FREE SHORT STORY to introduce you to the Angelborn Series- When Demons Call
Another story in our series of free short stories is When Demons Call by JK Allen. She is the author of the Angelborn series and this prequel introduces the story behind why Aiden joined the Alliance as its only human. Angelborn and Heavenfire are now available at https://threefuriespress.com/collections/all/ebook#MainContent along with our other tales. So here is When Demons Call (ebook link at the end).
Aiden turned the page silently in the halo of his flashlight. It was late and he’d be in big trouble if his parents knew he was still awake. But he had to know what happened next. Things were just getting exciting and soon they’d figure out who the baddie was. All he needed was one more chapter.
The house was peaceful. Everyone asleep except him. He loved the freedom he felt in these quiet moments. Where it was just him with his thoughts. He could imagine himself as anything. A great warrior or a magician. He loved the twins, his little sisters, but they were always vying for his time and attention. He was never alone except at bed time, and he relished this time. He grabbed the juice box off the stand next to his bed and took a sip, turning another page.
He paused, juice mid-air. Had he heard a noise? His heart beat faster and he swallowed hard. He put the juice down and dropped his book, ears straining. His parents were all the way down at the end of the hallway. He knew he should wake them, but that meant walking past the stairs. If someone was down there, they would definitely see him.
A cold sweat broke out on his neck. There was another noise, closer this time. Then he heard it. Maniacal laughter.
“Kill them all.” The voice was low and cold. Aiden shivered.
Squeals answered the dark voice, some kind of animal tearing its way up the stairs. Aiden sat bolt upright, his heart pounding in his ears. Down the hall, a door crashed open.
“What on Earth?” his dad cried out. His mother yelped, then screamed. A loud clatter travelled down the hall. It sounded like a fight. Both of them screamed together. Aiden was frozen in bed. Helpless.
He heard claws scrambling across the floor, then the door next to his room was flung open. The girls. They shrieked and called for help. Aiden could only imagine what they were seeing, what could scrape across the floor like that. The footfalls were heavy, the claws long and clacking hard, tearing into the floor with each step. The girls’ cries rose higher and higher. Aiden clawed at his ears, desperate for the sounds to stop. Their voices held so much pain and fear. He couldn’t take it. He pulled the sheet up over his head, rocking back and forth without noticing.
A loud thump filled the room and the screams all stopped. He could smell his sweat trapped under the sheet. Everything was silent. Awful, agonizing silence with only his breath to keep him company. Were they all dead? That was the only thing that silence could mean. They were gone. He had done nothing to help them.
The tears came then. He stifled a sob, praying desperately they wouldn’t hear him. For surely he was next. He thought about hiding, but he couldn’t move. All he could do was sit there and wait for death. He squeezed his eyes shut tight, the tears streaming down his face. There were the claws dragging on the floor in the girls’ room. Turning, whatever it was it was turning. Soon it would be in the hall, then at the door, then …. He couldn’t finish the thought. Hot tears slipped out and he gripped the sheet in his hands until his knuckles turned white. He couldn’t breathe. He yanked the sheet off his head, taking a big gulp of air. It was time now. Time to die.
Then the silence shattered. The front door burst open and the sound of boots pounded through the house and up the stairs. Inhuman shrieks filled the air and then faded. His doorknob turned and Aiden held his breath. He wasn’t ready.
The door opened. An Asian man stood in the frame, haloed by the light from the hall.
“You are safe now, Aiden.” His voice was so full of confidence, Aiden almost believed him. But then he looked down and saw the monster at his feet. Three inch long black claws and sharp fanged teeth protruded from a creature that resembled a grotesque oversized weasel. This must have been the monster that he heard. It’s claws that ran into his sisters’ room and made those terrible sounds. But it was dead now at this man’s feet. Had the man killed it? Did he kill it in time?
“Did you save them?” Aiden’s voice was small and high pitched. “I couldn’t move. I couldn’t help them.”
“I’m sorry, Aiden. It is not your fault. It is not your fault.” He walked towards Aiden slowly, hands up where he could see them. He sat at the foot of the bed. “My name is Jackson.” He held out his hand.
Aiden took it clumsily, most adults didn’t shake hands with kids. “I’m Aiden.”
“Yes, I know. I am going to take you somewhere safe now. Is that alright?”
Aiden couldn’t think. He wasn’t supposed to go with strangers. But this man had known his name and had killed the monster. “My dad says I’m not supposed to go with strangers,” he managed to get out. He watched his hands, still clutching the clammy sheet. Tears fell at the thought of his father.
“You are right, but I’m not a stranger. I knew your mom. That’s how I knew your name was Aiden. You see, I am part of an organization that helps people.”
“You mean when the monsters come?”
“Precisely. We stop the monsters when they are hurting people. Now I just want to get you somewhere safe in case more monsters come.”
Aiden’s eyes went wide and he started trembling. Were more of those things on the way? He shuddered at the thought.
“You are safe with me, Aiden,” Jackson reassured him, placing a soothing hand on his arm. “But it is best if we leave right now. Is that okay?”
