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Badlands
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 2

"When?"

"In the morning," she said. "Itís not that far away, the morning."


There was something in the sky, circling.

He tilted his head back, squinting. The sky was the colour of burnished steel, and it was almost impossible to make out anything in the glare. He could just make out something with wings. There were at least three of them, and they did not seem to be birds.

"Demon," he said. "Demon."

"Theyíre just watching." The demon still had her hand on his thigh, and her fingers clenched slightly. Not much, just enough to remind him of what her claws could do. "Donít look at them, Man."

He shook his head and rubbed his eyes. The yellow stony desert on all sides and the metallic sky above gave no relief. Only in the distance before them, where a rising line of eroded brownish-pink cliffs rose like broken teeth, was there any sign of any change in the topography.

The beast plodded on, uncaring. Its horned head nodded back and forth above its heavy muscular shoulders. He had often wondered what the beast thought and dreamed, inside its human head. Nothing seemed to ever matter to it. He wonder what it had ever done to become what it was now, and whether it was content. He wondered if it was being punished or rewarded.

The beast couldnít answer these questions and the demon wouldnít.

"Weíre going up that way," the demon said. Even in the eye-aching light, her skin glowed red, her naked body not seeming to feel the heat. "Up into the hills there."

"And when we get there?"

"When we get there, Man," she said, her barbed tail swishing, "we shall do what we came to do."

From long experience, he knew he wouldnít get anything more out of her for the time being. When he turned back to look at the cliffs they were suddenly much closer. Stones clicked and clattered away from the beastís hooves.

A shadow fell across the beastís shoulders and the rock path and as quickly disappeared. He looked up quickly, but just too late to see anything.

"Donít look up, Man." There was an edge to the demonís voice. "Keep your head down."

There were times, heíd learned, when he could defy the demon, but this wasnít one of them. He kept his eyes fixed on the beastís shoulders while the shadows returned, each time closer. He thought he could make out noises, just too faint to hear.

As they entered the hills, the beastís steps grew slower and unsure, and he could feel it deciding before placing each foot. He looked to the side and saw nothing but sky. They were travelling along the edge of a cliff so high he could not see the desert beneath Ė if there was any desert to be seen.

"Isnít it time you told me what this is about?" he asked the demon.

"Weíll come to a village in a little bit," she replied. "Itís got an...infestation. Your job, Man, is to clear it out."

"Infestation?" he repeated. "What kind of infestation? Ghouls? Vampires?"

"Ghouls or vampires wouldnít need you to handle them, Man," she snapped with undisguised contempt. "Youíll know it when you see it."

The path twisted away from the cliff edge, and he no longer saw the sky.


"That?" he asked, superfluously.

"That," the demon confirmed.

He stared at the gate, fighting down the urge to reach for the sword. Even the beast hesitated a moment in its plodding. The structure filled the path before them, like an open, hungry mouth. From the wooden crosspiece and posts, fanged skulls peered down at them with empty eye sockets. From beyond the sagging barrier of bone lashed with sinew, something that might have been smoke stained the air.

"And thereís a village inside?" he asked at last.

"There was a village inside," the demon said. "Now thereís, well, letís go in and see."

[ Continue to page 3 ]

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Information
Genre:General Horror
Type:Short story
Rating:7.5 / 10
Rated By:18 users
Comments: 3 users
Total Hits:17817

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