by Sam M. Ryan
Can Kyra pass the test and earn the protection she needs to survive?
The Test - a Short Story
I was sitting in the kitchen at our round wooden table having breakfast. It was one of those rare mornings where I seem to have gotten the ratio of apple jacks to milk just right. A few spoons away from finished, my mother drops a 9mm semi automatic with a loud thud in front of me.
"What is this?" her fist on her round hips. Disbelief, fear, and anger in her delicate features.
Getting up, I dump the rest of my cereal in the sink.
"Yes I know it's a gun, Ky. Why is it in my home?"
"For protection," I said.
It wasn't a lie, but it wasn't the full truth either.
"Get it out. We don't need a gun. God will keep us safe from those creatures," her hand started caressing the cross around her neck. Unconsciously, I think.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, "Well He didn't do much good at the church in 2018, I don't see him paying us any special visits when the time comes."
The Church Massacre, as it was called, was exactly that. Three years ago, someone opened the Portal Between Worlds and let out more than just Vampires and Shapeshifters. Two years ago, they attacked the church. Demons were nothing to take lightly, and prayer was hardly enough.
"Bite your tongue, we raised you better than that."
Yes. My parents did their best to raise me right. My mothers version of right included church every Sunday and prayer groups on Thursdays. Despite the role I played for my mothers sake, I'd never went by any book. I grabbed my gun and checked the safety. "You should really stay out of my room."
As we did every Sunday, we retreated to our corners of the house. My mother cleaning her already clean house while I got ready to handle finals week at the cafe. I'd done four loads of laundry and was in the process of putting my weapons in new hiding spots when I heard someone at the door. Before I made it downstairs, my mother had already answered, and I went back to what I was doing. If she found my gun it meant she was digging around, but why? Until I could figure out a new place to hide my weapons, I had to keep them on me. I tucked one into the holder on my wrist, bringing down my sleeves so I didn't give mother a heart attack, and had just tucked my gun, uncomfortably, into the back of my jeans when I heard glass fall and her scream.
I ran, jumping the last four steps around the slight curve the way I have been since childhood, straight into the living room. Then I stopped short. There were two men, very out of place among the floral print couches. The one holding my mother from behind, was tall in a white t-shirt, his eyes dark with hunger. A vampire.
"Let her go," I demanded.
"He will do no such thing," This from the guy in the sharp grey suit, expensive hair cut. His eyes were black, lid to lid. A Demon.
"Who the hell are you? What are you doing in my house?"
He smiled a smile that made my skin run cold as he clasped his hands behind his back, "You can call me Clint. And over there we have Xavier. He hasn't had a drink in four days and you're mother smells rather ripe." he said. "I'm here to collect what is owned to me. If you refuse, your mother is the main course, and you the dessert."
"Well someone certainly came in with a plan A." He raised an eyebrow as if he were amused, but I continued, "Here's plan B. We don't know you, and we've never made a deal with you. So tell your pet to let my mother go and get out of my house. I'll even pretend this didn't happen."
Way to go, Ky, you almost sounded like you don't want to jump right out of your skin. I thought to myself. I really wanted to grab my mother by her arm and haul ass like bats out of hell, and put cities between myself and these two. My feet stayed rooted to the green shag like they'd been trained to.
Clint laughed. His too small , too sharp teeth showing for all their creepy demon glory. He took a step closer to me and I had to fight the urge to reach for my gun, something told me if I pulled it now, it would be too soon.
"You know, your father, his mouth was just as smart as yours. You see what happened there don't you?" he was trying to get me to look into his eyes but I knew better. If I did I wouldn't stand a chance, so I stared hard at the bridge of his nose. I knew what happened to my father, what really happened, but my mother didn't. She only knew what I came home and told her and I was not about to get caught in that lie. Not today.
"Pop is dead. Any debt he owed you went with him." I said. Though I wasn't really sure that was true.
I took my eyes off the demon in front of me to see how much of this my mother was taking in. She looked damn near ready to pass out, her mouth moving in prayer. Prayer won't be what saves us tonight, momma. Realizing what she was doing , the vampires face turned into a sneer.
"She's praying, " he made it sound like a curse, though to him I suppose it was.
