Fly In The Web

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

A Tale of Possession......make of it what you will

“Fly in the Web”
A Short Story
By
Declan J Connaughton
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(1)
I
 
Burgess couldn’t breath, sure he was about to have a coronary – the apparition materialising into his field of vision like a sharp, painful and lethal weapon . He did a double take and watched the back of the man’s head receding away ; hair grey with years, but absolutely no doubt in his mind.
A drink – yes, that’s what he badly needed. Anything to steady him and bring him back to the world, which had grown suddenly out of focus. People seemed to be moving by him at nauseating angles. He got off Henry Street and headed to the confines of the Oval Bar. Deciding against a pint of Guinness, Burgess opted for a double Jameson – without water – and settled into his seat heavily.  What time was it?  The clock over the bar said saw it was quarter to three. He was perspiring, which made him self conscious and he half expected the bar man to ask him whether anything was wrong, if he felt okay. Nothing was said.
Raising his drink off the table, after a moment, he realised his hand had a slight shake, and Burgess willed it to please stop. Out of habit, he reached for the packet of cigarettes in his breast pocket, but remembered there was no smoking in bars anymore. He surveyed his surroundings, looking at the various patrons absently. He felt as if he had been just punched in the stomach.
Had the dragon recognised him? The passing glance had been so brief there could have been a moment of recognition – just a tad, maybe. His respiration had begun to slow down and then ease itself out into a more normal rhythm. Burgess removed his glasses slowly and placed them alongside the drink, massaging his eyes, squinting them shut and open again. Then he took a long slug from
the glass, letting the harsh liquid bathe his tongue and avalanche down his throat – hitting his insides like molten lava. 
Well look who it is, after all these years!’ the dragon in his mind mocked him, making him wince sourly. He felt like a coward.
‘Shit’, he muttered, the whiskey going to his head directly.
He debated for a second whether to have another, but as it was, he’d be swaying back to the flat, and he had plans tonight – the staying in kind. The thought brought a crooked smile to his half drunken face. Consummation. Burgess liked the sound of the word and it’s explicit  meaning with regard to Julia and himself. Been a while coming. He’d  have to sleep this dram off, first though.
He couldn’t face tidying up the flat when he got back. Laziness, and his double whiskey got the better of him, and he collapsed on top of the unmade bed, closing his eyes.
Just for a while….I’ll just fade out a while…………..
 The darkness gyrated in his head like a ship cast on a stormy and unforgiving sea – blotting out the current, as his mind ducked and weaved , propelled into slumber
Then….he was a boy again.
The boy he had once been was standing in a school yard, alone; looking with a seven year old’s sight. He was  afraid. It was autumn, the leaves lay dead around his feet and he
could feel that seminal coldness which denoted the changing of the guard - the bitter breath which ran between the changing of the seasons from summer towards winter.
‘God, no, he said. This was the same assembly point as always; the school yard of the boarding school he had been dumped in. There was an anxiety mixed with something else .In  his child’s mind it was difficult to know what he was feeling, but the adult in him knew it was wrong, all wrong. But this was then, not now.
Burgess knew how it would play out. No matter how hard he tried to struggle against the onslaught of recollection, this was a play written in stone which couldn’t be changed or altered. He felt like a drowning man trying desperately to reach the tip of the surface, where the air of life awaited him - only to find himself never attaining his goal.. He would always drown, down here in the depth of this darkness.
The building was an old prefab, originally a classroom, but now only used for storage. There was a door and small window and he could see the light inside. He took a few steps further; the dragon would be inside, waiting for him……………………..
Something……clawing at his face…trying to touch him, caress him with it’s devil’s talon. He drew away, looking  towards the sky…..the clouds. If he could just cling on to  them, hide away in them….they were so high. He could feel himself rising, then soaring, away from the beast….the monster……the dragon. A creature which inhibited his dreams, asleep and now awake. A liar, because it dressed itself up as something else….something that shouldn’t be a dragon…………………………………
‘Come child’, it invited, ‘come and dance with me again’.

It was dark.

