Today’s piece of flash is inspired by the following image:
‘Come on! Up here. I see another one.’ My lungs stretched as I picked up the pace. Marius, long-legged, sped ahead, already focused on the next corner. ‘Jakob! Hurry!’ he called, over his shoulder. I could hear the fear in his voice.
I was almost there when I made the mistake of looking up. Over Marius’ shoulder, I could see it, bare and brazen. Its foul power stopped me in my tracks, and I skidded on the wet ground. I couldn’t help the gush of nausea that overwhelmed me.
‘This is the worst yet,’ I heard Marius whisper. He raised a hand as though he was going to touch it, before realising what he was doing. His fingers retracted into a fist, and he hissed in pain, or anger, or both.
‘He’s desperate, brother,’ I said, picking myself up off the ground. My legs shook. I still couldn’t bring myself to look directly at the image sloppily scratched on the wall before us, the bricks of this flimsy human building already fizzing and melting beneath it. ‘He wants to overwhelm us.’
‘It’s working,’ muttered Marius. Then, the image began to glow with an unearthly light. Marius fell back, almost stumbling off the edge of the kerb. His eyes never left the wall, running around the horrifying shape as though seeking a way to escape. It looked vaguely like a window – a scribbled sill above and below, and the colours within like a sash, like light on glass.
But if this was a window, it was one that should never have been opened.
‘Get ready,’ called Marius. ‘We don’t have long.’ He grasped the handle of his sword and drew it; I did likewise, a beat quicker. Together, we faced the window – and what was about to come through it. Our blades were dull and pockmarked, but they were sharp as midnight and quick as death. I hefted mine, feeling my sweat pool in my palm.
‘Jakob! There!‘ Marius turned to his right, and I tore my eyes away from the window just long enough to see the demon, our prey, less than a hundred yards away. Dressed in the skin of a human, a street dweller who’d once made a living drawing chalk portraits of passersby, it leered at us before taking off at a flat run. Its howl rippled down the alley as it vanished from sight.
‘As long as it’s got that damn chalk,’ gasped Marius, staring after it, ‘there’s no limit to how many portals it can create. We’ve got to stop it.’
‘Well, you’re faster than me, brother,’ I said, shifting my sword from hand to hand. I turned back to focus on the shimmering gateway forming in the wall before me. ‘I’ll get this portal sealed up, soon as my sword’s spilled a little demon blood. Go on! I’ll be right after you.’
Marius turned to me, his eyes pained.
‘You can’t face this alone,’ he said.
‘I sure stand a better chance than you do,’ I replied.
He started to say something else, but bit it back. He squeezed my shoulder before turning away. Within seconds, the sound of his footfalls had vanished, and I was alone.
I hefted my blade and planted my stance, hoping at least to give my brother enough time to slice off our prey’s drawing hand. Anything more than that, up to and including not getting myself killed, would be a bonus.
I charged the window, blade at the ready, hoping the demon hordes had never heard of the element of surprise.