Muddy Stars (A Chuck Wending Challenge)

Posted: January 18, 2016 in Fiction, horror, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

This week’s challenge– pick one of ten predetermined titles and write a story with it. Target goal was about 2000 words. I ended up with a bit over 1700.

I’ve used Carlisle before, and he’s a character I’m playing with a bit, getting the feel for him and what he’s about, so I’m grateful for the chance to take him out for a spin again.

Carlisle sat at the bar, the ice in his whiskey slowly dissolving. Vintage Tom Waits oozed out of the sound system’s speakers as the bartender wiped a cloth over the same part of the bar for the hundredth time. Carlisle wrinkled his nose as the door opened, a blast of frigid air sweeping through the space. Conversation ceased for a moment as the barflies huddled into themselves, a few eyes turning toward the entrance.

A woman entered, the bulk of her coat and her giant flouncy hat not betraying her appearance. She stepped across the room, agile as a cat on her boot’s four inch heels. Carlisle didn’t look up even as she took the stool next to her. Out of the corner of his eye, he did see her wave the bartender off, watched as she peeled her gloves off, leaving them draped over the scarred wood of the bartop.

“You are a hard man to find, Mr. Carlisle.”

Carlisle’s mouth turned down in a frown. He picked up his whiskey, swirled what little ice was left around in the amber liquid. “And yet here you are.”

“I was told you could help me.”

Carlisle turned to the woman, whiskey now forgotten. “I don’t run a charity.”

The woman smiled. “I was told that as well.” From the bag she wore, she produced a long box of ebony wood. She set it on the bar, flipped open the golden catches. Carlisle placed his hand on the top of it before she could fully open it.

“Not here.” He stood up, walked toward the door. He grabbed his leather jacket from the coat rack and went outside.

The woman found him waiting under a street light on the corner. Snow drifted down from the sky, coating everything with a fine white powder. Despite the overcast sky and late hour, he kept on his dark tinted glasses.

“You want someone found.”

“How do you know?”

Carlisle shrugged. “It’s a gift. You want someone found. It’s not someone you hold any particular affection for either, otherwise you wouldn’t be coming to me. You expect violence, which is why you have a stun gun tucked into that bag.” His hand struck viper-quick, closing over her wrist. She gasped in pain as he twisted, his other hand pulling up on her coat, revealing a blue design tattooed on her inner wrist.

“You’re a witch,” he spat, releasing her wrist.

The woman pulled her coat back down. “My name is-”

“I don’t care.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Lady, I’ve been doing this longer than you’ve been alive. Do me a favor and don’t bother telling me your name. It isn’t as if you were going to tell me what your real name was anyway, correct?”

“No, but-”

“But what?”

“Aren’t you at a disadvantage then? I do know your name, after all.”

Carlisle smiled, revealing too many too sharp teeth. “You know a name. It doesn’t mean you know my name. So who do you want me to find?”

The woman frowned but nodded. “We, that is the coven, have an issue. We are hoping it can be dealt with discreetly.”

Carlisle raised an eyebrow. “All right. I’m not usually known for my discretion, but I can see what I can do.”

“We held a ceremony last night. Something went wrong.”

Carlisle shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You called something up you could not put down.”

“Yes.” The woman paced back and forth. “And now it is out there. We believe it has already killed at least three people.”

Carlisle sniffed. “Yeah, all right. And the last thing you want is some other party out there to come across it and figure out how it got here, am I right? That’s why you came to me.”

The woman smiled. “You do have a certain reputation along these lines.”

“Yeah.” Carlisle felt the beast inside of him growl. It disliked competition, and if there was another malignant spirit running loose, it represented the worst sort.  Even worse if it managed to bond with a mortal. He looked up at the sky, drew a long breath through his nose, held it and slowly exhaled. “Meet me here in two days’ time. With the payment.”

“And if you aren’t here?”

Carlisle smiled. “I suggest leaving town, because it will still be out there,” he gestured across the rooftops of the city. “And I’ll be dead.”

#

Carlisle sat on a nearby rooftop. The snow had stopped and he’d cleared a space to sit down without soaking his clothes. He set out four candles around his body, their flames flickering fitfully in the wind. He placed  a bit of black string connecting the candles together. He pricked his finger with a needle, squeezing a drop of blood into each flame. He concentrated, his lips reciting a mantra as he focused his will. The flames went from orange to blue to green. Carlisle felt the beast inside starting to wake, the scent of magic stirring it to action. The flames from the candles leapt into the air, coalescing into a small, fiery figure. Carlisle stood up and broke the string. The flame spirit danced in the air, its small form looking to home in on the rogue demon. Homing in on the source, it danced through the air, wanting to speed ahead but bound to Carlisle by threads of magic and will.

