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Lurking Shadows Part 2

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It has been two weeks since Margaret’s death and still my heart bleeds for the loss of my sister. Sorrow is a bitter drink that never ends; I have had my fair share of sorrow in these past few days. Today though marks a dark day indeed. My parents and I have not spoken in nigh over two years, now; our reunion will be over my sister's funeral arrangements. I worry that thing will have not changed, and my family will scorn their estranged daughter. I never thought I would have the strength to visit this place again, the beaten down grey house has not changed in the time of my absence. It still holds a certain air of destitute. For a moment I felt eerily trapped between the past and the present, the memories tearing me apart from the inside out into little pieces without any mercy. Maybe I shouldn’t have come back; the wound was still too fresh, too painful. My father loathed my very existence; one memory is burned forever in even the recesses of my mind.


All the young girl would see as she was thrown into the dark, damp basement was the shadow of a tall, dark man who towered over her. She yelped and whimpered, partly in fear and partly in pain. She had lost so much blood she was close to blacking out. She was covered in bruises and cuts and blood that was starting to harden. She whimpered more as she felt the cold stone floor against her skin.


“Now bloody stay in there… you deserve to rot in here you low life” the man spat at her before the heavy iron door was shut with a loud bang that seemed to echo through the cellar.


There were footsteps leading away from her before there was complete silence, it was almost an eerie, ominous silence. The young woman looked around the dungeon she currently resided in. It took a few minutes for her eyes to adjust to the dark. Finally she could see the outlines of cold black stones, the walls were stained with splattered blood and there where chains dangling from the ceiling, walls and floor. As the female continued to look around the room she let out a muffled scream as she saw what remained of her earlier punishments. She immediately backed away from it, cowering in the corner of the dungeon… her blood had dried up in all corners of the homemade cell, it almost looked as though it was a torture chamber made from her worst nightmares.


I shuddered at the vile memory that caused bile to rise in my throat. In the days of my childhood innocence –short as they may be- my father’s inherent lack of sobriety, the arguing of my parents late into the night, the physical and psychological abuse that was imposed on me daily, all left scars that show more that any mark or blemish upon one’s skin. I wear my scars proudly, for they show that I have weathered through the worst and come out alive. Thinking back on this, I had hoped to set out for myself and never return to these people that call themselves family. Bruises and scars transcend the physical violence normally associated with them, as I remember the many times I spent doctoring a new wound. These people forever changed the way I think and feel, changing me from a helpless child into a strong independent woman, but it is still challenging for me to form lasting bonds of trust or friendship.


No two people think alike, such as the timeless contrast of right or wrong, bad or good, night or day. Some say there are shades of darkness, that no one is truly “white”, pure, but in the end how you live and die affect your ultimate spiritual resting place whether it is heaven or hell. Personally, I believe there is no option for me other than Hell, due to something that wasn’t even my choice: my birth. Still though, who truly wants to live a life without happiness or joy of any kind, for that is the kind of life a demon lives. I want to be someone who inspires the good in people, but how can I do that when my very nature is the very epitome of evil?
























Warily I knocked on the door, prepared for the confrontation that was soon due to erupt. A bedraggled woman with stringy blonde hair held up in a wrap, carrying a babe upon her hip, opened the door. A musty odor drifted out from the house, as if its inhabitants had not bathed in many weeks.


"Can I help you?" The woman asked impatiently as the child she was carrying furrowed its brow and threatened to cry.


I wouldn't have recognized this tired, worn down woman as my stepmother if not for a scar on her arm from one of my father's drunken stupors. "It's me Claudine. Aren't you going to invite us in?"


We being Samuel and I, she called for my half-brother Luke. He was only thirteen when I left, but in two years he has grown into a handsome young man.


"Where is Father, out drinking again?" I asked nonchalantly.

Claudine's features twisted into a grimace of hate. "Dead, not that it's any business of yours devil child."

I composed my face into a mask of indifference. "Good to know the world is rid of another useless lay about.”


She raised her free hand to slap me, but was stopped by none other than Luke, who met her glare with his own steely gray blue eyes. “Go inside Mother, I’ll deal with our guests.”


With a grunt of displeasure Mother left, and with her went the smell of filth that had been aggressing our senses. Luke straitened his faded green vest, which had seen better days and was threadbare in some spots. His eyes were that of our father’s line, but in every other way he resembled my monster of a stepmother. We stood there staring at each other for a time until Samuel interrupted.


