Phantom War Part 1: The Creatures

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Featured Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers Short Horror Stories

For Bethany. You were worth the fight.

The cool, autumn night brought with it the presence of uneasiness and uncertainty. The full moon hung high in the air like a stationary spotlight–a beacon guiding the two lovers with its gravitational force. It pulled the two together in ebb and flow; in high and low, just as it did the tides of the seas and oceans.

The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings stood atop the mountain. Her shadow draped across the valley under the gleam of the moon like a black sheet. She breathed in the crisp, night air then exhaled.

“Dear God,” she prayed. “Please bring him safely to me. Let not my lover stumble nor let fear be found in his valiant heart.”

Her thoughts were on The Man with Hazel Eyes and Broken White Wings. She knew it would take him longer to find her since he could no longer fly. He was now down in the valley, obscured by the curtain of her stretching shadow. He heart pounded deep in her chest and perspiration formed on her forehead. She knew what things were awakened in the valley when the full moon stepped onto the stage of the night sky.

The Girl had seen the Creatures in her dreams and heard their whaling. She had visions of the Demons and had seen their teeth. She had premonitions of the Monsters and trembled at the energy they gave off.

“Dear God,” she prayed again. “I hope he remembered the protective amulet. And may he be strapped with his steel and prepared for battle.”

She had given The Man a protective amulet when they first met. It was a black cross crafted from jet stone. She knew deep within her heart and soul the Man would need it one day. She never thought today would be the day.

She also knew The Man was wise and would not enter the Valley without its protection nor the comfort of his steel. Nevertheless, her heart feared his journey. So, under the glow of the night’s sun, she awaited her lover.

The Man with Hazel Eyes and Broken White Wings traveled through the Valley under the shadow of the Girl. His thoughts jumped from her to his Guardian Creator. His ears were attentive to every sound. His nose picked up on a rancid scent.

In the Realms of the Phantoms both good and evil had a smell. The Good gave off a clean fragrance of fresh linen and sunflowers. The Evil stunk of rotting flesh and sulfur.

The Man knew if he could smell the entities of the night, then they could smell him as well. It would only be a matter of moments before they would pick up on his scent. When they did, they would awaken and seek to spill his blood.

He looked up from the Valley and saw the trees. He peered through the twisted fingers of the leafless branches at the moon and thought of her again–The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings. He had to get to her. Their very lives depended on it.

A shuffling in the rocky sand of the Valley drew his mind away from her. His hand moved with a swift motion and gripped the hilt of his steel, which rested in his waistband. The noise ascended. It grew closer and louder.

And then he saw them in the moonlight.

These weren’t the foes he expected to see first. From the tales of the few survivors to make it through the Valley, the Creatures were the last to face.

The Man drew his steel then gripped his cross amulet. “Dear God,” he prayed. “Let my feet be swift and my blows deadly.” He let go of the cross and held his sword with both hands.

A massive, churning clod of serpent-like creatures raced towards him. In the light of the moon, the reflection of their scales resembled all the colors of the rainbow. Their tales were as scorpions and they had no face.

These were the Mind Serpents. They were beasts of such negative, psychic power, they were able to enter the mind of a man and make him go insane. Doubt, depression, and self-loathing would take over. Once the Creatures had a man paralyzed by his own self pity and sunken into the hatred of his own soul, they would strike with their tails.

The venom would work as a mind toxin and make a man take their thoughts as his own. Once this happened, a man would, in a fit of insanity, run his blade through his own heart.

Legend had it that the number of the serpents represented the threat the warrior posed. A man of normal courage would face one. A brave man, two, and a courageous man, three. Never had there been tales of more than this.

The Man counted the faceless heads as they approached.

There were five.

The Man swallowed hard and felt the finger of fear tickle at his heart. He swiped it away and prepared himself for war.

The Creatures were within twenty yards when they launched their psychic attack. The mind fuck was the most insidious sensation The Man had ever experienced.

He always thought he was mentally strong, but now he felt himself in a tornado of negative thoughts and emotions. He dropped his blade and fell to his knees. He placed his hands over his bleeding ears and screamed.

