Maurice pressed the hammer to Ivan’s nose. “I could. I’ve done it before.” He spat on Ivan’s coat. “How dare you embarrass me! My name! I built this company! You work for me!” Maurice leaned in, locking eyes with Ivan. “I own you!”
Ivan rocked back and forth, rattling the chains. Duct tape made it hard to breath, and even harder to talk. All he could do was piss himself and think. “I’m going to die here. My wife… My daughter…”
His daughter Saria’s face flashed as his eye exploded; its nerve clung to the hammer’s flat edge.
Ears ringing, Ivan’s smashed and distorted pupil stared back at his remaining eye. “No!” he screamed. Ivan tensed up and squeezed his eye shut; he could still see himself from the hammer’s perspective. The hammer fell and his bowels quivered. Shock, desperation and fear consumed his psyche; he passed out before the next strike.
“Crimson washed in white… What a mess,” a raspy voice responded. “Get up.”
Rattling chains echoed throughout the warehouse. Ivan’s wailing followed a heavy thud.
Mannequins stood over Ivan. Their skin was transparent with what looked like universes underneath. They were human enough, aside from the obvious aesthetic differences. “Get up,” said the male mannequin. His clothes resembled something from the Lord of the Rings. His hands yanked the tape from Ivan’s mouth.
Ivan yelled, urinating himself again. His underwear squished and sloshed as he jostled about. “A-a-am I dead?”
“Do the dead shit themselves?” The mannequin woman responded. She was slim, but shapely. Her silver hair matched her plain white tee-shirt and odd denim pants. “This is a waste of time. Just eat his soul. He can’t help us, ReSal.”
“Patience, my dear,” ReSal responded, chuckling with a sinister rasp. “He will.” ReSal waved his hand; the pain, feces and urine surrounding Ivan vanished.
Ivan blinked and gazed at them with both of his eyes. He was calm, but something didn’t feel right. “Ok, so I’m not dead… ? Then you must be demons or–”
“Shut your mouth, meat sack!” Rin yelled, her soft, glass palm whacked Ivan across the face. “Don’t confuse us with your man-made fantasies. Demons!” She hit Ivan again. “We saved you.” Rin pointed at Maurice’s mangled body. “We’ve been following you, and debated whether or not we should even take action to assist you; if it wasn’t for my partner, ReSal, that soulless husk would have smashed your eyes in and fornicated your skull. Then he would’ve have taken that hammer and smashed your brains and his semen all over this room. Despite my interjection, Master ReSal believes you are much too valuable to die such a gruesome, humiliating death.”
“You’re too kind, Rin,” ReSal chimed in.
ReSal’s voice alone was enough to make Ivan think nothing good could come of this interaction. It was thick and raspy, like a demon who had spent centuries singing and chain-smoking. Ivan shook, unable to respond.
ReSal snapped his fingers and Ivan’s chains hit the ground. “Now do-”
Ivan sprinted through the two creatures, before a force swept him off his feet and suspended him in the air. He yelped. “Please! Let me go!”
“Now, now, Ivan, don’t be so … rash. We have a proposal for you; isn’t that right, Rin?”
Rin curtsied. “It is so, my liege.” Her eyes were pitch black, save for white pupils. Her stare stabbed Ivan.
“F-fine what do you want! I’ll do anything! Anything!”
“We need to borrow your child…”
“-Now, hold on. Hold on, Ivan. We have a child of our own… who is also ill. Unlike your daughter and her illness, ours can survive hers, but she needs a human body to do so.”
Ivan floated upside down, suspended by ReSal’s power. “Just what are you!”
ReSal looked at Rin. “See, he didn’t even say no. He can and will help us.” His eyes locked with Ivan’s. “Like many creatures of the Abyss. We are ineffable by human tongue. I ask you with great patience: give our daughter a chance to live, or we will grant you an eternity of pain under our skin.”
“What will I get in return,” Ivan asked.
“What you want most. A fresh start, Ivan.”
Ivan nodded as ReSal let him down.
“You’ve been a lawyer—a great one—for fourteen years; your negative qualities are so well-hidden and complexly exhumed, never leaving a trace of guilt, except deep within your mind.” ReSal chuckled. “I can make that go away. I can consume all the evil and negativity that dwells inside you. You can be the perfect father for our daughter, who is also called Saria. We need your permission to remove your daughter’s soul from its vessel and place ours inside.”
“Will my wife know?”
“No one will. Not even you. I will devour all the memories of your wickedness. You will be an adult without the damnable scars of time so heavily reinforced by misery and the company you have grown fond of.” ReSal’s skin shone brilliantly, despite the black underneath being deeper than the vast emptiness of space. “My last wife, Rin, who has served me well in these troubling times, is being hunted, as I am. We will be devoured or sent to the hell we call home. We cannot allow our daughter to suffer the same fate.”
Ivan grabbed his long, light-brown coat from behind the pillar he had been chained to.
“Human, I do not envy you. It is a heavy choi—”
“I’ll do it,” Ivan said, interrupting Rin. “I’m on the clock. Take my daughter first, then remove my memories. I don’t want to inadvertently discover it or know about it.” Ivan checked his watch. “My wife is making dinner and I have a lot of work to do.” He kicked Maurice’s remains. “This skin sack promised me he’d take me to the finest titty bar in Manhattan, then he brought me here and chained me at gun point; you can understand my rage.”
Rin shook her head. A tear rolled down her cheek. “What vile creatures…”
A light flashed. Ivan was home as a new man, eating dinner with his wife and his daughter. Though she was only an infant, there was something different about her. An unsettling sadness manifested in her gaze.
ReSal and Rin watched their daughter grow in the human body until she reached the age of four. They appeared in all of her childhood pictures as her imaginary parents.
“Draw us in pink, my child,” Rin said. “This will be the last time you see us.”
Saria smiled. “My friend Emery can see you!” She giggled, twirling her curly hair.
“Not for long,” ReSal laughed. “Ready, Rin?”
“My liege.” Rin bowed and the two entities warped from Saria’s room, never to be heard or seen again.
Saria is a character in my novel, The Cloak of Nothing: Emery and the Exiled King.