Glyph stirred and inhaled deeply. He sat up and saw the carcass of rotting flesh that used to be Simeon. The rate of decomposition was phenomenal; it was as if the evil was feasting on its flesh like maggots, stripping the body to the bone, and further. As Glyph stood up, he wretched a dry heave at the smell of the rancid steam slowly pouring off what was left of Simeon’s body. ‘There goes my evidence. I should have taken a picture.’ Glyph thought sarcastically. ‘At least I had the sword here to prove this was all real.’
He shuddered as a sudden memory of Simeon hissing ‘sssMalik-tae’ gave him the urge to run away screaming. “That’s not real. That is Simeon putting thoughts in my head.” Glyph said out loud, as he tried to slow the adrenaline-charged panic attack. “Not real. Not …” Glyph paused, and looked around the area again.
“Oooh.” He moaned, as he realized that there was no real proof that the sword was ever here. The only thing he had hit with it was Simeon. Had he imagined the sword? Had he imagined Simeon? He glanced down at the gooey pulp that stretched across the ground before him. It was Simeon, it had to be, but was it? There was ammunition missing from his pockets, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t been shooting it at imaginary enemies. ‘Crap. For all I know, I ran down that path sprinkling bullets into the bushes.’ Glyph despaired. He wanted to believe, he had been so sure that everything that had been happening to him was real, but after Simeon’s hex, he wasn’t certain of anything. He willed his body to start walking calmly back up the trail, searching for his guns.
He found the rifle right away. The barrel was bent; apparently it had taken the brunt of Simeon’s punch. ‘Or I thought it was a sword and swung it into a tree trunk.’ Glyph lamented. Luckily the pistol was not that far from rifle. He emptied the spent shells onto the ground. He had shot the handgun, but at what? It seemed that no matter what he thought, there was still no definitive way to determine if anything he experienced during his last hour had been real. Reloading the pistol, he surveyed the area trying to get a bearing as to which way he had come. It was hard to regain his sense of direction every time he reappeared. He couldn’t always remember where he was when his hour ended, which almost always resulted in confusion whenever he returned. Glyph tucked the pistol back into his pants and chucked the rifle further into the woods.
“I have to go back for the shotgun.” He thought as he started back up the hill.
Glyph’s mind cleared somewhat as he backtracked the way he had come, and traversed the ridgeline to find the thicket where he had first shot Simeon. This was easier than he thought it would be. A ten foot tall demon leaves quite a trail of broken tree limbs and squashed saplings in its wake. Something had caused this destruction, if it wasn’t Simeon, then what could it have been? After a few minutes, Glyph realized he couldn’t afford to waste any more time looking for the gun and started to walk away, when he noticed it sticking out of a bush. He grabbed the shotgun, checked it over, and loaded it.
‘I’ve got to make some distance this time.’ He decided. It was likely the hunters he killed two days ago had been found, which meant the police would be looking for the killer. The further he could distance himself from their bodies, the better. Glyph knew he was only here for an hour. If he wanted to cover a lot of ground he would have to move pretty fast, so he half walked, half jogged through the underbrush.
Soon Glyph crossed a fairly wide, flat trail running along the side of the mountain. Hoping he could make some miles, he decided to risk it and took off at a brisk pace. It became clear to him after he jogged the first half mile that the path was used for ATV’s, as their fat tire tracks were at each muddy spot he encountered. He had just topped a ridge when he heard them. ATV’s for sure, but were they coming or going? He couldn’t tell at this distance, so he continued on the path, listening intently as he went. Glyph checked his watch; it had been almost ten minutes. He had covered at least a quarter mile since he left Simeon’s carcass, and most of that distance was due to this nice clean pathway. With the sounds of the ATV engines getting louder, it looked like his good fortune was about to change. Glyph had to assume they were coming for him. This was the way it had happened the last several times, they could sense him somehow.
