The first sign that something very terrible was about to happen was only one of many to come. However, unfortunately for Jonathan Combs that first unforgettable sign was, for him, the only one. The apathetic teen was wearing his signature gray hoodie and green sneakers, as well as his purple headphones to drown out the increasingly irritating noise of his personal demon trying to get his attention. They weren't even halfway through the walk to Jonathan's house, but as soon as they had left the school, Sock had started his usual whining, shortly followed by his constant attempts to physically touch Jonathan, after he had put on his headphones to drown Sock out.
Though he knew he couldn't touch Jonathan, Sock could tell that Jonathan felt his presence in a way, judging by the slight way his face scrunched up and eyes widened every time he stuck his hands straight through Jonathan's body. Shortly after they met, Sock had noticed the facial expressions, while Jonathan desperately tried to hide the fact that he was bothered by the stunningly cold and invasive feeling. Unfortunately, as soon as Sock noticed the effects, he knew he could use this as a last resort whenever Jonathan wouldn't listen to him. Though it usually made Jonathan quite irate, it was interesting to see how the teen was indifferent to everything around him except for Sock. Sock was a little flattered, even though the only reaction Jonathan gave him was usually frustration or anger. Though Sock knew that Jonathan couldn't hear him, with every arm he stuck and wiggled around in Jonathan's torso and head he punctuated it with a long, drawn-out, whining: “Jonathaaaaaaan”
Jonathan was used to finding everyone and everything at school mildly annoying, but due to his emotionless nature, he usually just ignored everything and moved on with the day. But for some reason, perhaps because of the circumstances of his almost constantly present demon trying to get him to kill himself, he found everything about Sock annoying. For the past four months since Sock had suddenly appeared at his bus stop, it seemed that most of the time whenever Jonathan even looked at Sock, or his bright red hat, or miss-matched clothes, Jonathan could feel the anger starting to build. It was sudden and inexplicable, especially if looking at Sock was accompanied by hearing Sock.
After a particularly torturous long day of Sock constantly getting Jonathan in trouble with the teachers and his classmates, Jonathan finally snapped and stopped walking to rip off his headphones and yell,
“What do you WANT?!”
In his agitation Jonathan didn't think to look around like he usually did before talking out loud to Sock, and he got a very long stare from a woman and her dog walking on the opposite side of the street. After four months Jonathan had already become completely shunned by his classmates, and soon after, the rest of the students and even some of the teachers. Eventually, word had gotten around about his troublemaking and how he talked to himself. Jonathan didn't mind very much, but he didn't need the entire town knowing this information. This would be followed by ‘concerned’ citizens informing his mother, which would lead to a long, very awkward, conversation that Jonathan would have to think of plenty of excuses for. Sock of course wasn't concerned about Jonathan's reputation, and gave a giggle while floating forward to continue his pestering.
Jonathan knew by now that nothing could placate Sock until he actually responded. Usually Sock just enjoyed bothering Jonathan; getting him to ask him what he ’wanted’, only to answer with something extremely unimportant, such as, ‘Oh, just wondering if you were dead yet.’ or asking ‘What are you doing?’ in the middle of the night while Jonathan was sleeping, or occasionally just ‘nothing!’, in order to get a reaction out of him. But today it seemed that Sock was bored. Jonathan's face screwed up in agitation as he hissed through his teeth, only loud enough so that the two of them could hear him talk,
“ What .”
“Can we go to the park?”
Jonathan was actually surprised, and had to hide it because he almost stopped frowning. He was tempted to say ‘no’ out-right, but his curiosity caused him to humour Sock, and instead while continuing to seem irritated asked,
Sock didn't seem to think he'd get this far, and after a pause he said,“Oh. Uuuuuh, because?”
It clearly sounded to Jonathan like he might have something to hide.
“Not good enough.” Jonathan stated and started walking again.
Sock, looking at their surroundings that were familiar from taking the same path every week, noticed that they were walking closer and closer to the turn off that would lead them to the park. He stammered excuses for a bit and finally turned his gaze away, looking embarrassed, as he revealed his true reason.
“Well, every day after school all you do is work on your homework and talk to me-”
“No, I don't talk to you.” Jonathan interrupted “I argue with you, because you won't leave me alone.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” said Sock “Then you just listen to your music and go to bed! You should get out and do something different. You know, you might have some fun for once.”
Though Sock had become excited at the idea of his only job for eternity being to kill people, after he met Jonathan he soon realized that he was conflicted with actually wanting to be Jonathan's friend. This in return would require Jonathan to actually like him, and he hadn’t made much progress. Despite the teen not liking him and only seeing him as a pest, Sock still cared a little bit about Jonathan's happiness and well-being, and he realized he probably would until he actually decided to kill himself. Every time Sock thought about this, Jonathan saying, “You suck at your job.” echoed in his head. He sometimes spent his hours in hell wondering how he was supposed to get someone to kill themselves while wanting them to be happy at the same time. He knew Jonathan wasn't really unhappy , but he just thought that Jonathan might have a little bit of fun at the park. Jonathan never seemed to express that he ever enjoyed anything but his music, and even then all he did was sit quietly while listening to it, lightly nodding his head. Sock had never seen Jonathan really excited or smiling about something before.
