“What?” Alexus didn’t like the sound of how serious Crystal was; her face paled as her hand was quickly getting towards her gun. But nevertheless, his instinct told him that something serious had happened, and they didn’t have a moment to lose.
“This is not good.” Crystal replied again; she quickly ran over towards the window, peeking out the boarded-up window as best as she could. She had to look around and swivel her head at a weird angle to get a good look outside, but when she did, she gasped. “Not good. Not good. Not good.”
The others started to get up, coming towards her, wondering what was happening.
“Everyone get down, now!” She shouted, dropping to the very floor.
All of them fell to the floor, except Rye, who was confused. Jesse had to go to him and yank him on the hand, causing him to stumble and drop down.
Boom! The sound of glass breaking could be heard, followed by a splintering sound of wood could be heard. Then, suddenly, they heard the impact, and finally, the ground shook heavily.
“Kyyyyyyaaah!” Maze screamed at the top of her lungs while being covered by Kim’s body.
“Shit!” David cursed, covering his head.
Alexus was on the ground, covering his head from danger. Fear and adrenaline laced his soul. He wondered what was going outside to cause such a loud bang.
“We need to get out of here now!” Crystal shouted. “The talisman is out of power! It won’t last another hit!”
“Are you serious?!” Alexus was shocked to hear that the talisman that Timothy had put up would go out so quickly.
“Yes! The stupid idiot didn’t know he put a damn timer on it, meaning that it would eventually run out of juice. He forgot to recycle and draw in the energy around the environment!”
Alexus cursed, knowing full well what Crystal was talking about. Timothy was good at creating complicated talismans, but there were times when he forgot the simple things. “How long will it stay up?!”
“One minute before the whole thing comes down. We gotta get out of here now!”
“What are you talking about?! We’re protected!” David was gazing at Crystal, completely confused. “It’s been up for over a year! So it wouldn’t go down, right?”
“No, we don’t have time.” Crystal got to her feet, “We need to get to the next safe house, or we’re going to be dead. Is there a way out of here?”
Alexus got up and headed straight towards the entrance that they came in from.
“Alexus! Not that way!”
He snapped around, confused. “Why?”
“Because demons are coming from that direction!”
“Are you serious?! Is there any way out of here then?” Alexus looked toward David, hoping that he might know the answer to the question they were looking for. Unfortunately, they were running out of time, and one to two minutes wasn’t enough time to escape unharmed.
“Come on. Are you sure? Like I said, this place has been protected.” David stated nervously. He was very worried about what Crystal had said.
“There is no time to dilly dally! Another one is incoming before it completely breaks!” Crystal was panicking, her gun out in front of her, ready to use.
Alexus’ hand flashed towards his gun, knowing that they fought on their hand.
“Come on! This way!” Jesse shouted; she was the only one who had moved in the direction of the back. She had a podium pushed backward with a trap door opened wide for them to enter.
The church groaned. The shattering sound of the barrier echoed loudly throughout the city, completely snuffing out what little power the talisman had left to protect this place. They all could feel the dreary power of dark energy creeping into the church. It was as if it was alive, wanting to take over every inch of the room, making them nervous.
“Move!” Alexus shouted, turning back towards the group.
Everyone was momentarily frozen stiff; some even dropped to the ground, covering their heads.
Suddenly, a horrifying sweat-breaking roar resounded outwards inside the city walls. They all knew what that sound was. It was a demon. The kids bolted into the trap door first in a hurry, followed by Crystal, Maze, and Kim.
Alexus stays behind, watching our surroundings for any possible attack. David scooped up Jesse in a hurry, taking her with him.
The ground trembled, making Alexus glance down and towards the bolted front doors. He could see it rattling stronger and stronger, telling him whatever was heading straight towards this building was heavy and possibly big. It wasn’t just one tremor, but multiple, and by the rate the ground was trembling, he knew they would be here any second.
“Go! Go! Go!” Alexus shouted, half jumping into the trap door. Reaching over, he grabbed the door quickly to pull it on top of him, and just when he was about to close the door, the front door was smashed open.
He gasped, staring at the monster before. It was a giant demonic-looking rhinoceros. Three jagged horns erupted on its nose and trailed up to its forehead. Large spikes decorated its back, giving it an ominous feel; its feet were more cloven-hoofed with scales running up to its tights. On its tail, a snakehead moved side-to-side, hissing every second that it got.
Three pairs of eyes rolled around, going off in different directions until all six of them stared straight at him. He was found.
