The body was charred black beyond recognition. It lay in a ragged heap of clothing in the back alley covered in what could only be melted flesh. The smell wafted through the air of the alley, mixing with the rancid aroma of the Chinese restaurant dumpster and permeating everything around it. A man approached the body; he was tall and broad-shouldered with dark hair and pale eyes. He moved with the grace and fluidity of a cat approaching its prey. His companion was smaller, thin with mud colored hair and wire rimmed glasses sitting on the bridge of his nose. The small man was pale and clammy, his heart raced and terror filled his eyes as he absorbed the scene before him.
The large man approached the body and examined the contents of the clothing, looking for some form of identification to make this process easier. Unsurprisingly, there was nothing. ‘Just like the others,’ the man thought.
“I think I found something,” the small man said. He had been wandering around the alleyway, avoiding the body and searching the ground for any sign of what may have occurred.
“What is it Jack?,” the large man asked.
“It looks like a star. Kind of.” Jack said.
The man walked over to where Jack was standing shaky as he pointed to the ground. The man knelt down and ran his hand over the cement of the alleyway, feeling the energy that had been there moments before.
“It’s an inverted pentagram,” the man said in a gruff voice. “We found them near the bodies of the others as well. The best magicians the Court have confirmed that they were nothing but a means to an end.” The man wondered if bringing Jack along had been a mistake. He needed the doctor’s expertise if this body turned out to be like the others, but the man wasn’t familiar with death; not like he was.
“Does that mean that this one is related to the others?,” Jack asked, his stomach was churning. The thought of that thing down at the other end of the alley combined with the putrid smells attacking his nasal cavity made him want to vomit.
“Most likely. We need to alert the Court, this is the fifth body we’ve found this week alone,” the man said. He walked back over to the body and leaned down, examining the pile of clothing. From what remained of the seared pieces, the victim had been female and if the dilated hips structure meant anything the man would bet his life that she was pregnant at the time she died. Whatever had gotten her it had left her bone structure perfectly in tact, only the skin and organs had melted away into ash.
Carefully, he pulled the jawbone down and reached his fingers into the oral cavity, feeling for what he knew must be there, yet at the same time hoping it wouldn’t be. ‘Please gods, let this one be different,’ he thought. But even as his mind let go of the thought, his fingers brushed the coarse material of the rolled up parchment placed inside the mouth. He sighed inwardly and slowly removed the paper. “Jack, come have a look at this will you,” he called to the doctor. When one answered and no footsteps echoed off the alley walls, the man turned around looking for his companion.
Jack was on his knees at the other end of the alley, crumpled at the waist and vomiting the remains of his dinner on the steps of the backdoor to the Chinese restaurant. He hadn’t made it to the dumpster. The man sighed. ‘What a noob,’ he thought and walked over to Jack, who was now shaking and sitting with his back against the restaurant’s wall.
“Jack, are you done? I need you to focus,” the man said. “The body had a scroll shoved into its mouth like the others. I need you to tell me what the scroll says. You can do that, and then after I handle the body we’ll go and I’ll buy you a milkshake.”
Jack moaned, “I don’t want food. Nothing sounds good right now, I just want to go home. I shouldn’t have come here.” Jack strained to get to his feet, his heart pounded in fear and his eyes were full of terror as he looked at the man. “This isn’t my field of expertise Nephilim. I deal with dead human languages and ancient mythology. Any dead bodies that come across my path are at least thousands of years old. Nothing this…fresh.” He looked like he was about to vomit again. The man cursed to himself, bringing Jack had been a mistake. “Gods, does it always smell like this?,” Jack asked.
“No,” the man said. “Normally it smells more like ice cream and butter cups. Occasionally cupcakes.” Jack moaned at the response and clutched his stomach. He wasn’t cut out for this type of work, not many were. Centuries of death, destruction, and decay had made the man immune to such a human response to the smell and taste of death. The Nephilim tasted death only once, when the end finally claimed them in a bittersweet release. The man swallowed his pride and knelt down beside Jack, carefully avoiding the puddle of vomit. “Jack, I need you to look at this. I need to know what it says or we won’t be able to prevent more deaths.” The man handed the scroll of parchment to Jack who took it with trembling hand.
Jack held the parchment and studied it for a moment. The seal was demonic, that he was sure of, but he couldn’t tell from what period or place it originated from. It could have been created five thousand years ago or yesterday for all he knew. Carefully, he broke the seal and unwrapped the parchment. Inside was a single character written in a calligraphic style in ink the color of blood. Jack recognized the symbol almost immediately and a shiver raced up his spine as he studied the curving lines of the ancient Chinese character.
