The Harbinger always went for the freaks. They were its favorite. It wanted ones that would fight back, and ones that wouldn’t be afraid at first; or, even better, ones that believed they could win. Those rare humans with bravado and confidence so great that they actually believed they could defeat it somehow. Those were always the most pleasurable to kill. It loved watching the life fade from their defiant eyes as it slowly ripped them to shreds; watching as the realization that they were in fact powerless dawned on them.
For centuries, this ancient creature had hunted down humans; whether for pleasure, sport, or because it was compelled to by instinct, it thrived on the death of the human race. However, it had long since grown tired of the predictable frightened screams and wails of agony that often accompanied its various campaigns. As such, it had opted to change its prey demographic to the more interesting humans one might find among the masses. After all, Earth now had over seven billion humans infesting its surface; surely some of them would offer a more unique and exciting hunt than the thousands the Harbinger had culled before.
That said, finding less predictable humans among millions of their more boring counterparts was like finding a needle in a haystack. Ever since the Harbinger had changed its modus operandi, it had become frustrated by the slower increase of its kill count. It had no idea which was worse: killing worthless, boring humans in droves, or spending weeks tracking down potentially interesting ones – sometimes only to find out that they just reacted as disappointingly as the rest.
But then, the Harbinger found Adrian Bishop.
At first, Adrian Bishop appeared to be yet another ordinary human with an ordinary life. He was a younger man of average height and build, with pitch black hair and a simple suit under a coat. The only thing about him that attracted the Harbinger’s very selective attention was the fact that this man actually saw it. Normally the Harbinger existed on a plane of existence above that of humans; only when it wanted to reveal itself would they be able to witness its terrifying form. Yet, one morning as the Harbinger was prowling the streets of downtown Ottawa, a man stopped in his tracks and looked directly at it. The Harbinger, confused, looked behind itself, certain that the man had noticed something else and was just looking in its direction. Yet nothing noteworthy lingered there, while the man’s gaze was pointed upward to meet the eyes of the nine-foot-tall monster.
And then, Adrian Bishop did something completely unexpected: not panic, or flee, or even show a hint of fear – he simply smiled. It was a knowing, mischievous kind of smirk. If the hideously malformed face of the Harbinger could have made a surprised expression then, it most certainly would have. As if that wasn’t strange enough, the man then simply looked away, and began walking again as if nothing had happened. The Harbinger stood, looking all around for anything that might have caught the passerby’s eye, but it seemed almost undeniable that the man had been looking directly at it. Needless to say, this warranted investigation.
So, the Harbinger followed Adrian throughout his day. Unlike before, the man no longer paid it any attention, going about his daily business as usual. The Harbinger discovered that he worked at a local convenience store as a manager. From what it could tell, he was quite well-liked by his employees and superiors, and had an almost painfully cheerful demeanor. The day passed by rather uneventfully, and the Harbinger grew bored. By the time Adrian started to head home, it was starting to suspect that the earlier incident had all been some kind of unlikely coincidence, and that Adrian hadn’t seen him after all. Still, the inter-dimensional monstrosity didn’t have anything better to do at the moment, so it decided to at least follow this human back to his house.
As they arrived at the rather small flat, the Harbinger followed Adrian through a short hallway and into the living room. Adrian began taking off his coat while the Harbinger lingered in the hallway, glaring suspiciously at one particular locked door on the far end of the room. It felt something strange coming from that room; something… unnatural, yet familiar.
“You can quit hiding over there, you know,” Adrian’s voice rang out, almost catching the creature off-guard. “I apologize for keeping you waiting, but I’m afraid it was necessary to keep up appearances. Don’t want people thinking—“
Before the human was even able to finish his sentence, the Harbinger was upon him with a long, blade-like claw pressed against his throat and another huge hand clutching his head. Adrian didn’t so much as flinch.
“What is your true name?” the Harbinger demanded, its voice sounding like a whisper and a scream all at once. It seemed impossible to it that this human could see it. In its lifetime, it had come across humans who could sense it using somewhat of a ‘sixth sense’ before, but never one who could actually lay eyes upon it while in the higher plane. Surely this was another dark being in disguise.
“My name?” Adrian queried, the creature’s firm grip not doing anything to deter his vaguely smug attitude. “Adrian. Adrian Bishop, human being extraordinaire.”
Growing frustrated, the Harbinger increased the strength of its grip, causing Adrian to wince. “Ow, ow! Easy there. You don’t want to kill me, my friend.”
“And why would I not?” the Harbinger rasped. “No human should be able to see the beings of the higher plane. You lie.”
“Sorry, but I beg to differ,” Adrian replied. “I am aware that you and your kind possess a keen sense for the supernatural, right? So I ask: is there anything remotely inhuman about my being?”
As much as the Harbinger tried, the human was right; from what it could tell, the man currently held firmly in its clutches was nothing other than human. Were it any other sort of ethereal demon, the Harbinger should have been able to tell right away. “How then?” the Harbinger insisted. “Has your science truly come this far?”
Adrian chuckled, even as the Harbinger’s claw pressed harder against his soft flesh. “No, of course not. I am as clueless as you are when it comes to the origin of my little gift, as it were. I’ve been able to see boogeymen like you since I was a child. In fact, I’m not even the only one who can. Though I assure you, it comes as no surprise to me that you aren’t aware of our existence; perceptive humans like me are quite a rare find, even today, when there are many more than there used to be.”
The Harbinger was still uncertain of this human. However, it couldn’t deny the evidence before it; even now, it was still concealed in a different layer of reality, yet it was conversing with Adrian as if it were on his level. The hideous features of its face contorted into what might have been interpreted as a look of disgust; the very idea of being unintentionally seen by a mere mortal was mortifying. Yet, at the same time, it couldn’t deny that Adrian Bishop appeared to be one of the most interesting humans it had come across in a very long time. Not once during this entire encounter had he even shown a hint of fear, as if he knew he wasn’t going to die. While the Harbinger was extremely tempted to prove him wrong by skewering him now, it instead opted to wait and see what he would do. Part of the thrill was watching them squirm, after all.
The Harbinger released its grip on Adrian, prompting a brief sigh from the man; not of relief, but of exasperation. “About time you came to your senses. You are an easily excitable one, aren’t you Harbinger?” He turned around, actually looking at the monstrosity for the first time since that morning. “And a handsome one, if I may say so.”
“Do not tempt me, human,” the Harbinger growled. “Give me one sufficient reason to keep you alive for even a single second longer.”
“Oh, I’ll give you more than just one,” Adrian said, that knowing smirk returning to his face. “See, I know exactly why you’re here. I understand your way of thinking more than most. You came here to kill me, because you thought I was interesting, didn’t you?”
The Harbinger remained silent.
“You thought I might put up a fight or try to resist. Make the hunt a little more interesting, right? Yes, I can see it in your eyes… err, eye. We’re kindred souls, you and I.”
The Harbinger scoffed, its bones cracking as it held its head up high. “Do not be so impudent as to think you are like me. You are but a mere insect compared to—“
“Yes yes, I know, that isn’t how I meant it,” Adrian interrupted, prompting an irritated growl from the monster before him. “I’m just saying, I’m tired of it too.”
The man turned around, and began walking across the room to the locked door. “You know what I mean. The paranoia that begins to set in when you stalk them. The fear they feel when they realize there’s no escape. The frightened wails and screams when you’re flaying them with your knife – or, I guess, claw in your case. It’s all so overdone!”
