Luc awoke in a gutter, screaming. His heart pounded in a beat akin to Metallica’s Fight Fire with Fire drum part to the Nth power, and his head followed closely suite. He gasped for breath and sat up. His clothes were covered in mud, some kind of black slime, and blood. And it was dark, with a bit of strange, dull gray light. He could just make out through the starless, moonless night a flying castle, ominous in the blackened sky. Strange silhouettes slithered through the shadows. The alley that held the gutter that Luc sat in was horribly splattered with blood and gray ooze that looked like plasma mixed with brain fluid. A three-meter-long millipede scuttled past.
Luc scrabbled backwards, and bumped into something. He turned around to see a little girl pick herself up and look down at her dirty blue blouse. She was bruised and crying. She said, “I fell and hurt myself. Can you help me?”
Luc shivered. Something raised the hair on the back of his neck. Then it caught his eye—a grey double oval. The symbol for infinity was on the girl’s forehead, barely visible in the darkness, but there nonetheless. “What is going on here?” he whispered, scared. He felt in his pocket for his luck talisman, a knife that was given to him on his tenth birthday.
He stepped back a step and felt a whistle by his ear, and a glowing white crossbow bolt buried itself in the girl’s forehead. Luc froze, terrified, and slowly turned around. The man, this ‘Guide’ was behind him, sporting an intricately designed, pearl-handled crossbow with a string that was still lightly vibrating. “What the hell was that?” Luc yelled, his fear for the moment forgotten. “You just killed that little girl!”
Guide laughed harshly and shot again. “Little girl? Look again.”
Luc wheeled around and flicked out his knife out of instinct. The girl had melted into a green pile of gelatinous slime. The green pile of gelatinous slime morphed very quickly into a strange green imp with massive eyes and four arms. It screeched; a bone-rattling sound that a weak-hearted man wouldn’t have survived. It leapt at an incredible speed, raising four jagged, bloody daggers.
The imp hit the wall on the side of the alley before Luc heard the twang, and stayed pinned to the wall. Luc turned around to look at guide, who was loading another bolt to the crossbow. A strum and a flash of light, and the bolt landed right in the center of the imp’s forehead. A massive blast of light that blinded Luc and that lighted the whole alley up.
High above, in the castle, nine voices sighed. “Guide, huh?” said one. “What is he doing here?”
Another shouted angrily, “About damn time, that bastard. He’s got a bill of life and death and I’m hot to settle it with him!”
A third said, “Calmly, my friend. We don’t know what he wants here, and we should find out his motive before we take any drastic actions. But I think that we all can say that whatever bad comes to him, he deserves it.”
“Agreed,” murmured the others.
Luc blinked as his eyesight came slowly back to him. The light lingered, toning the jet black to dark gray and throwing a little bit of light on the scene. Guide had disappeared without a trace. Luc yelled, “Guide?” but the only answer he found was his own echo. He walked out to the main street and took in his surroundings. The street stretched for a massive distance outwards, with architecture that was deeply familiar to that of the ancient Japanese, sloped, step-tiled roofs and paper doors. Many houses were completely destroyed, and judging from the situation, it looked like nobody had done any repairs in ages. The town stretched for about a kilometer, and encircling it was a massive, perfectly smooth rock wall that looked like it was carved by one of the old masters; perfectly smooth, and it rose an unbelievable distance, until it faded into grey, rumbling clouds.
The thing that was the strangest, however, was the ominous castle looming in the sky. Its pointed spires loomed into the sky, and its darkness was so intense that it blurred the surrounding sky with blackness. The city stank of death and blood, and Luc could feel an incredible evil permeating everything. Light rumbled through the sky. I should definitely find shelter, he thought. He looked around. He could only guess what kind of dangerous monsters lurked behind every wall. Something, however, about this place gave him a feel of power. Even with the unbelievable fear, it gave him a sense of power. As if he knew the place.
And another feeling came to him, one that he received very often and was very easy to feel-the one that he was being watched. Five long, razor-sharp claws rushed at his head.
Action, response, reflexes. Luc dropped to his hands and sprung back up and landed a powerful kick in his opponent’s stomach. Luc didn’t understand it all; no one did. However, since he was ten years old and the knife had come in the unmarked package. Since then, he had always kept it with him (and somehow it had gone through the metal detectors at the airports several times undetected). He felt this instinctual feeling of a fighting power, and somehow, he could fight light the best of the masters. And he wasn’t going to go down easy, shouted the fighter’s voice from within him.
The unseen opponent wheeled around under a flickering streetlight, and Luc smirked proudly. He saw a feminine, feline form. Slit eyes, talons, and an incredible figure. On its forehead was another gray double oval symbol. Luc would’ve thought about the meaning of it if he didn’t have to parry another flurry of clawed blows. He dropped to the ground as the beast jumped over him, grabbed its tail, and slammed it to the ground. The monster purred loudly and vanished.
Luc drew his dagger and flipped the beautifully engraved switchblade out. It came just in time to block a claw blow that would’ve torn his throat out. The monster vanished again into the rising mists.
