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The End Days

Earth

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a part of The End Days, by Aftershock.

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Aftershock holds sovereignty over Earth, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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Earth

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Earth is a part of The End Days.

2 Characters Here

Silver [9] "Some people think I'm narcissistic, but really I'm just self-aware."
Vanja Fitzpatrick [7] "What, I'm supposed to sum myself up in one sentence? That's stupid."

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Character Portrait: Silver
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#, as written by Layla
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The sky fell every day.

The sun sank into the horizon, selfishly abandoning the mortals who pined for its missed guidance. Like a fickle limb, it evacuated the body when the miles stretched too far from the destination unknown and hopped towards the cave where it would rest and sleep. A million different leaves fell from a thousand different branches, shivering towards the earth only to be trampled by monsters as they roamed the abandoned ship. They fell like bodies and bodies fell like leaves, but mother nature was unbiased. She embraced all withering shells and wiped the world clean of their taint until eventually, it would be like they never were.

Silver had been watching the sun dip behind the emaciated buildings for the past five years, but everyday the scenery changed. The dilapidated structures shifted in the landscape as she ventured further within the earth's corpse and each day, the steel frames stripped another layer of their garments and allowed a fresh coat of dust to embrace its remains. On the 13th of July, 2014, creatures tore through the flimsy veil separating the three realms and the war between Heaven and Hell found itself a fresh battleground. Human bodies littered the front lines like scrap paper and in seven days, God had unmade his creation that was mankind. Her 18th birthday marked the death of recorded history, or so it seemed.

Silver squeezed the small leather bound journal into her back pocket, alongside the fountain pen inlaid with Swarovski crystals. Ink danced across the pages of the closed book in an elegant, whirling script, narrating the end of the world and its continued demise. Between each historic account lived splatters of emotion and thought. In the distant past, she'd feared the discovery of her words scrawled with such bitterness and hope. She'd painstakingly pressed the pages into grooves scraped into the faded walls, keeping them carefully hidden from the twitching curiosity of others but never too far away. Now she tucked them in all manners of odd nooks decorating the befallen country without any worry of their discovery. The country was littered with her journals, one rested beneath a carton of Campbell's tomato soup and another slept behind a dead person's flat-screen TV. They were obvious hiding places.

But there was no one left to read them.

She squinted against the setting sun, the inferno emitting from her silver irises challenging the brilliance of the celestial body. Shadows resembled light against the obsidian fingerprints peppering the length of her body. They emerged from the curve of her right ear and flowed along her skin, disappearing into her hip bone like a river of coal-flakes. A pair of Guess Bruze combat boots hugged her feet, grazing over the toppled frame of an old pram as she walked across the ruins. Her eyes stumbled over two crumpled bodies curled around a small figure, their frayed bones an echo of the family they once were. It wasn't their deaths that halted her gaze, she'd seen enough corpses for none of them to matter. It was the yearning in their embrace, frozen in their last moments until a starving creature deemed to wield their bones as a toothpick for cleaning the remains of an unfortunate mortal lodged between his teeth.

A ghastly screeching sliced through the silence.

Silver beamed. Finally, some entertainment. The beast materialised where the vermillion sky met the taupe earth. Its hulking silhouette ate the distance between them with agonising slowness, its bulging legs unused to a moving target as it reached for her with its spindly arms. Silver whirled and threw herself into motion, painting a soundtrack she'd memorised over her ears and drowning out the noise of its wailing fury. Her feet followed the rapid bass harmony rushing through her head, leaping over human debris and the roots of trees as they reclaimed what was theirs. She ran until the city descended into a cold darkness in the absence of its sun.

The creature lunged towards her, nearly swallowing her whole moments before she threw herself sideways. She met the gaping fissure of its open jaws and held her breath as it roared loudly enough to shake her core. She grabbed a fallen segment of the building behind her and swung it at the beast, ignoring the rush of pain as the fragment sliced the palm of her hand at its release. The creature wailed, clutching its eye where the metal had lodged in its socket. A thick, foul substance gushed from the wound. Silver swallowed her triumph and threw herself into motion before the imp could recover.

