Their cries did not go unheard. In an old bastion near the mouth of the Calypsa canal system, sat an old woman in a balcony. The winds shook her rocking chair and chilled her to the bone, but it was a small price. There was an all-knowing spark of light in her glassy white eyes as she listened to the winds’ secrets. Their whispers told her of a peculiar tale; their tale told of a forgotten evil. The tale was the continuation of a story she remembered from long ago. It was a tale that seemed would never truly end.
For a long moment the woman sat there, high above the rooftops of the bordering residential dwellings, listening to the winds’ secrets. Then her opaque white eyes turned to the south, motionless and unblinking. A name was chanted over and over again: Krostel. It seemed that matter from a few years back was not as over as everyone thought.
The woman closed her eyes and fanned her large ears. A strange singularity warped the light above her head, twisting it in and out of existence. She opened her mind to the sounds of the hours before. She heard all: the creaking of decaying wooden floorboards, a faint conversation between two strangers, the violence of splintering wood, glass and bone, and the unnatural hisses of a monster. The old woman’s eyes shot open.
“Little Diana, what have you done?” the woman exclaimed in a soft whisper. She leaned out of her chair, and slowly straightened every muscle in her back to stand. The old woman stepped from a stool up to the stone fence guarding the edge of the balcony and turned around. In a brief joyous moment, the woman closed her eyes and smiled. Then she fell back into the cold pillow of air and disappeared from sight.
Far below came a thunderous clap, and then a shadow carried by colossal wings ripped through the night sky. The winds were all too eager to follow the pack mother. At last the silent guardian of Calypsa took flight once more. It was time to remind old friends, and enemies, that Calypsa was under Wind Mother’s watch.
The wind howled in a wispy moan, whipping against the ever creaking beams that held the decrepit Krostel house together. The rotting wood tomb would not rest. The walls endlessly groaned, swaying ever so slightly. The front door slammed against the splintering wooden frame. A distant window rattled upstairs in the guest bedroom, the thin glass shaking as it desperately shielded the room from the stormy assault.
On the end of the guest bed laid the guard dog of the Krostel house, the ryuu-neko’s hellish red eyes gazing nonchalantly at the raucous window. Black as night, the creature prided itself on its camouflage in the dark. Only its unnerving red eyes were visible. It rested its head on its forepaws, still as a statue; a vigilant gargoyle protecting the woman wrapped under the warm bed covers beside it.
The guard dog’s task was closer to a chore, and it found itself ultimately bored. Rather than stalking the house for unwanted visitors, it loyally sat beside the master’s guest. The strange woman slept soundlessly, unmoving except for a slight rise and fall in her chest. How dull. If not for the infernal window shaking from the wind, the ryuu-neko surmised it would be soundlessly asleep.
Minutes stretched into hours. The dull duties began to take their toll and the ryuu-neko’s eyes narrowed little by little, until they were only tiny red slits. The wind died a quarter hour ago and a peaceful silence settled inside the house. The master was bound to return soon.
In the hallway, something moved. Metal scrapped against the floorboards. At first, the guard dog thought it had imagined the sound. The sound repeated, louder.
A young girl’s shrill scream burst through the disturbed slumber of the Krostel house. The guard dog bolted upright, immediately sensing danger. Lethargically sliding its lengthy body off the bed, it stretched its sleepy muscles and then scrambled into the hallway. The combination of excitement and anger combined into an unpleasant mix, driving the beast mad. It hissed and bared its fangs. It would taste the flesh of whatever dared to wake up the younger master of the Krostel household.
The master’s guest awoke with a start. Her fluorescent green eyes shot open and gazed into a complete darkness. Somebody screamed. A frantic flurry of pattering paws scattered further away. Then, everything fell silent.
Seyona was in a daze. Dull pain pressed on her temples. Her body ached, and she was uncomfortably warm. She put a hand on her forehead and felt a fever. When did she get sick?
The bedroom door creaked, the metal hinges stiff from years of neglect. Seyona froze. At first she pretended to be asleep. Whoever it was would go away and leave her be. The door creaked again, and then the bolt screeched into place.
Someone else was in the room. What were they doing here? Nothing good came to mind. Seyona swallowed dryly, suppressing her anxiety. She gathered the courage and sat up.