“I still can’t move,” Aiden said through tears.
“It is okay. I will carry you. You don’t have to move.”
Jackson gently pulled the sheet from Aiden’s grip and scooped him up into his arms. Aiden breathed in his scent and it calmed him, just like it did being in his dad’s arms. His hands relaxed and he took in a few shaky breaths.
“Just keep breathing, Aiden,” Jackson said, rubbing his back. Aiden was still crying. He tried to stop, but the tears kept coming. “It is okay.”
Jackson buckled him into a car outside the house. Aiden watched as his house got smaller in the back window. He wondered if he would ever see it again. He cried harder at the thought. He’d never see his family again. They were gone forever and it was all his fault. If only he had woken Dad up when he heard the noise. They were all dead because of him. He was the one that should have died, not them. What was he going to do now?
They pulled up to a huge mansion. He’d never seen a house this big before.
“Where are we?”
“Alliance House. Shall we go inside?”
Aiden nodded, but didn’t move. Jackson came round to his side and opened the door. He even leaned in to unbuckle him. Then, after a slight pause, he lifted Aiden out of the car and into his arms. Aiden linked his arms behind Jackson’s neck.
“How old are you, Aiden?”
“You are getting big.”
Jackson shook his head. “There is nothing for you to be sorry about.”
“I could have woke my dad up. I heard a noise.” Aiden sniffed as he felt more tears coming as they walked into the house.
Jackson paused in the foyer. “If you had, you might not be alive. Have you thought of that? You did what you could to stay alive.”
“My dad could have fought the monster.”
He pushed his glasses up his nose and looked hard at Aiden. “There was more than one, Aiden. They are not easy to fight.”
Aiden looked down. “I could have done something. But I didn’t. I was scared.”
“Everyone gets scared. It is nothing to feel ashamed of. Do you like reading?”
Aiden nodded, wiping away tears.
“Look at this room then.”
Jackson opened a heavy wooden door to a huge library. The walls were completely filled with books except for where a large fireplace stood. Extra bookshelves filled the space in the room. It would take decades to finish reading all these books.
“Wow, that’s a lot of books.” Aiden couldn’t hide his astonishment.
“Would you like to pick one out to read?” Jackson asked. When Aiden nodded, he walked to the back wall which held books for younger readers and set him down. “Pick any book you would like.”
Aiden looked around for a long while before selecting a book with pirates on the cover. He walked up to Jackson, holding it out to him.
“Ah, one for adventure I see.” Jackson smiled at him, and Aiden shyly returned it. “Let us go somewhere cozier, shall we?”
Jackson took Aiden by the hand and led him out of the room. His mind was whirling like a tornado. He had no idea what he was meant to do or feel other than to follow this stranger around an even stranger house on the strangest, most horrific night of his life.
They climbed some stairs then turned down a hall until they reached a blue bedroom. Jackson walked him inside the room, closing the door. There was a bed, desk, and dresser in the simple room. Jackson pulled back the covers on the bed, then placed Aiden in bed, tucking him in. “You relax and I will read the book to you.”
He sat down at the chair in front of the desk and began. It had been years since Aiden had been read to like that. Aiden soaked in the words. The sound of Jackson’s voice filling his head, quieting his racing mind. Aiden closed his eyes, tonight was a night for darkness, after all. A night when you’ve lost everything. His breathing slowed. The words were a steady stream and drop by drop, the story poured into him until he was so heavy with words that he slept.
When Aiden woke late the next morning, he had a moment of calm. A moment where he felt more at peace than he ever had. The last wisps of his dream were floating out of his head as he sat up. But then he stopped, staring hard at the unfamiliar room.
It was stark, containing nothing that marked it as someone’s room. And it most certainly wasn’t Aiden’s room. Then like a vise on his chest, the night before came flooding back into his memory. The harsh voice, the monsters, the screams of his family, then the silence and Jackson. His family was gone. Just like that he was alone in the world. Everything had changed, and he struggled to catch his breath. Grief descended upon him, a hungry vulture set on cleaning the bones of his soul clean. His grief opened up like a vast expanse, until it was bigger than his little body could contain. Tears seeped from his eyes, and a strangled cry caught in his throat. What would happen to him now?
His palms grew clammy as he clutched at the sheet. Sweat formed on his brow. Who would want him? This boy who had sat by silent as his family was killed. This boy too afraid to save the ones he supposedly loved more than life. He hung his head in shame, tears dripping from the tip of his nose. He was worse than useless. And now he was alone.
But this couldn’t have been the first time this had happened. Jackson said he worked for people who fought the monsters, who protected people from them. A hope flared up like a rocket in Aiden, a hope that he could help others. Stop the tragedy that had happened to him from destroying another family. That he could learn to fight these monsters, to kill them, to keep others safe. He seized upon the idea with the ferocity of a passionate ten-year-old. This is what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. This was how he would atone. This would make his loss mean more than just death.
He wiped his tears away with an impatient arm and got out of bed. He would find Jackson, and he would start his new life saving others now.
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Enjoy and see you next time!