The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was his greatest failure. Lorna had been driving for miles and days on the highways and down dusty roads when this thought hit. His existence had been revealed in the publishing of the bible and ever since we had known. What wasn’t widely known was his revenge plot, some propaganda of his own that spread like holy fire on a sin pit. The people took it as gospel, literally, and never questioned it.
The corn disappeared a couple of counties back, only a sea of tiny stalks no higher than the first buds remained, as well as a few rotten ears that hadn’t made the cut.
After a bleep from her navigation system, she yanked the car onto the field. The rattle of the loose hubcap, evidence of a narcoleptic ding near a tiny town called Charleston, deepened its clatter on the uneven ground. Specks of flax leapt on the hood of the red car. She rolled up the window and let the rhythm of the tools bumping around in the cab steal her focus.
She reached the other side where it changed to flat grassland.
The GPS had the big red point here, mirroring the barn of the farmhouse in the distance. This was where she was supposed to be. She stopped the car. No need for parking here.
Her tools weighed heavy in the carry-all and they weren’t much better under her overcoat. This she pulled around herself as she walked to the warm hood of the car. It gave her comfort in the approaching autumn winds. The world seemed empty, the landscape a photograph before her eyes.
The sun disappeared behind clouds for a moment and returned in a glorious burst like heaven returning to Earth with fresh forgiveness. If God spoke then, he spoke in the caw of birds. A flock flew from the horizon. Not a flock, a murder of crows. She pulled the coat tighter.
Nothing proceeded to happen in that nothing place for quite a while, except the clouds repeated their path across the sun with disturbing regularity, like the sky was a short video played on a loop.
A sheep stood in the field. It didn’t walk from the horizon or the distant barn. The field was empty one moment – maybe she had looked away – and then when she looked back it had a sheep. A lamb actually. As it approached it was easier to measure its smaller frame and the tiny face that showed a disproportionate contempt, or at best, indifference. It continued walking in a straight line towards her. Shouldn’t it have been galloping randomly after butterflies and shit? No, this one had locked onto a scent, like a hungry wolf.
Getting distracted now wouldn’t help her in the coming meeting. She needed her wits about her. Still, she couldn’t help staring at the strange sheep. The air felt like shrink wrap. The lamb was close enough to reach out and touch its downy fur. It bobbed its head at the grass, a normal lamb. A voice echoed in her head. It would have shook the sky if spoken aloud.
“You were brought for me.”
It felt like an alien force pushing meaning through an alphabet mould. Nausea reached up from her stomach and gripped her brain. They came in the form of an animal, hence why her kind had suffered a bad reputation. No one seemed to tolerate fluffy and feathery things getting their throats cut, even in the name of God. If only they knew the truth.
“You were the one they chose. Why?”
The lamb stared at her. There was only the lamb. He looked like someone had taken his suckling breast away.
“Yes, it is I, here for you”.
Either the demon was speaking softer or her head was becoming accustomed to it.
“You?” she replied. The first thing she had said all day, after traveling alone. That concept seemed like a terrible idea now.
“You prefer a more ghastly visage to gaze upon in your final moments? I pay you mercy, but if you prefer…”
The lamb’s legs and neck contorted and swelled, the body thickening into a muscular predatory form… beyond predatory. This grotesque, emerging creature had no need to hunt, it controlled with fear, and gained its sustenance from sacrifices – like she was supposed to be.
“It bothers me not. It is easier to eat. Your flesh will line my gullet.”
Appendages of every size and shape reached towards her like cursed flowers reaching for the dying sun.
“It is you,” she said. The beast began stretching and would tower over her. She didn’t wait to see how many mouths this one had.
She unfurled her long coat, pulled out the modified shotgun the boys at the den had given her and issued a blast into the terrific bulk. The first shot had it surprised and it reeled. Swiftly, she pulled the trigger again and again, shell after shell of blessed ammo exploding into the demon, forcing it into the floor.
Bloody, silent, still and with a stench like wet garbage in a microwave.
“How’s your gullet now?” she said, reloading the shotgun. “You old ones really are the dumbest.”
She waited a moment to make sure it hadn’t seen too many horror movies. One thing she hadn’t had time to gather was more petrol to burn the corpse. A meander somewhere between Kansas and Oklahoma city had forced her to use the bottle of petrol to avoid a 20 mile hike to a garage.
“Should have filled that up too,” she thought aloud, but she could take her time getting home. Some petrol from her tank would get the party started and the boys would want her to lay low for a while. There was tubing in the trunk and she went to it, found what she wanted and set to work.
