All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Angels of Anaheim
Author's note: This was written by a dream I had. THIS IS REVISED!! It's not the same as the original, so 'Adam's Story' does not apply to this!
It wasn’t the first time I’d seen Mom in this condition. She was almost to the end of her meth crash. When you do it, you’re up for about thirty-six hours, and then you go into a dead sleep for thirty-six. She’d be gone soon. But now, she was in an all-out, hellcat-style screaming fight. There was one problem. She wasn’t really fighting. Not with me, anyway. She’d scream something at me, and I’d say nothing, or say something quietly.
“This is your fault, Madison! Everything is your fault! These stupid - stupid drugs a-and my life! And…and everything else! Your fault!” she screamed.
“How is it my fault?” I asked.
“You were born! If I never married that jerk, and if I never…never had you, I wouldn’t be like this!” she screamed. I noticed she was fading fast. Her speech was slurring. She was getting tired.
“This isn’t my fault. I did not make you marry Dad. I did not make you try meth. I did not make you have me. It is not my deal,” I said, trying not to be sarcastic, but I kind of had to be. She was really starting to tick me off. I just wanted her to go to sleep and leave me in peace for the next two days. If she went on any more, I’d say I wished she wouldn’t wake up. I wanted her to die. That way, I could be alone. At peace.
“IT IS YOUR FAULT! I HATE YOU!” she screamed, fading away. She leaned back on the couch. Her blood-shot eyes were getting tired. That’s it, I thought. Just sleep.
“Well, then,” I said, trying to soothe her to sleep, “I’m sorry for screwing up your life. I’ll try to make it better,” I tried to get her to sleep, and I knew what I was saying would be forgotten when she woke up. She mumbled something inaudible as she curled up on the couch, and went into her thirty-six-hour coma.
I stood and stared at her. I could feel a hot tear run down my cheek. She wasn’t always like this. I wasn’t always like this. We weren’t always like this. This battered woman and broken child used to be a family. A father used to be here. A son used to be here.
I had a brother once. His name was Andrew. He was a year older than I was, and he was my best friend. He looked like my mother; tall, brown hair, grey eyes, a smile that made people at ease. All it took was for me to come home and say that someone said something mean, and Andrew would hug me and tell me that nothing - not even words - could hurt his little sis, Maddie. I was strong. I could handle it.
But this was broken. Broken by a single bullet. My brother was killed in a drive-by that was pointless and had no real target. The police said that he was probably mistaken for someone else. The shooter probably never knew he killed the wrong guy. And he probably never knew that he shattered a family. A father would divorce, a mother would slip into meth addiction, a sister would fall into Purgatory.
Mom got to know meth slowly. She heard rumors of how it made everything seem better. It was the perfect thing for a grieving, newly-divorced mother in Anaheim, California, with a murdered son and a torn daughter. I didn’t realize what it was then. She’d stir little rocks into her coffee in the morning. I’d ask what it was, and she’d say it was candy that made you feel good. When I asked for some, she’d say it was for grown-ups, because it would make little girls’ tummies hurt. I feel stupid, knowing now what it was.
I wiped the tears from my eyes, and went to my bedroom. I shut the door behind me, and went to the stereo. Digging out my box of CDs, I found one that fit the mood; Black Veil Brides. I slipped it into the disc changer, and hit play. I cranked it, knowing I wouldn’t wake Mom, and the neighbors wouldn’t complain because they were too drunk to realize someone was playing loud alternative music.
Fight for all you know when your back’s against the wall. Stand against the liars. Stronger than before. When your life becomes a war, set the world on fire.
I sat on the bed and listened to the music. I closed my eyes. I imaged the life that we used to have - the one that would never again exist. I wasn’t really scared for Mom. I was to the point that I didn’t care. I didn’t care if I found her dead the next morning, drowned in her own vomit. It just didn’t matter. I didn’t care about her anymore. I didn’t care about anything anymore. For all I cared, I could ingest arsenic and die. Suicide is an unforgivable sin that gets you a one-way ticket to Hell, but to me, I was already there.
Mom still lay curled up on the couch when I got up the next morning. I knew she would. I just got dressed and walked out of the house into Anaheim. I walked downtown, blending into the mob. Another faceless person, floating to another destination. I didn’t have a destination, though. I was just walking. When I got tired, I sat on a bench, and people-watched, as Mom used to call it.
There were full families, ones that weren’t dysfunctional. I saw mothers with daughters. Fathers with sons. I wanted one. I knew, however, it wasn’t in the cards. It just wasn’t meant to be. I just sat and stared. I began to daydream. I dreamt of angels. The angels that save people from peril. If these existed, none were headed my way. They’d be here by now.
I continued to walk, and began to think about something; my demise. I hadn’t thought about it since Andrew died. When I found out about it, I wanted to run out of the house and into the busy highway, and prayed that someone would decide to drive drunk or start texting.
My walk led me to the beach. It was so hot, and I’d suffered most of the summer in my jeans and sweatshirts, mostly because I don’t like shorts. I do wear t-shirts, though. My beloved sweatshirts and jeans would soon have to hibernate, and I would be forced to wear shorts. I don’t know why, but I feel naked when I wear them. I feel like I lost my privacy. I soon felt a hand on my shoulder as I stared out at the people laying down their blankets for a day at the beach. I turned.
It was my friend, Erica Summit. She’s about four inches taller than me, has very short, platinum-blonde hair with pink and purple sections, and a ring in her left nostril.
“Hey, darlin,’” she said.
“Hey,” I said. She had her pink aviators on. Her hair was spiked up today. She kind of reminded me of the singer P!nk. She was barefoot with black toenails, short grey-and-black checkered shorts, and a white Buckcherry shirt.
“How’ve you been? Mom still doing stupid stuff?” she asked.
“As always,” I said, “I guess I’m fine, though. My brain’s a different story.”
“Now, you can’t be thinking those things, Maddie. Gotta be strong. You were given this life for a reason. I think it was to prove that people can overcome,” she said. I nodded.
“I don’t know if I can overcome or not, though,” I added.
“Yes, you can. You’re still alive, aren’t you?” I didn’t say anything. She was right. I hate it when people prove me wrong.
“Aren’t you?” she repeated.
“I think I’m just a zombie anymore,” I said.
“Well, I have days like that, too. You get through them, though. In the sixties, black people would lock arms and sing ‘we shall overcome!’ Now we have a black President,” she said.
“I don’t feel like singing, and it‘s not the sixties,” I said, trying to get her to change the subject.
“Har, har,” she snapped. Her phone rang. She answered. This was the conversation; “Hello? Yeah. At the beach. Maddie’s here. Sure. Okay. Love you. Bye.”
She put the phone back in her pocket. “Who was that?” I asked.
“Mom. She said she’s at Mickey’s Pizza down by the pier for lunch,” she said.
“What time is it?” I asked, realizing I got up an hour ago.
“Eleven-thirty,” she said, glancing at her phone.
“I didn’t get up that long ago,” I said. She put her arm around me.
“You’ll sleep your life away. Come on, we’ll eat lunch. It’ll be good for you,” Erica said.
“No,” I said, trying to pull away.
“I’ll pay. You need it, Little Miss Anorexic,” she said.
“Since when are you looking at my belly?” I asked.
Since your mom started doin’ meth and not cooking for you. You can tell it,” she said and poked my belly.
“I cook for myself,” I said as we started walking.
“Must be a poor cook,” she said, giggling. I laughed. It felt good to laugh. I’d done too much crying.
We met Erica’s mom, Stacy, at Mickey’s. We sat at an outside table.
“Hello, Ms. Maddie Dunn,” she said. She looked like Erica, minus pink and purple hair and rock band shirts. Erica and I were such good friends because her dad left, too. Why, I don’t know, and I don’t want to know.
“Order what you want, dear. We’ll pay,” Stacy said. I felt bad by saying so, but I said thanks.
We started our conversation when the waiter arrived with our pizza.
“Is your mom still hanging on?” Stacy asked.
“Yeah. She doesn’t give up easy,” I said.
“That probably means that she isn’t slowing down with that stuff does it?” she asked. I shook my head.
“It’s probably gotten worse, if anything,” I said. Stacy sighed.
“I hope you know that my house is always open. If you want her to get help, just call the health department, and we’ll take you in,” she said.
“I’ll probably get sent to my dad,” I said.
“Oh,” she said.
“You probably won’t if you don’t want to,” Erica said. I nodded.
“Yeah. I just would feel like a burden,” I said. Stacy lowered her fork.
“Never! You’re one of the sweetest girls I know. How this could have happened to you, I’ll never understand,” she said.
“God has strange ways,” I said, “I wouldn’t want to question Him, either.”
“Probably not,” she said.
“If that could happen to your mom, who knows what could happen to you,” Erica said.
“Yeah. Thinking about it is probably scarier than living it.”
They offered to drive me home, but I refused, figuring that I’d been too much of a nuisance already. I walked home the way I came. I opened the door, and walked to the bathroom. Soda doesn’t always sit well with pizza. I didn’t see Mom anywhere. Figures. She was probably out getting more speed.
I opened the door to the bathroom, and shut it behind me. I looked up, and my heart jumped; our bathroom mirror was shattered. Blood was in the sink, the mirror, the floor. I gasped, and whirled around, trying to find the source.
Mom lay in the bathtub, blood running from a gash in her forehead. Shiny glass protruded from the wound. I wanted to scream. I grabbed her, and shook her. She wasn’t moving. I didn’t think she was breathing, but I got a moan out of her. I ran to the phone and dialed 911. It didn’t make a sound. Mom hadn’t paid the bill this month. Or the month before. And maybe before that. She’d used the money on meth.
I ran to the neighbors and called the police. I sat with Mom next to the tub, crying, and praying for this nightmare to end. Soon, Mom was put into an ambulance, and sent to the hospital. I rode with a police officer, and sat in the waiting room as the doctors pulled glass from Mom’s head and gave her CAT scans down the hall.
I cried harder than ever before. I lost Andrew, and then Dad, now Mom was next. Like a fricking assembly line. A line that wiped people out of my life. I just cried and cried as a woman came up to me. She had a clipboard.
“Are you Maddie?” she asked. I nodded, face buried in my arms. “My name’s Mrs. Simpson. I’m gonna be your case worker. We contacted your father and he’s on his way. Alright?” she said.
“You got my dad?” I asked, shocked. I hadn’t heard from him in forever. She nodded.
“I know you guys hadn’t spoken for a while, but he sounded shocked when we told him about this situation,” she said. SITUATION? This is an effin nightmare! I thought. All I could do was nod. If I stood up and screamed, it wouldn’t do anything but get me a counselor, and one was probably gonna be issued to me anyway.
I sat there for probably another hour. Thirty minutes into it, I saw someone come towards me from the hall. It was my dad. He was like a grown-up Andrew. He ran up and hugged me.
“Maddie! It’s been so long!” he cried as he squeezed me. I nodded, despite tears. He grabbed my shoulders and talked to me. “I wish this never happened. It shouldn’t have. I should have never left you with her,” he said, tears rolling. “Has the doctor told you anything?” he asked. I shook my head. He sat me down. “Well, when you’re high on meth, you get a thing called self-mutilation disorder. It makes you want to hurt yourself. Mom had that, and slammed her head into the mirror. I don’t know why that happens, but it does. You’ll probably live with me for a while. It’s gonna be alright, though,” he said. I nodded. He still cried. “I’m just so sorry,” he said over and over again.
“It’s okay. You didn’t know,” I said.
“Yes, I did. I divorced her because of the meth,” he said. I was silent. The jerk left me with her, despite the fact that she would get diseases that made her slam her head into things. If I told you all the names that I was calling him in my head, this would be the world’s longest book, and it’d be banned everywhere. I didn’t say a word, because I’d probably be labeled as ‘damaged’ with the words I’d say. It didn’t matter. I was already damaged. I always would be. I. Was. Broken.
I moved into Dad’s house. It was a normal house. He hadn’t remarried. It was just him. Two weeks into the stay, he came home with a present; a dog. Wait, I shouldn’t say dog. Horse is more fitting. He brought home a Saint Bernard. Into a small house. In Anaheim. I was starting to think he was doing meth, too.
The dog - a male - came with the name Bear. They should have named him Clydesdale. He was my buddy, though. We’d stay up late and watch TV together, and go for walks. I told Erica about him when she called to check up on me. “I’m gonna make Mom smash her head so I can get a dog, too!” she joked. I didn’t think it was that funny.
Things shifted one night, though. I was getting so aggravated with Dad. I wasn’t just mad because he left me with Mom, but I was also mad at myself for not doing something. I couldn’t take it anymore. I blew up. I then did what most kids do when they’re mad at their parents; I ran away. It wasn’t the mature thing to do, but I did it anyway. Rules didn’t apply anymore. I just couldn’t take it.
The one fault I made was the city I lived in. Anaheim at night is a whole different ballgame than it is during the day. Ballgames that weren’t in the same league, for that matter. Every alley, shop, and house looks the same. You could pass ten different places, and they all would look the same. Figuring that I was lost, I sat. I just breathed, and waited for the police sirens to get closer, and see them come for me. I wasn’t gonna go back. They couldn’t make me. I belonged to the street now.
Things get scary in Anaheim at night, too. You see shadows that can be anything from murders to rapists to dealers and users. You have to be aware of every single one. I was getting more frightened with each minute. I curled into a ball, and closed my eyes. Things were moving around me. A bang here. A knock there. They may seem innocent, but at night, they’re guilty of every crime.
The one that bothered me was the voices behind me. I stood up. “Who’s there?” I called. No answer. “Anybody?” Deathly silence. Then a noise, this time from what used to be in front of me. I whipped around. Nothing. “Whoever you are, you’d better leave,” I said. I looked around and found a lead pipe. I held it like I was a baseball player. Noises would shatter the silence every now and then, and they’d get closer and closer. I just waited.
