Forsaken Priest-Shaw McAllister Backstory

Boston, Massachusetts

August 21, 1867

 

I have lost it all today; my sanity, my home, even my humanity. The Shawn McAllister everyone knew is gone, he has become something no one would want to be around, and I’m still not sure how it happened. It started out as an ordinary night, no different from any other, but in the blink of an eye that all changed. In mare seconds, I transformed into something inhuman, something I cannot comprehend. As of writing this, I have no idea what will become of me. All I know is that I can never go back, not after what I have done.

The night started out so innocently too. I had just finished up work at the market. Closing my stall I set off for the monthly town meeting at the Old North Church. Stopping in front of a store window, I frowned at my disheveled appearance. Fixing the black ribbon in my slick ponytail and readjusting the rounded spectacles on my face, I scurried for my destination.

 The evening was chilly, as the autumn air started creeping in. In the darkened sky shone a full moon in its haunting blue glow. I stopped to admire it for a bit too long and was running late. Deciding to take a shortcut, I made my way to the docks of the harbor when I heard a woman’s voice calling for help. Not one to leave a damsel in distress, I headed straight for the fishing wharf.

Rounding the corner past the fish market, I came across an unruly sight. A dozen drunken sailors were assaulting a young maiden. Poor girl had to have been only sixteen or so, far too young to pleasure these men of her own free will. The savage ruffians had already torn her skirt and had her bodice partially off. I could not stand idly by and watch such a helpless creature fall victim to these barbarians, so I did the only decent thing a young man in my position could do; I tapped one of the sailors on the shoulders and told him to unhand the girl.

Seemingly, that did not go over the way I had expected. The hoodlum unhanded the girl, and she ran as fast as she could in the opposite direction. However, this meant their drunken rage was focused on me now. The man whose shoulder I tapped pinned down to a stack of wooden crates. As he pulled out a dull fishing knife from the waist of his pants, his friends had surrounded me. I knew there was no way for me to get out of my predicament unharmed.

Politely, I tried to talk my way out of the mess I created. However, trying to reason with men who did not obey the laws of our civilized society proved to be futile. All my pleas and bargaining fell on deaf ears, and one of the sailors landed a blow square on my jaw. His hardened fist connected with a crunch across my cheekbone, sending my head flying to the side. The man who was holding me jabbed the knife into my gut, sending a dull pain into my groin.

I’m not sure if it was the pain of my assault or the situation I had managed to get myself into, but I felt an uncontrollable rage take over me. Suddenly the muscles in my body were on fire, my fingernails felt as if they were being pulled out from their nail beds. I had an explainable headache as my jaw felt like it was being broken and pieced back together by an unskilled doctor. I did not understand what happened to me, but I felt stronger, bigger, wilder. It seemed as if  I had released a long-forgotten beast from captivity.

I remember little of what happened next. I just remember the rage flowing through me, I was incapable of calming down. The drunk sailors were screaming and stumbling about, while it looked as if I was looking down on them from atop a high steeple. The world was strange, many shades of green, and even in the dark, I could see as if it was broad daylight. I let out a fearsome howl as I tilted my head to the moon, and the last thing I saw was red. A burgundy curtain enshrouded me as sounds of flesh being torn apart filled the air.

By the time the madness subsided, the docks of the harbor I was standing on were stained a dark crimson. I was covered in fur from head to toe, my solid mass hovering over the mangled bodies of the sailors. On my hands were elongated, razor-sharp claws that still had warm blood dripping from the tips. From my jaw hung an arm of one of the unfortunate men who had tried to teach the wrong person a lesson. I could taste the sweet, metallic taste of fresh blood as I glanced around at the mess I made.

Around me, parts of the sailors covered the docks. There was not much left of them, just an unrecognizable heap of body parts and stained clothing. I had no idea what I had become, or even how I became afflicted with such a terrible curse. I needed time to think, to process everything that has happened to me, but first I needed to run, and fast. Even before I had calmed myself, I picked up on the faint sound of voices coming from the distance. Undoubtedly these were the men from the church, attracted to my location by my howl and the terrified screams of the men I killed.

In a panic, I looked around for a quick exit or at least a place to hide. If the men found me in this position, they would surely kill me without mercy. Perhaps that is what I deserved for what I had done, but I did not wish to die, I still wanted a chance to live. I continued to spin around in delirium, but the city I had known so well all my life was unrecognizable. No longer had I any idea where I was, or where I should go. The same rage was beginning to simmer again, and I was afraid I would murder everyone in town when a faint sound from the docks caught my attention.

Psst. The sound filled my ears again, I did not imagine this extraordinary stroke of luck. I spun around in the direction it came from. There, by the pier stood a weather-beaten old sea dog, waving me over closer. Inching forward I noticed he was trying to usher me into his small sailing boat, dubbed The Black Rose.

I looked at the old man, awestruck. He bundled up in his worn, blue wool jacket and waved me over again, seemingly unconcerned by what had become of me. His lack of concern made me wary about trusting him, but as the lights grew closer in the distance, I saw no other choice. I leaped and bound for the small boat that was barely large enough for three people, let alone some monstrous creature. As I jumped into its wooden hull, it swayed and bobbed under my weight.

The old salt was right behind me, pushing the boat into the bay and climbing on board. Fixing the cap that sat on his head, he readjusted the sails, and we were on our way, bound for the ocean. As the boat swayed in the rough waters of the harbor, the lights came into view on the docks. My ears picked up on terrified screams and hushed whispers, by morning the whole city would be on the hunt for a mythical beast.

With the wharf safely behind us, I finally had the chance to catch a glimpse of what had become of me in the mirror-like surface of the ocean water. There, under the light of the full moon, I saw what I had turned into as a hideous creature stared back at me from within the waves. Half wolf, half man, and all beast.

The creature looking back at me was half as tall as the mast of the tiny sailing vessel. Its massive body was covered in dark brown fur, much like the color of my own hair. My chest was stained with the burgundy blood of the men I ripped apart, while my canine snout was full of pearly white fangs. The eyes that reflected back at me did not seem as if they were my own, their luminous hazel glow sparkled on the black surface of the water.

 Clutching my head with the razor-sharp talons of my hands I pulled at my ears, trying in desperation to rip them off. The sense of rage which made me turn into this creature was beginning to boil over again, I could feel myself losing control. Swiftly rising to my feet, I arched myself backward and let out a haunting howl that sailed across the quiet harbor. The madness was retaking hold of me, I was desperate to control it, I did not wish to kill again.

The boat captain did not seem phased by me as he quietly stood up and placed his gentle hand on my shoulder. “Take it, easy son. You just had ye first change boy, that’s all, it ain’t permanent.” He said in a hoarse, fatherly voice which seemed to have a calming effect on me. “What be yer name anyhow?”

“McAllister,” I replied while I settled myself back down. “Shawn McAllister.”

“And yer age boy?”

“Eighteen, sir.”

“Ah, well then…” he looked at me solemnly while shaking his head “…hope ye like bein’ eighteen, cause you’ll stay this age for a while.”

I did not dare say a word to him, I looked down on my lap in shame. What he meant by me being eighteen for a while, I did not quite understand. Then again, I did not much understand any of what was happening to me, but something told me I would get my answers soon enough. The man had to be taking me to one of the outer islands, as such a small vessel would not be able to hold up to the rough waters past the harbor. The only question remaining was: which one is he taking me to, and what was he planning to do to me once we got there?

So it was, we sat there in silence, with me not even daring to make eye contact with the old captain, until Thompson Island came into view. The old man rose to his feet and readjusted the sails so the boat could glide to a small wooden dock situated on the east side of the island. There, waiting for us, was a lovely Native woman, no older than forty years old. Nestled in her arms was a bundle of clothing and a wool blanket.

