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Here is the text of my short story that I’m planning on submitting to the Writers of the Future Contest. The working title is Eidolon (aye-DOH-lin). You can download it in the above link, or you can read it below…whatever you want…that is, if you even want to read it.
Disclaimer: This short story is gruesome, and there is a some violence, blood, and killing involved. I hope it’s not too much. But just to be safe, I recommend that no one under the age of 13 reads it. Reader discretion is advised. 🙂 Besides that, I hope you enjoy it!
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“Eidolon means phantom, and a phantom does its best work at night.”
I settled down upon a low chair at a table, facing the main crowd, as the Starburst Inn began bustling with life for the evening. I listened to the older greying gentleman speak, the spectacles upon his nose rising and falling as he did. A small breeze blew around me, though the windows were shut and the door was at the other side of the room.
“There’s talk of a phantom eiach running about, preying on the innocent,” the older man continued.
A younger man, with blonde hair and a green cloak, in a corner sneered. “Yeah, like young men here are innocent these days. That’s what this eiach preys upon: young robbers and rapists, who happen to mostly be men.”
The older man smiled at the welcome interjection, as if he had wanted to see if anyone at all had caught the connection. “Yes, Robi, but it isn’t only those guilty of robbery and rape that it preys on; it preys on those young men that adore drinking until they’re too drunk to stand, young men such as yourself.”
The crowd of listeners howled in laughter, and the man, Robi, blushed; he was holding a cup of green wine in his hand, one of the strongest wines in all of Sonal, probably even the strongest in all of Vapor. I smiled, watching the older man speak, but trying not to become involved in their discussion.
“The constable believes it may be a larish or even a demonas.”
I smiled at that, shaking my head.
Another young man sitting in another corner scoffed. “Has anyone ever actually seen a demonas, Mr. Kraus? It’s all rumor and hearsay.”
The older man, Mr. Kraus, looked in the man’s direction. “There are many accounts of people having seen a demonas, Carl, lad.”
Carl rolled his eyes. “That’s just bull, Kraus! I don’t believe in any of these accounts. None of them even agrees with what it looks like. Some say it’s a huge black spirit that most people can’t see, others say it’s small and white and glows all the time.”
Mr. Kraus smiled, holding up a finger, a twinkle in his eye. “Actually, they do agree on one thing: a demonas has large yellow eyes and sharp fangs.”
The crowd roared. “That describes pretty much every demonic creature!” someone shouted, someone I couldn’t see amongst the crowd.
“Young man,” a voice said beside me. I turned and looked up to see the innkeeper. “Would you like a drink, boy?” Mr. Frane was the kindest man I knew in this part of the world. The man’s beard was grey and full, and he stood a full foot taller than me. He had on a white shirt that buttoned up the right side and a pair of long brown breeches, with black straps over his shoulders.
I shook my head politely. “No, thank you, Mr. Frane.”
Mr. Frane smiled, putting a hand on mine; this time, I let him. “You need to eat something, boy. You’re as thin as a needle.” I looked down at my waist, which, indeed, was too tiny to be normal. Mr. Frane held up a finger before I could protest, and then he twisted, returning to the bar, and took out a plate and placed upon it a roasted lenster, one of the most delectable of meats in all of Vapor. My eyes widened as I caught a whiff of the large lump of lenster, mouth watering. He returned and placed the plate in front of me with a smile at my expression.
“I have no money, sir,” I whispered, listening as the men in the group laughed at some unheard joke.
Mr. Frane took a seat across from me and smiled. “This one is on the house. I just want you to enjoy some good food for once.”
I felt my eyes swelling with tears. “Thank you, Mr. Frane, sir.” With that, I dug into the lenster with all the might I could muster. The hunk of meat was larger than my head, and it was warm, having just been roasted. Just putting my fingers beside it, feeling the warmth emanating to my skin, made me want to shout with joy.
I felt Mr. Frane watch me for a moment before standing. “Let me get you some wine.”
“No!” I cried. “Please, just water.”
His smile broadened. “You’ve never had wine before, have you?”
I felt myself blush. “No, it isn’t that… I just…I don’t believe in getting myself too drunk to function properly.”
“I’d like you to try some anyway,” Mr. Frane said as he began turning. “Just a sip.”
I shook my head adamantly. “No, just water. Please.”
He seemed surprised at my stubbornness. I understood; most men my age were eager for a sip of wine.
The truth was, I had tasted wine before, and I loathed it. I knew that drinking as a child and drinking as an adult were two completely different experiences. However, I was reluctant to ever try it again; it would truly interfere with my ability to do my job.
After a moment, when I didn’t rescind my request for water, he reluctantly gave me a single nod. “All right, I’ll get you some water.”
I gave him a grateful smile. “Thank you.” I watched Mr. Frane as his body danced around the counter to the bar, and then continued watching Mr. Kraus.
“Everything is uncertain with this killer,” the man was saying. “Nobody knows what it looks like, nor do they know how often it kills, or if it’s even the same eiach.”
“My boy is thirty years old,” said another older man, sitting next to Mr. Kraus. “He goes out drinking every night, and he sometimes even pays for a prostitute or two. I beg him not to do such things, but he doesn’t listen. I fear he may fall victim to this phantom eiach.”
