By then, dark clouds had started passing over the house. The silence that marked the early morning was disrupted by a distant clap of thunder. Roderigo continued to stare out at the fading sunlight, taking another swig of lukewarm coffee. The storm hadn't quite arrived yet, and he figured it would be another thirty minutes before it started to rain.
Yet he still felt uneasy. Those once discordant voices were clear as a bell, growling at him, threatening him. She's gonna die. She wants her. She's going to take her. You'll never see her again.
Roderigo knew his hallucinations held no root in reality. They were his own thoughts, his anxieties and fears projected by at him by his mind, misinterpreted as outside voices by the same brain that created them. The shadows that now formed in the corner of his eye were no different, misfires in his visual cortex, simple lighting cues that his mind assumed had living form.
He closed his eyes for a moment and whispered, “It's my mind, my mind, it's all in my mind.” It was a simple mantra that he'd taught himself years ago, serving no purpose but to reassure him that the spike in symptoms would soon pass.
There was another clap of thunder, and Roderigo's face twisted into a painful grimace. He must've waited to long. He reached into his pocket and removed an opaque, rounded bottle, twisting off the cap and dropping a single blue and white capsule into his hand. He quickly popped it into his mouth and washed it down with his last mouthful of coffee. He took a moment to gaze outside before heading to the kitchen to grab a saltine.
The uneasy feeling did not subside. The voices were still present. He hadn't expected them to go away so quickly; the medication would need to build up in his bloodstream, and missing one dose alone wasn't really enough to affect them. He would have to suffer through it.
One more clap of thunder, this time followed by the sound of breaking glass. Roderigo moved toward the living room, grabbing his Bulldog off the coffee table. The sound had come from Devon's office. He was sure it was only in his mind, but he wasn't about to take a chance.
Then Carlton, rising up from the floor, asked, “What was that?” A look of fear must have been visible on Roderigo's face, as Carlton stood and grabbed his shotgun from the nearby chest. The thunder bellowed once more, but that time the power failed, the sudden darkness waking the others almost instantly.
Roderigo leaned toward Steven. “Take the others upstairs,” he said. “Do it quietly.”
“Right.” He motioned toward the stairs, and one by one the others headed toward them, until only Yvonne remained. “Coming?” Steven asked.
She shook her head, and reaching inside per pocket removed her Glock. After a push-check, she mouthed, “Go after them.” Steven nodded and headed upstairs.
“Good thing I got this,” Carlton said. He flipped a switch on the shotgun's pump, and a bright beam of light followed the barrel toward the far ends of the room. “Eighty bucks at the dealer, but so worth it.”
“Right then,” Roderigo said, “you check it out.”
“You two guard the stairs,” Carlton said, “and watch my back.”
Roderigo nodded, moving toward the wall as Carlton stepped cautiously toward the door. As he reached for the doorknob, Carlton dropped the barrel only slightly. The door flew open in front of him. Before any of them could respond, Carlton was thrown back with tremendous force, his shoulder crashing through the wall behind him.
The sound of footsteps on wood filled the room. Slowly a shape appeared at the entrance to the hallway, the unaimed glow of the flashlight highlighting its needle-like teeth. It spoke with almost sadistic glee, “It's a pleasure to meat you again, soldier.”
Yvonne quickly fired two shots, each round smashing into the figure's chest. While it was forced to step back, it only barely faltered. The figure shook its head in disappointment and stepped fully into view, revealing a familiar hairless skin and milky white eyes.
Roderigo trained his revolver on the target. His eyes were drawn to the belt worn on the outside of the figure's tuxedo, where a long, curved saber was sheathed. He recognized it as a kilij, a variant of scimitar with a nasty cutting ability. He knew letting him get within range would be lethal.
He fired, emptying all five rounds into the figure's chest. They plowed right through him, barely slowing him down, and with each shot the figure took another step, finally reaching down to the sword hung at his side. “That was rude,” the fiend said, and with one fluid motion he removed the sword and sliced deep into Roderigo's side, stopping only when the blade was caught on bone. Roderigo grasped the blade in his hand as blood pooled on the floor.
