Richard’s heart thumped in his chest like a v8 engine firing on all pistons. He ran at full speed down the corridor, slamming the door open at the end. He’d made it outside, much to his own surprise. The rain felt cool against his skin. His lungs burned for the fresh oxygen of the outside world. He’d spent too much time within the confines of the Montague Museum he’d just exited. Behind him, back in the corridor, he could hear the sounds of something big and dangerous. He continued running through the courtyard towards his car. The satchel around his shoulder fluttered behind him like a cape in the wind.
“Shitshitshit!” He said to himself as the rifled through his pocket for his keys. He was nearing the green sedan just as a loud boom rang out. Whatever was chasing him had broken through the doors and was now out there with him. Richard slid to a stop as he reached the car. He found the proper key and with shaking hands inserted it into the key slot on the driver’s side door. The lock disengaged smoothly. He opened the door to the sedan and got in. He tossed the satchel into the passenger’s seat and started the car. He could still hear the tromping of the thing following him. He looked up. Fear momentarily paralyzed Richard as he saw nothing there. He could have sworn this entire time he’d been followed by some unimaginable beast.
Rain pelted the windshield as he started the car. He clicked on the windshield wipers. Between swipes, he stared out into the courtyard. It was still and quiet. Where had the beast gone? The doors to the museum lay on the ground broken and shattered. They’d definitely been blown off their hinges, but there was nothing in sight that could have done it. Richard threw the car into reverse and began to back out of the courtyard. He watched carefully behind him as the car pulled out. He made it to the road and let out a sigh of relief.
“Now, I just have to get this thing back to Mr. Donahue.” He said, patting the satchel.
Richard put the car in drive and began speeding up the road. The rain made soft pitter-pat sounds between each swipe of the wiper blades. Richard wiped the wetness from his face with his damp sleeve. It wasn’t much, but it helped just enough for him to see better. The roads were pretty clear. It was dark, but there should have been at least some traffic. He pulled onto the highway.
Richard drove for what felt like an eternity. His eyelids felt as if there were weights attached to them. To his luck, he saw a sign advertising a motel at the next turn-off. He didn’t want to stop, but figured it’d be okay. Whatever was after him was long behind, perhaps confined to the Montague Museum. Richard shook it off as a silly thought. He pulled off at the next exit and drove to the motel he’d seen on the billboard. It was run down, but still, it was better than nothing. The rain had just begun to let up.
The clerk at the front desk seemed bored. She was playing on her cell phone when he opened the door. The tinkle of the bell didn’t seem to phase her.
“Need a room?” The clerk asked.
“Yeah. You got anything open?”
“A few. How long’re you stayin’?” She finally put her phone down and looked up at Richard. Through tendrils of blonde hair, he could see she had gorgeous baby blue eyes.
“Just the night. I didn’t look at the sign, though. How much is it going to be?”
“Forty-five plus tax.”
Richard checked his wallet. He had two twenty dollar bills and a shopper’s card. He didn’t have any credit cards to his name. So much for not sleeping in the car.
“Any way I could talk you down? I’m a little short.”
A look of annoyance spread across the clerk’s face, “I’m sorry, sir, we don’t negotiate the pricing here. Forty-five is a fair price.”
“C’mon, it’s been a long day. Can’t you just take forty? Or maybe spot me the rest? Something?”
“Look, I got rules to follow just like everyone else. I can’t be giving out handouts to every Tom, Dick, and Harry that comes through here. I don’t make enough for all that!”
Richard thought for a moment, then looked at the clerk, “That’s fine. I’ll just find somewhere else to stay for the night. Have a good one.” He smiled and exited the front office. The clerk sat back down and began furiously typing on her phone.

