Fiction: The Extremely Sociable Adventures of the Broom-Flying Cerebral Strider

By Jacob Andres

The boy’s face flared with pain as the bottle of alcohol struck his face. Glass cut his cheek while the liquid bathed most of the left side of his face.
“You stupid little-!” Maurice’s mother screeched as she grabbed her son’s neck and threw him against the wall, “You got the wrong brand! What do you like hurting me?”
The ten-year old Erikson stammered as he got up, “I’m sorry mama! Just…. Just give me a chance to fix this! I’ll make it up to you!”
The mother scoffed as she lit a cigarette. The boy tried not to gag as the cloud of nicotine floated towards him, “This is the third time this week you’ve messed up a beer run!”
“I’m sorry! It’s…it’s just hard since I’m just a kid. But…I’ll make it up to you alright!”
The woman scoffed as she tossed aside her cigarette. Her hand went into her pocket as she went to go get another one. However, a sick smile curled around her face.
“You will.”
The lighter flicked to life….
As she tossed it towards the left side of the boy’s face….
The side bathed in alcohol…...
“Stop it!” Maurice Erikson screeched out as he got out of bed. His screams of pain echoed throughout the house, reverbing off the walls.
His bed felt like a burning coffin.
The cool air stung his scarred face.
A couple seconds later, two figures barreled in along with sounds of a crying infant.
Mia Tiruc breathed with panic, covered in sweat, her hazel hair an absolute mess. The girl’s grey eyes were full of concern and righteous anger. A large metal bat was in her hand along with what looked like a toaster, “Are you alright, dude? Do I need to beat someone up?”
“Buzz off,” Maurice snapped as he got up and turned on the light in his room. He leaned against the wall, staring at the mirror. Sweat streamed down his face and he began rubbing it off, trying to prevent it from stinging the burnt side of his face. The bright red burned skin cried with pain as he rubbed it, trying to dry it out.
Mia reached out her hand, but Maurice quickly swatted it away, snarling like a hound at the two people, “Was it a nightmare again? Do you…do you need to- “
“Hey sis, can you grab some water for Maurice and a bottle of milk for your brother?” Matthew Erikson responded as he cradled a small baby, Sammy Erikson, in his arms. Mia nodded as she looked with one last look of concern at her friend.
“Are…are you sure you’ll be alright, Maurice? We’re not just teammates…. We’re family now. Not biologically but you get the idea!”
“Mia, do me a favor and stop talking,” Mia pouted a bit at the boy’s comment but left out the door. Maurice and Matthew sat on his bed, a large distance between the two.
“A nightmare huh?”
“Buzz off, Matthew,” Maurice snapped as he looked at his alarm clock which said three am. The boy groaned as he realized he probably wasn’t getting any more sleep any time soon, “Great…. Now I’m not getting any sleep cause of school! God…I missed when I lived in a theater by myself.”
“It was quite lonely you know. Living by yourself. I’m glad you live with me, Mia, and Sammy. I guess Shelia too since she hangs around here a lot! A lot comfier don’t you think?”
The man looked at Maurice, his grey eyes full of sympathy for his adopted ward. Maurice laughed at the man’s attempt to connect with him, “You’re not my shrink so quit it. I’m fourteen…. I don’t need to cry about my problems like some baby.”
Baby Sammy cried.
Matthew sighed as he gently rocked the baby, “Look, I’m not gonna force you to talk about this. But if you need to talk…I’m here.”
Maurice laughed a humorless laugh, “Yeah sure. I’ll break down and cry in your arms for you. Look it’s late and we’re both busy with our lives. Let’s just call it a night.”
Matthew sighed and the two sat in silence for a bit, the only sound that echoed out was that of a baby’s cries. The man finally broke the silence as he handed something to the boy, “You left this in the kitchen.”
The boy growled as he swiped the object form the man, a pen like object with a red crystalline center. Its shimmering silver surface sparkled, even in the dark of the early morning, “I’m not an idiot. I knew my Idtruder was down there. I was going to get it before I headed to…ugh…school.”
“The Idtruder is the only thing that can fight demons. Tirucs and people with high willpowers like you are the only ones that can fight them. I advise that you always keep it on you.”
“Did I ask for a lecture?”
“You did once you left it in a bag of chips,” the man laughed. Maurice almost laughed but quickly bit it back, “Good work yesterday by the way. Really did a good job against that demon. You’re becoming an excellent Cerebral Strider. You should be proud.”
“Whatever, just get out,” Maurice snapped as he laid back down, facing away from Matthew, “Leave me alone. Tell Mia to buzz off and don’t come back in. I’ve gotta get some sleep before school. This sci-fi magic double life is killing me….”
Matthew sighed as he got up and switched the lights off. The boy shut his eyes, determined to let the nightmares pass, “Hope you have a good sleep, Maurice.”


“Look, it’s the goblin,” a person murmured as Maurice walked by the lunch line looking around for an isolated spot in the cafeteria. He cursed as he realized there wasn’t any quiet empty spot for him to sit at, “Don’t look! I heard that he was cursed to look like that!”
“I heard that he burned his own face to look intimidating!” another person murmured as Maurice threw a quick scowl at the person. The person squeaked with fear as they aimed their eyes downwards.
“Is it true? That he lived in some rundown theater in the backend of town?”
Maurice really wished he had headphones as he continued to look around. People continued to stare and murmur at him. He wished he could put his hoodie to cover his scarred face but apparently wearing a hoodie in school is considered a school hazard. He wished he knew the person who made that rule so he could show then an actual hazard.”
“Yeah! Theater 666….”
While the theater was slimy and full of bacteria ridden worms, the boy wished for its solitude and silence more than anything else now. It was preferable to the disgusting social miasma of a high school cafeteria.
“Woah…...doesn’t he live with the Tirucs or something?”
The boy’s memory flashed to when he first met the Tirucs. The homeless teen had pickpocketed Mia to get some freebies. Instead, he had swiped something else entirely: the Tiruc’s Idtruder. The girl along with her brother tracked the boy down and politely asked for the device back. However, he panicked thinking that they were there to call the cops. In his panic, he had accidentally pressed on the Idtruder’s activation button, unaware that the device was active.
And from there, his life was never the same.
It was now full of fighting demons who wished to devour the minds of innocent human beings.
It was now full of death-defying feats of flight.
Close encounters with death.
