13
Mar
09

from the edge of twilight: hellhound

Vinson is feeling it – ten years of sloth, lust and gluttony on top of a dodgy knee’s taken it’s toll. He’d had a body to crush and to tempt, then he got careless and his knee blew out under the pressure of seven hundred pounds of US-grade football scholarship in a hard tackle. Denied his glory, he turned to other amusements to become HIV+. His friends dried up overnight with his prospects. Life’s unfair and then you die, morality is irrelevant.

Vinson’s crying – I can smell the salt of his tears, the Bloody Mary, pesto and Spanish Fly staining his woolen dressing gown, hear his ragged breathing, heart trip-hammering, the click of the Glock’s slide. Vinson’s rebellion came to His attention. He’d worked hard all his life and had it taken away from him in two seconds of conflict and a one-night stand. He made the deal. So he was offered, what was it – ten years of no consequences, eat, drink and be merry, whatever he wants without remorse or regret? Ten years of whatever you want. Items from menu A, B – you know Hell does standard packages now? Takes all the imagination out of it if you ask me. So few people do. They only ask me not to do. And I always refuse. I love my work.

“Awh-please don’t…” Then he shoots me. See what I mean? I feel the bullet rip open my leg and it slows me down. I punch the tree trunk in frustration and leave a dent that’ll take twenty years to grow over. Vinson’s gun is now empty and he pitches it at me. I feel the muscles on my leg heat and flow like wax. Not silver, not blessed. I fall over as the gun catches me on the shoulder and spins away. When I get up, the leg aches with a bone-deep bruise. In half an hour, there won’t even be discolouration. Benefits of the job. I’m his hellhound – dying from a gunshot would be inconvenient.

And we don’t do inconvenience in our line of work.

“Please! Anything!! Please!!!
“Your time’s up Vinson. You made a deal. Time to pay the piper.”

The full moon slips out from between the clouds. I feel my rancid sulphur breath steam like exhaust fumes as my mouth begins to elongate. My skin crawls with hair that thrashes like grass in a storm, my fingernails split, replaced by inch-long talons. Cartilege pops like knotted oak in a fire and I lose the capacity for speech as the howl breaks free and my legs recurve, the wound almost gone now. Vinson runs – fear-blind, adrenalin ignoring his knee for fifty metres. I salivate at the prospect and the roar that escapes my jaws has nothing to do with morality.

It’s a short race, but a merry one and it always ends with a meal. What’s left of Vinson’s body is washed away by the spring rain or picked at by the other animals when I’m gone. His spirit? That’s someone else’s concern. By then I’m long gone, looking for the next debtor. Like I said, I love my work.

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