Sock winced slightly as Jonathan pulled out his usual “-scoff- Wow, you really suck at your job. You're worried about my life having variety? Why do you even care, if you want me to kill myself?”
Jonathan had long figured out the answer, as Sock was bad at hiding his feelings, and he realized soon enough that Sock actually liked him and cared about him. But, he knew that this dilemma bothered Sock a lot so he brought it up as a way to mock Sock whenever he was acting too friendly. Sock, embarrassed but not willing to give up, started whining again.
“Come ooooon, Jonathaaaaaaaan. You can use this as an excuse not to work on your homework for a while. Besides, I get bored just pestering you all day.”
“Then don't!” Jonathan barked; almost too loudly. “And I don't want to skip my homework, because I have extra homework, which is because of you pestering me!” He hissed exasperatedly. “And if you want to go to the park, why don't you just go by yourself?”
“That defeats the whole purpose!” explained Sock.
Neither of them said it, but they both knew that Sock wanted to accompany Jonathan to the park in an attempt for Jonathan to bond with Sock, and dislike the demon a little less.
Now that Jonathan had gotten Sock to tell the truth, and his curiosity was satisfied, he finally said,
“No. We're going home.”
and turned his head forward, no longer glaring at Sock, but glaring at the ground.
As he continued walking and moved to put his headphones back on, Sock realized he had to act quickly before Jonathan drowned him out with music the rest of the way home. The dirt pathway and the sign to the park were now in view and were growing a lot closer. Sock had to pull out his final trump card; knowing that if it backfired, Jonathan would be humiliated and would be furious at him for weeks, probably ignoring him completely. Sock decided to take the chance and in his panic blurted out,
“Jonathan if you don't go for a walk in the park, I'm going to get that photo album of you and find a way to bring it to school!”
Jonathan stiffened, but continued walking to keep his composure. He knew what was in that photo album, but that Sock knew was a slight shock. He should've known that Sock would be snooping around his house while he was busy or while he was asleep, but for some reason the statement still made him nervous.
“Yeah… so what about it?” bluffed Jonathan, trying not to hesitate and reveal his increase in anxiety.
“Oh, Jonathan…” said Sock mischievously, “don't try to act like you don't know what's in that album.”
Jonathan was anxious about pictures of him as a kid being revealed to his classmates without consent sure, but the way it sounded Sock seemed to be talking about something specific. His anxiety increased as he came to a complete stop, his ‘cool’ facade wavering.
“Sock. What are you talking about?” he said hesitantly, afraid of learning the answer.
Sock floated in front of him with a look of mock sadness and disappointment on his face. “Jonathan, how can you not know what I'm talking about? You looked so happy!” Even when Jonathan didn't respond, Sock’s disappointed expression was replaced with gushing happiness “Come on, you looked sooooo cute on Halloween!”
Jonathan suddenly had a flashback. A six year old on Halloween. A cowboy costume. Oversized boots. A stick pony. Jonathan actually smiling . He was quickly reconsidering his objection to go to the park. He knew he had no reputation to uphold, and ever since Sock showed up this was even more apparent. Still, the idea of him being shown with any sort of emotion, as withdrawn and apathetic as he was? It was a terrifying thought. That emotion being absolute joy at being dressed as a cowboy, made him wrinkle his face up in disgust. He cringed, thinking of what his classmates would think of the already insane boy dressed in a cowboy get up. To many people it wouldn’t seem like a big idea, but high schoolers were cruel and he was sure to get serious repercussions if the dreaded Halloween photos from 2003 ever saw the light of day. Finally, Jonathan let out a long irritated sigh. It seemed his default mood had been irritation ever since Sock showed up. Sock bounced up and down in excitement in midair. Jonathan continued walking, and as his footsteps became equal to a worn dirt path with a sign that indicated the park was in that direction, he turned onto it.
The playground equipment and the benches shortly came into view and Sock started to ramble on as he hovered in the direction of the swings while Jonathan followed. Jonathan didn't really care where they went to since he didn't want to go in the first place. Sock was pratling on at a very fast speed, matching his mood.
“Oh man, the park used to be my favorite place to go when I was younger! Of course my favorite part were the swings! I always used to swing as hard as I could and then jump off them! I tried to challenge the other kids that were at the park, but they were always too scared, of course. I always got hurt afterwards. One time when I jump the highest I've ever gotten, I broke my leg in two different places! Hey, come on we should try that! Maybe you'll be able to jump off and kill yourself by breaking your neck!”
Jonathan didn't protest because he could already see where this was going to go. The rules for Sock being able to touch something were fuzzy, and they found it was only inanimate objects, and even then Sock had to have a lot of focus. Since he was so excited there was no way, Jonathan thought, that he was going to be able to use a swing.
