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June 24, 2024

The Invisible Fiend

By Lamont A. Turner

The problem facing the man the newspapers called the Invisible Fiend was that he wasn't invisible. He could be seen, and would be caught if he wasn't careful. He had to remember that. The first rule of anyone in public life should be to never believe your own PR.

The Fiend, who went by Clyde Rule when he wasn't terrorizing the community, sat in the diner enjoying his third cup of coffee. He couldn't help notice the young woman sitting by herself at the counter, a suitcase at her feet. Young, alone, and judging by her forlorn expression, distracted by some unpleasant situation, she was the perfect prey. He couldn't allow himself to be distracted, though. There would be plenty of other girls, but when would the chance to get his hands on a certain set of soul transferring amulets come up again? Rule enjoyed killing, but it was larceny that paid the bills. Word was certain parties were willing to pay a fortune for those trinkets, and Rule had a good idea of where to find them.

He had almost let the girl live after she told him, only killing her after deciding she might tell someone else before he pulled the job. A member of some kind of devil cult, she'd told him wild tales of people using the amulets to switch bodies, and how a detective named Doverman had saved the world from a demon. Rule wasn't paying much attention until she mentioned the detective. He knew that part at least was no fantasy. He'd crossed paths with Doverman before. Of course, Doverman, like everyone else, had failed to catch him. Rule attributed this to his habit of studying his hunters and always knowing more about them than they knew about him. In the case of Doverman, Rule had learned he was an associate of a Professor Morrison, a man well known in occult circles and likely to have had an interest in amulets purported to imbue their owner with supernatural powers. There was more than a good chance Doverman had passed them off to him.

Morrison lived alone in a fortress-like estate up in the hills overlooking the Little Miami River. Rule parked on a road behind the property and hiked through the woods, noting the remoteness of the area would make the ideal place to dispose of that girl from the diner if he caught up to her again. He'd have to do the actual killing somewhere else though. There was something creepy about those woods. He doubted he would be able to get her into them if she were alive.

As he came to a clearing, Rule heard a disconcerting wail and peered through the trees to see a statue of the god Pan, standing on a pedestal at the edge of a large pond. Realizing the sound ebbed with the wind, he concluded its origin was in the pipes the statue held in its stone hands. It was clever, but nevertheless unsettling. It reminded him of the time one of his toys had slipped away and started screaming. It reminded him of the police sirens that followed as he ran down filthy alleys and tore his flesh on the fences he scurried over. It reminded him of everything bad he'd ever encountered.

Rule shook it off and made his way toward the house on the other side of the clearing, following the edge of the woods so he stayed in the shadows of the trees. The house was as creepy as the woods and the statue, and the Invisible Fiend felt a strong desire to turn back. What the hell was wrong with him? His hands were actually shaking. It had to have been that damn wailing. He decided if he found Morrison at home, he would kill him for putting such a strain on his nerves. It didn't look like anyone was home though. All the windows were dark, though he couldn't shake the feeling someone was watching him. As he crept up the stone steps toward the door, he even thought he saw a white skull-like face leering at him from a window in the cupola above the veranda, but decided it was just a reflection of the moon as the wind pushed the clouds past it.

The door didn't give him much trouble, though the smaller door cut into its base puzzled him. Since when did dog doors have knobs? This was quickly forgotten, however, as soon as he stepped into the hallway and the beam of his flashlight fell on the cases lining the walls. The place was a museum. He passed mummy cases and suits of armor with helmets too small to accommodate a human head. Despite himself, he lingered before a glass case behind which a two-headed baby floated in a jar of formaldehyde between a stuffed bat and a shrunken head. Morrison certainly liked to show off his collection. Was there a chance he'd find the amulets out in the open, on display, maybe suspended from the neck of a wax devil?

At the end of the hall, Rule saw an ivory box set on a stone pillar festooned with skulls. He picked it up, and was about to open it when a stabbing pain in his ankle caused him to drop the box to the floor. What the hell was that? It felt like something bit him! He reached down to rub his ankle and his hand came back wet. He was bleeding. He raked the beam of his light over the floor, but saw nothing but his own footprints in the dust.

He hadn't imagined it. He had blood on his hand to prove it. Had it been a rat? Staring off down the hallway, he bent down and reached for the box only to jerk his hand back. Something had stabbed him! He turned his light on the box and saw a fountain pen on the floor next to it. Rats don't stab people. Somebody was in there with him, but where the hell were they? He had a view of the entire hall, and there was nothing there. Keeping his eyes on the box, he bent down again and scooped it up with his other hand. Blood dripped from his wounded hand, staining the ivory as he pried off the lid and peered in at the amulets. That's it then. Rats or whatever be damned. He had what he'd come for. He shoved the box into the pocket of his jacket and started off down the hall, when his legs hit something and he pitched forward, landing on his shoulder. Something had tripped him. He started to push himself up, but invisible fangs sunk into his wrist, causing him to fall back down onto his face.

"Where the hell are you?" he shouted, raising his head and wiping the blood from under his nose on his sleeve. He felt a hot breath on his face. For several minutes he lay there, not moving, not even daring to breathe, until he heard the patter of tiny feet rushing away from him.

"What are you?" he whispered.

Something behind him giggled and stabbed the fountain pen into his thigh. He screamed as he felt them scurrying up his legs, swarming over him like an army of rats. How many were there? He rolled over, throwing them off onto the floor, but they rushed back up onto his chest, tearing into him with their claws. As he swatted at them, he heard footfalls rushing toward him and bent his head back just in time to see a noose floating in the air inches from his face. Before he could react, the rope was slipped over his head and pulled tight around his throat. Gagging, he clawed at the rope with bloody fingers as his invisible assailants dragged him down the hall and out into the night.

When Morrison returned home, laden down with bags of groceries, he found a strange man sitting at the desk in his study, swinging one of the amulets on its chain like a pendulum before his face.

"That is not a toy." Morrison said, walking over and holding out his hand. "Who are you and what are you doing in my study?"

"He made us a deal, Professor," said the man, dropping the amulet in Morrison's palm. "We were going to hang him off the statue, but he suggested using the amulets to switch places with one of us. Of course, I was the one who got to switch."

"Garglomon?" Morrison asked incredulously. "What have you gotten yourself into now?"

"A man broke into the house while you were away," the thing in Rule's body said. "We took care of it, and I got this wonderful big body. I should be a lot more use to you now."

The Professor thought about it, and decided he could use someone visible, and of normal size, to help him dust the higher shelves, and possibly run errands. There was no reason he shouldn't even be able to teach him to drive.

"We might be able to make this work," Morrison said, "but what happened to the man after you switched?"

"That was the funny part," said Garglomon. "He seemed pretty pleased with his end of the deal. He didn't seem to mind being little at all. He went on and on about being invisible and announced he was off to live up to his name, when he stumbled and fell into the pond. I didn't even get a chance to warn him not to get wet. I made sure to get the amulet back before he disintegrated though."

Morrison sighed as he returned the amulets to their box. He was going to have to split them up, perhaps give one to Doverman for safe keeping. He also resolved to henceforth have his groceries delivered.

Article © Lamont A. Turner. All rights reserved.
Published on 2022-02-14
Image(s) © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
2 Reader Comments
D.A. Cairns
01:19:25 AM
I enjoyed your darkly humourous tale. Read every word. Thank you. Incidentally, I deliver groceries part time to pay the rent.
09:44:52 AM
Loved this tale ! Really had me captivated.
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