“We’re doing our best to keep your brother comfortable. However, at this point I’m afraid it’s all we can really do for him,” said Doctor Norman, resident medical coordinator for the Ty Rothwell Compassion and Care Center. “The infection is pretty persistent, but we think we have him on the right antibiotic. It’s not grave, but his condition is serious. I’m going to be honest. It could go either way.”
“Thank you, doctor. I understand. I’ll just go in and sit with him then, if that’s ok?” Peter Schuyl spoke softly, appropriate for the lateness of the hour and the fact he was in an Intensive Care Unit. The doctor gently patted him on the shoulder motioning him to his brother’s room. Peter entered quietly, wishing to not disrupt his brother’s rest. Peter was anxious about seeing his brother in such a condition. He was relieved to find that his brother appeared to be sleeping comfortably and facing the other way.
“Hello Peter,” came Victor’s gruff voice, hoarse and dry sounding.
“Hello Vic. The girls say hello. I’d have brought them but, you know, school,” Peter spoke softly with hint of cheerfulness, trying to act as normal as possible. He knew Victor would want that. Vic was never one to have people fawn over him, and Peter knew he’d especially hate it in a situation like this. With a groan and great effort, Victor pushed with his arms until he was laying on his back facing his younger brother.
“I hope it’s not too early in the morning for you, Pete,” Victor said while adjusting the angle on his hospital bed to a more upright, sitting position.
“No, it’s my day off. I’m good,” Peter said and then took a seat near the bed. Peter would never complain, but they both knew Peter had driven a good five hours to get to the care center.
“See that envelope on the table?” Victor asked and motioned to a small red envelope sitting on a stand near his bed.
“Yes,” Peter replied.
“In that envelope there is a key to a safe deposit box as well as directions on where it can be found. Everything is set up at the bank for you. They know you’ll be coming for it soon. You only need to show them your ID,” Victor said. His voice becoming gravelly, and he began to cough deeply. The coughing rattled Peter, forcing him to accept for the first time just how sick his brother truly was.
Victor was dressed in a hospital gown with a light blue diamonds patterned on a plain white background. The blue in the gown was made brighter by the pale look of his brother’s pallid skin. Darker blue veins were clearly visible through Vic’s paper-like skin. The arms of the poor man were bruised and bandaged from God only knows how many IVs.
The most striking thing about the otherwise near corpse of a man was his eyes. Even though he bore grey hair and the gaunt face of a sickly old man, Victor’s eyes were youthful and full of life, as sharp as ever. On a face nearly devoid of color, what drew immediate attention were the soft heather-grey eyes of a boy. Peter averted his own eyes from his brother’s and meekly picked up the envelope.
“In the bank vault, there’s about ten thousand dollars. There is also a list of what needs to be done when I’m gone. You know me, I’m always prepared in nearly all circumstance,” Victor said with a big smile. He’d have laughed, but it might have caused another choking fit, so he stopped himself. “There’s also a note expressly for you in that vault. The letter explains a few things I need you to know, but it won’t make a bit of sense if I don’t explain something important to you first.”
Peter was confused. He knew that his brother was an organized person, so a box with final instructions made some amount of sense, but a letter to him didn’t.
Peter had never been close with Victor. Victor was more than twenty years older than Peter. Victor’s mother died when he was very young. It took time for his father to remarry, but Victor’s father eventually found a second wife who was quite a bit younger than him, and they had Peter.
It bothered Peter that Victor often acted as if his entrance into the family pushed the older brother out of it. Victor was independent and already on his own when Peter came along. Peter felt the relationship between them was more like that of distant relatives than the close one most enjoyed with a sibling.
Peter realized Victor’s expression had turned to sorrow. This was a look Peter had never seen before from his brother, one filled with regret and dismay. Peter thought that maybe he was about to learn something horrible about his brother, like he was secretly stashing bodies for the mob or something. If Victor cried right at that moment, Peter wouldn’t have been surprised. The older appeared that distressed.
“I saw something,” Victor said in a voice full of sorrow and fear, or possibly shame, it was hard to tell. His face was full of dread. “I never talk about it, but I need to confess this thing to you right now, because I will be dying soon. I need to tell someone.” Peter was alarmed by his brother’s words. Sure, Victor was in bad shape, but there was still a decent chance the infection in Victor’s chest would clear.
“You shouldn’t talk like that Vic. You need to have a positive outlook on these things. You can beat this infection. It’s not an immediate death sentence. I’m only here because you personally asked me to come, not because I think this is the end of all ends,” Peter said quickly in an attempt to build up Victor’s mood. He didn’t want to address the other part of his brother’s mysterious comment.
“Listen Peter, it doesn’t matter what they do, I know it’s over. I will die in less than four hours at about ten minutes after nine,” Victor said with absolute certainly. Peter wasn’t sure what to say about this comment. He didn’t understand why his normally strong brother was giving up so easily, it wasn’t like Victor at all, or at least not the Victor he knew.
“You see, I was told I would be dying today at that exact time. I was also told that you’d be here when I died. Actually, believe it or not, I was told I would be telling you this story. Hard to believe, huh?” Victor’s tone clearly said this was a matter of fact.
“Did some fortune teller convince you of that?” Peter asked, alarmed and more than a little bit angry. This only caused his brother to laugh heartily. It was good to hear his brother laugh, but it still confused Peter.
“I wish! I’d just ignore it if that was the case. Mediums and fortune tellers can’t predict crap…” Victor’s demeanor suddenly changed again. Now he looked as if he was about to collapse under a deep horror. “No, this is something else entirely. Could you go get me a can of soda, cola please?” Peter was puzzled by his brother’s response, but immediately sprang into action to fulfill his brother’s request.
It was clear that Victor was still troubled. He certainly didn’t want to talk about whatever he was about to discuss. Peter didn’t know his brother as well as he could, but he could see his anxiety, plain as day.
“What I need to tell you is going to sound unnatural, crazy even, but it happened as sure as dawn,” Victor said and winced,
“it doesn’t matter if you believe me anyway. You will in the end. I wouldn’t believe it myself if I hadn’t seen it”. Victor laughed again. “You most certainly will in the end.”
Then, without further ado, Victor began to tell his tale. “There was one time, back in the war, sometime after the Tet Offensive, when I found myself alone in this buggy, wet, nasty jungle area. I wasn’t stupid, I knew I was in trouble because I was off a ways from where I needed to be. I don’t mind saying, I was scared to death out there. I was making my way slowly and quietly back, listening. I put myself in that unfortunate situation, and I knew would be lucky to make it back.
