God-Bespoke sighed, ending the silence: "I'll go greet him at the door, Mattias.""Let me be with you," the older man said, hitching his breeches: "Marybeth,you sit here and behave."The little girl obeyed, still so excited. A guest! They hadn't had guests in so long.About halfway to the house from where he first spotted it, Richard blinked his eyes and saw that it was much further awaythan he'd thought. This dejected him somewhat, but he didn't have time to feel sorry for himself. So though his muscles feltlike taffy from running so hard for so long, and he wanted nothing more than to just stop and rest where he was, heredoubled his pace.When he'd been alive, he could only run so fast for so far before he had to quit. Here, in this dead world, he didn't need totake a breather so much at all, but it didn't stop him from feeling tired. And a man could get very, very tired when he rannon-stop for three whole days.He'd have given almost anything to be able to run like this when he was alive. What he could have done! He could havebeen the next Carl Lewis if he'd been able to push himself this hard for this long. Tired or no, he had to give these deadmuscles some credit.But now those muscles were all he had to rely on. That and those tricks his friends had tried to teach him before they'ddisappeared. They'd called them a few names he couldn't really remember, and said that those things would just comenaturally if he used them whenever he could."Practice makes perfect...," he mumbled as he ran, remembering how much of a shiver he'd had when those words -- whichhis coach used to say all the time -- tumbled out of his dead friends' mouths in almost the exact same way. But before hecould learn more of what they knew, they were gone, leaving him lonely in this stormy, dead world.Lonely, but not alone. There was the Devil, of course. And then there were the Devil's own, always lurking around cornersor lying in wait out in the open. And on that cheery thought, he was sure that he could hear something -- or severalsomethings -- skittering after him.He gritted his teeth and ran all the harder, not daring to look back for fear of what he might see. Better safe and tired as hellthan sorry and back in Hell. Much better.
Do you need some help, Richard?
the Devil asked."You be quiet," Richard hissed, putting more effort into running just to spite him: "I'm not interested."
Really? You have to be joking
, the voice mocked:
That house is too far away, and you're too tired to make it before myservants catch up to you.
"It's not that far...," he replied, but then he saw that, somehow, it was still even further away than he'd thought. Hadn't hecovered the distance by now...?
Not that far? I think you were wrong there, Richard. But that's okay. I can help you, if you'll let me...
Richard could almost taste what the Devil was offering. It glittered in his mind. He remembered the gentle rolling of pills inhis hand, and the bitter aftertaste on his tongue after they were down his throat. And how he felt when they were doing theirthing. And how..."The Lord is my shepherd..., I shall not want...," he prayed as he made himself run just that much harder and faster.
They're coming now, Richard. Can you hear them?
the Devil mocked. Sure enough, over the roiling hiss of the storm,Richard really could hear more demons right behind him..."He leadeth me through green pastures..."
Teeth and claws and things you never got to learn about, Richard. And they're all for you. All for you.
"And though I shall walk through the valley of the shadow of death..."
"I shall fear..., no evil...," he insisted, the house getting closer or farther away with every other step, the demons gettingsteadily closer.
Foolishly naive of you, Richard
, the Devil continued."For thine..., is the kingdom..."
Full of blind angels -- eyes plucked out by their own hands...
"And the power..."
To send one bastard son spiraling into the masses, throwing his father's pearls before swine...
"And the glory..."
Of my kingdom, where the swine eventually wind up in droves...
"Forever and ever..."
I'll be seeing you soon, running man. Very, very soon
.Richard stalled out there, not knowing if he should say "Amen" to that. But the moment of realization disappeared assomething pulled his feet out from under him. He landed right on his face, colliding with something hard and painful with hisfeet, then knees, then face. It was like being thrown to the mat by some over-eager wrestling partner, and he was sure he'dbloodied his nose on...
x Libris Nocturnishttp://web.archive.org/web/20040816155748/http://www.nocturnis.net/art...3 of 87/24/2012 8:24 PM