Alexus cursed, slamming the door behind him as his feet slipped. His foot wildly dangled in midair as he tried to get on the metal stairs. Catching himself just in time, his hand banged on the metal rail.
“What’s wrong?!” David asked; he was making his way down and jumped off. “What did you see?”
“A rhino demon, that’s what!” Alexus climbed down as fast as possible. Dust and dirt fell from overhead as the trap door trembled. When he glanced around, it was pitch black except for the flashlight on by each one of them. Old wooden beams held up the tunnel as the stale air slammed into him, causing him to cough.
“You serious?!” David asked, appalled by what he had heard as he slammed his fist into the wall. “Why couldn’t it be something else?”
“You know something about it?” Alexus’ Dragon Scale glowed, brightening up the darkness inside the tunnel. The others were waiting for him as they started to leave towards the exit one by one. He followed after David and Jesse as they started to head after Crystal, who was leading the way out.
“Do I?” David sighed, holding onto Jesse’s hand. “That son of a bitch isn’t a simple one to kill, especially with its nasty pair of eyesights from the snakehead on its tail; I have seen many Ouroboros get trampled by its big body.”
Alexus wouldn’t be surprised if they did get trampled; its heavy body and twisted horns could pierce any man through.
“But that’s not the worse part.” David shuddered. “It’s the handlers that you got to be worried about.”
Alexus stopped for a moment, staring at him strangely at what he had said. “What exactly do you mean?”
“The handlers are bad news. The rhino demon is just a dog to sniff us out. So many people had died from that thing, but it doesn’t compare to the handler….” David’s eyes seemed to gloss over for a moment, he thought he saw fear etched in his face, but he couldn’t quite tell. It was gone as quickly as it was there as Jesse squeezed his hands, catching his attention back again.
“We should go.” Jesse softly spoke, looking over her shoulders and up towards the ceiling. It shook and trembled; for a moment, it went silent.
Even Alexus followed Jesse’s gaze and stared for a moment. It was too quiet, putting all of them on edge. It wasn’t normal for there to be no movement, especially something so heavy like the Rhino demon footsteps. There weren’t many things that could cause the whole ground to shudder so violently that he knew of, and the Rhino demon was one of them.
“I don’t like this,” David whispered, watching the ceiling for any heavy movements. Then, he went back to walking quickly toward the others.
They continued to walk through the winding tunnel, eventually stopping in front of a metal door. It had been there for at least two centuries, and it was easy to tell. As Crystal began to pry open the door, it let out a high-pitched shriek that reverberated throughout the hallway.
Crystal had to shake it and twist the doorknob to even crack it open. Then, when she finally got it open, she was flung backward as one of the hinges broke off.
“What in the-!” Crystal swore under her breath as she stared at her hand. The metal doorknob came along with her as she glanced back up at the entrance.
Alexus came up from behind David when he saw Crystal get thrown backward from the broken knob. Snapping his attention towards the open door, he smelled a thick lacing of cleaning supplies, making him cough a couple of times. It completely caught me off guard, causing me to wonder why there was such a heavy smell.
“Cleaning supplies?” Alexus asked, confused. Looked towards David, then at the other guys wondering if they knew the answer.
“I found this passageway five months ago.” Jesse stated proudly; she had her chest stuck out
with pride.”I stumbled upon it while looking for my cat friend.”
“Cat friend?” I tilted my head, a bit confused.
“Yea,” She shook her head. “Her.” She pointed towards the white cat that somehow appeared out of the dark from the doorway they were going through.
“Daisy?” Alexus was shocked to see her. The whole time, he wondered where she went, and to find her here of all places made him wonder if she knew they were going to come here.
“Meow?” She replied, yawning as she sat down. Then, lifting her paws, she started to groom herself.
“Daisy?” Kim glanced at him funny. “She’s your cat?”
“Yes,” Alexus replied. Daisy turned towards him and Kim when she heard her name being called. “She’s my lost companion.” Lost wasn’t the right word now that he thought about it; she had the knack of disappearing and reappearing wherever she liked, and the worse part of it all was he didn’t know where she went.
“I wouldn’t completely say she’s lost.” He chuckled, staring at Daisy as if she was an interesting specimen. “She’s been our neighborhood cat, coming in and out whenever she wants.”
