July 20th, 2017
The sweat came off Alestor’s back and stuck his skin to the bed. It had been a night of strong images. He looked to his side and found a picture of a woman whose smile invoked a cold dragging feeling across his spine and he put the picture face down as it worsened. The feeling would not leave. Not for the hour he spent looking around his house, looking for the pictures of his smiling dead wife. It was one-thirty-four in the morning when he was done. He must have done a whole loop, putting down the pictures before he receded back to his room and plopped down the bed.
The stands of the knocked over photos shook like scared, wagging tails.
The window pane opened. The curtains wafted. A strong wind blew them apart.
His hair dragged to the currents. Then it ceased.
And the voice appeared.
It was in the floorboards. It was in the door frame. It was in the walls.
A voice, sweet and calm.
Then, as if the current following the sound of flood, his walls were painted black. It dripped down, flushing the baby blue color of his bedroom. Everything turned malicious, everything closed in on him and the walls went dark, like a black sea washing over him. He certainly felt washed up. Alestor fell from his bed, he put hands above his head. He rushed out. The walls outside weren’t any better, his whole house was corrupted. It shook.
He ran to his study. He struggled to the table on the end of the room. He quickly took out a brown bag. Like an addict, you could see the dependency on his face and his shaking hands when he felt the coarse pink salt pinched through his fingers and spilled all cross the floor and table. He threw salt, as quickly as he could. He threw it in pinches, then handfuls. Then the whole bag all at once. Then with a finger, designed the symbol like a child playing in sand.
A pentagram, somewhat. But much worse, with strange symbols and hebrew all across. Then a few more circles, a few more esoteric shapes.
He clapped both hands and then slammed them into the symbols of pink salt.
It birthed a fire.
The flames licked and he could hear the voice through the snaps and crackles of the fire. He immediately knelt and felt his shins bleed as they dragged across the rough floorboard, towards the flame.
“I’m here, oh bountiful one,” Alestor said. The fire dimmed for a moment and all he could hear was the quick breathing of the being from beyond.
“Be quiet.” It said. “I should have your tongue ripped off that you would suffer me another failure,”
“You said-” Alestor started. The fire slapped the ground.
“I said? What does my saying have to do with your lack of action, with your failure?”
“You said you’d help us if I gave you a boy this time,” Alestor said.
“And I did, did I not?” The voice said, “And what did you do with my help? Waste it,”
“But the boy…-”
“The boy is with me now, where he could be properly appreciate,” The being said. “Do you know what his name is? It’s Pip,”
Alestor felt his stomach drop.
“Pip,” Alestor repeated. It shook him. Pip. The familiar face, the blood. The little dark boy that he kidnapped. Pip.
He had a name, and a family, and a past and a future.
Alestor looked up, the fire reached half-way to the ceiling. His hands shook as his knees inched closer to it.
“Is my wife with you too?” He asked.
The fire came down for a moment, it washed over his hands. They burned, roasted. He jumped back and screamed.
“Do you think you’re in a position to beg for anything? Another death and you haven’t even killed the heater-eaters. Are they that much of a problem?”
“They’re durable.” Alestor said. “And the children are afraid they’re getting closer.”
“Let them get as close as they want. You’re almost done, right?”
“Yes but I’m afraid we’ll need at least another ceremony. I don’t know if we can hold on until then.”
“Then don’t.” The voice said. “Cut your losses and leave,”
“What?” Alestor looked up. “I won’t compromise this. I need this.”
“Really?” The voice asked. “Where’s your conviction? You already failed to kill them twice, what would you have me expect from you now, failure?”
“I want my wife.” Alestor whispered.
“What?” The voice mused.
“I want my wife!” Alestor screamed.
“And what a nasty desire that’s been.”
“I’ve done what you’ve wanted, for years now,” Alestor said. “I’m owed a wife. You owe-”
“Owe?” The voice laughed. “There is no owing anyone or anything. You wanted something, I told you the price. It’s a shame you haven’t found a way to pay it yet, but it’s your shame, not mine.”
“Why torment me.” Alestor cried. “Don’t you want this as much as me?”
“What I want is of little concern to you,” The voice said. “It’s a feeling that changes everyday. That changes even now. Why, my eyes are set on something more than just slaves now,”
“What do you want?” Alestor asked.
“None of your concern,” A whip of flame slammed against the floor. “If you still want to meet your wife, then do as I’ve told you.”
“I want to, but the Vicars…” Alestor lowered his head. “They’ll kill us. All of us,”
The fire wrapped around the room and he could feel the grip, a manifestation of all the fumes and heat, choking him, squeezing his body and forcing him into convulsions.
“Would they kill me, though?” The voice screamed. “I’ve never lost. Not in a thousand years, and a thousand years more. You’ve shamed me twice. And now you’ve insulted me. I’m beginning to wonder if you want my offer retracted?” The hand of fire let Alestor go, dropped him to the floor and receded. The soot covered walls grew up, onto the ceiling. It smelled of ash, like a volcanic eruption had gone off in his home. Alestor coughed, finding breath amongst the smoke and heavy air. He heard the voice laugh.
“Me, lose. That would be something, wouldn’t it? I’m getting excited. Is that love?” The voice laughed. “Lust, maybe. I’d like to meet them more. But for that, I’d need you, wouldn’t I?”
“I’ll have it done by tonight,” Alestor massaged his throat. “No more errors. No more hesitation. Then we’ll see you soon,”
It was like the demon’s face appeared in the flames. Pieces of it, like a fragmented photo. Alestor could see the smile, the cool veneer and the rows of ivory through the heart of the flame.
“Oh, by the way.” The demon said. “Keep an eye on your son. He’s got quite the mouth.”
It crackled and died, both voice and fire.
And nothing remained but the pink salt turned to glass, like the painted church windows had shattered onto his fireplace. Alestor knelt, the pain still on his hands and throat. Burned hands touched the glass, it shattered in his palms.
It was enough to make him cry for all that he had done. For all that he would do.