©2019 Thomas Pryce

                                                  All rights reserved.

This short story is a work of fiction. Any names, places, characters, businesses, organizations, events and/or incidents portrayed within are a product of the author’s imagination, and as such, fictitious. Any resemblance to people, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental. Use of this work without prior written permission from the author and/or Cenozoic Publishing, Inc. (save for the purpose of review) is prohibited.

Hungry for prey the demon slowly circled the night sky…

     Up from the grave and down through the darkness, centuries old the creature went by a single name…Krewdd.

     Smelling fresh meat, the demon descended upon the old brownstone; through the tar papered roof, through the walls, through the peeling paint…and into the room. A rundown basement apartment, small and decidedly unkempt. There was a soul there, he could sense it, alone and vulnerable, ripe for the reaping.

    And then he was hovering above the prey, a mortal named David. Surveying the small room, the mark slept on a ratty old sofa; wonderfully unaware, an outdated TV flashing soundless atop a milkcrate. The sleeping man shuddered and groaned, a sheen of sweat on his face. The demon assumed he was dreaming. A blot of vomit stained his tee shirt, probably drunk. He was the perfect victim, the setting exquisite. His soul would be yummy.

     Krewdd wasted not an instant, and with a twitch of his demon wings and a flash of his demonic eyes, he was inside. Through the mortal’s walls, his skin no defense for his brimstone prowess. Initial penetration was always a moment to be savored, the first feel of soul, sliding through human flesh and essence with a shudder of euphoric violation, the phantom equivalent of a grunge fuck.

     But the pleasure never came…and right away Krewdd knew something was wrong. Everything hurt, sudden as thunder. WTF, he cried in his demon tongue. Pain was everywhere, radiating through his ethereal frame, rocking his satanic brain with terror. The mortal was no good, his body horribly damaged. A body Krewdd was now inside.

     NO, no, no, the demon shrieked, moving from one body part to the next, searching for relief…

     He went to David’s knees, pain. He shot up to his lungs, pain. His brain was an absolute mess, the pain there unbearable. Krewdd then fled to the mortal’s gut, no good, his stomach a fiery caldron. Everywhere he went, pain. He could feel the mortal’s body shaking. He was not dreaming…

     …he was having a seizure.

     And the demon could feel every amp of pain as it streaked through the mortal’s body. Krewdd flinched and grimaced, he needed to get out. This body was broken and maimed, physiologically fucked. And all that pain was now in him, transfused in the invasion. It was more than the demon could stand, another second and he was going to die, crushed by the gravity of agony. Nobody could survive this. And for an instant Krewdd was in awe. This mortal…how could this creature be alive? To endure this kind of torture was not possible. It was killing him, and he was a powerful demon, immortal a hundred times over. Yet this being…this human…this mortal named David…he was still alive! 

     How?!

     But there was no escape…and Krewdd knew he was only seconds from death. He looked around inside the human’s frail body. Searching for escape, finding none. He was trapped, locked in a chronic loop of pain. The heart, he then thought. It was the strongest muscle, the crux of the human spirit. Maybe he could get inside it, and force his way out, punch a hole in the supernatural membrane and escape. Krewdd wasted not an instant and raced to the mortal’s core.

     Arriving at David’s heart he could not get in. And despite the damage to the mortal’s body and bones, his heart was strong. It beat powerful, steady with the rhythm of courage and hope. And underneath it all, something else. Another emotion. Something strong.

     Krewdd had plundered a thousand souls but had never experienced anything quite like this. It was an impressive feat, a finding deserving of his awe. But the revelation was of little help to Krewdd, and only burned true for an instant. Because he was starting to dissolve…and die. There was nothing he could do now, he was a goner, beyond repair. Just another instant and he’d be no more. Goddammit, he spat in frustration, his forever about to end.

    And as Krewdd’s eyes began to close, the demon got one final glimpse of reality. Through the mortal’s myelin-torn optic nerve, he could see. The cellphone, it was ringing, clutched in his hand. Weakly the mortal reached for it…answered and toggled it to speaker. Writhing amid throes of dying, the demon watched. Despite its impending fate, it was curious. 

     “Hey you,” he heard David rasp.

     “Hey honey,” he heard a soft female voice taper from the phone.

     On the phone shined three letters, a name. He’d seen it before. It was an ancient name, uncommon today but familiar back when he regularly plundered souls in Egypt. Aya.

     “How are you feeling?” Aya asked David, her voice comforting and kind.

     “Struggling…but trying to hang in there…”

     “I know, I know…it’s hard. I’m so sorry that you’re going through this…”

     “Thanks babe.” David sighed, managed a smile. “It’s just so hard to go on…this pain, so many years. I’m so damaged, nothing seems to help…I don’t know why you even stay wi…”

     “We got this, David,” Aya interrupted, firmly affectionate. “The new doctor will have some answers, I’m certain. I’m almost off from work, I’ll be home soon. You stay strong, my love. We’re going to get you through this. I am always going to be here for you…no matter what…”

     And then it struck…and the demon understood, all at once, why he lost. Why David was so strong. How his heart beat on despite salvos of agony that would kill an army. How he could fight on…how he could muster the will to continue…how he could withstand the pain…

     …he had an angel.

     He heard the mortal breathe a sigh of relief. As Aya spoke, the demon could feel the surge in David’s heart—warm, heaving, incandescent with passion. And in the instant before the demon died, he recognized the force, felt its energy. Damn, I hate you, Krewdd gasped and seized as the power siphoned back and killed him. It was the universal cure. More powerful than a hundred suns.

     It was the one force that even a demon could not match.

     …it was Love.

Bio:

Thomas Pryce is a former high-school science teacher and business owner. He has a BS in Biology and an MA in Oceanography. Published works so far: Unnatural Selection (a novel), Cosmosis (a compilation anchored by two novellas–War Torn and Bad Trip), and The Query (a novelette). His new novel, Unfathomable, is due out sometime in 2019.

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