There came a time though, there in the near darkness, that I found a dead body just slumped near a log, face torn away and blackened. It was an American, like me, and it made me feel tired and alone. There was a lot of death in that time, and you had to keep your wits about you. The guy was half hidden behind the log. I knew enough to not get too curious. This situation was more than likely a booby trap, so I started checking the area, looking for ‘tells.’ I have to admit, I was far too focused on my studying of the situation to notice there was a figure only ten feet away from me. I never saw the approach.
In the midst of a war, when everyone in a uniform is generally heavily armed, you should never do what this individual did. He let out a loud whistle to gain my attention, like you’d do to call in farm animals. The noise pierced the gentle sounds of the canopy. I didn’t react as quickly as I should have. Of course, I jumped to the ground and did my best to take some sort of cover. If it’d been an enemy combatant, I’d have died right then and there. I did however recover my marbles enough to target the character. Again, for the second time in that many seconds I was taken off-my-guard. I couldn’t completely see the person there, but they were only about a meter high and unarmed, as far as I could see. I didn’t want to shoot a kid, but this was a strange war. I needed to play it close to the cuff.” Victor finished that thought and took a sip of soda.
In the dark of the seemingly quiet, yet frightening jungle, in the middle of the maelstrom that is war, Victor found a devil.
“Do not worry yourself Victor Schuyl,” came a voice from the direction of the mysterious shadowed figure. The voice was unsettling to hear. The words were clearly of human origin, but were laced with inhumanity and impurity. The voice was so awful, my senses begged me to open fire and kill whatever was there. The shadow person sounded like a prisoner of hell who’d escaped and now walked the Earth. The voice frightened me more than anything else in the whole damn war put together. One thing was for sure, it was noticeably the voice of a child. The other clear thing was that it was ungodly and malignant.
‘That dead one over there is not rigged to kill,’ came the wicked voice again. The figure’s word was less than reassuring. I was more frightened of this new arrival than any enemy artillery that awaited me on the battlefield.
‘Who are you with?’ was about the only thing I could stammer out at the moment. A deep demonic laugh, much, much deeper than a child’s laugh, rumbled loudly, resonating around in the gathered trees. The foliage waved eerily at the creature’s chortle.
‘I do believe I am with myself alone, Victor,’ came the voice, now restored to the innocent yet distorted child’s voice. It put me off, hearing that innocent yet corrupted voice. It wasn’t lying, I could tell. I started creating scenarios in my head to explain how a child could end up here, miles from nowhere, and speaking perfect English.
“How did you get here then?” I asked, hoping to start piecing together the mystery.
“I suppose, like you, the war brought me here,” said the enigmatic poisonous voice.
“You’re not military. I don’t think you’re a civilian either. Who are you?” I was even more puzzled then when I began the questioning.
“I suppose that is the most sane question before you. Let me introduce myself,” the voice began in the same childlike tone, but the vocalization slowly lowered in pitch until the very last word sounded as if the devil himself were speaking directly to Victor. “I am the one called Ioxick, but I prefer you call me Sanguine, like the color of blood.”
The shadowy one raised its hand and pointed at a close by tree. A flash of light pulsed from its hand at lightning speed. The tree erupted into flames, as if hit by an incendiary bomb. It flashed so bright Victor needed to shield his eyes from the pain and blinding light the sudden illumination caused. When his eyes cleared, the place was lit as if it were nearly daytime. The thing I’d been speaking to was completely visible now and moved to within four feet of my position. I raised my weapon to fire on it and damn near pulled the trigger.
“I wouldn’t do that, Victor,” it said. “Gun fire would only draw attention and your toy wouldn’t hurt me anyway.” The being standing near me was an honest to goodness vision from a nightmare or demon, at least I was sure at the time it was a demon. It definitely appeared to be a child, but it was obviously in disguise. I wasn’t sure what a church would call these things.
The beast looked like it could be any ordinary little boy playing on the playground in a schoolyard. It wore a pair of green cotton shorts and a burnt orange t-shirt under a cotton vest that matched the green shorts. All its clothes were stained, coated with a mix of dried and fresh blood.
The boy’s arms and legs were unnaturally white, like the texture of wax figures. The hands were entirely supernatural. There were no hands or feet at the end of the stumps that acted as legs and arms. Instead, there were black appendages that looked like roving gnarly tree roots. They appeared ethereal as they moved, like charcoal-colored rivers that searched and tasted the air with the flicking tongue of a viper. The head of the creature was entirely a picture of the accursed. The face, the same pale color as the arms, was covered in various shades of crimson red. There was fresh gore on the animal as well.
Where the eyes naturally should have been, a piece of cloth, possibly gauze, was wrapped. The piece of material covered the eye sockets, which appeared to be empty. Signs of severe trauma could be seen around them. The wounds on the eyes were fresh, but the dried blood on the clothes told a different story. The dressing, or whatever it was, was in dire need of changing. The bandage was beyond holding anymore blood, so gobs of the red vital fluid dripped out from under the wrappings like crimson tears. The thick head of neatly tended blonde hair stuck out. It was the one thing on the beast that didn’t look like an aberration. Yet that made it the most disturbing thing about it.
I had my gun raised prepared to take off its head, but then I realized that it’d be futile against something so obviously ghostly. The truth is, it was right. Shooting would draw attention, and I didn’t want that. I had no idea what to do at that point. Then the thing did something I did not expect. It offered to save my life.
‘What the hell would you do that for?’ I asked it. The thing liked to talk, I could tell. You’d think that something that powerful would not be so chatty, but it was more than happy to speak with me. It told me I was about to be killed in a firefight the next morning. It could see these things evidently. It said I’d die and that there was nothing I could do to avoid it.
You never know what you’ll do in the face of certain things, but when you see a mythical type creature standing there in front of you and it tells you you’re going to die, it’s entirely believable. I was sure, even though it was a demon of some sort, that part of its story was probably true. It took perverted joy seeing my reaction to this revelation. It offered to show me my death if I chose, but I refused.
‘Give me some time to convince you it is in your best interest to let me help you,’ the beast said. Victor wasn’t going to listen to any demon telling him these things that were probably deceptions.
‘You want my soul or something. No, if I die tomorrow, you’re going to have to go back to hell without me,’ I told the demon, and it just started to laugh so loud I thought my ears might bleed. The deep sinister chuckle cleared the area of any wildlife. All manner of animals took off at the sound of its wicked amusement.
‘I am no devil, soldier. What would I do with your soul anyway? I don’t want a bunch of human souls following me around forever, wondering what they should do every second of the day. It’d bore me,’ it said, waving its mock hand. ‘I have different reasons for talking with you, Victor.’ I didn’t like the sound of that. Whatever it was talking about, it sounded worse than the devil pining for my soul. What could possibly be worse than an eternity in constant torment? A morbid curiosity struck me; I was oddly interested in what it had to say.
‘If you’re not a demon, then what are you exactly?’ I said, keeping my gun leveled at its head.
