Home > On Demon Wings (Experiment in Terror #5)(5)

On Demon Wings (Experiment in Terror #5)(5)
Karina Halle

“We know. But the reason you quit wasn’t because of the show itself. It was because of who the cameraman was.”

My face scrunched up at the thought of Dex.

“I reckon I’m right, aren’t I?” he said. His jade peepers were looking inquisitively into mine. Man, I knew I was so easy to read.

“Wel , yes. But that’s not the whole thing.”

“So you wouldn’t come back on the show if there was another cameraman?”

“No,” I blurted out. I didn’t even think about it but that’s what my first reaction was. No way, no how. Dex or no Dex, I was done with that whole thing. It was life-threatening, unpredictable and an unreliable way to make an income.

My parents would kil me, if the ghosts didn’t get me first, and, to be honest, I didn’t want to be in any situation that would have me wishing Dex was with me.

He cocked his head. “You sure about that?”

OK. So I wasn’t. I looked down at my yucky rag ful of milk, then up at the counter where Shay and Ash were busy.

I was probably pushing it by continuing to talk to Maximus instead of working.

“I should get back to work,” I said, getting to my feet.

“Hey,” he said, coming around to me. Next thing I knew I was in a cinnamon-scented hug with someone over a foot tal er than me, wrapped in very firm, very wide arms. I had no choice but to rest my head against his hard chest.

“I’m real y sorry about what happened,” he said into the top of my head.

I tried to shrug but he held me there.

Final y he released me and my cheeks went hot from the unexpected intimacy.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said shyly, stepping back and avoiding his eyes.

“You don’t have to answer me now, you know. You can think about it. There’s some other stuff Jimmy has me doing on the side, so it’s not a huge rush. We just think it would be a great thing, for all of us.”

“I’l think about it,” I told him and shot Shay another glance. She and Ash were ful -on gawking at me.

I took a step toward them and was about to tel Maximus I’d see him sometime when he reached out and grabbed my arm. He pul ed me back to him. His boldness surprised me.

“That’s not the only reason I’m here,” he said, and for a change I saw his cheeks flush the same color as his hair.

He dropped his arm from mine and reached into the front pocket on his shirt. He snapped it open, pul ed out a cream-colored business card and held it out for me.

I took it from him as he handed me a pen from the other pocket.

“Could you write down your number? It seems you’ve changed yours.”

“Oh, right. Yes.” I wrote it down on the back and gave it back to him.

“I’m going to cal you now,” he said simply. “Wil you answer?”

“Um, yes?”

“What wil you say if I cal to ask you to the movies?”

“Um…” Now I was total y caught off-guard.

“Um, yes?” he asked hopeful y, his ful lips twitching at the corners. “Don’t tel me you’l think about it.”

I didn’t know what to say. He was asking me on a date.

This was more than surprising. It was intriguing. A rare butterfly fluttered around in my stomach and that’s when I realized I hadn’t felt any cramps for the last five minutes.

I tried to play it cool.

“Yeah, sure, yeah, that would be great,” I stammered.

“Thank you.”

So much for playing it cool.

He grinned at me in return and stuck my phone number into the pocket. He did a mini bow and drawled, “I’l be seeing you darlin’” before turning his sturdy frame around and sauntering out of the shop.

If this was a romance in the South, where he was from, I would have dabbed my face and chest with the rag ful of dirty milk.

I walked back to the counter, unable to hide the strange smile on my face. There were no other customers so Shay and Ash were able to interrogate me uninterrupted.

“Who on earth was that hunk of fine meat?” Shay asked, putting a thrust to her hips.

I laughed. “He’s an old friend of mine.”

Ash stil didn’t look too impressed. He gave me a funny look and turned to clean out one of the blenders. “He didn’t look like just a friend.”

I put my hands on my hips. “Wel he is. He was on the Red Fox episode when we were in New Mexico.”

“Thought he looked familiar,” he grumbled, and turned on the water ful blast so he couldn’t hear me. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought Ash was jealous. Poor guy.

There was a chance he had been sending me signals all along but I was too clueless and self-absorbed to pick them up. Can men and women real y not be friends after all ?

Seemed all my friendships had something unrequited going on and they never ended well .

“You gave him your number sweetie,” Shay said knowingly. “Something tel s me you may be more than friends now.”

