The Last Page
by C Wilson Trull
Erik woke with a start. His heart was racing and sweat poured off of him soaking the sheets. The sudden movements woke Jacquie, she rolled over and asked if everything was OK.
Dazed, Erik looked around trying to comprehend. Nothing seemed familiar in this alien world. Wasn't he just in a bar? A jukebox playing strange music? But they were fading away too quickly, like candle smoke. There was a librarian tending the bar, and she carried... a sword? The look she gave terrified him as she screamed and plunged a sword into his chest. His hand jumped to his chest, and for a second he thought the sweat was really blood.
Jacquie, becoming a little fearful herself asked again, “Erik hon, are you OK?”
“Y-yeah.” he heard the worry in her voice, “Yeah, just a stupid nightmare.” His hands cupped his face as swung his legs around and sat up. Digging and twisting his palms into his eyes he tried to push the headache back into his skull. He looked over in the darkness at her and could see the outline of her worried face.
“I'm fine,” Erik leaned over and kissed her head. “Seriously, go back to sleep. You have an early shift.”
“Are you sure you’re OK?” she called out after him sleepily. Watching his silhouette as he threw off the rest of his sheets and headed for the bedroom door.
He turned and whispered back, “Yeah. Got a bit of a headache, going to grab something.”
As Erik closed the door he saw Jacquie clutch her pillow and nuzzled her face into its soft warm folds and drifted back to sleep.
It was dark, but Erik didn't really need to see, he was running on automatic as he lumbered down the hall to the kitchen and the aspirin in the pantry. All he could think about was getting this dull pain under control and going back to bed. He turned the corner into the kitchen, and flipped the switch on the wall. It was as if someone used a ten pound sledge hammer to drive an ice pick into his skull. The shock knocked him backwards back into the hallway and hit the far wall, sending a picture falling to the floor, cracking the frame.
Grabbing his head with both hands to keep it from exploding, he slid down the wall to the floor and sat, all the while commanding himself not to vomit. He sat for the longest time, and when the pain had reached its apex and he felt it couldn't get much worse, he forced open his eyes. He was half expecting to see Jacquie, standing over him and yelling about the broken picture, but he knew better. She was a very sound sleeper and wouldn't wake for such trivial sounds.
Erik's eyes were barely cracked against this hostile world, which was blurry, defending itself with invisible claws scratching at his vision. His first thought was - who replaced the lights with 10,000 watt bulbs? Erik kept his eyes down to protect himself from the white hot sun that was emanating from his kitchen ceiling. He would stay in the safety of the hall; he’ll get the aspirin once the nausea had faded.
As he sat, his eyes found and focused on a black shape that moved towards him, pushing through the blinding light. Then somewhere in the distance, echoing in his ears, droplets of inky, oily liquid rippled in the shadow on the floor. As Erik raised his eyes he peered through the glare. In the middle of his kitchen he saw the feet of a small child standing in the middle of the dark bloody pool.
Panic filled his mind but his body went cold and numb. He only felt this once before, sitting in the cafe a week ago. He sat, rooted to the spot, not wanting to look, but unable to stop himself. Pale, almost bluish-gray legs, knobby and unhealthy disappearing under a white billowy choir robe, soiled and torn, lazily flapping from some absent breeze. The arms seem much longer than normal and still were covered with welts and painted to the elbows with dark, almost black blood. Long stringy greasy strands of black hair laid around the child’s shoulders and neck.
As Erik looked to its face, the light from the ceiling became to intense, eclipsing it from view. His hand rose to try and block the light and get a better look at the child. His imagination superimposed the goat head logo from the cafe again, but he shook his head to make it go away. Bad move. The pain, which was almost forgotten until now, rattled back and made his brain slosh around. A quick hiss escaped his lips and his eyes closed tight against the pain and light.
He opened them again only to find the child just inches from his face. Erik’s eyes shot open wide and his head bumped against the wall behind him. Shadows that seemed to crawl and wild unkempt hair still obscured most of the child’s features but Erik could just make out hundreds, thousands of tiny teeth grinning menacingly from ear to ear. He felt the child’s hands trace up Erik's shirtless chest and languidly wrap around his neck, leaving a trail of sticky wet blood it its wake. A long black tentacle like tongue erupted form the blackness between the teeth as its mouth yawned open.
Erik’s body shuddered as he felt the wet tongue wrap and lick around his head, pulling at his hair and probing his ear, as he sat helpless. Then an icy chill filled his soul. The child's voice whispered in his mind. “Donovan Kalf knows the thirteenth page”.
Erik woke with a start. The kitchen floor was cold and sticky against his back and the light, while not as blinding as before, hurt his eyes. As he sat up, he quickly looked around for the child, but it was gone. For a moment he doubted that the child was ever there. As he rolled over something crunched underneath his arm. A few feet away an aspirin bottle laid open and a peppering of white pills rested all over the floor. Then he saw the blood. The little white pills were turning pink where they dissolved, scattered in a small pool of blood. Remembering the child's long black tongue, his hand searched his neck and chest.
He could feel the warm sticky wetness of blood around his nose and mouth. Panicked for a moment, he then reasoned, “Damn, nosebleed”. As he wiped it away, he looked back to the pool on the floor and tried to decided the best way to clean up the mess. Then Erik's heart skipped a beat and a lump formed deep in his throat. Tiny child like footprints, trailed through the blood, and lead out of the kitchen and down the hall, towards the bedroom.
Where Jacquie was sleeping.