A sudden breakup unwittingly involves a third participant, who creates an unwanted other-worldly fate
The click of her boyfriend hanging up sounded more ominous than a nuclear bomb at night. A hint of flesh burning arrested Carla’s pert nostrils.
“What ruined us?” Carla demanded of her silenced phone, slamming it down on her side table. Her glistening perspiration from her own feverish discord quelled her curiosity about the inflamed scent surrounding her immediate environment. But her emotions grew to new proportions.
“We made love a lot, Ridge. You said you loved me.”
Carla’s eyes welled up at the sight of the joy of her life on her nightstand. This picture of him captured the essence of her reason to live. Ridge’s eyes were deep blue like Caribbean waters. His cheekbones sat higher than the Appalachians in the morning sun. His stature shadowed everything beneath him with elegant respect and appreciation. His smile, the one that melted any of her female friends and her every time, could quell a sandstorm.
Her mind went into overdrive, desperate to understand. She was cut off at the source of her most powerful emotions and left in the wake of disappointment. Outside thunder caused her to gasp and palm her chest.
The hum of his recent rant vibrated her thoughts.
He said something some time ago about being haunted and nothing Carla could say or do could remove it. And he insisted he had to deal with it alone.
“What haunts my man,” her voice warbled underneath her pink lips, “a past love or a dead relative’s ghost? Someone who wants to kill him?”
None of those possibilities made any sense. Her man’s life was as ordered and intact as a military battalion. His profession as a public accountant was not particularly dramatic. But, Ridge’s decision was made. They were no longer a couple; their end was shrouded in mystery.
Her mind revved up while her body gave in to fatigue. The soft welcome of her bed embraced her body. She turned out the lights and committed to some kind relaxation, knowing sleep would be difficult tonight. The hanging crucifix in her room seemed larger than usual. Its profile cast deep long shadows along her wall from the violent lightning outside her bedroom window. Her attention shifted from the hanging crucifix to the locket and chain he gave her last year for her birthday.
What could be the reason for him dropping our relationship just like that?
Her soft fingertips opened the locket to reveal their love portrait.
After four years? He throws me away? Why?
Her head shook and small round tears formed in the corners of her eyes while closing the locket. Her tears trailed into quiet rivers as another part of his recent proclamation rang inside her thoughts.
Ridge said he couldn’t face the flash of the night when it stormed. One of their last outings gelled their two souls but exposed his phobia in naked form. She posed for him against the evening sky as the temporary pulse of sunset cast deep colourful rays behind her. His iPhone6 took professional looking shots of her in various dramatic poses, evidenced by his widening smirk. When the approaching evening storm made its presence known with loud, flashing violence, he ran off soon after gazing into his phone screen and up into the storming atmosphere.
Ridge added while running away that he should seek the familiar and lie low, without her.
What the hell did that mean? I’m familiar, dammit! And what did he see on his iPhone?
For some unspoken reason, she never asked Ridge to justify himself nor did she prod him about the photos he took that night.
Moments passed like slow ships caught in a night fog. Her mind wandered, with her sense of sorrow deepening like her body into her queen sized bed. Her ears perked when she thought she heard her name in the mix of noisy rain, raw thunder and her rumbling two-story wooden home.
It’s my imagination.
In her open doorway, a figure stepped into view, its fingers long and dangling. Its head wore itself like a battered and misshapen rock, sitting atop narrow shoulders. The arms and legs extended beyond human proportions. Lightning kept flashing through the windows in the hallway behind it, giving it even longer gnarled shapes along the floor, leading straight to Carla, who lay curled up, facing away from the doorway.
She heard her name again. She cried out in torment as she pulled her blanket over her head.
“Shut up!” she exclaimed. A moment of quiet hung before she lurched up, catching her intruder in mid-air.
“Tell Ridge to come back now!” she instructed.
The being trapped in her grasp cowered like a hurt animal.
“Find him. Bring him here. Or he gets fed to the creatures of the night from the powers of my coven!”
The being’s shriek of protest filled her room.
