By, Jason O. Logan
The naked bulb shined down on the table Trane sat at in the cramped storage shed in the backyard of his family’s ancestral home late on one of the cool Indian summer fall nights that are common in South Georgia during that time of year. There was an empty chair next to him with a vintage double-barrel shotgun leaning against it and two empty tumblers surrounding a fifth of Johnnie Walker Black on the table. Despite the tinge of the chill in the air, Trane sweated profusely while slumped back in his chair as he nervously tapped his foot in anticipation of what he and Grizz would have to face that night. Some of the sweat was caused by that anticipation but most of it was loss of blood from the wound in his side that came from trying to fight a well-armed demon on his own.
“Gaah…damn, Grizz, get yourself here, man, or I’m going to bleed out before we can settle this,” Trane thought as he poured a finger of the whiskey in one of the tumblers to settle his nerves while he waited for his cousin.
He was just about to take a sip of the liquid when he heard the heavy tread of Grizz outside the shed coming to the door. The two cousins, closer than brothers, stared at each other with rueful resignation because they knew the battle their great-grandfather had prepared them for from a young age was about to commence and one or both of them probably would not survive the carnage. They had no choice if they wanted to fight or not because the Old Man had trained only them, his two oldest great-grandsons, for what had to be done. It was down to them to handle this supernatural monkey business or the end of their family would be measured in less than a week.
There had been a slight resemblance between the two forty-something men when they were little boys being trained in mystical combat and knowledge by their great-grandfather, the Old Man, but that had faded with the years. Grizz looked like a skinny Rick Ross after his weight loss with a full, bushy beard topped off by a bald head while Trane looked like a stocky, clean shaven Rasta with dreadlocks grown over twenty years flowing down his back. Besides the same brown shade of skin, the two cousins also shared eyes the color of grey slate the same as their great-granddaddy and his brother before them.
The eye color along with the vintage shotgun, a few other magically charmed weapons, and a family curse was all part of the inheritance that came with having the Old Man’s blood running through their veins. He had told his two great-grandsons many times he had given up hope that two males descendants would be born in the right order with the right eyes to train before he died. Just like all things magical and legal, everything had to be exact to have a chance to end the curse of the family demon.
“Damn, man, what happened to you?” Grizz asked as he copped a seat in the empty chair.
“I ran up on Daemon and he shot me,” Trane croaked out.
“How’d you know it was him?”
“Well, I don’t think Blossom, GA is hiring motorcycle cops with broken necks and sickly green skin no matter how racist the city government says it isn’t anymore.”
“You know the Old Man told us not to fight that bastard by ourselves. The two oldest, grey-eyed males have to be together to destroy him.”
“That’s what he said but since this thing’s been dogging our family since the Old Man’s old man was a young man I thought maybe it was time to try something different.”
“Whatever, man. Let me look at this,” Grizz said as he gave a probing look at his impulsive cousin’s wound. “You’re lucky because it looks like the bullet went through your side and didn’t hit anything except some meat. You’re still going to need a doc to look at it but if you’re going to die tonight it won’t be from that alone.”
“Yeah, that’s good to know, ya mook. Did you bring the shells?”
“You know I did along with the Colts and the blade,” Cousin Grizz replied as he placed six homemade shotgun shells, iridescently silver in color on the table along with a blade so clean and sharp that It shimmered and two loaded antique Colt .45 six shooters with worn handles.
“Good, good, we need the firepower of the shells to give us an opening for a kill shot on the beast because everything else is just going to make him mad. Here, take a pull,” Trane said as he offered his cousin some of the J-Black.
“Man, you know I don’t truck with that,” Grizz said with a scrunched up frown on his face.
“Hellfire, boy, man up and drink some of this. We both need to be steady with what we got to do tonight.”
“Hehe…talkin’ like the Old Man, huh? Alright, gimme that damn bottle,” Grizz said as he poured just enough to cover the bottom of the unused tumbler while Trane loaded two of the six enchanted shells into the double-barrel.
“Whoa…man, this is why I don’t drink because this stuff reeks.”
“You just never developed a taste for it. Never will either because you got too much of a sweet tooth. Give you the sugar and you’re fine.”
“Yeah, that’s how the Old Man got me to come out to the woods with you and him to train by bribing me with candy bars and honey buns.”
“That’s how you became as big as a grizzly bear too but now I’m the one gaining the weight you lost.”
“True, but you won’t have to worry about your belly if we don’t handle this tonight.”
