The journey to the mountains is an uneventful one, Drake surmises the purpose of the long walk to be the fortification of mental toughness, but it isn’t unnecessary. He is leaving Dark City, after all. The thin, bright mist consumes his vision and the sweet scent of fear tinged with death and decay fill the air and grace his nostrils. His eyes roll into his head with pleasure as he strides confidently into the unknown terrors of Dark Road Seven. No sooner than the previous road behind him disappears do silhouettes of large animals surround him—six in all.
“More wolves,” Drake says flatly, “think of a different animal.”
The creatures stand up, their silhouettes large and muscular.
“Werewolves,” Drake raises a brow, pleasantly surprised, “now things get interesting.”
They circle him and growl in a horrible harmony, the sounds echo through the night and the air becomes colder still—Drake breathes in the smell of impending carnage with a glee he can hardly contain, the visions of the life leaving his parents eyes as he struck that final blow, his mother’s mouth spitting up blood, his father’s entrails sliding out his stomach like a lethargic snake full off a hearty meal come to him in a vivid and visceral image—almost as if he’s killing them all over again.
The nightmares that chase you when you’re awake, Drake thinks, are always the scary ones.
The werewolves have now formed a tight circle around him and are raring to pounce, Drake smells no fear on these creatures, only murder and carnage. They flex their muscles and arch their backs to make themselves seem bigger but Drake is no fool, he knows intimidation as intimately as fear itself; the wolves circle him once more, looking for an opening, scrutinizing his demeanor, getting accustomed to his scent, searching for that slither of fear even the most cold-blooded creatures possess but find none in Drake.
Drake’s eyes become deep, obsidian black and a heinous grin consumes his face. Puffs of smoke emanate from his mouth when he exhales but is quickly sucked in through his nose; Drake cracks his neck, fingers, back muscles, chest, and other sensitive ligaments not meant for cracking and prepares for the fight of his life.
“Come,” Drake says.
The werewolves pounce, Drake grabs the first one by the throat and rips it out with disturbing ease; a second werewolf bear hugs him but Drake slips from its grasp when a third werewolf tries to bite his head off. Drake slips behind the two confused creatures and strikes through the chest and rips the heart out of the one that tried to bite him and instead takes a bite out of it.
Drake pushes the body to the side when another wolf flashes behind him and lunges, Drake lunges to the wolf that bear hugged him then sidesteps left at the last moment, letting the two wolves crash into each other.
Another werewolf slashes Drake in the back but Drake isn’t fazed; in fact, he enjoys the pain. He looks back at the wolf and the creature recoils in fear, Drake smiles then pounces on the creature and devours it without mercy, ripping out its entrails and using it as a rope to strangle the other werewolf trying to run.
He ties the entrails into a quick knot and lassoes it around the wolf’s neck and pulls it back with inhuman strength, the werewolf claws fearfully at the ground, trying to find some purchase and get away from this denizen of the deep. The werewolves that crashed into each other get up and shake off the headache, they turn to Drake and go to finish the job; Drake senses them and, with even more inhuman strength, yanks the entrails and lifts the wolf on the other end into the air and throws it into the other two, only one gets hit.
The remaining werewolf lunges at Drake with long, black claws and carnivorous white fangs and Drake waits like he’s expecting a much-anticipated gift. Drake takes a fighting stance at the last moment and flashes past the wolf with blinding speed, the air is still for a moment and the world holds its breath, waiting to see who drops first.
It is the wolf, Drake stands erect and clenches the heart he ripped from its chest like a professional pickpocket and the wolf falls to the ground. The other wolves have long since retreated into the mist with their tails between their legs, whining like pathetic puppies that got scolded. Drake takes a bite of the wolf’s heart and makes a so-so gesture with his head and eats casually as he continues into the mist.
Silhouettes of bare trees with pointed branches occur every few miles, the ground is entirely dirt and soot, no mangled bodies or blood-spatter to note of. Drake comes upon a tree with black leaves and even blacker roses surrounding the trunk, he walks up to it and sniffs the air. The smell of pain, suffering and regret tinged with the dawn of a new beginning fill the space around this dark tree. Drake sits under it and goes to sleep for three hours and the nightmares of his childhood keep him plenty of company.
When he wakes up the mist is gone and the road is clear as far as the eye can see, the clouds dissipate and the full moon shines with a brightness almost too much to bear, giving the night a sense of daylight. Drake gets up with tired and dark rimmed eyes and a scowl that’d make a hardened criminal consider the straight and narrow and move back in with his mother.
He turns to the road ahead and walks sluggishly, the excitement of previous events wearing off like a sugar rush after thirty minutes. The creatures of eternal night become scarcer and scarcer the longer Drake walks, occasionally peeking out to see who goes there and returning to their hiding places—wanting no parts of Drake Devereaux. Cowards, Drake thinks, can’t even face death. A light, cold breeze begins to blow and the hairs on the nape of Drake’s neck begin to stir; he walks with a sluggishness that’d leave anyone else vulnerable to attack.
Drake breathes with an icy calm that resonates with darkness itself, the blackness before him nothing more than the natural order of the world. From darkness we are born, so shall we return, Drake thinks when he sees dancing shadows in the distance—moving with a dark and electric energy that’d kill ordinary folk with a single touch. He forces his sluggish body to pick up the pace.
When he gets to the shadows, they sense his presence and flock to him like worker bees to the queen, forming a tornado. Drake looks on with childish curiosity when a shadow phases through him, a piece of Drake’s soul taken as tribute to the Dark Road. Another shadow phases through him, then another, and another, and another. Eventually, the whole horde is coursing through his body and taking pieces of his soul, deconstructing Danny Doucette and erasing his existence, reducing it to nothing more than a memory.
Drake is face-down on the floor when the shadows are done, his body an empty vessel for the demons that remain to do as they please. His body levitates from the ground and convulses violently as it ascends into the cold and frigid air and becomes a silhouette in the moonlight, ripping and tearing, cracking and breaking.
At this moment Danny Doucette/Drake Devereaux is no longer human, no longer cannibal, no longer the force of Dark Road Seven but something older, more ancient—something that has existed since before creation. His body grows still and a creature with black and majestic wings descends upon Drake’s soulless body—the demons dancing around and enjoying the free reign they’ve been given.
The being cups Drake’s jaw and opens his mouth—bringing his lips to within an inch of its own—and breaths dark and twisted immortality into him. Drake’s eyes shoot open and his body jolts as if shocked with ten thousand volts of electricity. When the being is done breathing life into Drake, they look each other in the eyes.
Drake cocks his head in wonder and the being reflects the action, Drake smiles and the Dark Angel smiles back and lets Drake fall to the earth; he closes his eyes and lets himself feel the full sensation of falling into death’s embrace before taking control and saving himself with a couple of well-timed backflips and landing on his feet with a cat’s grace.
Drake looks up and the being is gone as if it were never there. It seems the Dark Angel has chosen me, Drake thinks when he looks in the distance and sees Dark Beach less than a thousand feet ahead.
He straightens up and walks toward it.
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