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Character Portrait: Silver Character Portrait: Vanja Fitzpatrick
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Van


Van started, tender oblivion giving way to groggy confusion. He launched to his right, hand scrabbling at the faded ochre bricks till they hit cold metal. A reassuring weight fell into this grip, the muzzle of his Mossberg 500 glaring at the darkness before him. All of his senses were on high alert, straining for any sign that something was wrong. Still, the only sound that came was the frantic beating of his paranoid heart.

Calm down. Assess the situation.

First things first, that noise didn't come from this room. There had been no rattling of cans, no sharp crashes emanating from downstairs. Nothing had hit his tripwires. There shouldn't be anything here. Not that that often amounted to much. His right index still perched over the 500's trigger, he reached up and behind him with the left. Artificial light threw the room into his scrutiny as the lamp burst into life, fine reflexes ready to put a shell through anything that had stalked him in the shadows. But the light had revealed only the empty room.

Relief flooded his system in a gasp, releasing the breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. He stood up, slightly light-headed from the rush of adrenaline.

No immediate danger. That was a demon screech that woke you. This is the O'Malley safehouse, the area is usually abandoned. Why is a demon screeching here?

Keeping a running commentary to himself was one of the ways Van liked to stay sane, to keep his thoughts in order. He stepped towards the doorway, cautiously lifting his leg and bending over to step through the fishing lines that stretched across it. Invisible if you didn't know where to look, he used them in the more remote safehouses as a warning system. If anything tried to sneak into the house while he slept they'd set off a variety of distinct noises, and Van would immediately be alert.

A second screech wailed out, this one pain-filled. Van took note of it's direction and distance. Slinking out a gap in the brickwork, he dropped noiselessly to the ground. He moved effortlessly, a preternatural grace carrying him over the rubble. That same superhuman ability had given him strength, but still he never traveled unarmed. He could hit hard, but not as hard as his trusty Mossberg.

He quickly found the source of the noise. A demon, particularly ugly but not particularly impressive, was locked in battle with what looked like a girl. Judging from the way she moved though, she was no human.

Actually, she moves like you do.

No Angel would stoop low enough to assume a human form, and demons usually abandoned subtly once the fight started. Either way, he couldn't let this girl die just because she MIGHT be an enemy. He strode forward, not bothering to hide himself. The moment a gap appeared, the Mossberg 500 made it's introductions. She lacked the tact of a truly eloquent speaker, but she made a powerful point. The demons head seemed to find the conversation objectionable, and promptly splattered itself across the surrounding rubble.

Ah well, you can't win 'em all over, hey Betty?

The shotgun was pumped and ready before the demons body even hit the ground, eager to resume the dispute should it come back for more. She remained fixed on the body, even when Van turned towards the girl that had been fighting it.

"You ok?"

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Character Portrait: Silver Character Portrait: Vanja Fitzpatrick
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#, as written by Layla
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Breathe.

Expand your lungs.

Expel your thoughts.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Falter. Struggle. Stop.

He was the first human she'd seen in five years.

She pressed her palm against her chest, checking the frantic hammering of a vital organ. She wasn't dead, but maybe she was dying. For decades, her trembling heart had been content hiding beneath the layers of flesh and clothing, but not anymore. Now it struggled against the veins that held it in place and the alabaster bars that imprisoned it. Or maybe she was hallucinating that too.

A human boy. Beige words folded into skin that looked like skin. No scales. Just two legs. Two eyes. Two lips that could twitch into a smile at any moment. She hadn't seen a smile in five years.

Rivers of fiction/non-fiction flooded her thoughts. 28 letters forming a stream of consciousness that might've been what she'd said but she said nothing to him. Just stared and stared and stared. And she remembered the lines of a thousand songs, a thousand books, a thousand more.

Once upon a time, there was a boy and a girl...

Three full stops/decimal points/dots at the end of a generic sentence. She didn't even understand why she was so utterly ensconced by the simple creature before her. She felt as she had after escaping four years of confinement but that was ridiculous. She would gladly accept the fate of a hermit if it meant escaping the savagery of humanity. She didn't even understand why her mind tripped over its own feet and hurled toward the deep, bright blank nothingness of a piece of paper that ached to be filled. Her fingers twitched for her journal. Her fingers twitched and she was scratching words into the dirt beside her.

