I’d like to share a little something with all of you, if you would indulge me for a moment. I’ve mentioned in previous posts about my epic fantasy trilogy, Reaper, but I’ve never really said anything to give you any kind of feel for the story, or any idea of what it’s about. So, for those of you who may be interested, please enjoy the below entire first chapter of book one of the Reaper Series, Angel of Death.
The Beginning of the End
He gritted his teeth and waited for the pain to pass as he watched from the shadows. Watching as his prey steadily approached. He hoped that after a century of looking, this was finally the one.
Death is life.
The icy wind blew gently through the park, gently shifting the branches of the trees, the sound of rustling leaves carrying through the night. The girl walked quickly through the park, her breath visible as small clouds of fog with every exhale, her way lit only by the dim lamps lining the footpath, not knowing that she was being watched. Liz approached a playground on her right, keeping a brisk pace, but was startled by a sudden movement and a voice coming from the darkness.
“Got a light, darlin’?”
She stopped in her tracks and looked in the direction of the voice. She saw a man appear from the shadows, holding a cigarette between his fingers, leering at her. He had a shaved head and was wearing a black singlet over baggy jeans. Liz eyed him apprehensively.
“Sorry,” she said. “I don’t smoke.”
The man stepped closer. “I didn’t ask if you smoked,” he replied. “I asked if you’ve got a light.”
Liz took a step back as the man continued to casually walk closer. “No, I-I don’t.” She was scared now. She wondered if she would be able to outrun the menacing stranger. He looked lean and fast. And still he kept walking toward her.
“You in a hurry or something?” he asked her.
“Um, yeah, so if you don’t mind, I’ll just-” Liz turned to leave, but froze when she saw three other men stepping out the darkness all around her, each one grinning and leering at her.
“Why don’t you hang out?” the first one said.
“Yeah, we’ve got beer,” said another, holding up a six pack, minus two. “Stay.”
Liz felt panicked now. She kept turning on the spot, watching as the men came closer. She wheeled around and tried to run through a gap between two of them, but they moved fast and grabbed her by her arms, lifting her off the ground.
“Let me go!” she screamed. “Get off! Help!”
“Keep quiet, bitch,” the first man said, stepping in front of her. He lifted his hand and Liz saw something glinting in the dim lamp light. The man had flicked open a butterfly knife and was now pointing the blade at Liz’s chest. “Scream again and you won’t be so pretty no more.”
Liz, held immobile by the brutes on either side of her, quivered as the man lowered the blade to her chest.
“Please, there’s money in my purse,” she whispered. “Just take it, I won’t say anything, just take the money and don’t hurt me. Please.”
The fourth man, an overweight man with far too many piercings in his face, stooped down and picked up the purse Liz had dropped when they grabbed her. Looking inside he said, “Score, fifty bucks!”
“That won’t even cover the beer!” said the one on Liz’s right.
“I’m not looking for a payout tonight, darlin’,” said the first man, leaning in close enough for Liz to smell the alcohol on his breath.
He placed the blade of his knife under the top button of Liz’s blouse and, staring into her eyes, slashed the button right off. Liz cried out with the swish of the blade, looking away as she realized what the man wanted.
“Ahhhhhhhh!” came a scream. But not from Liz. It was a man screaming, a terrible shriek that chilled the blood. She and the three men turned toward the sound, looking for the source. All they could see was Liz’s purse lying on the ground. The man who had been holding it was nowhere to be seen.
“Hey, where’s Levi?” said one of the men.
“Yo, Levi!” yelled another.
“Shut up!” hissed the first man, turning away from Liz and keeping his blade ready at his side. He took a step into the darkness, scanning the shadows for a sign of movement.
Suddenly, out of the corner of Liz’s eye, she saw something she couldn’t explain. It was as though the night itself opened up and swallowed the man holding her on her left. As it took him, his scream echoed in the night and was then smothered by the veil of the shadow. The scream and the man were as if they had never been there.
“Wh-what the hell is going on, man?” said the one still holding Liz.
