The late afternoon sunlight illuminated the two men sitting opposite each other, sculpting their features with light and shadow. The younger man looked across the desk at the older one with cold indifference, despite the growing agitation his companion displayed. The old man closed his gnarled fist, extending his index finger and pointed at the silent young man.
“You… haff no soul!”
“I can assure you, Mr. Montescu, the decisions of the bank are made entirely on the financial merits and there are no personal factors considered at all,” Dan McDonald, the branch manager, tried to control the conversation by sounding calm and professional. Vladimir Montescu had applied for a loan, offering his home as collateral, but the examiner’s drive by appraisal concluded the home was in such poor repair that it didn’t meet the bank’s criteria and his application had been denied. He’d come to the branch to appeal the decision, but Dan showed no empathy whatsoever. Dan believed if it didn’t look good on a ledger sheet, it had no business in a bank transaction. Emotions need not apply, not in his branch.
Montescu began muttering in a language Dan did not understand as he extended his pinky, thrusting his fist with the index and pinky fingers pointed at Dan exactly three times before turning his hand and resting it on his own chin, those two fingers now pointing at his glaring eyes.
“Well, if there’s nothing else, Mr. Montescu, I…”
The old man spit a large wad of thick phlegm from between his fingers, which splattered as it hit the manager’s right cheek. Dan reacted as if he’d been shot, crying out, nearly tipping his chair over as he rolled it violently back and away from his desk.
Every head in the bank turned as the security guard ran to the manager’s desk.
“Everything all right, Mr. McDonald?”
“No, it certainly is not all right! Escort this vile pig out of my bank and see that he doesn’t ever come in here again! Damned animal SPIT on me!”
As he spoke, he wiped his cheek with the back of his hand and nearly gagged when he saw the thick green mess. He grabbed the box of tissues from his desk as the old man chuckled aloud.
“Heh heh, yah, spread it good, man wit no soul, spread it real good, heh heh heh.”
As the security guard escorted Vladimir out to the sidewalk, Dan went into the men’s room and scrubbed his face and hands until they were red, then used hand sanitizer for good measure. He examined his face carefully in the mirror, wondering if he should see his doctor about a vaccination. Who knew what kinds of germs and disease that disgusting creature might be harboring?
Dan composed himself and went back to his desk, fully aware of the furtive glances from the tellers as he walked by their row of windows. As he reached his desk and started to sit, he noticed a commotion in front of the bank, the security guard talking on his cell phone, a small group of onlookers gathering around him.
“Oh, what now?” he muttered, walking to the door to see what was happening outside. He stopped short when a woman moved and he saw the worn sole on the shoe of the person lying on the sidewalk.
Montescu’s shoe, had to be. That old shoe would be a perfect match for the threadbare clothing he’d worn.
The security guard noticed Dan and opened the door.
“Mr. McDonald, you may want to come out here. We have a situation.”
“I don’t know. I got him outside, told him not to bother coming back and he started to raise his hand to point at me, then all of a sudden grabbed his chest and keeled over. I called 911, they’re on the way.”
“Sounds like he had a heart attack. Did you check for a pulse?”
“No sir, just left him as is for the medics and the police.”
Dan was about to protest but realized the security guard might not know any more about taking a pulse than he did, so he simply nodded his assent.
“Very good. I’ll be at my desk when they arrive if they want to speak to me.”
Dan turned and went back to his desk again, feeling a sense of relief. He’d never admit it, but that old man unnerved him badly when he was muttering, pointing and then spit at him like a lunatic. He hoped they’d arrive quickly, wanting this whole episode to be over and done with.
Besides, a body in front of the door wouldn’t be good for business at all.
As he sat back at his desk, he breathed a sigh of relief when he heard the sirens approaching. The official machinery would take over soon, and his day could return to normal.
An hour later, it was done. He’d given a statement detailing how the old man had reacted when he learned his loan application was denied and verified the security guard hadn’t used any undue force at all when he escorted the man out of the branch.
The EMTs had pronounced him dead when they arrived, the likely cause of death heart failure. They strapped the body to their gurney, loaded him into the ambulance and drove away without their lights or siren on. There was no need to rush.
