Age of Ages: part 1

Age of Ages

Part 1

,

by Thadd Presley

John spoke slowly into the microphone, but his confidence soared. “We survived the Y2K bug and the end of the Aztec calender. Not to mention, the multiple other dates of destruction that have come and gone taking with them the so-called prophets who wrongly spread fear in our hearts and spirits. And I suspect we will continue onwards and upwards into the coming Age of Aquarius where the majority of the people will begin to understand that we are all part of a single cosmic experience and just how important we are to each other. Everyone will begin to see that we are all the same, but different. This is what I have come to understand as enlightenment and what my book is about. Knowing that we are all the same, but different will cause us to ask why we are different and what our true role as a human might be.

“After all, what is the point of life? Does anyone have an idea?”

John knew most people thought they had an idea of what life was about. John expected answers like: Love, finding God, helping others, even punishment for past sins. But, No one in the audience raised their hand.

“To understand that each action, even the slightest thought, affects each and every other action and thought becomes the experience we all share as reality. This is called a collective consciousness and we are all responsible for it and subject to it.”

John stood and the small audience clapped. Three people in the front row stood, which caused the others to stand. It was the beginning of his book tour. He was only fifty miles from his house, but everyone seemed to get into and enjoy the things he told them. This made him feel good.

Even better than drugs, he thought. But that wasn’t hard to do because pills had pretty much stopped working for his pain and barely helped at all. So, this was a nice surprise. A standing ovation helped his pain more than anything he’d ever experienced. Actually, it felt good just to say these things out loud to anyone. The ideas had been in his head for so long he was beginning to think he would never find a publisher or a decent distributor.

As his head continued tingling with energy. It felt as if he was having an out of body experience and, even though there were only thirty-two people in the audience, he knew this was a sign of things to come. A good sign, he told himself.

Black Sleep

“The Black Sleep”
by: Thadd Presley

I can only tell this once and would like to keep silent on this account completely; except for the children that might follow my direction and possibly choose a path such as I’ve taken, I would indeed find a way to keep my life’s decisions a secret and work towards erasing all record of myself from the Earth which would turn all the prying eyes from my business forever and a happy man it would make me; to see the end of this thing called fame, I would do all this, you see; except I know it’s impossible to put the smoke back into the pipe, after it’s been enjoyed, and I grow more and more saddened by this knowledge and will forever more be saddened by every young one who looks at my life as something to be desired and at myself as a role model to be followed.

Obviously, not realizing, or perhaps pretending they don’t see, that I rose to these delirious heights and achieved these glamorous proportions by turning against my upbringing and throwing aside the wise words of my faithful fathers and goodly mothers and by disgracing this very special being I was born into; and, believe me, it is with a heavy heart, for I would like to not face this, nor do I want to make mention of it at all, but if I’m ever to have any sense of humanity again, I must admit that by attaining greatness in the sight of others, I forfeited the invisible part of myself, which is the part we all know matters most, and I am afraid of what awaits me on the other side of this life; that is, if there’s anything at all, I wish, with all my being, that I could trade back all that I have for the single thing I once thought didn’t exist.

Death is what I most need it to be; a black sleep, a darker, much deeper sleep than the thin nights I wake from and fall back to each eve. It will be relaxing and filled with sweet dreams if I know the truth and hold it high for all to see. However, the fantasy of life quickly recedes in the light of this truth and the very moment I try to imagine anything more than the blackness my Death needs to be, a cold sweat dowses my brow and the velvet blackness begins to pulsate until a slight crack splits the horizon just enough for my eyes to squint closer and closer until they adjust to the ever so dimness of light that reflect the waves slowly moving below in the inky, limitless sea of pitch.

In the slightly-pulsating lighted horizon line, I see dashes of swooping red devils, all differing sizes, gleefully thrusting pitchforks into men and women. These tortured people cry silently and ball their fists into their eyes and mouths, some pull at their hair and claw the skin from their faces. Each trying someway to ignore the pain brought on by their decisions and actions before falling to the Black Sleep.

