When the monsters shattered the wall of windows and burst into the tower and fell upon the angel, Amina was useless.
Glass exploded; shards filled the air, stinging Amina’s face, cutting her cheeks, pattering off the walls like a swarm of furious wasps. Night chill burst into the room, driven by the whipping winds outside the tower. The angel was lost for a moment amid the storm-fury of glass and sound.
Misshapen predators followed.
The angel’s weapon roared at the pouncing shadows — but only once. A clawed hand knocked the gun from her grip, then both the monsters were on her like a pair of hounds. They slammed the angel to the floor; a flash of white hair and gritted teeth amid the dark confusion. Limbs rose and fell with the effort of subduing her, hitting her, grabbing her wrists, trying to pin her down with monstrous strength — but the angel fought as only God’s own right hand could do so. Amina knew that in her soul; in motion, Elpida was beautiful beyond all human grace. There was no doubt she was an angel, one of the highest, the most important. And she never stopped moving.
A knife flashed into Elpida’s hands, thrusting, stabbing, opening holes in flesh. One of the monsters snapped her right wrist; she swapped grips, kept going, didn’t even scream. She head-butted a nose; blood fountained into the air. She kicked, foot connecting with guts or groin, drawing a deep squeal of pain from one of the monsters. She bit off part of a face, spat blood into eyes, got her elbow into a throat. She writhed and bucked and ripped and tore.
The angel was made for fighting. Amina had not understood how beautiful fighting could be.
Even with all their demonic changes the pair of monsters could barely keep her down.
One of the monsters was more metal than flesh, bright steel and dark iron flashing in the midnight shadows; she was all teeth, four mouths in a bloated head, each mouth filled with metal fangs. Her hands were as big as Amina’s head, each finger tipped with yellow claws, encrusted with filth and dirt and black gunk. Metal filaments spiralled around her limbs, like ivy on a dying tree. Saggy flesh, shaggy pale fur, a shambling monster from the dark places of the woods. The angel broke many of those metal teeth and snapped her nose and bit her face and sank the knife into her belly and thighs.
The other monster was quicker, smaller, a bright pink dancing twist of light-swallowing sinuous motion. Less like metal and more like — what was the word Ilyusha had taught her? — ‘plastic’? The pink monster avoided the worst of the angel’s struggles, slipping away from the knife.
And they all ignored Amina.
Amina was crammed against the back wall. She wasn’t sure how she’d gotten there — everything was happening too fast. Her throat was raw and her backside hurt where she’d fallen over. She panted so hard she was hyperventilating. Her heart was going to explode. Her head would burst. Her skin was slick with cold sweat. Her knife chafed against her ribs.
The angel needed help. But Amina’s demon had fled.
The others could not assist; the windows in the other rooms had also been shattered, admitting more monsters into their tower-refuge. Shouting and gunshots filled the air, deafening and terrifying, making Amina flinch and shake and scream. She heard Ilyusha shouting horrible things between the booming discharge of her gun. Kagami was screaming too — pain-screaming. Wet noises and metal noises and meat noises and anger noises. Bang-bang-bang! Screeching laughter and insults and promises of cannibal feasting.
Then a hissing kink-kink-kink-kink exploded into a world-shattering rip-buzz. Part of the wall turned to dust. A pair of torn, wet shapes flew backward out of the adjacent window, falling to the ground far below, trailing blood into the night.
Amina’s demon understood the others were winning. But the angel still needed help.
Her demon had been so hot and eager in her chest only moments ago, aching and burning to pierce the angel’s flesh with her secret claw and receive judgement, forgiveness, cleansing, punishment — anything! But now the coward had burrowed deep, nestled between her lungs and her heart, bleating and whining and sobbing. It had taken control of her mouth and throat. It had pinned her limbs with lead weights. It had stolen her resolve.
Get up! She screamed at her demon — she used her throat. What good are you if you won’t help!? The angel is fighting for us! Get up!
Amina managed to rise to her feet, but her knees were weak, her legs were shaking. Her knife was sweat-slick in her lock-fingered fist.
A dark shape slammed through the adjoining doorway, coat whipping out behind. A weapon whirled upward.
“Elpi!” Vicky shouted. “Head down!”