"Get rid of her,"
"Don't you touch her," I shouted just as the vampire was getting ready to dig in like last supper. When he looked up, I had my gun pointed at him. I may be out numbered but I'd be damned if I didn't try.
"Brave girl," Clint said. "Stupid, but brave."
"Fuck you." I tried to keep the him in my peripheral while I focused on the vampire. I aimed at his head and hoped like hell if I had to shoot I wouldn't miss. "Let her go," I said again.
Just then, my mother fainted. I know because I saw her body go completely limp. the vampire's grip on her never faultering. Clint instructed the vampire to put her somewhere, and he opted for sitting her on the closet floor and closing the door. I could have tried to force him to put her on the couch where I could watch her, but he wasn't touching her anymore and that was enough for now.
"What did he owe you? Huh? How important could it be to you if you wait years to collect?" I was doing my best to keep them both in my line of fire.
"Your Pop, made me a deal. Something he desperately needed in return for a favor whenever I was ready to call it in." he sounded down right smug. Deals made with demons aren't meant to be broken.
"Details, demon boy."
"It's simple. There are a few little Hellions in way of my coming plans and I need them taken care of. Now usually, I would handle this myself but it requires much more delicate approach." he said.
Hellions and the word delicate should not be used in reference to each other, ever, I thought.
"Now where do we find him?" he asked.
I gave him the same response I'd been giving everyone, "He's dead, I told you. He was in the church."
He smiled again, "Oh, I think we both know better than that Kyrina."
The demon was right, I did know better. But I wasn't about to tell him that.
I said nothing. My arms were tired and I wanted a reason to shoot one of them, or I would have to lower my gun, and I really, really, did not want to do that.
"Hmm. I see. The hard way then."
The unremarkable face of the man in front of me began to change. His jaw elongated into a point, his ears reminded me of a feral Fairy, and his too long tongue flicked in and out his thin lipped mouth like a snake. I fought the urge to gag, he was so ugly. Not to say demons were pretty, none of them were, but if this was just his face, I didn't want to see more. He charged at me.
I squeezed the trigger. Once. Twice. Something hit me hard, slamming me into the wall. Everything went black.
My head felt like a ton of bricks as I tried to lift it and I couldn't move my arms. I could feel the binding at my wrist. They'd tied me to the kitchen chair I had breakfast in. I opened my eyes to find Clint, his human fade back in place, in the chair across from me.
"Ten minutes. Pretty quick recovery for a mundane. Xavier really put his back into that." He sat with one ankle across his knee, leaning back into the seat. As cool as a cucumber, this guy.
"Now, back to my original question. Where is your father?"
Again I opted for saying nothing. Instead, I coughed , and spit blood onto the kitchen tile. Mom is going to have a fit when she sees that. MOM. How long has it been since she's fainted? Wouldn't she have come out to help me if she'd woken up? I needed to check on her. I needed out of this damn chair.
"No answer, huh?" he looked over at his pet vamp, "Xavier." was all he said.
Xavier still had that hungry look in his eyes as he moved toward me, graceful for someone that well muscled. That was vampires; all blood and grace. I did my best to keep my breathing even and keep the fear off of my face like I'd been trained. Him, I could look in the eyes, and I did. I thought he was going to bite me. Instead his fist flew in a blur and my head rocked to the right.
HOLY MOTHER OF ALL GODS. Blinking the stars out of my eyes, head throbbed in sync with my jaw, which I wasn't entirely sure was still working. Blood dripped from my mouth to my jeans. oh, what the hell did you get me into, Pop. I looked up again to find Clint with a smug smile, and felt anger surge through me. There was nothing I wanted more than to permanently wipe it from his stupid face.
"Do you want to answer me now?"
Xavier hit me every time I didn't answer the question. By the time he let up, my nose was bleeding and I wasn't sure my ribs could take another hit before I was in even bigger trouble. It hurt to breathe and I was just glad my jaw was still attached and working.
"You done yet? How are your wounds healing up, demon?"
I spit blood on the floor again. I couldn't tell but I may have lost a tooth. There was a dark liquid oozing from the wounds where both my shots landed, just right of his sternum. All the bullets in that gun were blessed and laced with holy water. I may not be the religious nut my mother is, but I'm not stupid.
"I think you should be more worried about yourself. You're doing a lot of bleeding and Xavier is very hungry."
