chapter LVIIMature

He didn’t stop swinging until half the glossy black eyes scrutinizing him were burst and spilling puss into any that remained.  The sounds the demon emitted were more like screeching than anything else, but they seemed agonized enough.  The demon, which had been standing on its own two feet when it materialized, had been reduced to kneeling at his feet.

With his dominance made clear, Graeme hoped the demon wouldn’t realize the true power he held over it until it was useful to him to reveal it.  Of course, he had no proof – yet – of whether his theory had proven itself or not, but his gut told him it had.

“What do you want?”  The words were distorted as the demon tried to find a way to speak without slicing its tongue on its freshly jagged teeth.

“Information,” Graeme answered.  Some interrogators opted to be the aggressors, and Graeme had tried that before with other demons, but it didn’t get him very far.  He’d decided this time he’d go with brute force, hoping the demon would willingly want to offer him whatever he wanted in the hopes that he would be released.  Pleased that he seemed to be correct, he didn’t say anything else.

“I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”

“I want to know what one of your kin wants with my body.”

The few eyes that remained studied him closely, an intelligence he hadn’t expected lurking behind them like a shadow in the fog.  Silence occupied the room for a long moment as the demon made his decision.  “It’s not just any demon that wants you, boy,” it said, the sneer in his tone audible. 

Graeme was not interested in being toyed with.  Removing the knife Gabriel had given him from his belt, he sliced off a tentacle before anyone else in the room even noticed he’d moved.  The flash of silver and the hiss of angelic steel kissing demon flesh were the only indications that he’d done anything at all – until the murky rust-tinged blood began to spray.  The echoes of an unearthly scream still trembled in the corners of the room when he took off a second.

Whatever Gabriel thought of his tactics he couldn’t tell.  She sat on the bed a few feet behind him, her eyes never leaving the demon.  She was supposed to be a silent observer, only to interrupt if Graeme was about to lose control over the situation and didn’t seem to realize it.  He hoped she was impressed, though he couldn’t imagine she would be.  Her entire life had been fighting demons; he was certain she’d watched other angels butcher them, too.  Hadn’t she?

When the doleful wailing sounds seemed to put an end to the screaming, Graeme slid the knife back into his belt.  His voice was acid, cold and unfamiliar, but strong, as he said, “What was that, [insult]?”

The demon’s voice was softer when it answered. “His is called the Destroyer.”

Ah, compliance, Graeme thought.

What he said was, “And why does he want me?”

The few eyes that were left looked at him with a sort of ethereal longing, as if the demon were wishing he would just release him already.  It hesitated, debating, before saying, “Don’t you know where you come from, boy?”

Graeme sighed.  He hated round-about answers.  He wanted succinct statements, nothing else.  He was tired of being referred to as “boy”.

A third tentacle hit the ground, followed by a fourth, a fifth, and a sixth.  Two remained, one on each side, wiggling around like worm-arms, covered in rusty blood and puss.  The sounds that came from the demon’s mouth were mournful and tormented, but they stirred no sympathy in Graeme.

He said, “Care to re-iterate?”

With a whimper, the demon said, “The black heart in your chest is the only heart strong enough to survive the Destroyer.  Your blood is… unique.”

“And that’s all you have to share?”  Graeme idly toyed with the knife; the demon watched it spin in his fingers, eyeing it suspiciously, as if the knife itself were capable of escaping Graeme’s hand and striking it.

Weakly, it said, “That’s all I know.”

Graeme smiled and it was bloody and gruesome and cruel.  The knife in his hand ceased its spinning.  He held the blade of it in his palm and extended the hilt to the demon, as an offering.  Beady black eyes took in the offering and filled with terror, fully aware it was about to be tricked.  Graeme said, “I want you to take this knife.”

Obliging with a quivering tentacle, it lifted the knife from his hand.

Graeme stepped back, leaving the pentagram.  He said, “Now, I want you to stab yourself in the heart.”

He’d never seen a demon cry before, but the demon in front of him was quaking with fear and making piteous sounds too close to sobbing to be anything else.  Obediently, it lifted the knife and plunged it into its own heart.  In a puff of smoke, it vanished and the knife hit the carpet with a muffled thud.

Behind him, Gabriel said, “I can’t believe it worked.”

Suddenly, he knew he needed to get to the toilet.  Everything came back up and there was no respite in the flavors as they assaulted him all over again, only newly coated in bile and stomach acid.

The End

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