Adrian brought out a keychain and unlocked the door, revealing a stairway leading down into darkness. “After a while, you actually want some resistance. You want to stalk people who will have different reactions; ones who aren’t so afraid in the beginning. Why, I’m sure you’re itching to wipe this smug smile off my face right now. And that’s exactly what I was counting on.”
The Harbinger narrowed its bulbous eye at Adrian as he flipped a light switch. “If you come with me, I can give you exactly what you want, Harbinger.” He turned around with a grin halfway deranged and devious plastered on his face.
“A good hunt.”
And with that, he began descending down into the stairway. The Harbinger wasn’t sure what to do. It felt extraordinarily tempted to kill this human, and watch that overconfident demeanor melt away in his final moments. Yet, it was intrigued; more intrigued than it had been in a long, long time. Though he was human in body, Adrian Bishop appeared to be something entirely different in mind: something far closer to the Harbinger itself than any human it had met before.
Ultimately, the choice was obvious; the monster followed after Adrian, and began its descent down the stairs.
“I’m glad you decided to make the right choice, my friend,” Adrian said.
The room at the bottom of the stairs was surprisingly spacious for a basement, with a floor and walls made of stone cold concrete; it was what painted them that was of particular interest. Strange, archaic symbols littered the surface of the room, drawn almost anywhere and everywhere possible in what appeared to be dried blood. The only place where they weren’t drawn was in the very center of the room, where another larger, circular symbol of a similar nature had been carved into the floor.
An assortment of cabinets was set throughout the room, some of which contained books and files, while others were packed full of glass containers, vials, and bottles of substances. A long table was set against the right wall, on which were set a variety of tools ranging from saws and hammers to strange little devices that seemed to be designed for torture. By far the most intriguing part of the room, however, was the two cages at the far end. Each contained a person: a male and a female, sitting in the corners of their respective cages, cowering at the sight of Adrian Bishop.
“Welcome to my humble abode, Harbinger. Feel free to make yourself at home.”
Taking a look around, the Harbinger recognized many of the symbols painted on the walls, though the one carved into the ground was completely unknown even to him. Regardless, he knew what this was. “So, you are one of those humans foolish enough to dabble in the Black Arts. I should have expected no less,” the Harbinger said.
“Well, yes, though I like to think I do a little more than dabble,” Adrian replied. He moved over to a swivel chair in the corner of the room and sat down. “I’m a bit of an aficionado when it comes to what people might refer to as ‘sorcery’. I’ve spent most of my life studying up, and I’ve even developed a few little charms and rituals of my own. It’s not that hard if you know what you’re doing, really.”
Turning the swivel chair around, he kicked the wall lightly, sending him rolling back. “I’m not really a wizard or anything. Rather, I think I’m more akin to a psychic than anything else. The Black Arts is just a really grimdark term to describe the various combinations of actions, words, and symbols which allow the human mind to tap into the power of this place you like to call the ‘higher plane’.” He shrugged. “I can’t claim to know how all of it works; that plane of existence is probably completely incomprehensible to us lowly humans. Frankly I think a lot of the procedures you need to go through to cast curses and spells are ridiculously convoluted and cliché, but hey, what can you do?”
The Harbinger was growing impatient. “What is your point?”
“Well, you were wondering why I can see and hear you, right? It’s just that some humans have much greater latent psychic potential than others,” Adrian explained, his chair coming to a stop as it swerved around to face the Harbinger. “And I happen to be one of them. We’re called Seers – a term I coined, by the way. We have a strong connection to the higher plane, which allows us to be able to perceive its residents, among other things. In fact – not to brag – but out of all the Seers I’ve met, I am probably the most gifted. It allows me to perform incantations and rituals that most could probably never do.”
The Harbinger scoffed, turning its attention to the two cowering humans in cages. They were almost completely naked, wearing only ragged underwear, and the rest of their bodies were covered in bloody bandages. They had both had their hands cupped over their faces, as if doing so would hide them from their captor.
“Are you sure you are not simply what humans refer to as a… ‘psychopath’?” the Harbinger sneered. Adrian chuckled in amusement, following its line of sight to the two captives.
“I don’t know, probably. Though I think I’m a tad more ambitious than the average psychopath, to be honest,” he said. “As for these two, they aren’t here to be killed. They’re more like… my lab rats.”
The Harbinger observed the so-called lab rats for a moment longer. From what it could tell they seemed utterly psychologically destroyed, as they did little more than rock back and forth or mutter while sitting huddled in the corners of their prisons.
“Hmph. I have not seen depravity such as this from your kind in many decades,” the Harbinger said, though for once it was more of a compliment than an insult. Its long, bony finger pointed in the direction of a cabinet filled with narcotics. “I imagine that is what those are for, then.”
“Very perceptive of you!” Adrian chirped, growing more enthusiastic. “At first they were just another couple of toys to be played with and discarded, but I confess, I grew a little too attached to them. The two of them were rather resistant, after all – the woman managed to hold out for a whole week before pleading for it to stop, you know! That is quite rare. And when the man noticed I had started following him, he actually tried to stab me! Honestly, I admired their willpower so much that I couldn’t let them go to waste. So, I decided to try some of my experiments regarding true fear on them. You would be amazed what a combination of hallucinatory drugs, some simple fear-induction incantations, and just a smidgeon of physical torture can—“
“Enough of your talk,” the Harbinger snapped. “I grow bored. Where is this hunt you promised me?”
“Hmm? Oh, right. My apologies, I don’t get a chance to talk about my hobbies very often,” Adrian said, scratching the back of his head nonchalantly.
He pushed his feet against the ground, sending the chair rolling back before colliding with the cage of the woman. Her whole body froze as she briefly glanced up at him, before she curled up into a ball. Adrian crossed his legs, staring intently at the Harbinger.
“Now then, let’s get down to business. My proposition is simple enough: I’m offering to become your supplier. I take it you’ve been having trouble finding humans worthy to hunt, right? Well, worry no more. I know where you can find them; plenty of them.”
Again Adrian turned around and pushed against the bars of the cage, sending the chair rolling toward one of the cabinets. Using a hand to stop himself, he pried open one of the drawers, revealing a laptop.
“Marvelous invention, the internet,” he continued as he booted it up. “It allows you to get in touch with people from around the globe. Not only that, but I think you’ll find that people are much more interesting under the veil of anonymity. Without judgmental old society glaring over their shoulder, they’re free to say whatever they want. It makes it an awful lot easier to identify the potential hunts.”
Adrian began tapping away at the keyboard as he spoke. “Over the years, I’ve spent a long time trying to find people who might be interesting. And I don’t just mean resilient people. I mean people like me – people who’ve seen what I’ve seen. Seers. It took quite some time considering how rare they are, combined with the heaps of fakes and charlatans out there. But I developed a way for Seers to reliably identify one another, and I got us to band together. Now, I run an entire online community full of users who are Seers. It’s strictly invitation-only, of course. Some are more psychically gifted than others, but they can all at least see monsters. Because of that, I can guarantee that none of them have lived a normal life, or could be defined as ‘normal’ people.”
The Harbinger was speechless. If what Adrian was saying was true, it had just stumbled across the greatest opportunity in centuries. It was almost too good to be true. And because of that, the Harbinger wasn’t about to believe him right away.
“Nonsense,” it replied. “As if that little device could be used to amass so many people.”
