The rain drummed heavily on the car roof, cascading down the windscreen and obscuring any view to the outside world. I had slept uneasily, startled awake by the intercom crackling and coming to life. It had fallen out of my hand down below the seat and I fumbled frantically to get a hold of it and listen to the agitated voices coming out of the speaker. Another body had been found, only three blocks down from where I was parked. Luckily for me, I could be there very quickly.
Turning the keys in the ignition, my car roared to life and the windscreen wipers battled the downpour. It was the middle of the night and there wasn’t any traffic which could have stopped my swift advance.
Pulling up a street away, I could already see the blue lights flashing and the buzzle of police officers at the scene. I pulled my coat tightly around myself, ignoring the cold rain that instantly drenched me and dripped down the back of my neck. Staying as close to the houses as I could, trying not to draw any attention to myself, I advanced to the alley were the body was. It always was an alley.
‘You are not supposed to be here Doug, go home,’ came a rough voice next to me.
‘I cannot stay away and you know it Tom,’ I replied.
Tom grunted and I followed him as he pushed past all the officers and forensic investigators. People stared at me but I didn’t care. Powerful lights, probably setup by the forensic team, illuminated the scene in front of us.
The body came into sight, or what was left of it. Limps half torn off, bones visible and remains of the gut spilling out across the ground. The alley was protected from the rain as the roofs of the tall buildings covered the street below. Steam rose from the body. The victim hadn’t been dead long.
‘Chief Inspector Donaldson. We are securing the area but no signs of the attacker again, no traces left behind and we have no idea how the wounds were inflicted,’ a young man in police uniform said.
Tom nodded. We both looked at the horrific scene in front of us. The eyes had been pulled out but were still hanging loosely by their connecting tissues. The skull was sliced open exposing what remained from the brain. It was grotesque. I could hear heaving behind me and stumbling as somebody could not keep their stomach contents in any longer. This was number twelve now; the previous eleven had become victims of similar brutal killings only in the past month. Even though I had tried my best to suppress them, images flashed before my eyes of a female body, cut in half from the torso onwards.
Blood pooling from uncountable cuts on her body.
Her eyes dead and an expression of pain on her face. Her skull sliced open and her guts wrapped tightly around her neck…
I shook my head and had to lean against the cold wall to stay on my feet.
‘Are you all right Inspector McDougal?’ asked the young police officer timidly.
I waved his efforts away with a hand and felt Toms strong grip on my shoulder.
‘You have seen what you came to see,’ he said, ‘now go! There is nothing you can do here and I don’t want you pushing yourself even further.’
Nodding slowly, I walked back into the downpour and towards my car. I ignored all the looks I got of former fellow officers as I could not stand their pity. The images of the dead body still vivid. I slumped into the driver’s seat and switched the engine on, only pausing for one second before pulling the car onto the empty street and past the police chaos. Driving around aimlessly, I tried supress my memories once more but it was of no use. The shock of seeing her completely destroyed on the ground had been too much. She had been pregnant but there had been no sign of the baby anywhere near the body. She had been a gentle person, kind and loving.
Finding her a victim of this anonymous evil killer had been too much and so the police force thought it best to send me on a forced holiday. Although I could understand them not wanting me around and Tom actually having my best interests at heart, it was of no use. It only made it worse that now I no longer had work to distract me. Other cars started to appear around me, people driving to their work, probably largely unaffected by what was going on. I focused and pulled up next to my regular for a coffee.
I sat there, idly thinking about the victims. Coffee steamed in front of me, and a cigarette slowly burnt itself down in my hand. They had all been good hard working people. A butcher, a dentist, an electrician, a hairstylist, a janitor, a librarian, a manager, a notary, an optician, a scientist and Susan. She had been a teacher. She had loved her work with the children, had loved her life.Had loved me.
We had been married only briefly, expecting our first child. The memory of her face in my mind made me smile but was quickly replaced by her face in death. I grimaced. I just could not understand what she had been doing in that alley, far away from our apartment. There had been no sign of a break-in or any sign she had left in distress. No evidence had pointed towards an abduction either. Since the police had been in our apartment to collect evidence, I could not face staying in there for long, spending more time out on the streets, almost stalking the ongoing investigations. Unless I found her killer I would never get the answers I needed. My life was shaken to the core, irrevocably.
