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Hell found him.
Skittering across the floorboards with bare feet, Thomas hit his knees and rolled toward his bed. He pushed his diminutive frame into the space almost too tiny for him and quickly pulled down the covers to hide his location. Kicking old toys, books, and discarded hobbies out of the way, he pressed up against the wall and pulled his knees up to his chest. This was it. He had fled into a literal corner with no means of escape. If they came now, there would be nowhere to go. This was his punishment. He knew why. Silent tears rolled down his cheeks while he did his best to stifle the sobs that so desperately wanted free. He had watched them die and did nothing.
After all, Thomas was only twelve years old.
Taking a long, deep breath, he held it and became very quiet. The house was silent. It had transformed from a loving home to a tomb. He couldn't hear them, but that didn't mean they weren't close. Peering between two clear Tupperware containers that held his multicolored Legos and Tinker Toys, he stared intently at the open door across from his bed. It was dark in the house, except for the nightlight his mother had installed in the hallway for him. The tiny light cast long shadows across his doorway from the grandfather clock that stood outside his room. It had never worked in his lifetime, but his mom always referred to it as an heirloom-she would have it repaired someday. It seemed like a moot point now. He heard the scuffle of shoes on the stairs outside. His heart thumped and jumped in his chest. He feared it was loud enough for them to hear it. Crossing his hands over his chest, he tried to muffle the sound pounding inhis ears. He watched the door intently.
"Where are you, little one?"
The voice was light and playful as if this were some horrible game. And Thomas knew it was, to them.
"Why don't you come out? It wasn't nice to run away like that."
He pushed himself further into the corner, the darkness enveloping him. He had seen his mother, father, and sisters die tonight at the monsters' hands. He would not willingly suffer the same fate. He had been assured-many times-that monsters didn't exist and yet here he was, hiding from his nightmares become reality. Anger began to well up deep within his heart. Those who had hurt his family would be made to suffer…he would see to it. His tiny, innocent heart was suddenly engulfed in flame as it became a furnace of hatred. Holding his hand in front of his face, he balled his fingers and squeezed until the fragile, still developing tendons and muscles popped and cracked in protest. His tears, no longer salty and distressed, were now drops of raw venom rolling down his face.
You can kill them all.
In his anger, he heard a voice whispering to him from the blackness that surrounded him. It was as familiar as an old friend. It was deep and gravely, as if a normal, human voice had been dropped several octaves and scarred with the coarsest sandpaper. He shut his eyes tightly and gritted his teeth. He had heard this voice many, many times in his life, and only through an act of sheer willpower was he able to ignore it. Each time it reappeared, it somehow became more persuasive.
Use your gifts. You can make them pay.
Yet this time, he didn't want to ignore it. The voice was right. He could seek his revenge on those horrible creatures, and every act of evil they wrought on his family would be returned in kind. He lowered his hand to the floor and started to pull himself toward the edge-
Yes…the fire that burns in you now, use it to make them suffer for what they have done to you. Unleash your true potential!
He stopped. Biting his lower lip, he withdrew his hand and scooted back into the corner. His heart grew cold once again as the flames were snuffed by guilt and promises made-promises now growing cold in the family room below. He would not betray the memory of his mother and father this way. He had long ago assured them that he would not unleash his gifts in anger. He owed that much to them. There was another way.
The sound of scuffing against the hard wood silenced his internal struggle. Glancing out between the semi-clear containers that surrounded him, he saw a pair of dirty, black boots appear outside his bedroom door. The nearest one had a dark discoloration on the toe. He knew instantly what it was. Several streaks ran down from the blotch to the thick rubber sole. It was his family's blood. The sight both sickened and infuriated him. He felt nausea hit his stomach like a clenched fist and a spark ignite in his heart again.
They should be made to pay. You have the power. Use it!
He watched the boots turn to face his position. Closing his eyes for a moment, he took a slow breath to calm his nerves. This wasn't the way, he reminded himself. Only his self-restraint could save him now. This was, after all, his fault. He had tempted the fates after his parents warned him not to and called down the very wrath of Hell to his doorstep. He was to blame. He would not attain salvation this way. But without his parent's guidance…he frowned.
Perhaps there was no salvation at all.
