Wraiths snaked past the quivering form, bleeding evanescent shadows of corrupted souls. It was a scene far too familiar in his lucidity yet entirely alien in his present state of mind. Despite the chilling touch of the undead, he felt overheated – fidgeting uncomfortably in the gloom. They did not seem to mind or care, passing through and around him just as calmly and easily if he had been no more than a shadow himself. Even so, his movements were constricted by an unseen force, as though invisible strings bound him like a marionette to a dance not yet allowed to be set in motion.
In the back of his mind, he felt he had forgotten something important. Something about a light. The boy considered asking the beings around him regarding the matter. Surely they could be of assistance. Despite their appearance, he did not feel any sense of alarm in their midst. Almost as though they were family – but then, he would not have been the least surprised if they were.
Just then, the air began to vibrate with a low hum, a telltale sign what was to come next if he had been conscious. Instead, it was regarded with only the mildest of interest until the most peculiar smell of smoke entered his nostrils. His eyes flickered in curiosity, searching for the source. This was new.
A flash of white shot through him, exuding a low gasp of pain as he jerked awake in the night. Useless eyes snapped to his arm where some burning, gooey substance dribbled down. Upon further inspection with his other hand, its waxy texture and mostly-cylindrical shape cried out its identity. He was more confused than frightened at the initial discovery of the half-melted candle slowly creating burn marks down his arm’s length. Surely he had put it out before falling asleep, and even if he had not, his desk was a good seven feet away. How it managed to burn him in his sleep was beyond his comprehension.
An uncharacteristic creak of the bamboo floorboards registered as important. Yet peering into the darkness of his room, he could see nothing but a void as black as calligraphy ink. The blinds were drawn tightly to prevent any moonlight from entering, a direct contrary to how he normally left them in the night. Something was amiss in this witching hour. That much was certain. Cautiously, he reached for the blade he had recently taken to leaving between himself and the wall while asleep. When no further noise ensued, the boy lifted himself off his mat – careful to catch the candle as it peeled off him.
Slowly inching his way across the room, he reached the desk. Grasping at a familiar spot, he found nothing but the low plane of wood. His breath hitched as he ran his hand across the full length of the board to find nothing but the thin tablecloth. Where were they? If he had found the twin stones, he could put a light on the subject and discover that the strange noise was perhaps nothing more than a stray rat that had lost its way while traveling to the village granary. Instead, they too were out of place in the night along with the candle’s holder.
A low mewling and then a harsh thud resonated against his – thankfully closed – sliding doorway. He instinctively spun around, giving off a painfully auditory squeak of the floorboards. More catlike mews and moaning emanated as something heavy was tossed down the hall towards his parents’ room. The youth gripped his blade tightly, quietly pulling it out of its sheath and backing into the opposite corner near the closet.
The door slid open, and with his eyes now adjusted to the darkness, the boy could discern the hulking figure of some Creature enter the room. Its scent was of fly-ridden flesh, and its apparent girth suggested a being of terrifying strength and size beyond anything human. He was now somewhat thankful for the closed blinds, as the brilliant moonlight would have surely alerted the beast to his location if its other senses had not already done just that. Even so, he could not help but silently gag at the beast’s foul odor.
The being emitted a low moan, shuffling on clumsy feet as it dragged a large object behind it. Stooping low, the foul-smelling Creature sharply withdrew a spindly object from the larger with a sickening pop before shambling to the opposite wall where his bedside lay. Lifting up the smaller - rod-like? - object, the Thing brought it down on the bedframe hard, thrashing about the sheets and bedroll. The boy thanked whatever ancestors watching over him that he had awoken. If he had still been dreaming, the Being would have surely destroyed him by now.
The child breathed slowly and rhythmically, glancing cautiously toward the open door where he might possibly be able to leave undetected if the beast kept up its work.
Apparently unsatisfied with what it found, the Creature suddenly hurled the mat across the room to strike the closed blinds with enough force to send the bed through them and down the outer wall, catching the boy’s attention once more. From the glimmer of moonlight that temporarily broke through the barrier of blackness, the boy caught sight of the beast’s features: muscled indigo arms, a mane of black hair, and two sharp horns. Its rough clothing – if it could even be called such – was of dried animal pelts, and in its claws it held a bloodied metal club. A distorted body lay near the doorway. The boy shuddered with realization that it was the larger object the Oni had dragged in. His stomach churned when he found the thing faintly recognizable. Dear Heaven, what madness was this?