“Jesus! God! Make them stop!” Spittle flew from his lips and the tendons in his neck stretched as a flesh covered harp.

The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings gasped as she heard the screams of her lover echo through the Valley. She ran towards The Willow Tree at the edge of the cliff. She parted the curtain of its hanging branches and placed one hand on her bosom and one hand on the trunk of the tree. Her eyes searched in desperation for The Man but he could not see through the shield of darkness in the Valley.

“Please, my angel. Please be all right,” she said between heavy breaths.

The Man continued his screams and the serpents encircled him. They churned and twisted, running their bodies over his stomach and shoulders.

In his mind, The Man saw visions of great sorrow, pain, and loss. He saw all Abaddon had taken from him and his heart grew faint.

“I am no warrior,” The Man thought. “I am no fighter. I am only a failed savior with broken wings. I am a coward frozen by terror and self pity.”

Further and further his mind spiraled down into an abyss of nothingness.

But there was something different about The Man the serpents were not prepared for; something no man in the Valley ever had…

As The Man reached the bottom of the pit of his mind, he found a Phoenix waiting for him.

“Who are you,” The Man asked.

“I am you,” the Phoenix said.

“I am no Phoenix,” he said. “I am but a wasted angel with useless wings and a coward’s heart.”

The Phoenix flapped its wings and engulfed The Man in waves of fire. “No,” it said. “You are thunder and lightening. You are a burning ember and a flash of fire!”

The Phoenix took flight and extended its talons. The bird gripped The Man by the shoulders and began to fly him out of the abyss. The grip of the Phoenix burned and brought a sense of mental sobriety to The Man. The two ascended higher and higher, causing all the dark thoughts to dissipate.

The Man now saw who he really was. Though he had broken wings, he was a warrior. He was more courageous than all his peers and the most noble knight to ever step foot into the Valley. He was a man of abounding love. A man of resilience and perseverance. A man loved by God and The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings.

The Man was jolted back into consciousness. A stinger from one of the serpents was whizzing through the air at him. He ducked and rolled away, then knelt and fetched his steel.

The serpents lashed and coiled in anger and confusion. The Man saw their hesitation and struck. With the rage of a wild beast, his sword followed the lead of his hands as a bridled horse. He chopped off one head, followed by another. Sprays of rainbow colored blood misted from the serpents as their bodies flopped on the road of the Valley.

He finished off the rest of the serpents in the same manner. Their bodies seized and their rainbow life seed drained from their bodies. The Man was soaked in the multicolored blood and pools of it puddled around his feet.

“Oh God, the smell,” The Man said and his his nose in the gape of his arm. He gagged a few times then dry heaved.

After he composed himself, The Man gathered the faceless serpent heads and ran them through with his blade. His piercing left holes at both ends of the heads. He wiped his sword on one of their lifeless bodies, then returned it to its sheath. He removed his backpack and retrieved his rope. He then slid the rope through the heads and tied it off at each end into a giant necklace.

The Man clenched his trophy and raised it towards the night sky.

“Abaddon,” he yelled. “Heaven knows no fury like a warrior’s blade!”

He lowered his prize and continued his journey. The necklace of heads crackled as he dragged them through the rocky soil of the Valley.

“Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings,” he called out. “I am coming for you. As I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, it shall fear my evil!”

The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings heard the voice of her lover ascend from the Valley to her ears. She stepped away from the cliff and rested her back against The Willow Tree. She slid down and sat, relieved.

“I know you are coming, angel,” she said. She breathed deep and exhaled as she awaited him to face his next challenge.

Phantom War Part 2: The Monsters

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Featured Indie Horror Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers Short Horror Stories

For Bethany. You were worth the fight

The deeper into the Valley The Man journeyed the darker it grew. The wind hummed like a locomotive as it pressed against his body. The gust was so powerful it blew and dust into his eyes, further decaying his already obscured vision. He draped his arm over his face and walked with slow, calculated steps. 