“Fucking bitch,” Richard said to himself as he got to the car. “Couldn’t spare five dollars. I’ll show her.”
He started his car and drove around the back of the motel. Just as he’d suspected, there were plenty of rooms to choose from and plenty of parking to boot. He backed into a spot that faced the motel, and took a quick survey of the scenery. He was out of view of the front office, not that the girl up front had even seen his vehicle to begin with. With a cursory glance, he ruled out all rooms with lights on. It was quite late, so there was a good chance there could be somebody in any other given room he tried, but he was willing to make the attempt. He needed a place to stay. Somewhere to think. Whatever had followed him out from the museum had him spooked and he wanted off the road as quickly as possible. At least until the morning.
Richard grabbed the satchel in the passenger’s seat and got out of the car, careful to close the door silently. He crept along the parking lot up to the first level of rooms. Some still had lights on. He made sure to duck along those windows, even though the curtains were drawn. He didn’t want to draw any undue attention to himself.
He found a room with the lights out. He listened at the door for a few moments. He could hear the loud sounds of someone snoring. Next, he thought. He checked a few more doors on the ground level. It wasn’t long before he realized he would need to move on to the next floor.
The stairwell was dark and smelled of urine. To its favor, it was enclosed and kept him hidden from sight. When he reached the second floor, he heard something coming from the corner room. He took a precautionary position and slowly crept up to the door. Before pressing his ear against the wood, he looked up and down the walkway and made sure there were no late night strollers about. When he was sure the coast was clear, he began listening.
Inside he could hear the rustling and banging more clearly. It was rhythmic in nature, but seemed wild at the same time. Richard took a moment and then chuckled to himself. Whoever was in there was having loud, obnoxious sex. He was able to relax a little at the revelation. He moved to the next door. The light was off and there were no sounds coming from inside. He took the shopper’s card from his wallet. It slid smoothly into the door jamb. He was able to jimmy the door lock with relative ease. Once inside, he engaged the deadbolt and then tossed the satchel onto the bed. It was a lot easier to steal a room here than he’d expected. Then again, it was some random shit hole on the outskirts of town. What more could be expected?
Richard sighed and clicked on the light. He made sure the curtains were pulled and then sat at the end of the bed. He wasn’t sure what he should do, but figured it’d be a good idea to make a game plan. He grabbed the satchel. The corner of a dirty rag hung out the side like the tongue of a mouth waiting to be opened. He flicked the latch on the front and threw the flap open. Though the light was on, the bag seemed eerily dark inside. He tugged on the rag. It pulled from the bag with little resistance. He held it in his hand, readying it as if he were about to grab something. Inside, something sparkled with a magnificent brilliance, despite the cheap hotel lighting. Richard used the rag and reached inside the bag. He grabbed the object. It was cool to the touch, even through the cloth wrapped around his hand. He pulled it out and was immediately awed, just as he was back at the museum when he’d originally nabbed it.
In his hand was a large jewel about the size of an apricot. It shone brilliantly in the cheap light, much brighter though than when it was in the bag. It was the color of toffee, polished to a most beautiful shine, with a smoky impurity right within the center. The longer Richard gazed at it, the more he felt he could see it actually moving inside. He shook the thought from his head. He didn’t believe such things could happen. He didn’t believe in the supernatural. But then he remembered the doors of the museum. As he’d exited, they’d been blasted off the hinges as if something were chasing him.
No, he thought to himself. It had to be some sort of macabre security feature. Blow the hell out of the perp. That’s it! If they couldn’t have whatever artifact was taken, then nobody would have it. It seemed the only logical explanation. He wondered if Mr. Donahue had known of this sort of defense feature. Then he wondered what sort of insane museum he’d stolen this priceless gem from. There was no pressure system, hardly any real security. No lasers, no guards. It was almost as if they wanted to get rid of the thing. Then why the explosives? Richard didn’t understand what was going on. He just knew that he needed to get this jewel to Mr. Donahue and get paid. There was a lot of money riding on its delivery and he wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass him by. But to be able to deliver, he needed to get some rest. He was no good on the road in his current condition. Richard stuffed the jewel and rag into the satchel and then closed the snap. He checked the locks and deadbolt again before turning in for the night. He set the alarm on his watch to wake him up in a few hours, before checkout. He laid his head down to rest.


Richard opened his eyes. Something was there.