At first she saw nothing. The room around her was incredibly dark. She blinked slowly, trying to make sense of where she was. As her eyes slowly adjusted, she found the door that had been moved. On the other side of the room was a little wooden desk and chair. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
In a few seconds her eyes had finished adjusting. A minuscule amount of light from the street lamps peeked through the window. The room around her was small and cozy, something in fashion with her grandparents’ old house. In this lighting, the outdated wall decorations and room furniture had an eerie presence. She felt misplaced.
Where was she? How did she get here? Looking back at the door, she decided the answers were beyond this tiny room. She gaged whether she had the willpower to escape the warmth of the bed covers. But her plans froze.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw what appeared to be a spindly shadow in the corner of the room. Its featureless form existed in deathly silence. Its head bobbed slightly, its unnaturally thin body swayed, and no breath escaped from the shadow's chest. It remained rigid and quiet, gently swaying back and forth, back and forth.
Seyona realized she couldn’t look away. This dark, featureless shadow had a complete domination over her senses. She held her breath, waiting for the shadow to move. She waited and waited until time felt suspended. Nothing happened.
Maybe her eyes were playing tricks on her: maybe her ears too. The shadow wasn’t real. The scream wasn’t real. She was exhausted. She was delirious. She was hallucinating. It was safe under the warm bed sheets and between the soft pillows that surrounded her. Her mind urged Seyona to look away. It’s not real. Look away. Go back to sleep. Look away.
But she was stuck, her fluorescent eyes captivated by the silent shadow. She cursed herself. Was she afraid? Coward. It’s not real. She convinced herself again and again that it was a hallucination. So why did she feel so threatened?
What if it was real? She glanced at the room’s window and plotted an escape route. Her eyes then darted back to the shadow. It was still where it was a moment ago. A wave of relief crashed over her. This was silly. She’s just working herself into a panic.
Then the shadow moved. Its unnatural body floated towards her in complete silence. No creaking floorboards. No footsteps touching the ground.
Panic knotted itself in her stomach, a painful, twisting lump of pure terror. She was at a loss for what she saw. The shadow grew larger and larger, becoming disfigured and ghoulish. It quickly crossed the room and stood at the foot of her bed. At this distance, she saw the faintest details of darkened eye sockets and a jagged, malicious smile.
Like a raven blacker than night unfurling its wings, the shadow unleashed its appendages from its body and lunged. Seyona drew a shaky breath and screamed. A slippery vine like arm lashed around her mouth, binding her mouth shut. No sound escaped her throat. Muffled screams and pleas for help were ensnared and then crushed.
“Sssuch fear,” an abysmal voice whispered.
The deathly stench of decaying flesh wafted onto Seyona’s face in a humid breath. Slick appendages tugged at her body, restraining her. Her arms were pinned down, spread to her sides, and her legs were bound together. Something pressed against her ribs, shoving pressure into her lungs. Her fingers curled into fists, shaking as she squirmed to break free.
“Why ssstruggle? Your fear has already… betrayed you.” A ghastly, deformed skull drew close to her face. Its hollow eye sockets peered into her eyes, looking through her. The decaying facial muscles it had left formed a crooked smile.
Seyona pushed as much air behind her muffled scream as she could. She had to be heard. Someone had to help her. Her instincts took over and her body shook, thrashing at the arms binding her in place.
“Yesss!” the boney face said excitedly. ”Scream! Let your terror consume you!”
A pointed arm plunged into Seyona’s stomach. White hot pain exploded from the wound as she writhed in uncontrollable agony. The last of the air stored in her lungs ripped through her throat only to be caught in her mouth. She was helpless: completely helpless. Why couldn’t she put up a fight?
“The other one was... infuriating. Not an ounce of fear. She immediately screamed for help,” the abysmal voice hissed, tightening its grip. “You though… the terror in your eyesss, the feeble pleas for help, the ignorant hope of sssalvation: its deliciousss.”
A liquid poison gushed in through the wound, spreading underneath Seyona’s skin. It was frigid, numbing her muscles and freezing her blood. Her body shivered. At least, she thought it did. She realized she couldn’t feel anything, not even the pain. Her senses were fading away.
“I feel your hate, your anger, your desssspair. You cannot escape this fate. No one is coming to save you, not even that wretched cyclopsss.”
