The sun set on the city of angels as the wheels of the Boeing 777 touched down. After a smooth taxi to the gate, the doors opened and passengers were released upon the terminal. As the last few stragglers meandered past the gate, a pale man in a long black cotton coat signified the last of the disbanding travelers. Pausing, he lifted his wide brimmed, leather hat and ran cotton gloved fingers through long obsidian locks only to reset the hat on the tamed head of hair. He carried no luggage as he continued on his journey through the terminal building. Following the signs, he made way to the baggage claim where he ignored the claim area for his flight and continued for the door where he caught sight of her. A woman in her early twenties dressed in a formal dress from 1876, her silver white hair framed her face and draped past her shoulders, unbridled by any sort of hat or ribbon. Her fair skin was accented with subtle, dark makeup and bare toes peeked from under her dress. As his gaze took her in, he finally notice the sign she held with the name Raziel written on it. The man sighed and approached her, quickly pulling the sign from her grasp and offering a disparaging look.
“I told you not to wear that in public. Couldn’t you just grab jeans and a t-shirt?” Raziel exclaimed in a hushed voice, cramming the sign into a nearby garbage can.
“This is all I own, Master. You haven’t given me any other attire.” The woman kept a calm tone, following Raziel as they left the building for the parking garage. She seemed oblivious to her bare feet on the asphalt and determined to stay close to his side, running to keep up as needed.
“I guess tomorrow night will be spent shopping. For now, please stay out of sight. I don’t even know where to start should someone see you wearing that.” Raziel waved her off, releasing her from her duties. With a nod the woman turned on the balls of her feet and her deep crimson eyes let off a faint glow, walking to the darker corners of the lot where her form was consumed by the voracious shadows. He needed to find a new form of transport other than his anachronistic companion. Finding it pointless to stand around and ponder his options, Raziel started to walk through the garage, favoring the driven path over the stairs or elevator. Onward he walked as the wind caught both his coat and hair, keeping a straight posture. A number of cars sped past him as he approached the entrance to the structure, seeking a payphone or mobile when a cherry red corvette slowed to a halt by him. The driver was an attractive woman with dark hair wearing a suit. Raziel thought she must be in her mid twenties and certainly his type. Even better, she was the perfect timed solution he was looking for.
She was drawing breath to speak as he nudged his hat higher upon his head, revealing green and blue mismatched eyes and a charming smile. She took pause as a few strands of black hair fell in his face and he stretched to a bow. “Do you need any help?” She found herself finally saying. His gaze danced over her body as he straightened his posture once more.
“You wouldn’t mind giving me a ride, yeah? There was a mix up with the minicab.” Raziel spoke with silk, luring any poor soul within hearing distance. Just his luck, there was only one listening and it was the beauty in the car. Even when silent, his eyes drew her in further past the edge of reason and spun a feeling of trust and desire within her. It was so natural for him, bewitching some girl into his favor. He opened the door before letting her answer, knowing himself to be talented beyond failure as the woman finally nodded. She was stunned that he just let himself in her car yet she couldn’t find anything wrong with it. “Take me to the Ritz-Carlton, won’t you?” She nodded in a pleasantly obedient stupor. “Attagirl!” Raziel got comfy as the girl brought the car around and exited the garage.
The two kept quiet as they drove through the lamp lit streets and Raziel couldn’t take it any more. With a sudden rocking motion, he reached out and turned on the radio, cycling past a number of rap stations before finally settling on alternative rock. The music helped calm his nerves and helped ease the awkwardness between the two. With a quick clearing of his throat, Raziel settled back into his seat and watched the street lamps speed by. “Do you know this song?” He may have just met the girl but surely it was no reason to stay strangers.
“Of course. It’s Santa Monica by Everclear.” She seemed relieved by the sudden connection over music.
“Do you know the words?” Raziel had a cocky smirk, challenging the girl to sing.
She glanced to him and gave a daring smile. Nodding her head in time with the music, she started to find an opportune moment to jump in. Letting the chorus pass she started, “I am still dreaming of your face…” She kept up with the song, matching the song word for word and note for note. Her voice was almost angelic yet she likely had never sung professionally. This struck a chord in Raziel, one of opportunity. Yet, he kept to himself and nodded to her as the song reached an end. “Am I any good?”
