When the door bursts open, she stops breathing and opens her eyes. He steps inside, his shadow looming over her small frame. A slow smile spreads across his sadistic face as he takes his first step towards her, then his second, third.
“How did you find me?” Circe asks, her body pressed tightly against the kitchen sink, a soapy knife held fast in her palm.
His menacing laugh fills the empty air, low and bone chilling. “Do you really think they wouldn’t find you? Your kind is a menace to the Shadow Realm,” he hisses, spit flying past his lips.
As he moves aside his cloak-like jacket, Circe spies a flash of silver, her heart dropping at the sight. Pulling the sickle from his belt, he smiles again at Circe, fully aware that his kind was known for their massive strength and incredible speed.
Their complete lack of empathy is why the Shadow Realm, millions of years before, deemed them The Nameless, the most ruthless of all Witch-Hunters. She is no match against him.
Closing her eyes, she breathes one last spell into the air.
Several months have gone by since the incident, and Brann has done nothing but drink, falling victim to his sorrow. Without Circe, he was unable to drag himself from the darkness.
He stopped going to work, and after the funeral costs and his drinking habit, he had burned through almost all of the family savings they had started collecting.
The silence is what drove him over the edge. It was deafening. Without the constant bustling of Circe around, it seemed to leak into his skull and pound against his brain, making his dark thoughts stir and swell to unbearable heights.
To add to his turmoil, the case had gone cold, police unable to find even a strand of DNA that belonged to the killer. He spent many weeks talking with police, and their lack of progress angered him, more than once, into the cool caress of handcuffs.
He scoffs to himself, roughly wiping a tear before returning his hand to the steering wheel. His car swerves towards the ditch, alcohol blurring his vision of the road. A silver handgun clunks around on the passenger seat before settling down as Brann redirects the car onto the highway, breathing deeply a sigh of relief.
Pulling quickly into the nearest gas-station lot, Brann stumbles slowly to the store, not noticing a large man quickly making his way out. Turning the corner, the doors burst open with enough force to kill a small animal.
The men crash shoulders, sending each-other flying sideways. Brann stumbles on his feet, the alcohol in his system making the ground swirl and sway. The palms of his hands sting with small pebbles as he catches himself.
Splayed out inches from his fingertips lay a little black book, its pages ruffled and worn. Grabbing its small frame, Brann waves it around in the air, trying to gain the man's attention.
"Hey!" He shouts, but the man continues forwards, his long black jacket wrapped tightly around his body. A small mark just above the man's collar on the back of his sturdy neck garners his attention.
It is hard to see from this distance, but Brann is certain it is a scorpion. Its tail twists around some sort of dagger, but he is unsure of the rest.
"You forgot some--" he pauses as the man hops in a black truck, no license plate, and drives off--"thing." Frowning, Brann heads inside.
The notepad feels oddly heavy in his hand, and he can't help but stare at it. It's as if it's luring him in, fish and bait.
"Can I help you?" The clerks' startling voice asks, suddenly right behind him. He must have zoned.
On the way back to the register with an ice water in hand, he looks back to the notepad in the other, feeling its strange pull. He turns the first page. On it there are six numbers, scribbled messily across the centre of the worn paper.
Standing numbly at the register, his glance flickers towards the lottery tickets on the counter. How funny, how ironic would it be if I won now? He thinks to himself.
"I'll take a lotto too," he says, and the clerk gives him a nasty eyeball, judging him openly. Brann must seem like a lunatic, a drunk on the brink of mental collapse, buying a lotto. "These numbers."
With a raised eyebrow, the clerk punches it in. Brann wonders what else could be in this mysterious black book.
As soon as Brann turned the next page, he was trapped within the book, unable to focus on anything else. He was transfixed.
The symbol he saw on the back of the man's neck; it was in fact a scorpion, and Brann saw the raw details put into the symbol. The scorpion looked almost real, as if it would crawl off the page and into his hand-- if it weren't for the sharp blade stabbed through its head.
Small drops of venom fall from the scorpion's sharp tail wrapped up the blade of the dagger, towards a human skull resting as the base of the handle. It is beautiful yet utterly terrifying.
Another page turns. A list of names. Some names are crossed out while others remain untouched. Only a few are circled. His chest thunders as his eyes scan the page, unaware that the clerk is scanning his lotto.
The screen behind the clerk lights up vividly, the words "YOU WIN" sliding across, and fake confetti shooting out from the corners. Shouts with joy fill the air, the man behind the counter happy for the stranger standing in front of him.
As his eyes reach the bottom of the page, he recognizes one name for certain, and his eyes swell with tears. Circe, circled. Just a note in this little black book.
A rough slap on his shoulder moves Brann from his trance.
"Congratulations! You've won 20,000 dollars!" The clerk says, a smile from ear to ear distorting his face. Stunned, Brann takes his ticket and walks back to his car, muttering a confused thanks on his way out.
Twenty thousand dollars. What were the odds? Detached laughter bursts from his lips as he waves the ticket in front of his face, celebrating his win before reality dawns on him.
The man with the scorpion tattoo knew Circe. Could he have killed her?
A burning ache throbs in Brann’s back. He had remained hunched over his computer for hours already, researching everything he could about the scorpion tattoo, along with the many symbols he had found deeper within the pages of the little black book.
He had gone to the police with the book, but they said it couldn’t help their investigation. He was on his own.
His research had yielded nothing so far, and he was beginning to lose hope just as his eyes caught something of odd interest to him.
It was a link, near the bottom of the page, to a site called ChuggaChooTrain.com. Surprisingly, the name is not what garnered his attention. Underneath the link, a quick preview read “A scorpion tattoo, a dark figure, missing people, The Nameless, demons and witch-hunters. A guide to it all.”