“Samuel Rivaon,” he said with an outstretched hand, “Pleased to make your acquaintance…”


“Luke Aburn,” he replied with relative pleasantness before turning to me again with a guarded expression his voice was tight and unfamiliar, it had a cold edge that no one other than I would understand. “Understand this Josephine, Margaret is missing and mother is not in the best of moods at the moment. Maybe wait a couple days for a reunion; I’m sure Margaret would want to see you anyway. It’s been awhile.”


My head fell and a curtain of raven hair that shrouded him from my vision as I was momentarily come over by melancholy. “Only two years.”


“Two years isn’t a short amount of time Josephine,” he growled. Samuel apparently could tell this wasn’t going to be the nicest conversation and decided it would be a good decision to move away from the powerful half demon and her tall, angry brother.


“Margaret’s dead Luke, her heart cut out,” I finally admitted to the boy that towered over me, “They dropped her on my doorstep in the middle of the night.”


“This isn’t the time to be making up stories Josephine; Margaret’s disappearance is a serious matter. Her baby and husband are here, what if he heard you say such things?” I had never heard his voice tremble before; the emotion was beyond description. My heart lifted up into my throat, unable to say anything. I knew we would come to this point someday, but I hadn't expected it this soon.


I scowled at him indignantly. “Such things I would not make fun of lightly brother, you would do well to heed my words.”


Momentarily belief shone in his eyes before being replaced by resolute skepticism. Angrily I turned on my heel, grabbing Samuel’s arm and dragging him behind me as well, leaving Luke sputtering apologies behind us. The midday sun beat down heavily on us, and after a few minutes of walking I slowed down and glanced around at our surroundings, which were bleak at best. The fishing wharves stank of the sea, a smell which although typically very pleasant, was in this case vile. An ocean breeze wafted up and the answering tinkling of wind chimes caught my attention. The shop of a fortune teller sat, seemingly abandoned. From the docks sailors looked at our nice clothes and began to close in on us as if we were prey. Lurker pointer towards the shop with the edge of a cloak, Samuel followed my gaze and both of us rushed to reach the safety of the shop before we were overcome. Quickly we opened the door and Lurker remained outside. Protection spells? In a cheap fortune telling shop?


The inside of the shop was draped in billowing silks, the shelves lined with jars of the oddest specimens that caused shivers to run down my spine. We walked through a small hallway that seemed to press in on us from both sides. Though not one to spook easily, I took hold of Samuel’s arm and kept close to his side, he looked down at me with a boyish grin and I gave him a look that said: don’t get any ideas. Voices drifted to our ears, one heavily accented.


“Mordecai,” a woman said edgily as if sensing our arrival, “I understand why someone of your background would frustrated being stuck here, but there is nothing I can do right now. Also, I believe I have customers that just arrived.”


I didn’t understand why she put so much emphasis on the word “customers”, but I was without time to puzzle over it as we rounded the corner and entered a dark room lighted only by a candle that sat upon a round, ornate table. The woman had ebony skin that glowed in the candlelight; a large, colorful skirt billowed around her and jingled from the fake coins sewn around the edges. She tended to sashay rather than simply walk. A chunis was wrapped around her head and shoulders, thick kurdi adorned her ankles, and henna stained the palms of her hands. She was entrancing in an exotic way and radiated power. The man she had been talking to stood in the corner, but shadows masked his features and obscured him from our vision.


Samuel stepped forward. “Forgive the intrusion ma’am my friend and I were searching for safety from some ruffians outside.”


“It’s no problem at all sir,” she replied with a genuine smile, “Would you still like your fortunes read though?”


At this question I spoke up for the both of us. “That would be wonderful ma’am if it’s not too much trouble.”


“No trouble at all. My name is Amina; please have a seat so that we may proceed.” We sat and Amina spun around to look at me. “Why not you first?”


She grasped my hand in hers and I looked down at hers. A tiny black heart was tattooed on the side of her ring finger, along with lace around her wrist, –my gaze drifted upward to look at the rest of her tattoos- an infinite symbol on her palm, the tree of life on the inside of her arm, an hourglass on her collarbone, and a tiny crescent moon behind her right earlobe. These were the ones I could see, and though on any other person they might seem unconventional they seemed to fit her personality, making them truly a part of her. Her pupils became enlarged as her grip on my hand tightened into a viselike hold, I gasped as a vision overcame me and I was plunged into a dream of sorts.


