His first cognizant thought was how oddly comfortable he felt. The old football injury didn’t ache in the background like it had for seemingly countless years. And the city was quiet… Since when was the city quiet? Kurt’s eyes opened slowly and he found himself looking into the face of a stranger. The woman was crouched over him and appeared to be trying to talk to him, but all he heard was ringing.
Kurt realized he couldn’t move. His mind wrestled with confusion and concern as he tried to focus on what the woman was telling him. Her voice began to sift through the ringing, and he recognized some of the words her lips were forming.
don’t move –
will be okay –
Recollection hit him nearly as hard as the other vehicle did when he ran the red light. He had been typing something to post online and didn’t see the red light, nor did he see the ambulance with its emergency lights flashing as it raced towards the intersection. Fortunately for him he was unaware of being thrown through his windshield, of tumbling like a rag doll across the rough street, and of the emergency vehicle rolling over his broken body before it came to a stop on its side. But his conscious mind was catching up with horrific speed.
The fear on the woman’s face belied the calm and soothing words she tried to share with him. A squat man with the bulbous nose of a heavy drinker knelt beside her and spoke in frantic tones.
“The dude’s going to bleed out if we don’t do something.”
“His neck is broken so badly that one wrong move will kill him,” replied the woman, her voice betraying her nausea. “There isn’t much we can do.”
Certainty and finality calmed him. The sounds around him seemed to fade into the background. As his body started to shut down, Kurt’s mind gained an amazing amount of clarity. He had nothing to worry about, not like those hell-bound atheists and science-toting heretics he harassed whenever possible. He accepted the Lord years ago. He vaguely remembered it, but he knew he had because his pastor said so.
As fate would have it, that was precisely what he had been texting about when the accident happened. He was preaching on a local site for an agnostic group. Some would have called it trolling, but he knew he was serving a higher purpose. They were all damned. He was saved through simple belief and acceptance. Surely this accident was a reward from the Almighty. He was being called home.
A cold breeze blew and Kurt shivered. The muffled sounds around him slipped into nothing. He opened his eyes, expecting to see gates, clouds, or something similar, but all he saw was a dim view of what he had seen before.
“That’s strange,” he whispered. The sound of his own voice spooked him. Had he passed already? A foul breeze moaned around him as dark clouds quickly covered the sky. Heavy mists rolled across the street and obscured the people and buildings around him.
“What is strange?” asked something from the haze. The voice was like gravel and broken glass being ground, a bizarre combination of bass and treble that no mortal vocal chords could have produced.
Fear gripped Kurt and chased away all the positive thoughts that had been pooling in his mind. He searched for the source of the voice and found a dark shadow lurking in the depths. It grew in size and became increasingly peculiar as it approached.
“Were you expecting something pretty when your life came to an end?”
“I… I… This is wrong….” Kurt blabbered as the mist parted for a hideous and eldritch being. The thing was partially humanoid, but there were growths and extensions that defied understanding, its foot grotesque with too many crooked appendages and deformities. The wretched leg it was attached to was repulsively thin and covered by a sickly skin that didn’t hide the misaligned bones and flesh beneath.
The creature’s torso was a mottled skin of yellow and green, punctuated by tentacles and arm-like growths, each of which appeared to move on its own accord. The second leg was like a conglomerate of partially fused tentacles that oozed a fetid ichor that filled the air with a horrid stench and left a nasty trail in its wake.
It carried a long chain in a large hand that had nearly a dozen digits, each wrapped around slimy links of metal. The opposing shoulder had what appeared to be the lower half of a bark covered octopus with slow-moving growths that were covered with barbs and teeth. And the head, oh the head. There was no mouth, nor a nose, but the hapless face was besieged by numerous lidless eyes that shined with heinous intent.
Kurt’s hysterical scream was absorbed by the mist. “No!”
“You are still between worlds, Kurt. But not for long.”
A repulsive tentacle reached out for him as he tried to move.
His whole body jolted and he heard kind voices in the background. Were angels wrestling him from this demonic nightmare? Kurt’s eyes opened to see paramedics leaning over him, talking frantically to each other and to him.
“Stay with us buddy, just hold on.”
The light was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He would give anything to not go back to that nightmare. Surely that’s what it was, right? Only a dream? He was saved after all. Kurt was so tired, and he couldn’t keep his heavy eyelids up. He was ready for the Glory.
Kurt’s eyes closed. The warmth was instantly gone, as were the careful movements and voices of the paramedics. He didn’t want to open his eyes, but had no choice. The creature from before stood over him, a comical look of twisted glee showed brightly in each of its eyes, and the skin of its face vibrated with its voice.
“Glory… What do you know of glory, Kurt?”
A few of the tentacles used their barbs and teeth to dig deep into Kurt’s flesh. There was no blood, but the pain felt unlike anything he had ever experienced. Unable to move, he was left to watch in horror as the thing continued to work.
“Your days were filled with hate, rejecting your fellow mortals for petty differences of opinion, and you expect a reward of some kind? Pearly Gates, shitty harps, and those dumbass cupids flitting around with wings?”
The creature dropped the heavy chains on his legs and gripped Kurt’s face with its multitude of fingers. “Why do you deserve something different from this?”
Kurt fought for his voice, and found it, thinking his one last chance was to claim his acceptance of the Almighty and enjoy the gifted fruit of salvation. “I accepted the holy one and by his Grace I am saved!”
He looked down and saw something ethereal being yanked from his body. It was his soul. Kurt looked to the sky, sure his last statement would redeem him. Riotous laughter filled his ears. Kurt looked back at the demon as it continued to rip his essence from his damaged body.
“You’re certainly not the first of your flavor I’ve had the pleasure of reaping. Saved by his Grace, to hell with what your actions might have been. Is that how it goes? What would you say if I told you that the woman in the ambulance you crashed into died a few minutes ago. She was agnostic and is getting a benevolent introduction to an afterlife you will never experience.”
“That can’t be,” cried Kurt.
The creature gripped his throat, tore what remained of his spirit free, and dragged him up into the gathering obscurity. He looked down and through the billowing mists he could just barely make out the paramedics draping a blanket over his body. Kurt’s face was yanked around and forced to look at the demon.
“She was kind, good, and all of that boring tripe. The interesting thing is that it was all of her own free will, not because she thought it would buy her entrance into the land of faeries and light. Faith is worth shit if your behavior is too.”
~ Zack Kullis
© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.