“You still going on about that old book?” Luke questioned Ethan as they were walking to school. “It’s probably just some old history book or something that belonged to some foreign guy you know.”
“No, I think it’s more than that. I can feel it.” Ethan replied confidently, thinking about the old and mysterious tome.
“Well . . . Can I see it?” Luke eyed Ethan’s backpack, looking to see if there were any shapes that suggested a large book was in there.
“I left it at home, don’t want anything bad to happen to it.” Ethan informed him, to his disappointment.
“Well it’s been what, a week since you found it? I’m free today; can I come over and see it?” Luke asked hopefully, intrigued by it.
“Not today, sorry; I have some chores.” Ethan thought back to the situation at home, “Something’s been damaging property, my dad thinks it’s a bear, so he put out bear traps around in the woods. He’s busy today so he asked me to check them after school; it might take a while.”
“Aww darn it, well, tomorrow maybe?”
“Sure, I don’t think I have anything important tomorrow.” Someone called to them, and they looked forward. From her house, Penny waved at them happily. She began to walk towards them.
“You gonna tell her about this book?” Luke asked quietly, so far Luke had been the only one that Ethan told.
“No, it’ll only worry her. I don’t want to give her any stress.” Ethan whispered back.
Penny reached them and greeted with a polite ‘hello’, and they continued onward to school. Neither Ethan nor Luke mentioned anything about the tome.
* * *
“Seeya tomorrow Ethan!” Luke called as he turned away from Ethan and walked towards his own house. Ethan waved goodbye and continued onward to his own residence.
The school day had been like all of the others; long, boring, and with the majority of the students glaring at the clock. Finally glad that it had ended, and on top of that it was a Friday, many of the students practically ran out of the building. It wasn’t much different for the trio of friends, who managed to get to their homes quicker than normal.
Ethan passed by the nearly hidden trail on which he found the tome, but didn’t turn towards it. His normal route was much quicker than that trail. He wanted to get home, check the traps, and then inspect the tome more.
Seeing his house come into view, Ethan sped up his pace and quickly made his way to the two story abode. He opened the door and shut it quickly, entering his home. It was a large house, often seeming larger than it actually was, as Ethan was an only child and had no pets. The residents of the house were only Ethan, his mother, and his father.
Looking around, he didn’t see his mother. She must have been running errands or something similar to that, Ethan wasn’t surprised by it. He walked up the stairs and down the hall to his room. Taped to his door was a note, he stopped in front of the door to read it.
-Don’t forget to check the traps, take a rifle with you just in case there’s a bear. But watch yourself and be careful!
Although not signed, Ethan knew it was from his father. Telling himself he would get to it soon, he opened the door and stepped inside; not bothering to take the note down so he wouldn’t forget it.
Once inside his room, Ethan set down his bag and walked over to his bed. On the nightstand next to it, the tome was placed. Resting atop the tome was a plain, dark gray mask. The eye holes were large round circles with a thin fabric behind them to hide the wearer’s eyes.
Ethan picked up the mask and looked at it, turning it over in his hands. He had enjoyed crafting it, and liked the way it set on his face. This was the mask that had been inspired by the blue masked demon he had seen.
He set the mask down and picked up the book. He opened to a random area in the book and began to read the text written in the margins. He had acquired a book on Latin at the library, and took it out as well. Choosing several words in the tome at random, he looked them up in the library book, hoping to translate the paragraphs and figure out what the book was about.
* * *
Quite a bit of time had passed by before Ethan realized he had forgotten something. He had been so mesmerized by writing translations that he had forgotten all about the traps that he needed to check. Carefully closing the tome, and quickly closing the library book, Ethan stood up and ran downstairs.
His parents still weren’t home, or at least still we’re around. Ethan was glad at this, as he may have gotten in trouble for neglecting a chore. He walked into the living room and opened a cabinet, revealing several rifles. His father was a hunter, so Ethan knew how to use a gun.
Taking out one that was moderate in size, and not as valuable as the rest, Ethan closed the cabinet and turned to leave.
Walking into the forest, Ethan could remember where the traps had been set. His father had told him clearly where they were so he would not blunder into one and hurt himself.