I was hanging from a rope. The rope extends infinitely upward and I know that hell lies below me, though I can't see in either direction due to darkness and thick fog. Desperate to get away from demons that circle me like I’m some wounded animal, I climb up the rope as best I can, but eventually the soles of my feet wear away and my palms become slippery with blood from the frayed edges of the rope that rub and burn my skin. After one final effort at hauling myself up, I feel myself slipping and scream in despair sets in and I fall to hell and the vicious demons that wait for me…


“What a wonderful surprise,” says the man in the corner as he removes himself from the shadows which seem reluctant to release him.


His hair is black as pitch, and his eyes a fathomless abyss as they threaten to hold me captive in their sinful gaze. The man called Mordecai intrigues me, from him I feel a sort of kinship, but at the same time an unbelievable temptation laced thick with desire. He smiles at me; his teeth seem more pointed than normal. This gesture of his, which should have set me at ease, confirmed my suspicions, that Mordecai was a demon and that I was fatally attracted to him in the way that the lion fell in love with the lamb. He reminded me of Vitium, at ease in the darkness and evil in an oddly acceptable way for me.


“A little far from home aren’t you?” I asked in an appearance of calm, shaking hands betraying my innate nervousness.


“I could say the same about you, pretty little thing that you are,” he teased in a way that set me on edge as I analyzed his words for any underlying meaning.


He stepped closer to me until we were uncomfortably close and loomed over me in an overbearing fashion that made me straiten my back and glower at him. In my mind I called out to Vitium, who when not by my side tended to go off to feed or cause trouble as was his nature. He appeared at once to protect me, sensing the dangerous presence of Mordecai. At the arrival of Vitium, Mordecai stepped back and gave me more room. I stood so as not to allow him to think his tactics had intimidated me.


“Handsome hellhound you’ve got there Josephine,” Mordecai commented while looking at me with his wicked eyes. “Not a lot like him left in this world.”


“Who are you?”


“Well since you eavesdropped on our conversation you already know who I am,” he replied at once. “A better question might be who are you?”


“Josephine Aburn,” I allowed unenthusiastically, sensing that even this small bit of information gave him power over me.


“Did you know there’s a bloodreaper waiting outside the door Amina?” Mordecai said while gravitating toward her side. “Wouldn’t want it getting past your defenses would you?”


She stood at once in a flurry of motion as she rose amongst her colorful skirts like a blooming flower. With every movement came grace as if she were dancing. Amina moved back towards the front of the shop and we followed behind her rather than remain sitting awkwardly in her reading chamber. The front door was quickly thrown open to reveal Lurker standing outside patiently, waiting for me.


“You mean that?” I asked while gesturing in Lurker’s direction, confused by both the situation and why Amina seemed so frightened.


“That’s laughable darling,” Mordecai said with a sneer. “They appear as black, hooded figures with glowing red eyes. The sleeves of their cloaks glide on the ground, concealing their six-inch steel-like claws. They hunt anyone and everything, and killing is like a drug to them. When they hunt, they will corner one person or animal to overwhelm it with numbers. then they slice it open, so much that it's more wound than flesh, and spill it's blood out until it's white and dry as marble. Next, they snap every bone in their prey's body and suck out the marrow. And when there's hardly anything left but skin, then they kill it.”


Lurker stood there motionless as if it hung onto Mordecai’s every word same as the rest of us. I looked at it, comparing it to Mordecai’s detailed description.


“Why hasn’t he ever hurt me then?” I questioned stubbornly, “”I’ve been seeing him for as long as I can remember.”


Mordecai gave me a searching glance before replying. “You’re half demon. It was probably scared to attack you in case you were too strong.”


“Even when I was a baby?” I asked dubiously not convinced much by his reasoning even if it was true where he came from.


Amina stepped between us to act as mediator. “It doesn’t matter why or why not Josephine hasn’t been attacked. The fact of the matter is that this creature is too dangerous to leave alive.”


“I don’t even see what everyone’s talking about,” Samuel mumbled almost incoherently under his breath.


“No.”