Burgess could hear something else calling to him, calling him back to consciousness – the bell to his flat. His eyes flew open, iris opening out like an explosion. He broke into a fit of coughing and it took him a moment to compose himself.
How long had he been out? There was still daylight coming through the curtains, but it was beginning to wane. He figured he’d been asleep about two hours. The bell shrieked again (have to do something about that bloody thing) and Burgess moved his body off the bed. He was unsteady on his feet, then he was alright again. He went to the intercom and pressed the button, knowing who it would be.
‘Yeah, who is it?’
‘Guess?’ Julia’s voice responded
‘Come on up, babes’.
He went into the bathroom, running cold water and splashing it over his face, not liking the image staring back from the mirror. The eyes were too dark, haunted and bruised.
Julia’s knock at the door took him away from the mirror and out of the bathroom again.
‘Jesus, you look awful’, she said coming in.
‘Thanks, Julia’, then ‘too awful to kiss?’
She gave him a peck on the cheek, but he held her and they both kissed long and deeper. She had a bag with her. Opening it, Julia took out a hardback and handed to him.
“This the one?” she asked.
“Yeah, that’s it. Thanks”. He looked at the cover for a moment and turned it over.
“Could have saved you the bother. Was in town myself earlier”, Burgess said walking into the living room with the book in his hand. He placed it on the coffee table in the centre of the room, and rubbed his temples which had begun to throb
“Pity I didn’t know that. Could’ve met for lunch”, Julia replied moving to pick up a shirt off the floor.
‘Spur of the moment thing – like this’.
He moved towards her and held her in a bear hug, liking the feel of her beneath her clothes.
‘Very amorous all of a sudden”, she laughed, but didn’t struggle.
‘Nothing sudden about it’, Burgess kissed her neck.
 ‘The phone is supposed to ring now’, Julia whispered, running her hands through his hair.
‘Oh, is it?’ he replied mockingly.
‘That’s what always happens in the movies to break the mood’, she pulled gently away from him.
‘Then phones and other distractions should be banned when one is in the throes of passion. I’m gonna make it a rule from here on in It comes off the hook the minute you walk in’..
‘God’s sake look at this place. It’s a mess’, she observed, mildly irritated.
‘Only do it once a week and that’s it. You know that. Besides I thought you like it kind of trashy’.
‘You could do with a shower, Burgess’.
He nodded turning towards the bathroom again.
‘Will it be like this when we’re married?’ he joked.
‘A lot worse’ , Julia responded, falling on the couch and turning on the tv with the remote.
‘Where we going for dinner, or are we staying in’, Burgess said from the bathroom.
‘You stay in if you want. I want to see this new place in Temple Bar’, she called back to him.
‘Cool’, Burgess said.
 
For a Monday evening, the Temple bar area was fairly crowded, almost like a weekend, mostly people hitting bars and restaurant or attending the Lighthouse Cinema or The Arthouse. 
‘Well, what do you think?’ Julia asked looking at the menu. ‘And don’t say cool’,
Burgess thought for a second. ‘Okay, then, it’s magic’, he replied smiling.
‘Cool and magic. Um, thought you’d be more eloquent’, Julia responded jokingly.
‘I’m a journalist. Everything’s minimal with us’, Burgess joked back.
A waiter approached.
‘I’ll stick with the beef’, Burgess handed over the menus.
‘The roast chicken’, Julia said, smiling at the waiter, who took the menus and disappeared.
‘Not drinking Burgess?’
‘No. Not in the mood. Had something earlier and it soured me a bit’.
‘Not like you to drink during the day’.
‘Normally I don’t, but……’, he trailed off. 
There was a silence.
‘Saw someone today I’d rather forget’, Burgess said.
‘Hope it wasn’t an old girlfriend’, Julia responded, trying to lift his spirits.
‘No,,,,no it wasn’t an old girlfriend’, Burgess said gravely.
 
 
 