I spent my day aimlessly wandering again, finding myself several times heading towards the station, begging Tom to let me back in on the case, but I knew my old friend and he wouldn’t change his mind. The rain was still unrelenting. It had come with the killings and not stopped. The city before had been a place full of life, but now always coated in dim light, the people rushing to their destinations. In this weather it was almost impossible to tell between day and night other than the grey turning into black. The street lights had just flickered to life and I wanted to give in to the hunger when a man caught my attention.
On the other side of the road he was pacing before the entrance to an alley way. Nervously he kept attempting to enter but then changed his mind. My heart started to beat faster, and I could feel its rhythm in my throat. I looked around. The street was completely deserted. Suddenly, as if pushed, the man finally walked in and was instantly out of my sight. Adrenaline rushed through me as I dashed across the street, ignoring the deep puddles I stepped into. Had I possibly, accidentally, stumbled across the killer? Cursing at Tom who had taken my gun away from me, I stepped to the edge of the alley, defenceless, and peered in. I could just about make out the outlines of the man and an odd steam rising from the darkness. Swiftly I stepped in, ready to grab and confront him, when the steam enveloped me also.
Within the blink of an eye, the world changed. The steam had turned into wisps of fog, the darkness replaced by eerie light and the scene in front of me solidified out of nightmares. The man I had followed was surrounded by creatures of various sizes, goblin-like with huge razor sharp claws and row upon row of spear like teeth. They tore at his body, biting and clawing into his flesh. His screams were piercing to my ears but I could not make out his face as he was still with his back to me. The goblins took no notice of me and went methodically about their grisly task. Standing frozen I could not take my eyes of the sight, seeing all and yet seeing nothing.
‘Come from where?’
I blinked and focused my gaze deeper into the alley. A figure, beast like but with shrivelled human features stared at me with glowing green balls which faintly resembled eyes.
‘Ask again not,’ the creature hissed between stone teeth.
It floated toward the man, never once taking its green gaze from me, and with long fingers ending in sharp piles gripped his throat and forehead. With a swift jerk it tore the skull open and bit into the exposed brain. The man’s screams increasing in pitch and the goblins shrieked with glee. The body dropped to the ground where the monsters continued their ripping. The screams did not stop, even though he had to be dead. Where he had stood, a grey translucent figure now squirmed in visible agony, the creature still gripping its throat. It pointed its free fingers at me now.
‘Wretched human not,’ it hissed, ‘yet.’
As if released by an invisible force I stumbled backwards and fell, my watering eyes shutting. They opened again the instant I hit the ground. Everything was dark once more and I could hear the persistent sound of rain. The creature, goblins and fog had vanished. I crawled forward until my hand touched warmth and felt instantly slick. Crying out I pushed myself backwards out of the alley onto the street, feeling the bile rise in my throat. Another scream, female this time, made me turn my head frantically. To my left a woman turned and ran. What happened next I experienced only as a blur, my mind desperately trying to make sense of what had just happened.
The blue lights appeared in what felt like a heartbeat, frantic voices appearing around me and people pushing past. Hands gripped me then and pulled me to my feet roughly. The movement was too much for my stomach and I vomited onto someone’s shoes. I was stuffed unceremoniously into a car and speed off. I recognised the station with its long corridors and found myself in an interrogation room, on the wrong side of the table.
Soon after, the door was pulled open and Tom stormed in.
‘What the fuck is going on here Doug?’ he asked.
‘I don’t…I cannot…’ I mumbled incoherently.
Tom slumped on the chair opposite and folded his arms.
‘I want to believe you had nothing to do with it. I want to believe you found the victim already dead and the shock got the better of you. But we have an eye witness claiming she saw you do it!’
Tom ended his sentence by banging his fist onto the table and the noise made me jump.
‘I did not kill him! I don’t know what happened. She just saw me coming out of the alley I swear!’ I pleaded.
‘But covered in blood?!’ Tom roared.
‘Doug you need to tell me what happened.’
I bit the inside of my cheek, if I told him what had really happened he would not believe me. Actually nobody would.
