The pain is intense. I want to close my eyes and fade away for a while…I must fight that. If I don’t stay lucid, I’m fucked. I clench my jaw tightly and visualize the victory beer I’m going to have at The Hung Elephant—dark with a thick head and not too bitter. The blood pouring from my back is hot and sticky. I move my hand back to feel the wound. It feels like she missed my vitals and a clot is already forming.

Elyse enters a crypt and pulls someone out from the gloomy enclosure. He’s tall, gangly, and tied up from head to toe. That’s got to be her virgin. She shoves him down onto his knees next to two other bodies and removes his gag. Despite his impending doom, the boy remains stoic. We’ll see how long that lasts.

I drag myself slowly across the icy grass. I don’t feel up to standing yet—and anyway, that would let her know that I’m alive. A familiar burning sensation radiates from the depths of my stab wound. Despite how often I find myself regenerating from wounds, I never get accustomed to the way it feels. I crawl behind a tall tombstone and look up at the sky. The moon is seconds from reaching its peak. I pull my gun with an important decision to make—do I shoot her now or after she’s started the ritual? If I kill her now the boy lives, but if I wait until he’s dead Virgil will be lost forever. It’s a decent trade from where I’m sitting. Elyse begins chanting in some dead language. I pull my gun and take aim from behind the gravestone. The moon shines brightly in Elyse’s knife as she raises the blade above the sacrifice.

Eerie green mist forms above Virgil’s corpse. There’s a face in the mist, Virgil’s face. Elyse grasps the knife with both hands and raises the blade. With a fanatic look in her eyes she plunges the knife down. I’m struck by the thought of that innocent kid stuck in limbo for eternity with an angry wizard. Before I know it, I’ve popped off a round. Elyse collapses and the green mist fades into the night.

I holster my gun and wander over to free the sacrifice; he’s still kneeling beside the corpse. Though clearly emaciated, Virgil no longer looks dead. His cheeks even look a little rosy. I watch for signs of life but there are none, and how could there be? The ritual wasn’t completed. I return my attention to the shivering boy. He has dark brown hair, green eyes, and a face full of freckles. He eyes me suspiciously when I pull my knife, struggling against the ropes as I bring the blade toward him.

“Be still.” Surprisingly, he complies and I cut his bonds. After sheathing the knife, I help him to his feet. “I’ll be right back. Stay put,” I command as I turn and start to walk.

“Where are you going?” His voice is shaky.

“Maintenance shed.”

I make a beeline over sunken plots to a dilapidated shack at the cemetery’s southwest corner. The door is sticky so I slam against it, causing the shack to quake and groan. It takes two more hits for the door to creak open. The shed is filled with rusted old tools like pruning saws and a push mower. When I cased the cemetery earlier I left a gas can in this shed, and it’s waiting for me just right of the doorway. The gas sloshes around all the way back to the bodies. The boy is still standing there trembling when I return.

“Good, you didn’t run off.”

“I don’t even know where I am.”

“Don’t worry about that. I’ll get you home soon.”

I set down the gas and walk over to the crypt where they had kept the boy. I poke around a bit and come across a navy backpack which must’ve belonged to Elyse. I swipe it and walk over to the apprentice’s body. I strip it of valuables and then drag it over to Virgil’s corpse. I walk to Elyse and take back my coat, tonight is damn frosty. The boy just stands there watching me work. Maybe I should’ve sent him to my car before I started moving bodies, too late now. I take two rings and a pendant from Elyse’s body before dragging her to the others. The smell of gasoline fills the air as I empty the red can on the three bodies. I pull a cigarette from the pack and take a few steps back. I motion for the kid to do the same, but he doesn’t seem to understand.

“What’s your name, kid?”

“Henry, sir.”

“Unless you want to be barbecue too you should step back, Henry.” With a sheepish look on his face Henry comes and stands next to me. I take out a match, get my cigarette burning and then toss the little flame onto the bodies. They light up with a whoosh.

Henry looks up at me. “You know, those will kill you.”

Without thinking, my hand finds its way to the freshly healed wound on my back. “Doubtful.” I take a deep drag. “Let’s get out of here.” I’d hate to be here when the sheriff arrives.

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I'm from the small farming community of Sutter. I find myself equally at home in the woods or at a bar. I dig The Joe Rogan Experience, the comic series Berserk, the art of John Bauer and Game of Thrones. My interests include writing, shotgun shooting, travel and writing. I have a blog started at http://jdferrin.com/ check it out!