A high-pitch shriek echoes down the alleyway, halting a man in his tracks. He’s in his early twenties, dark brown hair on his head with sweat-soaked bangs adhered to his forehead. His facial features are strong, defined with a square jaw, clenched with stress. Tall with a sturdy build, the one thing that upsets his almost flawless features are the black, thick-rimmed glasses resting on his nose. Hazel eyes sit behind the lenses and they are wide with worry and confusion.
That shriek. He knows what made that noise. His pulse quickens as he changes directions the moment another wail pierces the cold night air. A chill slides up his spine and his pace hastens. It’s too young. An infant, if you will. If he doesn’t reach the wailing newborn before a human does; well, he didn’t want to imagine it.
The shriek repeats continuously and he’s happy for it, despite how terribly annoying it is. Each turn through the maze of alleys brings him closer and closer until there’s a long stretch of a stone pathway in front of him with an overflowing canal flanking it. In the distance, maybe one hundred feet, lies a small bundle. His heart adopts a new, erratic pace and his footsteps echo off the stone walls that encloses him on the path.
With ease, the man calls on his power, feeling the normal tightening of his abdominal muscles. Expected by him, a thick white fog rises from the canal and rolls over the area, clogging every crevice in sight to provide cover. He didn’t need anyone catching sight of this newborn. But upon reaching the dark bundle, his heart skips a beat. There are two. Two.
He cannot care for two, it’s not possible. Not at the same time and not on the Surface. His heart rips in half as he kneels down in front of the newborns. The one on the left has yet another wail ready but quiets when they spot the man. The newborn’s eyes are calculating, debating if this half-demon is his lunch. The young man did not doubt that the creature could swallow him whole if he wanted. The jaws of newborn demons do unhinge during feeding. Especially these types.
To test the waters with the wailing creature, the young man reaches for him. A low growl comes from the male and the jaws on its extended snout open then snap shut – like a crocodile. The eyes are black as night, soaking up the entirety of the sockets and frankly gives the man a chill. His hazel eyes shift to the demon on the right, which at first glance looks exactly like the previous. Identical black eyes, a thin, frail body with dry, cracking black skin like rock, rests on four stubby legs too weak to carry anything at the moment. At the end of each leg stretches long nails, sharp as thorns from a rose vine – he knows those nails could tear him into pieces in moments. He has powers, yes, but none that can match a pure demon. Newborn or not.
On top of appearing like a miniature panther with an enlarged snout; this one is female and very quiet. What makes her very different from the male are the twenty or so, three-inch spikes protruding from the area between her shoulder blades; thick at the base and deadly at the tip. They shift and wave ever-so-slightly in the cold wind, constantly paying attention and sensing things her other senses cannot. Black eyes open and calculating, but not for lunch; it’s pure curiosity. Instantly, the young man reaches for this one and a voice stops him.
“What are you doing?”
He stands quickly, too quickly. The blood rushes from his head, making him light-headed, but he manages to keep his balance. In front of him stands a huge man, muscles on top of muscles, bulky to the size only described as “giant”. He is bald, skin black and cracking just like the two demon infants. Yet, besides that skin, he appears very much human. The young man clears his throat.
“I’m taking responsibility.”
A blank stare meets the young man’s curt answer. His dark eyes scan over the two demons behind his feet. The male is trying – and failing – to stand and walk. Short growls and soft barks resound from him, reflecting his frustration with the entire matter. The female’s eyes shift curiously between the two men and instead of attempting to rise to her feet; the demon unfolds from the curled position and inches forward, her sharp claws piercing straight through the stones to slide forward at an agonizingly slow pace.
“You cannot care for two.”
The bulky man laughs as though his stiff tone does nothing but amuse him. His black cracked skin rolls and shifts like a flexible shield. It’s strange to watch for the young man; he’s never seen a pure demon in a halfway state before.
Once his laughter dies down, the bulky demon moves forward and the young man lets him. He’s seen the aftermath of attempting to stop a pure demon and though he created the fog, and lightning can strike with the snap of fingers – he would never cross a demon that lives in the Pits. Especially the one who steps right over the female and lifts the squawking male in the air, examining him like a prized pig.
A slow grin, made of white needle thin teeth crosses his face. “I like this one. He has fire in him. He’ll go far.”
The young man feels a brush against his ankle. His hazel eyes drop down to find the spiked-back demon gazing at him, her long snout resting on the top of his foot. Her chest rises and falls quickly; the couple of feet she crawled wore the newborn out. Something twists in his chest and he reaches for her, careful of the spikes that tip towards his hands in a defensive manner, too taut to catch his hands that wrap around her center. This is the first newborn he’s ever held and the young man did not expect the black, cracked skin to feel so delicate. He’s only a half-demon; that black skin is highly unfamiliar to him. The fact that it looks like volcanic rock but feels of velvet is beyond confusing.
“Have fun with that.” The older man spits and holds the demon infant by his spiked tail. “Female demons are rare. I doubt that thing will live past five.”
“We’ll see,” the young man replies quietly. The white fog he pulled over the area is thinning out and the pure demon takes the hint. Leaving a puff of grey-black smoke in his wake, he is gone with the male.
In his arms, the female releases a heavy sigh, the air from her large snout shifts his bangs on his forehead. The black eyes close, and even though the nails on one leg are piercing his skin, he’s unable to jostle her. He walks home in silence, his eyes constantly shifting down to the female. What that demon said is true; pure female demons are rare. But there’s something different about this one. It’s a feeling that will start as a pipe dream in the back of his mind, and then quickly advert to his one belief.
He’ll raise her like his own.