“Absolutely wonderful. Ever take lessons?” It was only a little farther to the hotel so Raziel forced himself to pass the time in conversation.
“No, do you teach? I’d love to learn.” She glanced over to him a few times, enthralled by his eyes yet still trying to restrain her focus to the road.
“Not a teacher, no…” He trailed off, trying to think of the best way to dictate his thoughts. “I’m more of a connoisseur of vocal talent. It’s truly amazing what the human vocal chords can do.” The girl giggled in what he could guess to be amusement or agreement and the car returned to silence save the radio and the crowded Los Angeles streets. Yet, even with all the honking horns and alternative rock, the car was too quiet.
As the hotel came into view, Raziel broke the silence yet again, turning to his driver and beckoning her with his mismatched eyes. “Thank you for the ride. Would you mind coming up to my room and I’ll get something to eat?” She was still compelled to agree, still lacking a reason for distrust. Pulling up to the front entrance of the Ritz-Carlton, Raziel hopped out of the vehicle and gave the girl a wave to find a parking spot. With a sharp turn, the wind caught his coat and Raziel began walking inside to claim his key. He figured as long as he was quick, there should be enough time to case his hotel room before the female stranger came in looking for him and dinner. Yet Raziel was out of luck for when he took the first step for the stairs, the woman walked in and spotted him immediately.
“Where are we going for dinner?” She asked with a smile. Raziel couldn’t deny that she was much more attractive than he had initially ascertained. While she was well dressed in her off white blouse, the short grey skirt really drew his attention as his gaze followed her legs to her open toe t-strap heels. To say she was a tall drink of water would have been cruel irony. None the less, his eagerness grew despite all efforts to keep it contained. “Excuse me? Hello?” He seemed to have given in to his thoughts and been standing there with a blank look on his face as she tried to bring him out of his daydream haze.
“Sorry about that. How about we head up to the room then I’ll get dinner, yeah?” He hooked his arm in hers as he escorted her up the stairs and to room 910. He fumbled with the key card a bit before sliding it in the proper direction and the lock gave a green light before he turned the handle to reveal the presidential suit.
“Wow! This is your room?” Raziel had to nearly drag her in as she was so struck with wonder.
He clicked on a few of the lights and closed all the curtains before returning to his mystery date. “I prefer to travel with some style. Do you approve?” He smiled as he worked his way toward the bathroom, shutting the door behind him and turning on a faucet. The hot water steamed up the whole bathroom within minutes.
“It’s wonderful.” she exclaimed. She never heard the bathroom door open due to the running water. A sharp pain echoed through her skull as the toilet tank’s lid crashed against her head. The feeling was blinding yet brief before her consciousness faded to black and her body slumped to the floor.
“I have to stop cheating.” Raziel spoke to himself with a matter of fact tone as he shifted his weight off his right foot from when he hit the girl. Reaching into the inner breast pocket of his coat, a reverse bladed knife glinted in the light as it tasted the open air once again. With a ritualistic silence, he lifted and lowered the blade over her body tried to decide where to start.Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, he thought to himself as he finally pulled the knife away and lifted her body only to drop her back in the porcelain bath tub. Raziel lifted her head as he plugged the drain and removed her clothes. “No need to get messy.” he muttered to himself and he brought the knife against her now nude form. He thought it was a shame to ruin such a pretty body despite the necessity due to her lovely singing voice. With the steady hand of a surgeon on Diazepam, he brought the blade to her abdomen. Blood oozed to the surface as he made a shallow cut into her flesh, careful not to pierce the internal organs as he opened her up. The smell was intoxicating to him, the coppery scent filling his nostrils as the curved knife flowed through her abdomen. With his free hand, Raziel pulled the long black hair from his face and made the final incision.
