The demon saint
By C.S. Gilmore
Horseheads, New York State. USA. May 11th 2035
Jack Greyson sat in the darkest booth, hidden away in the back corner of the most run down bar and grill he had ever seen. It was the sort of place he wouldn’t have gone within a hundred yards of just the other year, before the incident changed everything. Now he found himself drawn to places like this, places where the light was low and he could hopefully get through a meal without someone taking notice of him. The brewing thunder storm outside had helped with his decision to grab an early dinner as well.
Even with the low lighting, he wore a heavy duster, sunglasses, steel toad work boots, and a leather ranch worker hat with a wide brim, all of it from out west, where he used to live. All of it worn to hide his features, in addition to other practicalities.
Thankfully this place got its fair share of freaks, drunks, and druggies, so the staff didn’t give him more than enough attention to determine that he wasn’t one of their regulars before taking his order and his money. His order had raised some suspicion in the waitress, two nearly raw one pound steaks and a pitcher of water. He hoped she didn’t suspect what he was, things hadn’t been as bad for the east till recently, so she might just mistake him for a meth head due to 5 foot 8, 130 pounds soaking wet build.
He hadn’t always had such an appetite, or had to worry about what people thought of him, but that was all before the incident. The incident had changed him, it had changed the world, and not for the better, it had taken everything from him, and it had shattered what he thought he had known. Sitting in his booth waiting for his food, Jack’s mind was drawn back to that time, his life before everything went completely wrong. It had been storming that day as well, he hoped there wasn’t a relation.
Escalante, Utah. USA. July 26th 2034
The rain had been coming down hard for over an hour now, and Jack knew there would be flooding. The land here just couldn’t take water like some places in the world, too much rock and sand.
Jack stood at the window of his lone farmhouse on the outskirts of town, looking out over the fields of crops that were in danger of ruin from the rain. Something didn’t feel right about this storm, though maybe it was simply a carryover feel from the group of bikers that had passed through town earlier. Jack had been in the store at the time when one of the bikers had stopped in to make some interesting purchases, a roll of duct tape and some bailing twine, in addition to some newspapers, and enough wood to make a decent bon fire. Innocent enough maybe, but the man had a feel about him that made Jack’s hair stand on end.
The group had gone off in the direction of the devil’s rock garden, or maybe the slot canyons, if the later, they were probably dead, as torrents of water poured through the narrow crevices of rock during storms like this, if the rock garden though, they might be alright, but Jack didn’t like that they hadn’t come back through once the rain started, it wasn’t like there was much of anywhere to go past Escalante except for maybe Boulder and a lot of nothing.
To make matters worse, his 16 year old daughter hadn’t come back from school yet, she hadn’t called or answered her phone either, and it was getting late. He’d be calling the authorities and going out after her soon if she didn’t turn up. He could probably ask around town and find something, he wasn’t an active member of the Latter-day Saint community, but he had lived in the town most of his life, and ties were tight amongst the locals.
“Any sign of Sariah?” His wife Amanda asked from the kitchen.
“Nothing yet, I think I’ll ask Bill if he’s seen her hanging out with his boy again, or if she’s over at Gertrude’s.” Jack replied.
“If you do, be careful on the roads, they must be all mud by now. She probably just stopped by at a friends to get out of the rain and forgot to charge her phone.” Amanda said with an edge in her voice that said she was still worried despite her words.
“Might be.” Jack replied, trying to hide his own uneasiness. Sariah’s phone had rang when he called it last, and if it had been dead it would have gone straight to voicemail. Either she wasn’t answering, or wasn’t able to, and it was that last possibility that had him worried. Sariah hadn’t been known to be late coming home before without giving some warning.
A fresh shot of lightning was followed by the power going out, and when Jack tried the landline it was dead, likely cut with the power. His cell phone wasn’t getting a signal with the storm outside either, he’d have to go out in person to search for Sariah.
He gave it another five minutes before heading out. The storm was still in full force and he was soaked from head to foot by the time he reached his truck. He would stop by Bill’s first, not only was Bill’s place closer than Gertrude’s, but Bill was also more likely to know something, he was just one of those guys who always seemed to be in the loop. Bill also wasn’t as likely to bother him about not being in church lately.
