By on Sep 4, 2023 in Featured, Fiction

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Stained glass window on dark brick wall

I proposed to contradict, to insist that our departure be mutual, but my courage was brief, and at the next glimpse of my friend, my nerve departed me. While his face retained the same features in shape and scope, now his appearance seemed to be made from some foreign matter, like marble. And the eyes shone more brightly, like small lanterns set deep in an alabaster skull.

“Patrick, what is happening to you?” I scarce had the courage to ask. I wondered numbly how much time remained before the room was plunged into complete darkness and I into permanent imprisonment. While I quarreled with my own terror, the house seemed to have forged an alliance with the night and lived more gladly in the darkness.

Now his eyes closed or his head turned away, and the bright red lamps were hidden from me. I suddenly gained some clarity, some control, and I wondered at my own persistence. He invited me to leave. What more encouragement did I require? Then the burning orbs returned, seeming to float in the darkness, small fires reflecting some inferno of unimaginable intensity. That I remained seated still was not some self-induced courage, but was rather a tribute to my fear which numbed my legs as well as my will. My entire frame seemed encased in cement save for my right hand and arm which moved independently as if some sense deduced something my mind could not fathom. My fingers nimbly undid the clasp at my throat, and immediately eased a pressure and eased my breathing; but the comfort did not halt my fingers, as they continued to unlatch the buttons down to my waist so that a thin band with a small silver medallion came into view. I had worn it so long that I did not even recall the figure in the adornment. But suddenly upon its presentation my host descended into throes of silent shuddering, his body quaking with agitation and his head thrashing from side to side. My fear stripped me then of all my honor, and I desired only protection for myself, and the greatest form of that was to suddenly desire a weapon that could savagely end this standoff.

And at that exact moment, as if reading my very thoughts, Patrick ceased his convulsions, and his blazing eyes flicked down to the table, and I recalled the strange cloth that had been laid there. I wondered if the object had been that close to me upon its first appearance, or had the unknown agent moved it closer at some point after its appearance?

Once again, my nervous system acted by some otherworldly mechanism, and the top half of my body flexed forward, and I plucked the top layer of the cloth aside; and beneath the fold lay a shiny pointed object, much like a knife, but the shape of which I had never seen. It was a triple tipped implement about a foot and a half long, each prong honed to a sinister sharp point. The middle prong of the trident extended slightly beyond the other two, and this one ended in a flaw: a piece of the metal had been peeled back at a slight angle, though I saw immediately the imperfection was not to hinder any assault, but to lock the blade in place. And the entire membrane radiated light like a glowing ember, and at the same moment I became aware of the hot piece of metal at the end of the chain about my neck, radiating its own warmth and light. And in the glow of these objects I could see my friend clearly once again, though every vestige of humanity had been wiped clean by some bizarre transformation. His face had grown long, had twisted into the features more resembling an animal. Yet his blazing stare monitored my every move with human calculation.

Then once again the silence was rent by a horrid convulsion and purely animal scream, and I realized the cause of the eruption was the small medallion at my chest. My hand had fallen away and fully exposed the small disk; though worn and barely the size of a small coin, there was the figure of the crucified savior, and somehow this held sway over the beast, and I was thus emblazoned with courage that far surpassed my intellect, though I remained ignorant over the true cause of the lycanthropic transformation. There was no longer a single glimmer of my friend, but I called his name in the hope that he could make it through this maelstrom. Of course, he did not answer, and it suddenly became clear that from the very beginning my friend had placed both of us in his situation, in the hope that I could accomplish the favor he was unable to voice. And so I lurched forward and snatched the object from the table, held it out defensively before me. The handle rested in my grip, as if it had been fashioned for me specifically, and a sense of invulnerability spread through me. There was no doubt that I could defeat the monster before me with this wicked specimen, but though my physical form was perfectly protected, my immortal soul now cringed in terror at the act that seemed so necessary to preserve my life.

The entity before me was undoubtedly some beast that was beyond any human affiliation, and just like an encounter with some animal whose sole purpose was the wanton destruction of any other living thing, I should be justified in preserving my own flesh at its mortal expense. But the figure that occupied the chair opposite me had been my dear friend until just moments before, until night had shed some curse upon its natural form. So what of the human that resided within the demon, or maybe beside it in the same physical form? Was that human part not deserving of some sympathy, or protection? Dare I lash out at the demon and presume justification to preserve my own mortal entity?

I sat in terror for my immortal portion of my existence, the existence of which now was a certainty for me. The harsh glow and warmth from the religious medallion about my neck, and the supernatural transformation of my friend put to rest any question I had had of my upbringing. In fact, the certainty of some greater existence burned inside me then, generously endowing me with knowledge I could not have acquired on my own. All knowledge suddenly availed itself to me, and wisdom sprouted inside my mind, wisdom capable of understanding the entire universe, of untying every mystery and uniting everything into a single, simple equation.

And then alas, it was gone, a raging light reduced to a flicker, and then to dimness, leaving me with my initial concern, my initial quandary. I possessed free will to act on my own behalf, to save my own flesh, or preserve the being before me, but suffer the loss of my own life. What if the monstrous entity Patrick had become was a captive of some force, and held no sway over his own consciousness? Was he not then as innocent as a baby, unable to direct his actions with any good intention? And what of the spirits of this house, the spirits of Patrick’s ancestors? Might they not judge me for my self-preservation of my earthly body over the more important eternal existence?

Out of the deepest sense of desperation, I called out my friend’s name once again, to entreat his counsel, though I knew it to be useless. The monster beheld me with a smile in those cunning, cold eyes.

Slowly I extended my arm out before me, held it rigid with the spear pointed right at the beast. Maybe it would attack straight forward, and thus by its own determination meet its end upon the razor-sharp spikes, thereby sparing me any action that might place me upon the altar of judgement. But alas the beast remained still, sitting upon the chair as if in contemplation of its own free will. The low growl began deep within its chest; the sound rolled slowly through its throat, echoed upon itself, quickly grew in volume, and was emitted as a vicious howl that split the night. As it faded, I thought my terror had reached its summit, but then the call was answered by distant howls scattered across the grounds, a chorus of animal screams cascading from the surrounding hills.

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Kevin Lenihan is currently a technology teacher in North Brunswick, NJ. He has always been interested in horror and science-fiction movies, as long as he can remember. He got interested in writing when he was 17, when he read "Firestarter" by Stephen King. He read everything he wrote for a long time. Now he writes books faster than Kevin can read them. Another author He became obsessed with was Robert R. McCammon. The first book he read by him was "Mystery Walk," and he was hooked. Then he read "They Thirst" and was blown away, as it took the vampire story to a whole new level, such a grand, epic scale. And, of course, Kevin loves Edgar Allan Poe. "Ligeia" was the first story he read by him, and it set the standard for all short stories after that. He loves his poems, as well, and he has memorized several of them, including “The Raven”, “The Conqueror Worm” and “Lenore."