Dan oversaw the branch closing, satisfied that everything balanced and locked the doors after his employees had left. As he opened his car door, he began mentally composing the email he’d have to send to his region manager explaining the incident and the conclusions from the police and EMTs.
He settled back in his seat and jerked forward, feeling something prick his lower back. What the hell? He thought, something wrong with the upholstery now?
He ran his fingers carefully over the seat back, feeling nothing sharp, nothing out of place. He reached around and felt his back, wincing when he found the painful bump that had developed there. Feels like a giant zit, he thought as he adjusted the lumbar support to a more comfortable position for driving.
His brow furrowed in frustration, Dan drove home instead of to the restaurant where he’d planned to have dinner. The day had been a disaster, and now he had to tend to this… thing on his back, whatever it was. Will this damned day never end? he thought as he finally pulled into his driveway.
He removed his shirt and went into the bathroom to use the mirror and have a look. As he suspected, there was a large boil on his lower back, clearly what had made him jump in the car when he’d leaned back in his seat.
He tried to tilt it to an angle so that the lights over the mirror could illuminate it better, but just that slight amount of pressure caused it to burst open, a mass of pus and blood erupting, hitting the mirror hard enough to rock it in its track. He quickly spun the roll of toilet paper, wadding some up to put over the open boil, now oozing thick fluid.
Dan opened the medicine cabinet and removed the box of large bandages and the tube of antibiotic ointment. As he closed the cabinet, he thought he saw a shadow behind him, but there was nothing there, just the empty shower stall looking back at him.
Opening the bandage, he squeezed a generous amount of the antibiotic ointment onto the pad, then put a face cloth into the sink, turning on the hot water. He rang it out, pumped some antibacterial soap on it, and scrubbed the wound vigorously despite the stinging. He peeled the backing off the bandage and put it on, the ointment covered pad directly on the raw open hole.
“There, that should do it,” he muttered to his reflection. He cleaned the mess on the mirror, dropped the face cloth into the hamper, and changed into sweats. He wandered into the small kitchen and went rummaging through the fridge. There was nothing appealing to eat, but there were cold bottles of beer in the back.
“C ’mere, you…” he took a bottle out, twisted off the cap, and drank a deep sip. Dan didn’t drink often, but after the day he’d had, a cold beer or two would be just what the doctor ordered. Well, that and a pizza, maybe. He just wanted to relax, unwind, and let the day slip away.
He sat on the couch and opened his laptop. As he clicked the browser to order his dinner, he thought he saw something moving in his peripheral vision. He turned to look, but the doorway to the kitchen was empty, the light out there still on.
He shook his head, ordered a pizza for dinner, and then sent off an email to the region manager regarding the incident at the bank.
Satisfied, he closed the laptop and clicked on the TV for company while he waited for his food to arrive. Even the mindless sitcoms would be preferable to silence, and he wasn’t in the mood to read.
He scrolled the on-screen guide and found a documentary that seemed interesting, so he clicked to that station to watch that instead.
When the doorbell rang, he stood to answer it and felt his leg brushing against something, but there was nothing there. He looked at the empty couch, a quizzical expression on his face, and went to answer the door.
It seemed the events of the day had rattled him more than he’d first thought.
Dan opened his door and gaped. Instead of the young teens that typically delivered, there was a mature woman with an impish smile standing there, holding a small pizza box. Her clothing was conservative but hinted at an hourglass figure.
She wore no makeup that he could detect, and clearly didn’t need any. She was a natural beauty, her pale green eyes reflecting highlights from the porch light above.
He thought about gazing into those eyes, her wavy auburn hair fanned out on a pillow as she looked up at him…
“I have a pizza for Mr. Dan?”
Her voice had an accent, European by the sound of it, which added to her allure.
“Yes, sorry, I’m Dan. Here you are,” He handed her a twenty and took the box from her, lightly brushing her fingertips as he did. That fleeting contact caused a shiver, surprising him. She reached into her jeans pocket.
