“Don’t listen to him, the man has been placed under disability for the last ten years. He’s only out on the streets because he keeps slipping his orderlies and there’s not enough money to put him into a more secure facility.”
I stared down at the handcuffs. “Why do you have police issue cuffs in your pants?”
Adonis, concentrating on tightening the cuffs, shrugged his broad, dress shirt clad shoulders. “They are the best on the market.”
I was wearing casual garment from one of the boys’ rooms. They were twin boys, as my captor explained to me, about sixteen years old and my size, which made for a exciting excursion into two full-size sets of closets. I had a chance to look at myself in one of the closet door mirrors, and I looked freakish. Clean and all, no holes in the dark blue jeans, no blood or vomit on the white shirt with the red print, and socks. Oh, socks, the sporty ones, thick and fluffy and warm.
I looked so good, I almost didn’t mind the manhandling and the handcuffs. Almost.
“I’m sorry I got the wrong address,” I said, staring down at the shiny metal bands around my wrists. I had a lot of experience with cuffs and given enough time, I was able to slip them, but my captor didn’t look all that ready to put me on a backseat of a car and leave me alone for a few minutes. He also was the most confusing person I had ever met. I couldn’t decide if he was stupid, oafish or simply playing along to see what I was all about, but right now I had bigger things to worry about. He wanted me to prove my Dark-theory to him. To do so, we had to go over to his neighbors, which was easier than it sounded, since there were no fences between the gardens. The hard part would be to figure out how to show him what I saw. I hadn’t managed that so far, not with anyone, so there was that.
“I’m sorry I might have to kill you,” he replied, tugged at the bit of chain linking the cuffs together, and stepped out of my way. “You walk in front of me. If you run, I shoot you. If you try to jump me or the neighbor, I shoot you. We go over there, you show me whatever it is that’s lurking there, we go back and I decide what to do with you. Understood?”
I bobbed a bobblehead nod and started walking, along the hall, down the stairs and back into the marble-covered first floor. It’s fantastic how many creaky and groany spots you find if you don’t try to avoid them. I relished each woody crackle beneath my feet and stomped extra loud when we walked towards the back door.
Adonis tsked at the broken window, threw me a sideways glance that had way too much father in it for my dirty imaginings of his body, and opened the door for me. His other hand clutched the gun casually, very unlike a policeman, very much like a lady might carry her purse. I stepped back outside, careful not to make any sudden moves as he followed me out into the darkness. The lawn looked like a little ocean of scalpels, pale white where the moonlight hit the blades of grass, but since he had at least given me my wet boots back, I wasn’t afraid to step off the marble porch.
We made our way across the lawn, him pushing me forward when I lost my train of thought, usually while staring at the foliage lazily moving in the nightly breeze. Even without a fence, I immediately knew when we stepped onto the neighbor’s property. I almost got myself shot, too, since I stumbled back gasping, right against the muzzle of Adonis’ gun.
Luckily, he had a good composure, had my captor. “What’s wrong?” he asked, standing all clueless and calm between the rose bushes drenched in Dark. I could see their buds flow and twitch beneath the evil, like tightly wound wreaths of tentacles, thirsty for my touch and blacker than a moonless night. Adonis even got some of it on his sleeve and I had to make fists out of my hands to stop myself from trying to brush it off him.
“Don’t touch the plants, they are hungry,” I wheezed, more as an excuse than to warn him, because he wouldn’t believe me anyway. One of the rose branches curled at my words, as if to slap me for my traitorous words, but I backed up and gave it a wide berth. As I turned around, I saw Adonis stoop down a bit to take a closer look at one of the rose buds, then back off with a puzzled expression. He heeded my words, staying away from all the bushes and flowers as he followed my steps, but his face said that he was humoring me.
This was definitely the place. I snaked my way through the tainted vegetation, shuddering at the sheer mass of Dark around us. It was dripping from branches, curling around giant flower stems, sitting in stagnant pools on the path stones, humming with strength and malice. Either the people in the house spent massive amounts of time in their garden, or they were in some way more powerful than any of my prior victims. It was almost impossible to avoid all of it, but neither the Dark, nor that eye-burning Light ever stuck to me like it did to other people, so all I had to worry about was my confused companion.
He still stepped where I stepped, looking bemused but calm, clutching his gun. “You know,” he said, throwing a glance at the beautiful sandstone-paved patio we walked towards, “it’s a shame those people never look at their garden. I mean, here you have all this beauty, and the only beneficiaries are the insects and birds.”
I sniffed, feeling a tickle in my nose that promised a major cold in the next days. “Maybe they see it as I do,” I offered, swallowing down the increasingly queasy feeling developing in my stomach. It felt a little like a bad garbage dinner, but since I hadn’t eaten anything for more than twelve hours, it could only be fear.
A nervous breeze blew through the pillar seamed patio, as we stopped in front of the back door. This one was all glass and plastic with a touch of chrome, but it breathed with darkness, bubbling and undulating like a bursting, maggot-filled carcass. I had never seen darkness this thick up close, and I absolutely didn’t want to touch it. This was bad, really bad. I needed a weapon.
