by Ben Pierce
Clark stumbled backward, putting his hand on his chest as blood ran through his fingers. A voice roared from behind him, telling him to get down. He hit the floor as quickly as he could. He heard a gunshot and saw the hound flinch as the bullet ripped through the massive beast. It must have been as long as Clark was tall. As it growled, exposing rotting teeth, it turned and Clark saw that its ribs were protruding out from a bit of decaying flesh.
It lunged at Clark, but this time he intercepted it with one of his daggers. The hound yelped as it hit the ground.
“Move!” Pain said from behind him. Clark was shoved aside as Pain pointed his revolver at the hound’s head and pulled the trigger. A blinding flash of blue light emanated from the gun. When Clark opened his eyes again, the hound was nowhere to be seen.
“What was that?” Clark asked.
“It’s called a Dip.” Pain’s robe seemed to disintegrate into thin air. “Nasty little things,” he chuckled. “Or I should say nasty big things. People once believed them to be dogs under the devil’s control, but now most people simply believe that they’re myths.” He glanced at Clark, “You okay?”
“Yeah, it’s just a flesh wound.” He winced as he put his hand to his chest once more. “It’s not a big deal.”
Pain nodded. “You can take the robe off now.”
“How do I do that? Getting it on was hard enough!”
“Just focus on reverting back to your human self,” Pain said as he started to walk down the beach. “You can do it. You’re a big boy.”
Clark did his best to concentrate, trying to block out the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. He thought of the life he once had, the taste of his favorite dessert, the smell of pine needles from his home up north. He felt his psychic senses leave him, and his clothes seemed to get lighter. He opened his eyes to find that he was once again wearing his t-shirt and jeans. He also saw that Pain was now quite a distance away. Clark had to run to catch up with him.
“So, is that it?” Clark asked. “Are we done for the night?”
“It?” Pain said with a hint of surprise. “You’ve just seen something that most people believe to be nothing but a nightmare, and you want more?”
“Yeah, I’m not afraid of what Hell has to offer.”
Pain gave a wicked cackle. “Boy, you know nothing of Hell.”
After arriving back at the beach’s parking lot they climbed into Pain’s car and took off. Pain was listening to talk radio, which literally managed to put Clark to sleep.
When Clark’s eyes drifted open, he found that they were driving through a small patch of suburbia.
“Is there a reason we’re in the suburbs?” Clark asked impatiently. “I mean, there can’t possibly be any hellhounds here.”
“You’d be surprised what you can find in the suburbs,” Pain said. “And it was called a Dip.” Clark looked down at the clock to see that he had been asleep for almost an hour, so it was a very good thing that Pain’s BMW was comfortable. Suddenly, Pain pulled off the road and parked in a patch of grass. “Here we are.”
Clark looked around. Aside from a park that had its gate closed, there was nothing here but infinitely more suburban homes. “This is nowhere.”
“We’re going to the park.”
“At three in the morning? It’s clearly closed.” Without another word, Pain stepped out of the car and started walking toward the park. A shadow engulfed him, and suddenly he was clad in his black robes. Clark followed him, allowing the shadows to consume him as well; the two hopped the gate with ease. “Why are we here?” Clark asked impatiently.
“We’re looking for Oak Trail,” Pain said approaching the nearest map. “And keep your voice down. We don’t want them to hear us.”
“Them?” Clark whispered. “More dogs?”
“I’m afraid that it’s going to be quite a bit worse than that,” Pain whispered as he took off down a trail. Clark followed him. He found himself doing it a lot that night. Suddenly, a feminine scream pierced the silence.
Clark took off sprinting. The screaming continued as he ran deeper into the woods searching for the source of the sound. Clark arrived at a clearing, and suddenly the noise ceased as he saw a woman looking at him. She was on her knees, crying at the base of an oak tree. Something wasn’t right about this. Clark kept a hand on one of his daggers and approached her. “This is the spot,” she muttered. “This is the spot.” She kept repeating it over and over again.
“What spot?” he asked her. She was wearing all white, and she almost seemed to glow.
“The spot where he killed us,” she answered, as her eyes burnt a hole in Clark’s face.
He was struck with an intense fear. He heard another scream, this time masculine, but not a pained scream like before. It was filled with anger. Clark looked up to see a shapeless black object moving toward him with the face of a man. It swooped in and sent Clark flying backward. It felt like a train had just hit him. As he stood up, he saw the shapeless mass coming in once more. This time Clark charged it, drew back his daggers and stabbed, with perfect timing. The blob retreated, then hovered in midair until the face appeared once more. It said nothing, it only continued to yell.
Then Clark heard the familiar sound of gunfire, and watched the face twist and distort until it faded back into the black. Pain slowly approached it, with his gun pointed at it the whole time. The face appeared once more and came at him, but Pain simply fired again. It crashed into the ground and stopped moving.
“Finish it off,” Pain said as he walked away from it and towards the phantom girl.
Clark approached the now still black mass, and stabbed it with his daggers. It began to shake, and then pieces started to rise up into the air and fade away. Tiny black spheres continued to fly upward until the entire shadow disappeared. He looked over to see that Pain had taken the girl’s hand and she was now standing. Clark walked over in time to hear Pain say: “It’s alright. You can go now.”
The girl smiled. “Thank you.” With that she too began to turn into small white orbs, which floated up into the sky. They rose up until they were too small to see.
“Is that what the Reapers do?” Clark asked, still looking towards the heavens.
“Yes,” Pain said as he began to walk away. “That’s what the Reapers do.”