And full of social interaction.
That was the part he liked the least.
“Yeah, they’re his legal guardians or something. It was a pity case or something.”
He remembered how after he had defeated his first demon by pure luck (to this day he still had no idea how he had lived) and how Matthew had offered him a home out of gratitude for his actions. At first, the boy had denied it, thinking Matthew was lying. But after more events took place, he eventually relented to stay with them.
Did he regret it?
He was still trying to make up his mind about it. Instead of living in the broken-down theater, he had a home and family. And yet….
“Hey, M-M-Maurice! Over here!” a voice called out and Maurice sighed as he realized that there wasn’t any other option to sit out. He tried to sit in the hallway one time, but a teacher found him and forced him to eat in cafeteria as him sitting alone was a ‘fire hazard’, “Over here!”
The boy sighed as he walked over and took a seat next to Sheila Ricut. Sitting next to the stammering girl was Mia who gave a little wave. The boy ignored it as he dramatically took a seat in front of them, “Please just…for both of our sakes…don’t talk- “
“S-s-so, Mia just told me a battle you had yesterday,” Mia’s best friend sputtered out. The boy sighed as he rubbed his temples. She was right of course. He had a battle last night alongside Matthew and Mia which nearly broke him. Not because he was fighting a demon that nearly decapitated him. It was because he had to listen to Matthew’s constant pep-talks, “A-a-are you doing alright?”
“You opened your mouth. Take a guess.”
“That reminds me, Maurice! I never got the chance to say this but thanks for the save yesterday. The Barber of Sev-Eel would’ve made me look like a headless chicken if you didn’t pull me out of the way. You’re really becoming a heck of a Cerebral Strider!”
“Whatever. If you died then Matthew would get all mopey and not make food,” the boy snorted as he pushed down the small feelings of gratitude he felt for the girl’s comment, “It wasn’t personal. Just business.”
“W-was your b-b-brother with you guys’ last night?”
“Yeah. It was a Category 4,” she responded with worry in her voice, “He’s out of commission for the rest of the week as usual thanks to that battle damaged mind of his. So, it’s just me and Maurice on duty. It’s a good thing only one demon can be active in the Mortal Realm per day, or we’d be done for.”
“Man…. I-I-I wish I was a Strider,” Shelia commented sadly, “Racing around the Cerebral Core, trying to stop the demon from trying to absorb it! I’d be like: ‘Trying to absorb the core of a human’s consciousness? How about a wham from the Cerebral Gattling! KABOOM!’. I-I’d be great at it!”
“It isn’t as fun as you make it sound,” Mia responded as she took out her own Idtruder. She thumbed the metallic object, a slight buzz of energy emanating from the mystical technology, “Transporting into a human mind and fighting a demon isn’t as cracked up as I describe it to be. I want you to be safe. You already almost died from a demon remember?”
The girl shivered as she remembered when a Reincarnated had invaded her mind to feast on it. The thoughts of galivanting adventures disappeared, “Don’t remind me. If it wasn’t for you, Maurice…. I don’t even want to know.”
“Exactly…. I want you in my life, alive. I don’t want to lose anyone else,” Mia responded, her voice becoming quieter. Maurice looked at the girl’s sad expression.  He scowled as a small part of him wanted to comfort her. The anger inside quickly pulled it back down, “Anyways, enough about super sci-fi demon fighting! No need to turn this lunch period into a downer.”
“I-I’m sorry! I-I-I’m being a butt as usual….”
“Will you please tone it down from a ten to like a three,” Maurice snapped with Shelia squeaking a bit in fear. Mia was right about one thing: Shelia was ill-equipped to fight demons with her self-esteem. He remembered his first battle and remembered how he almost lost his head. The boy shuddered at the thought of the girl in battle. Shelia was many things but equipped for fighting against a demon was not one of them.
“Maurice!” Mia snapped with volatile anger, causing the boy to jump a bit, “Don’t be mean!”
“Ugh…look Shelia, it’s okay,” Mia responded as she gave the girl a small smile, “You weren’t doing any harm.”
Shelia’s face reddened, her hands fanning around her face, “I-I’m sorry for apologizing! Please excuse me of my actions.”
“Hey, are you okay? Your face is all red?”
“Y-y-yeah, it’s just hot in here!”
“Are you sure?”
“Y-y-yeah! It’s just me being me as usual!”
“Not really, you getting super red isn’t really normal. I mean you do that around me a lot though now that I think about it- “
Maurice slammed his fists on the table as a ring echoed out throughout the cafeteria. The cafeteria quieted a bit as they looked at the raging teen, “Can you two just shut up!”
The conversation was cut short as Shelia and Mia quickly leapt out of their seats as a large tray of food splattered all over Maurice. Banana peels and chocolate milk completely doused Maurice’s head. The intense rage inside of Maurice doubled as he stood up and stared at the person who had dumped the food on him, “That’s a better look for you!”
“Really, Silena?” Mia snapped as she leapt over her side of the table and took a stand next to Maurice. Shelia tried doing the same thing but ended up slipping on a banana peel and fell on her butt, “Dumping food on people? Didn’t think that was a new cheerleading move.”
The cheerleading captain laughed; her eyes lined with dark rings. Bandages were taped across her head and Maurice noticed several bruises across her arm. He didn’t think cheerleading was so dangerous to warrant that number of injuries, “I call it: the Bug Spray! It’s for getting pests out our school!”
“Y-y-you’re a butt!”
“Real creative, Shelia. Aren’t you supposed to be rank one of this year’s freshman year class?”
“Don’t you insult her!”
“I’ll do what I want, you grey-eyed moron! I’ll insult you and goblin face all I want!”
“At least she’s got some brains unlike you,” Maurice snapped, “I’m surprised with how much you fail in class on daily basis that you have enough brainpower to form words! So freaking shallow…”
“Shut up, you…. you buttface!”
The boy sighed with frustration, deep in thought as he looked around. Some students were giggling at the boy’s expense while others looked and simply went back to eating. The teachers around the area were busy on their phones, unaware of the ongoing display, “Laughing at my expense or not caring. Story of your life, eh Maurice?
“Really witty! How long did that take you to think of?” Mia snapped as she pushed the girl, “Try not strain your brain thinking of an answer! Is that how you got all those injuries?”
