Discover more from Project: Shadow
dark gon’ catch me here
Robert shuffled down the road. Pain gnawed at his bones. I need to take a break. Too much time on the road. His thoughts burned his mind…
Robert shuffled down the road. Pain gnawed at his bones. I need to take a break. Too much time on the road. His thoughts burned his mind. His brown skin darkened as the sun went down. Too tired to think. Too tired to walk. Too tired to... Breath.
This wasn’t the first time he wore himself so thin. He pushed himself hard. He had to. The depression wasn’t over in Mississippi, at least not for him. Part of him felt it would never end.
The hot August air hung thick. Everything that didn’t wreak of mildew wore a cloak of dust from the road. It was almost like a second skin. He unbuttoned the top three buttons on his shirt. Sweat dappled his undershirt. He pushed his hat higher on his forehead. The air was so thick.
He’d walked this road many times. It never got any easier. Soon, he would dull the pain with a strong drink. He didn’t really care what was in the glass, so long as it took his mind away.
Maybe, if I’m lucky, I might even find a nice girl to spend some time with. I just hope she isn’t too nice though.
Someone hen-picked a guitar.
Robert stopped. The song was familiar, but he knew he didn’t know it. He looked around and saw the flickering light of a campfire on the bank of the Yalobusha River.
They’re good. He tapped his foot to song. They got a broken heart. You can’t fake that sound.
He approached the fire slowly.
Whoever was playing had their back to him. Their long black hair cascaded down their back in effortless waves. Silhouetted against the fire light, they were thin, almost fragile looking.
The scent of roses and burning wood filled the air.
Looking around, he couldn’t see any roses.
“Robert?” a melodious female voice shook him to the core.
Dread overshadowed him.
He wanted to run.
His legs didn’t respond.
Nothing ever frightened him like her voice did.
This must be how a mouse feels when it sees a cat.
“Come now, Robert,” she stopped playing the guitar, and patted the ground next to her. “Join me.”
How does she know my name?
“I asked you to join me,” she patted the ground again.
He walked towards her. He couldn’t help himself. He didn’t want to, but his body wouldn’t stop. His leg carried him closer until he could see her face.
Her skin was smooth like porcelain, and whiter than bone. Her face was round and doll-like, and her eyes black. Solid black. No whites, no color, just black.
She smiled at him in a way that made him even more uncomfortable. “If you don’t want to sit, I’m alright with that, but it would be rude.”
He sat before he knew what he was doing.
“That’s better,” her smile widened. “I’ve been wanting to meet you ever since my sister told me about you. You really are quite a musician.”
“I just play the guitar and sing.”
“Don’t be so modest. In my life, I have met many people who sing and play guitar. You are special.”
“Really? I don’t see anything all that special about it.”
“Don’t lie.” Her face turned stern, frightening.
Did fire just flash in her mouth?
“Don’t be afraid, Robert,” she said overly sweet, “If I wanted to hurt or kill you I would have done it by now.”
Shaking, “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
“Honesty.” She shrugged. “There is no point in lying. I want our relationship to be built on truth. Can you do that for me, Robert?”
“Are you a devil?”
Her laugh sounded like tin scraping against wood in a thunderstorm. “No. I am no devil. I am drakos vasilissa... Let’s just say, I am very old, very powerful, and a big fan of yours.”
That wasn’t really a no.
“I am glad you like my music, Miss.. Ma’am, but I am not someone someone like you should be interested in.”
“Lady Wyntor, and you are just the kind of person I am interested in, ever since I met the father of songs by the shore of the Hebrus. Your kind have always been of interest to me.”
“Geniuses. Musicians with the power to bend the soul to their will. I sent Wolfgang to check you out, and he said that you would be perfect.”
“Wolf gang? Lady Wyntor, it has been a pleasure meeting you, but I have to get going. I am not feeling well, and I need to rest.”
She smirked. “What if I could promise you that if you stayed with me, you would never be tired again. Never grow old. Never get sick. Never die.”
“Then I would say that you are a devil.”
She stood up. The men’s shirt and trousers she wore didn’t fit well. “A devil has rival, and is lesser than him. I have no superior. I have no rival. I am Astraea Kathari, the Nightslayer. There is none like me. Even among my brothers and sisters, there is none like me.”
Fire licked her lips. Her teeth glowed like iron fresh from the forge. White leathery wings ripped from her back.
Robert fell over. He tried to scramble away.
“This is why I don’t usually collect myself. You mortals have no respect.”
Flames spewed from her mouth, and curled inches away from his face.
“I meant no disrespect.”
“I came to offer you the gift, and you call me a devil.”
“In my defense, lady,” Robert pointed at her wings.
She laughed. Doubling over, the flames from her mouth set the ground under her feet on fire. She laughed harder.
“You might have a point.” She chuckled. “I like you. You insult me and make me laugh. You will be a good addition.”
She jumped into the air.
Her clothes exploded off her body as it grew and deformed.
White scales covered her elongated serpentine form. Her face twister into something that looked like a short alligator muzzle, but with whiskers and a lush mane.
Robert scooted away, trying to get to his feet.
One of her massive clawed hands wrapped around his waist, and she slithered up into the air.
His fists couldn’t dent her flesh.
He screeched at the top of his lungs.
The air was thin.
Panic consumed him.
He screamed for help.
His lungs burned.
Stars flashed in his vision.
Darkness. He was gone. She took what she wanted.