I didn’t end up getting any sleep until after daybreak. There was something about the sunlight washing over the room through the thinly-veiled windows that put my mind at ease. By the time I awoke, it was already afternoon.
I stepped downstairs, half-expecting to see Noe still asleep on the couch. To my surprise she was gone from her resting place and had recently taken up abode in the kitchen alongside Claire. The two of them were preparing some kind of meal, an odd sight in this household. Normally, my sister would be gone from the time I woke up until long after I returned home from school. During the summer, I would practically have the whole house to myself for the entire day.
“Good morning, Ash! It’s nice to see you awake!” Noe called out as she saw me enter the doorframe between the kitchen and the living room.
“You’re in an awfully good mood,” I replied, still exhausted from the prior day.
Hold on, Noe and Claire were working together. That meant that Claire had seen Noe even though she’s a demon, right?
“Hey Claire,” I tried to get my sister’s attention.
“Yeah?” She answered promptly, turning the side of her head towards me.
“There’s three people in this house right now, right?”
“Do I look like a preschooler to you? I can count too,” Claire replied.
“Claire woke me up at like 6 AM,” Noe added. “No idea how or why but it is what it is.”
“Claire, I think we have to talk,” I said, turning to my sister.
“What about? About the fact that you brought a girl to the house and told her to sleep on the couch?” She replied. “I knew you were a virgin, but I didn’t expect you to have that much self-restraint. I’m proud of you.”
“That’s not it, can we go to the other room?”
Claire and I went upstairs and opened the door into what used to be our parents’ bedroom. We had to sell the beds to buy food until Claire could get a job, so the room was mostly empty.
“What is it?” My sister asked.
“You can see Noe, right?”
“Is that not normal?”
I was conflicted on how to reply. My sister might think I was insane if I told her that Noe was a demon, or worse. She reacted pretty strongly to just the mention of Brooklyn, who was only barely involved in the pentagram killings. Who knows what she would do if she found out about Noe’s true nature. On the other hand, how was she able to see Noe?
“I guess,” I said, pointing my eyes at the ground.
“Is that it? It sounded like you were genuinely worried about something.”
“Why did you pick me up from the mall? I thought you were supposed to be at work.”
Claire thought for a while on how to respond.
“I was worried about you,” she said.
“Because I heard about what happened at the mall. From what I heard; a fight broke out. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“Thanks,” I replied. I don’t know what I was supposed to say. I guess information really does travel that fast these days.
“I saw that Noe was involved in the fight, are you sure she’s safe to be around?”
“She’s fine… I think. I don’t really know.”
“Well, I don’t get the vibe that she’s very dangerous.”
“I don’t know if I’d say that. I think she maybe is dangerous. Everything is just so confusing right now, the world around me is changing so much.”
“That happens when you get older,” Claire sat down on the sofa we had stored in the room. We were going to sell it, but we didn’t need to. It was difficult to get it moved back downstairs, so we just left it here. “I really wish I had known that when I was your age. Sometimes life forces you to grow up.”
“I’m glad mom and dad were there for us when we were younger.”
Claire swallowed down a mouthful of spit. “Yeah,” she said coldly, staring at the dust-covered wooden boards below her feet.
[ Demon's//Jury Chapter 7 | Demon's//Jury ]
After my talk with Claire, I ate breakfast with her and Noe. Noe discovered coffee, but she said that caffeine wouldn’t affect her, so it’s sort of a pointless tool. I still don’t know exactly why Claire decided to stay home though, normally she’s out the door around sunrise, but today was different. We made small talk and laughed a bit about the stories we had to tell. Being around my sister, and Noe as well, made me feel like there was a little bit more of my family left than my day-to-day life had me believe.
[ cut ]
“Hey, Noe” I said, “there’s something I need to talk about with you.”
The two of us had stepped outside to the front porch after breakfast. This was the same spot where Brooklyn told me about the blood from before, so the location was fitting to discuss the matter of the library once again.
“Yeah? What’s up?” She replied.
I slowly rolled up the sleeve on my shirt, revealing the text engraved on my arm. Noe was visibly horrified at the sight.
“Scarlet told me about this, he said that it was somehow related to the killings two years ago,” I said.
“You… You have one of my eyes, right?” Noe said, trying to look away from the markings.
“I… That’s what you told me.”
“Why don’t you take a look then…” Noe was almost cowering back in disgust.
“O- O… K…?” I gazed down into the text carved into my flesh.
