Are the Monsters We Seek
By Karen Heslop
Darien waved the dog-eared drawing before one of his
Malak squinted at the bounty hunter and sighed.
“McCook, you don’t want to find that one.
She’s too much for
you. Even with your…modifications.”
Darien scoffed. It was no secret that he took the demon
supplement the underground circuit distributed. It was the only way he could be
as successful at his job as he needed to be.
“It’ll be a cold day in Hell before I take
advice from a soul-reaper,
“It’s been quite chilly these past days
McCook, how’d you know?”
Darien glared at the smiling creature perched comfortably
barstool. Beer foam glistened on Malak’s furry face like forgotten spittle.
Darien wanted to push Malak for the information he clearly had but Darien’s peaceful
admission into the Ninth Circle Bar was based on respecting the establishment’s
patrons. Finally, Malak slammed the empty mug on the table and looked over at
“The Tormentor is not to be trifled with, McCook.
himself rewarded her by lifting her banishment to Hell so she could get her
kicks. You understand what that means? Let me spell it out for you just in
case. She did such a good job torturing
souls, the devil let her out to enjoy herself.”
“I hear you Malak, but her name’s on my
ledger and that means I
need to find her.”
“Well, alright. I tried to warn you. I’ll
take you to her.”
Darien’s eyes widened in surprise.
“I didn’t think you’d want to be anywhere
“Well someone has to drag your stinking soul to
the pits where
it belongs. It might as well be me. Besides, that soul of yours would get me
some serious bonus points with the boss.”
Darien hoped the creature was joking but knew better
ask. Soul reapers were notorious for their ferocity, tenacity and brutal
honesty. He threw some bills on the bar to cover Malak’s drink tab and
hopefully spur movement. Malak took the hint.
“Fine. Let’s go.”
Darien headed towards his car, but Malak kept going
darkness beyond the bar. He hastened to keep up with the reaper’s long strides
as they both melted into the almost tangible blackness of night. Malak halted
before an abandoned building and inclined his head towards it. Before Darien
could ask any questions, the reaper sprinted away into the darkness.
Undoubtedly, he was too far for Darien to see but still close enough to be the
first reaper on call should Darien meet his demise.
He closed his eyes and focused so the demon blood could
his remaining senses. The sweet stench of rot wafted towards him pierced by the
asynchronous clicking of claws on concrete. Reaching forward, Darien felt the
tension of a protective ward press against his fingertips. He expected nothing
less. It would explain why his locator spells hadn’t worked as well as they
usually did. He brought his index finger to his mouth quickly and broke the
skin. He mimicked a basic spell that would give the appearance of breaking the
protective shield. The unseen shield sizzled as his blood burnt through it.
He slipped through the opening and sauntered towards
building. At the entrance, he knelt and used his bloodied finger to daub a few
crude but effective markings. The smell of decay grew stronger as Darien passed
piles of discarded organs and limbs on his way to a smouldering fire. The
creature surveyed him calmly from the centre of the room. Two of the eyes on
her large, high forehead stayed fixed on him while the other four darted around
in constant surveillance. As he approached cautiously, she hefted her bulbous
arachnid body backwards with long muscular legs.
“It’s been a while, Darien. Come to banish
“Hello, mother. I see you’re up to your
“In all fairness, sweetheart, if I had stuck to my habits, you wouldn’t have been around to send me to
Hell. I was tempted, but you were born with your father’s sweet face and it
felt cruel to rid the world of such beauty…again.”
“I really feel your pain, mother. Motherhood must
have been so
hard on you. Oh wait…no it wasn’t. You dumped me at the mixed-breed orphanage
as soon as your body spit me out.”
“You are demoness-born, you ungrateful wretch!”
“That’s not the honour you think it is!”
“Ah,” she lowered her voice to a purr, “do
you think you could
stomach the demon blood as well as you do without your lineage and privilege?”
Darien’s mouth snapped shut with a loud clack
“How did you know about that?” he ground
“Please…do you think I don’t ask about
you? You think those
first jobs you got as a hunter materialized out of thin air? You’re not the
only one owed favours in the community, my dearest.”
As she paced back and forth, the clacking of her spindly
echoed across the room. Darien sighed. When he had heard about the bounty out
for a ‘large spider-like creature who fed on human flesh’ Darien had known he
would have the pleasure of banishing his mother once more. Now indecision
played in his mind. Sephora sidled up to her son during his silence.
“I’ll be gone from here tomorrow, so is
it really worth the
“It’ll be worth the lives I save and then
there’s the matter of my
half-a-million-dollar banishment fee.”
A smile spread across her gaunt face. Her voice slithered
her throat like expertly spun silk. She waved her arm in the direction of the
multiple semi-digested bodies heaped in the rooms.
“I have had my fill of humans for a little while.
As for your
fee…” she paused to lick blood from a claw, “I have something better.”
Darien raised an eyebrow but remained silent.
“My venom is ten times more potent than that demon
you taint your body with constantly. Walk out of here and you will carry with
you enough venom to last you a lifetime.”
Sephora moved closer but Darien kept his eyes downcast.
towered over him, casting a shadow that enveloped his entirely. He had no doubt
she wished it wasn’t just their shadows that were one. He took a deep breath
and stepped away from her.
“You promise there will be no more deaths?”
“Well, I’d cross my heart but given its
location, that might
seem a bit distasteful. Perhaps you’ll trust my other form? Your father
he could reply,
there was the clicking, whirring and grinding movement of well-oiled machinery
as Sephora folded into a woman. Still slightly taller than Darien, but the
creature was now hidden in a mocha-hued body with curves so alluring it
rendered him speechless. Sephora’s smile revealed bright even teeth and Darien
met her emerald eyes with his own.
“Well don’t stare so much, dear. I’ve
heard it’s impolite. Now
to the business at hand.”
She scanned the room and tittered in glee when she found
old jar sitting in a corner. She pried the rusted lid from the container and
hawked into it until it was full. Darien’s face curled into a sneer of disgust.
Without glancing at him, Sephora remarked,
“Oh, wipe that look off your face. If you only
knew where some
of that demon blood comes from.”
Darien took the jar that was handed to him. Its warmth
stomach roil. He turned abruptly and headed to the door.
“Already? We’ve come to such an amicable
His brisk movements had been matched easily by her rhythmic
but her words faltered when she did.
“What…what did you do?”
Darien closed his eyes and recited the words he had
all those years ago. Sephora wailed as she realized what was happening.
“You bastard! Stop! You’re hurting me!”
The crude circle expanded as she unfurled into her true
again. Darien’s face remained impassive in spite of her alternating cursing and
wailing. When only her face remained, he met all 6 eyes that were trained on
“We always hurt the ones we love, mother. You
should know that.”
Sephora remained silent. The circle closed, banishing
her again to
the innermost depths of Hell. The venom-filled jar glistened in the moonlight,
its milky white contents swirling as if agitated. Darien placed it on the
ground and took a few steps away before hesitating at the door. With a heavy
sigh, he retraced his steps and put the jar in the long inner pocket of his
jacket. His mother would not be pleased. She would send others for him. He
would make sure they met the monster they deserved.
Karen Heslop writes from Kingston, Jamaica. Her stories
can be found in Apparition Lit Mag, AHF Magazine and Haunted MTL among others.