BOOM. The sound came again. In his groggy state, he could still discern whatever it was was right at the door and it wanted in. He immediately replayed in his mind the explosion from the museum. What if there really was something after him?
To his luck, Richard had been asleep in his clothes. He jumped up and grabbed the satchel. The loud boom came again, this time harder than before. The door cracked. It was going to break off the hinges soon. Richard slipped the satchel over his shoulder and then grabbed the blanket from the bed and pulled it over his body, taking careful consideration to cover his face and head. He poised himself and then waited. Just as the next hit registered and the door splintered open, he charged the big plate glass window and jumped. He felt the glass shatter as his body slammed into it. He felt the rough hardness of the concrete as his body landed. He felt the metal of the railing as it stopped him from tumbling over the side. He threw the cover off of his body and sprang up, feeling the broken glass crunch beneath him. He bolted for the stairs without thinking twice. He wasn’t going to stick around just to see what was obviously trying to kill him. He wanted to get as much distance between it and himself as he possibly could.
As he flew down the stairwell, he could hear the crunching of glass behind him. It was after him. He exited the stairs and ran as fast as he could to his car. It was just like back at the museum. He yanked the door open and jumped in. He shook. He tried to get the key into the ignition, but he just shook so damn much. Richard looked up. He could see the blanket dangling over the edge of the walkway. Small shards of glass tinkled as they fell over the side and hit the ground below. Near the blanket, Richard saw a dark figure standing, staring. It was nothing like he’d expected. The figure jumped over the railing and landed with another loud boom. It stood, tilting its head to the side as if cracking its neck. It stood taller than the average male. Richard tried to see more about its features, but around its edges swirled a darkness much like shadows. It began to walk towards him. The steps echoed.
“Fuck!” He shouted. The figure got even closer. He finally got the key in the ignition and turned it. The engine started. Richard threw the car in drive and tore out of the parking lot just as the clerk from earlier came running around the corner.
“What the fuck!” He could hear her yell. She still clung to her mobile phone as the figure gripped her around the throat.

The tires of Richard’s sedan skidded and shrieked as he swung out onto the road. He headed straight for the highway. He still had a ways to go to get rid of this beautiful, wretched jewel. Perhaps then he wouldn’t be followed anymore, he hoped. He punched the gas and fired down the offramp. He could have sworn he saw the figure standing off to the side in the shadows as he passed. He didn’t have time to care, though. He continued driving. He was still groggy and worn. He checked his watch. He’d only been asleep for an hour. He gripped the steering wheel and pushed on. His adrenaline alone would get him through the night.

Then the engine began to sputter. Richard checked the gauge. He’d completely forgotten to fill up on gas. He slammed his fist into the dash.
“Dammit!” He said and pulled the vehicle over to the side of the road.

He clutched the satchel as he exited the sedan. He made sure to kick a tire before he began walking away. A recent sign pointed out he wasn’t far from a diner. He hoped there was someone there, someone who could give him a ride. Or maybe he’d just steal a car. It didn’t matter. He was going to make it to Mr. Donahue and get rid of this damned jewel, once and for all.

The night air was cool, balmy. It whipped through Richard’s hair, tossing it about occasionally. He continued clutching the satchel as he walked. The street lights shone bright in the night, casting deep shadows under Richard as he trekked down the highway. He couldn’t help but watch behind himself. It was dark, but he didn’t see anything following him. Very rarely would he see a pair of passing headlights on the road. Mostly they would be heading the opposite direction, but the occasional traveler would pass going his way. He tried holding his thumb out.
“Fuck you!” The driver screamed out the window and then laid on the horn. Richard held up a middle finger and then continued walking. Something rustled in the bushes near him. His heart jumped up into his throat. He held the satchel against his chest with both hands. He kept his eyes on the bush as he backed away. It rustled again. He ran. He ran as fast as he could. A small rabbit jumped onto the side of the road.

Richard ran until his feet hurt. His chest heaved, lungs burning, heart thumping. He was coated with sweat. He had no idea how long he’d been running, but from the looks of things, whatever was behind him was long gone. He was amazed. It wasn’t until he slowed down that he began to notice the small things around him: the gravel crunching underfoot, the tiny moving shadows of the bushes near the road swaying in the breeze. As he walked, he noticed ahead one of the streetlights was out, breaking the string of lights that illuminated the road. He stopped walking. Richard wasn’t sure if he should or even could just run through the deep shadow. He thought of the figure from the motel. What if it’d done it? There was no way, he was long gone. But then again, that’s what he’d thought when he got to the motel. What if he had been followed again? Richard mustered himself. He couldn’t let these thoughts get to him any more than they had. He had to get to Mr. Donahue and collect and be done with this shit storm of a night. He began to run again.
The night air blew over Richard’s moist forehead. It cooled him as he ran further into the darkness. At that moment he feared for his life, but he clutched the satchel holding the brilliant jewel and pushed on. Nothing was going to stop him. Nothing.
He flew threw the darkness and emerged in the light of the next street lamp. There was nothing for him to fear anymore. If the figure from the motel was following him, it would have made its move by now. It would have had to appear by now. Richard began to feel more confident in himself. He slowed his pace to a jog. He was tired, but he knew he needed to make it to the diner and find a ride. Another sign indicated he was very close. He just had to keep moving.