What I saw before as a block of readable text now seemed completely foreign and corrupted. While I could distinctly tell that it wasn’t real, but ethereal, I saw what seemed to be charred flesh, branded with demonic sigils in trails of molten skin. It was beyond nauseating, just a single glance caused me to feel the contents of my breakfast boil up within me. I took a step to the side before they left through my mouth, landing just beyond the rails of the front porch.
My face stung; my hands shook. This wasn’t like seeing an animal’s carcass, this was a supernatural revulsion. I felt the overwhelming urge to tear the skin from my bones, barely containing it as I fell to the ground. Pain seared through my body, panic set in as I convulsed on the ground. My mind was being torn apart. I screamed before the world around me plunged into a relieved breath of darkness.
[ cut ]
My eyes slowly opened once more. I was lying in my bed with Noe standing over me, watching anxiously for my awakening. Her arms were planted on each of my sides, with one of her arms brushing against my chest through several layers of clothing and sheets. Was this the first time I had felt the pressure of her touch? I really couldn’t remember.
“Wha- What happened?” I yawned.
My memory of the last few minutes was hazy, but I recall seeing my arm. My arm… My arm…? Was it my arm? There was the text carved into my arm, but I couldn’t read it. What did the text say? I felt the urge to look down at it once more, but Noe locked her hand onto my wrist before I could do so.
“You can’t see it again. I bandaged it. Don’t remove the bandage!” Noe wasn’t kidding around; her tone was serious and authoritative. “I’m sorry for telling you to look at it, I didn’t know you were that squeamish,” she glanced to the side, almost looking ashamed for her barely mocking words.
“What does it-“
“I’m going to the library to kill that demon who did this. All you need to do is wait here,” Noe tried to reassure me. “I dulled your senses the same way whoever did this to you did, but it won’t last forever. Try to get some sleep.”
“Noe… What’s going on?” I asked.
“I’m not sure. This seems to be the work of a greater demon. I shouldn’t have any trouble disposing of one of them. Don’t worry about it,” Noe walked over to the door to my bedroom and shut it behind her.
I shifted to sit up in my bed and looked down at my bandaged arm. I wanted to remove the bandage, but it was something I could ignore if need-be. After about an hour, I walked downstairs. Claire was in the kitchen cleaning up.
“You’re finally awake? It took you long enough,” she said. “I hope it wasn’t food poisoning that did you in.”
“How long was I out?”
“I went to work and came back,” Claire glanced to the side. “It’s now 3 PM.”
“Wait, it’s three? I was unconscious for seven hours?”
“Did you sleep well last night?”
“That’s probably why.”
I walked over to the front door. Noe’s shoes, which were sitting before it earlier, were gone.
“She just left; said she was heading to the library,” Claire added. “Something about meeting with someone.”
“One…” I muttered. “She said she could take one of them…”
Brooklyn’s words rung throughout my ears. She could see the demons through her camera, she called them ghosts. Ghosts. Plural. Noe was only expecting one of them, she specifically mentioned that she could take ONE of them, rather than multiple.
“Sorry sis, could you do me a favor?” I asked.
“What is it?”
[ cut ]
“So, you need to be at the library as fast as possible?” Claire and I strapped out seatbelts in as she revved up the ignition on the car. Before I knew it, we were barreling down the mostly abandoned streets at thirty miles-per-hour.
“Yeah, I think Noe might be in trouble.”
Claire quickly glanced at me before returning her eyes to the road. “That seems dangerous. There’s no way you can help her.”
“I have to try.”
In no time at all we were parked in front of the library. I jumped out of the car and rushed for the door. There were bloody handprints covering the library’s glass door and cracks in the transparent wall. Why hadn’t I noticed them before? My senses were dulled like Noe said, right?
I pushed open the doors and ran through the entryway and into the main space. There were shelves spilled to the floor and books strewn about the carpet floor, each residing in an ominous bloodstain. Noe was locked in a battle with two gigantic monsters. They were shadowy beasts beyond comprehension. I felt like the back of my mind was beginning to split and tear at just the sight of these creatures, let alone bearing witness to their unearthly, reality-bending assault on Noe.
“Ashton, what the hell are you doing here?!” Noe shouted back at me before deflecting one of the eldritch monstrosity’s gnashing maws with her gleaming blade, still stemming from a silver pair of scissors. Noe’s blade split through the creature’s jaws and cut into its head, but its mouth only opened wider, stretching even into its formless body.
“I want to help you! I know that you can’t do this on your own!”
