Chapter I (Part 1)

You know the one problem with being on the side of the good guys? There were rules.

And those rules meant that no matter how tired I was of running after a demon-possessed crack-addict through countless rat-infested, dark alleys in the middle of the night, and no matter how painful the exhausted burn in my legs and chest grew to be, I couldn’t just shoot the man and get it over with. You see, a possessed human, no matter their choice of lifestyle, is assumed innocent automatically upon discovering the demon lurking inside. Meaning if I were to shoot the unfortunate druggie without even trying to exorcise his demon, there would be consequences- nasty ones. And besides, I wasn’t totally immoral, so although I might not approve of solute abuse, I wasn’t going to forsake a human life just because I wasn’t fast enough.

So, despite the voice in my head that screamed in a mixture of anger and desperation to just end the fruitless, never-ending chase, I continued to sprint after the shadowed form of the man and his demonic Rider, my vision starting to darken a little around the edges with lack of oxygen. I wasn’t unfit, quite the opposite actually, but the human physique isn’t designed to sustain a sprint for over a minute or two, let alone five, and my body was letting me know it. Keenly. Despite the early-autumn chill in the night’s air, I felt as if I were standing on a beach in some tropical island- just without the drinks with the little umbrellas-, sweat all but saturating my top and running down my back in rivulets. My boots hit the concrete floor in uneven but repetitive thumps, the damp threatening to trip me at every step as I fought not to give in to the fatigue that seemed to be seeping into my very bones.

Squeezing my eyes shut for a moment as if sightlessness might offer some temporary reprieve, I gritted my teeth and stubbornly increased the relentless pumping of my legs. As if he heard my silent cry of revitalized conviction, the Rider risked a glance behind him as he sprinted, and his eyes widened at the sight of me running, still in hot pursuit, and I couldn’t help the grim smile that rose to my lips.

A human would have collapsed by now- a human wouldn’t have even been able to keep the Rider in their sight for more than ten seconds- ahumanwould have been no match for a druggie-riding-demon. Good job I wasn’t entirely human anymore.

The Rider panicked, just as I hoped, and broke off at a sharp left, smashing through a boarded-up door like a bulldozer and right into a derelict apartment block. As we were in the ‘slums’ of the city, there were plenty around, and without hesitation I followed in his wake, jumping over the splintered wooden remains and into a darkness that was almost complete. The enchanted silver dagger in my hand glowed slightly as I practically flew up the stairs, providing me with enough light to see by so I didn’t break my neck on the stone steps, and my adrenaline spiked along with the realisation that I had him. Entering such a confined area as this building had been a bad idea for the Rider; as despite what he might believe, I’d had no intention of shooting or stabbing him in the back from a distance, and as long as he’d kept running, he might have out-endured me. After all, unlike me, he didn’t have to worry about running his body into the ground- he could always just go get another one.

I was half way up the stairs, the Rider out of sight, when I finally heard the crash that meant he had fled into one of the rooms. I slowed slightly, my sprint turning into more of a jog, very aware of the sudden silence. He was no doubt planning on either ambushing me or trying to climb out the window. My guess was with the latter.

By his actions so far I knew that he was a demon on the very bottom of the food chain, meaning he could only possess extremely weak-willed humans. This meant that he was unable to flee his current body and turn incorporeal, as The Veil (the barrier which separated the Netherworld and the earthen plane) would pull the demon out of this plane and back into its own long before it managed to find another suitably defenceless host. The Veil liked trespassing demons almost as much as I did- too bad it couldn’t expel those that had already found a human body to anchor it.

By the time the crushed door came into sight, I had slowed to a walk, my dagger, which was easily as long as my forearm, clasped and pointed ready in my right hand, while my left hovered near the crossbow at my back. I still hadn’t mastered the clumsy weapon, but it was better than nothing.

Splinters of wood shifted under my heavy boots as I moved slowly forwards, each miniscule creak of the floorboards beneath me making me wince. My breath still came in shallow gasps no matter how hard I tried to silence it, and my hands trembled with a mixture of exhaustion and adrenaline. All I wanted to do was collapse in a heap right then and there, but the knowledge that a monster lurked in the shadows of the room before me ensured I rejected the longing. When I reached what was left of the doorframe, I flattened my back against the wall beside it and slowly, ever-so-slowly, peered past the edge and into the room.

The End

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