‘Hmmm, what am I? I am the being that all the demons in the world are based on. I am the one that people see, but when they describe me, the story always changes. I am the one who stalks your children, even though I never really have. I am the vampire that drinks the blood, but that isn’t at all what I do. For those like you, I am the one that steals your soul, but that too is only a story,’ it said in the voice of a mere toddler, but tinted with a menacing, savage tone. It slowly glided to the dead man, slumped near the log, ‘I met this one twenty-seven years ago, it was a Friday. He agreed to meet me again, just like I hope you agree to meet with me again, on a later date of course.’ I didn’t like the sound of that either.
The creature extended its feelers and they stretched and wrapped around the dead soldier’s body like a net. The root-like appendages brought the unfortunate man to a sitting position and pushed into the man’s flesh slowly and steadily.
‘What I really am Victor is a necromancer of sorts. This man is trapped in a limbo I created. He is unable to pass on until we settle the agreement. I have his essence now. If you want to call it a soul, I won’t argue. It’s trapped here in this corpse. I can’t steal his soul away, but I can hold him, keeping his body fresh, in a sense,’ the child said, tilting its head like it was listening to the dead body speak, ‘I can smell this one’s fear and I hear him slowly dying. You want to hear too?’
‘God no!’ I yelled with a complete aversion to what I was seeing.
‘Oh well, it amuses me enough,’ it said and let out an awful childlike giggle infused with demonic delight, ‘I will let this man’s spirit or soul go after he pays up. It is part of the deal we made years ago. First, I get what I was promised in this bargain, the same bargain I am offering you.’
‘That’s…’ I said quickly but was too awed to continue. I didn’t know what to say. I felt as if I might hyperventilate. I was sickened by the things I was seeing and hearing. I thought it couldn’t be real, but it was playing out in front of my eyes.
‘I can make it so tomorrow doesn’t happen the way it was meant to. I can change one person’s day tomorrow, and I have chosen you. I have that ability, I promise you. All you need to do is make this simple agreement with me,’ it said and nodded its head toward the body. I just through my arms up in dismay, unable to respond to the truly ghastly idea, still not entirely sure what the beast wanted.
‘You need only agree to watch me feed and agree to let me feast on you the day you pass, like I am about to do here and now,’ the beast said, twisting its head and opening its maw to look at me. This revealed twisted misshapen yellow teeth that grew in various shapes and sizes through a wicked smile. The teeth came up and twisted around other teeth, sometimes into the jaw itself. One thing was certain, every single tooth came to a needle-sharp point, except for only a couple that were broken off.
There was a mockery of a smile on its face. Even though this expression was offered like one would offer a smile, dripping saliva exposed it as nothing more than a hungry animal intent on eating. ‘Let me eat the flesh you will no longer need when you finally cross and watch as I feed so I can enjoy your aversion and fear. I will, for my part, see to it you live past tomorrow. That’s the long and short of it.’ I didn’t like the idea of what was being offered, but I didn’t like the idea of dying in less than twenty-four hours all that much either. I was pondering what the creature said when it added the final pitch.
‘You would die September twelfth, two thousand twenty-three, about ten minutes after nine in the morning. You will be resting in a nice clean hospital and your younger brother, Peter, will be there at your side. You will tell him this story.’ The abomination giggled again. ‘He won’t believe you at first, but he will come to believe you in the end.’
‘I’ll see a younger brother?’ I asked the demon child, astonished. It nodded its head feverishly. Dad had written me to say he was remarried, but I honestly hadn’t expected a brother out of the new marriage. I’d never even considered the idea of a baby brother.
‘I will look at the future for you, no cost,’ the demon said, dropping to its knees. It used its wisps of snakelike hands to produce a small crimson bag. The bag was possibly white at one time but now, so stained with blood, it was red. The demon hastily reached its hands in and pulled something out, tossing it on the ground in front of him. The beast lowered its head directly over some little trinkets, studying. ‘oh, yes. I am sorry to say you will never see your brother the way things are now. It was never to be, that is, unless you agree to my deal.’
‘Really? You want me to believe you can just read my future,’ I hissed.
‘Oh yes. I just read your fate on the bones here on the ground,’ the creature said as if that was a perfectly common occurrence.
‘Bones?’ I asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
‘Ah, the bones of a mystical, powerful creature chopped into perfect symmetry and soaked in the most putrid of swamp rot. You have to add a poison like snake venom and hemlock with other herbs, then the head of a bluebird and a drop of your own blood. That’s why only I can use them,’ the child said, lowering his voice so nobody could hear the last part about the bones only working for him.
‘So, you made those things with some bones from a unicorn or something?’ I sneered at the idea.
‘Unicorn? No, it was actually a rather large lizard. They have been gone for a long time now, so the bones are precious to me. They are as accurate as the moon in the sky,’ it said hissing at me, showing its twisted yellow teeth again. It scooped up the bits of whatever was on the ground. I never got a chance to see what they looked like close up, but seeing this creature, I didn’t doubt they were bones of some sort.
‘The deal would involve you eating my flesh when I die. How come that has to be part of the deal?’ I said, tossing the idea around in my head.
‘The soldier back there has not passed on as of yet, I have the power to keep him here and keep him fresh so I may feed. If you make the deal he did, like him, you will be eaten. Feeding time will be over soon for him, and by this time tomorrow, there’ll be nothing between us anymore.’
The demon child turned its head to look over at the soldier, still in the spectral web and seemingly dead. ‘Your fate would be no different than his. The eating is part of the allure for me. It is not a case of simply filling my hunger. It is a case of watching you suffer, too. You watching, knowing what it will look like when I eat your flesh and organs. That is the hunger you need to satiate in me. I have to say it honestly drives me. You’d pass in the morning, as I told you. By that night, I will have no more use for you or your soul or whatever you call it.’
‘How can you tell the future like this?’ I asked, equally horrified and fascinated.
‘That is for me to know. Ask yourself human, have you ever heard or seen the likes of me? Has anyone told you stories of Ioxick the Stygian Child or any of my kind?’ the oddity said angrily as it took to a height almost matching mine.
‘No, I guess you’re right. If I accept you are real and here, I have to accept that other things I don’t know are possible,’ I said, cowering from the thing. I was sure the thing could kill me on a whim if it chose to, but it didn’t seem to have that as motivation. ‘Then why don’t you feed on these other dead here? I mean this is a battlefield, there must be plenty of others you could find. Why chose specific people when there are always dead people,’ I said, trying to reason it out.
‘Ahhh, good question. I suppose that it has to do with choice. My kind needs to have a bargain struck to really satisfy our darker cravings. The feeding is less about the act and more about the deal one strikes. You get a chance to live a life you might never have had, and I get your body to feast on. Nothing is ever free,’ the creature said in a scheming voice. The idea of a beast eating your remains was not something one wants to think about, but a little brother was too much to give up.
