The word had so many meanings.
It made people think of terrible beings, capable of every travesty and atrocity known to man.
A being so terrible, they were called evil.
A being so hated, the very word made people shiver.
A word that also described himself.
Aodhan sighed heavily, locking his fingers around the brandy in front of him. He could feel the cold wind from the open bar door behind, even though he had the collar of his black leather biker-style jacket pulled up. His cool green eyes swept around the bar, surveying all around him.
The bar was nearly empty, which wasn’t unusual for a Wednesday night, but it was still a little unnerving for him. Indie rock music sounded from the speakers placed around the room, loud enough to hear, but not loud enough to drown out the quiet murmurs and ripples around him. There was one barmaid working, leaning over to talk to some young blonde male, who was grinning like a little boy at Christmas back at her cleavage. Aodhan looked down at his drink again, at the bar made of highly polished dark wood substitute.
Flitting his gaze up again, his eyes settled on a young twenty-something brunette that was sat by herself, sipping wine at the other end of the counter. Aodhan could remember a time when he would have perhaps tried it on with her, even talked to her, at least. But not now. Too much had separated him from the world. Women never held the same lust for him, not after…her.
The brunette looked up, and flashed hazel eyes at him, doing a double take appreciatively at his form. She smiled shyly, but continued staring at him. He cast her a cold look, and turned his gaze away from her, scrutinizing his drink again.
He heard the squeaking of a bar stool being slowly pushed across the tiles, and two distinct taps of heeled shoes being placed on the floor. A second later, the click-clack of the shoes slowly and deliberately walked towards him. He closed his eyes, and sighed again. Please don’t come over here…why did I even look at her?...
“Hey there. You look a little bit lonely. Want some company?”
Aodhan turned his head to see the brunette. Up close, her hazel eyes were even more vivid, the lashes above them thick and black with mascara. Aodhan couldn’t understand women’s obsession with make-up. He came from a time when the only ‘make-up’ ever worn by a woman would have been if she was going into battle…and that was rare enough. Nowadays women slapped their faces in every hue, in the hope of attracting someone long enough to create a child, bring it up after a hurried marriage, and live the rest of their lives in blissful boredom. Maybe I’m just getting cynical in my old age…he pondered to himself. To the brunette, he shook his head.
But she persisted. “Aw, come on. A handsome man like you alone in here—it can’t be fair on you.” A long red nail traced along the side of his hand, attached to a slim white finger.
Almost instinctively, Aodhan twitched his hand away. He turned to the young girl, and glared. “Look, I said nae, lass. Take a hint, will ye’?” Turning back to his drink, he barely noticed the look of shock on her face. It was obvious this had never happened to her before.
Determined, she carried on regardless. Lowering her voice to a whisper, she breathed in his ear, “Look, if you’re not after anything special with someone, I can go and wait around the back for you?”
He moved his head around to look at her, disgusted. I’ve spent decades alone after my only love…my only true love…was taken away from me. She was my whole world, and I’ll never feel that again. And this cheap woman thinks she can entice me to lay with her just by the promise of a body that will feel unfamiliar and cold to me?
Narrowing his eyes, he snarled, “I would’nae touch ye’ if ye’ offered mae a fortune in gold. Now why don’ ye’ go and find some easy bed-mate for tha’ night, like a good wee slapper?” He hadn’t meant it to sound so harsh, but he wanted to get the woman away from him.
The brunette pursed her lips, her face tautening at his comment. Clearing her throat, she grabbed her handbag off the bar, and hissed angrily, “Well, you’ve probably got a tiny penis anyway. Only reason you’d turn someone like me down.”
Hah…if only she knew…
Aodhan shrugged, and turned back to his drink, watching her flap off furiously to another easy target, who soon fawned over her.
Knocking his drink back, feeling the rich liquid burning his throat, Aodhan wiped his mouth off with the back of his hand and slowly stood up from the vinyl bar stool. He waved his hand to get the attention of the barmaid, but she was far too engrossed in the attentions of her personal Adonis to notice Aodhan. Shrugging, he laid a ten-pound note down on the bar, next to his empty glass.
He twisted on his heel and walked out of the main doors with long strides, feeling the cool night air on his face. The bouncer outside turned and stared at Aodhan’s six foot frame, no emotion showing on his features. Aodhan returned the stony gaze, and then began walking off into the night.
He paced along speedily, hands shoved deep in the pockets of his jeans. The sounds of the night surrounded him—distant cat song, the steady hum of far-off cars, the soft sound of wind whistling underneath people’s windows. He loved being out at night, not because it was a time when his ‘kind’ were more active, but simply because it was so much quieter than the day. The sounds of people rushing around disappeared, and left a peaceful calm with the soothing darkness.
