Series: The Apocalypse, Book 1
Author: J.P. Jackson
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: July 10, 2017
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Pairing: No Romance, Male/Male
Genre: Paranormal Horror, paranormal, horror, demons, apocalypse, gay
Dati Amon wants to be free from his satyr master and he hates his job—hunting human children who display demon balefire. Every hunt has been successful, except one. A thwarted attempt ended up as a promise to spare the child of a white witch, an indiscretion Dati hopes Master never discovers.
But Master has devilish machinations of his own. He needs human-demon hybrids, the Daimonion, to raise the Dark Lord to the earthly realm. If Master succeeds, he will be immortal and far more powerful.
The child who was spared is now a man, and for the first time in three hundred years, Dati has a reason to escape Master’s chains. To do that, Dati makes some unlikely alliances with an untrained soulless witch, a self-destructive shape shifter, and a deceitful clairvoyant. However, deals with demons rarely go as planned, and the cost is always higher than the original bargain.
J.P. Jackson © 2017
All Rights Reserved
Deal with a Demon
Snow crunched beneath my taloned foot as I searched. My breath hung as fog around my face until the winter wind whipped it away. My padded soles were too tough to feel the iciness, but my mind was frozen numb, ignoring the guilt that came with the job. The drudgery of stalking the city streets was tiresome, and the possibility of attaining success depressed me.
I was just north of the city’s downtown, where all the houses had been built during the war, and their age showed. Master had sent me to search there. Somewhere among these wartime houses, behind the cracked walls and beneath the peeling shingles, there was something that belongs to us.
I hunted a lost child: a dark child.
A thick blanket of grey wrapped the night sky as snowflakes landed atop trashcan lids, cars, and untrimmed hedges. The sight before me felt darkly ethereal. Perhaps it was because of my one scarred and injured eye, or maybe it was the snowstorm, but the night was hazy and blurred. Beams of light from the nearest streetlamp illuminated the snowflakes as if they were hundreds of thousands of falling stars.
Make a wish, I thought to myself. A silly human expression.
I wish I didn’t have to do this. I wish I wasn’t so lonely. I wish to be free.
Silly thoughts. Punishable thoughts.
The winter breeze soothed my skin and tousled the dark curls of my hair, which was just a little too long. I stopped on the corner of the street, just out of reach of the lampost’s exposing brightness.
The snowstorm cocooned the neighbourhood, muffling the city under a layer of pristine, untouched innocence. The fresh snow made me feel comforted and safe.
With the street empty, I shook my wings out, sending a flurry to the ground before draping them back over my shoulder. My wings would look like a cloak to any human who might see me, but then it was late at night, and humans didn’t see well in the dark. Besides, I didn’t really want to be seen by anyone.
I was being cocky. Walking around with my wings exposed was technically against the rules, but my heavy clothes prevented me from tucking them away.
There were rules that must be obeyed. First, no human was to know what I was, or that we existed. Second, Master’s orders were never to be questioned. Third, complete assigned tasks on time, and never, ever displease Master. They were his rules, and I was to follow them, for fear of retribution.
But I did not always obey.
I loved to watch humans: their relationships, the “busyness” of their lives, the drive and passion that sparked creativity and ingenuity, but mostly the kindness in them. Despite what some would say, they were inherently gentle in nature. And I confess I was a little jealous of it all.
But tonight, I didn’t watch. Tonight, I hunted.
Walking down the ragged neighbourhood, the houses all began to blur together with the same small structures and stucco-faced veneers. Massive trees lined the boulevard with branches that reached high like outstretched arms as if to welcome the inclement weather.
I stopped at each structure as I passed by, analysing if only for a brief second to see if the beacon shone through the windows. The glow would be a cold colour, white but tinged in purple, a phosphorescent violet that could only be seen by my kin, the D’Alae. It emanated from all children who possessed latent demon blood. The result of a hybrid mating. Children who were still human and yet, in part, demonic.
We call them the Daimonion.
Hours passed by as I examined each house. And then, one abode, just slightly smaller than the rest but without the obvious need of attention, grabbed my interest.
The demon-light presented itself, glowing in slow pulsations of violet-white light from the furthest window from where I stood. Every time I found this light, my body reacted instinctually and involuntary. I hated my other self, the demon within and the dark violence that surrounded it, but hate wasn’t strong enough to stop the fiend from emerging.
Adrenaline pumped through my veins. Closing my eyes, my head dropped as the change began. There was nothing I could do to stop it. My fangs elongated, my barbed tail stiffened, and my hands morphed from their human shape into the required rakish talons, deadly and sharp, elongated and pointed, with venom beginning to ooze from the base of the nails. Another night, another child ruined by my nocturnal visit.
