Jonas Malt is back from the dead to raise a little Hell. [Revision 11/2015]
|I’m not a psychic. Such clairvoyance is beyond me. I cannot see beyond what is, but I see more than others. Of course, this allows for the question to be asked: What are you, then?
That is a strangely difficult question. One, as I’m sure you realize, with a strangely difficult answer—an answer I am reluctant to say. I can tell you what I’m not. It’s probably more shocking than what you may expect.
I’m not alive. You have to be born to be alive.
Of course, I’m not dead either. The dead cannot talk. They cannot feel. They can’t think. They can’t move. That is true most of the time.
I’m not one of the undead. Those occur out of special circumstances. By that, I mean someone decided they didn’t like the rules and made their own.
So what am I?
I am in between. My existence among the living was snuffed out before it had a chance to develop. So, I became something else. Not alive. Not dead. Yet, both at once.
I am a deathwalker, a severed soul given a new purpose. There are rules to life and death that must never be broken. When they are, the guilty meet me.
Take, for example: Jonas Malt, a Texas man born August 16, 1832. He was hanged until dead on March 3, 1867 for the murder of seven people, including three women and an infant. That event should have been the beginning of his eternal torment. Instead, it was the beginning of something both unnatural and perverse.
On March 6, 1867, Jonas Malt killed two gravediggers, stole a horse, and headed toward San Antonio. He was dangerous before. Now, he was worse. No gun could slay him. No blade could cut him down. No weapon could return him to the grave. No human weapon, that is.
This particular occasion, I was rather perplexed by his return. Jonas Malt was no extraordinary man by any means. He was ruthless, cold-hearted, and downright malicious, but he was nothing more. He knew nothing of the world beyond. There was no faith in God or in anything he couldn’t possess for a profit. He didn’t know any dark magic that would protect him from his fate, nor was he acquainted with anyone who could.
He was a rare occurrence: a rejected soul. Spat out from the depths of Inferno, his ultimate torment was to dwell—alone—among the living, never seen, never heard. A ghost. Except, his soul returned to his body, not to some dark, old house to haunt. Someone wasn’t playing by the rules.
Jonas rode hard towards the town, fully prepared to raise Hell. I was waiting for him. I am forbidden from being seen as I truly am; so I came as a man standing in the middle of the road, dressed in a brown duster and a wide brimmed hat. It hid what I was from human eyes, but the animals were always more perceptive. His horse slid to a stop several yards from me in panic. Jonas was tossed to the ground before the frantic mare fled.
“Jonas Malt,” I greeted. “Come with me.”
“The hell I will!” He pulled a pistol and fired without a second thought.
The bullet caught me between the eyes but, of course, could do no harm. He stared at me, stupefied. I wondered, once again, how such an ignorant man as this had been granted extra time.
“Who allowed you to return, Malt?” I lifted him off the ground by his collar.
“Why aren’t you dead?” He didn’t sound angry. He sounded more concerned than anything. It was as if he couldn’t comprehend why his bullet hadn’t killed me. Most perplexing.
“Who brought you back, Malt?” I was speaking more forcefully now, giving him a shake. I needed him to focus.
“Why won’t you die?” He lashed out, striking my face. The surprising thing was that it actually hurt. Unaccustomed to pain, I released my grip. “Just die!” He struck me repeatedly until I stumbled to the ground. “Die! Die, damn you!”
Whoever brought him back gave him a greater power than he even realized. After a time, he grew tired of me and ran off. I composed myself to find that he once again was headed for San Antonio. He rushed there with such fervor. It was more like he was being drawn to something.
I followed behind, hoping he would lead me to the source of this atrocious existence. Stumbling along on atrophied legs, he’d already forgotten about me. Some powerful will had its hold on this man. I began to pray for the strength to face it.
Before long, we reached the edge of the dusty town. It was just after dawn. The sun barely peaked above the horizon, sharply dividing the small collection of buildings between those bathed in the golden light and those still consumed by shadows. I haven’t been granted access to Heaven—I’ve not yet earned the right—but I can’t imagine it being much more beautiful than that.
Jonas noticed something else entirely. The poor woman shrieked as his decaying form rushed at her. I gave him a quick strike to the head that sent him flying back into the middle of the street.
“Ma’am.” I tipped my hat to her, walking calmly past. She only gaped back. I paid her no mind.
Jonas seemed disoriented now. I quickly realized it had nothing to do with my attack. Half of him seemed to be drawn to the saloon. The other half was compelled to continue towards his mysterious destination. I could see the conflict tearing at his soul. Even in death, Man’s vices are powerful.
“The saloon is closed.”
That was enough to get him moving along. I was growing impatient. It’s an unusual emotion for me to feel. By the nature of our existence, deathwalkers are notoriously detached. That should have been my first clue as to what we were heading toward, but I was too focused on keeping Malt off the lady folk to assemble the pieces.
As we neared a livery stable, the horses scattered. I thought, at first, they were avoiding me, but I soon realized there was something else here. The rising sunlight dimmed, as if it were masked by clouds. I felt the dread hanging in the in the air like a heavy curtain. Something evil had come to San Antonio.
I grabbed Malt by the back of the collar and threw him away from the stable a dozen yards. Whatever wanted him wasn’t going to get him as long as I was here. An enraged scream, more like a monstrous roar than anything a man could produce, echoed from the depths of the dark stable.
Malt came again from behind. I knocked him to the ground and placed my palm on his chest. Reciting three ancient Hebrew words for death, I returned him to his fate. The Catholics always insist on using Latin, but the word of God has always been written in Hebrew. It is the language of the afterlife.