Adrian sighed and shook his head. “Come on, Harbinger, don’t be an old geezer. You know as well as I do it’s perfectly possible. It was through this website and the people in it that I first became aware of you, after all.”
The Harbinger perked up at this. “Is that so?”
Adrian nodded. “Yes, yes it is. I was just logging on now so I could prove it to you. If I remember right, I was first informed about you by a user who actually observed you for a time while you were in New York. They watched you stalk a kid named… hang on.” Adrian moved his finger across the touch pad and tapped it a few times. “Here we go. It was a girl named Lucy Wilder, sixteen years old. Lived in Brooklyn. Had a scar on one of her eyebrows. You killed her back in 2010. Ring any bells?”
The Harbinger thought for a moment, before realizing it did remember killing a young girl with a scar on her eyebrow a few years ago. “That hunt was… substandard,” it commented. It seriously doubted that Adrian could have found this out on his own. He must have been telling the truth.
“That’s unfortunate. I do find that teenagers are some of the most easily frightened, aside from small children,” Adrian said, closing the laptop. “So then, am I right in assuming you believe me now?”
The Harbinger was willing to believe that this claim of a Seer network was true, but something was still off about the entire deal. “You plan to sell out the people that you spent so long gathering? Why? Are they not your ilk?”
Adrian was silent for a moment, looking at the Harbinger numbly before he suddenly burst out laughing. “Ha! Wahahaha! My ilk? You must be joking!” he boomed, prompting more frightened shivers from the humans in the cages. Calming down, he continued. “Come along, Harbinger, surely you must see by now I’m nothing like these other humans. You think I feel some sort of attachment to these people? They’re merely more playthings to be toyed with, that’s all. I gathered them for a very specific purpose, in fact, which is why I need your help eliminating them.”
“And what would that purpose be?” the Harbinger asked.
“Well, experimentation, of course. But not like what you’ve seen with these people. I plan to conduct a whole new kind of experiment, for which I specifically need Seers,” Adrian explained. “The problem is, none of the Seers actually live nearby. They’re dispersed throughout the world, and I can’t get to them easily, even with the Black Arts on my side. But you can.”
“I will not capture them for you and bring them back,” the Harbinger growled. “I will not be your slave.”
“Come now, don’t take me for a fool; I know that,” Adrian replied. “The experiment I want to perform actually involves a ritual. I don’t necessarily need to be there to activate it. It’s just that the mechanism requires a particularly gifted individual as the sacrifice. All I’d need you to do is set the ritual up as per my instructions each time, and kill your victim in the ritual setting – after you’ve had your fun, of course. The instructions will be different each time as I try out different variants of this ritual, since it’s custom-made.”
The Harbinger grew somewhat suspicious as it listened to Adrian’s explanation. “What is this ritual you speak of?”
“Well, that’s an interesting question! You see, it involves the combination of a series of ancient incantations passed down through my family for generations, combined with some basic trigger runes, a Type 5 spell circ—“
“What is its purpose?” the Harbinger impatiently interrupted.
“Right, sorry, rambling. Basically, I want to reanimate the dead.”
The Harbinger let out a chuckle at this. “Hah, you humans never cease to amuse me. Your televisions have lied to you; the undead do not exist. It is impossible to reanimate a corpse after its soul is gone.”
“Ah, I know, but I don’t intend to let the soul leave its body!” Adrian excitedly proclaimed. “Without going into too much detail, the idea is to trap the soul inside the dead body using the brain’s psychic energy. The high psychic potential of Seers should make it possible to contain the soul even after death, since the brain doesn’t immediately cease functioning. Then, the incantation you recite should stir the trapped soul, causing it to reanimate the body. In theory.”
The Harbinger was sure that this foolish theory was nonsense, but the man seemed completely confident in his abilities. And it was none of the creature’s business whether the rituals succeeded or failed. All that mattered to it were the hunts which were being promised.
“It seems like a fair exchange, doesn’t it?” Adrian said, looking up at the Harbinger. “All you have to do is a bit of handiwork after your hunt is finished. You can spend as much time psychologically decimating the person as you like, but once the time comes to finish them off, I simply ask that you kill them according to my instructions. And believe me, the hunts will be well worth your while.”
The Harbinger stared down at the seated man. The offer was too tempting to resist. At this point, there was no way it could refuse; as much as it still desired to kill Adrian, it would be foolish not to take advantage of his offer first. Then, after Adrian ran out of victims to supply, his number would be up, and the Harbinger would claim its ultimate reward: that smug grin of his.
The Harbinger made a quick, jerky movement with its head that resembled a nod. “We are in agreement, Adrian Bishop.”
And so, the partnership between monster and man began.
[AB] logged in
[AB:] I made the deal.
[TR:] Oh god
[RW:] Video footage?
[AB:] I’ve emailed it to all of you.
[GP:] Holy shit i’m so excited!!!
[TR:] Excited? I’m fucking terrified!
[AB:] Fear of death will do that to you, my friend.
[RW:] Hmm… saw the footage. It really is happening then, isn’t it?
[RW:] Finally our lives will completely turn around
[RW:] I thought I’d be excited when this happened, or terrified. But I’m not really sure what to feel
[RW:] It’s just… happening.
[AB:] I understand, Roland. I feel the same way.
[AB:] But if all goes according to plan, it won’t be too long.
[AB:] As you know, it won’t happen right away. I’m having the Harbinger deal with some bottom feeders before I set him on you. This serves the dual purpose of gaining the Harbinger’s trust and performing some last-minute tests with the ritual.
[TR:] Those test subjects of yours won’t rise up for long, right?
[AB:] Of course. I’ve mixed in limitation runes with the symbolic formula to make sure that the subject will die after a few seconds. As long as they rise up at all, we’ll know it was a success. Then I simply remove the limiters when our time comes, and voila.
[RW:] I know it’s a little late to be saying this but…
[RW:] Are you sure this will work?
[RW:] I mean, will it really believe that bullshit about making zombies?
[AB:] It does not care what my goal is with these rituals as long as it gets an entertaining hunt.
[AB:] You see, creatures such as the Harbinger may seem devilish and cunning on the surface, but really they are quite simple-minded. Most of their prowess as hunters comes from their instinct rather than strategic thinking.
[AB:] That, combined with its borderline god complex, makes it so that it would never even entertain the possibility of being outsmarted by a lowly human.
[AB:] I could go on about the psychology of such creatures, if you wish.
[GP:] No offense Adrian but please spare us another one of your lectures
[AB:] Sorry, I thought it might make Roland feel better.
[RW:] I suppose you’re right.
[AB:] Just make sure you have your acts ready. If the Harbinger gets bored with hunting you, the whole plan could fall apart.
[AB:] You are all the most powerful Seers I have come to know these few years. I trust that won’t be too much of an issue, correct?
[TR:] Course not.
[GP:] Fuck yeah!!!
[RW:] Yes, I suppose so.
[AB:] With your cooperation, it won’t be long before we all Ascend.
The following months were filled with bloodshed. Though it had initially been skeptical, the Harbinger soon began to realize that Adrian’s claims were entirely true. Its first victims were what its benefactor described as ‘monster hunters’ – those who used the Black Arts to target monsters and either kill or seal them away.
“Personally I find those people to be fools,” Adrian had complained. “They believe they’re righteous warriors of justice, saving the world from evil one monster at a time, or some nonsense. Hah! In reality, they’re little more than pest control. They only have enough power to put down the most inferior and feeble-minded of beings, and barely enough to seal away some of those on a higher level. None of them could ever hope to defeat a monster such as yourself – but believe me, they will try. Many of them have died doing so.”
