(This starts the special horror story that will run all month. I will mention that I only did a quick read over for editing. This is part 4 of what I’m calling the ‘Raven Series’, which includes Raven’s Hold, Raven’s Game, and Raven’s Dawn. Hopefully the finale entertains.)
With a yawn that dislocates her jaw, Dawn Addison sits up in her cloud-shaped bed and floats onto a nearby balcony. The sun glints off her golden eyepatch while she runs her hands through her brown hair to pull out the knots. A gentle breeze takes the severed tresses from her hair and adds them to a tapestry that depicts an island in the middle of a lake. She stares at the city that surrounds her five-hundred story hotel called Heaven’s Nest, which she has moved around the world for the last year. The young woman remembers going to bed in Los Angeles, but she can see Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance as well as the Parthenon. Realizing that she must have moved them in her sleep, Dawn waves her hand to whisk the landmarks back to where they belong. She pauses with her arm stretched out and watches the glitter on her skin sparkle until she gets bored. A storm erupts from overhead and unleashes a downpour that washes her clean, a chorus of shouts from below bringing a smile to her face. Tearing off her skin, she reveals a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt with her own face beneath. Frowning at the casual look of her outfit, she changes the clothes into a black, short-sleeved top and a crimson poodle skirt.
Grabbing a parasol from an open drawer, she skips across her rooftop apartment and steps off the edge. A flock of ravens rise to meet her as she plummets towards the ground, the birds cawing in her face. Hearing a blood-curdling scream from above, Dawn opens her lacey umbrella and stops in midair. The animals land on the side of the building and anxiously peck at the windows, which begin to bleed from the frame. Floating closer to the hotel, the woman frowns at how she cannot see into her own domain. Mournful cries erupt from the same location as the scream, so she rides a sudden breeze back to the roof. A spiral staircase has already appeared in the floor by the time she lands and snaps her fingers to have the ravens move to the eaves. Their feathered bodies remain close and they stand on top of each other to create four ebony gargoyles that watch the bustling streets below.
A cold wind meets Dawn as she walks down the steps, which are lit by candles that are on the verge of going out. Frustrated by the flickering shadows, she calls of the flames to her golden eyepatch and has it glow like a torch. Another scream shakes the building and draws her attention to a door that is marked with runes that she found in a book. The ritual chamber of her loyal cultists has been quiet for weeks with all of them spending more time among the thousands of potential victims and recruits that frequent the hotel. Dawn wonders if they were in the middle of a nighttime ceremony when she moved Heaven’s Nest. Not wanting to be rude, she knocks on the wall and waits for a response. A series of gurgles slips from a vent, but the noise is abruptly cut off as a person is pushed through the slats. The cultist’s eyes continue to blink as they are carried by the oozing gore towards a drain that appears in the floor. A disembodied mouth cries as it falls over the lip and plunges into the shadows below. Watching the last of her follower disappear, Dawn sticks a finger in her ear to feel around her brain and see if there is a piece that is loose. Not finding any evidence that she is behind the strange incident, she shrugs and plunges her hand into the door.
Flipping the entire wall like she is opening a garage, she turns her eyepatch into wraparound sunglasses to protect herself from the unexpected light. There are crackling bonfires around the large room, each one holding one of her cultists. The men and women are still alive even though their skin has been seared to the point of flaking off. Horrified faces are merged with the ceiling, their eyes dripping magma that has created holes in the floor. A couple that Dawn remembers joining soon after her resurrection have been placed on top of a raven-shaped alter. Their bodies have been merged so that they are on the verge of kissing. Seeing that their noses have been sealed and their lips are sticky, she can only guess that contact will start a slow suffocation for the weeping pair. Without moving, Dawn lets the bonfires consume her people and has the ceiling open to let the corpses inside fall to the floor. The bodies turn to dust as she approaches the couple and reaches out to transform them into something that she hopes will make them happy.