Bill lived in an old cabin a few fields closer to town, he and his wife Mary were somewhere in their mid-forties or early fifties, and had been living in Escalante just about the entire time. Their son Samuel was around Sariah’s age and the two of them had been friends growing up.
Bill was sitting on the front porch when Jack pulled up and stumbled out of his truck against the wind.
“Ho Jack! What brings you by in this weather?” Bill asked, shouting to be heard over the storm.
“What! Can we talk inside?” Jack replied, with a gesture towards the door as a particularly loud roll of thunder shook the air.
Bill probably hadn’t heard him, but understood the gesture, because he nodded and led the way in out of the wind and into the dark house, where the living room was lit by a few scattered candles.
“So what brings you here in this weather?” Bill asked once they could hear again, pointing Jack to a chair.
Jack wasn’t planning on a long visit, and he didn’t want Mary after him for dripping water all over the house, so he stayed standing in the hall as he spoke, “I was wondering if you might have seen Sariah around today? She’s late from school and isn’t answering her cell.” Jack said.
“Hmmm… now, that is strange, particularly since my Sam hasn’t shown up either, and they aren’t over at Gertrude’s. Don’t figure they’d be misbehaving though, wouldn’t be like them and I’d have caught a whiff of something building.” Bill said, heading off where Jack’s thoughts were steering.
“You don’t suppose they went out to Boulder to visit Daniel do you?”
“Might have, this storms bad enough to keep them from coming back over the ridge, but Sam would have told me before going. I called the county sheriff to be on the lookout for them, but I doubt we’ll hear anything while this storm lasts, haven’t seen the likes of it in I don’t know how long.”
“It wasn’t on the forecast, I know that much.”
“Strange weather indeed, now you going to take a seat or just stand there while we talk about the weather and missing kids?”
“I’ll be going, I was just stopping by hoping Sariah was here. I’d better get going if I want to check the store for them before the roads become completely impossible.”
“Alright, you be careful though, call me once the power comes back on.”
“Will do.” Jack said before heading back out into the rain.
He’d just gotten into his truck and reached for his keys to start the engine when the incident happened. First there had been a rumble, like a tractor driving past, then a full blown earthquake hit, along with a wave of pressure that cut through the air and made his head feel like it was going to explode.
He’d woken up to the darkness of night, a killer ache in his neck from having slumped over the steering wheel, and an even worse ache behind his eyes, as though he’d just gone through a bender with a jug of vodka, minus the ice. The storm was gone, and Jack stumbled from his truck before puking in Bill’s yard. Eventually his stomach ran out of lunch to spit up and he shambled toward Bill’s place to wash up.
The front door had fallen off its hinges, and Jack was starting to worry as his mind started to piece together the events leading to his passing out.
“Bill, you in here? Bill! Mary!” Jack called as he entered the pitch black house, his voice scratchy and strange sounding to his ears for some reason.
No candles were burning for light anymore as Jack stepped into the dark. Despite the lack of light, Jack found he could still see well enough to get around though, which was how he’d found Bill, still sitting in his chair the same way he had been when Jack had left.
“Bill, why didn’t you answer me, did you go and fall asleep after the quake?” Jack said, a hole forming in his gut as he realized he didn’t hear anything aside from his own breathing and movement. Heart racing, Jack found a box of matches in a nearby drawer and got a candle lit.
Bill was dead, a grimace of pain frozen on his weathered face, and a trail of drying blood running down his head from his nose and ears. A quick search of the house found Bill’s wife Mary similarly deceased in bed.
Jack tried the phone to call 911, but the line was dead, and his cell’s battery had died at some point.
Fearing the worst, Jack ran to his truck and sped towards home, nearly hydroplaning on the water soaked road, Amanda would be worried sick about him being gone so long, assuming she was alright. No he wouldn’t let himself think like that, she had to be alright.
“No, no, no, please no.” Jack mumbled to himself as he pulled into the driveway. No lights were burning in any of the windows.
“Amanda! Amanda where are you!” Jack called as he stepped into the house and froze in his tracks. The back of the house was gone, fallen to ruin as though stepped on by some giant. Throwing caution to the wind, Jack made a frenzied search of the rubble, hurling a cracked support beam aside in his haste. If he had been thinking clearly he might have thought it strange how easy the beam had been for him to lift, at the time though he’d only been able to pray that Amanda wasn’t in the rubble. It wasn’t until several minutes later, sweating and huffing for breath that he saw the limp form lying in the back yard near the chicken coop.
