Servants of Darkness

Servants of Darkness by Mark Hall Read Free Book Online

Book: Servants of Darkness by Mark Hall Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mark Hall
He only knew that he had come awake in the woods four days ago injured and afraid.
    He was wearing running shoes, blue jeans, and a short-sleeved sweatshirt that said Los Angeles Lakers on it. The once white sweatshirt was now filthy with mud and blood, there was a deep puncture wound in his side and his feet were swollen and aching. His jeans were torn in several places revealing long gashes in both his legs.
    He carried no identification. In his pocket he had discovered a butane cigarette lighter. There were no cigarettes. He could not remember if he smoked.
    He had a dim memory of some sort of tragedy, but every time he tried to focus on it his head would ache violently.
    He assumed the worse, of course. He was probably a madman running from the law, guilty of some heinous crime. It was the only thing that made sense. How else could he explain his predicament? He was experiencing an insidious breakdown of all normal sensory perceptions. Rabbits had become wolves, deer had become mountain lions . . . and . . . there was something else out here stalking him, he was certain of it, something he did not want to think about, but in the terrible darkness of night he was unable to think of little else.
    “I’m cracked!” he moaned. “Loony tunes! Toys in the attic!” And although a part of him still retained a measure of rationality he understood that most of his sanity had deserted him just as surely as rats desert a sinking ship. How else could the dead become the living? How, other than in the exclusive community of true madness could one actually believe that the dead stand right up and walk?
    But how could he know the woman was dead?
    How did he know the woman?
    Somehow he did.
    Maybe he knew her from the dreams. Dreams he believed happened as much from sleep born out of exhaustion and infection, as madness. Dreams where the thing he saw wasn’t the walking dead; it was somehow worse than the walking dead. In some of the dreams the demon woman was so close he could actually feel her hot, prickly breath on his face and smell the raging decay of dead flesh. They were dreams from which he would wake with a searing scream stuck in his throat like a red hot poker.
    He walked all day long, every day. He wasn’t sleeping much. The nightmares would wake him before dawn and he would start a small fire with dry twigs and crouch there by it shivering and sobbing until it was light enough for him to walk again.
    His rational mind, what was left of it, did not want to believe that the woman was real, but what were the alternatives? He had seen her in the night bathed ghostly in the flickering shadows of his campfire, gesturing for him to follow her. Her face was sunken and destroyed. She was nearly naked; what was left of her clothing appeared to be torn and burned, the flesh beneath scorched red. The eyes that burned out of that ruined face were the eyes of a tormented thing. They were filled with so much hellish malevolence that if you stared into them long enough you would almost certainly go . . . well . . . go, he reasoned, where he’d already gone. Stark-raving, rubber-room mad. Mad beyond one’s wildest nightmares. Somewhere on the flip side of loony tunes.
    He lifted his face up to the sky and howled like a wounded animal. “Come and get me, you dead bitch!” he screamed. “Show yourself in the daylight. I fucking dare you!” But of course she didn’t come. She only came at night. And in amongst the hysteria he realized that he was weeping again. He fell to his knees, his fists pressed to his mouth as great alligator tears coursed down his cheeks. He wondered how long he had been like this, and he guessed probably from the beginning. Whenever and wherever the beginning had been.
    He felt oddly hollow, as if he’d suffered some great loss. It was a predilection that seemed to reach far beyond his present circumstance, an emptiness that tormented his insides like a great hunger.
    It’s all yours now. You own it. .

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