“You are one ugly son of a bitch,” Daniel 's Father told him.
Daniel sat on the carpeted floor of his family 's trailer, watched Gilligan 's Island on a small black and white TV his Father stole from an old homeless man that had passed out drunk on the street. Daniel 's Mother was out again, another boyfriend or working at the Dairy Queen. His older sister ran away six months before. That wasn't a shock when it happened. No one cared either. Daniel tried to ignore his Father who was entertaining a creepy Mexican guy that just moved in down the street.
“Fucking kid is so fucking ugly, look at the poor bastard. He can't even grow hair,” His Father sat on the couch next to the creepy Mexican, who kept looking at Daniel and licking his lips, giggling at Daniel 's Father once in awhile. It was true. Daniel had a rare genetic problem where he couldn't grow hair. He was the butt of everyone's jokes. “Hey?” His Father kicked him in the shin. Daniel looked up at him, fought back tears. “That 's right, you worm. Fucking respect me.”
Daniel stood, he took the empty beer bottles to the kitchen. He opened the fridge, peered inside. Two more twelve packs of Miller light was in there and a rotten tomato. Daniel heard his stomach gurgle. He had to wait until his Mother came home. Maybe she would bring some half-eaten hamburgers.
“Where the fuck 's my beer boy? Get your ass in here,” His Father screamed.
Daniel quickly grabbed four beers from the open pack, sprinted back to living room. He handed the creepy Mexican his beers. The Mexican licked his lips and stared at Daniel intently. He turned quickly to his Father, handed him the beers, backed away slowly.
“Fucking twelve years old and the ugly bastard can't even grow hair.
Daniel rubbed his oversized head with his hand, swallowed back tears.
Daniel sat beside the bed and watched Sophie sleep. He rubbed his bald, oversized head with a hand. He felt his suit sticking to him from the tremendous heat outside the hotel room. She slept peacefully on her side, her gown riding up slightly. Daniel brushed Sophie's long brown greasy tasseled hair with his hand. He gently moved his hand down her smooth white neck, moved a few strands of hair around her ears. He sighed, then lifted her gown up, looked at her hard pink nipples on her small breasts. Then he neatly put her gown back down, continued to watch her sleep.
Daniel had been with Sophie for ten years, protecting her. She assists him in his work, even building his website. Daniel was in the exterminating business.
Daniel was fifteen when he met Sophie, she was seventeen. They lived in the apartments across from each other. He would watch her from his bedroom window, going to school or coming home from school. By that time Daniel had quit going and after the death of his Father a few years before, his Mother just didn't care about anything but the bottle.
Sophie awoke, sat up in the bed. She rubbed her eyes and yawned. “Why aren't you asleep?”
“I can't,” Daniel said, took his sunglasses off. He closed them, the darkness helped with the excruciating pain behind those tiny dark dots. He put his sunglasses back on, patted Sophie's hand.
“You get enough sleep for both of us.”
“Is it those stupid headaches?” She laid back down. Daniel fixed the covers on her. He nodded, tried to smile. “You shouldn't take such good care of me. I'm not worth it.”
“Don't say that, Soph. You're the best person I've ever met.”
“I'm glad you feel that way...” Sophie smiled. Daniel touched her cheek, gently rubbed with a hand. “I don't know what I would do without you....” With those words, Sophie fell fast asleep.
“No worries, Soph,” Daniel said. “I'll never leave your side.”
Daniel decided to go to his room where it was safe. That creepy Mexican and his Father were getting louder. Walking through the hallway to his room, he could hear them screaming at the NASCAR race on TV. A bottle shattered and Daniel ran into his room, slammed the door shut. He made sure this time he would lock it, to keep them both from disturbing his Epic fantasy card game.
Daniel noticed a weird burning smell. From under his bed an orange luminescence
protruded out of the left corner where he hid his cards in a shoe box. It grew bigger as he inched closer. Daniel bent down, slowly lifted the dragon pattern quilt at one corner. The burning smell became more foul, like someone had vomited under his bed. He moved his hand inside the orange bubble of light and it burst.
