The Life of Death
That was the first thought I had after catching a whiff of Aoki’s scent. She made no effort to conceal it, the stench of a death infiltrating my nose. With grace, Aoki walked out from behind Reggie, a faint smile never leaving her face. She was nothing short of a demon, the malice deeply engraved into her soul. She was no ordinary death. Her strength seeped into her surroundings, trapping me in her clutches. I was caught like a mouse, and she was the cat.
“Hello Milo. Been a while, hasn’t it?” Aoki let out a soft giggle as she crept into my personal space. She acted like she knew me, but nothing about her rang a bell. Not how she looked, not how she smelt, not even the sound of her voice. None of it was familiar.
“Portal Manifestation.” She whispered the hex, her lips pursed uncomfortably close to mine. Clouds of black began to form in her irises, turning so dark I could see the reflection of my feeble expression.
Darkness exploded from her stomach, engulfing everything in it. Her psychotic laugh echoed across the lot, her deranged excitement all jumbled into her blood chilling shrieks.
The darkness expanded, surrounding the school in a dome, casting a black hue over every surface. Ava stood frozen beside me; her mouth hung open in a silent scream. It was the same for everyone. They were all statues, their bodies a tint of gray as they stood unaware of the situation. I was alone with a monster.
Just who is this psycho chick?
She didn’t look any older than me, but I could tell from her power she’d been dead far longer than I. Her smile never wavered, the devilish sneer taunting me like a kid about to torture a colony of ants. I was an insect in her eyes that needed to be exterminated. It left me feeling sick. I was not keen on being looked down upon as a pathetic worm.
“So, you really don’t remember me? By the dumbfounded expression on your face I’d take a guess that you aren’t the same as you used to be. Shame.” Her eyes displayed disappointment as she rose into the air, her god-like power allowing her to float above the school.
“I don’t know you! Stop acting like we’ve met before and tell me why you’re here!” I shouted, the anger welling up in my chest from seeing the few friends I had frozen in time. Wait, where was Reggie?
“I’m here for the girl that reeks of your scent, she has a one way ticket to the Underworld. However, let’s have a little fun first to celebrate our reunion!” Aoki raised her hands as two dark passages formed in front of me, swirling with a mass of negativity.
A figure stepped out of each one, both with the rotten scent of crypts. The first was nothing more than a black skeleton, the bones of its spine enlarged, causing it to be permanently hunched over. Its vertebrae was a jagged mess of bone, sharp enough to pierce through a body. Black smoke evaporated off it as the sockets where its eyes should’ve been fixated on me.
The second was the more terrifying of the two. Black, greasy hair clung to its face, as its lanky figure sauntered forward. The structure of its legs was all off. It looked like a mad scientist had cut the person in half and replaced its lower limbs with that for a moose, its haunches giving it an unnatural stance. Fingers, long as talons, scraped against the grass, its arms boney and long. Its rib cage was protruding, the skin stretched thin over its whole body. Neither of them retained the slightest shred of humanity, the curse of the crypt in full control. Both of them, utterly repulsive creatures.
“Aren’t they beautiful? I call the boney one Grim and the other Wendigo. Impressed?” Aoki shrilled, quickly clapping her hands together in applause.
“Personal opinion I suppose. I wonder how long you’ll last against my little experiments. If you want to live, you’ll have to let out some of that old power everyone used to fear!” She screamed, her creatures taking this as a command to attack.
Wendigo struck first, uprooting the ground as I dove out of the way. Bits of grass and dirt sprayed my face, some even getting in my mouth. It tasted as bad as the crypts smelled, revolting. I had to get away from my friends, avert the battle away from the rest of the students. I ran for the soccer field, hurtling the chain-linked fence to relocate the fight.
