She barely noticed the demon’s careening on the second floor. If she had remembered she would have taken the elevator – they were there too sometimes, depending on who was riding the lift, but apartment 2B, apartment 2B was always swarming with them.
They scared her at first. Teeming around. their emaciated bodies crepitating on broken bones, blacker than darkness itself and all the more menacing. Their heads rolled around drunkenly, swaying as if severed at the crown of the spin. She wrote in her journal that it seemed appropriate for them to have a broken neck, the first vertebrae was named atlas, after the Greek myth of Atlas, the man who’s punishment was to hold up the world, and here, these fallen creatures, these spawn of hell where a collection of broken atlas’s, relegated to the innards of the earth rather than its crown.
They clung to the doorway, slid and slithered through cracks, walls, and ceilings. They never noticed her, thought they did notice everyone else. They approached some people the way cat’s do, slinking around, sniffing almost, pulling at their skin, even tearing off small pieces only to smell them and throw them on the ground. No one ever noticed, as soon as the demons jumped off their bodies their skin returned, as if it had never been touched. Then there was 2B, they were always at the door, sometimes more agitated than others. One thing was certain, Heston was right, and she was happy he was, they never saw her, though, at times, it seemed as if they smelled her; she did, in some way, have an effect on them, the essence of that effect she wasn’t certain.
The thought of knocking on the door of 2B had crossed her mind, but never more than that. She didn’t feel the need to intercede, she wasn’t even certain that she could help. She could see them, they couldn’t see her, she was a witness to something horrific, but whatever that horrific thing was she wasn’t sure, and she wasn’t in a hurry to find out.
She stepped over the writhing creatures, the wood floor creaked under her step as if it too was aware of the pressing darkness. The air chilled around her as she passed them, not the normal crisp breath of winter but a shallow, almost airless cold more likely to chill spine than skin.
The most unpleasant thing about being near a demon was the feeling of emptiness, being near them, their exhausting vacuity sullied any sense of hope or joy. It took the emotional equivalent of redlining an engine just to get the torque to pull away; the lure was as sickly and powerful as a heroin junkie in the bottom of a abysmal squat house.
Rounding the corner, as the heat slowly began to build in her chest, she saw him. Even outside the cathedral his presence was domineering, almost epic despite his small stature. There was something very different, something radiant, she felt drawn to him, the same allure that touted her toward the darkness was reversed now, pulling her nearer him.
“Heston…what are you…”
“WAIT!” Heston held up a finger and pushed past her. A blazing heat rushed through her as his hand brushed against her skin. He moved lithely, more enabled than he was just weeks earlier. Just as he lunged forward so did her vision; the space around her leaned out as if laying itself out on a canvas. Her reactions stayed the same but the world slowed immeasurably.
Heston’s gaze was transfixed, his eyes lustrous blue and nearly smoking. The change around her was nothing compared to the change in Heston. He appeared surreal and fierce. A determination burned in his eyes.
She turned to see the tar black demons spilling forward in ranks, rolling over each other like tumultuous waves fulminating into a continually moving barrier of black silt and ash. Heston reeled one arm back in a striking pose, his silk robe slipped from under his coat; even his skin trembled with light as if his flesh were the trembling surface of champagne. Heston lunged forward thrashing at the hoard in quick violent burst. Mary's eyes focused in on a thick black and gold crucifix in Heston's hand.
Her throat clenched as half the black mass erupted into a column of demonic figures climbing over each other and slashing tenaciously. Heston’s swing fell short. His body, following his fist, crashed into the doorway.
The hoard took no time to react, they descended onto the priests body like raining razorblade; dozens of sliver sharp nails thrashed violently at Heston’s flesh. Each furious pummel collided against the blue haze surrounding Heston’s body like flint against steel, sparks issued fissures of fire funneling in cyclones of tumultuous black and blue smoke.
As Heston reached for his cross the other half of the mass surrounded him, he shielded his face with the gold trim crucifix as each demonic figure vaulted in on him. Heston thrashed back, his face a mix of terror and panic; different now from how he looked when he charged the thick web of slick black creatures. They clung to his arms, no matter how hard he threw, thrashed, or shook they only held on more veraciously. Those that still had intact jaws clenched them around his body, not sparing a single inch; they clung to his feet, cinched onto his neck, and hands.
