Copyright © 2013 David Bernstein
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
The demon ran through the woods of Black Rock Mountain, just outside of the small hamlet known as Salisbury Mills, a small town located in Upstate New York. The hell-fiend’s powers were weak. It had to use them to defend itself against the throng of villagers that were chasing after it.
The demon had taken over the body of a local farmer, a sick and twisted man who enjoyed killing children. The human had been easy pickings, and perfect for the fiend. But the demon had lost control and was careless, killing too many, too close to home.
The murder spree had been euphoric, its favorite body parts there for the taking. Oh, how it reveled in the pain of others. It had gained the attention of the townsfolk and its constable, a man with a keen nose for solving murder.
The demon heard the villagers’ footfalls and the snapping of branches as the townspeople pursued it. With the Sinerth, the tome of suffering, in its possession and knowing its time would be up soon, the demon headed for the shack where it had brought its victims—the place it had built the ceremonial chamber.
Bursting through the door, it only had minutes to hide the book. It stepped over the corpses it had acquired, the five bodies positioned to form a pentagram. The place was rank with the odor of blood, the metallic smell exciting the fiend. Seeing what it had almost accomplished—the bodies, the altar, the blood bowls—the demon cursed itself. It had been so close to fulfilling its duty.
Opening the ancient tome, a book made from human and demon flesh, the fiend read a spell of resurrection. The fiend felt its power drain further, the spell a powerful one. Then using the blood in one of the sacrificial bowls, it splashed each corpse on the head and poured the remaining blood onto the page containing the spell. Black smoke sizzled from the parchment and rose into the air, spreading out like a swarm of agitated bees. The dark cloud broke into five separate funnels, then shot into each of the corpses’ mouths.
“Come out, demon,” the town’s priest demanded.
Torchlight flickered against the shack’s windows, through which the demon saw the angry mob. Standing beside the priest was the constable, a rugged and hardened man from the town. Most of the villagers carried farmers’ tools, axes, pitchforks and sickles, but a few had double-barrel shotguns.
The demon couldn’t hope to survive, but the book would at least be safe until the creature returned. How ever long that might be, it did not know, but unlike this time, it wouldn’t have to wander the countryside looking for the tome. It would know where to go, having secured it properly, and would be able to go to work on its task and redeem itself, for surely its master would be furious at its failure.
The dead bodies rose to their feet, standing before the demon, ready to do its bidding. Pointing to the door, it commanded the undead to attack the villagers and keep them at bay for as long as possible. The soulless things exited the shack, fear unknown to them.
Gunshots rang out. Villagers screamed.
With the townsfolk occupied, the demon had time to hide and secure the book. In the far corner of the building, it wrapped the tome in an enchanted cloth, a cloth that would help keep the book’s powers at bay, yet still allow the thing to be active.
Next, the fiend pulled up a set of the floorboards and placed the book inside before replacing the planks of wood. With the book covered and out of its grasp, the demon grew even weaker, having used most of its strength to raise the dead.
The gunshots had stopped.
“Burn the unholy place,” one of the villagers yelled, and the entire crowd began chanting.
“Burn! Burn! Burn!”
The demon heard the thuds of the villagers’ torches as the flaming sticks collided against the shack’s walls and roof, hoping to turn the place into nothing more than a pile of ash. But the building wouldn’t burn—no, and the demon knew this—for the ancient tome protected its place of rest. Not wanting to take a chance that the villagers would venture inside, the demon ran outside, stopping a few feet from the lawman.
The crowd went quiet.
The priest began reading from the Good Book.
The demon felt the man’s words pierce its flesh, like thousands of needles puncturing its skin. It was too weak to flee or fight, and the man was a true believer. At full strength it could have silenced him, ripped out his tongue and eaten it.
Fighting through the pain, the demon laughed.