Part Three of the Mall Demon Series
By Pedro Ramirez III
"To the ancients the air itself was a spiritual substance - a medium that could be felt, but not seen."
A little girl with dark, braided hair stood crying in front of the shopping mall entrance. Men and women brushed past her briskly making their way in and out of the mall.
A man in a suit ran out the door, knocking her down without looking back. He stepped onto a Metro bus. The girl sat where she fell. With her face in her hands, she continued crying.
"Sweetie...Are you OK?" A concerned woman approached the girl, set down her bags. With both hands on her walking cane, the woman knelt next to the girl.
The girl kept crying, her face hidden behind her hands.
"Where's your mommy?"
The girl's crying intensified. The woman shifted closer and tried soothing her.
"It's OK. Is your mommy inside?"
The crying quieted. The girl shook her head and spoke, but her voice was muffled behind her hands. The woman inched closer, strained to hear.
"It's OK. I'll help you find your parents."
The woman reached out to move the girl's hands from her face.
"Don't be scared. I'm here to help..."
The girl's sobs returned suddenly, louder as if several children were crying. The girl's outburst startled the woman. She searched the crowd hoping to find a parent. All she knew to do was to keep repeating the same words.
"Don't be scared. Don't be scared."
The sobs changed in tone and character. They sounded more like a laugh. The woman looked closely at the girl's face still hidden behind cupped hands. With preternatural speed, the girl removed her hands from her face.
The woman gasped. She fell back, dropping her cane.
"I'm not scared," the girl said. "Are you?"
The woman scrambled backwards like a crab. The girl launched forward. The woman screamed. She instinctively shielded her face. The girl's grotesquely large head was inches from the woman's. The girl's red eyes bulged, her wide, sharp-toothed smile stretched like a caricature from ear to ear. She laughed.
The woman was nearly lying prostrate on the sidewalk. The girl was straddled above her, chanting in a voice that sounded like a legion of girls speaking at once.
"Don't be scared…Don't be scared."
The woman was frozen with fear. The girl's hair in a braided tail rose into the air. The chanting continued. Her braided hair writhed higher. The end rose to its fullest length. As it did, the braid transformed into a hideous snake with slanted red eyes inside a pulsating black head. Its fangs dripped black venom.
"Don't be scared."
The woman screamed. She reached out for the legs of passersby. Nobody would stop.
"Please! Help!" The woman stopped. Everyone around her possessed the same grotesque red-eyes and sharptoothed grin.
They all were chanting now. And then, the snake struck. Its fangs punctured deeply into the woman's neck. Her head fell with a dull thud onto the sidewalk. The host of demons laughed. The little girl fed on her kill as if she had not fed in days.
"Enough!" The Watcher waved a hand in the viscous air as if he was running his fingers through water. The air rippled at his touch. A brightness radiated from the spot.
The Watcher pressed the spot with his palm as if pushing a button. A blinding light flashed. The demons turned to face him. The brightness reached them, and they froze. Their forms lost their shadows, turned two dimensional. The next second rain fell, and an orange streak of light sliced down from Heaven.
"Evangeline!" The Watcher called out.
The orange streak slammed down at the spot where the demons had killed the woman. The streak appeared as a sword, cutting off the snake's head. Reality split like a canvas curtain shred in half. The curtain halves fell, dissolving in the steady rain.
Evangeline took human form. Covered in a hooded, orange cloak, she was kneeling on the sidewalk in front of the Watcher. She lifted her head and removed her hood as he approached.
"That was completely unnecessary, Evangeline!"
His angry shadow covered her form. The rain had washed away all vestiges of the demon host. The mall was once again alive with men, women and children going about their daily activities blissfully unaware of the spiritual presence.
"Unnecessary, but absolutely satisfying," Evangeline said. She rose to her feet slowly - her head reaching his broad shoulders.
"Too much hubris," he said.
Evangeline walked past him.
"Ironic isn't it?" she said. "A Watcher talking of too much hubris?"
He turned to follow Evangeline. Her back was to him. She turned with a flourish causing her cloak to flare like a skirt.
"Isn't it?" she repeated.
The Watcher stepped forward and knelt before her.
"I forgot my place," he said. "Forgive me…I am at your service."
She looked down her nose at him like a school teacher scolding a pupil. Her mouth betrayed a sly smile. She playfully slapped him upside the head.
