It was silent and dark this night as she walked home from work. The shadows surrounding her beckoned seductively. She squared her jaw and kept walking. It was tempting, but not worth it. Reaching into her pocket, she touched her silver sobriety chip. 30 days. One day at a time.
A drink wasn’t what she really wanted. The darkness had a siren call she only wanted to answer because it made things easier, but she needed to sleep more than anything else. Her canvas shoe-clad feet were aching from ten hours of waitressing. She was sick and tired of the dive of a restaurant where she worked and its scumbag clientele.
She worked like a dog for a pitiable amount of money. And for what? She still didn’t have enough to pay her bills! An eviction notice had greeted her when she’d left the apartment this morning. She’d stuffed it into her purse before Lexi, her seven-year old daughter saw it. Lexi had enough to deal with. Biting her lip, Jess’ eyes narrowed. If she was evicted, the services people would be back for Lexi. She couldn’t lose her again.
The fifteen minute walk seemed much longer tonight. If she’d had the money for bus fare, she would’ve been home by now. Her stomach growled as a reminder she had served ‘food’ for hours without eating. She sighed and trudged on.
The moon shone eerily in the midnight sky. She debated about taking the short-cut through the cemetery and a cold shiver travelled down her spine.
“Come on, Jess,” she coached. “It’s not like you’re superstitious or anything.” With that, she abruptly turned toward the rusted gates and pushed them open. They creaked reluctantly as they gave way. Clutching her purse until her fingers turned white, she stepped along the worn gravel path.
A streak of lightning lit up the darkness and hit the ground just ahead of her. The earth parted in a jagged crack. With a shriek, she automatically stepped back and held her purse in front of her like a shield. In an unnatural flash of light, a cloaked figure emerged from the ground. She opened her mouth to scream, but no sound escaped.
“I’ve been waiting for you, Jessica,” the hooded figure rasped.
“How do you know my name?” She released the breath she’d unconsciously held. “Who are you?” she demanded with more confidence than she actually had, her heart pounding within her chest.
“You know who I am. There’s no reason to fear me. I’m here to help you.” The stranger pulled back his hood, revealing a horned and disfigured face, the colour of a black cherry. His empty obsidian eyes saw right through her. The pungent stench of death surrounded him.
She did scream then, a blood-curdling scream that resonated throughout the empty cemetery.
He beckoned her with a wave of his gnarled, discoloured hand. “If you want to save Lexi, you must come with me.”
“Save Lexi? What did you do to my daughter? I’m not going anywhere with you until you tell me what’s going on!” She protested, but it was a token gesture.
He turned around and his lower face curled into a creepy grin. “First things, first.” He outreached his hand. “Take my hand willingly and I will not harm your daughter.”
She looked appallingly at the mutilated hand and gulped. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?” she asked, with a stubborn lift of her chin.
His eyes flashed yellow and his skin darkened menacingly. “Either you come with me or you don’t. It’s your choice.”
There was no choice. She would do anything to save her daughter. Even surrender her soul. She knew she was making a grave mistake, but she was helpless to stand up to his special form of persuasion. With a deep fortifying breath, she took a small step forward and placed her hand in his.
The inside of her body began to contort. The deformed hand squeezed hers tighter. He began to cackle hysterically as he tugged on the front of her uniform. She shrieked hysterically as he pulled a bubble-like substance from her chest. “I’ll be in touch, Jessica,” he said, before he replaced his hood and returned to the ground.
Incredibly shaken, Jess ran the rest of the way home. She wouldn’t be satisfied until she was certain Lexi was safe.