"You already have everything you will ever need to defeat the demon.
The time has come to fight back!"
I read the words repeatedly, trying to get some meaning from the message. I examined everything: the jar, the mahogany box, the purple cushioning, and the paper wrapping. I studied the parchment and the handwriting on the note intensely, looking for any hint or clue to its origins. Eventually, exhaustion from my intense concentration let sleep creep up on me, and I began to dream. It was a memory from when I was nine or ten. I could hear the wet squishing sounds again and I was crying. Mr. Wink emerged, weak and staggering as if in pain. He made his way to my bed and hovered his shaky hand over me, the mouth from its palm already exposed and ready to feed. I didn't understand. He had just fed off me a couple of weeks ago. Why was he back so soon? I hadn't recovered fully from the last "milking."
He began to eat. He went deep, deeper than he had ever gone before. The tendrils dug into my soul and milked every last drop of the nourishment I held. He did not stop! I had a sensation of twisting and pulling within me. It hurt, and I felt the touch of death. In my mind, I heard something rip like fabric. The deep tearing sensation resonated throughout my entire being, but not only in the body in my dream. The infliction of this incorporeal wound was upon my physical, sleeping body in the here and now! I think it tore my soul.
In my dream, Mr. Wink dropped my limp body to the ground and stumbled out of sight, apparently still injured from some mysterious encounter with an unknown assailant. Darkness fell, and consciousness quickly began to slip away, I lay there unable to move. I wondered how could anyone hurt Mr. Wink. He was invincible. Wasn't he? That is where my memory of that night ends, but I stayed in the moment and lingered within the dream.
I laid there, no longer as a child, but fully grown as I am today. I felt my life hemorrhaging from deep within me. Tears began to spill over and run down the side of my face. I wept for the life I never had. I mourned for all the pain others endured because of me. I grieved because I had finally accepted the truth. It was over. There was nothing left to save.
I waited for the end. I waited in the darkness.
A tiny spot of light appeared and grew into a piercing blue-white sphere that cut through the darkness. It filled the entire room with a vibrant radiance. Still unable to move, I watched as a figure emerged from the light. Standing over me was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Her loveliness was not from soft and colorful things. She was beautiful in a way that only a warrior could be beautiful. Her elegance glowed with kindness and fairness. She had the grace of one who was righteous and loyal. She carried a presence capable of extreme violence and unimaginable brutality; ruthless and without tolerance or remorse towards any evil that would rise against her.
She kneeled beside me and cradled my head in her arms. She looked into my eyes and smiled. It had been so long since anyone had looked at me with such affection. She caressed my cheeks and told me not to worry; everything would be all right. She said my soul was precious and pure and promised that soon there would be no more pain. I felt something step on my chest and begin to purr pleasantly. I lowered my eyes and saw my little kitty from so long ago, now fully grown, looking back at me with large, almond-shaped, blue eyes. The woman told me that its spirit was raptured from the grasp of the beast and spared the pain inflicted on its physical form. She said, never had the cat truly left me. He had always been at my side in ways I would never be able to perceive or understand. The noble cat served as the keeper of my light, preventing the beast from fully extinguishing my flame.
She placed her hand underneath my head for support then asked if I was ready. I answered her with my eyes. She laid her other delicate hand on my forehead, and she went deep. She went deeper than Mr. Wink ever could. Still, she went even deeper and deeper until she reached the point where I was bleeding a vital life force and essence that exists in the depths where the soul rests. She touched the wound momentarily and then gently withdrew, halting the hemorrhaging. I sat up, feeling the strength return to my body. I immediately grabbed my kitty and enveloped him in my arms. He rubbed its face against mine, purring even louder. The woman then placed both her hands on my face, gently kissed my forehead, stood and turned to leave.
Reluctantly my kitty withdrew from me and followed her. Before entering the light, she turned once more. She looked me up and down from head to toe. This time, a much different type of smile spread across her lips, her eyes narrowed and held my gaze with a commanding intensity. With the beauty that could only come from a warrior, she spoke with a depth of a goddess:
"Your enemies WILL tremble."
