“Everything is ready for the ritual.”
Four Blood Demons surrounded a figure in a desolate room, abandoned by its inhabitants, left for decades to the forces of entropy, decay, and chaos.
Thresh, tall, pale grey, and skeletal with six horns atop her head, another set on her shoulders, used a talon to slice the burlap sack from the person’s head.
Teegen winced, biting her lips to keep herself from screaming. Her eyes adjusted to the faint light—and wished she could crawl back inside the safety of the bag.
Thresh opened her Jack-o’-lantern peaked jaws with a shrieking that echoed in Teegen’s eardrums.
Kennen ran a claw gently down the side of Teegen’s face. She howled as her skin sizzled. His four long ramlike horns glowed silver around his fanged snout, blood-colored smoke from his nostrils filling the space between them.
Teegen, her mouth now clamped around her scream, searched his face for eyes, but found only an armored dome with a small fifth horn like a dorsal fin.
A rattle bounced around his open ribcage. He slit the arm of her black dress, revealing Teegan’s tattoo. She watched helplessly at it as it seared, pulsating crimson. Kenned traced the elaborate curlicued lines with a claw that penetrated her skin, setting each line aflame. Only the invisible restraints kept her on her feet as she slumped unconscious.
“Kennen, you are too fond of this one.” Pyke grated his thorned teeth in his wide, triangular mouth. His troll-shaped bronze ears twitched below his short, blunt horns.
“She’s exquisite.” He pressed his nose against her skin, bloody mist covering Teegan’s face, relishing the acrid fetor of her fear. Sulfuric froth bubbled over and cascaded onto Teegan’s feet, the agony returning her to consciousness.
Teegen tried to shake her head, pull back from him, but was unable to move. “Let me go. I don’t belong here. Send me back.”
“To the hospital? Look.” Kennen flicked a fireburst to life in his metallic hand and sent it spinning around the room, illuminating the faded, peeling paint layered with spray-painted obscenities, the concrete floors inches deep in dust and debris, rusted metal beds with shackles lining the walls, heavy coal-black bars on the one high window, half covered by drooping ceiling tiles covered in black mold. “The Taunton Lunatic Asylum. We have worked here for centuries. The energy is delicious.”
“I don’t belong here.” Teegen was empowered by having nothing to lose. “I’m not a Blood Demon, and I’m not a human appetizer.”
Whiplike corded hair writhed around Kalista’s darkened, dragonlike face. Strands of blood swirled from her scarlet eyes, mingling with her hair. “You are not to our taste. Keenen bonded with you when he branded you with his mark.” Her hair snaked along the undulating tattoo.
Keenen pressed his tongue to her ear, scalding the cartilage.
“Why? Why make me seem crazy for years and then bring me here?”
“Land of your birth, you have always been attached to this place.”
“No, I was born in Easton, Massachusetts.”
The arachnid fangs at the hinges of Keenen’s jaws grew with her agitation. “Nine miles away. You didn’t know? About Honora Kelly—or ‘Jolly Jane,’ as her spirit is called? She killed thirty-one people, then continued with the inmates and staff because she lusted for more kills to tally. She joined a ceremony in the basement, begged to be one of us.”
“Get on with it, Keenen,” Pyke growled.
Thresh used her twelve inch claws to rake open the back of Teegen’s loose floor length dress. Kalista’s hair pulled it slowly from her body as Teegen strained flutily against the demons’ unseen restraints.
“Flesh for ritual.” More acidic froth dripped from Keenen’s mouth.
“Sufficient to be transformed.” Pyke’s splayed ribcage came to life with hundreds of small, wailing faces with empty eye sockets and mouths stretched howling.
“You have always known.” Keenan scraped his talons through her black hair, leaving the stench of signed hair floating around Teegen’s head.
“This will complete you.” Kalista sent the bloody jets from her eyes snaking around Teegen’s neck.
“Welcome, Blood Demon,” Thresh hissed.
When Teegen awoke in darkness, she was relieved it was only a nightmare—blood demons attacking the hospital, the blood moon, and abducting her. Or delusions. She needed to increase her meds. Her eyes began to adjust to the dark.
She sat up, a metallic screeching underneath her. Teegen touched what she thought was her bed to find only rusty metal. She gagged as rot, decomposing flesh, and sulfur invaded her nose. The disturbed dust and debris on the floor cycloned under her feet. She watched it swirl, her eyes acclimating. As it the funnel of neglected filth rose, its particles flew toward her. She flinched away, closing her eyes.
“What the fuck?” She raised her hands to rub her eyes, shake the dust out of her hair. She didn’t see pale skinned human hands, but skinless long, ruby-boned talons. Her arms were a single hinged bone gloved in translucent, pulsating crimson scales.
“Oh, God!” Teegen touched her face; her skin was rough and leathery, but all her features felt the same, until she reached a bald scalp and two short horns. “No! I’m still dreaming or hallucinating. This isn’t real.” She tried to stand, but found her feet wrapped in a thick burgundy anaconda tail; the tail unwound itself in ripples of scales. Her feet were ruby talons like her hands.