“Neighborhood cat?” She was more than a neighborhood cat, but Alexus didn’t tell him that. He wasn’t sure how he would take it if he told him that she was his contracted partner. It sounded more logical, saying she was his pet, but he couldn’t know that. Daisy wasn’t a pet but a companion.
Daisy never acted like a pet around him, well, sometimes she did act like the average house cat, but she was too intelligent to be considered one. He believed that she understood every single word that he spoke.
“Yes, I saw her running around with the other feral cats outside during the day. Unfortunately, though, they’re not as friendly as her.”
“Yep,” Jesse walked over, squatted down, and started to pet Daisy. “She’s been my best friend since then.” Then, picking her up, Jesse gently rubbed Daisy between the ears and smiled. “What’s cool about her is that she’s really smart.”
“Oh really?” Alexus glanced toward Daisy.
Daisy meowed as if it was the most obvious answer and purred.
“Not only that, I saw her fiercely chasing after demons!” Jesse cackled with laughter as she smiled widely right after. “You should’ve seen her chase after that bull demon! She had chomped down on its rump and wouldn’t let go!”
The others started to chuckle, breaking the tense mood in the air. Then, finally, they all started to relax, making us more at ease.
“She’s been with us for so long, I thought her name was Gems. She always seems to be carrying some kind of stones and crystals in her mouth every time I see her.”
“Gems and stones?”
“Yea, you didn’t know?”
“No…..” This was the first time hearing about Daisy carrying gems in her mouth. Alexus looked toward her, searching for an answer. Daisy opened up her eyes and didn’t reply. He felt that she was saying, ‘You should already know this, Alex. I’m your contracted spirit!’ Which was a bit of a strange thought for him to have. He couldn’t read the animal’s mind, but he was sure she said that.
“She likes to find shiny things and ferry them away somewhere. I tried following her, but I don’t know where she hides them.”
“I see…” Learning something new about his cat was surprising; Alexus thought he knew her well, but it seemed that this past year had changed her a bit.
Daisy meowed one more time and turned around, heading back into the dark entrance.
They watched her leave, making them realize that it was okay to enter through. It was a gut feeling that Alexus didn’t know how exactly to explain. But, he trusted Daisy, especially because she never let him down.
Taking a step forward, Alexus went in first.
“Wait?!” Kim called out first, surprised to see him walk through without looking first. “There could be demons in there!”
Alexus held up his hand and shook his head. “It’s fine. Daisy knows what she’s doing. She’s telling us to go in.”
“Wait,” Kim asked in disbelief. “You’re going to trust a cat?”
“Yes, though only specifically that cat. She has never been wrong.” Alexus replied. “Like I said, she’s more than just a cat. She’s my partner.”
“Whatever you say, man.” Kim was shaking his head, not entirely believing in Alexus.
Alexus didn’t attempt to clarify that there was something more to Daisy. There was no point without seeing it for himself.
“I believe you.” Jesse came over next, walking beside Alexus. “I always found her unusual and very intelligent for a cat.”
“Thanks,” Alexus replied, looking around to see what they stumbled upon. What welcomed them were giant boiler-like structures that were lined up in rows. There were even conveyor belts that had boxes still in place.
As Alexus walked over, he saw a label that said Lemon Cleaning Supplies. He was right in thinking he smelled cleaning supplies. It was distinct that it was hard not to notice. It was overpowering that a couple of times, his eyes were watering.
“This place is a packaging store, but for some reason, someone dumped all those pine sols inside those giant containers.” Jesse pointed out. “I went up to check what it was, but all I found was water.”
It wasn’t easy to see everything inside the dark factory, the flashlight that Jesse and the others had only could show so much. A couple of times, the others tripped over boxes or stumbled into the large boiler-like things. There was still a bit of light here and there in certain spots, telling them that the generator was still working, but it wasn’t enough to allow them to see beyond that.
“Where exactly are we?” Alexus asked because he didn’t remember there ever being a factory around here.
“I’m not quite sure.” David replied, “I haven’t lived here long enough to memorize the area. Also, with the street signs blasted off by Gluttony and the other demons, it’s hard to tell what’s what. Most of us don’t live in Chicago; we were just visiting.”
“Really?” What was the chance of that? Alexus couldn’t help but think that the world was pulling a couple of pranks on them. Sighing, he tried his best to take out the negative thoughts in his head and pushed forward.
“Yea, most of us live in the suburbs.”
“Then do you guys know any other safe zones around here?”
David thought it over, then he shook his head. “None. We rarely left this building. It wasn’t safe.”