Rumpelstiltskin span the lengths of straw into gold and wove the magic into a boy, she wrote. As fast as sound. Faster than sound. Lightning quick and faster than light and her fingers stumbled to follow the narrator in her head. Eyes that raged incandescent like the sun but be careful. Her finger hitched with her breath. Careful, the sun will leave you behind.

His eyes were brilliant. Radiant. Luminous. Bright. Too bright.

"You ok?"

Silver leapt to her feet, her heart lurching back into place with soul-sucking momentum. She noticed the odd maze of lights that gleamed on his chest and forehead like constellations then. No, he was certainly not human. A demon, perhaps - she eyed the chiseled cut of his jaw, his nose job gone right and the dip of his lips - a vain one. Her eyes darted to the shotgun in his hands. He seemed eager for her trust. What sort of queer tactic was this? What was he? An incubus? Why would he bother with weak bullets? To gain her trust? Appear more human? Lure her into his bed in the hopes that she might have some sort of sick fetish for blonde Adonises wielding shotguns like condoms?

Please.

She eyed him wearily, keeping her body partly turned towards him and she twisted her arm behind her. Dust and debris rained over her forearm, dotting it in red as she tore pieces of metal bone from the corpse of the building behind her. She snapped the length into manageable pieces over her knee and before her thoughts could keep up with the millisecond movements of her automated body, she'd hurled and embedded four jagged chunks of steel in the beast.

Wasting no time, she spun around to overwhelm the incubus/human boy/angel faced creature. She swept her leg to dislodge his grip on his gun, arms poised in loose fists over her face and head tucked to avoid stray bullets. The knife purred a clear note as she pulled it from the inner lining of her right Guess boot, slipping it easily into her bloodied hand, her pain blind with adrenaline. She threw her weight into the hollow of his collarbone, slamming him into the faded building behind him. Daggers sliced through her shoulder. Damn, this boy was hard. She pressed the blade against his throat and pushed her knee against the wall between his legs.

"I am now," she provided him with the delayed reply. Dark crimson blood that was not his own trickled from the tensed wound in her palm and stained his skin. Silver cocked her head, eyes flitting from eyes like molten gold, nose angels would envy, lips girls ached to taste, stubble that belayed danger, to throat that dented beneath the hiss of a knife. Then slowly, all the way up again. "Pretty face. I'd hate to ruin it." A smirk teased the corners of her lips. "So why don't you do us both a favour and shed the snake's skin, love? And tell me why, exactly," she mused, leg inching higher, knife sinking deeper. "You stole my kill."

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Character Portrait: Silver Character Portrait: Vanja Fitzpatrick
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Van


Idiot. Moron. Absolute cretin. You deserve to die for that level of stupidity. One girl with a pretty face comes along...

We both know it was more than her face we were distracted by.

Five years of surviving this shit-hole, thrown away! For what?!

Shut up. Nothing's thrown away yet.

Taking priority over his inner monologue was a third inner voice, rapidly assessing the situation.

The knife was pressing hard against his throat. If he bumped it sideways trying to disarm her, he'd give himself a grin beneath his chin. She was leaning heavily against him, and her left elbow pinned his right arm. The leg was more for effect than practical combat purposes. She was toying with him. Good. That might buy me a little time before she carves me like a Christmas turkey. It had been far too long since he'd practiced self-defense against someone like this, and he didn't know if she was too fast for it to work anyway. A familiar pit of fear sunk into his gut.

So he smiled.

"Come to think of it, I'd hate for you to ruin it too!" He laughed, a little more nervously than he'd meant to. Hopefully she'd talk. If she was talking, she probably wasn't slicing. ...probably....

"So how about you put the knife down. I didn't know that was 'your kill'. No worries. I get it. Next time I'll remember to let the demon thing eat you. Screw me for trying to save you. What a douche move. God forbid you'd be a little grateful. I guess that's asking a bit much with the way the world is now, hey?"

