by C.E. Wilder
A holy man deals with the aftermath of making a deal with a devil.
Until It Sleeps
Just like the curse, just like the stray
You feed it once and now it stays
Until It Sleeps - Metallica
In the darkness of night, I've hidden, awaiting his sleep. Once his guard is down, I make my move, crawling in through his ears and seeping from between his teeth. I fill his lungs and bleed from his nose until the only thing he can breathe is the memory he tries so desperately to repress. But a promise once made must be honored.
He stumbles through the memory, not yet realizing where his dreams have taken him. The landscape looks as if a war zone and a graveyard have merged. On the horizon, like a pair of ghosts, an image of the mortal stands before me; me as I have been and could be again. A towering demonic power, I extend a clawed hand to the puny human beneath me, sharp teeth curving into a grin as he takes it.
The exquisite moment the panic hits him fills me with a thrill. The moment our ghostly hands touch his adrenaline reverberates through the landscape as he turns in circles, searching for me. I slither from my hiding place, an unseen shadow slipping right between his feet. As I manifest against his back, he jerks away with a shout.
"Did you miss me?"
The words escape from between jagged teeth, a foul hiss of air nearly visible in this world of illusion and dreams. I can feel him trying to calm his body, but he has no more control than I in this place. He resorts to drawing his silly little symbols in the air with his fingers. Amused, I circle around to his side, where I can whisper directly into his ear.
"Your lord abandoned you when you sought my aid."
His hand drops like an anchor to his side.
"And did I not delivery?"
"Yes," he sighs, eyes shut tight. "You did."
"And what have I been given in return for my generosity?"
Anger seeps into my tone and I expand to hold the rage until I become twice the size of my host. The inky darkness that composes my being begins to drip and ooze around the human. The dim red of my eyes becomes flames. My mouth splits my face nearly in half as the sharp teeth there multiply.
"Where is my recompense?!"
My host jerks his shoulders from my grip and turns to face me, that reprehensible determination in his eyes again. A righteousness burning there like salt in a wound.
"I may have sold my soul for the greater good, but I'll see to it you get nothing more."
A roar shakes the barren landscape, erupting from my maw in a hot blast that showers him with acidic spittle. He cowers before me, falling to his knees, covering his head with his arms. I know he won't give in tonight, but the way he quivers before me is victory enough.