Authors: Gwendolyn Cease
A Hunter’s Promise
By Gwendolyn Cease
Resplendence Publishing, LLC
A Hunter’s Promise
Copyright © 2012 Gwendolyn Cease
Edited by Jessica Bimberg and Venus Cahill
Cover art by Les Byerley, www.les3photo8.com
Published by Resplendence Publishing, LLC
2665 N Atlantic Avenue, #349
Daytona Beach, FL 32118
Electronic format ISBN: 978-1-60735-534-2
Warning: All rights reserved. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
Electronic Release: July 2012
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and occurrences are a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places or occurrences, is purely coincidental.
To my editor, Jessica, for sticking with me no matter what. You are the best!!
The hush of darkness fell like velvet. The air was crisp with the bite of winter. All throughout the building, lights were turned low or extinguished all together so the people housed within would sleep. Nurses and orderlies moved whisper-soft as they carried out their nighttime duties. But Aislinn didn’t sleep. She couldn’t. Because the night was when monsters rose and walked the corridors.
She’d known about the monsters since her twelfth year. She’d seen one steal into her dormitory room at the boarding school and murder her roommate. The monster had fangs, and it used them to bite and kill. Blood, so much blood. And, when it had finished, it had turned to Aislinn and told her to forget. She would remember nothing, it told her, but she had. She had remembered
. But no one believed her. She’d told the housemother and the head mistress what she’d seen, but they hadn’t believed her. Doctors had told her family that seeing her roommate murdered had broken her mind. She had created the monster to replace the true killer because she couldn’t face what happened. But Aislinn knew, because she remembered. She always remembered.
A janitor had been accused of the horrific crime. The poor man had been tried and convicted and sentenced to death. Aislinn had told the police, the prosecutor and the judge what she’d seen, and still, she hadn’t been believed.
Poor little girl
, they’d said. But as she’d gotten older, words like “peculiar”, “cracked”, and “crazy” replaced the “poor little girl.” She’d been sent home after the trial, because her parents could no longer ship her off to a boarding school. No school would take her. She was terrified of the night and would scream in the darkness. Instead, they’d had to deal with her.
Aislinn smiled humorlessly. Yeah, they’d dealt with her, all right. They’d medicated and hospitalized, preferring to tuck her away and pretend she never existed. And still, Aislinn remembered. She knew what was out in the night, and she feared. And because she feared, she planned and prepared. Or prepared as best she could. In the beginning, she collected small bits and pieces from around the hospital to make weapons. When the dark came, she would sit awake in her room and wait—wait for something to come for her. She couldn’t remember how old she’d been when she decided she’d had enough of being afraid. But she had and, when she did, she knew she had to take steps to protect herself.
The first thing she’d done was get into shape. Her doctor, at the time, was a huge advocate of exercise, so Aislinn had joined any and every class that was offered. She’d also taken up crafts and discovered she had a knack for creating mobiles. Her new doctor had stepped in and allowed her to go from using found things to creating small metal pieces. He said the creative outlet was good for her and put her in touch with her inner self. Aislinn hadn’t cared, just as long as she was allowed to work and shape the metal. Of course, she was supervised, but as time had gone on, and nothing bad happened, she was pretty much on her own to create what she wanted. In fact, a number of her pieces had been sold for quite a bit of money, from what she’d heard.
Rolling out of bed, Aislinn dressed by the light of the moon streaming in through the one stingy window. She knew she would never leave the facility, her family paid huge sums to keep her locked up. They didn’t want the embarrassment of a crazy daughter to intrude on their lives. But she wasn’t crazy, not by a long shot. She knew there were things out there, things that others couldn’t see or didn’t want to see. She no longer hid in her room. She hunted.
She climbed up onto her bed and took down the three mobiles that hung from the ceiling. She disassembled them, leaving wires, hangers, and bits of metal and glass on the bed, then reassembled them into their true shape. A
. She had seen pictures of the glaive-like Japanese weapon in a book and liked the elegance of the sharp slightly curved blade that attached to a wooden pole. She’d adjusted it, making the pole shorter and giving the blade a more pronounced curve, like a scythe. She thought it fitting, since she used it to deal death out to the creatures that regularly used the hospital as a feeding ground.
She swung her weapon around experimentally, feeling the balance and weight of the
she’d created. Once satisfied, she eased her door open and checked the hallway. Nothing moved. She stepped into the dimly lit corridor and moved quickly away from the nurse’s station. Not that any of them would come around checking on patients in the dark. They were afraid. Aislinn heard them talk about how they thought the hospital was haunted. So they stayed in the light, safe and cocooned from the evil that crept and slithered along the dark paths throughout the building.
Aislinn shrugged, figuring even if the nurses walked the halls there wasn’t anything they could do. They didn’t see the way she did. They saw what the creatures wanted them to see, but not Aislinn. She wasn’t sure why she was different, but since she was, she used it to track them. She didn’t know what they really were, but she called them Soul Suckers because that’s what they seemed to do.
