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The Society of Misfit Stories Presents… The Hot Zone


Aaron Vlek

Bards and Sages Publishing


http://www. bardsandsages. com/literary_offerings/society_of_misfit_stories

Cover Image by Denny Marshall

© Copyright 2019 Aaron Vlek

Published with Permission

No one is sicker of the tired and unimaginative portrayals of demons and angels than those nebulous beings themselves. Fed up with both humanity and his more traditional forebears, one such creature sets out to disappear into the no man’s land of the deep net, the dark web, the Hot Zone.

Est. Word Count: 5050 words

The Hot Zone

The hoard had locked onto her scent and was closing fast. A dozen garbage cans bounced down the street as they scrambled over parked cars and wrecked havoc on the streets in their sadistic frolicking. Some were on all fours like beasts or upright like men, others flapped their wings so loudly she couldn’t keep her wits about her. They were chanting her old name now, begging her to join them, and promising to feast on her blood, such as it was, if she refused.

Long black coattails flew in the wind cloaking a dozen lanky grinning bodies. They were playing with her now, and she despised them for it. Some of these foul creatures she had hated for a millennium, with good reason, others . . . others she had once called friend.

All she could do was keep running. There was only one more block to go. The meeting point appeared up ahead through the piss-yellow mist that clouded the wet streets. Jael thought she might actually have a chance to outrun them. The huge doors stood open, ready to receive her as a few late stragglers wandered out and huddled under their umbrellas in the hot summer rain.

Jael lurched into a last desperate sprint expending the last of her strength as vicious gibbering and taunting laughter erupted all around her. She screamed as the talons ripped into her back and their hot rank breath filled her lungs. The last thing she saw was the cold pavement slamming into her face.

Havani perched on the heavy branch of an ancient oak tree waiting for his mate to appear. He stifled a sharp cry of rage and agony. The empty streets had become too quiet. They had taken her. He knew because he could no longer hear her footsteps splashing through the alley. The smell of her death and the acrid scent of their joy and exultation as they ravaged her torn flesh sickened him, but there was nothing he could do.

Despite the silence, he could sense them out there. He would mourn her later in the proper way. She would understand. Jael had been his beloved, his mate, and the whole world would know of his loss, his pain, and his sorrow.

They started in again, making a lot of noise, trying to lure him out. They always made so damn much noise. They were vulgar, and he loathed them. In the days to come, if the opportunity arose, he would butcher every last one of them and savor the taste of their blood.

Havani leapt from the branch and landed on the pavement. They heard him and were after him in an instant. He quickly closed the distance between himself and the large welcoming structure, but they were as fast and agile as they ever were, and they were not laughing now, not playing with him at all. Their vile threats and hideous promises roared in his ears.

A hot wave of foul rancid breath washed over him as he exited the alley and scrambled up the broad marble staircase. The foul claws grazed the back of his neck as they closed with him on the second stair. Their screams echoed in his brain as they watched him stumble over the top two steps and stagger through the open door where he collapsed.

He turned to see them retreat down the stairs, snarling and panting in disbelief before they disappeared back into the darkened alley. It was silent again and he surrendered to the press of cold white marble against his hot tearstained face.

* * *

Father Lorenzo’s powerful slender body knelt before the altar in prayer, but his heart just wasn’t in it. It hadn’t really been in it for years, if it ever truly had been. He was alert to everything around him; ears strained, muscles tensed for the slightest shift in the air if anyone came too close. Even his nostrils flared, waiting for anything amiss from the usual sounds and smells of the church and its habitual denizens.

It had to be like this. St. Anne’s parish suffered the same problems as the city that engulfed her and the growing population of homeless and those barely hanging on who crowded the neighboring streets. There were the addicts, hustlers, hookers and related personnel, feral kids, old people on a dollar a day, and others who defied all imaginative description, and none of them were looking for salvation.

Even the inner sanctum of St. Anne’s was no protection from the ravages of hunger and despair. Intruders had robbed the parish five times in the last year and mugged Father Lorenzo, at knifepoint, on the front steps twice.

An eruption of angry voices at the back of the church brought Father Lorenzo to his feet. He raced down the center aisle as the dark figure of a man appeared in the doorway and then a moment later collapsed on the floor. He dashed to the man’s side, cautiously examining the motionless body. He saw a thick knot of black clad figures scrambling down the steps and then disappearing in a half a dozen directions down the dark streets.

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