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#, as written by Layla
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Confusion flitted across her level gaze.

"God forbid you'd be a little grateful. I guess that's asking a bit much with the way the world is now, hey?"

Was he trying to be... Funny?

A laugh bubbled in her chest, bursting through her lips with a lilting tilt. Birdsong, mellow hills and daffodils tumbled from her body, shaking the hand that grasped the knife. She didn't seem to notice the way the blade played tag with his Adam's apple. Or maybe she did. Dimples emerged in her cheeks as she beamed at him, her teeth white enough to blind a man. She shook her head, slightly, her grip on her knife and the angle of her body never faltering.

"Yes," she said. "Yes, yes." Another laugh. "How could you expect such a thing from a helpless girl beaten down by the utter misery of this earth? We are corpses in a graveyard. Devoid of gratitude." She pressed her body tighter against his, her words a tickle of breath against her ear. "Alternatively, you could just be very, very bad at reading a situation." Her teeth nicked his earlobe. "When was the last time you had a girl, Incubus?" She paused. "Or have you slaughtered so many of them that there are none left?"

There was no anger or fear in her voice, nothing to reveal that she held any grudge against him for his supposed crime against humanity, only a constant, teasing amusement. Silver didn't think the Demons and Angels were wrong to commit such brutal collateral damage in their war against one another. The earth had lost nothing of value when the billions of mortal shells littered the earth, fertilised it and allowed nature to reclaim what was rightfully theirs. Humans were motivated by greed, fear and laziness, but they lacked the true inveterate passion of demons, and they twisted the apathy of angels into a senseless savagery. Humans had more to offer dead than alive and there was no cruelty any Angel or Demon could commit that a mere human couldn't. At least Angels and Demons had a reason for being mad, and a purpose. She supposed that made her trash as well. The thought made her smile.

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Van


A gurgling brook lapped at his ears, a peal of laughter that should have been beautiful. Some small dissonance offset the harmony, lending a deeply disturbing discord to what would otherwise have been light and innocent. The knife-blade playing hopscotch with his neck may have had something to do with that.

The girl - if she even was a girl, with the way she toyed with him Van was strongly suspecting something sub-human - breathed sinisterly into his ear. She fought demons and thought him an Incubus. Van's revised guess was that his antagonist was an angel. From his own experiences, he knew them to be far more dogged and merciless than demons. If she'd taken an interest in him, only one of them would survive. A heady warmth rose within him, the power he'd been drawing on filling his chest and reaching tantalizingly into his sinuses. A grim determination settled below his surface.

I'm not dying here.

A wry smile crept across his face. "You're still left, aren't you? I'm no Incubus, but if you drop the knife I'll play the part well enough for you."

The moment her lips parted in response, the heady warmth within him riled into an electrifying inferno, ripping out form his center in the form of a shockwave of force. His attacker was swatted across the rubble and he dove for for his shotgun. The Mossberg 500 fell into his hands, a well-practiced roll bringing him up onto a knee and leveling the shotgun at his opponent. But a moment was wasted on aiming for the girl, then the Mossbergs bark ripped out across the gap between them.

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#, as written by Layla
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She'd been hit before.

The first time was when she'd attempted to pry her mother's crescent fingernails from the depths of her own flesh but three year olds were appallingly weak and she'd only succeeded in irritating the older woman. She hadn't even seen it coming, or felt it in the moment the bony backhand collided with marshmallow cheek, plush with youth and devastating, apocalyptic stupidity. She saw only the tilting wallpaper, the curl in its edge, partially hidden behind her mother's beige dockside shoes before obsidian lights enveloped her. She'd sworn that very day to never, ever confine her feet in such hideous footwear.

But it hadn't felt anything like this. This was a shockwave emitting from a the implosion of a nuclear factory. It was a dozen shelf of rice bags toppling with the force of a tractor tearing through Walmart. It was 62.33 mountains slamming into her gut with a rocky fist. It was invisible. It was the Fantastic Four meets X-Men, and each super-mortal had been armed with Captain America's shield. It threw her into an ash-stained truck and dented it. Her body dented a truck. And shockingly, she was okay.