The Man wondered what abominations awaited him next. Things were already going against the normal routine of the Valley, and a sense of uneasiness suffocated his heart. He reflected on this so-called “order of the Valley” and came to a startling revelation: order was only an attribute and function of Creator God. The Valley was pure evil, and pure evil was always chaotic. There was no order in the Valley, nor was there an order to which satanic brood would attack next. The Valley was pure and adulterated chaos. In the Valley, chaos was king. 

The wind slowed its breathing and The Man was able to see again. The moon no longer resembled a lantern in the fog but hung in the sky as the ruler of the night. He stared up at the trees atop the Valley. He swore by God he saw them move.

“But there is no more wind,” he mumbled to himself. He assumed he still had dust in his eyes, so he fetched the water pouch at his side and rinsed them. He blinked numerous times until his vision was clear. He set his sight on the other side of the Valley and saw several branches ripple then disappear.

“It must be them,” The Man whispered and recalled the tales of The Monsters. 

These entities were covered in tentacles and there were two types. One species had a spiral body with a black hole in the center. They had no sense of sight but the hole operated as a center for heightened hearing. Their bodies were laced with branch-like tentacles.

The second species had no sight either and the same type of black hole in the center, equipped with the same hyper-sensative hearing. The core of these monsters was shaped like a lily. Their tentacles were more soft and fluid, as string blowing in the wind. 

The goal of The Monsters was to wrap their tentacles around each person’s body parts and rip them off with one, powerful yank. A normal man would be lucky to be maimed by only one. A brave man might make it past them with only missing toes, fingers, and an arm. But this man would soon pass out and die from lack of blood or shock. The Man with Hazel Eyes and Broken White Wings was positive there were two hunting him down. One from the east side of the Valley and one from the west. 

The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black wings had heard the roaring of the wind when it rushed through the Valley and wondered how The Man was fairing against the elements. She had heard no screams so she was confident her beloved was still alive and making his way to her. The Girl’s nerves still danced and spun like ballerinas on stage despite her confidence. She knew there was nothing she could do but be patient, so she prayed for The Man to survive and find his way to her. 

The Girl wished her angel still had his wings, then he would not have to journey through the treacherous Valley. Rather, he could have flown, like her, to their Willow Tree. They could now be making love under it as in the days before his wings were destroyed. 

She reflected on the times when his wings were whole. 

“Oh, my angel,” she said. “I remember when you would fly and meet me here and wrap those wings around me. You made me feel so safe.” She reached for a branch on the tree and caressed it with her hand. She slid the leaves between her fingers and felt them tickle her skin. 

“Those were enchanting days, my angel,” she said, staring out over the Valley. “The days of ease. The days before Abaddon came.” 

It was only one week ago before the satanic beast wreaked havoc on their village. She remembered the day with the utmost clarity. She was kissing her beloved in the field outside the city walls when something blacked out the sun.

The two broke their kiss and  gazed upwards. A beast of ungodly size hovered in the sky above them. The thing was as black as total darkness and its wingspan was so wide, it seemed to touch the clouds. Its body was covered in hair and primate-like. It had the head of a goat and the mouth of a dragon. Its horns were long and prominent. 

The Man and The Girl stared in awe at the dragon. Its wings flapped and its mouth let out a deafening, apish roar. The two recoiled at the sound as trepidation found its way into the marrow of their bones. 

The Girl broke their trance and said, “Dear God, it is heading…”

“Towards the village,” The Man finished for her. 

The Man looked at The Girl with wide eyes and grabbed her arm with a firm grip. 

His hazel eyes were the most intense and fearful they had ever been.

“Fly with haste to the village,” he had said. “I will go after the beast.” 

The Girl stood frozen, as if her feet were cemented to the ground and as if her wings were weighted down by bricks. She didn’t think she could find the courage to move. However, she found herself nodding in agreement to his command. By the grace of Creator God, her wings flapped and she took flight. 

The Man watched to make sure the dragon did not turn his attention to The Girl. When he saw she was in the clear, his feet left the ground and he went in pursuit of the beast. 