I see many small devils attack a thin, pale, naked man and lift him into the air under the power of their muscled wings. A scream fills my head, but his mouth doesn’t move. Alongside a background of sucking and smacking waves, which is how that sea of hot tar sounds to my human ears, I hear a dark chorus of cellos and violins, and a hundred different voices calling out to the souls who still live in the Universe of Free-Will. Joined in a deafening choir, each voice pleads in it’s own words, for those who still have the strength and can, to turn from wickedness and accept the truth by faith alone.

These voices, crying together as a choir pray, and lament, and scream in torment; and for a moment I wonder, perhaps I even ask aloud: Am I the only one who hears them? Am I the only one who knows the truth of this Darkness crawling under a black sky? And, if I am, who will believe me?

Sadness, as I’ve never known it, fills me and I want so much not to be a liar, and a thief, and a braggart, and a lover of Earthly desires; only, so people might believe me when I tell them that the fame and fortune I have attained, nor the great wealth and perfect health I enjoy, compares to the eternal spirit I place in peril with every action and thought, and that beyond the thin veil that separates life from The Black Sleep, Time does not exist.

I know, in that moment; that, everything worth knowing was a single, simple truth, that forgetting everything I’d learned before made me a genius, and a legend, and immortal, and rich, and healthy, and capable of super-human feats yet seen by mankind.

I know when I wake from the sleep, I will give it all away and walk with the lost, be with the homeless, eat with the hungry, drink with the thirsty, and live with the dying. I will do this because the dreams of my Black Sleep depend on it.

A will bring this great message to the world:

Do not feed the hungry, eat with them.
Do not house the homeless, live with them.
Do not give water to the thirsty, drink with them.

I realize everything now.

As soon as the choir stops screaming and lamenting, and praying; when the cellos and violins quiet, and the black, crawling sea of tar stops sucking and churning below; as soon as my eyes adjust to the dim light on the horizon and I wake up from this Black Sleep, I will change my life.

Reverse Image (part 3)

Reverse Image
part 3
by Thadd Presley

What Delilah saw at that moment frightened her. The top half of her mother’s face changed. First, her pupils dilated, but not together. Each one on its own grew to the maximum size and then shrunk back down again. Her nose flared much like a horse’s would in the spring. Delilah stood and stepped away from the table. Her mother had become someone else.

She didn’t know why this was happening, but she thought it might be a stroke. Her mother was still young. Thirty-eight was young for anyone to die.

Clare saw a color of red that she never knew existed. It filled her vision and then doubled over on itself. She saw the walls of her world deepen and drown in the color. It was the color of murder, of hatred and sex and violence. God didn’t create this color to be seen and talked about. I was the last color anyone was ever to see. She knew deep in her heart that she was dying and it was a good thing.

“Mom. God.” Delilah screamed and ran to the breakfast counter where her cell phone laid. “911,” she screamed. “911.”
A woman had answered the emergency line before Clare knew what to say. “What’s your emergency?”

“My mom. My..she’s having a heart attack.”

“OK. Calm down. What’s your address.”

Delilah took a deep breath and answered all the questions.

Finally, there were sirens in the air.

The siren grew louder and closer. Too close for them to be for anyone but herself.

Clare opened her eyes. Red still covered everything and she still certain she would die. No one saw that and lived, she kept telling herself. No one could see that and live.

“Mom. Mom.”

The voice of her daughter was there in the red somewhere and that was somehow the worst part of it all. Why did she have to be involved?

The sirens stopped and doors slammed. The red was growing. It was outside now. Even the sky would be covered in red.
“Ma’am? Can you hear me?”

No, Clare thought. If I hear you then the red will get you.

“Look at her eyes, Cap. What do you think happened?”

“Looks to be a serious case of subconjunctival hemorrhage.”

Delilah screamed. The next thing she saw was the kitchen floor.

“She’s coming around, Cap. You alright sweetheart?”

“My mom. She had a hemorrhage. Her brain.”

The paramedic sat down beside her and smiled. “Let’s sit up.” He helped her. “There now. Your mom is fine. It was scary for her and for you, but that’s all. Nothing serious.”

“What happened?”

“Well, we don’t know why but she became extremely stressed and it busted a blood vessel in her eye. Both of them actually. She’s going to the hospital.”

“She’s OK?”

“Yes. Very OK.”

“I want to go with her.”

“That’s fine. You want to go ahead and stand up?”

Together, they managed to walk to the ambulance.