But you have to do this, Dati. You have to ensure Master is kept happy, I reminded myself, repeating the last sentence like a mantra, trying to justify the gnawing ache in my stomach.
Within seconds, I found myself next to the window where the demon-light beckoned. With a quick push, the old window slid open, and I slipped into the child’s bedroom.
There, beneath a hand-stitched quilt, slept my prey. Such a small boy, with auburn hair surrounded by small stuffed animals. He couldn’t have been more than five years old. Toys littered the room and crystals hung in the window, catching the streetlight and casting prisms all around the room. A small nightlight shone from the corner, its warm yellow glow distorting my shadow across the room into a large ominous silhouette. From the boy, the ebbing radiance glowed fiercely.
I bent over the child and delicately pushed his scruffy hair off of his forehead. Freckles danced across his nose. His breath smelled and tasted of cloying sticky-sweet innocence.
I straightened myself up and stretched out my wings, cramped from the long night’s walk, then held up my clawed demon hand, tensing it. The skin was black, like liquid ink, and the ebony demon flesh flowed up to my elbow where it faded back to pink. Veins of evil persisted up towards the shoulder.
Reaching over, I steadied myself to tear open the skin on the back of the boy’s neck and inject the venom that would unleash the evil hidden within his body. I gently pushed the boy down into the mattress, ensuring there would be no struggle.
Just a hair’s breadth away from making the incision, the cut that would change everything, I stopped. Guilt churned my stomach, making me nauseous, the same way it did for every child before this one.
The bedroom door burst open, and light from the hallway exploded before me. Standing straight and scampering against the wall, I raised a hand to shield my eyes from the blaring light.
A small stout woman with fuzzy slippers and a tatty nightshirt walked into the room and flicked on the boy’s bedroom light, her flat nose and cheeks ruddy with anger. She was furious. How could someone who looked so unassuming appear so fierce, despite the jasmine and vanilla perfume that clung to her clothes?
“Back away from my boy, beast! He is not yours to take.” Her voice was thick with an eastern European accent.
I had broken Master’s most important rule. No human must know what I am. Remorse flooded through me, and my tail went limp as I came to one realization. I would have to kill her.
I lunged forward, faster than her human eyes should have been able to see, but before I was halfway across the room, she raised her hand and, with short, thick, but deft fingers, tossed a piece of paper into the air and spoke.
“Відкрий!” She spoke with specificity and authority. To my ears, it was harsh and unfamiliar. The air around her swirled, causing the flannel night skirt she wore to rustle around her covered feet. Her long hair, plaited, had been disturbed and shanks of dark blonde waved around her head like medusa’s snakes. The piece of paper disintegrated before me, but the symbols and writing from the page hung in the air. With sudden quick movements, the writing encircled me in a spiral.
“Злови!” As she said the foreign word, the hanging writing vibrated with a high-pitched hum. Lines emerged from the tails and stems of the suspended script. Lines weaving and wrapping, growing into long threads.
“Замотай!” With the last word, the letters wound about me. Wrapping me tightly, the strings bound my feet and hands and looped around my torso, lifting me up off of the floor. This woman, in her bunny slippers, wearing threadbare clothes, had me ensnared, and all I could think was how Master was going to be angry with me for getting caught.
I had never met any human who could contain me.
I had no idea what to do.
I was a demon. I would unleash Hell.
NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo
J.P. Jackson works as an IT analyst in health care during the day, where if cornered he’d confess to casting spells to ensure clinicians actually use the electronic medical charting system he configures and implements.
At night however, the writing happens, where demons, witches and shape shifters congregate around the kitchen table and general chaos ensues. The insurance company refuses to accept any more claims of ‘acts of the un-god’, and his husband of almost 20 years has very firmly put his foot down on any further wraith summoning’s in the basement. And apparently imps aren’t house-trainable. Occasionally the odd ghost or member of the Fae community stops in for a glass of wine and stories are exchanged. Although the husband doesn’t know it, the two Chihuahuas are in cahoots with the spell casting.
J.P.’s other hobbies include hybridizing African Violets (thanks to grandma), extensive travelling and believe it or not, knitting.
7/10 The Novel Approach
7/10 Bayou Book Junkie
7/11 My Fiction Nook
7/11 Out Of My Head
7/12 Love Bytes
7/13 Diverse Reader
7/14 Queer Sci Fi
7/14 Happily Ever Chapter
7/14 Shari Sakurai