Sock floated over to a brightly painted purple swing, spun around, and smiled brightly as he came to a sitting position. Within seconds after he sat down, he sank to the ground and his torso phased halfway through the swing. Sitting on the ground, he was still smiling, but this time with a little more determination in his eyes, and after about five more attempts he was finally focused enough to be able to swing for about 7 seconds at a time before falling through again, and softly floating down to the earth. Sock didn’t seem disappointed at this and kept his smile and happy attitude as he swung for a good several minutes. This also made Jonathan less irritated because 7 seconds wasn't long enough for Sock to get up in the air to jump off at a decent height, which meant without Sock to challenge him, Jonathan wasn't obligated to swing with him.
Instead he looked at Sock blandly, thinking ‘ Hopefully just 15 or 30 more minutes and then I can go home. ’
Jonathan looked at his phone and noted that it was almost 4:30, and looked back towards Sock. He was looking curiously at the other end of the playground, and at the height of one of his forward swings he let the swing fall back without him on it, still sitting in midair. He floated forwards and started grinning again, looking at the top of a big slide. He put all his focus into staying solid to try and climb up the steps to the top of the slide. He still somehow managed to continue his babbling, with Jonathan just vaguely listening to him as his eyes lazily followed Sock up the ladder with his bored expression. Once Sock had reached the top of the slide however, he stopped all of a sudden, staring off at a point in the distance with a blank look on his face. Jonathan curiously followed his line of sight and noticed the large forest that bordered one side of the park and marked the edge of town. Sock whipped his head around and looked at Jonathan with an even bigger grin.. When he started speaking it was with innocence, sounding plainly like he was trying to convince Jonathan of something.
“You know what else I used to do? There was a forest near my park too and I used to sneak away when my mom wasn't looking, and try to go capture squirrels.”
Jonathan, who knew what he was hinting at before he even finished his first sentence, gave another exasperated sigh and said,
“Yeah okay, whatever…” knowing that it would be more frustrating to listen to Sock whine if he said no.“We can't stay long though, man. It's getting cold out.”
“Jonathan, listen you won't regret this. I promise!”
Sock triumphantly headed to another path of dirt that went winding through the trees; worn down by the people who hiked through the forest. Despite the sun still being up and not a single leaf on any of the trees, except for the occasional evergreen, Jonathan noticed that it got considerably darker and colder as they started their journey, wandering around under the canopy. Sock kept twisting his head around, looking through the trees and on the forest floor, also occasionally checking inside holes in some of the trunks that could've made good nests.
Sock started up his chattering again saying,“Hey, maybe we can catch something bigger than squirrels or a rabbit! Maybe we’ll find a bear or a coyote!”
Jonathan sighed again; a common action for him by now.
“You do realize there is zero chance that there are any bears or coyotes out here. Even if there were there's no way I would go near one to help you trap it for whatever weird reason you want it for in the first place.”
Sock gave a weak, nervous smile and looked away, dropping the subject. Jonathan still didn’t know yet that he had enjoyed killing in his previous life.
After about 10 more minutes of walking, Sock finally found what he had been looking for. A squirrel cautiously darted down from a tree, sniffing and looking around, before deciding it was safe. It began to dig and scratch through the leaf litter in search of food. Jonathan rolled his eyes and stood back courteously for Sock so he didn't startle the squirrel. Sock stopped smiling and his face showed complete focus as he floated forward slowly. Jonathan was just wondering if animals could sense the presence of demons, when the squirrel all of a sudden stood bolt upright and stared in Sock’s direction before taking off. Jonathan actually cracked a small smile, since he knew Sock wasn't looking at him, as he watched Sock pounce forward just missing the squirrel. As Sock landed on all fours, in the back of his mind Jonathan thought the behavior was weird, but he reasoned that sock was already weird anyway. The actions were actually amusing and he had just started wondering if it was instinctive to being a demon, when he noticed that sock was so focused on chasing the squirrel that he was getting farther and farther away without checking to see that Jonathan was even following.
Jonathan’s spirits quickly rose as he realized this was his opportunity to relax, listen to his music, and spend some time alone without Sock for once. He quickly started along the dirt path again, his amused smile gradually settling into a content one as he put his purple headphones back on. He set the music on his phone to shuffle and turned the volume up high. The silence was so rare and blissful that he walked with his eyes closed, just barely focusing on his feet, making sure they still felt dirt underneath them so he would be able to continue following the path. Jonathan was so relaxed that the daze he was in lasted for quite a while, before the nagging question that had been in the back of his mind for several minutes finally got pushed forward. How long had he been like this? He hadn’t been paying attention to how much time was passing. He broke his own spell, snapping open his eyes and immediately noticed how dark it was. He quickly fumbled for his phone with the beginnings of panic starting to rise. He had been walking for almost 45 minutes. His relaxed state quickly disappeared as he thought about what his mom would be thinking with him being gone for longer than usual and not telling her where he was.
