Chapter 1

31st Apartment Complex, New York City

The young man sat alone in his apartment. Cross-legged and relaxed, he felt that he could hear everything happening.

Jedediah Kinel was a secretive fellow. He didn't associate with people often, and preferred to spend the day either meditating or spending time on the Internet.

Jed opened his eyes as he heard someone knock on his door. It was fairly soft, but he had exceptionally good hearing. He stood up slowly and walked to the door.

His visitor was a woman, about a foot shorter than Jed's six feet even. Her black hair framed a pale face that was free of blemishes, aside from a bruise under one of her sober blue eyes.

"Again?" Jed asked.

"Yeah," she replied, lowering her head in shame and embarrassment.

"Jean, why do you persist in staying with him?" he inquired with a sigh.

"You're the only one I can stay with," she answered, "and you're not the most... accommodating type."

Jed shook his head sadly. He hated it when she was right.

Jean Hule was his neighbor. She was a nice woman, but her husband of two years was an abusive asshole. He traveled frequently, so she was safe most of the time. When he came back, however, he was usually drunk and pissed off.

"Come in," Jed said, moving out of her way. She did so and walked past him, her head low to keep from making eye contact.

"I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you," she apologized.

"It's fine. I wasn't doing anything, just procrastinating on my trip to the store."

She gave him a look of fright.

"Don't worry," he assured, "the lock is good enough to keep him out if he gets any ideas."

She relaxed a little bit as Jed walked into his bedroom. He sat down on his swivel chair and woke up his laptop. It was almost completely silent as the screen came to life. He was met with a message board.

"Going out to get food," he typed. "May be more than usual, since someone is staying with me."

After sending the message, he closed the laptop. He wasn't worried about Jean sneaking through it, as it was password protected. He grabbed his wallet and coat and walked back into the living area.

"I'm heading out," he said. "Anything in particular you want?"

"Oh, I don't want to be a burden," Jean replied meekly.

"It's not a problem. I have enough money to pay for my groceries several times over. What do you want?"

Jean sat in silence for a moment, until she made up her mind.

"Can I have a chocolate milkshake?"

Jed smiled.

"Of course. I'll be back in a bit."

He opened the door and walked through it, closing it behind him. He waited until he heard the door lock, then walked down the stairs. He preferred to walk rather than ride the elevator, or anything else.

The store was fairly close, so he didn't bother calling a cab. He walked down the sidewalk, passing many different people of all races, occupations, and personalities.

Jed was good at reading people. He spent a lot of his Internet time researching psychological facts that can manifest physically. He saw what made these people tick.

A businessman walked past him while talking on a cellphone. Jed saw that he was more dedicated to his job than to his family. Poor bastard, he thought.

A woman walked past him, wearing a skimpy red dress under a heavy fur coat. Jed knew that she was a prostitute, and a successful one at that.

A child of about thirteen ran past, cursing under his breath. Jed guessed that he was late in getting home, either from a friend's house or from suspension.

Finally, he came to the store. The automatic doors slid open as he entered.

"Good evening, Jedediah," the clerk greeted.

"Evening, Jasper," Jed returned. "Quiet so far?"

"Yep. it's amazing what a little darkness does to people."

Jed went to the frozen dairy section first. He took his usual sweet treat of chocolate ice cream, and looked for the milkshakes. The chocolate milkshakes were out. He went to the regular dairy section and took out a jug of milk. He then proceeded to buy various vegetables and meats.

"A little excessive tonight," Jasper noted as Jed placed the groceries on the counter.

"My neighbor is hiding in my apartment," Jed replied.

"Jean?" the clerk asked, receiving a nod in response. "Damn. She deserves better than that prick."

"That's the polite way of putting it."

Jasper quickly scanned the groceries and bagged them efficiently. He handed the bags to Jed.

"Can they stay here a while?" he asked. "I'm gonna grab a milkshake for Jean. I won't take long."

"Sure, pal," Jasper replied.

Jed walked out of the store and a little further down the street to the McDonalds. He ordered a chocolate milkshake, and to his surprise, they had one all ready for him. He paid for it and walked out.

He was on his way to the store with Jean's milkshake when somebody flew through the storefront window. Jed ran to them and made sure they were OK. He then set Jean's milkshake in a safe spot and looked into the store.

In the center of the building was a tall humanoid figure. It was very similar in structure to a human, but it clearly wasn't, as it was tall, thin, and covered in rough black skin. On it's back were a pair of batlike wings, and it's hands had long claws. It's mouth was lined with sharklike teeth. The creature stomped around and roared at seemingly nothing in particular.

Jed snuck inside and grabbed a piece of plastic that had broken off of one of the shelves. He concentrated on the piece of plastic, feeling it grow warm in his hand.

Jed swung the piece at the demonic creature. The demon screamed in pain as an orange line was cut into it's side. It turned to it's assailant, seeing the long, fiery blade that had formed in Jed's hand.

Jed swung the sword again as the demon charged him. The blade sliced into the monster's shoulder, burning it's normally fireproof skin and melting the bones in it's shoulder. The demon screamed again as it swung it's claws at Jed, who dodged the attack with ease. Jed then plunged his sword into the monster's chest.

It only stood there in shock. After a moment of realization, the demon curled it's mouth into a toothy grin. Jed's eyes went wide with surprise.

"What in the name of the Gods are you?" he asked.

The demon walked forward, letting the blade slide through it's body. It's breath burned in Jed's nostrils as it spoke.

"I'm not of the Gods."

In a flash of anger, Jed sliced the blade through the demon's body. The demon shrieked in pain, but was otherwise unaffected. Jed then clutched the handle of the sword with both hands. The sword blazed a sweltering blue flame. The demon shrunk back in fear.

"Begone, foul demon!" Jed yelled. "Back to the pit where you came from!"

The demon's body suddenly combusted and began to burn. The demon let out one last scream as it disintegrated into nothing but ash. The store was quiet as Jed dropped the sword, the spell wearing away and revealing the piece of plastic at it's heart.

Jed pulled out his phone and opened his special messenger app. He began typing.

"Demon attacked store today. Didn't respond to standard banishing tactics. Please advise."

It was less than a minute before he received a reply.

"Go to Hell."