First Page: The Fourth Land of Souls – Urban Fantasy
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My head slammed into the brick wall, stars doing a wild tango in front of my eyes. Not because it was an especially hard hit. From my years of training I know from sad-but-true experience that my head truly can take a beating. It was because it was the third time my skull connected with the unyielding brick wall in the space of thirty seconds. This demon soul was kicking my ass. I grit my teeth. Hell. No.
I felt heat burning my wrist. The damn thing was trying to force me to drop my sword. My Blade. The balls of this thing. Well, metaphorically speaking of course since souls didn’t have much substance, much less testicles of any kind.
“Ok, the hard way it is,” I muttered as I tilted the sword backward and thrust awkwardly, slicing into the nebulous black shape. The blue sheen of my blade made a hissing sound as it disappeared fully into the soul. A sickly smell, like rotting eggs smoldering in a pile of horse manure, gagged me. A second later the soul was sucked into my blade, whirling in an ever smaller angry vortex. The blue glow increased, filling the filthy alley with its clean glow as it swallowed the demon soul and then abruptly dimmed to its normal color with a soft pop.
It was done.
Keeping a wary eye for any more black souls, I leaned against the building for a moment gulping air. My face was bleeding, my wrist burned, and my head throbbed in time with my heartbeat. My ankle ached where I had leaped over a small dumpster the soul had knocked down, spewing its smelly contents across the alley. Note to self; banana peels really were slippery.
The sound of nails scrabbling and loud breathing forced me to my feet again. Dog skidded around the far corner going so fast he clipped the corner of the restaurant building before his paws regained their mastery over the crumbling concrete alley and righted himself. He trotted to me, his powerful black body solid with his bright pink tongue hanging out of his broad, thick snout. I couldn’t help but smile. Then he licked my wrist, sneezing once.
“Tastes bad, doesn’t it,” I said, stroking his unevenly cut ears.
Dog was a pit bull mixed with something, maybe a bear. He’d taken to following me around on my nightly patrols for the past year and a half. He’s not mine. He sleeps on my couch now, pees in my house occasionally, and sometimes presents me with a rat or two.
We’ve come to an understanding. I feed him, give him a house to sleep in and he keeps my neighborhood rat free and hangs with me while I work.
He’s helped more than once. I guess it makes sense that dogs can see souls. He gazed up at me with his pittie grin as I tucked the sword back into its spot on my back, invisible now. We trudged toward Damon Avenue, where I’d hidden my bike in the gangway between two competing cafes. Even at four in the morning cars sped by, either to work or home from the bars.
I tugged on my helmet then swung my leg over, waiting for Dog to make up his mind. Sometimes he came to the lake’s edge with me and sometimes he didn’t, instead curling up on my stoop and waiting. He jumped into the ridiculous side car I’d installed specifically for him.
We zipped easily through the streets, and in a few minutes reached North Avenue Beach. It was dark. The streetlights never worked here. I made sure of that. At the water’s edge I quickly stripped and ran into the still water.