Sean M. Thompson’s
New Year’s Eve was always a pain in the ass detail for Detective Byrne, and this one was no exception. Even with what was at stake, she hadn’t forgotten her time on the force, back before it had all blown up in her face.
The streets were lousy with drunks, men and women alike, and between the rich yuppies attempting to date rape unsuspecting freshmen and the real perverts with years of experience under their belts, things could get nasty. She’d seen it get ugly on more than one New Year’s Eve shift.
A plain black baseball hat sat on her head, the brim pulled low. Her earpiece was in place in case the girl working for the Agency was wrong in her prediction, but Zia was usually accurate in her assessments.
Her employer didn’t believe in leaving anything to chance, though. Every plan had a number of contingency plans in place. Come to that, she was fairly sure they’d have no scruples dumping two in the back of her head and burying her in an unmarked grave.
She wore a vest under the puffy black winter coat, the jacket concealing any bulk from the kevlar. The hat was bulletproof; they told her it was effective, but she was still going to try to avoid taking a bullet to the fucking brainpan.
On each leg, an ankle holster holding a Ka-bar with serrated edges, and 9mm pistols filled with hollow points. Two shoulder holsters held two Baretta .380 (her preferred gauge) pistols. Pocket rockets, that’s what the Chief used to call them when she’d practiced with them.
If she needed the real heavy artillery, she’d give the Agency the word. But, if it came down to it, she wasn’t sure how effective the weapons would be tonight.
“You in position, Byrne?” someone in the command center said in her earpiece.
I sure hope you’re as good as she thinks you are, she thought, and continued searching the block. She barely noticed when the first flakes of snow started to accumulate on the sidewalk.
The time was right. Cort knew it somehow, as sure as he’d ever been of anything in his entire short life. He was going to meet whatever foul thing had been terrorizing the city tonight. And he was ready for whatever came, no matter the consequences.
His phone vibrated in his pocket, an unknown number.
He wasn’t sure what compelled him, but he grabbed one of the largest knives from the block in the kitchen, a six-inch knife he’d used to chop vegetables, and placed it in his jeans. An ever-present prod in his back to remind him of the stakes. There were no delusions left within him, the fate of thousands – perhaps billions – rested on his actions tonight.
He grabbed his winter coat, the same one he’d had for the last ten years. He’d bought the down jacket at an Eddie Bauer in a mall a few towns over from his mom’s house. There’d been a sale, he remembered that, and he’d had a hundred bucks knocked off the full price. It was his favorite coat, like wearing a blanket, really, soft and comforting. He needed that reassurance now. He needed whatever he could get.
The voice in his head was uncharacteristically quiet: the voice he’d mistaken for his own for many weeks. Only now did he fully accept that his culpability in his crimes was murky at best. In this moment he accepted that he’d lost control, entirely and completely. Like a drunk starting the program, he admitted that he had a problem, and needed help.
It was time to take his life back. Even if that meant losing it.
He didn’t bother locking the door when he left.
“Should we do anything, master?”
The man caressed her cheek. Such a pretty little thing. They were all so cute, his children.
“No, Stacy, just relax. It’s New Year’s Eve. Enjoy yourself.”
Sir. Ha. Like he was a customer at the bank, instead of the agent of this shitty world’s destruction.
“Well, actually, there is one thing you can do.”
The man laughed, the flames in his eyes shining in the near-darkness.
“Put some champagne on ice.”
He turned to the rest of them. All were braced, awaiting his instructions.
“The party has begun!” he shouted. All of children cheered.
Some began to dance, others kissing and biting each other. An orgy was sure to break out at any minute. And why not? This was a time of celebration! Everything was wonderful. The time was truly at hand.
The man felt all their pleasures; tasted all the sweetness that dribbled down their throats. He lived through them all. Their glistening bodies writhed against each other, tongues lapping at skin prickled with goose flesh.