‘So, you will have no claim on my soul then?’ I asked, just to be sure. I wanted to drive home the point that I wanted no part of being the servant to a demon.
‘That is something I have no need for, really,’ said the child as it gave out one of its sickening giggles again. ‘Really, what is it with your souls? I don’t want your life energy or anything. There are still rules set forth from the beginning. If I don’t make a clear and concise deal for your soul, I can’t claim it”. The creature released the soldier from its grasp and shrugged as it spoke, as if it really had no idea what got into people’s heads.
‘I will live to the day you said and you’ll eat my flesh when I die,’ I said, confirming the particulars.
‘Indeed.’ The creature nodded earnestly.
‘That seems too good to be true, there has to be something more sinister to it,’ I accused the beast.
‘Indeed, there is. I did say you must watch me feed,’ the child said, holding its root-like appendage toward the soldier on the ground. ‘You will be forced to watch as I eat human flesh and you will know that one day, it will be you that I will come to feed on.’ The Stygian Child dropped its chin a bit as a wide wicked smile crossed its face. This was the evilest smile I could’ve ever imagined. That smile would forever stain my nightmares.
I knew now why the demon made these deals. It thrived on a person’s fear. It must enjoy the pure perversion one feels when they meet an actual ghoul and witness it feed. It was a horrible choice it was offering me. I knew that watching this animal feed was going to be far worse than anything I’d see in all my days, and I may have to live with the idea of facing that desecration myself.
‘I think I can live with that then, If I live to see a brother I never knew I had. I think I can live with that,’ I said, afraid of what I’d just agreed to. Now, I just hoped to get back and meet my brother.
‘I think I had you pegged wrong,’ said the beast. ‘I normally have to drone on for hours to get people onboard with the idea, but you jumped right in. Thank you,’ the beast finished with a truly abominable smile. It was somewhat silly, yet terrifying.
‘As stated in the bargain, your soul or whatever you call it, is all yours. I’m only interested in prying away your flesh. And, as agreed, having you as witness to my feeding habits.’ I felt a bit better hearing the beast planned to stick to the agreed upon terms. I knew I’d be witness to a ghastly act, but it’d be over soon enough.
‘You know, a lot of the tales and folklore around this world stem from the likes of me. But my kind’s stories are never told properly. They always get the basics wrong,’ the creature instructed as it drifted to the other side of the dead soldier, kneeling next to the corpse. The Stygian Child lifted its awkward hands to its face and carefully slipped off the eye bandages. It appeared as if the bandages, as with any wound, were painful to the demon.
The view underneath the bandages was about what I expected. There were two completely empty eye sockets, which were vacant but glistening with fresh, wet blood all the way back into the dark depths of the skull holes. It looked like a pickaxe or other tool was used to pry out the eyes of what could only be described as a sickly child.
The figure was a paradox. It was clearly moving and bleeding all over everything. The creature was also speaking, but with no eyes it looked like a dead, empty human child with ugly dead vines growing from its hands. It was kneeling there preparing to feed, possibly to fill its emptiness. A soft hum started to emanate from the creature, and blood soon began to rush even more from the child’s eye sockets.
Small green and blue pods of various shapes were being coughed up through the eye holes with the flood of blood. Tiny undulating creatures also wiggled their way out of the Stygian Child’s eye sockets and fell to the ground around the dead soldier. It was something Victor had not been prepared for, and it instantly made him vomit. This drew a mocking, devilish giggle from the one called Ioxick.
The eye socket creatures slithered and wriggled away. Many of the pod-like things burst open in audible pops, like firecrackers. Creatures from inside them flew into the shadows. As fast as they’d come from the beast’s empty eyes, they all went into hiding. The atrocity looked at me and said in a sadistically amused voice, ‘Are you ready for this Victor?’ I said nothing, but shook my head I was not. The idea of watching this thing feed on dead human flesh was now becoming all too real.
‘Dinner time my friends,’ said the fiend. He raised both of his hands out straight over the soldier’s body. His tentacle like appendages grew to weave a complicated pattern over the soldier’s body. The hands wove themselves into an octagonal pattern with a series of ancient letters and figures woven in them.
The demon spoke, ‘one who made a bargain with me, you must at last pay your price…to me.’ The figure Ioxick made his hands change to a more solid shape that looked less like ghostly feelers. The fingers somehow molded themselves together, and a purple light shone in between the solid fingers. It was fascinating, as well as horrifying, watching the demon do his magic. The purple became a flame that consumed the hands like they were firewood. The creature howled as it gave its body tissue so the fire might be fed. Soon the purple flames died and the hands were nothing more than white ash. The ash suddenly collapsed upon itself and fell to cover the soldier. The Stygian Child stopped weeping and howling as a euphoric look crossed the beast’s face.
‘Aahh,’ screamed the soldier as a great breath heaved itself into the man’s lungs. His eyes were suddenly thrown open. They darted back and forth frantically. He was panic stricken. Never my life had I witnessed such fear in an individual’s face. There was little doubt that if a man was able to die of fear, this poor soldier would have passed on. But the demon was not going to let this soldier die…yet.
‘Oh, hello, Paul,’ Ioxick said in an overexcited voice, leaning in to face the soldier eye to eye, so to speak. ‘You’ve known about this day for nearly three decades now.’ Victor was amazed and sickened to the point of unsteadiness that the soldier was now obviously animate and aware. It was a sobering moment. The child bent nearly to the ground, head parallel to the Earth, right next to the soldier. The demon tore a whole forefinger off the soldier, right to the palm and started chewing it like a piece of hard taffy. The soldier exploded with a piercing scream that echoed in the quiet night.
‘Oh my god! You just ripped his finger off,’ I yelled and again drew my gun level with the beast’s head.
‘Yes, that’s what you do when you feed on something. You don’t just swallow a chicken whole, do you?’ it asked while wiping a dollop of the soldier’s blood from his cheek. ‘I like the finger bones the best. I like how they have just enough flavor to get my appetite going.’ The creature smiled. I could see bits of fractured and torn bone stuck between yellow teeth. The bones ground in its teeth with bits of knuckle and flesh. I nearly vomited again but held myself, though the nausea was strong. My knees buckled with a bought of dizziness. The beast might’ve been less disturbing if it didn’t have the appearance of a child. If it was an ogre or some other mystical bogeyman doing it, it would be easier to stomach maybe.
‘He’s still alive! You’re supposed to wait until he’s dead! Those were the rules,’ I yelled at the demon.
‘I told you from the beginning I kept his spirit here. Didn’t you hear me say I was a necromancer of sorts? I told you all this. You need to pay more attention when I speak,’ Ioxick said with childish joy in his voice. He rammed another one of the soldier’s fingers in his mouth, ripping it off with his jagged teeth. The soldier reacted violently again to the severe trauma.
