The Unlikeable Demon Hunter; Need – Deborah Wild

I could do with a boy or a burrito.” I rubbed my belly, the silky material of the longsleeved tunic that I wore as a mini dress sliding under my fingers. Were TV shows and book covers to be believed, I’d stake out my prey with a sleek fall of hair, clad in head-totoe leather. Too bad my curls were allergic to flat irons and tight leather pants gave me yeast infections. Learned that the hard way. “In that order?” My twin brother Ari was a disembodied voice in the shadows. I side-stepped the run-off dripping from the broken rain spout onto the alley’s cobblestones, thinking fondly of my double-breasted, classic trench coat back inside the bar. “Depends on how good the burrito is.” The bar’s dented back door crashed open, releasing a spill of music, a sharp blast of chatter, and two demons glamoured up to look human. I jerked my chin at them. “Took you long enough.” The taller of the two, Zale, swaggered toward me in his white shitcatcher pants, his white vest stretched tight across his wiry torso, and his fedora perched rakishly atop his bald black head. He cocked his finger and thumb at me like a gun. “All right, all right, all right.” Fucking Matthew McConaughey wannabe.

The original was more than enough. Skirting the edge of the dim pool of light cast by the sole bulb over the door, I sashayed forward on my three-inch heels, a whisper of a breeze rippling my hem. “You promised me witches.” I trailed a finger down his chest. “Gonna deliver?” His friend Dmitri barked a laugh. Zale shot him an amused smile. “You want the goods? Pony up.” He reached for his elastic waistband. I reached for my magic. Look at that.

I was faster. Electricity snaked out of my fingertips in a forked bolt. “My implication that I was willing to blow you for their whereabouts?” I smiled sweetly and cracked open the concrete beside his shell-toe shoes. “Total fabrication.” Zale blurred out of sight. I wasn’t concerned because this raku demon only had short range flash stepping ability and a dark shadow had disengaged itself from the gloom to give chase. Ari, my fellow demon hunter. My brother’s smirk, sharp as a razor’s edge as he tracked the demon, made it all too clear how hunting suited him. “What are you?” Dmitri’s perplexed and vacant blink at me fit right in with his dishwater blond man bun and tapered floral pants, but was still insulting. “I’m Rasha.

” He laughed. “You can’t be a hunter, you’re a girl.” I grabbed my boobs with a shocked gasp. “That’s what this means?” Damn, I had a good rack. “I can’t sing either, but that doesn’t stop me practicing for The Voice auditions. So, yup. Girl and Rasha.” He made a sound of disgust. I didn’t need that kind of disrespect today, so I flicked a bolt of electricity into his crotch. The felan demon dropped to his knees, his wheezed exhale a pretty good dying bagpipe impression.

“You were saying?” I asked. Five tentacles sprang from his chest like Shiva’s arms, the one closest to me striking the ground with a sticky slurp. The air fogged with the stench of patchouli and fungus. I swiped at my watering eyes. “You’re missing a tentacle.” “I’m perfect the way I am.” His snarled–and issue-laden–response made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, but the real kicker was his front tentacle lashing across my forearm. Take the precision of a bee sting and magnify it by the mass destructive power of a nuclear bomb. That was close to the searing fire that his paralytic touch shot along every nerve ending in my body. I wheezed a gasp, my arm dropping to my side.

The felan snickered. “Shut it, asswipe. At least I’m not wearing floral pants.” I tried to move my arm, receiving a wet noodle dangle for my efforts. He fingered his fabric. “I’m wearing these pants ironically.” “Not paired with that hair abomination you’re not. Might as well wear a button that says, ‘I’m a demon, ask me how!’” My arm felt like my mouth after a dental procedure– numb, swollen, and clunky. Had my elbow been able to drool, I’m sure it would have. A sliver of moonlight guided me as I fired my magic at Dmitri, but the paralytic was already taking root, thick and sticky as molasses.

My stream of blue and silver current stuttered out of me, the demon dodging it with ease. Dmitri swaggered in closer, locked a tentacle around my ankle, and pulled. I crashed down on my ass, my legs wobbling like the finest Jell-O. “Cute panties,” he said. I’d have killed him just for the use of that horrid word but my heart hammering at an unsustainable speed was all I was capable of. He pinned me down and wrapped a tentacle around each appendage like I was Gulliver imprisoned by the Lilliputians. I stiffened out like a surfboard. My breath punched out of me in a scream, my pain spiking like I was coated in bubbling lava. I was half-convinced my flesh was melting from my bones. Gritting my teeth, I forced my magic out.