“No, not happening. Fuck this. Wake up, wake up!” She screeched, digging her claws into her arm where the tattoo glowed golden, pulsating through the scales. The pain should wake her—but she felt no pain, even as her talons punctured all the way through her arm.
“You are awake, Teegen.”
She recognized Keenen’s glowing silver horns and fangs, and the metallic plates where eyes should be. “What did you do to me, you fucking—”
“I made you whole.”
“This is not whole.”
“This is your true form.”
“No. Change me back.”
Keenen’s side fangs grew into his mouth. “This is permanent, eternal. You are Blood Demon now.”
Teegen shook her head violently and heard flapping behind her. “What the—” She saw wings sprouting from the middle of her back, blood-colored, veined in black, reaching several feet above her head.
“A spectacular, powerful form I have created for you.” Keenen’s mouth stretched, a grotesque imitation of a smile.
Nausea caught in Teegen’s throat as froth erupted from his mouth.
“I will teach you to hunt before the next Blood Moon. I have the perfect place for your to make your first kills. You will love it.”
“No, I won’t hunt, I won’t kill.”
“Yes, you will. You will.”
Agony arched through Teegan’s body. She could no longer scream, her throat ripped open from hours of torture. The entire world became pain. Nothing else existed, nothing else was real. Even she wasn’t real. Just pain.
She had refused to hunt—again.
Keenen had intervened the first time, convincing the others to give her more time.
The second time Thresh took the role of torturer. Teegen no idea how long it had lasted, just that it left her on the filthy cement floor of the asylum basement, shackled to the wall in a six foot puddle of blood, gore, froth, and her demon viscera splayed out of her torso. Gradually, in eons of misery, she began the incremental process of healing.
Keenen returned to the basement after she healed and told her she must learn to hunt. Teegen refused. He gripped her neck, digging in his talons, and transforming her searing tattoo into a flaming torch. Unable to bear it, she agreed and followed him out of the asylum—its four storied mass of red clay bricks with dozens of black windows eyes took form as an earthbound blood demon, complete with spires and chimneys as horns.
As soon as they were off the grounds, Teegen tested her wings, praying to anything and everything holy that hated Blood Demons, that her wings would work. Keenan had no wings, so she assumed he couldn’t fly. She might have a chance to escape.
For a few hopeful seconds, her demon body cooled with the most blessedly cold she had felt since she was changed. Teegen never thought she would be so elated by the breath of frigid air.
A ferocious bellow ruptured her ears. As she fell, she felt the boiling blood explode from her ears. She had just enough time to pray the landing would kill her.
It didn’t. Keenen shredded her wings with his claws and ripped into her face and arms, scorching and blistering her entire body with his sulfuric froth. She begged him to kill her, but she couldn’t be sure if it was merely in her head or aloud.
Keenen sank both sets of talons into her snake-like tail and dragged her back to the asylum. Then the torture began again. Pike, the most vicious and sadistic, was her torturer this time.
He broke her Blood Demon body into dozens of pieces, splattering the walls with her thick, blackened blood.
Teegen gave in, unable to withstand another second. She tried to screech that she submitted, that she would hunt, kill, but she could no longer use her voice. The torture continued.
After ages of the excruciating healing process, Keenan visited her in the basement.
“I’ll do it! I’ll hunt, kill anything you want, no more torture, please!”
Keenen’s maw opened in a horrifying grin. “I knew you would.”
She covered her face as stinging black tears washed over her demon face and hands, ashamed she had given in, agreed to something so heinous. She was weak, a sobbing coward.
Strident peals bounced through Keenen’s rattling ribcage in what she guessed was a laugh. “You lasted longer than anyone before you—and there have been thousands. Everyone else either agreed immediately or gave in after a few minutes with Thresh. I told the others how strong you were, how I knew when your essence called to me to bind you with the tattoo. You will be a vicious hunter.”
Shaking her head into her hands, she mumbled. “I-I-I am not strong enough. I will hunt, I will try—no more pain, please. But I won’t be good at it.”
“You will, Firtisawrill.”
“Firtisawrill?” She looked up at him, blackened face tightening, contracting in ways human features don’t.
“Your Blood Demon name, Latin for strong-willed.”
Teegen contemplated resisting, but it wasn’t worth what he would do to her. She nodded.
“I will return for you tonight. If you hunt well, you will be unshackled. When you prove yourself at the next Blood Moon, I will release you from this room. I know that you will not repeat your mistakes.”
She nodded until he was up the stairs, then curled her wings and tail around herself and wept.
Her first hunt was sickening-- squirrels, rabbits, birds. The crunching of her demon teeth on the bones of her prey made her gag, her sour stomach roil. The stench of the rabbits’ fear and piss choked her so violently she couldn’t breathe. Blood pulsated from still-beating hearts, spurting, covering her in steaming viscousness. She would never be clean again.
When the hunt was over, she stood in front of Keenen, head down, shaking. What would he do to her if he was unhappy with her hunting?
“Bonum atmos, Firtisawrill.”
She raised her eyes, hoping that ‘bonum’ meant good.