A moment of panic shot through Delilah’s chest when she saw her mother’s eyes. They were both filled with blood. Her mother looked like a zombie. Quickly, she snapped a picture and smiled.

“I got your good side that time.”

“You’re not funny. I don’t know how you can laugh at me. After what you’ve done. Being pregnant is hard enough on a family, but…”

“Pregnant? Mom!” For a moment, Delilah didn’t think she heard her right. “Mom, I’m not pregnant. Who told you that?”
“Don’t lie to me. You already…”

“I’m not pregnant. You must have hit your head or something when you fell.” She looked at the paramedic who wishing he was invisible. “I’m not, I swear.”

Clare was visibly upset.

“We can settle this once we get to the hospital,” he told them. “There is a planned parenthood clinic there that offers free pregnancy tests. You can go from there. How’s that?”

“O.K.” Delilah quickly assented.

Clare didn’t say anything but nodded her head.

“Let’s get this rig on the road, Cap!”

Slowly, the ambulance made it’s way onto the street and ten minutes later they pulled in at Methodist Medical Center.
An hour later, mother and daughter sat together in the E.R. A negative pregnancy test sat in a paper cup, wrapped in a paper towel.

“But, I don’t understand why you thought I was pregnant in the first place?”

“You said you found out something this morning and I thought you meant…”

“Mom, jeez. I learned something from Youtube that’s all. Really, I should have realized it a long time ago.” She smiled. Her mother’s blood red eyes looked back at her. “Oh, I’m sorry. I love you, mom. Thank you for worrying about me.”

“Well, child, that my job. It’s not this hard most of the time. What can I say? You’re a good kid.”

Ryan was escorted into the room by a nurse who was telling him that everything was going to be fine. “Clare is in no danger,” she said. “She just had a scare and fainted.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s been one heck of a morning for all of us.”

Reverse Image (part 2)

Reverse Image

part 2

by Thadd Presley

 

When Lucas entered the room, the quiet atmosphere stopped him in his tracks before he could say anything. There was a furrow on his dad’s brow he’d not seen before and his mother’s face spelled out volumes of unspoken emotion. He hoped they weren’t talking about his spring semester grades. He brought them up at the end.

Dad spoke up first. “Would you mind explaining exactly what you’re talking about? Your mother and I don’t have all morning to play guessing games. This afternoon we can hash out all the details and decide what we will do.”

“Ryan Butress.” Mother sounded extra-weird to Lucas and for the first time that morning he and his sister looked each other in the eyes. “I’ll not hear more of that. I have all the time she needs and so do you. She will tell us what she wants, when she wants. And we will not decide what she does, she decides what she does. Understand?” When her husband didn’t answer right away, Clare started crying.

Delilah stood in the gaze of three stone serious faces and she didn’t know what to say. Lucas broke the silence before it became hysteria.

“What is going on?”

“I don’t know. I think it’s because I’m not wearing makeup.”

Dad looked up from his bowl of cereal. “Sweetie, I’m not mad and neither is your mother. We just want you to be alright.”

“Well, I’m fine,” Delilah answered. “I just want to think about how I’m going to tell you what I found out. It’s been staring me in the face for so long and for me to just realize it. I mean, it’s stupid that I didn’t see it before. Why didn’t one of you tell me? Did you not know?”

“How could we know?” Her mother asked. “I don’t sleep in your bed, I don’t go out with you when you stay over at Angela’s house.”

“Is that what happened?” Her dad asked.

“That’s not important.” Her mother answered. “What’s important is what happens now.”

“O.K. Fine.” He stood from the table. His left hand shook and that was a bad sign. It meant he was really pissed. Delilah didn’t understand why her mom was so angry. “I’m going to work before I get in over my head and say something I’ll regret. I love you all and I’ll be home by four if anyone wants to fill me in then.”

As soon as the Mercedes backed out of the driveway, Lucas took this chance to jump ship. “I’m going to the gym and then job hunting. Bye.”

His mother crossed the kitchen and hugged him. Then, she turned and took an apple from the basket. “Eat this on your way. You’ll need energy to workout.”

“Thanks, mom.”

After the kitchen cleared of the menfolk, the women of the house stood quietly. They stood at the sink and watched Lucas jog down the sidewalk until he was out of view, then they looked at each other.