“You’re paler. What do you see?” Adonis whispered, trying to keep me in his sight and throw a look at the door at the same time. I could have taken his gun, now that he was preoccupied with his own worries, but I didn’t. I’d have to kill him, and I really didn’t want to. He was the only person to ever actually make an attempt to find out what I was talking about, and I wanted him all to myself for a little longer.
I could have told him, but words weren’t enough. I bobbed my head a little, trying to identify the worst section on the squirming, bloated mess, then pointed at a spot that was bulbous with pressure. “Touch that, there,” I whispered, stepping off to one side to allow him more room.
Adonis stared at me, then at the spot I had pointed at. His gun never wavered away from my chest as he did so. “I don’t want to,” he finally said, frowning at his own words as he heard them.
“Why?” I asked, although I knew the answer. I wouldn’t have wanted to touch the door there, either, not even blindfolded, but he had ordered me to show him what I was talking about, so he had to come to his own conclusions.
He shrugged and his fingers played, like he was plucking at invisible harp strings. Not that I had ever seen a harp in person, but this was how I imagined a harp player’s hands to move. “I don’t know, I just…. really don’t want to touch the door there.”
I nodded slowly. “It sticks. Sullies. Rots. Your fingers know, that’s why.”
His face told me how silly he thought I was, but he didn’t disagree. Instead, he nodded towards the door, whispering. “So, how do you plan on getting in if you can’t touch it?”
“You can’t. I can.” I inched closer to the door, grabbed the handle and shuddered as the Dark wrapped its wet, cold-hot tendrils around my wrist. It felt like touching a bucket of hot glue and I really didn’t want to, but it was part of the job. I still intended to get paid at the end, it just had gotten a bit trickier. Bubbles of blackness popped and sizzled as the door morphed into a pool of tar, pricking the skin of my hand as I turned the doorknob and pulled the door open. Maybe my Adonis didn’t see anything, but by the way he rolled his shoulders and made a face, he surely felt it.
The door swung open and gave way to a luscious living room, if the onlooker disregarded the mushroom-like growths of violet and black Dark all over the walls and the floors. I stepped in, followed closely by the suit-clad armed man I hadn’t wanted to let go. He hissed behind me, I simply stared. The door fell shut at his heels.
In the middle of the room, a demon stood. Pocks and growths distended his nice pantsuit, sieving yellow and brown fluids through the cloth where the pressure got too much. It had claws, at least I hoped it were claws, but not at its hands and feet— they grew right out of its crotch, snapping at the air as the thing turned towards us. Small, pig-like eyes glared out of a vomit-yellow face, and pieces of pink, twitching flesh fell out the creature’s mouth as it opened its lips to a big, cruel smile. The Dark stood up to its ankles in the room, filling it slowly but surely and rising like the morning tide. Funny enough, it didn’t stink.
No, the room was filled with a whole different scent, and it was coming from the broken, disemboweled body at the feet of the demon. The small creature had been sullied, both by the loss of clothing and by the ripping of flesh. The whole room stank of blood, fear and death, sticking sickly to the insides of my mouth and nose. As the demon lifted his foot to take a half step backwards, a single lock of golden hair stuck to its distorted and warped toe nails, coming clean off what had been a head once.
Adonis had his gun up, side-stepping me to get a clear line of sight at the thing. I wondered how he saw the demon, wondered if the massacre looked as bad to his non-Dark eyes, wondered if he had ever seen something like this, something so purely malicious.
“What is this?” he hissed, sounding out of breath and twitchy like a fly-ridden horse. Cold wind blew against our backs, pulling long threads of Dark out of the sea around the demon and whisking them away as the beast stammered and gurgled. It probably was trying to explain the dead girl’s body at its feet, but something obviously stuck in its throat. It hacked once, twice, a third time, then it spit two fingers out, like a cat regurgitating a fur ball.
“What is this!” Adonis yelled, sounding appropriately panicky.
The demon roared, taking a step closer, stomping into the mess of entrails in front of him and squirting blood everywhere, like a kid jumping into a autumn puddle. A glob of pinkish pus dribbled out of its shirtsleeve.
“Shoot him,” I said, trying my best to sound helpful. Nobody listened to me, probably because I wasn’t yelling.
The demon took another step forward, dragging the ribcage with it as the bones got stuck on its stunted foot. This was not good, it was getting too close.
I turned around and threw all good manners into the wind. “Shoot him, god almighty!” I yelled, shocking Adonis into action.
He shot until the gun clicked empty. Then he vomited and ran out.
The demon fell, slipping in the blood and guts of its victim, gargling its last breath and then adding its black blood to the red of the little dead girl. The room fell silent.
I stood there for a few more moments, confused as to what best to do next. There was nothing here I wanted to touch or take, no bed I wanted to lie in and no food I wanted to steal, but having been robbed of my usual after-kill-activities, I felt strangely bereft. I finally drifted after Adonis, when the stench of blood and death inside got too much even for me. He was walking up and down the patio, barrel side pressed against his forehead and muttering to himself. He stopped when I fell in step beside him, though, and turned to examine me like he hadn’t seen me before.
“Who the hell are you?” he whispered trembling.