“What did you see?” said the first man, stepping closer, his eyes flashing with anger as he tried to understand a situation that could not be understood. “What happened?”
The other man, now clutching Liz’s arm more out of fear than anything else, was looking around like a trapped rat, searching for an escape.
“The night, man,” he whispered. “The night took Eddie!”
The first man rushed forward and slapped the other hard across the face. “Talk sense, you idiot!” he shouted. “What the hell do you mean, ‘the night?’”
“Like I said, the night!” the man shouted back. “The goddamn night took ‘em, man!”
“That’s stupid, you dumbass!” the first man screamed. “How can the night ‘take’ someone?”
But the panicking man had apparently had all he could take. Breathing fast, short breaths, he tossed Liz aside, stepping away. Liz fell to the ground, then watched as the man began to run away, shouting over his shoulder, “You’re on your own, man!”
That’s when Liz saw it. As she watched the man run away into the night, she saw a shape even blacker than the night flying through the air toward the fleeing man. It moved too fast for Liz to make out what it was, but she watched as the man saw it at the last second and turned to look at it. It flew right into him, there being no sound of collision as it grabbed him and lifted him off his feet. The only sound was the man shrieking bloody murder as he was carried off into the night.
The first man saw it, too. He held his knife up in front of him, ready for a fight, but his eyes were bulging out of his head as they darted left and right, searching for the creature that had taken his crew.
“What the hell was that?” he shouted at Liz. When she didn’t respond, he turned to face her, his face white with terror and his hand shaking so badly he could barely hold onto the knife. “WHAT WAS THAT?” he screamed.
“I don’t know, I-” Liz stopped talking and her gaze moved from the man to a point just over his shoulder. The man noticed and felt his heart skip a beat and a tingle run down his back, like a stone cold finger tracing his spine. He turned, lifting the knife as he did so, to face the darkness. He thrust the knife forward, but felt something grab his wrist, holding his arm in place. He came face to face with the entity, his terror freezing him to the spot.
It seemed like a man. A man wearing a long black cloak. The cloak had a hood, which concealed the face of whoever was underneath. The grip the man held on the thug’s wrist was like stone, hard and cold. The two stared at each other in silence; one was calm, the other was filled with dread.
“What are you?” the man whispered to the cloaked figure.
The figure didn’t respond right away. It simply stared out from the darkness of the hood, its face shrouded in the shadows of the night. Then it spoke. It was the voice of a man, deep and resonating. He spoke in a whisper, barely loud enough for Liz to hear.
“The end of your life,” it whispered.
As Liz watched, she saw the terrified man become rigid. She watched as his mouth dropped open in a silent O of horror. As she watched, she noticed that his shaved head was beginning to sprout hair at an alarming rate. In an instant, it was as long as her arm, but then it turned grey, then white, then shriveled away and fell to the ground, where it vanished into the dirt. His cheeks sunk into his skull, his skin began to wrinkle before Liz’s eyes. His fingernails grew long, turned yellow, then vanished into nothing. His skin began to turn white, then grey, then a rotten black, before finally starting to peel away, revealing patches of the skeleton beneath. His eyes rolled back into his head, then vanished as they too rotted away. The man was decaying right in front of her. Just as Liz realized this, the man collapsed, crumbling into ash at the feet of the cloaked figure.
The man in the cloak remained where he was, standing still and silent. Liz watched him with trepidation, unsure of what had just happened. She shakily climbed to her feet, watching the man without blinking. He never moved, but she felt certain he was watching her. She found her feet and cautiously stepped closer, staying out of reach.
“What…” she began, finding it difficult to speak. She swallowed and tried again. “What just happened?”
The man didn’t move. All he said was, “They were going to harm you.”
Liz nodded. “Well, I don’t exactly understand what just happened, but I guess you just saved my life.”
“Actually,” the man in the cloak began, “I didn’t. I only saved you… for me.”
And as Liz stared in horror, the figure reached up and took hold of the hood in its hands. It lowered the hood and Liz was able to see the face that was once hidden in darkness. She opened her mouth and screamed. She screamed and screamed until her screams were suddenly silenced.
And the night was still again.