The boy’s eyes widened as he saw Silena’s muscles tense, like a lion about to pounce on its prey. The girl was an annoying cheerleader, but a built annoying cheerleader, “Mia…. back off. Never mind, let’s just let this go.”
Silena’s face curled into snarl as she pushed Mia back, “You better watch yourself there, Mia. Push me again and see what happens.”
“What are you gonna do? Throw a pom-pom at me? That would take brainpower to use! You make a cardboard box look like Einstein.”
“Shut up,” Silena and Maurice snapped simultaneously. The boy really didn’t want to start something and his frustration at Mia’s inability to be quiet was starting to get on his nerves.
“Or what? All your good for is looking pretty and shouting some crappy ‘inspirational’ cheers! Face it, Silena: you’re shallower than a kiddie pool!”
Silena’s fist cracked against Mia’s jaw. Mia slammed her foot into the girl’s stomach in retaliation. A yell of pure anger erupted as Silena quickly grabbed her dumped lunch tray and went to slam it against Mia’s head. Shelia quickly jumped to protect her friend, but Maurice acted faster as he quickly got in the way.
Tears streamed down the boy’s face as he cradled his injured head, a knot the size of a baseball forming. Silena’s face became plastered with guilt and horror as she dropped the tray, the plastic clattering across the floor.
“I…. I didn’t mean to…”
That’s it!” Mia quickly jumped onto the girl. The cafeteria erupted in cheers as the two tore at each other. Shelia tried to pry Mia off the cheerleader, but her noodle arms couldn’t do much.
After a couple minutes of fighting and screaming, teachers finally came in a pulled apart the fight. And a couple minutes later, everyone involved in the situation was soon standing in front of Principal Jenkins.
“Dad, she literally dumped food on Maurice!”
“She was being a nosy jerk!”
“S-S-Silena was being a butt!”
“What did you say, you snot-nosed brat!”
“Don’t insult, Shelia, you little!”
“Silena, I need you to shut up. The rest of you, be quiet!” Principal Jenkins shouted as everyone went quiet. Jenkins looked at Silena and Maurice’s blood went cold. His eyes were like his mother’s eyes: full of venomous hatred. It was the look of disgust with one’s existence. He raised his hand for a second and Silena flinched a bit. Maurice looked at confusion with the reaction but was soon distracted but the next comment.
The principal rubbed the bridge of his nose, “Silena, you can go but the three of you can take a seat. And don’t make me repeat myself. I’ll deal with you at home.”
“Okay,” Silena Jenkins responded quietly as she left. She shot a quick glare at the other three teenagers and walked out the door. Maurice noticed that she was trembling slightly, her body tense with utter fear at her father. The boy was curious about what he meant when he said he would deal with her. But soon, that thought went into the back of his mind in lieu of the upcoming injustice….
“God…your grades are garbage enough but this….” The principal muttered as he rubbed his eyes, “That little piece of-”
“Uh…sir?” Mia asked as she talked to grumbling man. Maurice got shudders as he looked at the man, his tensing anger remind him of his mother when she was drunk, “So…. we’re still here.”
“I’m aware, Miss Tiruc. Alright, Mia, you get two weeks’ detention. Shelia, you get a week. Maurice, you’re getting a week as well! You have all shown unacceptable behavior unfitting of our school!”
“A-A-Aw man….”
“Excuse me,” Maurice snapped, his voice full of cold fury, “You realized that she started all this right? She insulted pretty much everyone and hit me with a tray.”
“I am aware. I am also aware that you stood around and did nothing while the two fought. You should’ve tried to stop the fight and yet you did nothing.”
“I’m a student! It’s the adults’ responsibility to take care of these situations!” Maurice snapped as he slammed his hands on the principal’s desk. His face screamed with pain as his features contorted with rage, “What about Silena?”
“Silena will get her punishment but in the grand scheme of situation, the troublemakers seem to be you three. And slam on my desk like that again and it’s four weeks!”
“It’s because s-s-she’s your daughter!” Shelia snapped as she slammed her hands on the principal’s desk, “W-w-what does daddy’s little girl get a pass? Gotta love that nepotism!”
“Three weeks for you, Miss Ricut!” the man snapped. Mia and Shelia began to yell at the man but soon went quiet as Maurice exited out of the room, “Excuse me, you were not dismissed!”
“Bite me,” he snapped as he slammed the door shut, pieces of shattered glass falling onto the ground. Before the boy went stomping away, Mia quickly dashed out the door.
“Wait where are you going!” Mia said as she went to grab Maurice’s shoulder. He quickly pushed her away, some of the garbage spilling on her.
“Away from people.”
“Look, I’m sorry this happened. But Shelia and I got your back! Plus, I think you should get your head checked out-”
“Back off! I didn’t ask for your help. Any of your help! I can deal with garbage. But you two? You’re unbearable! Do you just enjoy embarrassing yourself? I don’t need some knight in shining armor! I can take of myself!”
“I never said you couldn’t- “
“Just back off! You’re not my friend nor my family. You’re just an annoyance!” Maurice snapped as he stomped away, leaving Mia standing alone in the hallway as a trail of trash and anger trailed off him.


The boy quietly made his way through the alleyways of the town, his hood up to conceal his face. His head throbbed with pain only being mitigated by an icepack the boy had swiped from an unsuspecting convenience store owner. He wasn’t sure how long he was skulking, but he guessed a little after three. After a couple minutes of slinking through the dark alleyways, he smiled as he fondly looked upon his destination.
Maurice stood in front of a large run-down theater, The High Film Classics Theater, most of the building covered in closed signs and wooden planks. The boy walked through the revolving door entrance which wasn’t blocked off. As he walked in, he looked around the empty box office with dust swimming around the area. He scowled as he saw the walls covered in graffiti words: monster, freak of nature, and other derogatory comments.
“People aren’t worth it,” he muttered as he roamed the hallways of the theater. He smiled a bit as he opened one of the theater rooms open, Theater 666. His fingers brushed against the soft fabric of the worn-out seats where he used to sleep. So many hours alone here without any people to bother or hurt him.
Empty, quiet, and peopleless.
Just like he enjoyed.
“People aren’t worth it,” Maurice muttered as he took a seat, leaning back. But what he didn’t expect was for a voice to respond, a tiny whisper in his mind. 
“Are you sure?”
“Then why’d she stand up for you?”
“I… I don’t know! She’s dumb and loud. There that’s the answer! Now leave me alone!”