Animated lightning bolts danced over my now-blue skin and a wave of current burst from my entire body to wrap around the demon like barbed wire. It knocked the felan back a whopping half-step, but at least it broke his hold. I still couldn’t move, but I could take a deep breath. “Witches. How do I find them?” I tightened my magic net on him, taking perverse satisfaction in his eyes bugging out of his head. “Urban. Myth.” He flailed his tentacles, caught tight in my web. “There are no witches, you moron.” My vision kaleidoscoped into black blobs, the paralytic sinking its hooks into every inch of me.

Lungs burning, nervous system in a Code Red panic, I had to finish him off, except I was now seeing multiples of the lemon-colored tentacle tip indicative of his weak spot. His Achilles heel and the place I needed to direct my magic in order to kill him. I dug down into my last molecule of energy and nuked Dmitri with so much magic that he charred like a well-done steak. The air reeked of fetid BBQ, but I’d hit his sweet spot and dispatched him into oblivion with a puff of lemon-colored-yet-hippy-scented-dust. At least I didn’t have to clean up after myself. Lack of a corpse, the sole public service that demons provided. Fumbling for the edge of my Spanx with spasming fingers, I pulled out the modified EpiPen tucked against my hip and blue-to-the-sky’d it in my thigh. Thanks to the fastacting antidote, the pain in my body subsided from “rip my skin off” to “whimper madly.” Much better. I twitched my fingers, happy to note they still moved, then flopped over, hands braced on the cobblestones.

Luckily, the stones were dry. Landing in an unidentifiable puddle would have been an indignity too far. The bulb over the back door cracked and sizzled out. I turned my head away from flying shards and sat up. Zale blurred into the alley, eyes wide. Shadows pressed in as if they had weight and heft, tinged with an ashy smell. The raku backed away but he was cornered on all sides by darkness. There was a languid elegance to my brother’s magic. Zale spewed some super homophobic insults involving Ari’s interactions with his fellow hunters in a way I was almost positive was impossible. The shadows expanded, like they were taking a deep breath, before wrapping themselves around each of Zale’s arms and his upper torso.

They jerked the demon back against the brick wall, the crack of his skull momentarily shutting him up. I yanked out the doctored-up EpiPen still sticking out of my leg. It contained a felan antidote provided by the Brotherhood of David, the testosterone-laden secret society of demon hunters that I had become the first female member of. The antidote had dealt with the worst of the poison–the fatality part–leaving me merely battered and bruised. A run-of-the-mill Wednesday. Zale struggled as Ari strolled closer, a pale blue silhouette. The raku’s tendons popped along his skin as he strained against his bonds. “Fucking psycho.” Ari stilled. Flexed his fingers.

The shadows holding Zale gave a sharp jerk, snapping both his arms out of their sockets. The demon’s roar cut off in a cough as a shadow slithered up his chest, wound around his neck, and strangled him. “Ari.” I scrambled to my feet. My brother’s eyes glittered dangerously. He edged his face close in to Zale’s and Zale flinched. “Boo,” Ari said with a hard smile and fired a shadow like a punch into Zale’s abs. His sweet spot. The raku gasped and disappeared, dead. With a flick of his hand, Ari caught Zale’s fedora before it hit the ground and flipped it onto his head.

Ugh. I winged my used EpiPen at him, where it hit his shoulder and then clattered to the ground. “Seriously?” Ari cocked his head at the bar’s back door. “Ready to go in?” Not hardly after his baby Drio torture impersonation. Picking up the EpiPen, I exchanged it for a nubby joint from the tiny purse slung across my body, slid a bobby pin from my hair, and fastened it on as a holder before lighting up. I exhaled a long column of smoke into the warm May night, my skin returned to its normal Snow White complexion. “We’ll find the witches another way,” Ari said. “I know.” But I was running low on ideas. Over the past month, we’d sussed out campus wicca groups and employees of the new age bookstore Acacia Books.

When neither of those avenues had panned out, we’d done what Rasha do best, worked our way up, okay, killed our way up, one demon at a time until we’d found this duo. I’d been certain Zale and Dmitri were our ticket to sniffing out actual witches instead of women who celebrated the goddess via pricey bamboo clothing and new age bush beating. Insert sad trombone sound. Ari made a “hand it over” motion and surprised, I did. All of my life, my handsome, serious twin had been the good to my not-so-much. Our parental unit’s “golden boy” to my “big disappointment.” Blond to my dark, the only thing we shared were our blue-gray eyes and absolute bond. When I’d managed to get Ari inducted in his rightful place as Rasha, I’d bet that his power, reflecting an aspect of the user’s personality, would manifest as some type of earth magic. Steady. Stable.

Grounding. I’d lost fifty bucks. Ari lit up, practically deep throating the joint. “Your technique needs work.” Our friend and fellow Rasha, Kane Hashimoto, had joined us from inside the bar, hands jammed in the pockets of his dark jeans, his shock of black spiky hair even more explosive than usual. Ari raised his eyebrows and sucked deep enough to hollow out his cheeks before passing the joint to me. “Ew. I almost don’t want it after that.” My brother offered it to Kane who shook his head. “Uh, excuse me,” I said, snagging the joint.

