This story is by Dinalee Peterson and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
I raced down the street in my car, following Elise’s directions as best as I could. We were going to meet somewhere close to her workplace, and the traffic was hell, as usual. Everyone honked their horn as I weaved through the lanes, trying to get as far away from that creature as possible.
This was supposed to be a new start for us. We had just eloped and planned to announce it to everyone tonight, after work. But, according to Elise, her mother had other plans.
“Okay,” I shouted as I narrowly cut off a pickup truck. “explain to me just how that thing is involved with your mother?”
Elise’s response was riddled with static. I had called her when I first noticed the dark creature on the way to work. She practically begged me to call her if I noticed some weird stuff after we signed the marriage certificate. I thought it was because she was scared of her mother’s wrath since we weren’t doing the big wedding like she wanted. Now, with this shadowy creature chasing me, I wasn’t so sure.
“Sweetie, can you repeat that? I can’t hear you.”
More static was the response. I cursed loudly as something rammed into my back bumper. The force sent the car skidding to the side, and I lose control of the wheel. I collided with a minivan, and both vehicles barreled into the sidewalk. Pedestrians scrambled to get out of the way as their shouts joined the horns in a discorded harmony.
I fumbled with the door handle and threw myself out of the car. A dark shadow engulfed the ground around me. When I looked up, the crimson eyes of the very creature that I was running from stared me down. It towered high above, with its form looking like a human body turned inside out. The skin was charred and dripping black ooze from its limbs, leaving smoky gobs of tar against the sidewalk.
I felt someone touch my arm. I jumped and turned, meeting the eyes of a man with graying hair. “Are you okay?” he asked. “Do you need a hospital?”
I glanced between him and the creature. “Do you not see the thing standing here?” My voice came out high-pitched, like I just reverted back into a small child.
The man glanced at the creatures’ direction, but his expression didn’t change. “Did you hit your head? Where do you feel pain?”
I looked at the rest of the crowd, and no one else was looking at the thing before me. They were either on their phones or tending to those that were hurt. Others joined the man and asked the same benign questions. Could I be the only one that could see this thing?
The creature began to move, its long arm reaching for my head. I ripped away from the group and jumped back in my car. With the door shut behind me, the creature gripped the top of the roof. With terrifying strength, it slowly pulled the roof off.
I called out to Elise, but her phone had disconnected. The screen didn’t even display her name. I wanted to, at the very least, tell her that I love her. Because as far as I could tell, this was going to be the last time I could get the chance.
Just as the words were on the tip of my tongue, a gunshot resounded in the distance. Black blood started dripping down the creature’s face. It turned its head towards the sound, and another shot went through its arm. There were screams, and I could see flashes of people running out of the corner of my eye. A third gunshot went through its chest, and that’s when I looked past it to see my wife with a rifle.
Our eyes meet and she screamed at me to run. I was more confused than ever, but I didn’t hesitate. I sprawled back onto the street and ran towards her. The creature saw this and tried to grab me. Elise got him in the arm again.
I grabbed Elise’s arm and pulled her around. We both took off, with the creature screaming after us. Soon, Elise led me to a church on the corner of the street. We busted through the door and ran until we reached the end of the aisle. There was no one else, not even the creature, inside the calm building with stone walls and stain glass windows.
When we finally caught our breath, the first thing I asked was, “What the hell was that?”
Elise glanced my way. Those beautiful brown eyes that shone in the light looked dull as she took in a deep breath. “Well, you remember how my mom is an extremely religious person?”
I nodded, still confused.
“Well, to simply put it, it turns out she has a bit of hypocrisy in her actions. For reasons I can’t say now, she’s able to summon demons. And she decided to summon that one,” she pointed at the still-opened door. “because she’s pissed that we eloped.”
I looked into the eyes of my wife, questioning almost everything in that moment. She may have answered some questions, but now there were even more questions that I wanted to be answered. Questions about her mom, and, even worse, questions about her raced around my head. What more was she hiding from me? I wanted to blurt it out, get the answer right then and there.
Instead, I asked her this, “What do we do now?”
She smiled slyly. “Well, if you’ll still have me, I say we run away together. Just like we planned, remember?”
She held out her left hand. The shine of the engagement ring I gave her caught my eye. A similar smile crossed my face as I took her hand and brought her closer.
“Of course I remember, sweetie. I promised you that I’d be with you through thick and thin, Heaven or Hell.”