Around a bend, Richard could see the lights of the twenty-four hour diner shining just in the distance. He felt relief wash over him. He could see a few cars and an RV in the parking lot. He was tired and worn out, but he made it to the diner. He continued jogging wile clutching his satchel. He could feel the lump of the jewel wrapped in the rag through the material. It made him want to reach in look at it again. He felt drawn to it. He shook the thought from his head. There wasn’t any time to enjoy the beauty of the gemstone. Richard stopped for a moment. What was he thinking? He hadn’t cared about how “beautiful” the Demonheart had been since he lifted it. Why had he begun to care now? Was it drawing him in? Attracting him? Is that how it worked? He thought about the swirling smoke in the center of it. Had it truly moved inside that solid stone? He wanted to reach inside the satchel and examine the stone in the light of the road lamp even more now. The urge felt powerful. Against his better judgment, he pulled the stone out. Under the light of the street lamp, it almost glittered. Richard paid attention to the center of the jewel. It did move. It visibly swirled in on itself, more actively than back at the motel. What was going on?
“I gotta keep moving.” Richard said to himself. He tucked the Demonheart back into the bag and let it fall back to his side. He began jogging towards the diner again. Behind him, something shifted in the shadows.

The closer he got to the diner, the more Richard could smell the bouquet of fresh diner steak and eggs and coffee and other wonderful scents. Richard’s stomach began to rumble. He hadn’t eaten all day. He didn’t have time to eat, though. He had to make it to Mr. Donahue first. As he closed in on the diner, he paid close attention to any movement coming from the inside. The windows were large plate glass that spanned around the majority of the building. Inside, he could see a very large man sipping from a mug at the bar. The waitress stood behind the counter talking to him. An older couple sat at a booth near the front window. He got closer and snuck around to the back of the building. He wanted to stay out of sight as much as possible. He planned to steal a vehicle and continue his journey.
There were a couple of vehicles in the back of the diner. One was a large truck. Red, with a rebel flag vanity license plate. The other was a small blue coupe. Based on the size difference alone, he figured the smaller car would get the better mileage. He chose the small blue car. He tried the door handle. To his luck, it was open. He entered the vehicle and opened up the lower dash panel. Wires fell out, dangling like red, blue, and green veins. He began hot-wiring the car. It had been a while since the last time he’d had to do this, but he was able to get the car started after a few tries. There was a distinct squeaking of the timing belt. Richard was worried someone would recognize the sound and come out. On the other side of the building, there came the sound of busting glass. He put the car into gear and began to pull out from the parking lot. As he turned the car, the back door of the diner flew open. In the doorway stood the dark figure from the motel, from the museum. Richard’s adrenaline began to pump as the figure started walking towards him. He punched the gas and swung out hard. He momentarily lost control of the vehicle and backed into a light post. The car stalled. He immediately started trying to restart it.

