Storm Chasers – Entry #3

by syaffolee

He’s a thunderbird with an attitude problem. She’s a soul eater with a sweet tooth. They fight supernatural crime!

(I’ve decided to do a series of short urban fantasy vignettes set in an alternate universe Vancouver to keep myself regularly writing and posting in this blog. This entry is based on this picture prompt at WriteWorld.)

* * *

When they finally arrived at the squat brick house in Renfrew, the latest victim was already dead. The only remains they could see was an arm frozen in desperation as it stuck out of the front door mail slot. Blood pooled on the concrete step below. The trail of the shedu that Ru had been tracking splattered against the front door in a sickly iridescent sheen only visible to those who had the power to see beyond the normal.

“This way,” said Ru. “The window’s open.”

Extreme caution had Taj glancing around the empty neighborhood. No humans strolled on the sidewalks, but that didn’t mean that there weren’t any glancing out behind curtains. Even so, they would only see slim shadows on the lawn at best. A trick of the light. When those of Taj and Ru’s ilk didn’t want to be seen by humans, they weren’t.

Taj followed Ru to the far right of the house to stand in front of a sliding window painted in white trim. Ru wedged his fingers into the crack at the bottom and pushed the pane up with little trouble. In seconds, they both slipped inside. The bedroom they entered was unremarkable. A bed, a desk, two chairs, photographs, and posters on the wall.

She reached out with her senses for a moment and then nodded for Ru to continue. “I can’t sense anything in this house except for the dead human.”

The bedroom door led out into a short hallway that met with the foyer at the entrance. They both stood shoulder to shoulder at the end of the hallway looking out onto the scene. The shedu had made short work of its victim in an extremely messy fashion. The carpet, whatever its original color, was now stained a permanent dark red. Taj had no desire to step into the foyer so she summoned the victim’s soul to come to her. The tattered, silver wisps rose from the remains and migrated to her fingers easily. So did the victim’s last memories. Her fingers spasmed, abruptly releasing the poor soul. If her stomach wasn’t so strong, her cousin’s baklava would have joined the blood on the carpet.

“It was bad,” she finally said. She cracked her eyes open. Ru looked at her with a narrowed, intense gaze. In the distance, she thought she heard rumbling. Perhaps it was a passing train. “The man had no idea. It suddenly appeared in the kitchen. He tried to run.”

“And didn’t make it.” Ru pulled something out of his back pocket. A phone. He took some pictures of the scene and then carefully skirted around the worst of the area to head deeper into the house.

Taj followed him to the kitchen, which would have looked as ordinary as the bedroom except for the scattered splinters of what remained of a wooden table. Black scorch marks streaked across the linoleum in strange patterns. Ru took several pictures of the patterns before they both squatted down to examine them more closely.

“If I’m not mistaken,” said Ru, “I’d say that these sigils had been etched beneath these floor tiles. The victim probably didn’t know they were there when he bought the house.”

Taj shook her head as she tried to recall the soul’s older memories that had also downloaded themselves into her head. “Your hunch is right. He bought the house last year. The kitchen had been renovated before it was put on the market. How did you guess there was something underneath?”

“I know all about fire’s effect on…” A sudden crash broke into his words as the kitchen window exploded into dark shards.

The shedu stood shrouded in a cloud of thick, black smoke. Even from their crouch on the kitchen floor, they saw only a glimpse of a hoof and a pair of glowing red eyes.

For some reason, Ru simply raised his phone and began recording. Taj wanted to yell at him, to drag him away from the kitchen. To run. But her feet stayed firmly rooted to the spot as the shedu emitted a series of grunts and hisses that made her ears hurt. Something trickled down her neck. It was only when the pattern of smoke slightly shifted that she managed to jump up from her position and fling out her arms.

The demon roared. It had wanted to crush Ru like it did its last victim, but the shield that Taj flung out at the last minute stopped it in mid-strike, its hooves swimming futilely in the air. She breathed hard. The shedu was strong. She couldn’t hold the shield forever. And she was about to tell Ru just so when she saw his mouth curve ever so slightly as he raised his middle finger.

Lightning struck the kitchen, blinding, hot. A terrible wind flung Taj against the wall. She lost her grip on the shield when her head hit something. Unfortunately, it didn’t hit hard enough to knock her unconscious. Instead, her head rung and her eyes saw nothing as she slid to the floor. She breathed hard and blinked several times. After several moments, white nothingness turned into ghostly afterimages and then after another second, flickered back into normal vision.

The kitchen was a complete, smoking ruin. Ru stood near the worst of it, apparently unscathed. Taj wobbled to her feet.

“You idiot. You destroyed all the sigils. It was our only hint on how to lure out those demons.”

He canted his head towards her voice and gave her a familiar smirk as he held out his undamaged phone. “Don’t worry. I’ve got all the pictures. But I believe it’s your job to dispose of that.” He pointed to a small, glowing red sphere where the shedu had once stood.

“I really don’t want to eat that,” she replied as thunder faintly rumbled overhead. She briefly looked up and was not surprised to see that his powers had scorched away the roof. When she looked back at him, he was staring at her.

“You’re bleeding.”

She raised a hand to her ear. “It’s nothing. I heal fast. You’re raining, though. Water is going to make this an even bigger mess.”

At her words, the water droplets came down from the sky. Some of them hit the red sphere, vaporizing into streaks of pale steam.

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