This is my first draft of Hunters Chapter Five for comparison, and for an example of the extent of changes during the editing process.
I left this draft unfinished. I gave more background into what happened to Garrison, but decided most only needed to be implied rather than shown. I also changed Chapter Five to incorporate more B-story conflict. You can check out the current version of Chapter Five here.
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Stupid. Fighting four demons at once, one a succubus, was sheer idiocy. I was lucky to get out of Rothchild manor alive. Even luckier to make it out with my will intact.
I hadn’t learned a damn thing in two years. I knew the risk, yet I sought out the temptation. Toyed with it. Wanted it.
My leg ached in the cramped coach-class seat. I knew the agony of shattered bone was in my mind, the acrid smell of avgas and burning meat stinging the dry desert air. But the itch started with memory. Then calculating how long before we land in Seattle. How long since I last dosed. The panic, drugged to a low murmur with anxiety meds, threatened to rip back.
The thoughts of the stewardess morphed to concern as I asked for another vodka. She didn’t know I would be jumping out of my skin without the previous five. But I couldn’t waste a week on a trans-country train trip.
Mere days after a succubus had played havoc with my emotions, with my addiction, I flew across the country into the jaws of the succubus. This was either the end of my quest, or the beginning of a new hell. I didn’t know which one I wanted more.
I stared at my laptop screen, telling myself I needed to review my notes on Tricia Priest. Aissa was just the latest in a string of memories inching me toward that elusive hell bitch. But again I opened the diary entry from two years ago. Homecoming. The night my life changed. The wound that would never heal, like the veins I tore open in a futile hunt for relief.
I reopened the wound to remember.
Two years ago.
It was the first time I’d felt clean in months. A full shower in my own bathroom. The water scorched enough to turn my skin red. No cast encased my leg, the pale flesh once again whole save the pink valley that carved down my thigh. I dug at nonexistent grains of sand under my fingernails out of habit. I rinsed my mouth in the spray and spat a stream of unsoiled water down the drain. I tried to enjoy a luxury I hadn’t known in years and forget.
A swirling cloud wrearthed me as I stepped out of the shower, fogging a mirror cabinet empty of toiletries. The moonlight in the bedroom spilled pale and silver over a barren closet. My suitcases sprawled open on a bed stiff with pristine guest sheets. The stale air, the pile of unopened mail, spoke of how long my wife Helen had left this life behind.
We hadn’t spoken in months. When she wasn’t there to greet the boat, only denial kept me from accepting reality. The thick manila envelope on the kitchen table, stamped with a lawyer’s name and contact information, shattered even that.
At least she’d been thoughtful enough to leave our pictures.
I toweled off but didn’t bother with clothes in the warm night. My bare feet creaked across the wooden floor as I walked to the dining room and its bar. A patina of dust covered bottles untouched since her departure. I grabbed a bottle of scotch and poured two fingers into a tumbler, swallowed two vicodin to chase the ones already dissolving in my stomach. The military threw pills at me despite all the warning signs. Thank God it was easier to medicate than cure.
The front door lock clicked.
My fingers ripped the chef’s knife from the block. Two windows, sliding glass door to the deck, bedroom hallway, arched entry to the living area. Against the wall next to the arch, all other entrances in sight. Steps, quick, light. Movement. I grabbed the thin wrist as it came through the arch, hurled the body over my hip. Crash to the foor, knife at the throat, and my wife screamed under me.
I jerked back and dropped the knife. Sweat broke over my trembling skin.
Terror lit the deep mocha pools of Helen’s eyes. Her hand went up to her throat, came back with droplets black in the moonlight.
“Garrison,” she managed in a weak voice.
“Christ.” My voice shook. “What are you doing here?”
“This is our house.” She tucked her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them.
I cupped my face in my hands and tried to slow my breathing. The hammering pulse, the adrenaline frying my veins, refused to abate.
“I could have killed you,” I said.
“It’s you. You’re back, you’re really-”
“Of course I’m back!” Anger plowed through my frazzled nerves. “How could you not know?”
“I didn’t pay attention… I mean….” Her voice failed. She began sobbing on the floor in front of me.
I could see her beauty even through the confusion and fury and tears. Long auburn hair. Flawless light brown skin. She wore a tight crimson top and skirt in the balmy summer evening. Her face was beautiful despite the terror twisting her expression.
“What are you doing here?” I repeated. The words hissed through clamped teeth.
She scrubbed at her eyes with the heels of her hands. “Why do you bother to ask?”