I listened with interest.
“Your boy, what’s his name,” Mr. Kraus asked.
The crowd laughed, and so did I. It was one of the strangest names I’d ever heard. “That’s a girl’s name!” someone from the crowd said, though no one else seemed to hear it.
“In fact, he’s somewhere here…” Then the older man pointed at a younger man by the bar, who was speaking with another customer, joking, laughing, and drinking; his blonde hair was filthy, and he was thin, though not nearly as thin as I. His green cloak billowed this way and that as he slapped another man on the back. I watched this man intently, my eyes narrowing. He smelled of trouble. Although most of the men here smelled of trouble, for some reason I was intent on this man.
The light breeze still blew at my hair.
“You have to stop this…”
I knew I did…but how? I didn’t have any desire to stop it, but at the same time, I prayed that I would be able to someday.
When Mr. Frane returned with a glass of water, I smiled and accepted the cup, taking a quick, small sip, then turned back to the lenster as the innkeeper took his seat across from me at the table.
“I can’t expect you to tell me your name for once, can I?”
I had been coming to the Starburst Inn for a little over four months, living on the streets most of the time, but I had never introduced myself to anyone here. I was too afraid, afraid that someone would recognize me and seize me, taking me somewhere captive. The thought made me shudder. I had vowed to myself that I would never go into another dungeon again, for any reason. But what I was now doing…wasn’t that also a kind of dungeon? When would it stop? When would I stop?
I shook my head. “No.”
Mr. Frane nodded. “That’s all right, boy. You are still welcome here anytime.” He stood and gave me a slap on the shoulder. “I’m going back to work. Let me know if you need anything, like another drink, more food, or even just company.”
I smiled and gave him a curt nod, and he bounced back to the bar. He said something that I couldn’t make out to the man Lil Shum, who cackled afterward. I watched this Lil Shum, watched him carefully, thinking about going after him…
The wind knocked over my drink, the water spilling onto the table and onto my shirt and breeches. I stood abruptly, wiping the liquid down, and looked around nervously. Fortunately, everyone that noticed didn’t give me a second glance…except a hooded man in a dark corner. I nearly shirked back when I saw him, for I somehow knew that he had been watching me for quite a while. The only part of his face I could see was his mouth, which seemed to be smiling. I wanted to scream something at him, but I couldn’t make my mouth work.
The hooded man was wearing clothes that were ideal for traveling: long, loose breeches, loose shirt, and a thick green cloak that he probably used as a blanket too. The fact that he wore green told me that he had money. He was one of the only people in the bar that wasn’t drinking wine, which I thought was strange: if he had money, why didn’t he order any wine, and why did he wear traveling clothes?
I sat back down in my seat, squirming uncomfortably, my eyes darting down to the lenster that was halfway finished, and wondered why the man was watching me, who he was. Perhaps…
I reached into my pack and took out a pencil and a sheet of paper. After I had studied the man Lil Shum a long moment, I began sketching him. He was still laughing maniacally with another customer who was also drunk. I captured his face, the curves of his shirt and breeches, his rough hands that were plastered with dirt. Dirt covered his face too, along with a scruffy beard and moustache. He was filthy, although his cloak was thin and green. This was the man that I would go after tonight…that is, if he tried to do anything bad, which I knew he would.
Then I flipped the page over, my eyes darting to the hooded man in the corner, trying not to move my head, for I knew he was watching me. I wondered what this man was thinking. Was he wondering what I was drawing? Did he even know who I was? How long had he been following me? I began a sketch of him, starting with the cloak’s hood, then moving down to his face. He was very still, as if posing for a portrait. Why did he not move?
“Well, we know one thing for sure,” I heard Mr. Kraus’s voice saying. “It’s that this is an eiach that preys upon young men that go about breaking the law.”
The group fell suddenly silent, as if the significance of the news had finally hit them. The majority of the people here probably were young men that were disobedient or had a son that was a disobedient young man. I smiled, shaking my head. Yes, this eidolon preyed upon people that were naughty…but not always so young…and not even always men. This eidolon had attacked a young woman who was wandering the streets doing wicked things. But nobody seemed to understand that; it could attack anyone that was out doing bad things. I knew this because…
“You, boy!” It was Mr. Kraus’s voice again, and the crowd was dead silent, as if awaiting a response from someone. I continued my sketch, not bothering to look up. “Boy!” he said again. This time, I tilted my head and was startled to see that Mr. Kraus had a finger pointed in my direction. I squirmed in my seat again, wishing this was all a dream. Everyone was looking at me, awaiting my response. I hated being pointed out in a crowd of fifty; I felt my face redden. “Yes, you! What’s your name?”
I hesitated, my mouth ajar. “Uh…Derrick,” I replied, unable to think of another name. I turned my head to see Mr. Frane smiling at me. He thought I had just told the entire crowd my real name. I looked down at the table.
“Derrick,” Mr. Kraus said, motioning me forward.
I felt myself begin to shake. I tucked the piece of paper into a small pocket of my black cloak and slowly stood, walking forward until I was a few feet away from the elderly man. His breath smelled of beer, and I hated it. “Do you know about this phantom eiach?”