Carefully he rested the knife on the closed toilet seat and removed his black cotton gloves, draping them on the edge of the tub before pulling the epidermis apart to get a better view inside her. Gently he grasped her lower intestine and retrieved the blade once he had a clear severing point. After a few more incisions, he readily extracted the organ. Moving his new bounty over to the still running sink, Raziel nudged the faucet shut with his elbow and dumped what he viewed as a tube of meat into the basin. Her blood ran around the countless scars that covered his right hand and off his fingertips before giving into the pleasure of licking the digits clean. “Hmmm, tastes like chicken.” he spoke, half expecting someone to be in the room with him before turned to see only the bleeding cadaver in his hotel bath tub. I really need to work on those puns… and maybe not talk to myself so much. It’s starting to get creepy. He snapped back into consciousness and licked his lips hungrily at the small pool of blood the woman had secreted before he followed up with a sour face. “Wasted again.” He retrieved his gloves and moved the bloodstained knife by the sink filled with viscus. “Kai! Clean this up and move the gut to be processed. I’d prefer it didn’t rot like last time.” Again he spoke to an empty room until the sound of rustling could be heard in the living room. The woman from before that had disappeared in the shadows, still barefoot and dressed in her 1876 dress, wiggled out from under the neat hotel bed.
Raziel tugged on his gloves after leaving the red stained bathroom, giving room for Kai to clean up after him. He felt better now that the black cotton covered his scarred right hand and some of the tension cleared with a gutted woman in his bath tub. Slowly he trudged toward the bed, haphazardly tossing his hat into the nearby reclining chair. Once his knees touched the bed itself, he gave way to gravity and crashed down on the soft mattress. Moving his arm underneath himself, Raziel rolled over on his back and reached into his coat. Withdrawn from the inside pocket was an ancient, black and silver kiseru. The bowl was filled with what he knew to be his poison.
Up against his lips, there was such a familiar feeling with the pipe. The silver mouth piece was warm against frozen lips. With a flick of the wrist and snap of his fingers, a yellow flame danced on the tips of his middle and index fingers. Bringing the flame to the pipe, Raziel forced his lungs to draw in the vapors. It burned down his dry throat as his lungs filled with the familiar smoke. Time started to slow around him and he exhaled after what felt like hours. The smoke took on the shape of great wyrms, entangled and violently biting at each other. Eventually they merged into one great beast of wisping smoke. It had teeth of razor blades, the snout of a foxhound, and interlaced horns like the prince of darkness himself. The monstrous ghost began to turn, finding a new victim in Raziel. As the beast grew to devour its creator, it had spread too thin and dissipated in the current of the hotel’s running air conditioning. It was just in time and far too late as the smoke had already infiltrated his mind, pulling him into the shadows of slumber. No matter how hard he fought it, the vapors dragged him deeper and deeper into the scarred madness of himself.
He’s been here before. The cold, the roof he was laying on, it was all coming back. His dry veins ached with hunger. It had been eighty-six hours since he first set up in Turkey. The date was December 8th, 1943 and Raziel was a British volunteer. The line between past and present merged as he felt the cold suffering of hunger. His vision blurred in and out of focus as he watched the seemingly vacant cluster of war torn buildings across from him. Intel suggested a few high priority Schutzstaffle officers held up in the wrecked structures he had intently observed for days. It must have been the shadow over him that tipped him off that he’s been flanked. He knew what was coming next. Every time he rolled over and saw that face. The face that haunted him every time he closed his eyes. Yet, not this time. He was determined to change things. History compelled him to look but his fear had other plans. Raziel lowered the rifle slowly as his left hand tucked under his body as it did a thousand times before. The bullet whizzed through his skull from his soft and hard pallet. The hand that normally pushed him to look found his sidearm instead in a gamble to defy the past. This time he didn’t look.
“Good evening, Los Angeles! Stop your runnin’ and don’t touch that dial. We are taking over the air waves sticking it to the Mega. You’re here with me, DJ Wanton Destruction, bringin’ that sweet, sweet ear candy to all you beautiful listeners. Let’s start this party off with some Type O Negative. Stay Gold!”
His body lurched forward as he became reacquainted with the waking world. Raziel still had a phantom headache from his previous ethereal intervention. It was a small price to pay to avoid reliving what he’d much rather forget. The hotel room was dark and he could swear he saw something move within the shadows. As his eyes adjusted, Raziel started to stand and he remembered he was still wearing the clothes from the previous night. He let out an annoyed sigh and let the duster fall to the ground before making way to the bathroom. Slipping off his gloves and peeling off the tight black shirt underneath, he stopped at the bathroom mirror in front of the sink. The sink was empty. Using the mirror’s reflection, he saw the girl’s body was gone and the tub was spotless. Raziel returned his attention to himself in the mirror, now smiling since Kai had done such a good job of taking care of everything. His joy came to a quick end as he saw all the countless scars running down his right arm. His flesh was littered with track marks, gunshots, cuts, and a large cross branded into his forearm. Each one had a story, each one was a mistake. He shook his head and pushed himself away from the counter.