Each of the hunters provided more entertainment than the Harbinger had in years. Most operated on their own, but those who were in close proximity to one another actually banded together to engage in their little hobby. Some of them were intimidated when faced with the challenge that was the Harbinger, but having been approached by creatures of the unknown many times before, they did their best to use their weak incantations and rituals to get rid of it. Some of the less experienced ones, who couldn’t have known how much of a threat it really was, even went as far as to taunt and threaten the beast. It was all quite amusing, watching the insects and their false sense of grandeur fall apart as the Harbinger haunted them day and night.
To perform the rituals, it would wait until night fell to take its victim to a deserted building such as an abandoned warehouse. Adrian requested that a video camera be set up so that he could observe, which was no easy task for the Harbinger’s long, clawed hands. All of the rituals were highly complex, requiring overly specific procedures to perform. It needed to carve a particular series of symbols and runes into the walls in a particular order, facing a particular direction, and at a particular time of night. What was even more convoluted were the necessary actions; during one ritual the Harbinger was required to move two steps back, stab the victim in both of their legs, move two steps forward, and scratch their eyes out. Then it would wait for five seconds before biting the victim’s nose off, and leaving them to bleed out.
Considering how much these procedures caused the victim suffering, the Harbinger had no issues with performing them, and actually enjoyed it to a degree. Though, one strange commonality that all of the rituals had was the final procedure: the Harbinger would carve a symbol identical to the unknown one in Adrian’s basement, and simply stand in its center. Then, it would recite the same incantation thirteen times before killing the victim and allowing their blood to pool into the symbol. After this, it would wait several minutes to see if the dead human revived; but never once did the ritual succeed.
The Harbinger brought this up with Adrian one day after its tenth kill. “Your primitive little rituals do not appear to be succeeding. Do you still truly believe that the dead can be brought back to life?”
“Theoretically, everything checks out,” Adrian said, frowning as he looked over a diagram featuring a strange pentagram-like symbol. “Honestly, I don’t know why this is happening. Maybe the Seers’ mental energy just isn’t powerful enough?”
The Harbinger was well aware that the problem was probably more fundamental than that. It did not know a great deal about the Black Arts; after all, it was already a being with a powerful connection to the higher plane, and thus had no need for them. But over the centuries, it had managed to pick up a few of the basics of sorcery, and after remembering some of that trivial knowledge, it realized that there were a few faults in the procedures Adrian had been performing. The way he was arranging the symbols and runes, they were geared to perform the basic function of displacing energy, which was probably just causing the victim’s psychic power to be sapped away before it could be used to trap the soul.
Although it was somewhat confused by the contradictory nature of Adrian’s ritual, it did not say anything. The Harbinger realized that the reason Adrian had made a deal with it was in order to test this ritual, which meant that as long as the ritual needed to be improved, the arrangement would continue. Thus, it resolved to allow Adrian to continue his foolish escapade until either he figured the problem out on his own, or the Harbinger grew tired of his hunts. Ideally, he wouldn’t figure it out until it wanted him to, at which point his ritual would be a success, and his ego would be at an all time high. That would be the perfect time to bring about his ultimate downfall.
Satisfied with its little scheme, the monster continued to humor the man. “Is there no way to gauge a Seer’s mental capacity?”
“Yes, it should be possible to judge how strong someone’s psychic connection is based on the level of the incantations they can perform,” Adrian replied. “But that doesn’t mean I know everyone’s psychic potential; I can’t force everyone on my site to undergo a test. That said, the ones I’ve been sending you after are, to my knowledge, relatively weak. I’ve been saving the bigger fish for later, since I’m sure neither of us wants to waste those too early on.”
The Harbinger perked up at this. It watched Adrian roll from one side of the room to the other in his swivel chair, as he picked up another diagram. “And why would you assume that of me?” it asked. “It makes no difference to me what my victims’ psychic potential is.”
“Oh, but it does, Harby,” Adrian was quick to respond, putting down his diagram and looking up at the being. “Mind if I call you Harby?”
The Harbinger took a long step forward, growling as it glared down at him. “Do not tempt me, human.”
Adrian chuckled, “What is that, your catchphrase or something?” he teased. As much as the Harbinger wanted to skewer one of his legs on the spot, it restrained itself. The sense of safety the man was beginning to feel around it would only serve to make his death all the more delicious.
“Anyway, do you remember the day we met, when you mentioned that I might be a psychopath? I did a little research on the subject, and I discovered that I actually fit the bill quite nicely. But for that matter, so do a few of my friends.”
He picked up a Rubik’s cube and began to fiddle with it. “The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the more powerful Seers were all quite similar in disposition to me. Those I know to be higher on the spectrum are more selfish, vain, and uncaring, while very skilled at acting like they aren’t. A few of them even admitted to being psychopaths or sociopaths when I told them I was the same.”
“To simplify, I can only surmise that the more powerful one’s connection is to the higher plane, the more of a monster they are.” He chuckled again, and haphazardly threw the cube over his shoulder. “Quite fitting, wouldn’t you say?”
“Interesting…” the Harbinger simply replied. “And would that not make you the king of the human monsters then, Bishop?”
With that knowing grin, Adrian turned his swivel chair to face it. “I suppose it must.”
A few weeks later, the Harbinger wiped out most of the remaining monster hunters. By the end of the five-month killing spree, however, it had been feeling increasingly drained of energy. It wasn’t sure if it was simply out of shape, or if the incantations and curses the hunters used had actually had some effect. Either way, it did not inform Adrian of this development. It was not about to show weakness in front of a lowly human.
That morning, as it entered the man’s basement to receive its next assignment, it found no one. Even the two caged humans were now gone, leaving only bloodstains where they had once cowered. As it prepared to wait for Adrian’s arrival, the Harbinger was suddenly overcome with a strong feeling of uneasiness. It knew this was its instincts alerting it to something unusually supernaturally powerful, but it was more than just the arcane images the room was plastered with. It felt… familiar, in fact.
It began to look around the dark room for the source of this disturbance, and its eyes came to rest upon the symbol carved into the floor in the center. It hadn’t noticed before, but that large, circular symbol appeared to be faintly glowing.
“What are you doing sulking in the dark down there, Harby?” Adrian’s voice rang out from the top of the staircase as he flicked on the light switch. The Harbinger didn’t reply as it watched him come down the stairs.
“I suppose you finished off Turner, then,” he said, taking a sip from a cup of coffee. “Good. I believe this would be a good time to start aiming a bit higher, wouldn’t you say?”
“You speak of the more gifted Seers?” the Harbinger asked.
Adrian set down his cup and moved over to his swivel chair, plopping down into it as always. “Indeed. But this time, don’t be surprised if they are actually aware of your existence,” he replied, retrieving his laptop from a table. “The monster hunters were very vocal about their experiences. I’ve done my best to restrict information about you, but word of mouth spreads swiftly.”
The creature scoffed. “Their struggles only make my hunts sweeter. Let them come.”
“That’s the spirit!” Adrian chirped. “Now, your next target is someone I’m quite familiar with. In fact, he is one of the greatest Seers I’ve ever met.” He began typing away at his computer once again. “His name is Roland Whittaker. Unlike your previous targets, this guy doesn’t actually have an address. He’s somewhat of a nomad; he has a lot of money, so he travels around, never staying in one place for too long.”