I backed up, then turned, and then turned around again. I wanted to make sure I was aware of things. The last time I turned, I came face to face with a person. I jumped back, and held the pipe like I was going to give it all I had. It was a man. He looked okay, except for one small detail; orange eyes. If they were contacts, they were the weirdest ever made.
“Who are you?” I asked. He didn’t answer, but cocked his head like a puppy does after he does something bad, then looks up at you. He acted like I was the funniest thing he’d ever seen. He was the funniest thing I’d seen. He took a step forward, and I raised the pipe higher. “Get back,” I warned. He made a face.
“Why?” he asked.
“Get. Back,” I snarled.
“I asked you a question,” he said.
“And I said GET BACK!!” I snapped. He furrowed his brow, and then smiled. And he was gone. Disappeared. I lowered the pipe slightly, and waited. He reappeared right next to me. I got to him first. I swung the pipe like I was trying out for the Major Leagues. The pipe bashed into shoulder and arm bone, shattering it, and tearing muscles and tendons. He made the most unearthly and inhumanly screams ever. His eyes fired up like embers being sprung to life with lighter fluid.
An arm came out and knocked me to the ground. My lungs failed me, and I was in hot water. The pipe hit the ground with a clang! He held his massacred arm, and literally growled like a dog.
“You little…little brat! You’re dead,” he snarled. He picked up the pipe with his good arm, and held it like he was getting ready chop a log in half. I was the log. I closed my eyes, and waited for the end. I was ready for the angels to greet me. And Andrew. Especially Andrew. He brought the pipe down on my head as hard as he could. His hand being covered with blood by holding his torn arm, the pipe sailed down the alley after it struck my head.
All I can say is that you don’t see birds and stars like Wylie Coyote does. You don’t hear birds, either. You feel pressure, and then a thousand nerves are smashed and send messages to your brain that don’t say pain, but have various colorful words. You feel your ears fill with blood. If you try to move, blood from your wound rushes over your eyes, and you’re blind.
Blood rushed from my nose and I began to feel my brain swish around like an ice cube in a cup of tea. My eyes were like light bulbs getting ready to burn out. On, off. On, off. I rolled over on my belly, trying to protect my face in case he hit me with something else.
Then, the night was shattered. A scream came out. It wasn’t mine. It was the sound of a lion, a hawk of some kind, and a human scream, all rolled into a scary casserole. I lay still, not wanting to provoke anything. I could hear what sounded like the audio from a Saw movie. I heard someone partway scream, then it was sickeningly cut off, and the sounds of tearing flesh and bone snapping commenced. I could hear liquid hitting the ground, and I didn’t want to think of what it was.
Then it was silent. Nothing at all. All I could hear was my heart pulsing blood out of my nose and in my brain. Footsteps shook the ground. They came closer and closer to me, and I froze. I felt a hand gently grip my neck. I involuntarily flinched, and he hand whipped away. The feet moved closer to me, and the person attached to them shifted down to my level, which was flat on the ground. A finger tapped my shoulder. I didn’t move. I don’t even think I breathed.
“Can you hear me?” a small, male voice asked. I didn’t answer, mostly because I didn’t think I could.
“Madison?” he asked. My heart skipped a beat. He knew my name. It didn’t sound like anybody I knew. I didn’t know who it was. It could have been a stalker for all I knew.
I felt hands gingerly grip my wrists. My hands had ended up on the back of my head. I figured shattered fingers were better than a shattered skull. I tried my best to not move at all. I tried to command all muscles from moving. My hands were moved to the side of my head. I was grabbed on my sides and rolled over. My back was supported by someone’s arm, and my arms lay limply at my sides.
I kept my eyes closed, partially because I couldn’t see anyway. My head throbbed. He shifted my body to where he could wipe some of the blood off my face.
“Can you open your eyes?” he asked, “Madison? I know you can hear me.”
Keep playing it, my pulsing brain said. “I need to know that you’re okay.” I was just smashed in the head with a lead pipe. I am not okay. He laid me back down on the ground. He sighed. “Alright,” he said, “If we’re gonna play games, we’re gonna play mine. And you’re gonna lose. One more chance, Madison.” I laid there. I wanted to lose. That way, he’d get mad and leave. I hoped.
“Alright. You asked for it. Game over.” Consciousness was lost instantly
I woke up in a bed. A fricking hospital bed. The last place I wanted to be. My head didn’t hurt, and I wasn’t bleeding (that I knew of). I opened my tired eyes to see Dad sitting in a chair at the end of the bed.
“Hey,” was all I could manage. He instantly looked at me. He shot from his seat to my bedside.
“Maddie? Oh, my gosh, you’re-” I cut him off.
“What happened?” I moaned. He sighed.
“We think someone attacked you. We don’t know why. Whoever it was, he’s run off,” he said. I remembered the sounds of someone being disemboweled.
“He’s dead,” I said.
“The body…they didn’t find one?” I asked.
“But…someone…he…I don’t know,” I said.
“Tell me,” he said.
“I don’t know. I’m tired. My head hurts,” I said. The last part was a lie. I felt pretty good, besides being tired. It was kind of like Two and a Half Men where Charlie makes the needlepoint that says God Bless Vicoden. Dad sighed again.
“Erica’s here. Want to see her?” he asked. I sighed and thought about what she might say. I nodded anyway. Dad left for a moment, and she soon swung around the corner.
“You’re just having problems, aren’t you?” she said, half smiling.
“Screw you,” was all I could say.
“At least you’re feeling better,” she said sarcastically, “You know that was stupid, right? Running away?”
“Yeah. Don’t remind me,” I said. I thought for a moment. I was seeing if I could trust her. “If I tell you something, you promise not to say anything? Or say I’m nuts? That’s the last thing I need,” I asked. She held up her pinky.
“Pinky promise!” she chimed. She came closer to the bed and leaned against the rail. “Speak,” she said.
“Well, when that guy attacked me…” I sighed. I wasn’t for sure I should say anything. “Someone - and I don’t know who - came and, well…killed him,” I said.
She was quiet for a minute. “You know how you said you wanted angels to save you? I think that was your angel,” she said.
“I guess that explains why he knew my name,” I said. She nodded, and then froze.
“Knew your name?” I nodded. She thought. “More evidence.” Just then, something popped into my head.
“How did I get here?” I asked slowly.
“They said you came in the ER and collapsed. They got you and fixed you up. You were alone,” Erica said.
“I don’t remember it,” I said.
“That dude whacked you pretty good. Four stitches. Concussion,” she said. I nodded.
“I shouldn’t fall asleep, should I?” I asked.
I sighed. Where was that guy? Or my ‘angel’? Well, I knew one was dead. That was evident. Your brain, even if it’s been rattled with a lead pipe, doesn’t make up things about people getting their guts stripped out of them.
“I’m tired,” I mumbled, knowing I couldn’t sleep. I lifted a hand to my forehead, and felt the platform of gauze. “How many stitches?” I asked.
“Four,” Erica said. I would have thought a smack with a pipe would shatter bone, not create incisions.
A nurse came around the corner, and said Erica had to leave so I could be questioned by the police. I was like a zombie through questioning. I left out the part about being rescued by a stranger, but I did say that he had orange eyes. I said they were contacts, though. I still thought I was dreaming that part.
I lay there for about ten minutes after questioning, and Dad came back in. He looked nervous.
“Uh, Mom’s still here, getting help for…you know. She heard you were here, and wants to see you. She’s worried about ‘her baby girl’,” he said. I thought for a moment. I didn’t know when we’d see each other again, so I allowed it. “I just want to say that she’s kind of, well…out there. Meth makes you hallucinate, but this takes the cake,” Dad warned, “It’s the withdraw symptoms. You won’t really be talking to her. She’s just here physically.”
After a moment, she hobbled around the corner on a cane, escorted by a nurse. She was sickly gray color with brittle hair. She had become a skeleton. She was thin before, but she looked like she just got out of a concentration camp. She sat in the chair at the end of the bed with the help of the nurse. Mrs. Simpson and Dad stood in the doorway to keep watch over her.
“Maddie!” she said. She pointed to the cotton ball and bandage on her forehead. “You got a boo-boo on your head, too!” she said. I nodded. She was just here physically.
“Yeah,” I said, “That guy hit me with a pipe. I’m sure there’s a big egg there.”
“That guy pushed me pretty hard, too. I had a goose egg! It went down, though. See?” she said as she pulled the bandages off her forehead. I wondered what she meant by ‘that guy’. I looked at Dad. He shook his head and made the coo-coo sign with his finger. Mom was dreaming things. She didn’t know she did it to herself. She thought someone pushed her.
The area on her head was red with two small black stitches. I nodded.
“He did push you hard,” I said, going with it. She started to rock slightly in her chair.
“This sucks without my good stuff,” she said.
“I’ll bet it does,” I said. The same nurse took Mom’s arm.
“It’s time to go, ma’am,” she said.
“Really? Already?” Mom asked. The nurse nodded. “Oh, well. Bye bye Maddie!” she said as she stood.
“Bye bye,” I said as they left. I hated it, but I really missed her. I would never miss the meth.
I got back to Dad’s house. Bear was still there, ready to greet me with slobbery dog kisses. He and I continued our routine of watching Letterman and Ferguson on the couch. The first night home, we sat there, watching Letterman’ s Top Ten. Bear’s Neanderthal head lay in my lap, and I stroked his muzzle and giggled to myself about the show.
It was fun, until I heard something hit the floor in the kitchen. I stood. If Mr. Orange Eyes was really killed, someone might be out for revenge. I couldn’t see anyone, or hear anything but the audience on the TV laughing. I carefully went behind the couch and peered into the kitchen.
I grabbed a driver from my dad’s golf bag. I wasn’t taking any chances. My heart thudded as I came around the corner. I held the club with both hands, ready to swing. Memories of that night flooded my brain. I whipped around, ready to face the intruder.
The intruder must have been invisible, because he was nowhere to be seen. I looked on the floor, and a bowl lay there, mocking me. I sighed as I realized that I had sat it on the edge of the counter after I used it to feed Bear. Yes, he needs bowls of food. He’s that ravenous. I sat the driver on the counter, picked up the bowl, and put it in the sink.
Suddenly, a shadow was cast over me. My heart was moving at the speed of light. Someone - or thing - was behind me. I turned slightly, not yet seeing who it was. Whoever it was, he was big. And wide. I knew this was something weird. I turned a little more, and my heart hit the ground with what I saw; the end of a black-feather-tipped wing. It moved as if it was attached to something breathing. I turned a little more, and saw that it was.
My eyes instantly went to two shining red objects. They were eyes. Glowing red eyes. They were attached to a body that was massive without wings. This thing was made out of a broad chest behind a black shirt, two muscular arms that ran down his sides, both covered with something that I couldn’t make out in the dark. He was taller than me, and black, messy hair came to right above his eyes. He had large hands that would easily snap my neck. Small flashes of silver came from his nose and lower lip.
I braced myself against the counter so that if he hit me, the counter would sever my spinal cord and I wouldn’t feel a thing when he plundered me. I didn’t say a word, and neither did he. It was the silence before the storm.
I heard growling. It wasn’t the thing, though. It was Bear. He walked around and stood right in front of me, ready to eat the thing alive. The thing’s eyes followed him. Bear’s growling grew to the point that every inhale and exhale was another bone-chilling growl.
The thing’s upper lip curled into a snarl. Bear’s back legs curled into a spring. Both were thinking bad things. I gasped as I realized the madness that was about to ensue. Before I could grab Bear’s collar, he had sprung, and sent he and the thing into a roll, slamming into the refrigerator. I realized that Dad would hear it, and come running down the stairs, so I lunged for Bear, putting him into a never-before-seen wrestling hold, and yanked backwards.
My strength surprised me, and his back met my belly, knocking the wind out of me. He scrambled off me, but I held fast to his thick collar. He started to drag me before the thing leapt on to the kitchen table. I’m not sure he realized that Bear was a Saint Bernard, and he dwarfs everything. He couldn’t bark because the more he pulled the more I choked him. I started to pull backward, and grabbed the cable that we used to tie him to the foot of the table.
Latching it to his collar, I let go, and let him fight all he wanted. The thing was still perched on the table, glaring. Bear had sunk his teeth into his cheekbone, and a gash was there, pulsing more blood out with every heartbeat. He was breathing hard. I stood up, and watched as the wound closed itself, and the blood evaporated into thin air.
I couldn’t say a word. My voice box had shriveled up and died. Everything in my body had failed. The thing slowly got off the table, alternatively watching Bear and I. He swallowed, but I couldn’t do one thing but stare. I had no idea what he was, but he was straight from a Stephen King novel.
“Are you okay?” he asked, voice cracking slightly. I’d heard his voice before. He knew my name. He saved me that night.
“I think,” was all I managed.
“I didn’t want to scare you. I guess that’s hard with a thing like me, though,” he said. I just nodded.
“Uh…” he said as he ran his fingers through his black hair. I slowly sank to the ground. “You sure you’re fine?” he asked. I nodded. He knelt on the floor, getting to my level. Bear jumped and snapped at him, but it did no good.
“You’re Madison, right?” he asked.
“Maddie,” I managed.
“Alright,” he said as he pulled a piece of paper from his jeans pocket. He put it on the floor and slid it to me. I reached out with my shaky fingers and picked it up. I looked back at him.
“Are you an angel?” I asked as I swallowed. He shook his head.
“Far from it, darling,” he said, half smiling. It made my skin crawl when he called me that. I opened the paper, and forced my hands to hold still as I read the impeccably handwritten letter. I had just enough moonlight to do so;
Dear Ms. Madison Christina Dunn;
We hope no peril has come to you since your last encounter with the gentleman that sits with you now. It was a terrible thing, and we apologize for it. It should have never taken place, and we will see to it that it never again occurs.
