16. Home


Ever have that dying dream? The one where you wake up covered in sweat and you can’t breathe and reality is a twisted realm of uncertainty. The dream where you’re absolutely certain that for a moment, you’re dead. And you wake up scared. Are you scared that you could be dead? Or that you’re still alive? I never understood that. Imagine that feeling though. And you’d know how I felt. Because I actually did wake up from dying.

I wasn’t where I was before. The dust and dirt were gone. The foundation, the old building. I had deduced that it was a church before I passed out. I looked around. I wasn’t in a hospital; there wasn’t the usual blinding shine of white, or the institutional shade of pale green. No, this was different. This was a safe haven – it felt secure. I was on a mattress on the floor in a room devoid of most else. I looked around but there was no hint. I got up, despite pain that shot through everything. I found that I was bandaged all over. I was still coughing.

After awhile without any sort of explanation, I went wandering. The house I was in was broken down in places, salvageable at points. It was empty. I moved to the doorway, eager to get out, to get away. To find out what had happened, what I’d missed. Could this be Hell? Was I truly dead? Or was this a delusion that I was having as I lay dying? I looked around one more time before putting my hand out for the doorknob. I heard a cough behind me. I wheeled around.

“Feeling better?”

I narrowed my eyes, searching the shadows, but I could find nothing. I wouldn’t answer a disembodied voice – I wasn’t that insane yet. I looked around, waiting. They stepped out eventually, a young man, perhaps my own age. I was in my early 20s, not quite the kid that I wish I was. Children usually still possess some semblance of innocence. I do not. He took a few quiet steps over to me, his hand outstretched.

“My name is Colt Brogan.”

I shook his hand halfheartedly. I had no idea who this was, but I nodded upon hearing his name, as if it were familiar or special. But it was just another name. Another time and place. Another thing that I’d have to try to remember.

I moved to keep going, to walk away from this. I turned away from him, my hand again on the door. He called to me and I turned around for half a second.

“What do they call you?”

I smiled at him. “Traitor.”

And walked out.

He followed me, as I knew he would. I don’t know if it was the look, the smile, the step. Or he was just bored. Or desperate. I don’t know. Everything hurt, I imagined that a small collection of bruises and scars covered my body. It was how I was. They were me. This was my life. I didn’t try to hide them or deny what I was. I kept moving anyway, with him behind me. I moved for blocks, trying to get rid of him. He wouldn’t go. I couldn’t keep going for much further. My body was going to quit. I could feel the dizzy spell already. I had to stop. I looked around and decided to go to the bar. Try and lose him there. Try.

I got to the bar, all the regulars hanging around. I didn’t stay long. The place was called the Drowning Raven. Or to the regulars – the Drown. Or, if you thought you were really clever, you could tell people that you were going to Drown. One way or another, any way you say it, it’s all the same place. I don’t know who runs it now. The owners were killed. Long story, short saga. I looked around, trying to avoid glances. I must have been a sight – then again stranger things have come through the place. When the coast was clear, I found the right door and disappeared behind it.

The hall I stood in was dark, but I knew my way. Most of the local demons knew the way to the Serkis. The Serkis was an underground show, more of a community, a safe haven for the freaks to come to. I moved forward, counting the right number of steps. Anyone who didn’t seem fit was turned back. It didn’t happen all that often, but it did happen. I kept going until I got to the end. There was a heavy curtain at the end, the parting of which led to the outskirts. I had been brought here when I was younger. And from time to time, I came here to hide from the world. From my enemies. From those that plotted against me. Those that would rather see me dead. I would rather fight. To the last.

I looked around, traveling through the parts. The Serkis was part of a sewer line, but it was never really a sewer. It was built by the city with the intent of using it, but the project was terminated and the stretch of pipe was taken over by gangsters and criminals. Over the years, it was left behind and a new kind of bad crowd found it. Us.

I kept moving, searching for the furthest corner, the darkest spot where I could curl up.  With a little effort, I found a leaky little nook. How water was leaking, I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t care.  I looked at myself in the water’s reflection with the little light I had, trying to see. I was a mess. The blood had been cleaned out for the most part, but I was still a mass of bruises and cuts. I pulled at bandages all over, checking the wounds under them. There was a fresh cut across my right eye, diagonal, a slashing sort of cut. I could see out of that eye though, but the water showed the pupil was a distorted color. I blinked a few times to be sure. Everything worked. When I was through, I curled up, my back against a cool wall. I didn’t realize I was so hot. The overexertion got to me. I had lost a lot of blood. I let my eyes roll back in my head, my mind shutting down.