But the pink-plastic monster was faster than Vicky’s gun. She peeled herself off the struggle to pin Elpida and twisted through the air like a falling sycamore seed, but a hundred times faster. Whip-limbs slammed into Vicky’s side; she flew through the air and hit the wall in a tangle, then slid down into a heap.
The pink-plastic monster tossed Vicky’s gun to the floor.
She shimmered as she moved, like moonlit silk. A sheet of fine hair or a thin cape covered her naked flesh in a second skin, billowing here, sucking tight there, revealing a stick-slender body beneath. No ears. No hair. No nose. Her mouth was full of little pink tendrils. She had too many fingers, no toes, and strange opening in her hips. Her eyes were wide pools of toxic magenta.
Those eyes passed over Amina — and dismissed her as unimportant.
Amina’s hand was soaked in sweat, hot and hard on the handle of her knife. She had a claw, sharp and hidden. But this was a real demon, a thing from the deepest pit. Her little darkness was no match. Her demon fled deeper inside her chest. She panted and whined at it, pleading for help.
I need you! I need you now! We need to work together!
Her demon was scared; she was scared. Her demon was no fighter; she was no fighter.
The pink-plastic monster reached inside a compartment concealed within her own body and took out a gun — black, heavy, short. It clicked.
I’ll give you everything! You can have everything you ever wanted!
Everything? Her demon sobbed with her. It only wanted what she wanted.
A shout came from the other room, in a voice Amina did not know: “Ash! Ash! Coilgun!”
“Fuck you!” That was Ilyusha. Kagami was still screaming. Gunshots and shouts drowned the world. Down on the floor, the angel was on the verge of overpowering the four-mouthed thing that had her pinned, even with a broken wrist and blood in her eyes.
In a voice like hot tar, the pink-plastic monster said: “I’ve got the leader!”
That unfamiliar shout replied, punctuated by a grunt of pain: “Get her alive! Ash, remember! Alive!”
“Plan’s dead,” said Ash. “We’re fucked.”
She turned her back on Amina and pointed the gun at the angel’s head.
* * *
Elpida saw it happen from beginning to end.
The others were present for the gory conclusion, but they didn’t witness the first strike. Vicky was dazed, possibly concussed; the rest were fending off the other section of the ambush.
One of the revenants who had assaulted Elpida was made of pink bio-plastic and neon light, wrapped in some kind of reactive gauze. Her frame was so lithe and flexible that Elpida doubted she had any unmodified bones left in her body, perhaps not even a ribcage or a spine. Elpida had managed to ram the knife into her torso three times, but she bled only a thin pinkish fluid, barely seeping from the deep stab wounds. She’d been shouting orders as she’d helped the other revenant try to subdue Elpida; a leader, or co-leader. Priority target.
When the pink bio-plastic revenant slipped away to neutralise Vicky, Elpida knew she had only seconds remaining to gain the upper hand.
When she looked up and saw the barrel of a large calibre handgun pointing at her face, she knew she’d failed.
Howl, I’m sorry.
Then Amina leapt on the revenant’s back and stuck a knife into her neon-pink throat.
The revenant’s shot went wide, blasting a fist-sized chunk out of the floor.
Elpida didn’t have time to consider Amina — she knew the girl was carrying a concealed combat knife, but she didn’t know if Amina knew how to use it effectively. She had to make use of this opening, do justice to Amina’s sacrifice.
The four-mouthed revenant still had Elpida pinned, but only just. Elpida rammed her elbow into the side of the woman’s oversized head — then again, and again, and again, smashing bone on bone, fishing for a concussion. Uneven dark eyes wavered; jackpot. Elpida grabbed the woman by the throat, then put all her strength into her own legs and lower back, throwing the revenant off and jackknifing to her feet all in one motion. For a second they were parted; the shaggy revenant had her back to the shattered window, staggering and dazed.
Behind Elpida, Amina was screaming. The others were discharging weapons. Elpida’s bloodstream was full of painblockers. Her right wrist was broken.
The big shaggy revenant shook her head, trying to regain her senses. Elpida reached out and gave her a quick, sharp shove — but the four mouths broke into a quartet of grins. The zombie grabbed Elpida’s left arm as she tumbled, to drag Elpida out of the window with her. Mutual destruction.
A distant gunshot split the night. A heartbeat later, the four-mouthed revenant’s head burst open, showering Elpida with blood and brains and bits of skull.