“She was just caring for you.”
“Shut up!”
“You didn’t even bother to thank her or Shelia. They stood up for you….”
“Because they didn’t deserve my thanks.”
“You don’t believe that.”
“Yes, I do! I know what’s in my heart!”
“And it isn’t hatred for them.”
Shut up! They’re people! I hate people!”
“I hate Mia and her stupid self-righteousness!”
“I hate Shelia’s stupid stutter and her insistence on butting in!”
“I hate Matthew and his fake sympathy!”
“I hate everyone!”
“So…. you’ve had a bad day,” Maurice jumped in panic as he heard a voice behind him. His face rang with pain as he snarled as Maurice saw Matthew carrying his son. The baby gave a small cry as he gently cradled the child, “Mia called me. I’ve been searching around all afternoon for you. Let’s head home, okay?”
“Back off. My home isn’t with you guys at all.”
Matthew sighed as he rubbed the bridge between his eyes, “Look, I get you need time to cooldown. Just don’t do it here. It’s…. ugh…creepy.”
“It’s quiet,” Maurice snapped, his voice echoing out throughout the empty theater. Sammy began to cry, and Maurice sighed as he quieted down for the baby, “Look…. just go away. I just want to be alone.”
“I figured. Which is why…. which is why it pains me to say this next thing…. check your Idtruder.”
The boy’s eyes widened as he took out of the object out of his pocket. The crystalline button was blinking red.
A demon had invaded the Mortal Plain and was beginning to consume a human mind.
The boy glared at the object as he shoved it into his pocket, “Not my problem. Mia’s taking care of it right? It’s the Tiruc’s responsibility to fight demons, not mine. I should’ve never gotten involved. I despise people! Why would I try and help them!”
Matthew gave a sad laugh as he took a seat right next to Maurice. Maurice scooted, leaving an empty seat between them, “Yeah…it’s our responsibility all right. Don’t I know it.”
The boy scowled, “Who is it?”
“Mia didn’t say when she called me. She just said that they passed out in the middle of some sort of sports practice when the demon started attacking their mind. After Mia went into battle, Shelia called up 911 for that person immediately after. I did get one concrete fact though: Mia’s Idtruder scanned it as a Category 5.”
Maurice’s eyes widened as he heard those words. He stood up quickly, “Then go help her! She’s good but not good enough to fight Category 5’s!  It took all of us just to take on a Category 4 yesterday!”
“That’s true.”
“Then why aren’t you going!”
“Remember?” Matthew responded as he tapped his head, “My mind’s too damaged from the years. I can only do this once a week, remember? I fought with you two yesterday.”
Maurice gripped the Idtruder, his thumb slightly hovering the crystalline button. If he pressed it, he would join the fight against a demon.
A fight with Mia.
A fight to save a person.
“It’s not my problem,” he gritted through his teeth, “It’s not my problem. It’s not my problem.”
Baby Sammy began cry and Matthew gently cradled his baby son, “Tirucs and those with strong wills. Those are the ones that can wield the Idtruders and fight the Reincarnated, those who were once humans but have become devils of their own volition.”
“I get why you came!” Maurice laughed, “You just want me to go. I knew you didn’t care. You just need me because I can use the Idtruder! You want me to help your sister and save whatever worthless person the demon is trying get rid of!”
“I’m not asking you to go, Maurice. You’re your own man. Whatever you do…. I won’t judge you.”
“Why aren’t you!” Maurice snapped as he yelled at the man, tears streaming down his eyes. The man remained scarily calm as the boy yelled, “I hate you! I hate everyone!”
“I know.”
“All people do is hurt me!”
“I know.”
“I can never escape the pain. Everywhere I go, I’m just reminded of the pain of connection. Even when I sleep…. nightmares of just…pain. Of the pain my mom just wouldn’t stop giving me! Screaming, yelling, hitting, burning! Just pain…”
“I’m so sorry, Maurice. I truly am.”
“Why are you any different! You should despise me! Just like everyone else!”
“I don’t hate you.”
“Why won’t you hate me!”
“Because I trust you, Maurice,” the man smiled which beamed though dark of the theater, “Because I know who you are. I don’t have to ask you to go help my sister.”
“H…. How do you know? You don’t know me at all.”
“Because you’ll do it anyway.”
“Because beneath the pain…far beyond the anger…. you’re a good man. I know it. I will always believe in you.”
For a minute, it was just utter silence.
“How do you know that?”
“Because if you weren’t, you wouldn’t have pressed the activation button on your Idtruder.”
The boy looked at his hand as he realized that his thumb had pressed the flashing button. Maurice’s vision began to go dark.
“Godspeed, Maurice.”


A dark void and loud buzzing enveloped the boy.
A digitized voice called out to him…. 
The boy sighed as he felt his mind enter the mind of another as he felt the cold grip of Cerebral Transfer. He thought back to when Matthew first explained all this psychotic fantasy situation to him.
“When one activates an Idtruder, their consciousness is beamed into their Cerebral Space, the space within one’s own mind.”
“Within the space of one’s mind was the Cerebral Core, the core of one’s consciousness.”
“From the depths of the Nether Realm, from Hell itself, Reincarnated can enter within the minds of others in order to consume this Core.”
“Once the Core is consumed, the human dies and demon absorbs that energy for themselves.”
“The only people that can stop these demons are those with Idtruders, devices that give humans the ability to transfer within the Cerebral Space and stop the Reincarnated.”
“The name of these humans?”
“Cerebral Striders!”
The black void became a brilliant space of purple blue with stars sparkling all around. Maurice floated through Cerebral Space; the gravity of the normal world completely gone. He looked at his arms and legs which were now bright emerald with red circuit-like lines etched into them like tattoos. The boy’s giant bug-like eyes blinked, and his fishlike fin ears twitched. A glowing red horn erupted out of his forehead. A glowing red broom slowly floated past him.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this….” he muttered as he grabbed the broom and wrapped his legs around it. He heard explosions echoing in the distance. His new eyes zoomed in quickly on the source of the explosions, “There you are….”
Another Strider was circling around a man in black top hat with an equally dark suit. The boy squinted as he got a closer look at the man’s face. Well, he was guessing the large sedimentary mass of orange coral was a face anyway, “Alright. I got the demon so where’s the Strider….”
