The excerpt below, a longer version of what I put up at the nano website, takes place five years before the main events of the novel and is the origin, I suppose, of our young demon hunter. She later becomes a foul-mouthed girl with some issues she needs to work through. Enjoy...
Sherri knew something was wrong. She could feel it on her skin like a scratchy sweater. She lay in her bed and listened. A bump, a shuffle, a muffled grunt, or moan. She closed her eyes tight and sung lullabies softly to herself.
Then the lights came on and her Mother marched in with Cody in tow. Something dark and red was splattered all over her face and t-shirt.
“Get up, Sherri,” she said, “stand with your brother in the center of the room.”
She glanced at her clock: 2:17 a.m. She lay there in that fog that only comes from being awoken from a deep sleep. Her thoughts came slow. Was this a dream?
She threw back her covers and stood, still unsure of herself. Cody was in his skivvies, rubbing his eyes with his one free hand. The house smelled faintly of smoke.
“Is the house on fire?” Sherri asked.
“To the middle, Sherri Louise Cotez!”
All three names, this was serious. She did as instructed. Her mother shoved Cody next to her roughly. He whimpered a bit, but was too scared to do much else.
“Don’t move,” her mother said. Sherri’s mother drew a quick circle in the floor around Sherri and her brother, mumbling under her breath as she did. She went back over the circle with salt that she poured straight from a Morton’s container, then again using blood she drew from her forearm with a small kitchen knife.
Cody began to wail in earnest when he saw the blood.
There was the sound of thunder from living room. Her mother faltered for a moment, like she was considering going back, but it lasted only a moment. “No matter what happens,” she said, “no matter what you hear, or see. Do not, under any circumstances, leave this circle. Do you understand me?”
Cody, a few years Sherri’s junior, only cried. Sherri nodded. Then she looked again at the red splatter across her mother’s face and shirt. “Where’s daddy?”
Her mother didn’t answer. She swallowed and glanced back towards the door. “You do what I said, no matter what.”
“Mom, what’s happening?”
Sherri’s mother frowned and shook her head. “I have to go now. To help Daddy. You can come out when it’s light outside, not before.”
Sherri started to step towards her mother but stopped at her scream. “Don’t you dare! Stay in the circle!”
Her mother backed away, looking longingly at Sherri and then Cody. “I love you,” she said, and turned and walked out the door.
Sherri stood in the circle and held her little brother tight for the next four hours, until the first rays of sunshine broke through the windows. She stood there as her mother screamed and the trailer they lived in rumbled and shook, all night long she listened to sounds like ripping metal and popping rivets. She stood there while her world crumbled all around. Like the life she’d known in all her 14 years were an illusion being torn away along with the place she’d always called home.
And she stood there, holding her hand over her brother’s eyes as a man-monster, as large as a bulldozer, burst into her room and showed her its rows of razor sharp-teeth just before vanishing with the morning light.
The funeral was nice, as such things go, Sherri supposed. She smiled as people came forward and gave best wishes to her and her brother. People she never met, or just barely remembered. Lots of people commenting on how much she’d grown, that she’d been ‘this tall’ when they’d seen her last.
Through it all, she pretended she was an actress in a movie, nodding or sniffling when it seemed appropriate, and otherwise said or did what she was expected to. But she wasn’t there, not really, her mind was on one thing: How she could pay back that monster that did this to her family.
When it was over, a man came over. He was latino, someone from her father’s side of the family then. She hadn’t seen him at the service. “Hola, Sherri,” he said.
She nodded, grinned a soulless grin, and hoped he would move on.
“I loved your father very much,” he said. “It breaks my heart what happened to him, to your mother.”
She meant to smile and say something noncommittal, but she was tired, the filter she normally kept on wasn’t working. She answered him more honestly than she wanted to, “Don’t worry. I’ll do worse to that monster soon enough.”
The man laughed, when he did Sherri could have mistaken him for her father in that instant. The thought made her stomach churn, like one of that demon’s talons were buried deep in her gut, twisting her from the inside.
“You’re my uncle?”
“Yes,” he said, “your father was my big brother.”
“He never mentioned you.”
The man’s jaws clenched and he looked at his feet.
Sherri cocked her head, “Do you know what did this to my parents?”
He bowed his head and bit his lip as he took a step closer to her. The edges of tattoos inched out from his shirt sleeves, from under his collar, he smelled faintly of alcohol and gun oil. “I do.”
He didn’t say anything else. Silence hung in the air like a heavy thing. She was tempted to say something, but again, she was tired. She felt like she was being tested, and she didn’t very much appreciate it. She folded her arms instead and stood there. She could wait all night, she had no place to be.
After some time passed, Sherri wasn’t sure how long it was, no more than a few minutes, he spoke. “A demon killed them. God forgive them, it was a demon.”
She figured as much, as silly as it seemed. The whole idea had an unreality about it. Maybe that was why it took so long for him to answer. He could have been embarrassed, or at least afraid she would think he was playing a joke.
“Do you know how to kill it?”
He pulled his lips so tight they disappeared into a small slit that crossed his face. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Close enough,” she said. “Show me.”