She did not have time to thank Serin for the assist.
Elpida whirled away from the window and the crumpling corpse of her opponent. Her eyes darted for her submachine gun; even with a broken wrist she could work the trigger in her left hand and brace the grip on her right forearm. She had to help Amina — the girl had shown incredible bravery, she’d saved Elpida’s life, but there was no way an unmodified child could outfight the sinuous hyper-altered revenant predator.
But Amina was winning.
She took a long time to get there. She had both legs and her free arm wrapped around the slender bio-plastic torso, clinging on so tight that her fingernails dug holes in the material. The neon-pink revenant had tried to shoot her in the head, but Amina was biting her throat, flesh pressed so close that the revenant could not achieve an angle. She’d dropped her gun, pummelled Amina’s head and neck with her flailing, whip-like limbs, and slammed Amina into the wall.
But the girl just kept cutting.
Elpida picked up her submachine gun. She covered the fight in case the revenant regained the upper hand.
Deep magenta eyes found Elpida, bulging in panic. The other attackers had shouted a name. Ash?
Amina had her black combat knife sideways into Ash’s throat. She just kept wrenching and sawing and cutting. She bit and jerked and clung. Her knife-hand was slippery with both pink slime and hot red blood; she must have hit a real blood vessel. The revenant’s limbs jerked as nerves were severed. She choked and spluttered as her knees gave way. Amina rode her the whole way down.
Magenta eyes stared up at Elpida, pleading.
Ash gurgled: “Get her off … ”
Elpida watched. She kept the zombie covered.
Amina took so long that the others joined them.
Pira shot across the room and confirmed that Vicky was conscious and breathing. Atyle carried the cyclic sliver-gun, beaming at Elpida — and then watched Amina with amused delight in her one organic eyeball. Ilyusha appeared, spitting anger and covered in gore, hauling Kagami after her like a piece of ruined meat.
Ilyusha shouted: “Ami! Ami! Stop! Ami!”
Elpida snapped, hard and quick: “Enemy down?”
Pira grunted: “Yes. All five. We’re clear.”
Atyle answered: “We’re whole, warrior. Bruises and cuts.”
Kagami spat through gritted teeth, soaked in her own blood: “Whole?! I’ve been fucking eaten!”
Elpida risked a glance away from the fight — which wasn’t really a fight anymore, Amina was just sawing the head off a pink corpse.
Kagami was on her feet, bleeding from several very nasty bite wounds on her forearms, shoulders, neck, and face. But she would live. Ilyusha was mostly untouched but covered in blood. Atyle looked like she’d been punched in the eyes. Pira was steadying Vicky, who was cradling her own head and ribs, groaning softly.
Elpida said: “Illy, see to Kagami’s wounds, now.”
But Ilyusha wasn’t listening: “Ami! Ami!”
Pira stomped back. She raised her submachine gun. “Let me end this. Get her off the zombie.”
“Ami!” Ilyusha shouted.
Elpida shook her head. “Let her finish.”
* * *
Amina wasn’t surprised when the pink plastic head kept moving.
After she finished cutting, the jaw still snapped and the eyeballs still rolled. The shimmering face stared up at her in soundless fury, because it had no lungs with which to breathe. It had no hair, just a thin film of pinkish silk. For a long moment Amina cradled it in her lap, staring down at the blood and the slime, and at the ragged flesh curtain she had made of the neck. Blood coated her fingers, her hands, her face, the front of her clothes, sticky and hot and salty on the tongue. Her demon purred in approval and pleasure. And she almost purred too, because she had finally put it to good use. She had become one with the urge, she had accepted the demon with both hands, and together they had saved the angel.
But outwardly she cringed and cowered. Because once she looked up she would finally face judgement.
The angel was crouched in front of her, cradling a broken wrist. “Amina,” she was saying, gentle but firm. “Amina, I need you to put that down. Amina. Amina, look at me. Amina.”
Amina shivered and curled inward.
Vicky slurred: “She’s in- in CSR- Elpi-”
“Combat stress reaction. I know. Amina. Amina, look at me.”
Pira said: “She needs to put the head down so I can put a bullet in it. If that zombie has internal transceivers, she’ll be calling for help, transmitting our position to her friends. Now.”
Kagami murmured, “Oh, oh fuck me, this is some shit. I’ve seen bio-isolated cranium suspension before, but that’s just a severed head.”