When the boat was secured to the dock, I got off and hid in the shadows, far too embraced of my appearance. Much to my surprise, the woman was not repulsed by what I looked like. Instead, she came over and took me by the hand, holding my giant paw in her dainty palm. She gave me a warm look as she stroked the fur on the back of my hand.

“It’s all right. No need to be afraid.” She spoke gently. “I’m one of you, I can help you regain your human form.”

I recoiled, bewildered by her confession. How could such a lovely woman possibly be the thing I had turned into? And how many more of these creatures were out there, waiting to be found? So many questions I wished could be answered for me, so many things I was yet to understand about this strange new world I have discovered myself in. I intended to ask this woman everything I wanted to know, but first, I wanted to be a man again.

“All right” I nodded my head. “Show me.”

“It is not a matter of showing you but telling you how it is done. You shift into beast form when you give in to your rage, but you can shift into a wolf or human as well. To become a wolf, you focus on what connects you to nature. To turn human, you focus on what connects you to your humanity. This is how our kind has functioned for generations, blending in with the men and beast alike.”

There was nothing I could think of that would get me back to my humanity, such a task had never been presented to me before. I thought long and hard, and I kept coming up with the same image, one of my younger brother. He was ten years younger than me, and I had always felt it was my duty to take care of him. We were as close as we could have been, given our age difference.

Remembering my brother, I recalled he had given me a pendant this morning as a birthday present. It was not much, just an arrowhead tied to a rope, but it was the most thoughtful gift I’ve gotten. I grasped at my neck, and to my relief it still hung there, unaffected by my change. Holding it in my giant paw I began to think of my brother, and my body burned. Collapsing to the ground on my knees, I screamed from the pain, and as suddenly as it had started, it was over.

I knelt on the ground, sans the fur, and completely naked. The woman draped a blanket over my body. The captain came over and handed me a bundle of clothing. Wrapping the warm wool over my shivering frame, I headed for the bushes to change into the attire they had given me. The captain did not question me, why would he, there was no place on this island I could run and hide.

The garb seemed to fit me remarkably well, almost as if it was made for me. Stepping out of the bushed I handed a folded-up blanket to the woman. She and the captain smiled warmly at me and then ushered me to follow along. Compliantly, I trailed behind, all the while wondering what they would have in store for me.

“Yer probably have a lot of questions boy,” the captain was oddly jolly in his remarks, “but don’t ye worry, me wife and I will explain everything.”

Without saying a word, I bobbed my head and followed along. We continued to navigate in the dark through a thicket of trees until a warm light shone in the distance. The soft yellow glow felt like a welcoming beacon in the gloom of night. Slowly, in the remote clearing, a small wood cabin appeared in my sight. Made of carefully stacked weathered logs, it looked like a welcoming refuge from the outside world.

Walking through a small door, a man in a dark cassock greeted me.  A wave of panic washed over me. I thought for sure they brought a priest in to kill me. I was about to jump out the window and run, but the reassuring hand of the captain squeezed my shoulder. Seeing no other alternative, I joined the man at the table to learn of my fate.

 

Hampton, Virginia

October 15, 1897

 

It has been over thirty years since my first change, and consequently since I left for Rome with the aged priest. You would think me to be in my fifties now, but stepping off the boat in Virginia, no person would place me over twenty-one. The inhuman beasts like me are different, we only age a year for every ten human ones. So, while America underwent changes over the years, I barely had any. Not that it mattered any to me now, I’ve come to accept the fate life had dealt me.

I now must keep the world safe from the worm, an ancient god who predates the universe itself. A god who wishes to rule this realm of ours, and he is here now, searching for a woman he loves. This woman was hidden in our world to keep her safe from him, but where she is hidden, and during which time period, no one knows. But the worm will stop at nothing to find her, and it’s up to creatures like me to keep him from getting what it wants.

Strange to think thirty years ago I was unaware of the complexity of my surroundings. I am a different man now, far removed from the naïve young lad of yesteryear. In Italy, I became an ordained priest and studied hard to learn of the creatures hidden within our world. The good, the bad, and everything in-between; living among humans, concealing their true natures, and vying for power. This is the world I find myself in, a world I have grown to love over the last decade.

In my short time, I’ve studied under the priest and learned a lot more about the powers I possess. Now I know how to enchant my clothing, so I will no longer find myself naked in human form. Not only that, but I have learned how to distinguish between the many supernatural creatures found on earth. Each one of us puts out a different aura; werewolves are silver, vampires are crimson, and hunters like the old captain are a deep shade of blue. I try not to harness this skill, not unless I must, but at times, it still hits me out of nowhere.

Walking down the narrow street paralleling the docks, I examine the people walking by. The men tip their hats at me, and the women smile, and all greet me with a dull “Good Day, Father.” I nod politely back at them while wondering how many of them are monsters such as me, lurking among the ignorant people around them. Not that it is fair of me to refer to them as monsters, but one has no clue which ones follow the laws, and which have surrendered their mind to the worm.

 I too hear the beast calling me from the void, tempting me with its offers of things beyond my imagination. But I ignore his pleas. The worm cannot entice those who desire death more than anything. So that’s how it goes, the demon sings me this song, trying to real me in, but I don’t falter, for there things about mortals he can’t understand. Even as I walked he whispered for me, but I pushed on, ignoring the new offers he made me.

I continued to stumble down the narrow streets until an establishment caught my eye. A small rundown place called The Wild Boar Inn & Tavern. There was something about its weather-worn brown façade that looked welcoming. Perhaps it was merely the fact that few people would stay at a place such as this, a good thing for a being such as I, or maybe, it was something else that drew me in. But seeing as I would be just passing through I saw no reason not to stay there. Swinging open the crackled red door, I stepped into the cozy inn.

Inside the dim chamber, behind the cramped old bar, stood a woman in a navy dress with her back faced to me. Her golden locks cascaded down her back, giving the frayed fabric of her gown an almost fairy tale appearance. I half expected a fairy godmother to be lurking around the corner to transform this young lass into a princess. As soon as I cleared my throat to catch her attention, she swung around with a warm smile that instantly lit up the dark, gloomy room. Staring at her eyes as vivid as the waters of the ocean, I felt lost no more.

“Name’s Mary.” She said “This be my place. I take it you be lookin’ for a room, will you?”

A sudden lump formed in my throat, preventing me from speaking, so I smiled and nodded like a fool. I know I said this was only temporary, that I was just passing through, but maybe I’ll stay a bit longer than anticipated.

 

 

Hampton, Virginia

October 26, 1900

 

It has been over a year since I landed on these shores. As predicted, I have stayed far longer than I originally planned. But there was something in Mary’s eyes that night, something that pulled me in and refused to let me go. For what it’s worth, I’m glad I stayed. Waking up to her radiant face each morning makes me feel at peace with myself. In the short time we’ve been together, she has helped me regain the humanity I thought I lost.

There is nothing I don’t love about this woman, everything she does makes my bleak world so much brighter. The way she snorts when she laughs, the way she crinkles her little pug nose when she’s mad, everything she does is utterly adorable. Buy what I love most about Mary is the way she loves me, despite knowing everything I am. That’s right, Mary knows precisely what I am.

Several months ago, I told her what type of monster I was, half expecting her to run off in horror. To my surprise though, she did no such thing. All she said to me is that we all have our demons to contend with, mine were just more apparent. But it’s what Mary told me next that moved me to my core, she said she did not care what I was as long as I was with her.

It was nice to get my secret off my chest, even more, to have someone love me enough to not care about what I was. Enamored by everything Mary did for me, I was thinking about maybe asking her to marry me. I realize it will be a brief union for myself, as my lifetime lasts a lot longer than hers, but even a short while with her by my side is good enough. I intend to ask her on All Hallows Eve, her favorite time of the year. Even went as far as getting her the ring. Not that I could afford a pricey bauble on a priest’s salary, but knowing Mary, this simple ring will be enough.