As he turned around to backtrack, walking at quick shuffle, he realized that Sock was nowhere near him. Jonathan had learned a long time ago that Sock always knew where he was, and no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t hide from him. The whole reason Sock wanted to go to the park was so that they could spend time together. It was odd that Sock hadn't returned to Jonathan by now, telling him the long complicated story about how many squirrels he'd almost caught so far. However, Jonathan didn't exactly have time to continue wandering around the woods looking for a demon that could instantly return to Hell whenever he wanted. Getting lost in the woods and freezing to death wasn't a possibility for a demon, and Jonathan reasoned that Sock would come back to his house later, or meet him at the bus stop the next morning.
So, he continued his pace and had just taken out his cell phone again, cursing under his breath at the “No Service” in the corner of the screen, when he heard a sound. The sound came directly next to both of his ears and it was animalistic and guttural. It wasn't a loud sound from far away, Jonathan was sure the sound was at a normal volume, yet directly next to him on either side and it still managed to drown out the sound of his music. He was completely certain it wasn't part of the song, as he had listened to the same songs on repeat multiple times over. The sound made the hair on the back of his neck prickle and his eyes went wide, pupils dilating as he flung desperately around in circles trying to look for the source. He tried to calm himself, saying it was just Sock trying to play a prank on him and that was why he had been absent. Just as he finished this thought, the apparent source of the sound spoke in a very deep chanting language that Jonathan had never in his life heard before.
All at once everything around him went black to the point where only a few of the closest trees had become hazy but still visible. Before him, the source of the voice materialized, and if Jonathan were dreaming he would be terrified, but as he knew this was very real and he was alone, he was almost completely frozen with fear. Pale blue eyes widen more, petrified. It was a mass of what seemed like red and black static mixed with fire. It had fierce reptilian-like orange and red eyes. Jonathan could sense a sort of dark energy from it. A power that cut through any rational thought or emotion leaving him completely exposed, fearing for his life. As he stared at the entity in front of him, he could tell that from the fuzzy static image, not only was this not the full form of whatever he was looking at, but it also was not from this plane of reality. All the more reason to force his numb legs to stumble backwards, his only instinct being to get as far away from the thing as quickly as he could. He figured out, as he backed into a solid form, that the reason everything around him had darkened was to trap him.
He finally slid to the ground unsure of how he would escape the entity and avoid dying, or possibly worse. The cold dry air ensured that no people would be outside, especially after the sun had set, and even if there was someone around, Jonathan couldn't think of a single person who cared about him enough to actually try to face the terror in front of him. With the power’s ability to take all rational thoughts, even if his mother was confronted with this he was unsure he would have the courage to save her. At this point Jonathan was desperate for someone to be there to at least know what had happened to him and so he wouldn't be alone. He finally collected his thoughts together enough to realize that there was someone. He didn't know what Sock could do, but as a reflex he screamed out his name desperately anyway. “SOCK!”
The entity chuckled at the futility of Jonathan's desperate cry for help, but actually recoiled a little in surprise as Sock came bursting through the dark barrier, making it disappear. “Jonathan where are you!?”
After a few seconds to process what was happening Sock realized the situation; that he had broken some sort of barrier, saw Jonathan trembling in fear, and got a small glimpse at an entity which had locked eyes with him before it disappeared.
With the grip that the entity had somehow had on his state of mind gone, Jonathan was finally able to take some deep breaths and calm down enough to say, “Oh my God...I thought I was going to... Man, I don't know what that thing would've done to me…”
He noticed Sock staring off into the distance looking concerned and asked,“Do you know what that thing was?”
Sock snapped out of his train of thought and quickly whirled around to face Jonathan, attempting to put his hands on his shoulders, which quickly faded through.
“Jonathan! Jonathan, are you okay?”
Jonathan was too shaky and still shocked to be annoyed at Sock’s attempt at physical contact, but as fearful as he had been he almost wouldn't have minded the comfort. Jonathan took a second to look himself over, even though the creature hadn't touched him, and said, “Yeah...yeah I'm fine. But what was it?”
Sock said quickly, “I'll tell you later. You just need to get home. I need to go talk to Mephistopheles.”
Sock went from a floating position to standing crouched on the ground as he always did before materializing back to hell, but Jonathan quickly reached out his hand, not actually touching Sock.
“Wait!” It had come out more desperate than he had wanted it to.
Jonathan was terrified of whatever had appeared to him, and he wasn't sure if there would be more of them, but he didn't want to admit to Sock that he was scared of walking home alone now. Instead he just said,
“I just don't think it would be a good idea for me to walk back home by myself with no way to defend myself.”
Sock was worried about Jonathan and had wanted to offer seeing him back home in the first place, but he had thought that Jonathan would immediately refuse his offer to escort him. He tried to hide a smile, in order to avoid Jonathan’s irritation flaring back up, as he reassured him.
“Yeah of course, that would probably be the best option.”
