The Night Thing Part IV
"STOP!" The man in the circle raised his hand flatly towards Ricky but did not look towards him. Ricky looked at him wide eyed, questioning. "It has not left us. Stay inside. Lock the door." Ricky slowly closed the door and locked it once again. He slumped to the floor. He and the ragged man sat in silence for a long while. The ragged man had assumed a meditative stance and had closed his eyes. Ricky scanned the darkness beyond for any sign of movement. His jaw was tight and his teeth chattered lightly like he were cold.
"Whu-What is that thing?" Ricky finally asked.
"It is a demon. Loosed from its infernal cage by a foolish man." The ragged man did not open his eyes. "It is just playing with me."
"Playing?!?" Ricky laughed and sobbed a little simultaneously. "Is-is it gonna come after me n-next?"
"Most likely not. It doesn't care for human constructions. I believe because there is too much metal and electricity built into the structure. It would have to come inside to get you and it will not do that. It is me that the creature wants. Just remain inside the building and I believe you will remain safe."
Ricky saw movement near the road. Someone was walking, or rather stumbling, into the parking lot. As the figure stepped into the light, Ricky saw that it was the man from the car. Ricky stood and moved to unlock the door. The ragged man opened his eyes and looked intensely at Ricky.
"STOP. No matter what follows, you must not open that door."
"But he -"
"Is dead already. This is merely a ploy of the beast. ON YOUR LIFE, Do not open that door. PROMISE. NOW!" The ragged man stood up.
"I won't open it." Ricky whimpered.
As the man from the car stumbled closer, Ricky could see his throat and chest were covered with blood. He stumbled about as if he were drunk. The ragged man took several deep breaths and presented the medallion at chest height once more. Through the glass, Ricky could hear the deep vibrato of his humming.
The man from the car moved closer. He reached towards the building like an infant seeking succor. His pants were shredded, showing the same cuts on his legs as on the forearm of the ragged man. When he reached the edge of the covered area, Ricky saw his mouth was working repeatedly. Through the glass he could hear the man's whistling attempt at speech, repeating the same sound over and over like a whimpering puppy, "Eeees. Eeees. Eeees. Eeees." A long strand of spit and blood hung down to his chest. His lip was torn. Ricky watched his mouth. His tongue was missing. Ricky sobbed.
Just then a shadow emerged from behind the tongueless man. A large clawed hand encircled the man's neck and held him in place. The man's eyes widened with panic, seeming to extend beyond the range of his eyelids. He struggled weakly, trying to scream, but it came out only as a weak rasp. The shadow lifted the man and shook him like a doll until he lay still and quiet in its grip. The man's breath came in visible gasps as blood continued to drip from his wounded mouth. From within the shadow a face emerged. It's head was twice the size of the man's and feline with cruel dead eyes. It stared directly at the man in the salt circle and slowly licked the blood from the face of the tongueless man.
The man in the circle continued his vibrato humming and raised the medallion higher for the creature to see. In response, the creature squeezed the neck of the tongueless man and his rasp scream turned into a real one. The tongueless man struggled against the grip of the shadow creature. His arms and legs flailed about as he continued to scream in desperate gasps.
The ragged man reached into his coat again and revealed a large dagger. He leveled it at the creature as he began chanting once more. The phrasing was different this time, but Ricky recognized one word, "Lux." Ricky felt an odd sensation building in the pit of his stomach and the hairs on his arms stood up. The ragged man was screaming his chant now and the wind had returned. The tongueless man went limp and silent. Suddenly the dagger glowed a pale blue and a bolt of electricity shot out of it, hitting the shadowed creature in the chest. The thing dropped the tongueless man and braced against the onslaught.
In the flashing light, Ricky saw its full figure for the first time. It was easily as tall as two men with a mixture of feline and human anatomy. What Ricky had mistaken for a cloak was the bat like wings that extended under each of it's arms. Two tails whipped the air behind, curling and flexing in anger. It had dangerous looking claws on its hands and feet. The thing shrieked as the lightning bolt began to burn into it. Ricky covered his ears. Smaller bolts began began to arc off the larger one, hitting the nearby concrete, then the fluorescent lights of the covered area. All the lights surged bright with the added power and the entire building seemed to be shaking in tandem with the ragged man's chant.
Everything exploded at once.
Light bulbs shattered in a rain of glass and sparks and half the underside of the pump cover ripped away as the bolt fried the wiring. The feedback traveled inside the store as well. The freezer doors flew open as the bulbs in the door edges burst. Several of the light covers in the ceiling slammed to the floor followed by showers of electric fireflies. The telephone in Ricky's apron sent shocks of spasm into his hip. He frantically fished it out and flung it across the store. The Marlboro sign above the cash register went off with a Fourth of July style circle of shooting sparks and a loud boom. The neon OPEN sign disintegrated in a rain of splinters, shattering the main window and sending glass flying into the parking lot. Ricky squatted down and brought his arms up to cover himself.
He remained crouched for a long time until the buzzing in his stomach subsided. When he finally looked up again, the creature was gone and the man in the salt circle was slumped to the ground once more. All around glass fell and clinked. A thick haze floated through the store and out where the main window used to be. Outside, a single fluorescent light clung to electric life. Dangling from a mess of wires, it slowly twirled and strobed, bathing the covered area in staccato flashes. The air was heavy with the smell of ozone. Ricky realized that the tongueless man was still breathing. Small favors, he thought.
Ricky rested against the door, letting it support him. He saw then, just beyond the remaining fluorescent, a pair of eyes blink once and disappear. He heard the heavy whoosh of the creature taking flight. It landed just beside the tongueless man. Inside the salt circle, the ragged man did not move. He turned to face the beast through the glass. It was looking directly at him as it grabbed the tongueless man by the foot and dragged him into the darkness. "No, no, no, no, no- noooo!" Ricky banged on the door to wake the ragged man, but it was too late. The tongueless man's screams were punctuated by a wet crunching noise, then silence.
Distant, but growing stronger, Ricky heard the whine of police sirens. He leaned into the window. At the far end of Highway Fourteen he could see the lights flashing and moving closer. The ragged man attempted to stand once more, swaying with exhaustion. He slipped as he stood though, bringing his foot down upon the edge of the circle and leaving a clean break in the line of salt. He looked up at Ricky. His startled expression merged into a molten black blur and he was gone.
The ragged man's screams melted into the keening of police sirens until the two became one. Ricky looked at the broken circle for a long time, fresh tears soaking his face and shirt. He wondered absently what he was going to tell the Police. He wondered how he could ever feel safe again. Then he saw it, at the edge of the flickering defeated light, a glint off the rim of a silver medallion.