My throat burned with every breath. Wobbling on shaking feet, I shoved through the streets. My back was sticky with thick, hot blood, trickling down my spine. Everything hurt. I had flown for hours, but I had only gotten two cities over— maybe three. I was injured, cold, and probably starving. I pushed through the swarm of people on the busy San Francisco street, not one of them stopping to make sure I was ok. But I was used to that.
And none of that was important.
What was important was getting away. Getting as far from that monster as I could. No looking back, no second guessing. Just running. Running as far as I could before collapsing from exhaustion. I glanced around frantically, my eyes falling upon a billboard with a child’s face plastered on it. He was young, barely 7, with spiky brown hair. His eyes were a sparkling pink under a shadow of blue. He wore a smile, but it was clearly fake. Next to him were the words Little Angels: The new clothing line perfect for all your mutant needs. And to top it all off, two feathery white wings rose from his back.
Yeah, those were real. I would know. After all, that kid was me. I tugged on the hood of my jacket, trying to hide my face more. If it worked for superheroes, it would work for me. Right? My eyes were pulled back to the billboard.
I remembered that photo-shoot. It took three hours for makeup to cover up the bruise I had throbbing on my cheek. Mother always said, “The show will always go on, Jared.” It didn’t matter what state I was in, we always had to take picture after picture.
I was her little cash cow. As the first documented mutant in human history, of course I would be the perfect spokesperson for her little line of clothes, specifically made for the mutant children who were just starting to pop up around the world. But I was done. Truth be told, I didn’t know why I was doing it in the first place. I didn’t get anything out of it. Ever. Well, sometimes I got dinner. But that was only when Mother was in an especially good mood.
I was sick of her. I was sick of being nothing more than Jared Hall, the mutant. Why was it always all about me? Every day, more and more mutants came out into the open— some as vigilantes, others as regular people who wanted to speak out against the discrimination mutants faced every day. I wasn’t the only one anymore. There were hundreds of us, maybe even thousands. But that didn’t change the fact that I was the first. I was the one they knew. I was the one everyone thought of when they heard the word “mutant.”
I bumped into someone, falling backward and slamming against the ground. I could feel my skin tear open from the impact, but the pain was nothing more than a tingle. I scrambled to my feet, my lip quivering as I backed away, tears welling in my eyes. My whole body trembled, sticky from the thick blood coating my arms and back. My wings were sore, falling limply behind me. I grew still, noticing the intense pain pulsing through my body now that I had stopped moving. One terrifying thought crossed my mind:
What if I made a mistake?
I stared up at the woman with fear, half expecting her to punish me for running into her. She was so tall. A street light blared behind her, masking her face in shadows. Her long, black hair fell around her like the Grudge from that scary movie my older brother, Jason, was watching that one time. She peered down at me with dark, beady eyes as she reached her hand out to me, her fingers long and boney. My eyes darted between her long stringy hair covering her face and the skeletal-like hand in front of me before deciding that “flight” was probably smarter than “fight.” I gasped and ran, taking refuge behind a dumpster in an alleyway that happened to be close by.
“Wait!” She called out to me, but I was already running. I knew better than to trust someone like her. I knew better than to trust anyone. If someone discovered it was me, they would try to take me home. The last thing I wanted was to go home.
I curled up in a little ball, praying that no one would see me. Go away… Please go away… I begged the darkness as if I was trying to persuade the monster under my bed to leave me alone. “It’s alright. I won’t hurt you.” I looked up, my cheeks damp with tears.
“How should I know? You’re scary.” I whimpered, hugging my knees closer to my body. My little white wings fell behind me lifelessly, too weak to be hidden against my back.
The woman kneeled down, making no attempt to touch me. “My name is Sheila. What’s your name?”
I glared at her, trying to make myself look scary even though I was clearly trying to hide from her. “Not telling.”
Sheila frowned but didn’t press me. She sighed slightly, shaking her head a little. “It’s ok. I’m here to help you. Has someone hurt you?”
I looked down at my feet, which were bare and dirty, and slowly nodded my head. “But why should I trust you?” My voice quivered as I tried and failed to make myself sound brave.
“Because it’s my job. It’s my job to help kids like you. I can get you somewhere safe— somewhere where no one can ever hurt you again. But to do that, I need you to tell me your name.” She explained gently, careful to not raise her voice.