Aislinn checked rooms as she went, ensuring that all the occupants slept peacefully. The creatures she hunted weren’t big—in fact, they stood no taller than two feet—and were slow to move and react. They were covered in scales like a snake with large bulging eyes that probably helped them see in the dark. The first time she’d seen one had been nearly two years ago. Aislinn was walking past a room and saw a black shape sitting on the chest of an elderly patient. At first, she’d thought it was a cat, but when she’d seen it place its open mouth over the nose and mouth of the patient, she knew it was something else entirely.
She hadn’t waited around for the thing to finish. She’d run back to her room and hid. She wasn’t proud of running, but at the time, she could barely take care of herself. Later, she found out the patient had been found the next morning, dead of an apparent heart attack. Aislinn knew it hadn’t been a heart attack. The thing, whatever it was, had caused the death by attaching itself to the poor person’s face. From then on, she decided she couldn’t just sit passively while things like that hunted the hallways, preying on the innocent. So, she trained, as best as she could, and planned. Now, she patrolled the hallways nightly, killing every single creature she found.
Aislinn slid up to the next hallway and glanced around the corner. Empty. She moved cautiously, but paused when she heard small clicks on the linoleum floor. The sounds were light and easily missed, if she wasn’t listening for them. Gripping her weapon, she crept up to a partially open doorway, knowing it shouldn’t be open. She slid her foot in the crack and eased the door open. Peering in, she saw a small creature crawl up on the occupant of the bed and sit on the chest. It opened its mouth and leaned forward as Aislinn stepped in and whistled softly. The creature spun and hissed at her. It leaped, but was too slow as she stepped forward and swung the
catching it mid-body. The blade slid through easily, cleaving the creature in two. She crouched, checking the room for more, but when none came, she rose.
In an instant, a hand wrapped around her throat, and she was pulled back against a huge body. She started, but quickly whipped the glaive around to catch the aggressor in the back of the legs. It would have worked, too, if the jerk wasn’t ready for it. He should be, since he’d taught her the move.
“Good try, Irish.” The voice was low and growling. Familiar.
“I’m not Irish,” she whispered, rolling her eyes.
“Grace O’Malley,” he said. “If that’s not Irish I don’t know what is.”
“You know very well that’s not my name,” she said as he came out from behind her. Okay, technically, Grace was her middle name, but he didn’t have to know that. And her last name was Flaherty, which was terribly Irish since that’s where her family haled from two generations back, but she’d never told her mysterious mentor that. In fact, she hadn’t told him much about herself, just as he hadn’t told her anything. Crap, he hadn’t even told her his name. She got him back by calling him a different name each time they met.
“You’re still Irish or your family was,” he said as he pulled a pouch out of his pocket. Opening it, he sprinkled the contents on the body of the creature she’d killed. Slowly, it dissolved until nothing but a smudge of black on the floor was left. Of course, it could have been another color but in the dim light that came in from the window that’s what she saw.
He pocketed the packet, and the two of them left the room. She picked the conversation up as if they hadn’t been interrupted, “Why do you say I’m Irish?”
“Your red hair and freckles,” he said as they walked quietly down a hallway.
“That doesn’t make sense. Number one, you’ve never seen me in the light so there’s no way you could know what I look like. And, number two, even if I did have red hair and freckles that doesn’t mean I’m Irish.”
He made a noncommittal sound as he led her to a stairwell and down the steps. She followed, as she always did when he mysteriously appeared. They’d been meeting for about six months, and in that time; her skills had been seriously upped under his tutelage. She didn’t know who he was or where he’d come from, but he knew about the creatures that inhabited the hospital. Not only did he know about them, but he knew how to kill them. To Aislinn, that was the most important benefit of knowing him. While together, they hunted, and he trained her; they didn’t chat or share confidences. She certainly wouldn’t or couldn’t tell him she was a patient at the hospital, better for him to think she worked there or just showed up like he did.
He opened the door at the bottom of the stairs and moved through. They were in the basement. She hated the basement. Not because monsters may lurk, but mice. She hated mice and was sure the place was loaded with them. But, this was the one place they could train without the chance of getting caught.
She followed him to a room tucked behind the boilers and heaters. She didn’t want to think what it may have been used for, because the hospital was very old. But they now used it as an impromptu training space. The high windows easily let light in from the moon and the outside lights, which lit the place up. She eyed him warily, never sure when he would come at her. In the beginning, she worried she might accidentally injure or kill him, but there was no danger of that. No matter how fast she’d gotten, she could never catch him. Sometimes he seemed to move faster than her eye could see; at least that’s what she told herself. Aislinn kept her weapon at the ready as he paced the room, checking to ensure no one had been there. Neither one of them could afford to be caught, her especially.