“What the hell was that?” Jones squeaked. He looked around as if he saw a ghost.
All of them were on edge, knowing that there shouldn’t be another female in the vicinity but them. They all wondered if it was one of the girls, but that wasn’t possible. It didn’t sound like them at all.
“Jessica. Crystal. Do you copy?” Marcus radios in.
“We copy. What is it?” Crystal answered.
“Is Jessica with you?”
“I’m here,” Jessica stated with a firm voice.
“Did you guys scream?” Marcus asked.
“No. We didn’t,” replied Crystal. “Is something the matter?”
Marcus was quiet for a moment. Then, “Did one of you guys scream?”
“No, Marcus, we’re no damsel in distress.”Crystal replied with a hint of dissatisfaction. “ Seriously, I’m sure we can take care of ourselves.”
“Just making sure,” Marcus replied.
“It’s not them, then who?” Jones asked worriedly.
They all knew that this wasn’t normal, especially something that sounded too close for comfort. Was something getting killed? He wasn’t sure, but he hoped that wasn’t the case. He was debating on running towards the sound to help whoever it was, but he didn’t know where the scream even sounded off.
“Timothy. Kathy. Do you copy?” Marcus radioed in the other two, not listening to Jones worry.
“Copy,” said Timothy. “What’s up?”
“I’m here,” said Kathy in a child’s voice.
Alexus swore; she sounded like a child on the radio, making her sound even younger than hearing her in front of him.
“Did anyone of you guys hear anything weird a moment ago?”
“Nope,” Timothy replied. “All I’m seeing is heavy activity in one of the rooms, but no more. Nothing unusual so far.”
“Nothing on my end as well,” Kathy replied, “though I have been having a bit of unusual static. However, it’s not a big problem, so it should be alright.”
“Keep your eyes and ears about if you see or hear anything strange. Radio it in and watch each other’s back.”
“Roger.” All four of them replied.
“I don’t like this,” Jones replied. “We hear someone screaming, and it’s not one of the girls. I swear someone’s getting killed right now!”
“Calm down,” said Simon with a sigh. He shook his head at Jones for being overly paranoid. “It could be just a wild animal.”
“Highly doubt it. No animal sounds like a woman! Especially one that sounds blood-curdling scream makes you want to stay away from this place!” Jones threw up his hands, exaggerating everything.
“That’s exactly what they’re trying to do. Keep us away.” Marcus grunted. “The first that demons do is use scare tactics to keep us away.”
“A good reason too,” said Jones. “That’s a high tail sign that we need to stay away from this hell hole.”
Alexus has no clue how Marcus isn’t scared out of his wits at times like these. Marcus was someone he looked up to on many things, and he was his personal goal that he wanted to learn and be confident. So every day, he worked out and conditioned his body little by little.
Three months of the intense workout had cut away the useless fat he had been storing away for most of his life. Yet, thinking back to just when he realized how he had changed was surprising for him. One day, whether it was due to extensive training or his status as an Ouroboros, he just got out of bed and looked in the mirror at a six-pack. He was so shocked seeing it on someone like him that he thought he was dreaming.
Now, he had slightly pronounced shoulders, and his arms were also a bit larger. That wasn’t all. His calf muscles and thighs had also grown, which he was quite proud of. The power he put behind the kicks was three times more potent than before, making some very pleased.
His steps had become a lot lighter as he got a better feel of his body. Confidence was one thing he was gaining fast. Who knew that a diligent workout would boost one’s mentality and confidence? But, best of all was the meditation. He had learned a lot about himself through those quiet times, especially how to control his stress level.
Shaking his head out of his thoughts, he focused on the conversation. He missed a handful of their comments, but he wasn’t completely lost.
“Don’t worry too much,” Jessica stated. She had a gun loaded in her hand as she looked off.
“You’re not the one that will have the worst end of the stick where we’re going. It’ll be me.”
“She’s right, you know.” James pointed towards her and nodded at what she had said. “They’re possibly going to go after her more than you if what Simon had said is true. So if you want more action, I suggest you stay near her because that’s where all the fun will be.”
“Why would I do that?!” Jones exasperatedly stated, looking at James funny. “I’ll stay far away from her, thank you very much.”