‘You said you’d let his soul go. You lied to me,’ I told him, angry at being duped.
‘Oh yes, I will let him die and be on his way…when I am done feeding,’ the beast said. Then it finished crushing and grinding the bone and flesh of the second finger, finally swallowing.
‘That wasn’t the deal!’ I bellowed at the devil.
‘Yes, it was!’ Ioxick spat back angrily glaring at me, that is, if it had been capable of glaring with hollow eye sockets. The mouth slowly went from a determined sneer to a terribly evil smile. ‘It was always part of the bargain. You were too eager for your desire to realize the price.’
‘He’s alive though.’ I couldn’t even form a sentence at this point. ‘My god.’ The weeping and shivering soldier was enough to silence me. All words left me at that moment.
‘Yes, Victor, and one day you will still be alive as I feed on you,’ spoke the demon before he burst into an insane, disturbing trail of childish laughter. The awareness rapidly sunk in that I had agreed to a nightmare far worse than his death. I was in for a truly terrible fate and, like Cassandra of legend, I could do nothing about it.
I was pulled back to the moment by a gut-wrenching scream from the poor man being feed upon. I turned my attention back to reality and looked over to see that the creature had taken one of the soldier’s ears this time. It was using its newly formed root-like hands to tear the cartilage into pieces with the help of its teeth.
It was then that I used my rifle and shot the child in the head. I could no longer stand for this abomination before me. However, as I’d half expected, the bullet did nothing, not even causing the creature to flinch. It more or less passed through the beast. The skin was pierced and a simple hole appeared, like a puncture in the sand. The small wound quickly folded in on itself and was gone. The skin, like an hourglass, refilled the hole left by the bullet.
‘I told you so,’ the wicked thing chuckled, not bothering to take its teeth out of the sobbing soldier’s ear. The ghoul was completely dismissive of the bullet to the head. It was indifferent that I had just tried to kill it. Ioxick slowly bent down face to face with the soldier, meeting the poor soul’s fearful eyes with its two dead empty sockets. The soldier was quivering noticeably and desperately trying to pull out of the way, unfortunately unable to do little more than thrash about a bit.
The creature lunged, sinking its mismatched teeth into the man’s nose. Like a shark, the fiend ripped its head back and forth rapidly until the man’s nose finally gave way and was perched in the creature’s jaws. The childlike figure pulled himself back to a sitting position, chewing happily. The soldier was howling in pain and begging the heavens for mercy, only causing the evil being to laugh and mock him by saying things like, ‘oh please let me go, I’ll never do it again,’ and, ‘mommy help me, the wittle, wittle man is hurting me.’ It was taking great joy in the man’s suffering and pleading.
I’d never dropped the barrel of his gun from the shot I’d put into the demon’s head. I decided to at least cheat the demon of some victory. Bang! A flash came out of the barrel of my gun as the weeping soldier’s face was blown clean in half. I had to spare the man for the sake of all that he held holy. Suffering for that poor man at least was over.
‘You shouldn’t have done that Victor. Cheaters never prosper you know. You’ve only made the situation worse for our glum friend here, Paul,’ said Ioxick in a calm level voice, no hint of anger whatsoever. The demeaner of the beast frightened me even more as I started to ponder what the punishment would be for my actions.
‘What, are you going to eat me alive then? We have a bargain and I know what’s going to happen to me and when. In the deal, you have set the date and it is not today,” I said, smugly lowering my gun. I knew I couldn’t use it on the demon anyway.
‘No Victor, worse for him,’ said the demon, and a deep dark laughter rumbled the area, not child-like whatsoever. Ioxick waved his hands over the soldier’s body, again performing the intricate weaving ceremony he’d done before. The same purple flame engulfed the child’s hands. Immediately, another veil of ash powdered the fallen soldier’s body, this time with far more dramatic effects. The ash moved like white colored quicksilver and drew the head pieces back to the rest of the body and wove them back into their place. The bones crackled and splintered loudly as they took their proper places once again. His chest rose with another great breath, and the soldier was back to the living, with his face and head restored as if a shot hadn’t just blasted it away.
‘Poor Paul, you aren’t going to leave us quite yet. Nope,’ Ioxick tittered as he lifted the soldier’s hand so I could get a good look at it. To my horror, the hand was completely restored. The fingers that’d been eaten away were now completely reconstituted, ready to be eaten away a second time. The demon proceeded to engulf the same index finger in its jaws and tore it away viciously. The soldier, again struck with a massive jolt of pain, screamed out, face flushed with shock. It immediately made me sick once again. I went to throw up, only to dry heave. I was forced to listen as the demon cracked bone and sinew in its ugly yellow teeth, making especially sure to chew with a wide-open mouth, contents sometimes spilling onto its shirt and ground.
‘This soldier probably knows you were trying to spare him the extra pain. What good did it do him though?’ the devil asked, smiling. “Kill him as many times as you like. I don’t mind starting over again and again. More and more for me to swallow.’ I finally let m rifle fall to the ground completely. It was of no use anyway. Thoroughly disgusted, I started to leave them and the area. I needed to leave. I knew I would forever hear that man’s pain and the grinding of his bones in the creature’s mouth. I’d seen too much.
I got about three feet when Ioxick spun me back around so hard I nearly fell. ‘How dare you leave now!’ he bellowed, sending blood and tiny bits of body tissue flying out of his mouth onto my face and uniform.
It was amazing how fast the creature reached his position. It’d moved at least eight yards in a matter of a second, and I didn’t hear a thing. I was looking at the demon face to face and, though I couldn’t see any eyes, the anger was evident.
‘If you think this man’s suffering was overbearing because of a mistake you made, it was not. It was this man’s choice as your choice was yours. If you think eating flesh is so horrible, imagine what your punishment will be for disobeying an agreement with me!’ The creature preceded to lift me off the ground and carry me back to the suffering soldier, dropping me on top of him. I moved as fast as i could to get off the poor man. He grunted as i finally found my way off of him and took a position sitting next to him.
‘I’m sorry I shot you, Paul. I was trying to save you from this. I didn’t know about this,’ I told the stricken soldier. He was too full of fear and anguish to acknowledge me. I knew my apology would bring him little comfort anyway. In the end, I suppose the apology was more for my own comfort than the soldier’s.
The imp settled back on the ground next to the soldier, positioning itself on its knees and resting its hand-like things on his chest. The child slowly leaned down again, like when he’d ripped off the man’s nose before. I waited for the beast to again rip off the nose, cringing in dread and anticipation. But, to my surprise, the fangs of the demon latched onto the right cheek.