“What does it mean?,” asked the man softly, watching Jack’s face for any expression or hint at what he was seeing. “Is it like the others? An element?” The previous four bodies had all been found with a parchment in their mouths, upon which an physical element had been inscribed; wind, water, earth, and fire. Each body that was found had died from the element that was inscribed on the parchment from the previous murder. All of them women, all of them supernatural in origin, all of them near a pentagram that had alerted the Nephilim to their whereabouts, and all of them had been pregnant at the time of death. Something demonic was going on and the man would be damned to the circles of hell if he didn’t find out.
“No, it’s not an element,” Jack said. “It means: death.”
“I said, it means –“
“I know what you said,” the man interrupted. “That just doesn’t make any sense. Why would death be inscribed on the parchment? Does that mean the killings have stopped?”
“How am I supposed to know? You’re Nephilim, not me! I want to go now. It’s late and I’m tired.”
“We aren’t going anywhere yet,” the man said. “Besides, the Court will want a full report before morning.”
Jack’s loud groan of resentment was interrupted by a cry from the alley. His eyes filled with terror again as fight or flight responses kicked in. The man pushed Jack to the ground and quickly withdrew a shimmering blue sword that sat on his hip, hidden beneath his long overcoat. The cry came again, but this time was more recognizable. It sounded human, and young. The third time, the man had identified the origin of the sound and approached the dumpster behind the Chinese restaurant. Cautiously, he moved through the shadows of the alley sword raised, ready for attack. When he reached the dumpster, he slowly lifted the lid and glanced down. Inside, wrapped in a bloody shirt laying on top of a pile of rotten chicken lay an infant child. A human infant child. It was covered in what looked like blood and mucus and other substances that the man recognized as part of the birthing process.
He reached into the dumpster and picked up the infant, cradling it carefully to his broad chest. He sheathed his sword and closed the lid of the dumpster. Glancing down at the form held in his arms, the man turned and walked back to Jack who was now cautiously sitting on the steps of the Chinese restaurant.
“What is it?” asked Jack.
“You know, for being so smart you really are fucking stupid sometimes. It’s a baby.”
“Oh. What is it doing in the garbage can?”
“How should I know? Maybe she put it there,” said the man as he gestured towards the body of the crumpled woman at the end of the alley. “The little one wasn’t born too long ago, it’s still covered in that mucus stuff.”
Jack moved closer to the baby. “It stinks like rotten chicken,” he said. “I don’t ever want to have children. They’re so messy, don’t you think?”
“Speak for yourself,” the man said gruffly and cradled the infant tighter to his chest. “It’s probably hungry. We need to take care of the body and get back to the Court, we’ll take the baby with us.”
“Is it a boy or a girl?” Jack asked slightly bemused. The man shuffled around the soaked shirt, searching for an answer to Jack’s question in the dim light.
“It’s a boy, unless it’s got three legs,” the man answered. “Here, hold it while I take care of the body.” He thrust the baby into Jack’s outstretched hands. “And don’t drop it!”
The man walked back to the other end of the alley and quickly gathered what he needed from the body. In the light of the moon, he noticed something silver around the neck of the deteriorating corpse. He lifted the silver chain off of the body and looked at it closely. Around the clasp of the chain, a skeleton key dangled lazily. Filing away this information for later, he put the key in one of his pockets and stored it away, returning his attention to the body. Returning his attention to the body, he withdrew his shimmering blue sword again and placed the tip of the blade on the bone of the victim and murmured a few choice words. Blue fire erupted from the blade and engulfed the bones and clothing in flame. The man walked back to the Jack and the baby as the fire consumed the bones and sizzled out.
“I think you should see this,” Jack said. Urging the man with one free hand to come quickly and look at the baby. The man lifted the baby from Jack’s arms and glanced down. Slowly, he shifted the shirt away from the infant’s face and in the dim light a grain of horror struck him. Where the child’s eyes should have been, where black charred scars and burned flesh peeling from the child’s nose. The child had been burned sightless.
“Come on. We need to get him back to the Court and get this night over with,” said the man. He held the child closely and wished upon the Gods for the babe’s safety and health.
“What are you going to name him?” asked Jack in a weary tone. The night had worn on him.
“Jude,” the man answered. Together, they walked from the alley and headed towards the lights of the city.
High above, perched on the ledge of a building a crow watched the pair walk away with the baby. As they turned the corner, the black crow took flight and disappeared into the night.
***Please feel free to leave comments, feedback, etc. It would be much appreciated. I just wrote this in about 15 minutes and am still just messing around with it. Thank you for visiting!!