Life

Liminal: 4


Shadow

Cacodemons, evil and darkness incarnate, and in all its malignity. I could still sense Edum’s mental distress even as I met the charge of the hellions. It was like a beacon. A beacon on a frequency which resonates with a melancholic amplitude. So loud to my ethereal senses that it was hard to ignore. Nonetheless, it proved to be fuel to my fury, propelling me to do the needful.

The lavatory was an unimpressive building at a far end of the school. A bungalow divided into two for each gender, with each flat having six restrooms. The boys’ ended right where the school’s fence did, with only a space the size of a small hall in between.

This space was used to collect all the rubbish during clean-up hours before they were disposed into the maws of the trash trucks.

Now, it was clear of all refuse, making it fit for use as an arena. It became the battlefield which would I would stain with the blood of my foes.

Twelve monsters charged at me with wicked claws, strong enough to rend flesh and spirit matter with the ease of a surgical scalpel and the violence of an executioner’s blade. They all had an aura of decay and damnation, they were the augurs of suffering and oblivion. Malevolent horrors given forms, nightmares come alive in the day. 

To their dismay, I proved their equal.

The shackled fist of my right hand met the first fiend right in its face. Its head shattered to wet bits at the impact of my blow.

Dark ichor stained my fist, chest and face as my chains jangled in sync to its death. My left shackled fist meant the temple of another. Its skull caved in with a sickening crunch, the momentum of the blow spinning the corpse away due the angle of impact. I brought up both my arms in a guard to block a deadly swipe from the next fiend. It left cruel gashes on my skin that did not bleed, I felt no pain. But I did feel a minute sapping of my essence. The thieving wretches, out to destroy and devour like their murky master.

Black misty wings beat in a fury, lending it a momentum reminiscent of a bull’s charge. Unable to harmonise a perfect stance, I tensed my body and made a clumsy charge towards my opponent.

My shoulder as a battering ram, a war cry on my lips, we crashed into each other with so much force it created a shockwave as furious as a thunderclap. I was thrown back to the walls of lavatory. I regained my stance in a frenzy, I didn’t want the cacodemons to swamp me at that vulnerable moment. No pain, a slight discomfort at best. But it was not the human feeling one would normally feel.

Even as I stood and regained my battle stance, my eyes were still fogged from the impact. I took stock of the situation as my sight moved slowingly past its blurred status.

The fiend that met my charge was flung to the opposite side of the arena. It trailed body parts and fleshy bits in its direction. I couldn’t see it clearly but its posture lent to the fact that its corpse was definitely mangled. I could make out an arm, a foot, bits of dark meat and ichor. As my vison cleared, I saw that the shockwave also knocked all other belligerents in our makeshift arena away in different directions. Only the cacodemon-captain was mildly affected, being that it hung back while its subordinates handled the irate humanoid thing. 

The boss fight always comes last, I awaited it with great relish.

Moving my head side to side like a cornered beast, I saw the cacodemons stir from the disorientation caused by the blast. The first stood uneasily trailing dark ichor and… gurgling… like it had something in its throat. 

It did have something in its throat… a cacodemon’s limb had found its way to the monster’s neck. The cacodemon’s arm’s claw end pierced the neck of the fiend. The limb must have come from the one I collided with. A stroke of fortune that I welcomed. At the periphery of my vision, I saw others rise slowly. I could see at least three of them take flight to rejoin their Oga who hung back high up above the arena. The cacodemon reached for the limb sticking out its throat, it was too weak to remove it. 

A few seconds later, it gave up and died.

With my senses spread out like a blanket, like a beast surrounded by hunters, I kept my eyes on the fiends on the arena… and the fiends above the arena. They hung above me like an evil eye. 

My vision had fully returned now and I could make out another cacodemon made dead by chance. Lady Luck had spun her wheel in my favour. I saw that an iron rod -quite rusted, protruding from the part of the wall the cacodemon slumped against, went through the skull of the hellion. It took me back to stories about how iron wrought weapons were said to be effective against the supernatural, back in the days the Vikings terrorized the coasts of Europe. 

It proved effective now as well.