His question was soon answered as he spotted the Strider, Mia. The boy cringed as she saw her condition. Red sparks erupting off her body with cracks and burns peppering throughout her skin. Mia’s broom was covered in soot with tiny tongues of flame flickering across its shaft.
Mia quickly strafed left as a beam of light erupted out of its coral head. The girl quickly strafed left with her broom as her shoulder began to glow red, “Activate Cerebral Sniper!”
A flash of light brought forth a thin gun barrel with a small scope that sat on the girl’s shoulder. With a yell of determination, Mia shot a bright red bullet of light towards the demon’s chest. The demon quickly sped past the bullet only for another one to strike his chest. Smoke curled off his injured suit, revealing orange rock like skin….as well as a red diamond right in the center.
“Come on…. just break the Gem!” Maurice muttered. If she broke the Gem, the demon would instantly be banished back to the Nether Realm. The Gem was a unique part of the demon that allowed them to stay in the Mortal Plain and thus, a person’s Cerebral Space. Without it, they couldn’t maintain their forms and would be instantly shot back to the Nether Realm in which trying to get back to the Mortal Plain would take decades.
The girl quickly aimed to destroy the Gem, but the demon quickly acted. Like a bullet, his head slammed into her stomach. Her scream of pain echoed out as she was sent flying off her broom. The boy quickly leaned forward as he zoomed towards the floating girl.
Mia’s hand reached for her broom, but the demon quickly slammed his head against hers, sending her flying back once again, “I’m afraid we cannot keep this dance going. You’re on your last legs. Why not simply just give up? We both know victory is quite mine.”
“Bite me, Coral Cabaret! I’m not dying to you!” she managed to pant out as she aimed her shoulder sniper at the demon. The demon sighed as he avoided the shot. He dashed forward and his hand gripped around the barrel snapping it in half. With a graceful yet sadistic move, he slammed the broken weapon into the girl’s shoulder.
She cried out in pain but soon could not say anything as the demon gripped her neck. She tried her best grasp for air, but the demon’s strength was too much for her, “You know this is all on you right? All you had to do was let me kill this stupid girl. But…. you just had to get in my way huh?”
“Ga… ga…. shut up!” she managed to sputter up, but her limbs soon began to go limp. The demon laughed as the life soon began to slip out of the girl’s body.
“Activate Cerebral Gatling!” the boy screamed as a multi-barreled cannon erupted out of his shoulder. The red cannon blared to life as blasts of life struck the man’s head. He quickly dodged out of the way of anymore danger, releasing Mia.
“Oh my god, you are amazing!” Mia managed to sputter out as gasped for air. Maurice simply said nothing as he quickly moved and grabbed Mia’s broom. She took it from the boy’s hand, “I’m glad you’re here. A little sooner would’ve been nice too.”
The boy thought back to their last conversation. She was acting as if it had never happened, “Whatever…. look…. about earlier…. I…. you alright?”
Mia laughed as electricity sparked off the cracks in her body, “Well…. I could be better.”
“I’ll take that as a yes,” the boy sighed as he looked at the glowing orb of energy before him, “How much of the Cerebral Core has that demon consumed?”
“When I got here, He absorbed about 80% of the core’s power.”
“In such a short amount of time?”
“That’s a Category 5 for you,” Mia responded. Her shoulders began to sag as she rubbed her head nervously, “And uh…. you’re not gonna like who were rescuing.”
“Well…look who it is!” Coral Cabaret screeched as he dashed towards the two teens. Mia quickly dashed up before she could finish while Maurice dove downwards, firing off more shots of his Cerebral Gatling, “The infamous Maurice Erikson himself!”
“Bite me, you overgrown piece of sediment!”
“The other demons were right about your wit!” Coral Cabaret laughed as he launched more beams of light at the boy. Maurice tried his best to get a shot at the man’s Gem, but he was moving around too fast, “Sharkpey Evans was quite…descriptive.”
“Well, she was beaten by a guy who had accidentally used an Idtruder,” Maurice snarked as he raced upwards, trying to get another angle. His eyes widened as a beam of energy raced towards his head. The boy’s cannon blazed to light, and the projectiles collided. The boy breathed a sigh of relief as he realized his plan had worked, “Did she tell you about how I blew up her eyes?”
“But that wasn’t what got my attention,” he laughed as he quickly moved back as Mia sideswiped past him, a red blade glowing bright red at the end of broom, “You hate humans as much as us Reincarnated. I can sense your emotions……your anger betrays you.”
“What about it!” he snapped. The boy’s shoulder flared in pain as one of the demon’s beams grazed it. He quickly led up with a flurry of bolts which struck his Gem. Maurice and Mia cheered for a second but was short-lived as they saw that it was simply cracked. For the demon to disappear, it needed to become completely broken.
“And yet, you fight as a Strider to save people? It was quite…. interesting to me,” he continued as if nothing ever happened. He quickly raced towards Maurice, sharp blades of rock erupting out his arms. The boy quickly raced back as the demon chased after him, slashing the air with his blades.
“Blast it, he’s fast!” Maurice cursed as a cut emerged on his cheek. Another one emerged around his thigh and shin. More blasts of light aimed were aimed at the Gem but soon his Gatling was reduced to rubble as Coral sliced it in half, “Power and speed. No wonder he’s Category 4. I just need a clean shot. Come on, Universe! Throw me a bone, will you?”
The universe responded as the Cerebral Core began to crackle with lightning. The three fighters quickly dodged the bolts of energy but soon found themselves with more problems. Loud screeches began to echo throughout Cerebral Space.
“Oh, come on!” Maurice yelled as the dozens of silver creatures began to pour out of the orb. The boy’s eyes quickly caught sight of the creature; its figure was completely comprised of twisted metal which reeked of what smelled like rotten food. But what made Maurice extremely angry was the uniform the object was wearing.
A bright red cheerleader’s uniform.
“We’re in Silena’s Cerebral Space, aren’t we!” Maurice sighed as Mia quickly pulled Maurice out of the way. A sense of relief was soon followed by panic as the figure began to glow. He had been in enough fights to know what a glowing Cerebral thoughtfigure meant.
“Move!” Mia screamed as they quickly flew in different directions. The figure exploded, shockwaves rippling throughout Cerebral Space. The boy yelled as he went flying back, his hands gripping around his broom.
“Of all!”
The boy quickly dodged an explosion.
Another one.
“It’s gotta be her!”
