WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE and GRAPHIC IMAGERY
An oppressive silence filled the air, broken only by the sound of Alan's labored gargling breath.
The lights dimmed low as his mouth opened wide in maniacal laughter. In that laughter joined a whole chorus of voices, male, female, and even children.
"The Darkness was, is, and always will be. He opposes the Light!" The many polyglot voices called out, their response echoing off the reception hall's farthest corners.
"Opposes the light? What is it? A demon?" John grasped for some thread of sanity. This whole experience defied logic and reason.
A low growl filled the room. Picture frames rattled against the walls and crystal light sconces tinkled. The floor shook beneath his feet.
John mouthed three words—what the fuck?
"The Darkness is! It has always been. It always will be! From the Darkness your world came. And to the Darkness it will again go." Alan's body writhed within its bindings, his eyes rolling back into his head. His crimson tongue licked obscenely at his pink frothy lips.
John backed away from Alan, his hand searching for the tabletop behind him for support. His knees trembled with each step.
More laughter filled the air.
"Alan, buddy. Come on, pal. You're messing with me, right? This is some kind of initiation prank, right?" John's voice sounded weak, unable to keep the fear at bay.
He turned, searching the table and finally dropped his hand onto one of the two-way radios. The lights brightened, then dimmed again.
Keying the microphone, he shouted into the radio, "Julianna! Julianna, do you hear me?"
He tried again, "Julianna! Elyse!"
Again, only static answered him.
"Anybody? Goddamit!" His voice cracked, overwhelmed by emotion.
The static disappeared as the radio fell silent. But something about the silence did not sound right. It contained a slight, faint sound which rose and fell in a rhythmic pattern. It sounded familiar. It sounded like—breathing.
"Hello? Is somebody there?" John's voice betrayed the fact he sat on the verge of tears, his psyche stretched to its breaking point.
"Yes." A voice replied, sounding like the rustling of dead autumn leaves.
"Who is this?" John asked in a cracking whisper. His hands shook so hard he could hardly hold the radio still. It fell from his hands, and he spun, chasing it to the floor.
A muffled tearing sound erupted from behind him. It reminded him of a bed sheet being torn in two. The breathing over the radio became louder. A shadow passed over him as he stared down at the radio trembling in his hands.
As he turned around, he screamed.
Alan stood behind him, his eyes rolled back into his head, the bloody froth pouring from his mouth. The same leering grin slowly spread over the man's face.
John's jaw hung loose. His heart hammered in his chest. He couldn't tear his eyes away from the gruesome sight before him. The blood from Alan's grin poured down his chin and onto his neck. As the man's mouth gnashed open and closed, the cause of the excessive blood became clear. Three teeth were shattered in Alan's mouth, and the tip of his tongue had been bitten-through. Where the duct tape had adhered to his wrists were patches of bloody, raw meat.
Alan's mouth contorted in a grotesque mockery of speech. His jaw slid forward and his lower teeth clamped hard, biting through the upper lip. Blood flowed from the fresh wound, sheeting down his face and dripping into his mouth.
"We are Legion! Prepare to join us!" The blood-gargled polyglot voices shouted at John, spraying his face with crimson splotches. Alan's arms shot forward with incredible speed, grabbing John firmly around the throat, lifting him from the ground. Both men lurched. As Alan's weight shoved down onto John, pushing him onto the table, the stench of death floated from his mouth.