Well, shit. Isn't today a day for miracles?

First the first human... Esque. Looking. Thing? Appeared. And now being thrown against a hunk of metal hurt the vehicle more than it did her? As she jumped to her feet, she noted the lack of agony and wondered which of the many Gods she didn't believe in she would thank first. She settled on Santa Claus, and prayed for a half-decent, partially edible artificial preservative loaded box of double chocolate chip cookies for dinner while she was at it. Her handshake with the truck ignited its ancient alarm system and she gritted her teeth against the assault of noise. It was shocking. The number of things that should never have survived Armageddon that did, and the number of things that should have survived. But didn't.

She smelled the bullet exiting the barrel of the milk tea puddle of a boy's gun before she saw it. (She was a little short-sighted.) And a million neurones fired in the millisecond it took for the bullet to reach its target. Anodized aluminium alloy, 12 gauge buckshot, what the hell do you do against a bullet, nice shotgun, and this is the way the world ends not with a bang but a whimper - bullshit, when was the last time I was faced with a gun, it's lucky angels and demons are technologically pathetic and I hope blood doesn't stain too badly.

Her body moved of its own accord, shifting to one side with lightning reflexes. But it learned something vital that day. Silver could not, in fact, dodge a bullet.

Jarring agony burst from her shoulder, licking tongues of flame beneath her skin. It bled into her vision, igniting red fireworks before her eyes. It shook her body, crushed her bones and spilled her life from the black hole dug into her body. She'd been shot before, she told herself. She'd been shot before and she'd survived and who the fuck needed a proper medical kit and I can get through this. But it'd been five years since anyone held a gun to her body, or simply, held a gun. She'd grown unaccustomed to the pain and shock. She'd even begun to believe she was the only person left who knew how to use one, the only creature who was human, left on earth.

Hope never had liked her very much.

She'd turned into a wimp in half a decade, she realised. A sad, cowering wimp who acted like being shot was that big of a deal. No biggie, she told herself. Just a Sunday stroll. Prancing with monsters. Getting shot by demons who looked like beautiful boys. You chipped a nail. Nails grow back. But hell was she sure that death from severe blood loss didn't entitle her to a resurrection. "Here's your second chance," her gang leader had said once. I didn't get a first, she'd wanted to yell, and she would've, had she been able to move, and I demand a refund, universe.

"Damn," she muttered, pulling her leather jacket from her shoulder to reveal the spaghetti strap snipped hastily by the bullet, dangling uselessly across her chest, and the gushing wound that poured rivulets of scarlet her down her body. "I really liked that jacket." She flung a dagger at the space between his eyebrows, ducking simultaneously behind the truck she'd dented earlier. She wasn't stupid enough to fight a losing battle. Silver was not prepared for man-made weapons. She didn't have a gun of her own. Guns did minimal damage to great hulking beasts like the Imp she'd teased earlier. Bullets rained on thick-skinned monsters like Tic-tacs on a baby. Swords cut jagged fissures across their bodies. They sliced off limbs and beheaded the "undead." Bullets were for humans, none of which who were left. Or so she'd thought.

She knew this post-apocalyptic world had been too good to be true. Lurching to a jagged run, she ducked behind the remains of human civilisation. She was fast. The pulse of magic and the bullet had stunned her. Made her temporarily slow. But now she knew, and only fools made the same mistake twice.

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Character Portrait: Silver Character Portrait: Vanja Fitzpatrick
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Van


A flash of silver skimmed the ridge of Van's nose, bisecting the space his head had been microseconds prior. Blades moved slower than bullets, and he'd started moving the moment she reached for the knife. He fired again, but she was already on the move, and the bullets unleashed their wrath on the innocent rubble instead.

If I hadn't needed to pump between shots, she'd be dead now.

But if she'd decided to skewer you while your guard was down instead of talking, you'd be dead. Deal with 'if' afterwards, deal with this situation now.

Still, need to find an automatic rifle. If only one of the fucking settlements would let me in.