The figure got close to the car just as it restarted. Richard threw the car into drive and took off towards the front of the diner. As he pulled around the RV, he could see the horror in the diner. The old couple had been thrown clear through the window. The older man hung halfway out. The woman was on the ground in the parking lot. The large man was slumped over the counter. He was covered in blood; his back splayed out. The car stalled again.
“Shit!” Richard regretted not going for the truck now. Even though it probably guzzled gas, it was probably more reliable than this piece of shit. Just then the passenger side window exploded. The dark figure was grasping at him from the jagged hole. Richard bailed out the driver’s side and began to crawl on the ground. He had to find some way to get back to get back to the truck and get the hell out of there. The figure pulled its hand back from the hole and paced around the side of the car. Richard hopped to his feet and did his best to keep the dead vehicle between the two of them. They circled the car several times. Every step of the way, he tried his best to get a closer look at the person chasing him. Even in the light of the sodium vapor lamps, it was hard to get a good bead on the details of the mysterious figure. As if it were made of shadows, it seemed to swirl around the edges. He could see, though, its eyes. They were a familiar brown. Now that he was closer, they seemed to glow against the blackened skin. What was he up against here.
They circled the car one more time. This time, the diner was to Richard’s back. The figure lifted a fist and bashed the roof of the car. It crumpled in, blowing out the windshield. Richard took the opportunity to make a run for it. He ran for the diner. The figure stood and watched. It was on the other side of the car and unable to immediately give chase after him. As soon as Richard made it inside the diner, he slammed the door shut and turned the lock. He looked up. The figure was still standing there. Then it began to move around the demolished car. It walked toward the open plate glass window. Richard’s heart pounded. He turned and bolted for the back door. The door to the back of the diner was wide open. When he crossed the counter he knew why. On the floor, the waitress lay. A large chef’s knife stuck out her back.
“I’m sorry, but I think I’m going to need this.” Richard said as he pulled the knife out. It was covered with blood and gore. He could hear the crunch of the glass from the window at the front. He turned his head to see the figure standing over the old man. It began to climb through. Richard pulled the body from the doorway and locked it behind him. This would hopefully buy him some time. As soon as he turned to run through the back, he was hit with a horrible stench. On the cooking grill, the lone cook lay, burning and sizzling. With the way his head was sitting, Richard determined his neck had to have been snapped. He gagged and then ran as fast as his legs could carry him. The door wasn’t far from the grill, but it felt like he was miles away. It still sat ajar from when the figure originally burst through. Just then a loud boom came from the door behind him. The figure was there and this door wasn’t going to hold nearly as long as the motel room door. It burst open just as Richard cleared the back door and was back out into the night air. He slammed into the side of the truck, unable to come to a full stop. The knife clinked on the ground. He’d dropped it in the collision. He reached down to pick it up. The figure was in the doorway. He tried the door. This one was locked.
“Damn.” He muttered to himself. It began to walk towards him. He climbed into the bed of the truck and readied the knife. “You want me, fucker!? Come and get me!” He noticed the back window was open. He was just small enough to fit through it if only he had enough time.”
The figure stopped at the front of the truck. It held out its hand. Richard was baffled. It wasn’t trying to kill him like it had everyone else.
“What do you want?” He asked. It sat there, palm outstretched. Richard thought for a moment and then slowly began to reach into his satchel with his free hand. “You want this, don’t you?” He held up the rag after digging around a little. It was balled up. The figure’s eyes seemed to flash red. It wanted the Demonheart.
“Then go get it!” He yelled as he threw the balled up rag. It sailed far, landing in a ditch near the outskirts of the diner’s parking lot. The figure grunted then turned and ran for the rag. Richard took the opportunity to throw the knife and satchel through the window and then climb through himself. It took a few moments, but he was able to squeeze through. Meanwhile, the figure was closing in on the rag in the ditch. Richard needed to start the truck. He tried to pull the underside of the dash out like the previous car and hot-wire it, but it proved to be more difficult than before. He beat his fist on the dash and into his lap fell the keys from the sun visor. He stuck the truck key into the ignition and turned it. It started with a loud growl and churned. He threw the truck into gear and flew out of the parking space. Just as he blew past the figure, it let out a howl. It must have found the rock Richard had wrapped in the rag.
He swung past the stalled car in the middle of the lot and then swung out onto the night road. The sun was beginning to peek over the horizon. He didn’t know if the figure would still chase him in the sunlight, but he wasn’t going to take any chances. He punched the gas and sped down the highway just as he had before. He made sure to check the gas gauge. The truck had half a tank.
That should be enough to finish this, he thought.
He knew exactly where he was going. His eyes burned as he drove. He could barely keep them open. The adrenaline was wearing off. A small part of him wished he were still being chased just so he could keep his strength up. That’s fucking stupid he thought to himself. He didn’t want to be anywhere near that monster. That thing. It couldn’t be a person. No human being could have done that back at the diner. He thought of the old couple thrown through the glass. The knife in the back of the waitress. He felt over in the passenger’s seat. The knife. In a way, it brought him some solace, some hope that if he were still being followed he could defend himself. But what good had it done her? Richard sighed.
The sun had now risen a good deal. The sky was a bright blue. Richard was almost where he needed to be. He smiled to himself. A big victory for the little guy. He would get his money and be done with the nightmare. Nothing was going to stop him.
There was a loud bang and the truck began to limp. One of the tires had blown. Richard wanted to slam on the brakes and veer onto the shoulder, but he knew better. He tapped the gas and maintained his speed and slowly began to pull off the road. He came to a stop in the gravel near the exit he needed. The truck door creaked as he pushed it open. He took care getting out as now there was more traffic on the road.
“Shredded.” Richard said to himself as he examined the front driver’s side tire. It was indeed shredded and there was not a spare anywhere on the vehicle. Richard kicked the fender. He reached inside the cab and tucked the knife into his satchel before pulling it out and slinging it up on his shoulder. One thing after another. Every hindrance he could have run into had made its way to him, but he wasn’t giving up. He began hiking up the shoulder down the exit ramp and across the street. He wasn’t far from Mr. Donahue’s home, where they had intended to meet.
Even though it was daytime, Richard watched his back every so often as he ran down the side of the road. He wasn’t sure if he was more worried about the thing following him or random drivers. Each may have been equally dangerous. Maybe.