“Where did you get that idea?!” Noe made a piercing blow against the other monstrosity, nailing it to the library wall momentarily before it decomposed and reformed behind her, cutting the two of us off from one-another. Noe then came flying through the horror’s body and landed next to me. “I am in need of a little backup, but you shouldn’t be here. You’re going to get yourself killed.”
“What can I do to help?”
“You’re persistent, you know that?” Noe glanced up at the ceiling. There was a chandelier hanging from a metal chain, it looked heavy enough to crush a grown lion, let alone a person. “On my mark, I need you to cut the chandelier loose.”
Noe handed me the pair of scissors she had used up until this point. “This will cut your finger clean off, be careful with it.”
“How are you going to-“
Noe held her hand up, but in its place was a metallic, mechanical claw. Its tips looked sharp enough to pierce solid steel as they glowed with the same otherworldly light as Noe’s blade. “I can handle myself, just follow my lead and we’ll both survive this.”
There was a tall, sturdy-looking bookshelf that still stood tall below the chandelier. I could probably climb up to the chain if I could scale the bookshelf. Noe went to work combatting the horrors as I darted for the bookshelf. Holding the scissors with my teeth, I stepped up to the first shelf and started climbing. I glanced over at Noe as she used her claws to latch onto one of the monsters and throw it to the other side of the room before lunging at the other creature and gouging out several of its thousands of eyes with a well-aimed slash.
Still gripping the bookshelf tightly, I climbed up to the top. As I stood above the action, I saw one of the creatures turn its eyes towards me. Had it noticed our plans? It began moving towards the bookshelf at a rapid rate. The chandelier was just out of range, I would need to jump up to it, and fast. The horror below me started climbing the bookshelf, it would only need two more ‘steps’ before I was in range. As it climbed, the shelf disintegrated at its fingertips, allowing it to jump up like it was scaling a staircase. If I touched this thing, I was dead.
I made the leap of faith and grabbed on to the chandelier midair. I swung from it as I rotated to face towards the beast that had its eyes on me.
“NOW!” Noe shouted below me. Without even looking down, I climbed up to stand on the chandelier and slashed at the chains.
I was sent into free fall before landing on top of Noe, who just then fell to the ground. When the two of us rose to a standing position, we saw the deformed monstrosity crushed under the chandelier’s weight.
“It worked,” Noe said. “Demons are still limited to the rules of the world they inhabit, so you can crush one with physical objects. We’re lucky there was something like this around.”
“I don’t think we’re in the green quite yet,” I gazed up to see the second creature towering above us from the atop the bookshelf. “Look out!” I dodged to the side, narrowly avoiding the creature’s lunge before it lashed out at me with gigantic, spiked tendrils. I could feel the flesh from my leg being obliterated as the tentacles latched on to me and raised me into the air.
“Let go of him!” Noe picked her sword up from the ground and sliced the tentacle apart, causing me to fall on to the carpeted floor. It hurt. I could feel my bones cracking. I sat myself up and looked down at my leg. There was exposed muscle mass where the tendril had gripped me and blood leaking onto the already crimson-dyed ground. With this kind of injury, I wasn’t going to last much longer, let alone be able to fight.
“Noe… I’m sorry… This is where I have to stop,” I said.
“I know, moron!” Noe dodged one of the creature’s tentacles before slicing off several more. “This is more difficult than I expected.”
Noe made a stab into the horror’s flesh and cut open a sizeable hole. Inside of its shadowy carcass was a brilliant core. It gleamed with a million colors at once as unearthly patterns danced about on its surface. Before Noe could make another move, the eldritch being pivoted and headbutted her into the wall. It looked like she was being crushed as the wall cracked and the building’s foundations groaned.
I saw a glimmer of light emerge from the creature’s back. A small, brilliant spear pierced through the horror’s head and all the way through. The monster fell to the ground as the blade retracted back into Noe’s scissors. She was slightly embedded in the concrete wall, holding the scissors out. Her arm was covered in bits of living shadow flesh as it fell to her side, and she slumped to the ground. Both of the eldritch horrors began to fade from existence as my vision went white.
[ cut ]
When my mind returned to the earth, I saw Noe, lying asleep on the floor. My leg was healed, much to my relief. I rushed to her side and shook her awake.
“Wha- What happened?” Noe asked as her eyes were still only beginning to flicker to life.
“I think we won,” I said, looking out across the barely-ruined library. The bookshelves were once again back in their place and the chandelier was planted back onto the ceiling. It was as though the fight never took place. Was everything I had just seen only an echo of a now-impossible future? Was this the power of a demon?
[ to be continued ]
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