The Stalker Reads My Mind (4)

"I was always decent at picking up on body language, it was like the code in the mirror. People are given over to these patterns of action, looping variables which make up our society. Rembrandt and I met first as enemies, and in discovering a shared interest, we formed a partnership, a new array. But he has told me something unsettling recently, "'The result of our actions have echoed outside of this plane of reality, and we are now artists breathing unstable air.'"

The Stalker Reads My Mind


            The counseling room that Slavik sat in was made to strike the look of comfort, but came across as equally clinical.
            "I have a lot of negative forces in my life right now and there's no easy way to get rid all of them."
            "Maybe you should try befriending some of that negativity. Use it for a positive purpose." The therapist had a clipboard and graying hair
            "I have." Slavik replied. "I think that its just too strong at times, for me to be able to do that."
            "What are the things you feel like you can't do?"
            "I'd like to get out of the whole country for awhile, visit family in Russia."
            "Would you be able to do this financially without work being a problem?"
            "Yes." Slavik uncrossed his shins, and awkwardly crossed them the other way.
            Face blank with stress-marks, has had children; legs crossed, long hair, but hair is up; indicators of neutrality. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist, clipboard exists entirely for suggestions and suggestion.
            "If the only problem is emotional, you should do it anyways. It will be good for you."
            "I'm afraid that.. these toxic people in my life, would become destructive. I almost feel like I have to out-manipulate them."
            "You can't let your manager control you. Your not responsible for his actions."
            "I wish I could believe that."
            "Do you believe in yourself?"

* * *


            Slavik took a break from packing for his trip, most of his dress was casual save more black jeans and a couple t-shirts dressed in occult symbols. He nuked some leftovers and rested in front of his computer with news glowing over the screen. He didn't get many bites in before his cell-phone started vibrating.
            The voice was his aunt's, "Hello."
            "Hello aunt Lena." Slavik replied.
            "Did you hear what happened? The murders?"
            "Yes."
            "Be careful. Stay aware of your surroundings. That monster even went after the governor."
            "I know."
            "In the airport too."
            "The only bad people in the airport anymore are the employees." Slavik blew on his food.
            "Your uncle and I are waiting for you. Did you get time off of work?"
            "Yes."
            "What have you been doing lately?"
            "Programming, hunting down evil spirits that have manifested in the flesh, and drinking craft beers." Slavik leaned back and put his legs up on another chair, grabbing a open bottle and taking a sip.
            "So your staying out trouble? I don't want you doing anything bad on that computer."
            "Yes. I've just been coding--"
            "Have you met anyone? How often do you get out of the house?"

* * *


            When Slavik was all packed he got in his old Buick, and sat there double checking everything in his mind. He started the engine and was startled, seeing the bloodless face of a familiar middle-aged man in his rear-view mirror.
            "Don't forget. I need a new suit. When you get to New York, you will help me get it. As per our agreement, I won't hurt anyone while your gone, you get me the suit I want." Rembrandt's tie was loose and crooked, and his jacket and shirt were ripped in holes that were poorly-stitched.
            Why would you want to look less evil?
            "I can't get something brand new, I'm not made of money." Slavik replied. "And I have cameras watching the entrances to the mall."
            "I don't need you to buy it for me, we're going to steal it." Rembrandt laughed and sunk out of sight of the mirror's surface, and disappeared.

* * *


            The hotel was like any other, fancy but given over to strangers' business that hurt its chances of striking some feeling of belonging in its guests. It was late when he arrived, but he had the next day to be a tourist and to get Rembrandt's suit before catching his plane. The feeling of danger that was becoming familiar to Slavik also lingered here, but it was paired with a strange magnetism or curiosity. The young man went up to the front desk, paid for a night, and received the keys to room 62 on the fifth floor.