The walk to Mr. Donahue’s was relatively short. Tense, but short. Richard found himself sweaty and out of breath under the morning sun by the time he arrived. He needed subsistence. He stood in front of the familiar, modest sized, blue Gablefront home. There was a beautiful garden beneath the front windows; well-maintained and flowering. Mr. Donahue was much richer than his home would belie, he knew, and this was all just a front. He gave one more cursory glance behind himself and then walked up to the door. The garden was fragrant. He knocked hard several times. He could hear light shuffling coming from the inside. He waited patiently as he caught his breath. He patted the satchel to make sure the stone was still inside. He felt the hard apricot sized jewel through the canvas material. He could also feel something else hard inside. It was long, thin, and tapered to a point. The knife. He knocked again. This time there was silence. Was he being blown off?
“Mr. Donahue!” Richard called through the door. He didn’t want to bring any unnecessary attention to himself, but Donahue was leaving him with little choice. He banged on the door.
He tried the doorknob. To his surprise, it turned. He pushed the door open some. Nothing stirred. He pushed it open further. He could see inside. The foyer seemed fine. There was nothing amiss. He closed the door behind himself. It wasn’t until Richard reached the living room that things seemed off. The furniture was overturned, the couch broken in the middle. Then there was the blood. It was pooled mostly in the middle of the floor, but the trail leading off from the puddle indicated someone had been dragged through it. It lead to the kitchen. Richard’s stomach was in knots. He reached into his satchel and pulled the blood-stained knife from inside. He crept through the living room, following the bloody trail.
“Mr. Donahue?” He whispered. There was no response. He gripped the knife tighter.
“Mr. Donahue, are you okay?” He didn’t expect a response, but Richard tried to prepare himself for what may come. He followed the blood into the kitchen.

In his years of petty theft and light muggings, Richard had never seen anything like this. Strewn about the kitchen was the carcass, the remnants of Mr. Donahue. On the table in the middle of the small dining area lie a mangled torso, torn open and gutted. In the sink was an arm. His left arm. Barely hanging from the torso was his left leg, coated in blood and sinew. His right arm lay on the floor in front of Richard. He gagged at the sight, the smell of it all. Richard dropped the knife and fell to his knees. He cupped his mouth with his hand. It did not stop the flow of vomit from spewing from between his fingers. Then something stirred in the next room over just past the dining area.