Vicky said, “We’re all- all zombies- all zombies here, Kaga.”
“The head,” Pira snapped. “Now!”
A hand reached into Amina’s lap. She twitched her knife; she could not face the ending of this afterglow and the beginning of her judgement. But then she realised the hand was black metal, tipped with red claws. Ilyusha peered at her, but Amina was afraid to raise her eyes.
Illy said: “Ami. Ami, you gotta give the head. You gotta.”
Amina whimpered. She couldn’t face this. The head in her lap snapped and blinked.
Ilyusha said, “Ami, well done, good job, good! But you gotta give—”
The rest of Ilyusha’s words faded to insignificance. Well done? Well done. Well done, Amina! Well done! Her demon preened and purred.
Ilyusha took the pink head from Amina’s lap. The jaw still clicked and the eyes still rolled. Ilyusha held it up against the wall, put her shotgun in the mouth, and pulled the trigger. Very little was left after that.
Everyone was talking, saying things to each other — to her, about her, around her. Saying things about moving, now, quickly. Saying things about blood, and tracking, and sniper rifles, and somebody get the doors, and on and on and on. But the angel was still trying.
“Amina. Amina, look at me.”
Amina squeaked: “I can’t.”
“Okay, then you don’t have to. Can you stand up? Can you do that for me? Come on, there you go, one hand on the floor, get your feet flat, that’s it, good girl, up you come.”
Amina’s muscles ached in new ways. She’d had to squeeze very hard to stay on the monster’s back, so her hands stung and her head was bruised and her limbs hurt all over. The monster had hit her and punched her and smashed her against the wall. But she’d stayed on. Well done, Amina! Well done!
She stood up; the angel stood with her. She stretched her arms out to the sides — to show what she was, clad in crimson and gripping a knife. And she looked the angel in the eyes.
Soft purple orbs, backed by the broken windows and the howling wind.
“Amina,” the angel said. “Well done.” She was so beautiful, bruised and bloodied and dirty after fighting. Amina would do anything she ordered. Accept any judgement. Her demon bared its throat and belly in agreement. It was time.
Amina whispered: “I’m here.”
“You are, yes, you’re right here. Amina, thank you. You saved me, do you understand that? And it’s okay now, you can relax.”
Amina felt tears on her cheeks. But she kept her eyes open. Kept staring at the angel.
She managed to stammer: “I needed- n-needed you to see. See what I am. Please. Please see. Please.”
Somebody said, “Get that knife off her.”
Without looking away from Amina, the angel said: “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Atyle spoke. “The little one has earned her claws. None will shear her of that.”
The angel said, “I see you, Amina. It’s okay. Take a deep breath.”
Amina nodded, crying freely. Of course the angel saw her now. How could it be otherwise? She was exposed, out in the open, covered in blood. Her demon was on the surface, puppeting her limbs, moving her lips, guiding her heart. There was no hiding this, not like she had hidden all those dirty secret murders in Qarya. Her demon shone, proud, overt, ready to die.
“I’m a demon,” she squeaked. “I am the demon. I am. It’s been there- the whole time- it was just me. All me.”
Vicky slurred, “She’s in combat shock. Amina, sweetheart, it’s okay. You killed somebody in self defence, you had to do it. You didn’t have a choice.”
The angel shook her head. “No, Vicky. This is more than that.”
Pira growled, “We have to move. Right now. We don’t have time for this.”
Elpida said, “Then we’ll move. Pack our equipment. Strip weapons from the bodies.” But her purple eyes stayed on Amina. “Amina, you said certain things to me just before the ambush. You don’t have to say them again in front of the others, but if—”
“I’m a demon,” Amina repeated — and then she bared everything.
She confessed in one long string of words, in case there was any nook or cranny of her soul into which the angel could not yet see. She confessed to the murders in Qarya. She confessed to the dead Frankish knight. She confessed she had harboured a demon in her chest for her whole life, and she could no longer tell the difference between herself and the passenger in her soul. She confessed she wanted to penetrate Elpida’s flesh with her knife. She confessed that Ilyusha made her quiver and ache to be penetrated herself. She confessed her need to be punished for the act. She confessed everything. It slid off her in waves like shed skin. While she spoke, metal limbs hugged her from the side. Ilyusha was a demon too, so she already understood.
