Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 23917

This is the second nest we have destroyed in the last thousand days [ref Day 23114]. Ana is the masked demon, the stealthy killer, and I am the scourge that all of them fear. The last nine hundred days have been spent shedding a mighty river of blood in this city, killing and killing and killing. Yes, I know they come back, but I also believe we are freeing their victims. And this time, this time I think we might have done it. We caught them by surprise. They were not on their guard. I will search tomorrow for traces of survivors, but for the first time in a long time, I will allow myself to feel some hope.

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 23916

Ana and I have been patrolling near the northern wall, where we have reason to believe the Mazikin have located their latest nest. This morning we overheard the distinctive grunt and cough of a Mazikin inside a vast warehouse, and Ana suggested we worm our way into the duct system. I have taught Ana the language, and now both of us can understand and speak it with a great deal of proficiency—enough to fool the creatures themselves, as we’ve done on many occasions, luring them into alleys and basements to meet their doom.

We were lucky—the nest was in the warehouse.

We were not lucky—we found ourselves precariously positioned in a metal duct over their altar, peering through a vent, just as they tied a man to the table.

When they do the ritual, they call the spirit from their homeland, inviting it into the body they have made available. They tell it to pull with all its might, to tear the human’s soul from deep within and banish it. It is a chant of praise and celebration, the most evil kind I can imagine.

I had to clamp my hand over Ana’s mouth to keep her from screaming with rage. Her fingernails dug into the back of my hand. “Be silent,” I whispered, holding her mercilessly tight, my mouth right against her ear. “There are over a hundred Mazikin not twenty feet below us. If you want to kill them all, they cannot know we’re here right now. But I promise you: we WILL kill them all.”

That seemed to quiet her. But as she went still, it allowed me to hear the anguished cries of the man below us as a Mazikin ripped his soul away. I have a sick feeling that the sound will follow me into my dreams tonight. 

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 21314

It is done. Ana and I have destroyed the nest we found a few days ago, just outside the search radius I had established after Takeshi was taken. They really are demonically clever creatures. However, now their nest is burning, and many of them have been sent back to their home realm. It always seems one or two escape, and that is all they need to regain their foothold in this city.

Ana smiled as she watched the flames devour the set of rowhouses where they’d established themselves, probably burrowing through the walls to connect each one. It was unstable and easy to bring down. The fire reflected in Ana’s eyes, glinted off her black hair. She looked beautiful and vengeful, and I felt as if I had given her something good.

She doesn’t want to talk about Takeshi. Or how she is doing. I am glad, because I don’t really want to, either. It seems the best thing we can do for each other is to kill.

The blood on our hands is solace. 

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 21285

I had the oddest experience today. I captured a Mazikin at the northeastern edge of downtown and tied him to a chair to question him. And he began to spout—in English—the most ridiculous gibberish about how I had no probable cause to “arrest” him, how he had rights and was going to call a lawyer and no one treated Americans this way. Clearly, the memories of the host body were taking a toll on this Mazikin, who was probably young and impressionable. But it was a bit comical, watching this paunchy middle-aged man, red-faced and full of indignation that I had violated his “civil rights.” Clearly, the world has changed, or perhaps only in America. When my people were being beaten in the streets, when we were told we could not go to school, when we were loaded onto trains and became numbers instead of names, no one worried about our rights at all. 

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 21249

A setback today. At least, I think it was. I woke up to find Ana gone, and I tracked her—all the way to the dark tower. Her boot prints in the grime at the side of the road led straight to the entrance. Knowing I would never find her inside, I waited. And waited. The gloom set my teeth on edge. I could feel the building reaching for me.

Then, quite suddenly, she burst through the doors, tears streaming down her face. I jumped to my feet. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“I hear his voice,” she said, her voice rasping and weak. “I hear his voice inside. He tells me to go on, to remember who I am, to never give up.”

“And that’s why you went inside?”

She nodded. “I needed to hear it.”

“But you take a risk every time you go in.”

Her eyes met mine. “Hearing his voice is worth that risk.”

“Are you ready to go back to the apartment? We have a long patrol this afternoon.”

She swiped her hands across her face, smearing tears over her cheeks. “Not yet. Will you wait?”

I sighed. “Yes. But only one more time. And you’d better come back out.”

“Yes, Captain.” And then she clenched her fists and pushed her way into the dark tower again.