He drew back his hand. He felt hot breath from a drooling gaping mouth with two long fangs. The rest of the monster slowly appeared, floating above Daniel. The monster was grinning, drooling, saliva dripped from a long forked tongue, burning holes in the carpet as it fell like raindrops. It was sitting with boney legs crossed, and boney, milky-white hands extended towards Daniel. The skin drooped around the monster's bulging red eyes.
“Ah...I think you are the one....” The monster said.
“The one for what?” Daniel managed to say.
“To help me....” The monster motioned with his finger and Daniel was lifted in the air and brought to him. Daniel was high above his bed, looking down, his body began to shake.
Daniel sat on the couch, his body drenched in blood. The front door opened and he heard his Mother call out to a car with a loud muffler, “Good night, babes. See you tomorrow night.” She walked inside the trailer, a bag of burgers in her hands. She had her brown curly hair up in a bun, one long gray strand hanging down. Her waitress outfit fit too tight, but her figure seemed a little out of proportion.
Daniel 's Mother screamed.
Two bodies laying on the floor in a pool of blood. Their faces torn apart, chests split open. Daniel didn't move. He just kept whispering, “It came and ate Daddy's heart...it came and ate Daddy's heart....”
Daniel looked out the window as he and Sophie rode in the back of a cab down a gravel road on a cold, rainy day. He rested his hand under his chin, watched tiny raindrops multiply on the window. Sophie smiled at him. She always thought Daniel looked nicer in the gray suit than the blue one.
They were off to meet a woman in Denver, who's cats keep disappearing. In Daniel 's line of work, the extermination of monsters, takes you all over the country. You meet all kinds of people. Just last week in Dallas, Daniel helped out a local pizza restaurant that had trouble with a Swamp Cherub living in a dumpster attacking the owners employees. That little fat creature would fly out of the dumpster and chase them through the back alleys. The crazy thing is the damn thing wasn't suppose to be out of the swamps. Turned out it had attached itself on the back of a semi that stopped off to take a piss. Trapping that Swamp Cherub was easier than Sophie or Daniel thought. Homemade donuts smeared with the blood of a toad. Once in that wire trap, there was no way it was going to get away. Sophie never asked what happened to the creatures. She was always glad to believe Daniel destroyed them.
“Almost there, babe,” Sophie touched his knee. Daniel made a face. Catching these creatures was not his idea of fun, but it had to be done. He had no choice.
The building always looked cold, inhuman, swallowing people and their lives, leaving both skinless.
Daniel felt that when he first moved into the apartments with his Mother. She could no longer work because of a back injury. The check from the government came just in time to pay rent, nothing much else. Most of the time they spent their nights in darkness because of no electricity, and winters freezing because of no heat. She never woke before noon, which was alright, Daniel didn't go to school anymore, she never went in his room anyway. She barely said two words to him unless to scream drunken phrases that made no sense.
Regarding the death of his Father and his friend, Daniel told everyone it was drug related. Those men that came into the trailer shot both men. Daniel said he hid under the bed.
That, of course was a lie.
The night he and Sophie became friends forever has kept Daniel going. She'd came out of her apartment to meet someone. A tall, dark haired man that just appeared out of the shadows. They hugged, kissed. He took her around to bushes.
“I want that...” Daniel heard the voice inside his head, a shallow, rubbery voice. “I have to feed from it...”
Every time he heard the voice, his head felt as if it were going to explode. His eyes began to glow red. He grabbed his sunglasses from his dresser. With hands shaking, he placed them on his head. The tint from the lens helped the searing pain in his eyes.
Daniel checked on his Mother before he went out the apartment. She was passed out on her bed, a bottle in her hand. He went down the stairs, past the drug dealers and unsavory human monsters lurking about the halls.
“None of those will do...” The voice said. “Not enough energy....”
Daniel staggered out of the building, tripping over his feet, stumbling down the sidewalk. He heard Sophie panting behind the bushes. He approached, pushing his sunglasses off the bridge of his nose, let them fall to the sidewalk. His eyes were two balls of fire. Through the foliage of the bushes, he saw the tall dark man for what he was.
A hunched over creature covered in hair with yellow eyes. His long arms stretched out, hands with talons squeezing her neck. He stood on bent legs with hoofed feet. Sophie struggled in his presence, clamoring at those talons, her legs kicking behind her.