The irony of that statement struck me, but I decided to play the part of an ignorant boy, as he thought I was. “Um…a little bit, sir. I mean, just what other people say about it.”
“How old are you, Derrick?”
I hesitated. I was supposed to tell them my age? “20, sir,” I replied.
Mr. Kraus rocked back. “You look like you’re 15.” He was right…that I wasn’t quite 20 yet. In fact, I was just a bit closer to 15 than I was to 20. “Have you been a good young man?”
Hesitating again, I said, “I think so, sir.”
He smiled and nodded once. “Good. I wouldn’t want the phantom eiach to kill a boy like you. He excused me with a wave of the hand, though I knew that he wanted to talk some more. He probably saw that I was shaking hard. I quickly went back to my seat and looked toward the bar, where Mr. Frane still stood with a grin. I then looked back at the far corner, where the hooded man still sat watching me. In fact, he was grinning as well. Other people’s gazes darted at me once in a while, and I knew that I had to get out of there, or I’d begin to hyperventilate.
My mind ached, racing too much to listen to what the crowd of men was discussing. After a few more minutes, I stood and turned for the door, not bothering to finish the lenster, not even bothering to finish the sketch of the hooded man. I froze when I saw that the man had disappeared from the corner, and looked around frantically to see if he had gotten up and gone somewhere, and if so, where. But he was no longer in the room.
I made my way toward the front door and stepped into the comfort of the darkness. I then reached into my ong, the place at the center of my being, where all things neutralized. I felt power rising within me, the power of the elements of light and sound, and I commanded my light to change, to blend with my surroundings. I felt myself disappear as if something had just erased me. I could no longer see my body, not even my hands and feet. That was a disadvantage of disappearing like this.
With a start, I saw a shadowy head darting behind the corner of the inn, as if hiding from me. Someone had seen me disappear and was now frightened. I had to get away…now!
I reached into my ong again and muffled the sound of my footsteps as I turned and ran. I ran through the streets of the towns, watching as houses and carriages passed by on the road. Most houses and carriages here were made of stone, even the wheels. The trees in the distance were dark shadows, like spirits of which no one was able to make out the features. The air was cold, and I could even see my breath; I hoped no one else could, though. Just to be safe, I shut my mouth and breathed just with my nose.
Many eiachs seemed to know I was there, dorots turning their long necks, feirites scattering about as I passed, birds taking off into the air. Then I reached the Dwarf Woods, the woods with only short trees and much space in between. Many of the birds here took off as well, and tiny stomks raced up into the branches of the trees. Yes, they seemed to know I was there. But I only used my abilities on the nights when I planned on killing someone, so the wind knew.
It had been an hour before I had to stop to catch my breath and rest my body. To my surprise, I found myself in a desert-like setting. When had I left the woods? When I was sure I was alone, my color reappeared, and I sat upon the sandy ground, my sweat dropping into it. I had practiced running ever since I had gotten away from Leafan Gloam. Sometimes I hated it; but mostly, I found it very enjoyable and even relaxing. The wind blew around me, drying my body off, and my black cloak fluttered in the air. I loved that feeling, and I loved the wind. The wind was my constant companion.
“Don’t do this again,” the wind whispered.
I closed my eyes, panting, and put my arms around my knees. “I have to,” I whispered back. The urges were getting too much for me to handle without doing it again.
“No, you don’t have to do this. You have a choice, just like Dane said: ‘You can choose your future; you don’t need to be tethered to your past.”
Dane…one of my only friends, the man that had decided that I wasn’t worth much to him anymore. “Dane is gone, okay?” I said more loudly than I had intentioned.
The wind seemed to stop blowing for a few minutes, and I wondered if I had offended it so badly that it would never return. I felt a tear run down my face as my eyes shut again. That would be my worst nightmare: to be left alone without even the wind with me, the one constant companion I had had my entire life. To my great relief, it blew again, at my hair, ruffling it.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell,” I whispered, my eyes shutting tightly.
“I’m not going to let you do this again,” the wind replied.
I smiled, shaking my head. “Yeah? How do you plan on stopping me?” Suddenly, the wind turned into gust around me, kicking up dirt and sand. The force was so strong that my entire body was pinned, facedown, onto the ground, my eyes burning as the sand flew around my face. “It won’t work!” I choked. “I use…” I coughed as sand flew into my mouth and nearly down my throat. The wind suddenly stopped, as if knowing its efforts were useless. My arms and ribs burned from the gale, and I coughed the sand out of my mouth, almost unable to breathe. Once it was out, I sighed and lay back down on the ground, wondering if the wind would do anything more. “I use justantion to do it, so you can’t stop me.”
Justantion—the ability to enter a living creature’s head and either control, torture, or kill it. The wind couldn’t stop me from using my mind. But then again, it could distract my mind so much that I couldn’t think about using justantion.
It started blowing around me again, and I flinched, and then relaxed when I realized it was blowing softly. I felt it encircle me with the moving air, as if in a hug. I wanted to hug it back, to comfort it, but it had no body.