This letter is to discuss important matters with you. We understand that you are very confused, and more than likely frightened by these happenings. This is where you must read carefully and take in this information.
You have been chosen from a vast majority of Anaheim, California citizens of a similar age to be a Demon Slayer. Your job would be to hunt and destroy demons that threaten mankind. The gentleman delivering this letter would aid you in your duties, seeing that you would be fighting an altogether more advanced being. This is a very important job, albeit one that most have no knowledge of and is particularly dangerous.
You now have two choices. You may; 1) Accept this offer, as it would be beneficial to you, your friends, your family, and the gentleman seated with you. Or you may 2) Decline, and you will no longer be troubled with us or our kind. The only thing we ask is that you decline promptly, as we must take action to erase the unpleasant memories that you now possess.
You have twenty-four hours from the time you finish this letter to accept or decline. If no answer is given, you will be contacted, and it will be acted upon as a decline, appropriate actions will be taken, and your position will be eliminated.
We appreciate your time and sacrifices for this. Your twenty-four hours will be counted up until the last moment, so you may think as you wish. We hope you accept this invitation.
We will be eagerly awaiting your answer, Ms. Dunn. Anaheim relies on your decision.
Yours very truly,
Melinda and Michael
Chancellor and Co-Chancellor of the Demon Slayers of Anaheim, California
______ I Accept this offer, and understand my duties.
______ I Decline this offer, and understand that appropriate actions will be taken.
The only thing I could think was various words that are expressed with the signs @#$%! I slowly looked up from the paper, and met the thing’s red eyes. They burned like embers slowly melting crystallized rubies now that he had relaxed. Bear had given up on the fight and lay with his head on the ground in between his paws.
“What kind of cruel joke is this? Demons? Really?” I asked.
“It’s not a joke. I’m your proof,” he said. I guess he had a point.
“What does it mean by ‘taking appropriate actions’?” I asked.
“It’s very painful. Not a smart choice,” he said. I nodded.
“I have twenty-four hours?”
“I need to think.”
“That’s fine,” he said as he stood, “I’ll be back tomorrow evening.”
“Hey,” I said, and regretted it. He turned.
“Yes?” He waited.
“Did…you save me?” I asked. He nodded. “What’s your name?” I asked. He reached his hand out to me.
“Adam,” he said. I thought for a moment before taking his hand, and gently shaking it. His hand made mine look like a baby’s. Things were marked all over it. He smiled partway. “You’re a fragile little thing,” he commented.
“Pipes do that to you,” I said. “One more thing,” I said as I released his hand, “What did you mean by ‘game over’?”
“Oh.” he said, “How’d you like my mind control?” My heart went THUD!
“Mind…control?” I squeaked.
“Yeah. How’d you think you got to the hospital? I didn’t take you,” he said.
“You…got in my brain…and…” I stuttered. He nodded.
“If I would have taken you, well…,” he looked at his wings, “It wouldn’t have been very discreet.” He had a point. And I was told that I came in on my own. “Like the letter says, you have twenty-four hours. See you then.”
I looked up from the paper, only to see that Adam was gone. On the floor lay a solitary black feather. Bear looked at me, then the feather, realizing that thing was gone. He raised his head, then stood. I stood up, unlatched the cable, and picked up the feather. I later put it in between the pages of a dictionary so I could prove this to people when they guys in white coats came for me.
I don’t know why, but I didn’t think too much about the letter the rest of the night or the next day. I guess my traumatized brain shut it out. The next morning, Erica called and came over to check up on me. I didn’t say anything to her about it.
Dad was at work, so she stayed for lunch and we had a conversation that had nothing to do with Mom or myself. It was a relief. She quickly made friends with Bear, even though she didn’t realize that the night before he tried to eat a demon’s face off.
Soon, the sun started to set, and Erica said something that made me realize the time; “I gotta go. Evening’s here.” I remembered Adam’s words. I’ll be back tomorrow evening. I unwillingly booted her out, and sat at the table, waiting for my winged visitor.
The night grew older, Dad came home, we ate a small supper, and he watched the evening news. I wanted him to do something so he wouldn’t see Adam, but I didn’t know what. I thought Adam might have somehow used his mind control on Dad because he got up and went to bed early. I wasn’t going to argue with that.
I sat at the table again, Bear asleep on the floor. Soon, I felt myself lay my head on the table, and closed my eyes. In what felt like a few seconds later, a hand was placed on my shoulder.
“Madison?” a small, male voice asked. I moaned something that sounded like ‘what?’ “Wake up,” he said. I lifted my head and rubbed my eyes. I left a light on above the table so I could see him, and it burned my eyes. When I focused, I got a good look at Adam for the first time.
This evening, he wore a brown and white button-up shirt, with a pair of dark jeans that were ripped at the knees. He still had black messy hair, and each of his arms were lined with tattoo sleeves. The inside of his right arm held a dagger that ran from the elbow to wrist. In Old English script, it said ‘DSA’ on the blade. On his hands were various small tattoos, and a big silver watch was on his left wrist. On his neck, right between his clavicles, the words ‘ALWAYS LOYAL’ were tattooed. His eyes had a reflective property to them, and they glowed pink in the light. Two silver rings jutted from his lower lip, and a ring hung in his nose. He fit in Anaheim perfectly; he was a freak.
“I’m ba-ck,” he said, in Poltergeist style. “Do you have your letter?” I nodded. I had it folded in my pocket since I got it. I pulled it out and unfolded it.
“I haven’t put much thought into it. How long do I still have?” I asked. Adam looked at his watch.
“You have exactly…” he started and waited for a moment, “One minute. Fifty-nine, fifty-eight…”
“What?! I didn’t even think about it,” I snapped.
“Fifty-four, fifty-three,” he continued. How was I supposed to decide this now? It could kill me! “Forty-seven, forty-six…”
“Thirty, twenty-nine, twenty-eight.”
If I did it, it would be ‘beneficial’. If I didn’t, painful methods were to be taken. I didn’t like that.
“Ten, nine, eight, seven…” I glared at him. He couldn’t be serious. He gave me a ‘if-I-were-you-I’d-do-it-now!’ look. “Five, four, three, two-”
“ALRIGHT! I’ll do it!” I practically yelled. He put his arm down. “I need a pen,” I sighed.
“Give me your hand,” Adam said.
“Don’t question! I’m being lenient. You were really supposed to have it marked by the end of the twenty-four hours,” he said. I sighed. I gave him my arm, and waited. He took my hand, and focused on my index finger. He took his thumb, and pressed it on my finger. His nails were blades, and sliced into my finger.
“Ouch! What’re you doing?” I asked. He let go. Blood ran down my finger.
“Mark it,” he said. I looked at my bloody finger, then him. “It’s how we prevent fraud.”
“You stab people’s fingers and make them sign it in blood?” I asked.
“Just take your finger and push it on the ‘accept’ line. It’ll leave your print,” he said. I got it. It was to prove it was me.
“Okay,” I sighed and put the paper on the table. I took a breath and pressed my index finger onto the line. I peeled it off, leaving a perfect bloody print. I stuck my finger in my mouth and sucked on it. Adam took the paper, folded it neatly, and put it in his shirt pocked. He grinned.
“Welcome to the family,” he said.
“Bite me,” I said.
“Come with me,” he said.
“No! Dad’ll know,” I said. He rolled his eyes.
“This is gonna be an every-night-thing. Is he asleep?”
“How’s he gonna know if you’re back when he wakes up?”
“He’ll know when I sleep all day tomorrow,” I said.
“Then we’ll make you stay awake. Come on,” he said. I didn’t want to know his method. I moved away from the table, and felt something bat at my foot. I looked down to see Bear giving me the sad look. To make it worse, he whimpered. He didn’t want me to go with this guy.
“Does he have a leash?” Adam asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
“We’ll take him,” he said.
“Okay,” I sighed.
“Melinda hates dogs. She’ll just have to deal with it. She did what she wanted by hiring you, we’ll do what we want by bringing him.” I understood him. It was my personal payback.
We walked outside, and I looked at him for a moment. It was dark out, but I instantly realized that his wings were gone. I asked him about it.
“Mind trick,” he said. “I make you think you don’t see them. Thanks for letting me know it worked,” he said.
“You like messing with my brain,” I said. First mind control, now this.
“What brain? Your’s was pretty damaged,” he joked.
“Like you have one! Who puts a ring in their nose like that?” I said.
“A traumatized kid, that’s who. And if I remember right, your friend has one.”
“Yeah, but it’s…wait, you know Erica?” I asked.
“I needed to know the people who’re close to you so I could protect them. They’re kind of targets now,” he said.
“Creeper!” I accused.
“I’m not a creeper. I just like watching you,” he said.
“Ewww! What else have you seen?” I demanded. I felt so violated.
“Not much,” he said. “I’m not that perverted.”
With Bear dragging me on his leash, we made our way to the ‘ghettos’. We came to one of the most dilapidated buildings around. On the door in big letters, it said, ‘DO NOT ENTER. TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT.’
“You’re not gonna take me in here and kill me, are you?” I asked. He gave me a weird look.
“No! And I wouldn’t tell you if I was, anyway,” Adam said, “That’s rule number one; don’t tell your victim you’re gonna kill them. It’s like giving a gun to someone who plans to shoot you with it.”
I smiled. I liked his sarcasm. He reached out to the rusty door and knocked three slow times.
“Whozit?” a voice snapped.
“Adam,” he said. The door slowly creaked open. Behind it stood an old man with silver eyes that matched his hair. A pair of sad, black, feathery wings hung limply on his back.
“Hello,” he said cheerfully.
“Evening, Gregory,” Adam said as he walked though the door. Bear and I followed. Gregory looked at me. He raised his hand to his forehead and saluted me. I didn’t know what else to do, so I saluted back. Adam and I walked into the building, and I saw only the single room, with a trapdoor in the floor. Adam grabbed the tattered rope and pulled the door open.
“Watch your step, miss,” Gregory said as he shut the rusty door.
“It’s steep,” Adam warned as he started down the trapdoor. I let Bear in front of me, and we walked down the creaky steps. The ratty and broken steps soon transformed into wrought iron steps, and started to circle. The plain walls soon gave way to dark ones. When I could see the floor, it was dark marble or granite. It unleashed into something I never would have suspected.
It was an underground system of rooms. It was kind of like a cathedral. At the far end of the massive room was a pulpit-like platform, and halls broke off along the walls. Along the walls and ceiling was very beautiful and intricate paintings, all resembling demons. Some had the wings of birds, others of bats. It was like the Sistine Chapel.
“This is our headquarters. For Anaheim, anyway,” Adam said. The room was so big that his voice echoed.
“It’s amazing,” was all I could say. No better words could be said. Adam chuckled.
“It’s nothing to me anymore,” he said. We walked out onto the shining black floor, our feet and Bear’s claws the only sound. We were the only ones there besides Gregory up above. On the edge of the platform stood a pedestal that held a silver bell. It was probably the ‘ring for service’ bell.
Adam gently picked it up and shook it slightly. No sound was made.
“Is it broke?” I asked naively. He shook his head.
“Only demons can hear it. He probably did, too,” he said, looking at Bear. Bear stared at the bell attentively. No barking, just staring.
“Coming!” a male voice echoed throughout the massive room. A figure came around the corner behind the wall at the end of the room. He was as tall as Adam, with dark hair and goatee. His feathery black wings came from the back of his leather jacket. His eyes were as bright and yellow as a caution light. He stopped when he saw me.
“You did find her,” he said.
“I don’t lie about these things,” Adam said. The man came up to me and held out his hand.
“You must be Madison,” he said.
“Maddie,” I said as I shook his hand. He nodded.
“Michael. Co-chancellor of the Demon Slayers of Anaheim, California,” he said.
“Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise. You now know one-half of the people who you think ruined your life,” he said.
“A bullet and methamphetamine ruined my life…so far,” I said.
“Yes, I heard about your mother. Sorry about your brother. We didn’t want to dump this on you now, but you were needed,” Michael said.
“How do you know about that?” I asked.
“We have to do research on Slayers,” he said. He looked down at Bear, who was taking this all in. Michael looked at Adam.
“Boy, do I feel sorry for you,” he said, smirking.
“Payback,” Adam said.
“He told me to bring him,” I said, pointing at Adam.
“Shhhh! Don’t tell my secrets,” he said. Michael shook his head.
“Melinda is not a fan of dogs. She’s had a few run-ins,” Michael said, “I’ll go get her.” He turned around and went back the way he came.
“Define ‘payback’,” I said.
“She made me come get you. I had to fight him. She’s gotta see…” he looked down at my drooling, comatose dog, “that thing.”
“What did he mean by ‘run-in’?” I asked.
“You’ll see.” After a moment, Michael returned, followed by a woman with long blonde hair. She was just a little shorter than him, and possessed the same wings as Michael and Adam. Her piercing lavender eyes looked into your soul. Right under her right eye, on her cheekbone, was a massive scar. It was as if a huge chunk had been ripped out. Other than that, she was beautiful.
“Madison Dunn?” she asked. I nodded.
“Maddie,” I said for the second time. She crossed her arms in front of her.
“Melinda. Chancellor. I apologize for your mishaps,” she said, then looked at Bear. Her face went blank. “Adam?” she asked.
“Yeah?” he said. He knew what she was going to say.
“Why did you bring that…thing?” she asked.
“He’s a guard dog,” he said.
“That is not a dog. That is a drooling draft horse,” she said.
“I’m sorry. I won’t bring him anymore,” I said.
“You have no reason to apologize. But I do appreciate that,” Melinda said. “Anyway, we appreciate your sacrifice, Maddie. This is a very important job,”
“Glad to help,” I said. I think it was a lie. I didn’t want to do this. It was that or have my brains eaten (I’m not sure that’s what would have happened, but you never know.).
