December 7, 1912
Deadwood, South Dakota
In a small three-room house on the outskirts of the downtown area of the city, a young man who looked about 18 years of age sat by a lamp inside what was his bedroom in the wooden structure, which had no electricity running into it. He was alone, and wore regular day clothes, having recently gotten changed after taking a long nap in the early evening. He bore a clean shaven face with dirty blonde hair and grey eyes, and had unusually pale skin. “I suppose now’s as good of a time as ever,” he told himself as he sat down on a stool next to a bucket down below and held his right arm out while holding a knife in the other. “Alright, I need some more… I need some more rounds for the revolver, and… Uh… Oh yeah! I need a bunch of slugs!”
Almost as if he paid no attention to his actions, he nonchalantly stabbed his arm with the knife before dragging it down towards his hand, creating a long cut that bled profusely. However, he only mildly winced from the pain as the blood that poured from his arm collected in the bucket and began to boil by itself. In just over 30 seconds, the wound he had created began to heal itself as he held the arm over the bucket to get as much blood out as he could. Once his injury was miraculously self-healed, he looked down into the bucket, which was emitting steam, and instead of finding blood, he found what he had been looking for: thirty rounds of Colt .45 ammunition and twenty 12-gauge shotgun slugs. He sighed and put the knife he used down on the floor.
“I’ll let these all soak up the sun until tomorrow at half past noon,” he said to himself. “I should have enough for now for what I gotta do tonight.” As he stood up, he took the bucket and walked out of a back door of his house to place it on a wooden step, exposed to the elements. When he walked back inside, he grabbed three guns from a wall mount in his bedroom and checked them all to see if they were loaded, which they were. He possessed a Colt Single Action Army revolver, a scope-equipped Winchester Model 1873 rifle, and a Winchester Model 1897 shotgun. He holstered the revolver and then grabbed a sling for the rifle. He would carry the shotgun in his hands. He also took with him two revolver speed loaders with 12 more rounds for his pistol, 12 more unloaded pistol rounds, 30 additional .44-40 rifle rounds, 5 additional buckshot shells, and 5 additional slugs. “Two buckshot, three slugs, just like always,” he said to himself as he loaded the extra ammunition in a backpack he carried. On his waist belt were two knives as well. He was well-equipped, and had to be.
He was going to hunt monsters, after all.
More specifically, demons, of which he was one himself.
You see, James Colby was no ordinary man. In fact, he had technically been dead since the Civil War. September 19, 1863, in fact, during the Battle of Chickamauga. He had since traveled across the US and into parts of Mexico and Canada, hunting down the beasts that had murdered the entire platoon he had belonged to and had turned him into one of their kind, as most of them were hellbent on killing and eating humans. Their kind was normally not able to walk around during the day, but a few, including James, had been able to develop the ability to do so, albeit at the cost of losing their ability to regenerate from wounds, a weakening of their strength and endurance, and a reduction in their blood-related capabilities, known to them as Blood Demon Arts.
He had settled in the Black Hills in 1899 after many years of moving around. He was friendly with the community, though many regarded him as a mysterious protector who wandered throughout the night, taking requests to hunt down criminals and unknown beasts who harassed businesses, such as the gold mines and lumber yards in the area. He was known by many names, but his favorite nickname of all was perhaps Undead Jack, or maybe “the Ghoul Hunter.” Though he was ruthless in the pursuit of justice and security for the innocent, he was often regarded as an otherwise kind man with a big heart.
Tonight, James was going to hunt one of these demons, or ghouls as some others called them, that had been targeting a mining camp in the middle of the night. Already, in the past two nights, he had murdered and cannibalized five miners. The owner was desperate after one of the miners who volunteered to guard on the second night was among the victims, and he was directed to James Colby soon after. He paid him an advance fee of $100, even after James insisted he could be paid afterwards, and offered another $50 the day after the ‘ghoul’s’ death. $150 was quite a bit of money, the highest he had been paid by a single person yet. Most paid him around $25 to maybe $50 if they were more upper class, which was still a rather decent amount, but he was willing to hunt demons for free as well if someone could not afford payment and was impoverished.