“Stupid cores and their stupid defenses!” Mia called out as she sliced through one of the exploding thoughtfigures. The second they were bisected, they turned completely into dust, “Use the Broomblade and slice em! That way an explosion won’t go off!”
The boy listened as he sliced through one of the figures with his own blade. He coughed as a cloud of dust entered his throat. He quickly sliced through more figures but soon had to dodge a blast of light, “GAH! God, give me some time breathe, will you!”
“Why fight for those you hate?” Coral snapped as he slashed through more exploding thoughtfigures, making his way towards Maurice. The boy quickly dodged as another blast of light and charged, aiming his blade straight for the Gem. The demon quickly grabbed a thoughtfigure and threw it right in front of himself.
A cloud of dust obscured the boy’s eyes. However, he still retained enough vision to dodge a slash going for his head. As he dodged, he caught a closer view of the demon’s head. He tried his best not to vomit as he saw that dozens of small eyeballs covered the coral. But soon, he recovered as he quickly pulled his broom, the blade facing towards Coral.
“I was hurt by everyone around me too when I was human,” Coral responded as the two clashed blades. Maurice noticed that he wasn’t firing as many beams and noticed how hard he was breathing. The demon was getting tired, “My parents abandoned me and left me for the gutters! Everyone turned a blind eye to me. When I died with hate in my heart, love filled it as I was given a chance to strike back at humanity!”
The Core began to spark once more but instead of exploding metal monsters, voices echoed out, “I call it: the Bug Spray! It’s for getting pests out our school!”
“So why fight for them?” The demon snapped as he slashed at the boy’s eyes. Mia quickly deflected the slash with her own blade. She quickly spun around and smacked him back with the other end of her broom, “I don’t understand why you’re even here! Why!”
“I’ll insult you and goblin face all I want!” Maurice’s broom cracked as he gripped it tightly. A thoughtfigure soared towards him but Mia quickly impaled it, a cloud of dust enveloping the boy’s head. He quickly wiped his eyes, giving him time to avoid a slash from Coral Cabaret.
A thoughtfigure lunged for the boy’s torso. Frustrated, the boy quickly slammed his foot into the explosive beast’s face. The thoughtfigure was flung back, tumbling throughout space. The boy was about to congratulate him until the sounds of an angry screech erupted out.
Like a bullet, the figure quickly shot at the boy. He squeaked with fear only for Mia to dive in, impaling the beast altogether, dust erupting out. She looked at the boy with concern, “I’m alright! These things gotta a temper…”
The Core began to crackle with energy again as loud echoes erupted out. The boy’s ears twitched with pain as he heard the girl’s innermost thoughts“This guy’s such a freak….”
“I’m not shallow!”
“Why won’t dad love me….”
“Why is he even here! He’s just some freak!”
“I’m so tired of being here….”
“See how pathetic this human is? This is who you are trying to save?” the demon yelled as he attempted to slam his blades into Maurice’s head. The boy quickly ducked as he slammed his own head into Coral’s chest. The demon quickly retaliated however as he grabbed a nearby thoughtfigure and threw it at the boy, “Not only that but I sense anger from you…. towards this very human! Why not just let her die?”
“You’re insa- GAAH!”
The boy screamed as the thoughtfigure exploded sending him flying off his broom, being too slow to react. Mia quickly swerved and caught him, dust spilling all over the two, “You all, right?”
“Ugh…. yeah. Can’t say the same about my broom,” Maurice coughed as he saw his broom or what was left off it which consisted of just floating scraps and the Broomblade. His superego body was covered in cracks and dust. The boy quickly grabbed broken off Broomblade, thinking it might come in handy, “Any ideas on how to beat this guy?”
Freak!” the Core echoed out, breaking the two Striders’ trains of thought. Mia cringed as she heard this, “You’re worthless! A piece of garbage! I know you’re stupid, but this is amazing! This is what? The fifth calc test you’ve failed?”
“I…. I’m sorry, dad! I really tried! I’m…I’m trying! It just takes me a little longer to learn than everyone else!”
“Then let me help you learn faster!”
A loud crack echoed out. Maurice recognized that impact. It was the sound of anger being taken out on someone who didn’t deserve it. The boy turned to Mia whose eyes were filled with confusion, “I don’t understand….”
Cries of pain echoed out.
“Silena’s dad has a lot to answer for,” the boy scowled as he realized why Silena was the way she was. She wasn’t perfect but any means. He thought she was too loud, aggressive, and a cheerleader to boot.
But that didn’t mean she didn’t deserve to get hit by her father.
“Oh god,” Mia whispered as she put the pieces together, “Oh god and I…”
Mia’s train of thought was cut off as a thoughtfigure quickly grabbed her. Maurice quickly kicked it off, but he was too slow. The explosion sent ripples throughout Cerebral Space, sending the two tumbling out. Mia quickly stabilized her broom, preventing them from spinning out further.
“Ugh…I feel like hurling. Stupid exploding-“
“Mia, our horns!” Maurice called out as he felt his forehead. Mia’s eyes widened as she felt her forehead as well.
They were gone.
The red lines on their bodies became blue.
WARNING: SUPEREGO TETHER DESTROYED. EMERGENCY POWER LOADED. THREE MINUTES OF OPERATIONAL TIME REMAINING,” a digitized voice called out. Mia let loose a string of curses as she was forced to move once again as Coral let loose a flurry of beams.
“Right now, we’ve got to focus. We need to think of a plan!” Maurice responded as Mia quickly sped up as a group of thoughtfigures along with Coral began to chase after them, “We don’t have much time before we’re shoved back into our human bodies! Once that happens, he’ll be free to absorb the rest of Silena’s mind!”
“Not if Coral kills us first! I’ve barely been able to damage his Gem much less touch it!” Mia yelped as she quickly blocked a slash from Coral who attempted to slice at the girl’s throat. She quickly dove downwards, accidentally slicing through a couple of thoughtfigures. A large cloud of dust flew everywhere, “Crap!”
The boy was about to yell the same thing (albeit with some colorful adjectives), but something caught his attention. It wasn’t the continuous screeching of the exploding thoughtfigures. It wasn’t the continuous screeches of Silena’s father mocking his daughter. It wasn’t even Mia coughing from the large amount of dust clogging her throat.
It was the sound of a frustrated demon.
