Richard was a simple man. He wanted nothing more than to spend time with his newly wedded wife in peace and quiet. But soon after the marriage, his father-in-law turned ill and Jessica (his wife) visited him every day at the hospital. Richard told her every day that he wished he could be there with her, but he didn’t really mean it. The old man was shrewd. He was a business tycoon with a large conglomerate who always wore a blank expression on his face. It was impossible to tell what he was thinking. Richard supposed that’s why the old man was so successful, because he was ruthless. Richard recalled the first time they met. He couldn’t prove it was the old man that started the fire but every time since, there had been small disasters whenever they came to visit. And Richard began to fear the old man was a sociopath…
Because of this, the first few years with Jessica was the most stressful time of his life. Which was why Richard wished, no matter how morbid it seemed, that the old man would stay at the hospital for a long while. But the time of calmness would last longer than he thought for the old man suddenly passed away. Richard felt guilty for his ill wishes, but he couldn’t bring himself to be sad at the old man’s passing. There was only pity towards his wife, who was devastated, even though she didn’t show it. She had her fathers same expressionless face.
At the sermon, the priest was talking on and on about heaven and hell. Richard thought the concept to be silly. If there was a hell, the old man was surely dancing with the other demons as one of them. Afterwards, they came to the law firm to hear the old man’s will. There was only the two of them, which Richard thought strange. He knew for a fact the old man had other living relatives. What were their names again? Bianca, Beatrice? As he tried to recall, the lawyer read from the will which stated that all his worldly possessions, and the control of the company, would go to Richard. Richard’s jaw hit the floor. It must be some kind of joke. But the lawyer’s expression was without humour and as Richard turned to his wife, she smiled graciously.
“Congratulations,” she said.
They didn’t linger at the office and they didn’t speak on their way home, at least he thought they were on their way home, but instead, they pulled up at the company.
“What are we doing here?” Richard said, still bewildered.
“It’s time to claim your right,” she said and exited the car.
“Wait, what? Now?” he said and followed her.
She walked briskly through the building with him on her tail. All the staff greeted her respectfully. They all seemed to know her and Richard thought it odd that nobody tried to stop them, as if they were expected. They turned several times into different hallways and the building seemed to go on endlessly. After a long while, they reached a dimly lit corridor and they stopped at a large steel door. Two burly men were guarding it. They looked at Jessica, nodded and stepped aside and let them in. The room was even darker than the corridor, with only few lights on the walls. Jessica walked confidently, as if she’d been here many times before. Eventually they reached another room. There were about a dozen people in there and they all rose when she entered.
“Welcome, ma’am,” they said without acknowledging Richard.
Richard was about to ask what was going on when there was a dull bang on the wall. The wall was hit rapidly for a few moments until it stopped. Everyone had stood frozen during the duration and then returned to their seats.
“You must be confused,” Jessica said.
“That’s a word for it.”
She smiled. “You mustn’t think ill of my father. He never did anything out of sadistic enjoyment, but towards a goal. A goal that would benefit humankind.”
“How does making my life miserable benefit humankind?”
“I’m sure you were aware that he put you through many tests, and the fact that you became his sole heir is proof that you have what it takes to carry on his legacy.”
Richard couldn’t believe what he was hearing, those small disasters were tests? Richard wanted to be furious, but the fact that he’d passed those tests, stroked his ego and he let the matter rest. “Ahem… even if that was true, what did he hope to accomplish?”
She smiled, ruefully. “Father never told this to anyone outside our family, but when he was young, his father murdered his mother in a drunken rage. They never knew why he did it and it was a question that my father had battled with for his entire life. What makes people turn evil? He never got the answer from his father before his passing, but he never gave up on finding the answer. He gathered riches and talented people for the task, however, they could never find a human test subject without breaking the law. It was important for him everything was within the realm of legality.”
Richard was tempted to make a snarky comment on the fact that they were situated in a secret facility but stayed his tongue and listened on.
“When father learned that he wouldn’t survive the illness, the decision was simple,” she said and made a motion with her hand. The metal wall rose slowly, revealing another room. Richard moved forward and felt a glass wall that separated him from the blackness on the other side. From the darkness, a set of teeth flung at his face and he staggered and fell backwards. The creature squirmed midair for a moment, like a leech with arms and legs, until it disappeared into the void once more.
Richard remained frozen on the floor. “What was that?!”
“A demon. Father’s demon, to be exact.”
“We all have one, Father knew. This one is small but that is to be expected. Father wasn’t an evil man,” she said and tried to help him up.
But Richard remained seated and stared into the void. “Demons doesn’t exist,” he said.
“Really, then what did you just see?”
Richard tried to come up with any number of possibilities, but he couldn’t picture any creature of the size that he saw. “Still… a Demon? Like the Christian one?” He asked.
“Call it what you will, but this is what came out of my father and, I don’t deny certain ‘Christian’ rituals were used. Among other things…”
Richard couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Did that mean there was a Heaven and Hell? The very thought struck him with a paralysing fear. She tried to help him up again but he wouldn’t move. He was eventually ignored and people stirred around him, doing things and saying things he was only partly aware of. Suddenly, there was a scream and people scurried and shouted around him. One tried to grab his arm but he remained anchored on the floor. Then, everything went quiet. A set of tiny feet walked up to him and as he looked up he was greeted by a huge grin. Saliva and blood dripped from its teeth.
His last thoughts were for a proper curse for the old man.
He wasn’t able to finish.
© Christopher Stamfors
I challenged a friend to do a Horror story set in Victorian England with the limit of 1000 words. He returned the favour and this story was the result. He didn’t stipulate a word limit, but, he gave me three guidelines that I had to follow:
1: A Married Person
2: Engaged in an enterprise and becoming involved with the occult and the fantastic
3: Reverses certain opinions when their fallacy is revealed
You can read his story, HERE. I wholeheartedly recommend it!