II
 
The man limped as quickly as he could manage through the shadowed Dublin streets.
He had gone too far – was seriously sore this time. His ears could make out the siren of an ambulance wailing it’s no nonsense way to some emergency. The man thought he should maybe try to stop it, like a bus. Hitch a ride. The thought made him smile, despite the pain. He needed to get back to his abode as quickly as possible or else he was certain he would just give out – right here on the street.
And the funny thing was he also knew for sure that nobody would help him, if that happened. He knew the way people perceived him – it was in the eyes. It was said that if you wanted to tell the difference between a tame animal, and a wild one, it was always in the living force of their eyes. Those orbs that mirror the heart’s soul. Human kind didn’t
Have to look too deeply or even at length to know what he was. Just one, brief connection was enough to spell “unclean”.
He finally reached the hovel that was his home, his sojourn – his kingdom here on earth. He had difficulty finding the key in his old, battered coat, but eventually griped his twisted hand around it, turning the lock and entering the decrepit building. Darkness greeted him like the close and personal friend it was; he tried the hall light switch, but the
bulb had expired, and no one else in any of the other apartments had bothered to replace it.
‘Fuck ‘em’, he mumbled, lurching down the hall, pausing for a second to hear whether his entry had stirred anyone else . There was nothing, either all out or asleep. He hoped they were being murdered in their dreams, or else were doing the murdering. A quote from an old film dropped onto his head: Lions in their dens tremble at his approach.
Very apt, he thought.
A sharp pain from his crying back made him wince, and hesitate, before negotiating and then climbing the stairs to the first floor, and his refuge. His was the only flat on the first floor, and he entered it, casting off his coat like a regal cloak, suddenly feeling the excitement, as always. He looked at the shape of the television in the corner, and felt drawn to it immediately, but had to take care of business first. Then he would be ready.
On walking into the apartment, one was straight into the living room.
Off to the left was a small bedroom. The living area was made up of a couch in it’s centre, a television in the corner, and a high window which was his vista to the grime of the street below and to all the world he held sway over. There was an antiquated cooker built into the wall opposite the couch, which was the victim of years of neglect and rust, and which he seldom used anyway. His bathroom was a tiny box, insinuated as part of the bedroom, and he snapped on the light, entering it. His head brushed off the lonely bulb, dangling like some dead piece of intestine, causing the light to move back and forth in a disturbed and violent state, creating swinging shadows as though day and night were fighting for ultimate supremacy.
 There was no bath, just a shower, small toilet and wash basin, with a small cupboard underneath, and a broken and mottled mirror above. The man cursed; would have given  
anything for the side of a bath to sit on. As it was, the toilet seat would have to do. First, he would have to get his clothes off. This was going to be tricky, but he enjoyed it in his own masochistic way. That was his way, all right……opposite Way of The Cross, …..In the beginning was The Way, The Light, but also The Shadows..
He broke into a fit of laughter, the mirth of a gargoyle, doubling over with the pain it inflicted, reaching out his hand to use the wash basin for support. After a while his amusement began to fade. He straightened up again, feeling the cuts in his back try to sew themselves together - his flesh screaming out it’s rawness. In one quick movement he tore the jumper from his body, dropping it to the floor. Sweet and hot sweat bathed his forehead, stinging his back with it’s bitter salt (scourging at the Pillar). He ripped the buttons from his shirt, splaying them in all directions, dropping the garment like an empty carcass.The vest, which had been white this morning, was forced up, over his head, and hung limply in his hand, stained heavy crimson. He stood in his pants and shoes, gasping heavily. He held the vest to his face for a moment, pinching the fabric with his thumb and forefinger, fascinated by his own blood, then tossing it away to join the heap on the linoleum. 
Would he need a hospital? He didn’t think so. Was out of the question, anyway. Answering questions was as alien as a kind and caring hand. He moved out of the
bathroom and towards a press beside his bed, retrieving a folded white bed sheet.  Moving back into the living room, he opened it out then doubled it up, draping it over the couch like a bedspread. He was growing impatient now; the television a divine and terrible temptress, waiting for him – waiting and wanting to show him things. His mouth watered, saliva dripping down his chin, like some rabid animal.
 