“Since we have some things that must be taken care of immediately, we can’t give you proper training. Otherwise, we would,” she said, and walked over to the table behind them. She picked up a envelope, “We need you to go out as soon as this conversation ends. This is urgent.” She handed me the envelope, being very wary of Bear.
I looked inside the envelope. A photo of a man was inside, along with an address and other contact info.
“Adam will take care of most of this the first time. After this, he’ll train you. We wish you luck,” Melinda said.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Just follow a few rules; keep watching the shadows, stay out of them, and never stand still. You’ll be fine,” Michael said. I nodded.
“We’ll be back,” Adam said as he put his hand on my shoulder. We turned around and left the way we came. Gregory saluted me again, and I saluted back again.
“Am I supposed to do that to everyone?” I asked.
“Just Gregory. He’s been in a lot of wars. Old people can lose it, you know,” Adam said.
“After this, I have a lot of questions,” I said. He nodded.
“Of course. It’s just important we kill this guy though,” he said. He was pretty blunt. He asked for the envelope, and I handed it to him. He read the address, and steered me into the direction. It was deeper into the ghetto. He took it and folded it in half and put it in his shirt pocket.
We came upon a trailer. Two of the windows were broken, and it had various stains and graffiti on it.
“This is it?” I asked. He nodded. Right outside the door lay a massive Rottweiler dog with one of those stupid spiked collars and tags. Adam squatted down behind the trailer across from it. He put his hand on his chin as I squatted next to him, forcing Bear to lay down.
“How much you wanna bet that thing bites?” he asked, pointing at the dog.
“I’ll bet,” I said. Adam looked down at Bear. A light bulb flicked on.
“Does he like other dogs?” he asked.
“Only if they’re nice to him,” I said.
“If you let him go, will he come back to you?”
“If I call his name.”
“Wonderful. Take his leash off,” he commanded. I did, still holding his collar. “Let him go.”
Adam pushed on Bear’s hindquarters, which is like pushing a wall. “Sic him,” I hissed. Bear came up to the Rottweiler, sniffing. Just like we wanted, the Rottweiler and Bear headed down the road, nipping at each other. We crawled closer to the trailer and peered into one of the intact windows.
Inside lay a shirtless man, obviously passed out from being drunk. Across the beer-can-littered hall lay another person; a girl, probably no older than me. Her face was stained by tears and bruises lined her face and arms. You could tell the man was responsible for it. His busted knuckles were evident.
“Him?” I whispered. Adam pulled me away from the window and put his finger to his lips.
“He can hear us easily. I didn’t see his wings though,” he said.
“I didn’t see feathers,” I said. He shook his head.
“He won’t have them. Evil ones have bat wings,” he said.
“Okay,” I said halfheartedly. This was getting screwier by the minute.
“Here’s what you need to do, okay?” he said. I nodded. “Go in - quietly - and get the girl out. She’s a bystander. She gets killed, we’re both screwed. Okay? I’ll finish it.”
“Okay. Isn’t she gonna go nuts when she realizes what’s going on?” I asked.
“Just keep her quiet. I don’t care how. Make sure she gets out,” he said. I nodded again. We crawled around to the door of the trailer. Adam gave me the thumbs up, and I quietly reached for the door. A thought was shoved into my head; what the @#$% was I doing? This could all be a trick, and I was really going though with it?
I hesitated. Adam caught it. “You’ll be fine. I promise. I saved your butt once, and I’ll do it again,” he said. I nodded, and grabbed the handle. I twisted it slowly, feeling the rust making it harder. A small squeak escaped it and I froze. “Keep going,” Adam said. I continued, and pulled it open slowly, trying to keep it from squeaking. I could see the girl, still asleep. The man was snoring. I put my foot on the floor of the trailer, avoiding squeaky steps. I pulled myself inside, and turned to face the sleeping girl. Adam was out of sight, and I was terrified.
I breathed for a moment, and thought quickly. I did what I saw in the movies; I reached out quickly, and clamped my hand over her mouth. She woke up instantly, and grabbed my hand. She tried to scream, but couldn’t. I put my finger to my lips. “SHHHH!!” I hissed quietly. She calmed. “I’m gonna help you get out. Okay?” I whispered. She nodded.
I stood and helped her up. I pulled her towards the door, but we both froze when we heard the man moan. I looked back, and he still lay with his eyes closed. I pushed the girl on. We jumped out the door, and I pulled her to the side. Adam stood, eyes shining a bright pink with excitement. The girl gasped and prepared to scream when she saw his eyes. I threw my hand over her mouth. “He’s a friend,” I said quickly. She calmed down again, and I took my hand off.
“All you need to do now is get back. It’s not gonna be pretty,” Adam said. I didn’t hesitate. The girl and I backed up to the dirt road, and watched as Adam creeped in the trailer, and shut the door behind him.
The girl was clinging to me and breathing hard. “Are you okay?” I asked. She nodded quickly.
“I think so,” she breathed. I looked at the bruises that coated her arms and lied beneath her left eye.
“Did he do this to you?” I asked, holding her hand gently. She nodded. “Is he your dad?” I asked. Another nod. “Is he drunk?” I asked as I remembered the various objects Mom had thrown at me while she was high. She looked at me dead in the eye and said this; “He’s not normal.” I was pretty sure I knew what she meant, but I had to ask that dumb, Bill-Engvall-Here’s-Your-Sign-Worthy question; “What do you mean?”
She was shaking violently. “He’s not human. I don’t know what he is,” she said, almost a whisper. I gripped her hand harder to keep her from shaking so much.
“Well, you know that guy that was with me? The one that just went in?” I asked. She nodded once more. “He’s not normal either,” I said. She froze, and almost collapsed. “No! It’s okay. He’s helping me. And you,” I pleaded, hoping to keep her from falling. “Look, the other night, I was attacked by something that was like your dad. He tried to beat my brains out. See?” I asked, lifting the hair on my forehead so she could see the scar that the cut and stitches had made. “That guy saved me. Some of them aren’t bad. They like to help us,” I said. I hope you realize that the things I was saying could have been very, very untruthful. I had no clue.
“So, everything’s gonna be okay. Alright?” I said. She nodded and put her arms around me. I held her up for a little bit. I prayed she wasn’t listening to the sounds around her, because inside the trailer the Rapture had begun. We both whipped around when we heard a blood-curdling scream pierce the night, and it was sickenly cut off. I prayed it wasn’t Adam, because we’d be in a lot of hot water then.
The light aluminum door swung open. Blood dripped from the inside of it. A figure came and stood in the doorway. It was Adam. His shirt soaked in blood, along with spatter on his face, and his hands were drenched. “I took care of it,” he said, his blank expression never moving. The girl covered her face.
“We can tell, Jason Voorhees,” I snapped. He looked at himself.
“Get used to it. This is nothing,” he said as he jumped out of the trailer.
“What happened to the body?” I asked as he got closer.
“Just one of Anaheim’s many unsolved murders,” he said. He started down the road. “Call your dog,” he said.
“He’s probably in San Francisco by now, knowing him,” I said. Adam shrugged.
“That’s why I checked with you,” he said, then looked at the girl. She looked genuinely scared. She had all rights to be because she was staring at a demon covered in her father’s blood. “You need to go to the police station and say you ran away because he was abusing you. And he was, so it’s not a lie,” he said. She nodded slowly.
We saw a trash can that was burning up ahead. Adam looked down at his shirt and started to unbutton it. “What’re you doing?” I asked.
“Hiding the evidence,” he said as we came up to the unattended can. He threw it in, and it went up in flames. He wore a white t-shirt under it, and it still had blood on it. He looked at me. “First lesson; when in doubt, wear three shirts,” he said. He pulled the white shirt off, and another t-shirt was under it. It was clean. The other shirt went up in flames, too, and we continued walking.
“Do you know how to get to the station from here?” I asked. She nodded. I could tell she wasn’t a talker.
“We’d take you, but when they found the body, we’d be people of interest,” Adam said.
“What’ll they think when they find him, though, Mr. Smarty Pants?” I sassed.
“People are capable of killing themselves,” he said.
“From the looks of it, that’d be the world’s nastiest suicide,” I said.
“It’s possible,” he said. We finally made it back to downtown Anaheim. We were down the street from the station.
“Can you make it?” I asked.
“I think so,” she said.
“Alright,” I said, “Good luck.” She gave me a hug, and disappeared into the crowd.
“And, Ms. Maddie Dunn, that’s how you save a life,” Adam said.
“And it’s how you ruin one, too,” I said.
“Back to HQ,” he said, ignoring me. We turned and started to walk again.
“I said I had questions,” I remembered.
“Go ahead,” he said.
“How did Melinda get bit by a dog?”
“First job. You were lucky this time,” he said.
“I don’t get it. I need the story,” I said.
“She was on her first job. Kinda like the one we just did. Most demons have dogs that protect them, and it was hungry,” Adam said.
“So it tried to eat her face off,” I said. He nodded. “Wait…Bear bit you, but your, uh, flesh grew back,” I said.
“It took off a good part of her face. It doesn’t always grow back,” he said. I stopped. He stopped to look at me. I sighed a deep sigh.
“What am I doing?” I said quietly. He grabbed my arm and pulled me on.
“Saving the good people of Anaheim,” he said.
“What did they do for me?” I asked.
“They didn’t do much for me, either,” Adam said. I scoffed. He looked at me.
“If you did research like you said, you’d get it,” I said.
“No, I get it.”
“Really? Then what part?”
“You live in Hell every day like I do.”
“No,” I said, “I don’t live in Hell. I live in the worst level of Hell. Satan tortures me personally by using the things that ruined my life. I think he sent that letter to me, not you guys.”
Adam didn’t say anything for a while. We got closer to HQ, and he finally cracked. It started when he chuckled to himself. “What?” I asked. He shook his head.
“You think you have it bad,” he started. I stood still to get his attention. He stopped in front of me and crossed his arms.
“My brother was shot and killed by gang members. My mother is addicted to methamphetamine. I live with my father, who has no clue about the evil things in my head. I don’t think he cares, either. He thinks it’ll go away,” I said, “He thinks my suicide attempts are to get attention. Yeah, I do want attention. I wanna be rescued from Hell.”
Adam sighed. Not the ‘I can beat that’ sigh, but the ‘I get it’ sigh. He looked as the ground as he thought. “We’ll talk about this later. I don’t want to upset you more,” he said, then motioned towards the door at HQ. I grabbed the handle, then paused, realizing that I was supposed to knock.
“Just open it. We know it’s you,” he said. I turned the handle and pushed it open. We walked to the trapdoor and down the stairs. I looked up at the paintings on the ceiling. On one side of the ceiling was images of feathered demons, the other side had bat-winged demons. They were obviously fighting in the middle. Along the walls were other images, like a feathered demon holding out his hand in offering to a priest. Another was of demons watching over humans. I stopped to look at that particular one. Adam stopped with me.
“You say you’re not angels…” I started.
“We’re not,” he said, “I consider it like a police force.”
“Really?” I asked. He shrugged.
“For lack of better words,” he said. I looked at the painting in between that one and the priest. It was a bat-winged demon being stabbed by feathered ones with a stake. Another demon lay on the ground next to the one being stabbed. There were patches of feathers on his tired bat wings. It was a little nuts.
“What the heck is that?” I asked.
“It’s how you go from an evil demon to a good one,” he said.
“Looks like friendly fire to me,” I said, “Kill your own.”
“Yeah, it looks bad, but it’s necessary,” he said.
“Success?” another voice asked. I looked at the ‘pulpit’, and Michael stood there, hands behind his back.
“Yeah, but my dog’s MIA,” I said.
“I asked you if he’d come back!” Adam snapped.
“That doesn’t mean I was right!” I snapped back.
“He’ll come back if he loves you,” Michael said.
“I guess I am his meal ticket,” I mused. I suddenly realized I was tired. “Can I go home now?” I asked. Michael chuckled.
“One more thing,” he said. I groaned. He reached into his pocked and pulled out a black flip phone. He tossed it to me, and I caught it. “This is just for calling us. Dial one, you’ll get Adam. Dial two, you’ll get Melinda or I. Don’t use it for anything else,” he said, “Alright?”
I looked at the phone for a moment, then nodded. “Good. Take her home, Adam.”
The next morning, I called Erica to come over so I could apologize for shoving her out when I was waiting on Adam. We kind of repeated the thing we did the night before; talk. Dad wouldn’t be home for a little while, so we were enjoying ourselves.
“Why did you make me leave?” Erica asked. I thought quickly.
“Dad doesn’t like it when people show up unannounced. We both would have been in trouble,” I said.
“Then why am I here now?”
“Well, he can kiss my butt this time around,” I said. She snickered. I heard the door open. I looked at the clock, but it wasn’t time for Dad to be home yet. That was still about twenty minutes away.
“Dad?” I called, “Is it you?” There was no answer. My blood ran cold. I heard the clack, clack of claws on the floor. Maybe Bear found his way back. “I think it’s Bear,” I said, and stood to see if I was right. A fuzzy head stuck around the corner, and entered. It was Bear, but not in the condition I wanted him in.
His face, muzzle, and front quarters were soaked in blood, and he carried a black shiny object in his mouth proudly. It looked like a rope at first glance.
Erica and I screamed in unison, and both jumped onto the table. I remembered that Adam had done the same, and that the table was no match for a St. Bernard.
“It’s Cujo! I knew you shouldn’t trust those dogs!” Erica screamed. Bear sat staring at us, almost in a way that made him look like he was laughing at us. He even cocked his head a little. Erica and I squealed a little more when he threw his feet onto the tabletop and laid the black object on it. He then backed up and laid on the floor, bloody head between his bloody paws. I realized he made monster-sized bloody paw prints across the kitchen and living room.