Tonight, one of his favorite children was coming home.
Cort wasn’t sure how he knew where to go, but his movements were confident. There wasn’t a moment’s hesitation, nor debate over which direction to turn. All was muscle memory, the practiced journey of one on autopilot.
A light snow drifted from the heavens, riding a gentle breeze. The flakes caressed his face like a tired lover after a long day.
Everything was so beautiful. The harbor, boats along the dock, waves splashing against the hulls. Buildings off in the distance, lights sparkling high above the streets. This, all of this, was what he was fighting for. The city he loved couldn’t be destroyed. The people he lived beside couldn’t succumb to this plague. He wouldn’t let it happen. No matter the cost.
There was always the chance he wouldn’t be coming back. If so, he’d take this image with him to the grave. The city in its holiday cheer, illuminated, and blanketed with snow.
There are worse scenes to go out on.
The manhole cover was heavy, but seemed to have been previously loosened. He wrenched it up, clearing enough space to crawl through to a ladder.
Down he descended, entering the sewer. The smell was awful, stinging his nostrils. He used his phone as a flashlight to cut through the murk.
Soon, said the voice in his mind.
On he walked, a left here, a right there. As if he’d made this same trek hundreds of times before, a whale navigating via sonar through the depths.
On he traveled, absolutely sure of his destination. A beacon brighter than the light of the phone lit the way: an image of the man in his head, face obscured by shadows.
I will find you, Cort thought.
How long he traveled, he couldn’t exactly say. Eventually, he came to the ladder he was certain he had to climb.
Hand over hand, he rose, up, out of the filth. Free from the oppressive waste, he pulled himself up and out of the sewer. Perhaps to his final reward.
What greeted him was a decrepit train stop. He didn’t recognize it, then remembered someone telling him once about an abandoned stop on the red line. He’d never expected to see it up close.
Red Christmas Lights hung along the ceiling, a fire flickering off in the distance, its shadows swaying off the walls. The susurrus of voices rang in his ears. As he moved closer to the flames, he noted the ceiling grew higher with each step.
Something was inherently wrong with the room. A T-stop, no matter how luxurious, never had ceilings this high. The architecture was suggestive of a lavish cathedral, stripped of any of the beauty. Crude wooden shacks and tents were set up across the room. The structures reminded him of those used by squatters, or large populations of the homeless who lived together in places long abandoned.
A teeming mass gathered behind the huts and tents. Their cries grew louder – of pain or pleasure, it was hard to discern.
Things were hung along the outside walls of the shacks. The room was too dark to make out the exact colors. His first thought was that they were the pelts of animals. His approach cautious, he closed the gap between himself and the revelers.
No mistaking the human skin stretched across the wooden walls. They were still covered in blood.
In front of the fire a man stood, body obscured by darkness. Behind the fire, men and women in various states of undress drank, kissed, and fucked. Some bit each other, others dancing in the shadows of the pyre. A few choked each other, some hit each other with bloody fists: if they were rutting or not, it was hard to tell.
Many were covered in the rash, a few with pentagrams on stained and dirty chests. Celebrants covered in dried blood, some in excrement. Off in a corner Stacy was naked, save for a black cloak, the front opened wide. The sight stirred something violent in him, and he had no way of knowing if it was due to the infection, or his own free will. The way her taut muscles bulged under her glistening form filled him with a joy he could not stomach: he wanted to strip down with the rest of them. To bite, chew, penetrate, lick, suck, cut, and punch with the others.
It looks like so much fun, he thought, and he couldn’t tell if it was the voice in his head or just him.
At the back of the room, a massive outcropping of rock stood sentinel. In with the wood of the blaze, bones rested, propped against each other, leaning above human skulls of all sizes.
“It’s nice to finally meet in the flesh,” the man said.
His face was entirely obscured by shadow.
“Wish I could say the feeling was mutual,” Cort said.