“I said almost.” I took a drag, letting the burn spear my lungs. A group of friends passed by our alley with a clatter of heels on concrete and shrill drunken laughter. Once, before all the demon-hunting, I’d been that carefree. That oblivious. I held on to the sound of their laughter, wistfully wrapping it around me before letting it flutter free. “How did the fact-finding mission go?” Kane asked. He’d agreed with my assessment that Ari and I could dispatch the felan and raku just fine. “Dead end.” I contemplated the hissing, glowing joint tip, the sweet smoke curling around us a definite upgrade from the rotting garbage emanating out of the nearby dumpster.

Ari clapped my shoulder in sympathy. He’d help me keep looking for the witches to make contact with the woman I’d hoped might become a mentor. I wanted a friend and a guide who both possessed magic and was female, the Brotherhood being sorely lacking in that department. That was the reason I’d given Ari and Kane for my search anyway. My brother patted his head. “I got a hat.” Kane grimaced. “Demon cooties.” “The demon was bald,” Ari said. The explanation didn’t win Kane over.

He grabbed the fedora and pitched it into the dumpster. “You’re welcome.” Ari shook his head, his lips a flat line. “At least you got to add another kill to your scoreboard, brother dear, making you still in second place to moi,” I said. “Only in your cheating reality.” He snagged the joint. Kane laughed. Japanese-Canadian with chiseled cheekbones and a tight body, he had two modes of dressing: barely and horribly. Tonight was door number two, featuring a Technicolor Eurotrash-striped nightmare. He rolled up his sleeves, carelessly folding up the cuffs.

“Look at you, big boy,” I said, “you’re still wearing a shirt.” “The night is young, babyslay.” He peered at me. “You look like shit.” I flicked the lighter a few times. “And here I was going for utter shit.” Ari took one more hit then held out the joint to me. I waved his offer off. If I was considering the rainbow bruising on my arms a pretty accessory, I’d had enough. Shouting broke out from a crack deal going down at the end of the alley.

Since it involved all human players and the buyer took off, I didn’t mix in, though the pricey cover I’d paid earlier tonight that could have gone towards getting the addict some food didn’t sit well. In this neck of Vancouver, lush gentrification butted against low-income neighborhoods and the uneasy mix was sickening to anyone with a conscience. Or me. Kane strode over to the dealer, now smoking a cigarette by the wall. Ari frowned at the man, as if trying to place him. “Fuck.” He ground out the joint and hurried after Kane, me at his heels, trying to get my brother’s attention and have him fill me in. Ari got to Kane before Kane got to the dealer. He stepped between Kane and the man, but Kane neatly sidestepped him, his eyes trained on the pusher. “You ought to rethink your line of work.

” Kane smiled, dagger-sharp. “Yeah?” The dealer flicked his lit butt at Kane. Kane caught it, crushed it in his hand, and winged it back. The butt beaned the dealer on the nose. In retaliation, the dealer pulled a knife and lunged, but Kane deflected the strike, an almost bored expression on his face as he slammed the attacker’s arm back into the wall, over and over again, until the knife clattered to the ground. Kane shoved his palm into the dealer’s cheek, pinning the guy’s head back against the bricks. The Rasha’s skin coated with a purple iridescent sheen. My nose stung from the sharp tang of salt. Ari made a tch noise. The dealer threw his hands up.

“Take it easy, man.” Kane casually ripped the dude’s ear off. My hands flew up to block the blood spray, but there wasn’t any. The dealer’s skin simply split open, droopy speckled gills popping out. He struggled, but Kane held him fast. “Should have taken me up on my offer.” Kane slapped his poison-covered hand against the gills. The demon just sort of dissolved under Kane’s toxic touch and disappeared, dead. Kane swayed on his feet, one hand shooting out for balance. Ari tried to grab his shoulder and steady him but Kane brushed him off.

“Leave it. I’m good.” “Sure. Until your kidneys fail, idiot.” Kane shot us a bright smile. “But like all things about me, even my failure shall be glorious.” A 2 ri filled me in about Kane being pulled off active duty for a while because of dangerously high salt levels in his blood after too many kills in too short a period of time. The cost of his particular magic, just like mine was risk of heart attack. Much as I wished otherwise, there’d be no point berating Kane. “What kind of demon was that?” I asked, with a glance back.

“A fix. They feed off addiction.” Ari shook his head, staring musingly at the bar’s back door that Kane had already gone through. “Rare though. The only way to identify them is by a thickness in their throat where the gills are hidden.” I flung the bar’s door open. “How the hell did he spot that all the way back in a dark alley?” “He spots everything.” I couldn’t tell if Ari sounded annoyed or impressed. If the witch-seeking fail wasn’t enough, the bar was an irritating insult to injury. Too many bodies pressed too close together in hopes of getting even closer before night’s end.