“Gah, stupid dust!” Coral snapped with fury. The boy quickly wiped the dust from his eyes as he spotted Coral struggling to wipe away the debris. However, his rock-covered hands couldn’t do much. Like a dog, he quickly shook his head back and forth, dust flying off.
The boy looked at the broken Broomblade he had kept in his hand.
And he remembered how the blade instantly turned the thoughtfigures into dust.
And he remembered how much of a temper they had when they were attacked.
“That’s it!”
“Mia, I’ve got an idea,” the boy quickly said. The girl quickly swerved out of the way of more thoughtfigures as Maurice explained his plan. Between Coral’s vibrant blasts of energy and the screeching of the Core, Mia still managed to catch his plan. Mia’s eyes widened with confusion and disbelief but soon were replaced with determination.
“Then we better act! Let’s get started then!” Mia quickly yelled as she quickly sped out of the way of another slash from the demon. The demon roared as he quickly sped forward chasing after them, “I’ll focus on the bait. You be the hook!”
“I guess I haven’t answered have I!” Maurice yelled out as Coral Cabaret unleashed another blast of light aimed for Maurice’s head. Mia squeaked as she drove down, twisting between fleets of thoughtfigures. As she twisted, she stuck her foot out, dragging it across the faces of the thoughtfigures.
“Humanity’s awful! I despise them as much as you do!” The figures screeched with pain as they grasped their injured faces. Mia quickly sped up as the figures angrily began to chase after them along with Coral in tow. The demon kept firing blasts of energy, but they all kept missing, “When I was living with my mom….it wasn’t even living. Just a struggle to survive.”
“She would send me out for freaking beer runs every night. And if I didn’t say yes to doing what she said…. If I didn’t say yes, she would just scream and hit me over and over,” Mia cried with pain as a thoughtfigure dragged its claws against her shoulders. The boy quickly punched it back only for Coral to deliver a cut across his leg. Maurice quickly retaliated by kicking the demon back, “You alright?”
“Just let me drive!” Mia snapped out, pain making her dizzy with anger. She continued to speed ahead as swarms of thoughtfigures sped after them. Coral yelled as he chased the two. More and more thoughtfigures pursued the two as Mia’s flared up their temper.
“Maurice!” Mia called out as she observed the blue lights on her body which began to blink, “One minute! If we don’t take care of this now, Silena’s a goner!”
Maurice reached out his hand and Mia quickly gripped her own hand around her Broomblade. With one swift pull, the blade came off and she handed it to the boy, “I hope this works!”
“And then…. and then she burned me: the person she was supposed to care for the most. After she died and I ran off by myself…. I found such bliss in being completely alone,” The boy responded, his voice cracking with grief. Mia quickly flew upwards, a swarm of thoughtfigures pursuing them. Coral screeched as he chased after them, “Yeah, you’re right. Humanity’s awful!”
Mia looked back as the gnashing metal figures snarled after them. She gulped as she quickly stopped….and began to dive downwards, “But…. I was shown kindness. I got shown kindness by people who barely know me! They took me in and gave me…gave me so much.”
The boy reached out his arms, a blade in each hand. The thoughtfigures screeched as they lunged for the two only to be turned into dust. One after another, they turned into dust, “They gave me a home!”
“They gave me a purpose!” A large cloud of dust replaced the large swarms of thoughtfigures. Dust covered the boy’s eyes, but he could hear the coughing of the demon. Screams of pain and frustration erupted as the demon attempted to clear his eyes but the huge amount of dust was too much for him to clean out,
“Instant smokescreen. I love that brain of yours!” Mia yelled with determination as she sped forward towards Coral, the lights on her body blinking. Maurice readied his blade, “Let’s do this buddy!”
“They made me feel like a person!”
“It’s only temporary! Humanity will disappoint in the end!” Coral snapped, his voice no longer full of sadistic anger but sorrowful fury, “They always do.”
“Maybe…but…. maybe…I choose to believe that…that they’re capable of being good!” Maurice snapped back as he reached his hand out, blade facing forward. Memories of Matthew surged throughout him, his positivity and support giving the boy that last boost of power, “So do me and Mia a favor!”
“Get out of Silena’s head!”
The blade rammed into the Gem.
The Gem of the demon shattered pieces of it floating throughout the space. The demon’s body began to flicker as its connection to the Mortal Plain disappeared. Mia took a breath as she looked at Maurice with gratitude and pride, “Well…. see you on the flip side.”
The blue lights on the Strider’s form finally disappeared as the form of Mia shimmered away. The boy went floating into space as her broom disappeared as well. Maurice looked at the lights on his arms which were beginning to dim.
The boy and the demon floated alongside each other. The Core, which was once pulsing with terror was now calm. Any remaining thoughtfigures screeched as they disappeared into nothing.
“I’m surprised there aren’t any more of those exploding fools.”
“A Reincarnated’s Gem causes the Cerebral Core to become agitated and cause defenses to activate. Since your Gem is gone, the Core just goes back into standby so to speak.”
“You speak like them…”
“You’re an idiot. For believing in them.”
“Probably. But…. I think I’ll give them a chance. They’ve given me one after all.”
“Let’s see how long that lasts. Enjoy your serenity with humanity. And I hope one day…. you choke on it.”
“And when your soul descends to the Nether Realm…when you die with hatred with humanity in your heart and become a Reincarnated…. well…. I’ll be waiting!”
For a couple seconds there was silence.
The lights stopped blinking.
The demon disappeared, shimmering into nothingness.
The boy closed his eyes.
And reopened them.
The light of the setting sun covered the boy’s face in brilliant orange fire. Using one of his hands to block out the blinding light, he looked around as he found himself back at the Tiruc House. After he transformed, Matthew must have brought him back. But beyond the light of the sun, the boy saw the smiling faces of Shelia, Mia, and Matthew. Mia reached out of her hand to pull the boy up from his slumber, “Welcome back.”
The boy looked at her hand.
And took it.
“It’s good to be home.”


The cold breeze rustled through the boy’s coat as he made his way down the street. Shelia and Mia trailed next to him. Shelia looked at her friend a bit nervously, “A-a-are you sure you want to do this? You don’t have to you know.”
“I know.”
“Y-y-you’re not a b-b-bad person if you don’t want to talk to her. You’re obligated to fight d-d-demons, not talk to people who dumped trash on your face. That goes for you too, Mia.”