Everyone stared at me like I was some sort of anomaly. “Do you have a death wish?” Mordecai asked irritably. “Because if so I assure you there are better ways to go and I‘ve experienced most of the more gruesome ones.”


I glared at the demon standing before me. “I think there’s something we’re missing and I’m not going to give Lurker a death sentence until there’s proof it will hurt me.”


Mordecai threw up his arms in exasperation at my words. “Of course, she named it!”



“Mistress Amina! Mistress Amina! People came out of the basement!” called a young girl with plain brown hair that sprung out in every which way from her braid, which was in a disarray all its own.


Amina sighed as if preparing herself for a battle. “Yes Rew what is it?” she looked back at us and explained, “My apprentice.”


The girl looked a little uncertain about relaying her news out in the open, from her I sensed that she was eager to please Amina and didn’t want to make more mistakes. She chewed on her bottom lip in nervousness; Amina was enduring though and did not pressure her, proving that she was a fine mentor for Rew.


“Why don’t we continue this conversation inside?” Amina allowed in Rew’s continued silence. “My shield will keep it from following us and I doubt that after twenty years the creature is going to end its hunt.”


We returned to the main chamber where Amina’s guests sat patiently waiting for her to return. A young man and two women, each couldn’t be more different to the one next to them. The woman on the left was a fiery redheaded woman with red eyes and various scars. She kept her hair short and dressed lightly save perhaps for a fine silver chain mail. To her left was a spry young lad with unkempt brown curly hair and dark blue eyes, he seemed shy but definitely not a pushover. The last woman was a gypsy dressed gaudily in bright colored clothes and lots of jewelry, and carrying a strange box. The last was obviously the oldest of the group, but the first woman seemed to be the unspoken leader what with her hard nature.


The woman with the box stood with as much grace as Amina and grasped forearms with her. “It is good to see you again my friend.”


“Always a pleasure to see how well you have worn through the ages Wren,” Amina replied with a grin. “What brings you and your companions to London on such short notice? It’s not like you to act in this way without planning or much consideration.”


Wren laughed at this, “Dear Amina you give me too much credit. I am still a gypsy at heart, nothing I do is with deep pondering, and I simply follow my emotions as I always have.”


“Let us skip through the pleasantries and get to the heart of the matter Wren,” said the flinty voice of the woman in the corner. “This place reeks of demons and I believe we should make haste and be on our way as soon as possible.”


The smile slipped off of Wrens face as she looked around with a panicked air before turning to Amina. “What Thalia says is true my friend, this is not a meeting for small talk, the news we bring is…troubling.”


“Because we haven’t had enough of that recently,” I said with biting sarcasm. “Why don’t we just get it over with so we can all leave?”


Wren eyed me suspiciously perhaps questioning my presence. “This is not my story to share,” she nods toward the quiet boy. “Jeremiah would you care to explain?”


Jeremiah rose hastily, nearly knocking over the table at which he was seated, he absentmindedly ran a hand through his disorderly hair and took a deep breath as if steeling himself to stand before us. He looked up and our eyes met, causing a blush to flourish on his freckled cheeks.


“We were in Cornwall, dropping off some merchandise. Eva and Wren were setting up camp in the woods, so I decided to go exploring. In the middle of the forest sat this box. I opened it, and inside was a heart and a curse. A curse laid down especially for a Josephine Aburn.”


I stared at him coolly not letting my inner turmoil show past an impassive façade that I used so often to create an illusion of distance. “What did this curse say?”


“The child born of heaven and hell will rise to conquer her enemy. The empire of the heavens is invaded by the denizens of the underworld. The duchess of lies will court the baron of deceit. A time of death and sorrow will follow a young woman in her journey for knowledge.” Jeremiah recited word for word that which the man had said in my dream the night of Margaret’s death.


“Thank you Jeremiah,” I say while placing a hand on his shaking frame. For a boy he was unnaturally shy and flinched from my touch, “I appreciate you bringing me this news.”


“That’s all you have to say?” Mordecai questions slightly amused and befuddled at the same time.


I shrug with indifference. “What more is there to say? Obviously this person has a vendetta against me and will attempt to exact some sort of attack. The only thing I can do is prepare myself and hope that luck is on my side.”


“Are you ready to go Josephine?” Samuel asks, offering me his arm –ever the gentleman-, I take it with a smile as we depart from the company of Amina’s shop.




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