I'd been keeping an eye on the hungry vamp. He'd gone still, eyes locked on me, no more than an arms length away. Not that it would have mattered, I couldn't exactly run away if I wanted to. What I wanted was to kill them both in right here in my mothers kitchen. She's going to be so pissed when she sees this kitchen. The thought made me laugh out loud which startled both of them.
My knife was still on my wrist and I was done playing their game. I was tired and they only wanted information I couldn't and wouldn't give them. It was time to give my one and only shot a try.
"That all you got, Vamp?"
I looked at him through a curtain of my curls, half of which was bloodied and plastered to my face and neck. "Can't take a fair fight with a girl? Want to hit me one more time?" I teased.
I didn't really want to get hit again but I could use the momentum that was sure to come with another swing from him. And just as I predicted, his back hand rocked my head left and I leaned into it, dropping myself and the chair I was in to the floor. I scrambled upwards as fast as I could like Pop showed me, getting my hands over the back of the seat and moving until I backed myself into a wall. I was still reeling from the hit so standing up wasn't easy but with the wall, I managed to stand as quickly as I could.
When I looked up, Xavier was about to charge at me in another blur. I ducked and rolled into the china cabinet, glass raining down from the stack of dishes. Flexing my wrist the way I was taught, whatever binding they used, became workable enough for me to get it off.
Clint laughed like he was Saint Nicolas and it chilled me to my bones. The room was still spinning as I stood, tearing my knife from it's sleeve on my wrist. Watching Xavier all the while. After a couple blinks he was no longer blurry and I was pissed. I held my knife's handle with the blade flat against the back of my forearm. And wiped the blood dripping from my nose with the back of the same hand as I took two steps toward him. "Anyone ever tell you, you hit like a girl."
I could hear Pop's voice in my head, You're cornered, and he's stronger. You might not make it out but you damn sure better give it all you've got. I let my anger, at these two monsters in my home, and Pop not being here to help flow through me. I felt myself fall into that calm, quiet place in my mind. The one I went to when I had to fight. When I had to kill. I charged at him. I dropped and slid across the tile burning my exposed knee as Xavier swung high and I swung my knife wielding hand low, cutting through the flesh of his upper thigh. I rolled away and got back on my feet. Kicking his knee as he grasped his thigh, I tired to land a round house to his chest but he grabbed my leg. I felt light as a feather for a suspended second before I crashed to the floor on the other side of him. Ugh. If I make it to morning, this is going to hurt.
I rolled onto all fours and saw the kitchen table. Exactly what I needed. I got up slowly, every inch of me incredibly aware of the vampire and demon at my back as I pretended to lean on the table for support.
"All you have to do is tell me where your undead daddy is hiding out, Kyrina. And all of this can stop." Clint said.
In a move I've practiced a hundred times and every alone moment in between, I grabbed the handle to the gun I kept in a holster screwed to the bottom of the table and spun around, aiming it right at Xavier and squeezing off two rounds. Shoulder, kneecap. It wasn't going to kill him, only a stake could do that. But he wasn't coming after me anymore.
Turning my aim on Clint, "Your turn."
Before I could squeeze the trigger again, the back door in the kitchen slammed open, and a man built like a linebacker stepped through. " Enough," his voice boomed.
"Dad? You can't be here." I said this not because I couldn't believe he was standing in front of me, I knew he wasn't really dead but no one else was suppose to know that.
"I'm sorry, baby. I didn't have a choice, I had to let him test you. Don't worry, your mother is fine." he said to me.
"Quiet, Phil. You have quite the little girl here. Wouldn't give you up no matter how Xavier worked her over." Clint said to my father.
Did I take that many hits to the head or did he really just say, " Test me? This was a TEST!" I shouted.
The demon answered. "If you are going to train to be the kind of Slayer we need you to be, we had to test your loyalties and what better way than to go after your biggest secret?"
I stared at them in bewilderment. This was all planned? Pop was working with a demon? Were the rules different because he was a vampire now?
I raised my gun and pointed it at my father, " You let them do this?"
" I didn't have a choice," he said.
"My, Phil, I think she's going to shoot you," Clint said.
I rolled my eyes, "I'm really sick of your voice demon." I switched targets and squeezed.