Jacks heart turned to ice as he stumbled toward his wife’s body, his mind unable to grasp that someone so close to him had been torn from his life. As much as he wanted to deny it, he could not erase the sight of her lifeless body from his mind. Numbly, he fell to his knees and cradled her head in his lap, hot tears streaming down his face, expressing emotions he could find no words for, as he cried to God to give back what was taken.
A loud shuffling sound from the chicken coop cut into his mourning, nearly giving him a heart attack. He hadn’t expected the chickens to have survived where no one else had. Then he began to wonder, as he noted that the coops damaged structure, a tree branch had crushed one corner, knocking the legs out on one side and destroying the wall farthest from him. A portion of the coop was still intact though, enough so that some of the chickens might still be trapped inside.
Wiping the tears from his face, Jack gently set his wife’s head back on the ground. He’d find a tarp or blanket to cover her with and then check on the chickens, after that he didn’t know what he would do. He should probably move Amanda into the shed where nothing would disturb her body, then he had to find Sariah and call emergency services. Maybe someone would be able to tell him what had just happened.
The noises from the coop became more lively and insistent as he opened the shed and began digging around for a tarp. He’d just found a mag light and turned it on to help him see when a crash came from the coop.
Jack turned around, expecting to find that the coops remaining legs had given out and further tormented the surviving chickens. Instead he stared in momentary confusion at the scene before him. One of the coops remaining walls had been destroyed, the mag light revealing scattered feathers and blood plastered over every inch of the coop’s interior. Not a single chicken was in sight though, not even a single body to account for the carnage. Then he saw the thing picking at Amanda’s body.
“Hey get away from her!” He shouted before his mind caught up with his mouth enough to question if making his presence known was such a good idea. The mag-light’s beam came to rest on the thing he had shouted at, and Jack’s mind scrambled to try to understand what he was seeing. It was like a bulbous mass of multi-colored feathers, about the size of a Burmese mountain dog. Brown feathers mixed with white, and black in a constantly shifting dance, across the creatures form, stained a reddish brown by drying blood. Multiple appendages seemed to sprout from the thing at random angles, with a collective mass of the limbs functioning as legs at its base to support the creatures mass.
Then it turned away from picking at Amanda’s corpse and looked at him. Jack didn’t know how well it could see him with the mag light shining in its eyes, but he almost wished that he couldn’t see it.
A blob of flesh served as the things head, filled with a dozen eyes and a gaping hole of a mouth lined with teeth that looked strangely like chicken beaks.
A screech of utter hatred wrenched its way out of the creatures’ throat, and wings with too many joints spread out from its body like gnarled arms, useless for flying, but intimidating nonetheless. Then the monster charged, moving with a speed that was as impossible as the creature itself. Jack hardly had time to stumble back and slam the shed door shut before the structure rocked from impact. A second strike knocked the door clean off, sending Jack sprawling onto his back in the center of the shed as the mag light crashed into a corner and went out.
The monster made a grab for Jack’s feet and received a kick to the face for the trouble as Jack backpedalled till he hit the far wall.
The creature seemed hardly bothered by the kick, even though Jack’s foot had collided squarely with at least two of the things eyes. Shaking its head, the monster gave Jack a look that somehow conveyed annoyance before continuing the assault. Jack caught it with both feet this time, toppling it onto its side and buying him enough time to get to his feet.
Rather than rolling back over to right itself, the monsters legs seemed to withdraw into its body, distorting it in a nauseating fashion as they moved to re-emerge beneath the beast.
Desperate for a weapon, Jack grabbed the nearest thing at hand, a green metal fence post left over from one of Amanda’s yard projects. He had no idea if it would do him any good against whatever abomination the monster was, but its weight in his hands was still reassuring. The problem he faced now was that the shed didn’t have enough space left open along the walls in order for him to properly use the post while getting past the monster to the door.
The chicken beast lunged then, and Jack was nearly knocked off his feet as its weight connected with the tip of the post, held out in front of him like a spear to fend of wild boar. The post dug a bloody gash in the monsters side, which seemed to get the things attention, but it didn’t give any ground, pacing back and forth as it looked for an opening in his defense.
Jack knew it was only a matter of time before it would get him if he stayed there. He didn’t know what it was, but it certainly wasn’t natural, and he suspected he would succumb to exhaustion long before it would. That left him with only one option that he could see.