He was on a steep descent when he knew for certain they were on the same path, and moving straight toward him at a steady clip. Glyph didn’t bother to wait until he saw them, and decided to head up the steep sloping scree off the path, rather than risk being an easy target by going further down. A few rocks dislodged as he scrambled over them, which started a mini-avalanche of loose rocks rolling down onto the pathway. He began to panic when he realized he was not going to make the ridgeline before they were in sight of him. His eyes searched for a place to hide. Breathing hard, he dropped to the ground behind an old log, just as the ATV’s arrived at the point where several of the rocks had rolled onto the path. The first one stopped, followed by the other two behind him. ‘Here we go again.’ Glyph thought as he struggled to slow his breathing.
Glyph thought he heard talking in low voices. He was desperate to know who he was going to be dealing with shortly, but didn’t dare risk raising his head for a peek. Then one of them said, “Look!”
Glyph was sure the jig was up, and when he heard them scrambling into the woods below him, he knew for sure. When he jumped to his feet to make for the top of the ridge, he lost his footing. A second later he hit the steep slope on his back and started to roll out of control toward his pursuers. Trying desperately to stop himself, Glyph threw out his arms trying to grab anything, a small tree, or large rock, but he was falling too quickly. A moment later he felt a hand grab his arm, which slowed him a bit before he broke free, and crashed legs first into an ATV that sat idling on the trail. There was a sickening crack as Glyph’s leg plowed between the frame and wheel, and his body kept moving onto the top of the vehicle. Then he stopped abruptly, and flopped backward toward the trail. Pain ripped through his body, as his eyes landed on the bone protruding from the back of his calf muscle. Then his head snapped back as he hit the ground and he blacked out…
Glyph’s eyes popped open instantly as he regained consciousness. The roar of an engine droned loudly in his ears, and his body bounced up and down considerably. It took a few moments before he understood where he was. He was strapped to the back of an ATV, and his captors were moving rather rapidly down a wide dirt and gravel path. Glyph looked for his guns, but did not see them; of course his view was diminished by his position on the four-wheeler. He became aware of the pain in his leg on the next bounce, and stifled a scream. Glyph was somewhat surprised to be alive. Most of the black-eyed devils only wanted to kill him, but these were taking him someplace. He could tell they had also wrapped his leg with clothing, a sweater by the looks of it, and tied it tight with twine. A moment later they descended a small embankment and started through a large area covered with gravel. Finally they stopped in front of a large wood-planked building, with huge glass windows.
“C’mon, help me move him into the chapel.” The driver of his ATV said. Glyph couldn’t keep the pain in his leg from making him groan loudly as they moved him onto a board and then carried him through two large wooden doors into an enormous room with polished hardwood floors.
“I think he’s coming around.” The man said. “Maureen, go call an ambulance. Joan, can you wet some wash cloths?”
‘Well, they aren’t trying to kill me.’ Glyph thought, and took it as a good sign. He opened his eyes, pretending he had just regained consciousness.
“Good morning. Well, maybe not so good for you.” The man said and chuckled lightly. “My name is Jack. We saw you fall, out there on the trail. Are you feeling okay, I mean other than the leg?” Jack questioned.
Glyph nodded. “Where–.” Glyph was going to ask about his guns, but was cut off.
“You’re at the Kurtridge Revival Center. This is the sanctuary. We had to bring you here to call for help. There’s no cell service up here, and this was the closest landline.” Jack explained. Then he glanced up and saw Maureen standing in the doorway about twenty feet away listening. “Maureen, please. This man needs emergency care.”
“Oh, right.” The woman replied, looking embarrassed, before she moved into the other room.
“She’s calling for an ambulance now.” Jack said.
“No!” Glyph yelled out, and then quickly calmed himself. “No, I’m alright. I’ll be fine, no need to call.” Glyph said in a hurry. He could only imagine what trouble that could land him in. Maureen had turned back around; Glyph had stopped her for the moment.
Jack smiled. “Look, your shin bone has snapped in half. The bottom portion has pierced through the back of your leg, and you’re bleeding pretty bad. You have to go to the hospital.”
“No, I’ll be okay, really.” Glyph told him. “Just give me a few more minutes and I’ll be on my way.”
