(Content Warning: Blood, gore.)
In the womb of Gemstone City, a mysterious and evil figure festers like a rotting virus in the heart of every neighborhood. The Soul Collector has returned to claim the souls of every living creature at Satan’s request. Not one to give second chances, Satan saw great potential in The Collector to wrangle in more souls than his trusted companion - The Shadow.
The Shadow and his vengeful hellhound pet Hot Head, have been on a tireless crusade to destroy all the sinful, iniquitous, depraved, vicious, corrupt, and nefarious evil scumbags infesting Gemstone City. With each new murderous termination, Satan gained more power by basking in the warm glow of fresh souls. That feeling however was evanescent and didn’t last long. One soul at a time was not enough, he craved more like all evil things do. The King of Hell grew tired of waiting for his next fix and was jonesing like a fiend.
The Soul Collector did his job well much to Satan’s delight. In every neighborhood the people were turned into living diorama’s of wax figures, statues and paintings. Their souls were sent directly to Satan where they washed over his hideous body like a raging tsunami. His power grew to unprecedented levels and he was very happy with his new partner. The Shadow and the beast were yesterday’s news and like all good friendships, it was now time to plunge that dagger deep into their black hearts.
On Scream Street just off Bellows Boulevard, Jason Sudoku could feel his legs burning as he ran for his life. Sweat dripped down his forehead and stung his eyes making everything hard to see. Fierce growls echoed through the dark empty street behind him and he suddenly knew what he had expected all along. There was no escaping the beast.
Jason wanted to keep running, but his body had enough. His legs betrayed him, and he fell face first onto the black pavement. The beast was now upon him licking his lips at the meal to come. The sweet stench of blood was in the air, and Hot Head waited for his masters orders. He stooped down ready to pounce at the given command, but it never came.
Instead Hot Head heard a reverberating scream, “Halt!” from his master.
Hot Head turned his fiery eyes away from Jason who was now crawling away on all fours. Wisps of smoke were emanating from the foul beast and the sickly smell of sulfur was in the air. The Shadow slowly appeared through the thick fog that blanketed the street like a cowboy emerging from a sandstorm. His black trench coat was flapping in the wind and his fedora hat was tilted slightly so that only his red eyes could be seen.
The beast started to whimper, as the dark entity patted him on his mangy head. “Do not fret Hot Head, I want the pleasure of destroying this disgusting human myself!”
“Get away from me,” Jason cried. “I didn’t do anything to you!”
“No!” snapped The Shadow. “You thought your secret was safe all these years working as a janitor at Gemstone Elementary school, but we know what you did to those children, boy!!!”
“You’re wrong, you can’t prove anything!”
The Shadow raised his head and snarled to reveal his monstrous teeth through a veil of darkness that covered the rest of his features. “The Devil’s debts must always be paid!!”
The Shadow held out his bony hands that looked like claws, and Jason felt a paralyzing force lift his body high above the ground. He tried to move but was frozen in time. Tears streamed down his face as he looked upon his maker. Jason’s body started to tremble in unison with The Shadow’s hands. He tried to scream, but no words came. Jason could only feel pain in every part of his body making him long for death’s sweet release.
Images of Jason’s evil deeds flashed before his eyes and he subconsciously begged for forgiveness. The Shadow squeezed his hands together to form fists, and Jason’s body exploded like a human grenade. A shower of blood and guts splattered on the pavement below. Hot Head wasted little time and slurped up the leftovers like a little puppy eating spilt cereal. “Good boy, Hot Head. Eat your fill, for I sense a more alarming presence up ahead.”
While Hot Head was finishing his meal, The Shadow walked further down the street and noticed the dioramas. They were all lined up in the front lawns like a circus side show. The Shadow’s eyes roamed from one display to the next and he clenched his trembling fists again.
One diorama depicted a dirty man putting out a cigarette into a woman’s eye. Another one portrayed several statues with looks of fear permanently etched on their faces. The next one showcased a painting of a naked man tied to a post with several women holding sharp knives ready to chop off his manhood.
The Shadow stopped in his tracks as he saw the next display of wax figures, titled The Nightstalkers. The exhibit showed a robust security officer holding his intestines in place and four young kids watching from a distance. The kids looked familiar, and suddenly The Shadow remembered their names. Steven was pointing at the security officer while holding his friend Buster who was unconscious. Suzie with her pigtails was at the door presumably trying to unlock it, and Doug was munching on a bag of popcorn.
The Shadow became lost in his thoughts. This display of horror was the night when Antonio’s debts came due, and Hot Head feasted on his fatty flesh. The Nightstalkers were innocent kids who were at the wrong place at the wrong time, and now they are dead. There is only one creature who could’ve done this, but we killed him long ago in that museum…
Anger started to boil within his dark soul and like an erupting volcano, The Shadow screamed, “Ahhhh!!!”