Grunts of satisfaction, moans behind the fire. The bottom of the man’s face appeared from the darkness, a mouth of perfectly white teeth. His smile was adept as an experienced newscaster’s.
“And why wouldn’t you be happy to meet me, Cort? I love you.”
The man turned to his congregation, in their bliss.
“I love you all!” he shouted.
The speed with which the man snapped back around made Cort cry out.
“Nothing to fear, child. Daddy just wants you to have fun at our New Year’s party.”
“I’m not your ‘child’, asshole.”
The man’s whole face emerged in entirety from the darkness. The most shocking part was how normal he looked. Short black hair cut neatly, a well-fitting black suit, grey-collared undershirt with red tie, covered in arabesque designs in black. This thing of such profound ugliness donned a winning smile, on top of excellent taste in fashion. Cort would be lying if he said the man looked anything but radiant.
“What, expecting horns and a tail?”
Cort took tentative steps backward. The man scoffed, walked towards Cort.
“You need to stop this.”
The Demon laughed loudly, shoulders hitching with his mirth.
“Oh, you are rich, Cort. I don’t need to stop anything. The only thing that needs to stop is your holier-than-thou act. It’s sooooo boring.”
And wouldn’t you like to join in with your friends over there?
“Get out of my head.”
“Make me,” the Demon said, his eyes vulpine in the fire’s glow.
This man – this thing – could read his mind, was practically part of his mind at this stage. He’d never actually had a plan, had merely been driven by blind rage and a desire for revenge. What he was supposed to do now was utterly beyond him.
And always the itch, to lick and bite; to scratch, drink blood, smoke, snort, and guzzle. The urges were agony to fight, like every addiction he’d ever had multiplied and thrown at him all at once.
Enjoy yourself, the Demon’s voice said in his mind.
“Your problem is you think what I want for you is evil.”
Stacy moaned loudly. She used a short hooked blade to slice open the skin of her left breast; rubbed the blood as it pumped out of the wound down her nipple, along her stomach, sliding the crimson lower down her sweat-slicked skin.
Doesn’t she look tasty?
“I’m not falling for this.”
“Falling for what? I just want you to be happy, Cort.”
He closed the distance between them, Cort too terrified to move. The Demon placed a heavily-muscled arm around Cort’s shoulder. That gleaming white smile was maddening. The more he witnessed that grin, the more he saw the expression for what it truly was: the bared teeth of an aggressive predator, sizing up its next meal.
“You made me kill her,” Cort said.
He felt hopeless. How was he going to stop this thing? It was literally in his head.
That’s right, Cort. You can’t win.
“You made me do it,” Cort repeated, melancholy tinging his voice.
“Did I really?”
“You know you did.”
“Hm. Why don’t we just see about that?”
The Demon snapped his fingers, and the station blacked out of existence.
Cort came to, in his apartment. The knife was in his hand. Janet’s mouth was stretched open in the rictus of a scream.
No, please –
You need to see what YOU did, Cort.
Cort lunged, his body moving against his will. His muscles moved with terrible purpose.
Please! I had nothing to do with this –
The knife penetrated Janet’s stomach. No sound escaped as she started to scream.
You did this of your own volition.
The look she gave him when the blade sunk home sent shards of glass pumping through his heart. He begged his body to stop moving, to no avail.
Each new violation damned him, Janet screaming silently. She fell to the floor, and Cort continued his assault. His blood-covered hands put the knife down momentarily to caress her face, smearing a crimson handprint on her cheek.
MAKE IT STOP!
Tears streamed down Janet’s bloody face.
This is the truth. You need to know what you did.
Helpless, as his arms kept straining, her blood running in rivers out of the wounds. The blood pooled on his apartment floor, soaking his bare feet. The claret fluid gushed torrential out of the lacerations; the apartment flooded, inch upon inch, soaking the room, rising ever higher.
