I bolted awake in the shitty little motel room I’d been calling home for the last three weeks, with my heart jack-hammering in my chest and my skin coated with a thin sheen of sweat. The room was as dark as an oil slick thanks to the way I’d taped the drapes, already as thick as medieval tapestries, against the wall behind them to keep out even the faintest glimmer of light. In that darkness, however, I had no trouble seeing Whisper standing beside my bed, watching me with a flat expression on her usually animated face.
Whisper’s real name was Abigail Matthews. She’d been dead for a little over three years. Not that that was a problem for me; I can see the dead as easily as I can see the living.
Once upon a time, I was just an average Joe living the American dream. Life might not have been perfect, but you wouldn’t have caught me complaining. I had everything I’d always wanted. I was married to a good-looking woman who loved me as much as I loved her. We owned a house and a good-sized piece of property in a nice little neighborhood in Boston, not far from the law firm where my wife Anne had made partner and within easy commuting distance to Cambridge where I was on the fast track for tenure as a professor of ancient languages at Harvard University. We had a bright, precocious daughter, Elizabeth, who was the best of both of us combined into one. We were happy, content, and as oblivious to the reality of the world around us, to the dark things that move within it, as an ant is to the theory of relativity.
We were living the dream, so of course reality had to rear up and bite us on the ass.
Our daughter disappeared one day, just vanished without a trace from her second-story bedroom. I later learned that she’d been snatched by the supernatural equivalent of the man with a thousand faces: a doppelganger, or fetch, as they were sometimes called, that could take the form of any creature with which it came into contact. That took five long years and what felt like a lifetime, though. In the beginning there was just confusion, guilt, and a desperate need to find Elizabeth and bring her home.
In the aftermath of Elizabeth’s disappearance I’d tried everything I could to discover what had happened to her. When, after a few years, I’d exhausted the usual methods, I’d delved into more esoteric ones. Things like divination, witchcraft, and black magic. That’s when I met the Preacher.
To this day, I’m not sure what he is. Sorcerer? Demon? Something worse, maybe? I honestly don’t know. Not knowing hasn’t stopped me from bargaining with him for what I want, however. He’s appeared to me twice and each time his assistance has proved crucial in resolving what seemed like an insurmountable problem, but, like Faust before me, I always paid a price.
The first time that he appeared, the Preacher offered me a book claiming that its contents would help me find my daughter if I was brave enough to follow it. Inside that book I discovered an arcane ritual, one that was supposed to allow me to see that which was unseen. I performed the ritual, but it didn’t work out quite the way I’d expected. Rather than helping me locate my missing daughter, it altered my sight, changing it in a way I never would have imagined possible. From that day forward daylight has been like darkness to me, the light preventing me from seeing anything but endless vistas of white, like an arctic explorer caught in the whiteout of a winter storm. In the light I was effectively blind and was forced to learn how to navigate through a world I could no longer see.
What was even more terrifying was the fact that the change stripped away the Veil that keeps humans from seeing the true nature of the creatures that move among us like wolves among the sheep and revealed the supernatural world around me in all its hideous detail. The world is a cesspit full of creatures you can’t possibly imagine, all waiting to devour the hearts, minds, and souls of those careless enough to get in their way.
That night I discovered the monsters in our world and they, in turn, discovered me.
It was Whisper who rescued me from the near-paralyzing fear that the discovery had caused. She’s been my comfort, my rock, which is rather ironic given she’s no more substantial than a wisp of fog on a cool summer night.
I hadn’t seen her since the night I lay dying in a New Orleans drainage canal with an FBI agent’s bullet in my guts, when she and the ghost of my dead daughter, Elizabeth, had appeared to me in a vision, showing me the horror about to descend on the Big Easy.
She’d played the harbinger of doom that night, and, given my current reaction to her appearance and the expression of concern on her usually jovial face, I had to believe she had now returned for a repeat performance.
* * *
Whisper stared at me with those ancient eyes, eyes that had seen far more than I could ever imagine, and then she spoke.
“He’s coming, Hunt,” she said, in a voice that dripped omens and shook with an angel’s might. “Run. Run while you can.”
My mouth fell open in shocked surprise; in the three years that I’d known her, Whisper had never said a single word. I hadn’t even known she had the ability to speak.
The raw power in her voice had the hair on the back of my neck and arms standing tall in response, and I realized that in that moment I was afraid of her. The fear, her message, even her very presence had totally flustered me, and it took a few seconds to wrap my head around it all. I must have looked like an idiot, propped there on my elbow with my mouth hanging open, but finally my brain caught up with what was happening and her words registered.
I sat up and swung my legs out of bed, suddenly, irrationally afraid of the emptiness of the room around us, as I asked, “Who? Who’s coming, Whisper?”
She glanced toward the door and then back at me, a look of such empty sadness on her face that I wanted to weep at the sight of it.
“Too late,” she whispered and then abruptly faded from view.
No sooner had she vanished than the door of my hotel room was kicked open with a splintering crash.
Copyright © 2013 by Joseph Nassise