I woke with a start. I was in complete darkness except for the moonlight spilling through the cheap old curtains. The sun must have set hours ago. I was still breathing heavily from the dream. It felt wonderful to be loved and held dear by someone. I had a warm feeling travel throughout my body, tingling up and down my spine. I smiled and spoke aloud to the mysterious woman, "Thank you."
As the words left my mouth, I saw my breath form into wispy puffs of vapor and rise into the air as it does on cold winter days. The hot, summer night was replaced with a chilly air that poured onto me like cold ice-water. In the mirror hung across from me I saw the reflection of two red eyes peeking over the top of the chair from behind. His chest was rising and falling from pants of pure rage. He pounced with a force fueled with malicious savagery. The murky cloak of mist quickly took hold of me, and he began to cut.
He started slowly. The pointed tips of his claws scraped against the skin of my belly. With the skill of a surgeon, he gradually pushed down and embedded each claw into my flesh. Mr. Wink muffled my screams with his other hand. His mouth emerged from his palm and began to lick and bite perversely on my face. The tongue relentlessly tried to pry my lips forcibly apart to enter into my mouth.
Mr. Wink continued his torment of my flesh, licking and spitting on every cut. I knew this would be the end; even if I survived the night, the infection he carried in his saliva would consume me. He had never been this violent before. He somehow knew of my visitor. He was enraged and now viewed me as "rotten" and "spoiled". I had been made undesirable, and now he meant to kill me.
Through the cloud of pain, a flash of movement from behind Mr. Wink caught my eye. Something gracefully jumped to the top of the television from the floor. It sat with stillness in a regal poise unique to the feline species. It watched me intensely, then slightly cocked its head. The tiny movement was enough to catch and reflect the moonlight in its eyes, and two vibrant green orbs exploded into existence.
I remembered those eyes from long ago!
The shape slightly nodded its head as if tell me, "Do it! Yes, do it!". I looked at the small shadow and did something I have never done before. I lifted my eyes and looked into that face that had haunted me for so long. I'd never really looked at it, not with any real attention to detail. I never saw how black the eyes were; round and ugly. I never noticed the flaccid skin the eyes were nestled within, making them even more hideous.
(My hands began to twitch under the oppressive force of the mist.)
The jittery frantic eye movements clearly showed excitement at what they saw: my suffering. A rage began to emerge within me like a hot liquid.
(The mist melted away, and my hands slowly closed into fists.)
The hate for this creature swelled inside of me.
(The muscles in my arms, legs, and chest contracted as the mist stretched beyond its capacity and began to snap like strands of rope.)
It was at that moment that Mr. Wink noticed me looking at him.
(I cocked my arm back as far as I could go.)
For a split second, we made eye contact. Every one of those dirty, ugly eyes focused on me, and a look of confusion spread across his face. It paused in uncertainty and slightly loosened his grip on me. I knew this was my only opportunity. I took it, and I struck! I drove my fist towards the center of his face with a right-hook powered by twenty-two years of fear, pain, and despair.
To my complete astonishment, my arm cut through the paralyzing mist and my fist made contact with a very satisfying thud directly to the face. Unprepared for the blow, Mr. Wink's head snapped back like a rag doll! It stumbled backward with his arms flailing wildly in the air before crashing into my cheap dinner table. It was almost comical in its fall. I stood there astonished at what I had done. I looked down at my fist and saw redness on my knuckles. It wasn't redness from bruising or damage; they glowed softly like molten steel. Mr. Wink lifted his torso like a venomous snake and looked at me. The misty formation swirled frantically around its body. The accumulation seemed to appear heavier around the face, giving it the appearance of tears welling up in his eyes. The look on his face showed both surprise and bewilderment as if he were saying, "You hit me?"
The feline shape, which was now much more recognizable, climbed on top of an end table to our left. It casually licked its front paw to clean his face and ears. With sporadic glances in my direction, it tried to feign disinterest. I knew better.