“Someone is coming for you soon,” the wind said. I stopped at this, my heart skipping a beat. What did that mean? Someone was going to catch me doing the unthinkable? That was the one thing I would have hated to have happen…and yet it was the one thing I yearned to happen. I yearned for someone to catch me and put me to death. The wind would never let me take my own life, so I wished someone else would take it for me.
The wind left. It did that from time to time, mostly when I was going about doing my business.
With a deep sigh, I ran back into the woods and immediately found a larish, which was a large, black, furry nocturnal eiach. Its sharp claws sprang out of its fingers when it saw me. They were on edge most of the time, but they would never attack a human unless the human got within five feet of them. The creature stood on its legs, and its hands were mainly used for clawing and grabbing at things. Its long snout had the ability to sniff anything from miles away, and its mouth had long fangs that were perfect for tearing things apart. It stood seven feet tall, nearly as tall as the trees that made up the Dwarf Woods.
I reached into my ong and invaded the creature’s mind. It buckled over in pain; I knew the feeling, but I didn’t care for this creature’s wellbeing, just my own…and the rest of the town’s.
But that was just an excuse for me to satisfy myself.
I felt like a vile human, a human that didn’t deserve life. Couldn’t the wind see that I didn’t deserve to live? Why did it want me to remain in my fallen state?
Because your life is meant for something more. Those were the words the wind had told me about a year ago.
A tear flowed down my face, and I quickly wiped it away. I had to do this or I would go crazy for the rest of the night. When the larish was finally still, watching me with horror in its eyes, I put a hand to its arm.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered to it. “I have to do this.” This was an innocent eiach, but in order for me to do this, I couldn’t care about that. I had trained my mind long ago not to.
I ran deeper into the woods, the larish following me, until both of us reached the other side. I commanded the larish with my mind to wait for me at the edge of the woods, to go hide itself so it wouldn’t be seen. The larish started off and hid behind a tree. I reached into my ong again and made myself disappear, muffling my footsteps. Then I ran for the Starburst Inn and caught a man stalking away after a woman.
I reached into my cloak pocket and looked at the sketch. This man was definitely Lil Shum. I placed it back into my pocket.
The woman looked to be in her early twenties, while Lil Shum was a thirty-year-old scumbag. I felt myself flare up at the way he made the young woman run. She was nearly naked, Shum probably having taken off her clothes for her. Her long yellow hair sparkled under the full-moonlight, giving Shum a sign of where she would be. It was a shame: it was a cold night, and she had to run around outside without any clothes. Then my heart skipped a beat when I saw the silver glint in Shum’s right hand, a knife. Good spirits, was he planning to kill her?
Shum wore only his breeches, without even his rich cloak around him. I watched the way his body moved, following after the woman, with a silver knife in his hand, and my thirst for his blood grew. I ran after both of them, until the young woman came to an abandoned cabin and made her way in. It was an exceptionally stupid thing to do; no one would be around to hear her if she wanted to scream. Not that she was screaming in the first place, which I also thought was strange. She only ran, panting, fear in her eyes, her face drained of any blood.
Then something occurred to me…men these days committed these horrible crimes for a different reason: to prove himself against the phantom eiach that everyone said was haunting the town, which I suspected might have been the case this night. Shum had probably heard his father talking about him back in the Starburst Inn and had come to prove to everyone that he was strong and smart and brave enough to win against me.
In other words, it was my fault that this woman was about to be murdered by this man. But these men were foolish, for they didn’t know that they were standing against a human instead of an eiach doing this of its own accord.
Someone should have noticed it: no eiach would ever attack a human being, unless the human provoked it in some way, and even then, it was still unlikely an eiach would do this. But because the dead bodies were clearly mutilated by something inhuman, everyone immediately concluded it was an eiach doing this without aid. No one thought to look for a man. This was why I had decided to use eiachs. The constable was right about one thing, though: I used larishes for most of my murders.
I waited until both the woman and Shum were in the cabin, then I sprang forward, as quietly as shadow, as soft as the wind, my colors blended and footsteps muffled. This abandoned cabin had been used as a spot where women were raped, so I wondered why the young woman had chosen to come here. Was it her intention to get raped tonight? That was unlikely. I never understood women’s minds anyway; it was much too complicated for me.
I peered into the door and watched as Shum grabbed the woman by the waist. His blonde hair sparkled and silver knife glinted under the moonlight. The woman attempted a scream, but Shum had clamped his hand over her mouth, putting the knife to her ribs.
“I’m going to get some of you tonight, woman,” he said in a rough tone. She let out a terrified gurgle as he dug the knife into her skin. “And then I’m going to kill you.” He whispered the last part, but I could hear him.
I watched, frozen, as the blood dripped down her waist and onto the floor like juice from fruit. I felt myself wet my lips, uncertain what to do. The sight of her blood made me want to scream with lust. Finally, I shook myself out of my reverie. The man was the guilty one; I could never live with myself if I decided this night to relish in the blood of an innocent young woman. So I reached into my ong and called the larish forward, telling it to move quickly.
It came within seconds, pointed ears perked up, on the defensive, roaring into the cabin. A larish’s roar was sometimes enough to make a man die of a heart attack. Shum seemed genuinely surprised…and frightened…as he spun around and leaped to his feet. However, my suspicions were confirmed when he held the knife out to the larish and smiled.