"Oh, please, Watcher!" she said sitting down on one of the newspaper boxes lining the curb in front of the shopping mall. "Can't you tell by now when I'm teasing?"
He looked up at her, but remained kneeling.
"For Heaven's sake get up, Watcher!"
He rose slowly. She motioned for him to sit next to her. She was now focused on the mall.
"Sit here. Watch with me," she said. "Like old times."
"Yes…old times," he said.
People were moving in and out of the mall. Some sat at the outdoor tables of the eateries that lined the sidewalk. A man wearing earphones approached the box Evangeline was sitting on. His hand went through her cloak and her thigh as he opened the door to pull out a newspaper.
"No matter how many millennia go by, that's always weird," she said.
Watcher nodded. The man with the newspaper walked toward one of the outdoor tables. He placed his backpack down. Evangeline noticed the name scrawled on the backpack.
"Lighten up. We're fighting this one together," she said. "Now, tell me. Is that him?"
"Yes," Watcher said. "Daniel is his name."
Daniel looked up from the newspaper. He looked past them. Not finding anything to focus on, he went back to reading.
"Interesting," Evangeline said. "As if he heard you say his name."
"We have seen behind the curtain to what will happen if he fails," the Watcher said, ignoring her comment. "The end will begin here."
"If I know you, you won't let that happen."
"I will fight the host of them alone if I must," he said.
"We are facing Sargas Vak," she said. "He destroyed his apprentice before I could exact retribution."
Watcher stood at the sound of Sargas Vak's name.
"He is here?!" Watcher scanned the mall roof and the tops of the lightposts.
"The one and only, she said. "Our generals will want to meet with him next."
"Sargas has walked with Death," Watcher said still scanning the area.
Evangeline hopped off the newspaper box. She glided as much as walked towards Daniel who was still reading.
"Back in the den of lions, Daniel," she said - not much louder than a whisper.
Evangeline felt a sudden chill behind her and didn't notice Daniel glance up from his paper.
The blow hit her in the chest. She collapsed. The master demon had appeared suddenly.
"Did you call on me, angel?" Sargas Vak, his dark, leathery wings outstretched, stood menacingly above Evangeline. "I hope you do not expect me to kneel."
Evangeline sat up, steadying herself with one arm firmly planted on the sidewalk. Watcher rushed to her. He squared his shoulders. Like two giant wrestlers, Watcher and Sargas Vak circled each other looking for a weakness to exploit.
"Try that on me Sargas!" Watcher shouted.
Sargas Vak roared and lunged.
The angelic cry shattered the air with the full force of heavenly power. Sargas and Watcher crumpled to the sidewalk where they stood. Both of them tried in vain to shield their eyes and ears from the blinding, deafening pulse of light pouring from Evangeline's mouth.
"Insolent demon!" Evangeline drew a glowing sword from under her cloak. "I should destroy you here and now!"
The spiritual commotion went unseen by the people moving about in front of the mall. But Daniel looked up. Evangeline thought she saw him look towards her as if he was conscious of the spiritual realm. Then, she noticed Sargas rising.
"You will kneel before the power of the Almighty!"
Evangeline's words forced Sargas down again. Sargas strained to rise, the muscles in his arms and legs quivered.
"Look at me, demon!"
Her words forced Sargas to lift his head. Evangeline pointed her sword at him.
"Tell your master the battlefield is set," she said. "When it begins, you will feel my blade."
With a wave of her sword, Evangeline slashed the air. The cut opened, sucked Sargas in and closed once he was gone.
Evangeline helped Watcher to his feet.
"Come, my friend," she said.
"I see your love for theatrics has not diminished," Watcher said.
He noticed the large dent in Evangeline's breast plate as he rose. The tunic underneath was wet with blood. His tone changed.
Evangeline leaned on him. The sword slipped. Watcher grabbed it, wincing as smoke rose from his hand. With a grimace, he placed the sword in its scabbard. Daniel, only a few feet away, shook off the weird feeling he had just had and went back to his newspaper. Evangeline noticed.
"I must heal," she said, "but we must not be gone long. He will need our help."
This section has some significant changes from the version that made it into Book One: The Chosen Must Fall. I decided to post these so that readers can see how the story progressed from one edit to the next.