“Because I keep my word.”
Her laugh sounded wet and distant, eyes darting to the untouched envelope on the table. “I was sure you would break that promise the second you saw me.”
“I keep my word.” My voice was iron.
It wasn’t just a promise to her. I kept out of the thoughts of everyone outside my work. It had broken too many relationships.
I wouldn’t violate it even for a relationship that had already disintegrated.
“I needed to see you.” I barely heard her voice. “I fucked up.”
“How exactly did you fuck up?” I said with surprising calm, all the more menacing for it.
“Don’t make me tell it to you. You could just—”
“I want to hear it.”
She shook her head. “I don’t even know where to start.”
Her body tensed.
“Shit. I wasn’t doing well after your first tour. Another two years without anyone….” She shrugged, and her voice struggled to claw through her tears. “I had an affair. No one you know. Then a fling. No one I knew. And it just got easier. Christ, just like before we met.”
My mind spun. She had been a borderline alcoholic and sex addict through college and med school, and had still managed top honors on account of her brilliance.
“We weren’t talking, then you got hurt, and….” She nodded with her chin at the envelope and buried her face again.
“You hoped I’d die,” I said.
She glared at me. “You fucker. Promises shit.”
“I don’t need to see your thoughts for that. It would have made everything easier if I hadn’t survive.”
Her head bobbed, and she tucked her chin behind her knees. “But then you were coming home. You’re going to laugh, I looked through our wedding album. I remembered how happy we were.”
It sounded like a line, but the expression etched on her face howled a different story.
“I came to get that.” She pointed to the envelope. “Before you saw. I couldn’t put my stuff back in time, but least I could hide how far I’d gone.”
I stood in silence, watching her curled up on the floor. Emotions seethed. I felt my dormant attraction and caring for her wrestling with my anger. But I said nothing. Silence begged to be filled, and I knew she would fill it.
“I can’t lose you,” she said. “You saved me. You gave me more than I deserved. I still love you.”
Her waiting eyes fixed on me. I stood still, smothering my conflict of reactions.
“Can we work on this?” Her voice was pleading. “Do you still love me enough to do that?”
I closed my eyes. Exhaled long, trying to release my tension.
“I still love you,” I whispered.
“You do?” The joy was palpable in her voice, and I heard her shift on the floor.
“I never didn’t. It kept me alive after that crash. I still love you.”
I opened my eyes to see her now on her knees, expectant. “I had to know, sweetie.”
“Know? Why was there any doubt?”
“I had to make sure you still loved me. I can’t just look into your head.” Her smoldering eyes slid across my body. “I like you bald. And cut. And the scars! You should go to war more often.”
I had forgotten I was naked. I dropped my hands to my lap, just as my penis stirred with her gaze and my realization.
“Don’t be modest.” She flowed to her feet and started to glide toward me. “Aren’t you at all curious?”
My throat clenched. In seconds her bearing, her demeanor, had transformed. “What’s gotten in to you?” I took an unsteady step away from her.
“Don’t you want to know how lonely I really was?”
Her smell enfolded me, the scent of her skin, her hair, her sex. My back hit the wall as she neared. Confusion at her change replaced my anger, and a raw, unfocused lust began to swallow me.
“You want to know how many men I fucked?”
Anger flashed, sputtered as her hand brushed against my erection. My thoughts tangled and stumbled.
“How many women I fucked? How many I fucked at the same time?”
“You’re lying.” I couldn’t move.
Her eyes swallowed me, pleading and demanding. “The sex and cheating and lust and unfaithfulness. Look into my mind. See how much of a dirty cheating slut your wife has been.”
“I want you to.” Her hands curled around the back of my head and pulled me closer. “It’s the only way you’ll know how naughty I’ve been.”
I couldn’t think. Her mere presence agonized, ignited, overwhelmed. It had been years, but time was not the barrier that separated us. She was a different person. Changed.
Her mind blossomed at my mental touch.
Bars, beds, men and women growing less and less familiar with each encounter. The old vices taking sway, choking the fear and loneliness and resent at my absence. Complete surrender to her desires. The lustful sins of her past not gone, but dormant. Reawakened.
Then the last stranger. A young girl. Black hair, perfect skin, stunning curves, scent like concentrated desire and need. Burgundy eyes that burned lust. Tricia Priest, the name whispered, moaned, screamed, before….
Then more men. All dead. More women. All her slaves. Ravenous, unquenchable hunger.
“What the hell happened to you?” I said. “What are you?”