“Has the monster gained a soul?” a voice asks from a shadowy corner. A blue-eyed man steps into view and wipes the soot off his bare chest. “I thought you would appreciate the horrific fates of your people. After all, it was only a matter of time before you killed them. I’m very proud of these two. They defended your honor the most, which is why I granted them a scrap of hope. So, tell me what you think. Is this fun? It isn’t normal, so it must be fun. That is what you always said, right?”
“I don’t think we’ve met,” Dawn answers as her eyepatch returns to its normal form. She turns the couple into a cherry tree, but they are immediately turned into a bleeding pile of logs by the young man. “There’s no style to what you’re doing. Fueled by rage and nothing more. You came here to hurt me . . . My long buried puppy dug himself up. Are you here to be friends or enemies?”
“You already know why I’m here,” Ian growls, his teeth sharpening into those of a dog. He howls with enough power to launch the top floor off Heaven’s Nest and expose the chamber to the blazing sun. “Part of you sensed that an enemy had returned with you. That’s why you kept moving your hotel. How could you not know that I was back? I share your power and I’m going to use it to destroy you. Reality can only survive having one monster pulling at its threads and you aren’t worthy to survive.”
Dawn casually wipes some blood off her skirt and plants her parasol into the floor to use as a chair. “That sounds boring. Revenge and anger are so . . . normal. There’s never any fun in that type of stuff. I prefer to toy with people like I always do. If you want to go on a rampage and terrorizing humanity then I won’t stop you, puppy. All I ask is that you leave enough for me to enjoy my games.”
“Are you an idiot? I’m here to kill you.”
“But you’re too new to defeat me.”
“I have something that you lack.”
“Well, I could always give myself those if I wanted.”
Confused by the response, Ian leaves himself open to a foot that explodes from the floor and rockets him into the sky. Dawn watches as he grows a hole in his chest and falls back down with the stretching limb passing through his body. She relaxes at the sight of her ravens coming out of the clouds to attack the man, but the flock is abruptly snared by spiderwebs that come out of the sun. The birds are yanked into the distance orb and the smell of burning feathers overs the Earth as Ian lands in front of Dawn. Sprouting the drab clothes he used to wear when a patient at Raven’s Hold, he shoves the woman to put her in the same outfit. With a scream, she falls to her knees and scratches at her metal eyepatch, which is turning around the socket. She pulls it out of her flesh to reveal the empty hole beneath and plunges a finger inside to extract a squirming optic nerve that is fanged at the end.
“You will never defeat me,” Ian declares as Heaven’s Nest shudders. The guests and employees scream as the building begins to implode, the bottom floors collapsing to prevent an easy escape. “All you want to do, Addison, is have fun with your powers. That means you aren’t focused and lack the dedication to killing. Sure, you enjoy it, but I crave it. My rage drives me to break everything that has been created. I can’t accomplish this unless you’re gone. Otherwise, you might think it’s fun to undo my work. Now, put up the best fight you can, but I guarantee that you will lose.”
“Never any fun in normal,” Dawn mutters while her arms turn into golden claws. She is about to attack when her metallic limbs become tarnished and are on the verge of falling apart at the joints. “No fair messing with my own body. It took me many years and a handful of college students to get this back. Now, be a good puppy and go back to your house. Don’t make mommy take away your-”
The blow to Dawn’s face is too fast for her to know what hit her, but she retains enough of her senses to turn the wall into a vertical pool. Transforming her shirt and skirt into a silver bikini, she swims away from Heaven’s Nest to stretch the water. When she cannot go any further, she turns around and launches herself at Ian. The surrounding liquid gathers around her body and is beginning to turn to ice when a wall of flames appears in her path. The pool evaporates and Dawn is left plummeting towards the ground until a red-haired woman leaps through a crack in the wall. Turning in midair, Gemma pulls two pistols out of her pockets and fires at Ian to prevent him from leaving the roof. To the man’s surprise, a bullet skims his cheek and leaves a burning cut on his flesh. The brunette wraps her legs around her trusted bodyguard’s waist and turns himself into a jetpack. Leaving a rainbow in their wake, the two women escape as Heaven’s Nest is sucked into itself and then explodes out to level the entire city.