“I’ve been waiting for you to come and rescue this woman…but it will be I that destroys you.”
The woman backed away, ducking behind a large box near the center of the room. I didn’t notice it till now, but the cabin was filled with empty crates and boxes.
“You go, Lil!” the woman shouted.
I nearly fell backward when I heard this. So it had been a plan all along…he hadn’t really meant to rape and kill her…and she had known about the plan.
It was all an act!
Perhaps I should just flee. To show them that I didn’t appreciate them tricking me like this. My mind churned. What was the right thing to do? The right thing to do would be to just leave, perhaps find somebody else to kill. But I felt my thirst for his blood begin to boil, my thirst to kill something. What would I do if I let this one go? I would probably wind up killing another innocent person, perhaps even a child, if that was what I saw first. The people in Sonal wouldn’t think that it was a larish that killed bad people…they would think it was a larish that struck out on anybody, even those whose crimes were merely stepping out into the night during the late hours. I couldn’t live with myself if that happened.
But then again, I couldn’t live with myself now.
I shut my eyes and tried to think. Every man and woman I had ever killed had deserved it. Or at least, they had done things that were questionable. This man…he was no different. He had certainly been drinking and laughing out loud at the inn. And drunken people really bothered me; nobody can think straight when they were drunk. And now here he was, chasing a young woman naked. Perhaps to someone watching me, they would tell me to stop, because this wasn’t a real attack, and especially because the woman had already known about it not being a real attack.
But I felt tension rising in my chest, and my body began trembling. The monster inside of me begged to be let out; I felt it scratching at my insides and at my skin. I had to do this or I’d go crazy.
So I commanded the larish to step forward, now that it was I that controlled the larish’s motions, and began with a slap which Shum managed to dodge, slipping under its legs. The larish turned and attempted to grab at his legs, its sharp claws outward, but Shum rolled through the room like a ball, dodging each attempt to grab him.
I smiled. The longer this fight lasted, the more satisfying his blood would be.
The larish grabbed for Shum, but he ducked behind it. The larish attempted to tackle at him, but he ducked again, leaving the larish sprawled nearly helpless on the ground. Normally, this would be a death sentence for it, for larishes had a hard time getting upright, but I was in command of it, and it always did what I told it to.
Every living thing obeyed me under justantion.
So the larish stood and tackled at the man, and again, Shum dodged, running for cover behind the boxes.
The larish shuffled toward the boxes and began looking behind him when Shum stabbed the larish’s foot with his knife, and the larish buckled over. I cursed under my breath. I felt every pain that it felt, and I wanted to buckle over too, but I didn’t. Despite the pain, I focused and stood my ground, but allowed the larish to tend to its wound for a few seconds before making it stand upright again.
Shum seemed surprised that the larish could still even stand. I would be too, but I was controlling it now; it wasn’t doing any of this on its own. I commanded the larish to attack, when Shum was still caught off guard, grabbing him from behind when he was least expecting it. I almost shouted in triumph but was cut off by the next deep stab in the leg. I growled quietly but still stood my ground as the larish grabbed at its leg. Pain didn’t bother me much. Pain was my life. It was all there was.
This time, I didn’t give the larish a moment to tend to its pain. Shum leaped onto a box as the larish attempted to slash at him. He leaped onto another box, the box nearest to the small window without glass. I half expected him to jump out and run for his life. But he didn’t. He turned back around to face the larish. This man was talented at maneuvering. I watched his torso twist this way and that as he ducked behind a box, leaped onto it, leaped off of it. There was something about a moving, squirming body, especially one without clothes to interfere with watching the skin, that fascinated me. I hated feeling this way…but I did.
Shum finally gave the larish a nice kick in the jaw. I felt the kick just as hard as the larish felt it, and it looked in my direction pleadingly. I then made it turn back around and slash at Shum again. Shum, however, squatting by the larish’s side, leaped upward and stabbed it in the heart.
My heart skipped a beat when the stab came at it. When I was connected to another creature as I was with this larish, and the creature was about to die, I was in danger of dying too. Perhaps this was it…perhaps I would die tonight. It would be wonderful if I did, and I longed for it.
The wind returned, pushing at my chest, pinning me against the wall for a moment, knocking the breath out of me. It had come and gone. I felt my mind’s connection with the larish severed, and the larish took its last breath on its own, without my controlling it. I wanted to express regret to it…but I didn’t. Instead, I watched as Shum and the young woman started cheering with each other, touching and hugging each other’s naked bodies.
In a second, the pain all but disappeared, and I watched the still body of the larish. Although I tried not to admit it, I felt guilty for the loss of such a strong eiach. Was it necessary to use them? Why could I not just kill these men myself? Because if I did, and the constables came in to examine the bodies, they would know it was a human. Blaming this on an eiach was just a diversion to keep anyone from knowing that a human, that I, was doing this. I could be implicated. If there was anything I did not want, it was to be put back into a dungeon of any kind. But then again, wasn’t this a dungeon as well?