‘Something wrong?’ Julia asked, lighting a cigarette.
Burgess smiled half heartedly. ‘No. Why?’
‘You seem a bit down, or something’.
They were lying together, naked, with Burgess sitting up stiffly, but turned to her, taking a puff from her cigarette and inhaling it’s smoke.
‘Are you sorry?’
She held his gaze steadily. ‘No’, was her one word reply.
‘That’s good. I didn’t want any regrets after ’, he said earnestly.
Julia traced the skin of his chest with her finger.
 ‘Are we done?’.
Burgess began to relax. 
‘Well, let’s see’. He turned towards the bedside dresser and opened the small packet.
‘Be a shame to waste them’, he smiled.
Burgess felt a sudden love for Julia, but it was tinged with something else……….
‘You’re amazing, you know that?’
‘I know’, she said.
‘Work all day and ride all night’. Burgess shook his head playfully. ‘Don’t know how you do it’.
Julia lay sprawled on her back, reaching her arms out towards the ceiling,
‘Wish we could stay here, just like this, for all eternity’, she enthused. ‘Imagine all we ever had to do was love each other day and night. Staying naked and warm forever’.
‘Get bed sores, though’, Burgess replied, amused at her fervour.
‘I wouldn’t care’, Julia glanced at the window. ‘The birds are up’.
Burgess could hear them now that she had brought his attention to their early morning chorus.
‘Do you have to go in today?’ he asked, knowing the answer.
‘As sure as you free lancers don’t’ , came her reply.
The notion of work dispelled the mood, scattering it into the air where it vanished like some magician’s trick. She pulled back the bed clothes, letting her feet hit the floor heavily, before making for the bathroom. He wanted to make love to her again, but the shower burst into life as though admonishing him, confirming there would be no repetition of last night for the moment.
Burgess debated whether to get himself up or not – his mind strongly hinting that he should, but he failed to obey it.
Obey it!’
 
He was walking through a crowded street again, everything blurred, except for the dragon. Burgess saw it coming for him from several yards away. He looked around in terror to see if any of the blurred shapes was pointing in horror, but they just kept going by him , paths and colours merging upon meeting and then gone again, replaced by others.
‘The dragon. It’s here! It’s coming!’ he screamed like the hero in Invasion of the body snatchers.
Then he was looking at it straight in it’s yellow eyes. It knew him, recognised him, even though he was now in a man’s body. It smiled at him…….It remembered him.
‘Obey it!’ it said.
 
‘……….a lot on today’, Julia’s voice came from the bathroom, bringing Burgess back from his nightmare of memory.
‘Sorry, what?’
She emerged from the bathroom, her body hidden under his dressing gown, he noted with disappointment.
‘Are you okay?’ she asked, concerned. ‘You look like you seen a ghost’.
Burgess smiled weakly.
 
 
III
 
The chase.
As he watched the screen flicker, he was mesmerised by the wild beast hidden, deep in the undergrowth. The Lion was hunched low, it’s eyes not blinking once – watching intently.The creature it stalked was unaware, at least for the present. It continued grazing, without a care in the world. The man could feel his own heart beat. It was strong – a monstrous thing echoing in a cave where it ate things. It was hammering, knocking at his chest, demanding a way out. The Lion was ready to spring; careful, very careful. The Fawn’s ears pricked up and it’s wet nose smelled the air. Too late. There was the smell of death on the wind.
He knew how it would end – had watched the tape a thousand times before, but it always rewarded him. The King of the jungle was on his feet, now, beginning to run fast. Yes, ever so fast, scattering the herd in a million directions, but keeping his target firmly in sight. Then the fawn was down, the Lion crushing it with it’s bulk, neck held by it’s great teeth. He could see the fawn’s legs move harmlessly, railing against it’s end, but getting weaker now, it’s life diminishing,  moment by moment, ebbing away, forced to give up.
But it was the fawn’s eye that enthralled him. The stare. The way it looked through it’s eyes, the way it panted hopelessly. The naked certainty that death was moments away. He paused the tape and rose off the couch. He stood there for a moment, just looking at the screen from a distance. Then the man got down on his knees and positioned his body so that his nose was nearly pressed up against the fawn’s face. His heart was pounding so loudly now, it was beginning to hurt, to tear at his chest – blood entering every pore of his being like a great tsunami.
 