‘I was wandering about the streets when I heard noise coming out of the alley so I went and had a look and I just stumbled across the body. It was such a sudden shock that I couldn’t think properly anymore.’
His look turned soft and he rubbed his hands through his short cropped hair.
‘Everybody is frantic and somehow the media have found out already. They are laying siege to the building. I have to keep you here Doug, you understand that, don’t you?’
I nodded slowly.
‘Who was the victim?’ I asked quietly.
Tom looked at me as if he tried to see directly into my mind and find the truth of why I had been at the scene, hands covered in blood.
‘One of us.’
The cell I was taken to was cold and the bed hard, never had I thought to be on the receiving end of police treatment. I lay in the dark, my mind too overwhelmed to even attempt a coherent thought. My eyes grew heavier and I drifted away.
I was eleven years old again, hands in my pockets, walking besides my mother in bright sunlight. I really did not want to go to this weird old woman that my mum wanted to drag me to but I couldn’t stay home, so off I went, sulking the entire way.
It would not bring my dad back.
The small house at the end of the town was decorated with all sorts of bells and colourful flags but it could not hide the shabby exterior. My mum knocked on the door and moments later it opened. An old hag came into view and grinned a toothless smile. She waved us into a dim hallway that smelled of mothballs. I wrinkled my nose which earned me a tap on the head. We sat down around a table in the living room and both women started to chat. I did not listen, looking at all the random items scattered across the room.
From the corner of my eye I spotted a figure, I could only make out the rough outline but the two glowing green eyes were unmistakably locked onto me. I gasped and clutched the rest of my chair tightly. The hag hissed and with a swiftness I did not think possible of her, she jumped up and pulled dust out of one her pockets and flung it at the figure. It shrieked, a terrible sound that resonated in my bones, and vanished. The hag almost jumped across the table and gipped my head tightly, starring into my eyes. She mumbled incoherently while my mother shouted next to us and tried pulling her off me. The hag’s eyes burned deep into mine.
I woke bathed in sweat, panting. The terrible realisation hit me that I had seen that nightmare creature before and the memory had been wiped out of my mind, now returning. I lay still trying to understand, trying to make sense of it all, but I simply could not. My emotions dulled and I just waited patiently to find out what would happen next. Sometime later, the cell door swung open and the artificial light made me blink. Tom stepped in and I lifted myself to a sitting position and to make space for him. He slumped down, looking tired and exhausted.
‘Forensics have not found any evidence that makes you a suspect. So I have to believe you found the body and were not involved,’ he said.
I shook my head.
‘I had nothing to do with the murder. That’s the truth. Will you keep me here or can I go?’ I asked quietly.
‘I cannot keep you here, no. But the press is going nuts outside Doug. I have made a statement but it has not calmed anything down. Families of the victims have gathered and are calling for blood, they have convinced themselves you are the killer. I cannot guarantee your safety as soon as you leave.’
‘I see,’ I said bleakly.
‘I will let you out the back and there is a car waiting for you to drive you wherever you want to go. Home I suggest.’
‘Can I ask for a favour, from an old friend?’
Tom grunted and I took it as a sign of approval.
‘Can I stay at yours? I cannot go home, I just cannot….’ my voice trailed off.
Without a word or even looking at me, Tom pulled a collection of keys out of his pocket and handed them to me. I took them and mumbled my thanks.
