DEMON CLEANER (Prologue) – GROTTOLLICA

I've got the demons in me;
I've got to brush them all away.
I feel the demons rage;
I must clean them all away.

The air was thick and tense. Water beaded on the windowpanes and the house was heating up too quickly for comfort. A woman, around thirty years of age, pressed the head of her son closer to her stomach as he hugged her tightly, using her other hand, wrapped in a necklace bearing a cross, to hold up a pistol, which was aimed at another woman; this one was about seventeen. The house creaked eerily as the mother adjusted her feet on the wooden floor. The younger woman held her hands up in defence.

"Hey, at least you heeded my warning about the religions symbolism—"

"Shut up!" the mother cried, and the woman stayed still, silencing as she was told. Her armed hand shook. "What's the passcode?"

The girl seemed shocked at the random bark from the woman, but answered nonetheless. "Mrs Thompson," she said in a chiding manner, "there really is no need for passcodes is there—?"

"What is it?!" she said thickly. Sweat matted her red hair, sticking to her neck and forehead. Her green shirt stuck to her skin and her feet shifted in her beige pants as her strawberry blonde son wrapped himself more closely to her. She rubbed soothing circles evenly in his back, feeling the sweat he was emitting. She wanted to seem strong to her son, but she couldn't, not when precious time was being eaten and she won't say the damn passcode—

"'Omnipotent'."

Thompson looked at the demon incredulously. "Pardon?" she asked, voice cracking.

"I said 'omnipotent'. That's the passcode we set up, isn't it?" she asked, her hands still up.

Mrs Thompson nodded, breathing a sigh of relief. Her legs stopped shaking and she stopped adjusting her weight. Her hand still in the air, she said, "That's right." She slowly lowered the gun—

Just like that, the girl's face melted; her skin shredded off. The heat in the house grew further as the girl shredded her clothes with long, iron nails. With a snarl fit for the fringes of Hell, the girl leaped at the woman, claws raised as she quickly tried to pass the space between herself and the mother—

And a thick weight crushed her downward. The mother grasped her son and jumped back as the wooden floor cracked sharply. The girl-turned-demon clawed into the floor as a girl who looked just like she once did held her down by her neck, a single amulet dangling from her neck.

"You were wrong," she hummed, closing her eyes peacefully. "It was 'omnipresent'."

The demon screamed; it was apparent that it was angry. "I've been told of you," it hissed, still clawing at the floor. It spit little acidic globules that ate into the wood. The woman who mounted it didn't seem to notice, taking a pair of gloves from her pocket and putting them on her hands pensively. Her hair was tied back with a bandanna. "You're the so-called Demon Cleaner. You go about cleansing 'innocent people's' homes of us 'vermin'!" The defiant kicks were not making any progress. "It's your silly trinket that keeps you safe from us," it spat vehemently; "otherwise you'd be within my jurisdiction now!"

"I severely doubt it," she replied calmly, and she looked at the demon before closing her eyes. Her amulet glowed as she opened them once again, and they were a brilliant blue, bordering white. The demon suddenly began to howl beneath her as she held on, grasping expertly to the struggling ribs despite the constant movement.

"Demon, anathematised," she said in a dark, steady voice that rumbled on over the constant screeching beneath her and told of her own authority. "Thou hast been caught, trespassing on the homes of the innocent and the impeded. Thou shalt receive thy deserved punishment for said crimes. If thou hast neither feeling of remorse nor sign of respect, then thou shall leave this place, with due haste! If thou hast a spark of honest regret, then thou shalt join me in my quest to help those in want of it; thou shalt lend their aid to my talisman, or face the world with one less victim and scars to prove your business here." The demon visibly blanched, silencing effectively, though the occasional wince said the demon was still in pain. "What say thou?"

The demon squeezed its eyes shut, then screwed them open; they were spirals, constantly going in. "I shall join you!" it cried after much deliberation. "Anything is better than facing my fellows with a wound inflicted by you! I will help you!"

The woman smiled from her perch on the demon's back and touched its forehead with two fingers; and the demon sighed, leaned in to her touch, and faded slowly into a black smoke that whirled in the air. It followed her fingertips, until she put her gloved hands like ribs around her amulet. "Then thou shalt help my quest become reality. Auxilio eris mihi cor ultra instaurari."*

With that, the smoke whirled into the heart of her amulet, and it glowed a blinding white before she closed her eyes again; and then she opened them, and they were the same vibrant blue, and she hummed contently, getting up from her seat on the ground and looking at the mother, who was smiling. The temperature in the room had dropped 20 degrees in a heartbeat. She felt relieved.

"Well, Mrs Thompson," she mused, standing and looking intently at the aforementioned woman. "I reckon that's the end of your demon problem. I'm sorry to endanger you and your son so recklessly, but the demon wanted nothing more than to take your son, and you were standing in its way. A jab at you was too tempting for it to ignore. I hope you understand."

Mrs Thompson's smile could not be betrayed by false anger. She shook her head, still clutching her son like a lifeline. He seemed not to mind at all. "As long as Todd is free of nightmares, then I feel no more grief. Thank you, DC. You did us a world of good."

