Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
Jon was perched on top of the swing’s rickety frame, watching the little boy on the slide. His mission was simple: protect the child, no matter what. The importance of the task, his first one as a guardian, was enough to send shivers down his spine. Each of his altered senses existed in a constant state of alertness.
It was impossible to say when they would come for him. The child was strong with destiny, fated to leave his mark on history. What kind of mark that was remained to be seen, but the child would be influenced by forces he would never be able to fathom. Jon was not one of the influences. All he had to do was protect.
“Tough day?” came a voice from behind.
In a flash, Jon jumped from his vantage point and landed in front of the child, drawn blade pointed at the man who sat casually on the swing. His clothes, a wild mixture of bright shades, sharply contrasted with Jon’s pale white robes. His white hair pointed in all directions, as did his eyes, seemingly unable to decide what was interesting enough to hold his attention. The lack of weaponry put the guardian even more at an edge. He had been warned about these kinds of demons.
“You can’t have this child,” Jon said, shielding the playing boy. The young human being was completely unaware of the forces at play, invisible to him.
The demon smiled. “Do you think so? Didn’t I take you by surprise? I could’ve had the child already.”
Jon felt a cold hand on his shoulder, realizing it was the demon’s. The cold spread throughout his body, and he felt the color drain from his skin. Then it spread to his soul, and he could sense his free will fading. The demon was changing him.
“Gently now,” the demon whispered, admiring his final touches as Jon’s robes turned the shade of night, then turning him around. His creation was superb. The guardian’s skin was white as snow, his eyes black as coal, his long brown wild hair tempered into a sleek gray. “How do you feel?” the demon asked.
“Cold,” Jon answered, examining his new appearance with a calm wonder. “Good. Strong.”
“Excellent. Would you do a thing for me?”
The demon stood beside him, placing one hand on his shoulder and pointing another at the boy. “Kill the child.”
Without hesitation, Jon stepped forward, blade raised, bringing it down with a fierce slash. Just before it struck, the boy looked up, his bright blue eyes meeting Jon’s, somehow seeing him, stopping him. The child stepped forward and placed a warm hand on the guardian’s chest, his eyes filling up with wonder. “You’re real,” he said.
The warmth returned some of Jon’s former self. He nodded, vaguely aware of what was happening.
“And so is he,” the boy went on, looking at the demon with a deep distrust. The brightly clothed figure looked astounded, stumbling back a few steps.
“Yes,” Jon answered. His color had returned, and he turned to face the demon with a look of disgust and a blade ready to strike. “Yes, he is.” He looked at the boy, as if waiting for a command. The boy merely nodded.
Jon’s sword pierced nothing but air. The demon had fled, leaving Jon with nothing but the relief of being himself once more, and a promise that he wouldn’t let that happen again.
“Why do you see me?” the guardian asked the child, but the magic seemed to have disappeared as sudden as the threat. The boy merely shook his head in momentary confusion, then went on playing.
As the guardian resumed his post on top of the rickety frame, he realized the answer was right in front of him. Destiny was strong in this child, and that provided a better protection than any godly force could give.