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Fantasy Speculative Urban Fantasy

This story contains themes or mentions of sexual violence.

Little Kimmy Simmons lay in bed, rolling and jerking. She let out periodic moans and whimpers. The room’s temperature dropped suddenly. She reached for her blanket. Once, twice, then her mind clambered out of the sleep fog to find the elusive covering.

Floating above her was a cloaked figure. The hood was tossed back, revealing a slightly feminine face with black eyes. There was no nose, just the hole of a skull. Its hair was luminescent white and floated around like it was in the water. The thing's mouth was full of razor-sharp fangs too large for its mouth. They hung out and gnashed together like a bear trap.

Kimmy screamed.

No noise came out.

Instead, a blue nimbus began to flow toward the figure's mouth. The louder she tried to scream, the more nimbus the thing ate. A low grating sound filled the room as the creature leaned back in its floating position and closed those pitch-colored eyes in pleasure.

Kimmy began to feel so tired. She stopped screaming, but the cloud kept filtering to the thing above her. Her feet began to go cold and numb.

A blaze of light flashed through the room, and the creature recoiled. The sound of metal twisting and ripping filled the room. It was coming from the creature. Kimmy threw her heavy arms up to cover her ears.

"Leave her alone, wraith." A strong male voice resounded over the screeching.

"Thisss doesss not consssern you Sssentinel," The fanged teeth distorted the wraith's speech.

"I'm afraid it does," the man's voice retorted. "It's kind of exactly my job description: 'Protect the innocent from the preternatural forces that would prey upon them.'"

Another spark flashed, and the wraith let out another terrible screech. "Be gone, wraith," the powerful timbre filled the room again. "This girl is under my protection on this night."

"Know thiss, Sssentinel," the wraith spat the title. "The Desssideratum will be oursss." The cloaked apparition disappeared, the end of Kimmy's scream bursting out of the now empty air.

From the shadows, a dark-haired man with a heavy scruff on his face leaned over Kimmy. His eyes were dark, too, but in the normal way. "It's OK, sweetheart," a whisper hurried out of him as he tucked blankets tightly around her.

He snapped his fingers first, his left, then his right. Click, click.

"Shit, that thing took a big chunk out of you," He rubbed back her hair brusquely. His eyes darted to the door, then back at her. He wiggled a hand under the blankets and grabbed hers. It was like ice. Licking his lips, his eyes shot to the door again. "Where's your mom?" he muttered. Then to Kimmy, "Do you like chocolate? Or are you one of those weird kids?"

"I like it," Kimmy croaked weakly.

The man pulled out a bar of chocolate and snapped off a piece. "Suck on this, don't just chew it."

Kimmy complied.

"Good, that's better," Relief slowed the urgency. His eyes were dragged to the door again.

"She's not coming," Kimmy said around the chocolate. "Can I have another piece?"

White teeth split the stubble. "Yeah," the man chuckled. "you can have another piece."

His face caught the night light showing baggy, dark circles under his eyes. His features were gaunt. He seemed like he should have fuller cheeks, but he wasn't sunken. It was more like a smile hadn't touched his face enough.

"Why isn't she coming? Your mother." His voice was strong even when he was quiet. You had to listen to it.

"She's probably passed out on the couch," Kimmy said. Then her eyes dropped to that dark place of memories that should be forgotten. "Or she just didn't want to come."

The man sat on the bed next to Kimmy. "Your mom loves you, honey." His hand swept back up to her hair, gentler this time. More loving.

"She used to," Kimmy breathed.

"Oh, Swee-"

Wind rushed into the room, stopping his words in his throat. Eldritch light glowed through the room. Nothing grew brighter in that light. It only made shadows grow longer and deeper.

Whispers came from those shadows, 'You did it,' 'They’re going to know,' 'It’s all your fault,' 'She hates you,' soon the eerie whispers grew to cackles and squeals.

The man stood. He was not particularly tall, but he filled the room. A trench coat flapped around him with a flourish. Under the tails were pouches, rods, and canisters fastened on him and in the coat.

"Spectres!" His timbre boomed in the room over the incorporeal giggles. "I am the Sentinel, Peter Silas Matthews V, and I am here to protect this young innocent. You will leave this place at once!"

Laughter peeled through the room. "The Desssideratum is no innosssent, Sssentinel." a familiar hoarse voice ground through the noise.

Peter spun around, spreading salt all around the bed. The salt circle was completed in time to stop a rushing wraith in its tracks. The scream that it emitted made his eyes water.

Kimmy sat in bed, knees to her chest, ears covered, rocking back and forth.

Peter put a hand on her knee. "Hey, kid,” his voice was soft like a pillow. “I got you."

Kimmy looked up at him. Tears filled her eyes and poured down her face. In the light, his eyes were the color of chocolate. "They're right." Her voice was so quiet and broken.

Peter grabbed a bottle from a thong in his coat and tossed it flippantly over his shoulder. Screeches filled the room, then faded. The eerie glow faded as well. He wrapped his arms around the small girl.

"You can't listen to these things, honey. They'll say anything to make you scared or guilty so they can feed on you."

Kimmy pulled away and stabbed him with glittering, brittle eyes. "They're right." The words were definitive, final.

"Right, about what?"

"She hates me."

"A mother could never hate her daughter," Peter protested.

"She hates me," Kimmy countered. "I killed my dad."

Peter held all his emotions in a locked chest. He kept everything in so even the wraiths wouldn’t feel them. "I'm sure that’s not-"

"I did it." Kimmy sobbed.

The cloaked figures were gathering again, and the closest ones were taking off their hoods. Inky eyes and razor teeth surrounded them.

Peter squeezed Kimmy tighter. Willing warmth into her. "What happened?"

