He threw himself forward, turning, and fell into the bathtub, banging the back of his head on the tiles. Stars flashed before his eyes as he struggled to regain his feet, holding the glass shard out like a weapon. Squinting against the fluorescent light, he made out a dim shape standing in the doorway, hands raised in surrender.
It was a demon, alright, but Will knew instantly that this one wasn’t like the others. If it had been, it would have thrown itself on him by now, snarling and tearing. It sure looks like one, though. It had skin as black as asphalt and a body so bony that you were likely to cut yourself if you touched it. It had razor clawed hands for feet and its knees bent backward. Its face was the most human part of it: two eyes, a mouth, and two holes for nostrils, but that was about as far as the similarity went. Blood red gums were stuck here and there with yellow canines; the eyes were narrow and white with pinprick pupils. It appeared to be smiling.
‘I’m sorry to scare you,’ it said. ‘But I don’t think we could have avoided that, under the circumstances, could we?’ It let out a dry chuckle and dropped its hands, prompting Will to lower his glass shard. His hand throbbed.
‘What are you?’ he said, and winced at the pain of speaking. His throat was sore from screaming.
The demon kept its gaze steady and intense, reading him. Then it began to cough, shoulders shaking and sharp teeth bared in a grimace, an expression so strange that it took Will a minute to realise it was laughing. When it recovered, it gave him a too-wide smile and said, in a voice like dry leaves blowing down a street: ‘I’m sorry, boy. You might not believe this, but it’s as strange for me as it is for you.’ And with those cryptic words, he turned and left the bathroom, light feet barely making a sound on the carpet.
Will immediately panicked, twisting and banging his elbows against the porcelain tub to get purchase. He was suddenly horribly certain that he’d hallucinated the demon, and if he lost sight of it he might never find it again – he would be stuck in the horror of his life. He stumbled out of the bathroom, stepped on a splinter, knocked his hip on the banister, and then breathed a sigh of relief. The Demon hadn’t vanished after all. It was making its way down the stairs on its nimble hand-feet. It glanced over one shoulder at him – coming? – and then continued.
Will followed it into the demolished kitchen. He sat on the only intact chair beside the dining room table – which was almost but not quite split across (from when the big one reached for me and fell. The one that ate Dad). The demon moved past him into the kitchen, filled the kettle with water, and set it to boil. Will watched it, hypnotised by the way it moved, each motion deliberate and considered and light. He got the feeling that this thing could walk across newly fallen snow and not leave a single trace. It made them two mugs of tea and set them down on the broken table, pulling up a three legged chair for itself. Then it extended a hand and smiled.
‘My name is Calvin,’ it said.
‘Will.’ They shook, but Will couldn’t keep from recoiling when he felt the cold hardness of Calvin’s skin. It was like touching an ice sculpture. Calvin chuckled and withdrew his hand. ‘Sorry, I forgot. It’s been a long time since I talked to a human being, let alone touched one.’
Silence. Will looked down into his tea. Flecks of dust floated on the red surface. When he looked up again, Calvin was still there. And so was the rest of his house, broken up and scattered and covered in blood. His mother lay where she’d died, back broken, bent on the living room floor. A backwards foetal position.
‘Are you real?’ Will said.
Calvin nodded, slowly. ‘Yes. All of this is real.’ The smile vanished from his face. ‘I’m sorry for you loss. I’m sorry I’m here at all. Maybe if I hadn’t come, you would have believed what the rest of the world told you. Maybe then you might have found happiness.’
‘My family is dead.’
Calvin nodded again, slowly, and blinked for the first time. It was a lizard blink – no lids: his eyes rolled into his head for a split second, showing pink, and then rolled back. ‘Your family is dead,’ he repeated.
‘Monsters killed my family,’ Will said.
This time Calvin shook his head. ‘No. Demons killed your family. Monsters exist, too. But only demons come from Hell.’
‘Hell is real?’
‘Hell is real.’
Will’s gaze moved from the long fingernails to the pointed black ears and dome head. A real demon. One of the things that had just killed his family. ‘Why should I believe anything you say?’
‘You shouldn’t. You shouldn’t believe anything anyone says. All you should believe is that I am a demon, but I haven’t killed you. And that a group of other demons killed your family. Beyond that… It’s up to you what you believe.’
Will swallowed. ‘I should call the police. I bet someone already has. There was screaming.’
‘No one called the police.’
‘How do you know?’
‘There would be sirens already. The screams were loud, but the humans sleep deep, poor innocent prey. You are alone. I won’t stop you from calling the police, but I’d advise against it.’
‘They won’t see what you saw.’
Will scanned the kitchen. His sister in the freezer. His father’s entrails spilled down the basement stairs. The whole house demolished. In the hallway upstairs was a demon he’d killed himself, a spider thing with its guts mashed into the carpet. That alone had to be enough.
‘I’m calling.’ He stood up, and Calvin put a hand on his shoulder. ‘They won’t see it the way it is. Only you and a few others can see things the way they are. What they will see is a dead family, and a father or,’ he took a breath, ‘brother, who lost his mind.’
‘But there’s a dead demon. I killed one, out in the hall.’
‘If they could put demons under a microscope, they would have done it a long time ago. You could put that steaming corpse right in their face and they wouldn’t blink an eye. I can tell you what they would see, though. They’d see a murdered family, a mentally disturbed survivor, and no motive. St. Harrod’s Home for the Criminally Insane is only an hour’s drive from here, you know. I wonder if they’d keep you long, or give you the lethal injection straight away.’
The demon was trying to scare him, but Will was long past that. He looked absently out the living room window. The sky was turning from black to deep ocean blue. Morning was on the way. ‘Maybe I should go there,’ Will said. ‘I don’t have anywhere else.’
‘Oh, yes you do, young Will,’ Calvin said, and then he put a cold hand on Will’s shoulder and grinned. ‘You can come home with me.’
‘Where do you live?’
One of Calvin’s eyes swivelled around in his head, and Will realised he was trying to wink.
‘In Hell, of course.’