 

Hampton, Virginia

November 1, 1900

 

 

Last night, something terrible happened. I should have known my happiness would not last long, it never does. My Mary was taken from me, not by illness, but by a terrible curse. Worse yet, I could have prevented it, but I let my caution slide. It’s all my fault, now Mary is gone forever.

Our evening started off as it usually has, with a light dinner and a walk along the pier. Mary loves to go out on All Hallows Eve, something about the spooky ambiance gives her a thrill. I was planning to propose to her on the pier as well. That was before my life was torn out of my grasp by a dastardly assailant.

We were strolling along the boardwalk, a crisp breeze whipped past us as the full moon glistened above. We could hear laughter in the distance, no doubt coming from a local tavern where people were bobbing for apples and dancing the night away. All the while I had an uneasy feeling, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up from an unseen threat. I thought I sensed a dark aura lurking in the alleyways, but I chalked it up to nerves. A deadly mistake.

As we approached a secluded area overlooking the ocean, I thought it would be a perfect spot to ask. Turning around, Mary stared up at me, her eyes shining under the moon as the sky does under the stars. With my heart pounding in my chest I was about to kneel down and ask the most important question of my life when something darted out of the shadows. A bloodthirsty demon sprang up and pierced my Mary’s neck with his fangs, her blood-curdling scream filled the empty air. The vampire’s icy blue eyes glared at me with their hate-filled glare before it scooped up Mary and whisked her away into the night.

Letting the rage flow over me, I howled in agony as the change came over me. I could feel my body growing for the first time in ages, my limbs stretching as the fur covered my large form. Changing into my beast form, I set my sights on the creature which had my woman, and I set off after it at a sprint. Galloping through the village into the woods, I hoped to catch up to them and rescue Mary, but I lost their scent in the dense forest.

I searched around aimlessly for hours to no avail, until the break of dawn, when it became painfully clear my Mary was gone. Returning to my human state I left the woods with my head hung low in defeat, even the beast was no match for a child of darkness. But I am not about to give up, the chances are good that Mary is still among us. I intend to rescue her, I just need to do more research to see what I am up against.

 

Hampton, Virginia

November 8, 1900

 

Several days of research has yielded some hope. If Mary was, in fact, turned into a vampire as I suspect, there is still hope I can save her. My poor Mary will never have a carefree life again, but that’s of little concern to me. Being a monster myself I can live with what has become of her. The important thing now was to sever her connection to the worm, and for that, I have to figure out who her grand-sire is.

Under normal circumstances, I would have to kill the original founder of her clan to sever her connection to the worm. However, out of the five grand-sires who were initially born here, only three remained. If she were turned by one of the other two clans which no longer have a connection to the worm, I can easily free her. In such a case the only link I must sever is between her and the man who created her.

Yes, my only hope is for the grand-sire to be one of the two who no longer serve their master. This way I can sever her connection by ending the man who turned her. Once the horrid creature who did this is gone, I can reclaim Mary. The problem is, I need to find her first. I keep sitting here, wondering where I would go if I was a vampire, and I keep coming up with only one place, the caves by the ocean.

Legend tells of vengeful sea spirits in the caves who feast on unsuspecting locals, or sailors who were unlucky enough to wash ashore there. Children are advised to stay clear of the caves, and no rational soul dares get close. But I suspect it’s not vengeful sea spirits who grabs people by those caves, but blood-thirsty vampire hiding from the scalding sun.

There is no getting around it, tomorrow night I will venture to the forbidden caves the locals fear so much and try to find Mary. As long as she is there, I can help her, I can bring her back. Then, we can run away together and never look back. We can live the rest of our lives on the run if we have to.  I just want to find her, save her, the rest will fall into place afterward.

 

Hampton, Virginia

November 10, 1900

 

My Mary is gone, and with her goes all my hope. I couldn’t have imagined how terrible last night could go, but it did, in every inconceivable way. It started out so good too, I was sure my plan would work. How could I fail? How did the horrible events of last night come to pass? The whole night is still but a blur to me, an awful dream I can’t seem to wake myself up from.

As the sun started to set last night, I snuck out from the tavern and casually made my way to the caves. No one paid any attention to me, everyone has gotten used to me by now. I figured that if anyone were to ask about Mary, I’d just tell them she has fallen ill. Not that I would be entirely dishonest, she had been taken ill, only not in ways a mare human would understand. But no one asked. Everyone was busy preparing for the winter months, allowing me to walk into the thick forest unseen.

Navigating through the dense undergrowth and thicket of trees I thought I was lost at first, but then I heard the gurgling of water nearby.  Inching my way closer to the sound I could make out the river churning and the waves crashing ashore nearby. As the sounds of water became deafening, I stumbled upon a clearing, no larger than a house. In the dim light, barely visible, stood an opening to the small cave. Its gaping hole was pitch black, threatening to swallow you up if you got too close.

It’s been a long time since I felt a fear like that. It was an irrational, archaic fear, the kind one feels as a child looking at stalking shadows on the walls. There was something ominous about the seemingly endless, dark tunnel. A tingle of apprehension nipped at the back of my neck, a form of foreshadowing now that I look at it. Disregarding all the instincts which were telling me to run, I took an uneasy step forwards and began approaching the tunnel.

Stopping at the mouth of the cave, I hesitated for a moment, but swallowing my fear, I pushed myself to step inside. Fortunately, my beast eyes could see well in the darkness, well enough to notice how narrow my passageway was. A faint metallic scent of blood wafted up from below, intermixed with wet rocks and the fresh scent of moss. The soft, soothing sound of rushing water could be heard in the distance, a small waterfall splashing into an underground river. Seeing no alternative to the passageway before me, I inched forward slowly, taking caution not to alert the creatures below to my presence.

My slick road was not long, and before I knew it, I was standing at the bottom of a small grotto. A shallow river ran before me, cutting the vast space in half. From above, through a tiny crack in the ceiling, a faint light snuck its way in along with a veil of water flowing in. Stalactites hung above my head, clinging to the ceiling like stone icicles. At first, I thought I came to the wrong place, but out of the corner on my eye, I caught a faint flicker of a campfire. There, on the opposite bank of the river was a small encampment, and Mary was curled up by its flame.

Without thinking, I ran straight for her. Trudging through the frigid water soaking through my pants, I stumbled on to the bank by the fire. Startled by the sound of me stumbling on the moist floor, Mary looked up and let out a gasp. I expected her to run towards me and leap into my arms, but to my utter shock and amazement she did the complete opposite, she retreated deeper into the shadows.

“Go home, Shawn.” She yelled at me. “Get out of here before it’s too late.”

Refusing to listen to her, I approached the alcove she was hiding in. Grabbing hold of her wrist, I pulled her out into the light. Looking straight into her now pale blue eyes, I told her I was not going anywhere without her. Mary yanked her hand away, and I caught a glimpse of a small nightshade tattoo branded in her delicate wrist.

 Breathing a sigh of relief, I smiled at her. The Belladonna tribe has been without a grand-sire since the first crusades. I was not sure before, but I was sure now, all I had to do to free her was kill the man who turned her.

“Come with me Mary,” I pleaded with her, “I can help you. I don’t care that you are a vampire, we can run off together and live our lives in peace.”

“You don’t understand Shawn. It will be dawn soon, and if he finds you here, he’ll kill you.”

I was going to protest, assure her I could handle this man, but I never got the chance. Before I uttered a single word, I was soaring headfirst into the stone wall in front of me, my back was on fire from a fierce sting. My skull connected to the stone with a dull thwack, and I crumpled to the dirt ground with my head throbbing as a warm trickle traced its way down the side of my face. Something to the right of me let out an ear-piercing screech, and Mary screamed in horror.

