The mist curled its way through the deserted streets of Detroit. It caressed the rough surface of the roadway before climbing the curb to reach for the buildings standing in silence before it.
The mist drifted through the destroyed neighborhoods. It seemed to absorb the ruin and rage that had brought this once prosperous section of the city to such a state of decay. The mist grew thicker as it passed over broken homes and broken cars, pausing to listen to the echoes of broken lives.
It climbed over highways and oozed through intersections heading towards the inverse pyramid building on the edge of the Detroit River. The chill that followed it seeped into the earth and seemed to pull life out of the foundations of the city.
Slowly, the mist wound itself up the side of the building. It was cloaked with the thickness of the night as it wrapped sinewy arms around the tower. Up and up it went, silent and cold, pausing at windows and looking in on the sleeping owners of the condos this building held, lusting greedily for the humans who were blissfully unaware of the closeness of Death. A call from its master tugged at it, tearing its thoughts from the innocents lying just inches away. It continued up the building, not hurrying, but not resting, until it reached the penthouses at the top of the building. It slowly circled the top floor until it found the target.
The human inside this set of rooms was not off limits. Nor was he innocent. He had been targeted for destruction because of a misunderstanding. This one had not been forthcoming when asked to return the holdings he had been entrusted with. The Prince, furious at this resistance, had immediately ordered punishment. This punishment, however, would include a demonstration for all of the other humans that kept specific holdings for the Prince. But what did Death care about reason? Opportunity was its only concern.
Death passed through the cement and steel, glass and fiber until it had entered the rooms occupied by the man. It changed its shape and crossed again into the physical realm, taking on the form and mass of an ancient evil.
The spindly legs moved it silently across the carpet. The movement was fluid and effortless. The colorless eyes darted back and forth, searching for opportunities, noting, rejecting, deciding on the course of action that would fulfill its master’s demand and its own lusts.
It entered the bedroom of the human. Watching the sleeping form, it sent mist-like tendrils into the man’s dreams and made its presence known.
The human screamed as the image of the creature invaded his dreams. Panic struck him. In his dream, the man ran away from the beast but could not escape it. It snapped and growled and clawed at the man’s heels as it followed close behind. Teasing.
After what seemed like hours of running yet never escaping, the nightmare faded away and the man, released from his dream, sat up in bed. His face was red, and he was sweating, breathing heavily. He had seen that beast once before, and that time it wasn’t a dream.
Realizing where he was, he fell back into bed, relieved to find that the horror had only been a nightmare. He calmed his breathing and began to relax.
Just as he was falling back to sleep, he felt that he was not alone in the room. He opened one eye and looked out across his pillow to the edge of the bed and beyond. He could not see anything but felt a presence just out of sight. The air grew cold and he heard a hissing noise, like static on a radio that barely cleared his hearing threshold.
“Who’s th-th-there?” he stammered. “What do you want?” He did not feel like a power broker at the moment; a man whose permission was required to run for president or dictator in the Western Hemisphere.
Cold spikes of fear pierced his brain as the answer appeared before him. The beast materialized in front of the man and stood towering above the pitiful human. It spoke to him, forcing its grotesque features to form the words. “You know who I am, and you know who my master is. He is your master as well, however,” the beast paused as it flicked a rough tongue out of its putrid mouth toward the man, “I obey my master, and you do not.”
“I have the money!” the man screamed. “I have already called and converted it to the master’s accounts! I even got it to the accounts in the time allotted! I was not overdue!” The man was blubbering now. He had seen this beast before. He knew what it could do. He knew how terribly it accomplished its one and only task. It took life. No, more than that, it consumed life. And it enjoyed its work very, very much.
The beast paused and queried its master, then shook its huge head slowly back and forth.
The man watched the beasts’ hideous features move from side to side. Each movement in the silent negative statement was like a death knell to him. “No!” he screamed, “No, this cannot be! Master! Master! Where are you? Can you hear me? I’m innocent! Innocent! Do you hear me? You have your money! What do you want with me? What good am I to you if I am dead?”
The man’s hysterical screams fell on uncaring ears. The beast was eagerly looking forward to the kill and moved closer to the man.
The man jumped out of bed, trying to get to the bedroom door. His feet got tangled in the sheets and he fell hard, hitting his head on the floor. The beast did not want circumstance to rob him of the pleasure it took from completing its work. Picking the man up, it held him off the ground, staring at him, looking deep into the frightened eyes of his prey. ‘Almost there’, the beast thought. The ‘Look’ the beast sought for was the best part. The prey all had the same look when they realized that there was no hope, no reprieve, no chance of rescue. Hollowness filled their souls and that emptiness was instantly filled with the hatred for their master – his master. The beast enjoyed seeing that hatred interact with the still living prey as they realized that the master also hated them intensely, purposely, completely. This ‘Look’ was a bonus that the beast worked toward. And it was good at its work.
“Time for you to die, Schaller” the beast rasped. The breath of hell caressed Schallers’ face. “Your purpose was fulfilled, now you will be thrown away, just like the scraps of food that you throw out at the end of a meal. So, at least give me some pleasure as you die. Don’t die bravely or quietly”.
It hissed in his ear, “Let your fear show. Let me see it, breathe it, feel it”, each word driving the spike of fear deeper in the heart of the man.
And the killing of Tom Schaller began.