The taste of iron lingered at the tip of Anders’ tongue as he opened his eyes a crack. Past the hemmed edges of the sheets draped over his head, the room was suffused with a soft red glow, not uncommon for the start of April. Somewhere to his left was the blurring rush of the air flowing through the vent system at top speed.

His back twitched, and he observed in some corner in the back of his mind that he’d rolled over onto his backside during his slumber. His mind ordered his wrist to lift itself up, but an invisible weight prevented it from moving at all.

“Good morning, Anders.” A pair of hooves came into view as Bes materialized from where his smoke had been circling the ceiling. He drifted down to the foot of Anders’ mattress, and Anders’ eyes struggled to gain a good view of the demon from the angel he was stuck in. “Or maybe it’s just extremely late at night. Are you paralyzed, or simply just tired?”

Anders attempted to pull his legs up, but the same weight persisted, and his body stayed shock still. Bes, you bloody bastard, what did you do to me?

“I did nothing. You’re simply experiencing sleep paralysis.” Bes reached behind his back, pulling out a staff as long as his misshapen legs. He stroked one roughened hand across the blunt side of the blade embedded at the top end.  Noticing Anders’ widened eyes, the only part of him that could move, he added, “What, are you scared? I’m not going to kill you today. That would be no fun.”

Then what’s the purpose of this? Let me go already.

“As you wish.” Bes flipped the rod and struck the blade end into the ground, chipping the wood floor. He extended a grin and began to chuckle as cracks formed in the ceiling. A jelly-like substance began to seep in through the fissures, forming fingers and hands and stretching open towards Anders. “Isn’t this great fun?”


Anders jolted forward in his bed, somersaulting over the mattress before landing on the hardwood floor. His hands furiously brushed all over his pajamas for a few seconds before realizing that he had not, in fact, collided into Bes- who’d either vacated the room or was never there.

“Huh…?” He groaned, taking a look around the room. It was pitch-black except for the sodium vapor street light outside, intended to illuminate the garden walkway. His legs trembled as he arose, and his heart was extremely relieved to find that his raised hands found no hands of blood coming to choke his living wits out.

Anders sighed in relief, crouching back down. He smoothed the blankets down before lifting one corner up. Only one of his feet had gotten the privilege of tasting the cold relief of the mattress before a shriek from downstairs rended the air, making him freeze halfway in… and this wasn’t a shriek you could buy from the dollar store for a cheap horror movie, or a scream from a teenage girl wasting her breath on a manufactured celebrity, or a five-year-old convinced that a space monster was about to eat him during the course of a roller coaster ride.

Anders’ eyes flew to the suite doors, but they were just as locked and shut as they had been last evening when he had drifted to sleep in a bed of storm clouds. He waited until the guttural howl had subsided before pulling the appendage away from the sheets and tiptoeing his way to the light switch.

With one finger, he flicked on the lights for the room, and the scintillations blinded him for a few moments before every corner of the room was illuminated and exposed as free of any threats. The man took a deep breath before squatting and prying his fingernails into the small panel at the left side of the door. It gave way after a few seconds of fiddling, and Anders removed the emergency flashlight inside and shook it to activate it.

Before opening the doors, he turned the lights off and pointed the torch light at the carvings in the doorway. Immediately after sticking one foot outside the room, a wet sensation met his foot, and he pulled back.

“What…” He pointed the flashlight at his foot, stained in red and purple. A few drops of similar colors were at his feet, and his sight followed them all the way down the staircase. “What the hell?”

It’s blood, Anders. You should know what it is after being surrounded by it your entire life. He pulled his socks off and flung them behind him at the bed before following the drops down the staircase. Every time his feet made contact with something wet, he swung the beam down, only to be met with carmine pools of increasing size.

His big toes stepped into a splatter the size of his fist at the bottom of the stairs. Anders shuddered, a chill running down his spine, and immediately took a turn into the nearest bathroom. He locked the door behind him before shutting off the torch and seating himself on the toilet seat.

Shouldn’t I… His breath suffered a sharp intake, and he slapped the place on his hips where his phone was before pulling it out. Anders placed it on the counter, punching in the number for the emergency reserve of night shift guards a few miles away. He allowed it to ring as he took a few wads of toilet paper and moistened them in the sink.

“Hello?” A feminine voice, dissimilar to Lainey’s, answered after the first round of rings. “Anders? Why are you calling in an emergency?”

Anders contorted his left foot into his lap and began scrubbing at the blood that had sunk into the crevices and folds. “There are trails of blood spatters in the hallway. Tonight’s janitor sweep didn’t report anything, and the security system never went off.”

“And what alerted you to the emergency?”

Anders discarded the soiled waste into the trash can and switched feet. “Screaming downstairs. Not from me, though. I’m safe in a bathroom.”

“Remain where you are, Anders. We’ll be at the premises soon within the hour.”

The lady hung up, and Anders snuck a glance at his watch. 11:25. Nothing good could possibly come out of an hour this late.


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