Dozens, hundreds, thousands of minor parasites swarm all over me. They are gnats and centipedes and biting worms, landing all over my aura. They crawl and wriggle and bite and chew and tear. My skin begins to itch, and my eyes flutter involuntarily.
Easiest option is to run them through with cold steel. But there’s too many people around. If they saw me do that, they’d call the cops on me. That’s how demons fought, by turning people against each other.
Instead, I step aside, whip out my phone and pretend to stare at the map. I want to call down the Light, to burn off the things crawling over me. But that is an inefficient use of limited energy.
And there are better ways to do this.
In my mind, I reach up to the heavens.
‘Archangel Michael, please open the gate to the Light.’
A pair of gates appears in my mind’s eye. They swing open into pure dazzling light.
Addressing the entities feasting on me, I say, ‘Why are you here?’
A chorus of tinny voices reply immediately.
‘Because we were forced to!’
‘Reshazak says so!’
Voices are a good sign. It meant I didn’t have to slaughter them all.
‘Do you want plenty of food?’ I ask.
‘Do want to keep working for Reshazak?’
‘NO!’ a voice says.
Other voices drown it out.
‘We have to!’
‘No choice! He hurts us if he does!’
‘He sounds like a bad guy,’ I say. ‘But listen, you don’t have to work for him any more. There’s a place where you can free of him, and where you can find plenty of food.’
‘Where?’ they chime.
‘Do you see the White Light before me?’
‘Just step through.’
‘But we’re not of the Light! It burns! It hates us!’
‘That’s not true,’ I say. ‘Look inside yourselves. Do you see a light?’
The chewing stops. Finally. This time, they chatter among themselves.
‘I see it!’
‘Look, look, so bright!’
‘Is that light? Why is there light?’
‘You carry the Divine Spark,’ I say. ‘You will always be welcome in the Light. You just have to step through.’
‘But it’s scary!’
‘The Archangel Michael will help you. There is nothing to be afraid of.’
Michael steps through the portal in his full regalia He extends one arm to the gates, and another at the entities.
‘Everything will be all right,’ he says. ‘Just come to me and we’ll take care of the rest.’
A brave soul jumps off me, flying to the Light. Another, a third, then a thick scream of them. Michael whispers reassurances, gathering up a few recalcitrants in his hands, and guides the rest through the gates. As they fade into the light, I hear cries of joy.
‘Well done,’ Michael says. ‘That takes care of the lesser spirits. Now Reshazak will have to contend with you himself.’
‘Where is he?’
He points down the road at a tall structure, a quartet of obelisks reaching for the sky. The Civilian War Memorial.
‘Thanks,’ I reply.
‘Be wary. He is deploying servitors. Prepare your steel.’
Servitors were mindless beings created to serve the will of its master. In this case, they must be designed for combat.
The world darkens as I approach the War Memorial Park. Strange whispers fill the air. The streetlights illuminate crooked trees and stone benches. Black things dance in the shadows between the pools of amber light. There’s an underpass leading to the Esplanade MRT station in front of me, and I’ve no doubt there’s a camera nearby.
I didn’t have to like this. I just have to do this. At least there are no civilians nearby.
I cross the road.
The shadowy things coalesce, growing into snakes and eels. I run to the Memorial, but they slither across the ground and pounce on me. A bitter brown taste floods my mouth. Cold venom punches into my shields.
A fresh wave of energy hits me. Eleanor’s energy. I drink deep and flush my aura with pure White Light. The servitors dissolve. I pop my knife open, hold it in a reverse grip and dash for the monument.
The four columns of the Memorial looms solemnly over me. A shallow pool of water marks every corner. The benches are all occupied.
By dark humanoid spirits.
They get up and charge at me. The closest swings a right hook. I cover with my left elbow and peck at its arm. The blade passes clean through it, but dark energy stings my face. I stab at its throat, go for its thigh, and it dissipates.
A second one leaps at me. Sidestepping left, I slash down, catching its arm. I stab it in the neck, arc around and stitch down its body and it dissolves.
A pair of servitors rush me. Air whooshes past my ear, and suddenly a lion and a wolf leap over my head, pounce on the beings and tear out their throats.
‘We’ve got your back,’ Lupin says.
My spirit guides break off, hunting down individual targets. Anther servitor runs towards me. I lunge in, thrusting the knife into its crown and power-stroking through. It bursts apart, and another jumps on my left arm. I cycle my Griptilian, shearing and tearing, until it disintegrates.