He reached down for the knife, gripping it and some of the blood from the floor. He shivered. He didn’t know much about Mr. Donahue, but he couldn’t think of a single reason he could have deserved an end like this. Richard gripped the knife with all his strength. His knuckles were white with exhaustion and fear.
“Come get some, motherfucker.” He whispered to himself as he crept through the blood and gore towards the dining area. Richard made sure to watch his footing and not slip in the macabre scene at his feet. His heart raced as he reached the corner. He could hear something tearing. Chewing. His stomach turned more. With what strength he could muster, he pulled himself around the corner to face what was before him. Upon his first gaze, his hand began to tremble uncontrollably. The thing, whatever it was, that had been chasing him stood with its back turned to him. It was busy with something in its hands. And then it stopped. Slowly it turned to face Richard and he could see what it had been doing. In its hands was Mr. Donahue’s head. The face had been eaten clean off. The creature stood there and through the swirling edges, the smokey appearance, it seemed to…smile at him?
“What the fuck do you want?” Richard shouted at it. It continued to chew.
“What the fuck do you want??” He repeated louder. It stopped. Mr. Donahue’s head fell to the floor. It took a step towards Richard.
“I’m not afraid of you, motherfucker! I’m not afraid!” He trembled and began to back away. The creature slowly followed him back towards the kitchen. Richard took a few more steps backward and suddenly tripped over something. Mr. Donahue’s separated arm. He fell backwards and landed flatly on his buttocks. He tried to gain a foothold, but could do nothing more than slip around in the blood. The creature took a few more steps.
“Stay back! You, you stay the fuck back!” Richard scrambled on the floor, waving the knife in a flaccid attempt to be menacing. The creature snickered and quickly closed the gap between itself and Richard.
“I said stay back!” He gripped the knife as tight as he could. The creature lunged, swiping hard and fast. The knife plunged deep into its hand. A wispy tendril of smoke seeped from the wound as the creature recoiled, taking the knife with it. With a deep bellowing laugh, it was upon him again, swiping with the other hand, tearing his shirt and breaking the strap to his satchel. Hot pain seethed across his chest where the creature’s claws scratched. It was reeling back, readying to strike again. In that moment, Richard thought he could see just past the smoke. Just past the moving shadows. He could see into the creatures eyes. They were a familiar color. A lot like…toffee.
The creature pulled back, almost ready to swing. Richard quickly reached for the satchel. The torn strap made it somewhat difficult to pull around, but he managed to put it between himself and the creature just as it swiped. This time it tore through the back and struck the stone lying just beneath the thing material. It recoiled again, this time howling, as if in pain. The jewel tumbled onto the bloody floor, the surface scratched and cracked. A thin column of smoke seeped from the fissure.
As the creature continued to bellow, Richard used every ounce of strength within him to push the creature off of him. It fell backward, the knife dislodged from its hand on Richard’s other side. He rolled over to grab it. Just as his hand gripped the handle, he felt another bolt of searing hot pain register on his back. The creature was still recovering, but had fought to its feet and struck Richard as he reached for the knife. It growled and grunted as it tried to regain composure. Richard winced in pain, but gripped the knife with what little strength he had left. The shadowy creature then stretched back and slashed at Richard again. He screamed out in pain and then coughed up blood. He was beginning to slip out of consciousness. The creature readied another strike. Just then Richard grabbed the cracked, smoking jewel and gripped it tight in his fist.
“You want this? Fuck you.” He gurgled as he stabbed downward with the knife, piercing the jewel fully and exiting out the back of his own hand. He cried out in pain as the blood-spattered, toffee colored gem cracked and shattered into chunks and bits, releasing a tuft of acrid smoke into the air. The creature screamed and clasped its head in its hands. It writhed and squirmed. It’s features began to crack and crumble. The shifting shadows around it began to dissipate. Richard used the opportunity to scrunch and slither across the floor. Unable to get up, he was forced to crawl on his belly and elbows like a worm to the safety of the living room just around the corner. He quickly pulled his legs through the threshold and curled into a ball. Something big was coming.

The creature, still in the kitchen, continued to shake in pain. It roared and screamed, clutching its cracking, flaking skull for dear life. It’s body, now more visible, was covered with fissures, large and small. It crumbled and cracked with each bit of movement. Smoke began to seep from its wounds. The same acrid smoke from the jewel. It filled the kitchen and encroached on the living room. After a few moments, the creature’s wailing came to an abrupt halt. Richard waited a few moments. Nothing happened. He could still hear pieces of the creature’s body chip off and fall to the ground. He wasn’t sure if he was more or less afraid at this point. But he mustered up what little courage he still had in him and turned on the floor. He wriggled forth and poked his head through the kitchen threshold. The creature stood there in the smoke like modern art. Like a statue. Its head still clasped in its hands. It’s mouth frozen in an endless scream. It’s eyes, now that Richard could see them, were the same color as the Demonheart he’d pilfered. What looked like pupils were sunbursts of cracks spider-webbing out from the centers. Eerie. Ominous.

