Demon’s Mire

The water rippled. A shiver ran up my spine as the sound of the forest hushed. We all turned to as a splash resonated somewhere in the dark water. A few hushed moments passed and then a bubble began to grow along the surface. Larger and larger it became until the entire town held silent breath waiting for it to pop. Droplets sprayed into the air and waves caught the light as they expanded outward. The reflection of the moon and stars shifted with the movement.

“What the hell was that?” Jim asked from beside me.

I shook my head. 

The air thickened and the scent of the lake filled the air; algae and fish. An energy I’d never felt before swept over the shore. It reached out from the water to touch each and every person along the bank. I stepped back. I did not want that energy touching me. 

The water calmed, the only sound the quiet breaths of those around me. A hand burst from the water making us jump. Gasps filled the air as an arm shot up to hooked around a downed tree. With one great heave a tiny body appeared. Mud caked its skin and its hair was twisted with grasses. The small figure fought for grip. The child gasped, then let out a terrified whimper.

As if on cue, Jim ran into the water. He reached the creature in seconds, his body now drenched from the chest down. 

“Don’t go out there,” I whispered, my skin prickling in warning.

“Connor,” Mrs. Samson said, her voice filled with shock and disappointment. “How could you say that? She is just a child.”

She shot me a glare then headed for the water.

“Get a towel!” Jim screamed as he scooped up the child. Little arms wrapped around his neck. “We need to get her warm!”

Arida, the town doctor, ran up an oversized beach towel in her hands. Jim set the girl on the ground then Arida wove the towel around her. 

“Honey, can you hear me?” Arida asked. The girl nodded. “Where did you come from? Can…”

I watched as the town descended, questions and concerned words filling the air. I backed away. The girl, no the creature, was leaking energy. I could feel it as it wove around those near her. It latched on, seeping into them as they breathed. Their eyes went bright for an instant then dulled back to their normal sheen.

Jim turned to me. “Connor, we’re heading to the clinic. Can you clean up here?”

I nodded, unable to create actual words. The power the creature was releasing had moved closer. It hovered like a pale blue fog above the ground. As it felt my own magic, it hesitated making a few probing motions. With each brush, I smelled rotten eggs and sulfur. Evil, my power told me. This creature was evil.

Arida and James helped the girl stand. The crowd parted, a clear path to the parking lot visible. Slow unhurried steps the girl headed away from the lake. As she did, the tendril of power reaching toward me receded. 

I let out a heavy breath. Maybe I’d been lucky. Maybe it hadn’t gotten enough to know what I was. Maybe I was still safe, even if the town was not.

As if sensing my words, the creature turned to look at me. Her gaze locked to mine. Her eyes narrowed and a disturbed smile spread across her young face. 

“Wielder,” she whispered, no one else seeming to hear her. 

I flinched.

She turned away, but not before a tendril of power snaked across the shield I’d unconsciously erected. 

I cursed, the pain radiating into the core of my being. I fell back against the tree and slid to the ground. My breaths heaved and my abdomen burned. I lifted my shirt and gasped. A brand marked my skin. Steam rose from it and I hissed. I bit back the string of curses and looked toward the figures loading into the cars. This was bad. This was very, very bad. A myth of all myths. A demon among demons. 

“Siphoner,” I whispered into the dark. I let the wave of fear take its course. Then, not wanting to give it too much power, I pushed it down. I locked it deep within, and readied myself for the coming battle. Fear would only feed it. The only way to win was to pull the essence of my own magic before she tainted it forever.

I thought back to the stories my grandmother had told before the fire. Dark, nightmare inducing stories of the Siphoner. I glance back to the brand on my skin. Five days. Five days to fix it all or I would be hers. I could not let that happen. 

I was marked. She was coming. And if I did not win, the world would be hers.

 Published on OBW Blog January 1, 2021 © Tracey Canole

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