Approaching the first one, Ethan quickly saw that nothing was caught in the steel jaws. He moved on, keeping a good distance between him and the trap. He continued on to the next trap. It took about ten minutes, but he was approaching the trap.
The forest was silent, with the exception of a few birds chirping here and there. But the silence was soon broken by the anguished cry of an animal. Knowing that where the cry came from was where the second trap was set, Ethan hurried and ran towards it.
Bursting through the bushes, Ethan saw that the second trap had been successful. A wounded and bleeding animal was caught in the trap by its left front paw. Ethan quickly grew worried when he saw what the animal was.
It was a bear, but not a normal full grown black bear; it was only a cub. The bear cub cried a pained cry and tugged on its paw, stuck in the trap. Ethan immediately felt pity for it. Even though he had gone on a few hunts with his father, he never wanted to harm a baby animal.
Setting the rifle down, Ethan approached the small cub. The bear cried out again and lashed out a paw at him.
“Ah, don’t worry, I want to help you!” Ethan told the bear, who obviously didn’t understand or listen. The bear cried out in fear and swiped a paw at him.
Picking up the gun, Ethan quickly ran back to the house. In a little under ten minutes, he had made it back home. Entering the house, he first went to the cabinet in the living room and replaced the gun to its place. He then went to the kitchen and to the fridge; he pulled out a pack of red meat.
Leaving the house once again, he ran back to where the second trap was placed. The bear seemed to have calmed down, or had grown weaker. It cried out again when it saw Ethan.
Ethan approached it slowly, and tossed the meat at it. The bear seemed frightened, and didn’t notice the meat at first. But after it saw that Ethan wasn’t getting any closer to it to harm it, it turned its head and sniffed at the meat.
Gaining hope for the young cub, Ethan walked over to the trap. He pressed down on the lever to release the pressure and open the jaws, but it didn’t budge. To his horror, Ethan saw that this was a particularly old trap; its jaws were rusty.
The cub licked at the red meat, weak and distracted. Hastily, Ethan decided that he needed oil to get the trap to open. He once again ran away from the trap with the cub and back to the house.
Entering the garage, he quickly found a can of oil, and raced back to the cub to get it free. Panting now, Ethan walked towards the cub, exhausted. He hurriedly oiled the trap, and stepped on the lever again to release the bear. As the jaws began to open, he looked up. He noticed that the bear wasn’t moving.
Worried, Ethan prodded the bear’s side with his hand; half hoping that it would spring up and claw him; just to know that it was still with him. But the bear didn’t, not anymore, nor will it ever again. The young cub was dead.
Ethan stopped, staring at the dead body. He couldn’t help it now. Looking down, he steadily pressed on the lever and the oiled jaws opened. He pulled the bloody paw out of the trap and set it next to the bear’s muzzle. The cub couldn’t use it anymore, but at least it was free now.
Sadly, Ethan returned home, not bothering to check the remaining traps. When he arrived, he walked up to his room and lied down on the bed. Nothing he could do about the bear now, he supposed. He returned to the tome, and looked at some of the notes he had written on a separate paper. He stared at the notes blankly.
Ethan looked over at his mask, remembering the blue masked demon. Then back to his notes. Several words had been translated, ‘change’, ‘wings’, ‘stronger’, ‘see’, ‘hear’, and several others. He stared at them, and then it hit him.
“These passages . . .” He sat up and looked intently at the text. “Belongs to a demon . . . a spell book . . ?”
Ethan stared at the book, and then realized something. He closed the book and then ran downstairs and out the door.
Still tired from earlier, he ran slower, but still tried his best. Now as the day was nearing sunset, he made his way back to the second trap. The body of the bear cub was still there, cold and lifeless. Ethan stared at it, and then looked at the tome. He wanted to give the young cub another chance at life.
Ethan flipped through the book, searching for anything that was a ‘Back to Life’ spell. Not knowing how he would find one, as he couldn’t understand either text, Ethan felt rather hopeless at first. However, despite that, he searched.
Near the end of the book, he began to notice a few figures and graphics. He stopped to look at them. One of them looked like some sort of canine, most likely a wolf. A second one looked like a large stag, a third appeared to be a bird of prey.