“Enough, let’s get going.” Marcus cuts in with his hand held up in front of Jones. “Get this mission quickly over with; we can go home and not think about demons anymore.”
“Can’t I just stay with the others back at the van?” Jones asked, his muscles tightening up as he held his gun.
“No. We’re going to need your talent.”
Jones sighed as his shoulder slumped forward. Alexus felt terrible for him, but he knew they weren’t going out of this anytime soon. Plus, to live in this day and age with the Seventh Sanctum, they had to do their job: destroy the demons cleanly and move on. Still, killing demons wasn’t a simple job, mostly because of their unearthly strength.
“We’re splitting up now. Simon, I’ll see you on the west side in thirty minutes. Be there.” Marcus directed.
“I’m on it.” Simon nodded. He motioned James and Jessica to follow him. They trudged behind him as they split away from them, leaving only the three of them behind.
Jones stared after the three as they disappeared into the bushes. Then his gaze wandered all around, wondering if they would get attacked. Paranoia wasn’t easily controlled, especially when they were in enemy territory.
“Let’s move.” Marcus worded, and he pushed forward with his gun in front of him. He pulled out more parts from his suit and somehow changed it into a rifle.
Alexus was quite amazed at how quickly and meticulously his hand shifted the modular pieces until he had what he wanted.
They walked behind Marcus in a triangle formation, keeping quiet but cautious steps towards the abandoned mansion. The closer they got, the quieter the surroundings became. He swore he could hear Jones breathing across from them, in which case, it is entirely too quiet around here. This atmosphere is practically made for keeping a person on edge.
The air felt stale and tense, as if Alexus could almost cut it with his blade. Nevertheless, they continued forward, a slight fog rolling in and covering the ground as they watched our surroundings like hawks.
Eventually, they came upon the wooden stairs that stayed mysteriously intact for centuries. The moment Marcus stepped on the board, it creaked, announcing their presence. Scowling to himself, Marcus stopped his tracks, shifted his weight, and moved forward. The creaking stopped, but he wasn’t happy at the small blunder that he had made.
Jones wasn’t any better, his steps weren’t light, and every time he stepped, the creaking sound got louder. Then, he would swear under his breath for his bad luck every few steps and quickly got up the stairs to get away from it.
Alexus, on the other hand, took a bit of time to get up, shifting his weight slowly from one part of his foot to the next. There wasn’t a single sound, but the slow movement took a good portion of his time. Marcus and Jones were already in the doorway, leaving him behind. He had to
quickly move forward to catch up to them, so he wouldn’t get left behind.
“You think they’re in here?” Jones whispered, his head twitching from side-to-side looking for the so-called demons.
Alexus shrugged, not answering him, but instead slowly searched around him. They were inside a half-broken hallway. It was as if the whole house was broken cleanly in half. On his right side, broken doors were on hinges, shattered windows, shelves, bent lamps, half-fallen chandeliers, and even the walls with gaping holes were present. While on his left side, it was just the complete opposite.
It was as if someone had frozen time and kept the place unusually clean, making one wonder if someone was still living there. The whole place was neatly swept up with not a speck of dust.
They stepped through time with the antiques still kept cleanly in place. They passed the front door to the left as they made their way over. Couches were kept neatly in place with a bear rug underneath them upon entering. It’s a giant gaping mouth with glazed eyes staring in their direction. A few family pictures were hanging off the wall in the living room.
“I swear this place is creepy.” Jones voiced his opinion. “How did they keep this place so perfectly intact?” He swept his arm in front of him.
“I don’t know, but it’s really weird,” Alexus replied. He saw a fireplace across from the sofa.
When Alexus went past it, the logs burst into flames as they caught on fire. He stumbled backward in surprise from it suddenly coming to life. “What in the world?!” He unconsciously yelped out loud, pointing his swords at the fireplace.
“Quiet.” Hissed Marcus, glaring at him. “You’re going to compromise our position if you don’t
“Sorry,” Alexus spoke. They all faced the fireplace that suddenly caught on fire. He wondered if there was some automatic starter on it somewhere, but then he realized this was an old house. There was nothing like that here, and it made him realize that it burst into flames by itself.
