by JL Mo and Al S
Panic stricken, Paul hid beneath a massive old desk. The Colt revolver clutched in his sweaty hands felt puny and worthless. The slow and deliberate movements of the... thing... approached from
behind. His stomach roiled as he fought to hold onto his sanity. He barely heard the whispered murmurs of his companion hiding with him, over his own fear-gripped, pounding heart. He blinked the
sweat out of his eyes. Slowly, the voice became louder, as if coming from a distant place.
“Paul!” The urgent whisper snapped his mind back. Sophia squeezed his arm, hard. The pain from her nails biting into his flesh helped him to focus. She, too, was sweating profusely, despite the
bitter chill in the room. Her dark eyes held him fast, and he was surprised to find a little courage left inside of him.
“Paul, we have to stop that thing. If it opens the portal, it’s over. For everyone. Okay? Stay with me. I can’t do this alone.” Paul nodded once, quickly, and took a deep breath. He heard it
getting closer. He fought the panic while concentrating on Sophia’s voice.
“The symbols, Paul. We have to destroy the three symbols. Remember the symbols?”
Paul’s thoughts were scrambled. He tried to remember, but couldn’t. He didn’t try too hard; his mind felt dry and brittle, as though the slightest force might shatter him beyond recognition, and
memory felt too strong a force. He shook his head.
Sophie’s voice softened, but her face showed fear. “That’s okay, Paul. That’s okay. Just listen, alright?” She took his wrist, and placed a small, uncapped glass vial into his hand. An amber liquid
glowed softly inside, warming to the touch. He closed his hand around it, and felt the sensation of a comforting embrace. A bit more of his cognizant mind returned.
“When you see the second flash, pour this out on the symbol. Right here, Paul. Look.”
Paul’s gaze followed down to where she pointed. In the space before them, a strange emblem carved into the old wooden floor glowed blue. Evil pulsed from the symbol like nothing else he’d
experienced in his life. He felt his courage draining into it.
“Paul, look at me!” Sophie pulled Paul’s chin up, forcing his gaze back to her own. The blue glow reflected in the sheen of her sweat. Her voice was, once again, patient and measured. “Just wait
until the second flash, then pour it out. Can you repeat that for me?” She raised her chin and spoke slowly. “On the second flash, pour it out.”
Paul’s lips moved, trying to form the words, but no sound came.
“Alright,” Sophie said, “I’ll settle for a nod. Nod if you understand me.”
Paul managed the nod with only the slightest of hesitation. Sophie’s smile was reassuring, if a tad grim.
“Good enough. Wait here.” Her dark form moved silently away. She was going upstairs. To where his friends lay dead. In his wavering recollection, he knew she was the only one left who could destroy
the first symbol.
The vial's soft golden glow and gentle warmth were his last refuge. He knew the gun in his other hand to be a useless thing, a child’s toy, compared to the evil and power pulsing from the blue
symbol at his feet.
Paul gasped at the sound of the thing moving again, ever closer.
A brilliant flash and the odor of sulfur announced Sophie had destroyed the first symbol. The thing screamed with an unearthly howl that strained Paul past what he believed he could endure. A cold,
concussive pulse bit through his clothing, through his skin, and settled somewhere deep inside. He closed his eyes, but kept a tenacious grip on his small vial of warmth. Numbness held him fast.
Paul wasn’t sure how much time had passed when he became aware of his surroundings again. He felt the warmth from the vial first, of course, and then the gun. After a moment, he dared to open his
eyes. The tear-blurred darkness lay thick upon the room, the glow of the blue symbol now dimmed.
The thing’s movements sounded farther away. Paul gasped his first breath in what seemed like years. He slid from beneath the desk. With clenched jaw, he determined to be ready.
A second flash, and the stench of sulfur dominated his world once again.
Having heard the thing scream before did nothing to lessen its horrifying effects. Paul clinched every muscle, dropping his head between his knees, and cried in soul-rending fear. Another
mind-numbing pulse. Somewhere, surely miles away, he heard several sharp gunshots. A voice called, but it was much too distant to be understood.
The last vestiges of his sanity attempted to rally him, to order his hand into motion. Now is the time. Sophie’s face dominated his mind as she mouthed the words, On the second flash,
pour it out.
Paul forced his arm straight over the symbol that he could not look at directly. He tried to rotate his hand, to spill the vial’s contents onto the carved floor beside him. He failed. A heavy gong
sounded somewhere in the house. It was too late. The glow from the symbol next to him intensified.
