I'm doing reflex tests. I'm in a cylinder four feet in diameter where spikes jut out in random location and time from the sides. It isn't going as well as usual, I'm having trouble focusing, I have half a dozen cuts on me already. Normally I can go the whole hour without any.
I feel a ball in the pit of my stomach, which I now know is a manifestation of dread. I know the demon is coming. I can't know when, but it's only a question of time.
A loud click comes from the wall, the sound of the spikes being locked. Then the cylinder splits open. It's only been twenty minutes. I don't need Noah to tell me why the test is ending early.
"Derick," the old man says anyway. "You're needed in the field." I nod and take the towel he hands me. I wipe the blood off my arms, chest and legs. The cuts have already healed. I leave the test area.
In the weapons room I change into my usual black pants and t-shirt. I put my gun belt on, clip my sword and then reach for the trench coat, but stop. No one has given me details about the demon, but I know it's him. I can't face him like this.
I put on shoulder harnesses and add two rugers, one on each side, as well as an extra sword and two bowie knives. I don't like semi-automatic handguns, the caliber's too low to do any real damage, but they have seventeen bullet clips. Right now I'm certain the extra ammo is going to make all the difference.
With the trench coat on I head for the garage and get in the van. "Where was the sighting?" I ask, sitting down and letting the medic put the sensors on me.
"Calborne Industrial Sector. The call said the demon was breaking into one of the warehouses. We might be catching this one as he's settling down."
"I never get why they bother making a nest," the woman in the passenger seat says. "They usually eat their victims on the spot."
"They're demons, I doubt they're supposed to make sense."
I tune them out. They're wrong. It's him, I don't know who I know that, but I do. He arranged to get my revolver, and then made himself seen so I would get it back. Then he saved my life. He's arranging this. He made sure to be seen entering the warehouse.
I force my breathing to stay calm, but something must show, the medic glances at me. I take the sensors off and hand them back to him. I don't want him knowing I'm nervous about this confrontation. I close my eyes and focus on breathing. The fight will turn out how it will. No matter what I will not go down easy.
"We're in the area," the driver says. "The call didn't say which warehouse; you're going to have to go through all of them." I get out. He must be new if he thinks I have to enter any of them to find him.
I catch his scent at the fourth warehouse I walk by. As I expected, it is him. He didn't enter it, just moved along close to the wall, staying out of view. He went along two more warehouses and entered the third. The chain that held the doors closed has been broken.
I hesitate. He wants me there. It feels like this is just a random warehouse, but he must have picked it for a reason. I slide the door open and enter.
Plenty of light comes in from the outside through the dirty windows high on the walls. There are a few bales scattered through the large space, but nothing else. I don't see him. I look up among the scaffolding and I see him standing there in the middle.
I take out a ruger and empty it at him, and then throw it aside. If I've hit him he doesn't react. I take out the revolvers as he steps off the beam and lands twenty feet in front of me.
"I do not want to fight you," he growls.
Yeah, right. I shoot him, but he's moving before the hammer goes down. The corner of the bale behind where he had been explodes, sending white fragments in the air and floating down.
I try to follow him, but he moves fast, much faster than any demon I've fought before. On top of that he changes his form, so that I empty a revolver in empty air. I drop it and take my last gun out.
I track him as he runs. I'm not wasting bullets anymore.
He stops and I fire. He's no longer there by the time I've pulled the trigger. Okay, this isn't going to work. I lower my arms and close my eyes.
I listen to him move. His feet have claws and they click ever so lightly on the concrete floor. He stops. He's thirty feet almost exactly to my right. I don't move. He walks toward me, there's hesitation in his steps.
I start pulling the trigger a moment before my arm moves up. I've fired before he realizes it, I keep firing as I turn and bring up the revolver.
His form shifts quickly, but doesn't show signs that he ruger is doing any harm. I fired the revolver and a large hole appears in his form. He roars and for a moment I can see to the other side, before the hole closes up. He shouldn't heal from a silver wound this quickly.
Something comes at me and I duck, but it hit my hand hard. The revolver drops out. When I straighten he's before me and shoves me away. I fly over a few bales before landing and sliding until I hit the corrugated wall.
I stand and he presses me back, claws at my neck.
"I do not wish to fight you!" His eyes are bright red. There's the anger that wasn't there yesterday.
"Too bad. I want to kill you."
I unfold my sword, but the throws me away.
This time I manage to control my landing so I can roll and get back to my feet.
"What is your name?" he asks as he walks toward me.
"What do you care?" I growl back. Why can't he just try to kill me like demons do.
"I am Claws in the Darkness."
"Fine. I'm Derick."
He stops twenty feet away. I can see him mouth my name. "It's an ugly human name. You deserve better."
"Like I care what you think. What do you want?"
"I desire to talk, to understand you."
"Right. Understand me. You'll forgive me if I don't believe you."
He tilts his head at me. "Why would you not believe me?"
I can't help the laughter. "You're a demon. You wouldn't know how to tell me the truth if your life depended on it?"
"Why do you say that?"
"Because it's the truth."
"How do you know it is such?"
"Because they told me."
"Yes, humans. Demons lie, Humans don't. Demons are bad, Humans are good. that's why you keep trying to kill them."
"Humans do bad things."
"Only when they fall under a demon's influence, when they become tainted by you."
"I understand. Because humans told you, you believe it to be so."
"Told me? I've seen it happen. I've had to kill humans who were tainted."
He looks at me for a moment, then he rushes me. I saw it coming this time and I slice at him as he passes close. I feel the sword bit in his flesh just before he pushes me away. I fall, roll and stand, pulling out the other sword to replace the one I just lost, and run after him.
He jumps and crashes down through sheets of plywood, revealing a hole in the floor. I follow him. There isn't any light, but I track him by scent.
At least until he reaches a space with a lot of other demonic scent. I stop, trying to pick up his among the others, but I can't. I didn't think he'd manage to lose me, not like this. I know where I am, and I'm not going to be able to track him anymore.
I check my phone and I don't have a signal down here.
I make my way back to the warehouse. I have to tell Amanda and Jason about him. I need to overcome whatever has been preventing me from doing so.