He skimmed across the top of the rubble, following her trail of blood. Betty lead the way, pumped and ready. He gave the corner a wide berth, intent on slaying his opponent immediately if she lay waiting for him. Nothing sprung out at him though, and the splattered blood trail continued out of sight. He tried to move with haste, but though his caution may save him if she intended an ambush, it also slowed him down. After a few fruitless minutes of tailing the trail, he halted. If she'd bolted, she'd be long gone by now. He might be able to catch her if he ran full-pelt, but he didn't relish the idea of following her onto home-turf or stumbling into a trap.

She's a loose end. She'll come back to bite you in the butt.

Hehe, if I'm lucky.

Either way, nothing to be done now. If she came back, he'd be sure not to be there. The O'Malley safehouse was too close to where they fought, he couldn't go back. She could turn back when she realizes she's not being followed anymore, to see where he goes. He'd just give the safehouse away if he stopped past it. He'd have to move on, treat it as hostile ground for now. Scope it out again in a month or so. The supplies will keep. He just got there, nothing's fresh. The fishing lines were still up in the doorways, cans attached and all, but that had to be conceded. At least when he returned he'd know if anyone had been in there.

Shit, my bag's inside. Fuck.

The bag was forsakeable though. He had enough of the important stuff in his jacket to get him to the next safehouse. It was still fucking annoying though.

He retraced his steps as carefully as he had taken them, gun at the ready. He intended to grab her dagger then move on, heading further out of the city. West-south-west, he'd decided. 313 warehouse cafe, here we come. He would set off North though, towards the city. If she did follow him, he'd give her the slip in the Wyckoff Station mezzanine. He'd swing round and head back in his true direction, and with luck she'd stumble on into the demon nest nestled within the station.

He realized how paranoid he sounded, but didn't care. Paranoia kept him alive. Besides, just because it's paranoid to think she'll follow him after getting shot, doesn't mean she won't. He kept moving along the intended path, especially vigilant. He'd remain so until he was clear of Wyckoff Station.

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Character Portrait: Silver
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#, as written by Layla
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3 months later.


The wet earth caught her fall.

"Tired yet, halphlín?"

The growl came unbidden into her mind as she swore, the cold steel of an ancient rock digging into the flesh of her palm as she slid down the belly of a hill. The mud licked her dark hair as she scrambled to her feet, fumbling for a grip on her 2 AR-15. She grasped for the surface but still her Altberg military boots threatened to dip into the darkness. Strands of hair fluttered between her eyes as she exhaled lung-fulls of air but she allowed herself no time to replace the lost breaths as she surged forward. Holes decorated her sleek leggings and she was immensely glad for forgoing the beige and cream ensemble today in place of her almost all black outfit. Well, her white top was black now.

The howls of furious, happy, indifferent - who could tell what these demons were expressing? It all sounded like howling to her - stalked her path. She didn't allow herself the chance to glance back as she "cursed through sludge", reciting poetry in her head. She wondered if this was what soldiers had had to endure everyday, a perpetual threat to their lives in a disgusting environment, and sent a quick prayer of pity to the scattered souls of war heroes past.

"Cheese and rice." Silver's neck arched back as she met with the crumpled manmade structure leaking black blood. She spun around for anything, anything to help her cross this... "[Waterfall] of slime," The Sentry by Wilfred Owen. But of course, there was nothing. She was trapped within the bloated corpse of a crude oil factor puking its laments for its perished creators. She wondered where she might find a tissue large enough to absorb its tears.

"Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, nobody to cry for. Poor little halphlín."

A stream of creative curses left her mouth as she searched for an escape and prayed to whatever ultimate reality there was out there to please, please, oh god, let her shower, dress in billion-dollar clothing and decorate herself in daisies before she was killed. She refused, refused to die looking like she'd actually had to try hard to die. No. She was Silver and Silver always looked good. In life and in death and-

#YOLO.

She dove into the mud.





So this was what it felt like to be buried alive.

It wasn't so bad, actually. A little suffocating. Overheated. Kinda smelly. But nothing a little spritz of perfume and a few potted plants couldn't freshen up.

"Wakey, wakey, pretty lady."

What the frac-

"Ssh, sshh, no need to be startled, pup."