The speed at which the dragon had flown was like none The Man had ever encountered. Each flap of its wings seemed to thrust it ahead one hundred yards. He clenched his fist, gnashed his teeth, and flew faster. Perspiration soaked his body and his muscles locked in knotted balls. The Man had flown so hard, for the first time in his life, some feathers dislodged from his wings. They swirled around him then made a slow descent to the ground. 

The dragon neared the village.

The Man looked on. His face contorted and his brow furrowed. “Damn these fucking wings,” he had shouted. “Go faster!” He dug down deep into his being to find more power to exert towards his wings but he could not fly any faster. “God damn these useless wings!”

The Man glanced down to see if he could locate The Girl. He didn’t see her anywhere near the village. He tucked his head to look behind him. She trailed The Man by several hundred yards. The Man knew if he did not gain on the beast, there would be no village left to spare. His children were there and so were The Girl’s. 

The dragon picked up seed. The village loomed closer. The Man watched on helpless.

The dragon was now in range of the village. It opened its mouth and flashes of fire exploded forth. The humble stick and hay houses evaporated into flames. Screams from the burning victims ascended into the sky and reached The Man’s ears. 

“Cormac! Doriann!” The Man screamed his children’s names as he drew closer to the village. 

Everything was engulfed in flames. The dragon was gone just as fast as he came, leaving behind him a path of smoke and fire. 

The Man ascended into the chaos. The heat from the fire pressed against his skin like hot irons. The smoke clouded his vision and filled his lungs. He stumbled around in the inferno, calling his children’s names as well as The Girl’s between coughs and gasps of air.

“Cormac! Doriann! Ewing! Duncan!” The Man could not get his bearings and had no idea where in the city he was. He was about to pass out when he felt arms grasp around him. He watched as he ascended from the firestorm and the burning village grew smaller in his sight. 

The Girl had rescued him before he passed out and was consumed by the flames. 

The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings tried to push the remaining thoughts out of her mind but found herself powerless against their deluge. The next memories broke her heart and brought tears to her eyes.  

She remembered sitting with The Man outside the village as the burning embers still smoked. She watched him rise to his feet and enter the village. She had followed him at a distance, not wanting to see what she knew awaited her–the dead and charcoaled bodies of their children. 

The next image in her mind? It was The Man rummaging through his home which was nothing more than a pile of ashes. He found Cormac and Doriann, his seven year old boy-girl twins. He scooped their bodies from the ash heap and held them in his arm, one against each shoulder. Their skin was black and flakey and their hair was burned off. He staggered a few yards then fell to his knees in anguish. He plopped their dead bodies to the ground, then lifted his head to the heavens.

“God! Why! They were my babies! They were innocent!” He gazed at the girl. His face was littered with disappointment and confusion. “I..I..couldn’t save them.” He ran his finger through his long brown hair and gripped it tight. Through tears he cried, “Damn these wings! I couldn’t get here in time. If only I was…” His voice faded to a whisper. “…faster…If only…faster.” He locked eyes with The Girl again. “I failed us. I failed them. I failed you.” 

They buried their children outside of the village then flew to the mountain where the Willow Tree sat. The Girl sat next to The Man under the tree. They didn’t speak. She rubbed his back as he breathed heavy breaths. She understood. Her heart broke and she weeped with him over the death of their children and the death of the life they had dreamed about. 

Then the unthinkable happened. The Man jumped to his feet.

“What? Where are you going,” The Girl had asked.

The Man answered her not. He took off running full speed to the rocky side of the mountain. The Girl cringed as The Man slammed his back to the mountain. She heard the bones in one of his wings crunch as he let out a laugh filled with pain and anger. The Girl leaped to her feet.

“Stop! What are you doing,” she had said. 

“Damn!”

Smash.

“These!”

Crunch.

“Mother!”

Snap.

“Fucking!”

Crunch.

“Wings!”

Shatter.

The Man’s wings hung broken and mangled from his back. He reached around in a fit of rage and ripped feathers from his wings.

