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THE BULLET SURGED out of the gun with an earsplitting bang. Everything went silent for a second. I was submerged one hundred feet underwater. The world moved in slow motion, humming like mosquitoes in a summer evening.

I shook myself once, the fog from my head finally clearing. I heard screams.

"Fuck!" Joshua lay on the ground in front of me, writhing and clutching his thigh. He groaned in agony as blood seeped between his fingers, soaking his denim jeans.

I'd hit him in the leg—exactly where I'd been aiming. I watched, mesmerized for a second as a small, dark red puddle expanded on the floor beneath him. He pulled his eyes away from the wound and glared at me, grimacing and baring teeth in rage. But then, his focus immediately shifted to something behind me, and a menacing grin curled on his lips. He backed up, inching his body along the ground.

An earthshaking screech erupted behind me—like a gust of wind storming out of Hell. I spun around as quickly as I could, but I was too late. The devil burst through the door. The bars swung open, slamming into my shoulder. The blow knocked me back, and I flew three yards before landing hard on my side, facing the ground. Pain shot through my body on impact. I shuddered and ground my teeth together. My left arm shook as I tried to push myself up.

Another scream.

I whipped my head around. The demon bounded towards me, her hooves clicking on the floor as she bared her bloody, glistening teeth. She had grown to be at least twice my size. With her enormous infant wings spread, she took up half the room.

I screamed and scampered back, sliding across the floor. She attempted to take flight, flapping her wings in a frenzy, but the confines of the room prevented it. Instead, she stumbled forward on newborn legs, the fur on them matted down with blood and after-birth fluids. I tried to push myself to my feet with my one good arm, but the pain was too much and my body was shutting down.

Unable to stand, I raised the gun. My arm shook as the demon approached. I sucked in a heavy breath, and then I pulled the trigger.

With an enormous bang, the bullet flew out of the revolver. It soared through the air for a split second before lodging itself in the shoulder of the devil. She recoiled and screeched. Her wings flapped around aimlessly, creating gusts of wind in the room. The chandelier spun and shook. She glanced at her shoulder, clicking her tongue at it. She hissed. Like a snake, the demon spat her tongue out and cursed.

Black, gooey blood dripped from the wound, but she turned her attention away from it and back to me, still intent on her meal. I tried to aim again, but I wasn't quick enough. Hooves came down on top of me, and then teeth sunk into my right shoulder, grazing off the bone like nails on a chalkboard. Pain shot through my entire body, radiating from the bite. Tears burst from my eyes and I screamed until my voice was hoarse, thrashing around to try to escape. I fired the gun again, not even wasting a second to steady my hand.

The creature wailed. Pressure released from my shoulder and the monster recoiled. Her wings slashed around, one of them smacking into my arm and knocking the gun out of my hand. I caught it glistening in the corner of my eye, flying across the room, but I didn't see where it landed.

I scrambled to my feet in agony and backed up so fucking quick my vision went completely dark for a second. I panted and wheezed as a wet warmth soaked my shoulder. Icy sweat drenched me, and my clothes clung tightly to my body. A stream of blood slithered down my upper arm from the bite, and a wave of nausea crashed over me. My vision spun, my equilibrium thrown off.

The monster shook her head, spitting out black blood-sludge onto the ground. I didn't know where the third bullet had hit, but I wasn't willing to bet it was anywhere lethal. I scanned the room quickly, searching for where the gun had gone. Joshua sat on the ground in the corner, holding his leg and trying to stifle the flow of blood, but I had no luck locating the revolver.

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