A Light in the Darkness
"A Light in the Darkness" was originally appeared in Infuze Magazine Online, April 21, 2005. It was later included in the collection A Light in the Darkness and Other Stories in 2017. Copyright © 2005 Sean Slagle Reprinted by Northside Books & Media, an imprint of AGF Publishing, with permission from the author. All rights reserved.
Blackness enveloped him as he stepped through the door. The inside was filled with an odor, perhaps of something rotting or decaying. Victor Jimanez held his right hand up to his nose and felt along the wall with his left. Surely there was a light switch somewhere, but he didn’t really know where. His hand brushed against three protruding nails. Nothing hung on them now, but Victor knew that each had at one time held something precious. He felt further along the wall. Finally, he found a switch, but when he flipped it up, nothing happened. He flipped it up and down, as if the light would magically appear.
“Jesus!” Victor called. “Jesus, where are you? Donde estas?” He waited for a reply, but received none. Victor thought that was odd since Jesus had called him just hours earlier. The first time he called, Victor didn’t have time. He was enjoying the last round of beers at Banjo Joe’s. And Maria Santanna was more than ready to go home with him. The second time, Jesus sounded more frantic, as if life and death depended upon Victor. But even then, Victor was reluctant. Jesus could take care of himself. He didn’t need Victor. Now Victor was beginning to wonder if he had been wrong.
He took a few steps toward the living room, trying to remember his way. “Jesus, you in here?” he whispered. “Donde estas? Donde estas?” In his mind, Victor could see Jesus lying dead in a back room, perhaps killed by someone they knew. There had been a lot of killings lately and Jesus was an easy target. He had been kicked out of many places lately. Victor didn’t know if people were prejudice or not, but many had told Jesus to stay away from their establishments. It wasn’t that Jesus was a bad guy or would hurt anyone, but people didn’t want his kind around. And they never had any trouble in saying so. In an age where tolerance was a big deal and the media pushed it into people’s faces, Jesus was pushed out. Victor wouldn’t blame him if he had left this God-forsaken land. Victor often thought of doing it himself, but even at its worst, the U.S. was still better than good ole Mexico. Even with that, Victor wouldn’t blame Jesus for leaving.
Slowly, Victor made his way to the sofa and leaned up against it. He reached in his pocket for his cell phone, but it wasn’t there. He must have left it at Maria’s. “I’m leaving,” Victor said. He started to take a step, but heard a shuffling in the back. “Who’s there?” He reached for his gun, then quickly realized that he had also left that at Maria’s. How could he have been so stupid? Maria just had that kind of affect on him. She could make him fall on his knees and pray to the great creator. And Victor often thanked Him for her. He took out his car keys and slid one between his fingers, then doubled his fist around the rest of the keys. Whoever was in the house was going to get a blast from the east side.
“All right,” he sighed. “I’m coming.” Taking every ounce of bravery within him, Victor stepped forward, heading to one of the back rooms. There was even less light in there. With his left hand, he rubbed the crucifix hanging around his neck. He prayed as best he could. The smell was getting worse. There was definitely something dead back there. Perhaps it was Jesus, but judging by the stench, it had been dead a lot longer than a few hours.
A shuffling caused him to stop. Something was moving on the ground near his feet. He felt it bounce against his leg, then slither over his foot. His leg burned and he jumped to the side. He tried to focus on whatever it was, but he was practically blind. Then he felt it again, up against his leg. But with its touch came an intense burning that went deep into Victor. He screamed and the animal, or whatever it was, cackled and leapt up into his side. Victor pushed it away, feeling both feathers and scales at the same time. Not far away, it hissed. Then it hissed from another part of the room. Then another. Victor backed away. The house was filled with some monster, some demonic serpent.
“I’ll kill you!” Victor screamed.
The animal screeched and with a hiss the room momentarily lit up from a burst of flames. In the light Victor saw the beast and knew immediately that it was a monster of old. Its body was like a rooster’s, strong and full with feathered wings, but its head and tail were that of a serpent. It stood on its clawed feet and faced Victor.
“Jesus!” Victor yelled. He would have given anything to have some kind of weapon, but there was none. What could he do? The monster had him trapped. It would hiss its fire or spit its venom, causing his body shrivel and die. There was no way to stop it.
Finally, Victor made it to the door. He tried to find the knob. The keys dropped from his hand and he instinctively bent down to pick them up. As his finger tips brushed the key ring, the monster’s tale slid over his hand. Then its cold claw sunk into his arm. He would soon be burned alive. “Dear Lord,” he cried. On his face and forehead tears mingled with sweat. “Please save me.” He fell to his knees, resigned to his destiny.
A loud rapping came from the door. Victor looked up. “Who’s there?” he yelled.
“Victor, let me in,” a voice said.
“Jesus, is that you?”
“Yes. Open the door.”
“I can’t,” he murmured. “It’s too dark and something has me.”
“I can save you,” Jesus said, “but I can’t open the door.”
Victor took a deep breath and slowly rose up. He expected a burst of fire, but the monster was still. Faintly it pulled at Victor’s arm, but with his other hand, Victor was able to reach the knob and give it a turn. Jesus stepped inside. A light from outside flooded the room and the monster gave a shriek and ripped loose from Victor’s arm.
With a flip of his elbow, Jesus turned on the light and the darkness disappeared. The monster backed away. Jesus had both arms filled with food. He put it all on the table, then turned to the monster. It hissed, but its fire burned nothing. Jesus stepped toward it, causing it to hiss again. Jesus held out both arms and turned to Victor. “Bow.”
“What?” Victor no more than got the word out than the monster rose into the air and darted for the door. Victor dropped to the ground and the monster flew out the door. Victor slammed the door with his foot. He got up and looked at Jesus. “Where have you been?” He dusted himself off and quickly found a seat at the table. His body was covered with sweat.
“I got tired of waiting on you,” Jesus said. He poured two glasses of water.
Jesus handed him the cup and they drank. He smiled at Victor. “I promise, I’ll never leave you again.”
“And the monster?”“The basilisk?” Jesus smiled. “He’ll never come into this house again.”
Sean Slagle teaches high school English, has coached numerous sports, overseen drama production, and has served as an adjunct professor. He has been published in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama. He is the author of A Dirge for the Malice series with Floyd's Gap. He is currently working on two novels for Northside Books & Media.
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