With one click, he is there.
The site does not have much to offer. The extensions are all empty links. Near the bottom of the page is contact information to someone named Theodore Larrie, and below that is his number and email.
Bored and frustrated, Brann had called the number just because. He did not expect anyone to even answer, let alone ask him to meet ASAP to talk about the man with the scorpion tattoo Brann described over the phone.
Sipping his coffee, Brann rubs his lower back to ease the ache. Suddenly, a disheveled figure stumbles through the cafe doors, papers flying from stacks in his arms, a small pair of spectacles crooked on his short nose.
His round gut brushes against people as he squeezes between the tight rows of tables toward Brann. Splaying his papers on the table without a word, he takes a seat and fixes his glasses, his eyes darting around the room frantically as he attempts to catch his breath.
Eyebrows furrowed, Brann clears his throat. “Uhm, Theodore?”
Teddy turns his head sharply, his grey eyes locking onto Brann’s. His face lights up in a smile, his hand reaching across the table as offering. “Nice to meet ya,” he says as they shake. “You can call me Teddy,” he begins just as Brann opens his mouth to speak.
“I hear you saw someone with a mysterious scorpion tattoo. What did it look like again?” He asks, his eyes staring intensely at Brann, eager.
“Well, it was wrapped around some sort of dagger, and the ta--”
“The tail was wrapped around the daggers blade--” Teddy says excitedly, interrupting Brann. “--towards a human skull as the handle? And at the bottom, the scorpion's head was stabbed by the tip of the dagger, right?” He asks, smiling.
Brann only nods. He reaches inside his pocket and grabs a hold of the little black book. “I have a drawing of it here, along with some other symbols that I was hoping you could help with,” Brann says, gaining Teddy’s full attention now.
He snatches the book from Brann’s grasp, gasping as he flips through the pages. He whispers something to himself, staring into nothing as he thinks deeply, his mind racing.
“What is it?” Brann asks.
He avoids the question, instead asking his own. “How did you get this?”
Brann stares intensely at Teddy, a frown on his lips. He wasn’t sure what the significance of this all was, but he didn’t want to give up any vital information by accident. “How can I trust you?”
“Look,” Teddy says, leaning forwards so that he could speak quietly. “This is some serious shit. You don’t want this getting to the wrong person. You even seeing this puts you in danger.”
“Just tell me what it is, then,” Brann says, frustrated.
After a long glance, Teddy agrees. “I’ll tell you this; this book has to do with--” he whispers even softer-- ”The Nameless. They are told to be some sort of Witch-Hunters for the shadow world. And you’ve got the key to one of the best of them,” he says, flapping the book in front of Brann’s nose.
Brann didn’t understand. It sounded crazy! Circe had talked about weird things, believed in the crystals and stars, but Brann was a practical man, had to see it to believe it. But, what other hope did he have? The police won’t help.
“My wife was killed a few months ago, they never found the killer. Her name is in his book, circled,” Brann says, turning to the page and pointing to her name. Teddy’s eyes widen. “Help me find him.”
Instantly, Teddy refuses. “No.” He says harshly, slamming the book closed. “Absolutely not. This guy is intense. If the legends are true,” he stops, stammering, drifting into thought. “Well, it’s virtually impossible to kill him. Just let it go, man,” Teddy says, moving to stand.
A hand snaps around his wrist, holding him there. “Twenty thousand dollars,” Brann says, locking his gaze.
A lump forms in Teddy’s throat as he swallows, sweat glistening on his brow.
“You could die,” he says, making sure Brann is aware of the severity.
Brann nods, unwavering.
“Well, let’s kill a demon then,” he says smiling.
They spent the remainder of the day collecting all the necessary ingredients, and Teddy rehearsed the ritual over and over again with Brann. He explained that he was some sort of “future professor of the spirit realm”, which is how he knew all of this stuff.
“The Shadow Realm is home to thousands of classification of demons,” Teddy said, dropping a third bag of salt into the cart. “If we don’t do this properly, we could leave an open portal, and the really bad demons will get through. We really don’t want that.”
While Teddy draws a giant symbol on the cement, Brann pours the bags of salt in a protective barrier around it, just as Teddy had instructed. He has no idea if this would even work, or if he is being duped by some lunatic off the street.
Dusting himself off, Teddy clears his throat. “You ready?” He asks, nervous.
Brann nods. He had rehearsed it over a thousand times. He knew what he needed to say, what he needed to do. This would end.
Teddy begin’s reading from the little black book, his words slurring in foreign ways, a language never heard by the human ears.
After a few seconds, the symbol Teddy had drawn begins to spark and hiss, lighting up in burning red.
The wind kicks up at their feet, throwing sharp rocks and pebbles into their skin. It quickly grows, ruffling their clothes and tugging at them. Teddy braces himself against it, losing his hat as he grabs the book with both hands.
Brann shields his eyes from the stones. Dust whirrs around them, clouding their vision. Everything is so loud, the wind, the rocks, Teddy’s shouting.
Suddenly, everything stills. Teddy stops reading, the ritual complete, and Brann’s breath catches in his throat as the dust clears.
Standing in front of him, the man with the scorpion tattoo. The Nameless.
The man that killed his love.
The demon looks around, his eyes scanning the scene before him, and a smile spreads across his face. He turns to Brann, locking eyes with him.
“You fool. You can’t harm me.” He says, his arms opening wide to show his full size.
Brann only smiles in return, visions of Circe running through his mind.
It was time for retribution.
Written by Regan Stevens