Carlisle followed after, refusing the temptation to give in to the beast, knowing that he will need its speed and strength soon enough. He took a fire escape down to the street, the flame spirit beckoning him on, impatient to be gone. Carlisle jogged through deserted streets. Snow started falling once more, blanketing the city in silence.

After half an hour, the spirit ceased in front a descending staircase. The door at the bottom of the staircase was a jar, a dirt yellow light streaming across the accumulated snow. Carlisle sniffed the air once more, catching the coppery scent of spilled blood and the richer, fouler scent of recent death. Good sense said to walk away, forget about it. Leave town, let it be someone else’s problem. But this was Carlisle’s territory, his city, and he was already damned.

He took the steps down one at a time, and as he walked he let the beast inside out. He felt his body getting taller, heavier. Dark thorns sprouted from his skin, dripping a thick green ichor. His nails lengthened and hardened into claws. He stooped under the door, the horns on his head gouging furrows into the metal.

Inside the room, the walls were caked with blood. Limbs from at least four people were strewn about the room, blood sprayed over the walls. A single bare bulb swung back and forth. In the center of the room hunched a great, bloody figure. The demon had taken parts from the corpses to fashion a body for itself, a multitude of limbs and heads and eyes. One of the faces, what would have been a pretty young woman with blond hair now caked with gore, turned to face Carlisle.

“Brother! Welcome.” The many mouths opened, the voices creaking and groaning as they spoke. “You and I have much to talk about.”

“I am no brother to you, formless thing.” Carlisle growled from the beast’s mouth. “This is not your time nor your place.”

The corpse demon stood, the ceiling preventing it from reaching its full height. “The stars were aligned. The witches failed to contain me.” The faces smiled. Carlisle watched a maggot crawl out of the nose of the face of what was a teenage boy. “And now I am free, brother.”

Carlisle smiled, showing off the beasts great fangs. He stepped forward, the claws on his feet gouging into the concrete. “The stars are muddy, and the alignment uncertain. Depart now, of your own free will, and I will forget your transgression.”

The corpse demon shuddered. Bones erupted from the flesh, forming a protective armor around it. “This place is rich, brother. More than enough to share.” Doubt crept into its many voices as claws of bone and horn slid out from arms and legs.

“I am not the sharing type.” Carlisle leapt at the corpse demon, claws spread wide. The corpse demon rushed to meet him.  Carlisle felt his claws shear through the bony exoskeleton and into the soft meat beneath. He felt the claws of his opponent tear into his flesh, felt the many mouths gnawing at him, tearing at him. He opened his mouth wide, chomped down hard, crushing a skull in his jaws. The other voices howled. Carlisle felt the many hands of the demon trying to push him away, trying to tear free. Carlisle growled in response, bit down again and again, tearing at the corpse flesh, seeking to tear out the demon essence within.

“The stars were right,” the last head of the corpse demon, an old man with rheumy eyes, wheezed.

Carlisle smiled with the teeth of a demon. “That’s what they would like you to believe.” He crushed the skull under his massive clawed foot, and the building shook with his triumphant roar as the immaterial form of the demon, with nowhere left to go, fled back to whence it came.

#

The woman waited under the streetlight for Carlisle. She worried he wouldn’t show up, but she also worried about what would happen if he did. She stared out into the darkness, thankful at least, that it wasn’t snowing.

“It’s done.”

The woman jumped and let out a small shriek. “You scared me.”

Carlisle smiled. “I know.”

“So it’s done?”

Carlisle tilted his head to one side. “Do you think I’d be here otherwise?”

“No, I don’t suppose you would.”

“The box?”

“Yes, of course.” She’d pulled it from her bag, handed it with both hands to Carlisle.

He opened the catches, stared down at the obsidian blade contained within. His smile sent a shudder down the woman’s back.

“Pleasure doing business,” he said, closing the case. He turned and walked away, his shadow looming larger, bulkier than it should on the wall behind.

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Comments
  1. pitboss14 says:

    This is a good story. Moves along well and I like the character. He’s got style. a jar should be ajar.

  2. jademwong says:

    Okay, I am loving Carlisle. Such an awesome character, I can see why you took him out again for a spin. The story moved smoothly and quickly, so you did a great job.

  3. sdf says:

    Awesome! Its actually awesome post, I have got much clear idea regarding from this paragraph.

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