It was a surprisingly steady income, and he padded it by also taking on more human forms of evil, such as regular criminals. Indeed, he was widely considered to be one of the most successful bounty hunters in the Black Hills, the best kept secret in the area if you will, arresting regular criminals by day and slaying demons by night.
It was now almost midnight, and James stood at the entrance to the camp, located about 10 minutes north of Deadwood by horse. He had tied up his own horse nearby, and a miner volunteered once again to watch the camp, assisting him. It was pitch black out, and the snow-covered woods around the camp were alive with the normal creatures of the night. James remained ever vigilant, watching over the area where the demon was allegedly seen leaving both times he had invaded the camp. He sighed to himself as he checked his wristwatch, “When the fuck is this damn thing gonna come out? They said it comes around this time, and I ain’t seen nothin’.”
Suddenly, he heard something in the distance, almost like a rush of footsteps from afar, and turned to face the direction the footsteps came in just in time. As he aimed his rifle in the direction of the footsteps, the target of the hour jumped from the woods. He was a monstrosity, much unlike James. He had even paler skin than him, and bore three arms from his body instead of two. “Die, die, die!” Its voice was harsh, and its appearance even harsher, but that did not deter James as he fired a round into it. The demon quickly fell to the ground, screaming in pain as it reached for its own third center arm. “Agh, you fucking shot me! You’re going to pay for that, human!”
“I ain’t no human,” James replied as the demon got up from the ground, readying itself to charge at him. “I’m one of your kind, actually!” He then fired a second shot and struck it just as it ran to grab him. This shot made the demon stop again for a few seconds, but it quickly began to charge again before James dropped his rifle and his backpack and grabbed a knife, charging right back at him, the two of them yelling at each other as they began to trade blows. James stabbed the demon twice and also kicked him as the demon in return punched him in the chest. “You ain’t fuckin’ walkin’ away from this!”
As the two split, the fight coming to a standstill, the demon, amused by his words, asked him, “Oh, really? Your guns and knives won’t affect me at a-“ Suddenly, the demon felt a searing pain across his body, collapsing to his knees as he screamed. “Agh! Oh my God, no! What… What is this?!”
“My bullets and my knives have a metal that can absorb sunlight,” James explained as he then grabbed his shotgun and readied it. “They also got a special poison on ‘em in case that don’t work too good.” As he approached him, he raised his left leg and kicked him across the face, knocking him down further. “That pain you’re feeling is probably that poison kicking in. Any last words before I send you to Hell?”
“Eat my shit,” the demon spat back at him, defiant to the end even as he could no longer physically fight from the pain. “Eat my shit when you join me, traitor!”
James paid no attention to his words as he pulled the trigger on the shotgun and then readied it again before shooting it a second time. Both blasts were of buckshot, and both took out the head of the demon immediately, killing it and splattering its blood all over the ground. Its body and brain bits, not normal like that of a human, began to slowly wither away and turn into dust soon after the demon’s head exploded from the two consecutive shotgun blasts directly to the face at point-blank range. Once the demon’s body was gone, he sighed to himself and dropped the shotgun to the ground to pull out a cigarette and a small book of matches, striking one and lighting up. After exhaling the smoke, he said to himself, “You all think you’re so special, but you ain’t shit, motherfucker!”
The next day, he was visited at his home by the owner of the mine, who knocked at his door. As he got up from bed, he told the man at the door, “Hold on, sir.” He rubbed his eyes and approached the door, peering into a peephole to see who it was before opening it.
“I want to thank you for the service you provided to me,” the owner of the mine, a much older man with a mustache and graying hair, told him in gratitude. “That… That thing you killed murdered not only workers of mine, but good men who had families.” He then pulled several bills out of his jacket and counted them. “Here’s the other $50 I promised you, Mr. Colby.”
“Thank you,” he replied, accepting it. “You didn’t have to pay me so much, ya know. $150 is quite a bit of cash.”
“It’s fine,” the owner of the mine assured him. “You keep us all safe from these ghouls when few others will.”
“I do my best,” James replied to him. “Anyway, have a good day, sir.” As the owner replied in turn, the two shook hands and turned around, James closing the door behind him. As he walked back to his bedroom, he grabbed a pencil from the kitchen/living room table, preparing to write down in a journal he kept. He grabbed the journal, one of several he had written up to that point, and got to work, writing as he sat on his bed.