“Let me get your change, Mr. Dan”
“No, that’s all right. A little something for your trouble.”
Her smile was radiant as she replied, “Thank you, Mr. Dan. You are most kind. Have a good night.”
Dan closed his door, watching her walk to the compact sedan waiting at the curb through the window. She never looked back at the house but lifted her hand and waved as she approached her car, as though she knew he’d be watching.
Once she drove off, he brought the pizza into his kitchen and put a couple slices on a dish and returned to the documentary he was watching, although his mind replayed her walking to the car and the way her hips moved.
After he finished his second slice, Dan got up to get one more and swayed on his feet, a wave of fatigue washing over him.
“Woah, where’d that come from? Maybe I’ll just rest a while and have another later on…”
Dan set his plate down on top of the closed pizza box and went back to the couch, pulling the throw pillow against the arm rest and stretching out, letting the fatigue take over. The monotonous tone of the narrator on the TV lulled him into a daze, more asleep than awake, yet still semi coherent.
I should probably just go to bed, he thought, but not yet, not now. I’m comfortable right here.
The narrator droned on about the progress made during the Industrial Revolution as Dan found a comfortable position on his stomach, not wanting to put any pressure on the boil.
Some time later, Dan heard a faraway sound, almost like the click of his front door closing. Can’t be, he thought, I locked that after that woman left, didn’t I?
His eyes opened partway, the image on the screen a blur of light and motion. A shadow passed in front of the blur and he felt his sweatshirt being lifted, raised to expose his lower back as he lay still on his stomach.
“Hey, wha…” he muttered incoherently.
“Shhh, you rest now Mr. Dan. You should have finished all your pizza.”
That whispered voice… could it be? Did she come back? Despite his fatigue, Dan felt himself getting aroused.
Dan got his eyes about half way open, everything still a blur. A shadow was kneeling beside the couch leaning over him, backlit by the TV. He thought he could see her breasts swaying free, unrestrained by clothing. With great effort, he raised his hand to cup the left one and recoiled in disgust.
It was a woman’s breast, large and full, the thick nipple fully erect, but it was covered with a thick pelt of heavy, coarse hair, a thicker mat of hair than Dan had ever seen on any man. She chuckled, her voice now deep and rough.
“What is it, Mr. Dan? All boys like the breasties, don’t you?”
She peeled the bandage off the boil on his back and let it drop on the couch behind him. She began licking the open wound, making an obscene slobbering sound.
Dan felt his stomach do a slow roll at the thought of this hairy creature licking his flesh but was powerless to make her stop. He then felt pressure, followed by intense pain as something sharp pressed into the open wound, probing deep into his back.
He retched as he realized the probe was wiggling as it invaded him. It must be her tongue with a sharp pointed end, no tool could wiggle like that. Dan moaned, then tried to speak.
“Why? Why is this happening, why me?”, the simple act of speaking those few words was exhausting.
She pulled her tongue out and spoke in that rough voice as she turned to face him, those pale green eyes blazing even in silhouette.
“Mr. Dan, I am a Lamashtu. An Elder has placed a curse upon you, and I am here to honor that.”
That old man…had to be, he thought.
“No… stop, please. I can give you money…” he mumbled, his voice weak and whispery.
“No, Mr. Dan. Only way to stop curse is if the Elder who cursed you tell me to stop.”
She turned back and leaned over him again, licking the seeping blood.
She resumed probing with her tongue, harder and deeper than before. Dan felt warm blood flowing from the hole, as she retracted her tongue and wrapped her lips around the open sore, now sucking deeply and moaning with obscene pleasure.
It felt like more than just his blood, it was his very essence being sucked into the greedy mouth of this hideous creature, whatever it was. He felt himself slipping away, unable to move at all.
Dan did not know that a Lamashtu was a demon, an eater of souls from the depths of hell. He’d never have accepted that such a thing could even exist in his orderly, carefully structured world.
The last thing he thought of as the room turned dark was the image of that worn sole on the shoe of the man lying dead on the sidewalk, the Elder that had cursed him and could not call off his curse from the grave...