It took all of Jonathan's composure to keep from sprinting out of the forest, but he did feel a lot safer now that Sock was there. Neither of them felt like talking much, which was fine for Jonathan, but he noticed the entire way back home, Sock had a very serious expression on his face, and he spent his time half in thought and half floating around Jonathan, constantly scanning the area.
As soon as Jonathan walked in the door his mother called out,“Jonathan, is that you?”
He followed the sound of her voice and found her sitting on the couch, unusually focused on the TV.
“Uh yeah, sorry Mom...I uh, got detention again today I just forgot to tell you.”
Normally Mrs. Combs would have given Jonathan a lecture, including something along the lines of ‘I don't know what's gotten into you. I know you don't like school but you've never gotten detention until a few months ago’, but she had an anxiously mournful look on her face as she changed the subject, still staring at the television.
“Well, did you see the news on your phone? 500 people died in a hospital building collapse. It was so sudden and they have no idea how it happened, but they couldn't save a single person…”
Jonathan wasn't exactly listening, as he was still shaken up and very anxious to find out what Sock knew about his current problem. He figured as long as his mom wasn't mad at him right now he could take this chance to escape.
“Okay, I'm going up to my room now. I need to study. Don't bother me, please.”
His mom still had her sad eyes on the news report.
Jonathan quickly flew up the stairs to his room and shut the door behind him. The first thing he did was melt into his rolling chair, giving his still quivering legs a rest. He finally gave a sigh and looked at Sock.
“Well, are you going to tell me now?”
Sock looked at him with a solemn and serious expression and stated simply,
“Jonathan, that was a demon.”
“What do you mean ‘that was a demon’? You said demons can't come to earth unless they have jobs, like you.”
“Demons can only come to earth if Meph sends them.”
“Sock, come on. How can you even call that thing a demon? You're a demon, but that thing was a monster.”
Sock looked nervously at Jonathan, not quite wanting to meet his eye. “Jonathan I'm only called a demon because I work for the devil. I'm just a person who died and ended up getting employed afterwards.” He suddenly looked a little frightened
“But Jonathan...real demons are created . There are demons that are way more powerful than you can imagine, but they never get sent to earth. Ever. They’re usually just used to torture the worst offenders in hell. I think even Meph is a little afraid of them.”
Sock didn't want to scare Jonathan more than he obviously already was, but he felt that it was important to tell him the truth.
“Jonathan…we are really lucky that demon disappeared when I got there. I have no way to fight it off. Those demons only care about torturing and killing and feeding off pain, fear, and sorrow. Maybe it just decided that there wouldn't be any point fighting another demon since I guess we are on the same side.”
Sock didn't want to, but continued anyway and finally said “Jonathan that thing wouldn't have killed us. It would've probably dropped us off in the deepest layers of hell where those things come from, and then tortured us, probably forever , so that it could feed off our emotions. My boss has no reason to give me demon powers and I don't even know if I'll ever get any. I couldn't have done anything to help either of us. Those demons, they would only be used on earth if something powerful...something bad was going to…”
Sock’s green eyes were suddenly wide open with some chilling realization that Jonathan didn’t understand, and he looked scared. He urgently shouted,
“Jonathan I have to go. Right now .”
Even though Jonathan was now safe at home, he was still anxious of being left alone since Sock seemed to know more about this than anyone else. However, Jonathan didn't want to seem needy so he kept his mouth shut, but Sock still noticed the anxiety on his face. He tried to put his hands on Jonathan's shoulders, but they slipped through as usual.
“Hey,” he smiled gently at Jonathan, hiding his own anxiety in order to reassure him. “look, it'll be okay. Maybe that demon just got out of hell or something, it was probably a mistake.”
Sock was glad that he was sounding more confident than he really felt, but his next statement he said without a doubt.
“Look, I'll let you know what Meph says and I’ll be back”
He got closer to Jonathan's face and looked him in the eyes so that Jonathan could see his sincerity, because even if he didn't want to admit it or show it Sock knew that Jonathan was afraid for him and what could happen to him if he ran into that demon again.
After he left Jonathan looked at the place where Sock had been for at least a minute. He knew if he stayed awake he would just worry about that demon coming back, so he decided it was best just to get the rest he desperately needed. ‘ Anyways, Sock said it would be fine and he promised that he would be back tomorrow. ’ Jonathan thought afterwards that maybe he should've known better than to trust a demon.
After several hours of night terrors Jonathan's first thought upon waking up was noticing that Sock wasn't there to annoy him awake, which up until then had happened every single morning, even on the weekends when Sock decided to come to Jonathan's house on his day off in an attempt to make his life twice as miserable. Jonathan figured that Sock was actually being a decent person for once and decided he needed the extra sleep and was waiting at the bus stop. Jonathan got dressed as quickly as his sluggish body would allow before saying a quick goodbye to his mom and walking to the bus stop. He could already tell from a distance that Sock wasn't there, but he waited. The bus arrived and Jonathan got on and sat in his usual spot. He was disappointed and anxious because he hadn't heard what the deal with the demon was yet, but by the time he had gotten through school and was once again in his room alone, he realized that he was also disappointed that he didn't have Sock to talk to.