Ethan flipped through the pages, looking for a figure of a bear, he found none. Turning back to the page with the wolf image, he looked at one of the passages with no graphic, one with notes written in the margin.
He recognized only one word in Latin, but it was enough to convince him that this was the spell to use. The spell mentioned ‘Ursa’, Latin for ‘Bear.’
Ethan stepped over to the bear, flies now buzzing around the exposed muscle on its paw. He looked at the translated notes on the margin of the page, deciding that he really had nothing to lose. He wanted to help the poor cub; he had to at least try.
He looked down at the small body, and then to the tome again. Ethan began to read aloud the text. About halfway through the words now, Ethan paused and looked down at the cub. Nothing was happening. The only thing he noticed was the temperature seemed to be getting warmer, but he ignored it.
Continuing the text, he paused every few seconds to look at the bear. He was getting worried now, the only thing the bear had done since he had started reading was attract more flies. He began to lose hope, but he continued on anyway. Nothing happened. That is, not until he spoke the last words.
No sooner did he speak the final words did he dropped the book as if it were toxic and screamed in pain. His skin, it seemed to have burst into flames; or at least that’s what it felt like.
Ethan fell to the ground as the right side of his body seemed to begin to twitch madly, starting with his right foot and hand. He screamed again as pain coursed through his body, his right hand and foot began to feel odd. He lifted his hands and looked at them, trying, but failing, to stop screaming.
His skin was changing, it slowly diluted from its original color to a ghostly pale white. The pain seemed to get more intense as the white changed again, this time to an ashy dark gray.
His right hand began to shake uncontrollably, and Ethan stared at it in horror as it seemed to stretch. Each finger grew at least two times as long, and something seemed to be trying to tear out from underneath his skin at the tip of each one.
Ethan screamed and writhed in agony as large black talons ripped through his skin and grew from his fingers, causing small rivulets of blood to drip down his hand. The same thing must have been happening to his right foot, as it suddenly began to hurt intensely and felt cramped inside his shoe.
Next the twitching affected his face; all of the teeth in the right side of his mouth began to change. They grew much longer and sharper, now too large to fit comfortable in his mouth. Blood ran from his gums, as well as his eye. His left eye was shedding tears of pain, his right was shedding blood. He didn’t know what was happening to his right eye, but his vision seemed to change.
Ethan put his hand on the ground and tried to be strong, he tried to stand up; but the pain was too great and he fell to the ground to writhe in pain some more. Underneath the sound of his harsh breathing and screams he heard something rustle the dead leaves on the ground; footsteps.
He tried to call out to them, but it only came out in screams. A voice was heard.
“Tempero,” (Control,) The voice said in a harsh but serious tone, “subsisto.” (Stop.)
Suddenly, everything stopped. The burning sensation all over his skin, the twitching, the growing teeth; it all ceased. Ethan managed to stop screaming, and lied on the ground breathing, and bleeding, heavily. He managed to turn his head slowly, looking at the one who had spoken.
There stood a tall figure, maybe around six feet. They were dressed in all black, a long coat covered their body and lower face. A visor was covering their eyes, and atop their head was a black hat that had three feathers stuck in it. Most strange was what was attached to their back; two large wings. The wings seemed to be a hybrid of bat wings and bird wings, as they showed flaps of skin but also were sparsely covered in jet black feathers.
Ethan knew it was a demon. He wanted to run, to escape from what was most likely to be a brutal death, but he couldn’t move. The demon walked over to him silently, he saw its claws; long, pitch black, and cruel. It reached down, but it didn’t reach down to slit his throat. It reached for the tome and picked it up. Ethan realized that the tome must have belonged to that demon.
Ethan expected it to kill him, but it turned and began to walk away. Then it stopped, and turned its head slightly, looking at Ethan lying there in his own blood. It stared, and then gave off a quiet, amused noise.
It turned its head back and walked off.
Ethan watched as the demon walked further and further away and as more blood collected around him. His vision grew blurry, and he drifted into unconsciousness, the last thing he heard before he lost consciousness was the demon chuckle quietly.
“Stultus mortalis.” (Foolish mortals.)