He lay there for hours in complete exhausted darkness.
He was spent right at this moment, but that was only a lull, a pause. His appetite would replenish itself – demand to be fed once again. It was always that way. One cycle followed another, endlessly, where he played out his blood ballet and psychotic symphonies. He picked up the mobile from the floor and punched the redial button, listening intently. It rang out, eventually going to voicemail. He hung up and dialled again – once more the same result. This time he left message.
‘It’s me. Ring me back, or someone is going to die tonight’.
He disconnected, going to the window, peering out into the vortex , which was his city. The baleful street lamp outside showed that all was deserted. He waited for the call back, and still waited. The phone remained silent and still. He could watch a different tape; with humans this time. It was an idea, but he felt too anxious, too geared up. He had to go out.
The man checked his watch – two forty five. No pubs or clubs would be open now. He emerged from the house and started to walk. The air was damp, the concrete wet with the day’s rain. Still, he did not mind the chill, enjoying the way it gnawed and attacked the arthritis in his hands, moulding and contorting them. There was movement up ahead of him. Something….it was a dog. He picked up his speed, gaining on it.
The animal was smelling around the outside of a chip shop, hoping for some scrap casually discarded amid the general debris of bins and litter. He was almost upon it and the dog turned, suddenly aware of him. 
‘Here doggy, hello boy’, he uttered, feigning good natured friendliness.
‘What has you out at this time of night, eh?’
.The animal stared back at him, motionless. ‘Bet you’d like something to eat?’
The animal seemed in two minds about the man. The creature’s aspect seemed to detect something was not quite right about this human, but the dog took a furtive step towards him, just the same.
‘That’s it. Good dog! Come and see what I’ve got for you’.
The dog was directly in front of him now, and let him run his hand over it’s head. The man could feel that double whammy in his chest again, before he grabbed the dog by the scruff of the neck.
‘Now you’ll see what I have in store for you, schmuck!’
The dog tensed and began to whine, with the man pulling it slowly along the street. There was a laneway near here which he desperately needed to get to. They could be alone there. It would only take a few minutes.
‘Come on you fuck, move it!’
The dog managed to pull it’s head out of his grasp and just as suddenly sink it’s teeth into his hand. The man screamed out, but the animal wouldn’t let go.
‘Let me go, you bastard! Let go!’, he screamed, laughing all the same.
The animal let go and ran away in the opposite direction. It stopped for a moment, looking back.
‘Who’s the schmuck, now’, it seemed to say before disappearing down the street.
His hand was pouring blood profusely.
‘You okay there, man?’
The voice shocked him and he turned to see a tall figure standing directly behind him.
‘Yes, I’m okay’, the man said.
The figure came into the light. He was a tall black man, dressed in a dark navy track suit.
“What was all that with the dog?’, he asked.
‘Got out on me. Wouldn’t come back’, the man replied, taking a handkerchief from his pocket and running it around his hand.
‘Shit, that looks bad, man’.
‘I’ll be okay’.
There was an uneasy silence between them.
‘That sure is a vicious dog you have there’, the black man said staring down the direction where the animal had escaped to.
‘Should have him put down’, the black man continued.
‘That’s if I ever catch him’, the man responded.
‘Well, I’d help you catch him. Maybe even help you put him out of his misery’.
The black man’s eyes were bright. It wasn’t just the reflection from a street lamp. There was something there which the man knew well.
‘We’d do it ourselves, you mean?’
‘Damn straight’, the black man returned, with a hint of a tremor in his voice.
The two figures of darkness stood together for a while longer, talking. Then they both set off in brotherly friendship down the street, and after the dog.
 
IV
 
Jesus, no! He was seven again. Burgess moved inexorably towards the door. He knew the dragon could see him through the window. No, please! He entered the dragon’s den and there it sat;  not that an ordinary person would know it was a dragon - just Burgess.
It sat, dressed in a suit, in the usual place at the head of the classroom.
‘Come on, Burgess, I’ve got a surprise for you today’, it intoned, smiling
Burgess moved slowly, his feet shuffling.
‘Yes. Something choice’, the dragon said. ‘Just for you’.
Burgess was in front of the dragon and staring at it’s expectant face. It held a box in it’s strong hand. There was something moving within it. Something alive.
‘You look well, Burgess. That’s good. I want you to look well’.
The dragon put the box on his desk.
Burgess glanced around and behind him.
‘There’s no need to worry. We’re alone. Nobody will come in, never fear’.
‘Yes, sir’, Burgess responded.
The dragon said nothing for a moment continuing to smile at him.
‘You know Tiddles, my cat, don’t you boy?’
‘Yes sir’.
‘I’ve got him here, in this box’. The dragon shook the box, eliciting a hiss and scratching response of defiance and fear.
The dragon laughed let out a chuckle
‘You’re not afraid, are you Burgess?’
‘No sir’.
‘ Good. After all, this is nothing new. You’ve killed things before’.
Burgess nodded. The dragon stood up and looked away from him, briefly, out into the school yard. It’s eyes became distant, reaching back into time, before time, maybe.
‘Cat’s are nature’s wankers, Burgess’, it said turning back to him.  It dropped one of it’s talons and opened the drawer in front of it. From the desk it took a large kitchen knife. It ran what looked like a finger along the blunt edge of the blade. This was something new. Burgess had always preferred either drowning or poison as a method of killing. The dragon, as though reading his mind, smiled.
‘Yes, this is an epiphany for you. A baptism of blood’.
The dragon held out the knife to him, waiting for him to take it in his small hand.
‘We both know how special you are. My prize pupil. I will open the box and while I hold Tiddles, I want you to slit his throat’.
Without waiting for any reaction, the dragon opened the box slowly, catching hold of the cat as it sprang for escape. It held the animal by the neck, banging it’s head against the desk top with force. The cat scratched and clawed at the dragon, and Burgess could see a white foam begin to seep from the dragon’s mouth.
‘Do it now boy! Act according to your nature! Obey it!
Burgess ran the sharp blade of the knife across the feline’s neck, releasing a deluge of blood, staining his hand and uniform, splashing across his cheeks. He then slit the cat’s
stomach, releasing it’s organ in one fell swoop. Then Burgess cut off it’s tail, which made him laugh. He had never felt such power.
He looked at the dragon for approval and it eye’s radiated triumph.
 