The beast twisted and pulled, eventually pulling a large chunk of meat from the face of the man. The soldier screamed, but the bellowing was distorted by the open gash in his cheek. The flesh of the man had been torn clear through to inside his mouth. The jawline and teeth of the soldier were clearly visible through the hole now, and it distorted the man’s screams. For the third time, I needed to vomit, but was unable to do so.
The maleficent creature sat and chewed happily as the soldier gurgled in pain. I noticed that one of the unnatural creatures that clawed itself out of the child’s eyes was creeping in from its shadow, moving toward the soldier’s head. I watched as it slid its way to the opening on the side of the soldier’s face. The nearly footlong worm creature looked like a giant leech.
Although no leech is a thing of beauty, this one was almost as frightening and ugly as the demon child. It was blood red and slimy, with bright orange and black markings in spirals around its undulating body. There was no head, but you could see the mouth clear enough. The mouth had rows and rows of long needle-sharp teeth, looking like a child’s toy wind spinner. The teeth moved in a sucking, pulling pattern. Anything that encountered these teeth could only go through the parasite’s digestive system.
I let out a disbelieving groan as the leech started wiggling itself into the man’s jaw through the exposed flesh of hole in his cheek. The ugly blood red creature bored itself in just below the gum line and was soon completely buried in the man’s muscle.
The leech wasn’t the only unnatural thing in the soft light of the demon’s presence. There were also what looked like translucent fish floating around them. These creatures had the general appearance of a large pilot fish, colored only by soft pink dots. These fish are what popped out of the green pods from the demon’s eyes.
Fish was as close as you could get to describing what they looked like, but that fell short of how plain and dull they looked. Their big pale grey eyes were the most pronounced feature. The eyes had a dull glow of ghostly light in them, but nothing else. There was no pupil, but you could feel they were still watching intently, that was clear. They bore pectoral fins that gently waved as if floating in a calm, invisible ocean. These spectral fish had large round bottom feeder mouths, like the sucker fish in a fish tank that clamp themselves to the glass and clean away filth. They slowly glided around without sound and in lifeless slow motion. They swam through the air on the edge of the darkness surrounding the area.
‘Don’t worry, they don’t eat too much,’ the demon child said. Then, the abomination did something I didn’t expect, the beast balled its hand appendages into a kind of fist and punched the soldier in the ribcage hard and fast. I hadn’t expected it, and it took me off guard. There was the clear sound of broken ribs resulting in possible internal injuries. The soldier cried out with the pain of being struck in such a tender area.
‘It tenderizes them, makes a soup in their gut that is to die for,’ the demon said smiling. Flesh and blood now stained its jagged teeth. The child reached out and poked the area with the tip of its arm, like a baker testing a loaf of bread. The beast shook its head in disappointment.
‘This one is a bit stringy yet,’ it said and struck the same area again, this time breaking the skin as well as more ribs. The soldier let out another groan and nearly passed out from the pain. The creature grabbed the back of the soldier’s neck violently, lifting the soldier’s head so it was face to face with the man. ‘You will not pass out Paul! We have a bargain. I will not let you miss this dinner you promised me. The best part is just about to begin. You definitely don’t want to miss it.’
Ioxick gently laid the soldier’s head back on the ground, like a mother setting her precious child down for a nap. The beast flashed its hand out almost too fast to see and buried itself deep into the man’s side. The arm passed into the back right side where the man’s kidney was located. The hand ripped back out of the soldier’s body just as fast as it went in. A sickening splashing sound was followed by blood splattering the ground. I began to vomit once again. The creature waited patiently for me to finish.
When I finally returned my attention to the spectacle I was being forced to watch, I saw the creature held the engorged leech in his hand. Ioxick reached in and ripped the parasite from within the man’s body. The blood-soaked thing wiggled, looking to try and get away, but the child’s tentacle hands were too strong. The creature slowly moved his free arm back into the hole he’d extracted the leech from and dug around. When the creature seemed to find what it was looking for it pulled its arm back out with great speed. The loud pop of a bone was heard as the creature’s hand was pulled out of the soldier.
The demon now held a part of what looked like the man’s rib. The creature proceeded to clean the flesh off the bone with its teeth and a sickeningly white tongue. I would’ve expected a forked tongue on a beast like this, but it was surprisingly long and thin. It sat gently gnawing away the bits of flesh away, getting as much off as it could. Meanwhile, the leech creature was thrashing less and less, as if losing strength or the will to fight. I noticed the soldier’s complexion was getting paler by the moment from the severe trauma. Maybe this meant that the man would soon be past this torture. At least I hoped.
The creature examined the rib bone it’d extracted, seemingly happy with how it’d removed the flesh from the rib. It held the bone as high as it could with one of its appendages. The creature then used its root-like features to move on top of the soldier and pin him to the ground, positioning itself directly on the man’s chest. It took the bone it was holding over its head and forcefully jammed it into the man’s right eye. The soldier let out the greatest cry of pain yet in response. The child had used a particularly sharp part of the bone to break the eyeball. After stabbing it again and again, there was a gooey pool inside the man’s eye socket.
The screaming soldier was trying helplessly to wriggle out the whole miserable time his eye was being assaulted. The creature took the fattened leech and dipped part of it into the remnants of the eye, like one would dip a cheese stick into marinara. The creature bit into the leech and ripped off the part that’d been dipped into the eye for flavor. It was about to dip the leech in again for another bite, but stopped and regarded me, using the leech as a pointer.
‘I am not a demon you know,’ it said, mouth half full of leech, ‘I am what demons are made of.’ Ioxick dipped the leech in the eye socket again with disinterest in the man’s suffering and weeping and pointed it once again at me. Disgusting drops of goo dripped to the ground from the leech’s body.
‘I am the inspiration for the darkest stories you humans tell,’ it said and then lopped another great chunk off the leech, which was now visibly dead. ‘Stories! that’s what I am.’ The creature sopped up the rest of the eye fluid on the leech and devoured it.
‘You are an incarnation of evil, so you are basically a demon in my book,’ I said with a defiant sneer.
‘How dare you compare me to a mere demon!’ said Ioxick pushing, itself to its full height and causing great pain to the hapless soldier underneath it. ‘I was there when your kind was still roaming the lands looking for food and the wheel was a thousand years in the making. I was the dark thing in the deep parts of the cave your people told stories about and why they refused to go into the darkness there. I was the one who frightened your ancestors into using fire, all to drive away the darkness, because I was there in that darkness.’ I was struck by that. It is true that fire was a major step in mankind’s evolution. Could this creature have had a role in that? I had to admit that a natural fear of the dark was inherent in people.
The creature let Paul lay there in agony and drifted on its unnatural legs. It looked as if it had a mission. The glowing-eyed fishlike creatures, called Hallow Reevers, in the near dark swished away from the area behind me as the demon approached. The creature stopped in front of me and put its twisting ropelike hands up to its face like it was pondering something.
