It was staring at him. Even frozen and inert, David could feel the horror staring at him. Was that even possible, or was he starting to go mad? He sat down to meditate, reinforce his mental defenses, but it was difficult to focus with it staring at him.
After studying it for weeks, there was little David had learned about the horror. It wasn’t very powerful, so it couldn’t have created a portal on its own. Someone had brought it over, but who and why? The creature itself provided no clues; he needed to go back to where he had found it.
The woman who answered the door was not the same one who had come to his shop that day.
“Hello. Is Jennifer here?”
The woman studied him carefully. “She’s resting. Not feeling well.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Who are you?”
David began to feel a little exposed under her probing gaze. “I’m from the magic shop nearby. I helped her a few weeks ago, and I had some follow-up questions for her. But if she’s not feeling well . . . Just tell her David stopped by, and I’ll come back another time.” He turned to leave, but she stopped him.
“Come in. She’s back in the bedroom. Maybe you can help.”
“You should see for yourself.”
David followed the woman down a short hallway and through a doorway. Inside, lying on a bed, was Jennifer. Bandages were wrapped around her arms and her fingers, but she was smiling.
“You came back! Did you find the monster?”
The question puzzled him. They had talked weeks ago after he had captured the horror. “Yes, I did. Don’t you remember?”
“It’s fine. He’s a nice man.” Jennifer clearly wasn’t talking to him. Instead, she seemed to be looking at an empty corner of the room. Abruptly her attention focused back on him. “What did you do? Did you hurt him?” David had no idea what she was talking about.
She began scratching her left forearm, but the bandages rendered her attempts ineffective. After several seconds of trying, she managed to push the bandage on her arm down a little, revealing a jagged, ugly wound.
The other woman ran to the side of the bed and slapped Jennifer’s hand away from her arm. “If you keep this up, I’ll have to bind your wrists again.”
“But Sue, it itches!”
“I don’t care. I’ll put some more ointment on it in a bit.”
“You can’t. She’s my sister.” Jennifer was again addressing the empty corner.
Sue gave David a look of helpless desperation.
“How long has she been like this?”
“It started a few weeks ago, and she keeps getting worse. Talking to people who aren’t there. Saying disturbing things. Even trying to scratch her arms off.”
A few weeks ago would have been around the time he caught the horror. She must have seen more of it than he had realized.
“Jennifer, is there anyone who would want to hurt you?”
Sue appeared shocked. “You think someone did this to her?”
“I don’t know. I’m just trying to understand what happened.”
Jennifer was again smiling at him. “Why would anyone want to hurt me?”
Sue frowned. “What about Mark?”
“He wouldn’t hurt a fly. He’s always been so kind.”
“He’s her ex. A real jerk. That’s even how she used to describe him. Before . . . But I can’t see him going so far as to hurt her like this.”
“Does he have access to the house?”
“I don’t think so. Jennifer moved here after their divorce, so he shouldn’t have a key. Do you think you can help her? Do you know what’s wrong with her?”
“I . . . I’m not sure. I am going to try, but I need to do a little research. Do you know where my shop is located? In case you need to get in touch with me?”
“Yes. She told me about it, about you, before . . .” Her voice trailed off, as though talking about her sister’s condition would make it even more real.
“I’ll be in touch. Soon. I will do whatever I can to help your sister.”
Sue nodded, but kept looking at Jennifer with concern. David left the house on his own. Was there anything he could do? He wasn’t sure, but he had to try.