Harris forced them forward another two steps, a panicked sound escaping their throat. He let go of their shoulders and Jay realised what was about to happen. They just had the time to snake a finger through his belt buckle before the push came. A sudden burst of force against Jay’s back sent them shooting forward faster than they could keep up with. Their arms straightened as far as they could go and pain shot through their finger, but the buckle came free as they stumbled away.
Harris swore but he sounded far away now. Jay floundered on, unable to right themself with their hands still bound behind their back. They lasted three more steps before they finally lost their footing but the cold, hard smack against the stone floor never came.
Face first, Jay collided with what must have been Gelethil’s chest, his arms wrapping around them and supporting their weight. His touch wasn’t warm – it was hot. Falling against him had the same effect as stepping into a steaming shower on a cold winter’s day. He lifted them easily back to their feet and Jay tried to pull away but he held them still, firm yet gentle. One of his hands slid down their back until it reached Jay’s own. He carefully prised the belt buckle away from them.
Good, he thought after a few seconds, keeping them softly pinned against his chest with one arm. This will do nicely.
Jay’s body was so tense it ached. Here they were – in total darkness, held captive by a demon. Just this morning they were on the bus to work. His claws brushed against their back and their mind ceased to function. Gelethil must have sensed it, giving them a gentle shake.
We’re almost there, he told them. I still need you.
Jay just about managed a nod, difficult with their face pressed against him. They were less inclined to pull away now that their skin grew used to his heat, realising just how cold they had truly gotten. A shudder ran through them and Gelethil held them slightly tighter.
“You see?” came Caine’s echoing voice. “You’re fine.”
An almost inaudible whimper escaped them. With his other hand, Gelethil patted their head in a rather similar manner to how someone slightly afraid of dogs might pat an Alsatian.
“Fuck you,” Jay said, the sound muffled by Gelethil’s chest.
Caine tutted. “Now, now, all I need to do is flick a switch and you’re trapped with a desperate beast. Does that sound fun to you?”
Her conversational tone infuriated them. Gelethil stopped patting and moved his hand back to Jay’s. With a simple flick of his finger, the rope was severed. Their arms fell to their sides and they flexed their digits as the blood flooded back.
Give me your hand, he said and they held one up in the darkness. Gelethil placed the belt buckle into their palm. It already radiated heat. Caine was speaking again but Jay wasn’t listening as the demon put his hand over theirs, closing their fingers around the square buckle. He guided them deeper into the darkness.
Caine cleared her throat pointedly.
Gelethil crouched down to the ground, taking Jay with him. Such low level agents these must be, to be so foolish.
Agents? What’s going on?
“Do you want these lights turned back on?” Caine persisted. “Answer me.”
Jay glanced up and saw the silhouetted outlines of their captors against the eerie red glow. Gelethil guided their hand down to the stone floor.
She’s going to- Jay began, but he didn’t give them a chance to finish.
Do you feel the binding? he asked, pulling their fingers along the rough stone and onto something smooth. I can’t damage them myself.
“That’s it,” Caine said, her heel clicks sounding. “I warned you.”
Jay saw the shadowy shape of her arm moving up to the switch on the wall and held their breath. A slow, deep rumble of laughter emanated from Gelethil.
“Yes, you did,” he said aloud, his voice a low and satisfied purr.
Jay’s jaw dropped and time slowed. Their captors panicked and Caine hit the lights. Gelethil screamed, throwing Jay away and falling to the ground. Harris reached for the dial, cranking it up. Jay’s eyes burned and thick, black smoke erupted from Gelethil’s skin. They looked down, one of the pristine, obsidian lines running right between their knees. In a split second decision they chose what they prayed was the lesser of two evils.
Jay raised their hand up, bringing the edge of the buckle down on the paint. The tiniest piece of black flecked off, twirling through the air and landing with a gentle pitter on the stone.
The silence was striking. Both the smoke and Gelethil were gone. On the other side of the room stood the two captors, appearing frozen in place. The pair shared a glance and Harris dove for the door. He battered the thing but it would not budge.
“What do you want?” Caine asked, her previously authoritative voice trembling.
That rich laugh came from directly behind Jay and their heart rose to their throat. He was free, they knew. He was free and he was powerful.
“You’ve already given me everything I want,” Gelethil said. His hand lightly curled over Jay’s shoulder and they glanced at those long, frightening claws.
Caine paled. “It was all an act,” she said, the horrifying realisation shaking her. “The lights, the language…”
Jay’s mind raced, blood pounding in their ears. Had this all been about them?
“It was her,” Harris shouted, pointing at Caine. “She’s one of them! It’s just a job to me!”
Anger flared in Jay’s chest as they recalled the people coming for them, stopping the bus. They remembered the blood and the bodies, and their fear melted away in the heat of their outrage.
“She didn’t kill those people,” they spat. “You did.”
“Excellent,” Gelethil said. “He dies first.”
The room dropped into darkness. No red glow, just a crushing black that made Jay momentarily fear they’d gone blind. The warmth of Gelethil’s hand left their shoulder. Far ahead of them, something swiped through the air, followed by an agonised scream. Jay shuffled backwards in the darkness, a thick tremor in their limbs, until their back hit the wall. Caine shrieked, first in fear and then pain. Jay cradled their head, covering their ears, trying to block out the wailing, clattering and tearing sounds. The spattering. The pleading.
They buried their face in their knees and became so efficient at wishful thinking that all they heard was their own sobs. Time passed. Eventually they became aware of the stillness in the room. They risked a glance up. The room was light again. The opposite end was painted red. They retched. Sat cross-legged before them, covered in blood, was Gelethil.
“What an odd sort of day,” he said conversationally. His hands rested on his knees, blood lazily dripping from them.
Jay opened their mouth and air came out. No sound. They tried again to no avail.
“At first I truly thought you were one of them, you know,” he carried on. “I’m pleased you aren’t.”
“Why?” Jay managed, nothing more than a breath.
He shrugged. “Makes things easier. My escape, and now the rest of our business together, I expect.”
“You’re cold,” Gelethil said, extending a bloody hand. “Come here.”
They shook their head frantically and tried to huddle closer to the wall. “What business?”
“These people, this… ‘organisation’ has been summoning demons and binding them. I want to kill these rats and free my brethren so we can return to our home.”
Gelethil’s eyes flicked to the floor and back up to Jay’s again. They felt a little sick.
“It’s real?” Jay asked.
“As real as I am.”
“What do you need me for?”
His tail flicked from side to side behind him. “Information.”
Jay’s gut roiled. “I swear I don’t know anything.”
Gelethil shuffled closer, leaning forward with a glint in his eye that caused Jay to tense further. “Not yet,” he said. “Torture is unreliable. You can read minds like a book.”
Jay considered his words. He was right, even if it did take somewhat more effort than that. Their mind crept back to the blood splattered bus and they looked up at the crimson stained walls. Jay probably wasn’t the first innocent to be taken but they might very well have been the first to live. Their brow hardened. Jay wasn’t tied anymore and the people who had wronged them were gone. Their heart was steadying. It was worth a shot.
“You want to stop this organisation, free your people and what? Just leave?” they asked. Their sense reached out, subtly picking their way into his head, like mental fingers flicking through the files of his mind.
They found purchase.
“That’s all I want,” Gelethil said, holding their eyes. “We’ve no interest in this realm.”
Able to focus, their sense held. It was the truth. Jay thought once more of that blood smeared bus and smiled.
“Alright,” they said. “I’m in.”
I hope you enjoyed and if you did, why not check out some of my other short stories!