* * *


            Slavik had trouble sleeping from the traffic outside and woke half-asleep in the middle of the night from hearing breathing that wasn't his, coming from the bedpost. It took him awhile to realize that the breathing was real, and for the fear to fill him and for his eyes to open wide to the dark. It was a heavy and uneven breathing like a dying animal, sometimes doubling over like it could be two living things. And the sound of it there in the pitch black room was tremendously unsettling.
            He waited for what felt like a minute but was less than half of one.
            "Who's there?" Slavik asked. Right away, the uneven breathing sound stopped-- as if it wasn't needed, and Slavik didn't dare to move.
            Suddenly the breathing started up again, and the voice that came out of it was somewhere between a cruel man and a dying dog, "I've been watch.. your images.. in your head.. demon hunter."
            "Who are you?"
            The creature violently banged and scraped something across the floor, cutting through the hotel carpet, "I am.. The Rake!"
            Slavik had jumped back and went to reach for a lamp next to his bed, remembering the news story about the governor. The creature continued smacking and dragging something against the floor, while the inflections and pauses came through its twisted voice, "I am the.. Rake demon!"
            With nothing else to use as a weapon, Slavik had grabbed the lamp next to him in the pitch black, forcing its cord out. He was on his feet now, crouching on the bed, ready for the thing to attack.
            "And I.. am going.. to hunt you."
            Fuck. Slavik thought. He's carving a circle.
            Slavik got up, grabbing the blanket with his other hand.
            "Shtookiste jow.. Ee kref!" The Rake screeched in some prolonged yelp that hurt Slavik ears. The Russian-American grabbed the blanket and threw it over the monster.
            Slavik jumped off the side of the bed and ran for the door in his boxers and got into the hallway full of adrenaline.
            He's going to kill Rembrandt and all I have to stop him is a lamp.
            Slavik made the decision to go back in the room and flip the light switch, using the door as a shield. The light went on.
            He saw a hairless cross between a man and a dog, but bigger than any dog, staring at him with barely visible eyes that looked punched into their sockets and a very long grin full of sharp, canine teeth. It had giant claws in one hand bigger even then a wildcat's, while the fingers or appendages of the other had slightly longer metal claws attached to it: four blades sinking into the plaster-like head of Rembrandt who was halfway materialized from the ground.
            The Rake pulled out its blades screeching from the light, and leapt out of the window like a cannonball, shattering the glass. This was followed by successive thuds against the siding, and then another window below shattered, and then there was the brief sounds of people screaming.
            Totally shaken, Slavik shut the door and locked it. He sunk down in front of the door with his heart still racing. He watched as the pale, middle-aged man in a ripped-up suit materialized in some macabre fashion with a wide-jawed look of pain and terror on his face, and multiple wounds at the top of his head.
            Mr. Monticello lied on the ground for what seemed like ten minutes when he had came out of the cursed circle. Slavik sat in front of the door in his boxers.. never touching the light switch.
            Finally, Rembrandt spoke, "Where is my new suit?"
            "I.. don't have it. I didn't summon you."
            "Who the hell did?"
            "He called himself The Rake Demon." Slavik said in a low voice consistent with shock.
            Rembrandt was full of anger, "We'll find him."
            "He didn't like the light."
            "That's because he is a type of Arch-Demon." Rembrandt got up; he looked at the shattered window and then turned around, a quizzical expression formed on his cold face. "Why aren't you wearing pants?"
            "I was trying to sleep. It was watching me sleep.. It said it was hunting us."
            "It is." Rembrandt felt the wounds on his head as the flesh and bone finished its reform. "It almost did."
            Slavik got up and starting putting his clothes back on starting with his pants.
            "You should get out of here quickly."
            "Why?" Slavik asked as he put one of the shirts he had ordered to be covered in old and specific symbols.
            "I sense the dead here." Rembrandt said as the light to the room shut off by itself.
            "The lights in the hallway were all turned off." Slavik replied.
            "Do you have a light source?"
            "No."
            "We need to start a fire to keep it away. Get the box." Rembrandt marched off to the bathroom and took something, probably the little soap bar, and knelt down to draw another circle on the floor.
            This is too much for me. What does it-- what do you want?
            "What does it look like?" Rembrandt asked.
            "It looked like a cross between a man and a dog with giant razors on one of its hands." Slavik's voice was calm but his system remained in a state of shock. There was a pause of silence while the undead man finished drawing. Slavik got his old box out of his luggage.