The creature went on to take credit for a lot of man’s folklore. He claimed man was not entirely accurate when telling stories about seeing him. Stories became legends, and a simple child in the dark consuming the dead becomes a big apelike creature or gremlins. A creature that devours whole people, not just blood, becomes a blood sucking vampire. The screams in the night heard as the demon fed became banshees and witches. It attributed the idea of demons to humans and said that was not its first choice of title. I was sure this boasting was just elaborate fiction. The more it talked though, the more I was convinced. Could one creature from ancient history be responsible for so many horror stories and creatures of folklore?
‘Anyway,’ Ioxick said, ‘none of that really matters. As long as you know I am more than what your stories say I am.’
The child demon turned and headed back to the sobbing soldier on the ground. It took a position standing at the man’s feet, looking down on him. The Stygian child reached down with its ethereal fingers and let them encircle the man’s right leg, just below the knee. The rope like vines started to slide back and forth around the leg. It was efficient, able to saw the man’s leg off in no time, had that been the demon’s goal. This was a calculated way of torture. The grinding bonds moved fast enough to rip flesh away, but in a slow, deliberate manner. The pain in the man’s face and his screaming was enough to drive one to madness by simply witnessing it. I found myself weeping along with the soldier. The man eventually could scream no longer and went catatonic as his leg slid off.
The evil ghoul hauled the leg to the soldier’s chest and laid it there, using his chest as a dinner table. The beast took out a knife and started to carve pieces of flesh from the bone and feast on them. The creature acted as if it were simply a family meal and offered bits of gore to the Hallow Reevers and to me. It was doing unspeakable sickening things and having a glorious time doing them.
For the rest of the night, the evil childlike creature found new and terrible ways to sicken me. It ripped the man’s tongue off with one of its spectral fingers, tossing it in the air a couple of times and trying to catch it with his mouth. The rendered piece of meat missed a few times and landed on the ground. The creature undaunted, threw it up again and again until it finally caught it with its ugly yellow teeth. It more or less dined on the man’s other limbs like it did with the right leg. The demon would occasionally rip out an internal organ to flavor its meal, probably for the sake of show. It’d say something like, ‘this needs a little kidney’ and then tear open the man, to produce the organ. After hours of pure depravity, the end would finally come for poor Paul.
The end seemed to take forever to come. Watching the poor man’s dismemberment was pure torture. You could see the anguish in his face as every move the demon made struck him with searing pain. Harsh breaths came fast and sharp as he attempted to suffer unbearable grief.
‘Well, everyone,’ the beast said after finishing off the man’s second kidney, ‘you don’t know it, but I have to be going.’ The creature stretched greatly and let out a loud screeching howl. I noticed Paul was still alive, quivering on the ground. His chest was slowly rising and falling. The creature did a drawn out stretch this way and that, then walked around the clearing, as if working off the meal. Then it walked to the soldier, stopping at his head. The man couldn’t possibly know it was there, both eyes were gone at this point. The ears were gone long ago too, maybe for hours.
The creature reached, once again, with those ugly black root-like fingers. They bore deeply into the man’s throat, unimpeded by muscle, tendon or cartilage.
‘Got to be careful here,’ said Ioxick. ‘I don’t want to accidentally cut the jugular. Wouldn’t want to kill him…just yet.’ The creature found that very amusing and laughed hard. As soon as the monster hit a spot it liked, it ripped its hands out of the man’s throat amazingly fast. The beast held its hand to its eyes, looking at what it had drawn from the soldier, and was seemingly quite happy with what it’d done.
‘This is the man’s windpipe I believe,’ the demon child said, popping the bone into its mouth and chewing it like gum. ‘Sad to say that losing that may be fatal.’ The creature began to mock the soldier with crying noises and blatantly fake sad faces. After a final twitch from the soldier, I could tell it was finally over for him as any sign of life was finally gone.
‘Oh Paul, I barely knew you,’ Ioxick snickered. Then, the demon child shot its many mist like appendages through what at this point was essentially a lifeless torso and head, tearing the man’s body into a great number of smaller pieces. If the soldier wasn’t dead, this most certainly would have done the job. It was then that I decided the beast’s strength was clearly superhuman and awesome, as well as deeply disturbing.
‘Alright everybody, clean up time,’ the vile thing said in a childlike voice. It was very disturbing the way the beast said it, as if this beast were announcing recess to a class of kindergarteners. It was exuberant about whatever this next part entailed. The beast waved its arms over its heads once again. At first, I didn’t notice anything. It was like the demon cast a spell, but nothing happened.
The nightmare of what was about to happen finally dawned on me when I saw the blood on the ground start to vibrate. Unfortunately, I got a bit too curious and looked closer. It was something I’d regret and see repeated in many, many nightmares. There were thousands of tiny blue pods left in the blood on the ground. It occurred to me that this was the same blood the demon child had spilled from his own eyes in the beginning. The other pods left there were hatching.
The pods hatched there before my eyes. They weren’t exactly maggots or worms. Each creature had the body of a worm, as long as maybe six inches. They also bore a set of legs near their head. Looking through books later, I found these creatures had no known ancestor human kind has ever witnessed. It possessed the front legs and head of a louse. The mouth of the creature was designed quite differently though. Instead of a device meant to suck blood, each tiny mouth bore teeth and was meant to eat and rip flesh. The mouth had a piranha’s small, razor-sharp teeth. The creatures were white, like they’d evolved in a deep dark cave that never saw light. They were a sickening new species, and they had no problem moving themselves to the chunks of the dead man.
‘Don’t worry,’ said the demon child as It stabbed a kind of finger spear through one of the insects and popped it into his mouth, ‘these buggers won’t leave a single drop of this guy for anyone to find. Not even a hair.’ The child was right. Within a half hour, the fat little lice had finished everything, not even a bloodstain was left. The demon child was done as well. He devoured the last of the now pinkish lice into his mouth and rubbed his stomach.
‘That hit the spot,’ said the creature. I was numb by this point. I’d seen so many crimes against nature those last few hours that the idea of lice filled with bits of flesh being eaten by an evil apparition didn’t hit me the way it should. I was mentally washed out.
I looked around, noticing that the Hallow Reevers were slowly falling to the ground. It struck me as weird, but I’d become so desensitized that I really didn’t care now. The ghostly, glowing eyes were now black and empty. The fish, without this glow, slowly wafted to the ground. Their bodies hit the ground without sound and without any impact on the surrounding area. They simply broke into pieces and were swept away like snowflakes in a breeze.
The demon child used one of its black fingers like a toothpick to start prying stuff out of its teeth and just walked away, leaving me there. I was a complete mess and didn’t have a clue what do. After a couple of minutes, when the beast was completely gone, I started to think, ‘maybe this didn’t happen.’