I blinked at her a few times, still skeptical. Suddenly, her face began to look softer. The light obscuring her face was gone, and I could see her warm, brown eyes. She was smiling at me. Most people just stared uncomfortably, clearly disturbed by my mutation. I looked down at my knees for a moment, my mind drawing a blank. She looked so… Motherly? Well, she looked like the mother I always dreamed of. Or the mother I often imagined. The one I wanted, but didn’t think I deserved. Maybe I did deserve it? “…It’s Jared.”
“My name. It’s Jared. Jared Hall.”
“You what?!” His furious voice boomed through the halls, vibrating the whole castle with the force of his words. His servant quivered before him, kneeling as she begged for mercy from his wrath.
“He’s gone, my Lord. He just disappeared. There’s… There’s no sign of him anywhere.” She bowed her head, not daring to look him in the eyes as she waited to be punished. After years of waiting, plotting… She had ruined all of their plans.
“Find him! We’ve waited far too long to have our plans ruined by a seven-year-old.” He flicked his crimson red cloak behind him as he returned to his throne, sitting down on the twisted bones. He crossed his legs and peered down at her with murderous eyes, raising his chin slightly as he looked down on her. She was beneath him— and she always would be.
“The hunters searched for hours, but… There’s just no sign of him. It’s like he’s just… vanished into thin air.” Her hands trembled as she spoke, still kneeling despite her knees being raw from endless hours of begging for mercy. It had only been a few days since her son— their prize, their upper hand in a war nearly nine millennia in the making— had gone missing. And with him gone, her Lord – the Great Demon King, Lucifer— was at risk of having his plans for dominating the Seven Realms ruined.
Lucifer leaned forward in his throne, the bones of his enemies crackling beneath him and filling the air with their muted screams. “I don’t care if you have to kill every sorry human on that God forsaken planet. You will find him and bring him to me. And you will find the other warriors.” Lucifer hissed, his red eyes flickering with his wrath.
She nodded quickly, not daring to upset him anymore by arguing with him. “As you command, my Lord.” She finally rose, her eyes still downcast. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a seven-year-old boy with wings sprouting from his back. The Creator could create thousands of mutants to try and deter Lucifer from the scent of the Warriors, but they would locate the boy one way or another.
Lucifer rolled his head on his shoulders, cracking his neck. He flicked his wrist, dismissing her like the piece of garbage she was. The only reason she was still alive was because Lucifer willed it. He would snap her neck the moment she was no longer useful to him, and he wouldn’t let her forget that. “Now I have to clean up your foolishness. Be gone. You sicken me.”
She tensed and nodded, vanishing from his sight in a puff of black smoke. Lucifer let out a long, heavy sigh. What was the point of being the most powerful Demon King in all the 7 Realms, with hundreds of servants, if none of them could do anything right? When Natasha had given birth to the reincarnated soul of the warrior sent to kill him, he had thought his luck had finally changed.
“Hegemon. Come forth!” Lucifer commanded. A red smoke swirled around the empty air in front of Lucifer’s throne for a moment before collecting itself into the form of a man. Hegemon was in his 30s— or, he looked it. Hegemon had sold his soul to Lucifer in the human year of 1823. He was bald, with a long scar disfiguring his nose. Thick, black bat wings— a signature of the demon race— rose from Hegemon’s back, commanding much of the otherwise empty room.
“You called, my Lord?” Hegemon kept his head bowed low as he kneeled in front of his master, waiting for his commands.
“The boy has been lost. Natasha allowed him to slip through her fingers. It’s time to put our backup plan into motion. Have you located my son?”
Hegemon nodded, raising his crimson eyes to gaze upon his lord. “Yes, my Lord. He was reborn to the Wilson family under the name Tyrin.” Hegemon reported, lowering his head once again in a sign of respect.
Lucifer wrinkled his nose in disgust as if he had smelled something rotten. “Tyrin? Humans have such frightening taste in names.” Lucifer paused, his expression turning to one of apathy. “Very well. Go to him. We will need him if we want to gain the upper hand.”
Hegemon’s head snapped up in surprise. “But, my Lord… Innocent people will—”
“The Seven Realms are under the control of a tyrant hell-bent on destroying us all, and you are concerned about a few human lives? You joined me to liberate the universe. I hope you have not lost sight of our vision for the Realms.”
Hegemon’s face twisted in confusion. “Of course I haven’t, but I—”
Lucifer raised his hand to silence his servant. “Enough. I did not save you from your mortal life and grant you with immortality for you to argue with me. You will go to the 3rd Realm, the Realm of Earth, and you will find my son. We will need his powers when the time comes.”
“And what is it you will have me do?” Hegemon asked, although part of him already knew the answer.
“Activate the curse, by any means necessary.”