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The witch—I could see her, there, next to the trash she lived in.
I shifted. This hunt was by far the longest and the most tedious. I had been searching this witch for weeks and even now a sense of impatience was in me.
Witches did not have souls. They couldn’t feel, nor could they think. They were simply the maids to the Devil, doing Satan’s dirty work. Black magic surrounded them every moment so much that sometimes, the scent lingered on me for days.
It was just poking around in the dump behind the old apartment building. I eyed my prey, scrutinizing its every move. Being a witch hunter allowed me the ability to think much more clearly than normal mortals.
I moved forward, silently and effortlessly. The witch, the damned soul inside of the empty body, was about to stuff a garbage bag back into the dumpster when it looked up.
With a screech, it flew at me, the wicked black spells and jinxes aimed at me. I dodged them, and ran back for more.
This was adrenaline, the energy rush pouring into me. The feeling of elation as I lit the witch on fire was roaring, powerful, strong. I couldn’t stop now, not when the witch still had a bit of the Devil’s magic left.
I twisted the cap off of the small thermos I always carried in my pocket. Pouring the holy water on it, I watched with triumph at the witch’s screams. One more maid of the Devil gone. All that was left was its clothing and the scent of black magic.
Police sirens wailed in the distance. I turned around, leaving the mess behind. After all, the modern day New York City always had curious crimes. They could deal with one more.
My guardian, Eleanor, barely looked up as I came in. She was a frail old lady, with a moody attitude, but she, too, was a witch hunter.
“Another late night?” she questioned, still keeping her eyes glued to the paper. “If you don’t find that witch soon—“
“Relax,” I replied, taking out a bowl of leftovers from the fridge. “I killed it already. Wasn’t too hard.”
I slumped into a chair, the bowl on my lap. Eleanor folded the newspaper, peering at me over the rims of her glasses. “You know, you should report this to the Guild. They’d like to know that one of their top wanted witches is dead.”
“Witches are already dead.”
“That’s not what I meant.” Eleanor glared at me. “You could be the greatest witch hunter in history, but you don’t care for the people that govern the underworld.”
She rolled on, ignoring me. “The Guild isn’t responsible for your parent’s deaths you know. They couldn’t do anything—“
I said that quietly, but there was something else in my voice. Anger, hatred, frustration…I knew it wasn’t their fault; I knew that they couldn’t do anything without breaking some law or another. No, it had been my fault. My fault that I had hidden instead of helping them escape.
The clock on the wall read one in the morning. I finished my meager dinner of rice and chicken without saying another word. This calm was unnatural to me, me, who loved the rush of power and anger. But Eleanor was right. I could change if I wanted to; become someone who upheld the laws of witchery, a great hunter.
But I didn’t deserve to.
“Go to sleep.”
I nodded, and placed the bowl in the sink. Tonight had been a long night. Sleep would ease the pain.
My next assignment was bloodied witch, who had a distinct style of killing. Sacrifice rituals were what the paper said. I glanced down at the gory picture of several mortals’ innards that were being pulled out while their mouths were open, silently screaming. Somehow, I couldn’t figure out why that didn’t particularly affect me.
Despite all of my protests, Eleanor had gone ahead and told the Guild of my recent kill. Though I knew I was a great hunter, I didn’t want to move up, not after that cowardly night where I had hidden while I heard the echoing screams. So Eleanor had told them that she, too, had helped.
Sure, I had fantastic abilities that a witch hunter dreamed of. I was agile, strong, and a quick thinker. But who gave a damn when I was always going to be second-best?
Eleanor nudged me as we walked down the street. I ignored her, gazing around. This was Manhattan, the tall skyscrapers giving a towering sense over me. Even though I knew that there were some dark witches living here, I couldn’t help but feel amazed. Mortals certainly made up for their lack of abilities to survive.
“Do you see that?” Eleanor asked me, pointing to an older, more worn looking building than the rest. “That’s where it lives.”
I sighed, and stuck my hand in my pocket, stroking the neatly rolled up chain whip. It was almost time for my adrenaline to kick in, the rush of power eagerly twisting inside me.
Eleanor nodded to a nearby park. “I’ll be waiting,” she said, turning away.
Inside the building, I could immediately smell the witch scent. It was strong, the sickly sweet smell. I nearly choked on it as I staggered my way through the building, leaning against the broken desks and chairs for support.
A scream. I looked up wildly, unable to hear where it had come from. Down the hall? Up the stairs? In the basement?
I forced myself to walk normally, breathing in through my mouth. The taste of it was sweet as sugar on my tongue, but I shook my head, moving forward still. It was fake, darkened honey.
“Come here often, hunter?”
I whirled around, my whip already out. But it was too late; the witch had already formed a powerful shield between the two of us. No, not a shield. A cage to keep me inside.
It came forward, its hand held out to me. “What a pretty hunter you are,” the witch said, a twisted smile on its face. “You seem familiar to me, but then, all you hunters are the same.”
A man suddenly burst out from the basement, a crazed expression on his face. “Let me out!” he screamed to the witch. I watched, stunned and horrified, as the witch caught him inside another spelled cage. He beat uselessly against the magic as the witch advanced towards him.
Murmuring a soft spell, the witch surrounded the mortal with a blackened light. My grip on the whip tightened, and I stood there, frozen. A single click of the witch’s fingers, and the sacrifice began.
I shook, feeling a chill settle in me. My mouth opened to scream, for help, for Eleanor—
He was dead.
The witch looked back at me with a touch of malice in its eyes. “You aren’t a hunter, are you?” A flicker of amusement shadowed on its face for a second. “A mortal, perhaps, from the way you shake.”
I hadn’t realized I was still trembling. Fear. That was it—fear. This was the same emotion that ran through me on the day where I heard those echoing screams. It was the opposite of what I longed for, the black adrenaline pouring into me.
But this was overwhelming. I couldn’t stop the shaking. I couldn’t move. I was helpless without somebody with me.
The witch came forward, smiling. The scent. The sickly sweet scent was powerful, clouding my mind as the fear froze me. My hand let loose the whip, my only weapon, and it fell to the floor.
It came closer.
Then the witch twisted, falling backward with a screech. It flailed as it caught fire, its arms waving madly as its skin turned black. I raised my eyes to face Eleanor, her gun still raised, and collapsed onto the floor. She caught me in time, gently placing me on the floor.
“Are you alright?”
I gazed at her, wishing I could think of something to say. But I couldn’t speak. The fear was still in me.
The witch behind her was still burning, the flames rising higher. Eleanor held me as I watched it burn, fading away into a blackened ash.