“Then were you going to stay here forever?” Alexus asked, understanding their predicament.
“We made some city runs for food, a store nearby, so we weren’t too worried about that, but this whole city is infested with Demons, especially during the night.” David frowned; the others nodded in agreement, reinforcing his words. “Walking out during the day isn’t always safe either. They were a couple of times when we ran into demons during daylight, and it scared the shit out of us.”
“So, what if you ran out of food?” Alexus knew that food wouldn’t last forever, plus they would be trapped in this one spot forever if they didn’t leave.
“Well….” David shifted in his feet uncomfortably. “We didn’t think that far ahead.”
“At least you guys are here, so we don’t have to worry much about it.” David grinned at Alexus, relieved that they were here. He wasn’t sure how to take that feeling of safety, but all it did was put more pressure on his shoulder. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to take on such a big responsibility.
Crystal came up next to Alexus, scanning for any possibilities of demons. The others trailed behind them, knowing that they couldn’t do much to the demons and needed their protection.
“By the way, Crystal,” Alexus called out towards her while flashing the right. She slightly turned towards him, looking over her shoulder while they walked through the dark factory.
“I was wondering, why didn’t the church repel the demons anyways? I thought that it always had the power too.”
“What are you talking about?” She looked at Alexus as if he was saying something foreign. “An abandoned church without a priest and believers will eventually lose its holy power. It becomes like every other piece of land out there.”
“Wait?” Alexus was shocked to hear something like that, especially because it was something that he had never heard before. “This whole time, I thought that all churches stay holy.”
“No. If it did, then the barrier wouldn’t be needed in the first place. Didn’t you ever wonder why there are churches out there filled with demons?”
“Um… now that I think about it. Some churches had a strange dark feel to them. At first, I thought it was natural for those few and didn’t think much of it.”
“Yes, usually those places are tainted and abandoned. It’s the people who make it like that. Plus, everything doesn’t last forever. Those are special places, I don’t know how to explain it, but there is just a constant source of divine energy there. ” She shrugged her shoulders.”
They continued forward, carefully stepping through, trying not to cause too much disturbance. Daisy was appearing and disappearing, showing them the way out. He was glad that she was still with them instead of running off to do whatever she did best.
Climbing up a couple of stairs, they walked across the catwalk and saw the exit leading out. Alexus could tell that this wasn’t the main entrance but a side door. Everyone was silent, knowing full well that they would go outside. The chance of meeting a demon was high, and the thought of them being the ones to draw the demons made them silent. They all knew the risk of leaving out this door. There was no going back to the church, especially when the Rhino Demon was there.
Crystal and Alexus walked over. He pulled out his sword instead of his gun. While Crystal took out her dagger from her side. We both knew that staying quiet was imperative in getting out of this place instead of drawing every demon in the vicinity. They could hold off only so many, meaning that everyone could die. Having a nonfighter to protect was more difficult and stressful than he thought.
Sticking with the Ouroboros, who knew how to fight, made fighting a lot easier. He was glad that he had Crystal to help him out with this heavy burden to share.
Crystal reached over, gently pushing the door from the side of the wall. She then peeked out the door, scanning around. Then, with a short, curt nod, she pushed the door completely open and slipped out. He followed right after her as the other trailed from behind.
The moment they stepped out, it was deathly silent. There wasn’t a single sound of insects, only the high-pitched sound of the wind blowing through the buildings, giving it a creepy feeling.
All of them were tense, looking around for any disturbance. Daisy was trailing close by next to them as she slinked through the dark. She was like a ghost for a white cat, disappearing and reappearing whenever she felt like it.
Alexus noticed that they were in the back alleyway, in between a tight building space. Trash bins were still filled to the brim with broken pipes, metals, and even dirty paper littered everywhere on the ground.
“Notice anything?” Crystal whispered as they walked through.
“None,” Alexus replied. “It’s too quiet. I don’t like it.”
“So, where exactly are we going?” Kim asked quietly from behind. “I feel like we should’ve stayed behind until morning.”
“No. The demon would’ve found us.” David quickly replied. “Especially if it’s a Rhino Demon.”
“Damn.” Kim furrowed while Maze held onto his arm even harder. They knew what the Rhino Demon was and often saw it to know what it could do. The thought of it chasing them horrified them.
“Do you have any ideas about where to go, Alexus?” David asked, hoping that Alexus would have the answer.
“We’re going south and heading towards the new Seventh Sanctum.”