Turning my head, I strained to look through the spots in my vision to see what had happened. There, in the place I was standing in moments ago was a colossal bat creature, its leathery wings spread out as the talons on his fingers dripped with blood. The animals large grey frame towered a good four feet above the height of the average man. He squinted his probing, burgundy eyes to stare at me. The wide, pierced ears on his head twitched as he grimaced in delight.

Suddenly I understood everything. This horrid man has chosen Mary as his mate, and he was willing to kill to keep her. Now, vampires can’t reproduce by natural means, but they do keep mates out of some inbreed desire. The realization of what had transpired made me simmer, I felt the pulse of rage start to take over me. Digging my nails into the dirt, I sprung up to my feet. Arching my back backward, I allowed the hate to fill me.

This time the pain was not agonizing, it was arousing. As the razor claws grew from my delicate flesh and my jawline elongated, I felt a sick sense of euphoria flow through me. At well over eight feet tall, my beast form was the perfect match for the vampire in his. Locking eyes with the creature I could feel his hatred towards me, it was a feeling we shared. Two mortal enemies squaring off against one another, the child of the worm and the child of amphithere were about to come to blows.

I sprang for the monster, taking a swipe across his chest. My claws had met their mark as inky blood splashed on my face, the scent of rotten flesh and feces filled the air. The foul creature had struck me as well, my chest burned, a handful of fur was missing from my skin. Undeterred, I leapt at the man in front of me, knocking him on his back. Alas, the bat was too quick for me. His legs had prevented me from gaining an advantage as their large claws dug deep into my abdomen causing me to howl in pain. With a resounding shrill the beast pushed me off and flew up to the ceiling.

Staggering to my feet through the searing in my body, I spun around trying to spot my opponent in the dark. At first, the bat was nowhere to be seen, but then I noticed it swooping down from the ceiling to the side of me. I was far too late in locating the creatures as it clung to my back, sinking his spiky fangs into my shoulder, tearing at my flesh.  Roaring and howling from the sting of his bite, I flailed around wildly, pawing at my back to try and get him off. Finally, I was able to grab hold of the damned creature. Skewering his leathery flesh with my claws, I ripped it off me, tossing him down to the floor by Mary’s feet.

Seeing the frightened expression in Mary’s lovely eyes empowered me, it gave me the strength I needed to keep going. Not wishing to lose my advantage over the vampire, I pounced on top of him, wrapping my jowls around his scrawny arm, just below the elbow. A cold, putrid taste of stale blood filled my mouth as my teeth crushed the creature’s bones. Mustering my way past the gag reflex, I clamped down harder on the appendage until I felt it give way under my teeth.

Shrieking loud enough to deafen my eardrums, the bat pulled away, leaving its lifeless arm dangling from my jaw. I watched it as it crawled over to the campfire. Reaching under the pillow, the bat pulled a slim, glistening object out before struggling to get back up. Tracing my eyes down to the vampires remaining hand, I saw he was clutching on to a dagger, glaring menacingly in my direction. I grinned in victory, the beast was desperate. Clearly, I had won this battle, soon I would have Mary in my arms again.

Overfilled with confidence, I went for the beast without anticipating that this was precisely what he wanted me to do. Blinded by my arrogance, I fell right into the vampire’s trap, for just as I was about to rip his throat out, the weapon he held pierced me. Instantly I was paralyzed by terrible agony. Every fiber of my body was screaming, it felt as if molten metal was running through my veins and my joints were turning to stone. Collapsing on the ground, I clung to my wound as my blood splashed down into the water below, dissipating like crimson flowers in the mist.

Silver, of course, all vampires carried silver weapons on them as it was the only substance that could kill their mortal enemies, werewolves such as I.  It had been foolish of me to think his dagger was but a harmless trinket, now I was going to pay the ultimate price for my stupidity. Incapable of tolerating the pain any longer I fell to the ground in defeat. Seizing his chance, the beast jumped on my back, burying the dagger deep in my flesh. Each new jab sent a debilitating wave of torment racing through my body.

From the crack in the ceiling, I saw a glimmer of sunlight stream its way into the cavern, illuminating a small portion of the space with a heavenly glow. Dying at the break of dawn after a glorious battle, there was something morbidly romantic about it, a superbly violent glory. I did not regret dying, my only regret was not being able to hold Mary in my arms one last time. Shutting my eyes, I surrendered to my fate, but it never came as suddenly the weight of the bat lifted from me.

I could hear the beast shrieking and struggling. Turning my head to the side, a scene of horror played out before my eyes, with me being unable to stop it. Right in the streak of sunlight lay Mary on top of the beast, their bodies smoking. She must have pushed him off me. Looking directly at me, I could see her mouth a solemn “I’m sorry” as their bodies engulfed in flames. And just like that, in a split second, Mary was gone. The only person I was able to get close to in years had perished, sacrificing herself to save me.

Surrendering to my wounds, I shut my eyes and drifted off, resolved to join my love in the afterlife. But life is cruel, and death never came for me, it seems I was doomed to continue walking this path alone.

 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

November 20, 1900

 

It has been over a week since my last entry. Since the night I failed Mary. For a few days I stayed at the tavern to allow my wounds to heal, but as soon as I was well enough to walk, I left the forsaken village behind. At the outskirts of town, I hopped on a carriage bound north and ended up here. Maybe I’ll stay here for a few months, or perhaps I shall make my way back to Boston, I’m still not sure which I would prefer.

Either way, there is only one thing I am sure of; I no longer wish to get close to people, not if they will end up dying because of me. I’m convinced the vampire only targeted Mary because it knew what I was, a sick punishment on the creature whose ancestors are responsible for the destruction of his tribe. Even if it was a random attack, Mary is still dead because of me. She is gone due to my arrogance and my weakness.

This is why I shall devote my life now to helping people, killing as many vampires as I can in the process. If the worm desires a fight, then that is precisely what I will give him. This was not the life I had chosen for myself, it was selected for me, the best I can do is play the game with the cards which I’ve been dealt. From this day forward, I will not stop fighting until the worm is banished from our word and the great amphithere can reign supreme.

Kyle Messer the Tech Genius

 

Shit, I’m late, I hate being late. Frowning, I glance over at the digital display of my Porsche 918 Spider as I round the corner on Corporate Center Drive. I gave myself plenty of time as I left my Long Beach high-rise this morning, but a crash on the freeway set me back a good thirty minutes. Leave it to some careless idiot who doesn’t know how to drive to smear his worthless brain all over his dashboard and slow L.A. traffic down to a stop. By now I’ve come to accept how inconsiderate some people are, but such carelessness still gets on my nerves.

At the moment though, I am thrilled to see the top of my company peeking through the trees. Ikuchi is nothing special, it doesn’t even stand out from the rest of the glass boxes at the heart of the Corporate Center. But she’s my baby though, and I sure am proud of her. My partner named her after a fearsome Japanese sea monster, and it fit our small tech company well. We have only been on the scene for three years and were already larger than the other two tech giants combined. Not too shabby for a couple twenty-seven-year-olds if you ask me.

The tires of my Porsche screamed as I jerked the wheel to pull into the parking garage. I could see Daisuke’s Nissan GT-R parked snuggly in its spot. He was always the modest one, ever since we met as roommates at M.I.T. Not that his slick white car wasn’t a thing of engineering beauty, but it wasn’t my style. Pulling in next to it I lean back and glance at the sign in front of me with a smirk: Reserved for Kyle Messer-CEO. Who’d have thought a small dream of two Computer Science majors would grow this big in such a short time? Yet, here the two of us are, living the dream.