It wasn’t until some clever priest realized you could bless automatic weapons that laying low was possible, quick kills and quick clean ups too. Before that it had taken some serious dark magic and strange rituals to keep the demons in their weaker forms and a lot of time that got interrupted. All in all, a bad image for them in the press, slaughtering kiddies’ favourite farmyard animals. But there were rumors that it was the devil’s own doing. His revenge for God revealing his existence to the mortal world.
“I’m going to need a few whiskeys after this.”
She sucked the tube with the other end in the petrol tank and knew it was best not to get distracted, but her skin flushed at the stupidity of people. Biologists study biology. They don’t worship it. And no one would dance about in robes like ours if they had a choice.
She spluttered as the petrol flooded her mouth then exited just as swiftly in coughs and spits.
With a thump she was on the floor, eyes to dirt. Her legs had been pulled out from under her. The shock of it blocked her senses for a while, but something grabbed her ankle. Struggling to break free and kick, she reached for the underside of the car to fight the attempts to fling her.
It was the demon. No longer hulking, no longer dead, but a viscous liquid moving faster than was natural and stretching out to her with tentacles of shimmering, bloody ooze. Any kick that landed splashed into a soft liquid mass but the tentacles were abusive lovers and there was little to help her. Petrol trickled from the tubing and the empty canister was waiting for her to fill it. More tentacles clutched her.
Deep breaths. Focus on the rhythm of it. In time with a whipping she swung herself towards the wheel and ripped the damaged hub cap off with bloodying fingers. She rolled up to her toes and slammed the sharp edge of the metal disc through the tentacle. She scrambled away, her leg burning.
No time to worry about burning bodies now. All advantage had fallen in the pit. She put the car between her and it then took the driver’s seat. Escape was all that mattered. She’d just have to plan another trap later. It would be harder but ‘hard’ was better than ‘dead’.
She turned the key, splutter, a choking surge like an old engine climbing Everest. It should have worked. There was petrol.
She’d left the cap off the tank. The ooze crawled over the car with its millions of liquid limbs and forced itself into it. The car wouldn’t run on demon. Yet even as it spread itself inside it also seemed to spread outward covering more and more of the car.
Her gun was outside, leaning against the useless car in the middle of nowhere. This looked like a real shit show. All she had was the celebratory cigar on the off chance this was the last of them, and the matches to light it with. Hell, she’d smoke it anyway after this.
The car creaked like violins played by toddlers and it suddenly hit her how dark it was. The ooze of the demon had covered most of the east side so the sunlight penetrated in thick green rays. The demon would crush the car, with her in it.
She opened the door on the west side and ran with grating gasps of air, knowing she didn’t need to look back, knowing it would catch her long before she found help. The demon wasn’t going to watch her run the 100 miles to Oklahoma. She needed to double back to end it.
Legs pumping, she veered to one side over the crunch of broken grass stalks and hay. The demon had only just abandoned the misshapen vehicle and galloped in localized waves over itself to reach her. It moved faster than she could. Passing it to get to the car would be impossible. She didn’t even know if she could get a match in the car engine.
She screamed and charged anyway. The demon pushed up in a larger wave that flung her off her feet.
Before she gained footing, it loomed before her. Part of it only shimmered, another part of it was dripping as it folded over and onto itself. The petrol! She didn’t need to go back to the car. The demon had been inside the full tank.
She scrambled back to give herself more time. The matches were as gold in her pocket, gold made unreachable with fabric bending the wrong way, fingers unable to find the opening, she couldn’t reach in time. The demon stretched high into a human shape, mocking her.
“You must have known it was futile,” it said.
She didn’t answer. It dripped petrol. She had matches now. The little box flew open in her grasp. She grabbed a stick and flicked it against the striking paper. It lit and held.
The demon cackled. The boom of his pleasure filling her head and crushing her thoughts. She screamed and dove, holding the match outstretched to reach her nemesis. It touched the wet patches around it.
Like a bonfire, he raged.
She squirmed away as heat pushed on to her. The horrific wax work looking bonfire dance itself to death. It lurched at her, its last moments, longing for revenge. She watched it until the slime crumbled to ash and the fire made a scorched pattern in the grass.
Old ways had their merits after all.
Her smartphone hadn’t broken in the fight, miraculously. She called the only number saved and without waiting for a greeting she said “it’s done”.
The voice on the other side sounded like it had protested every war in history. “Then it wasn’t the last,” Cain said.
“We’ll need another bait and switch. Are you ready?”
“As long as he isn’t,” she said and hung up.