Eli fell to the ground and the mud shot into the air and rained back down upon him. A thin layer of this brown liquid covered him from head to toe. He hoped and prayed this masquerade would help him escape. He lifted his head from the puddle and tried to slow down his labored breaths. The guards that were chasing him were nowhere to be found and he didn’t hear any talking or crunching of twigs under someones feet. Was he really free? Was this it? The moon hung high in the sky and once he felt comfortable doing so; he left.
His pace was slow and he was drenched in mud and lethargic from all the running he had done just minutes ago. At this point the thought that he just may get away started to come into his mind. He took a seat at the base of a tree to collect his thoughts and think about his future. He let out a small chuckle and broke the silence of the forest; for the first time in eight years he was smiling. However, that smile quickly faded when he heard someone respond to him with laughter of their own.
As if a fire was lit under him, he jumped and turned around to see who was here with him. When he turned he was greeted with nothing more than the foreboding darkness of the forest. His eyes scanned the horizon but it was fruitless. There was no one around. He sighed then shook his head and thought maybe it was an echo or just paranoia setting in. As he turned to sit back down at his tree he heard a twig snap in the distance. That was it; now he knew he wasn’t alone.
“Hello?” he called out, “Is there someone there?” He reached down and slipped his hand into his sock searching for the shank he had fashioned out of a toothbrush just a week ago. It wasn’t there. He turned back to the trail that he had been following hoping to see it. The darkness was too much; he couldn’t see more than ten feet ahead of him. Another twig snapped and he jerked his head to the sound. “I have a weapon. I’ll cut you, man!” SNAP. He took a few steps back and held his hand up as if he was ready to stab. “I’m not playing games, man!” he called out, “I will stab you and I won’t think twice.” SNAP. CRUNCH. “Stop, right there!” A figure was approaching him that seemed human but he couldn’t make it out. “Back up, man! Back the hell up!” The figure continued his pursuit until it stood at the tree Eli was once sitting.
It was a man. He was very tall and slender built, however, his face was still shrouded in darkness. His clothes looked dilapidated and weathered. His appendages were small and thin. It looked as if he hadn’t eaten in years. Eli dropped his guard seeing this man was clearly no threat. “Who are you?” Eli squinted and leaned forward trying to make out any features. “What do you want?” The man just stood there without saying a word. “Hey,” Eli called out, “are you deaf?” The man took one step forward and the moonlight illuminated his lower jaw and mouth. His lips were chapped and bleeding; his jaw line was decorated in a thick, unkempt beard.
“I’m here for you, Eli.” The voice was hoarse and sent chills down Eli’s spine. Eli just stood there with his mouth hanging wide open. He was sure he had to just hear him wrong. There was no way this stranger knew his name. “What’s the matter,” the man said, “are you deaf?” A wicked smile swept across his wrinkly skin. The man was aged by at least sixty years and this furthered Eli’s suspicions. How could a man this old and weak be living out here? The better question would be why? Eli regained his bearings and finally spoke to the man.
“Who the hell do you think you are? And how do you know my name?” Eli was a bit shaken by this but he stood his ground. The man just stood there mute and cracked a smile. “I’m not playing games with you! Who are you?” The man took a few steps forward and his features became more noticeable. His shirt was riddled with holes and there was a large blood stain that accompanied it. When the man began to walk closer Eli noticed one of his ankles were twisted and dragged the ground. Eli took a step back, disgusted. “What the hell is wrong with you man?” The same smile was still stretched across the man’s wrinkled face.
“You should be asking yourself that. You haven’t noticed it yet I see.” Eli gave him a bewildered look.
“What the fuck is up with you? Are you some basehead who stumbled into the woods or something?” Eli was standing his ground and didn’t show that inside he was shaken by this man’s appearance. The man chuckled and shook his head.
“You’re so ignorant to your own reality, Eli. You really don’t understand what’s going on here.” Eli’s look turned from disgust to anger. He rushed to the man and pinned him against the tree.
“I’m not afraid to kill you. I’ve spent eight years locked up for murder so don’t think I will hesitate about breaking your neck.” The man’s smile never left his face even when Eli was choking the life out of him.
“I,” the man whispered, “am an angel.” Eli’s eyes widened and he released his grip on the man leading him to fall to the ground.
“What do you mean an angel?” Eli was visibly shaken by this. Even though he had committed such a heinous crime he still prayed for forgiveness every night before he slept.
“I’ve been watching for a while now Eli. The murder you committed was the act of a coward hiding behind the bottle. Your wife didn’t deserve to die; but you did. Look at yourself, Eli. You’re not alive at his moment.” Eli looked down at his hands and forearms; they were bruised and turning a deep azurite.
“What the fuck did you do to me, man? What the fuck?” The angel laughed once more.
“I have done nothing. You brought this upon yourself. When you fell in that puddle you didn’t survive. Your head smashed upon a rock and you died on impact. You’re dead, Eli. That’s it.” Eli began crying for the first time in eight years. He fell to his knees and held his head in his cold, lifeless hands.
“If you’re an angel,” Eli said through his sobs, “then I must be going to heaven, right? Did God answer my prayers?” Eli was looking up at the man with tears still running down his face. The man smiled once more.
“I’m no angel of God, boy. I only obey Lucifer.” Eli’s tears stopped and his jaw dropped. He began to shake his head violently and cower away from this man.
“No, no, no. This can’t be true. I prayed! I payed for my sins and did my time!” The skin of the man shedded like a snakes and large wings erected from his back. Broad horns began to sprout from his head and tapered into dull points. Thick, razor sharp teeth, jutted out of his gums one by one and blackness blanketed his eyes. Eli scrambled backwards and struggled to his feet before taking off into the forest. He could barely see anything and he knew that this beast would be right on his tail.
“Thou shalt not kill, Eli! You must pay for your sin!” The demons voice boomed off the tree trunks and it caused a loud ringing throughout Eli’s ears. His ears began to bleed and he fell to the ground pressing his palms to his head to try and calm the pain. The demons dinosaur like feet shook the ground as he approached Eli.
“Please! Give me mercy! I have suffered enough!” The ringing was continuing throughout Eli’s ears, however, the demons voice broke through to him.
“Your wife asked for mercy and received none! She was an innocent soul but yours is stained for all eternity! Scum like you deserve no mercy.” The demon reached down and carved a pentagram into Eli’s chest. The flesh began to burn and blister as the monster scooped up Eli in on hand and slowly descended into the ground. Eli tried to scream, kick, and fight but it was all fruitless. The last of the demon’s horns disappeared into the ground and the night was once again silent. The air was now still; the devils work had been done.