At this time Joan had come back and placed a cold compress to his forehead. All three of them were exchanging looks, as if they weren’t sure what to do.
“You’re in shock. You need a doctor, sir.” Joan told him. “We’re going to call an ambulance.” She told him firmly, and she shot Maureen a look, who turned again.
“No! Wait!” Glyph yelled emphatically, but Maureen did not re-appear.
“Relax, you’ll be fine. Try not to move so much.” Joan told him.
“So, what brings you out this way, if you don’t mind me asking?” Jack asked, trying to re-direct Glyph’s attention.
“I was hunting.” Glyph said through gritted teeth. “I got lost.” Glyph shifted his weight, and realized the pain wasn’t any worse than before. ‘Shit’ he thought. ‘She’s making the call.’ Glyph changed his focus to escape, though he wasn’t sure how he would do that.
“Well, it’s a good thing we found you. There’s been a couple of murders not too far from here.” Joan told him.
“Yeah, a real live serial killer, and here of all places. There’s rangers and law enforcement combing the mountains between here and Hodgeton.” Jack added. “They think he’s hiding out somewhere up here.”
“Could you at least prop me up against that wall? I feel uncomfortable lying on my back.” Glyph said. The pain was not nearly as bad as it had been, and he hoped that it was because Ishea was already tending to the wound on the other world. Jack and Joan looked at each other for a moment and then helped Glyph move a few feet to the wall and prop him up. “Thanks.” Glyph said and let out a deep breath. He was certain the pain was less potent now. He looked down at his blood-stained clothes. Between the dogs, the hunters and Simeon, it nearly covered his entire body. Then he looked at Jack and Joan. ‘They seem sincere,’ he thought. ‘But how could they take one look at me and not think I was the killer they were just talking about. Maybe they have, maybe Maureen has gone to call the cops instead.’
Maureen re-entered the room. “I made the call.” She told them. “The ambulance should be here in about twenty minutes.”
Glyph glanced down at his watch. He had just about that much time left. He needed to leave and he needed to leave now. Reaching down, he began to untie the blood-soaked sweater from his leg. At least thirty minutes had passed since he had been injured, maybe it would be enough.
“No, you shouldn’t do that.” Joan said quickly and tried to stop him, but Glyph pushed her hand back from his arm and pulled the sweater off. Joan stared down at his wound just as the bone slipped back into his leg. Her mouth dropped open in astonishment.
“Thank you, Ishea!” Glyph exclaimed, momentarily forgetting where he was.
“Jack!” She whispered fiercely as she leaned back and pushed up onto her feet, with one hand over her mouth and the other pointing at Glyph’s leg.
“Sweet Jesus!” Jack shouted jumping to his feet as well. At this point the wound slowly stopped bleeding and began to seal itself. The wet blood on his leg and the dark purplish scar was now the only proof that his leg had been broken. “Maureen! Get the pastor!” When Maureen hesitated, he grabbed her and shook her. “NOW!” Maureen took off at a full run through the double oak doors.
Glyph took the sweater and wiped some of the blood off his leg, and inspected the wound with his hand. He squeezed his leg tenderly starting at the ankle and worked his way up to the knee. There was still a lot of soreness and pain where the bone was knitting itself back together, but he felt he could probably stand, at least on his good leg. He looked up at his helpers, who both stared at him with mouths agape. “A little help here.” Glyph said and put out his hand. After a moment Jack came out of his shock long enough to grab Glyph’s hand and pull him upright. Then stepped back away from him as soon as he did.
“A-are you an A-angel?” Joan whispered, her body trembling so much as to make her stutter.
Glyph was about to say no, but realized this could be his opportunity to escape. “I suppose I am.” Glyph told them. “Now, I have some important work to do, so I’m going to have to go.”
“This—this is a miracle!” Jack shouted.
“Where are my guns?” Glyph asked calmly as he leaned against the wall.
“They’re out on the ATV.” Jack answered.