Another trio of the fiends joined the cacodemon-captain up in the air bar one. It’s tenebrous misty wings had faded out of sight. It appeared weakened. It tried to rise up to its dark brethren to no avail. There was a lattice work of small cuts all over its body and a gash on its head bleeding dark ichor. It tried to get up only to do the dance of a man in drunken stupor. I smiled to this, a wicked joy leapt up within my breast. I could have broke out in song. I needed a musical instrument, the fiend’s body would prove useful in that regard. I seized the initiative and charged the cacodemon.

I became a demon in that moment, I felt something primal and animalistic stir up somewhere in my being. As I ran to the thing that failed at escaping my wrath, a voice soft and silent as a snowflake warned me to check my bloodlust. It reminding me of the acolytes of the Chaos god Khorne. Those who worshipped war and death, reveling and slaved to acts of violence and bloodletting.

But the voice was too soft and my cold vengeance was a loud as the Titanic hitting an iceberg. I reached the cacodemon and literally mauled it to death with my limbs. I altered between my fists and feet, punching and stomping as I saw fit. I was tempted to lap at the ichor bleeding from the fell beast. Almost pounding it to mash. I must have looked like an even relentless beast to the cacodemons. They held back at their high station and watched as I ravaged their comrade.

I beat the monster past any atom of recognition. Still, something bestial railed at me inside. My shackles felt hot. I took a look at my hands, the shackles were glowing with an eldritch inner light. I felt like a volcano about to erupt. There was an energy that needed letting out… and so I did.

Without much as a deep breath, I roared a bestial cry towards the sky. It lasted for at least forty-five seconds. I felt like an animal, the monstrous rage was welling up inside me. It seemed it was the chains holding me back. I began to assert control on myself, focusing on the cacodemons that remained up above me.

Infuriated, the cacodemon-captain’s face split. It split open like a flower would in the light of the sun. It squirmed and writhed like the underbelly of an octopus. Out of the twelve that attacked me, six remained alive. I saw these six turn into orbs of glittering darkness. I saw the orbs fly into the octopus-maw head of the cacodemon-captain. The corona of fire expanded into a wider circle above the fiend-captain. It was then I realized that there was a pall of grey dusk over the lavatory. It reminded me of the barber’s salon… the kids… My fury upped. Whatever the plan the foul beast cooked up, I will face it… eat it with great relish.

My world exploded in fire.

The light was blinding, wicked flame washing over me like a tsunami over a coastline. Something landed with a heavy thud before me. I had used my hands to block out the retina damaging brightness. Bringing them down back to battle stance, my eyes met a behemoth fiend.

If I guessed at its height, it should be around twelve feet… a double dose of death.

The cacodemon-captain had absorbed the essences of its underlings to empower itself. It had changed form.

Where it once had a faceless bald head with a corona of fire adorning it, it now possessed the facial features of a tortoise with four horns protruding out of its testudinid head- two small goatish ones at its forehead and two bigger ram-like ones stemming from the side of each temple.

It eyes were glassy black, the colour of the abyss. Its upper body was like that of a bear –fur and bulk alike, its ursine limbs ending with black clawed human digits. Its lower body was reptilian, reminiscent of an offended frilled lizard. The crown of fire looked more violent upon its head. I noticed a tail, it was as thick as a rat’s… it looked like a rat’s…

The pall of dusk above the lavatory grew darker, almost nightmarishly. Just like the infernal beast before me. I stood in awe of the chimeric grotesqueness made manifest before me. Before I could comport myself, the beast punched me into the walls of lavatory.

It bellowed its fury at me. It rushed me as I lay disoriented against the concrete wall. It kicked me into the wall for good measure, stomped on me thrice, picked me up by one of my legs and beat me around on the floor and walls like a cave man testing his new club. Spinning me in air, slamming me to the ground like a pestle to the mortar before throwing me to the school fence like a Frisbee.

I was beaten senseless without any reprieve. Remarkably, I was only almost out cold. In that state, I had a vision of my body at the hospital bleeding and convulsing on the bed. I could see the doctors and nurses trying to stabilize me. I could sense Edum, who was unaware of what was happening, enter a deeper state of ennui.

I realized that even as undead I could still die. I heard something guttural leave the mouth of the cacodemon, it seemed like laughter. Images played past my mind like a movie with its playback speed to the highest. The madman’s book, the days prodding at secrets no common man should know… the barber’s saloon… the kids, poor kids… 

Something called to me, something primordial, something monstrous… something ancient. I once read of the Egyptian god Thoth and his various roles in the Egyptian pantheon. I remembered his animal aspect… it ate the hearts of the malign.