“So you do not know his whereabouts?” the Harbinger asked.
“Presently, he’s in Liverpool, England. Seems he’s staying in a hotel called the Nadler. But believe me, he’s a slippery fox. He’s eluded many a hunter before, both human and inhuman.”
The Harbinger eyed the man. “I thought you would be wise enough not to question my skill by now, human.”
Adrian shrugged. “Fair enough. I know your kind has their ways when it comes to tracking people. Just rest assured, this hunt will take longer than any of your others.”
As it turned around to leave, the Harbinger took one last look at the symbol in the center of the floor. It had stopped glowing, but the monster still felt uncomfortable just looking at it. “Bishop,” it called, “I have remarked that you have me draw this symbol during each ritual. What is the accursed thing’s purpose?”
“Hmm?” Adrian hummed, looking away from his computer screen and down at the symbol. “Oh, that? It’s just a Type 7 spell circle designed to enhance the incantation. That’s why you step into its center. That one is from a failed experiment; before I contracted you, I tried to perform the ritual on a regular person and failed. That’s all.”
The Harbinger made an approximation of a frown with its vertical mouth. Although the explanation seemed somewhat dubious, it didn’t care enough to inquire any further, and soon went on its way.
Adrian let out a heavy sigh as soon as his partner was gone. “Glad that’s over for now,” he said. “Can’t believe five months have already passed! Wow. Well, at least the fake footage is finally finished…”
He trailed off as he looked over to the cages, remembering that they were now empty. “Oh. Right. And so, my monologues are reduced to mere soliloquies. Oh, the shame!” he mused. Still no response. “Perhaps I’ll get a new pet after all…”
[AB] started a private chat with [RW]
[AB:] Gosh Roland, you haven’t a clue how stressful it can be keeping up a cool front with that monster around. Sometimes it looks like it’s about ready to slice me in half!
[RW:] Isn’t that the idea? lol
[AB:] Well, I suppose so, but I come last, remember.
[AB:] Anyway, I’ve sent him after you. Not to worry, the tests were a complete success. If everything goes smoothly you will officially be the first one of us to Ascend! Isn’t it exciting?
[RW:] I’m a bit number than I thought I would be
[RW:] In any case, footage?
[AB:] Already sent. As you can see, the experiments went swimmingly.
[RW:] Hmm… so that’s what Ascension looks like.
[RW:] Not what I expected. And why does the camera cut out at the end?
[AB:] Well, it’s a powerful process. A measly video camera can only pick up so much. In fact, I had to buy a new camera each time because they kept getting fried! A lot of the footage was destroyed, too. What a waste.
[AB:] I can’t say I fully understand it. We’re dealing with the higher plane here, after all. But it seems the transformation emits some kind of energy wave that fries all nearby electronics.
[RW:] I see.
[RW:] When should I expect to see the Harbinger here?
[AB:] A day or two, I suspect, but be prepared at all times.
[RW:] Oh, not to worry. I am.
Two months. For over two months, the Harbinger chased Roland Whittaker around the globe. It remembered the first trap that the tricky weasel had laid for it. In Room 206 of the Nadler, several otherworldly beasts awaited. The place was covered in spell circles presumably designed to attract the demons, which immediately attacked. Enraged by the audacious and cowardly tactic, the Harbinger dispatched them all, going so far as to use one of the wolf-like things as a weapon to beat the other two to death.
The spell circles Whittaker left made it easier to track him, since the trail of energy left by their caster could be followed, much like how a bloodhound follows a scent. However, at each of the new locations the Harbinger thought he might find his victim, another trap laid waiting. Sometimes they were similar in nature to the first, and other times they were even more drastic. At one point, Whittaker must have realized that the spell circles made him easy to track, so he set explosives to blow up an entire motel while the Harbinger was inside. Of course, all this did was kill a few humans, but it was quite an amusing sight for the Harbinger to behold.
In fact, many of Roland’s traps involved sacrificing the lives of his fellow humans, which the Harbinger found to be one of the most entertaining parts of the hunt. For once, it felt as if it was chasing down a fellow monster, albeit a greatly inferior one. By far the most entertaining trap he had laid out was the final one, in which he revealed himself and confronted the Harbinger head-on.
It took place inside the gymnasium of a small elementary school in some backwater Scottish town. Roland stood on one end of the gymnasium, the Harbinger on the other, and the entire school’s student body stood between them, crying in fear and horror as their teachers lay dead around them.
“You should be thankful, monster,” Roland proclaimed. “I’ve done you the favor of guiding you to this wonderful little buffet here.”
He held up a small device as he stared at the monster. Roland was a tall, muscular man with graying hair and a confident, stoic posture. “But I’m not that nice of a person, as you can probably tell. Here in my hand I have a trigger that’ll detonate an explosive. Of course, I’m not expecting that this will kill you – you’ve proven your endurance more than enough. The point is, it will kill these children.”
“So I ask you, what would provide you more pleasure? Killing little old me, or these wonderfully terrified kids?”
The Harbinger let out a light chuckle. Its chuckle quickly erupted into a laugh; one so loud that even the confused children could hear it in the back of their little minds. This was perfect. Looking into his eyes, it could tell that this man thought he knew how to think like a monster. He thought that he and the Harbinger were the same! It was absolutely hysterical.
The Harbinger didn’t stop laughing as it dashed forward, reaching Roland in the blink of an eye. Before he could react, it sliced its claws through his tender flesh, ripping his arm right off. Roland screamed almost as loudly as the children, who were apparently smart enough to see their chance and begin running for the exit. But it didn’t care about them. The Harbinger made a twisted attempt at a smile as it dug its claws into the man’s shoulder and began dragging him away.
The following torture lasted another two weeks. The Harbinger wasn’t sure if Whittaker was an extremely resilient man, or if he simply lacked emotion. Either way, it took a very long time and a variety of different tactics to finally get him to crack. Adrian, seeing that his partner was having some trouble, even offered some advice.
“Try something a bit slower,” he’d said. “Trust me, with people like him, the elegantly simple methods are most effective. You’ll have to be patient, but it will be more than worth it.”
While the wait annoyed the Harbinger, Adrian had been right. The satisfaction of finally seeing Roland Whittaker burst into tears after having to sit in a dark room with only the sound of water dripping was enough to make it all worth it.
And so came the time for the ritual. The Harbinger dragged a shivering, near-dead Roland into the center of a room in some abandoned factory. This time, Adrian had requested a very large room, and a much greater variety of symbols. But as it was setting everything up, the malformed beast noted that Adrian still hadn’t corrected that fundamental mistake in the ritual’s symbolic code. It would only result in another failure.
It was just about to start setting up the camera when Roland whimpered.
“W-What… is this…?”
“That is none of your concern.”
“No… n-no this is…” he stuttered, letting out a few coughs as tears formed in his eyes. He kept trying to look around the room, struggling to move himself with the two bandaged stumps that were once his arms. “God no…”
“T-this isn’t… how it’s supposed to go,” he mumbled, letting out another few coughs. “This isn’t how it’s supposed to be set up!” Now he was shouting feebly. “It’s wrong! No! No! This can’t be happening!”
The Harbinger perked up at this. It seemed that the man had caught on to the fault in Adrian’s ritual. It made sense; he was also well-versed in the Black Arts, after all. But the Harbinger couldn’t allow its benefactor to hear of this, so it stopped setting up the camera and moved toward the now hysterical Roland.