The people I past in the corridors avoided my eyes but I could hear them whisper once I passed. When before it would have been looks and whispers of sympathy because of Susan, now I could feel everybody’s distrust and suspicions. After all the killings of a police officer was something nobody took lightly. I avoided the scrutiny and made my way through the corridors to the back of the station. The unmarked police car drove me to Tom’s flat and a familiar sight greeted me after entering. The flat was a hoarder’s paradise, a collection of books, newspapers, CDs and all other kind of random crap. A pungent smell came from the unwashed dishes in the sink and I decided to stay well clear. During the ride over an idea had started to from in my head and it now would not leave me alone. I needed answers, needed to know what that thing was and why it took Susan. The idea was completely crazy. I did not think that creature could be reasoned with but I had to try. The night fell and before Tom got back, in the cover of darkness, I ventured out into the rain. I borrowed an old hat of his and the rain was dripping insistently off its rim. I had no real idea where to look or how to find the creature. So I walked about aimlessly, looking into all alleys I passed. No luck so far but I kept on trying for days. I did try and avoid the place Susan had been found but I did pass it on some occasions, glanced in and moved on swiftly. During the day I was napping and restlessly trying to distract myself with anything I could find in Tom’s apartment and at night I continued my search. Tom didn’t question what I was up to as long as I stayed out of trouble and away from the public eye. Strangely, as well the killings had stopped and the city took a breath of relief. I started to have a morbid suspicion though that the creature, whatever it was, tried to hide the bodies because it did not want to leave clues for me where to find it. This suspicion was more or less confirmed by Tom who mentioned people being reported as missing. I had never accepted that para-normal creatures and the like were real, being very logically minded, but now unless I was hallucinating I had to accept that otherworldly creatures existed.
Weeks passed without any success and Tom started to mention I could come back to work as things had died down a bit. Also it was highly likely he wanted me out of his apartment. But my initial idea had grown into an obsession. Frankly there was also no other purpose to my life anymore. Susan and our unborn child taken away from me, my life was not worth living anymore. I had never been a workaholic like Tom and although good at what I did, I valued other things more in my life.
Although the killings had visibly stopped the rain still remained a constant companion. I could not understand how the city had not flooded by now. Maybe the rain was also not of natural origin. I must have checked all available alleys a million times by now and was close to giving up for this night when it finally happened.
I had just walked into the dead end of a particularly narrow alley and found it blocked by trash bins when around me the space started filling with mist. My pulse started racing immediately and when I realised what I was about to confront, cold fear filled my chest. As before, within a blink of an eye the scene changed. An eerie fog floated about the alley which was now strangely unblocked by trash. My head spun from side to side anticipating the creature’s arrival. I had just completed a full sweep of my surroundings and turned to find myself face to face with the monster. Green eyes and stone teeth centimetres away from my face. Gasping I stumbled back, our gazes locked onto each other. I was aware of movements behind the creature and shrieks filled the otherwise completely still air. Shocked, I saw its goblin companions rushing towards me. The creature growled which sounded like two massive boulders clashing together. The goblins shrieked in higher pitch and slowed their advance. Frozen in fear I watched as they started circling me and made an escape impossible.
‘Seeking me you?’ the creature hissed at me, ‘Knowing you before, child were you.’
It remembered me, I realised, and then it flowed towards me fingers outstretched.
‘Why have you killed all these innocent people? Why did you take Susan from me?’ I shouted at it, spittle running down my chin.
It halted, mid advance, and threw its head back and laughed a deep unworldly laugh. The goblins cackled around me and grabbed my arms and legs, pinning me painfully to the spot.
The creature, in a swift move, extended its hand and I could feel its long sharp fingers digging into my skull. My vision became blurry and images flashed before my eyes so clear they might have been happening right there in front of me. I saw all the previous victims, alive, transiting through their various lives. But none of the images were what I had ever expected to see. They were horrific. I saw them killing family members, stealing from other people and friends, raping women, molesting children and abusing animals all to various degrees of hideousness. My heart almost stopped when I saw Susan. She was crouched in an alley, shaking. She had just given birth and was staring at our baby lying in a pool of blood. Her arms were not cradled around it but her hands were firmly clasped on its face suffocating it. Horror and disbelief were the only things I could summon. A voice was speaking in my head, ostensibly my own internal narrative. But it was not me talking, not this time. It was that creature.
’None of these people are innocent. They all have committed crimes and they have all gone unpunished. I am here to correct your human error and rid the world of the evil human nature that festers so happily amongst yourselves while you tolerate it. I can feel the strong love you have for this woman in your heart but see what she did. Killing your new born child because she could not face being a mother. I have seen her true nature and now her soul belongs to me, to suffer for eternity. Sooner or later the evil human nature becomes visible in every person and I will end their lives just as I have ended hers. The more souls I take the more powerful I become. So then you tell me why you think you could stop me with your gift.