“Good.” Glyph said and began to limp a little on his slowly healing leg, moving closer to the door. Sweat beaded up on his forehead from the pain. “Is there anything I could use as a crutch?” He asked.
Just then Maureen burst through the door, and slammed it behind her. “They’re coming!” She yelled, and flipped the deadbolt.
“Shit!” Glyph called out. He grabbed a chair from a stack just to his right, and using it as a walker hobbled over to the door. He flipped the back of it under the handles, wedging it in tightly. He glanced at Maureen’s face, and the fear he saw there confirmed his suspicion. Whoever ‘they’ were, they were no longer themselves.
“I-I don’t understand.” Joan said. “Why are you locking them out?”
“You’re religious, right?” Glyph asked, scanning the room for something he could use as a weapon.
“Yes.” Joan whispered.
“So you’ve heard of the battle between good and evil?” He asked taking a tentative step away from the double oak doors.
“Y-yes.” She replied.
“Well–.” A large thud erupted from the doors and made them jump. “You’ve just been drafted. You’ll be pleased to know that you’re on the good side.” There was a frantic pounding coming from outside the door. “Maureen, tell her what you saw.” Glyph said, and limped his way toward the stack of chairs off to the side of the room.
“They changed right in front of me…their eyes were solid black!” Maureen said. There was another loud thud against the doors, like they were using a battering ram. Glyph snatched some long silver-plated candlesticks off the altar, and started back across the room. Jack was on his knees praying in the middle of the floor. Glyph walked over and put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Is he answering you?”
Jack turned his head to stare at Glyph, but said nothing.
“Then prayer time’s over.” Glyph said and pulled Jack to his feet. He slapped the candlestick into Jack’s hand and turned him to face the door. “How many, Maureen?”
“Five.” Maureen answered. There was another loud thud, this time with a slight cracking sound.
“Find a weapon to use, this could get ugly.” Glyph told her. Maureen nodded and disappeared into the other room. Glyph walked up to Joan and put the other candleholder into her hand.
“I don’t understand.” She said.
“You will. Swing at the head, with all your might.”
“But you’re an angel. Can’t you protect us?” She said frantically.
Maureen returned with a long pointy candle snuffer, and Glyph nodded his approval. Another loud thud, and this time the doors buckled inward a few inches.
“Is there a back door?” Glyph asked.
“I already locked it.” Maureen told him.
“Good girl. Now get ready, they won’t stop until they’re dead.”
With another loud thud the deadbolt bent and the doors burst open. Maureen jammed the pointed brass snuffer into the first one’s face, connecting with his nose and upper lip, before sliding into his eye and puncturing the brain. Blood squirted out like his eye threw up, as Maureen held the man there, momentarily blocking the door. Joan screamed wildly as she saw their black eyes, and then they pushed through. The next man tackled Joan who continued to scream, even as she hit the floor and started wailing on her attacker with the silver candlestick. Jack swung at a woman and clocked her in the temple, but tripped over her as she fell into his legs.
Glyph whipped a chair off its stack and slammed the face and body of the second woman as she dove for him. As the chair swept her off to the side, the last man leapt for Glyph. They locked arms as the man’s momentum pushed Glyph until his back slammed up against the altar. Glyph kneed the man in his stomach, but he latched onto Glyph’s ear as he fell, and forced Glyph down with him. Pain ripped through Glyph’s shin like the bone had broken again. They exchanged several blows as they rolled about on the floor. Glyph tried to gain the upper hand, but the man scratched Glyph’s left eye, and bit into his forearm. Glyph screamed as the man pulled his head back, trying to rip the muscle from Glyph’s arm with his teeth. Reaching out with his free arm, Glyph grasped a large brass cross that had fallen from the pulpit and began to beat the man’s face with it. On the sixth blow his jaw went slack and his teeth released Glyph’s arm. Screaming again, Glyph beat the man several more times in the face until the skull had cracked and flattened beneath the hammer-like cross. Blood poured out of the man’s head as Glyph pushed back to his feet.