“How 'bout that. Seems Carolla needs a little sharpening.” With that, the figure ripped the sword from his gut. Roderigo collapsed on the ground, blood trickling from his mouth.
“You really should let someone introduce themselves before you shoot them. Killing is a personal act--knowing your victim's name is only fair. But,” he said with a shrug, “That rule really applies to me as well. So let's get this back on the right foot. The name's Blades.” The figure turned his head to Yvonne. “And what's yours?”
As Roderigo lay crumpled on the floor, he could feel his internal organs reforming inside him. He gazed weakly at Yvonne, who still had her pistol trained on Blades' chest. It suddenly dawned on him that this may have been what his voices were warning him about; he tried futilely to pull himself up, but the pain was so severe that it overwhelmed his nervous system, crippling him. Roderigo could only watch in horror as Blades began moving toward her.
A sudden beam of light enveloped them. Immediately afterward, there was a flash of muzzle fire and the sound of a shotgun filled the room. The tight blast ripped through Blades' side, knocking him to the ground. Roderigo heard Carlton screaming for Yvonne to run, followed by the sight of her racing toward the door, her slippers patting against the floor.
But by then Blades was already up. As he turned to follow her, there was another loud blast. This time the pellets struck his skull, ripping the opposite side apart and dropping him to the ground. Roderigo heard the signature clack-clack of the pump being racked and watched as Carlton moved in for the kill, but to his surprise Blades kicked upward. The tip of his shoe struck Carlton in the chin, tipping him backward. Blades rose to his feet, wobbly but aware, and exited the door with a snicker.
Minutes passed. Finally Roderigo began to feel the blood flowing in his body. Pulling himself up, he stumbled to the closet and removed the White Flame from inside. It was hard to follow the path at first; the already congealing blood did not appear to have fallen with any regularity, while his own blood loss made it hard to stand. Soon he regained his full composure, and while following the path was still difficult, he managed to track Blades fairly well.
The path continued on for almost a mile. With each step, Roderigo's strength returned, until finally he was running at full speed. As he turned the corner, he saw Blades sitting on a milk crate, chuckling to himself as he ran a whetstone over his sword. “You missed it,” he said, gazing up at Roderigo. “The beast left just a minute ago. I haven't--”
“Where is she?” Roderigo said. The flatness of his voice seemed rather menacing, even to him.
“As I said, the beast was just here,” Blades said, standing up. “I haven't seen her so pleased with a meal in a very long time--”
Before Blades could finish, Roderigo lunged forward, grabbing him by the throat. He slammed the fiend into the wall. As his facial expression tightened, his eyes fixed on his target and his hand began to squeeze. He was horrified--he knew what that meant, but he wasn't ready to accept it, and this fiend would bear the brunt of his grief. “What,” he asked, his words filled with terrifying wrath, “did you do?”
Blades choked. “But you can't....” Then, a twisted grin crossed his face and he laughed. “I fed your pretty wife to the Goddess of Fear. But what are you going to do? You can't kill me with that iron. I'm beyond it's power.”
“I can't?” Roderigo asked, pressing the weapon's tip against Blades' jacket. The blade began to burn the fabric almost immediately. “Good.”
Roderigo jammed the sword into Blades' gut. The fiend screamed in agony as thick, dark blood began to pour from the wound. A faint crackling sound filled the alleyway, along with the smell of burned flesh and fat, as the scorching blade cooked his intestines. “Because I don't want to kill you,” Roderigo said. “I want you to suffer. I want you to beg.” Roderigo began to twist the sword, ripping apart Blades' insides.
“Have mercy!” Blades screamed. With one more twist, Roderigo ripped the sword out of Blades' gut and dropped him to the ground. The wretched fiend began to cough and sputter as blood oozed from his mouth. Then, with one final movement Roderigo slashed Blades' throat, and a flash of lightning filled the sky followed immediately by the sound of thunder.
As the rain began to fall, the blood that poured from Blades' wounds began to mix with the dirt that covered the alleyway. Roderigo watched as it began to run, forming faint, red streaks that flowed across the concrete into the sewer. He stared at creature before him, now choking and holding his torn throat, and without a word he turned to walk away.