The Oni caught his petrified gaze; its dimly-glowing, animalistic ochre eyes boring into his own terrified green ones. A low moaning growl issued forth from its jaws, promising death. The boy quivered in fear as it lumbered over to him, preparing its club to bash his face against the wall. His blade seemed insignificant then, practically a needle, compared to the sheer size of the monster. Another glance toward the door – seemingly much farther away than usual – told him he wouldn’t make it.
As though in slow-motion, the boy clearly saw the Oni sluggishly lift its club to bear. Was this how time became when one was about to die? That was the only explanation he could conjecture, frozen in terror as he was. He regretted not being able to finish his studies, but the very idea of civil service seemed ridiculous now with Death so eagerly wanting him that it sent this demon after him and his family.
A loud explosion brought him to his senses, causing him to instinctively duck and scramble away as the Oni weirdly stumbled into the wall to its left with a pained roar. Not having any experience with the European weapon, the youth could not accurately identify its source though invisible. Instead, he silently thanked whatever spiritual guardian watched over him in that hellish night and fled out the open door, only to trip over the body It had brought in. He let out a gagged cry at the sight of his mother’s mutilated face.
“M-māma!” he could not help but scream when his voice returned, gripping his mother’s corpse and trying to get a better look. Trying to find some reason to dispel the illusion that it was really her. Tears bled from his eyes when he found the jade pendant she always wore. Given by his father as a birthday gift two summers ago after a successful business venture to Nanjing.
“Haishu!” an unfamiliar voice screamed in the night, somewhere further down the halls.
“Run, Haishu!” Another more metallic one implored, and the low bellow of the Oni enhanced those words, telling the boy he had little time before it was mobile again. Scrambling to get up, the boy gave another fretful glance at the shadowy figure of his mother before fleeing out the room, blinded just as much by darkness as by tears.
The dark silhouette of a person greeted him at a juncture in the hall. “Haishu!” The person called out his given name – or attempted to – along with a string of words in a language that the boy did not know despite his interest in such foreign things. The person stopped the youth’s movement, holding him in place and continuing to speak, though the boy did not understand a word. If he had time to consider it, Hàixiū would have likely guessed it to be one of the languages used by the western traders his father occasionally dealt with in the capital when business affairs required him to venture there. Even so, such reasoning did little to explain why this person was here, or what he was saying for that matter.
The roar of the Oni alerted both of them that it was still very much alive and vengeful, breaking the youth’s concentrated efforts to understand. The person – whoever it was – pushed him along quickly away from the area along with another strand of utterly foreign and nonsensical words. The boy did not understand the phrase, but the intent seemed at least somewhat apparent. Another shot fired, and in the short-lived light that came with it, Hàixiū noted how pale his savior seemed to be, accented only by red-blue lines on his face and the dark weapon he had fired. The ghost of an ancestor long-departed? The boy hoped so as he followed the probable command and ran out the door and into the yard as the figure faded away into shards of shadow. The demon howled in hot pursuit, not intent on losing its prey so easily.
Hàixiū found his sandals at the edge of the yard, slipping into them and ducking round the corner of the outer wall as the beast slammed its iron club where the youth’s head had just been, resounding with an indignant huff from the stone wall that now showed deep-seated cracks from the blow.
The boy bolted off down the cobbled road, hoping to reach the nearby town a few miles away. Surely the monster could not attack him without grave peril to itself, right?
An ear-splitting screech was the only warning he had of the loose boulder the Oni had torn off the wall to hurtle at him. Luckily he had ducked instinctively when the beast bellowed, otherwise his head would have been torn from his form. The stone crashed into the cobblestone path and rolled downhill perpendicular to the boy’s flightpath, leaving him little time to gawk at the size of it.
Darkness appeared at the edge of his vision, tempting him to fall off the main path and down the hill as the monster continued the chase. Why all these supernatural creatures had decided to appear tonight made little sense. Children’s bedtime night terrors were not meant to be real. Only stories to keep the little ones shivering deep in the beds and not wandering off into the night to be captured by far more real and threatening bandits or inescapable crevices. Yet Hàixiū’s denial did little to make his plight any less substantial or terrifying as he ran with the Oni still chasing after him and steadily gaining ground despite the fact that the Thing had now been wounded at least three additional times. All from unknown explosions from the shadowy figure who continued to appear and disappear at random.