I looked at the thing on the counter. “What is it?” Erica demanded. I leaned down to look at it. It scared me to death; a collar. The same fricking collar on that stupid Rottweiler. I knew it was because it was spiked, and had the tags. I looked behind me, and told Erica to grab a dishrag. She handed it to me, and I leaned over to pick it up.
“Don’t touch it!” she snapped.
“How am I supposed to tell whose dog it is, then?” I retorted. She quieted as she put her hands on her head. I gingerly grabbed it with the rag and looked at the tag. It was too bloody to read. I jumped off the table and went to the sink. Bear lifted his head. “NO! BAD DOG!” Erica screamed.
“It’s fine! Just chill out, Erica,” I said. This was the most scared I’d seen her. I turned on the water and let it wash away the blood on the tag. I looked at it. “Well,” I said, “poor Rocky didn’t last long.” I took out a butter knife and lifted the tag to see the owner’s tag behind it. “Rocky will be missed by…” I started, then froze. It belonged to the demon we - or Adam - killed last night.
After muttering a few swear words to myself, I laid the collar on the counter. I turned my attention to Bear. I went and grabbed his collar and began to drag him to the bathroom. “Erica? I need you to do something,” I said.
“I’m not touching him!” she said, still on the table.
“You don’t have to! I need you to go home, pretend you never saw this, and wait for me to call you. Can you do that?” I asked. “I will explain later. Please?”
She nodded quickly, and went for the door.
“Speak a word of this, and I will kill you slowly with hot pokers!” I warned as she left out the door. I dragged Bear the rest of the way to the bathroom. I put him in the tub, and started the water. I realized Dad would be home any minute. I reached in my pocket for the phone Michael gave me. I hit ‘one’, then waited.
“Hello?” a voice said.
“Adam?” I asked.
“No, it’s the President! Yes, it’s me, Madison,” he said.
“I need you at my house right NOW!” I snapped. “EMERGENCY!”
“Give me five minutes.”
“Make it two.”
“Deal.” The phone went beep, beep, as he hung up. I sat the phone on the sink as I poured water on Bear. The water quickly became a pink color. In about two minutes, like promised, a knock came at the door. I ran to it, covered in water and diluted blood. There Adam stood in a pair of aviator sunglasses.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“My dog came back home…after killing that Rott we had to get rid of,” I said.
“That explains the paw prints. What do you want me to do?” he asked.
“Please clean up the mess. He brought home the dog’s collar. It’s on the counter.”
“Dad’ll be here any minute. Put a move on it,” I said. I went back to the bathroom as Adam shut the door behind him. I finished hosing Bear down with the showerhead, and heard a door open. My heart skipped a beat. I quickly let the water out of the tub, and wiped watery blood off my arms. I ran to the kitchen, locking Bear in the bathroom.
“Maddie? You here?” I heard Dad call. I was so scared that Adam was still there. I was shocked when I saw no bloody drag marks going to the bathroom, or paw prints at the door, in the kitchen, living room, or on top of the table where he put his behemoth paws. I glanced at the counter where I left the collar. A yellow piece of paper lay there, folded. Dad beat me to it.
“Over here, Dad,” I said, hoping he’d forget about it. He picked it up as he looked at me and said, “Why are you wet?”
“I gave Bear a bath,” I said, then realized I screwed myself.
“Did he stink that bad?” he asked. I nodded quickly, going with it. “You should have waited until I got back so I could help you! He’s a big dog. You look like you just ran in the rain,” he said. I nodded again, breathless. He handed me the note. “Did you know about that? Has your name on it.”
I took it from him. Sure enough, it said ‘Madison’ in scraggly Sharpie writing on the front. I opened the lined yellow paper. Inside was a small handwritten note;
I took the collar.
I made a mental note to thank him. “Do you have plans tonight?” I asked. He shook his head.
“Just the usual; six pack. News. CSI. The Mentalist,” he said.
“Good. ‘Cause I do,” I said. He looked shocked.
“Madison Christina Dunn? Plans? Really?” he asked.
“Ha. I gotta go,” I said, heading back down the hall. I stopped and called down the hall; “I did the hard part! Dog’s in the tub! He’s waiting on a towel,” before I went and changed into a dry shirt.
I followed my memory back to HQ. I went up and rang the bell. Michael came out to greet me.
“Evening, Maddie,” he said.
“Hey, Mike. I have a problem,” I said.
“The collar? Adam brought it to us,” he said.
“More than that,” I said.
“I think I have something worse,” he said.
“Adam went out to look for poor Rocky’s remains. Here’s the problem; there is absolutely no evidence of that dog’s flesh. Just a few blood stains and bones,” he said.
“What’re you telling me?” I asked, slightly confused.
“Your dog ate every possible piece of flesh on him. Major organs. Brain. Even the eyes. Every piece,” Michael said.
“So, he’s Hannibal Lecter…just in dog form,” I said. He nodded. “Am I supposed to kill him, or…” I trailed. He shook his head.
“No. But he’s got a job,” he said. “He’ll be working for you.”
“Bear? A Slayer?” I asked.
“He’ll kinda have part of Adam’s job,” he said.
“Alright. I guess,” I said. My cannibal dog was going to help us. Lovely. I heard footsteps come down the staircase. It was Adam.
“Hey, Maddie,” he said, “What do you think about your cannibal?”
“I think he’s gonna meet Ol’ Yeller’s demise,” I said.
“That’s why I don’t like dogs,” Melinda said as she came out of a hallway. “Not as cute as they make out to be.”
“What was your problem, Maddie?” Michael asked.
“My best friend saw Bear come into the house with the collar. She was mortified,” I said.
“What did you tell her?”
“I said she wouldn’t speak about it, or she’s dead. And that I’d explain,” I said. He nodded.
“Who’s your friend?” Melinda asked.
“Erica Summit,” I said.
“Well, you have a few choices. You can come out and tell her about all of this, or you can ignore it until she brings it up. However, no matter what, she must decide whether she can trust you - or if we can trust her - and accept this, or she can decide to have us make her forget,” Melinda said. I sighed. This was big. And Erica would get mad that I dragged her into this.
“Alright. I’ll talk to her. She needs to know,” I said.
“She’s lucky,” Adam said, “Not all friends come with demons to protect them. Anyone associated with you is protected.”
I scoffed. “Yeah. Instead of roughing them up, they get their flesh eaten.”
I called Erica the next morning.
“Erica? Hey, I wanted to ask you something,” I said.
“Is it about your dog? Because, yes, I saw everything,” she said.
“No…well, I need to talk to you. Will you meet me at the pier?” I asked.
“Maddie, I don’t know. You’re really scaring me. What’s with you?”
“Well, if you meet me, I’ll tell you absolutely everything. I promise. And I swear no cannibal dogs will show up. Okay?” I asked. Silence.
“I don’t know Maddie,” she finally said.
“Please,” I begged. I heard her sigh.
“Okay. I’ll be there in ten minutes,” she said.
“Thank you! I promise nothing will happen,” I said before hanging up. I soon found myself sitting at a bench at the pier. I was in the middle of the crowd so Erica could trust that she’d be safe. I made sure that the cell phone Michael gave me was in my pocket.
I soon saw her walk towards me in her Hard Rock Café shirt. She had a very worried look on her face. I waved at her to get her attention. She saw me, and headed my way. When she sat down she immediately snapped.
“Tell me everything. Now,” she said.
“Alright, just chill,” I said, “I need you to promise something first. You have to listen. That’s all I’m asking,” I said. She sighed, then nodded. I took a breath to start, then realized something. “I should call someone to help you believe,” I said, reaching for my phone in my pocket. She seized my hand.
“No! Just us,” she said. She let go of my hand as I nodded. She’d have to meet Adam later.
“This is really confusing, so pay attention,” I said, then took another breath. A cell phone ringing shattered it. Erica shook her head when she realized it was mine. I pulled it out and answered.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Bring her to HQ,” Adam’s voice said.
“Yeah, whatever. Like she’ll want to. She’s scared out of her mind,” I said. Erica made a face when she realized I was talking about her.
“Do you want me to come get you guys?” he asked.
“Oh, Adam! If you make me loose the best friend I’ve ever had, I will kill you in the worst way possible,” I threatened.
“Good luck with that.”
“Just for that, I’m gonna scare you in five seconds.”
“Huh? Hello? Adam?” Only the beep, beep answered me. I snapped the phone shut.
“MADDIE!!” was screamed into my ear. Erica and I jumped into the air and screamed. People all over the pier stopped to stare for a moment. It was Adam, like promised. He started to laugh hysterically as Erica clung to my arm.
“I hate you!” I practically screamed.
“You’re not the only one,” he chuckled, pointing at Erica. I thought she was going to die for a moment. “Let’s go,” he said, motioning.
“No,” I snapped.
“Why?” he asked.
“I think she wants to stay,” I said. She nodded quickly.
“How are we gonna explain here?”
“Just explain it. The reason we’re here is because of the people,” I said.
“And people aren’t supposed to know.”
“Humor me. My threat of killing you still stands,” I said. He sighed. He said only one word; “Sit.” We did.
“You’re the boss,” Adam said as he stared out at the people. I looked at him funny. “Tell her,” he said. I rolled my eyes. How could I do this? She was my best friend! And I was about to send her to Hell?
“Alright. You gotta listen well, okay?” I said. She nodded. I said it fast enough to get it over with, but slow enough to get it in her head; “I was chosen to be this thing called a Demon Slayer, and I have to kill all the bad demons in Anaheim. We had to do something like that the other night, and we brought Bear with us. He killed the dog that was guarding the demon. That’s why he was covered in blood,” I said.
Erica stared at me for a moment. “And you want me to believe this?” she finally said. I looked back at Adam and sighed.
“You have to,” I said.
“I need more proof than a bloody dog, Maddie,” she said. I looked back at Adam again. I noticed his red eyes, and sprung and idea.
“Not everyday that you see people with red eyes, is it, Erica?” I asked. She looked confused, then looked at Adam. She froze in fear.
“Oh…” was as far as she got. She began to shake. I grabbed her shoulders.
“You okay?” I asked. She shook her head.
“No,” she squeaked.
“Just relax, alright? No one’s gonna hurt you. I promise,” I said. She leaned back and closed her eyes.
“I’ve gone nuts,” she finally said.
“That or we both are,” I said.
“Now you have a choice,” Adam said, “You can choose to accept this, and not speak of it, or-”
Erica cut him off. “Kill me.”
“No…we just make you forget everything,” he finished.
“It’s the choice I was given, and you can see which one I picked,” I said. Erica put her head in her hands.
“Maddie?” she finally said.
“Yeah?” I said. She looked at me with tired eyes.
“I don’t know if I can handle this.”
“If I can, you can.” She nodded.
“Okay…I can do this. I’ll do it,” she said. I gave her a hug. This was hard on the both of us. My life had went to Hell, and I was dragging her there with me.
“Let me put it this way; if something happens, we’ll both be in the asylum together,” I said. She giggled.
Soon after, I found myself sitting at my kitchen table with Erica, Bear, and Adam. Erica was still a little shaky. I had asked Adam about the training I was promised. He rolled his eyes.
“It’s a pain,” he said.
“I’m sure it’s not as big of a pain as getting my flesh ripped off,” I said. He thought for a moment.
“I guess it is kind of fun. I get to beat you up once or twice,” he said. I furrowed my brow.
“You’re sick,” was all I could say.
“You didn’t grow up like I did,” Adam said.
“So what do I do in all of this?” Erica asked. Adam looked at her. His eyes still shocked her.
“I could probably train you, too,” he said. She shrugged. It was silent for a moment.
“I want a katana,” Erica finally said.
“A ka-what?” Adam asked.
“Katana. A Japanese sword. You know. Like from Kill Bill,” she said.
“And I’m supposed to know what that is?”
“You’ve never seen Kill Bill?” she asked.
“This is the most time I’ve spent in a house where I haven’t had to kill someone in about ten years,” he said.
“Then where do you sleep?” I asked.
“I don’t,” he said. It was quiet.
“Alright, I’ve figured it out; you’re not a demon. You are a vampire with wings,” I said.
“No, I’m a demon. I don’t drink blood,” he said, “Well, not anymore.”
Erica frowned. “Alright, that’s enough. Any more and I’ll freak out. Back to the subject of training,” she said.
“Okay, this is weird, but I know where I can get a katana,” I said. Adam raised an eyebrow. “My dad works with a guy who’s a fifth degree black belt. He could probably give you lessons, too.”
Erica nodded. “That might work,” she said.
“I’ll have Dad talk to him,” I said. “So, Adam, what is this training exactly?”
“All you have to do is kick my butt,” he said.
“And I’m supposed to do this how?” I asked.
“I’m not sure I want to. Might be pretty scary,” I said. I looked at Erica. “Will you tell Dad I love him?”
At about eleven-thirty at night, I found myself standing on the rooftop of HQ, staring at Adam with a broom handle in my hands. He stood a short distance away, arms crossed, broom handle in his left hand.
“The only way we can do this is if you hit me. Try it,” he said.
“I’m afraid that you’ll get to me first,” I said. He shrugged.
“They’ll try to get there first. This is a walk in the park,” he said.
“Walk in the park here and you’ll get mugged,” I said under my breath.
“Shut up and hit me already.”
I sighed. I lifted the handle for a moment, then thought for a second. Mistake. Big one. I was on the ground and Adam was on the other side of me in less than a second. He leaned over me as birds swirled around my damaged brain.
“They’re not gonna wait for you to get up, Madison,” he said dryly.
“Have I told you that you’re a jerk?” I asked.
“So I’ve heard,” he said. He held his hand out to me. I thought about flipping him the bird as I stood without his assistance. I picked the broom handle up again, and stared intently at Adam. When he froze to stare at me, I brought the metal handle down on his collar bone. It made a blunt thud! as he pulled away.