The Girl sprinted over to him. “Stop this madness,” she had yelled. “What are you doing!”

The Man paused and glared at her. “Step away from me, woman. Do not interfere.” 

The Girl backed away. Her eyes were heavy and her face, fallen. She watched in agony and heartbreak as The Man slammed his back into the side of the mountain until his wings were a featherless mush. 

A shriek jolted her from her memories. “My beloved,” she gasped and eased over closer to the cliff. 

The Man with Hazel Eyes and Broken White Wings saw The Monsters rushing down the side of the mountain towards him. They let out an awful sound as they prepared to attack. Their tentacles stuck like lightning and wrapped around The Man’s legs. They pulled hard and The Man fell on his backside. Sword in hand, he rolled onto his stomach and tried to scurry away. The Monsters yanked with more force each in the opposite direction. They spread his legs and The Man could feel the muscles in his legs and groin being stretched to oblivion.

The Monsters whipped their tentacles and flipped The Man over. Survival instincts took over and The Man hacked away at the tentacles with his steel. Orange blood spewed from the wounds and he axed away at them as if he were chopping down a tree. The tentacles severed and The Monsters withdrew them with howls of pain. 

The Man unwrapped himself from the severed limbs and flung them aside. He leaped to his feet and gripped his sword with both hands. The Monsters circled him and waved their tentacles in the air with wild motions. The Man’s eyes darted back and forth, trying to gauge the motion of each movement. 

Another appendage struck. This one wrapped around his waist. He then felt a tightness around his neck as one began to choke the life from him. There was a snap as one of his ribs broke. His brain was being depleted from oxygen and his vision became blurry. His consciousness was fading and his legs were weak. His strength was being dried out like a potsherd in the desert sun. 

In his mind he saw The Girl. They were standing in a field. Her blonde hair glistened under the summer sun. She wore a white dress and had a crown of flowers in her hair. She was smiling up at him and laughing. He could feel his arms around him, pulling him in for a kiss. As their faces met, hers evaporated. He now stared into the black hole of one of the Monsters. With the last bit of consciousness in his grip, The Man raised his arms and made a thrusting motion with his sword. The blade sank deep into the hole of The Monster.

The relief was immediate. The tentacled loosened from his neck and the bleating screams of the Monster brought him back to reality. He withdrew his blade and was then covered in a shower of orange blood. The Monster’s tentacles went limp and it fell to the ground dead. 

Pain surged through The Man’s middle as the other Monster squeezed tighter. Another rib snapped.

“Shit,” The Man yelled. An appendage was now wrapped around his free hand. He hacked away in fury at both of them. 

The two tentacles bled and pulled back. The Monster paused and The Man took his opportunity. He drew his sword back and sprinted forward. He extended his arms and struck the Monster in its black hole. He twisted the blade back and forth and made a circling motion. Blood seeped from the wound and the Monster twitched. The Man withdrew his steel and the Monster hit the ground. The Man raised his sword over his head to strike but the pain in his ribs stopped him. He decided to let the thing suffer as its life ebbed away. 

As the Monster died, the man sliced away on one of the tentacles. He took a piece about two feet long and pierced it through. He grabbed his necklace of heads from the ground and untied it. He placed his sword in its sheath and slipped the tentacle on to add to his trophy. With one hand he held his ribs and with the other dragged the necklace behind him.

“My darling,” The Man called. “I am hurt but I am victorious!” A sharp pain dug into his side as he yelled. He winced and hoped his beloved heard him.

The Girl heard the cry of The Man and her eyes filled with tears of joy. “Oh angel, please take care of yourself. God, please strengthen him in his pain.”

“Abaddon,” The Man whispered. “Your head will be the pendant on my necklace of retribution.”

Phantom War Part 3: The Demons

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Featured Indie Horror Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers Short Horror Stories

For Bethany. You were worth the fight.

Part Three: The Demons

The Man took deep, heavy breaths and held his ribs. His side screamed with agony and every breath felt as if he was being stabbed with a dagger. His face grimaced in pain yet his heart soared with determination. Each aching step brought him close to Abaddon; closer to vengeance, and closer to The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings.