V
 
‘Do you believe in the devil?’ Burgess asked Julia as they sat together in St Stephen’s Green. The park was fairly deserted and Burgess liked it like this, like a lord walking the grounds of his estate.
‘Where did that come from’, she replied in surprise.
‘Just wondered’. He lapsed into silence.
Julia didn’t say anything for a moment, watching a mother push a pram in the distance.
‘If you mean do I believe there is evil in the world? Sure I do. If you mean the guy with horns and a tail, I’d have to say no. Why?’
Burgess tapped the cigarette he had been smoking, and then stubbed it out altogether.
‘What if I told I saw the devil a few days ago?’
Julia stared at his face, and didn’t recognise the expression which had appeared from nowhere.
‘Then I’d say you must be taking magic mushrooms without my knowledge’, she replied, thinking humour was probably the best reaction.
Burgess held her eyes gravely, wanting to say something else but unable or unwilling to.
‘Let’s get out of here’, he said rising.
 
The world was getting ready to attire itself in night as they left the park.
Cars and buses were donning their early evening strobes and shop fronts echoed with closing shutters.Burgess and Julia held each other by the hand as they walked along Grafton Street without any hurry. Grafton Street’s a wonderland, he thought for no reason.
‘You hungry?’ he asked her, looking into a burger restaurant.
‘Not especially – had a heavy lunch’, Julia responded with her eyes fixed more on a sale notice gazing back from one of the stores.
‘What about a hot dog? There’s a vendor up ahead’.
‘You get one if you want, Burgess. I’ll be sauntering up behind you’.
Burgess kissed her on the lips and ran on ahead. The image amused Julia. He really was just like a kid. Men seemed to retain that aspect of themselves longer than women and reverted to it all through their lives. Julia watched him as he disappeared into the throng of the ever changing crowd.
She would never see Burgess again.
 
 
VI
 
 ‘Just one, please’, Burgess said, reaching into his pants pocket for money.
The vendor drew a hot bun and sausage from the compartments in the wheelie stall, and Burgess lathered the hot dog with mustard and ketchup. He didn’t realise how famished he had been. As he draped a napkin around his food, he thought how his conversation
with Julia had been going somewhere he didn’t like. Better to keep her out of it. She
didn’t need to know. It would remain something he would keep hidden away. And if it woke him with nightmares occasionally, so be it.
He took a mouthful of food and turned to head back to Julia when he saw the familiar figure, seeming to drag it’s way along the street. His mouth seized up mid chew and he just watched the dragon move further and further away from him. Then something compelled Burgess into action.
He began to follow it, dumping what was left of his hot dog into a bin near by. He hoped it might veer off into a bar near by, but it continued, lurching along, passing bars and restaurants, and then slinking off down a lonely side street. Burgess slowed down as he got to the corner and angled his body onto the top of the street, hoping he was obscured like an assassin in the night.
The dragon had come to a complete halt, and appeared to be waiting for something. Burgess pulled himself tightly into the wall as he tried to get closer. It was strange that the side street itself looked totally barren. What few shop fronts there were resembled establishments centuries old, almost caught in a time warp. It was like he had walked off a street in twenty first century Dublin onto one in the eighteen hundreds.
As if from out of space another figure appeared.
 