The boots took a step into his room and paused. Another step. Then another. They were practically on top of him now. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest again. His eyes were wide and unblinking staring at the silver eyelets on the shoes before him. The thick, black laces fell down over the sides and pooled around the soles. Just above the tongue, he could see the hem of the black leather pants stuffed messily inside. His eyes wandered to the glistening spot on the toe of the boot. He tried to avert his eyes but couldn't. It was all he could see.
That is your family's life spilled so recklessly on that shoe.
He clapped his hands over his ears. He would not listen to the voice. It was the voice's fault he was here-that they were here. He should not have listened. Not ever.
They enjoyed killing your mother, hearing her scream. And your sisters…
He clenched his eyes closed and doubled over into a fetal position.
They will kill you, too, if you don't act… You can make them suffer!
The voice was overwhelming in his head as if it were screaming at him. His stomach was in knots as he tried to ignore it, bile crept up his esophagus and washed like waves burning the back of his throat. His fists were balls of rage digging into his temples as his body shuddered. It was too much. He couldn't-
KILL THEM! NOW!
Throwing his hands forward, a burst of unseen energy grabbed everything around him and flung it immediately toward his attacker. Before he could comprehend the first motion, he was already on his feet and moving forward. The small flame in his heart blossomed into a full-blown nuclear furnace. The heat shot out from his heart along the pathways of his veins and arteries to every centimeter of his body. The creature that had killed his family was digging itself out from beneath the rubble he had just created. He stared at the monster's golden eyes and took a step forward. Lifting his right hand palm up, energy stretched out from his body and lifted the vampire into the air. It shrieked in protest and struggled to break free of the invisible grip, but to no avail. Anger and hatred smoldered in the eyes of the young boy. Lifting his free hand, he sent out another wave of energy that started to choke the vampire. As he slowly closed his hand, he could see the creature's pale flesh compressing and collapsing in.
The twelve year old boy was gone, leaving only raw rage in its place. Releasing his invisible grip on the vampire's throat, he stared into the monster's golden eyes. "Why?" he hissed.
Not expecting an answer, the boy lowered his hand and dug an invisible tendril into the vampire's chest. Clenching his hand into a fist, he concentrated the tendril into a solid ball around the vampire's heart. With a smirk on his face, he stared at his family's killer.
Opening his hand in one fluid motion, the ball of energy he had created instantly expanded inside the vampire's chest cavity. The creature's eyes widened, but only for a moment. His chest exploded open, completely eviscerating him. Arms, legs, and body parts were thrown haphazardly around the room. A red haze of blood began to slowly settle around him as it fell.
The second vampire appeared in the room, drawn by his companion's screams of agony. He charged inside faster than the human eye could follow. But the boy snapped his head around and stared right at the vampire as if he were running in slow motion. Lifting his hands again, he snatched the creature and flung him hard into the ceiling. The vampire careened into the drywall with a crunch of bone and wood. Before he could recover, Thomas pulled the creature back and began to jackhammer him into the wall. As the studs gave beneath the repeated assaults, he slung the vampire against the floor instead.
Pinning him down, Thomas spotted the implement of the creature's destruction. The boy ripped a six inch piece of wood from the wall and floated it in midair above the shrieking vampire. Rolling the creature onto its back, he brought the makeshift stake up to eye level so the vampire could see it.
"We were just doing what we were told," the vampire pleaded. "We weren't supposed to hurt you-"
Kill him now!
There was no mercy to be found here tonight, only swift retribution. Moving the stake down the vampire's chest, he sent it straight into the creature's heart. Releasing his grip, he watched as blue flames erupted from the newly created wound. As the fire quickly spread across the vampire's body, he shrieked and screamed in agony as he was reduced to ash.
Good, very good. You are powerful.
Amidst the red mist and glowing embers, Thomas fell back to the hard floorboards; his body completely exhausted. Every ounce of energy he had in his young frame had been expelled in that one moment. He had nothing left. His eyes slowly rolled back into his head as he lost consciousness.
A dark figure stood in his doorway. This wasn't one of the killers, but another who had arrived moments too late. Snapping his scythe shut, he slid it into the pocket of his faded brown trench coat. Moving tentatively into the small room, he knelt down next to the boy and cautiously pressed his fingertips to the child's throat. Detecting a pulse, he slid his hands under the twelve year old and lifted the boy from the floor. Turning, he headed toward the stairs at the end of the hall, but didn't stop. There was nothing left here but death. He didn't know what this boy's future held, but it wasn't to be found here.
He folded the boy into his coat, left the house behind and vanished into the night.
Copyright © 2006 Terence West.