Demon Bones

Once upon a time, there was a world divided by a wall, two hush-hush secret organisations, and a bracelet carved from demon bones.

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“What’s fun without a little pain?” says Nadia, her laughter mixing with the stench of sweat and alcohol. She tips her head back, hitting the bottle with the flat of her palm so the last few drops of beer drip out. “The hangover’s going to hurt like hell in the morning, sure. But, you know…” She pauses, her smile wicked. “It’s not the morning yet.”

Nadia winks at me, fluttering her eyelashes. They’re painted this horrible, garish shade of neon blue- except that it doesn’t look garish, not on her. Everything looks good on Nadia. On her, the colour looks like everything I love- the smell of the ground after it rains, the butterflies that used to flock outside my window in the summer.

And I know right here, right now, that I want to spend every future summer with Nadia.

Unfortunately, she’s got other plans.

Her arm snakes out to wrap around Jessop’s waist, and he pulls her closer to him, her body pressed against his. They start dancing – if you can call it dancing, that is – this weird kind of slinking that never fails to turn attention to them. Not because it’s weird, even though to me, it definitely is. It pulls attention because it’s hot, and they’re both gorgeous, and it looks like a dance from another, better time.

They know about all the attention they’re getting, and they bask in it. Every time the three of us go to clubs, it’s the same deal. Nadia and Jessop doing their slinking thing in the middle of the dance floor. Me, standing awkward on the side lines, more than likely holding someone else’s drink.

Today, I’ve got Jessop’s untouched whisky. Or at least, I think it’s whisky. Hard to tell, under all this harsh strobe lighting. I take a sip (he won’t notice, anyway) and wince at the bitter taste. Gross. I don’t understand how people can down this stuff like it’s fruit juice.

A tall guy with a scary amount of probably artificial muscle taps me on the shoulder. I spin around to face him, half expecting to feel my long braid whipping against my shoulder as I turn. It doesn’t, of course, and I remember- I lopped the whole thing off a couple of days ago, leaving a head of closely cropped black frizz. Short hair’s more convenient, I told myself, but really it was just because Nadia had done the same thing a few months before.

“Hey,” said the artificial–muscle man. “You want a drink?”

I nod at Jessop’s whiskey, clutched in my left hand. “I have one already. See?”

“Aw, come on, let me buy you another. You’ve been holding that for so long now, it’s probably lukewarm.”

“How would you know how long I’ve been holding it for?”

The guy winks. Sleazy move. “I’ve been watching.”

“That better not be as creepy as it sounds,” I drawl, clicking my tongue against my teeth. “Hey, you want to leave now? You’re getting boring.”

He growls a little, like he thinks he’s some sort of rabid dog. “Fine, fine, so you don’t want a drink. How about a dance, then?”

“I don’t dance with people I’ve not been introduced to.”

“Fine,” says the guy, sighing slightly. “What’s your name?”

“Mia.”

 “And I’m David. Now can we dance?”

I smirk. “Wouldn’t Goliath have been a better fit? Look, I’m sorry, but I don’t want to dance with you. That’s code for piss off. As in, go away and don’t come back. Not even time for a long, teary-eyed goodbye.”

His jaw tightening, something flickers in David’s eyes. It’s quick – the untrained eye wouldn’t even notice it – but then again, I’m not untrained. For a second, there, his pupils slit- the iris splitting into two like someone had come along and smashed it with a hammer. His eyes glow a faint orange: the ugly kind, like melting sunsets that have melted just a little too much.

 I catch my breath, looking at him a little more carefully. “Wait,” I say slowly, my gaze darting across to Jessop and Nadia, till slinking on the dance floor. I clutch the whisky more tightly than I mean to, my knuckles turning white.

Stay calm, I remind myself. It’s probably nothing, just a trick of the light.

It better be a trick of the light, because I’m not properly prepared for otherwise. This was meant to be an easy job, nothing to worry about. We weren’t meant to run into any of them.

I take a deep breath, pushing my shoulders back as I look at David again. There. I was right, it was probably nothing. His eyes looked just as dull and uninteresting as the first time I saw them.

“Hey,” he says, leaning forward and catching my arm as if to steady me. “Hey, you okay? You look kind of ill. You want me to take you outside for some fresh air or something?”

Smiling weakly, I’m on the verge of nodding assent when it happens again. It’s unmistakable this time- David’s pupil slitting, his iris tearing in two like orange peel. My own eyes widen- not speaking, I stagger backwards and run, plummeting towards Nadia and Jessop on the dance floor.

Jessop looks up at me, brows raised in all of their soft and bushy-ness. “Mia?” he starts to ask - Mia, my name – and he rests his hand on Nadia’s shoulder, pausing her mid-slink. “What is it? Did you find the-“

Looking behind me wildly, I turn to see David still standing five feet away where I left him. He’s watching me, mouth quirked up in amusement. “No,” I gabble hurriedly, “Jessop, Nadia, listen, it’s worse than Connor told us. Way worse.”

“What do you mean?” asks Nadia, her warm brown skin glowing under the coloured lights. She looks like some kind of avenging angel.

“I mean,” I tell them, turning to look at David, who now has his arms crossed in what I suppose is meant to be a menacing stance. A girl wearing a dress that just skims her thighs is trying to talk to him, but he’s not even acknowledging her. I look back at Jessop and Nadia, words frantic and hurried. “I mean, it’s them. They’re here. I just-“

Cutting off suddenly, against my will, my eyes bulge in my head. “They-“ I gasp, spluttering for breath. “They-“ I sink to the floor, my limbs flopping wildly. Someone near us screams, but the sound feels more muffled than ear shattering. I can’t breathe, I realise. I can’t breathe.

Five feet away from me, David is smirking. He watches, as my own body chokes and asphyxiates me. Just like he said. He’s been watching. This – all this not breathing crap that’s suddenly sprung up on me – this is all him.

I shiver, letting a haze of black override my vision. Something gives me the feeling that David’s been watching all of us for a while. 

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