“A successful hunt. Now to the lake.” He soared, wingless, and she followed him to a nearby lake to rinse away the remnants of their kills.
The following nights involved increasingly larger prey. Next, raccoons, possums, owls.
Then came cats and dogs, which she struggled not throw up, but failed. Keenen was displeased and punished her by setting her tattoo aflame again. The fire engulfed her arm, lasting most of the following agonizing day. The pain of her punishment was not enough to keep the images of those terrified, loving, trusting animals. She thought about the families who adored them, were missing them desperately right now.
Fortunately, the larger animals, deer, horses, elk, were easier than the pets.
Teegen, which she kept to herself as her real name, spent daytime in the basement loathing herself and dreading the approaching Blood Moon. She knew she would have to hunt humans. She vacillated from hoping she could do it as easily as the large animals and wishing Keenen would kill her quickly when she failed.
She thought desperately how she could avoid the hunt, undermine it, escape. She tried repeatedly to kill herself, shredding her throat, her wrists, severing her tail and her wings, gouging out her eyes. Like the aftermath of the torture, she healed.
Blood Demons did not sleep as long as they fed, so she had entire days to shrink from what she faced. Her tattoo burned hotter as the Blood Moon approached.
The night before the Blood Moon, collected her Blood Demon strength and asked where they would be hunting the following night.
“I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, little Firtisawrill. It will be so much more delicious to wait and to wonder.” He ran a claw affectionately under her chin, hard enough to draw blood and then hot enough to cauterize the wound, embedding the next level of pain searing her tattoo.
The day of the Blood Moon, her entire body vibrated and burned, almost as badly as while she was being tortured. She wondered if the others felt the same pain. It was preferrable to dread of the hunt. She knew she would be hunting people like the ones in the hospital the four of them killed— the lady in the nightgown who just wanted to find Paul, whoever he was, the woman in the room next to hers who carried on conversations with her multiple personalities, the orderlies who checked on all of them every fifteen minutes whom she hated at the time, all the women on the hall who had heard the screaming and unwisely left their rooms. Not that hiding would have helped. It didn’t protect Teegen.
She thought of places they might take her. The mental hospital where they came looking for her? Was it still in use? A nursing home? A maternity ward? The NICU? Tiny babies struggling like she had, born two months early, weighing only four pounds. She couldn’t—wouldn’t do it. She would fight them, hoping they would kill her. What could be worse than that?
Teegen spent the rest of the day vomiting and sobbing helplessly.
Perched beside Keenen, Thresh, Kalista, and Pyke on the roof of Taunton Asylum, Teegen’s hands shook, her wings closed and opened on their own, and her tail thrashed wildly. Her horns flamed in the rays of the huge Blood Moon.
“Even larger than the last one,” Keenen told her. “We will have strength for more kills.”
Wordlessly, they rose, the other three separating while Teegen followed Keenen. They flew further away than on their other hunts—easily three times as long and much higher. She wondered if her unsteady wings would give out, and she hoped she would die on impact from this height.
An ancient cemetery with an elaborate black wrought iron fence and a chained, padlocked gate came into view. Tombstones leaned precariously with age, statues of angels and weeping figures were missing pieces of themselves. The grass was weedy, untended. No flowers offered remembrance to the dead.
Then Teegen saw the prey--- teenagers sitting on top of a mausoleum, smoking joints and cigarettes, drinking, laughing, making out. Teenagers daring each other to go into the graveyard for some harmless adolescent fun. This, she had not imagined.
“Keenen, I—” she called, but stopped as he spun toward in the air.
He descended upon the group. They screamed, scattering.
Teegen followed a girl who remined her of herself, bending her wings as she darted between trees in pursuit. When the girl slowed to climb the fence, Teegen grabbed her by the shoulders, rising with the shrieking teen tight in her talons. She flew further from the cemetery’s fence.
When she landed, she gently lowered the unconscious girl to the grass. Her tattoo pulsed violently, craving release.
Then I’ll release it. She hadn’t considered this option until now. Grabbing the girl, she pressed her tattoo against the girl’s forearm. This has to work, or I’ll have to kill her. To appease Keenen, I’ll have to eat her.
Her arm exploded, shattering the bone underneath, rending the skin, the powdery remnants of bone bursting into a mist of powder.
“What the fuck?” Teegen staggered backwards, gripping the shoulder where her arm had been attached. Oddly, it didn’t hurt anymore.
She inched forward, desperate to see if her idea had worked.
The fresh tattoo pulsated neon red on the girl’s arm. She had marked her successor.
“I’m sorry,” Teegen whispered. “I hope you are smart enough to avoid them, or strong enough to fight them. I tried, but I’m weak. I’m so sorry.” Without the tattoo, Teegen hoped Keenen and the others wouldn’t be able to track her. They would find this girl instead.
Guilt, shame, and sorrow burning her from inside, she took flight.
A solitary Blood Demon, without the tattoo that brought her this horror.
If you enjoyed this story, you can find "Blood Moon," the first part of Teegen's experience on my page.
Thanks for reading.