Daniel approached from behind the creature. With his hands encased in an orange circle of energy, Daniel reached inside the creature. An ear-piercing howl came from the creature. Loosening it's talons grip around Sophie's neck, she was able to slip from it's grasp. She fell to her knees and lost consciousness. The creature flailed it's arms, lashing out at anything as a veil of darkness fell upon it's limp body. Daniel began shake as he drained the creature of it's life source. The creature laid at Daniel's feet, lifeless.
Daniel was glowing-burnt umber. He fell to his knees, crawled toward Sophie. He was weak, but managed to his feet, summoned Sophie's body into the air, keeping her in a steady levitation, Daniel walked back to his building, past the junkies and whores in the hallway, and up the stairs. Once in the apartment, he laid Sophie on his bed and watched over her.
Daniel knocked on the door of a pink and baby blue house. After a few minutes, an elderly woman in a long floral dress appeared. She hunched over and had confused look on her face. She adjusted her glasses, which the frames were much too large for her small angular face.
“Hello, I'm Daniel Dread...you contacted me by my website?” Daniel shook the old woman's hand gingerly. “You are Mrs. Holden?”
“ Yes, I am. Well, that was Grandson who did that, I don't know anything about computers or websites...” She opened her front door and Sophie and Daniel stepped inside the house.
Daniel looked around the house, seeing clutter everywhere. It was obvious the old woman was a hoarder. Six cats were lounging in the living room by an old TV set. Three more sat on a hutch by the window. “This is my assistant Sophie Williams,” Daniel said. Sophie nodded at Mrs. Holden. The old woman gave them both a funny look.
“Come through here,” She directed them to the living room. “You can take your sunglasses off, son. The lights aren't bright in here.”
“I'd rather not,” Daniel flashed a quick smile.
Mrs. Holden shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
“In the Email, the creature that was described sounded very familiar. What malady has it caused you?” Daniel sat on the sofa, disturbing dust that became a cloud that hung above his head.
“All I know is that thing is ugly. My Grandson and I tried to get rid of that thing with everything. Rat poison, bleach...he even tried to shoot that thing with his BB gun. Nothing worked. Eating my poor cats.”
“How do you know it eats your cats? Maybe they've gotten away.” Sophie sat next Daniel. She checking the place out, looking for secret tunnels or other entrances.
“That nasty thing leaves them lying around, half-eaten. My kitties would never run away!” Mrs. Holden dabbed her eyes with handkerchief, whether there was tears or not.
“Where is your Grandson, now?”
“Oh, Billy, he hasn't been home in a few days. I really don't know where he is. He's done this before. Last time he said he was with friends. I'm sure he was boozing it up!”
“You've seen this creature, right? When does it come out?”
“Oh my....always after dark...various times. Always in the kitchen, that’s where I hear the noise...banging of dishes....pots and pans... my canned goods thrown down on the counter tops. Ugly God-forsaken thing!”
Daniel and Sophie exchanged looks. She scribbled on a piece of paper and handed it to Daniel.
The thing is in the cabinets...
“Could we see the kitchen?” He asked, rising from the sofa. Again a cloud of dust formed over top of his head. He struggled to stifle a cough.
Mrs. Holden gave him a funny look. “We?”
“Yes. Can we look at the kitchen?”
The old woman pulled herself up from the chair, walked toward the kitchen, but watching Daniel closely. “Strange..” She said under her breath.
The kitchen obviously hadn't been redecorated since the nineteen seventies. The refrigerator was and stove were the only new appliances, it was the strange design of the tiles that threw Daniel and Sophie for a loop. Light colored red and bright blue with a sunburst swirls.
Sophie walked over to the counter top. “Daniel,” She pointed at large scratches on the brown wood polish.
Daniel nodded. “These are markings,” He ran a finger through the deep carvings.
Mrs. Holden bent down slightly to investigate. She shrugged. “So?”
“It's messages from the pest,” Daniel explained. “I know what creature it is, I've seen one before. A Troll.”
“Oh. That's a stroke of luck,” Mrs. Holden said sarcastically. “Are you sure you know what your talking about? Those markings have been there since my Grandson's friend moved in.”