I stood over Mr. Wink and kicked him. I kicked him again, and again, and again. I grabbed him by the throat and went into a blind rage and unleashed a barrage of blows fueled by fury and hate. Mr. Wink collapsed once more to the ground. He howled in indignation before picking itself up. With outstretched arms, claws out, and a loud hiss, he attacked with his incredible speed, zipping from the floor, then to the ceiling, and then clinging alongside the wall with a velocity almost too quick for the human eye to perceive.
At the onset of his attack, my sight suddenly shifted to follow his movement. Like a reflex, everything within my vision slowed down to a slow-motion crawl. No, that wasn't quite right. I could still see him maneuver with his actual superior speed, but at the same time, I saw him at a snail-paced speed. When Mr. Wink went in for the kill, I found that this dual perception and unusual ability gave me time to anticipate, avoid, and strike!
Mr. Wink's rage exploded from having all of his attacks countered and blocked. His final humiliation was having his face smashed into the wall using his own momentum. Mr. Wink changed tactics, and his vaporous mist converged on his right arm and solidified forming a pointed blade. His cloak of mist separated into numerous whip-like strands and began snapping and slashing in the air. Several of the strands caught me on my thigh and chest, cutting me deeply. I quickly grabbed an aluminum bat I kept in the corner for the crack-heads that frequented the area. Mr. Wink lunged at me, and I dodged to the left and then ducked under its follow-up slashes. Another crack from the strands of mist cut me on my hip. He stabbed at me, and I spun as his blade pierced the wall where I had stood only moments ago. In one graceful movement, I turned around from blocking his spear and brought the bat down hard on the base of his skull. There was a satisfying CRACK, and he collapsed in a heap to the ground.
I swung the bat down on the dark shape quivering on the floor again and again in high overhead arcs. Crack! Crack! Crack! His flesh was clinging to the end of the bat in strands of black tar-like mucous. He wailed in pain and agony with each impact.
The mysterious cat jumped down from its perch and began to interweave between my feet, affectionately rubbing against them in a graceful figure eight.
I dropped the bat, reached down, grabbed Mr. Wink by the throat, and brought him mere inches from my face, foreheads almost touching. He conveyed images into my head seeking compassion and forgiveness and saturated me with pleas that begged for mercy and sympathy. All the things never offered to me.
Once more, I did something that it would never have thought possible. I sent a mental image of my own directly into its mind. It was so powerful that oily black blood sprayed out of the corners of his eyes, nose, and mouth. Into Mr. Wink's mind, I slammed an image of a little boy looking up at his mommy and daddy and holding onto one single wish. "I wish I could be normal."
I raised and poised my hand like a mighty cobra and extended two fingers into the shape of hooks. This time, I spoke with my voice. I wanted it to hear me.
"Look at me!" I cocked my wrist to angle his head to face me. I needed to see those eyes. I wanted it to see mine! My kitty jumped up to a chair next to us and began to purr, intently watching the scene.
"Never again will you hurt me!" (My grasp on his throat tightened.) "Never again will you take my voice and tie me down!" (I lifted him up higher.) "Never again will I be your victim!" (I stretched my arm back readying it to strike.) "Never again, you son of a bitch!"
I plunged the two fingers into the large winking eye on his forehead, and I went deep. I went deeper than anyone has ever gone before. I extended my remaining fingers and embedded them into the surrounding eyes and squeezed as hard as I could until the bone ridges of the eye sockets collapse under the force of my grip. I increased my effort and went deeper and deeper.
I was looking for something. I didn't know what it was or even if it had a name, but I knew it was there. I felt something brushed the tips of my fingers. I went a little bit further and got a firm grasp on it.
I pulled it out like it was a carrot buried in the ground. I removed my hand from the wailing creature and looked at my prize. I was holding a bundle of fluorescent roots that encapsulated a wispy, glowing orb. The sphere slightly flickered and slowly rotated within the entanglement of gleaming roots. I don't know why, it was pure instinct, but I shoved the orb into my mouth and swallowed it whole.