We muscled our way to the rickety metal table we’d secured with our jackets. For the amount this place charged to get in, the owners could have refurbished this old watering hole. The floor was sticky in patches, and the ceiling fans couldn’t overpower the stench of stale beer and brittle desperation. I crashed my ass onto the chair, grateful to be sitting down, then grabbed the muscled arm of a passing server. “There is a massive tip for you if you get us a pitcher of beer and a large order of wings in five minutes.” The bar didn’t do burritos but their miso-glazed wings were to die for. Kane dropped down next to me, all iridescence and salt tang gone from his skin. He must have washed the poison off. The saucy waiter pursed his mouth. “Sweetheart, we’re understaffed.

I’m good but I’m no miracle worker.” I motioned to my two companions. “I’ll throw in the phone number of the boy of your choosing.” Ari craned his neck to check out the beers on tap. “Whoring your own brother for food. Wow.” “Yes,” I said. “Because for years women had to bear that burden. Feminism. Get on board.

” “I’ll take the non-whiny one,” the server said. Kane preened. “If you want me to call you back, you’ll give me extra ginger dipping sauce.” The server winked at him. “Done.” Kane tracked the guy’s ass as he walked away and Ari tracked Kane. This is what I’d been living with for the past month. Ignoring, longing, sexual tension, and more ignoring. I was living in a CW teen soap as the sassy best friend without any foreseeable love interest in my storyline. It was time to get these two together already so I could star in my own spin-off.

Besides, they’d be adorable together. Provided they didn’t turn their magic on each other leaving either a poisoned corpse or one eviscerated by shadows; but hey, every couple had their problems. Tonight’s plan to wisen these two the fuck up? Beer. That fine libation that had kicked off many a beautiful romance. The waiter was back in three minutes with tall glasses and an icy pitcher. “Wings in two.” He pointed at a table of customers playing a loud drunken game of “I never.” “I switched their order with yours. The McRude ones can wait.” I waved the lager he’d poured for me in benediction.

“Bless you, my son. Drink up, boys,” I said to Ari and Kane. Holding my dark curls off my neck with my free hand, I pressed the pint glass to my forehead, sighing at the nip of condensation against my skin. “It’s great to kick back with good friends.” Silence. I’d lost them to their phones. I snapped my fingers. “Social time, gentlemen. Be social.” They grumbled, but the wings arrived, and that did the trick.

I dug in with a munchieinduced fervor, happy to eat and people watch. “If my life was a movie, I’d fire whoever cast the extras. These people are blech.” I jerked a chicken wing at a couple engaged in a nauseating display of PDA. “Especially them. I can’t stand them.” I sucked the rich, slightly spicy glaze off chicken skin that was so crispy, it crackled when I bit it. Kane looked over. “You know them?” I dipped another wing in the tangy ginger sauce. “No.

” “Nava hates lots of people she doesn’t know.” Ari nodded his thanks as I topped us all off with more beer. “It’s her special talent.” “I’d settle for them turning off the baseball game and Grease.” Kane glanced at the muted TV screens hung above the bar, dipping his sauce-coated fingers in the small bowl of warm water that had come with our order. “Sports and musicals, the seventh level of Hell.” I gasped, hand to my heart. Ari facepalmed. “Now you’ve done it.” “Grease is the seminal cinematic exploration of teen culture,” I said.

Kane grabbed a napkin. “No way. Cruel Intentions.” I eyeballed the remaining wings, pulling my generously estimated third into a pile. “Wanting to fuck late 90s Ryan Phillipe does not make something seminal.” Kane and Ari both leaned back, arms identically crossed. “Says you,” they said in unison. Perhaps bonding over their mutual interest in screwing a third party was not the way to foster romance. Hmm. Further thought was required.

I nibbled on a wing. “I’d argue that contrary to popular belief, Grease doesn’t have a happy ending.” Ari paused, his glass halfway to his mouth. “Criticizing the movie? Are you concussed?” “No. It’s still a mostly perfect film. I’m merely older and wiser,” I said. “See, it ends with Sandy sewing herself into a catsuit that makes peeing impossible. She’d totally rather be in her ponytail and poodle skirt but she’s so sweet that she’s not going to say anything, letting her bitterness build until it manifests in a brain aneurysm.” I pulled the dipping sauce away from Ari. “Don’t hog the sauce.

” “Much as I cannot believe I’m encouraging this conversation,” Kane said, “I’d say they both compromised and got their happily-ever-after.” “Please. The second Danny saw he’d broken her, he had that stupid letterman’s sweater ripped off. Couldn’t even make it through the first verse of ‘You’re the One that I Want.’

.

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