Memories flashed through Seyona’s mind: Geb, the barge, the abandoned house, the dusty furniture, a spacious study, a monster, pain, blue flames, a broken window, a woman in red, a circle of fire. Seyona’s eyes widened, remembering what happened earlier this night.
“The cyclopsss may have ruined this body, but all I require to survive is another.” The boney face smiled wider, relishing the horrified expression on Seyona’s face. “Be honored. You may end up as the lasssst of your kind!”
Sinster, eerie laughter filled Seyona’s ears. The boney face fell limp on the pillow beside Seyona’s forehead. The black pits of its eyes brightened, slowly turning to the pallid color of bone as the shadowy monster evaporated into a black mist.
“What fun we will have together!” the abysmal voice shouted between its manic laughs. “We’ll kill them all! Finally, I will have my revenge!”
The black mist poured into Seyona. Her body convulsed in a final attempt to resist. Then she lost feeling completely. Darkness clouded her vision. The light in her fluorescent eyes dimmed, until her green eyes glossed to an opaque sheen. Her head rolled back, devoid of life.
The room fell to an eerie silence once more. Seyona’s body quietly breathed in shallow breaths and remained perfectly still. Then the body began to flex and move: One by one the fingers, then the hands, then the legs, then her core and finally her head. The puppeteer was ready.
The body moved to sit on the edge of the bed. Then it rose and began to walk in a circle around the room. The soft steps fell into a rhythm as the demon commanded Seyona’s injured legs to move. The muscles began to grow and heal at an unnatural rate, rebuilding the legs stronger to fit the demon’s needs.
An unsettling smile grew on the demon’s face. It felt good to move with real legs again. The pacing stopped and it gazed out the window. Modest houses lined the street both ways, quiet and peaceful. No longer bound to this cursed place, the demon was free to visit them all.
The door behind the demon thudded against the frame. Someone had pulled the door knob and was trying to get in.
There was a quiet knock. “Ms. Seyona?” a girl asked, her worried voice muffled behind the wooden door. The naïve child waited for a few seconds and then knocked on the door again.
What a delightful turn of events. What better way to torture the captors than murdering the youngest one? The demon approached the door and slowly undid the bolt. It hastily yanked open the door, the hinges squealing in alarm.
“Ms. Seyona?” the child asked, watching the door open. Seyona stood in the doorway, staggering on her injured legs. The girl noticed that something was not right. Seyona’s eyes were clouded in a dark green coating. They were unnerving. They were wrong.
“Ms. Seyona?” the girl asked unevenly. She backed away from the thing in the doorway. To her horror she saw the body tilt to the side with its head turning until its ear nearly touched its shoulder. A fanged smile emerged from under its lips and its claws extended. Its glassy green eyes were dead set on the girl, unblinking.
The window at the end of the hallway exploded, and a winged dreamkeeper burst through the opening. “Run child!” an elderly woman shouted.
A blinding ray of light escaped from a compressed canister, illuminating the hallway with harsh, pure white light. There was a sickening noise and a blur of sounds, ending with a crash. Then the light vanished as quickly as it appeared. In its wake, the young girl sat huddled against the wall, with the elderly woman standing above her.
The elderly woman rushed into the guest bedroom and found a messy heap of glass shards and wood splinters on the floor. Claw marks scraped the wall, no doubt made in haste as the demon tore the window from the wall and escaped into the night. It was gone. Exasperated, the woman slammed her hand on the wall. She failed.
Her hand felt wet. Confused, she peeled her hand off the wall and found red droplets smeared into her molting gray and brown fur. The woman suddenly felt light headed. Looking down, she saw deep cuts in her shoulder. Blood trickled down her arm.
The demon was alarmingly fast. To attack and escape through a window several paces away in a matter of moments was truly terrifying. The elderly woman pressed her hand on the wound and gritted her teeth. This was not the usual nightmare. Even in her prime this would have been trouble.
“Umm, Ms.?” The girl pointed to the red splashes on the floor.
“Don’t worry child. You are safe now.” The elderly woman faked a reassuring smile and kept her chest turned so the girl wouldn’t see the wound. She walked over to the desk chair and sat down. Her expression hardened to an age old perfected frown. In her heart, she felt a fear she had not felt for many years. They were far from safe.
Another dark chapter in this city had begun.