I waved at her but smiled and blushed at the same time. I had never given Maximus much thought, despite thinking he was a good egg and a looker at that, but now things were different. Especial y now that I knew how he felt about me. It made my toes tingle.

After I reveled in my giddiness, Shay tapped me on the shoulder and placed a mop in one hand and a disinfectant spray in the other.

“Hate to burst your bubble, girl, but there’s a bathroom that needs cleaning.”

And there went my high.

I gave her a defeated smile while I swal owed my sigh of disgust and trudged off to the women’s washroom with the mop and spray in hand. I entered the empty room cautiously, afraid of the smel I knew what was lurking, afraid that for some reason it would trigger my cramps again or make me lose my lunch. At least I had a mop to clean it up.

The bathroom wasn’t too bad today, despite the shop being relatively busy. I locked the door behind me and got to work, making sure I was both thorough and quick in case a customer was waiting.

I tackled the toilet first, trying not to lean over the bowl too much. The smel was vague but it was present.

While I worked, I thought about how strange it was to have two people from my past show up in the last two days.

First Rebecca, wanting to check up on me – or make me feel sorry for Dex. Then Maximus, wanting me to rejoin Experiment in Terror, but with him, and then asking me out to the movies. It had been a good few months of anonymity, of avoiding the past, of hiding from it. But somehow, it had found me. No matter how hard I tried to stay away from ghost-hunting, from Dex, from that life, I was pul ed back into it. I wondered if it would ever go away and I wondered if there was a reason for it. Something I didn’t understand yet.

Something beyond this world.

I was busy, deep in thought and scrubbing the stopper in the sink, when it happened.

The lights in the bathroom suddenly went out.

I let out a cry of fright. Then a cry of agony.

A rush of pain hit my insides, so intense that I could only drop to my knees on the cold, hard ground. I fel over, clutching my stomach, feeling the slick tiles beneath my head. The ground trembled as if people were running outside of the bathroom, in my direction.

And then I heard a noise I never thought I’d hear.

The consistent drone of a wasp flying around somewhere near my head. I froze automatical y, my breath stopped and I didn’t blink.

The door shuddered back and forth and I heard the cries of Shay outside of it, but I couldn’t pay it any attention.

There was a wasp in the dark bathroom with me.

I’d been in a similar situation before.

Without warning, the buzzing from the wasp stopped.

I felt it land on my cheek, its tiny legs brushing against my skin.

If my world was black before, it now turned even blacker.

Whether it was from pain or from fright, I don’t know. I was gone.

When I woke up, I was lying on a stretcher being wheeled down a hal in what looked to be a hospital. all I could see were the panels in the ceiling above my head as they slowly went past. They were perforated and white, except for the corners, which seemed to leak this black fluid. It came out in clumps, narrowly missing me as it fel to the ground in a splat.

I turned my head, it was as heavy as a pipe, and looked at the person beside me pushing the stretcher. He was a doctor, or a surgeon. He was wearing a mask, his kind eyes focused on mine.

“Not much longer til you meet her,” he said through the mask, the fabric bumping up and down with his mouth’s movement. “Everything is going to be just fine.”

“What happened to me? Where am I going?” I asked, my voice coming out congealed like jel y.

“Hush now; you’l need your strength. The hard part is over. She wil live. You did a great job.”

The doctor took one hand off of the metal handle and laid it on my forehead. His palm was ice cold.

I flinched but felt surprisingly constricted. I looked down at my arms. They were strapped in place by heavy, thick leather.

“You were a great host,” he added. His eyes went across the stretcher. I was suddenly conscious of someone else beside me. Flabbergasted, I turned my head the other way to see who he was talking to.

Her dreads were swept up underneath a white cap, but it was the demon girl from the other night. She had a mask on, covering up those terrible, sharp teeth, but her red, predator eyes were the same.

“Perry, Perry, Perry,” she whispered. A low cackle erupted from her throat. “Oh, you had no idea, did you sweetie?”

What, I tried to say but my lips were too dry.

The movement suddenly stopped and the stretcher was stil . The doctor and demon girl left my side abruptly, and I was alone, strapped down, facing a door at the end of the hal way.

“Hel o?” I cried out.