I looked down at the mangled form laying at my feet and said, "All the years of pain, hurt and loneliness you inflicted on me—I give it back to you. I don't want it anymore!"
Mr. Wink's body began to thrash violently and convulse with loud screams of agony. His body collapsed on itself as it lost the ability to hold its form. He eventually disintegrated into a mucus-like fluid that continued to give off wispy puffs of vapor.
I heard a sweet meow from behind me. The cat was now standing by the mahogany box containing the glass jar. I opened the box, removed the beautiful glass object, and held its open end towards the remains of Mr. Wink. With an intense swoosh of air, the monster was instantly sucked into the jar. I flipped the lid over and locked down the silver latch. It snapped into place, and I heard an echoing "KER-CHUNK" boom in my mind. The runes etched into the glass glowed a brilliant green and slowly faded. I held up the jar and looked at its contents intensely.
It swirled within the jar with sharp movements as if it were confused and disoriented. It was still alive. Alive, but now trapped forever within the confines of the small container. It would never escape; even if it did, it would never have the ability to cross back over to its realm. Nor did it have any ability to touch or interact with our side of the physical world ever again.
I heard the meow once more and found my kitty had curled up on the sofa. He looked at me, and I knew he was here to stay. He let out a giant yawn and lowered his head upon a cushion. His gaze beckoned to me as if to tell me, "Come, it is time to rest now."
I love my little kitty. He is my best friend in the whole world.
10 Months later
I am driving through the winding roads that line the breathtaking mountainous landscapes of the Oceanside parts of the East Coast. The roaring engine of my brand new Mustang rumbles as I push 95 mph. I slightly press down on the pedal to accelerate the car to 110 mph. I really can't be late for this appointment.
I love the massive sound of my car. It's invigorating. I have always loved muscle cars. I chuckle to myself. It was a hard decision choosing between a Mustang or a Camaro. I liked them both. In the end, I just gave in and bought them both.
In the days that followed that final night, the swirling fluid within the jar began to speak with faint images. The familiar voice made of images were begging to be released. It expressed great suffering. It said it was in agony and the walls of its prison burned its flesh terribly. It pleaded for relief; the torment was too much. It told me it had a proposition to offer. It showed me an abandoned house located in eastern Louisiana. It said to go there. I asked, "Why would I ever do that?" Expressions of goodwill filled my mind. It wished to show me a small sample of the knowledge it could share with me. Against my better judgment, I went and located the old house exactly where I was told it would be.
It was a large abandoned mansion ravaged by time and nature. It was probably a beautiful plantation many years ago. I went to the farthest corner of the west wing and found floor boarding that was slightly a different shade of color from the others. Exactly as I was told there would be. I tore out the floor and found it opened up to a hidden sub-basement that appeared too modern to have been built at the time of the home's construction. I entered the tiny space and found exactly what I was promised - a stockpile of hidden riches and money; wealth beyond my wildest dreams, all for me. Just like I was told there would be.
The entity imprisoned in the jar was giddy and full of anticipation upon my return. It expressed pride in itself for giving me everything it had promised, and now it was my turn. It demanded its freedom for fulfilling its promise. I slowly reached for the jar and carefully held it in my hand. I looked deeply into the glass and studied the symbols engraved on its surface. I studied the oily black mass swirling within.
I gave it a good shake to make sure the viscous fluid would coat the entire inner surface of the glass walls, know how terribly the walls burned its skin. I laughed at the jar and put it back into the chest and closed it. I locked the box and placed it safely in the back of my closet. I closed the door, entirely blocking out the muffled screams of rage.
Learning about this creature was difficult at first. After tireless work, I stumbled onto obscure accounts in the legends of the Native American tribes of the Midwest. I traveled there at once to meet with the tribe counsel, and I told them my story. The men sat still and silent until kindly old counsel elder dismissed the others. Once alone he said, "They are called "Ii Daaka Duushi," "He Who Harvests from Within the Child."