December 8, 1912
Killed a demon harassing Johnson and Co. Gold Mine about 10 minutes north of Deadwood, South Dakota by horse. Got paid the other $50 for the contract.
End of the week income: $175. $150 from demon hunting and $25 from bounty hunting.
Bullets: 94 x Colt .45, 70 x Winchester .44-40, 34 x Buckshot, 16 x Birdshot, 40 x Slug
A good week overall. No significant injuries suffered during the daytime or night time. This is the end of this journal, given this is the last page. Journal 22 was overall a relatively calm one compared to those in the past, and I am glad for it.
He then checked his wristwatch and noticed it was now half past noon. “Time to get the bullets,” he said to himself as he got up from his bed and walked to the back door to grab the bullets he had made last night. As he brought them in, he set them down at the kitchen table and pulled out a half-full glass bottle labelled “POISON, DO NOT INGEST”. He then poured about a quarter of its contents into the bucket before capping the bottle and putting it away. As he held the bucket, he shook it a bit so the poison could soak into the bullets he had made. Once he was done with that, he grabbed a small scrap of paper on the table and wrote on it, “DO NOT GRAB FOR TWO HOURS. TIME OF SOAK: 12:34 P.M.”
Then, he noticed rather suddenly that a bird was sitting on the table behind him. He jumped from fright, causing the bird to slightly jump back as well. Then, the bird, a decently-sized American crow, began to speak to him in a rather raspy voice. “James Colby, isn’t it?”
“Oh, right,” James said to the bird, recognizing the voice. “It’s just a communication bird. Yes, this is him.”
“I have a message from Paul McCloud in Milwaukee,” the bird told him. “My apologies for scaring you like that. Anyway, he says that he believes he knows where The Progenitor is currently residing, and also where the Jackson Brothers are residing.”
James immediately paused, flooded by the information presented to him. He took a deep breath before grabbing a pencil and telling the bird, “Wait here. I’m getting my journal.”
“Understood,” the crow replied. The crow patiently waited as James returned to the kitchen with his journal. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah,” he confirmed as he readied himself to write. “I don’t have much more room before I run out of space in my 22nd Journal.”
“Alright,” the crow understood. “Mr. McCloud believes The Progenitor is in Japan, and he thinks that Japan is his home country. His name remains unknown, however. Also, he believes the Jackson Brothers, both Thaddeus and his younger brother George, also reside in Japan, and may be in close contact with The Progenitor. The Progenitor may be in charge of a rather closely-coordinated group of demons that is wreaking havoc in Japan. Almost all demons in the country that currently exist have been personally created by him, and he can destroy them at will if necessary, so intelligence-gathering would be incredibly difficult.”
“Of course,” James replied as he set down his journal. “Hang on a sec. I gotta get my new journal.” He then opened a cabinet in his kitchen and pulled out a brand new notebook, writing on the cover “TWENTY THIRD JOURNAL: APRIL 8, 1911-“ and opening up to the first page. After writing the date down and some of the information the crow had told him, he said, “Alright, continue.”
“The Progenitor’s name as mentioned before is unknown to us in the Americas,” the crow continued. “However, we do know what he looks like, and that he can shapeshift, so his appearance will vary with time.” The crow then showed off a small piece of paper tied to its back. “This paper tied to my back contains a photograph of who we believe is the Progenitor, taken by the brother of a hunter who visited Japan a few years ago. He was running a photography business, and late in the evening when it was dark, a mysterious man asked to get his photograph taken. He paid an equally oddly large amount of money for the single photograph, and his behavior was odd enough that he made a copy and sent it to his brother.”
James carefully took the rolled-up photograph off of the crow and rolled it out, using glue to attach it to the first page of the journal. “It’s odd that we have his current appearance, but not his name. He must be dead-set against people knowing it.”
“We do not have any contact with demon hunters in Japan,” the crow explained to him. “They tend to do their own thing. They may know more about him than we do in the Americas.”
“That’s what happens when you close yourself off from the West for two hundred years or something like that I guess,” James noted to the crow. “Them Japanese weren’t open to outsiders after they kicked Portugal and Holland out until Commodore Perry made ‘em open up their borders.”