“Why are you looking at me that way, mom? God, why is everyone is so weird this morning.”

“I’m just worried about you. We are worried. Your dad and I.”

“Mom. It’s not a big deal. Here, listen. I’ll try to explain.”

“No. I want you to listen. That’s all I want you to do right now.” She pointed to the kitchen table. “Sit down so we can talk.”

“Mom!!”

“Don’t you yell at me.” She said it quietly, but it was a command that Delilah knew to obey. She sat and waited for her mother to speak. “Now I only have one question and I want the truth. Who’s the father?”

“What?”

“Just answer the question. Who’s the…”

“I don’t know. Dad, I guess. Who else?”

The words her daughter spoke didn’t make sense to her. They had meant something, but they quickly turned into something else before they reached her ears. Something like red worms burrowing through the dirt. Worms that ate the all the bad words once they left the mouth and spoiled in the open air.

Reverse Image

Delilah looked at her face reflecting in the bathroom mirror. She had just learned on Youtube that the image she saw reflecting back at her was not the same as it appeared to people on the street. The reflection was a mirror image. Exactly opposite of what everyone else saw.

She wished she could see what other saw, how she looked from the vantage point of others. How had she gone so long applying make-up backward to her face, primping and teasing her hair backward, smiling approvingly at a look that was completely opposite of what she had always thought it was?

There’s no wonder why she never turned any heads throughout middle school and during freshman year. But, now things were going to be different. Delilah was certain to see what everyone else was seeing.

“Dee, hurry.”

It was her older brother, Lucas, standing outside the bathroom door, probably doing the pee dance.

“Dee, please.”

“Go downstairs. Use dad’s.”

“He’s asleep. He’ll go ballistic if …”

The bathroom door flew open. “Fine. Whatever. Just stop talking to me.”

Lucas stared in disbelief. “What have you been doing all this time? I’ve been waiting patiently, gritting my teeth, because I know …”

“You don’t know anything, Luke. Just like always.”

He pushed past her and closed the door, not sure what he said wrong; without time to think, he could figure it out later if she was in a better mood.

Downstairs, Delilah’s mother, who everyone in the world called Clare, greeted her daughter with all smiles. “You’re gorgeous, do you know that?”

“Mom.” She glanced at Ryan, her dad. “Morning, dad.”

“You’re mom’s right, you know?”

“Yeah. Yeah. I’m not wearing makeup.”

“And I think that’s a good thing because makeup should be saved for special occasions.” Clare continued while buttering toast. “It shouldn’t be for everyday use. It’s really not good for your face over years and years of use.”

“Yep. Clogs your pores.”

“Well, that’s not why I’m not wearing it. It’s more complicated than that. I just found out something huge. It changes everything. Last night actually.”

“Like what?” Mom questioned.

“I don‘t know. Well, I don‘t know. I’m not really sure how to tell you. It’s hard to explain.”

“Whatever it is we we’ll understand.”

“Well, I should have realized it before because we were talking about it before school was out. At least last month ago or two at the most. I should have known.”

This brought the attention of both parents.

Continue on Part 2

Shallow Grave (part 1)

Shallow Grave

(part 1)

by  Thadd Presley

The wind blew out of the woods and though the window, ruffling the curtains, heightening my awareness of the strangely warm night. I had been writing for three hours every night for the past week, feeling more at home at my desk than I had in months. I was becoming more involved in my writing and the newest character, Markus, was finally going to escape the town and the evil I’d created for him so long ago in the short stories written in my youth. The writing had suddenly become effortless and each scene fell out of my mind so easily that I didn’t realize I’d slipped back into an ongoing story I never finished. Actually, I’ve hadn’t tried to finish the story and for over a decade I stayed away from it, dodging every scene that formed in my mind. But tonight, the click-clack of the typewriter keys calmed and somehow soothed the story out of me. I remembered a time when the typewriter was the only thing that quieted the voices in my head. The voices and scenes that returned to me tonight  were directly from the origin of my stories which took place in the same fictional town.

Lately, the voices for these long lost stories had become so loud that they were nothing more than a constant noise I couldn’t escape. I’d written nothing new in so long I was beginning to worry. I knew the only relief from the burden was getting the stories out of my head and onto the paper that I hoped would hold them forever.