The road in the Valley narrowed. Before The Man stood the entrance to a forest. He eased his hand away from his throbbing side and stood erect. He narrowed his eyes and the determination in his heart was expressed on his face.

“The Forest of Lost Hope,” The Man whispered and stared at the trees. The leaves on the branches were no leaves at all. Rather, they were shards of human flesh. A crisp breeze blew through the forest and made the skin dance. Patches of the anthropomorphic coverings dropped to the ground. The Man picked one up and examined it. He recalled a passage from The Book of Abaddon: 

“If a warrior is of skill to have made it to The Forest of Lost Hope, it would bid him well to take heed before entering. It is required that a man make deep examination of his heart and soul before he enters. A pure heart and unwavering faith are required to conquer the dark spirits who lie deep within the forest. The Demons are unmerciful mercenaries of Abaddon who will strike at any weakness. The man of sincere heart who enters this realm should also remember that it would do him well to cover himself with the flesh which hangs on the trees. If his heart is pure, he will absorb the strength of the flesh of those who went before him and none of their weaknesses. However, if he is a double souled man, he will absorb none of their strength and all of their weaknesses, thus assuring himself both defeat and death.” 

The Man knelt at the edge of the forest and fixed his mind on Creator God. “My Lord,” he prayed. “By thine Spirit, search my heart and see if there is any wicked way in me. Cleanse me by Thy blood from my sins. Make me whole in Thine eyes. Let my faith in you soar as on the wings of an eagle and let my doubts be annihilated by the power of Thine right hand. Let not fear enter into my heart but guard it as Thine own.” 

The Man sat in silence as he drew in strength from his God. With assurance in his soul, he rose to his feet. Though she could not hear him, he spoke to The Girl. “My darling, our God has brought us thus far, and He will not fail us now. Into the forest I will go, and victorious I will emerge.” 

The Man reached up and removed a patch of skin from a branch at the edge of the forest. He placed it on his face. Within moments he felt the blood bond to his skin. He proceeded to cover the rest of his face and the exposed portions of his arms and legs. He imagined what he must look like–a patchwork of skin hanging on skin. A brutish amalgamation of human flesh which would give nightmares to young children. But the only nightmares he planned on giving were the ones he would gift to Abaddon. 

Once he reached Abaddon, he planned on making him suffer. He wasn’t going to kill the demigod, oh no. He was going to torture to the point of death; to amputate and dismember, then leave him as an invalid who could do no more harm. Instead, Abaddon would be left  in torment in his body and mind, as he would forever have to live with how he was bested by God’s knight. 

“Abaddon,” The Man said with a snarl. “You picked the wrong man of God to fuck with.” He grabbed his necklace of vengeance in one hand then took his first step into the forest. 

“Abaddon,” he thought. “Your time is coming. But for now, I will slay your henchmen.” 

Once in the forest, the man felt a tingling sensation on his skin. His body was absorbing the strength of the deceased’s warriors’ flesh. The pain in his side subsided and the bones made popping sounds as the ribs were forged back together. His muscles grew stronger and his heart braver. He felt as if he could take down an army of thousands. And indeed he could. 

The Man journey further into The Forest of Lost Hope. The moon’s rays were cut by the tree branches, leaving slices of light to guide his way. The woods smelled of depression and despair. It was the scent of loneliness. A smell only one who has breathed it in could identify. And The Man could. It was what he felt when his children were taken from him. The forest tried to bring these disparaging memories up, but the power of the Spirit of God and the power of the warrior’s flesh kept The Man’s mind sound. 

The Man paused. He gripped the hilt of his steel and attuned his ears to the forest. 

A howl bellowed forth in the distance followed by deep, maniacal laughter. The sounds came north of The Man. He drew his blade and journeyed towards the noise. The forest became more dense and the darkness grew as the light of the moon was no more. The Man was now practically blind. He was not going to be able to rely on his physical sight to defeat The Demons. Rather, he was going to have to rely on his psychic ability to emerge victorious. 