He was tall , broad and lithe with youth.
He talked with the dragon for a moment, and then both of them vanished, like ghostly spectres through a wall. Burgess moved quickly. He glanced behind him, sure that someone would wander into this otherworld, but nobody seemed interested in walking this peculiar annex of Stumpet city.
He came to the wall where both figures had did their disappearing act, and came upon a door. Black, old and pealing, it’s wooden frame rotten with decay and corruption. Burgess pushed at the door and if opened easily, giving up the pitch blackness within. He was hesitant, listening intently. There was movement somewhere off to the left. He could hear a cough and shuffling.  Burgess was tempted to use his lighter, but desisted. He moved further into the building, letting the door close silently behind him. He was completely seduced by blackness now.
He waited for his eyes to become accustomed to the darkness and suddenly there was a light peering meekly from what appeared to be another room. Burgess could hear the dragon breathing. He moved closer and could see that the other man with the dragon was about twenty five. He was wearing a black cap, jeans and sneakers. So much for appearing in a different dimension, Burgess thought.
 The dragon stood in front of this other man, and he struck it a glancing blow across the face. The dragon reeled backwards, but didn’t lose it’s footing and Capman went at it again, this time dealing a harder blow, which knocked the dragon to the ground.
The dragon was in the process of trying to get up when it received a martial arts kick to it’s mid riff, bashing it against a wall, where it lay motionless.
Capman was breathing heavily, taking his cap off, and putting it on again. Then he turned in Burgess’ direction.
‘I know you’re there’, he said almost casually.
Burgess held his breath, unable to respond. He had the distinct impression that there were small pricks of light coming from Capman’s eyes.
‘Come on in here’. In was a command, uttered with the same strength and authority that the dragon once held over Burgess. It couldn’t be denied.
Burgess took one step, and then another into the room until he was facing Capman.
The man with the cap seemed to be appraising Burgess, looking him up and down and Burgess saw something in his face…..something familiar.
‘Is this who you’re looking for?’ he pointed at the fallen dragon.
‘Yes’, Burgess mouthed hoarsely, feeling his body trembling.
‘He’s dyin’ now. Want to finish him off?’
Burgess nodded taking a knife from Capman’s outstretched hand.
‘He’s the devil’, Burgess said, trying to justify this moment.
‘Sure he is, man. Knock yourself out’.
 
The dragon lay in semi slumber when the boy approached. He could hear it’s laboured breathing and smell it’s putrid essence. The creature lay vanquished as he approached, the knife turning over and over in his hand.
Then it’s eyes opened.
The boy stopped dead in his tracks. It’s gaze was withering, seeing his soul, knowing him.
It rears up, ready to charge, then Burgess is on it – stabbing it, piercing it’s flesh, drawing it’s life juices from it, thrusting again and again.
 The dragon cries out in pain, and still he cuts it, killing it finally, letting it end.
 
‘The heart, man, stick it in his fucking heart’, Capman said, and Burgess rammed the blade home, feeling it lance through the dragon’s tough tissue, gushing black blood from it’s mutilated heart.
Burgess fell back on his rear end, moving  his body away from the dead thing beside him.
‘Dead…..killed you, you bastard!  he spit at it.
But there was something wrong. 
Burgess could see now it wasn’t a dragon…..it was a man, and his lifeless, middle aged face stared back at him, glazed and frozen in his death grimace, like an obscene picture.
Burgess looked up at Capman, who helped him to his feet.
’Jesus, what have I done?’ Burgess asked him.
‘I’m not Jesus’.
Capman turned the knife in Burgess’ hand and forced it through his chest, before letting him fall heavily to the floor, where he lay on his side gasping for air like a dying fish.
Capman hunched down and stroked Burgess’ hair gently.
‘It’s a question of souls. Why take one when you can have two’.
Burgess tried to get words out but couldn’t. The pain was too great.
‘You hush now’, Capman said, rising.
‘He wasn’t really the devil. I know. Because I am’.
Capman went out, leaving Burgess staring after him, calling Julia’s name in his mind
 
 
© Declan J Connaughton 2009
 
 
 
 
 
 
© Declan J Connaughton 2009


Submitted: April 26, 2009

© Copyright 2020 Declan J Connaughton. All rights reserved.

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