DC smiled, ruffling her hair and grinning. "No, you really ought not to thank me, Mrs Thom—"

"Call me Gloria, DC."

DC's grin grew. "You really ought not to thank me, Gloria. My head will swell more than my fingers." She stretched and straightened her back, absently flexing her right hand. "I'll grab my objects and leave, now; I feel my work is done and an evening with you and Todd alone is quite necessary." She headed toward the spare room, which was on the bottom floor. Gloria frowned and followed her, watching as she opened her door. She did not enter the room, just listening to DC gather everything. Todd walked away, toward the front door.

"You won't stay for dinner?" she asked.

"No, that's too much to ask of you," she hummed.

"No dessert?"

"No, thank you."

"I'll bake a cake to your success!"

"Gloria, you flatter me! But I ought not to." She exited her room and grinned, weighed down by two bags. "I should really be off right now; I've a plane to catch, you see."

Gloria's eyes widened. "Where are you headed? I thought the witch country of Vermont was enough to keep you busy for a long time."

DC grinned sheepishly. "I'm fairly certain that's Connecticut, Gloria," she said quietly, but kindly, and she shook her head. "I'm off to England; friend gave me a ticket, said there's a nice little town chocked full to the brim with superstitious nobodies who would pay their wife and seven kids for me to even appraise their house." She raised her arms happily. "I'm going where success bids me, milady!" Gloria's smile saddened.

"Does your friend think this is all a hoax?" she asked, and she saw something flash in DC's eyes. It wasn't a warning, or a tear; it was something foreign, but sincere, leaving too quickly to be distinguished. She looked at Gloria, smiling, but a bit of that something was still present.

"Do you?"

Gloria couldn't control herself; it slipped out. "No."

DC's smile grew more genuine then. "Good. I thank you for your hospitality, Mrs Gloria Thompson." She bowed and began to the door, but a hand on her shoulder halted her, and she turned around to suddenly be hugged tightly around the shoulders, feeling tears on her neck.

"Thank you… so much…for saving my baby." Gloria pulled back and hazarded a sad smile, wiping a tear from her eye. "Just know that you're always welcome here in Vermont. There will always be room for you here."

DC's smile was really sad this time; watered down, like cheap tonic. But it was so much more than cheap; and her smiles rarely ever came with a price no less than a chunk of your heart. But, oh, were they worth it. "Thank you, Gloria." A squeeze of her hand, and soon, DC was headed to the door, but stopped just in front of it, looking down at a belligerent blonde who crossed his arms and pouted, his freckled cheeks puffed out as he threw a silent death-glare at her that was reciprocated by a friendly smile. She kneeled before him and pressed her forehead to his, which got him to let the air out of his cheeks; it fanned the bridge of her nose, blowing sandy-brown locks from near her eyes, their usual crystalline blue. His breath smelled of mint; he must've chewed the leaves again, before they came in to their mission impossible. He was so brave.

"I think you'll always be my favourite little ranger, Todd," she said. "Don't let those bad things get your mommy, yes?"

Todd nodded, not glaring anymore, reduced to a little blonde ball of tears as he put two five-year-old hands in her hair and fisted them, looking deep into her eyes. His own semi-green ones were radiant, even when raining. "I promise I won't." She took his elbows in her fists and smiled, pulling his hands slowly from her hair.

"I'll come back someday," she said airily, and he was mesmerised. "When I have no other demons to cleanse people of and I can finally wash my hands clean. And then we can go on adventures again, like we used to last week, before I finally found it. Alright? Until then, keep your mommy safe, like I said." And he nodded, his cherub face scrunched in a weeping position, and he put his nose to hers. Smiling gently to him, she pried him loose, and he complied; but something was pressed into his hand, and he opened it, seeing a large, deep-purple stone looped on a silver chain. He looked up amazedly at her, and she chuckled quietly.

"It's a charm, you see. It'll keep the bad things away."

He nodded quietly. "My favourite colour."

"Purple, yes."

"Mommy has one?"

"In her jacket pocket. It's sky blue."

"Her favourite."

"Yes. And now, I must depart."

He looked at her as she stood, squeezing his hand, too, and he ran to his mother, clutching her side and watching DC pick up her bags and head to the door. She turned back to the family and gave an amiable wave, which they returned, albeit tearfully. And then she opened the door, exited the room, and closed it. Outside the window, they could see DC walk down the road, aimless, but with a goal.

To rid the world of demons, one single soul at a time, was her ambition. To die trying, or have a family while doing it, was her dream.

I am the Demon Cleaner, the madman.
I am the freedom bleeder, standing naked here to say;
I'm the only way
.

A/N: Ugh, so sappy. Anyway, that's my first chapter of Demon Cleaner. Inspired by the song by Kyuss; the lyrics in the beginning belong to them; I was just quoting the part that got me hooked.

*Thou shalt help my heart be whole again.

Anyhow, this is the first of much more to come. Much love, and thanks for reading. -Grottollica