Dark Calling Chapter 1. TURN AROUND, BRIGHT EYES

Author: Darren Shan

Series: The Demonata #9

Genres: Horror , Fantasy

A small, wiry, scorpion-shaped demon with a semi-human face drives its stinger into my right eye. My eyeball pops and gooey streaks flood down my cheek. In complete agony, I scream helplessly, but worse is to come. The demon spits into the empty socket. At first I think it's just phlegm, but then dozens of tiny things start to wriggle in the space where my eye once swam. As I fill with confused horror, teeth or claws dig into the bone around my ruined eye. Whatever the mini-monsters are, they're trying to tunnel through to my brain.

Beranabus roars, "Kernel!" and tries to grab me, but I wheel away from him as insanity and pain claim me. I whip around, flailing, shrieking, wild. The demon strikes again and punctures my left eye. Darkness consumes me. I'm in hell.

A lifetime later, someone picks me up from where I've fallen and drags me forward. It might be Beranabus or Grubbs, or maybe it's Lord Loss. I don't know or care. All I can focus on is the blind, hellish pain.

I pull away from the person or demon and run from the madness, but crash into something hard. I fall, moaning and screaming, but not crying-I no longer have eyes to weep with. The creatures that were spat into my eyes are munching on my brain now. I try to scrape them out with my fingers, but that just adds to the torment.

Then magic sears through my ruined sockets. The things in my head burn and drop away. The pain lessens. I sigh blissfully and slump unconscious.

I dream of the end of the world. Everything comes apart and everyone perishes. The universe warps and twists upon itself. In my dream, I float as a spirit through panels of light. I don't know how I see the lights without eyes, but I do. There are others-Grubbs, Beranabus, a girl. I slot the patches of light together and we sail from one window to another. Peaceful. No pain. I'm at ease. In my element. Master of the lights.

Maybe this is heaven. Constructing and passing through an endless series of windows. An eternal, beautiful, cosmic light show. I'll settle for that. Anything's better than torture, blindness, and micro-demons feasting on my brain.

Heaven doesn't last. I wasn't dreaming. The destruction was real. The lights fade and I find myself back on Earth. Blind as ever. Pain muted by magic, but hovering, waiting for its chance to kick back in. Turns out the creatures in my eyes were maggots.

No time for panic or self-pity. Beranabus drops a bombshell-we've traveled through time. I'm part of a magical weapon, the Kah-Gash. Grubbs is another part. By linking with the third component, the ghost of a dead girl, we took our doomed world into the past to avert demonic conquest. Now we have to fight again or it will all have been for nothing.

In a cave. Blindly battling Spine, the scorpion demon. I have the horrible beast pinned to a stalagmite. I'm pounding him with my fists, over and over. Without warning he melts away and I'm left standing in a puddle of sticky blood, frowning sightlessly.

I later learn that I've been cheated out of my revenge by a girl called Bec who's returned to life after sixteen hundred years. She drives Lord Loss back to his own foul realm. Job done.

We return to the universe of the Demonata. Grubbs comes with us but Bec stays behind. I'm surprised Beranabus leaves her She's part of the Kah-Gash. By uniting us, he could wield the power of the ancient weapon and destroy the Demonata. But he's afraid. The Kah-Gash made an independent decision to reverse time. Beranabus isn't sure whether that was a conscious act of mercy or a random reaction. He doesn't want to press ahead, worried the weapon might side with the demons next time and wipe out mankind.

I'm stronger in the universe of magic. I numb the pain and set to work on building a new set of eyes. I'm not sure that I can. Magic varies from person to person. We all have different capabilities. Some can restore a missing limb or organ. Others can't. You never know until you try.

Thankfully I'm one of those who can. With only the slightest guidance from Beranabus I construct a pair of sparkling blue eyes. I build them from the rear of my sockets outwards, repairing severed nerve endings, linking them with the growing globes, letting the orbs expand to fill the gaps.

I keep my eyelids shut for a minute when the eyes are complete, afraid I won't be able to see anything when I open them. I hardly breathe, heart beating fast, contemplating a life of darkness, the worst punishment I can imagine.

Then Beranabus stamps on my foot. I yell and my eyes snap open. I turn on the magician angrily, raising a fist, but stop when I see his cunning smile. I see it.

"You looked like an idiot with your eyes shut," Beranabus grunts.

"You're a bully." I pout, then laugh with relief and hug him. He's laughing too, but Grubbs isn't. The teenager glares at us. He's lost his brother and abandoned his uncle and home. He's in no mood to care about my well-being. But that's fine. Right now I can't sympathize with him either. All I care about is that I can see. I relish my new eyes, drinking in the sights of the demon world.

I'm so happy, it's several hours before I realize I can see more than before, that my new eyes have opened up a wonder of the universe previously hidden from me.

I've always been able to see patches of light that are invisible to everybody else. For years I thought they were products of my imagination, that I was slightly (lightly) crazy. Then I learned they were part of the realm of magic. I have a unique talent. I can manually slot the patches together and create windows between universes, far faster than anyone else.

I use my talent to help Beranabus save the world from demons. The magician has been around for thousands of years, and has spent much of that time patrolling the demon universe, protecting humanity from its savage, nightmarish hordes. Although demons have limitless galaxies of their own, they long to cross over-they love killing humans.

Beranabus stops them. He ensures no tunnels are built between universes, holds the demon armies in check, prevents mass crossings. I assist him. My gift allows us to zip from one part of the demon universe to another and track down just about any demon we want.

I thought I might not be able to see the lights with my new eyes, but they work the same way as my original pair. I can still see the multicolored patches, and when I think of a specific place, person, or thing, some of the lights flash and I can slot them together to create a window. In fact, I can do it quicker than before and my powers on Earth are greater than they were. Where I used to struggle to open windows on my own world, now I can do it swiftly and easily.

But now there are other lights. At first I thought they were illusionary specks, that my new eyes weren't working properly. But I soon realized the lights were real and fundamentally different than those I was familiar with. They're smaller, they change shape, and their colors mutate. The regular lights never alter in size or shade, but these new patches grow and subside, bleed from one color to another. A square pink panel can lengthen into a triangular blue patch, then gradually twist into an orange octagon, and so on.

They shimmer too. Their edges flicker like faulty fluorescent tubes. Sometimes creases run through them, like ripples spreading across the face of a pond.

I can't control the new lights. They ignore me when I try to manipulate them. In fact, if I start to get close, they glide away from me.

There aren't many of them, no more than twenty or thirty anywhere I go. But they worry me. There's something deeply unsettling about them. I initially thought that I was nervous of them just because they were new. But several weeks later, as I was trying to coax them nearer and link them up, they whispered to me.

I know it's ridiculous. Lights can't whisper. But I swear I heard a voice calling to me. It sounded like static to begin with, but then it came into focus, a single word repeated over and over. It's the same word the lights have been whispering to me ever since, softly, slyly, seductively.

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