The Girl had taught him how to enhance the abilities of his mind. He had the gift since childhood, but never knew how to develop it. The Girl had trained the sight of her third eye into near perfection. The townspeople had considered her a witch because of her uncanny ability and at one point, had tried to set her on fire. The Man intervened and rescued her. He scorned the villagers for their ignorance and saved The Girl from certain death. 

The people had listened to The Man because they considered him a prophet sent from Creator God. Well, almost all the people. The Man’s former wife grew jealous of his stature in the city and of his friendship with The Girl. She conspired with the husband of The Girl to put The Man to death. One night, the two of them attacked The Man in his sleep. They had gathered rocks to stone him. The Man awoke to a throbbing pain in his face after his wife clobbered him with a stone. He was able to fend them off. The commotion awoke the villagers. They saw what was happening, and because they considered The Man a prophet, they took his wife and The Girl’s husband out into the streets and stoned them with the very rocks they tried to use on The Man. Because of their heresy, their bodies were dragged outside the city gates and left for the birds. They would be a reminder of what happens to the ones who attack the anointed of God. 

Since then, the relationship of The Man and The Girl flourished into love. She taught him how to use his third eye and he taught her the ways of Creator God more clearly. Now, in The Forest of Lost Hope, The Man was going to have to rely on his gifting and his God.

“Creator God,” The Man prayed. “Please enrich the sight of my third eye. Let me see my foes in my mind. Let me know their moves before they do. Give me foresight and precognition.”

The Lord answered The Man’s prayer.

In his mind he saw the entire forest, down to the last details. He saw the grooves in every tree, the high and low spots of the ground, and the location of every Demon. It was as if the woods were now illuminated by the sun. 

The Demons were a nasty sight. They had the body of a humans. Their skin was red and their faces and arms were covered in black markings. They had no jaw. Instead their mouth connected with their neck, leaving an open cavity revealing their tongue and rows of sharp teeth. 

The Man drew his sword and his precognition guided him. The first Demon would make a zig zag motion through the trees and then attack to his left. The second Demon would be close behind the first and leap at him. The third would sneak him from behind. 

The Man dropped his Necklace of Vengeance, held his sword with both hands, and waited on The Demons to make their move.

It happened just as The Man predicted. He timed his counter attack with perfection. He turned to his left and swung his sword. The blade connected in the space between The Demon’s mouth and neck. The blow severed his head and a blue geyser of blood spewed from the wound. 

The Man was ready for the next Demon coming to his front. He thrust his sword into The Demon’s chest, ran it through, then tossed it over his head. The Man pinned The Demon down to the ground. The Demon convulsed then melted around his blade and onto the forest floor where it evaporated. 

The Man stood to his feet and turned with a thrust. His sword entered the gaping chest cavity of the third Demon. The Demon hissed then placed its hands around the blade and tried to free itself. The Man twisted the blade and The Demon released it then melted just like the other. 

“What the hell,” The Man said as he watched The Demon squander away. He caught his breath then prepared for the next onslaught.

The Demons were a crafty lot and not unaware of The Man’s ability. But they knew something The Man hadn’t discovered yet. His precognitive ability only reached as far as being able to predict up to three attacks. This time, The Forest would send five Demons after him. 

The Man saw his next three assailants in his mind. One would travel to the tree tops then drop on him. The second would appear from behind the same tree and the third would flank him on his right.

The Man raised his sword above his head and the first Demon lunged to its death. He met the second Demon with a swing and the blade sliced open its midsection, disemboweling it. Blood and guts sloshed to the ground. The Man turned and brought his blade down on the shoulder of the third Demon. It howled, staggered backwards, and fell to the forest floor. The Man drove his steel through the heart of The Demon and it died like the others. 

The Man was not prepared for the fourth and fifth attack. He heard a snarl behind him but it was too late. The Demon grabbed him by his long hair and tried to drag him deeper into the forest. The Man sensed an odd sensation in his back, as if his skin was stretching and being pulled off.