“No! I don’t want to die! I want to be like—“ He was cut off all too abruptly as the Harbinger suddenly reached two large fingers into his mouth and proceeded to rip out his tongue. Now with Roland screaming, it went back to setting up the camera, placing the tongue somewhere away from the ritual.
The rest of the procedure went smoothly; the Harbinger had grown quite accustomed to the rituals by now, so it had no trouble performing the designated actions, which weren’t too different from the usual. As expected, Roland didn’t come back to life either. It was only after the ritual ended that things became problematic.
As it was about to chop up Roland’s body to dispose of it, the Harbinger was suddenly hit with a dizzy spell.
“What… is this…?” it muttered wearily to itself. Its vision blurred and its senses began to numb as it struggled to stay standing. It was unsuccessful. The Harbinger groaned as its knees buckled and it fell to the ground. There it stayed for several minutes, grasping its head as it tried to get its mind in order. It had never experienced anything like this before. The Harbinger’s thoughts were jumbled and unfocused; it wasn’t sure what to make of anything. What was it doing? Where was it? Why was it here? All of this normally obvious information seemed to have slipped its mind somehow. All it knew was that it had just killed someone.
Answers began to come to the Harbinger as the fog in its mind cleared, allowing it to think normally again. Its eyesight refocused, and it regained its bearings. However, it was more confused than ever. What in the world had just happened? In all its centuries of living, it had never experienced such a lapse in concentration; such weakness. Though it still wondered about the cause, it absent-mindedly continued going about its duty, slicing through the dead flesh before it with reckless abandon, allowing blood to splatter all over.
Later that evening, after it had dropped the remains in some nearby lake, the Harbinger decided to take a walk. The sun had set, leaving only the streetlights to illuminate the dark sidewalk. As it walked, it pondered. Or, at least, it tried to. But it was tired; it couldn’t think properly. Creatures as powerful as it didn’t need to rest, so it didn’t understand why its mind was so blank all of a sudden. Perhaps, it reasoned, this would simply stop after a time.
The Harbinger’s thoughts were interrupted as a deafening scream pierced the air.
“Oh my god!”
“What is that thing?!”
Looking ahead it noticed several teenagers… running in the opposite direction, screaming in terror. They had seen the Harbinger.
“Impossible…” it muttered, looking down at its hands in astonishment. It had not consciously chosen to show itself. Normally it should still be concealed under the veil of the higher plane. Why then had those kids been able to see it without it allowing them to? It highly doubted they were all Seers. There was simply no way, it thought.
The Harbinger lunged forward, its long strides allowing it to catch up to the group of three in mere seconds. A boy looked behind him and screamed out in horror as the Harbinger’s claws came down, piercing his skull and putting an end to his wailing. A girl shouted “Terry!” before tripping and falling. The Harbinger didn’t even look at her as it crushed her skull underfoot, and jumped onto the third boy.
Instead of immediately killing him, it simply observed him for a moment. He was absolutely hysterical, of course, and was struggling to get free from underneath the beast. But he didn’t appear to be looking directly at it. It seemed that it was finally concealed again, like it ought to be. Feeling at least somewhat relieved, the Harbinger simply sliced his neck and rose up.
The Harbinger tried to think of what to do with the bodies. But it found that it couldn’t. It didn’t really feel like thinking about such trivial things now. All that mattered was returning to Adrian and receiving his next assignment.
[GP] logged in
[GP:] Jesus christ! Roland’s little game with the Harbinger is all over the news!!!
[TR:] I really hope Harbinger takes care of him soon…
[GP:] Yeah, the sooner he Ascends the better
[GP:] Then again. What if it only gets worse when he does?!
[GP:] We have no idea what exactly happens after the ritual succeeds, right? What if he gets some weird explosion powers or something!
[TR:] That’d be a real pain in the ass…
[GP:] Hey Adrian, you there??
[AB:] I am.
[AB:] I can see that. Oh dear, I did not expect him to be so brazen.
[AB:] What a pyromaniac.
[GP:] Well, at least it’s not like it affects us, right?
[AB:] Indeed. The death toll of this hunt was high, but it isn’t like we’re implicated in any way.
[AB:] Which reminds me, he’s… dead.
[GP:] Adrian what the FUCK are you talking about?!
[GP:] I thought you said the ritual was a success!!!
[AB:] It was. Or it should have been.
[AB:] It seems that idiotic monster got carried away and killed him during torture.
[AB:] In part, it was also Roland’s fault for doing such a good job at provoking it by resisting.
[GP:] Oh jesus!!
[GP:] Ooooh boy
[AB:] Calm down, Gale.
[TR:] Shit! What if it does the same with us? This isn’t how you said it would go, Adrian.
[AB:] Relax. The plan is still proceeding smoothly, it’s only a minor hiccup.
[TR:] Minor hiccup?!
[AB:] As long as neither of you repeat the mistake, it should be fine.
[AB:] You’re both different from him, anyway.
[GP:] Yeah… yeah you’re right…
[TR:] I still don’t know about this.
[TR:] I’m pulling back my claim to second place.
[GP:] Oh real fucking smooth Trey!!!
[GP:] Fine then, since you’re too much of a pussy, I’ll go next
[AB:] It seems the Harbinger has returned.
[AB:] I’ll be right back.
[AB] logged out
The Harbinger descended the stairs to the basement, its arms hanging limply at its sides. “Give me my next victim.”
Adrian looked up from his laptop monitor with a frown. “What, already? I thought we could have a little chat—“
“Enough with your chattering, human!” the monster bellowed. “My next meal. Now!”
“Alright, alright,” Adrian said. He rolled over to a table and picked up a piece of paper. “Gale Palmer, lives in San Antonio, Texas. Here’s her address and the instructions for the ritual.”
The Harbinger snatched the paper up, but as it was about to leave, it heard a loud clang come from one of the cages. It turned to see a young girl, about ten years old, trapped in one of the cages. She didn’t make a sound, but her mouth was open as if she was trying to scream, and her eyes were locked on the Harbinger.
Adrian looked from the girl to the monster and then back to the girl. “You like her? She’s my new pet. I already damaged her vocal cords so she can’t scream,” he explained. “But why is it she can see you? Last I checked she was no Seer.”
The Harbinger growled, both at the little girl and the man, causing the former to curl up into a ball. It then looked at Adrian. “Mind your own business.”
With that, it stormed out of the room. Adrian watched it go with a sly smile on his face.
“Well, looks like the plan is coming along better than I expected,” he said, spinning around in his swivel chair. “Won’t be long now before the Harbinger is just a big scary old fish out of inter-dimensional water. Hehe, I can’t wait to see how people react.” He stopped himself, facing the girl. “Don’t you think so, Adriana?”
When the girl didn’t reply, he looked back down to his laptop. “Hmm. Looks like I won’t have any need for Trey anymore though. After Gale’s finished that ought to do it.”
[AB] logged in
[AB:] Here I am.
[GP:] How’d it go?
[AB:] Quite well. The Harbinger will be coming after you shortly.
[GP:] Phew, great! Time to get ready!!!
[TR:] Remind me again what your strategy is?
[GP:] Well I’m not gonna blow up buildings if that’s what you mean! :P
[GP:] My strategy is short and sweet. Should take a few days max, if Harbinger reacts the way I want it to.
[GP:] If it doesn’t it’ll probably take even less than that. A day, maybe?
[AB:] That’s a relief to hear. Roland took so long I thought I would die of boredom!
