13 Tales of Terror: Bulletproof

They called him Bulletproof. He was the man who could survive anything. Anyone that tried to shoot him may as well be throwing confetti. Knives were no worse than rubber against his skin. Bombs? Forget about it.

He had brought down some of the worst scum in the city. Murderers, rapists, drug pushers. He struck at the heart of organized crime and shattered it. He was a hero. A bona fide superhero in their midst.

Everyone wondered how he came to be. Where did those extraordinary abilities come from? Mutation? Genetic experiments? Some believed he was the last survivor of a dying world. That one amused him. But he was a man of mystery and he preferred to keep it that way.

Despite his status in the city, he didn’t hold himself above it. He still lived in his old neighborhood, a place most criminals had learned to leave alone. And on warm nights like the one the city was experiencing now, he liked to take a stroll down familiar streets. It reminded him of who he used to be, of how far he’d come.

“Come on, man, I don’t got all night!”

He sighed. Who would be dumb enough to hold up a convenience store in that area? He followed the voice through the sliding doors. Kid. About twenty, if that. Acted tougher than he was, suffering from the same misconception of immortality that comes with youth. The kid saw him, panicked. Fired a few shots in fear. Put a few holes in his favorite shirt. That wouldn’t do. He knocked the boy out with a light punch to the jaw and wished the store clerk a pleasant rest of the night before walking out.

It felt good to be somebody.

Smiling, he headed for Harry’s. The little bar had been a mainstay of the neighborhood for decades, and it was a regular haunt of his even before his…transformation. He greeted Harry as he walked in through the creaking double doors, and sat on his usual stool. Harry nodded in response and poured him a beer. He was getting grayer by the day, but his hands never shook once when making drinks.

The bar was mostly empty at that time. Just Harry and a small handful of regulars. They all knew him well, and were perhaps the only ones in the city to not treat him like a celebrity. He didn’t mind. He just drank his beer in contented silence.

He was just starting on his second beer when the man walked in. He was old, with patches of gray on his cheeks and chin, and a suit that clung to his spindly limbs. The old man sat down on the stool next to him and smiled, showing a small handful of yellowed teeth.

“Warm tonight, huh?”

He took a long sip.

“I’ve seen warmer.”

“Yes, yes, I’m sure you have.”

The old man didn’t order a drink or even address Harry, just sat there.

“How does it feel? Being a hero? You like it?”

He shrugged, avoiding the man’s gaze. “I can’t complain.”

“Whole city’s going crazy for you. And here you sit, in this dingy bar. You could be sitting on a throne.”

A short laugh floated over the rim of his beer glass. “I don’t need a throne, old man. Even sitting on this stool, people know who I am.”

The old man nodded. “Ah, that they do. That they do. The man who can survive anything. But all men die in the end.”

“Not me.”

“You think so?”

He drained the last of his beer and looked the old man square in the eye. “I don’t know who you are, friend. But I know this. Nobody in the whole wide world can take me down.”

The old man blinked once and then, without a word, extended his hand and slapped him across the face. He flew halfway across the bar and landed on the floor with a thud. Shocked, he looked up to see the old man standing right in front of him. Except he didn’t look so old anymore. He loomed high, his head almost touching the ceiling. His eyes glowed like burning embers and dark smoke issued from his mouth as he spoke.

“Try to keep your feet on the ground, ‘hero’. Don’t forget who made you what you are. You puff your chest out and strut around this place all you like, but in the end, you serve me. Or maybe you’ve forgotten our deal?”

He stayed on the floor, unable to stop himself from shaking.

“It’s been quite some time since you’ve brought me any souls. And please, I’m getting tired of drug dealers. How about that young oaf you knocked out at the convenience store? Why did you leave him behind? You don’t really fancy yourself a hero now, do you?”

The creature was pacing around the bar right now, though nobody else seemed to notice.

“Get your act together, Bulletproof.” The creature spat out that last word. “Or else I’ll come to collect what you owe me. And I won’t need bullets.”

It leered at him and transformed into a cloud of black smoke that dissipated into that air.

“You alright, bud?”

He looked up. Harry was staring at him, trying to crease his frown lines into an expression of concern. He was still sitting on the same stool The bar was still completely intact. No old man…or anything else.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.”

Police sirens blared on the streets as two squad cars sped past the bar. He picked up another beer and downed it in one gulp. It was time to go to work.

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20 Tales of Terror – Day 17: Beyond The Veil


Dearest Candice,

I hope this letter finds you in good health.