Of course, there were the voices in his head, but that was another story.
He shrugged his shoulders up, cutting off the wind whistling around his neck. He wasn’t particularly cold, but the noise was annoying when your ears were so sensitive that a pin dropping could sound like a two-ton weight.
Aodhan’s mind went back to the girl from the bar. He hadn’t meant to be so brisk with her, but it was really best that no-one got that close. He…didn’t do well with people any more. They always brought back memories of simpler times, of her. And besides that…he killed people. People who wouldn’t die if they hadn’t found out about them…
Aodhan was a demon.
A rare demon, as well, a shadow demon. He was born to a Scottish clan just over eight-hundred years ago, to humans. Contrary to what he saw people believed in the media and books, demons were actually born to humans. There was no line of them, like vampires or werewolves. They were simply…random.
When he was born, there were no noticeable signs of what he was. He just looked like any of the other babies born to them, strong and healthy, but definitely human.
As he grew older, he had shown great proficiency with all weapons, learning faster than any of the other boys in the clan. Even some of the boys older than him had a hard time keeping up. He was never big-headed about it though, simply trying to fit in with everyone else. However, the clan talked about how the strange-eyed boy was so much quicker and stronger than others twice his age, and whispered about ancient gods coming back to the earth. His looks weren’t too odd for his clan, everyone having black, brown, or auburn hair. But his eyes were odd. All others in his clan had mostly blue eyes, some of them had brown eyes. But his were startling clear green ones, more like a cat than a human.
When he was thirteen, he developed strange growths near his temples. After going to see the clan’s wise woman about it, she simply cackled, and whispered, “Those who are given the gift of darkness, should not fear the unknown.” He had shaken off the wise woman’s words, telling himself that she had finally gone crazy.
The growths developed further, until they were small dark horns, about the length of his thumb. They curled close to the curve of his head, smooth with small ridges forming at each stage of their growth. Luckily, Aodhan’s hair grew wild and long, allowing him to cover them up as much as he could.
By the time his twentieth year was reached, he was a well-loved member of his clan. He was kind and helpful to all, and helped to fight off their enemies more times than he could count on both hands. But he was holding a dreadful secret from his clan. Since his horns had grown, he had also noticed many other things.
He had begun to...see things. Shadows.
When he was out hunting in the forest near to their home, he would think that he had seen someone moving in the trees behind him. But when he swung around to face them…nothing. Then he would hear a soft chuckle, his name being called on the wind. At night, in his bed as he tried to sleep, he would see black figures running around the walls.
He tried to tell the wise woman of the village again, thinking them to be spirits sent to drive him mad, or something worse. She simply shook her head at him, and chuckled, rocking herself to and fro. He had got used to the shadows by now, drawing the blanket up over his head so that he couldn’t hear their taunting murmurs....
Aodhan stopped walking, snapping out of his daydream. He was sure he had seen one of...them. Looking all around, he scanned the buildings with his vivid eyes. The problem with them was that they could hide anywhere they chose—walls, buildings, floors, anywhere—especially at night.
The red brick buildings around him looked empty, the few alleyways just leading alongside the backs of houses, a small number of bins scattered about. No-one else was walking near him on the pavement, no sound anywhere.
Just as he was about to turn around and carry on walking, pulling his jacket up again, he heard something behind him. Something whispery and cold.
Taken from Vigilante of Shadows, Copyright © Miranda Stork 2014
I'm Miranda Stork, and I'm addicted. Addicted to writing and reading books, anyway. And chocolate, but that's another issue - no interventions, please.
I live in the middle of a forest in North Yorkshire, spending my spare time as the wild woman of the woods, scaring small children and upsetting the sheep. On the days that I feel like being civilized, or I haven't got any unicorns to ride, I sit down and pour the tumbling thoughts in my head out onto digital paper. Mainly the thoughts and characters come out in paranormal form, with a good smattering of romance, because everyone likes a good cuddle. But you can also find strong elements of thrillers, myths, and even dystopia amongst the pages of all my novels. I've wanted to write books ever since I first realised that fairytales were not the newspapers of the fairy kingdom, but the imaginings of actual people who wanted to tell fancy made-up stories to other people. From that moment, I was hooked.
Why do I write? Good question. It might be easier to just keep the stories in my head, or even just to write them for myself. But I want to share them. There is no greater delight for a writer than when a reader devours your book, and declares, "Something in that novel resonated with me. And I want MORE." So grab your lucky clover and a baseball bat (there's some nasty paranormal creatures where we're going), eat the cookie with 'eat me' tagged on it, and enter through the tiny door into the world of Miranda Stork..