The People of Sails
In Deo Speramus
by Jacob Thompson, age 19
© 2018 by the author
Markus remained calm, even as the demon pursued him through the empty tunnels beneath his town’s library. The incarnadine reflection off of the pipe in front of him tells him that the infernal beast had found him again, and he prepared himself as he turned to face it again.
A fat, wart-covered tongue snakes from the maw of the creature, a miasma pouring from its open mouth. Its unearthly face is lit by a bioluminescent antenna on its head, similar to one of an anglerfish.
Markus suddenly felt panicked, pushing his sister behind him, and shoving something into her hands.
[Run. Stay safe.]
He signed the words to her, knowing that she couldn’t hear the raspy growl of the demon, the gnashing of its jaws as it pursued them, nor the laughter that sounded as if the lungs of the beast were filled with liquid. Markus’ sister grabbed his arm tightly, trying to shove the item back into his hands.
“No, I won’t leave you!” She yelled, unable to hear herself to control her volume, something that always resulted in a beating from their mother.
[Run,] Markus signed again, then he signed the six letters that made up her name. [Gloria.]
He could hear her tearing up behind him, but knew that there was no hope for her if she stayed with him. He pressed the item back into her hands, thankful for the slow speed that the creature’s mismatched legs confined it to.
He grabbed her arm and pointed to a ladder, but he knew that the demon wouldn’t let either one of them escape. It wanted to feed, and Markus’ friends hadn’t been enough for it. The demon slowly lumbered towards him as he pushed Gloria towards the ladder, then he pulled his father’s knife out of his pocket.
An ornate wooden handle with an equally decorated silver blade, passed down from their great grandfather’s great grandfather and so on. Markus never expected that this item would ever be useful, let alone that to fight a demon. The beast slowly accelerated, its mismatched stride becoming more pronounced as it did.
Markus charged forward with a yell, determined to kill the creature. The demon swung for him with a large paw with sharp, long claws. Liquid fire raced across his chest as Markus tried to stop himself, the claw shredding his shirt and slicing four lines across his chest. Regardless, he took a final step forward, stabbing his knife into the creature’s eye.
The knife broke.
The beast struck him in the side with a hoofed limb.
Markus slammed into a series of pipes, crying out in pain as his arm shattered like the blade of the knife. He clutched it as he stood, haphazardly trying to run away. He stopped as his sister screamed, and turned to see the beast clawing at the ladder, trying to reach his sister.
What did Markus matter? He was already half-dead.
Gritting his teeth in pain, Markus turned to face the demon. “Oy! Bastard!” he screamed, his injured ribs echoing his cry. The creature’s tail flicked in annoyance as it realized that
Markus wasn’t dead, and it slowly turn to face him.
Markus wasn’t going to let that happen.
Markus charged forward, grabbing a broken pipe as he ran past it. He swung the weapon with all of his might, striking the demon in the side of the head. It barely flinched from the blow, and Markus was propelled backwards as the tail struck him in the chest.
Markus watched with triumph as light appeared, a heavenly glow emanating from an unseen source, and smiled even wider as it disappeared. His sister was safe. He grinned, then spat a wad of blood onto the floor. If only he could say the same for himself…
Multiple of Markus’ ribs were broken, as was his right arm. He could barely move, even with the adrenaline coursing through his veins. His smile dropped as he lifted himself, a small moan passing through his lips without his approval. The demon walked towards him, clearly agitated that one of its prey escaped.
Markus decided to make the beast angrier, and ran down the hallway, his gait almost as stumbling as the monster that chased him. He turned down a hallway he hadn’t noticed before, and muttered a thanks to God as he noticed a small crack in the wall.
The monster hadn’t turned the corner yet, so Markus slipped into the crack unnoticed. He heard the beast let out a shriek as it turned the corner, seeing the empty tunnel. Its serpentine tail slapped the wall as it charged down, its stumbling run nearly causing it to trip as it charged past the crack in which Markus hid.
Markus clenched his fist as he muttered a prayer, listening with relief as the shrieking and footfalls distanced itself from him. As he leaned his head against the concrete in front of him, Markus recognized another problem: his body was screaming in pain.
