? Nox atrum ist et luna est plentus.”
Marcus totally froze. He didn’t blink, didn’t breath, didn’t move. He remained like that for a moment, then lept up and crossed the room to the window. He wrenched the curtains away from the window, pulling them off the rail. And he stared at the sky.
The moon had risen in the time that they had been talking. It was a beautiful, clear night and the moon hung in the sky like a huge silver lantern.
And it was full. A full moon.
“Nox atrum ist et luna est plentus.” Marcus whispered, his voice shaking. “The night is dark and the moon is full.”
He heard laughing from behind him and slowly turned to look at Damien. He was sat on the sofa, shaking. But not from the laughter. The Change was coming. He closed his eyes and held his hands to his head. The laughter transformed eerily into a painful scream. Hair started to sprout from every visible part of Damien’s body as he fell to the floor. His body contorted and there were audible snaps as his back legs broke and healed again in a completely different position. A snout began to grow out of his face, and out of that grew the teeth of a hunter.
Marcus had heard about how painful it was to Change. Your entire anatomy rearranging itself into a completely different being. Each bone of your body breaking, changing. Your heart stopping momentarily only to restart seconds later, pumping blood around a new body. He stood, frozen to the spot, too terrified to run, listening to the agonising screams.
Then Damien, not yet fully Changed, but no longer human, looked up and opened his eyes.
They were blood red.
That was when Marcus screamed.