Gift or Curse
Written by: Ben Marroquin
It crouches, hidden in the shadows of the bushes, unseen. Muscles taut, forest green eyes fixed on it’s prey which is searching the ground for its next meal. A tiny rustle catches the raven’s attention. Nervously, it looks around, takes a couple of hops and spears its head towards the ground. The raven lifts it head triumphantly with a leggy creature in its beak.
From the bushes a cat explodes into motion; a blur of black fur, claws and fangs, and it’s over for the raven.
From the backyard of a beige suburban house with burgundy trimming, a sliding glass door opens. A young raven haired girl emerges with laundry basket in hand. “Ashcot… Ashcot…” her voice calls out.
She looks around. No sign of the cat. It’s busy finishing its meal.
“Where’d you go?” she asks to no one in particular. She hears a faint thump-thump-thumping noise coming from the side of the house.
Placing the empty laundry basket on the porch ground, she walks towards the sound. “Ashcot… Ashcot…” she calls out. Still no answer.
She turns at the side of the house and quickly locates the source of the strange thumping sound: The weathered wooden fence door is open, the warm wind thumping it against the large rubber trash cans located on the front side of the house. She causally walks towards the fence door to close it and notices the long shifting shadows cast on the ground heralding in the evening.
I wonder what school will be like in this city. I hope it doesn’t su… no, no… think positive thoughts… “I so miss my friends,” she says with a soft sigh.
Clinkclinkclinckclink clankclank…clank… clank…CRASH!
The sudden flurries of sounds startles her, causing her to jump. What was that? It’s then that she notices that the side door leading to the garage is ajar. It’s only a few feet away from her.
She gulps, clenches her fists, and steadies herself as she edges near the darkened doorway. “Ashcot, is that you kitty?” her voice is tight with tension. She moves closer to the burgundy painted door, places one hand on the doorframe and the other on the doorknob. She gently pushes it further open, in hopes of allowing more light into the dim cluttered garage.
“Ashcot… Ashcot, are you in there you silly cat?” Her foot slips a little; her hands clench their holdings, keeping her up. She looks down on the freshly stained cement floor and sees a trail of blood leading into the garage.
Her eyes follow the blood trail while she fights the mounting urge to run. Please… Please, don’t let it be her, not mom… I can’t lose her too… she takes a deep breathe of air, washing away those dreaded thoughts and fears, slowing her rapidly beating heart.
Steady now, hands by her side clenching her flowery summer dress, she takes a few unsteady paces into the room. Eyes wide, she takes a sweeping peek inside. Her dark brown eyes stop on a form, dressed in a white type of outfit, huddled on the floor between torn bags of spilt aluminum cans and fallen bikes. The shadow figure groans, clutching its red drenched abdomen as a pool of blood grows on the ground.
Her eyes, adjusted to the dimness of the garage, take in the figure; Long strands of dark hair covers it’s… no… his face, but she can tell that he is not much older than her. From cracks in the hair “mask” she sees a pair of yellowish glowing eyes looking at her. She feels something furry brush her leg, startling her, making her jump again.
With pounding heart, she quickly looks down and notices that it’s only Ashcot. The stranger lifts his blood stained hand towards her, wanting her to get nearer, as if wanting to tell her something. No… I don’t think so she thinks to herself, but Ashcot has other ideas and approaches the stranger. She tries to stop him, but it’s too late.
As if in slow motion, she sees the stranger grab the cat in one hand around the neck and, thinking only of Ashcot’s safety, she lunges forward to pull him away, but is instead caught by the wrist by the stranger’s other hand.
Eyes wild, he whispers through clenched teeth “You must save them all… You must become one of us…”
It is then she notices that the blood tainted white outfit the stranger is wearing is really a straight jacket. Oh no, he must have escaped from the asylum! she thinks as towering waves of rolling panic pound into her.
Before she can react, the stranger bites the inside of his lip, making it bleed. He lifts Ashcot, scratching and clawing, and stares into the cat’s angry eyes. He utters some strange unknown words and the cat goes limp.
