I’d been hearing weird noises again. Not just Saunders’ medical equipment, which hissed and fizzled and beeped like crazy. No matter how many times the nurses told me I was hearing things, I knew better. Just like I knew Saunders’ twitching movements were signs of a struggle to wake up. He’d been in a quiet coma for over a year. Now, this. Something bad was happening. If only my medications didn’t mess with my mind, keep me swimming under a thick layer of haze, I could help. I was not delusional, or senile, or any of the other things they called me cause I was 93. I suppose I was a bad patient, in that I dared to quest…
Wait. What was that?
I shuddered, pulling my blankets up to my face like I was ten again and the Boogeyman was in my closet. Damnit, MacLeary, grow a pair.
I peered carefully up at the ceiling. And about had a heart attack.
There was something on that ceiling. No lie. Something like a giant stick-bug with a shield-shaped face was looking down at Saunders, one leg reaching down to stroke his face tenderly. Ah, god! God! Was…was it smiling? Things like that should never smile.
It made another sound: Gr-a-a-a-akk, and began glowing red at several areas. Its chest opened up, revealing spiked ribs and emptiness. Now I was three, and wet the bed. I got up, bones creaking, glad I was off the IV (who knew I’d be so grateful for a blown vein?), and snuck to the door. Way it was focused on Saunders, I figured I had the time to flee.
But, like any curious chump, I had to look back and see.
A blue figure, rising from Saunders’ body. A skeleton? He was still-bodied, but that blue skeleton was weeping, screaming what looked like, “No, no! Please help, MacLeary, I don’t want to die. Not and go there!”
Oh, god, it was his soul the monstrosity was stealing.
I flashed back to the portal in the Black Forest. We’d seen terrible beings, beings too hideous for words, straining to get through, fighting as the war ripped through ancient wards. We’d seen a world where pain was everywhere, dealt by more of those terrible beings. Rory was pulled in before the The Man in Purple came, and what happened to him… Even the trees had screamed on that day. We’d all been forced to make the vow; to say the binding words; to make the sacrifice.
And now, this. Two old men, the only ones left, and something had finally broken through when we were too feeble to fight.
No. No. No one leaves a man behind, especially a man down, in war. That’s what I learned in that dark, bloodied forest. Saunders was my responsibility, as I had been his so long ago. Looking where my pinky finger should have been, I wheeled around, shouted the Words, and darted forward, hoping to yank his spirit back into his body.
That’s when the monster whipped its head to peer at me. Impossibly, a hand formed at the end of one of its limbs, and it lifted a scolding finger. A long, hose-shaped tongue began emerging from its mouth.
I don’t know the feeling that shot through me; sick, shivery, cold. I just know it made me go closer to the thing, reach out to touch its hand. Had I spoken the Words wrong?
No. Not time to ask questions. Diverting my hand, I grabbed its tongue and pulled. My back spasmed, my arms cramped, but I wasn’t going to let go before it did. Even if it took eternity.
Katy Lohman is a quirky, rather queer fantasy/horror writer. She writes about fae, dangerous angels, amused gods, misunderstood demons and Things That Must Not Be Named. When not writing, she can be found researching various topics, reading, asking what if, taking online classes about literature, history and philosophy, rolling dice, building decks and exploring rural Ohio (her new homeland). Right now, she’s obsessed with archangels and Sumerian gods. She has short stories published in Ugly Babies 3, 47-16: Short Fiction and Poetry Inspired by David Bowie (Volume II), and Scary Snippets: Christmas Edition.