There was a bump in the night.
As far as bumps go, it wasn’t a very loud one. It’s hard for anything to be loud through the several inches of shaggy orange carpet which comprised my bedroom floor. I knew it was coming from the floor, however, because this was not the first time that the witching hour brought its own supply of noise.
Sweat beaded down my forehead as another bump caught the edge of the bed, making the press-board wobble dangerously. A monster was definitely on its way tonight. The thought of a demon using my tiny room as its own personal landing strip was bad, but having my meager collection of furniture smashed to bits before blows were exchanged was one atrocity too many.
With a snarl I tightened the grip on the only memento my father left me, a one-and-a-half kilo bat. I stood upon my rickety bed in my dinosaur pajamas, bat held high like a samurai warrior waiting for the duel to start, and waited.
The next bump came, but this time it was loud, even through the carpet. It was also thumping against all four corners of the bed at once. bump-bump-bump-bump. Sweat beaded my lip as the tension grew stronger. Sulfur seeped into the air. The fact that I could smell it even though the rift wasn’t even open yet confirmed my suspicions. They’d sent a big one alright. I had hoped to be older than fifteen before the netherrealm decided I was a threat that demanded more than occasional cannon fodder.
The bumping stopped, and everything else stopped with it. The gentle sound of my cat-clock was absent, the eyes and tail stuck mid-tick. No insects sang their midnight songs, no owls gave voice to their hunger. I couldn’t even hear my youngest brother snoring next door.
I watched as my floor was rent asunder, the violent action eerie in the unnatural silence of stoppered time.
The scar that clove my room in two was the lurid yellow-white of pus. From the rupture rose a being that was grotesque in all the ways that the underworld adored. It looked like a goat, if that goat was twice as big it was supposed to be, had three heads instead of one, and had been festooned with entrails like garland on a christmas tree. The horns were enormous; thick and pale as dead tree limbs. It thrashed, each of the three heads fighting each other in their lust for the kill. The stench was almost overwhelming, road-kill on a hot summers day, three-week old egg-salad wrapped in a long-forgotten gym-sock .
Fighting down the need to retch, I gathered my will to me. In the swirling chaos of my inner self, I poured my love; love of my family, love of myself, the thought of not seeing my friends again, the sadness of never knowing the simple pleasures of old movies and popcorn. The maelstrom inside grew, spiraling faster and faster until I couldn’t contain it anymore. So I poured all of my love and rage and grief into the nearest vessel; dad’s old bat. It began glowing a brilliant silver, the tan wood turning as pale as morning mist over a pond. The word ‘Slugger’ shone through, azure letters bright against the silver-white light of the definitely-not-a-bat-anymore.
Screaming for all I was worth, I swung my weapon into the poor creature hell had sent to die.
A shower of silver stars flew from the bat as I did, a comet wreathed in its own radiant tail. It connected with the middle head, directly over the eyes. When the whole of my existence connected with a being that knew only what it meant to hate, it exploded.
Bits of antler and gore and jagged teeth were blown about the tiny room like a bomb had gone off. The cat clock took an entire jaw on the jaw, the broken halves frozen in the act of falling.
The demon reared, remaining heads yowling in sluggish agony. The scar began to close, the demon beating a hasty retreat at the end of a battle that had started without it. It was right to be scared, because I wasn’t done yet. I had raised my weapon above me in a two-handed grip, and heaven burned at my back.
The silver-white light wreathed my face, full of terror and sorrow and fear, but through all of those, more than all of those, there was determination. My family needed me, my friends relied upon me, and there were things I hadn’t yet done that needed doing.
I refused to go quietly into the night, and magic older than time itself blazed in harmony with my defiance.
The scar closed as soundlessly as it had opened.
I sheathed my bat in the sheath I wasn’t wearing, the wood losing its luster as I did so. The clock finished its swan dive, the broken bits landing with a muffled thump in the shag sea.
They would have to send someone bigger next time.
The Unsheathed Quill