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Hours passed. The light began to flicker in the lamp behind Robert. Stopping his nervous tapping on his legs, he turned to look at the chaotic strobe. The room was in a state of flux between darkness and light, each flicker an explosion of lightning in the empty room. Suddenly, one of the flashes revealed a shadowed figure in the center sitting on his bed looking at him with a predatory smile — God, those teeth! Shooting up, he knocked the chair over and almost fell over it as he stepped back. Robert was stumbling as the impending darkness washed back into the room, like a wave crashing onto the shore. His heart was cold as he reached for anything he could use to protect himself, blindly grasping at the scratchy curtains and the end table. All was deathly quiet now, save for his scrambling. The light crackled back into the room as he fixed his eyes on an empty bed. Perfectly made. Untouched.
Moments passed as he flicked his eyes around the room, assuring himself that his mind was playing tricks on him. The lack of sleep was not helping his nerves, and neither was this spastic lighting. He walked over, and adjusted the bulb so that it sat better within its home, and clicked the ceiling light on as a backup. Considering how heavy his eyes were, brighter was better. Anything to help keep him awake. He thought about the bathroom, and the shower that was sure to be inside. Walking across the light brown carpet, he opened the door to the modest restroom and flipped the light on. It was what you would expect: A decent sized shower with white-tiled walls and a tacky shower curtain with a flowered pattern commonly found in the homes of the elderly. The mirror and sink were clean, and he looked at the tired-looking man staring back at him. Big bags drooped under his eyes, and his clothes were rumpled looking. The suit that had been so crisp and clean had been turned into third-hand clothing within 24 hours. He shrugged at his reflection, and went to relieve himself in the toilet. A wave of ethereal relaxation rushed over him, and he remembered he hadn’t had a chance to do this in forever. It was almost too euphoric to handle, and he chuckled.
Upon flushing, he noticed that the water pressure was quite weak as it refilled the bowl. Trying to wash his hands, he saw that the water was now nonexistent in the pipes.
Damn. I really needed a shower, too. Would have helped pass the time.
He glided back out into the bedroom, beginning his first lap of pacing back and forth. Step by step he had to hold his eyes open, feeling the strength draining from his body. He let himself close his eyes – thinking that if he relaxed them while he walked that he could get a second wind. Fatigue does this to people. It tricks our trains of thought onto the rails of foolishness. However, Robert was correct in thinking that he would find his second wind. It was from a different source, to his dismay. Sometimes when we first begin to fall into sleep, there can be an uncontrollable jolt of raw fear. A powerful sensation of falling can snap us back awake whether we like it or not. Many find it an inconvenience. After the initial shock, Robert was relieved by it. He had almost fallen asleep while pacing on the floor. Legs like jello, arms like cement. Robert was afraid that he could not keep himself awake. Raising his arms out to his side, he opened his palms and began to smack the shit out of himself.
“Stay – a – WAKE!!” Each syllable sounded in time with a quick smack on his reddening cheeks. Smack. Smack. He paced across the floor in time to his new found rhythm. Robert tried his hardest to push the horrible reality of why he was doing this out of his mind. Gleaning the tiniest bit of humor he could, he held on to this and forced an internal laugh.
Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself.
That bully he knew would have found this hilarious, no doubt about that. He was confident that he was awake. For now. A stinging heat welled on his face. His eyes were tired, but his mind had hardened itself. It had to. Oblivion was within Robert, and it waited with a hungry maw just behind his eyes. He knew it was there. Licking his lips and staring out of the thin part of the curtains through the window outside, Robert knew this was a healthy fear. Like his stomach groaning into the silence, it would help keep him awake. Hopefully. Maybe more fear would add to the mental bulwark against the black. He could study the evil, perhaps. Gaze at it with steadied eyes, and see if he could understand.
There was something important he forgot, though. All know this to be a truth somewhere deep down inside, no matter their culture. No matter the philosophy or belief. It is a law, one that has been etched into the definitions of existence.
Those who study Evil, are studied by Evil.
This was something that could not be helped. Robert cracked his neck, twisting it to one side in a habit he had since he was a child. It felt great, tiny pops of pleasure amid a body of creaking bones and tight back muscles. Staring out into the night, he tried to remember the moments in between the worlds he saw. A dark hallway filled with dots of light, the obsidian hole he fell into filled with vile eyes that gazed into his soul. Did he see any hints? Anything that could help him understand? There were whispers, he remembered. Whispers of some enigmatic language he had never heard before. What were those strange words? His mind focused on that memory, pushing into the past with prying sight. His ears tingled for a moment, and he stared at shadows on the parking lot darker than the night sky above.
Lano kala bo’shar lanu novala
These words burned like fire into his mind and felt as if they were whispered loudly into both of his ears. He whirled around and stared at the empty room. The lights both flickered weakly and went back to normal, as he felt for spit on his ears. He could have sworn someone ha –
Pharom car’ana mokkada bah’jah ko se
Tears welled in his eyes as he spun around again, he could hear the tongues clicking in his ears and he could feel the spit of the hissing whispers without question, and yet he was alone. He fell to his knees, knocking over the end table in the process. The Gideon’s bible fell from the drawer onto the ground in front of him, and he was struck with a thought.
Maybe this will help!
One hand brushed tears away as the other turned pages.
The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not… want
He sniffled a bit, and read the rest of the passage as quick as he could. He felt much calmer now. A deep breath after each few lines brought his heart rate down. Turning the page to continue, he stared in horror and could not help but read this next part out loud. Weakly, he whispered to the empty room.