Richard winced in pain at the knife still in his hand. He then grit his teeth, gripped the handle and yanked as hard as he could. Or at least he tried. The knife held tight. He hadn’t realized just how deep it was until now. He tried again, this time grunting with maximal effort. The knife tore free with a slight spray of blood. He let it clatter to the floor. The creature, still transfixed, stared into nothingness.
Using the sturdiness of the threshold, Richard pulled himself into a sitting position. The smoke began to dissipate. His back stung against the wall, but it was all he could do to keep conscious. His hand steadily bled onto the floor, drip by drip. He listened to the quiet “plip” of his life force splashing against the linoleum floor. It was almost soothing to hear something beyond the chipping off of the monster standing not fifteen feet away from him. He rolled onto his knee and began to rise to his feet. A bolt of pain shot up his back. He winced and groaned. The smoke in th kitchen had all but gone away. Richard took the opportunity to limp over to the strange being and examine what had been chasing him throughout the night.

The body of the monster stood taller than any person he’d ever seen. Its skin was cracked and chipped, but nonetheless shown brilliantly of polished onyx. Its eyes, those eyes. Just like the Demonheart gem he’d stolen. He glanced over at the bits and pieces of the gem laying in a scattered pile on the floor. What had it all been for? What difference did it make now? Mr. Donahue was dead. There was no money. But at least it was over. Richard let loose an audible sigh. He turned and began to limp from the kitchen. Before he’d fully exited, he heard a sound that made his stomach drop. It was the familiar tinkling of gems hitting the floor. He turned to see the creature was still holding its head, still frozen in its silent scream, but now it was facing him. It began to creak. Out of instinct, Richard dove for the living room as he knew nothing good could come of this. He made it back through the threshold just as the creature’s cracked and fissured body exploded, sending shards every which way about it. Richard stayed huddled on the floor for a few moments, waiting for anything and everything else that may come afterward.

Besides the sound of rubble falling to the ground, there was nothing to register. Richard poked his head up from the dust and debris. The wall between the rooms had been all but completely blown out. He could see directly into the kitchen. He stood again. Through the hole he could see the dismembered parts of Mr. Donahue. He could see the creature, or rather what was left of it. A hand. Its feet. Shards upon shards littering the floor. Essentially, it was disintegrated. He could see all the damage the creature’s exploded body had caused. Dishes and cabinets shattered. Chairs decimated. It truly was a horror show. He slowly backed away from the kitchen and then turned to head towards the front door. Just as he reached the portal, something caught his eye. Lodged in the wall near the window was a gem. Similar to the Demonheart, the gem was a rich toffee color. It was somewhat smaller than the original gem, but no less beautiful. Something within urged him to go for it. There would have to be a buyer out there somewhere who would pay top dollar for something like this. There had to be another Mr. Donahue somewhere. Richard rubbed the back of his head, releasing dust and drywall into the air. He still wanted that ultimate payoff. He walked over to the wall and examined the gem. It gleamed even through the dust. There was enough of it sticking out for him to grab hold and pull. With some effort, it dislodged from its temporary home in the wall. Richard looked the gem over some more. Within its confines he could see, much like the Demonheart, it swirled inside with a smokey iridescence. This definitely wasn’t the same gem. It was better. Richard stuffed it into his pocket and turned back to the door once again.
Richard opened the door and was greeted with the fresh scent of the garden in front of the house. He took a deep breath, swallowing the sweet air in one big gulp. He had survived the night and patting his pocket knew something good would happen in his future. It was in the cards, it just had to be. He took a step onto the porch and into the bright sunlight, absorbing the rays of warmth all over his body. It was such a beautiful day. He walked down the driveway and sat down on the curb. His body was taxed. He felt as if he couldn’t move much further. But he needed to. He had to. He couldn’t stay any longer. Soon the place would be swarming with cops and onlookers expecting and explanation. He peered back at the house. The side windows had been blown out and small shards stuck out of the building as if it had suddenly grown small onyx formations. Looking back in front of him, there were already several people exiting their homes, gawking at the mess behind him. In the distance sirens began to blare. That was his cue. Richard pushed himself to his feet and began to trek down the road. An older man in a bathrobe hustled out from his home and through one of the greenest yards Richard had ever seen. He must have put a fortune into it. The man stopped just short of the fence surrounding the yard.
“Hey, you!” He called out to Richard. Richard continued walking. “Hey, I’m talking to you! What happened in there?”
Richard continued walking. The man continued shouting at Richard until he passed. The words caught in his throat when he saw Richard’s torn and brutalized back. His mouth hung open and his gaze shifted between Richard and the house and then hung on the house. He couldn’t fathom what had gone on within those walls. Just as the police showed up, he turned again, expecting to see the battered man still walking up the street. He was nowhere to be seen.