Adjusting the collar of my black shirt, I grab my briefcase off the floor and climb out of the car. The alarm chirps as I smash the button on my fob, and I give my silver beauty one last glance before I set off for the elevator. Daisuke would not be happy with me, not that I blame him, but I shall make it up to him somehow. In my defense, I tried to phone in to explain why I was running late, but apparently, our secretary has forgotten how to do her job.

Brenda has been with us for a year now and was still new at her job despite the hours we spent training her. I was deadest against hiring the doe-eyed little girl with pigtails and glasses. But Daisuke had promised his aunt to give the young woman a job, her being the daughter of a family friend or something like that. Whatever the case was, Daisuke felt like he owed these leaches a favor, even if it meant hiring an incompetent bimbo to run the office for us.

Personally, I could not stand the girl, or the way she ogled me with those big brown eyes of hers. Thinking of how she would greet me with her annoying, high-pitched voice made me cringe before the elevator even came to a stop. Daisuke informed me she really liked me, and told me I should give her a chance, but I brushed him off. Women are bad enough on their own, let alone when they are immature little floozies like Brenda. Combing my hand through my jet-black hair, I shudder at the thought of some little girl putting her filthy hands on my perfect body.

Don’t get me wrong, I was not always against the company of a woman. I was even engaged once to a girl I met at college. Wasted six years of my life with her until she up and walked out on me, shattering my world in mare minutes. Bitch had the audacity to toss the ring at my face and tell me she was running off with some chiropractor because I had no ambition in life. Said I would never get anywhere with my wild dreams and that she needed stability. Bet she’s sorry now, seeing as that wild dream of mine earned me enough money to put the measly fortune of her husband to shame.

Yes, revenge is a dish best served cold. Hope the filthy gold digger regrets the day she threw our life away. At least she taught me a valuable lesson in the process; women are not to be trusted, they only have their own interests in mind. Daisuke thinks I’m crazy for avoiding relationships, but I can tell you it has been working out rather well for me. At least this way I don’t have to share my earning with anyone but myself.

The elevator jolts to an abrupt halt, forcing me to abandon my thoughts and focus on the task at hand instead. As the doors clank open, I take a deep breath to prepare me for the conversation about to follow. Stepping out onto the freshly vacuumed, beige carpet I glance down the long hallway leading to my office. Something is off. I reserved Ikuchi’s topmost floor for Daisuke and me, so it’s always peaceful up here, but today it is eerily silent. No voices, no ringing of the phone, no clicking of Branda typing on the keyboard, no rumbling of the coffee maker.

The silence unnerves me, and I take an uneasy step toward the door. Unsure of what I will find I curse the stupid light bulb flickering above my head. I told Brenda weeks ago to call down to maintenance and have it fixed, and she was yet to do it. Grasping the polished handle, I pause momentarily, part of me knowing I do not wish to see what waits on the other side. Convinced the nerves have got the best of me I swing the door open, nauseated by what the scene reveals.

Our reception area is in disarray. Branda’s desk appears as if a bomb has gone off. Scattered papers flutter across the room, a telephone lays broken by my feet, and what’s left of an Ikuchi computer sits smoldering in a crumpled-up heap on the floor by where it fell. A sickening smell permeates the air; metallic and fresh, like a dead deer after a hunt. The source is painfully clear as a deep burgundy puddle seeps from behind the desk. Cautiously I make my way around the mess and peek to see what had happened.

“Jesus,” I mutter trying not to throw up.

Brenda’s lifeless eyes stare up at the ceiling, the expression of horror frozen on her face. Her throat is slit so hard that her head is barely left attached to the body. The white blouse she wore today has been colored red with her blood. My heart drops as I glance over at Daisuke’s door. There’s no way, he can’t be dead, he would never leave me alone like this. Stepping over the corpse of our secretary I rush to his door, flinging it open, not prepared for what I’m about to discover.

Splotches of crimson stain the cool, beige walls of our office. Trickling down to the floor they leave behind a pathway of makeshift roadways. Daisuke’s body is splayed out between our floor-to-ceiling window, and his antique oak desk. His intestines spill out as if he is a broken bowl of spaghetti, a bloody splotch covers the privacy glass behind him. Hideously deformed beings huddle over him, eating his entrails. The small, golem-like creatures stay hunched over, their pruned, hairless skin as black as coal.

One of the things pauses long enough to glance up at me, its eyes shining with a glaze-over green light as it lets out a muffled hiss. Jagged, snarled teeth fill the creature’s deformed mouth, covered in my partner's blood. The man who’s been my best friend for nine years, the only person I trusted other than myself, is dead, and these things murdered him in cold blood. Daisuke was a gentle soul, too kind for his own good, he did not deserve to become a meal for some gargoyle.

For the first time in years, emotion overcomes me. So many feelings course through my veins; the sadness of losing the person I was so close to, and the rage of some unholy being killing him. Letting out a howl, I surrender to the madness and let go of my reserved humanity. The sudden pain is exhilarating, it makes me feel aroused. I know I’m becoming more powerful than I could ever imagine. With madness in my eyes and hatred in my heart, I glance over at the six small beings cowering in terror before me.

Without giving it a second thought, I grab the foul creature closest to me by its tiny head. It squirms and squeals as I sink my claws into its skull and effortlessly pull him apart as if he’s a rag doll. The rest of them shriek and scatter, but I will not let them get away with what they did to Daisuke. One by one I grab hold of the monsters, ripping them to shreds with ease, their bodies disintegrating before they hit the ground. Both the hunt and the revenge feel intoxicating, I can do this all day long.

By the time I get done, the room looks like a horrifying canvas painted by a madman. Everything’s covered with smudges of red and black, the gray dust from the creatures is all over the floor. Then there’s poor Daisuke, displayed like an unfortunate animal on the floor, partially eaten intestines sit tangled up beside him. His dark brown eyes glance towards the window, not a hint of fear on his face. The sight of my friend brings me back to reality as the intensity leaves me. Whatever has briefly come over me has now abandoned me, and I find myself back to normal.

Kneeling by my partner's body I wait for the tears to come flooding in, but they never do, such deep emotions still escape this stone-cold heart of mine. I’ll have to report this, I need to call the cops, but first, I have to figure out what I will say to them. As I ponder my predicament, something catches my attention out of the corner of my eye. The morning sun streaming through the window grabs hold of something in Daisuke’s clenched hand, making it sparkle ever so slightly.

Gently I pry open his hand and pull out the silver chain with a pendant on it. Something made of jade, with a familiar symbol on it. A tomoe, Daisuke has them displayed all around his house, but this one is different. Instead of three intertwining tadpoles, this one has three coiled up serpents. This must be related to Daisuke’s death, why else would he have it? If I find who this necklace belongs to, I will locate the monster behind the murder of my friend, and make them pay.

The darn cops take forever to respond, but in an hour, they are swarming my office building like ants to a picnic. I’ve never felt so violated in my entire life. Between the endless questioning and them covering everything inside my office with that nasty black dust. Cringing I look at the mess they’re making. All this is giving me a headache. Not only has my best friend died, but now I’ll have to pay a buttload of money to get this place cleaned up.

This whole thing would not be as bad if not for this damned police dog sitting next to me. Everything else I can deal with, except the way the German Shepherd keeps looking at me. His biddy brown eyes seem to follow my every move. And to top it all off, I think the stupid mutt keeps trying to talk to me. Sounds insane, but as I’m sitting in a chair with my head hung between my knees trying to ignore the boys in blue tearing up everything in sight someone speaks to me.

“You know more than you’re letting on.”

 I lift my head to see who it is, but the only thing I can spot is a black muzzle staring at me. Spinning my head from side to side, I attempt to see which officer is talking to me, but the only living soul around me is Duke the dog, as his vest proudly suggests. By this point, I must conclude I’m losing my mind. Finding my friend murdered and not having eaten since breakfast must be getting to me, causing me to hallucinate.