Luc switched his dagger to backhand and smashed it into the beast’s stomach as it reappeared behind him. It shrieked and scurried away at an incredible speed, leaving a trail of blood. Luc looked at his hands. “Was that me?” he whispered. Luc shivered. The fighting power that he had developed over the course of two seconds chilled him to the bone. He glanced around, still in shock, and dashed away in a different direction.
“Hmm,” murmured a voice in the massive castle. “Who could that be…?”
“As if we don’t already know,” groaned another. “Why didn’t he just stay where he belonged? Why in the name of the overlord?”
“Shut up, you fools,” yelled another. “We must be sure that he holds no impact upon our futures. But at the same time, we shouldn’t take any action too early… Hmm. I wonder; how do we proceed?”
The green-grey mist that was building above the houses was growing ever thicker. Luc dashed on, hoping to find a way out of the dark damnation that he somehow knew was waiting for him in the hellhole called Paradise. The houses here were slightly less eroded, and some were even in good form. Luc looked up and saw thunder in the ever-darkening green clouds. A raindrop fell onto his arm, and he winced in pain. He looked and saw that it had burned through his shirt and left a mark on his skin. He sighed. Great, acid rain, he thought. I didn’t even think, “It couldn’t get any worse!” He looked up, and saw the green rain starting to fall from the heavens. He turned, saw a door open to a secure-looking house, and dashed towards it without thought.
The air in the house was dank and musty, and smelled faintly of wet cat. There was a straw cot on the floor, but that was all of the furniture in the room. Luc flopped down on the cot, completely exhausted. His stomach growled with hunger. He thought back for a moment and remembered that he had brought food, just for a case like… well, he could hardly call it a case like this, more like a situation where he could’ve got stranded in the jungle or something like that. It was unfortunately in his backpack together with his diary, and he had left that in the alleyway. A pity. That was history.
Quickly, his exhaustion overtook his fear, and Luc sank into a deep sleep. He fell into the soft darkness of his dreams. And there, in the darkness, he saw three massive, glowing red eyes and above it, a massive red infinity symbol. A gigantic, blood-crusted claw caught his shirt. Luc’s forehead exploded into pain. A second set of gigantic, scalpel-sharp claws rushed at him, and Luc awoke in terror and intense pain, as a claw was drawn down the side of his face.
“So,” whispered the being in the dark, “You’re awake. You can keep screaming, though.”
Luc flipped over, grabbed the beast on top of him, and slammed it headfirst into the ground with a sickening crunch. His head hurt bad enough to make him think that someone had been pounding nails into it. “What do you want?” he screamed, completely enraged. He looked down and saw that it was the same monster that he had met before, albeit more human. Luc made a mental note that she was probably a shapeshifter, or at least could change between two different forms.
The monster flipped backwards and skidded on its claws, which quickly changed to fingers and fingernails. “Easy, stay calm, we don’t want anyone to get hurt, do we?” Luc finally saw her. She was a stunningly beautiful woman, with olive-brown skin, and she was wearing a leopard-skin suit.
Luc said, “Damn, I was hoping that this was just some ****** up nightmare.”
“Nightmare or not, you’re in my house without my permission. That gives me certain rights...”
Luc rubbed his forehead, and hoped that the pain would go away, but the migraine continued assaulting his nerves. “Your house? I’m sorry. I was just searching for shelter.” Luc made for the door.
“No, stay here. You intrigue me.” The unknown figure stood up and beckoned to Luc. “What is your name?”
Luc turned around. “How can I trust you? How do I know that you won’t use my name in some kind of black magic?”
“I wouldn’t need your name for that. They call me Lasmia here.”
Luc looked around and exclaimed, “My name is Luc, short for-”
“Lucifer.” Guide looked over the situation in the room, shaking his head.
Luc turned and looked at the same stranger who had tried to warn him. “Guide,” he whispered. The tone of his voice rose dangerously quickly. “What the hell is the place?” he screamed. “I want to get out of here!!”
Guide chuckled darkly. “To someone like me, that would be funny if I didn’t know that you were serious. You think I like it here?”
Luc grabbed him and said, “You left here! Show me how to get out! Goddamn it, I just don’t get it. Is this some kind of perverse punishment for something I did, or what?”
“I’m a master, not a god.”
The last phrase made the hairs on the back of Luc’s neck stand up straight. That was, so to say, his line. “Who the hell are you?” Luc gasped, overcome with fear. He let go of guide’s clothing and fell backwards.
“Your line, you think? Stay with Lasmia, Luc,” advised Guide. “With her, you’re safe… for now, at least.”
“Says who?” shouted Lasmia.
“I say it,” whispered guide dangerously. His eyes darkened, and the infinity symbol on his forehead started to glow a deep red.
Lasmia flinched back and huddled in the opposite corner. “Ok-k-kay, y-y-you t-t-talked me into it,” she stuttered.
Guide turned to Luc and murmured, “Damn it kid, just don’t be as dumb as by the last nine times!”
With those words, Guide vanished
Luc dashed after him, and shouted, “What the? What nine times?” It was useless. Guide was gone.
Luc looked up to the sky, which was fading from green-gray to black, and screamed.