To Paul’s left, a blue portal appeared, pulsing with a palpable evil. The pull was instant, with paper and debris disappearing into the blue, otherworldly light. Paul braced himself as best he
could against the desk, his face wet with tears. A crash, and Sophie’s form landed hard on the floor nearby.
“Sophie?” Paul’s voice was choked, his throat cracked and dry. She stirred. The suction of the portal grew stronger. Paul felt himself being pulled toward it. Sophie’s body began sliding along the
floor. Her head shot up, she looked back at the portal, then she turned to him, her face mirrored the panic that gripped his heart.
“Do it, Paul!” she screamed. “Do it! Dear God! Do it now!” She scrambled fruitlessly against the portal’s pull. “Now, Paul! Please! Pour it now!” Paul gave another jerky nod, and ordered his arm to
extend once again.
A tentacle slithered from the top of the desk, slowly caressing Paul’s cheek, slithering down his neck, and wrapping the arm that held the golden liquid.
Paul’s mind shattered. The brittle pieces of his sanity blew away as sand in the wind. His last memory, the one that would play over in his mind for the rest of his life, was the image of Sophie
reaching for him while being pulled backward into the portal, her face frozen in a scream.
The final act of his lucid mind was to open his right hand, letting the vial shatter onto the symbol beside him.
Time stopped. Light glinted in frozen radiance from the broken shards of the vial strewn across the symbol. Sophia, her hand still reaching, felt a bead of sweat slide down her face. That didn’t
seem right. In that realization, her body, once suspended midway in the portal, struck the floor. Breath coming in frightened gasps, she scrambled out of the pulsing green light.
She knew that the blue portal would have opened into the creature’s dimension. The thing would have led its brethren into this realm, to claim it as their own. What this green one meant, and why
she survived, confounded her.
Sophie looked over her shoulder. Papers, books, along with other small items, hung in mid-air, frozen in time. Paul sat wide eyed among them, arm paralyzed in its outstretched pose. He didn’t move.
Neither did the sweat glistening across his upper lip, nor the droplet caught in the corner of his eye.
The mucus covered living nightmare that held Paul also remained statue-like. One of the six tentacles that hung where its mouth should be draped over Paul’s head, down his neck, and around the
prone arm. The grey, stomach-churning monster held itself on top of the desk by its two outer tentacles that ended in sharp claws.
Sophie tried not to breathe too deep. The stench it emitted could only be described as moldy, rotten eggs.
Poor Paul. Along with her other students of the supernatural, he demanded to take part in this final stage to keep the portal closed. Sophie’s guilt tugged at her heart, building the lump
in her throat. She’d tried to explain that she only needed two volunteers, but they wouldn’t listen. Now, all but Paul were dead. She turned away from the sight, swallowing the tears.
I should’ve been here alone.
As much as Sophie hated to admit it, had she been here alone, she would’ve been dead before passing through the foyer. Instead, the tentacled one kept to the shadows, killing her apprentices one by
one. The cost of their lives did buy Sophie enough time to find the singular Book of Incantations. With the proper spell and the potions, she was able to destroy the symbols.
A portal now stood open before her. It should have been blue, but now it’s light pulsed green, and the pull was gone. Sophie lifted her hand toward it, and realized she, too, glowed green. But the
glow was not simply on her skin. She felt it deep within, from her very heart and soul.
The shimmering hole stretched its light toward her. Sophie pulled her hand away. The light snapped back to its confines.
She reached out her glowing hand again, and in response, the green light pulled out to her once more. The two points of light converged. A wave of powerful energy pulsed though her. Mind spinning,
body trembling, heart racing, she knew she had to pull away. Before breaking the bond, Sophia heard the Voice for the first time.
It whispered, “I am yours.”
The sloshing sound reached her before the tentacle did. Barely. In that millisecond she felt like a fool for allowing the ancient one to deceive her. It was never trapped in the time freeze.
She kicked back and leaped forward, ricocheting off the bookshelf and dodging the appendage by a hairsbreadth. Books flew in all directions. Locking her gaze on one exceptionally heavy tome, she
hurled it five feet across the room with nothing but her glare, striking it deep into the center of the beast. The thing grunted as it rolled back. With one clawed tentacle, it pulled the embedded
volume from its torso and with another lashed out at Sophie. With a thought, Sophie suspended the obscene creature in mid-air. It thrashed, howling against its unseen bonds, throwing waves of hell
Sophia kept her gaze locked on the creature. She did not know how this new power worked, but the force flowing through her felt natural, as if it had been a part of her forever.