Exhausted, Duke and I continue to glare at one another as if sizing each other up. Eventually the lead detective walks over to where I sit, placing a large hand on my shoulder. The officer gives me a tap and tells me I’m free to go. He says he'll call me if they find anything, except I know they won’t. Thanking the officer, I get up to leave. Halfway through the door the same gruff voice comes from behind me.

“Don’t go far, chump. And don’t do anything you will regret.”

Frozen, I slowly twist my head to look in the speaker's direction only to be met with the same darkened muzzle again. Duke’s sitting right behind me, his head tilted to the side, licking his chops. I knew there was a reason I hate dogs so much. Aside from the fact that they shed, they seem to have an uncanny understanding of what’s going on around them, a six sense of sorts. Paranoia must be kicking in, I’m starting think I can understand animals.

Standing in the doorway, I scowl at the dog who continues to study me. Letting out an odd whimpering noise he turns around and walks back to his handler. Satisfied with what I consider a win, I straighten the collar of my shirt as I walk out of the room. Confined safely in the small compartment of the elevator, far from prying eyes, I reach inside the pocket of my black slacks to pull out the medallion. Tracing its details with my thumb I study it closer. It’s an ancient Asian symbol for sure. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough of Asian lore to make heads or tails of this thing, but I know someone who does.

My elevator jerks to a stop with a loud beep as the doors swoosh open. Wasting no time, I head for my car, the alarm chirps as I pushed the door button on my key fob. Getting in, I slam the door behind me. Not wasting time with the seatbelt, I throw her into reverse and peel out of my parking spot. With tires squealing, the car departs the garage to my next destination, Little Tokyo. Still early in the day the freeway will be less crowded, it should only take me about twenty-five minutes to get there.

The drive down is remarkably uneventful. By now I have almost forgotten the nightmare from earlier today. If not for the amulet shimmering on the passenger seat next to me, I could have put the death of my best friend to the back of mind, at least until I had the chance to grieve properly. Soon enough news of Daisuke’s death would be all over the televisions and papers. When that happens, I’ll no longer be invisible. I must get the answers I seek before shit hits the fan.  

Again, there’s no parking in this area suitable for my car accept the parking garage a short walk away from my destination. Driving to the top I hope to avoid any unnecessary social contact. Donning on my black trench coat and a pair of dark sunglasses I stroll down hoping to avoid getting noticed. Daisuke was the face of our company, but my face has appeared in the paper enough times to make me recognizable to a trained eye. If luck will have it, this makeshift disguise will be enough to blend into the crowd.

With a deep breath to steady my nerves I set off down San Pedro Street for the Japanese Village Plaza. A tourist trap if I’ve ever seen one, it will offer me the perfect cover to disappear for the time being. Merging with a chattering crowd of tourists I walk unnoticed down the bustling street to Little Tokyo. Red and white lanterns swinging between structures let me know I have managed to reach the plaza. Not stopping to study them any further I hurry to my destination.

Nishimura Antiquities is a small, green pagoda style building wedged between a sushi restaurant and a trinket shop. It belongs to the family of Daisuke’s friend from middle school, Nick. Daisuke brought me here to hang out with them on many occasions, but it’s not Nick I came here to see.

A bell chimes to signify my intrusion as I push open the glass door into the smoky interior which reeks of sandalwood. A short Japanese man with gray hair looks up from behind the counter. At first, he squints his eyes at me, as if trying to figure out why some guy in black entered the shop. Appearing to realize who I am a warm smile of recognition washes over his wrinkled face and he waves me over to the counter.

“Nick!” he shouts, “Nick, Mr. Messer come see you.”

I’ve always admired the old man. He always spoke with broken English, but considering he’s only been in the country for three years it impressed me. Nick’s uncle had moved here from Kyoto to help his sister when her husband passed away. It was only supposed to be a temporary thing, but I guess he liked it here so much he decided to stay.

“Hey Mr. Hayashi.” I take my glasses off to greet him. “Actually, it’s you I came here to see.”

“Me?” Hayashi frowns. “What you need old man for?”

“I want to know what you can tell me about this.”

Pulling the jade trinket out of my pocket I place it on the counter and slide it over towards him. Upon seeing the pendant, the color drains from the old man’s face. A look of pure terror fills his eyes as they dart from the necklace and back to my face. Clutching his chest, Mr. Hiyashi backs up against the wall, staring at object as if it would jump off the counter and kill him.

“Where you get this?”

“So, you do know what it is?”

“No… no.” the man continues to stammer. “You take evil back. Out of store Mr. Messer.” He shoves the pendant into my hands while pushing me from his store. “Out.”

Confused, I stand outside clutching the small silver chain with the pendant in my hands. This is not a reaction I anticipated to get from the old man. But it affirmed my suspicions; the owner of this thing is responsible for Daisuke’s death. Frustrated at my lack of progress I’m about to leave when a firm hand grabs hold of my shoulder.

“Kyle, wait.”

Turning around I come face to face with a tall young man. With his porcelain skin and jet-black hair, he can easily pass for my Japanese twin. Nick’s known Daisuke longer than I have, and I was always a bit jealous of their relationship, but for once, I’m glad to see him. He appears sad, lost even. I wonder if the news of our friend’s death has reached him yet when he speaks up.

“I heard about Daisuke,” his face appears solemn. “I’m sorry, I know you were close.”

“Yeah.”

“Is… is there a reason you came here?”

“I wanted to ask your uncle a question.” I shrug remembering the old man’s reaction. “But he refused to answer me.”

“What did you wish to ask?”

I study the look of confusion on Nick’s face. Not that I blame him, I was bewildered myself as to why Mr. Hiyashi shoved me out of the store. Now I’m wondering if I should let Nick in on my little secret. What if he knows the significance of the necklace? Yet, I’m hesitant to ask, fearing his reaction if he does have the answers I want. Then again, what did I have to lose at this point?

“I wanted to see if he knew what this was.”

Pulling out the pendant, I dangle it in the air from my index finger. The same look of terror comes over Nick’s face as it did his uncle’s. With trembling hands, he takes hold of the circular object to study it up close. Returning the trinket, Nick glances up at me with concern in his eyes.

“Where did you get this?”

“Does it matter?”

 “I suppose not.” Nick sighs heavily. “But in Japan this is a bad sign.”

“So, what is it?”

“It’s the pendant of Lady Nakatomi. And, if you are in possession of it, something terrible is about to happen, or…” he glances up at me with a sickening realization, “… it already has.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“Nakatomi Ikuko was a noblewoman from around the seventh century. She married an unfaithful man. Growing increasingly jealous of his philandering, her jealousy got out of control, transforming her into a Namanari.”

“Say what now?”

“A Namanari. In Japanese lore, they are a type of demon. But not full ones. They are caught in between; half woman, half beast. These women still look human, except for a set of small horns, and they’re capable of powerfully dark magic. Amongst them, Lady Nakatomi is the most feared as she survives on torturing and killing men.”

“And you believe these ghost stories Nick?”

“I didn’t until you showed me this Be straight with me Kyle, does this have anything to do with Daisuke’s death?”

“I think it might. But don’t worry, I will find the person responsible and make them pay.”

“Don’t do anything rash Kyle, you can’t tango with a demon.”

“No worries, I think I can handle her.”

“If you say so. Just promise me you’ll be careful… for Daisuke’s sake.”

With a nod, I turn around and walk away from him. Finally, I have a slight idea of whom to investigates next, Daisuke’s new girlfriend. I never met the gal, but from what I know she is a prominent Japanese immigrant who goes by the name of Misako. All I have to do is find the right one, then I’d hunt her down for some questioning.