“Gotta hit harder than that.” When he finished ‘that’, he got one to the ribcage. Faster than lightning, he ripped the stick from my hands, and took me out at the knees.
“Gotta be quick.” When he shifted a inch or two closer, I kicked his knee, and he hit the ground hard. The stick rolled away, and I stamped on his knuckles when he went for it. He made a hiss like an alligator. Adam’s ruby eyes glowed a reflective fuchsia.
“Karma sucks, Adam,” I sassed. He yanked his hand out and examined his bloody knuckles.
“Nice job,” he said as he laid on the roof of the building. I sat up next to him. The roof was still warm from the heat of the California sun. Adam crossed his arms on his stomach and sighed. His wide, black, heavily feathered wings lay flat on the ground. A breeze came by, and we watched as it blew two of his loose feathers off the edge of the roof and float slowly to the ground. I rubbed my temples.
“Do you still love your mother?” he finally cracked. I looked back at Adam. He lay with his eyes closed and only the minute movement of his chest as he breathed.
“Depends what day you’re asking,” I said as I gazed out at the lights of the casinos and bars.
“I’m asking about today. Now.”
“I don’t know. Maybe. I’ll never forgive her, that’s for sure,” I sighed.
“I see,” he said. It was quiet. The only sounds were of wind-carried voices and car honks.
“Do you have a mother?” I asked. He never stirred. I looked back. “Adam?” I asked, wondering if he heard me. His eyes were now wide open, staring at the black and starry sky. His eyes were smoldering between ruby and black, almost like they were becoming glassy with tears. It was water being poured on dying embers.
I instantly regretted my question, realizing I’d touched an extremely tender nerve somewhere. Salt to the wound. I looked down at my dirty, faded gray Converses. If he cried, it would make me sick. It was at my fault.
“I did,” he finally said, voice cracking. Aw, crap, I thought. I wasn’t gonna poke that nerve anymore, so I just shut up and sat there, playing with my shoestring.
“Sorry,” I mumbled in a last-ditch effort to redeem myself.
“It’s fine. Not your fault,” he said quietly. He then returned the favor with this; “How’d your brother die?”
“I thought you did research,” I snapped, harsher than intended.
“I just needed the basics. Not enough to write a biography,” he said.
“Drive-by,” I said. I heard Adam sit up.
“Murder,” he whispered, obviously in deep thought. I mumbled a yes.
“Is your mom-” I said before he cut me off with ‘yes’. So much for not touching the nerve. “Sorry,” I said again. I heard a jingle of a chain. I turned to see Adam messing with a silver chain on his neck that I didn’t notice before. He clamped his hand over it before I could see what was on it. He put it in his shirt quickly before standing up.
“I’ll take you home so you can go to bed,” he said, extending his hand. I took it and he took me home. As I sat on my bed in my pajamas, I picked up my cell phone. I hit ‘2’.
“Hey, Michael. Can I ask a favor?”
“Perhaps,” he said.
“Does Adam keep his belongings there?”
“What he has. Why?”
“I need you to do some raiding…”
I felt super guilty as I sat in Dad’s comfy chair. I had an envelop chocked full of Adam’s private photos. I knew he’d be so mad, but I was prepared. I just waited for him to come through the door and demand where his pictures were. I told Mike to tell Adam that I had the pictures. I apologized to Michael earlier for when Adam would come unglued on him.
I didn’t have to wait long. Adam didn’t even knock when he shoved the door open and then slammed it shut. His eyes were almost white. I could see a big vein sticking out on his forehead under his black hair. If he clenched his fists any harder, his razor-sharp claws would cut though his hands. But most of all, I could envision those fangs coming down on me. He was beyond fuming. It’d probably make steam if you poured water on him.
“Give them to me. Now,” he demanded. I stuck them behind me. He growled. Literally. Like a dog.
“Stop growling and sit down.”
“I want to talk.”
“I want my pictures.”
“I got something better.”
He slowly took a seat on the couch across from me. I took my own ratty envelope from the end table, and sat it in front of Adam on the coffee table. He looked at me, and gently picked it up. He opened it and looked at the first photo.
“That’s Andrew,” I said. He went to the next one. “My mom,” I said. He chewed on the inside of his lip. He couldn’t get to the rest of his lip because of the thin silver rings. He set them on the table and put his head in his hands.
“Sorry,” he murmured. I pulled his pictures back out. I looked at one of Adam and two women. One was obviously older, with shoulder-length black hair. The younger one looked younger than Adam, also with long black hair.
“Mom and…?” I asked. He was still staring at the floor.
“Sister,” he whispered, almost inaudible. “She was Casey.”
“Your mom’s name?”
I looked down at the picture again. Adam had changed so much. No tattoos. No piercings. And his eyes were a shocking green.
“Your eyes,” I said.
“I hadn’t changed yet,” he said.
“How does that work?” I asked.
“It’s genetics. A certain percent of offspring get this gene, others don’t. Lucky me,” he said.
“So Casey was normal. Does it take a few years before things kick in?” I asked. He nodded.
“Kind of like puberty. Things start to go crazy and change,” he said.
“Bet wings were a surprise.”
“Horrifying. For all of us,” he said.
“What about your father?” I asked. All of the pictures were of those three. He looked me dead in the eye for a moment, and it gave me chills.
“He was a demon. He gave me that gene,” he said. I took a deep breath as I asked the question that could make Adam capable of murdering me; “What happened to them, Adam?”
He didn’t move. I was kind of glad he didn’t. “My father’s name was James,” he said.
“Yes,” I said, coaxing him.
He leaned forward and plucked the pictures from my hands. “He’s alive. They’re dead. Figure it out yourself,” he said, stood, and slammed the door as he left.
I left that night and went back to HQ to put the pictures back. I laid them next to the bell. I never bothered Michael or Melinda. I started one of my walking escapades again. I landed at the pier. I laid my head on the railing as I heard someone come up behind me. I looked to see Erica, smiling that smile.
“Hey, Demon Hunter,” she said.
“Katana Chick,” I said.
“That guy sent that to me. I’ve been watching Youtube videos. It helps,” she said. I giggled.
“Really?” I sassed. She nodded quickly. I saw Adam out of the corner of my eye come up and lean on the rail. “I figured it out,” I said.
“Good,” he said.
“Figured out what?” Erica asked.
“Long story,” I said.
“I’m listening,” she said.
“Long story short; my dad killed my mom and sister,” Adam said, staring at the black water. Erica stared at him.
“Excuse me?” she asked.
“You heard me.”
She shook her head. “Guess I’m right,” I mumbled to myself. Erica leaned close to me.
“Is it just me, or does he get weirder and weirder?” she asked.
“It’s all of us,” I said, “Right, Adam?” I asked, just to harass him. He was standing up straight, staring down the pier. He had something in his sights.
“Adam?” I asked, hoping to snap him back to reality. He took a few steps forward, and uttered two words; “Keep up.”
And he was gone. He was racing down the pier, targets set. Erica and I ran full speed after him. We were calling his name, trying to get him to stop. It was effortless. We watched him vault over the hood of a taxi that was slowing - not stopped - for a red light. The driver honked and yelled all sorts of obscenities as Adam raced down the sidewalk. We quickly apologized to him as we continued to run.
When we stepped onto the sidewalk, we realized that Adam had been lost in the mass. Erica voiced her opinion with a curse. “If we find him, we’re getting him a leash and a collar,” I said. We scanned the area, then my phone vibrated. It was Adam’s phone.
“Where are you?” I answered. He quickly muttered and address. He had one other thing to say, and it was ‘hurry’. It couldn’t be good. Erica and I shoved through the crowd, rushing to where Adam said he was. It was an alley. We found him laying in his own blood on the ground. At least he was conscious. A claw mark stretched across his cheek, blood ran from one of his lip piercings that had been completely tore out, and his now exposed wings were tangled. Handfuls of feathers had been viciously ripped from them, and were saturated with burgundy blood.
“What the crap was that about?” Erica snapped. Adam was gasping for air, but I caught a recurring word out of him; James. My blood ran cold. We collected Adam, and knowing that Dad was going to wake up when we got home, we took him to Erica’s house. Her mother was out for the evening.
Since we knew that his wings would make a mess, we put him where we could get rid of it all; the bathtub. He sat in the tub, sitting opposite of how you normally would. Blood slowly dripped off of his wings like a leaky faucet. He had been able to save the ring where the piercing had been torn, and held what hamburger was left with a washrag. Erica and I pretended not to see the blood that lined the tub. The cut on his face had healed itself.
“So is that James the one I’m thinking of?” I asked.
“It is unless you know any other ones,” he said, the rag distorting his voice. He took it off. It was a white rag.
“I think you need stitches,” I said.
“Give it a few minutes,” he said.
“Who’s James?” Erica asked.
“My dad,” Adam said, still holding the rag.
“The one that kill-”
“So what are we supposed to do?” I asked. Adam gave me the ‘are-you-really-that-stupid’ look.
“You’re kidding me right?” he asked. I sighed. I quite frankly didn’t want to be part of the murdering of his father. Yeah, what he did was bad, but I knew I wasn’t ready. Erica definitely wasn’t ready. Youtube katana training. Really.
“All I ask is that we give it a day so we can prepare a little,” Erica said.
“There is no preparing with him,” Adam said. The ring was back in his lip.
“Adam?” Erica asked, putting her finger to her lip.
“I said give me a minute,” he said.
“He regenerates body parts,” I said.
“Not parts. Just flesh. And feathers,” he said.
“Well, now that you stopped bleeding, we can all go home and go to bed,” Erica said. I nodded. Adam stood out of the tub, and left out the door. Erica and I were left with a bloody tub. “And how do we fix that?” she asked. I stood and turned on the shower head. “That works,” she said. “Just don’t tell anyone.”
‘Don’t tell anyone’ was almost not possible. When I woke up the next morning, I saw the fuzzy figure of Dad standing over me. His arms were crossed.
“What?” I moaned.
“You have explaining to do.”
“Like why Erica’s mom called earlier, flipping out that there was blood in her bathtub. A lot of it.”
My heart skipped a beat. What the…? I thought. I sat up, and pushed Dad out of the way. “Where do you think you’re going?” he asked.
“To take care of it,” I said.
“No, you’re explaining,” he said.
“After I take care of it!” I snapped, and left to Erica’s. I met her at the front door, and she drug me to the bathroom. We glared at the blood up in the right corner of the tub, and some smeared on the side.
“I thought we took care of this?!” she hissed.
“We did! Water can’t reach there on it’s own!” I snapped back.
“So, ladies, care to explain?” Stacy said as she came around the corner. We both turned to look at her, then each other. “It’s a very scary thing to come home to a bathful of blood,” she started. Thinking quick, I took the pocket knife I bought just a few days before out of my back pocket (you can get anything cheap on Anaheim streets.).
I bit my lip as hard as I could as I sliced the top of my arm open. I pulled my sleeve over it. “Fine, Stacy. I can explain,” I said. Erica glared at me. Her expression said, you tell and I’ll kill you with my katana. I pulled my bloody arm out. Both of them gasped.
“I fell last night, and we forgot to clean up. I didn’t want you to get worried,” I said. Stacy went into a panic attack. She grabbed me and took me to the kitchen so she could clean it for me. “You owe me!” I snapped as I walked by Erica. “Big time!”
Later when I was back home, and I told the lie to Dad, I found myself alone with Bear. Erica made her way there after convincing her mom that no more ‘accidents’ would happen.
“I’m so sorry Maddie,” she said.
“It’s fine,” I said, looking at my bandaged arm. “We need to make sure things are taken care of from now on,” I added. She nodded. I heard footsteps behind me. It was Adam. In my house. Without me knowing. “How’d you get in here?” I demanded.
“You left the back door unlocked. Fair game,” he said innocently. I rolled my eyes. He instantly seized my arm. “What’d you do?” he asked.
“I saved your butt,” I said. He squinted.
“We didn’t get rid of all the blood, and Mom noticed,” Erica said.
“So you cut yourself to make it look like an accident,” he said. We both nodded. “You got a lot of nerve, kid,” he said. He sat on the couch next to Erica. There was a red ring around his lip piercing that was torn out the night before.
“So what do we do about you know who?” I asked.
“Something,” Adam said. Next thing I know, Dad is at the door, yelling for me to unlock it. I started locking doors after accepting my job.
“Disappear!” I snapped at Adam.
“Got it,” he said. I couldn’t even hold a conversation in my own house without worrying about being discovered. I ran up to the door, and let him in. He looked at me.
“What are you doing locking me out?” he asked.
“I’m sorry. I won’t do it again. It was an accident,” I said. He stared me down.
“I want to know what’s going on with you. You stay out super late, you sleep all day, and I keep finding you in a panic. And I want to know what these things are about!” he snapped, and headed to his bedroom. Oh, crap, my thoughts said. He opened his dresser drawer and pulled out a handful black feathers. They were obviously Adam’s.
“Want to tell me what they’re about? I’ve found them everywhere. Kitchen. Hall. Bathroom,” he said. I looked at Erica. She was sickly pale. I swear she was dead. She suddenly seized my collar and yanked me into the next room. She slammed the door on Dad.
“What’s your problem?!” I hissed.
“My mom found some! They were in the bathroom. I told her the cat must have brought a dead bird in the house. What the heck do we do, Maddie?” she cried. She was more paranoid about this than me.
“We gotta tell him,” I said.
“No! If we do, we’re both dead, and frankly, I don’t want to die for something that’s not even my issue,” she said. She still had my collar.
“I couldn’t keep it from you very long, could I?”
“It’s inevitable. He’s gonna find out,” I said. Dad shoved the door open.
“Find out about what?” he snapped. Erica and I sighed and she released me. She looked at the floor, and I crossed my arms. “I hope there’s no boys involved in this,” he said. Yeah. A flesh-eating one, I thought.