As the creature writhed, she took a step toward the green portal. It stopped fighting, the expression changing from rage to horror. Its head twisted from the green portal, back to Sophie, back to
the portal. Convulsions began to wrack its body, and its howl took on a pleading sound.
With a flick her wrist, the murderous being flew into the green light, its howl now reminiscent of mind bending pain. Sophie clenched her fist, and the portal collapsed. Not knowing the why or how
of it, she raised her arm, and brought it down in a wide arc, and the green portal reappeared, empty once more.
She said, “I shall call you, Sophia’s Gate.” No whisper responded. Perhaps she imagined it. She clenched her fist, and the portal winked out.
She spun to witness Paul lowering his arm, time no longer frozen. “Yes, Paul,” Sophie said. “I’m here. Are you alright?”
“Yes, it’s okay. Are you with me? Can you hear me, Paul? Nod if you can hear me.”
Paul did not nod. He didn’t acknowledge her at all.
She blinked away tears and forced a smile. “We won. You broke the vial in time to save us.” His face reflected no sign of comprehension. She would be dead if it hadn’t been for him. “You did well,
Paul. Thank you.”
“Sophie.” His voice grew weaker. She sighed and sat next to him, wiping the tears from her face.
She bit her lip in thought. Even though she knew he could not comprehend, she said, “If what I think is right, I may be able to rid the world of the massive evil it refuses to believe even exists.
Evil that will destroy everything unless it is stopped. I’ll stop it for you, Paul, and the others who died here. And those who are yet to die in the struggle.”
She gave him a sad smile. “Yes, Paul. It’s me. Sophie the Super Hero.”
Detective Grant, late to the scene, was exhausted. His partner waited for him outside with a warm cup of coffee. That wasn’t a good sign.
“That bad?” asked Grant. Detective Ward nodded.
Grant considered the house as they approached. “Hell of a place. Looks like a genuine haunted house.”
Ward nodded. “Hell, alright. They use it on Halloween. Teenagers dare each other to stay the night. I chased a few off during my beat days. Even the homeless steer clear. It gives off a weird vibe.
People can feel it.”
An officer held up the yellow police tape as the two stepped under it. Ward led Grant up the rotting steps toward the front door.
The June morning was already muggy. Grant sipped his coffee, knowing it wouldn’t be worth drinking soon. “What’ve we got?”
Ward’s voice was heavy. “Six dead. They all look like college kids.”
They stepped into the house, and Grant followed Ward through the foyer into an ancient library. Books were strewn from their shelves, and decayed red velvet curtains hung loose from the rods. An
overall uneasiness stirred in Grant’s senses.
Ward pointed and said, “And then there’s this guy.”
A young man sat slumped against an antique desk. Beside him, some broken glass, and an odd carving into the floor. Staring forward, mumbling incoherently, he didn’t seem to notice their approach.
Grant knelt beside him, listening. After several moments, the only thing he could understand was a name.
“Sophie?” Grant asked, standing. “That what you get?”
“Yup,” replied Ward. “He’s said her name a few times. We believe he’s referring to Sophia Sanchez. There were eight of them in here last night, and she’s the only one missing. No sign of her at
all.” Detective Ward shrugged. “I figure they came up here for some thrills, she kills the other six, and he managed to scare her off with his gun. Oh, there was a Colt sitting next to him when we
found him. Hadn’t been fired. So I guess she fled, but his brain couldn’t handle what he must have witnessed. Snapped.”
Grant nodded. “That’d be my best guess.” He shrugged. “I mean, what else could it be?”
The unseen green presence listened as the two detectives spoke of the dead like they meant nothing. They, nor anyone else would have any idea the sacrifice those people made to protect all of
mankind. To create what Sophie had become. Sometimes, evil must be fought in silence, the warrior-hero unheard and unseen, for some things are too terrible to be believed. It was, Sophia now knew,
her fate to be such a hero. She would continue the fight. Whether mankind knew she fought for them, or not.
She knelt down and hugged Paul.
Grant and Ward glanced his way, and shook their heads. But Paul was smiling.
© Copyright 2021 JL Mo. All rights reserved.