The blood on the floor from the larish excited me. But eiach blood was often not enough to satisfy my needs. I needed the blood of a man. I looked back at the couple squealing with delight, acting as children. Suddenly, he drew the knife on her neck, and she gasped, her light eyes wide.
“Lil…what are you doing?”
His eyes glinted with wickedness. “Killing you, Sheba. What did you think?”
Sheba’s entire body quaked as he began slicing.
I was confused; was he or was he not intending to go through with his threats, to rape and kill her? But I quickly pulled over my hood, stepping forward, and retrieved my colors. To an observer, it would look as if I had materialized out of the air. I enjoyed seeing the look on his face as he dropped the knife, scrambling against the wall behind him. I finally got a good look at him: he had tears streaming down his blue eyes; his chest was full of hair, and he was squirming against the wall.
My heart quickened, watching his every motion, enjoying every moment of it.
“Who are you?” he whispered.
He was helpless. He could have stood up and run because I wasn’t controlling him now. But he was sitting there, as if unable to move. I knew that although I wasn’t using justantion to control him, I was controlling him with the emotion of fear. And that was the excitement that I had always longed for, the reason I was killing. After a moment of silence, a moment of silent observation, I gave him a wicked grin. “I am Eidolon.”
I bent and picked up his knife with my left hand, the knife stained with larish blood. “You will stay very still, my friend.” The man gasped as I held the knife up; he was paralyzed with fear. He deserved this.
“You’re the one who’s been killing all those men, aren’t you?”
With a sober nod, I said, “Yes.”
“But why? You’re just…you’re just a boy.”
Without wiping the knife of the blood, I pressed it against his ribs and gave him a clean cut through. He screamed; I relished in the sound and pressed my hand against Shum’s ribs, against the cut, the blood oozing out of his body onto my hands.
The thrill came once again, the thrill I was waiting for. It was the reason I was doing this.
To feel like I can go to the top of the world and conquer it, to feel like I can do anything,
The blood was warm, a nice contrast to the cold of the night. I rubbed at it, and the blood continued to boil out. Shum was squirming in pain, but paralyzed in fear. The feel of that motion calmed my broiling heart, and I wanted this to last forever. Unfortunately, the beginning of death was often short, lasting no more than fifteen minutes. However, this was enough to last me a month or so. After that, I would have to kill again, to feel fresh blood on my hands.
“Why, boy?” Shum gasped. “Why do you do this?”
I smiled at him again, the terror filling his eyes. “Don’t you see?” I paused, waiting for Shum to respond. His eyes were welling with tears, which satisfied me even more. The fact that I could make someone cry was more satisfying than almost anything in the world. “I enjoy seeing you suffer…” I looked down at my hand at his side, my fingers squeezing it, and he screamed at the pain, and I listened with a big smile on my face. Blood gurgled down his waist. “…feeling your blood trickle down my skin.”
With my right hand, I rested my knuckle at the other side of his ribs, making another clean cut through it with the knife in my left hand. The man gasped, his body squirming on the floor. Without even sensing it, a blow came to the back of my head, a hard blow, and I fell atop Shum’s stomach, atop the cuts, and he screamed with agonizing pain, and his blood splattered on my face. I licked some of it off my lips. I didn’t taste blood often, but when I did, I loved it, especially warm blood on a cold night. I lifted myself off of him and turned around to see the woman Sheba standing behind me with a branch in her hand.
I gave her a wicked smile that made her drop the branch. “I’m coming after you, too, Sheba, dear,” I said. She fell to the floor and started weeping. I turned back to Shum, placing my hands on the newer wound as the blood oozed out.
The fact that I could bring pain to someone else, and not always the other way around, comforted me. I was in pain all the time, but to see someone else in pain once in a while was the thing that kept me sane. I wanted to remain sane; I wanted to have that anchor to myself. But often, I wondered that because of this, did I remember who I was? Perhaps the act of murder served the opposite purpose than I had once intended: to not become something else entirely. I had once thought that watching someone else in pain kept me tethered to myself, to the self inside…but now I was starting to doubt that.
I squeezed Shum’s waist, one hand on each side, and took pleasure in his body’s movements as he jerked and twisted, barely breathing. When I leaned forward by his ear, I whispered, “You rest now,” and I felt his body shudder, taking a final breath before finally lying still. The blood had stopped flowing, and I realized that he had probably died of blood loss. I was surrounded by a pool of blood, Shum’s blood, that spanned nearly the entire cabin, and my cloak, breeches, and shirt were soaked through with it.
After another few seconds, I reluctantly let go of the man’s limp body. Then I turned and realized that I was alone. Sheba wasn’t there anymore.
“I guided her back to safety.” It was the wind; the breeze had returned.
I took a breath. “Good. Now she can tell the constable, have me implicated, and they can kill me for what I’ve done.”
“You should be ashamed of yourself.”
I nodded and began looking for the knife…the knife I hadn’t realized I’d dropped before squeezing Shum’s body that final time. But it was nowhere to be found. Sheba must have taken it for substantiation.
“But I’m not going to let you die, boy.”