In horror, she sees his jaws open and stretch, contorting into some huge beastly fanged filled mouth! She hears herself scream out “NNNOOOO!!!” as his fanged mouth bites into Ashcot’s neck, mingling the cat’s blood with his own in his mouth.
He gently sets the limp cat aside and brings down the horrified little girl to him with both hands. She wants to scream, but fear clutches her voice. He looks up into the dark, as if seeing the velvety night sky and softly chants as blood drips from his lips.
His body begins to pulse with a soft bluish white glow which reaches into the depths of his eyes; looking into his eyes, she sees him reflected within, bright and shiny and corporeal. His ethereal self looks up into her through those pulsing eyes, wings spring forth from its spirit body and launches towards her. The angelic-like spirit shatters through his eyes and enter hers.
Sensing the moment, the stranger moves her head aside with his free hand, and with mouth filled with his and Ashcot’s blood (and unknowingly, the blood of the raven), bites down on her neck. His fangs sink softly into her flesh and pierces the jugular vein, injecting the mixture of blood in his mouth into her body as waves of bluish white energy envelope her.
She feels the burning liquid mixture injected within her course it’s way through her veins towards her heart, leaving a numbing trail of searing pain within. She gasps as the infectious liquid spears her heart and is rapidly pumped throughout her body. She seeks refuge from the pain in her mind but the infectious storm within rains down as her world begins to fade…
Gently laying her down on the ground, the strangers last fading whispers enter her; “I’m sorry… but I must do what I must… you will be reborn… you will be seraph hunter… beware the forsaken… save them all from… apocalypse…” She hears no more as her world is swallowed by the darkness of unconsciousness.
Dingy green hued walls of stone surround her, caging her in like some kind of wild beast. She is chained to a bolted down metal framed bed, able to raise her head enough to see that ominous black metal door which bars her way to freedom. A calliope of screams and wailing echo into her chamber, bombarding her with images of people losing their minds, of people in excruciating pain, of people being consumed or worse.
She hears the distant sound of scratchy footfalls making their way towards her. She knows that her body cannot take anymore of the cocktail of drugs and torture these forsaken beasts have been putting her through. She cannot, will not give them the information they want.
She hears keys jingling and sees the door rattling and closes her eyes, not wanting to see them again. They enter her room and unlock her chains. Large ragged hands with long tendril fingers grasp her arms, claws biting into her flesh as they yank her up. Her feet rasp the ground as they half walk, half drag her through maze-like corridors.
She hears a door open and is taken inside and strapped to a table. The door then closes. She opens her eyes and takes in her surroundings. She’s in what resembles a hospital surgery room; a room which has been turned into a torture chamber as instruments crafted to heal life are used as weapons of pain and, in the end, death. The red stained room reeks of it.
She hears the door open and sees him, the torturer. His ashen hued face is covered by a green surgical mask. He is tall, thin, leathery and stark with hair appearing to be long dark sharpened quills. He seems to glide as he moves across the room. His onyx eyes show no emotion as he moves a tray filled with surgical blades next to her table. With a flourish of hand gestures, he selects a long slender blade and holds it over her heaving chest. Her eyes widen in pain filled anticipation of what’s to come…
The blade plunges down… “AAAAIIIIIIGGGGHHHH!”
Jovi wakes, heart pounding, limbs shaking, stomach churning, and body soaked with sweat. Several minutes pass before she gets her bearings. She bolts upright suddenly as her memory comes flooding into her mind, making her world spin. The vertigo causes her to spin to her hands and knees and spew.
She shakily gets to her feet as her head begins to burn with heat and her body pulses with chills. Her pitch black world begins to swish left and right. Guided by memory, she wobbles her way to the garage door leading into the kitchen, opens it, and is momentarily blinded by light. Slowly but surely she makes her way to her room and stumbles onto bed. Her eyes close just as the front door opens…