There’s only one slight problem with my perfect plan; I have no idea how many women by her name live here, and Daisuke never mentioned a last name. But this is of little matter, I can quickly figure it out through some savvy tech work. After all, I am a tech genius. First thing I’ll do when I get home is try to find out more about her from Daisuke’s social media site. Then, I will figure out where she lives and confront her.

Contemplating the steps to my plan I round the corner into the parking garage when something catches my eye. Two bright amber orbs glow in the darkened corner of the cement building. Upon meeting my gaze the stalker walks out from the shadows to reveal itself. From what I can tell it appears to be a rather large dog.

It couldn’t be a domestic dog, it’s bigger, with shaggy white fur. If I didn’t not know any better I’d guess it was a wolf. But that’s ridiculous, there are no wolves in L.A. Whatever this beast is, it continues watching me from a distance as if trying to discern what my next move will be. Yup, just another reasons to hate dogs, stray ones especially. Shaking my head I turn away from the ugly mutt and continue on.

Keeping to the side as far away from the beast as possible I hurry up the steps to my car. Checking over my shoulder I make sure the dog is not following me, but the filthy beast stays where it’s at. With a deep breath I unlock the door of my Porsche and climb into the safe embrace of her leather seat. Perhaps I’m a tad irrational, but I’m thrilled to be back behind the wheel headed home to my penthouse in Long Beach, far away from Nick and the stupid dog who kept watching me.

Took me all night and most of the day to figure out who this woman was. Three hours into my research and I cursed Daisuke’s need for privacy. He only had one picture with the woman up on his page. Dainty little thing with a wicked smile. This exotic beauty was excruciatingly hard to hunt down. No less than a dozen women with the name Misako live in the greater Los Angeles area. Ten of them under the age of thirty.

Hacking into the immigration database I searched for recent transplants from Japan. This only narrowed my list down to six. From there I had to look them up individually and hope a face would pop up to confirm her identity. The search was proving futile. I began losing hope when one finally popped up in the DMV records. A twenty-one-year-old intern from Kyoto who came here on a work visa. Misako Inoue, who just happened to be the lady in Daisuke’s picture.

Sitting back in my chair, I glanced at my computer screen satisfied. I found her, and her address. This girl made no attempts to hide her identity. Either she was incredibly naïve, or she was as cunning as a fox. In any case, in a few short hours, she’d be mine. I intend to shred her to bits after she confessed to killing my best friend.

Closing my eyes, I take a quick snooze before I head out. I’m hoping for a reprieve from the last twenty-four hours, but it’s not be. Instead, my head fills with nightmares of things which transpired in the office, playing on an endless loop. I can see the goblins approaching Brenda while she’s on her phone, catching her off guard, killing her before she has a chance to scream. Once she’s dead, the creatures sneak their way into Daisuke’s office, swarming him as he attempts to fight them off.

They hold him down as he looks on in shock, betrayal fills his as he stares at his open door. A shadowy figure in a kimono approaches him. Long, flowing hair conceals her face, but I have no doubts it’s Misako. I try to call out to him, warn him, even try to get to the office in time to save him, but each attempt fails. The woman pulls out a tanto and slit his throat as a silent scream escapes me. Before he collapses to the floor, Daisuke grasps at her amulet, ripping it off her neck as he falls to the floor.

Drenched in sweat, I startle myself awake, nearly falling out of my chair. Clutching on to my chest, panting I attempt to still my beating heart which is threatening to pound its way out of my chest. The digital clock on my wall reads out 7:00 in bright red digits. Finally, the time of judgment has arrived. Staggering up off the floor I head for the door. Soon, I’ll be confronting the woman who murdered my friend.

Eagerly, I make the long drive from Long Beach to Beverly Hills where she lives. Her small Tuscan Vineyard will, unfortunately, be inaccessible from the road. My best bet will be to park at Franklin Canyon Park and walk through her grape field to the mansion. I suppose it’ a good thing no one knows how much I hate hiking. Otherwise, they’d be questioning my presence by the small trail leading south.

Donning my black trench coat, I slink behind the trees off the beaten path and start briskly making my way to the house. The shadows of the evening shroud me in their presence as I crouch in the grapes. Climbing down the steep embankment I try not alert security to my intrusion, but no guards are patrolling the grounds. Staying close to the ground I dash across a small section of the driveway into a thicket of trees overlooking the estate.

From my vantage point I spot a small fountain gurgling at the center of the primary drive. Lights hiding out in the flower beds illuminate the mansion’s beige stucco façade. I’m in awe of the magnificence of the enormous structure before me, but my attention quickly turns to the only source of light coming from the building. Out of all the windows on the two-story structure, only five are lit.

Daisuke’s killer is inside, I can feel her sinister presence all the way out here. I need to catch her off guard, but I know I can’t do it going in through the front doors. Looking about I spot an odd balcony by the garage. Appearing to be between the two floors this metal terrace is low enough for me to reach it. Creeping along the side of the garage I make my way across the sea of concrete to the bushes below my mark.

Scaling the balcony is simple for someone a hair over six feet tall. I stumble into a grandiose marble room which is this woman’s bathroom. Gazing about the oversized room I’m in shock at how much space a woman needs for her daily primping. A garden jacuzzi tub large enough for three people, a steam shower the size of my walk-in closet, large vanity with two sinks, and a crystal chandelier. From this space alone I can tell this woman is high maintenance, so what Daisuke saw in her remains a mystery to me.

Shaking my head in disgust I look around for a door, or any other way out. I don’t search long as immediately to my left sits a staircase leading up. I quickly scale the six steps into her bedroom tastefully decorated with Japanese antiquities. Admiring her tastes, I think could have grown to like her if it wasn’t for the whole killing my best friend part.

I wonder where to go when a faint, sweet, sensual scent of night blooming jasmine wafts past my nose. Such a delicate, seductive smell of a wicked woman. Now I’m starting to understand how Daisuke got bewitched by this creature. But if I follow her scent, it would guide me right to her. Taking my chance, I push the door open into the long, dark hallway.

Satisfied I’m alone, I step out into the intersection of halls and sniff the surrounding air. At first, it’s difficult to pinpoint where the scent is wafting from, but eventually, I’m able to detect its location. Taking the hall straight before me I walk as quietly as I can to maintain my element of surprise. I pause before a landing with a double staircase leading down to a marbled hall below. Two arms wind down, wrapping themselves around a statue of a black dragon. To the right of the stairs, a fading light spills across the white marble, bathing it in a warm golden glow.

From below my vantage point, the scent of jasmine is overwhelming, making my head spin. Not daring to take the steps I slide down the banister, quickly hoping down between the stairs before she noticed. Holding my breath, I wait for her to come, but she doesn’t move from the room she’s hiding in. Tired of waiting I press myself close to the wall and make my way to the light.

I find myself in a darkened room made from ebony and decorated with the same Japanese antiquity covering the bedroom. Tall shelves filled with books line three of the four walls. Directly in front of the windows, facing away from me, in a plush velvet chair sits Misako. Her long, silky smooth, black hair flows down behind her. She has her face transfixed in a book, as her body emits a deep purple glow. Before I regain my composure, she slams the book shut and stands up to face me.

“Good evening Mr. Messer, I was expecting you.”

Surprised by her remark I back up against the wall as she approaches me. Her porcelain skin’s accentuated by her onyx hair. Chocolate eyes glisten in the dim light as a smile forms on her bright red lips. She looks like the Japanese girls in old paintings Daisuke had around his place. Now I have no doubts why Daisuke fell for her. A flowery, powder blue kimono swishes behind her as she stops right before me. Running her long, blood-red nail under my chin she bites down on her lip.

