By: Catherine Olaso
Since the beginning of time angels warred with the demons that plagued mankind. Eventually outnumbered, the angels began to succumb, but the Creator planned for reinforcements. Light Keepers. Mortals predestined to carry the light of angels and protect their brethren. For those who bore the mark…we were the turning of the tide.
The gold, six pointed star etched into my right palm tingled, pulling me from a groggy sleep, its raised edges glowing and three dimensional.
First an irritating itch, the tingling fast escalated into a painful sting. Only when the familiar burn radiated through my palm did I snap fully awake.
A demon was in my house.
“Crap!” I spat, untangling my legs from my flowered sheets in a frenzy to roll out of bed.
The star vibrated harder, shooting static energy up my arm the closer I got to the source.
“Mom?” I burst into the kitchen, my eyes settling on Mom’s blue bathrobe as I skidded to a halt beside the table.
Startled, Mom met me with a smile. “Hello, honey. Shouldn’t you be getting dressed for school? You have that biology test today.”
“Who’s this?” I ignored her, staring at the woman seated at the end of the table. Mom sipped her tea, her voice untroubled. “This is Tanya. She’s selling Avon.”
I took in the clutter of cosmetics, nail polishes and lotions spread in front of me. My eyes narrowed, as did Tanya’s. She was no more an Avon lady than I was the Queen of England. She was a Slaver Demon – an old one from the strength of the pulse zinging through my right hand. Tanya’s glare told me she’d also made the connection. She knew exactly who I was too. The only innocent was Mom.
“Mom.” I swallowed, concentrating on keeping my voice even. “You don’t need any of this stuff. You’re gorgeous.”
“It’s sweet of you to say that.” Mom laughed, her blue eyes looking doubtful. “But the crows feet in the mirror don’t lie.” She picked up a frosted perfume bottle and held it to her nose.
“Put that down!” I snatched the tiny green bottle and returned it to the table.
Slaver Demons used their saliva to paralyze their victims before sucking out their souls. Ten to one that wasn’t perfume Mom was about to douse herself in.
That’s what demons do – devour human souls, leaving only the mindless shell of a mortal body behind. The psychiatric hospitals and mental institutions were full of them. Humans who weren’t crazy at all – just soulless.
Centuries before, demons preyed mostly on the weak. The young, elderly or sick. But more and more the boundaries were beginning to blur. No one was safe.
“Julia, what’s gotten into you?” A stern line of disapproval creased Mom’s brow. Her expression abruptly changed when a fine vaporous mist leaked from the pink bottle beside her. A sickly sweet aroma, like jasmine and maple syrup, infused the air.
Tanya’s eyes shifted to mine, flashing neon green for an infinitesimal second. Too fast for Mom to notice, but not me.
“Don’t breathe!” I lunged for the bottle. Mom coughed violently. She tried to stand, her legs buckled, and she fell to the floor with a heavy thud. The paralysis was settling in.
“Get away from me, Light Keeper!” The Slaver Demon hissed in a raspy voice. She jumped on top of the kitchen counter, knocking over the toaster and my favorite mug. Vulnerable, her human facade began rapidly disintegrating. Short brown hair and a pixie face transformed into a purple blotch with silver scales and electric green eyes.
I glanced at Mom. She was unconscious, her limp body convulsing from the poison in her lungs.
Silver claws swiped out at me, raking the air as I jumped back. I twisted and grabbed the dagger I’d tucked into my pajama bottoms before rushing down the stairs.
“Death before I yield!” The demon slurred, hot, sticky saliva oozing from her jagged mouth. She sprang from the counter, giving me an open shot.
With a quick curl of my wrist, I released the hilt of the dagger, hearing it sing before sinking deep into the heart of the Slaver Demon. The demon dropped to its knees, black mucus gushing from its mouth and nose along with a whooshing sound, like air released from an inflated balloon.
I dove for Mom, shielding her with my body as a loud pop reverberated in my ears. The demon exploded into thick black dust, coating everything in the kitchen – including me.
“It’s going to be okay, Mom.” I dragged her to the couch and knelt beside her. “Stay with me.” I frowned at her shallow breathing. There wasn’t much time.
I pressed my open palm to Mom’s forehead, allowing the white light emanating from the star to seep into her. “C,mon,” I said, watching her skin take on a translucent sheen, pale and shimmering, as soft as a moonbeam.
The Celestial light I’d been entrusted with could only reverse the effects of physical injury inflicted by a demon – I couldn’t restore souls. My powers were limited, but today, they were enough.
Mom moaned. I withdrew my hand, impatient to see her awake. Slowly, her eyelids fluttered open.
“You’re going to be fine,” I told her. “Just give it a minute.”
“You fainted.” I smiled, hiding tears. “Tanya’s perfume was a little too much for you.” My voice turned serious as I soothed her brow. “Mom… I really wish you’d be more careful about inviting strangers in.
Mom gave a weak nod. “You’re right, Julia. Did you say goodbye to Tanya for me?”
“Yes,” I answered, grinning “…in more ways than one.”