Shattered, disoriented laughter came at me now from beyond the shadows. Jonas Malt rose. Not his body, but his true self. A soul is all anyone is. His was as black as his heart had been in life. In a blur of motion greater than even I could react, Jonas joined the darkness.
The figure of a man emerged a moment later. He was lean and respectably dressed. His face was bony and rugged. I knew he wasn’t human. I could see it once I noticed his eyes—set deep within their sockets—were like black holes that drained away the light of hope. He wasn’t a ghost either. They have no hold over other souls and have no need for them either. That meant he was something even deathwalkers dread, something that required a soul to walk the Earth: a demon.
“Well, well,” it spoke confidently, adjusting the cuff of its sleeve. Clouds formed above, fully blotting out the morning sun. It paced around me, moving out into the street. I was cautious in my movements. I didn’t want anywhere near it. “What do we have here? A deathwalker! I didn’t think little, old Malt warranted such attention.”
“There are rules to our existence, demon. They are all sacred.”
It laughed its broken laugh. The humans noticed him now, the man who he feigned to be at least. His darkness was bleeding out like severed vein. In horror and awe, they moved away. I wished I could do the same. Demons are very unpredictable. They have no respect for rules. They are pure hate and greed and impulse.
“Don’t speak to me of rules, puny specter.”
“Who are you, devil? Why have you entered this Plane?” I didn’t want to fight it. I had to keep it talking. Surely someone else realized it stole a soul. I had to wait for others to arrive. In my prayers, I hoped for an angel.
“You don’t expect me to give up my name, do you?” It laughed, clearly not threatened by me. I knew then why it wasn’t attacking. It was having a little fun with me first. “I’d be happy to oblige if you’d like to tell me yours first.”
I didn’t reply. I knew as well as it did that a name was a soul’s most powerful possession. Every demon, angel, ghoul, specter, and deathwalker had a name it kept secret from all, lest it loose its power. Even the Almighty had a name none but He knew. Lucifer, in his arrogance, learned the true power of his name only after he was cast out, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying again.
“I didn’t think so.” The devil smiled at my silence. “I suggest we agree you let me go have my fun and I won’t devour you whole. Deal?”
I realized no one was coming. It was just me, the demon, and the corpse of Jonas Malt. I needed to improvise if I was going to find a way out of this mess.
“In the name of He who has created all things,” I spoke to it in Hebrew with as much confidence as I could muster. “I command you to reveal your name to me!” It cringed.
“Why you piece of shit!” It was stronger than I thought, lunging at me.
“In the name of our Lord, stay back!” I shouted, still speaking Hebrew. Latin had little power. English had even less.
The demon complied, rather painfully it seemed. It clutched its ears. To creatures from below, the mere mention of God was like a thousand nails on a chalkboard. It never made them happy. It stared at me with a gaze that tried to pull all light from my soul. It attacked.
To those who were foolish enough to remain, we two looked like men fighting. Our clash was far from physical. It was a battle of the Spirit Realm. The demon fueled his existence on the Mortal Plane with the soul of one evil, little man. They always chose the dark ones or try to blacken a good soul. They’re often too absorbed in their own desires to realize a shady soul is a weak haven. There is always clarity in the light. With clarity comes strength.
Deathwalkers typically carry only one weapon, a sword. It is no human weapon. I do not know how they are made, but they are a wonder to behold. I, like many in those darker times, carried many weapons. Once I could break free of the demon’s hold, I took aim with a crossbow.
It laughed at me again. Were I a lesser being, I would have been angry. True, an arrow was useless against it. I knew that. That is why I affixed a small trinket I pulled off of Jonas’ body—a golden necklace looped around a ring—to the arrow. I fired. As expected, it passed straight through the demon.
“As walkers go, you’re the dumbest one I’ve ever met,” said the demon. It was about to insult me further when it felt a pull in the opposite direction. Confusion spread across its face, followed by realization, and lastly anger. “You son of a bitch!”
“I have no mother, demon. I was never born.”
“You’ll die all the same!” The devil strained to move toward me, but could not.
Greed has no boundaries in this world or the next. Jonas recognized his possession and wanted it back, even if that meant severing himself from the devil. He tore himself away from the demon and rushed after the object that served him no further purpose.
Without the human soul, the demon’s true form was revealed. It grew shorter, though not by much. Its body became engulfed in long, blackened fur that seemed to have been scorched. Its face grew elongated and narrower. Horns, like those of a goat, pierced the top of its head. Its broad shoulders led to muscular arms with hands that appeared to have sharpened hooves at the ends of the fingers. Its legs were like the back legs of a ram, again, ending in large hooves.
At last, I knew what I was facing. This being from the Abyss was a se'irim—or goat demon—a follower of Azazel. Like all things, they have their place. This one had ventured from his.
“I will destroy you!” it bellowed, preparing to charge me with its horns.
I was not afraid. I had exposed his true form to the world, and the world would soon respond. As he ran at me, help arrived.
A root burst from the ground, entangling its hoofed feet. It cried out in terror as it fell, for it knew it had no hope of victory now. The tree grew ever faster, consuming and containing the demon within its expanding trunk. The Earth Angel would hold it there—where it could do no harm—for at least a century. Then, I would be back.
I grabbed the soul of Jonas Malt and took him with me. He was to finally face his fate. May God have mercy on his soul.
Like demons, there are many types of angels—each with a purpose. Humans believe angels are illuminated men with flowing robes and broad wings that watch over them and protect them from evil. This is not the case. Angels have a higher purpose. For men, whose souls are imperfect, there are only beings like me, beings who have not lived, and have yet to die. No, there are no guardian angels, only deathwalkers.