“I believe you broke into my house for a reason puppy.” She smirks as her fingers trail down my chest “Or am I wrong?”

Her alluring voice is sensuous and seductive. The way she speaks and conducts herself makes the blood drain from my head. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say I’m beginning to feel attracted to her myself. But she killed my best friend, I can’t in good conscience fall for such a vile creature. Sensing my discomfort, she presses her slender body against mine.

“What’s the matter puppy?” Whispering sweetly in my ear, Misako runs her long fingers through my hair. “Cat got your tongue?”

“Stop calling me puppy.” I push her away briskly, causing her to stumble back.

“My, my. You sure got a temper to you… pup. Don’t worry, I know exactly what you are, I’ve known even before you did.”

“Oh yeah? So, what am I? Enlighten me.”

“You’re saying you don’t know?” She chuckles at my confusion. “Why, you’re a werewolf, my dear boy. A cursed creature just like me.” A wicked smirk plays on her lips as she studies me closer. “Except you know, I’m a demon, so that sort of makes us mortal enemies.”

“You killed my best friend you filth witch,” I glare at her in disgust, all feelings of lust finally liberating my mind, “didn’t you?”

“First off, I’m not a witch, I’m a demon. We are completely different entities. Second, yes, I killed Daisuke, and that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”

“Why? What did he ever do to you to warrant such a fate?” I step closer to her, pinning her against the wall with my body. “He was the nicest person anyone could meet. He wouldn’t even hurt a fly?”

“Because he betrayed me.”

“What are you going on about? Daisuke would never do such a thing… to anyone, let alone someone he cared about.”

“Yes, maybe not the man you know, but he was someone else many years ago before he was Daisuke. Back when I was still a mortal woman, I knew him as Reiichi, my philandering husband. For years I had overlooked his… indigestions. Well, until he had the nerve to leave me for some geisha girl. The pain and shame he inflicted upon me, coupled with the jealousy and betrayal turned me into the monster you see before you today.

“Centuries ago, I did the only thing a woman in my position could do, I took my revenge upon him and his harlot of a new wife. But that did not lift my curse, I was doomed to spend the rest of eternity as a demon. Unlike you dear, I cannot die by natural means. I was forced to flee my village before my secret was exposed. Forced to live in the shadows while I adapted to immortal life.

 “At first, the hatred flowed through me freely. I sought revenge on all men. But with each one I killed, I’ve lost a little more of my humanity, getting closer to a full demon with every drop of blood I shed. Realizing it was no way to live, I abandoned my hatred. Joining a temple, I reinvented myself. I’ve done so well for years. I’ve made something out of my life again while trying to redeem myself… until your friend came along.

“I would have recognized his face anywhere, at any point in time. He was still my Reiichi. That bastard got himself reincarnated and was now living a life as some famous billionaire while I had spent centuries just trying to scrape by. I could not take seeing his face again. It brought back so many painful memories. That’s why I did the only rational thing I could think of, I got close to him, I made him fall in love with me, and I killed him.”

“You heartless bitch.” I wrap my hand around her throat, hoisting her off the floor. Slamming her head on the bookshelf with a loud thud, rage surges through my veins. I’m aroused once more, but this time only my hand transforms. I dig my claws into her neck, and a crimson stream trickles down her pale skin. “He didn’t have to die! He was not the same man you knew. He was different.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” Her voices cracks as a crystal tear falls down her delicate cheekbone. “Truth is, I was falling in love with the man he had become, but I couldn’t allow myself to get hurt again. I was afraid this time he might destroy me. So, if you wish to kill me Mr. Messer, I understand. After all these years I welcome it.”

Our gaze meets. Her dark eyes sparkle under the light of the pendant chandelier, filled with remorse. As much as I want to kill this woman to get my revenge, I can’t, I know Daisuke wouldn’t want me to. The rage building inside me flows into my free hand as I tighten my fist, slamming it against the wall above her head. Releasing my grip from her neck I collapse on my knees with a howl. Burying my face in my hands I sob uncontrollably.

“I have to hand it to you, Mr. Messer,” a deep male voice comes from the doorway “I did not peg you for the forgiving type.”

Lifting my head up, I investigate the once empty doorway. Two men stand inside it, overlooking the scene. A refined gentleman with long, white hair stands next to an Italian man with a buzz cut. The olive-skinned fellow is staring right at me with his piercing gaze. Both men exchange looks before the man in a gray suit comes closer to me, extending his hand down.

“Don’t mind Duke. Years of police work left him a tad bitter. If it’s any consolation, I always knew you would not kill her.”

I take the man’s hand, and he helps me get back up on my feet. Shooting a glance back at the Italian, all I can think of is the German Shepherd from the other day. The dog’s name was Duke too if I recalled correctly. But that’s preposterous, they can’t be one and the same. Yet this man bares a strange resemblance to the beast. They had the same dark eyes which could probe deep inside your mind.

“Something wrong boy?”

“Sorry. There was just a police dog the other day. He had the same name as you.”

“Yes. Well. You see that would be because I am that dog. If I recall, I tried questioning you that day, but you would not respond.”

“Impossible.”

“Can you believe this Colton?” Duke chuckles as he looks at his partner. “This boy transformed into a werewolf, confronted a demon, and yet he has a hard time believing my natural form is a dog.”

“It’s been a rough few days for him my friend. And he knows very little of our world.”

“Our world?”

“Yes, my lad. You are part of our world now, and if you come with me, I will introduce you to it. Not to mention there is an assignment I can use you for.”

“Personally, I still say the kid is too green for such an important job, but…” Duke picks the woman up off the floor and cuffs her. “I’ll be far too busy dealing with this lady to be of any help.”

“Mmm.” Colton nods his head. “And I cannot get involved due to my position within the Order. So, what do you say Kyle, will you help us?”

“Depends. What’s the job?”

“I need your help escorting a wolf across Colorado. She is a remarkable creature with a rare pedigree. She’s the only one left capable of crossing the boundary to stop the Worm, and now we require her services. Nothing major, just the fate of the world sort of thing.”

“You want me to pet sit for you?”

“Not just you. You’ll have company. And I wouldn’t call her a pet, she can shape-shift much like you. I assure you, she will spend most of her time as a human girl.”

“I think you should take the job, Mr. Messer.” Misako speaks up as Duke leads her away. “I have a feeling this doggie will change your life.”

I glance over at her as she gives me a gentle smile before I look back over at Colten. He’s peering at me intently as if waiting for my answer. For a while, I have no clue what to say. I’m not much for road trips, or company, but maybe a change of scenery is what I need to get my mind off Daisuke. Also, I have not taken a vacation in over six years, and it’s not like I couldn’t run my company from the road. Wanting answers about myself and the world I now find myself in I can’t refuse his offer.

“Fine. I’ll do it.”

“Excellent. Follow me, I have a car waiting for us up front.”

He leads me through the French doors to a limo waiting outside. I’m amazed I didn’t see or hear it pull up, or the Crown Vic behind it. I guess it’s best I got discovered by these two and not a police officer summoned by the security company. Climbing into the back seat of the limo, I promise myself to be more careful in the future. Jumping in next to me Colton shuts the door behind him, instead opening a window to glance out at Duke.

“Give my regards to detective Keeton, will you? Been a while since we all worked together.”

“Yes, been a good eighty years.” He looks fondly at his friend. “Will do, but we all need to get together for coffee sometimes.”

“Indeed. Perhaps when all this is finally over.”

The two men nod at one another smiling. Once Duke leaves, Colton closed the window, effectively shutting me off from the outside world. We sit there in silence as I dare not question where we are going from here on out. Not that I want to know. Colton taps gently on the darkened glass which separates us from the driver. With that, the limo sets off into the darkness, carrying me further down the road to my next adventure.