The angel accepted every word. She nodded. She reached out and touched Amina’s bloodstained face. “I forgive you.”
Amina cried and cried and cried.
Somebody — Vicky? — slurred: “Makes sense, doesn’t it?”
Kagami snapped, in between pained hisses: “Harbouring a serial killer? Oh yes, perfect sense. Somebody knock her on the head again.”
Vicky continued: “We’re all soldiers, right? Or at least, we were all involved in war. Elpi’s a super-soldier. I was a … regular soldier. Kaga’s some kind of moon commander. Pira, I dunno, but you’re—”
“Yes,” Pira snapped.
“Atyle was a warrior priestess. Dunno about Illy, but it’s a good bet. Right? So, I thought Amina was the odd one out. But she’s not. She’s a serial killer. She’s one of us alright.”
But then there was another: the most terrifying of all Amina’s damned companions.
Atyle appeared, holding the severed weapon-limb, grinning like a skull. Ilyusha snapped at her, but Atyle ignored that. She crouched, staring at Amina with that magical green eye like wet rot. Only the angel’s hand and Illy’s embrace kept Amina from scrambling back in fear.
“I-I’m forgiven,” she blurted out, raising her cleansed soul as a shield. “I’m clean!”
Atyle purred: “Oh, little rabbit. You are a thing of surpassing beauty.”
Atyle leaned forward and kissed Amina on her bloody forehead. Her lips came away stained with red. Amina did not know what that meant.
Pira snapped: “We move, now. Or we’re dead.”
Elpida nodded and started barking orders. Amina finally felt her limbs relax. She stared down at the blade in her bloody hands. Her knuckles hurt very much.
Somebody started to say: “What about—”
“Let her keep it,” said the angel. “Let her keep the knife.”
And Amina comes through! The little rabbit bares her claws, and they are sharp indeed. I wanted to do something very different with this action sequence, something more confused and tight and overlapping, less clean and clear, and I’m not sure if it totally worked, but I feel like the experiment was worthwhile anyway. I hope you enjoyed our little serial killer’s self-discovery – and Elpida’s near invincibility in close combat; I gotta admit, the outline called for her to get pinned and overwhelmed, but she was just having none of it. Seriously, the pistol wasn’t in the plans.
But … something doesn’t quite add up here, right? Elpida may have missed it, too preoccupied with Amina. Something – or somebody – isn’t right. And somebody wanted Elpida taken alive.
If you want more Necroepilogos right away, there is a tier for it on my patreon:
Right now this only offers a single chapter ahead, about 4k words. Please, do feel free to wait until there’s plenty more to read! I’m doing my best to write as fast as I can and hoping to add more chapters ahead as soon as possible.
There’s also a TopWebFiction entry, for voting on. Voting makes the story go up the rankings, which helps more people see it! It really helps spread the story.
And as always, thanks for reading! I’m really happy with how my little story is going so far, and I hope you’re enjoying it just as much. I have big plans for the next two arcs, big things, big undead things.
A thing of surpassing beauty?
She sure is 💜
Atyle knows what she sees! She approves of this delicate courage. Glad you enjoyed the chapter!
Good job Amina.
This chapter was fun, nice work Author.
Thank you for the chapter.
Anima is a good girl and she did a good thing. Good Amina!
You’re very welcome! I’m very glad you enjoyed this one, it was the culmination of a long process. Thank you!!!
Thank you for replying.
You’re always very welcome.
Little murder gremlin Amina was fun. As for the action sequence, I enjoyed it. For me at least, it felt tight, brutal, and overwhelming in a good way, specifically because we saw it from Amina’s perspective. The description might have felt off if it had been from Elpida’s perspective because we expect her to be more in control. Ultimately though, take everything I say with a grain of salt as I don’t actually know what i’m talking about and have a hard time being objective about the things I like, and I really like this story. Anyway, ignore me and thanks for the chapter!
Thank you so much! I’m really delighted that you enjoyed this. I’m trying lots of different things for action scenes in Necroepilogos, lots of different ways of writing and approaching them, so this one being from Amina’s perspective – confused, jumbled, not in control – was very intentional. That’s why I did the switching back and forth. It wouldn’t work right if it was from Elpida’s POV.
You’re so very welcome, I’m delighted you’re enjoying this. Thank you!