Legend says the Harvesters were known to prey on the many tribes of the plains that flourished in those days. It acquired the young ones and tormented them for their "a da geyu-diwas"- the innocence of a child. The elder revealed that an individual Harvester could have up to 20 children in its "herd" at one time. The life expectancy for the unfortunate child had never been known to exceed 13 years of age. Death comes for the children mostly in the form of suicide.
The old chief looked at me with gentle, but sad eyes and said, "Never in our people's history has a child been spared this fate when the Daaka comes. Many mighty men of medicine and warriors of the Great Spirit have tried. They all failed. None escapes the Daaka's hold. None that is, until you."
He smiled and put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Not only did you survive long enough to come of age, but you defeated and undefeatable enemy. Do you know how you were able to achieve this great victory?"
I shook my head.
"It was by unseen hands outstretched from the spirit world. I feel it in you, and see it all around you. Many gods dwell there, my young friend. They choose their warriors with reasons unknown and will guide and protect us in ways we do not understand and cannot see. They also call upon us to undertake perilous quests. Their ways are shrouded in mystery, quite often giving no explanation or reason for their motives."
The wise, old elder then raised his hands to the sky and sang a beautiful yet powerful chant of ancient incantations sacred to his people. He took his thumb and rubbed it across my forehead.
"Go now, spirit warrior. Go with my blessing. My heart soars like the eagle today, for I have lived long enough to see the birth of this spirit quest you begin. Soon, I will close my eyes to this life and awaken before my father and his father and his father. I will sit before the fires of "Api stoto ke" beside my ancestors where stories of old and brave deeds are remembered and spoken. Under the watchful eye of the Great Sky Spirit, I will honor them with my tale of the rise of a new mighty warrior."
My little cat perked his head up from my lap and offered a humorous meow as if he too had something to add to the conversation.
The old man laughed and turned to the little cat who never left my side. With a joyful grin, he said, "Do not fear. I have not forgotten about you, little one! Go with your brother and ravage the shadow land with the claws of a mountain lion and the strength of a mighty panther!"
That was a year ago.
Now, I spend my days traveling around the country in search of children like me. Since Mr. Wink's defeat, I have put an end to the nightmares of five more kids. When I met the first child, I discovered something amazing. I learned that if the child is in direct contact with me at the same time I am touching the entity, the child will absorb a small portion of my power. It is nowhere near the strength of mine, but it's enough for them to fight back. I have also discovered that objects I touch can penetrate the creature's strangling mist, rendering its ability to form protective barriers useless. The effects are only temporary and short-lived, but still very useful. I particularly enjoy this talent with such things as bullets, arrows, and knives. I laugh to myself, reliving a few fond memories.
Those five entities were just like Mr. Wink and just like him; they are now in my glass jar. Curiously, the liquid level in the glass jar remains the same even after adding the others. I can still hear each one, but it seems that they are unaware of each other. They are confined within the mystical container alone; all alone in a stinging prison that burns their skin.
Today, I am on my way to see a little girl named Joanna, who lives in a small town in Northern New Hampshire. She has the most beautiful eyes and a face that radiates innocence. She has a Vlog and social media page where she shares the details of her sad and lonely life. She is often seen crying with despair at the unending sorrow that fills her life. She doesn't know how much longer she can go on like this. Then, there are the nightmares. She has suffered from the most horrible nightmares for as long as she can remember. She makes vague references to someone who is always watching her, a woman of shadows.
Tonight, when the shadow woman comes, she will find Joanna is not alone. The woman will come for the frightened child, trembling with the terror only a child could know. That will please her. The woman's slithering mist will begin to approach. I will step out of the darkness and gently take the little girl's hand. With a tender squeeze to reassure her that she will be safe, I will softly speak her name. When she looks up at me, I will smile and tell her:
"Tonight, you have the choice to stop the pain. I will give you everything you will EVER need. It's yours! All you have to do is reach out and take it."
"Do you want it? If you do, then now, it is your time to FIGHT BACK!"
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