Hopefully you all enjoyed the first installment of Twelve Nightmares. No point in delaying, let’s dig in to part two…..
Darkness filled the room like the loving arms of a new mother. Silence dominated, drowning out the anger and bustle of the city. Emerson Sedgewick lay on his bed, immobile and unable to sleep. He felt the end drawing nearer, draining him of both youth and life. Devilish faces stared at him from the shadows. Hellfire burned just a bit brighter at the prospect of devouring his soul in an eternity of torment. Come to me, they beckoned.
He tried to close his eyes. Couldn’t. Clawed hands reached out for him, hungry with anticipation. An evil face leered at him. Acidic drool escaped the fanged mouth. Emerson looked for some place to run, to hide. There was none to be found. The shadows parted just long enough for him to see the true horror of the face. Emerson screamed. What he saw was himself. He passed out with another scream.
Emerson awoke with a sharp burning sensation in his right hand. He managed to crawl from his bed and open the curtain. Pale, but bright light practically blinded him. When his eyes finally adjusted he looked down with dismay at his hand. The skin was ripped and swollen. Bone showed through in several places. His whole hand was a nasty combination of purple and black. Emerson repressed the urge to vomit. Tiny black flies swarmed around him, eager for the taste of fresh blood.
He finally made it to the bathroom and did his best to clean and dress the wounds. Emerson was forced to stop several times because the pain was simply too much. He wasn’t sure, but he swore he’d passed out once or twice during the process. The sun was already going down by the time he finished. It wasn’t until he looked under the sink that he noticed the blood stained kitchen knife wrapped in an old hand towel. He was confused. He didn’t even own a knife. So where had it come from? Questions unanswered, Emerson quietly closed the cupboard and returned to the living area of his apartment.
“Not another night,” he whispered to the empty house. “I can’t take another night of this.”
Hissing laughter echoed back at him, so faint it was barely perceptible. New determination strengthened his resolve. He was determined not to go back to sleep. Emerson went to the kitchen and brewed a fresh pot of coffee. He smiled for the first time in days as the first taste of hot caffeine hit the back of his throat. There was no way the demon was going to return this night. He downed the first cup and poured another.
Emerson was proud of what he was doing, but the walls of sleep cannot be held off forever. His eyes started to lose focus. Dark haze crept in the corners of his vision. He fought to keep his head from snapping forward. The grip on his coffee cup loosened enough so that the ceramic mug shattered on the dirty tile floor. Coffee splashed everywhere. His head snapped back, frightened and unsure. His stomach churned. He felt hands crawling up through his intestines, into his stomach and to his throat.
Emerson gagged. He tried to vomit but couldn’t. Thin whispers of smoke crept from his mouth until a massive cloud dominated the tiny apartment. Smoke? It couldn’t be. The smoke flushed from his mouth, gradually taking the shape of Emerson’s demon. Vile eyes stared back at him a moment before he lost consciousness.
Emerson’s condition quickly deteriorated. His eyes remained bloodshot, burning. Insanity played with him. Every shadow was a new nightmare. Every gust of wind a demon’s kiss inviting him to the torments of Hell. His nerves became frayed. He no longer went to work. A week’s worth of stubble littered his face. Locked in his room, Emerson spent his days trying to forget and his nights trying to stay awake. He went and bought a used pistol. The cold metal soothed his fears.
His body finally succumbed to sleep. Again he felt the demon burst free, eager to begin the night’s business. Long hours passed before Emerson awoke with a start. Panicked eyes scanned the squalor his apartment had become. Nothing. Emptiness reached out to soothe him. He hesitantly placed a hand upon his chest, searching for the demon, but felt nothing. His heart lacked the malice and disease that plagued him when the demon slept within. In a moment of blinding clarity Emerson knew what he had to do.
His heart raced. He knew there was scant precious time left before the demon returned to the corners of his soul. Emerson snatched up his jacket and hat and ran out the door. A thin smile cracked his chapped lips. It was the first smile he’d had in days, almost as if he had seen the first golden rays of sunlight for the very first time. Emerson ran faster, pushing and bumping his way through the meager pedestrians hurrying to get home lest they become the next victim. Unparalleled fear gripped the tiny town. No one wanted to die, yet no one had any inkling of the true terror besieging them. No one but Emerson. He alone was the balance between salvation and damnation. It was a responsibility much too great for the youth.
Darkness covered the world. A darkness so pure the stars pierced the eternal veil in a demonstration of the eternal glory of the universe. Emerson took the time to watch the stars, enjoying their beauty one last time. The pain in his heart lessened, as if he could hear the angel choir beckoning him. His heart calmed. He knew peace. But it was a peace that could not last, not until he removed the demon from this world once and for all.
He finally reached his destination. His breath came in ragged gasps. He was out of shape, not that it mattered. Emerson knew the demon would soon be coming for him, coming to lay a feast of misery within him that he could not avoid. The cold stone steps invited him to sit, and he did. He discovered he was much more exhausted than he had thought. His will was all but gone; his life mere shambles of what it had the potential to become. None of that mattered.
Emerson cocked his pistol and whispered, “come and get me you bastard.”