“What do feathers and boys have in common?” Erica asked.
“I’m sure there’s a way,” Dad said, “So, Madison Christina, are there?”
I sighed. “Yeah,” I murmured. Erica glared at me. “We’ve been having boys over at night,” I started. I stepped on Erica’s foot to get her to go along. “You might want to see if they’ve gotten into your liquor. That would be bad,” I said. The second he turned to look, I snatched Erica’s shirt and made for the door. He started screaming when we slammed the door shut. We ran like we had rabid dogs on our tail. We ended up on main street. If we went to the pier, Dad might figure out where we were.
Out of breath, we sat down. “I gotta call Adam,” I said, and reached for my phone. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t in any other pockets. I cussed out loud. It made a few people look, too.
“What is it?” Erica asked.
“My phone’s at home! My special phone! It’s on the fricking end table by Dad’s chair, too!” I cried as I sat back down.
“So? It’s just a phone,” she said.
“No, it’s not. It has two contacts; Adam and HQ. If he sees that, we can’t lie our way out,” I said. Just when we thought it was hopeless, I saw a familiar face trotting towards us; Bear! He ran up to me and dropped the phone at my feet. I grabbed him and squeezed him as hard as I could.
“Good doggie! I love you, love you, love you! Such a good boy!” I praised as I picked the slobbery phone up off the ground. I called Adam to harass him about the feathers. Erica told him to stop molting. I realized then and there that I had the best friends on the planet.
I waited for what seemed like forever to go back home and go to bed. I walked into my room - clothes, shoes, the whole bit still on - and flopped on my bed. I wrapped myself up and felt Bear jump up with me. He crawled in next to me and curled up. The only sounds were of the clock in the living room ticking, Dad snoring in his bedroom, and my own heartbeat. My breaths became deeper and deeper as I slipped into slumber.
Three hours later (according to my clock), a voice came into my head. Get up Madison. Right now. Do it. From the past few weeks, I had learned to trust this voice. It didn’t help that Bear was standing next to the bed, whimpering and crying. He kept looking at the doorway, and back to me. He even made a few ‘hurry up’ snorts. “What is it?” I asked him, rubbing my eyes. He went to the door and scratched it with his big paws. I got up, opened the door, and looked around. Just the moonlight and streetlights shining on the furniture.
I walked in a little more, and scanned some more. The air conditioner kicked on, and I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I jumped at first, then realized what it was; a solitary black feather. I grabbed it as it floated into the air. “Adam?” I called softly. No answer. “Adam? You here?” I asked again. I took a closer look and realized something scary. This was not Adam’s feather. His were large, long, and thick. This was similar to a small bird’s. It was a trap.
Thus began Armageddon.
I was instantly seized from behind and tossed to the wall like a rag doll. “Get out of here!” a male voice yelled. I made out the fuzzy picture of my dad running towards a figure with something in his hand. I began to focus, and saw the back of a person with two gigantic outstretched bat wings. Small talons glistened on the tips of the finger-like bones. Dad held a handgun and it was instantly smacked out of his hand by the figure that I now recognized as a demon. A bad one.
I jumped up and ran at the demon with a glass that was left on the coffee table. The demon turned and I smashed it into its face. It ignored me and clamped its hands on my throat, shoving me onto the table. As I gagged to breathe, I stared at its face. It made my stomach flip.
It was a man with shoulder-length black hair. He had a small goatee, and piercing red eyes as bright as a stoplight. As I looked a little closer, I realized who it was. He looked so similar to Adam. I didn’t want to believe it.
It was James. And he was gonna kill my dad and I. I put both my feet together and shoved them as hard as I could into his gut. He let me go and fell back. When he hit the floor with a grunt, Dad grabbed the handgun again. He raised it to fire straight at James’ face. I watched as James swung at him with those shining razor blade claws.
I remember screaming as I saw those blades sinking into Dad’s fleshy cheek. It ripped through it like butter, sending blood spatter and bits of flesh across the room. I felt specks of blood land on my face. James ripped his hand back and held it out to inspect it. Dad started to scream as he clamped his hands over what hamburger was left of his face. Blood rushed between his fingers and down his forearms. James stared at his hand, and sickeningly licked blood and flesh off his palm.
They say that when someone is making someone else mad they’re ‘pushing buttons’. When he cut my dad’s face off, he pushed a major button. When he licked his hand, he just slammed down on the ‘Nuclear Explosion/Apocalypse/Blind Rage’ button. I was furious. I shoved him as hard as I could so I could get past him. I ran to my room and grabbed my Louisville Slugger. When James met me at the doorway, I took it out on his head. The swing would have crushed a normal person’s skull, but his head simply shattered the bat, sending splinters everywhere.
I stabbed him with the remaining half, taking enough time for Bear to lunge at his face. Bear grabbed his throat and began to drag him as they hit the ground. James slashed Bear’s chest, and he let out a sharp whine. In an instant, Bear had chased James to the door, and he was gone. I ran to Dad. I grabbed his arms, and my hands slipped off because of the blood. He was trying to talk, but was only making sounds like he was drowning. He was drowning in his own blood. It was rushing down his throat and was choking him. I dialed 911, and held Dad in my arms as I cried for them to hurry.
When the police got there, I told them someone - not James - had broken in and attacked us. I demanded that Bear be taken to the vet’s office because of his wounds on his chest. They told me that Bear would go to the hospital because chances were that there would be no way to contact a vet. The problem was that Bear had run off. He was nowhere to be found. Dad’s face was gone, too. It would be a long road to get it back.
I sat once again in the waiting room of the ER. I had managed to grab my special cell phone and called Adam. I had Adam get a hold of Erica. I was an absolute mess. I was crying so much that it was making me sick. I still had Dad’s dried blood on my face, and my head was throbbing. I didn’t even notice Adam when he sat down next to me. He just grabbed me and hugged me.
“Everything’s gonna be okay,” he said, “We’re all alive, and that’s what matters.” I nodded. “I stopped by your house and helped look for Bear. We found him hiding in a closet. They brought him here. He just needed a few stitches,” he said. A few moments later, Erica came and sat with us. A doctor in scrubs came around the corner and called my name. I went up to him alone. He pulled me out of the room and talked to me quietly.
“We just finished up with your dad. He’s doing fine. We’ve sedated him and he’s fallen asleep. A lot of his flesh is missing, but we’ve stitched it up the best we can. He won’t be able to talk for a while because if he opens his mouth he’ll rip the stitches. Once the nurses get done we’ll let you in to see him. We’ve also got your dog. We stitched up his chest and he’s asleep on the bed next to your dad,” he spilled. He quickly looked at my head. He said that since it was swelling it would be fine if I didn’t fall asleep for a few hours.
I went back to sit with Adam and Erica for a while. They did a good job of keeping me calm as I told them the news. “Maddie?” I heard someone asked. I looked up and saw Michael standing there.
“Michael?” I asked.
“I received a note. I know you probably don’t want it, but I have to tell you,” he said.
“Who’s it from?” I asked. He sighed and looked at Adam.
“Someone,” he said.
“You’re kidding me,” Adam said.
“No,” Michael said.
“I want it,” I said.
“I want it.” Michael sighed and pulled out a folded piece of yellow paper. He slowly handed it over. I unfolded it and read the scratchy writing out loud;
Madison Dunn; I’m afraid I don’t know you very well, and It’s probably better that way. I think you know very well who I am and who I’m after. I am going to tell you this only once. If you do not bring him to me at the Lookout Apartment building within the next 24 hours, worse things may happen than your father’s face being torn. It may be you and it may not be your pretty face. This is your only chance Madison. I’ll be waiting. - J
To say I was angry would be a major understatement.
“I’m not letting you take me there,” Adam said.
“He’ll kill us all, Adam,” Erica said.
“I’m not letting you go,” I said. They gave me confused looks.
“You have to think logical, Maddie,” Michael said.
“I am thinking logical for the state that my brain’s in!” I snapped. “I think what we should do is blow him off, and just see what happens,” I added.
“Did you see what he did to Adam the last time?” Erica asked. I nodded.
“He’s here. He’s not badly damaged,” I said.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but she has a point,” Adam said.
“Look, all I care about right now is my dad and my dog,” I said. A nurse came around the corner.
“Ms. Dunn?” she asked. I turned. “You can see your father now,” she said. I followed her to the room they kept him in. I opened the door, and saw not my dad, but Bear laying on a cot. “Your dog is doing fine,” she said. I came up to him. He lifted his head to look at me. I gently kissed him. His white chest had been shaved and black stitches had been made.
“You’re a good doggie,” I said.
“You’re dad’s here,” the nurse said and slid the curtain that divided the room open. When the curtain slid, he turned to look at me. The nurse left us alone. His left cheek was loaded with gauze and tape.
“Hi Dad,” I said, tearing up. He waved at me. “Are you in pain?” I asked. He shook his head. I nodded. I sat in the chair by his bed. He reached over and grabbed a dry-erase board and marker. He waited a moment for me to ask something. “You want an explanation,” I said. It wasn’t a question. He started writing.
“It would be nice.” I smiled. Even when he couldn’t talk he was a smart aleck.
“I’ll tell you, but we’ll wait until we get home. You’ll know everything. I promise,” I said. He wrote ‘thank you’. He then erased it and wrote again.
“Did you get hurt?”
“I got a concussion, but it’s not too bad,” I said. Bear whined from the other side of the room. “I’m still here, Bear,” I said. He quieted. Dad scribbled something down.
“He really missed you. He doesn’t like strangers.”
“I know,” I said, “I missed you both.” Dad reached out and patted my hand. He erased and scribbled some more.
“I love you, too, Dad,” I said, taking his hand. He dashed down something.
“Do you think about Andrew anymore?”
“All the time,” I said. Erase. Scribble.
“I know we’ve been here a lot lately and it made me think.” He let me read, then erased and continued his thought.
“All I want is for you to be safe. I don’t know what this stuff’s all about, but it makes me worried.” Read. Erase. Write.
“When we lost Drew I went nuts. It hurt worse to see Mom do meth.” He then finished his inaudible speech. “If I lost you, it’d be all over for me.” I nodded.
“It’s just the same with me. I’d be gone, too,” I said. He erased and wrote.
“I love you, Maddie.” He didn’t erase and continued. “Even if we’re mean to each other.”
I smiled and he smiled to his limits. I took his hand again and laid my head down on the bed. He never erased the board.
In a few hours, Dad and Bear came home. I sat on the couch with Dad after I got him situated. Bear just spent most of his time on the loveseat. No one was going to tell him no for now. “I promised you an explanation,” I said. Dad still had his board.
“That you did.”
“Let me call someone first, okay? It’ll help,” I said, and pulled out my special phone. I dialed for Adam and asked him to come over so he could help me explain. He didn’t want to, but in a few moments, there was a knock at the door. I let Adam inside, and he sat across from us. Dad was very wary of him. It’s not every day that your daughter invites a tattooed and pierced guy over.
“Dad, this is my friend Adam,” I said. Dad scribbled.
“Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, too, sir,” Adam said.
“So, Dad, I need you to listen completely and try to understand. Okay?” I said. He nodded. I sighed. It was at the pier with Erica all over again. “I was picked at random to be a thing called a Demon Slayer. The thing that broke in the other night was a demon,” I said. Dad furrowed his eyebrows and scribbled something.
“Yeah. It sounds stupid, I know, but…it’s what happened,” I said. He stared at me for a while. He began to write again.
“What’s this guy got to do with it?”
“He’s my…helper,” I said. Dad studied him for a minute. Adam didn’t object to it. More scribbling from Dad.
“His eyes…is he one of them?”
“Yeah. He’s on our side, though,” I said.
“How do you tell?”
“Well, you remember what that demon’s wings looked like, right?” I asked. He nodded. “Adam’s wings are like bird wings. You know, like with feathers. You can’t see them right now,” I said.
“Is that were the feathers came from?”
“Yeah. He leaves a trail,” I sassed.
“You lied to me about the boys.”
“I didn’t think you were ready to know this yet,” I said. He nodded.
“I think I understand. At least I’ll try.”
“I hope. Erica knows all about this, too,” I said. “The blood in her bathtub came from one of our escapades.”
“You shouldn’t scare me like that. I’m too old for it.”
He made me laugh. I was glad I was on speaking terms again with him.
“Just be careful. I’ve got enough gray hair.”
James’ warning went unheeded for what was left of the night. I had too much on my plate anyway. I had to help Dad and Bear dress their wounds. Dad was probably worse than Bear about holding still. I sent Dad to bed, and laid with Bear on the couch to watch Letterman and Ferguson again. It was fun to boss Dad around. At about midnight, I got a call on my special phone. It was supposed to be Adam, but when I answered, he hung up. I just assumed he dialed the wrong number, so I went to bed and let Bear sleep with me.
The next day, I helped Dad eat his breakfast, which is probably harder than killing demons. Bear wanted to play, but you can only do so much with stitches in your chest. I can say that I had the most normal day since my new job. I almost forgot why Dad and Bear were being given special treatment. I sat on the couch with them that evening, and got a phone call.
“Maddie?” Adam’s frantic voice asked.
“Adam? What’s wrong?” I asked. Another voice took his place. It was deeper.
“Now, Maddie dear, I warned you. I gave you time. You didn’t listen. Now your precious Adam has to pay the price. If you want, you can come and have a front row seat. Lookout Apartments like I said.”
“James, you rat, you lay one finger on him and I’ll cut them off one by one. Other things, too,” I threatened as I stood up. Dad grabbed my hand, trying to ask me what was wrong.
“Aren’t we a feisty little thing?” he said, “I’ll be nice. If you don’t come and try to do something in, oh, let’s say half an hour, Adam will be in a lot of pain. I like to torture people, Madison. It’s what I do.”
“He’s your son,” I snapped.