The glass dioramas and art displays on the entire block exploded into a thousand pieces causing Hot Head to turn his attention away from his meal. He had never seen his master this angry. He burped a fiery flame and with a soft whimper he hopped over to Jason’s liver and started chewing on it like a piece of chewing gum.
In a fit of rage The Shadow turned to fetch his loyal friend and came face to face with The Soul Collector. He was wearing white pants that were tucked into big black boots, and a red vest with golden trim. His black top hat was perfectly positioned on his head and complimented his big curvy mustache that rested just below his pointy nose.
After the initial shock of the moment, The Shadow clenched his jaw and snapped, “We killed you, how are you still here, boy!”
The Soul Collector started to chuckle. “Oh, you didn’t know did you. I’m afraid you’ve been replaced. You’re fired!!”
The Shadow reached into his trench coat and pulled out his sword. He held it up and flames of shadow ignited around the blade. He pointed the shadow sword at The Collector and sneered, “You will never take my place!”
The collector held out his fingers and twiddled them like a typist on speed. “I’m so scared… Are you gonna sick your little bitch on me?”
His sarcastic tone was an annoyance that only made The Shadow angrier. “I don’t think so… boy!! I want you all to myself!”
The Soul Collector grinned while holding out his hand. An unseen power pulled the shadow sword away from The Shadow’s hands and into his own. In a fit of insanity, The Shadow lunged towards The Soul Collector and was impaled by his own sword.
The Collector used all of his might to plunge the sword deeper into The Shadows chest.
“Do you feel the cold hands of death upon you?”
“Is the loneliness of death equal to the loneliness of the living?”
He reveled in the pleasure of The Shadow’s pain. The great rogue desperado meeting his own maker was a feeling like no other. It was greater than stealing a billion souls. As The Soul Collector hugged him tighter, he twisted the blade as a final insult to his dark memory. The Shadow’s red eyes faded as he gave way to darkness. As he died, his body exploded in a puff of black smoke and was no more.
At that moment The Soul Collector heard Hot Head’s savage howl, and saw the mighty beast stampeding towards him. With the shadow sword still in his grasp, he held it up like a baseball bat ready to hit a home run. Hot Head was so feral that his mangy black fur ignited in flames and his monstrous teeth were ready to chomp down on The Collector’s head.
Wasting little time, Hot Head soared through the air ready to tear him limb from limb. The Collector side stepped his attack and swung the sword with reckless abandon. The beast caught the blade in his mouth and ripped it from his scrawny hands. Landing back down on the pavement, Hot Head’s eyes met The Collector’s and as they were intertwined, the mighty hellhound bit down on the shadow sword and broke it in two.
The Collector twisted his face and his mouth fell to the ground. He did not expect this turn of events and started to run towards one of the nearby houses. Hot Head followed close behind and toyed with him like a cat playing with a mouse before eating it. The Soul Collector tripped several times on his precious works of art that were scattered everywhere from The Shadow’s bellowing cry. He ran up to the front door and before he could open it, Hot Head tackled him so hard that their momentum carried them straight through the house to the back yard overlooking a swimming pool. In the wake of their destruction, they were both buried under the rubble.
Rising from the wreckage The Collector grabbed a steel pipe and wobbled over to Hot Head who was trying to work his way out from the collapsed house. The Soul Collector noticed that his flesh form was torn to shreds and decided to rip the rest away. He peeled away the loose skin like someone pulling off a Band-Aid and his true form was revealed. His black skin glistened in the moonlight as his yellow-red eyes narrowed on the beast.
Raising the rusty pipe, he snooted, “You ruined my mustache for the last time!”
The Soul Collector repeatedly pounded the pipe down across Hot Head’s back. His hysterical laughter filled the neighborhood with a nightmarish echo as he continued his assault…
Meanwhile in the depths of Hell…
In an ancient tomb where the walls are stained crimson, Satan sat on his throne made from human bones. His long red fingers were crossed together in his lap and his long black fingernails looked freshly polished matching his cloven feet and long twisted horns. He was wearing a thin dark robe and his eyes were black as midnight steel. Resting against the wall next to him was the Trident of Hell, his weapon of choice and the only thing he used to control the countless number of souls that entered his domain.
A disturbance in the ether interrupted Satan’s thoughts and snapped him back to reality. He fixed his eyes on a black wispy smoke that was slithering down from the fiery ceiling like a bunch of snakes. The different strands all came together in one cohesive bundle and morphed into a dark figure. Satan snarled in anger as he saw The Shadow standing before him.