Being a professional writer, I often took my writer’s curse in stride and learned how to use it to my advantage. I always told myself that I was lucky to have these voices, although it was sometimes troublesome, it was part of being a writer and, knowing that, I welcomed it.

In my work, it never seemed strange to hear voices and write down what they told me. Many of the voices came through as dialog, but others told me about their lives, their families, and I saw it as my job to document what they said. In some ways, in many ways, I was a journalist and biographer for the people and places that resided in my heart and mind. I made it my life’s work to tell the stories of those that lived and died in my head.

Does this seem strange? It might seem lunacy to those who don’t write stories, create music, or perform any other kind of art. Also, I realized that it’s not just artists who hear voices. I think most all of us have a nagging voice in our head. After all, my thoughts come through in the form of a sound. My ideas have never appeared before my mind’s eye on a computer screen. The voices, the people, the words become part of a process that drives the ideas that make  life worth living.

I always heard the voices and for a long time I didn’t mind having these strange people living in my head. It all changed when I was in the seventh grade. It occurred to me suddenly that I didn’t know if the voices were other versions of myself or if they came from somewhere outside of me. I decided I wanted to be a writer around that time and I’m not sure why, but the voices had much to do with the decision.

Whatever reason it came about, all I can say is that it’s become my career and I’ve been very lucky to have a job that I mostly enjoy. After all, not many people get to document the lives and secrets of imaginary people.
My love for writing has been very strong ever since, but I was often hesitant to write about the depravity of some lives and the gruesome themes of others. It was a good friend of mine during college who told me that it was a gift and I’d be a fool to not follow every trail and embrace it, no matter where it took me.

Years ago, before I realized what my future was going to be, I tried to talk it over with my best friend. I’d already told him the story before, but it never came out the way I intended. Perhaps, he thought I was trying to brag about my chance to publish n a back door fashion and that might have been a tad bit true, but mostly, I think, he thought I was lying. Then one night, I finally got it all out to him.

“Greg,” Allen shouted one night while we were drinking in the local college bar, “it’s time to show your talent. Come on and just publish the novel. You said yourself that it’s finished. What are you scared of? You chicken or…” He didn’t want to continue because we were friends and he knew it wasn’t his place to dictate my career, but he knew me well enough to call me on my bullshit.

“I’m not chicken. I just don’t know if I should do it. My mom’ll want a copy and she’ll not understand why I’d write something like that. It’s not my style at all.”

“Do you want to be a big time writer or not?”

“Yes,” I answered. “I want to be published, but I don’t want people to think I’m a weirdo or become someone who thinks of evil shit all the time. It’s bad enough to be typecast as a horror writer when there’s so much more to write about.”

He only smiled at me.

“Everyone knows there’s more to a writer than what he writes.”

It’s always been hard to argue with Allen, because he always knew me so well and I he usually had my best interest at heart. “But, my mom.”

“But my mom,” he mocked. “But my … What the fuck does she have to do with this? You are the writer. She knows the talent you have. Believe me, she’ll understand. I think she’d be more disappointed if you didn’t follow your dreams because of what you thought she would think.” He laughed then. “She knows it’s only a story. It’s not like it’s a biography.” He took a moment to finish his pint. “She’ d want you to publish and realize your dream. She’d want you to be happy.”

But, he was wrong on one point. It was a biography. A biography of someone in my head and that person is part of me. So, in a small way, the stories are my biography. I shrugged the thought off and took a drink of my beer.  “Yeah, you’re probably right,” I said. “I just don’t want her to be shocked when she reads it. For God’s sake Allen, it’s the weirdest story I’ve ever written.”

“But you have a publisher ready to roll.”

“Everybody has a publisher ready to roll. It’s call Amazon. They’ ll publish anything on demand.”

“You know what I mean. You’ve got an income stream waiting to be utilized and you’re…”

“Yeah, I’m behind on rent. Just say it.”

“Damn it, she’d want you to do this. Imagine if she knew you were afraid of publishing a story because you thought she’d not like it. She’s a grown woman and has probably read books just as weird.”

“I know.” My excuses were running low at this point and I needed the money.

“Then quit wasting time. The moon is full and the devil is waiting.”

“Don’t say it like that. The voices are not the devil.”