Silver blinked, her eyes gradually adjusting to the darkness, but her lips were not adjusting to being trapped beneath the industrial strength duct tape. Her gaze widened as she took in the lump of a creature crouched before her, its toothy grin gold in the moonlight that streamed through the splinter of a window. The sheets of rock it called skin pressed against her body as its weight expelled the air in her lungs. Her tied wrists were trapped beneath the mass of their bodies, connected to arms that were twisted at awkward angles. She attempted to shove the creature off of her but he barely seemed ruffled by her measly strength.

"My, my, what lovely eyes you have, halphlín." His voice was harsh, the scrape of earth as gravity pushed the continents apart. "They'll do well in my collection." Silver resisted the urge to shut her eyes, instead drilling lasers into the back of his skull. "Quite a bit of collateral you cost me. " He wiggled his eyebrows, if you could call the fossil worms on his face something as delicate as eyebrows. It had its humongous head propped on a fist the size of her head as it stared at her, a finger trailing the smooth slant of her jaw. Molested by a rock by the age of 25. Tick. "What was it? Three Imps and a Hound?" Clearly, he didn't expect a reply because-

She flinched as the tape was ripped from her mouth. Not tape. She shivered in disgust, glancing quickly away from the thing he flung across the room. Some hideous, leech-like demon. "You must be quite powerful by now. Surprised we didn't catch you before. I'd have enjoyed some company with a halphlín that wasn't half useless. Pun intended." Why did Demons even speak English? Had they been bored out of their pathetic lives after they'd killed every-

"Stop, stop, stop shouting." The creature flicked its fingers at her forehead, which was a nice way of saying he slapped her with a stone pillar. "Such a loud projector." He sighed a gust of hot wind into her face. Like fire and brimstone. "Get ready for dinner, pet."

Get ready for dinner, roast lamb, she mocked.

She inhaled hungrily as the demon's weight disappeared from her body with a rumble that might've passed for a chuckle in another world. Before the heavy door shut behind him, she caught the end of a sentence from the other side, "...pity."





"Tch," she snarled before a sly grin illuminated her features. Silver sat up, resting her elbow against her bent knee as she rubbed the blood and mud from her lips with the back of her hand. The useless ropes fell around her. She should be insulted that they thought she could be held by back rope. Please. She'd learned to free herself from rope knots when she was a girl scout. She raised an eyebrow as she examined her body, noting her lack of nudity, not that that would've swayed her. They'd stripped her of her weapons, her boots, her leather jacket and her array of hazardous jewellery. She felt the simmers of irritation. There were only twenty in the world of that designer wish bone necklace. It would be a pain to find another with all the planes in the world reduced to bird-shaped lumps of metal. Man, she was pissed.

She leapt to her feet, her body overwhelmed with adrenaline. This was what she'd been waiting for all her life. A near-death experience to out-near all other near-death experiences. She stared at the door, contemplating her escape. Should it be extravagantly dramatic? Quiet and hush hush? Ninja-mode or Assassin's Creed style-

"THE PRISONER'S ESCAPED!" yelled the burly guard as not a moment after he threw open the door. They weren't fun at all.

She lunged forward, catching the demon's wrist before his fingers grazed his weapons. She slipped the crescent daggers sheathed at his hip between her hands and into his abdomen. "Ssh, sshh, no need to be startled, pup," she echoed the words of the demon's superior with a roll of her eyes, dislodging the blade from his body. Elephant footsteps marched from the corridors as she threw herself into motion, racing down the winding paths past countless prison cells. Where the hell was she? She hadn't realised demons had an abode, much less kept prisoners. She just thought they... Milled around. Slept in piles of their victims. Hid in caves or portals or, you know, other fantasy-horror-esque things.

Deja vu.

"Cheese and rice," she groaned, coming up against the second detrimental wall of doom of the day. Dead end. Again. Woah, maybe this is, like, Inception. The growls were inching closer. To think or not to think. To think or not to think. Don't think. She jabbed a key she'd stolen from the fallen guard into the prison door beside her. Wrong one, her thoughts hissed as she fumbled for the next and the next and-

Click.

Silver swung the door open and threw herself into the cell.