For some reason, this set off a torrent in me. “Why? Why can’t I ever die and be over with it!” I slammed my fist into the wall. “I don’t want to live! I hate life! I hate that I have to kill people to feel any kind of satisfaction!” I hit my head once against the wall. “Any kind of connection!” I hit my head again and then I stood in silence for a time, my cloak ruffling around me. I wondered if the wind was going to say anything in response to my tirade. But it didn’t.
Raising my hands, I looked at the blood that I had shed…that I had shed. The nightmare of Kamp’s death, my first kill, returned to my memory, the incident that I hadn’t thought about for many years except in dreams. In fact, it had been two years since I had killed him…had it been that long? It felt like it had happened recently…only six months ago or so. I thought about the satisfaction I’d felt slicing his throat, watching the blood ooze down his neck. I thought about the feeling…like I had triumphed over some enemy that I thought I had. I had hated feeling that…but I had felt it, and I had been terrified afterward, not for any ramifications that I would receive but for the idea that I might kill somebody or something else and actually enjoy it.
So much had happened since then, and my worst nightmare had come true: I was the nightmare.
I lowered my arms and surveyed the room. Some of the blood had even flowed out the door. Would anyone pay enough attention to an abandoned house…a whore house…to check what the red liquid was, pouring out? Probably not.
Finally, with a wail, I dropped to my knees and began weeping. Why did I do these things? I hated doing them…and yet I loved it. I actually found pleasure in it! That was one of the most twisted things my mind had ever concocted. There shouldn’t be pleasure in watching someone in pain! There shouldn’t be pleasure in the gooey feel of blood on one’s hands. There shouldn’t be pleasure in the smooth motions of a victim’s body as he bled to death. And yet…yet there was for me. I hated myself. I wanted to be somebody else…something else. Better yet, I wanted to literally disappear from this world.
Eidolon means phantom, and a phantom does its best work at night.
Yes, I wanted to become a phantom…a phantom waiting in eternity…waiting to fade…to fade into the darkness of oblivion. Oblivion would be heaven to me.
Tears streamed down my face, and I wept for the space of…a long while. I didn’t weep for the suffering I had put my victims through. I wept for the needless suffering that I had caused. No, I felt no real connection to my victims; I didn’t care if I gutted them or if I had made it quick with justantion. If I saw them now, I wouldn’t tell them that I felt bad for inflicting pain on them, that it most certainly would have hurt immensely. Nevertheless, I knew that everything I had done was wrong, that although they had been questionable people living problematic lives, not all of them had deserved their lives to be taken. And certainly none of them wanted that either.
I wanted to die. I hated myself. I felt alone, as if I was the only person in the world that was experiencing this yearning to kill. But weeping was refreshing when one was alone, and yet embarrassing when one wasn’t. For now, I felt like my mind was being refreshed, tears cleansing it like a good hit would. It was a long time since I’d wept like that, and I had forgotten how good it could feel, when done in the right place and time.
I wept for every man and woman I had ever killed. I wept for Kamp…and even Mant. I wept for the three men and one woman I had killed using the knife, including the man by my side. I wept for the thirteen men I had killed with eiachs. I wept for the one man I had killed using only my mind. That was twenty men in all…and I had started when I was only fourteen. That seemed too young to start, but that was the truth of it.
The wind blew around me, wrapping me in its loving embrace, and I didn’t feel alone anymore. The wind, which had been with me nearly my entire life, understood…despite that I didn’t even understand myself.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” the wind whispered comfortingly.
I nodded weakly. “I am.”
It seemed to smile. Could it even smile? “Excellent. Now get up and do something good.”
I hesitated. “Like what? All I ever do turns into a disaster that I come to regret doing. So why try anymore?”
“Because you are a good boy.”
That statement stopped me cold. I shook my head adamantly. “No, I am not. I am one of the most horrible boys this world has ever seen.”
The wind grew into a gale, blowing below my head, and I felt it lift my chin. There was a mirror in front of me, and what I saw made me freeze: it was the face of a young boy with blood on his face and hands. The face of a young boy who had committed all manner of sin; one who could never see the light again, if he ever did see it once; who deserved the woe he would receive in the shadoworld, the world of spirits. It was the face of a young boy who had no hope of ever finding happiness. A tear trickled down my face.
“This is the face of a boy bloodied and abused.”
Those words made me freeze. Bloodied and abused.
“This is the face of a boy that has been through more than most boys his own age could ever imagine. This is the face that has triumphed by not giving up, by always having hope.”
I shook my head hard. “No, the only reason I’m not yet dead is because you won’t let me die. I have longed to give up; I still do.”
I wept for the face in the mirror as if he were someone else. I wept for all the suffering he had had to endure…and for all the suffering he would have yet to endure. I wept for the fact that he had often felt despair take him that he had tried to take his own life. I wept for all he had lost and all he would have yet to lose. I wept for him, that he didn’t even remember where he came from, why these things had to happen to him. I wept for the boy that had wanted a connection with someone, anyone, and, unable to find any, had turned to murder—the emotions of fear, anger, and hatred. And I wondered what I could do for him.
“You can change,” the wind whispered. “You can choose your future; you don’t need to be tethered to your past.”
I thought of all the things I had endured…that all my suffering could have made me a stronger adult if I let it. Why did I need to relive my past in order to make myself feel good? Why did I need to kill in order to find myself? I didn’t.