Something that magically turns on by itself wasn’t normal, and the thought of demons being near our vicinity made me grip my sword even tighter.
The others found it strange, but mostly Jones, who stuttered, unable to form words. He pointed at the fireplace a couple of times with his gun and looked back at Alexus in complete disbelief. Alexus understood him fully; Jones told him that it wasn’t him at all.
“Let’s move.” Marcus motioned them forward. He slowly moved around the sofa and headed towards the next adjoining room.
“I swear. I didn’t do it.” Jones whispered with his eyes big.
“I know,” Alexus replied. But unfortunately, Jones wasn’t the type to play tricks on a serious mission like this. He would’ve suspected Timothy, but he wasn’t here with him, nor does he have fire magic.
Alexus pushed past the couch and went towards the same doorway as Marcus. Upon entering, it was quite dark. Marcus and Jones beamed their flashlight down the long winding hallway for them to see. So far, not a single door was seen to the left or the right. Instead, many family portraits were hanging up on the wall. A wide range of portraits was there, from the children to the adults.
The ones closer to them looked to be around the time of the civil war days, making Alexus wonder how old this house was, but then again, his only thought was maybe it was just a family portrait of their olden days.
When they walked on further in, pictures were changed into different periods, making him feel like he was walking through history. Walking through the hallway was a weird feeling; it made him feel completely out of place. As they walked throughout the corridor, he couldn’t shake the feeling of eyes on him as he walked past the portraits.
Jones shuddered, “I dislike old family portraits.”
“You and me both.” Alexus replied, “it feels like they’re staring into your souls.”
“That was what I was exactly thinking, and I don’t like it.” Jones stopped to stare at the picture on his left.
It looked to be of a general during World War II. He had on his classical navy uniform, and he was standing up straight, looking at the viewers. However, the most memorable part of the painting wasn’t the clothes but his eyes. They were unusually sharp, almost as if they were alive.
“This guy looks like his looks can kill.” Jones tapped the picture on the wall a couple of times.
Suddenly, the picture groaned, and the ground under Jones opened up, swallowing him whole.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” Jones screamed as he fell through the opened trap, disappearing as the floor closed back over him.
“Jones!” Alexus yelled, reaching down to grab him but missed. Something like that was too sudden and unexpected, to the point where he wasn’t even thinking whether it was possible to happen in this house. “Jones!” He went to his knees, pounding on the ground to see if it would open up, but it didn’t budge.
“What the hell happened?!” Marcus came over when he heard Alexus yell. “You just announced to everyone we’re here!”
“Jones is gone!” Alexus cried out in alarm, tapping at the walls and getting up to feel around the painting that he had just touched. “He fell into a trap.”
“What?! How?” Marcus asked in disbelief, looking around in confusion.
“I don’t know,” Alexus replied. This time he felt around the painting itself, looking for any clues.
“He was just standing here and looking at the picture, and he suddenly fell through. I’m not sure what he touched, but it activated the trap.”
“Shit.” Marcus cursed. “That means there is more in this house.” He raised his radio. “Simon. Are you there?”
“Yea?” Simon replied. “Is something wrong?”
“We got traps in this house. So don’t touch anything carelessly.” Marcus orders, feeling the side of the wall.
“Did something happen?” Simon asked.
“Yea, Jones is gone.”
“You serious?” Simon sighed at the thought of more traps.
Marcus raised his radio, “Timothy. Locate Jones.”
“Give me a moment.” Timothy radioed back. “I’ll be able to pinpoint his location in…5…4…3..2…here we go. He’s down on the basement floor.”
“Any Demons?” asked Marcus.
The line went silent for a moment, not answering Marcus. They waited a couple more seconds, but so far, no answer, making all of them wonder if there was something bad.
“You’re not going to like this,” said Timothy.
Alexus held in his breath, knowing full well that he was right. Something like this always meant something bad would happen, and right now, his luck for opening the trap door wasn’t
happening. So he guessed that it was a one-time activation.
“How many are there?” said Marcus.
“It’s infested with demons, and right now, he’s in the middle of it. But luckily, there is a wall around him. If he steps out, he’s screwed.”
