The howling wind smashed glassware and Daniel shot up with a shock. Grimacing with pain, he hobbled to slam shut the door. Turning, he gritted his teeth and crossed the small living room to close the clapping kitchen windows.
The trees outside were still, even their leaves remained unruffled.
A deep sigh reached him from behind and the hair on his neck stood rigid.
With a start, he turned and braced his hands on the kitchen sink. The small living room was in semi darkness and the wood-fired hearth threw grotesque dancing shadows on the timber walls. Daniel paused. Listened. Nothing. He did not expect his friend, who owned the mountain cabin, to return before the morning. In any event, he had not heard the sound of a car.
What a dreadful smell. Where was it coming from –? That gravelly sigh again, this time more pronounced, unmistakeable.
His hand, shaking in gentle palsy, Daniel reached and clasped the crucifix hanging around his neck.
“That trinket is an insult.” A voice growled.
Daniel crossed himself and muttered a prayer. “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day –”
“You fool,” the voice rasped, “if these were truly words written under divine grace, I would burn now.”
One of the shadows stopped flickering and moved towards him.
Daniel’s hand tightened and the crucifix bit into his flesh. “My Lord.” This was not a dream. Another prayer. “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Strange, he thought, why recite these –?
Laughter reverberated through the wooden cabin. The fireside dimmed. ”Fool!” The voice spat. It was clear, deep and scratchy. “I hold the keys. Your church worships me, the golden calf.”
The shadow distended and a hoofed leg stepped out with a distinct and heavy thud. Daniel’s eyes bulged and his pulse raced. It can’t be.
Again, that deep drawl rolled. “Your brothers of the cloth have been doing my bidding since Nicene.” A second hoofed leg appeared with a thud. “Remain within the fold and I might let you live.”
A large goatish creature, upright on hind legs, emerged from the shadows and stomped forward.
“You know me Daniel.” The shadow snarled and its jaws pulled back. “Don’t cross me or you’ll know more than fear.” Its eyes shone red and peered deep into Daniel’s very soul. The narrow, unblinking slits came closer and closer…until…A sharp pain clutched Daniel’s chest and he felt his knees giving way. With a soft gasp he slumped.
Images flashed, disjointed, confusing. Horses galloped. Men fought, died on the great rolling Asian Steppes. Green fields glistened red with blood. Throaty vultures and cackling jackals quarrelled, tore and feasted on cadavers. Huge sailing ships manned by Oriental warriors. On the foredeck of a majestic ship, stood a man in the fine embroided silks of the ancient Chinese court. He turned and Daniel took a sharp intake of breath. Those dull black eyes – eyes that morphed into deep red unblinking slits.
Then, something else. Another presence, soft and soothing, entered Daniel’s hazy vision. A gentle familiar face appeared. The man’s eyes blue and his features distinguished. He smiled, filling Daniel with peace. What an ageless handsome man.
Who are you…who are –?
(To be continued…)
********** Copyright @ Eric Alagan 2013 **********