As they eased open the secure hatch, a familiar voice rang out from within. “Duck!” A massive gout of flame licked at the corners of the doorway, blown open by the blast which sent Tommy and Seth to the floor. Jolene, one of Tommy’s trustworthy society members, stood behind a gibbering clutch of oily, distended, angry, imp-like creatures. Their extended wings tipped with onyx claws, flamed licked up from the corners of their cruel mouths. Without waiting for an explanation or further signs of aggression, the investigators attacked the otherworldly beings.

Roger, with two fingers to his temple, sent a wave of psychic energy toward the nearest imp which made it recoil but ultimately chuckle, unharmed by his assault. Tammy channeled the force of her divine faith and demanded the creatures begone, which did little more than force the horde a step backwards.

“Welcome to the bottom side, Tommy,” a demon mocked as he attempted to bring his shotgun to bear, leaping at him and savaging an arm with brutal teeth. Slowly rising from the floor, Seth watched the combat as if in a daze, unable to bring himself to act. His revolver was armed and ready, but he couldn’t bring himself to raise it from his side. Another gout of flame raced past him, this time hitting Roger square in the chest. Able to shrug off the damage, and pat out the singed fabric, he let loose a retaliatory mental blast of his own.

Seeing an opportunity, Tammy charged ahead of her friends and tried to cleave two of the demons with her kopesh, but the agile, winged creatures scattered from her presence, pushed back by her holy aura more than out of fear of her blade. Ismene, protected by her front-line defenders, flipped on her camera and tried to record the bitter conflict raging before her. Undoubtedly her trip into the bunker had provided enough content for an entire season of Pandora’s Box. Getting a little too close to the action, she caught a nasty slash across her thigh from a demon’s spined tail, but managed to keep her composure through the biting pain.

Roger concentrated intently, his brow furrowed in deep lines, gesturing with sharp motions to the center of the hallway beyond the hatch. A large circle of energy made up of pulsing yellow rings sprang into being, catching several imps in the blast. Though the attack seemed to stagger them, it didn’t slow them down once they resumed their assault. Roger seemed to engage in a battle of wills with the creatures, neither side coming out ahead – the demons were unable to attack as freely or as aggressively as they wished, but they weren’t prevented from advancing and taking swipes at the investigators. Seizing the moment, Tammy struck one savagely in the neck, its dark olive blood spraying against the corridor’s wall. Even wounded, it seemed to smirk at her.

Watching Roger and Tammy’s struggles with the creatures, Tommy having freed himself from the beast attached to his arm, Seth appeared like a student lost in the depths of a too-advanced math class, a faraway look in his eyes as if he were seeing strange equations and algebraic symbols float through space. With several blinks and a quick shake of his head, he threw off his stupor, jutting a thumb into his mouth, covering it in saliva. “I have an idea!” He knelt inside the airlock, never having advanced into imp-infested corridor, and began to draw strange symbols on the steel floor, tiles discoloring in his thumb’s wake. “I’m summoning help; keep them off of me!”

Seeing that they were gaining no ground against the creatures, Tommy ordered everyone in the hallway back through the airlock, his shotgun keeping the nearest foes at bay. Between blasts he began chanting, using a free hand to trace arcane patterns through the air. “What are you doing?” Ismene called out, having retreated to safety behind Seth.

“Warding the door. If nothing else, we can find another way.”

Tommy collapsed into the hallway, tripping over a bulkhead, the front of his once-pristine suit matted with dark blood — his blood. Though the imps didn’t appear to be able to break through his mystical barrier, which sizzled and smelled of ozone every time they tried to enter the airlock, they had managed to hit the enigmatic spiritualist a number of times during the casting. Tammy fell to her knees aside him, praying to the goddess Sekmet for the strength to help heal his wounds.

The lights in the airlock pulsed and faded, though not from a lack of electrical power — it was as if something made the air more opaque, thicker. A bright flash in the middle of Seth’s impromptu summoning circle sent him reeling as something wholly new clawed its way into existence. Hell-shadows flew out of a growing rift, dripping molten sparks like the afterimages of an explosion, shrieking into existence. The bat-like shades tumulted into a greater form, an incredible, red-and-black, man-sized vampire bat with an overexaggerated human face. Seth managed to keep Tommy from shooting the beast by ordering it to attack the imps. Flying like the proverbial — and perhaps literal — bat out of hell, it launched into the hallway, it’s terrible multi-strained voices echoing through the group’s collective subconscious.

“What the hell is that?” Ismene asked, almost too stunned to verify she got good footage of the monster in her retreat.

“Camazotz,” Seth asked, as if the one word formed a suitable response.

“And what is a ‘camazotz?'” Roger asked through clenched teeth, overenunciating each syllable in a way that was more indicative of his anger than yelling would have been.

“The Death Bat,” panted Seth, head resting tiredly against the bulkhead. “The Mayans gave sacrifices to him in return for the gift of fire. You know, Camazotz the Swarm Lord of Xilalba.” His eyes were closed and breath labored, but he felt like he had finally contributed to the fight.

Roger closed the airlock door, the furious sounds of demon-on-devil combat continuing unabated from within, but did not seal the hatch.

“Where did you learn that?” Tammy was still tending to Tommy’s wounds, and was satisfied she had the bleeding stopped.

“I knew a guy once,” Seth shrugged.

Header image drawn by the amazingly talented Sina Hayati whose portfolio is filled with amazing designs across all manner of grenres.