Their speed was terrifying, they disarmed Heston immediately. Mary was certain her vision must have returned to normal, nothing else would explain the fleetness with which the Demons struck. A thought broke into her mind; despite seeing Heston being slaughtered in front of her he hadn’t made a sound louder than grunt.
She stared into the swirling black hurricane, glimpses of Heston's face flashed behind the onslaught. He touting his cross like a double-edged sword. Something in his face was changing. Heat billowed forward covering her face like a blanket. Heston’s skin turned even more resplendent, the blue haze thickened, it rolled over the black soot and slag as if engaging in a battle of its own.
Heston’s words filled the room; Mary didn’t speak the language but she knew immediately that it was Latin. His voice enveloped the room harmoniously, trebling like a wind chime. The words were smooth as porcelain, ringing out like crystal strands of silk rubbing together.
His face became obscure against the undulating light emanating from his skin. The sickly smell of tar and sulfur slipped under the pungent aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon. His words came faster, likewise the light pulsed quicker. His pupils disappeared behind an opaque azure as the words left his lips in faint whisking whispers. The Demons kept rolling over him, though now the blue haze had pushed them out of reach; still they slashed behind the barrier of light that shoved them back.
As he drew in a deep breath the shimmering smoke around him retreated into his lugs. He closed his eyes as the swell of Demons lurched back to fall on him with all the force their tattered wings could muster. Mary hardly noticed she was holding her breath when a single word slipped through the paper-thin crease of Heston’s lips.
Her hair flew backwards. Blinding light erupted from Heston’s body with the force of a large explosion. Her hair cracked as razor thin bolts of electricity flashed across the room in brilliant blue light; the walls looked like shattered glass as the pulse of energy rushed through them; it jumped from the ground and ceiling into the chard skin of the Demons, popping and crackling like a down electrical wire. The cacophony shrieks of the Demons rang out for a fraction of a second before choking off under the electric heat. Mary’s hands went numb. Each Demon splintered into thousands of frayed threads burning in mid air. The room went dark; all but an amber hue burned momentarily in the void.
A static charge hung in the air. The dull, pale, glow of 60 watt light bulbs slowly spread across the hallway. Small scintillating electric blue orbs fell around them, each hanging weightlessly in midair like the minuscule white florets of a dandelion; one landed on Mary’s check, her skin blushed as the tiny orb disintegrated over her skin like a sugar cube over a flame. She gasped. Her body was stunned, as if mistaking the flash of light as a call for resignation; her lungs had forgotten to breath.
Heston’s body lay listless in front of her. The wood planks around him darkened with humidity, his hair near dripping wet. Mary didn’t dare move, she stared at him, lying against the door of 2B, an intricate crucifix lay next to him broken in three piece. Heston peered up obscurely. The thin layer of opaque azure still covered his eyes. He brought his hand up to his heaving chest, fishing through his coat and silk tunic until he produced a small, rather simple, cross. The true blue color returned to his eyes as he fixed them on Mary.
He sighed and stared. Despite her lack of breathing Mary’s heart beat steadily and slowly. Heston looked her in the eyes, a smirk spread across his face. Mary clutched her chest as her heart finally pounded away appropriately; a cool rush of elation spilled down her spine and out to her already numb finger-tips.
It wasn’t amorousness she felt, or the exhilaration of surviving death; she hadn’t felt that her life was ever in danger, only that she was surrounded by lifelessness. This wasn’t anything more than kinship, the simple joy of being near a dear and trusted friend. Despite her only having meet Heston’s once before, she felt connected. Judging by the look of thankfulness on Heston’s face he felt the same way.
She walked slowly toward him, watching her steps half expecting the crunching sounds of broken glass or splintered wood; the only sound she heard was the heaving rhythm of Heston’s deep breaths and the click of her hells tapping along the floorboard.
“Mary.” Heston said with a smile.
“Heston.” She lifted her eyebrows and squatted down. “What brings you to my
part of town?” Her lips pursed into a playful grin.