Grim’s attack wasn’t far behind. Pieces of its spine shot out, spears of bone flying towards me at an alarming speed. I sidestepped the initial barrage, but clumsily entangled my feet, taking a spear to the shoulder. My black blood seeped out, producing a charcoal smoke. I ripped out the bone to give my body the chance to heal, unencumbered by the projectile.
I was given no chance to rest, Wendigo already rushing towards me, its hooves pounding into the dirt with such force that massive footprints formed in its wake. Running was my only option. Aoki continued her laugh, my situation providing her enough entertainment to last her an afterlife. I couldn’t run forever, my chest growing tight from the exertion. I planted the heels of my feet into the ground, taking a firm stance. Wendigo was at full speed now, the chances of me being able to out muscle it looking less and less likely.
There’s no way I can stop that, I’ll get crushed!
I peeled off to the side, my fear getting the better of me. I was rewarded with a hoof to the abdomen, Wendigo kicking me swiftly as he zoomed by. I crashed into the dirt with a fresh hole carved into my stomach, revealing the darkness beneath my shell. I hadn’t seen it like this before. It raged, angrily swirling into its own hurricane. I reached into the dark storm, black clouds engulfing my hand. It burned, pieces of it breaking off, shattering like a dropped puzzle. I was left with only a black sphere for a hand, the swirling darkness condensing into a solid orb.
On a dime, Wendigo changed directions, barreling towards me once again. I had little time to recover from the last assault, another dodge out of the question. Closer it came, its teeth bared into a satisfied grin as it homed in on its prey. I had no intention of dying here. I was going to reverse this dome and free the school. Wendigo was just the first hurdle.
“Dark passage!” At the last moment I allowed the darkness to engulf me, imagining the battle in my mind. I needed to turn the tables, gain an advantage. I was blind in the passage, but I envisioned my desired destination, the perfect spot to land the kill.
Light burst forth as I exited the dark passage, right above Wendigo’s head. It had no chance to react before my strike.
Wendigo’s skull shattered from the impact of my dark sphere, my arm bursting through the bone, demolishing its entire head. Smoke billowed from its neck, its body frozen from the shock. The rest of it soon crumbled away, dust settling at my feet as the sphere around my hand dissolved, my power spent.
My victory was short-lived. I felt the bone pierce through my chest, the point directly in front of me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Grim behind me, that skinless grin wide on its face. His hand was raised, his finger extended through my back, its razor sharp tip on the other side of my body. Slowly, the bone slid out. I could feel every tug, every ounce of my blood that drained out of the hole in my chest where my heart should be. I felt so cold.
“Aw Milo! That can’t be your best? Come on, keep playing with me!” Aoki’s whines grew distant. Her words echoing through a long tunnel, the sound barely reaching my ears.
So, I wonder what happens next? I don’t really remember dying the first time. Did it feel like this?
My thoughts moved slower, my vision blurring until only darkness draped over my eyes. I was floating, adrift in the shadows. Perhaps this is where I’d spend eternity. My mind played images of last night. I was back in the woods, the burning sensation in my throat as I swallowed another red vial. Darkness again. I saw Ava’s petrified face, the fear etched into her frozen stare. Then darkness once more.
My reflection stared back at me as if a mirror was placed in this dark void. He was distorted, parts of his face rearranging, morphing into a new image.
He was back, the face in the mirror on the train. He bore an unforgettable grin from ear to ear, eyes black as the darkness I lay in. His teeth were jagged, the points fine enough to pierce bone.
He raised his hand to the glass, fingers pressed so forcefully I thought cracks would form on the mirror at any moment. This time, I touched my fingers to my reflection, the cold of the glass spreading up my arm. He reached through, ensnaring my wrist in his grasp. I was dragged into the mirror, the glass rippling like liquid mercury. I had no strength to resist, my fate in the hands of my reflection. His breath was raspy, strained with a chilling excitement. I could feel the desire, the hunger for freedom being his only thought.
Time to switch!