Her lifeless body floated in the flood, her eyes open and unblinking. Soon Cort was submerged entirely. He couldn’t breathe – the blood was filling up his lungs – he couldn’t breathe! Jesus, he was going to drown, he needed air, his lungs burned, he saw spots in the ruddy ocean –
He fell to his knees, gasping for air, back in the abandoned train station. Prostrate before the hideous thing that donned the flesh of a man, vision still swimming.
“Why are you – ” He coughed violently. “Why are you doing this?”
“Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.”
The Demon stepped away with a distinct flourish, a trained Shakespearean actor preparing to give a soliloquy. He turned to face Cort.
“You’re all so funny. You long for freedom: the freedom to fuck whenever you please, to do drugs, to hurt other people. The freedom to steal, cheat, lie. The freedom to have fun, in other words.”
“Maybe it’s fun for you – ”
The Demon shot his hand out, fingers extended.
“The adults are talking. Shut up.”
Cort looked over to Stacy. Her hands rubbed violently against herself, masturbating with her blood-stained fingers. He scanned past the fire to a full-blown orgy that had broken out. A group of them were taking turns punching each other in the face, the ones resting drinking champagne. Two women were biting each other on the neck at the same time. He saw one skinny woman injecting heroin while a short man gave her a rimjob. A couple were passing a crack pipe back and forth. A teenager snorted coke from the hand of a girl who looked to be his age. One fat man squatted as he shat on the floor, giggling.
“All I’m doing is giving you all a little nudge. The very tiniest push. Trust me when I say it doesn’t take much. So many of you long to embrace your true natures, to be the violent apes prevalent in your genetics. Yet you all try so hard to be civil. You cling to this notion that there’s a cosmic scorecard, and every day you don’t hit someone with your car, or cut someone’s head off, or rape someone, you get a smiley face sticker tacked to a big sheet of paper with your name on it on an enormous corkboard in the sky.”
Cort scowled, practically growled his response.
“You can’t just reduce human compassion to fucking cowardice.”
“Think about it. Take away the religions telling you to be good to one another. Take away the societal norms. Strip away all the artifice, and what you have in the end are people terrified that maybe they should be enjoying themselves, and aren’t. People afraid that maybe there isn’t a big Santa sitting on a throne made of clouds in the sky, who will give them a great big hug when they die if they just hunker down and eat shit their entire lives.”
Cort walked closer to the thing in the suit. His vision burned red, even knowing he didn’t stand a chance, he wanted to run up on the demon and jab his knife into his throat.
“So the alternative is being a rapist? A murderer? Hurting people just so you can feel good?”
The Demon nodded, ever so slightly.
“That’s not freedom. That’s chaos.”
“Chaos is freedom, Cort. Order is arbitrary. By necessity it reduces your liberty.”
And don’t you want to embrace diving off the deep end?
Their moans grew louder, Stacy’s practically shouts now, the Demon’s laughter louder than all combined. His howl of delight reverberated off the walls like thunder. He crouched, and stood, slowly, arms by his sides: a conductor from a land of screaming nightmare set to lead an orchestra of the infernal. As his hands lifted, the fire behind him rose to impossible heights.
“Listen to them, Cort! Do they sound like they’re damned? It sounds to me like they’re in paradise!”
The Demon danced in front of the fire, taking huge, almost comical steps, gyrating his hips in some sort of crazy samba.
Don’t you want to go have some fun?
Cort threw caution aside, ran up to the man in a frenzy. He grabbed the thing by the collar, and shouted into his face.
“YOU MADE ME KILL THE WOMAN I LOVED!”
“Oh, someone’s getting feisty. I just love it when you get all mannish.”
Cort punched him in the face, screaming in a scalding red rage. The Demon spat blood into the fire, which sizzled, and flared the flames burgundy. He rose, pressed up against Cort, looked him straight in the eye. Blood dripped from his now swollen bottom lip.