“Shut up and be a good little demon and do as you’re told. I didn’t summon you tonight, you slimy cretin. It was you who snuck into his phone photos and freaked him out. I ought to destroy you! But you now have your orders! Now go!”
Carla’s emphatic voice caused the framed picture of her ex-boyfriend to shatter during a deafening crack of thunder; the hanging crucifix flipped upside down and disintegrated to the floor. Carla’s servant demon exited with the speed of sound, indicating her directive would be obeyed. Afterward, she collapsed into her bedding, meshing into it, re-attempting sleep. The night settled and her soft snore interrupted the night silence in her small apartment for several hours.
MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
At the exact stroke of 3:38 am on her digital clock, her body shook.
“Are you finished sleeping off on me, Carla?”
Carla awoke to a fierce sharpness pressing her breast. Her attempt to answer was caught up in her dry throat. A bright light above her head from an unknown source blocked her from identifying who spoke.
“You will haunt me NO more, Carla!”
Her throat swelled more, impeding any response.
“Your demon is a sloppy servant. I intercepted the little shit with a ritual of my own. Now, say the words to the common purge ritual and all will end well enough!”
She tried to clear her throat, but air escaped only through her nose, her eyes fluttering in every direction. She listened to the voice pressing on her and recognized it to be Ridge’s.
“We’re finished for so many reasons, Carla. But one solution which will settle this whole matter is your weak little minion here. See it? It writhes in a hellish limbo, over there! Together we can ostracize it. Now, chant with me!”
Carla’s arms and legs were pinned down; her head could move only a little. It wasn’t enough to witness the capture of her dutiful demon and take part with Ridge. The sharpness pressing into her breast wouldn’t stop.
What’s stabbing me?
“Your craft is old and dusty, Carla. It’s time you used a little sophistication to capture the ones most important to you. Now if you will not dismiss that demon with our common pagan purge phrase, you will join IT wherever IT goes and with MY personal spell.”
Carla’s eyes darted every which way against the bright light above her, attempting to communicate with Ridge. Her mind raced with confusion, unsure what was actually happening. Ridge verbalized his intentions. And it went far beyond their relationship. He figured out her demon haunted him and Ridge wanted it gone. What she didn’t know was Ridge and his knowledge of purging rituals.
Is this really happening, her mind screamed. Ridge, hear me! I love you!
Carla’s voice tried to burst through the dry desert within her voice box. She summoned as much energy as possible, thinking she must burst through this confusion. The tingling from her feet traveled along her legs and into her belly where the force of emotions swelled. She willed all of it into her chest, arms, her brain and to her lips.
Ridge wouldn’t tell her the ritual phrase.
I have to remember! And tell him I love him.
Her eyes flashed brighter and her rage built up, with her body collecting and engorging itself with incredible energy.
She was close to pushing through and making her voice heard — so, so close. At that moment of no return a crack of lighting made everything like daylight for the briefest of seconds and silence took over, along with it a deep soaking blackness. She heard her name again. This time, she opened her mouth for her energy to burst forth. Instead, her eyes fluttered open. She trembled and peered above her bed covers.
The picture frame on her bedside table was intact.
Her crucifix hung on the wall as normal.
The doorway stood empty.
Her slow exhalation of relief made Carla sink back inside and under the bedding, closing her eyes.
A dream. My gawd, such an awful dream.
Carla’s eyes closed and a sense of warm comfort re-entered her body and mind.
Inside a dark shadow against the ceiling, Ridge and the demon hovered, dripping with blood-red smiles and fiery eyes, whispering.
From under the bed comforter she felt her body rise. She panicked with her midsection curved up high and head hanging low and feet flailing. Carla’s scream finally rushed from her red lips with the purge phrase.
But it was too late. A large obscure shadow faded into the hallway.
Quiet returned and the bed lay empty, and with it, a vacant apartment, rumbling from the thunder of the night storm.
BD Scott, Author, Producer of Bestshorthorrorstories.com & Founder of Friedrich Imagines, Ltd. a media production company