[GP:] Anyway guys, I gotta head out. Need to clean up around here before my guest arrives~
[GP:] See ya on the other side!
[AB:] Until next time.
[GP] logged out
[TR:] You’re SURE it will work this time?
[AB:] Positive. I forgave the Harbinger for its previous transgression, and it is still none the wiser to our plan, so everything should go smoothly.
[TR:] That’s what you always say.
[AB:] Don’t be such a worry wart. Anyway, I have to go. Need to tend to Adriana.
[AB] logged out
The Harbinger let out a sigh. It was beginning to feel a bit more at ease. For some reason, being in Adrian’s basement had set it more on edge than usual. Although it still felt weary, the monster at least had a new hunt to focus on. In the end, that was all that mattered.
Soon enough, it located the apartment number of Gale Palmer. The Harbinger was about to phase through the door when, all of a sudden, it opened up.
“Hey there!” the woman on the other side cheerfully chirped. She was tall and quite beautiful, with short black hair and red highlights. She wore a black dress and some make-up, as if she were ready to go out for a special occasion.
“Come in! I’ve been expecting you,” she said, as she motioned for the beast to enter. Needless to say, this was quite a surprise, though the Harbinger had come to expect no less from the people Adrian supplied it with. She was probably setting some sort of trap, so the Harbinger decided it would be best to go along with her little game and see what she had planned.
Gale closed the door behind it. “Make yourself at home, Harbinger,” she said, motioning toward one of two couches stationed on either side of a small table in the center of the room. Her apartment was surprisingly decorative and homely for one so small; had the Harbinger been a human he most certainly would have taken her up on her offer.
“What game are you playing, human?” the Harbinger asked, growling in an attempt to intimidate her. Of course, she was completely unfazed.
“Why, I’m just being nice to a guest,” she cooed. “Now, what’s your poison: tea, or coffee? Sorry but I don’t do alcohol.”
The Harbinger was silent for a moment. It decided perhaps it would play along for now, and wait for the right moment to strike fear into her. So, begrudgingly, it answered, “…Coffee.”
“Coffee it is!” chimed the woman as she moved into the kitchen nearby. “Good choice; I’m more of a coffee gal myself.”
It felt strange for the Harbinger to sit down on a couch. It had never sat down on a couch before. In fact, it rarely ever sat down to begin with. But for the sake of playing along with this charade, it did so. A minute later, Gale returned with two cups of steaming hot coffee.
“Careful, it’s hot,” she said. Sitting down on the couch opposite to the creature, she looked him directly in the eye. “So then. Tell me something about yourself, Harbinger! I’d love to know.”
The Harbinger paused, glaring back at her. “I am here to kill you.”
Gale stifled a laugh. “Oh, Harbinger, I know that already. What I’m asking is to tell me something about yourself – your personality. Do you have any hobbies? Interests?”
The Harbinger, still confused at the strange nature of this conversation, did not respond. Instead it asked, “How do you know of my existence? Did your computer compatriots inform you?”
“Hey now. I understand you’re not human, but it’s a bit rude to leave a question unanswered,” Gale chided, waving her finger as if scolding a child.
Both the human and the monster sat in silence for a few moments longer. It seemed neither were intent on answering the other’s question. In the end, the Harbinger was the one to give in.
“I… enjoy killing,” it said. It felt disgusted that it was playing human, as well as being bossed around by one. But as degrading as this was, it reminded itself that this would all be worth it in the end.
“Wow, what a coincidence, so do I!” Gale proclaimed, taking a sip from her coffee. “I don’t like killing myself, though. That’s a bit messy, I find. I just get my friends to do it for me.”
“You speak of your computer compatriots?” the Harbinger inquired.
“Oh heavens, no! I’m talking about my… other friends. In fact, they’re here right now. Come out and say hi, everyone!”
At that moment, the door to the bedroom opened up, and several small creatures came running out. The little monsters came in different shapes and sizes, though all were clearly animalistic; some looked like deformed canines, while others looked like strange humanoid squids. There must have been at least a dozen of them. As soon as they began running out, the Harbinger sprang into action, preparing to attack them.
“No, stop! They don’t mean you any harm, Harbinger,” Gale exclaimed, as one of the strange canines jumped onto her lap. They were behaving more like simple household pets than monsters, running around and sniffing things, never even damaging anything.
The Harbinger noted that Gale’s bedroom was filled to the brim with Black Arts symbols, and the pieces clicked in its mind.
“So… you have tamed these beasts,” it said. “I must admit, for a human that is impressive.”
Gale seemed to beam with pride. “Why thank you!”
The Harbinger scoffed, brushing a small troll-like creature away with its leg. “So then, you wish to tame me as well, is that your goal?”
Gale frowned. “What? Well of course not. You’re my guest!”
The Harbinger sighed, sitting down. It knew it would not be able to endure this ludicrous act much longer.
“In all honesty, I just wanted to have a talk with you. I thought perhaps, if we got to know each other, we could avoid this whole, well, ‘killing me’ thing,” Gale went on. “Does that sound fair to you?”
The Harbinger simply nodded, glad that a chance to create dread finally presented itself. It would use this conversation to lead Gale into thinking that it would let her be free, and then, when it was about to leave, it would dash all her hopes.
And so, the two continued to talk until the sun set. The Harbinger did its best to act somewhat friendly and human, despite the sick feeling that resulted from doing so. Gale was quite the talker, however; she just wouldn’t stop. In a way, that was best for the Harbinger, as listening was far easier than talking. It pretended to be as sympathetic as it could and take everything in, only responding when he was asked a question.
Ultimately, it was a pathetic excuse for a hunt. However, the Harbinger still enjoyed itself; in a way, the whole ordeal was relaxing because not much effort was required on its part.
And it was hardly a waste of time; when the time came to leave, the Harbinger allowed Gale to say her goodbyes before haphazardly knocking her out with a whack to the head. Now, it would have its fun. It took her away, transporting the two of them to a deserted, barren stretch of land to begin the torture. Listening to the voice that had babbled incessantly for hours scream at the top of its lungs was almost euphoric for the Harbinger. As unorthodox as the whole thing was, it was still amusing.
By the time the woman was ready for the ritual, the Harbinger was getting tired again. It wasn’t in the mood to think of a place to perform the ritual anymore, so it opted to just use the woman’s apartment. But as it had almost finished drawing the necessary symbols on every available surface, it noticed Gale stir.
“Harbinger… are you there…?”
The Harbinger turned around, surprised she was still conscious. Unlike the previous victim, it decided to only burn her rather than pierce and cut, since this was a shorter hunt anyway. Most of her hair was gone and her eyes were struggling to stay open as she groaned from her second and third degree burns.
“Harbinger… could you switch those symbols around… they’re wrong…”
The Harbinger followed her line of sight to a few of the symbols. They were not the ones that the Harbinger knew were wrong.
“Oh, and those ones there…”
Her head slowly turned, and she looked at some more of the symbols. She kept doing this for almost all of the symbols that had been drawn as the Harbinger continued to follow the instructions he’d been given.
Soon, the ritual was ready, leaving only the procedure. The Harbinger did what it had been told, dragging her by what little hair she had left around the room five times. During that time, she wouldn’t stop mumbling something.
“Should’ve known… should’ve known…”
The Harbinger put her back down in front of Adrian’s strange symbol, and stood in it. Her crusty eyelids lifted, and she noticed the symbol for the first time. Her eyes widened.
