Reaching up, Fiasco gingerly removes the strange man’s hands from his shoulders. ”Dude, I don’t know how you know my name, or what you’ve been smoking, but you really–”
“It’s about Panacea,” says the man.
Fiasco stops, a hand instinctively reaching to his pocket. “How do you know about that?”
“Lucious? Who is it?” calls his mother from in the house.
“No one, Ma,” he yells back, but he’s looking at the nude guy a bit closer now, sizing him up. “You better start talkin’ man. How the hell do you know about Panacea? Is this some kind of blackmail?”
The man smiles and steps back. “I assure you Lucious Fiasco, this is no such thing. My name is Loriel, Fallen of the High, and witness to that which is not yet!”
Fiasco scratches his ass.
“I have come to warn you, Lucious Fiasco. The Dark Lord wishes to see you fall.”
“No shit. He had me fired for no fucking reason.”
“You do not understand,” says Loriel. “The Dark Lord is very dangerous, and it knows what it is doing. It set you on a path, Lucious Fiasco. It wants you to complete a role in its grand scheme, and if it cannot achieve that, it will settle with your head.”
“…Right. No, that makes sense. Honestly.” Fiasco mutters.
“It seeks to thwart the Architect, Lucious Fiasco. It will see your world burn if need be.”
“Okay, look, I’m going to close the door now. It was awesome of you to drop by and show me your penis and all, but I really need a beer right now–”
“You have the power to stop it, Lucious Fiasco. Find Hasubu, in South America, in a commune near Punta Muerte. She is an ancient of great wisdom. She will help you complete your Panacea. But be warned, Lucious Fiasco, should you stray from the Golden Path, the hands which seek to save may in turn–”
Suddenly, a scaly hooked shaft bursts through the man’s chest.
“What the shit?” Fiasco screams as black blood sprays his face. He falls into the house, scrambling backward, away from the gore, while Loriel’s face falls cold, his body hanging limp on the large blade.
With a squishy sound Loriel slides to the ground in a heap of nakedness.
And then Fiasco sees it.
“What was it?” asks the bartender, leaning in close.
“Well,” says Fiasco, running a hand through his hair. “I suppose you could say it was a demon. I mean, it certainly looked like something you’d see in a classic horror movie. You know, like something between Pumpkinhead and Alien, or maybe something Guillermo Del Toro would’ve made.”
“I do not know these things.”
“Okay, well, suffice it to say, it was pretty ugly. Scaly and thin; joints bending backward; all mouth and no face kind of thing. Horns. You know. I’ve seen a few since then, call ‘em The Hounds. Sometimes they’re big, sometimes they’ve got wings, but usually, they all look pretty similar, and they all have the same weakness.”
“Weakness?” asks the bartender.
“Yeah, and boy did I learn it the hard way. See, there I was, laying on the ground with this beast hovering over me. But I wasn’t scared, I had a plan…”
“Oh fuck! Oh fuck! Oh fuck!” Fiasco screams, his voice cracking like pubescent boy as he wildly kicks himself away from the hulking beast.
“Hunny?” he hears his mother say, but it’s cut short, followed by the sounds of screaming and breaking glass.
It steps into the house, one clawed foot falling next to Fiasco’s face. The thing’s eyeless face hooks down, glaring at him. No, not at him. In him. Through him. A cold chill clenches his stomach.
Somewhere, his mother is whimpering in terror, and all he can think to do is scramble, to scurry back and away, away from this thing as if he can somehow escape it. Then he sees the large, hooked shaft rise from behind it; a grim tail stained black from Loriel’s blood and glistening under the living room lights.
The beast growls out a throaty laugh.
“Feeeeeskooooo” comes a deep rumbling from its chest. “cuuuuuume… waaaaaaath… meeeee…”
Screaming, Fiasco slaps his hands about, searching for something, anything to protect himself with. He feels one fall on something curved and firm. The demon poises to attack and without a thought, he pulls it out in front of him.
The beast stops.
Fiasco gasps, hiding his face behind the bottom of the basket.
The beast steps back.
The kittens on the other end of the basket mew.
“So then I realized, it’s scared of these little things! It’s staggering away while I rise, bravely holding out the basket. My girlfriend wept behind me, her bosom heaving while I pushed the beast a step away, turning the tables!”
“Lucious!” shreaks his mother, “Lucious, what are you doing?”
Fiasco is pressed back against the couch, the plastic cover forgotten, a kitten in both hands. “Shut up Ma! I’m thinking!”
Then, without a thought, he throws a kitten at the beast.
Everything he knows, everything that makes sense, this is when it all turns around. The kitten transforms mid-flight — from curious, confused and gentle, its newborn eyes suddenly burst open; mouth agape, its snarl revealing an unspeakable, fanged rage! It lands on the demon, and with the fury of a snake scorned begins ripping into it. The room echoes with agonizing roars as the hound falls to its knees, the little kitten scurrying along its body, nipping, tearing, shredding the monster. Each bite sizzles with green smoke, melting flesh like salt on a slug, permeating the room with an acrid stench. Fiasco’s stomach lurches as he stares upon the putrid sight.
And just like that, it stops.
All that remains is Muffles, the day old kitten, amidst a glop of hound waste, all close-eyed and trembling.
For a long moment, there is only silence.
Then Fiasco’s mother starts screaming again.
The bartender bursts into laughter. ”You are a funny man, stranger,” he says.
“Funny. Yeah.” Fiasco smirks under dark eyes.
“I like your stories. Please, tell me, what happened next?”
The song changes over from the jukebox, and still the woman dances. This time it’s Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Fiasco leans back a little. “Well, I’ll be honest. This is where it gets a little weird…”
© 2012 J. Chris Lawrence