Three servitors surround Leonhard and Lupin. The spirit guides take one each. I lunge for the last and split it in half.
The air darkens. My throat dries. A huge black column blasts down from the sky, down the center of the Memorial. As I dash over, a tall dark figure descends the stairs.
‘Reshazak,’ I say.
‘Michael Chang,’ the demon says. His words are knives scraping against my soul. ‘I will enjoy destroying you.’
My breath comes and goes in ragged spurts. Sweat soaks my clothes. My muscles burn. No time for a protracted engagement. Have to end this fast.
‘We don’t have to do this,’ I say. ‘All you have to do is go into the Light.’
He dissolves into a thick dark cloud.
‘Watch out!’ Leonhard urges.
The cloud whooshes towards me. I ready myself, gauge the distance, sneak my foot forward, lunge, thrust down—
Reshazak splits in half, avoiding the blade.
Pure darkness engulfs me. Inky choking burning acid burns into my skin, my bones, my soul. Harsh guttural cries and high-pitched screams tear through my ears. I cycle my blade back and forth, but it’s like slicing air, it’s no use nothing works—
‘The light!’ Lupin yells.
‘The water!’ Leonhard shouts.
I call on the Light. The blackness parts just a little, revealing a bright yellow spot. I stagger towards it, flailing the knife about. My legs feel like they are moving through molten concrete, but it’s an illusion, I just need to go smoothly and carefully and—
My shoe drops.
Cold water splashes against my pants leg.
I take a few steps forward. More light surrounds me, burning through the dark. The water works its magic, disrupting the demon and his magic. Fires ignite across my skin, but it’s too late. A crack appears in the thing’s presence. Pure energy floods in. Again, Eleanor’s. I drink it in, compose myself, and reach for the Light.
White Light blasts down from the heavens, burning through Reshazak. It screams, thrashes, writhes, but between the water, the light and the White Light it doesn’t stand a chance. The murk dissolves.
What’s left of Reshazak resembles a naked, shriveled elderly man. He drags himself out of the water and onto dry concrete. I approach it, knife at the ready. This thing has harmed enough people. He damn near tried to kill me. I ought to—
‘No,’ Leonhard says.
‘It’s not worth it,’ Lupin adds.
Reshazak turns around, sitting on the ground and staring at me. He unleashes a long string of obscenities, concluding with, ‘Finish it already, damn you!’
I’m tempted to. But he’s… small. Weak. He can’t harm anyone any more, not in this state.
White lights dance before me. A warm hand touches my shoulder.
‘What do you plan to do?’ Michael asks.
I draw in a deep breath. The threat is defeated. The Law, mortal and divine, would not justify future violence. And if there is one thing I must always do, it is to stay true to the will of the Cosmos.
‘Archangel Michael, please surround this being in a bubble of Light. Carry him away, that he may be transformed.’
A great white sphere engulfs the demon. He pounds and scratches, but it’s no use. The ball floats into the sky, disappearing through a portal of White Light.
‘Well done,’ Michael says.
There are no more threats around, but I think I see a few people staring at me from across the park. I fold my knife, clip it to my pants, and wipe the sweat from my face.
‘Thanks for the assist everyone,’ I say.
The hand squeezes my shoulder. It doesn’t hurt.
The warmth vanishes. Leonhard and Lupin look expectantly at me.
‘Let’s go home,’ I say.
I walk aimlessly for the next ten minutes. When I’m sure I’m not being followed, I cab home.
I indulge in a long, cold shower, with plenty of sea salt. There’s a number of black marks on my face and arms and legs, but with Reshazak gone they rub off easily, and the salt and water takes care of the remaining negativity.
I stumble out of the shower, yawning. I’m exhausted. Drained. I had to rest, recharge, get as much sleep as I could. Only way to heal a battered soul. And it’s well past one in the morning. Well past bedtime.
I message Eleanor. Thanks for the help. Everything’s fine now.
Thank God, she says. What happened just now?
I check the time. Glance at my bed. Pat my still-wet hair. Think about Eleanor Wang, my best friend, the woman who’d quite likely carried the day for me. She’s still on the line, still waiting for a reply.
Sleep can wait a little longer.
For a fresh take on gods and demons, check out my Dragon Award nominated novel NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS.