Word Count: 1,063
part one of two
He did not go very far, and he had very little reason to keep him as close to her as he was, but there was a nagging feeling in his guts about the woman. He just wanted to be sure she made it home, he thought to himself; sometimes the demons caught the scent of blood and, like sharks, they would find her. What was the purpose of saving her life if she only lost it later the same night, right?
Judah was a confident man; he knew his abilities, knew his limitations – few as there were – and he accepted the things he could not change, more often than not. But this woman made him feel rusty, as if his human body were too snug a fit, or perhaps, a bit awkward. It had been some number of years since he’d had a body of his own, he rationalized, factoring the information into his estimation of what he should feel, but something still felt... off , somehow.
He trailed her all the way to her apartment in the upper city; walking on the rooftops, a silent, unnoticed guardian. He was reminded of a verse, and was struck with awe momentarily at its relevance. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, Matthew 13:49.
Settled atop her apartment building, perched on the edge of the roof as some great, shadowed bird of prey, he enjoyed the feel of the cold wind on his face. He listened carefully to the sounds inside the building, following every step she took in his minds eye, mapping the layout of each floor based on the vibrations her steps caused; echolocation was a trick he’d learned very early on in training, and though it wasn’t part of any other course or advisement, it was a talent he’d mastered and practiced regularly.
Even with his attention zeroed in on every motion she made, his mind still wandered. Surely he had been sent to win the war, not to protect individual humans, he thought; his Lord would not waste such training, such ability and devotion, on as trivial a mission as that?
When he heard the resounding click of her deadbolt locking into place, he rose from his crouch and turned to leave. It was in that instant he realized he’d let down his guard, he’d lost himself in his thoughts and it might cost him his life.
“I see yuh’ve got y’er eye on ‘er,” said a voice from beyond his peripheral vision. “I w’nder why ‘at is.”
Judah sighed into the cool air, his breath a small cloud that caught on the wind and drifted away. He was already emotionally taxed, and his new task was nowhere near begun. They had information on him, then, and they would not allow him to live it down. He had two options: dismiss the girl and let them kill her in an attempt to lure him into a trap, or kill them all, grab her, and guard her for the rest of her life.
He couldn’t possibly win the war if he had to babysit a human, and a reckless one, at that. Let them have her, he thought. She’d be nothing but dead weight and trouble. The needs of the many should outweigh the needs of one. No matter how vehemently he thought the words, they had no impact on the motions of his hands. There were some things he couldn’t change, he reminded himself as he drew his sword. The rest of his weapons were still in the duffle bags, sat at the ground at his feet, but it wasn’t worth the risk to pull them out. He was more than proficient at swordplay.
At first, the effort he had to exert was minimal – even negligible, if he was being honest – but his luck could not hold out. There were too many of them; he could feel them all – stunted heartbeats in the darkness of his out-of-body awareness. After the first three, he no longer wondered if his life was at risk – it wasn’t, not by a long shot. He was, however, rancid with impatience. There was nothing at all more frustrating than a fight he’d won long before it was over. There was but one challenge left in the fray: to kill the messenger before he got away. Once the demons realized he was winning, they would send a messenger with the story of their discovery and loss to other demons, and he couldn’t have that.
Judah moved with a deftness that extended beyond the boundaries of physics and gravity; his body shifting through the air like liquid one moment, then expanding suddenly, rising from seemingly nowhere like mist, and lashing out with a pristine violence that echoed in every shink of his blade cutting through bone. Blood and tissue and globules of flesh and bone marrow rained down on him like a hellstorm, hot and slick against his arms and face, staining his jacket and the shirt beneath. The floor of the roof was a river of innards and a thick mess of sanguine fluid.
The first time he felt a blow was when he was surrounded by nine demons, snarling and snapping at the air like starving velociraptors, their eyes wild, a tenth shoved his way into the fight, narrowly dodging the edge of Judah’s sword – just enough to get close, just enough to take an upward jab into his ribcage with a small dagger. Judah felt it puncture lung, but he did not pause. He brought his sword up in an arc and sliced the demon in half.
It seemed that no matter how many he took down, more appeared. He had never seen such an organized attack before – even demons were often mistrustful of each other, so to see this many acting as one unit was unprecedented, to say the least. Yet still, he continued to fight well on into the delirium of battle; plunging his sword into demon heart and demon throat and demon stomach until he thought he would do nothing ever again except that. The same motions, the same sound, the same empty echo in his cavernous mind as his hand pulled the weapon back and then pushed it forward, again, until it sank into another body.