“Yes, Cort. Don’t you see? This is what I was trying to tell you. This is what you were all along. An animal. A beast that can talk. That felt good, didn’t it, child?”
Just let go, you’ll feel so much better.
He backed away. The fire seemed to wrap around the Demon’s silhouette. He was furious, confused. If he hurt that thing, he’d be proving its point, playing into its hand. And how did he know this hadn’t been its plan all along? It had been in Cort’s head the entire time he’d thought about what to do.
His fingers wrapped around clumps of hair, as he squeezed them in his fists. His throat hurt as he cried out in frustration.
Stop fighting, said the Demon’s voice in his head, the phrase overlapping. Staggered out, repeated, said over and over.
Overwhelmed, Cort stumbled over his feet and fell onto his back. He couldn’t stop this thing, he’d been a fool to think he could. How could one man stand against something that crawled from the Pit?
The Demon bent at the waist to place a hand on his cheek.
“I have something to show you.”
The Demon turned back to face his congregation. Voice booming like a revival preacher at full clip, he cried out.
“I’m going to let you all see what we’re going to do tonight! The hour will soon be upon us! The old ways of man will be ripped apart, kicking and screaming!”
The Demon threw his arms to both sides, palms up, eyes wide. His expression manic, he slowly pointed with his right index finger at the ceiling, tilting his head in tandem.
The ceiling disappeared, replaced by the city. A light snow blanketed the streets. Around the Boston Garden, and Cort saw himself, face covered in blood, huge grin warping his features, alongside the rest of the possessed storming up from the subway. They chased people on the sidewalks, who fled for their lives, screaming. Innocent civilians stabbed, choked, shot, beaten to bloody pulp. Wide-scale assault the likes of which Cort had never seen. He saw the fat man who’d defected on the floor earlier smash a woman’s head into nothing more than a red smear against a fire hydrant, as he howled with laughter. Stacy, her robe now tied, used her hooked knife to stab a middle aged man in the temple, as his two boys stared on in terror. And he saw himself, running through a crowd, stabbing at will, some of the possessed holding down victims, which he gutted, stabbed, kicked, and strangled. Police trying to intervene stabbed, shot, beaten, and while they managed to cut down a few of the possessed, the sheer number of the infected quickly overpowered them.
The scene changed. The Prudential center on fire, massive explosions sending shockwaves of glass to the streets below. The other office building ablaze, some collapsing from loss of structural integrity.
A man with a rocket launcher, firing at police helicopters. One rocket hit home, and the chopper exploded, crashing into a nearby building; a sound like metal screaming and glass and fire singing.
The Zakim bridge now, the lights changed to red: hundreds of bodies hanging from nooses along the top of the bridge like Christmas ornaments from Hell.
The image above descended through the street, showed them the room they stood in. It traveled to a massive stone dragon’s mouth at the far end of the cave, whose eyes lit ablaze as rocky apertures slowly slid away inside the mouth. Down its stone throat, and they traveled through a massive cavern. The projection changed to a massive metal door, so large Cort couldn’t even guess how tall, huge letters carved above to read “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here“.
A stirring at the back of his mind told him to look down. Following his instinct he shifted his gaze. And then everything clicked into place.
The presentation was using up the man’s concentration. This demon had snuck his way inside his head…but maybe the connection could go both ways?
“The sheer power of your most carnal desires acted out is truly wondrous. The massive loss of life will give me enough power to open a doorway below.”
Cort focused all his energy on the man’s face; felt the electrical shock scaling up his spine.
“We will release the terrible beauty the abyss contains.”
He visualized leaving his mind, traveling into the man’s head. Gathered all of his energy, at critical mass, and fired at his target: the mind’s eye of the Demon.
Flashing images assaulted him.
The man, still human, in a black robe, face hidden, reciting incantations from a red leather book as he sat before a fire in the wilderness: images of creatures, abominations with numerous limbs and eyes, appearing in the flames. They sang to him in a language he could not understand.
