In a vast sky void of stars, the moon hung alone above the city of Verweald.
The creature rested his head on the concrete pylon at his back, his slow gaze lingering on the black skyline and that pale lunar sphere. The smell of decay filled his nose, the metropolis ripe and bloated as a fruit fallen from a heavenly branch, now split open upon the pavement with rot claiming its once supple flesh. With the smell came the taste of oil and grease, bitter salt and rusted iron. A perfidious haze clouded his mind and sharp teeth gleamed between his parted lips.
"Another town gone fallow," the creature whispered into the night's heat. Against the horizon rose three towers with one higher than all the rest, the moonlight glancing across the glass and steel. "Another day I starve. I doubt I will last much longer at this rate."
Above him, tires roared on the overpass and the noise thundered beneath the hollow bridge where steam issued from a grate protruding over the dry sage and brittle dirt. Polluted starlight glowed ugly and red over the graffitied quote "The sting of death is sin, the power of sin is the law" marring the pylon at his back.
The creature raised himself upright, posture slumped, upper lip curled in open disgust. "I could burn this world like the last," came his broken, twisted mutterings. Like a ghost hovering just beyond the veil of perception, a nameless force pressed nearer upon hearing the alien language falling from his mouth. "And I would not care at all for its passing. Nobody of any sense would."
His shambling gait took him across the barren lot to the sidewalk where the occasional pedestrian strolled. The creature's fingers curled through the fence's chain links. The metal bent.
Air whistled when he inhaled, chest lifting, and again the odors slid across his tongue and into his lungs. The sea waited beyond the line of modern buildings, breaking itself upon the rocky shores, and a million voices ascended in between, a million human souls caught in laughter, in lust, in anger, in grief. For a time, he could sense each one of them, and nothing about those mortal wretches surprised the ancient monster.
A final breath cleared the creature's head. He turned, radiating disappointment, when—
The rage called to him.
It sang from those unclean streets with glee, a primordial melody that had come into existence long before mankind, before even the creature himself, and yet that ire lashed through his senses with all the vigor of boisterous youth. His head tipped and his tongue touched upon the tips of his pointed teeth in thought, considering, before the creature drifted in the direction the essence emanated from.
Black fire erupted without sound and the dim whorls of flame swallowed him whole. When the creature appeared again, he did so inside an abandoned warehouse some miles south of the dusty, windswept lot, his chest rattling as he sucked in air and the flavor of rage burned anew. He stepped forward and his tennis shoes ground debris into the concrete floor.
Attracted by the sound, a voice called out and a figure stumbled in the dark, searching with eyes made blind by the wavering tapers of melted candles. The man hesitated near the light, then strode forth. "Patrick, cut the shit so we can get this cleaned up—."
The creature lashed out before the man became aware of his presence. He curled his fingers beneath the human's sagging chin and twisted, bone grinding on bone, the body sagging as the hungry dark swallowed the snap of the man's neck breaking. He tossed the human aside, though his gaze lingered on the dated attire: a flimsy costume of black polyester robes stretched taut over a bulging stomach, the long hem bunched at his ankles, revealing scuffed loafers and no socks. What sort of game are the mortals playing now?
Pained breathing drew the creature's gaze.
A man and two women lay in the puddle of waning candlelight, all three bloodied and left wrapped in rusted chains, one still writhing in preemptive death throes. Stepping over the unmoving male, the creature studied the dark-haired woman struggling to drag herself along the scarlet soaked concrete. A veritable lake of the red liquid sluiced about the creature's shoes and he knew without looking that the other female must be dead. Silver glinted, revealing a decorative knife jammed into the panting woman's side.
He could hear the whine of blood filling her punctured lung. Her anger tasted like the finest ambrosia.
With indifference, he watched her, his head tilted, and crimson streaks broke the monotony of his black stare. She reached for the dead woman's hand but couldn't quite touch the corpse, as she'd grown too weak fighting the chains weighing upon her ankles. The pitiful thing sobbed virulent curses and stretched, suspended arm quaking, her painted nails torn and somewhat fragile looking under the chipped polish.
"My," the creature drawled, stilling the woman's efforts. "This seems a lost cause. You're beyond the redemption of an angel, let alone a lowly demon such as myself."
She gasped, weak and faint, her blue eyes glassy, unfocused.
What a waste of my time. Death crouched over this rank hovel and demanded its due. The woman would die, just as the others had, and the creature wouldn't find what he wanted here, what he needed, no matter how enticing her flaring rage seemed.
He went to leave and to fade once more into the shadows that had brought him when a hand clutched his pant leg and the creature paused to again stare down the dying woman sprawled at his feet.
"No," she hissed through clenched teeth, a kiss of red darkening her lips, staining her mouth. "No...."
Every choked breath vanished into the maw of waiting shadows. Kneeling, he grasped her jaw with enough strength to earn a grunt of protest, and as the creature turned the woman's eyes to his own, blood sept through the leg of his jeans where it made contact with the floor, warm and wet against his flesh. "Not ready to give in, are you, mortal?"
Her body trembled. "Never," the woman forced out as she stole precious breaths and her chest fought to rise.
He chuckled, a rigid noise, and the heat of his false amusement curled around them in a palpable wave as spears of red again broke the jet color of the creature's eyes. Rage still poured from the fragile human beneath his clutches, bubbling in her heart, twisting with hate and desperation and agony. Bitter denial leaked from her like lifeblood. His fingers tightened. Perhaps....
"Submit to becoming my earthly host," he said in a voice quick and clear, his grip unyielding. Her eyes had darkened but the woman didn't look away. "Give me an anchor to this realm and a promise to your soul, and I will do what you bid, will give you what you want most. What I require from you is simple: an accord, my promise and your order. Your soul, in return for that which you desire most."
The last of his words curled in upon themselves like the whispering crackle of burning embers and the woman grabbed his wrist despite her flagging strength. Cooling blood adhered her flesh to his.
"Yes," she managed to gasp. "Yes."
Elation stole through the creature, his smile stretching wide in a cruel expression that masked the savagery of a starving beast. The humans told stories about things like him, little tales of morality warning their children off from monsters of falsity, those big bad wolves wearing the guises of hapless sheep. "Good. Tell me then, host, what do you want? What is it you want me to do?"
Again her rage erupted. He marveled at the feel of it, the taste of such ire like the decadent brush of honeyed lips against his own.
"Kill them." The woman's nails sank into his skin, her voice lost to the thunder of the monster's own heartbeat as she slid further and further into unconsciousness. "Kill them for what they've done."
The creature, so full of hate and violence and his own roiling, impotent ire, laughed. He laughed until he couldn't breathe, until the amusement deformed into a furious, starving scream.
So it begins again.
[ORIGINAL DRAFT ONLY]
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Sara Gaspard swore she'd do anything to find those responsible for her sister's death, but teaming up with the Sin of Pride is more than she bargained for. ***** Desperate and dyi...