“I know now all these years later that it did happen. It really did,” Victor said to Peter. His face grew paler than before.
“That is a horrible story Victor, do you want me to get a doctor?” asked Peter. This caused Victor to laugh once again with sadness. Again, he went into a barking cough.
“No, I’m not hallucinating. This all happened. I wish it was only a mind fart,” Victor said shaking his head. “It’s worse than I explained though.” Victor looked off toward the window. The morning sun was steaming in. His face looked very old all of a sudden, sunken and weathered. Victor’s hair was thin, showing pale skin and spots through the modest hairline. Even his large eyebrows looked like they’d seen too many miles.
His eyes were the thing that frightened Peter. His brother’s eyes were always a lighter shade of blueish grey and bright with life, but at this moment they were full of fear and looked aged. His eyes looked sick and ghostly as he spoke, “I’ve seen the child again and again since then. His torment never stops haunting you. Watching that devil feed that night was the beginning. I didn’t know it then…I know it now. I’d unknowingly made a contract to watch the god damn thing feed from that point until the day I die.” Again Victor chuckled. He nearly coughed again, but held it back this time. “I guess today it will finally be over, and I say good!” Peter wasn’t sure how to respond to this.
“You watched it feed again?” Peter asked.
“Yes, late at night in my dreams he comes and gets me. The Stygian Child swallows me somehow and I am taken to watch him make his crooked deals with another poor soul. See the Hallow Reevers are us. The reevers that are forced to watch these abominations again and again are the poor devils that’ve made the deal. He makes us watch as he feeds until we eventually are eaten ourselves.” Victor leaned forward some. “And you know what? They always take the son of a bitching deal! The child knows how to get them to agree!” Victor lay back and tilted his head away from Peter.
“He knows exactly how to manipulate people to get his sick pleasure,” whispered Victor.
“Why don’t people just cremate themselves then? I mean if there isn’t the body to eat, he can’t do whatever he does,” Peter asked.
“Some have tried. I was there watching as the demon rose a man’s the ashes back from nothing. It is futile, the beast has outsmarted everyone. I guess this demon probably has been around for as long as it says. I mean, with what its able to do, that wouldn’t surprise me,” Victor said and then sighed. He was wheezing a lot now from excitement. Peter moved a bit closer to him and tried his best to look passive.
“Calm down, Victor. You need to relax or you’ll start coughing again. Don’t let yourself get agitated,” Peter said softly.
“You know, not once did I call the bastard by what he wanted to be called. He asked me to call him Sanguine and even though he pushed me to call him it on a few occasions that revolting night, I never did,” Victor said with a wide smile on his face, happy he’d at least done that. Victor looked like he wanted to admit something badly, but he couldn’t bring himself to say it as he looked at his brother.
“Anyway, the beast will come for me when I’ve passed. It probably won’t come right when I die though. It will feed when the opportunity presents itself. It may be accompanied by a new poor soul who will start down the path I accidently walked. There will be the Hallow Reevers too, the poor souls of the damned, silenced and forced to watch as it feeds. Peter, you need to know one thing and tell your girls, too,” Victor winced, feeling a pain in his shoulder, “if some magical looking abomination asks you to make a deal with him of any sorts, it’s never worth it.”
Victor laid back and all the electronics screeched with alarm. Peter knew it was bad. He stepped back when people rushed into the room. It wasn’t long until Doctor Norman said quietly to Peter, “sorry, he’s gone.”
Peter was subconsciously drawn to his watch. He needed to know that his brother’s time of death was not preordained. He actually heard himself gasp when his watch read that the time was nine eleven. He began moving toward the tiny café down the hall for a coffee. He was planning to stay for a while at this little coffee cubby, to escape. He glanced at the face of the watch once in a while as his mind processed the information it was receiving. He’d lost his brother. The horror story his brother had told him was so terrifying it caused Peter to go into a fog. Peter started wondering if it were true. Visions of demons and flesh being torn from others filled his mind. He was snapped out of it when he heard Doctor Norman discussing something loudly back and forth with a nurse back toward his brother’s room.
“Where is Mr. Rothwell from room sixteen? They couldn’t have taken him yet. I don’t think we called down there yet. His brother is still here and hasn’t even had time to do any paperwork yet,” Doctor Norman said in a raised voice.
“I don’t know. We never move people like that. I’ll talk to Tammy,” said the nurse excitedly, and she quickly headed to the other side of the floor.
Peter hadn’t taken the story his brother told him all that seriously. Peter thought maybe his brother had some sort of mental issues near the end. It isn’t unheard of for people on certain drugs, coupled with pneumonia, to have hallucinations or tell odd stories. However, his brother’s body disappearing surprised and shook him. He took the red envelope he received from Victor and carefully removed the key that had a business card attached. The card was for a bank not far from the medical campus.
At the bank, Peter was shown to a room when he flashed his identification to a clerk. Upon opening the box, he saw a small pile of money, a card with instructions and a carefully placed, neatly folded piece of stationary. On the stationary was the letter Victor had hand written for him. The letter said:
My Dear Brother Peter,
I’ve included a list of incidentals I need done after I pass. I assume by now my body has gone missing. Don’t worry about me. I am at peace now, of at least this, I am sure.
I am finding as I write this, I am sadder than ever before in my life that I never really got to know you and your family. I know it’s mostly my fault, but I hope you forgive me. I never really knew how to talk to you about these things. I think you knew this to be the case and so you let me be.
By now, I will have told you the story of the night I was visited by the demon. I was told by the demon I would tell you what I did and so I know that is what I will do. You need to know one further thing about our meeting.
The demon came to me and made me promises. If I was to die and never meet my brother, I don’t know if that would have been enough to sway me. I know that is what I will be telling you when I die, but it isn’t entirely the truth. I’d have died before I made a deal with a demon for my own life.
The demon foretold that I’d never meet my new brother because my brother would die shortly after his birth. It was your death that the demon explained to me he could spare. I was, at the time, surprised I had a baby brother on the way and soon. I couldn’t bear the thought of not having a little brother. I needed to take the gamble to save you. I think the demon knew I’d long for a brother. I don’t regret it, though.
However, the demon never told me the whole story, that your mother would die in the crash you were to die in. I’d saved the life of my brother but had robbed us of your mother. I couldn’t face dad or you for the guilt after that, and so I think that caused a wedge between us. I don’t know if your mother died in your stead, or if you were both doomed in that accident, but I intervened on your behalf.
The death of your mother, the listlessness in our father and the terrible knowledge of my inevitable fate with the demon caused me to fear you, I think. You might think I was mad at you because of the way things worked out, but it wasn’t you. I was angry with myself. Bad things happened, and I spent a lot of time just coping. I should’ve been a better brother. Sorry.
Credit : Daren Salls
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