Marko fished his keys out of a jeans pocket and held out a God’s eye keychain on the key ring as the shadow cat lunged at him. He heard a shout of alarm as it disappeared into the intricate weave of the small charm. The shadow creature rose up and Marko quickly turned the spirit trap in its direction.
“Sit down, unless you want to join your pet.”
“Let my cat go you…”
“Talk like that will make me burn the spirit trap and then you’ll never get your little sidekick back.”
“What do you want from me?”
“I want to know what I’m walking into here. ”
“I’m not telling you anything!”
The shadow flowed up and outward from its darkened corner, swallowing all light on the porch. Marko could feel the air around him drop several degrees as the shadow began to surround him, pooling on the step around him. He stepped down quickly, wagging his finger.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk, I thought we were going to play nice. Now I’m going to have to burn your familiar. That’s what this shadow cat is to you right? You’re nothing but the soul of a dead witch who didn’t have sense enough to move on to the underworld. You’ll be even weaker if I send your partner in crime to hell.”
To underscore his intent, Marko pulled a lighter from his pocket, flicked open the flame and held it dangerously close to the God’s eye. The blackness suddenly shrank back into the shadow form. It was Marko’s turn to chuckle.
“That’s better, now where were we?”
“What do you want from me?”
“A little information is all. Once I make it back out of that cursed house with my friends in tow, I’ll release your friend. Lie to me, attempt to mislead me or attack and your friend is toast. I’ll make it my mission to end you as well. Now, tell me how many people beside my two friends are in the house.”
“I guess you could call him a person.”
“Okay, so one guy? What else is lurking in there?”
“Nothing you need worry about until the witching hour.”
Marko consulted his watch and discovered that he had half an hour to get the sisters out before the veil between realms thinned enough for other spirits to slip through. Something evil had happened inside that house. Marko had no intention of staying long enough to see what demonic forces might return after midnight. He would have to work fast.
Marko thrust the God’s eye back into his pocket and charged into the house. He paused in the foyer, looking around for a weapon. He spied a rack of fireplace tools on the living room hearth and grabbed the poker before following the sound of Janet’s screaming.
Marko quickly found the sisters cornered in a back room by the relentless onslaught of a hooded figure which appeared, in the moonlit room to be another shadow creature. Shouting failed to draw the attacker’s attention. Marko ran up behind him and pulled back the hood, simultaneously yanking on it.
He saw that he had unveiled a deformed man. Marko tightened his grip on the hood and pulled Phillip away from the sisters, twisting the hood until the jacket began to strangle him. Each time he attempted to turn around, Marko tightened his grip and used the poker to prod him in the opposite direction.
Andrea shouted, “What are you doing? That bastard is trying to kill us! Stab him while you have the chance!”
Phillip quickly unzipped and slipped out of the jacket. Marko was momentarily shocked into inaction by the ravaged visage before him. Growing up, he had heard stories from his grandfather about corpses animated by some malevolent force. In the cynicism of his adolescent years, he dismissed the tales as lame attempts to impress.
Now, Marko was grateful for them because he knew what to do. He ducked away from a swing of Phillip’s dagger. It was so dark, that he shouted for Janet to toss him the flashlight. Marko caught it and ran the beam up Phillip’s right arm across his neck and down the left arm.
Andrea let out a frustrated sigh and took matters into her own hands. She grabbed a rickety chair with a rotted out seat and broke it over Phillip’s head. He turned towards her and Marko finally saw what he was looking for on the man’s left shoulder. One forceful downward whack of the fireplace poker and the bloodless skin of Phillip’s shoulder flayed off down to his outer elbow. Phillip looked dispassionately at his damaged arm and laughed bitterly.
“Is that the best you can do? You should know, I feel no pain.”
Before Marko could reply, Phillip caught him off guard with a sudden lunge. He aimed his dagger at Marko’s heart. Marko reflexively blocked with his left hand and the blade glanced off of his watch band.
He thrust his hands against Phillip’s chest and his fingers inadvertently dented the thin, papery skin as he pushed. Phillip stumbled backwards and Marko had seconds to locate the section of excised skin on the floor with the flashlight beam.
Marko sank the fireplace poker into it and hurriedly lifted it up. He quickly retrieved the lighter from his pocket and held the flame against the dry piece of skin. Phillip was charging towards him when the skin began to burn, curling and gradually blackening. It quickly shriveled up and melted away. Philip was halted in mid-stride, dropping to the floor like a marionette with cut strings. Andrea and Janet gasped and simultaneously shouted excitedly.
“How the hell did you do that,” Andrea exclaimed.
“I destroyed his devil’s mark. Now, let’s get out of here before all hell breaks loose.”
Andrea was closest to the open front door and heard footsteps crossing the wooden porch. She looked over in time to see the doorway fill with darkness which quickly solidified into a shadow panther. Andrea elbowed her sister and said, “Uh guys, we’ve got company.”
Marko groaned and then cleared his throat,”I know this is going to be easier said than done but I’m gonna need you two to stay calm. What you’re looking at is a shadow being. They feed off of negative emotions.”
The beast growled and began advancing on the sisters. Andrea pushed Janet behind her. They backed away slowly, resisting the urge to run as it broke into a gallop.
“Stand your ground. It can’t do any real harm to you. Remain calm and it’ll leave you alone. It’s just trying to psyche you out. This is not cool. We had a deal. I guess it couldn’t resist all the raw emotion jumping off in here.”
Andrea chuckled mirthlessly, “Well, it’s about to get a real treat. Judging from Janet’s heavy breathing, she’s about to hyperventilate. I think she’s having a panic attack.”
“What? Is that true Janet? Janet listen, I know it’s hard not to believe what you see is real but, do you trust me?”
“I…yes, I trust you but, I’m st….still scared.”
The creature growled and leapt at them. Janet screamed and ran down the hall. The shadow panther passed through Andrea in pursuit of her sister. Janet looked over her shoulder as she ran and shrieked, becoming clumsy with fear. She fell and the creature overtook her. Janet’s eyes widened in disbelief as she felt fangs sinking into her neck. Andrea’s shouting sounded muffled as a draining sensation in her head blotted out all other awareness.