Light returned to my world, the battleground at my school’s entrance slowly coming into focus. I felt like I was wearing a mask, my vision tunneled, restricted on all sides. I spotted Grim directly in front of me, its sinister expression filling me with anger. There was a need in me to inflict the same pain it’d put me through.
“Oh, so you showed up! I love that smile, it's so malicious!” Aoki cheered from above, her voice sounding hollow, like I was hearing it through a viscous liquid.
I propelled off the ground, my will no longer in control of my body. I was a spectator to my own actions, trapped under the mask of my shell. A flurry of bone flew from Grim, my hands shredding through it like paper. Its shrieks were drowned out by the demented laughter escaping my lips. I sounded like a fiend. I felt its cold bone in my mouth as I tore into its body, my jaws engulfing its skull.
The pressure shattered in my mouth, leaving a marrowy taste on my lips. Shards of Grim’s skull wedged themselves between my teeth, stabbing into my gums. I could feel my tongue slithering around to extract them all, licking my lips with satisfaction.
“Run, run, run away. The Rabid Frenzy will end your days. Come inside it’s not safe to play. He’ll get you, eat you, chop you up like filet!”
My vision shot to Aoki, her nursery rhyme catching the attention of my possessor. Her face was filled with excitement as she awaited my move. The earth erupted under my feet, the force projecting me into the sky. I hurtled towards Aoki at jet-like speed. She only had time to shield her face as my teeth sank deep into her forearms, the blood dripping onto my tongue. It tasted so sweet, like licorice dancing on my taste buds. My mouth watered for more, the intense hunger wrenching my stomach in discomfort.
“Well damn you’re faster than I thought, but weaker than you used to be!” She thrust her arm with tremendous force. My jaw dislodged from her and I was flung back to earth. The ground crumbled from the impact, but I was back on my feet, no delay in my reaction.
Aoki met me on the ground, her laughter never-ending as she surged. Her nails extended like talons, slashing through my sleeve. She drew blood, but the wound closed as quickly as it appeared. A moment of surprise from her was the opening my body needed. My fingers laced around her neck, interlocking to crush her windpipe.
Squeeze! Wring her dry!
It takes a monster to kill a monster...
I had no control over my actions, but the thoughts played through my mind. They filled me with euphoria, a small amount of pleasure forming, like a virus spreading through my veins. I wanted more, craved it so much that it was unacceptable to be left unsatisfied. My hands increased their pressure around Aoki’s neck. Her smile never disappeared, like a blight against my victory.
“Still not -” She took a sharp breath, the air barely able to flow into her throat. “-as strong as you used to be.” Her expression turned cold, the smile fading for the first time since I’d met her.
I felt my arms go limp at my side, both broken. Pieces of my shell broke away, the darkness underneath sizzling from the oxidation. Aoki stabbed her nails into my chest, the force flinging me across the soccer field.
My body relaxed, the hollow sensation as a bystander in my own body fading. I flexed my fingers, my motions my own once again. It couldn’t have come at a worse time either. Aoki crushed my chest, pressing an elbow into my throat.
“Fun’s over? You’ve gotten so boring Milo.” She moved in close, her tongue gently licking the rim of my ear.
“I’m going to enjoy consuming you. A death’s soul tastes so much sweeter than a human’s.” Her breath chilled my body, the fear creeping in like elastic, stretching across my nerves. This was it, no way out this time.
“I apologize Miss, but he isn’t on the menu this morning.” I struggled to see the man standing over Aoki, his image blurring in and out of focus. He had a hand to Aoki’s neck, daring her to make a move. He removed his sunglasses, revealing his hazel eyes as they slowly turned black.
“Sorry for the delay Milo, that barrier was tricky.” There was a splash of blood, bathing me in black ink. Aoki’s eyes grew wide, the gash in her neck drowning her in shock. Logan looked like the devil as he licked his fingertips clean of Aoki’s blood. I wanted to see more, but my consciousness faded, my world slowly fizzling to black.