This thing called… and in my weakness and apparent defeat, I answered.

Aani.

With a roar, I sprung up like a mad bull and loped towards the cacodemon. It turned back from trying to get at Edum from the window of the restroom he occupied. I lunged to the left eye of the beast, I bore my hand into the socket and pulled at its eye. It shrieked its pain and dragged me away. I came off with its eye in tow as it threw me down.

It shrieked its pain, turned to me in rage and beheld as I ate the eye with great relish. Slurping up the dark ichor that streaked by my lips. It charged at me, its wrath palpable. I returned with a roar of my own and met the beast.

Before we could lock fists in combat, all went dark.

I found myself in a grey room, with a black framed mirror at its end. I approached this curio, laying my eyes on its eerie reflective surface. The image cast was of my usual self, leading me to cast glances on myself and touch my body. I was still the grey freak as of recent. I looked back to the mirror to behold a shadowed hand stab through my reflection in the mirror. I could see a clawed humanoid hand with a still beating heart in its grasp. My reflection died with shock on its face. I touched my own chest but felt nothing. I looked behind for good measure, I saw nothing.

I looked back to the dead teen in the mirror. The hand receded from his innards with his heart still in its grasp. My eyes followed the corpse as it flopped to the ground, before coming back up to see a dark silhouette of the young man who just got killed.

It smiled at me before proceeding to take a large bite of the very much beating heart.

A name came to my mind… Carl Jung.

Upon that revelation, I regained consciousness. I found myself eating the corpse of the transformed cacodemon. In shock, I dropped the meat I was only a few moments ago eating with gusto. It was the heart of the cacodemon captain. I couldn’t remember anything after I charged the fell beast. My memory was blank. The cacodemon-captain’s transformed corpse was melting away even as I was chewing on it. The corpses of the fiends I down earlier had already vanished, leaving no trace of their coming. This carrion before me would soon join. The malign pall that enveloped the lavatory’s vicinity was fading away. Despite the battle that had taken place, no change was made to the environment. It was as if nothing happened.

‘What am I doing? How long have I been here?’

With that query in mind, I quashed down my present predicament to turn my mind towards Edum’s status. As I made way to his restroom, I stepped on something.

It was the cacodemon’s captain crown of fire, it’s badge of unholy office. It still shone with power. Not like when it sat atop the fiend-captain’s head, but enough to be lethal in capable hands. I ignored the fact that my hand had claws as I tried to pick up the unholy halo.

Seeing the corona gave me an idea, it would be something that would help me and Edum… Edum especially.
As I moved to the restroom Edum occupied, I noticed that my corporeal form had begun to fade. Any minute now, I would phase back to my grey prison-realm. The door was locked from inside; I didn’t see any need to use force. Instead, I shed some of the already fading corporeality so that I could phase into the rest room. I found Edum on the floor. I made to disturb, move him or something.

But my imprecation prevented me from doing so. 

I saw the book… that beautiful book of Avestan and Vedic secrets. The very one that led to all this. Things were too right to be not considered a coincidence. A portal was slowing opening behind me, right in the restroom. A gateway to take me back to where I rightfully belong. 

I needed to make haste.

And so, with my esoteric knowledge of the empyrean I began to bind the corona of fire’s power to Edum. Now he can protect himself. Today is the first of its kind since almost a month ago… since the tragedy that set us on this path. My besting of those cacodemons would not go unnoticed by those involved. A bigger thing was going to unravel itself.

As I reached the end of my spell, the portal had widened. A spiraling energy of spatial madness. Spindly grey arms reached for me as I ended the magical formula. Edum lay there on the restroom floor, his nightmares overwhelming him. My little gift to him will give him the much needed respite… even if it’s not much.

The arms pull me into the portal, I do not resist them. It’s futile. Almost fully submerged into the whirling pool of energy, I leave my last words for my friend, “Prepare brother, they are coming”.

And so I am pulled into the aether, the immaterial substance that separates realms from each other. As I am carried on the currents of stygian tides, I contemplate the revelations laid bare to eyes. A shade of who I really am, cast in the shine of Lucky’s consciousness. 

I am not Lucky nor his mind nor half his psyche. I am what he, like every sane person keeps looked away in the deepest vaults of the soul.

I am a Shadow… 

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