I had to carry her back to the apartment. And right now, she is caught in a nightmare. I can hear her crying out. The tower has a lingering effect, but outside its walls, the voice that could save you is often silent. I know this from experience. That kind of evil has more than one way of defeating you.

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 21171

We’re leaving in a few hours, back to the region south of downtown, to meet with the Guards there and plan. I have gone over my map, plotted every patrol, ranging from the cluster of stout huts forty-seven blocks south of the dark tower all the way up to the edge of downtown. Once we’ve covered there, we will hike north, toward Harag zone, a favorite of the Mazikin, given its location north of the tower, making access to it more difficult.

Ana and I went to see Michael late yesterday evening. He cursed at both of us, but he did seem to be a bit gentler with Ana—and he had already crafted her an exquisite set of throwing knives, plus new holsters for them. I believe it was his way of saying he’s sorry, that he understands what Takeshi meant to her.

She is strong. Steadier. She ate a huge amount last night and this morning, making up for all the lost days, packing stale bread and overripe, bruised fruit into her mouth. She did it all with a grim sense of purpose.

I think the Mazikin will regret taking Takeshi. They have only made us more determined to exterminate them.







oooh. Very nice!


God bless Sarah Fine’s POC protagonists

This is beautiful.

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 21170

She would not let me in. She would not answer my shouts through the door. And so I broke it down. I strode into Takeshi’s quarters and found Ana curled into a ball on his bed, and for a moment I seized up with rage and horror. The stench was awful. The sight was worse.

I took two steps forward and hoisted her up by the shoulders. She was limp for a moment, but she began to struggle as I pulled her from Takeshi’s cot, the place where they spent their last few hours of happiness. She bit and clawed at me with dirty, long fingernails, but she was so weak that it was not difficult to drag her down the hall to the shower room, her pathetic cries ringing down the corridor and drawing the other Guards out of their chambers to watch the spectacle.

I was past caring for her dignity, for her protests. If Takeshi saw her like this, his heart would shatter. I turned on the cold water and held her down as it drenched us both.

“Let me go!” she shrieked, scoring my arms with her nails. “Let me go!”

“I will not let you go,” I shouted, shaking her, my anger getting the best of me. “I will never let you go.”

Something about that phrase made her go still. She gaped up at me, water rolling in rivulets down her haggard face, through her matted hair. “What did you say?” she whispered hoarsely.

“I said I will never let you go. So stop fighting me and think of Takeshi. Not how you miss him. Not your final memory of him. Think of what he would say if he were here.”

She blinked at me.

“Think of what he would want you to do, Ana.” I pulled her shirt off, and then yanked her pants off, shouting for Rais to bring me an extra pair of fatigues from her quarters and leave it outside. His gruff acknowledgement came a moment later.

Ana did not struggle, even though I had stripped her bare and was still holding her under the chilling spray of the shower in that dank, mildewed room. I gentled my touch, pushing a bar of grimy soap into her palm, urging her to clean herself up, reminding her that Takeshi would want to see her strong and fierce, not defeated and childlike. She needed to do this for him.

“But he’s gone,” she said. “He’s gone.”

I took her face in my hands. “But I’m here. And I need you. We’re partners now. I can’t do this without you.”

“You don’t need me.”

I gritted my teeth. “I do. Together, you and I will kill them all. We will destroy them. We will make them wish they had never come to this city in the first place.”

Her eyes sparked with something dark and brutal. “We could kill them all,” she said quietly. Her grip on the soap tightened.

“Yes. We will kill them all. Every last one. You and me.”

“We will kill them all.” She leaned against the dingy tile, weak from hunger and struggling. “Now get out of here and give me some privacy.”

I did, relief singing in my veins. But I stood outside the shower room, just in case. I’m not letting her out of hearing range until I’m sure she’s all right.

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 21169

I arrived at the station this morning. I left one platoon in the area we swept, but it seems that all the Mazikin have fled. We did not find the nest, and I am not so naive as to believe we truly killed them all. But I do believe I may have prevented the knowledge of Ana’s identity from spreading. Only time will tell, but in recent days, none of the Mazikin we caught seemed aware that I am not the only human Guard left in the city.

I should be glad about that. But I just checked in with Raphael, and he said that Ana has neither left her room nor eaten food that has been brought to her. And I wonder: is she allowing herself to die? Does she realize that will only pull her farther from Takeshi? If she dies, she will lose herself in this city. Her chance of making it to the Countryside any time soon will fade. And I know—Takeshi is waiting for her.

I will not allow her to do this to herself. Or to him.