"What do you want with us?"
The demon paced around the outside of the circle of swirling sand, leaving slow, frightful footprints at the perimeter. "I desire Form," it replied in its multitudinous whisper. "You can give it to me."
"How?" asked Seoc. "Do you mean ta possess one of us?"
"No. I have tried such methods before, young mortal, and have found it not to my liking. No, it is your souls, not your bodies, that shall serve me. A soul is the purest, most potent source of energy, and it requires a great deal of energy to create a Form."
"Why do you want us in particular?" Seoc inquired, his manner still calm.
"I don't particularly care about you," Jhra informed him. "But it is convenient to have the merman out of my way."
"The proper term," Seymour growled, "is Aechyed."
The demon laughed sinisterly. "Do you think I care?"
"No," Seymour muttered. "But I do. It eliminates the question of whether or not I have a tail."
"Sey," Seoc hissed, shooting him a glare that read very clearly, 'Shut up.'
Jhra stopped pacing. Where it had halted, a tendril of sand parted from the swirling perimeter of the circle and wrapped itself around Seymour's neck. The Aechyed detective struggled, but it was no use.
"I have gathered ninety-nine souls over the past year," the demon whispered. "All I need is yours, Seymour de Winter. Then I shall be whole."
Seoc glanced at the stairs to nowhere. They must serve some purpose. Perhaps they led back to the dunes, or at the very least, the world of the living. It would make sense: Jhra would need some sort of door to leave the Realm of In-Between once it had acquired a physical form. Perhaps those stairs were their only hope of escape.
His musings were interrupted by Seymour's scream of pain. Seoc whirled around and watched in horror as the detective began to dissolve before his eyes. Within a moment, he had been converted entirely to sand and absorbed into a spinning cloud. There was nothing that could be done about it. Seoc leaped for the stairs of sand and ran up them, hesitating only a moment at the top to look over his shoulder. Behind him, the whirling mass was taking the shape of what could have only been described as an enormous, grinning gargoyle of dust.
Seoc launched himself forward, trusting his intuition to save him.