I knew instantaneously that the creature was not lying. This was the truth, Susan had killed our child! All these people had committed the crimes I saw, some going by unnoticed for years. This did not give it the right though to brutally murder them and harvest their souls. However, I did not understand what ‘gift’ it had spoken of.
The fingers were drawing blood from my head now, I could feel it running warm down my face.
‘NO!’ I screamed and pushed against the goblins holding me to free myself.
Somehow, I managed to loosen the grip on my right arm and I extended it towards the creature. It was as if something else was driving my actions as my mind could not possibly see a way by which I could vanquish this monster. Unexpectedly it drew back, releasing its grip, the goblins around me letting go and retreating to a safe distance.
‘Release my Susan from your imprisonment and I will spare you!’ I screamed at the creature.
I had no idea why I would have the power to make such demands but it was as if the touch of the creature had set something deep inside me free, awakened some power I never knew I had and did not know how to control. It was controlling me. A part of my mind wondered if this was my gift or whatever it was.
The swirls of mist intensified around one of the creature’s claws and a human figure appeared. It shrieked and thrashed trying to get free of an invisible grip. The goblins around me howled once more in glee. Even though I could not make out any features or anything else that would visibly identify the figure, I felt in the same moment that it was Susan. Gasping in terror at her pain, I watched as the creature tortured her soul. The urge to free her became desperate and I lunged forward. Within a heartbeat Susan and her screams had vanished before I could reach her.
The creature growled deeply and rushed forward once more. Its fingers extending so they fitted around my waist, lifting me clear off the ground and squeezing.
Just because Baba Yonna ignited your powers in your childhood does not mean you can now make demands off me now human! You have no idea of what you are facing. I have lived for millions of years, ridding the world of its evil and you dare challenge me now. Walk away, never seek me out, and perhaps we shall not meet again.
‘Who are you?’ I asked through gritted teeth.
I have many names given to throughout time but none of which will mean anything to you. It is of no importance anyway. NOW GO!
I was released so abruptly that I landed on the ground and in the blink of an eye the creature, goblins and mist had vanished. I was alone in the dark alley. I stood up, shaking, I had to find a way to kill the creature and free Susan, but how? I could not control the power I sensed in my now but it could be the only way, I had to achieve the impossible. I squeezed my eyes shut desperately trying to think of a solution. My mind could not form a consistent thought. Everything was pure chaos. Out of the mess, a memory surfaced and I remembered what else had happened to me in the house of the hag many years ago. Before my inner eye I could see my mother dragging me away but before the hag had completely let go of me, she had slipped a small necklace with a stone into my pocket. I remembered that necklace. I seemed to have never be able to throw it out during the years. Susan had loved it and worn it even on several occasions. It was nothing special, a simple sliver chain with a pale orange stone. Excitement and hope boiled up in me. I had to find that necklace. I rushed back onto the street ignoring the rain and ran through the streets to my apartment. I was far away and it took me much longer than I wanted it too but my need drove me on. I was gasping and had a terrible stitch in my side by the time I got there and fumbled for what seemed like ages with my keys until they finally turned the lock and the door opened. I flew inside and the impressions hit me like a brick wall. Everything in here reminded me of Susan. Our pictures on the wall, smiling and happy and her belongings everywhere each now reminding me causing terrible pain in my heart. The pain drove out everything else, all hope vanishing from me. In a daze I walked about the apartment until I came to the room I dreaded the most. We had repainted the walls in light blue and the crib stood empty in the middle. Shelves with stuffed toys and everything else we had prepared for our child. Our child she had killed because the horrible truth had been she could not deal with it. A nasty thought forced into my mind; had she ever loved me? She had always been wanting a child, so how could she have possibly kept her true feelings from me? How she could kill an innocent new born? Tears streamed down my face and I walked away. Was her soul even worth saving in the end? It is often said that under great pressure the body refuses to accept any more feelings and emotions and I could fully relate to that now, I felt completely numb to it all. Completely depleted like this of any thought and feeling. All thoughts of the necklace faded, whatever unusual power it contained now of no interest to me anymore. In the bedroom, hidden in a shoebox under the bed I found my small pistol. I had forgotten all about it until now but it still had bullets. I held it to my forehead, the cold barrel pressing against my temple.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I pulled the trigger.