Daniel Green was not like other young men. He was small-framed and lean and seemed perpetually distracted. He did not pay much attention to girls or sports or popular culture. And he was driven by a fearful purpose. Most different of all, he could kill things, things that should not exist. Things that only he could see. Things that only he could hear. Under the choral hum of the moon and the base thrum of the noonday sun he could kill with an efficiency and ferocity that would have horrified those with whom he shared the hallways of his university.
At fifteen, he’d killed his first Silent One. At seventeen he’d taken half a dozen. By twenty, nearly a hundred. It wasn’t hard to hunt something that thought itself utterly undetectable. He did not know what they were, nothing of their history or origins. He simply knew that they were evil. And he knew he alone could see them and hear their silence.
So it was not an unusual evening, as the dusk and a thin fog settled with a sigh over the ivy-clad campus. The moon came whispering over the horizon and Daniel walked casually down a seldom used path, the compound bow his father had purchased for him several years earlier on his shoulder. His father had hoped to draw him away from the strangely martial lifestyle the boy had chosen. Daniel obliged, letting his fencing and stick fighting fall away, and instead poured himself into the art of the bow. But the only hunting trips Daniel took were on his own, stalking his deadly foe as he did that night.
Perhaps fifty yards ahead a woman walked to work. She was only a little older than he, with dark hair that hung to her waist. He could hear the long tresses swishing and the quiet gurgle of her empty stomach. Her soul tinkled wearily, as if a dour harpist sat at her heart-strings plucking a tired dirge. Occasionally she glanced back at the boy with his weapon.
Daniel whistled a few bars of Beethoven’s Fifth and heard her heartbeat slow slightly. Murderous thugs didn’t whistle anything, much less Beethoven. She thought she was safe but she was anything but. Just a yard or two behind her, the Silent One crept, closing the distance. Daniel waited, acting as if he could not see and hear what he could.
It slid closer. Its gray-fleshed, black-feathered form silent. Even after all these years, the silence made his skin crawl. The smoke from its eyes trailed behind it, barely visible in the dusk. When it reached for the young woman, Daniel darted into the shadows beside the trail. He whipped the bow up into a ready position. The fibers of the string squealed. The pulleys groaned. The string thundered forward. He sent the arrow slashing through the air. It slammed between the creature’s shoulder blades. The razor-edged broad-head designed to kill a seven hundred pound elk burst from the creature’s chest. In a roar of blazing embers, its smoldering insides seemed to erupt forth and consume the rest of its black feathered form.
The young woman turned at a faint fluttering sound behind her. The dark figure with the bow had disappeared and the trail behind her was empty. She continued uninterrupted to her wearisome job, unaware of the burst of silent violence and death that had saved her life. Above her, unheard, the moon hummed.