's 2019 Horror Write-off:

A Promised Land

Submitted by manga-ranga

In the old country, life was hard. There was far too little prey and far too many predators for all to survive comfortably. The Fae, the good people, the Seelie and the Unseelie, however you called them, they were all the same. They were the apex predators who could use cunning and force in masterful strokes. They even turned on the Demons. When Oz’gunaz heard of a Promised Land, it could hardly believe it. A land no Fae could ever wander, it heard from the rumours, a land where the very earth and sands were laden with so much iron that it bled red. The Humans exploited this land for their cruelty, sending those from the old country to the Promised Land on vast fleets. It was easy enough for Oz’gunaz to sneak aboard with its fellow Demons.

Yet the Promised Lands brought new challenges that the Demons were poorly equipped to face.

First there was the land itself, the barren nothingness stretching into oblivion. The heat that withered one’s mind and body with ease. Perhaps the land died long ago and what now remained was its withering carcass. Or perhaps, perhaps the land was in a state of being birthed. There were no recognisable spirits or creatures of the Unseen World, only frantic glimpses of things that should not be. It truly was another world as the elements of nature appeared confused as to how to evolve beneath the burning heat. Earth the colour of blood with bone white trees reaching in vain to the heavens above. The Humans tried to lash the natural world into order as they had done so across the world, yet the land never refused to bow down, only growing more volatile and deadly to its occupants. Fire Elementals seemed to play a nurturing part in this strange land as only the cleansing of fire could rejuvenate the earth. The First Nation of Humans understood this, as they carefully cultivated flames to shepherd the rejuvenation into needed areas… the following nations of Humans, the ones who came on the fleets, did not… Oz’gunaz knew this would be their hubris in the eras to come.

Then there was the darkness between the stars at night. How it coalesced and churned like a viscous sea among the stars. The tides of shadows would congeal into an egg and hatch into an ancient ratite that darted among the stars; void dusted plumage rose from its body as broken crystals while a single crooked horn crowned its empty eyes. Their great and terrible forms twisted dying starlight into horrific visions of the end of days. As they ran through the night their talons ripped through space and time, leaking strange phantasms and memories of the primordial lost into the ether. While they didn’t hunt, they defended their hidden clutches in the night sky and harmed any who stared too long at them. The wailing cries of those accursed birds already meant it was too late… you were already too close to its nest. Oz’gunaz did not sleep after watching its friends disappear with visceral squelch and sickening pop as the night bulged then descended upon them. When the sky oozed back into the heavens, all that remains was a mix of starlight sludge amidst cavernous gashes from a ratite’s claws.

Then there were the Ancients who wandered the Dream Scapes, neither here nor there; swirling into existence on a whim. At times they may have been humans, sometimes maybe animals, all were contorted by their conjuring. Time itself was trying to recall their forms but failing to remember anything accurately like a diseased mind trying to cling to their fading memories. Past, present, future, Time meant nothing to them for they embodied all Time. Their twisted visages appeared to not care as they were paragons of dreams and nightmares proudly sauntering through the wilderness. Yet regardless of whether one was found by a dream or nightmare, they suffered for their disrespect of being on their slumbering lands. If you ever saw one… it was already too late for you. There was no warning or signal, the Ancients simply were and did. This was their domain, their slumbering land, after all. Oz’gunaz recalled how its remaining comrades instantly forget who they were, they even forgot what their bodies were meant to look like. Their forms spiralled and contorted into new forms by the Dream Scapes, like Time was trying to find a place for them to belong in its fading memories. Oz’gunaz fled as its comrades merged with memories of what came before first life.

Then there were the things that lived in the shadows… but Oz’gunaz did not want to think those things ever again… the things do not bother you unless tried to look back at your own shadow.

So many dangers, so many threats, Oz’gunaz found itself powerless against. All the Demon could do was hide and cower on the crossroads made by its prey… and so it stayed on those crossroads… sun rise, sun set. The Human settlements evolved rapidly before its eyes as its crossroads remained forgotten and untouched. The Unseen World of this Promised Land seemed to be oblivious to Oz’gunaz when it stood on its crossroads… it was lonely… so lonely. Until one cold, desolate night, a Human came to its crossroads.

Oz’gunaz’s lips curled tightly, forming spirals at the corners of its mouth. They were a white one. They seemed the most ignorant of the ancient magic in this land. This would be too easy, offer a bargain, steal another soul, get a little bit more powerful to fight those pesky native dangers that forced Oz’gunaz to hide out in a pathetic crossroads.
The Human, a female breeder remarked “Been hearing from people around here that you’ve been messing with all kinds of stuff. Drawing on their murals, trashing their sacred lands and stealing anything not pinned down.”
Oz’gunaz pantomimed a pitiful soul “True, but you see, I am merely protecting myself. This crossroad is all I have here in the Pilbara.”
“I see…” the hooded figure considered her options “So how about we make a deal?”
It had to restrain itself from its giddiness “A deal?”
“Yeah, you give me power and fortune, and I guess I’ll give you my soul in return. After all, you Demons seem to like collecting Human souls? What’s the deal? They delicious or something? Or maybe you need my soul to stand a chance against the spirits around these parts?”
“The reason is beyond your concern. So, I accept your terms, do we have a deal?” Oz’gunaz reached out its crooked, pale and twisted limb in mockery of a hand.
“Deal.” She replied as she shook his hand, ethereal mist flowed around them as they twisted into sight and vanished when they melded with her shadow.
“And now, my payment.” Oz’gunaz smirked cruelly and began to howl with laughter from all its mouths. This was part he loved most when Humans wept as their soul and body were torn asunder. It left their victims as jabbering wrecks, unable to think or speak or move of their own volition. But something was wrong… the Demon felt no surge of power and the Human before him was still standing.
The answer came as she drew her hood back to reveal her naturally red hair and pale freckled skin.
It spat in a livid rage “YOU!? You! YOU TRICKED ME!”
“Not my fault.” She waved and turned on her heels “Thanks for the magic, now stop carrying on like a pork chop and leave everyone alone.”
Oz’gunaz could do nothing as the Human walked away into the night.

It had heard the tales of these Humans in the old country but had no idea they had migrated as well. The tales of the Bluey, the Ginger or the Ranga variant of Human but dismissed them as urban legend. The stuff of nightmares to make sure little Demons and Fae went to bed on time or eviscerated their victims correctly. And yet Oz’gunaz had fallen victim to one, by agreeing to accept their soul in payment it negated any semblance of power it had. The Demon was reeling in despair it remembered the warning, the reason the Unseen World feared this breed of human, for they had no soul to bargain with.