He closed his eyes as the miasma that had fallen from the beasts mouth crept closer to him, the cloying stench burning his nostrils as he inhaled. He had to get away from it, but the miasma spread from the hallway. Pushing deeper into the crack, Markus ignored the pain that resounded throughout his body with every movement. His broken arm slid against the wall, and his vision started to blur with pain.
The crack opened up, and Markus fell into a dimly lit room, the only source of light a small emergency exit sign. He walked slowly towards it, moving slowly to avoid the silhouettes, and silently so as not to attract the demon’s notice. He pressed against the wall, searching blindly for a light switch. He unintentionally flipped the switch, bright fluorescent lights blinding him as he covered his eyes quickly. He fell backwards in shock, his broken arm screaming out in pain.
A low moan escaped his lips unbidden, and he instantly lowered his arm from his eyes to his mouth. Every noise around him could be the monster, a fact that terrified him almost as much as the monster itself. Silence ticked on as he listened to his surroundings. Drip drip drip, went the broken pipe above him.
Squeaks echoed from the rats running from the sudden light.
And then he heard it: an uneven clopping. Markus bit his lip in fear as he limped away from door, hoping that the demon wouldn’t notice the light.
His hopes were dashed as the miasma started creeping under the door, the footsteps stopping. Markus looked around him, aware that he was too far from the crack. If the demon charged through the door, he wouldn’t make it.
Markus turned around the room, looking at all the historical items that were around him.
He suddenly realized he was under the museum, which was under twenty-four-hour surveillance because someone tried to rob it the week prior to his escapades in the sewers.
He looked around fervently, trying to find something that could be used as a weapon. The only thing he saw was a large silver cross, embossed with a golden image of Jesus Christ on it.
He lifted it, nearly grunting due to its weight -- which felt close to twenty pounds. Despite being one-handed, he managed to lift the item, and turned just in time to notice the rust forming on the door, its form slowly becoming as gaseous as the thing that was melting it.
Markus grit his teeth as the demon knocked the door off of its hinges with its tail. He muttered a final prayer as he committed an act of blasphemy: lobbing the cross at the demon.
Caught off guard, the demon didn’t stop the cross. The cross smashed the creature’s bioluminescent antennae, and as the creature thrashed, multiple items fell off of their plinths.
Markus ran around the creature as it tried to find him, and turned the lights off as he left the room. A red exit light guided him to a ladder, which he glanced at nervously, then realized he didn’t have a choice.
He pulled himself up with his uninjured arm, then leaned his back against the wall as he lifted himself higher.
He heard the demon screech behind him. An unholy sound, it chilled Markus to the bone, and he nearly fell off the ladder in his fear. Upon reaching the top of the ladder, he reached for the cover, trying to twist it open. The damned thing refused to budge.
As the demon’s tail wrapped around Markus’ leg, pulling him to an early death, Markus realized he made several mistakes:
He forgot that the museum would have all entrances closed.
He assumed that demons would be harmed by crosses, as they were holy objects.
And as he fell to the demon, he remembered his father’s warning: sometimes the worst demons are humans.
The man who stood behind him now was certainly one such demon, and the tail was now a hand. Markus new without a doubt that this was not what he had been afraid of this entire time.
His head hit the steel rung of the ladder.
No, what he had seen was a true demon. This was just a form it was taking to terrify him, as it had transformed into a spider-like creature when it killed Hillary.
His broken arm reached the floor first, but he felt no pain, even his head slammed into the concrete. The miasma no longer burned as he inhaled it, and the man pulled Markus’ arm towards his open mouth, which tripled in size as Markus watched.
No pain, even as the crunch of bones being shattered reached him. No pain, even as the monster tore flesh from his limbs, but Markus still felt fear. He wasn’t afraid of what was happening to him, a strange calm had overtaken him on that front.
He was afraid of what would happen afterwards. Would the demon continue, or merely remain content with its current underground residence? Would it kill again, or just wait for more prey to fall into its trap?
The demon’s clawed hand pressed against Markus’ arm as it pulled. Now Markus felt pain, and a scream came, unbidden, as he felt the joint popping, and eventually tearing out. Flesh followed in a moment of sheer brutality, and Markus felt the world around him slowly fading.
‘I’m sorry, Gloria.’ Markus thought for a final time, as the demon finally killed him.