Kimmy sobbed. She sobbed for some time while the wraiths piled on one another, trying to overcome the invisible barrier.

Finally, the sobbing stopped. "Some nights, my dad would watch me," Kimmy whispered. "He would watch me when he thought I was sleeping, and he would touch… Down there."

Peter's teeth clenched. The chest began to overfill. The wraiths swarmed faster.

Kimmy took in a shaky breath. "One night, he came into my room and saw I was still awake. He started undoing his belt. He said mean things about Mom and got onto my bed and started getting on me." Kimmy's voice broke. Wraith teeth gnawed against the wall that they couldn't pass. "I told him to stop, and I pushed him." She sniffed snot. "I pushed and slapped and wiggled. My head hit him in the nose, and he fell off my bed. His head hit my lamp. There was so much blood."

Peter rubbed Kimmy's back, "Honey, you did the right thing. You kept yourself safe."

Wraiths wriggled and writhed around them. The wind increased. Salt started to move.

"You have nothing to feel guilty about. You were brave and strong.”

Kimmy's head shook hard in Peter's chest.

Peter shoved a hand into the trench coat's pocket and came out with glittering silver knuckle dusters.

"Mom came into the room," Kimmy continued. "She asked over and over again what I had done. She told me not to tell anyone about any of it. She didn't want to hear any of it."

Peter smashed the nearest wraith with a haymaker. The apparition flew across the room and vanished through the wall. Another wraith was slipping through the hole that had been made. He smashed that one’s chin with a vicious uppercut.

He mended the muddled salt circle and sat back down next to Kimmy. "Honey," he said softly, his voice resounding through the wraith's whispers and screams. "These things are wraiths. They devour fear and regret." His arm encircled her again. "You see their teeth? They have to shear through their food so they can eat it." He picked up her chin and looked into her tear-streaked face. "You see them?" He nodded toward the creatures trying to force their way into them.

Her heart was too deflated to acknowledge the terror, "Uh huh."

"What do you think teeth like that would be made of?" Peter asked her. His voice was getting lighter.

Kimmy's eyes were blank when she looked back at him. "What?"

He wiped a tear away from her cheek with his thumb, then scooting back slightly, he opened his fist to show her the contents. "Forgiveness," he poked one tooth across his palm. "And hope," He poked the other across his palm. They'd been knocked out from the wraiths he'd punched.

The teeth sparkled like crystals. Outside of a snarling monster, they were beautiful. Each one spanned half of Peter's palm.

Kimmy was captivated by the iridescent ivories.

"Here we go," Peter pressed one of the teeth into Kimmy's chest like a thumbtack. She sank into bed, eyelids falling shut.

A collective scream like a million steam whistles with microphones shattered the room. "NOOO!" The eldritch light and deep shadows melted away.

One floating figure remained in the room. "Ssentinel," The familiar hissing voice scratched his ears. "You have taken the Desssideratum from usss. You will not be forgiven."

Peter threw his fingertips to his pursed lips. "Oh, no," he said in an alto tone. "Whatever will I do?"

"Do not mock usss," a snarl crumpled the wraith's face. "You will never have a ressstful sssleep again. We will ssslowly devour your sssoul one missstep at a time. Every sssecond thought will be amplified, and regret will fill your mind, never to be forgotten."

Peter's levity dropped like a wet blanket. He walked to the wraith getting nose to tooth with its floating form. He grabbed the wraith by the throat with his silver-clad hand and pulled it to his face. "You think you and your group of vermin could possibly affect my life?" He shook the wraith. "Take a bite." The wraith tried to look away. Peter shifted his hand to grab its chin, keeping their faces together. "Take. A. Bite."

A nimbus flared around the two of them. Peter unlocked the chest, and a jetstream of regrets and fears blasted into the wraith. "No, no, no. Too much!"

Peter held fast as the wraith wriggled and tried to pull free. Ugly bubbling sounds began to come from it. Then it exploded in a blast of glowing bits that instantly evaporated to whisps of smoke.

Peter rolled his shoulders and popped his neck as he walked to Kimmy's bed. She was sleeping. A small smile touched her face. He snapped his fingers one at a time again. An aura was glowing around her and began to grow heartily.

Nodding to himself, Peter turned around and walked out to the rest of the apartment. Kimmy's mom was passed out on the couch. Cans littered the floor around the couch. Bottles covered the coffee table: big glass ones and little plastic ones.

Kimmy's mom was skinny and pale. Her stringy hair would have been blonde like her daughter's if she washed it. Her breathing was heavy and irregular.

Peter took a deep breath and resisted the urge to shake his head. He strode to the couch and swatted the tiny imp away that was relishing in the dark misery.

He bent over Kimmy’s mother and pressed the other tooth into her chest. She inhaled sharply like it was cold, then settled back down.

Peter straightened and watched as Kimmy's mom's aura began to lighten and cleanse itself. He blew out his cheeks and then slumped heavily. After a second, he straightened, scrubbed his face, and walked out the door.

July 14, 2023 13:00

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2 comments

Brian DeHority
21:01 Jul 20, 2023

Nice story! I think the Sentinel's quips in the middle of fighting are a little cliché. It gives the story a young-adult novel feel, which is strange when there is a pretty graphic description of child sexual assault. I think I didn't really care about the characters, at least not until Kimmy's flashback, but at that point I was too thrown off by the sudden introduction of sexual assault to really get into it. Also, I don't get why Kimmy would be really thinking about the assault when there are swarms of Spectres around her? But the writin...

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Aaron Tippit
02:36 Jul 21, 2023

I really appreciate your critique. It is so nice to get feedback. I really wish there was a DM feature on this site. Characters are hard for me. Did redeeming qualities for the characters come later? Or were they flat all around? Do I need to rearrange events or revamp people altogether? Again, thank you very much for the input.

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