Melissa locked the door to the bedroom and stripped naked. She pulled the page ripped from Katie’s journal and unfolded it, stared into the eyes of the man Katie called a demon. The man Katie called Samael.
She imagined the eyes turning to red orange, like twin match heads. She touched the fingers of her left hand to the demon’s lips. She licked the fingers of her right hand and reached down to touch herself. Her womanhood tingled as she massaged its lips. She fought the urge to close her eyes. Stayed focused on the face in the sketch. The eyes reddened. The flames in their irises began to sway. The fiery tips curled and trembled.
Dale continued to strum. Eyes closed. Lost in the music. He pictured his father seeing the man he had become. He pictured his father not being afraid to admit to dreaming of better things. Todd stood before him, wearing a dark suit and tie, his typical banker’s outfit. His short hair was thinning. A breath brought the scent of pungent, expensive cologne.
Dale continued playing, imagined looking into his father’s eyes. Blue, soft, as usual, but Dale noticed something different about them now. An intensity that he had never noticed in them before. They looked, for want of a better description, young, Dale thought.
The song looped back around. Dale played. More on beat, more confident. His father’s hair darkened. Lines in his face were smoothing out. He looked shorter, not looming over Dale the way Dale always imagined him. The black jacket started to fade, to tear.
“You came into my life,” Dale sang, “black-haired, blissfully damaged.”
Like Melissa, he thought and wondered how much his life mirrored his father’s. What had his father been like before becoming the man Dale knew? Who was he singing about? Dale and Katie’s mom didn’t have black hair, and she never struck her as damaged. At least not in the way worth singing about.
The jacket fell from his father’s shoulders like so many dirty rags, collected around his feet like dust.
The fire spread. Every row of books engulfed in angry red tongues. The top of the bureau burned. The floor turned to orange molten rock.
Katie sat up, drew her knees to her chest. The Cosmic Heart burned beside her, a pulsing flame, beating in time with her heart. The book that claimed to hold secret cures smoldered. Black smoke seeped from between its pages.
The woman spoke like a skipping CD.…blood is diseased…blood is diseased…blood is diseased…
Melissa’s sex dripped, making her fingers wet and sticky. Natural lubricant ran in channels in the lines of her hand. She thrust her head back, gritted her teeth against a moan that could draw attention from the rest of the house.
Someone whispered in her ear. Words indecipherable. Full of seduction, but not without menace.
Her breath quickened. A notion inside her warned her against proceeding. Against finishing.
But I’m too close now. I’m on the brink.
She kept her gaze fixated on Samael’s. Watched the flames dance in his eyes. His lips moved. She swore they fucking moved. His tongue slipped out, ran across his pointed teeth.
I’m imagining this, she thought, but knew she wasn’t. Warmth engulfed her. Her legs jerked. Toes made fists.
She couldn’t help herself, a whimper escaped her lips. The black and white sketch of Samael colorized. Flesh became flesh. Scars became pale and textured. The fire in his eyes swirled like spiral galaxies of burning brimstone. Her fingers slipped between his lips, into the warm wetness beyond the paper. The points of his teeth pressed into the pads of her fingers and drew blood.
The scream ripped away the image of his reverse-aging father. Dale opened his eyes and stopped strumming. He tore the headphones from his ears and set the guitar against the edge of the deck. The second scream tore him to his feet, sent him barreling toward the house. He jerked open the back door and entered.
The scream belonged to Melissa. He had never heard her outright scream before, but he had heard her yell, heard her cry. The sound from upstairs was a ragged, wet combination of both.
He bolted up the stairs, heart pounding heat through his veins. His foot caught on the top step, and he pitched forward. Held his hands out for balance and fell against the wall.
Opposite the hallway from his room, Katie’s door flung open. Dale and his sister exchanged wide-eyed, urgent glances. They met in front of his room. He fumbled with the door knob. It was cold to the touch like he held a block of ice. He withdrew his hand, paused for a confused split second.
“What is it?” Katie said.
Dale ignored her question, took the knob and cranked it over. A chill greeted him when he opened the door. Katie crossed her arms against the draft. The cold bit through his clothing, almost hurt, but subsided upon his entering the room.
Melissa was gone.
“What the fuck?” he said. “Where the fuck is she?”
Her clothes lay in a discarded pile beside the bed. The blanket was bunched at the footboard. Her head had left an imprint in the memory foam pillow. No other sign of her remained.
Dale crossed the room, peered under the bed, into the closet. Her name passed his lips at irregular intervals, a repetitive manic chant. He started pushing aside furniture, kicking walls.
“Dale,” Katie said, her voice a decibel above a whisper.
He ignored her. Started knocking books and framed photographs off the dresser. Stopped saying Melissa’s name, replaced it with angry curses.
He spun to face his sister. Tears blurred his eyes. He ran past her, into the hallway and scrambled down the stairs. Yanking the front door open, he stepped outside. His gaze flicked across the yard, across the street. He called her name. Listened for a response. Breath pulled in and out, turning his cries hoarse. His blood rushed and he started to shake.
A warm hand closed around his shoulder and he fell to his knees. He punched the air, mumbled another string of obscenities.
“We need to call the police,” Katie said, a single tremor breaking the otherwise level manner of her voice. “Let’s go inside.”
Dale clenched his fists, tried to slow his breath. The air outside was warm against his skin. He wondered where the frosty draft in his room had come from and how it managed to make the doorknob so cold.