I heard the steps before I saw him. And I knew I was caught. I knew I couldn’t escape the truth. I needed to know what happened. And he was determined that I know. He wanted me to hear it. And there was a part of me deep down that wanted to know.

“Mr. Brogan,” I muttered. He made a low, gracious bow as he crept out.

“Miss. You forgot something before you made your hasty departure.”

“Like what?”

“The truth.”

“So what happened, being you’re so determined to inform me?”

He crept over and sat down near me. I edged away. He smiled softly, in a grin that spelled disaster. I looked over at him, and back to the water; it was comforting. The soft drip every so often, no pattern, no solid noise to stay with. You just had to keep up.

“Well you’re not in the best shape. I wouldn’t recommend anything strenuous. I would suggest a lot of rest. When I found you, you were unconscious. But still alive. I carried you back to where you woke up. Bandaged you up. And that’s when you woke up.”

I nodded along with him. “So what do you want? A reward? I didn’t ask you to save me. I would have been perfectly content with dying.”

“Would you now?”

I got up and started to pace around slowly. “What do you want?”

He smiled. “I don’t want anything.”

“So why are you here?”

“You’re curious.”

“Excuse me?” I coughed. He shrugged, looking around.

“You live down here?”


He nodded again. “Good.”


He looked around, raising a brow. “It’s a freak show out there.”

“What the hell are you doing here? Really?”

“Not everyday we pick up a body that’s still breathing. Especially one that gets right up from nearly dying and walks away. That takes something.”

“Yeah. Effort.”

“No. Something else.”

“So you came all the way down here to tell me that I have…as you say…something?”

“Why are you alone?”

I almost fell over. I stopped pacing and stared at him. He wasn’t smiling or laughing or joking around. He simply was. I didn’t understand the question. I lived and worked alone. I modeled my lifestyle and ideals after the street bosses, but I decided to not go for the job. No girl had ever successfully run the streets. She was always at the right hand of her owner. And I couldn’t tolerate the prospect of being owned. I was on my own, always. It was what I did. I was an orphan early on, and I decided I didn’t need anyone to keep watch over me. Every here and there, people would take me in and look after me for a spell. I learned a lot from them. My best teacher was Lucidius.

I was Lucid’s pupil for a while. He died not too far back. He was killed. I heard about it. His daughter shot him. They made it look like suicide. I did a lot of investigating but found the truth. He taught me all the tricks of the trade, took me in, raised me right as a real demon. But he went off the deep end. And I got caught up in things that I didn’t belong involved in. Some people think that I was responsible for killing Lucid. That’s why it’s ironic that Colt should find me. And not kill me. I was the enemy. It was the street demons who have been after me. I’ve been armed for the most part. I’ve been trying to find Lucid’s daughter. I want to see the brat who killed the great man himself. I have all kinds of people after me. For going after the kid. But I’m not really looking for the kid. I’m looking for the kid’s keeper. The girl that influenced Lucid so much at the end.

I’m looking for Angyl Hunter.

I didn’t run around and kill random people like he did. I refused to be manipulated either. So I lived alone, searching for information. I had to steer clear from the gangs. But they caught up with me anyway, hence why I was in the alley in pieces. I was a damn good shot though. He taught me that. He was a great teacher of many talents. The greatest lesson he ever taught me was this:

Never. Love.

Love is the ultimate weakness. It is suicide. Always. Slow. Painful. Suicide.

And I’ve adhered to his advice to this very day. Love kills. It was his downfall. All the greats are broken by it, or by madness. Usually the latter. But love’s a big flaw as well. He wanted to know why I was alone. I wanted to know why he hadn’t shot me in the head. He had no answer for me and I knew it without asking. And I had no answer for him. He shrugged and got up.

“Why do you bother sticking around?”

I wheeled around to face him. “I don’t run away.”

“So you’re going to just wait for them to come for you?”

I smiled at him. “You’re the enemy. I don’t expect you to understand.”

He shrugged. “Maybe not. But I still saved your life.”

“Nobody asked you to.”

He shrugged again. “I can’t win with you, can I?”

And I smiled real big. “Hell no.”

And that was that.

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