End of this chapter
The barman broke the silence by asking the old man what he used to do in his younger days.
They passed hours in idle chatter about days past. It was as if they had unspokenly established a rule: no demon talk. Bryan said he pushed paper at an insurance company and had women trouble and his father had just passed away from cancer and a car accident had sliced his arm open, and the two men nodded at the normal problems he wove. When the old man – Bryan never did learn their names – said he had better go home, the barman stretched and said he had better be off too, though he didn’t say where to. Out in the 4 AM breeze, he breathed deep as if the air were fresh, though it was just as smokey as earlier. The old man was already hobbling down the street, eager for bed.
“I’m sure you’ve got work to get to in the morning, eh?” The barman winked at Bryan as he tapped the end of his bat down on the sidewalk – tonk, tonk, tonk. “Lots of insurance forms gonna be heading your way.”
“That’s for sure.” Bryan winked back at him. “I’d best go to bed too.”
They both looked up at the hazy glowing sky. God it was good to pretend to be normal, to just be a regular person on a regular night in a regular world. To be just like this guy beside him – an electrician who drank too much and was quitting smoking and whose asshole boss took pity on him because his family…had been killed by demons.
The fantasy ended there, didn’t it?
“It’s a hell of a thing,” the man said.
“Yeah,” Bryan agreed, assuming he was finally talking about the demons and the gates again. “It was good to talk though.”
The man looked at him. “Naw, I mean – Look out!”
The man shoved him out of the way, and a crimson blur sailed past Bryan inches in front of his face. It knocked the man down, snarled and tore his flesh in a spray of blood. As he sputtered and coughed red it turned to Bryan. But Bryan already had the baseball bat in his hand. He only had one arm to use but as he was now it didn’t matter. He swung it at the Eternal and it connected with a crunch that Bryan found wholly satisfying. Bits of skull and brain were sent flying into the street and the thing collapsed as Bryan fell to the side of the man.
He was still struggling for breath, bubbling through the blood in his mouth and throat. Bryan pressed his hands to the gaping wound and blood welled up between his fingers. He had the sudden fierce desire to lap it up, and he had to shut his eyes, though the image of the green lifeforce remained, burnt onto his retinas.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice breaking. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
It was all he could say as the man died on the sidewalk.
When he rose the Eternal was chittering and squelching together, trying to take shuddering breaths. Bryan picked up the bloodied bat in a bloodied hand and brought it down on the thing, over and over, until his muscles refused to go any further. The bat tumbled to the ground – tonk, tonk.
The thing was a grinded mess. He didn’t have much time.
“Not gonna be like you,” he said to it. He started running.