“It’s okay. Maurice and I have already discussed this. He isn’t her biggest fan nor I,” Mia responded as the three stopped in front of a house, a for sale sign posted on the front lawn. Sitting on the porch was Silena Jenkins, packed bags surrounding the girl, “But…. I won’t lie that I feel terrible for her. I want to see how she’s doing. It’s the least I can do for being a jerk to her earlier.”
“Likewise,” Maurice responded as he got ready to talk to the girl. It had been two days since the attack on her mind and a plethora of events had occurred since then. An anonymous tip from Mia along with hospital reports that the bruises on Silena’s body weren’t cheerleader related had revealed Principal Jenkins for who he was: an abuser.
The man was currently facing a life in prison sentence at New York Penitentiary with no chance of parole. Despite this, Maurice still felt that the charges were too kind.
While Principal Jenkins was going to prison however, the question that lingered is what would happen to his daughter. After some talks with child services and any living relatives, Silena Jenkins was determined by the court to stay with her grandmother, Lia, who happily accepted guardianship of her grandchild. The catch was that she lived in Colorado and thus, the girl had to move.
Today was the girl’s last day in town.
And Maurice’s only chance to…
“What do you want?” the girl responded, her voice full of exhaustion and her eyes sunken in as if she hadn’t slept in days. The boy looked with pity at the broken girl. Mia and Shelia looked with sadness at the girl as well.
“I’m…. uh…. I’m sorry about what happened,” Maurice responded as he walked up to the girl. Silena scooted back in response and the young Strider stopped to give her space, “We all are and…we just wanted to see how you’re doing.”
“Just leave me alone. I don’t want any of your or anyone else’s sympathy.”
“I understand.”
“What do you understand!” she snapped as she got up from her chair, sending it flying back, “What do you know? My dad was supposed to love me!”
Tears streamed down Silena’s face with anger filling her eyes, “And instead…. he…. he just hurt me. He always hurt me. Just…just leave me alone. I’m done…I’m just done with everyone. All people have done is hurt me…so….so just leave me be.”
Leave me alone!” she yelled, her voice echoing out. The boy cringed as he looked at the girl in pain, almost looking like a mirror image.
“Maurice…let’s just go,” Mia responded softly as she laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder, her eyes slightly tearing up, “We should just do as she says. Let’s not push.”
The boy nodded as he began to walk away. He was halfway down the stairs of Silena’s home when he stopped. Silena shook with anger as the boy turned around once more, the two locking eyes.
“What part of leave did you-!”
“I don’t think you’re a shallow person at all. I just want you to know that. You may not be the brightest person in the world or even the nicest person. But…. I think you’re pretty okay despite everything. I hope whatever happens in the future…. you become a happy person.”
The girl’s eyes widened with shock as the boy walked away. Mia and Shelia stood there in shock just staring at each other, not expecting the boy to say that at all. After a couple seconds, they quickly followed him, slightly embarrassed at their reaction.
The boy stopped in his tracks at the sound of Silena’s voice.
“For dumping food on your face, hurting your friends, and hurting you…. I…. I’m so sorry.”
The boy stood there as he processed what she said.
He turned around one last time and smiled.
“Don’t worry about it. Take care of yourself, Silena.”
The three teenagers gave the girl one last wave of farewell as they parted ways, the cold breeze becoming warmer as they passed.


The boy’s face flared with pain as the bottle of alcohol struck his face. Glass cut his cheek while the liquid bathed most of the left side of his face.
“You stupid little-!” Maurice’s mother screeched as she grabbed her son’s neck and threw him against the wall, “You got the wrong brand! What do you like hurting me?”
The ten-year old Erikson stammered as he got up, “I’m sorry mama! Just…. Just give me a chance to fix this! I’ll make it up to you!”
The mother scoffed as she lit a cigarette. The boy tried not to gag as the cloud of nicotine floated towards him, “This is the third time this week you’ve messed up a beer run!”
“I’m sorry! It’s…it’s just hard since I’m just a kid. But… I’ll make it up to you alright!”
The woman scoffed as she tossed aside her cigarette. Her hand went into her pocket as she went to go get another one. However, a sick smile curled around her face.
“You will.”
The lighter flicked to life….
As she tossed it towards the left side of the boy’s face….
The side bathed in alcohol…...
“Stop it!” Maurice screeched out as he got out of bed. His screams of pain echoed throughout the house, reverbing off the walls.
His bed felt like a burning coffin.
The cool air stung his scarred face.
A couple seconds later, two figures barreled in along with sounds of a crying infant.
Mia breathed with panic, covered in sweat, her hazel hair an absolute mess. The girl’s grey eyes were full of concern and righteous anger. A large metal bat was in her hand along with what looked like a toaster, “Are you alright, dude? Do I need to beat someone up?”
“I’m…I’m good. Could you just get me some water? Thanks.”
“Yeah. Be back in a flash!” Mia called out as she dashed out of the room, dropping the toaster and the bat onto the floor. If it wasn’t for the terrifying flashbacks, Maurice would’ve laughed at that sight.
The boy wiped his face as Matthew took a seat next to him, Baby Sammy slowly falling back to sleep from all the commotion.
“You alright?”
The boy remained silent for a second.
But just for a second.
“Matthew…. can I…”
“Go ahead…I’m listening. I’ll always be listening.”
“I…I had a nightmare…. about my mom burning me,” Maurice responded as he tried his best to keep the grief down, “She just screamed at me, drunk and full of cigars. I…felt the lighter burn my face and….”
The boy took a breath, “Sorry…never mind.”
“I’ll never judge you ever.”
The boy’s calm breaths became quick and erratic as he burst into tears. Matthew gently embraced the boy as Maurice let his grief and anger out, the tears stinging the scar on his face. The saddened sobs and anguished cries echoed throughout the house.
And it continued.
The cries of the abused young boy echoing out over and over.
At the end of the day, he may have defeated a demon.
But another one was still in his heart; one a Strider cannot defeat….
At least….
Not alone.

Jacob Andres is an upcoming author with a love for many kinds of genre stories. From high flying adventures of superheroes combating eldritch villains bent on the complete annihilation of the innocent to slow-burning romances, Jacob never limits what genre of story he can enjoy. When he isn't reading stories of the fantastical, he spends his time writing his own stories, trying to find the writing combination of words to create worlds of his own. While a new author and still has much to learn, he aims to put his best foot forward and give it all no matter what.


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