I lifted my head and shoulders up as much as they could go and looked around me. There was an old man sitting on a chair outside the door, hands resting on a cane, his eyes concentrated on his feet. There was no one else around. I looked down at my legs. I was stil in my Port-Town uniform; skinny jeans, black polo shirt, black apron. There was a sticky, wet sensation on my jeans when I shifted, especial y around my crotch. With whatever happened to me, I wondered if I had peed my pants in fright.

A weird skittering sound, like light nails brushing against steel, came from my right, from the ground. I turned and looked to see a large creature that looked like a wood bug undulating past me. It was the size of a dog; its grey, segmented shel of a body moving back and forth with each step of its many spindly legs.

My breath stuck to my lungs and I was unable to let it out until the wood bug skittered past the old man and around the corner. The old man, his attention stil at his feet, paid the giant insect no attention.

What the fu**ing f*ck was going on? This had to be another dream. I had to stil be on the floor in the bathroom at work, that wasp stil crawling on my face. Even though what happened earlier was terrible, it was stil preferable to what was happening here.

A low, steady creak came from the front of me.

The door I was parked in front of opened and who stepped out of it but Dex Foray. He was holding a bundle of something wrapped in thick, white cloth, holding it like a baby.

Seeing Dex’s face both scared and calmed me. He looked much like he did the last time I saw him. Handsome in a rough, dark way. Eyes like mahogany-glazed coal. It would have fil ed me with hatred so frighteningly uncontrol able, but I couldn’t feel anything but confusion and fear.

“I didn’t think she’d make it,” he said in his gravel y voice. He was talking to me, I think, but looking at whatever he was holding in his arms. “Thank you, Perry, for doing this for us.”

“What are you talking about,” I whispered. I tried to get a better look at him but was distracted by a redness that was spreading on the sheet beneath me. I hadn’t peed my pants – that was blood that covered my lower half.

“Oh, God. What happened to me?” I squeaked. I tried to break free of the restraints but I was held firmly in place.

The leather cut into my skin as I struggled, but I didn’t care.

“Relax, Perry,” came a voice from behind. I tilted my head up to see Abby standing over me. Abby, Dex’s ex- girlfriend. Dead ex-girlfriend.

Unlike the last time I saw her, she wasn’t mangled into a mil ion bloody pieces. She looked like a normal, pretty col ege student. Straight blonde hair with a red tint. A pink dress that flared out from the waist. She looked completely normal.

Until she smiled.

There were wasps crawling on her teeth.

She promptly shut her mouth and swal owed until the moving bumps under her lips disappeared, then walked over to Dex. She put her arm around him and peered at what could only be a baby in the blanket.

“It has my eyes,” Abby said in her Fargo accent and looked up at Dex. He was now staring straight forward at the wal , not moving.

“Would you like to see?” Abby asked me, taking the bundle out of Dex’s stiff, frozen arms. She walked toward me with delicate precision, her shoes echoing extra loud in the strangely silent hal . As she came forward, I looked at the old man with the cane, wondering if he could help free me. He was now looking at me, his eyes black, his mouth wide open in a silent scream. It seemed to carry on forever, his gaping, empty mouth with no sounds coming out, the blackness of his throat, until Abby was all that fil ed my view.

My horror was indescribable.

“Of course you want to see the baby,” Abby said, and lowered the bundle until it was right in front of my face.

It was a baby, all right.

A baby covered in a very fine coat of black hair all over its little body. It was nestled deep in the white blanket. I stared at it, mesmerized. Horrified.

The baby moved a bit onto its side and the change in position caused a single wing to flap out of the blanket. It was as thin and delicate as a bat’s, wrinkled in its folded state and covered with throbbing veins. The baby lifted its head and opened its eyes.

They were a dark black-brown, like Abby’s, like she had said. The baby did have her eyes.

The baby then opened its mouth to reveal shark-like teeth. It regarded me with contempt and, in a rush of guttural, vibrating words that reached deep into my skul , said, “I’m stil inside you. You can’t get me out.”

The old man’s scream finally found its way to me, blasting down the hal like a radio that has just switched on.

He screamed for the both of us.

Moments later, I was in an operating room with an exquisite pain tearing through my insides. The same doctor who pushed my gurney earlier lifted his head sharply. He was between my legs, blood on his arms. He looked at someone off to his right.

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