Free Flash Fiction:
When He Came Home
By: Jae El Foster
When he came home, I looked at him with eyes of disbelief, although I had anticipated him eventually. I had not seen him in seven years, and our past was as rocky as a trip down the side of a mountain. I opened the door and let him enter, feeling as if this was a surreal and uncanny dream.
“Long time no see,” he told me as he stepped through my threshold and embraced me with a hug. I hugged him back, even though there was no emotion in my response.
“Hey, I remember you,” I replied, making light of the situation, even though the heaviness of it weighed me down. “Would you like coffee?”
“Can you add a shot of whiskey?”
I did not question this – I knew him too well – and so I added the whiskey as I poured the coffee.
Setting his coffee on the table before him, I sat across from him and sipped from my cup.
“They’re after me again,” he told me after he drank half of what I’d poured for him. “Still. They’re after me still. I don’t think they know I’m here.”
“No,” I answered, shaking my head, “they know.”
He sat still for a moment. I could see the contemplation in his eyes. He was nervous. His hands trembled around the coffee cup.
“How do you know?” he finally asked and finished his coffee. I stood and poured him a fresh cup with a fresh shot. I gave him his cup and sat again before I replied.
“You returned to the scene of the crime,” I explained. “They can smell you.”
“Well, what are we going to do? We have to end this. I can’t take this anymore.”
I smiled at him and shook my head. In another time – another place – I would have embraced him, comforted him, and whispered promises to him that could not be kept. Yet, presently, I was not willing to sugar-coat anything.
“I cannot protect you this time,” I replied. My coffee was strong – black – and I sipped generously from my cup. “I told you not to light the candle.”
“Please don’t make me go back there.” There were tears in his eyes now, but he tried hard to fight them away. “You remember what happened last time.”
“I’ll walk you to the door.” I stood again and moved around the table beside him. I extended my hand to him. He looked up at me with pleading eyes, but there was nothing else I could do. Begrudgingly, he took my hand and stood.
“Will you go in there with me?”
“You know I can’t,” I explained and smiled again. It was a smile of compassion – one that I hoped could help ease his nerves.
If he did not force away his fears and hesitation, I knew he would meet his end.
“Only you can close this portal. We were meant to guard the candle. We were meant to ensure no one ever lit it.”
“I know,” he responded. His tears fell heavily now, as he was unable to further hold them at bay. They muffled his words. “I’m so sorry.”
“Many evils have escaped.”
I walked with him from the dining room to the hallway. From there, we moved to the last door, at the end of the hall. It was shut and locked, as it always was.
“I don’t want to go in,” he pleaded and tried to take a step back, but I held onto his arm and kept him beside me.
“Do you want them to come out?” I asked. He knew what it meant if they came for him, instead of him making the first move. It would be an end to more than him; the world would suffer his same fate.
I took the key from my pocket – I always kept the key on me – and unlocked the door. Then, I placed my hand on the doorknob and twisted. With a gentle push, the door opened and the flickering glow of fire illuminated my hallway. We could hear them – they were so close. The sounds of their cackles… their whispers. Their shouts of torment and screams of agony filled our ears in such a way that I am certain they had bled.
“Please don’t make me,” he protested, but I edged him ahead nonetheless. “I’m not ready.”
“You have to be.”
Before he could protest further, I placed my hand on his back and gave him a gentle push – a push into the realm to Hell that he had opened seven years earlier.
I had managed to contain the portal when he disappeared, and it had taken everything in me to keep it controlled. Now, after all those years of hiding from this demonic burden, it was time for him to confront and prevail over the evils he had unleashed, and as I shut the door behind him and locked it, I prayed that he would not fail.
As it had been his magic that had opened the portal and as he had been the one that had lit the candle, only he could survive on the other side long enough to close the gateway. If he had not been ready – if he had been weaker than I thought – the world would have perished.
Now, the portal is closed, but unfortunately, it is closed with him inside of it. I will have to select a new apprentice – one who will not disobey the rules that have been laid out for us. One that can be prepared and ready when the time comes again for the demons of Hell to rise to Earth to devour the living. One that will not light the candle and will defend against others embarking to do so. The next time that wick is ignited, we might not be as fortunate as we have been.
Copyright Jae El Foster, 2018