“Adrian… I should’ve known…”
This immediately caught the Harbinger’s attention, but it couldn’t stop to ask now lest the ritual be ruined. It simply began repeating the incantation that it always did. Meanwhile, Gale let out a hoarse chuckle.
“God… you have no idea what you’re saying… do you…?” she said. “You’re basically… giving him… your pow—“
Her sentence was cut short as the Harbinger sliced her throat, letting her body fall to the floor. After the blood began to pool into the carved symbol, it waited. As usual, nothing happened.
The Harbinger was about to call it a day when suddenly, a jolt of pain ran throughout its body. It roared out in agony as it fell to the floor, clutching its head. It felt weak. Weaker than it had ever felt before. It struggled to get up, but quickly lost its balance and fell again, this time actually impacting the floor and making a loud thump. This just made it more confused – normally, those on the higher plane should not be able to impact the physical world without revealing themselves. But the more it tried to figure out what was going on, the more exhausted it felt and the more its head hurt.
Then, there was a knock on the door.
“Gale, are you alright in there?” came a voice. Instinctively, the Harbinger crawled across the floor and over to the door. It was a human. Though its first thought should have been to flee, it found that it didn’t care to. Its instincts screamed at it: humans need to be killed. That was all it could think about.
Realizing it could no longer phase through the door for some reason, the Harbinger clumsily clutched the door knob and flung it open. The man on the other side was about to scream, but he never got the chance as a claw reached out and went into his open mouth, then through the back of his head. The Harbinger retracted its claw, and set about ripping the human apart. For some reason, it no longer cared about hunts, or amusement. It was as if all of that had been stolen away, leaving only its bare and most monstrous instincts. It just wanted to kill.
That’s when it remembered: Adrian. Adrian Bishop, the one who had begun all of this. Who better to kill than him?
[TR] logged in
[TR:] I can’t believe it. I can’t believe we all fell for your little trap!
[TR:] We should’ve known! I should have known!
[TR:] Gale is dead. The Harbinger is on a motherfucking rampage for fuck’s sake, it’s killed fifteen people and it’s on the news!
[TR:] I’m dead.
[TR:] Oh god fuck I’m so dead.
[TR:] And it was all a waste too.
[TR:] What a fucking life.
[TR:] It was all a lie, wasn’t it? I bet it was.
[TR:] Should’ve known not to trust a fellow goddamn psycho!
[TR:] Ascension was a load of bullshit, wasn’t it?
[TR:] Getting into the higher plane was impossible all along!
[TR:] You just wanted to kill us for your own sick amusement!
[TR:] Or maybe you just wanted to be the only one to Ascend!
[TR:] Is that it?!
[TR:] Got nothing to say for yourself?!
[TR:] Fucking figured!
[AB:] You’re wrong.
[TR:] Oh don’t give me that. You think it isn’t obvious now?
[TR:] We spent months working on that ritual! It was theoretically perfect! It shouldn’t have failed! The only reason it did is because you fucked it up on purpose!
[AB:] Listen to me.
[AB:] It never would have worked. Not without a great amount of energy. An amount far greater than anything we could extract from any of ourselves.
[AB:] Why did you think I needed the Harbinger to be the one to do it, instead of one of you, or someone else?
[AB:] I was never performing the Ascension ritual in the first place.
[AB:] The ritual that I DID perform on Gale and Roland, however, did indeed require a monster to be the caster.
[AB:] Because the target was never Gale or Roland to begin with. Their psychic energy was only to be used as a conduit.
[TR:] I see.
[TR:] So then… I suppose I’m next.
[TR:] Whatever. There isn’t anything I can do to stop it.
[AB:] Actually, I’m next. It seems I was a little too cautious in my calculations. I only needed two powerful Seers to complete the process alongside those bottom feeders I used.
[AB:] The type 7 glowing behind me is proof enough of that.
[TR:] You fucking piece of shit…
[AB:] Oh, it sounds like the final sacrifice has arrived.
[AB:] Don’t worry though, after I’m finished here, I’ll be sure to pay you a visit.
[AB] logged out
The door to the basement was ripped right off its hinges as the Adrian’s guest of honor made its way down the steps. The light switch didn’t need to be flicked, for the room was filled with the bright light of the spell circle. In the middle, sitting comfortably on his swivel chair, sat the man himself.
“Welcome back, Harbinger. Had a nice night out?”
The Harbinger charged, teeth and claws bared like a wild animal as it ran to claim its prize. But it never made it past the circle. The bright light blinded the beast, and a feeling many times stronger than the uneasiness it had felt here before overcame it. It was a feeling that it was unfamiliar with. Yet, it recognized the feeling of the power radiating from the circle all too well.
“I’m glad to see you’re excited. As am I. I’ve been waiting for this day for many years, you know.”
Growling, the Harbinger tried to overcome the feeling, but to no avail. It could not bring itself to enter the circle, no matter how strong its bloodlust.
“Anyway, I suppose it’s time for my monologue now. I suppose you, in all your simple-minded rage, couldn’t understand, but I feel obligated to explain, even if it’s to the empty shell of your former self.”
Adrian cleared his throat and smiled as he continued. “All of that ‘you’ that has suddenly disappeared is actually here, if you didn’t know.” He extended his arms, motioning to the circle around him. “The rituals I was having you perform were sapping away your power – the very essence of your being, rather – and sealing it away, using the residual psychic energy of your victims as a way to channel it. The stronger a Seer the victim was, the bigger of a chunk would be sucked away. And as if to make the irony sweeter, the incantations you spoke were literally just you giving the ritual the instruction to take your energy, and redirect it back here.”
“But I didn’t seal all of you away. Not only because that was impossible, but because I didn’t need all of you. You see, you monsters are hilariously simple creatures. No matter how advanced your intellect, you are only driven by the instinct and desire to kill and induce fear in people. It’s all rather… trite.” Adrian chuckled a bit. “Yes, since I was small, I’ve watched your kind kill, and break people’s minds. I even followed in your footsteps – mostly out of pure boredom, mind you. It was fun for a while, but I think I’m ready to move onto bigger things now. Evolve a little, you know?”
The Harbinger knew now. It had never felt it before, but it knew now what this feeling must have been. It was not rage, or amusement, or bloodlust. It was fear. Fear of Adrian Bishop.
“I find that power such as this is quite wasted on the likes of you. For centuries — centuries mind you, you’ve been using it to simply go about killing people in the most dreadful ways possible. Your psychology won’t permit you to have higher ambitions. But mine does.”
Adrian stepped out of his chair, moving to the edge of the circle. From his pocket he pulled out a pistol, aiming it at the Harbinger with that smug, knowing grin on his face.
“Believe me, your power is in better hands now. Superior hands. When I ascend to the higher plane, no one will be safe.”
He cocked the pistol.
“I don’t care about who’s interesting or unique. I don’t just look at things on an individualistic level like you do. No, my goal is the entire world. I don’t just want one person begging for mercy – I want the entire human race to be wishing it had never existed!”
His smile grew from ear to ear, bordering on deranged. “And so, thanks to you, I can take the first step toward that goal. But alas, as much as I may brag, I do see the value in sticking to one’s roots.”
By now the Harbinger was sitting in a ball on the ground, as if it would make the monster go away. Adrian extended his leg and put his foot on the creature’s head triumphantly.
“I think I will always have a particular fondness for the freaks. Like you, Harbinger.”
He shot the pistol.
Credit: Mark Lannin