“I see The Soul Collector did his job,” uttered Satan with a wry smile on his face. “How do you like your replacement?”
The Shadow stood defiantly before the King of Hell and shouted, “Why did you betray me?”
Satan chuckled briefly and replied, “You just weren’t cutting it.” He stood up and grabbed his trident. “There’s a bigger world out there besides Gemstone City, and one soul at a time is getting… boring.”
The Shadow narrowed his red eyes and remained silent.
“You have to understand that time is a fleeting thing, even for me. I needed more souls to sustain my life and this kingdom. Once The Collector is finished in Gemstone City, he will move on to another city and bring me more souls.”
Satan circled The Shadow in a condescending walk, looking at him in disgust. “You have served your purpose well, but life is change and we must move on. I’m tired of living soul to soul, I want more, and The Collector will deliver the goods!”
He stopped walking and stared into The Shadow’s deep red eyes. “Now that you’re here, it’s time for me to claim your soul!”
Satan thrusted his trident up towards The Shadow’s neck and the dark figure caught it with one hand. The Shadow looked at the trident and then slowly turned his eyes to Satan. “I don’t think so… boy!!!”
Satan swung his left arm in an attempt to strike, but The Shadow ducked and spun around him. He threw both arms around Satan and tried to squeeze him to death in a bearhug. He could not hold him for long, Satan was much to powerful. He broke The Shadows grasp and threw him into his throne shattering it to pieces. A thick white smoke filled the room making it hard for Satan to see.
Satan squinted his eyes and the only thing he saw was a black blur moving towards him. The Shadow tackled him in the stomach and they both crashed through the wall. They were now on the edge of a great lava river, just outside the tomb. The Shadow noticed the fire sharks swimming around in the lava, hungry for their next meal.
They both stood up and started taking turns punching each other in the face. A true test of might. Neither one would give an inch and Satan decided to play dirty. The Shadow was expecting another punch but to his surprise, Satan kicked him in the balls with his cloven foot. The Shadow grabbed his manhood and stumbled back towards the lava.
Satan wasted little time and threw an uppercut punch sending The Shadow reeling on the edge of damnation. The Shadow could feel the immense heat from the hot lava and wished that he had his loyal friend Hot Head by his side before his eternal death.
“I’m tired of playing with you, have fun with my sharks, they haven’t eaten in a while!”
Satan reached forward to push The Shadow over the edge, but as his hands came closer, The Shadow reached up and grabbed his horns. With a loud snap he broke the horns off and stabbed them into Satan’s face causing him to scream in unholy agony. The Shadow used this new-found momentum to his advantage. He quickly spun away from the ledge and pushed Satan in the lava. Satan’s screams rocked the Kingdom of Hell. The Shadow smiled as the fire sharks ripped Satan in half and ate him whole.
Back in Gemstone City…
The Soul Collector continued his brutal assault on Hot Head. With another whack, he heard the hellhounds spin snap like a twig. He backed away laughing at the whimpering beast.
“Now it’s time for you to join your master!!”
He raised the pipe again, and as he swung down for the final death blow, Hot Head screamed a mighty howl that busted The Collector’s eardrums. Blood started to ooze from his ears and he dropped the pipe. This was the moment Hot Head needed, he managed to crawl out from the wreckage using his front legs. His back legs were just along for the ride.
The Collector was holding his ears with both hands as the legendary beast blew hellfire from his vicious maw igniting the mad man into a fiery inferno. The Soul Collector screamed in great terror and ran towards his only source of salvation, the swimming pool.
He hastily jumped in the pool and the flames were drowned out. Rising from the deep abyss he stuck his head above the water to see Hot Head unleash another burst of hell fire into the water. The swimming pool started to boil like hot water on a stove. Hot Head’s body looked like a red-hot ember as he continued the onslaught.
The Soul Collector screamed in the night as he was being boiled alive. He desperately swam to the edge of the pool to get away, but it was too late. Hot Head exploded with the force of a thousand nuclear bombs completely destroying Gemstone City leaving nothing alive…
In the depths of Hell, Hot Head opened his fiery eyes to see his master The Shadow kneeling by his side. He was holding the Trident of Hell and was smiling at him.
“Great job Hot Head. I knew you would destroy The Soul Collector.”
Hot Head rose up and was good as new. He looked up at his master and burped a small flame as if to ask what was next. They started walking together through the Kingdom of Hell and Hot Head noticed all the lost souls bowing to them as they went by. He let out a small whimper.
The Shadow looked down at his trusted companion and said, “Oh don’t worry Hot Head. We have a new job.”
“Say hello to the new King of Hell… boy!”
Daniel R. Hayes