Later that night, as he was asleep, he tossed and turned in bed quite a bit, not getting a restful sleep. In his mind, he kept seeing different flashbacks to his past, mostly from the Civil War. For one brief period, he saw himself standing in the middle of Pittsburg Landing, bullets and cannonballs whizzing past him as the Battle of Shiloh, one of the first major battles he fought in, raged all around him. The sound of cannon fire and gunfire was deafening, and around him, men from both sides of the conflict charged at each other, clashing with bayonets, swords, and fists. He could reach out, but he could not touch any of them. It was as if he was an observer in the very battle he fought in. Men were cut down all around him, and he tried to scream, but nothing came out of his mouth.
A man screamed in front of him, “Hit the rebels hard! Come on! Go fuckin’ hit ‘em!” He was immediately cut down afterwards, a cannonball blowing his head off and splattering blood all over a man beside him. The young man beside his body, perhaps as young as 16, screamed in fright before he himself was shot twice and collapsed. James was unable to help either of them, unable to reach out to them. He felt completely useless, and as more men fell around him, some with blue uniforms and some with grey uniforms, he finally crouched down and closed his eyes, letting out a scream.
Just as he began to yell, he awoke in bed to a loud knocking at his door. He immediately ran out of bed and grabbed his revolver from his bedside, ready to attack if it was an intruder. As he looked into the peephole, he saw that it was a man who was badly hurt, with wounds all over his face, and immediately opened the door. “What happened?!”
“My,” the man weakly explained to him as he crawled into his house. “My family… They were attacked… We’re up that path across from your house on the hill…” The man then collapsed onto the floor, James knowing immediately what house he was referring to.
“Sir,” James tried to stir him awake as he shook his body. “Hey! Sir! Who attacked you?!” He quickly realized the man was beyond help, and sighed. “Damn it…” He ran back into his room to suit up, ready to hunt whoever had now killed the man. “I got a bad feeling this is a demon,” he thought to himself as he loaded his guns and backpack. “If I can get up to where this guy lives, maybe I can find the demon who did this.”
A few minutes later, James arrived on horseback to a horrific scene. In front of the house were the bodies of a woman and three children, all of them mangled and badly beaten, their blood staining the ground in front of the house. “Holy fuck…” He then sensed a presence nearby, and remembered something about the man, who he knew in passing from his interactions with him in Deadwood. “Wait a minute,” he said to himself. “Don’t this guy got four kids? Oh shit…”
He got his answer to his question of what the presence he felt was when he heard a scream from nearby into the woods, followed immediately by a young boy, no more than 12, charging at him on all fours, having been turned into a demon by an unknown assailant. James immediately aimed his rifle and fired two shots at the boy, striking him, but not killing him. As he screamed from the pain while he stood up, James fired a third shot, sending him down to the ground.
As he ran up to the boy, James said to himself, “Forgive me, God, for what I have to do to this child.” He sighed as the boy tried to reach him, unable to move or crawl due to his injuries, which were now beginning to heal. James made sure he could not get up by readying his shotgun and taking aim, closing his eyes and pulling the trigger, blowing the boy’s head off and putting him out of his misery. The boy’s blood coated the ground, and James opened his eyes to a horrific scene he caused. For a moment, he paused, staring off into the woods blankly, as if in a trance. His stare into the woods was enough to look directly into the heart of any man who looked at him directly. In his eyes was the stare of a man who had seen far too much suffering and heartbreak, and this very moment only compounded it. As the boy’s body faded away into the night, James began to have another flashback, this time to a time not too long ago.
In his vision, he stood in front of his house. However, only this time, the front door was open, and inside was a bloody mess. James looked at the house, and from his facial expression, knew what was inside.
“No, no, no!” James closed his eyes and crouched down, trying to get the vision out of his house. “Please, don’t do this to me now! Julia, Henry, please, forgive me!” Then, in an instant, the vision slipped away, and when he reopened his eyes, he looked around and found that his house had disappeared. He hyperventilated, sweat pouring down his face and onto the ground as he walked away. “I need to clear my fucking mind and get out of here.”
Indeed, he would.