A mansion on a cliff, overlooking the ocean. The man on his knees, shirtless, on the edge of the cliff, waves crashing against the rocks below. Heavy rain pelted the land, lightning crackling through the sky.
A heated poker in the shape of a pentagram, scalding into the flesh of his chest as he wailed in agony. He felt the pain as the man lived through the memory again, screamed in abject fear and pain along with him.
A bonfire, inside the flames, burning to death as he screamed, as the flames destroyed his flesh, his skin coming off in black folds.
All at once, Cort shot back into his body like a window shade snapped back. The Demon stared at him, mouth open in mock surprise.
The crowd stared at him, all of their revelry stopped for the moment.
“I like that.”
If he was going to get to this demon, he’d need to distract it again. Now that he’d caught Cort rooting around inside his head, he’d be on guard. There was only one tactic left at his disposal.
“How does this all work? I saw a flashing red screen. So, what, your essence got transferred into my brain?”
He heard the Demon chuckling in his head.
“It wasn’t just a ‘flashing red screen’, boy, not any more than blood is just red liquid. A hybrid of computer code and the language of Hell, merged into the mother of all computer viruses. No expert could ever hope to get rid of it, unless they were fluent in the language of the Damned.”
“Did you create the virus?”
“So you’re a damned computer programmer?”
The Demon laughed again. The infected had gone back to hitting each other or fucking. Scott, off in the crowd, drank champagne and pawed at a woman beside him. It took all his willpower not to scream out his friend’s name.
“I’m a fucking demon, Cort. I don’t need to be a computer programmer. I’m from Hell.”
“So if you’re so powerful, why do you need us? And why do you need all those servants, those little creatures, the people in the walls?”
He could sense hesitation from the Demon. The slightest hint of a frown on its face.
“Even if you’re the most powerful warrior in the world, it’s still a numbers game. I’m not just trying to take over a city here, sweetheart. I need an army. I need to amass energy. The more people I convert – ”
“Infect,” Cort said.
The Demon sighed, somewhat annoyed. “Semantics. The more people I ‘infect’ – ” here the Demon used exaggerated air quotes, ” – the thinner the membrane between this world and the Pit becomes. Every new member of the congregation breaks down more of the barrier. Are you familiar with the concept of overlapping dimensions?”
“Do I look like a theoretical physicist?”
“No need to get bitchy. Yes or no?”
Cort nodded in the negative. He focused on building up his psychic energy. His fingers and toes started to tingle.
“There are things that exist in your universe you’d never dare dream of. They dwell in alternate dimensions, overlapping your own. Normally you wouldn’t be properly equipped to see them. But here’s the rub: my gift to you is not just freedom, not just power…”
The Demon formed his index fingers and thumbs into circles, and placed them in front of his eyes in a pantomime of glasses.
“I’ve blessed you with the gift of sight.”
Cort sensed the Demon letting his guard down, so rapt with his own words. If he was patient, he knew soon he could go in for another strike.
“So you mean those creatures – the things in the walls – they’re always there?”
“Yes, they’re always around. However, most of my kind aren’t strong enough to use the same avenues.”
Cort tried to look summarily awed. He prayed his second attempt would allow him an opportunity to go deeper into the Demon’s mind, to distract the man in his own memories. The last journey he’d been too close. He needed to observe, not experience. The next go round he would try to release as many memories as he could, assault the Demon with its own history.
“If you possess enough of us, you have the energy to open a door to Hell, so the rest of your buddies can – ”
“Do a little redecorating, yes.”
The energy sizzled in his spine, lightning in his head. He’d give this next journey all he had.
“What makes you think I want any part of that?” Cort said, twitching now, he couldn’t help it, the power was too great.
The wails of ecstasy echoed off the walls of the abandoned subway station. He saw Scott snorting something off a short woman’s ass. He wondered where Abie and Katie were, but he had more pressing matters to attend to.