By the next day Jonathan had started to convince himself that after what happened Sock was just giving him a few days off, or maybe he was still talking to his boss. He wasn't sure how time worked in hell in relevance to time on earth, but surely it shouldn't take this long. Despite Jonathan trying to ignore his own feelings, he found himself immensely worried that something had happened to a demon trying to get him to kill himself.
Two weeks. Something was definitely wrong. What had happened the Sock?
Three weeks. ‘ You know what? It doesn't matter. I'm not sure demons can really die anyway. Either way, life can go back to normal and I won't have to listen to someone constantly trying to get me to kill myself. ’ Jonathan had to tell himself this multiple times to prevent his worry and loneliness from growing any stronger.
One month. Jonathan couldn't help himself. He tried to take away his worry by convincing himself that Sock chose to leave. That the demon didn't want to come back and get himself hurt trying to protect Jonathan. Sock wanted him dead anyways. Jonathan felt horribly lonely, but he decided to try and just forget Sock. He should be happy to have his life back to normal.
Two months. Jonathan couldn’t do it. He was always mad at Sock, and maybe he hated him for the first few weeks, but he knew how much Sock wanted to be his friend, and now that Sock was gone he was starting to realize how much he actually came to like him, and how much time they spent together. Even if Jonathan was aggravated at his constant presence he never realized how much he would miss him. He knew that even if Sock lost his job he wouldn't ever abandon him without saying a goodbye.
Three months. Jonathan's worry and nerves were replaced only with misery and loneliness. He noticed more tragedies on the news similar to the hospital collapse a few months ago. Suddenly taking more interest with Sock being gone for so long, Jonathan noticed footage from the hospital being shown on the news, done by a security camera across the street. Before the collapse, the entire building was engulfed in flames, but Jonathan noticed it wasn't really fire. It was the same red static that he dreamed about every night from that demon. He also dreamed about other things. Dreams about what could've happened to Sock. How that demon was probably torturing him and causing him the most agonizing pain with no way to escape, and how Jonathan could do nothing to find him or help him. It was only then that Jonathan realized that his encounter with that demon wasn't an isolated incident. If there were more of them, something terrible must be about to happen.
Five months. Jonathan was given that one sign five months ago and could do nothing to prevent the rest from happening. He didn't even know about any other signs warning that it would happen until last month, and by then it was too late to matter. In the movies the apocalypse always has a dramatic build up. There are so many warning signs it seems that everyone knows what's about to happen, but it seemed maybe Jonathan was the only one who saw a warning sign, and by the time it happened, everything went from normal to the unimaginable in an instant.
Jonathan had been sitting in school when it happened, all of it at once. The sky had turned dark and started mixing with swirling clouds in colors of red, orange, and purple. There was screaming from inside and outside the building. Horrible wails of terror and desperation. Soon, hundreds of deafening emergency vehicle sirens started up everywhere. His classmates either stared outside in shock or ran out of the building in panic, despite their teacher’s frantic orders to stay in their seats until he could figure out what was going on. When Jonathan looked out the window he saw what his nightmares had shown him and what he never hoped would become a reality. Those horrible demons were everywhere. They were carrying people and tossing them in the air, destroying cars and houses and setting them on fire. It was already apparent that several bodies were on the ground. Looking around, Jonathan saw not only were there demons outside, but it seemed like other flying creatures were present as well, also harassing any available humans. Looking closer these turned out to be demons as well. They looked human but had scaly wings and clichéd demon horns. Only some of these demons were killing humans or carrying them off. Most were fighting other winged beings with equally terrible powers. They also looked human like, but had feathered wings and a bright glow around them. Jonathan knew that these must be angels, though they were no less terrifying. They weren't dragging any people away or killing them, but with several deadly magical blasts of power aimed at the demons, they didn't seem to be too concerned about whether they hit anyone else or not. Even Jonathan Combs, who had lived with his own demon every day for several months, had no comprehension that earth's apocalypse was actually happening, and that right in front of him there were demons and angels killing each other, destroying everything around them.
He had no emotion and, like many of the people around him, was numb with shock as his adrenaline told his mind that he needed to get home and find his mother. There was no bus to take him, and it was several blocks to his house. He had no idea how he would get there without being dragged off by a demon or hurt and killed by something else. He looked out the window again and saw several police cars in the parking lot attempting to transport children and teens to safety since there was no way for them to get out of the school building on foot. Jonathan sprinted through the halls, pushing through other panicking students, and thought of nothing else but getting to one of those cars. He was ushered into a squad car with two kids already crushed together, sharing the front seat, and three in the back, which made four when he was added. He was completely numb and stared down at his lap not daring to peek out the window at the events happening outside. In his state of shock he didn't pay the slightest bit of attention to how much his personal space was being invaded as the squad car sped down the street. It would sharply turn and swerve around corners on its journey to drop off each kid at the addresses they requested.