He tried not to think about his arm too much and when he did, he wasted no time seeking a distraction. A hot shower was just the thing. Nothing could beat the steam and warm water against his skin. There was something about a shower you could get lost in. Not like a bath, baths were detestable. Steeping in your own grime until you pull the drain. Not even bubbles made them bearable.
Raziel turned on the water and slipped out of his boots and jeans. Even the plug was removed from last night. He increased the temperature of the water and waited as the steam filled the room. This was what he loved the most of showers. Feeling the heat loosen the muscles and the warmth of the steam. It brought him peace.
“And that was The Used with Blood on My Hands. You’re listening to KMAL, what can Destruction do for you?”
The radio was still on and Raziel stepped out of the shower, drying off his near unmanageable head of hair. The ambient glow of the alarm clock lit the room and the pirate DJ kept on playing his music. As a new industrial rock song played through the speakers, Raziel carefully navigated the dark room into a misplaced chair. More startled than injured, he pushed the seat toward the paired table and continued onward. With the blue glow now on his face, he lifted the radio/alarm clock off the nightstand. Turning it on all axes, he searched for some kind of mute or off button.What ever happened to easy alarm clocks? They have all the unnecessary crap attached to them and their tethered to the bloody wall. I miss the kind that you could throw across the room and be done with it, he thought to himself as searched further for any clues about how to operate the device and in tern, cease the radio host’s boisterous voice.
That’s when it hit him. A calling that echoed in the back of his head and reached to the pit of his stomach. Raziel looked to the clock for any sense of of time. 8:18, 8:18, 8:18, 8:19pm. It would have been common sense to assume it was night with how dark the room was. The pull in his gut got stronger as he resisted. A crash echoed through the empty room as he stumbled for the door. The alarm clock was left of the floor and Raziel entered the hall. The violent turbulence in the pit of his stomach did its job as the call faded with the discomfort. He knew exactly why he was summoned and to that, Raziel grimaced. Luck was in his favor as the hotel door was still open a crack. Returning to grab his clothes and not go gallivanting in a towel, he dressed himself in his usual black duster and gloves. With a quick nudge using the metal plate at the toe of his boot, the door creaked open and he was off again. It was time for a real dead man’s party.
Once in the open air, he could smell a mix of moisture, smog, and blood. The sound of honking horns and feminine screams permeated the air. The sensation of having his veins torn out flooded over him. His teeth grit together and he heard the pop and snap in his skull and the longer he stood there, the worse it was going to get. With all his strength, Raziel willed his legs to move. Step by step, the unseen force relented and eventually his blood no longer acted against him. With a new sense of relief, it was apparent that haste was more of a requirement than a suggestion. Traveling by foot was too slow and hailing a cab was more hassle that it was worth. Transport via shadow was the only method that made sense.
Walking the abyss wasn’t the most common or accepted mode of transportation. The real trick was navigating all the tunnels. The best way to think about it was Alice falling down the rabbit hole. One step inside and you’re thinking of at least five impossible things before breakfast. Yet the danger was, like Wonderland, not where it could take you but what you may find there. Granted everything was dangerous about the abyss and not everyone who entered ever came out again.
Raziel took off down the nearby alley way to find it void of witnesses. Shadows recoiled from the nearby lights that were intended to keep away the bad elements that infected this city. This wouldn’t be the first nor the last time a flood lamp stood in the way between this world and the dark abyss beyond. Standing outside the limits of lights reach, he judged the small space that was the alley. While it may not have been the most ideal, nothing ever was. With an outstretched arm, an inky tendril slithered from the sleeve of Raziel’s coat. Guided by the lights yet ever avoiding it’s luminescence, the nightmarish arm wriggled up the wall and around the offending lamp. Tightening around the fixture, smaller tendrils jut out from the original to consume the light source. Covering the lamp with a sickly black web, the tendrils cracked and hissed in the light. Slowly constricting it’s oppressor, the nightmare tendrils crushed the lamp, reshaping the metal as crumpled junk and grinding the glass into a glittery dust before retreating. Wounded and smoldering, the inky nightmare slid back into the safety of the duster and the alley was returned, as all things, to darkness.