“Go to sleep, Robert.” Printed alone, and centered on the page. And the next page. And the page after that. Robert continually read it aloud, turning the pages faster and faster and reading it louder and louder. Yelling out into the hotel room he gave the book a cathartic throw and it slapped heavily on the wall, then dropped to the ground with a soft thud. He began to cry heavily, labored breathing in between sobs. Finally managing to calm himself down, he sat with his back against the bed. The clean linen scent wafted into his nose as silence echoed into the room. Only the soft hum of electricity accompanied its melody. He stood up and moved back to the window and sat down, tapping a different beat cautiously on his knees. Tap. Tap. Grimly he thumped, shadows outside waxing and waning as clouds passed quickly over the moon. Seemed like a storm was coming, the trees swaying in the passing moonlight. Black clouds rolled in from beyond the horizon, covering the land in a pallid shroud the color of coal. Low rumbling filled the room with static buzzing invisible through the air outside. Any minute now it would pour.
As a streak of lightning traced across the sky, the parking lot was illuminated with a clear light. Enough for Robert to see several shadowy hominids crawling low to the ground, only to be swallowed up by the darkness as the lightning turned into a growling roll of thunder. He pulled the blinds shut and squeezed the curtains together, eyes bulging from his skull. Backing away, he turned and looked around for something he could use as a weapon. Three loud knocks rapped on his motel room door, and lightning crashed outside. Robert could barely breathe now, horror clutching his throat with its strong hands and squeezing him with fingers of terror. He was frozen solid. Whispers spoke again into his mind:
Ko’se lano makora kojani noss’e
Three more knocks, louder than before. Urgent. He was surprised that the beings did not force their way in by crashing through the window. He could imagine the storm blowing wind in through the shattered glass as the demons crawled closer toward him, their hellish teeth bared in the cheshire smile of a hated creature, twisted by time. Three more knocks, a pause between each distinct thud on the door. Against his better judgement, he walked to entrance and looked outside. Standing there in the storm was Don French! The old man had his brown coat drawn tight against the wind. Making a frustrated gesture toward the door he began to walk away. Robert watched his back as he shuffled weakly around the corner. The wind was pushing and pulling his body in a way that made him look like a drunken man finally stumbling home.
Robert slunk back over to the window with all the stealth and precision he could muster, and looked back into the parking lot. The various blacks and grays swirled together, shadows dancing wildly as the wind flew violently through the trees. The gusts were so strong that even the cars swayed lightly on their chassis. A lightning bolt crackled through the clouds above, tracing its way across the sky. It was enough to restore his view outside, and Robert stared at nothing but an empty landscape being buffeted by the storm. No demons, no black tongues curling between spiked teeth. No apex demon with the horns of a ram that looked doused in fresh blood. A shiver found its home in his shoulders as he thought of the various creatures he had seen. His eyes were heavy still, and heavier by the minute – but his fear helped keep them pried open. Like a device used to peel your eyelids back. But instead of cold metal prying into his skull, he had the whispers and an ancient evil that was stalking him. This room had kept him safe somehow, despite the horrors that unfurled their tendrils within his thoughts.
Because I am alone here? Do they need a… vessel?
The storm roared outside as he glanced at the clock, the strong white numbers stood out against the black tiles they sat on. They flipped, and showed that it was so much closer to morning than Robert would have guessed. His heart twinkled in his chest for a moment, and in that tiny time a small smile toyed at the edge of his mouth. He had stayed awake this long, he could make it for a while longer. He began to tap an upbeat rhythm on his knees now: Tappity-tap-tap-tappity-TAP! Robert felt a warmth in his stomach, and its rumblings had calmed along with his mood. The storm was beautiful, a wild force of nature whirling overhead. Chaos raged in the heavens and with each bolt of lightning and crack of thunder his hands tapped to the beat. He felt strangely happy suddenly, all things considered. He was closer to home. His wife was sleeping now, probably listening to the same storm buffet against her window. Clouds almost as black as her hair, that pure raven shimmer of beauty. His minds eye painted a picture for him: framed by the white of the bed and the clean sheets, her lovely face softly sleeping with the glow of an angel. Robert’s blood ran icy in his veins as he felt the air of a whisper slither into his ears.
Kaa…La — K’osst AMOJANN!!
Each syllable was stressed with the flinging of invisible spit into his ears, and he involuntarily wiped at them. There was no rest for the weary, and definitely not for him. He paced. Thinking about going to sleep for the smallest second he shook his head violently and smacked himself in the face. No sleep. This was his one chance, as far as he knew. Robert might not make it back to this frame of existence again. He had to take this chance as far as it would let him go. As far as the darkness would let him. Robert stared at his hands, and turned them into fists. Nothing would stop him, and he found a new conviction in spite of his fear. The storm raged on in the sky outside, the electric air buzzing and rumbling. A roll of thunder almost drowned out a new knock at the door, a shave-and-a-haircut pattern. Robert went and looked through the peephole at a different man than he expected, as it was not Don French. It was a stranger, someone he had never seen. He had a toolbox, and he did not look happy at all. It was early morning now, and Robert supposed that he was not the only tenant here that had no water. Why did he need to get into his room? Robert decided to let the man knock uselessly, there was no way he was going to open the door. Spending time with anyone inevitably led to their being engulfed by the tentacled cloud of shadows.
The knocking continued, turning from the amiable pattern into the typical three loud knocks of someone in a hurry. They shot into his room over the rumbles from the sky, and then Robert thought he had gone away. A lull in the chaos made for a deafening silence, and the sound of a key sliding into his lock sent a numbness into his body.
His heart pounded in his chest. The lock turned, and the door handle began to twist.
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