The bloodcurdling sound of a death scream wasn’t Travis’ ideal alarm clock, but it was undoubtedly effective. Rolling out of bed was more of a hassle than he expected. Travis wasn’t sure how long he’d been asleep, but his joints were stiff and unresponsive. He heaved a sigh and forced himself to his feet.
He pushed the door to his room open as quietly as he could and stepped into the hallway. He wasn’t sure what was going on but he could hear someone breathing heavily on the floor above him. The breaths were short and raspy; whoever it was sounded terrified.
Travis made his way to the staircase and started climbing, following the sound of the breathing. He didn’t know what he was expecting to find but seeing Bella standing over a dead body wasn’t very high on his list.
She stood looking down at the body, her whole body seemed to shake from how hard she was breathing. Travis put a hand over his nose. The smell coming from the body was atrocious. Like a mix of hot iron and rotten eggs.
“Bella?” he called out quietly at first, not wanting to startle her. When she didn’t respond, he called a little louder. She slowly turned to Travis as she got her breathing under control. Her clothes, a simple tank top and gray sweatpants, were completely drenched in blood that seemed to be steaming. Her shoulders were still shaking.
The worst thing about it all was her eyes.
Instead of the warm hazel eyes he’d seen in the college campus ruins, two otherworldly pools of pitch-black nothingness seemed to be looking right through him. The bags under them were so heavy it was hard to tell if she knew what the word sleep even meant. The hallway was so quiet now that Travis could almost hear the blood dripping off her hands.
His gaze followed a drop of blood as it rolled off her fingertip and fell into the larger pool of blood on the floor, netting him his first proper look at the body. Whatever he was planning to say immediately got caught in his throat. His body was telling him to run. Run away from the body. Run away from the blood-covered Bella-shaped creature. Run away from the castle. Run halfway across limbo, even. But it would never be far enough.
“Travis?” The softness in Bella’s voice jarred him back to the present. He looked back at her eyes as the blackness seemed to drain out of them, leaving a pair of bloodshot but definitely human eyes. Travis forced his mouth open, determined to ask a question.
“Okay, before you start…” Bella began slowly. Another set of footsteps suddenly came up behind her.
“What the cheese, Bells?” Tristen exclaimed as she saw the body. “We needed him.”
“Okay. Before. You. Start.” Bella began again.
“Is that Greg?” Cipher said from behind Travis, causing him to jump.
“Stuff it, Ci.” Bella shot back. “I’m getting to that.”
Another set of footsteps shuffled into the hallway behind Tristen. It was Donny, his platinum blonde hair hanging lazily over his face, retaining absolutely none of the neatness it had earlier in the day. His eyes registered the body, then Bella’s clothes, then a very scared and confused looking Travis.
“What’s the commotion?” he asked through a yawn.
Bella shot him a slightly annoyed look. “Are you going to let me explain or not?”
“Sure, Bells.” Tristen answered sarcastically. “Go ahead and tell us why we have to go capture another info source.”
Bella took a deep breath and shrugged. “He startled me.”
She said it so matter-of-factly that Travis’ brain almost short-circuited. If this is what she did to people who startled her, then what happened to people that made her angry?
“He...he startled you.” Tristen repeated.
“He. Startled. Me.”
“Oh, well I guess he should apologize then.” Tristen smirked. “Oh wait, he’s dead.”
Bella tilted her head. “I’m uh...I’m sensing a little hostility here, Trissy. Jealous I got to him first?”
Tristen looked down at the body. “A little bit, yeah.”
“Alright, you two.” Donny yawned again and started to walk away. “We can go get another demon later. Cipher, Travis, you guys throw Greg in the incinerator downstairs. I’m going back to bed.”
“Come on, Bells.” Tristen put an arm around Bella and led her away from Greg. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”
“Well, you heard the man.” Cipher bumped Travis on the shoulder. “Help me with this guy.”
Travis didn’t respond. He was still busy trying to process it all. Bella had just killed a demon with...apparently her bare hands. Because she was startled. And the rest of the hell verse treating the whole thing as little more than a minor inconvenience. Was kidnapping demons something they did often? Why did they even have an incinerator in the first place? And he’d willingly asked to join them.
“Hey Travis.” Cipher called. He’d already picked up Greg’s body and slung it over his shoulder. “Maybe you should go back to bed. We got work tomorrow.”
“What is wrong with you people?” Travis muttered.
Cipher laughed and held up Travis’ wrist. The new flame tattoo that had etched itself into his skin glinted in the dim light of the hallway. Proof he was one of them.
“You tell me, Travis.” Cipher laughed again as he went off to burn the demon’s body, leaving Travis alone in the hallway. “You tell me.”