by Thadd Presley
Jack came to, lying on the floor inside the dusty room. His face was inches from wool socks that bunched around the brittle bones of the girl’s feet. He felt very sad for her because she gave her life for an experiment. He wanted to reach out and feel her socks, but knowing they would crumble under his touch, he didn’t have the heart to destroy them. She had been through so much.
He realized then what he was meant to do. He could bring her back. Somehow. Wasn’t that what the man had done; brought his daughter back? Why else would he have gotten to see all he had, if not to help? He realized then that he could see Caroline. He could bring her back.
Then, he found himself engulfed with the knowledge he needed. Something had stuck out to him from the visions he’d seen. He looked around to find what he couldn’t remember. He saw it then and wondered why he hadn’t paid it more attention. It was the old, handwritten book. It had all the information and direction he needed to bring Caroline back. The book held ancient secrets unknown to man, pages upon pages telling of other worlds and gates that lead to them: gates to the dead and how they could be opened.
The book was priceless and held powers that no man alive remembered. He wanted the book. He had to know its secrets if he was to bring Caroline back; to right his wrong, he had to learn the secrets.
His hands trembled at the thought of holding the book. There were other papers on the desk that held the key to unlocking secrets of a forgotten time.
Written in a strange, unearthly language, the pages called to him. He saw drawings that depicted those who walked between worlds and the kingdoms in those worlds, which were described in all their glory and detail. The book told how the civilizations of this world and others fell to endless battles… battles that brought evil into the worlds of men. Yes, worlds!
He lifted a loose page from the desk and blew dust into the air. One look at the words and he knew it told of a last battle where man’s fate would be decided. But, once he got it close enough to read, he found it illegible. Frustrated, he picked up another page… nothing. Not even the drawings made sense to him now.
It was the same with the book. He didn’t understand a single word. But, he blew the dust off and looked at it anyway. There was no doubt about the knowledge the book held and the secrets its pages described. Jack’s need to know pushed him onward. He was sure he could learn how to read the book. It was necessary if he was to bring Caroline back. He had to free her. No, he had to free both of them.
They needed him: both the girl and Caroline.
It wasn’t hard to approach the dusty, disintegrating skeleton of the little girl now that Caroline’s life was at stake. He felt like he knew her and she him. He took a deep breath and brought the hammer down on the ring that held her chains. It took two blows before the old, rusted iron broke. He realized then that a chain was also attached to the body under the bed.
A moment later, less time than he could calculate, he was aware of the cold again. It was entering him, blowing into his face, seeping into him, making him weak. Far away he heard the phone ring. But that wasn’t important; there was more work to be done.
We need you, Jack.
He looked at the skeleton girl who was now crumpled on the floor. He started to reach down and pull her bones up, but it wasn’t important…
Read the book, Jack
He suddenly realized he’d done something wrong. An overwhelming emotion of fear fell upon him.
He wanted his Bible. He needed the comfort and protection of his new found faith.
“Jack,” a weak voice wheezed behind him, spinning him away from the skeleton and back to reality.
“Adam, good lord, lay still,” he said, walking toward his friend.
Adam was struggling to get up. “It’s a demon, Jack.” Adam took a deep, rattling breath. “I saw him in my dream. It made him kill his wife and child.” The quilt was filled with blood and Adam had his hand at his cracked skull.
“Dear God,” Jack cried, rushing to Adam’s side and pulling his belt off. “Keep your hands away from your head.” He bound the man’s hands, taking care not to fight with him. “It’s for your own good. You don’t want to dig your brains out, do you?” It was like dealing with a child, a strong child.
During the last year he had volunteered at the hospital and learned that head injuries were often made worse by people poking their dirty fingers into their brain and not knowing it. This was exactly the case with Adam. Jack saw that he had indeed been digging into his skull. Now the bone-white skull was covered with bits of grey, unwittingly pulled out by Adam’s probing fingers.
“Lord, be with us,” Jack prayed.
“It itches, Jack. Give me that screwdriver. I have to scratch it.”
The phone rang.
“Lydia,” Jack screamed into the phone. “Are you on the way?” He listened. “I’m afraid your husband is worse,” he explained to her. “He had a heart attack or something. He collapsed and hurt himself badly.” He listened. “Yes, I called them,” he lied and hung up.
Now he had to call them. He had no choice. If he didn’t it would look very bad.
With a shaking hand and an ever-more unpredictable finger, he pushed at the buttons on the phone.
“Nine-One-One. What is your emergency?” A woman was on the line before the first ring ended.
“I need an ambulance at the Wartzburg Building downtown. My friend has fallen. He has a head injury.” Jack heard her typing. “I’m afraid…he’s…I had to bind his hands with my belt. He’s quite delirious…”
The phone beeped in his ear and a woman’s voice, obviously automated, began to explain about staying on the line until the paramedics got to him. “Damn,” Jack said and hung up.
Adam was still fighting Jack’s every move and was now trying to stand up. Jack held Adam down and tie the his ankles with an extension cord.
What am I doing? he thought. “I’m so sorry, Adam, please forgive me.”
Jack. The voice called to him. It was a man. You can save her.
Don’t listen, Jack,” Adam croaked. “It’s lies.”
You can bring her back. She is your responsibility.
Jack picked up the screwdriver and knew what to do. He could bring Caroline back by sacrificing a life for a life. With a moan he pushed the tip of the screwdriver into his friend’s stomach. The screwdriver did not go easily. He had to use his other hand to hold the skin taunt. Finally, it broke through with a pop.
Adam shook his head and tried to fight, but he didn’t have the strength. “Don’t, Jack,” he said, twisting his body away. The cold steel was deep inside him. “Caroline’s gone. This won’t bring her back.” But, as he said it, he saw that Jack’s eyes were far away.
Jack pulled the screwdriver out and pushed two fingers into Adam’s stomach, just like he saw the man do in his vision. Adam’s insides were much warmer than Jack imagined.
Adam felt a tug and then pain erupted in his head and shot lightening fast through his body, filling his vision with red. He managed to look down at his body and screamed when he saw what Jack was doing.
Slowly, Jack was pulling Adam’s intestines out, loop by loop. They were gray with bits of clotted blood on them.
Black and green filled them in places.
When Jack started chanting, Adam was surprised at the low, guttural voice that he heard coming from his friend. Adam realized what was happening and the idea of death scared him.
Jack had given total control to the demon in the hopes of getting Caroline back.
“Jack, stop. It isn’t too late.”
Jack felt the love he had for Adam escalate. He bent down and kissed Adams cheek. “Thank you for everything,” he told Adam, then started chanting over again.
“Shut up, you fucking idiot! Can’t you see what you’re doing? Caroline is dead. She will not come back…” Adam groaned and his voice faded, unable to continue because of the pain.
Jack stopped for a moment. He was going to say something, but Adam didn’t give him a chance.
“Something is doing this to you, Jack. We have to get out of here.”
“They do not want to hear your drivel,” Jack said. It was the other voice again talking through him.
“They have been left alone for too long, waiting to be freed. Now, have a bit of fucking respect.” He jabbed the screwdriver into Adam’s arm. “And let me concentrate.”
There was already more pain than Adam thought possible. The pain in his stomach was terrible, so terrible, he didn’t even feel the screwdriver in his bicep. He knew that he was going to die, and there was nothing he could do about it. Soon, he would go into shock. “Listen to me, Jack. Caroline is gone.”