“Now, if I remember right, your mommy dear didn’t love you so much. She just had to deal with you after her favorite child left this world,” he charmed.
“Shut up! She has nothing to do with this. It’s between me and you,” I said.
“So sad. Adam’s special mommy and little sister couldn’t see us now. They were in the way,” he said, “Have you ever seen a fish get gutted? It’s a wonderful thing. I like it.”
“You sick little son of a-”
“Hey, now! You’re just a little lady. Ladies don’t talk like that,” he said, “Like I said. Half an hour. Oh, and because I like you so much, I’ll help you a little in case you miss the deadline; bring wire cutters. Until then, ta-ta, darling!” James clicked the phone shut. My gag reflex did a practice run. I liked it better when Adam called me darling. From the sound of it, he wouldn’t be around to call me that again.
Dad was trying to get me to tell him what was going on. All I said was that Adam was in trouble. I made Erica come over. I told her to bring the katana.
“What did he say?” she asked.
“Be at Lookout Apartments in half an hour or Adam is gonna be screwed,” I said, “He said to bring wire cutters, too.”
“Wire cutters?” she asked. I nodded.
“You can do bad things with wires, Erica,” I said.
“Who said he’s gonna use wires?” she said.
“Erica! You’re not helping!”
“Sorry. Where are we gonna get wire cutters?” she asked. Dad waved his hand in the air. We both looked at him. His board said ‘Top left drawer by the oven. Big orange pair.”
We went to the kitchen and dug them out. I stuck them in my belt loop. Erica put her katana on her waist. “Dad, have they got around to getting the things out of our old house? Or even searching it?” I said. He shook his head. “Good,” I said, “Pit stop.”
Erica and I were ready to go. I leaned down and gave Dad a hug. I told him I loved him. He held a finger up and dug into his wallet. He pulled out the last family picture we had. The one with Mom and Andrew. He handed it to me. I stuffed it into my pocket. I gave Bear a kiss as we left out the door.
I called Michael and Melinda on the way to my old house. I told them to be ready in case I needed them. They said they’d be on guard. When we got there, Erica helped me kick the door in. I went to my parent’s old bedroom and pulled boxes out from under the bed. Inside were dozens of knives. Some were pocket knives, some were bowie knives, some were small daggers. We each grabbed a handful and put them in places like they have in the movies; around the neck, belt, pockets, and shoes. I took out a 9mm and gave it to Erica along with several magazines.
“Were the heck did you get all this?” she asked, inspecting the gun.
“After Andrew was killed, Mom went paranoid and bought a bunch of guns and knives so she could keep us prepared. There’s two or three guns in every room of the house. She didn’t tell Dad for a long time. I was supposed to get lessons on how to shoot one,” I said.
“Did you?” she asked.
“Nope,” I said.
“Never even shot one?”
“No, but I’m about to learn.”
“How are we supposed to get there without being noticed with all this?” she asked.
“Lookout Apartments is in the ghetto. It’ll be nothing out of the ordinary for those people,” I said. I went to the other side of the bed and pulled out the shotgun that Dad had since he was my age. His parents bought it for him. He used to live in the country.
“Ooo,” Erica said.
“You got a katana. This is mine,” I said. I grabbed a box of shells.
“If your house caught on fire, it would had been horrific,” Erica said. We left and didn’t bother to shut the door. Looking like Lady Rambos, we made our way to Lookout. It would be too easy to get in the front door, so we went up the emergency ladder to the second floor. If we went any higher, the ladder might have given in. We squatted at the window that had a view of the hallway.
James had this place tighter than Fort Knox. A guard at every doorway on every floor. Not just guards. Bad demons. Full fledged bloodsuckers. I made Erica shut her trap as we gently took a window off its hinges. We sat it down on the balcony, and slowly climbed in. We stopped when we noticed a demon standing about three yards from us, facing the other way.
I took a knife out of my pocket and opened it. I looked at Erica. She saluted me to say good luck. I took a quick breath as I chucked the knife. It plunged into the back of his skull, and he fell dead as a doornail. Erica high-fived me as we climbed in. We readied our guns.
“You haven’t killed any demons before, have you?” I asked. She shook her head. “Ever play Call of Duty; Black Ops?” I asked.
“Once,” she said.
“Can’t be any harder than killing zombies,” I said. She giggled. We started up the stairs to the next floor.
“You know that this is suicide if we screw up,” she said.
“Think about it this way; I die, I see Andrew. You die, you see your grandma,” I said. She nodded.
“Didn’t think about it like that,” she said. We looked around the corner and saw the next set of demons. “Let’s get this party started!” she said and raised the 9mm.
“No! Wait!” I hissed. It was too late. She fired a single shot that ricocheted off the walls, hitting no one. The demons growled and charged us. Erica and I both screamed a curse as we turned to back down the hall. We each had a single demon to deal with. I kicked my demon’s knee, and he fell to the ground. I shattered his skull with the butt of the shotgun. Hey, saves bullets. Erica had jumped into the world of Steven Seagal and was kicking butt with her katana. She made the final cut that sliced the demon’s throat.
“Youtube is helpful!” I said.
“For some things,” she said. We continued to climb. We didn’t know it but Erica set off a chain reaction. That shot was heard around the building, so they were waiting, and on every level, we were charged. Sometimes we had more than two demons, and it just made it that much harder.
We cut through the last coven, and it was eerily quiet after the last demon fell to the ground.
“Something’s not right,” Erica said.
“Get ready,” I said. “James! Show yourself, coward! We held our end of the deal! Hold yours! Face us!” I yelled. I could hear my voice echo.
“Maddie!” Erica screamed. I heard the clang! of her katana hitting the ground as I flipped around.
James had Erica in his clutches. His black wings were stretched behind him in a hideous display. His razor claws were clamped over her throat. His nails had pricked her skin just enough to make her drip blood.
“Help me, Maddie,” she begged. She was sweating really bad.
“Put your weapons down,” James said. I laid the shotgun on the ground, took off my belt, and took the knives out of my pockets. I took my phone out of my back pocket, and dropped a knife behind me so he would think I didn’t have it.
I felt for the 2 button, and hit it. I felt for send and hit it. I put it back in my pocket upside down so Michael could hear what was going on. I put my hands in the air.
“Any wrong moves and this sweetheart won’t have a neck,” he said. He gripped her throat a little tighter. I could remember those razors ripping into Dad’s flesh. Rage began to fill me up like a faucet filling a bottle.
“I’m surprised you came, darling,” he said, “You must really love your precious Adam.”
“What’d you do to him, James?” I demanded.
“Adam’s having some fun. He can’t move too much, though. Not unless he wants his flesh ripped off. I’d enjoy that,” he said.
“You know what I enjoy?” I asked, stalling.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“I enjoy tearing the flesh off your face like you did my dad. You can do absolutely anything to me. You can beat me, stab me, shoot me, even tear my face off, but you touch my dad, my dog, my friends, and I will kill you,” I shot.
“Oh, really? Let’s try it. We’ll play Beat the Clock with Erica here,” he said.
“Do something, Maddie!” Erica cried. Blood ran down her neck and on to her chest.
“You know, James, let me rephrase part of that. I don’t kill people myself. I get people to do it for me,” I said. He squinted at me.
“All hail Saint Michael the Archangel!” I yelled. Michael came busting though the window behind James. He planted his feet on James’ back, sending he and Erica sailing towards me. Michael landed back on his feet. “Go find Adam!” he yelled at me. I snatched Erica and made a break for it. We reentered the halls.
“Adam!” we both yelled. All of a sudden, we heard a faint cry.
“Maddie! In here!”
We ran towards the voice. We kept calling his name until we got to the door that he was behind. I turned the handle. It was locked.
“Hang on, Adam,” I yelled.
“Got wire cutters?” Erica asked. I looked down at my waist. I had them. “Get back,” she said. She hauled off and shattered the lock with her foot. We yanked the door open and instantly gagged. “Oh, my…” I whispered.
He was in the space of a closet. On two walls on the sides of him were five bolts with fishing line tied to them. Each line had a fishing hook on the end. Five hooks were embedded in each arm. He was sitting in his own blood and was drenched in sweat. It was so hot and humid in the closet. I was really surprised that he was alive. His feathery wings were flopped behind him. Like before, hunks of feathers were ripped out. His eyes smoldered between red and black like they did on the rooftop of HQ. He was beaten to a pulp.
“Adam,” I said. All he could do was gasp to breathe.
“I can’t do this, Maddie,” Erica said, “Too much blood.”
“Go help Michael,” I said.
“Alright,” she said and ran the way we came. I knelt down and took out the pocket knife in my shoe. I snapped all the fishing lines so I could move his arms. I slowly started to clip the sharp points off the hooks and slide the rest of the hook out.
“Why are you here?” he growled.
“Why do you think?” I growled back.
“You should have stayed home. He’ll kill you,” he said.
“I’m saving your butt,” I said, “You did it for me.”
“Why did you come for me?” he snapped.
“Because that’s what friends do. Remember when that demon hit me with the pipe? Who saved me? You. Who trained me? You. Who held me together when that sick creature ripped my dad’s face off? You did, Adam,” I said. I cut the last hook and pulled it out.
“I can’t move, Maddie,” he said.
“I’ll help. Come on,” I said as I threw his ripped and bloody arm over my shoulder. I drug him out the best I could. We made it into the hall before I couldn’t go anymore.
“I’m dying,” he said.
“No, you’re not.”
“I need blood. I’ve lost too much.”
“I can’t give you a transfusion.”
“Not that way.” I froze. He had to drink it. We were alone. Together. I shoved all fear aside as I began to take my sweatshirt off. He held his shaky hand up. “No,” he whispered.
“You wanna die?” I asked. He didn’t say anything. “Do. You. Want. To. Die.” He shook his head. “Didn’t think so,” I said. I held my arm out to him. He gently took it.
“I’m sorry, Maddie,” he said.
“Bite me already,” I said. In a flash, he sank his needle-sharp teeth into the flesh of my arm. I bit down on my lip so hard I thought I bit though it. It seemed like forever before he let go and fell back. I fell onto my good arm. I slid my sweatshirt back on. Adam began to change. Feathers grew back on his wings. His eyes sprung to life like lighter fluid on small embers. His sweat evaporated, and the flesh on his arms grew back. The damaged tattoos grew back.
He sat up and looked at me. My head was spinning and I began to sweat. I collapsed and laid on the floor. “Hang on, Maddie,” he said. I closed my eyes.
“Adam,” I said.
“Do me a favor; rip his face off for Dad,” I said.
“I’ll enjoy it,” he said.
“Unzip him and pull out his guts.”
“Savor every moment,” I whispered as I felt myself slipping away.
“Goodnight, Maddie. Game over.”
Déjà vu struck when I woke up in a hospital bed again. It took a minute for my heavy eyes to focus. My arm was wrapped up, and I had a blood transfusion in progress. I looked at the end of my bed and saw Dad. His face was sill wrapped up. “Daddy?” I whispered. He waved at me, smiling to the best of his ability. I waved back. “Where’s Adam?” I asked, “Where’s everyone?”
He held up a finger. He stuck his head out of the curtain and waved at someone to come over. He let Adam in and left. He was smiling. “Is he dead?” I asked. He held up something shiny. It was the silver necklace he was playing with at HQ. It had two rings on it. He had an end of the chain in each hand. It was obviously broken.
“What’s that?” I asked as he came closer. He set it in my hand. I took a closer look. A diamond ring and a class ring hung on it. “My mom’s wedding ring and my sister’s class ring,” he said, “I wear them all the time. When he put me in the closet, he ripped off my neck and broke it. I got it back.”
“What did you do to him?” I asked.
“Not right now. You have a weak stomach,” he said.
“When we get home,” he said. I smirked.
“Did you savor it?” I asked. He rolled his eyes. “Did you?”
“Why do you want to know?” he asked.
“I asked you a question first,” I said. He sighed.
“I’m not nuts, but it was the best feeling ever,” he said.
“That’s the Adam I know. Just like Freddy Kruger.”
When we got back home, I found myself on the roof of HQ. Adam was sitting next to me. “Did you fix your chain?” I asked. He pulled it out of his pocket. It was still broke. I reached into my pocket. I came prepared. I took a silver chain from one of my necklaces. I snatched it from him and threw the old one off the edge. I slid the rings onto the new one and clasped it shut.
“Thanks,” he said and put it on. It was quiet for a moment. “My mom would have liked you,” he said, “And my sister.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you look out for me. Willing to give yourself for someone else,” he said.
“Probably not everyone,” I said.
“Really?” he asked.
“Not for my mom,” I said, “I haven’t heard a thing about her since I got hit in the head.”
“She doesn’t deserve you,” he said.
“Whatever,” I said.
“I didn’t deserve my mom and sister,” he said, “It’s like giving angels to one of Satan’s disciples.”
“Then what’s my case?” I asked. He thought for a moment.
“Like giving a perfectly good kid to an addict,” he said, smirking.
“Ooo. Couldn’t have guessed that one,” I snapped.
“It’s who we are,” he said.
“So you’re a disciple of Satan?”
“No. I just was given two of a kind, and made a full house of cards that fell down,” he said.
“Going for a straight flush. Get one more card and you’ve got it. You get a bad one, then the next guy gets the flush and wins it. It’s life. Up and down. Thick and thin,” I said.
“Amen,” he said. More silence.
“Can I pretend you’re my angel?” I asked.
“I’m not an angel, Maddie,” he said.
“Then how are you not dead?” I asked.
“How are you not dead?” he asked.
“Because of you! My angel,” I said. We both laughed. He gave me that evil look that I love.
“Far from it, darling.”
Started May 4, 2011
Finished July 31, 2011
For my mommy, Laurel. You are my editor and put up with
me asking you to read endless paragraphs.
I would not still be alive without you.
You are the beacon in the storm.
I love you.