The Demon snapped his fingers to get Cort’s attention. He flipped it off. The Demon chuckled.
“So obstinate, but I do love that quality in you. What I’m offering is a chance to be on the winning team. I’m giving you the chance to be truly happy. The time of humanity is at its logical end. The Earth has a finite amount of resources left. You’ve completely fucked the natural environment. Factor in the global nuclear arsenal, and how much time do you really think humans have left? It’s all been leading to this, Cort.”
The energy crackled through his body. So close. He’d attack at any second.
“Why fight destiny?”
The Demon walked to the opposite side of the fire. Cort stared through the flames at him as his form shifted in the shimmering heat.
“You have a choice. To feel pleasure the likes of which you’ve never experienced, or to be slaughtered without incident. To fight with us, enjoying the endless spoils of victory, or to suffocate in a pool of your own blood.”
Join us, the Demon’s voice said in his mind. Join us or die screaming.
The time was right. Cort unleashed all of his pent-up energy. A sensation like passing out while still standing, flying through the space between them. He dove right back in.
He fell through terrible memories. This time around, Cort tried to throw them to the forefront of the Demon’s mind.
The man recited strange words over dead and rotting animals. The creatures’ eyes opened, crawling with maggot-filled limbs along the dirt. The images shifted to the man in a mausoleum, shouting ancient words, moving his hands rhythmically. The dead slouched from their tombs, screaming, as his laughter echoed over all.
What are you doing? the Demon’s voice asked.
Seeing who you really are.
He was more distant now, an observer rather than a participant. He watched these things instead of feeling them.
Villagers dragging the man before the cliff. A preacher held the bible before his face, and slapped him with it.
Without warning, Cort was in the fire, tied to a stake, screaming. Something was wrong. He’d lost his distance.
What’s wrong, don’t like being in my memories?
As he burned, he heard himself – heard this man – scream.
In order to strike, he’d have to figure out how to control his body while still in the Demon’s mind. The images were hard to ignore, sensations flying at him, excruciating pain. He focused.
Let me go.
With effort, the repeating of the mantra, he found he could once again see the Demon’s memories from a safe distance. He tried to picture how his body looked, most likely standing staring at the Demon vacantly. He willed his left foot to move, had no idea if his body complied.
The man remembering his fall into endless piles of bones, stretching as far as the eye could see.
Fuck off! the Demon’s voice echoed.
The ground shook and the man looked down, realized he rested upon a gigantic tongue. The tongue tilted everything; a massive devil, eyes gouged out, skin covered in deep wounds all over its body, swallowing him. Without warning Cort was back in the Demon’s memories, worked down the purple pulsating throat of the behemoth.
Stomach acid dissolved his skin, the pain excruciating, and Cort pushed out, was able to distance himself from the pain. He witnessed the man’s – the Demon’s – torment, his body somehow still alive despite the severity of its destruction.
A river of lava. A seven foot skeleton of a massive six-horned goat, with a net made out of human intestines attached to a human spine, dragging the destroyed corpse of the man from the stream of fire. Carried to a gigantic pit, the man thrown in. Black skies, land where the sky should be, everything upside-down, and a massive castle of burning brimstone.
The man, body still destroyed, jumped along a series of stones floating in the dark sky, the world topsy-turvy. Winged eyes flew past, as Cort traveled down, fell upwards towards the castle above.
The man, corpse disgustingly ravaged yet still animated, stood before a creature whose frame practically scraped the massive ceiling, a dark robe obscuring its face.
Cort willed his feet to move, attempted to see through his eyes back in his physical body, and failed at first. He saw the faintest flicker of the abandoned train station, within ten feet of the Demon. A juggling act between physical existence and spiritual, between a Demon’s memories, and his body’s sight: his foreground filled with the Demon’s point of view, then from outside of the Demon’s body, to inside, in his memories.