The pain in his leg made him scream, and brought tears to his eyes. He turned to check on the others when the woman he had hit with the chair charged him. Glyph jumped back with his good leg as she lunged, but the woman managed to grab his arm with both hands as she fell toward the ground. Glyph felt his shoulder wrench as the woman’s full weight pulled his arm down, popping it out of socket. Glyph yelled again as he fell on top of her, sprawling across her back as she tightened her grip on his arm, digging her nails into his flesh. Suddenly she released him and as Glyph rolled away he saw Maureen pulling her improvised spear from the woman’s head.
Glyph tried to stand, but the pain in his shin prevented him. He opted to stay on his knees, his arm dangling uselessly by his side. He glanced around quickly. Joan was dead, and Jack was lying on his back bleeding profusely. Then he turned back to Maureen. Her eyes were cold and steely. She reached down to his good arm, braced herself and helped to pull him into a standing position.
“Thanks.” Glyph said as Maureen supported him. Then he pointed, and she helped him to the nearest wall. Glyph leaned his weight against the bad shoulder and the wall, then pushed down while twisting his torso at the same time. With an anguished howl, and several choice swear words he managed to pop his arm back into place. He was lucky it hadn’t been that far out, but even so, Glyph knew he wouldn’t be able to do much with that arm.
“Here.” Maureen said as she tied up a piece of torn drapery. “It’s a sling, see.” She held it up for him to look at, then stepped closer to help put it on. Glyph dipped his head slightly as she placed the improvised sling over his head and around his arm. Then as if reading his mind, she handed Glyph a pair of keys. “Take the blue one. Your pistol is in the storage case with your bag and the shotgun is strapped to the cargo rack. The trail at the end of the parking lot will take you another five miles.”
Glyph nodded as he took the keys, but the agony in his lower leg kept him from moving. “You better let me help you.” Maureen told him and put her arm around his back and allowed his good shoulder to rest on her for support. Limping around the dead bodies with Maureen’s help, he moved out into the morning light. Spying the ATV’s, he slowly mounted the blue one, turned the key and tried to start it up. Nothing happened. ‘Think, damn it. Think.’ Glyph thought, trying hard to remember how to do this. He had only ridden one of these once for a couple of hours several years ago at a friend’s house. There was some trick to it…the brake! He took it out of gear, squeezed the rear hand brake, turned the key and smiled as the ATV roared to life. Checking his watch, Glyph saw he only had eleven minutes left. He reached back and pulled his pistol from the case. He fingered the gun a bit, while he mulled over what he should do about Maureen. The girl just stood there watching him, as if she were waiting for him to pull the trigger, like she expected it to happen, and was fine with it. Finally he stuffed the gun down in his waistband. Then, without looking back, he throttled it up, slowly at first until he got used to driving with one hand and then sped toward the far end of the parking lot. He immediately saw the marked ATV trail and tore through the woods at full speed.
Glyph kept a close eye on his watch as he went. At nearly four minutes left, he sped around a tight curve near the edge of a vista. Glyph slowed the ATV to a stop, cut the wheel and rode slowly toward the cliff. Dismounting, Glyph unlashed the shotgun, grabbed his bag, and with one thumb-press of the throttle sent the ATV careening over the cliff into the dense canopied forest hundreds of feet below.
Glyph knew he had to find someplace to hide his body quickly, so he shuffled close to the edge and saw a ledge below a small overhang about ten feet down the cliff. Realizing it was his best chance of not being found, he looped his bag over his head along with the shotgun, and began to descend the rock face with only a few minutes to spare. Luckily the angle wasn’t too steep and there were plenty of hand and foot holds to use. His shoulder ached, and his leg still hurt like hell, but he was either getting used to the pain, or it was starting to heal again, because it didn’t bother him as much.
Glyph made it to the overhang and ducked underneath onto the small ledge. Had the ledge been any further down he wouldn’t have made it. There was a natural cave here, a crack between two huge boulders, just big enough that he could fit most of himself into it and not be seen. Just as he slipped in, the winds came, pulling the air from his lungs and a moment later plunging him into darkness.