It has been scarcely two days since my departure, and already I find myself missing you deeply.

This morning, I was formally introduced to Dr. Cavendish, who gave me a personal tour of the institute and explained my duties in greater detail. I cannot describe to you the thrill I felt on meeting such a great man, and knowing that I will be working alongside him to broaden the horizons of human understanding and knowledge.

Dr. Cavendish is a man of great vision. Through his work, we may definitively be able to prove the scientific roots of the supernatural. If we are successful, all those old myths and superstitions will take on a completely new light! I know how dangerous that must sound, but do not worry. Dr. Cavendish is very thorough in his methods.

His behavior can, at times, be quite unorthodox, but that is to be expected of any ingenious mind. They operate on a level of thought we cannot begin to comprehend. He is very fastidious about cleanliness. Why, he even wore gloves while shaking hands with me! During our tour, we came across a stain on the floor. At first, I thought it to be blood, but later reflected it must have been a chemical spill. Dr. Cavendish was absolutely livid, however. He stamped his feet and roared at the top of his voice at everyone in the laboratory, stressing the important of keeping every surface clean.

I must confess, in that moment I felt a pang of fear, and thought I detected madness dancing behind his eyes. Perhaps that is the price of being truly passionate about something. Only moments later, Dr. Cavendish was in a good humor again, and resumed our tour as if the interruption had never occurred.

It was a most uneventful day otherwise. We had many discussions on the afterlife and its scientific implications that were quite fascinating to me, but I shall spare you the details.

Tomorrow, my work begins in earnest, and I greatly look forward to it. The coming weeks will be demanding, but I shall write to you as often as I possibly can.

Do give my love to Annabelle, and let her know that the both of you will always be in my heart.

With love,

Nathan

Story A Day Challenge – Day 25: Penance

The old village was built of stone and sand, blending in with the surrounding landscape. Dr. Carver was there seeking legends. He had come to know of an artifact known as the Chalice of the Sun, a sacred relic that was supposedly guarded by the dead. Dr. Carver was never one for superstition, but the chalice would have great historical value for its use in ancient funeral rites.

He had been trying to pinpoint the location of the chalice for a few months and had very recently had a breakthrough. This was his opportunity to uncover a lost piece of history. He was eager to find it and explore the stories behind it; perhaps another best-selling book was on the horizon.

The village was small and unassuming, not the sort of place where one expected legends to dwell. A morning’s worth of work had revealed precious little. The rest of his expedition, consisting mostly of his graduate students, were mingling with the locals, trying to learn about the village and the secrets it held, though finding precious few answers. Dr. Carver sat outside a small cafe, scouring his journals for some sort of clue. He wasn’t one to give up easily.

A young girl in a faded green dress ran up to him, holding a small clay cup filled with water. Dr. Carver looked up, cracking a smile for the first time since his arrival.

“Well hello there,” he said in slightly stilted Arabic, accepting the cup graciously. “And what’s your name?”

“Zara.”

“Thank you, Zara,” he said, taking a sip from the cup.

“My father says you are looking for something.”

Dr. Carver nodded, idly flicking through his notebook. That’s right. We’re looking for the Chalice of the Sun. Have you heard of it?”

“I’ve heard stories. My father says it is protected by the gods and should not be disturbed. He says you should go back.”

“Yes, I’ve been hearing that since I got here.” Dr. Carver grunted and drained he rest of the cup in one go.

“I have heard that it is made of powerful magic.”

A rasping laugh escaped the doctor’s throat. “Is it now? Do you know much about magic?”

“Only the stories my grandmother told me. Would you like to hear one?”

It had been a long afternoon, and there would likely be more of those before they found anything, if they found anything at all. At least he could take in some local culture, if nothing else.

“I’d like that very much,” Dr. Carver said with a smile.

Zara smiled back and sat down on the chair next to his. She began telling the sort of fantastical tale that could only be real in the imaginations of children.

Brimstone

The desperadoes were getting desperate.

Weeks had gone by since their last successful robbery, and the loot was already drying up.

Hector had laughed it off when Ramón suggested making a deal with the Devil.

The suggestion didn’t seem so funny now.

He performed the ritual as instructed, and waited.

Headed For The Altar

Michael was looking forward to his date.

Tonight would be a very special night for him and Camille.

The very first time he’d seen her, he knew right away she was the one.

Such beauty, such perfection.

She was exactly the sort of sacrifice the Dark Lord Gemnon would want.