Her eyes flashed fire against obsidian skin, magma crackling veins and hair blistering with lust.
“I will be your universe,” Helen said. “And I will savor every last drop of love that you harbor in your soul.”
Then she touched me, and the release I craved with every drink and pill faded in the ecstasy of her demonic touch.
“It was so lucky you survived for me,” she purred in my ear. “And so, so much worse for you.”
And she slowly began to kill me.
“Are you alright, sir?”
I started at the stewardess’s voice. My hands trembled on my lap.
“I’m fine,” I mumble, wiping my face. The time on my laptop said the flight had an hour left. “Can I get another vodka?”
Her deep brown eyes looked concerned. “I think you’ve had enough. Let me get you a ginger ale.”
I started to snap, clenched back the retort and nodded. She smiled with a mix of emotions that didn’t include humor as she turned away.
God. I stared at the white space on the screen. That entry had been my last act off defiance before I didn’t care anymore. Months of no entries. No thoughts. Nothing but a slow death masked in a veneer of endless, unfiltered ecstasy.
I forced myself to continue to the next entry, written weeks after the fact. The memories I truly needed to relive.
Six months later.
I focused on the creeping, frozen clarity spreading like a spiderweb up my arm. A handful of seconds of coherent thought. I tossed the needle aside and repeated to myself what I did this for, what I had to do.
Helen would devour the shadow that remained of my soul.This was my last chance. If I didn’t resist now, I never would. I still didn’t know if I wanted to and focus dissolved.
The ice in my veins disappeared as quickly as it had come. A haze descended over the world. My body sank into a warm, luxurious bath. Thoughts drifted. My limbs grew warm, languid. The sharp pains and aches of new scars, bruises, burns, all disappeared in a blanket of euphoric content. The gnawing desire for the demonic pleasure of my wife faded. Still there, but I no longer craved it like before.
I lay naked in the basement that had become my dungeon. No doors, no locks, I remained with no consideration of escape. Thick pillows, cushions, silk bedsheets, walls of domination equipment and anything Helen’s twisted mind desired. I left only when compelled by Helen, to work out, to stay in shape for her, to serve her.
But for my most lucid moments, I craved nothing but the near-constant ecstasy of her presence. I read in her thoughts what she did to me, milking the emotions I held in my soul for her, more delicious than the men she fucked and killed for sustenance every night. I drank more, popped more pills, because they gave me the slightest respite to her control.
This was my last gambit. I had read her weaknesses from her thoughts, the only things within my power that could destroy her. It had taken all my will to find and purchase the heroin I just injected, because it meant the possible end to the domination she held over me. I knew tonight I would escape, or I would die.
This I could say looking back. But at that moment, nothing mattered. It took all my will to remember what I had to do. So simple to accomplish. So impossible to care.
I heard her before I saw her. I heard everything. Her soft steps. The whisper of her breath. The thunder of my pulse.
Helen, my angelic demon goddess, glided with unearthly grace down the stairs, dropping her guise as she entered. The hair on her head and above her sex blazed in a halo of sensual flame. Black upon black skin, smooth and glistening, glowed with veins and nipples and eyes fiery with concentrated lust.
She was well out of reach, but I stretched my arm toward her, a struggle to move. I had no urge to leap up like normal, whether I could have or not. My body felt leashed by weight, apathy, delicious bliss.
She ignored my lethargy. striding around the room to inventory the sexual implements available to use on me.
Then she stopped and turned to me. Her gaze pierced me even through the warmth and haze. Hard, pulsing sensations cut through the drugs. I arched my back in ecstasy.
“You look like shit,” she said.
I groaned and collapsed back on the bed. Afterglow mixed in the unfocused sea of intoxication. But my mind phased out and my god, the consuming need that her power brought did not return.
Her lips curled in disappointment. “Garrison, I don’t think you’ll live much longer.”
I saw her thoughts morph as the words, sultry and thick, flowed from her lips.
“I think this will be our last time together.”
She dropped on all fours and crawled over the bed toward me. “You don’t know how much I will miss this, Garrison. You mean so much more to me than the others I consume. But I always knew you couldn’t last forever.”
The heat of her body beckoned as she neared. Her mind bloomed with images of how best to enjoy me as she consumed my soul.
I gasped. She was going to fuck me.
My resolve shattered. She never gave me the height of her power, never shared with me the greatest pleasure she could bring. But now she would. And Jesus, that was all I had wanted for months.
Helen’s talons stroked my cock as she threw her legs astride me. She drew me across her lips, burning with