Interlude: Dark Work

Divine retribution comes for a man that has gone too far.

I don’t normally do this, but this story is extremely dark in places. Consider this a trigger warning for victims of domestic violence.

No moon shone on this cloudless night. Heavy clouds had laid siege to it and claimed the sky for themselves. Cold winds carried the sounds of fighting from the house into the front yard.

A woman cried out. “No, please! The baby!” Two gunshots fractured the night. The woman screamed. The baby began to cry loudly.

The front door of the house slammed open, the baby’s wails set loose on the cold wind. A man with a handgun burst through the opening. His eyes burned with anger, mixed with fear. He quickly looked around.

Anger stole across his face, extinguishing any concern. “Stupid bitch deserved it,” he told the darkness. He cried out, flinging the handgun as hard as he could across the lawn.

He pounded to the sports car in the driveway. He backed out of the drive and onto the roadway. The engine roared, rear tires searching for purchase as the car slowly gained forward momentum into the night.

Silence returned once again. The baby’s wails had fallen off to plaintive cries mixed with her mother’s tears. The cold wind blew through the dying leaves of the oak tree standing guard nearby.

With it came a dark figure. It moved silently, reverently across the grass to the open door. Its steps made no sound, its body no shadow. It crept inside the house.

The figure found itself in the dining room of the abode. The woman had pushed herself into one corner. A trail of congealing blood led to where she sat curled on the floor. A smartphone lay at the other end of the room, the person on the other end now speaking up into the still air.

A television quietly displaying a forgotten show murmured in the other room. The robed figure stretched an arm in that direction. A withered, skeletal hand pointed a bony finger in its direction. The television fell silent, its light extinguished.

The baby began to cry once more in her mother’s arms. The mother spoke with hitching words, trying to soothe the child even as her life ran out of her. The baby became more insistent.

The dark figure crouched down. It pulled back the hood covering its head to reveal the face of Death. The wraith tilted his head. The taut, dried skin of his face put forth an image of sorrow as he gazed upon the child.

Death put a single bony finger to his lips. The baby’s cries hitched in her throat, then stopped altogether. The bony face turned to the mother and became expressionless once more.

The wraith replaced the hood on his head. The mother’s bloodshot eyes gazed through the specter to the world outside. He stretched a bony finger towards her forehead.

A black mist emanated from the tip of the finger, trailing to the mother. She looked down at her child as she gasped her last desperate breaths. The baby gazed back up at her silently.

The kitchen filled with an ethereal light as the woman closed her eyes for the last time. Another woman dressed in white stepped into existence. She glanced at Death, not unkindly, and stood before the fallen mother.

She reached out and took the mother’s hand in hers. The angelic woman slowly stood, pulling the mother’s soul up with her. The mother gazed at the other woman. Tears rolled down her cheeks as the realization of her condition set in.

The angel turned, smiling and nodding her head towards the door. The mother shook her head. “My baby!”

“You can visit her always.” The angel gently squeezed the mother’s hand. She spared her child a final look before returning her gaze to the angel. The woman smiled faintly, nodding her head.

They walked towards the door, hand in hand. They faded from sight as they reached the threshold. The light went with them. The baby began to cry again.

Death glided silently back out into the dark night. The sound of sirens stirred the air in the distance. The wraith turned in the direction the man had traveled in his sports car. Righteous anger flashed across his face.

Rain pounded against the man’s charging vehicle as he drove blindly down the twisting country road. The wind billowed behind him, bringing with it a black figure of vengeance. Death soared over the sports car before sailing past it.

“SHIT!” A hulking black figure appeared in the car’s headlights. The man cut the wheel sharply, sending the vehicle skidding across the rain-soaked blacktop. The front end of the car found a tree as the vehicle left the road.

It spun around violently, bouncing into the air on the uneven ground. The sports car flipped twice before landing on its side. It creaked perilously before falling over onto its roof at the edge of a steep hill.

Death waited in the shadows, watching. The car’s engine clunked, sputtered, and finally gave out with a hiss. The man shifted on the ceiling of the car, groaning.

He dragged himself through the shattered window, glass crunching and grinding against his bleeding hands. He bellowed into the falling rain. He collapsed, the sodden grass squelching beneath him.

He raised his head, eyes slitted against the driving sheets of wet. He howled in pain as he pulled himself free of the car. He pushed himself to his hands and knees and crawled a short distance from the wreck.

He used a shallow ridge to push himself to his feet. He wobbled unsteadily as he turned to face the remains of his prized sports car. His face screwed up in rage. “Stupid… bitch.” His breathing became ragged.

A frigid wind whipped around him, causing him to stumble closer to the nearby hill. His foot found a shallow hole, twisting his ankle. He cried out in pain. He flailed wildly in an attempt to keep his footing.

Death manifested directly in front of the man. The wraith’s face was contorted in rage, his ragged mouth contorted, a rattling hiss issuing forth through gnarled teeth. The man screamed in terror, losing the fight with inertia and tumbling backwards down the steep embankment.

The man’s body whipped and cartwheeled violently as he sped toward the ground below. He slammed hard into the unforgiving ground. A loud crack issued from his buckling leg. He screamed into the black sky above him.

Death glided silently down the side of the hill. His empty sockets fixed on the man below him. The man’s eyes grew wild. He shook his head violently. “No!” He turned, clawing at the ground. He screamed as his badly broken leg shifted.

He lay on his back. His breathing came in ragged gasps. Death leaned over him. He glared down at the man, a widening grin forming on his leathery face. A shallow, rattling laugh issued forth as Death retreated.

Low growling issued from the nearby shadows. The man whipped his head toward the sound, his breaths quickening. A wolf emerged from the gloom, creeping steadily towards the man. Two more wolves followed closely behind it.

The man whipped his head back towards Death. “No. Please! NO!” The lead wolf leaped, snarling, and bit down on the man’s neck.

The man’s scream turned into a bloody gargle as the wolf bore down. The other two wolves joined in on the fray, tearing at the man’s clothes and body with their razor-like teeth. The lead wolf chewed and tore at the exposed viscera of the man’s throat.

Lightning flashed nearby, rattling the ground with a vicious thunderclap. The wolves cried out, running for the cover of the nearby forest. The man’s lifeless eyes filled with rainwater.

The blackened soul of the man rolled away from his body. He fought his way to his feet and stared disbelieving at his own corpse. He whipped his head around. Death stood beside the body, scythe at the ready. A single bony finger pointed at the man.

The man again shook his head, stumbling backwards. Something black and glistening shot out of the earth below him and held his leg fast. Another mass erupted, grabbing the other leg. The man pulled and tugged, bellowing.

Black, twisted hands began to claw and tear at the soul’s legs. A sulfurous miasma curled up around him as more twisted arms thrust up from the glowing ground. The man began to scream as his ethereal flesh was rent asunder.

The ground around him burst open. The air rippled with the heat pouring from the fires that raged below. The now-fully exposed demons clawed and stretched up the soul’s body. They gnashed their needle-like teeth, grinning, laughing, as they pulled him down into their realm.

Death solemnly thrust the bottom of his scythe into the ground as the bleeding, screaming soul passed into Hell. The hole closed over him, sealing his fate. The thinning drops of rain hissed as they fell on the cooling earth.

The wraith raised his somber face to the lightening sky. He nodded once, stepping forward. His body faded to ebony smoke that flowed into the frosty wind. His work was finished for the night.