The Man dropped his sword and latched on to The Demon’s wrist. He was able to look over his shoulder. He stood bewildered at what he saw. An arm was extended from his scapula. 

What The Man couldn’t see was the full profile of another warrior protruding from his back. The warrior gripped The Demon’s tongue with both hands and yanked, hard. The Demon’s tongue separated from its mouth and a river of blue blood poured out. The tongue flapped in the warrior’s hand then he proceeded to beat The Demon with it. 

The fifth attack came from The Man’s right. A Demon leaped from the foliage and brought the Man to the ground. He planted face first. His head spun and he tried to regain his wits. He felt the odd sensation in his back again. 

Warrior after warrior expanded from The Man’s back, covered in his skin like a flesh cloak. HIs skin continued to stretch and the warriors stayed attached by strands which stayed connected like ropes. 

The warriors now encircled him. The Forest let loose the Demon horde. The Man closed his eyes and buried his face on the ground, letting his army of encased warriors fight for him. Demon after met their demise at the hands of The Man’s protectors. He could hear the squealing of The Demons as their bodies were dismembered and annihilated by the warriors. 

The floor of the forest ran blue with the blood of the Demons. When the last one evaporated, The Man’s body absorbed the warriors and he was left alone on the ground. He pushed himself up and sat. “Thank you God,” The Man prayed. “Thank you.” He stood to his feet and returned his steel to its sheath. He picked up his necklace of vengeance and held it in his hand. He then heard a crackling and popping sound. 

The forest erupted into flames. A sense of haste and alarm filled The Man. He was worried he would be burned alive in the inferno. He then heard the voice of his God.

“When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Now travel ahead.” 

The Man believed the promise of God and stepped forward. The blazing trees surrounded him yet he could not feel their heat. He reached out his hand and stuck it into one of the flames. Nothing. He left it there for several seconds then removed it. His skin was unmarked by the fire. The Man smirked, then traveled through the fire unharmed and said, “The same God who protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the furnace of Nebuchadnezzer now protects me.” 

The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings saw the blazing forest. Her heart sanke and her mouth went dry. There was a churning in her stomach and she grew ill. All the strength left her body and she sat on the ground and wept. She knew there was no way her beloved could survive such a fire. 

“My love,” she cried. “My precious angel, how will I go on without you.” She wept until the point of despair. She lied down under neath their tree and waited to die.

The Man felt the anguish of The Girl. He had been so focused on using his energy to fight the entities of the Valley he had not yet used The Reach to contact his beloved. The Reach was a psychic bond the couple discovered in the early days of their relationship. It was a type of astral projection each could use to project their energy to the other and communicate thoughts and feelings. 

The Man paused amidst the fire and reached for The Girl. 

Underneath the tree, The Girl felt the presence of her beloved. She sat up and exclaimed, “It’s you!” She could sense The Man as if he were around her and inside her. She heard his voice in her head.

“It is me,” The Man said. “I am very much alive. The power of Creator God is with me and He is protecting me from the heat of the flames.” 

The Girl reached back and said, “Oh, my angel. I was so worried.”

The Man felt her and heard her voice in his soul. “I know, my darling. But rest assured I am alive and well.”

“Where will my angel go next?”

“I do not know….” The Man’s voice was cut off.

“Wait,” The Girl said. “Where did you go?”

The Man was now focused on what was before him. The forest had burned away and in front of him was a cave. The Man now knew where he stood. It was the lair of Abaddon. A cage of iron bars was over the entrance and a demonic guard stood watch. It was tall and muscular and human bones as armor adorned it from head to toe. The guard held a giant ax in its hands. It’s face was full of eyes and its mouth was a long, pointed beak. 

The Man sensed The Girl reaching. 

“My love,” he said.

The Girl was relieved. “Yes?”

“I’m here.”

“Where is ‘here’?”

“The lair of Abaddon,” The Man said. 

“Please be careful,” The Girl warned. “I have a bad feeling.”

“Sit at ease, my darling,” The Man said. “I will add the fingers of Abaddon’s right hand to my necklace.”