by Ernesto Ignacio Gomez Belloso 

Gottfried and Freischütz were not artsy. They didn’t know the complexities of painting, nor did they ever bother to look into them. But they could see the beauty in the oil painting they were sent to guard. The painting showed a young man standing atop a mountain. He was staring at the world before him: mountain peaks, ridges, and the clouds further beyond, all enveloped in a sea of fog.

The painting revealed how man can rise above life’s misfortunes through willpower and resolve alone, without the help of God.

            To the common woman or child, the painting was merely that – a painting. But to The Vatican it wasn’t.

And that was the reason Gottfried and Freischütz were there.

            Gottfried looked at the window, his eyes sullen and irritated through his glasses. Hamburg was enveloped in mist.

            “Behold, my fellow German!” The lanky man made a grand gesture towards his handgun, startling Gottfried. “The SACRÉ Model 471. The perfect weapon. I was the one that made it after all. Each bullet, or like I call them; Acts, are made of silver, salt, and cold iron. They are cursed, blessed, and have runes all over them, and-”
            “Freischütz,” said Gottfried in a harsh whisper. “If ya could stahp stroking yer ego, I’d like to remind you that we hav’ a demon to catch!”
            “Oh fine, you spoil sport.” Freischütz grinned. He lowered the gun and leaned back against the marble wall. “I still think it to be moronic that the demon would bother to steal the painting. Why not just seek another artist and influence their dreams to produce another piece?”
            “Demons spread their influence through art,” Gottfried explained, pushing up his glasses. “In order to cross the threshold, they influence the minds o’ creative types: musicians, writers, and others. They spread their influence and- wait why the hell am I explaining this? Yer supposed to know this stuff!”
            “Father Nathanael is boring. You explain it way better than him.” Freischütz smiled, giving his partner two thumbs up.

            Gottfried groaned, pulling out his book. The book’s cover looked like torn and burnt flesh, a distorted face as its cover. He flipped through the pages rapidly and reread the marked chapter.

Max Freischütz kept his eyes on the north hallway, sweat ran down the back of his neck.

After an hour of silence, they were soon greeted by the sound of a window creaking open. It sounded like a whining dog. They both looked at each other and nodded. Max loaded his gun and Gottfried recited an incantation in his mind.

Afterwards, a black tar-like substance crawled in from the open window. It slithered along the floor and the walls of the museum as it made its way towards the painting.

Soon a figure formed right in front of said picture. A monstrous figure with clawed hands, legs like a jackal, and eyes resembling burning balls of fire – with a cavernous maw filled with mangled teeth like hooks and daggers. It also had horns curving upward like a bull.

The creature stretched a clawed hand towards the painting, in a flash, golden chains erupted from the floor, wrapping around the daemon, dragging it towards the ground. Now kneeling, it wriggled, until it felt the burning touch of cold iron in the back of its head.

“Spring-Heeled Jack,” Freischütz said. “In the name of our Lord in heaven, who you have scorned, and by the authority vested upon us by The Vatican, you shall be cast down to the pit from whence you came. Any last words?”
“I have committed no crime!” The creatures spat. “I weaved the dreams that the artist dreamt. My dreams birthed that painting. It belongs to me!”

Before the bullet could be fired into his skull, Spring-Heeled Jack used his talons to launch itself towards the ceiling. The chains broke, the links spreading across the floor and the struggle began.

Spring-Heeled Jack’s legs winded like twisting springs, and from the cavernous ceiling he bounced back onto the ground. Then onto the wall, then the next wall, then the ceiling and so on and so forth. Disorienting the enemy, he cocked his charred arms back and langued towards his prey. Freischütz could barely land a single shot on him with any of his Acts.

Soon greeted by a clawed fist digging straight into his stomach, Freischütz was launched towards the wall and cracking it by the sheer impact of his body.

Gottfried finished his incantation and a pulsating red eye formed on his forehead. The eye tracked the beasts’ movements as best as it could, which was just enough. He dodged most of his pounces, leading him on through his hallway. The daemon’s fist winded up and lunged towards Gottfried.

“The painting is mine, church dog!”

Gottfried barely managed to dodge the attack. But it didn’t matter, he had won.

Spring-Heeled Jack, for all his acrobatics, could not change his trajectory midair. He fell exactly where he wanted him to be, directly upon a sculpture of a giant wooden cross.

As he landed, he could feel a searing burn travel through the entirety of his body. It burned like if someone had poured liquid metal down their earhole. He could feel his own strength leaving him, his muscles rotted away, his bones crackled like old wood, his leathery skin turned to paper.

“Y-you… y-y…YOU-”

The sound of a gunshot flooded the hallway with a thunderous roar. The shot landed in his throat, his vocal cords destroyed, and every breath became a fruitless endeavor.

There in the hallway limping towards him was that cursed gunslinger, Freischütz. His church robes stained in blood and concrete, he stood above him like an executioner, looking down at a prisoner of war.

“And you, monster! When you reach the sixth floor of hell, tell Alighieri that Max Freischütz send his regards.”

Another shot echoed in the halls, shot through the heart like the rabbid dog he was. The hunt had ended.

About the Author:

Ernesto Ignacio Gomez Belloso was born on November 3rd in the year 2000, in the South American country of Venezuela, more specifically the city of Maracaibo in the state of Zulia. At the age of five he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and struggled with social interaction throughout his school life. He went to an international school in his hometown and discovered his passion for writing when his literature teacher picked up One Hundred Years Of Solitude as the book they were going to read for the semester, afterward, it all snowballed from there; Harry Potter, Lord Of the Rings, The Inheritance Cycle, Infernal Devices, etc. Now he is attending Full Sail University’s Creative Writing Program with the aim of learning the fine craft of storytelling in all of its aspects, from Story Arcs, to Character Development, to the Three Act Structure and much more. His goal is to become a successful writer, be it for Television, Movies, Animated Features, Graphic Novels or otherwise, all he wishes to do is to share his ideas with the whole world as well as bringing the ideas of others to life.