“Well, then, correct me if I’m wrong. Last time I talked to you, didn’t you say that someone spoke to you out of the darkness and promised you fame and fortune? I think you said that the voice said anything you want could be yours.”

“Yes, but that was just my imagination. I’d been awake for days writing on the novel and probably having delusions. It was probably just sleep paralysis.”

“But, you did it. Didn’t you? You listened to the voice and now the public is waiting to buy your book. Money in hand.”

Slowly I took the knife out of my pocket. “I did it with this, you know.”

“Tell me again. Exactly what you did. I want to be rich too.” He was holding his empty glass up to signal the waiter. It seemed as if he was getting ready to hear the story for the first time.

“I’ve told you twice already. It’s just not something I like to –”

“I want to hear it again. Please tell me.” He ordered us each a pint each and when they were  in front of us we took them to a dark, corner booth. He was waiting for me to begin, so I downed half the pint and began the story for him.

Our Walk (fragment 4)

Our Walk
(fragment 4)
by Thadd Presley

As you may well have heard from your own vicar or sister, as you follow our journey together and learn of our battles, the lives of my companions and myself were given over to our Father God before we were born, whether we admit it or not, making our conception a matter of the Church with nothing to with a husband and wife’s love for one another. Our birth into the realm of Earth put a dual claim on us; God had a claim to our spirit while the Church had it’s claim on our body and we knew from an early age that our short lives would be given back to God quickly, for our paths were to bring before us the manifestation of an evil so fierce and powerful that we would surely die upon setting our eyes on it. Our hearts would fail us at just knowing such a blasphemy, since our hearts were the writing stone of God’s commandments long before our fleshy bodies had been taught the lies which would have led us into sin. We know not what lies ahead of us, only that we are to show no fear, nor even bat an eyelash in the presence of Hell’s most hideous creations. When we stand up face to face with the vilest of acts performed by cruelest of monsters, we know our bodies are nothing but dirt and our souls were never ours. The control we have learned to exercise over our body was just for these moment so we can someday fulfill God’s commandment. It is not our lives for which we should hold dear, because there exists a Salvation that none can rival. The evil which lies before us does not have the power to pluck us from the hands of God, only to deliver us into them. While Satan has tried in vain to plunge all of humanity into darkness, even since the beginning of time, and cause God’s children to falter and turn from their destiny, hasn’t the authority to undermine the truth of God’s promises, which is life eternal with God Almighty, who’s name is Worthy.

Our Walk (fragment 3)

Our Walk:
Fragment 3

by Thadd Presley

I can’t help having this confidence, for it is my belief, although I have walked exactly the path that the Devil drew out for sinners and fell for his traps at every turn, my life is in the hands of God now; and, if it is His decision to feed me to the fires of this place and allow my body to lie here dead, along with my brothers, I still could not back down; for Jesus had to walk this same path, alone and tempted of the same and more, yet He did not back down; for my sake, He gave His life and all of His blood, so that I might make my own decisions and decide to do right or wrong, while knowing that Christ’s blood covers my sins and makes my evilest acts unknown to all, even God; so I am empowered to uphold good, to stand in the face of evil no matter, the form or fierceness of my enemy: the height or the breadth of sin, nor the strength of the temptation that shall come, neither even the pleasures that most sins are promised to bring, I will not back down from this fight or turn back into that blackness that I once called my life.

Our Walk (fragment 2)

Our Walk
Fragment 2

by Thadd Presley

And if that ancient monster, that master manipulator, who we call Satan, would have appeared amongst us, whether in his angelic form or as a whirling fire surrounded with billowing smoke; we, who fight daily against evil because we exist on the Earth and live our lives as Christian, must withstand the mighty forces of evil and hold high in the mist of innumerable foes the name of Jesus, all the while knowing that in all of eternity it was His final sacrifice that removed our sinful nature and placed our names before the eyes of God; even as our position of faith questionable, we were elevated above all and our names written in the book of Lamb’s because His life had bought all of ours forever and ever; and, in fact, because we had such faith and knew the truth, I believe that if we would have faced our most evil accuser at that moment we would have quickly rid this world of evil once and for all.

Jack’s Apartment (part 5)

Jack’s Apartment

(part 5)

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.”