Chapter 3: Soul-drinker

In which our hero(?)'s dark past begins to take shape in an attic.

Jon slid down behind one of the large trees and gasped for breath. This happened every time he teleported this far: He arrived as tired and winded as if he had run the whole way at his best speed. Except it wasn't his legs that were tired, but his brain. It could hardly even think now. But he could keep breathing. And with each breath of his lungs, with each beat of his heart, oxygen flowed into his brain. The memories came back, crystal clear, and he moaned in horror. "Again! It happened again!"

It had been strange, the way these two young girls had acted as if they knew him. That just confirmed what he had verified the previous evening, that he had once again slid sideways into a slightly different timeline when the car ran him over. Just like the first time in Hannover, he found some things missing and other things he did not have before. While it was kinda nice to know that he could not die by accident, at least not while awake, it was also darned inconvenient. This time his phone number had changed, he had lost one of his best contracts and ... but that was beside the point. The point was, he had used his DemonPower to leech an innocent soul. Again.

It had all gone well enough until he paid for these groceries. And then she gave him back change ... and it happened. Suddenly and without warning. He had not meant to do it. It just started as their fingers touched, like an electric current that starts flowing when you connect the cables. Suddenly thoughts, feelings and recent memories flowed from her into him, a cascade of impressions that drowned out his own mundane thoughts. And just like the first time, it felt so good ... like this was what he was born to.

Just like the first time.

He had been 12, almost 13. He remember that they sent him back to the orphanage the day before his birthday. What else could they do? They had suspected all along that he was at least part demon, but they thought they could save him. But after that time, they dared not keep him any longer. They had to think of their own kids. They could not trust him. And he could not trust himself. Still can't. His demon nature strikes at the most unexpected moment. Just like in his dreams. Dreams of blood and entrails and semen and screams and death. Who said that demons don't dream? And it all began that afternoon in the attic.

Rune had found a magazine somewhere. He never told quite where, just that he had found it. And of course he showed it to Jon. The two of them were almost like twins, and with girls on either side in the large family it was only natural that they shared everything. Including weird magazines. They had retreated to the attic to study it. It was richly illustrated with pictures you didn't normally see, certainly not in a god-fearing home like that. The two boys watched in horrified fascination.

And then Rune had said something, approximately like this: "Wow, this is funny! My heart is beating like I had been running!" And he pulled up his T-shirt so Jon could put a hand on his heart and feel how strongly it was beating. And he did feel that ... but that was not all. Because right then, right there, something changed inside him. Like a chicken hatching from the egg, like an insect wriggling free of its cocoon. He had begun to see other things a while before, like the weird glow in the dark, but this was different. This was the first time the DemonPower manifested and struck out.

Suddenly, his mind had been flooded with strange feelings and thoughts and memories. It felt very strange but it also felt good. The feelings that flowed into him were delighted and excited and strong and bright. He wanted it to go on, he wanted more and more. He forgot everything around him. But then the feelings changed, became scared and weird, but by then he did not care anymore. And then they ended when Rune pulled himself free and tumbled down crying for help. Jon was still sitting on the floor in front of the magazine, dazed and scared and guilty and excited, when Rune's parents came.

There was a lot of yelling and crying and praying and stuff. The smaller kids were sent to their rooms. For some reason, the parents had been most focused at the magazine at first. Jon had not understood why then, although he had certainly thought it over later. Back then, he did not much care of the magazine. He had not brought it into the house, in fact he had never seen it before; his impression was that Rune found it in the house somewhere, but there was no more talk about that now. Even if he wasn't guilty in that, it paled in comparison with the true crime he had committed: He had been drinking Rune's soul. Like a vampire drinking blood, he had been drinking his best friend's memories and feelings and whatever else a soul was made of. So this was how it was to be a demon. They had been right all along.

Luckily Rune had escaped with most of his soul still intact, but he was clearly weakened. He seemed listless, his head hanging and his feet shuffling, his face red like he was running a fever. Jon realized belatedly that he could have drained him completely, killing him and possibly even taking away his next life, since it was the soul that went there. No matter what punishment they decided to give him, he deserved it and more. But they did not punish him. They just locked him in a small room while they called the child care. He stayed in the room until they came to take him back, so he could not "corrupt" the souls of the other kids. He had tried to explain that he did not corrupt Rune's soul, he had been drinking it, but that did not seem to make things better at all. And it wasn't. From then on, he had been careful not to touch anyone he cared about in the least.

And now it had happened again. An innocent high school girl, and he had been drinking her feelings like a thirsty man drinking water. Until he had felt the tinge of embarrassment and managed to break free. Break free and run away. His strength recovered, he rose to his feet. Time to continue running away.