Mastering Grief

Selin Serhii/Shutterstock.com

“Let’s make a deal.”

Two eyes beamed in the shadows of the night-darkened alley, each a bright arctic blue. The demon’s cold reached me from the other side of the street and I took an involuntary step back, mist pluming from my mouth like pipesmoke.

“Some sort of trade, perhaps?”

I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the way its whisper filled the hollow spaces of the world. I could feel that unholy voice reaching into my ears, curling icy fingers around my mind. A dangerous entity, and one whose tricks I knew too well.

“No,” I said. “No deal.”

“Are you sure? I can be persuasive.”

It stepped into the moonlight then, a slender, masculine creature with skin the pale blue of an Alaskan glacier. I moved across the lengthening shadows on the wall, already growing cold with frost, and the demon followed with unblinking eyes.

“I sense within you a terrible grief. You had a daughter, Cindy, but she died when she was…seven? Tell me, what would you do if I could bring her back?”

Despite knowing what it was capable of, my breath caught in my throat and I almost tripped.

“How do you know her?”

I circled around to the alley’s opening, keeping the demon within my sights.

“I know many things. You humans regard the world with your poker faces and believe your secrets are safe, but your mind is an open book. I can feel your pain. She must have meant a lot to you.”

“She was my whole world.”

I approached the opposite wall, shivering now that the air between us had dropped to subzero temperatures.

“Yes,” the demon said, “and you would do anything to get her back. I understand. I would consider it fair trade for leaving me alone. I suggest you take the offer. You know I can do it, and it’s not every day one has the opportunity to reunite with those they’ve lost in death.”

As we continued our dance across the dark length of the alley, as I peered into those cold and calculating eyes, I thought of my sweet Tinkerbell, so nicknamed for her love of all things Disney. I pondered her last moments on Earth, overshadowed by terror moments before a demon much like this one reached into her body and pulled out her still-beating heart, moments before it sucked the warmth from her drooping, failing body, moments before it dropped her blue and frozen corpse onto the kitchen floor, where it shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.

The demon sneered.

“I’ll bring her back tonight. All you have to do in exchange is allow me to continue on my way.”

At last, I came full circle and reached the wall where I’d first met its eyes. My circuit around the perimeter was complete. I could sense my newly formed ring of protection, thrumming with ancient unseen power. The demon sensed it too, and its smile finally faltered.

“What is this?”

The air was growing warmer, and I could see that the frost on the walls had already started to melt.

“You tell me. You’re the one who said I was an open book.”

The demon snarled, at last showing its true colors.

“This is impossible! How could I not see this in your mind? How could I not know your true intention from the beginning?”

“Grief is a powerful emotion. Some are consumed by it. Others hide behind it. I bear mine in the open, and in so doing have learned to master it. You sensed my pain and were unable to see past it. You thought it would give you the advantage, and I used that to my advantage.”

I pulled the ring of protection closer and the demon thrashed, its soul wriggling in my hands like a worm.

I peered into its fading eyes and said, “This is for Cindy.”

Then I pulled the ring into a knot and sliced the demon in two.

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Moving abroad, so no blog this week

My wife and I are now boarding a one-way flight from the Philippines to our new home in California. Check back next week for a new story 🙂

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Soldier

Aleksandar Mijatovic/Shutterstock.com

“A weapon of incredible power,” they said. “A technical marvel. It will crush the enemy, and in so doing, bring peace.”

I was young and idealistic and I believed them.

“Help us,” they said. “Your country needs you.”

And so I packed my bags, and when the sun set and the dark of night set in, I left everything behind and followed after them.

“Let us change you,” they said. “We’ll make you stronger, faster, more agile. With your enhanced abilities, you can wield this new weapon of ours and help us usher in an age of peace.”

Once more I believed them and, without hesitation, offered myself in service to my country.

They gave me injections to change the way I see, cast spells to alter the appearance of my skin, summoned deities to transform the way I think. One by one, they deconstructed every aspect of my being until I was no longer human, no longer a person of free will at all but a slave, and when it was done, they cast me back into a world that could no longer accept me.

I see things differently now.

Among all the people in the world, there are only strangers and enemies. The former I shun as reminders of my former life, and the latter I stalk from the shadowy underworld that’s become my new home with a terrifying clarity of purpose that haunts me whenever I close my eyes and dream of what it was like to be human.

My enemies never see me coming, not until my eyes have filled with their terrible blue light, and by then it’s already too late. I see their fear before the power inside of me is unleashed, and in those dark and desperate moments, I am forced to come to terms with what I’ve become.

I was never meant to wield their weapon.

I am their weapon.

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