Killing didn’t help me find myself or help me keep myself in check. In fact, it did just the opposite. I knew that to be true now. I remembered Dane’s words: You don’t need to be tethered to your past. I had believed it…with all my heart. Somehow, I had forgotten that lesson. I could become a better, stronger person because of all of the suffering from my past…if I allowed myself to grow and no longer let myself live in the past.
I didn’t need to do this anymore.
“I will stop,” I declared, tears still running down my face. I was terrified of those words, but I said them anyway. I would rather have died than have to start over, but since the wind wouldn’t let me die, I would learn from my mistakes and become a better man. “This will be my last murder, no matter how strong the urge becomes in the future.” And I knew it would be almost unbearable. But what was more pain? Life was pain anyway. “And I will do something good with myself.” But what? What good could a bad boy like me possibly do in the world?
The wind blew hard around me, wrapping me in an embrace, almost lifting me off the ground. I felt myself smile, genuinely smile, something I hadn’t done in a long time. When the wind died down into a gentle breeze, I continued looking at my reflection, and I saw a young man still bloodied but with a resolve harder than he’d ever had before. I saw a young man set on creating a better life for himself, to become a better person.
That was the man I wanted to be…and that was the man I would become. I gave myself a full-blown smile, peace filling my heart. I could do this, and I would do this, no matter how difficult or unbearable it got.
And then I turned toward the door and froze.
In the doorway was a hooded figure, much like I was, except this figure was about a foot taller than me. I felt myself back away against the wall when I realized that this was the same hooded man that I had seen watching me at the inn. He didn’t smile, neither did he seem angry or surprised that I was there. In fact, it seemed as if he had been watching me for a while. Had he seen me weep…and had he heard me speaking to the wind?
Did he know it was I that had murdered those thirteen people this last year? Did he know I was the eidolon?
Slowly, a long bow emerged from inside his green cloak, a bow already nocked. Then he lifted and drew it, aiming right at my shoulder. My face paled, my eyes growing wide. I had promised myself, and the wind, that I was going to do something good with my life. But being eliminated from this world was doing something good for it, was it not?
Yes, it was.
However, without realizing it, my body had moved on its own, scrambling for the window.
I heard the whoosh of the arrow as it was released, and it stuck itself at the back of my right shoulder. It was drake, one of the most powerful sedatives that could paralyze and knock out a target within a single minute without causing any harm. I felt the liquid course through my veins, and I landed on the floor with a thud.
The hooded man stepped against me, squatting down. I tried to get up, but the man didn’t need to use much effort to keep me on the ground. He gave me a thin smile, watching as tears ran down my face. Was this another killer? Come to kill one of his own? Was he going to kill me once I was knocked out? I felt his hands putting weight on my shoulders.
I lifted my hands and attempted to hit his head, but the movement felt sluggish, and he was able to take my arms and pin them to the ground. Suddenly, I couldn’t move, the drake having done its job, and my eyes were wide as he moved to my side, sitting next to me on the ground. What did this man want?
“Who are you?” I whispered, amazed that I could still speak.
He began to lift me off the ground, helping my limp body sit up. Then he slid me between his legs and laid my head against his chest, wrapping me in strong arms. “I am the man who will change your life.”
“What does that mean?” I wished that I could turn around and look at him, but I couldn’t.
I felt his arms squeezing me. His voice was soft and yet firm. “Your life is about to change, boy, and I intend to be that agent of change.”
Amazingly, I felt myself shudder. “Can you change my life by killing me?” It was strange—I would rather have died than have gone back to a dungeon. I had, however, vowed to myself that I would never go into one again. And yet here I was, imprisoned by my own appetites and wicked desires. I was unable to keep my own promises to myself.
He seemed startled to hear me ask that. “No, I could never kill a wonderful boy like you.”
Why does everyone keep telling me I’m a wonderful boy? I’m the most horrible boy there is! Everyone knows that!
I wanted to strike him for saying anything positive about me. But again, I couldn’t. In fact, my mind was beginning to blur, and I felt like the world was spinning. Tears continued to stream down my face.
“Please, just kill me, let me die. I don’t want to live anymore.”
The man put a gentle hand on my chest. It was so rare that I got to feel a gentle hand anywhere on me. I loved it. I felt like I had a father that loved me.
But I didn’t have a father that loved me. Nobody loved me.
I was a nobody…
And yet I was a killer, something that people were frightened of, that people told rumors about. I had once been frightened of the idea of becoming a killer, but that idea had become real: I was a killer twenty times over. I might kill again, no matter the promises I had made tonight…unless I was dead.
I felt the man place a hard kiss on my head. “Don’t worry, boy. Your peace will come soon enough.” I felt his lips go to my ear, and he whispered, “You rest now.” The image of the shuddering Shum during his last breath was the last thing I saw in my mind. That image haunted me, reminding me of all the bad I had done, all the bad I might still do. If this man really was a killer sent to kill me, then the world was better off. A killer killed by another killer. How ironic. And yet it seemed perfect. I wished, with all my mind, that it was so.
As I drifted into the oblivion that was the darkness of my consciousness, it was rapture.