The rotting corpse of the Demon before the massive cloaked figure, a withered and leathery grey hand reaching out, touching him on the top of the man’s head –
A flickering view of his physical body, Cort close enough to the Demon to touch him now –
An assault of disparate images, the Demon in none of them. A field of mud, people crucified for miles on enormous bones tied into crosses; torrents of yellow vomit splashed from the heavens onto wailing victims; blood, knives, and razors mixed with the regurgitation which splashed from huge gaping maws above: mouths like those of enormous lamprey, row upon row of teeth traveling down gullets; the creatures screeching out, the sound vibrating like an earthquake.
A massive obsidian sea, waves crashing against a frozen shore, the humps of an enormous serpent, sharp bone scales protruding from every inch of its body, impaling countless victims, snow falling from dark clouds, a sky the purple of a deep bruise.
A massive plain on fire, mountains of black stone. A behemoth the size of the peaks, massive curling horns and black wings on its back, tail whipping, skin of burnt dark red; infinitesimal smaller creatures flying off the massive body, some crawling along the jagged plates of its back, insectile.
The Demon screaming, eyes on fire, head coursing with black electricity –
Cort reached into his belt loop and grabbed the knife. His body seized, tremors rocking through him. Blood oozed out his nose and ears, and he felt a pressure in his head, but his purpose was clear. He had to do this.
Screaming face after screaming face, the worst atrocities he could ever imagine, like every rape, murder, war crime, and genocide all combined into a best-of reel, each image assaulting him getting progressively worse: all ages, genders, types of pain, of horror, of sorrow ever imagined; he vomited back in his body, pissed himself; the images too much, demons all around him, as far as the eye could see, screaming in a tongue he could not understand, rushing forward to a vortex, a black hole spiraling, a means of escape; he was going to fall, he was going to pass out, he had to leave, he couldn’t take anymore of this, he head to LEAVE!
All at once he snapped back to his body, and made eye contact with the Demon.
He looked positively joyful.
“This is for Janet.”
He jammed the knife into the Demon’s eyes in quick succession. It howled in pain. The massive ceiling and dragon’s head in the back of the station fading out, the regular ceiling and back wall coming into view. Still the Demon screamed, and filled with a blistering red rage, Cort dug the knife into the flesh of its throat, and sliced the jugular open. Blood pumped from the wound, the Demon grabbing his throat with both hands, falling to his knees, gasping for air. The massive ceiling and dragon gate completely vanished.
All of the possessed immediately began screaming in horror. On the ground, the Demon lay lifeless. He kicked the thing in the gut for good measure.
Cort ran through the crowd, past the crude shacks. He finally found Scott rocking back and forth in the fetal position on the dirty ground.
“We have to go!” he yelled.
His friend barely seemed to register him. Cort lifted him up off the ground, and grabbed him by the hand. He dragged Scott out of the tunnel like a child woken fresh from a nightmare.
He didn’t bother looking for Abie or Katie.
Raised by feral cats in the wilderness of central Massachusetts, Sean M. Thompson writes fiction to frighten and enrage the normals. He is the author of Too Late, a collection of horror stories; Hate from the Sky, a bizarro novella; and The Demon (or TH3 D3M0N), which you probably just finished reading right here. When he isn’t bathing in the blood of the innocent, he co-hosts the podcast Miskatonic Musings, and (rarely) updates his blog, found here.
That’s it. It’s over. You can read the whole thing right here.
Mcmanbeast Books will be releasing a revised and expanded version of The Demon this fall under the title TH3 D3M0N. It is the first of a planned trilogy. We will talk about this when it rolls around.
I sincerely thank Sean M. Thompson for allowing me to debut his excellent novel on my site. I’ve learned a lot about editing since The Demon‘s start in July of last year, and that’s due in no small part to this book.
Thank y’all for reading. We’ll be starting a new serial pretty soon, one very different in tone and content from The Demon but hopefully no lesser in quality.