“Shit.” Marcus cursed. “Show me the fastest way to get down to the basement now! Simon, I’ll meet you downstairs, and we’ll sweep up this house as quickly as possible after we pull Jones out of the shit hole.”
“Roger that,” Simon replied.
“Give me a moment; I’ll send you the map through the watch,” said Timothy.
Alexus waited for a couple of seconds. Then, a ding was heard, and a small hologram map of the building was shown. He noticed that they were directly over the basement, but getting there was the problem. They had to pass through the kitchen, the dining room, and a couple more other rooms before reaching the basement entrance. After that, they were a couple of static rooms, making it a bit difficult to tell.
“Thanks. This should do.” Marcus radioed in. Then, he motioned Alexus with his head to follow.
Alexus nodded, walking close behind him as he watched their backs for any possible attacks.
They eventually got out of this long, straight hallway and came upon the kitchen. Even though the kitchen was nicely kept clean, Alexus felt that it was a bit renovated because of the more modern-day-looking kitchen than the olden days. There was an island table with pots and pans hanging overhead, clean knives on the sides, and even a nice large metal refrigerator that looked brand new. Even the marble floor was nicely swept.
Suddenly, a clicking sound could be heard on the right as he whipped his head towards it. The stove flicked on as the eye caught on fire, startling them. His eyes became big as he stared, then to his right, he saw the knives slipping out of their case and floating in the air.
“No way.” Alexus mouthed, dumbstruck. For something this crazy to happen, he had to quickly snap himself out of his stupor as he barely dodged getting impaled through his eyes. Right now, he still didn’t have a damn helmet to protect his face, making this that much more dangerous. Plus, whatever was controlling the knives knew.
“Watch out!” Marcus came over and punched a knife out of the air from behind.
Alexus was pushed forward just in time as Marcus came barreling over. Catching himself, he swung the sword at a weird angle as he cut down another knife that came towards his chest. Three more flew towards him; his hand quickly moved in a zigzag motion, cutting the other three onto the floor.
“Nice~ You got better.” Marcus glanced over at Alexus, pleased.
Alexus felt a bit of himself glow in pride by his comment, especially because he wasn’t the type to say such things. “Thanks.”
“Pay attention; there is possibly going to be more. These bastards of a demon-like to play to scare us, and we can’t let these simple tricks frighten us away.” Marcus growled, looking around his shoulder for any more possible floating knives.
“How do you do it?” Alexus asked.
“Do what?” Marcus stopped to turn towards him, unsure what he was asking about.
“Stay level-headed and calm? Aren’t you afraid of these demons?” Because Alexus sure was, it wasn’t simple to push aside the screaming adrenaline rush and his instincts telling him to get out of here as fast as possible.
“What are you talking about? I get afraid too, you know.”
Alexus was shocked when he heard him say that. He thought he would’ve started with an arrogant tone and said that he wasn’t and that was the way he just was. Not something like this.
“Of course.” Marcus snorted. “Fear is your best friend or your worst enemy. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to push yourself to the limit, and without it, you’d become too lax and forget what danger feels like. Becoming too used to the situation is not always to your benefit; having a bit of fear helps you survive.”
Alexus thought over what he had said as they moved through the kitchen with our weapons drawn.
“Plus, demons aren’t humans. They do things that don’t make sense. It’s the unknown that we fear. It becomes less scary once we bring that demon out into the light.”
“For example.” Marcus slammed his hand against the wall, and a loud squeal could be heard as an invisible creature appeared out of thin air. It was an ugly-looking, deformed frog with giant boils coming out of its back and eyes. “If you pay attention to your surroundings, you can find the clues to what you are looking for. This bugger likes to climb up high walls and scare the daylights out of anybody using its telekinetic power. Their body would slightly distort, giving you a chance to find them.”
Alexus stared wide-eyed, staring at the frog demon in shock. The thought of Marcus finding it in this dark room was impressive. It was this sort of thing that showed he was seriously a pro.
“Like I said, pay attention to everything. Especially when you’re in your fearful state, your adrenaline will help you pick up a lot of this information, allowing you to process more than you normally can.”
Alexus nodded and followed behind him as he watched how Marcus took care of the other demons that they found.