With an angry shout of his own, Jack charged, using the post like a lance. The monster was fast, but too large to dodge in the enclosed space. The post bit into the things flesh, just below the head, sinking a quarter of the posts length into the beast before coming to a jarring halt that nearly tore it from Jack’s hands. The monster staggered and slid towards the opening, tripping over the edge of the fallen door. Seizing the opportunity, Jack renewed his efforts, his muscles straining as he pushed the thing across the ground. There was a cracking sound, followed by the sound of metal grating against bone, setting Jack’s teeth on edge, but he kept pushing.
The creature screamed as the pole dug deeper into it, red ichor trickling sluggishly from the wound. Then with a final push the pole broke through the other side of the beast and bit into the ground, pinning the monster in place, limbs scrambling about as it attempted to free itself. Then it went limp, as though all the strength had gone out of it at once.
Jack held onto his end of the post with a white knuckled grip, not daring to let go on the chance that the monster was faking. A minute passed, then another. Satisfied that the creature was dead, Jack let go of the pole and collapsed to the ground.
“What in the world is going on? Have I gone crazy?” Jack questioned out loud as he tried to calm his racing heart and stop the shaking that had taken hold of his hands.
“Unfortunately you are not going crazy, the world is.” Said a clear male voice, sending a fresh wave of shock through Jack’s mind as he jumped to his feet and spun around in search of the speaker.
No one was in sight though, and the only thing he noticed was that the chicken monster had moved, a slow creeping movement that concluded with it rolling clear of the post that had skewered it. Jack watched with fresh horror as the post parted with the last of the monsters flesh as though passing through gelatin. The monsters limbs soon reassembled beneath it as Jack stood frozen, knowing he should do something but not knowing what, torn between flight, and attempting to fight a seemingly unkillable foe.
“You have to burn it. I’ll handle this one for you, but you will be on your own in the future.” The unseen speaker said.
The creature screeched out its anger as it turned to face Jack once more, and then it was gone, engulfed in a torrent of flame that poured down from the sky, dazzling the eyes and sucking away the air with an intense heat.
“The standard flame you are likely to create with a dousing of gasoline and a match will be sufficient to end regeneration in the future, I simply do not care for these tortured beasts.” The voice said, and then a man stood next to Jack, appearing without warning. Jack fell to the ground again, his eyes dazzled further by the radiant light pouring off of the new arrival.
With the flash of a smile the man reached down a hand to help Jack back up, lifting him with no apparent effort despite Jacks legs refusing to cooperate.
“There now, I’d care to have you standing during our conversation. Father felt it best to hit you with the shock now and get it out of your system for later when you won’t have time for such things.” The shining man said, “As you may have guessed, I am a messenger sent from the Father to deliver instruction to you at this critical time in your mortal probation. A cult has summoned the first beast, as foretold in the revelation of John. Now the vail between worlds has been rent, and the legions of hell given power to effect the world in larger measure for a time.”
“Was that the first beast?” Jack asked stupefied, with a brief wave towards the now vacant spot where the chicken monster once stood.
“No, unfortunately not. That was more a byproduct of the corruption the beast brought with it, much as the death of most of those present in the surrounding area and your own tainted state.” The angel replied.
“Tai…tainted? What do you mean?”
“Yes, you haven’t gotten a good look at yourself now have you, here.”
With that the angel waved a hand, and Jack watched in amazement as a puddle of water rose into the air, coalescing into mirror like surface in the air.
Drawn to the mirror, Jack looked as his reflection became clear, causing him to stumble back in surprise as he realized what he was seeing. He was seeing himself, but he didn’t recognize his own face. Most notably his skin was a dull brown tinged green, but other less dominant changes could be seen. His veins were more prominent, and his eyes, his eyes were wrong, the pupils warped from their normal shape into something more oval, like a goats eyes.
“You’ll find your senses to be more acute as well as increased strength. You don’t float in water as well as you used to, though you can still swim with effort. You’re also far more durable than you used to be, though you may also find yourself drawn to evil and destructive influences more strongly, the change was wrought by evil after all.” The angel said.
“Can you fix me, change me back?” Jack asked.
“I am not allowed, you will need the strengths from the change to fulfill the role you volunteered for in the life prior to your mortal state.”