Jonathan's house was the first destination as it was the closest. He stumbled getting out of the car door in his attempt to begin running as soon as his foot touched the ground. There were already flames coming out of his house and several windows were broken, but this didn't deter him; it only made him hurry faster to the front door. He didn't have to call out for his mother, he could already hear her desperate screaming before he got the door open.
“Mom!” He followed the source to his kitchen just in time to see one of those nightmarish demons dragging his mother. It dragged her from the floor by her legs and through one of the already broken windows. As she saw Jonathan, she desperately clung to the window frame, screaming urgently, desperately,
“Jonathan, you have to leave, right now! Don’t worry about me! Please, get out and find somewhere safe! Go! Now!”
Her hands were bleeding with her desperate effort to stay clung to the frame, broken glass digging into her palms. Finally, she was ripped away and out through the open window. Jonathan shouted a useless mantra of “No no no no no! Mom!” Before he could dive out the window after her, the officer from the car had grabbed him around the middle and carried him back to his place in the backseat. Jonathan screamed out the entire time, “No! Stop! Let go of me! You have to do something! You have to go help her! What are you doing!?” As Jonathan was placed in the backseat the other kids of various ages gave him frightened glances. The officer gave him a serious but very sorrowful look, and spoke quickly.
“I'm sorry son, but there's nothing we can do. We have to get out of here before another one comes for us. I... wish I could help, but we just can't do anything to fight those damn things.”
He closed the door and ran off around to the driver’s side, speeding away to drop the others off safely.
Jonathan was still in shock, but it was gradually being replaced with devastation and rage. He wasn't angry at the officer doing his job to keep the other kids, and himself, safe. He was angry with the entire situation. At the futility of human beings; that they could do nothing against the powerful entities destroying their world. At the demons and angels who only cared about using earth as a ‘neutral’ battleground, not caring about the lives and loved ones of the people on it. Then again, Jonathan reasoned, death isn't really important to beings who are already dead. Jonathan fought back his angry tears. He was also mad at himself for wasting time staring at his mother instead of grabbing her while he could. He would be even angrier at himself for crying, but he didn't know if he would ever see her again.
And as the rest of the day went by in a blur, him being taken to an emergency shelter in the city and fitted with a small sleeping bag surrounded by thousands of other survivors from his city, that night he couldn't stop the tears anymore. Six months since he'd been gone. Nothing mattered anymore. There was no reason for Jonathan to continue denying things to himself to keep up his apathetic front. Jonathan did like Sock. He was his closest and only friend. Sock wasn't coming back.
After several months with no end to the apocalyptic war, all of the people from Jonathan’s city and the surrounding towns had been crammed into a secret underground shelter. It had been built by a previous mayor who was paranoid about war conspiracies and thought they would be bombed with nuclear weapons at any moment. It seemed every single building on the surface had been destroyed, not that it really mattered. Hiding in buildings wouldn't do any good since humanity learned a year ago how easily they could be broken into and destroyed. Anyone that remained on the surface had long since been dragged away and used as a toy by the unspeakable terrors. After over a year it finally happened. They should have known it was only a matter of time.
Everyone was asleep on the floor in sleeping bags, having to make physical contact with multiple strangers in their massive, yet too-small-for-thousands-of-people, one room shelter. Jonathan jolted awake from his usual nightmares (which still hadn’t stopped since that first night) to hear the guards posted at the thick vault door screaming. Everyone was soon awoken by the sound of gunfire. After a few seconds the gunfire stopped and the screaming got fainter, until it too ceased, as each guard was dragged off. The demons from the surface, with the sole desire to cause every living thing agony, had finally found the way into a treasure trove of 5,000 emotionally and mentally crippled people. There was immediate mass panic as the demons broke through the door like it was made of paper and flooded in. They immediately began to pick off individuals as everyone sprinted to try and squeeze through the only exit.
Jonathan ran for his life, stumbling the entire way, unable to coordinate his limbs after being woken so abruptly. He bumped into several people as he worked his way through the crowd, everyone shoving each other out of the way. Jonathan passed families trying not to get separated while carrying crying children. He saw many solitary children screaming for their parents who had gotten separated in the chaos. Some of the people who he had been running beside him were suddenly picked off, and as they were lifted into the air they would reach out and scream for Jonathan or anyone else to help them, but at that point it was everyone for themselves. Jonathan had a hard time ignoring their desperate pleas for him to ‘just turn around’ and try to pull them down. Jonathan tried to block out the sounds of the people being taken away or of loved ones being brutally killed before their families. He tried to block out the chilling, now familiar, sound of excruciating pain as many were tortured.