He wished the monster would just die already, but it kept pace now only a few yards behind him. Exhaustion settled in, and the wisps of black at the edge of his vision danced sharper, beckoning him to come off the path and deeper into the woods rather than try to make it the full run into town. Surely attempting to lose the Oni in the forest would be a better idea than letting stamina alone determine the victor, the darkness seemed to suggest. And truly, he had too far a distance to travel for it to make a difference either way.
With no other option at hand of equal likelihood to succeed, off the path he went into a sharp decline down the hillside, barely avoiding tumbling headfirst as he did so. The youth grabbed onto the low undergrowth to the side with a free hand, skinning his palm badly in the process before finally latching onto a root and grinding his descent into a halt. Hàixiū was allowed only a moment to catch his breath before the Oni came crashing down after him. The boy tensed in expectance of it to grab hold of and throttle him, but it instead slid well below him, bellowing all the way until it could no longer be heard in the night.
The youth shakily rose to his feet, leaning against the vegetation to stay balanced. His breath came in labored gasps as he tried to regain the stamina needed to continue running. After all, knowing his luck, the monster had not died from the fall and would return shortly. Best to spend what precious little time he had left catching his breath.
When nothing else came forward, Hàixiū collapsed back onto the earth, gasping as his shoulders bobbed with sobbing – both from fear and despair. The little strength he had exerted was gone, and with no monster chasing him, his composure broke fully from what he had witnessed. A demon had tried to kill him, and in the process, killed his mother. The thought made him want to curl up and sink into the earth beneath him.
“Nǐhǎo, Hàixiū,” a soothing metallic, computerized tone seemed to whisper beside him in the soft, surreal night air. The youth paused in his terror, glancing up out of the undergrowth he lay in. He turned to find its source, but only noticed a vague silhouette of what could be construed as a person about forty feet off – too far away to have conceivably said anything.
“Hello?” Hàixiū replied uncertainly, praying to find another living person. Surely, then, the madness of the night would cease. With the shade remaining silent, the boy got up to approach slowly only for the silhouette to appear to recede just as quickly. A surprised gasp was let out, and the fallen leaves rustled as the youth picked up the pace. “No, come back!”
The shade slowed in its parting, waiting until he was just upon it before solidifying. It took the appearance of a colorless, ghostlike character save for its eyes of pure soulless grey and faint double-parallel lines of red and blue down the sides of its face. Black wires originated from its ears and converged into a single cord that wound into its pocket. A curious metallic zipper held closed the being’s outer jacket, but the unfamiliarity was lost on the terrified youth more concerned with escaping the monster he had fled. Just as the boy reached to grab onto the person’s wrist, whose eyes went wide at the sight of the boy, the being involuntarily dissolved into shards of dust.
Eerie, inhuman laughter echoed through the still night air as Hàixiū fell into the former-shade, collapsing into the damp dirt and leaves beneath. Spitting out the moist earth, the boy looked up to see the golden eyes of that terrifying monster in the distance. He bolted to his feet and sped off like a hare fleeing from a wolf.
In the back of his mind, he knew there could be no escape. He was not going to make it to the town, nor could he lose the Creature in the woods. Perhaps it would be better if he simply ceased his futile attempts.
The youth screamed in agony as the monster’s club collided with his right shoulder blade, sending a shockwave of pain down his spine and fracturing the bone with a sickening crunch. In a moment, the demon was upon him, pinning him down firmly. The youth winced as the monster’s rotten breath bore down upon him and his mouth filled with the dirt that would soon serve as his shallow grave. After a brief pause, another shock of blinding pain came as the demon’s jaws bore down on the injured shoulder.
An explosion sounded – much closer this time – but from what, the boy could not tell. He felt his left hand move of its own accord, stabbing the monster in the head as it temporarily let go to roar at the source of the loud noise. Something thick, boiling, and viscous dribbled down on him as more pain forked its way up and down his slim form. The pressure of the monster on top of him ceased, and then he was no longer lying on the ground.A white form drifted into view, wide grey eyes staring with concern into the boy’s dulling dark green ones. Darkness licked its way across the edges of his vision, and something foreign and unintelligible was uttered before the pure grey orbs gleamed red and everything faded into blackness as void as wet calligraphy ink.
|I am that one kid in school who hides in the library and is considered aloof solely because I don't converse with people, instead watching them from a distance.. Mostly cuz I'm too shy to talk, so if I don't respond to your comments, it's because of that. Although once I start talking, I don't. Stop. Ever. Or so I've been told. ._.|