“How long has that been, Mrs. Holden?” Daniel moved his sunglasses down on the bridge of his nose. His eyes were glowing red.
“Three months ago ago, I believe when he moved in. He's studying at the City College---”
“Look at this, Sophie,” Daniel had Sophie feel a greasy residue on the markings. “This isn't just carvings, Mrs. Holden. It's a ransom note.”
The backdoor creaked open and shut with a loud thud. An oafish young man with a ponytail and large framed glasses appeared. He looked frightened at first, then his face was flushed with anger. He dropped his backpack on the kitchen floor.
“Oh, Hugo,” Mrs. Holden said. “Have you Christopher? He's been gone.....” Mrs. Holden was quiet for a second. “ Oh my.” She felt the tension in the air.
Daniel removed his sunglasses, folded them in the top pocket of his jacket. His eyes still glowing red, he saw the young oafish man's real appearance. His face had crevices with several boils attached to a red bulbous nose. His eyes were small, black, almost sunken in the face. Pointy ears stuck out from wild frizzy hair. The Troll stood there, salivating, baring his small clenched teeth. He was poised, ready to attack. He spread out his elongated fingers to show his razor sharp nails, balled them up in fists.
He ran at Mrs. Holden, growling, he pushed her aside. She fell to the floor, screaming for help. With one long swipe, his nails dragged across Daniel's cheeks, leaving four long, bloody indentures. Daniel screamed, automatically raised up his other hand to block the Troll's next move. The Troll leaped on top of the counters. He turned to everyone and growled with his teeth clenched together. The cabinet doors opened by themselves, all of them, the top ones as well as bottom. In no time at all, the Troll slipped through the right hand cabinet, top portion of his body disappeared in a dark hole in the wall, leaving his legs dangling out.
Daniel grabbed hold of the Troll by his ankles and let the creature pull both of them into the dark tunnel that seemed to re-size itself to fit whomever burrowed through.
The tunnel was long, walls padded with paper held together with a sticky substance. When they reached the end of the tunnel, they both fell into a cave. The only light was a fire in a hole in the middle of the cave floor. Daniel tumbled past the fire, knocking someone out of his way. He recovered his senses, shook off the pain from the fall. He saw it was naked a young man in his twenties bound by rope and gagged with a shirt.
“You're Mrs. Holden's Grandson, aren't you?” Daniel said.
The young man nodded furiously .Wild-eyed, He mumbled something. Daniel moved to untie the gag. He stopped when he felt the Troll's hot, sick-smelling breath on his neck.
Daniel grabbed the Troll by his throat and pushed the creature on his back. The Troll clawed Daniel's face. Daniel screamed, but didn't relent. He was in a zone. His eyes were glowing red and a voice was not his own. The Troll was hypnotized by the falsetto voice that recited in a language that was not human. The Troll instinctively pushed his claws into Daniel's ribcage. Again Daniel screamed, but it was too late for the Troll.
A purple gas was usurped from the Troll. It formed into a cloud, hovered above Daniel's head before entering into his nostrils and being swallowed by lips in the shape of an o. There was a snap and Daniel felt the creature's neck relax in his hands. Daniel's eyes widened, turned a a pale yellow. Small drops of bled saturated his collar. He saw darkness before losing consciousness.
Daniel and Sophie were back at the hotel room. She was laying bed, her eyelids becoming heavy. Daniel was worn out. His body hurt, not just from his wounds, but felt like a sick old man. He sat in a chair, watching over Sophie.
“Why did Mrs. Holden keep looking at you funny every time you spoke to me?” Sophie said groggily.
Daniel stood, sighed. “I don't know.” He walked to the bathroom in a hurry. He slammed the door hard. He looked at himself in the mirror, began to painfully peel away his clothes. He removed his shirt, revealing another horrible face attached to his right shoulder. The face red eyes grew brighter with every breath it drew.
“Ahhh...you've done well, human. My appetite has been taken care of....for the moment.” The face said.
“How long do I have to keep doing this?” Daniel ran water in the bath tub.
“As long as you want the girl's spirit at your side.....Friend.” The face hissed.
Daniel climbed into the hot water, his skin tingled. “I guess forever then.”
The face hissed, “Forever.....”