Jonathan had no idea how he managed to get out and up to the surface, but it didn't matter because he was just as vulnerable on the surface as he was underground. He only managed to run a few blocks, tearing through a small wooded area next to a street for cover, before he was eventually found. His heart dropped and his blood froze as the event that happened over a year ago, that caused him nightmares every time he slept, repeated itself. Everything around him turned black and he backed into a tree trunk that had thick overgrowth on either side, giving him no escape. He looked out into the darkness, and this time there was not one, but at least 20 or more of those horrific demons, staring hungrily at him. He now noticed each demon was fitted with sharp claws that were several inches long, along with a dark aura pulsing in the palms of their hands. This aura made Jonathan even more terrified as he thought of what pain it could cause him. Blue eyes were wide as more demons kept materializing in front of him. They were all gradually moving closer to their target. As a reflex Jonathan closed his eyes, and could only wait for them to reach him. All he could do was hope that they decided to kill him instead of feed off of his pain. This time there was no one there to be by his side. This time he was completely alone and no one would remember he ever existed.
He felt the movement of air as something appeared just a foot away from him and he squeezed his eyes shut tighter as he waited. Several agonizing seconds passed before he realized nothing had happened. Then he heard a voice speak softly, but with a cold fury.
“Get. Away. From him.”
He opened his eyes just barely to see where the voice had come from, and saw that there was another demon in front of him. This one was one of the human-like demons, and instead of feeling any fear, his eyes shot wide open with shock as tears began to flow freely out of his sky blue eyes. Jonathan’s focus was not on the large leathery wings, or the strange tail, or the large wicked horns, but instead on the unforgettable wispy brown hair and purple skirt. He was sure he was hallucinating. He was sure that he had been gone forever, but blue eyes met bright emerald green, and finally, despite being afraid that the demon in front of him would disappear at any moment, choked out,
There were tears in the corners of Sock’s eyes and he gave a solemn smile as he turned to Jonathan and said,
“I promised you I would come back.”
The initial shock put on the other demons at Sock’s sudden appearance was quickly wearing away, and they began to advance towards Jonathan again. Sock bent down to Jonathan, who had collapsed in a sitting position against the tree trunk, and leaned in closely, looking him in the eyes.
“I won't let them touch you.”
He lightly kissed Jonathan on the forehead to show, in the short time he had, all of his affection and relief that Jonathan was okay and that he was with him again. Jonathan stared at Sock in surprise, feeling his touch for the first time. Finally, they both realized that Sock could touch Jonathan if Jonathan wanted him to.
As Sock turned away, Jonathan just barely caught a glimpse of bright green irises turning to a glowing red, and demon teeth growing in length, before Sock launched himself at the demons. Jonathan was at first concerned about small, full-cheeked, pudgy-bellied Sock getting himself critically injured, but Sock was actually quite terrifying. He used a combination of his new demon powers, strength, and determination to keep Jonathan safe. He tore into the demons until they gradually began to disappear, deciding this one human shared amongst them wasn't worth it. Some tried to materialize around Sock to get to Jonathan, but as Sock said, he never let a single demon get even close to Jonathan before destroying it with more ferocity than Jonathan had ever seen come from the small demon.
After all the demons had left, Sock turned to face Jonathan again and slowly walked back to where he was still sitting in shock. He raised up his arms in invitation, green eyes holding tears and showing the bright smile that Jonathan had missed so much. A beat passed before Jonathan abandoned all of the passive unemotional statements and angry words of accusation he had prepared over a year ago. Jonathan let his wall of apathy completely fall away and desperately flung himself into Sock, sobbing freely, still afraid he might not be real.
“Oh my god... I didn't know what happened to you! I thought you were never coming back! I thought they got you! I thought-” Jonathan said all of this in between great gasps of air while Sock clung to him just as hard, also crying.
“I'm so sorry Jonathan...I'm so sorry... When I went back to talk to Meph about that demon, he told me he was ‘hoping it wouldn't come to this’. He said him and Providence were going to war... said it happens every million years or so when they get into a fight. He gave me these powers and my horns and stuff on the spot, and sent me to training. I really wanted to come back and at least tell you, but he said he was sorry, and that I couldn't until I finished my job and the fighting was over with. But... as soon as he let me go to earth the first thing I did was look for you…”
Sock suddenly pulled away and held Jonathan's head between his hands.
“Listen, you're going to be okay. I'll find somewhere safe to get you, okay? It’s going to be alright, Jonathan.”
“But your job? Your boss will find out! He said-”
Sock interrupted and gave a small smile, “I don't think he'll mind that much if I save one human from his stupid animalistic 'war'. He told me one time that I reminded him of himself, and I'm kind of a favorite.”
Jonathan still looked worried. He couldn't lose his friend without knowing what would happen to him. Not a second time. He didn't know what he would-
His train of thought was interrupted by Sock. He was looking him deeply in the eyes again.
“No matter what my boss says, I'm not going to leave you again...”
Sock clung to Jonathan once more, and they sat together, both overwhelmed with the relief of finally finding each other again, and knowing the other was safe. Nothing else mattered.