I avoided crowds religiously.  Tonight, I made an exception, and that was my first mistake. I had rules, and reasons for them, but the part of me that rebelled against the way things are sometimes needed something new to rail against.  Sometimes, I was sure that was why I had so many rules, something else to break that relieved the pressure of the breaking inside me, like psychic cutting, leaving scars on my soul that no one else could see.  I was in a sea of nearly a thousand people, when it found me.

“Lost, little sheep?” it whispered to me, using the lips of a woman who had chosen to let it sit inside her.  I kept walking, not running, but refusing the thing that crouched inside her the attention that it so craved.

A man turned in front of me, his eyes blank and reflective in the way that only the possessed ever seemed to manage. “We never expected to find you here.” I kept my eyes on the ground, and moved around him as if I had heard nothing, while I counted my mistakes, and accepted that I had come here tonight for this very reason.

“Dance with me, Hunter,” another man said, pulling me to him, while music started to play from some corner of the crowd.  As he pressed his body to mine, I pressed my blessed silver blade to his ribs, and smiled as I met his glittering eyes.

“Only if I lead.” He faded back into the churning mass, disappearing completely in seconds, only to come up behind me in another form, pressing its borrowed breasts to my back.

“The ache in you is like nothing I have ever felt,” it whispered to me as it caressed me.  “Let me taste you.” Still moving, I left that form of the creature I hunted behind me, and followed some path I couldn’t see, but could feel the pull of as sure as the breath in my lungs. I was going somewhere, and I welcomed it.

“Just one kiss,” she said, stopping in front of me, wearing the face of the last person I had ever dared to love.  I was knocked off my certainty, and I felt fear chill me from the inside out.  “You owe me a kiss.  At least a kiss, because after all, it got me because you led it to me.”

Immediately, I wanted to argue, to say that while it had hunted me even as I had hunted it, she had welcomed it, because it couldn’t take you without your consent, but I knew that, and she knew that, as much as it knew that.  She smiled, amused by my restraint, and ran her finger along my cheek.  “Yes, you did this.  You told me about it, how powerful it was, what it could do.  You made me want it, and so when it came to take me, I was a vessel you had made ready.  You did do this, Karen.  You gave me to it.”

I stood stock still, and pretended the words didn’t hurt, but they did, and it felt my pain, feeding on it, and letting me bleed out slowly as it stood there wearing her face, and taunting me with the truth of my failures.  I wasn’t supposed to need validation, or understanding.  I wasn’t supposed to speak about what I did, or why.  I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone the things I knew.  If they were supposed to know they would find out in their own ways.  I was a Hunter, not a Messenger.

“Just one kiss, please?” she begged so prettily, knowing that I was deciding.  Not to kiss it, never that.  But deciding wasn’t right either.  It was my job to kill it, to end the host, and the demon itself if I was lucky, because once a host invited it in, there was no way back.  The fact that it wore her face made me hesitate, and that was my second mistake.

“You used to kiss me so sweetly, remember? This long mornings of sunlight, tangled in the soft sheets of my loft bed, while you confessed your sins to me shaping me into the perfect house to hold your prey? It could be like again.  We could be like that again.  All you have to do is kiss me.”

I remembered those kisses, better than the shell of my former lover or its current occupant ever could.  It had been the only time in my life that I had felt accepted, and loved for what I was.  “No,” I told her, as I created a perfect ball of purifying energy in my hand. “There will be no kisses like the ones before.  Those are done for us.  That chance passed when you chose the monster over the hunter.”  She laughed, the sound cut me in the softest parts of my memory.

“You have too many rules, Karen.  You have no idea what it could be like. You could have her, and eternity.”  I brought my hand up slowly, and placed the energy ball on the back of her neck pressing it in as I buried my face in her hair, and tried not to sob.

“Come back to me,” I begged, as if it would work. The sound of her scream was silent to the ears, but tearing to the mind.  I watched from the corner of my eye as three shells came to her, placing their hands on her back, swaying in time with us, making it look like we were all dancing together, instead of performing an exorcism.

I could feel my energy draining, and see the light spreading over her body, despite the backup that had come to support her against me.  “Stop,” she begged in my ear, sounding more like my sweet Talia than I could stand.  I couldn’t stop, and she knew it.


©J.A. Brown, Storyteller – December 20, 2016


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