            Rembrandt whispered something and his pentagram lit on fire.
            Slavik plugged in the lamp and tried to get it to work, but it was no use.
            "So he's a dog-man.. I have been aching to do some taxidermy." Rembrandt said.
            He cut power to the building. That bastard wants to hunt me? We're on the top floor, I'll light the whole floor on fire if I have to.
            Slavik and Rembrandt heard another scream, that of a man, tremendously loud and unsettling.
            No.. no. He can read my mind, that just now could've been a message. I can't do that, someone could get trapped, I can't do anything rash.
            "He can read my mind. I'm no use." Slavik said, demoralized.
            "He can read most of your mind, your voice in your mind. Don't sound this out in your head." Rembrandt said, putting his hands to his ears, and looking at the circle of fire. "For when we see him."
            "Damnit! We need to go to stop him!" Slavik yelled with chalk in each hand. He had left his gun at home.
            Rembrandt Monticello handed Slavik the towel that was on fire. Then the suited man took the blanket that was on the bed and lit the end of fire, and went up to the door and unlocked it.
            This could be bad. But people should run if the fire alarms will set off. Slavik grabbed an ink pen off of the coffee table in case the chalk didn't work on the walls.
            The two walked out into the black of the hotel hallway and were immediately met with the sound of crying.
            "Whoever you are, hide!" Slavik said.
            "Shut up." Rembrandt whispered sternly.
            There was a stairway in front of the two men, towards the middle of the hall, with doors propped open. Something was shuffling up it.
            "You need to get in a room and barricade it to buy me time." Rembrandt said as used soap to draw the symbols of the muting circle on the wall away from the flaming blanket. He was beginning to sweat, as most of the blanket was next to him caught up in flame, and it was starting to catch the carpet.
            "Alright." The young man said. He passed by one door, having accidentally read the numbers in his head. Two doors down he found a room that had been abandoned.
            Come find me mother-fucker.
            Slavik ran into a room and slammed the door shut with blackened parts of the towel falling off as it started to burn his hand.
            There was a voice from the black of the stairway, "Sigils without.. a circle.. require.. concentration."
            God damnit. Will the smoke alarms not set off with power out?
            "I don't.. need circles or.. concentration!" The Rake hideously screeched from some darkened part of the stairway.
            The air went frigid all around. The flames protecting Rembrandt dimmed to nothing as the water vapor he exhaled became visible.
            "You god-damned dog!" Rembrandt's muffled scream came from the hallway.
            Rembrandt hurriedly began drawing a new set of sigils and revising others. While The Rake dropped from somewhere off of the top of the dark stairway.
            Slavik decided to use the ink pen and started to draw on the door. He could feel the temperature getting colder until there was a thud from the door he was drawing on. He stopped drawing with the pen for a second and felt extreme stinging in his stomach, and rose his fingers up to barely make out the blood.
            Slavik shivered from the cold and backed away from the door towards the window. The fire in the room had went out completely and the temperature in the room felt like a freezer.
            He looked down through the window. Fifth floor.. I'm too high up to jump.
            The Rake stabbed at the door, towards the hinges while the would-be demon hunter's heart pounded out of his chest.
            The Russian-American sat down on the ground against the heater and the wall. His wound stung in the cold air.
            We're in over our heads and I don't have much time.
            He had never practiced any spell without a circle, and he had been told that it would get him killed. With swiftness and calculation he pushed his fingers into his wounds and drew out the symbols exactly as he remembered them.
            In a split-second the hinges fell off and the door came down. The twisted silhouette of the dog-man was the only solid boundary that Slavik could find as it crawled up the falling door. In doubt and insurance, he raised his arm against the monster's shape, "Rik shalane-yay, na shafseh, Agni!"
            Slavik screamed as bright fire ran down his arm and poured like a flamethrower over The Rake. The skin melted off the creature as it screeched abnormally, asthmatically. And though the young man was entirely shaken as his arm trembled and charring, he didn't turn his eyes away, it could mean an even worse demise.
            After seconds that seemed like eternity, The Rake jumped out the window above the demon hunter, wholly disfigured from what it once was. While Slavik frantically scratched back and forth at the blood on the carpet, stopping the pouring flame before he passed out.

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