“Why me, why not someone else? What is this role you’re talking about anyway, let me guess, I’m supposed to kill this first beast of the apocalypse aren’t I!” Jack said, his voice rising to a shout by the end. He didn’t know if it was a good idea to yell at an angel, but at the moment he didn’t really care.
“The beast is someone else’s problem, your role is to deal with the lesser evils spawned as a result of it coming here. You have your free will however, you may walk away, you may even choose to join them, though doing so will have serious eternal consequences as you might expect.”
“I can walk away from this? And what, you’ll change me back? Return my wife to life? Help me find my daughter!”
A pained expression came to the angels face before he replied, “I cannot. The taint will be with you the rest of your mortal duration. As for your wife and daughter, they have been gathered home to the Father, they will be spared the evils of this time, in accordance with your request in the pre-mortal existence.”
“Gathered…Gathered home. Than Sariah is dead too?” The anger drained from Jack as quickly as it had come. A gaping hole of pain and loss taking its place. He’d lost everything, everything he had ever cared about had been taken from him in less than a day. He had nothing left.
“You will see them again when you die.” The angel said, “But know that if you take your own life, rather than fight the evils you will face, others will suffer loss as great as your own at the hands of the forces of evil.”
“Aren’t there others who can fight?” Jack asked, his voice almost pleading now.
“Some. Few as capable as you will be though. Many will suffer without you in the battle. Others were tainted as you have been, but many of them have already fallen to the temptations laid before them. You yourself will be tempted constantly as a result of the taint, at present your shock, and my presence have shielded you, but shortly you will feel the pull towards evil. Your bodies change is in part the result of an extreme case of attempted possession, the difference is that you did not die first, and still remain the dominant owner of your body, though you are no longer alone in your mind.”
“Can’t you do something about that at least?”
“No, it is complicated, but it is a part of your condition. I cannot remove the taint, therefore I cannot remove it.”
“You’re a real bastard you know that.”
“I don’t like it any more than you do, I assure you. The strength of the evil spirits influence will wax and wane to an extent, depending on whether or not you feed into it, or fight it. If you give in, it will destroy you, body and soul if possible.”
“And if I do take up this role you have planned for me, what then? What am I supposed to do?”
“First you may bury your wife’s body should you like, than you should go into town and take what you need. Food, water, weapons and ammo. None are left here to lay claim to it and the authorities will have too much on their hands to give you trouble over it, or even question you regarding the matter, though you may have to be careful in your dealings with them in the future given your appearance. There’s a house on the other side of town, on a rise overlooking things, I’ve opened the gun safe there for you, it should have enough to get you started. Do not worry about supplies in the long run, should you fight the darkness, your needs will be met. Do what is right, let the consequence follow.”
“And then what, what exactly am I supposed to be doing?”
“Battling the forces of evil, in a more literal sense than is generally called for or considered appropriate. Head Southwest, to Diamond valley, there you will find one of the other tainted. He has already succumbed to the evil spirit’s temptations and will try to kill you. Kill him if you cannot turn him back to the light, it is better that he should perish than that he should destroy countless others. You will be able to find other agents of evil well enough on your own after that, they won’t be hiding all that much. Look for signs of evil, excessive murders and disappearances for starters.”
“I believe that wraps things up for the time being. Hunt evil, call it to repentance or kill it as needed, don’t give into evil yourself, and don’t forget to burn things for good measure, we don’t want another chicken monster experience now do we.”
“So you’ll be leaving? Leaving me to decide what I will do next, and fight the forces of hell on my own?”
“For the most part yes. As I said, your needs will be met as you do what is right. If you choose evil, they won’t be obviously, and I wouldn’t count on my showing up to save your life again. You may not always be on your own, there are others who may work with you from time to time. Not that any of us are ever truly alone either way. O, and one more thing. If it is any condolence, your daughter would like me to tell you that you look sick. I believe she meant it in a good way. Remember what I have said.”
With that the angel vanished, casting the yard back into the darkness of night. Jack sat there, numbed by the sheer level of emotions swirling through his mind. A sob breaking free from his throat, followed by tears from his eyes as everything about his situation and that horrible day settled into place in his head. How long he remained there he didn’t know, but eventually he went and found a shovel. A grave wasn’t going to dig itself, and then he apparently had monsters to hunt.