“No doubt. Funny thing is that I never really believed the Old Man when he talked all this mumbo jumbo mess even after he showed us the family book. I don’t think I really believed until tonight when that damned demon gatted me with his nine.”
“Oh, you never believed in me, hmmm?” said a voice crusty with age but still capable of whimsy. “The Old Man believed in me. He believed in me so much that I smothered him to death with a pillow in the hospital the night he had his stroke. His brother, Gaynor, believed in me right before I ripped his throat out and scattered his blood all over the cotton bulbs on the old family farm back in ‘38. His father, Henry, believed in me when I led the lynch party that roasted him and his brother, Zachary, over an open flame down in Florida at that turpentine camp. I’m very real and I’m coming to send you two to join your ancestors tonight.”
If Trane and Grizz could have they would have turned white when they heard the demon’s squawk outside of the shed’s door. They were transfixed as they listened to Daemon take spiteful joy in the pain he had caused their family through the generations. Its spell didn’t last long though as the Old Man’s conditioning kicked in and the two cousins moved almost unconsciously as they gathered their weapons of choice. The training the Old Man had drilled into them mercilessly for the last ten years of his life and ten of theirs from what seemed like before they could even say their names made them ready.
Trane tossed the four unloaded shotgun shells to Grizz who slipped them into the right front pocket of his jeans as he made sure the carbine that had belonged to the Old Man’s father was locked and loaded. Trane grabbed Uncle Zachary’s twin Colts and made sure they were both loaded with the silver because they were going to get more work tonight than they had when Uncle Zack rode the Texas plains with the Buffalo soldiers after the Civil War. Zack would have stayed out West if he didn’t have to come back to fight the family demon with his brother, their great-great-grandfather, Henry.
“You can’t stay in there forever, boys. Hiding out from me? For shame. The Old Man would be heartbroken to know he raised two chumps afraid of their own shadows. Come out, come out because that witching circle around this little house ain’t going to keep me out. Not for long anyway.”
“You sure you want us to come out, you gruesome sonofabitch? Somebody’s going to die tonight but it won’t be either one of us,” Trane called out with more bravado than he felt.
“That you, Trane? You knew I could have killed you out there on Newton Road tonight but I wanted to get both of you at once because I like the hunt.”
Trane mouthed WINDOW to Grizz who nodded his understanding as he clambered through the pane in the back of the shed but not before Trane pulled the knife out of the sheath clipped to his belt. Trane was the tactician of the two while Grizz was the fighter. The Old Man had trained both of them to defer to the other’s strengths so Grizz knew if Trane grabbed the knife that his cuz had a plan and he needed to be ready with the part he had to play.
“Yeah, it’s me. You got off a good shot at me. Did you mean to hit me here or did you miss before I backed my ride back into your miserable ass?”
“A little of both, Trane, a little of both but are you going to talk me back to Hell or are we going to do this?”
“Come on in, Daemon, or did you bring another lynch mob with you this time like you did with Grandpa Henry and Uncle Zack? You always come at us as one of the Bacon Boys and we know they don’t roll by themselves, demon possession or not. “
Grizz crawled along the side of the shed while Trane traded words with the demon because he’d figured out what his smart guy cousin was planning and he knew he had to be ready when the opening came.
“Screw it. I’ve cancelled the circle’s spell so walk on in here with your boys in blue or by yourself but word to our great-granddaddy, Jackson Stone, Sr., me and cuz are going to make sure you won’t walk out. You got too much of our family’s blood on your claws. It’s time to kill you,” Trane promised as he threw up a simple, left-handed spell to revoke the enchantment that kept the hellspawn at bay while he took a last swallow of the whisky on the table with his right.
Daemon, who actually was by himself, kicked open the shed’s door sending splintered parts of it flying through the cramped space. The beast stood in the doorway still wearing the flesh of the cop he had taken over after he had snapped his neck. The dead young police officer’s head swung on his twisted neck as bloody drool dripped from the side of his mouth. With one long step, he had a grip on Trane’s neck blowing graveyard foulness into his face. Trane had something on his breath too as he spit a stream of J-Black into the beast’s eye. That dirty trick loosened the fiend’s grip enough for Trane to pin the clammy, rotting claw to the table with the shimmering blade.
“Blast his ass, Grizz!” he yelled to his cousin standing in the shattered doorway with the vintage shotgun loaded with the enchanted shells. “Blast him!”
Grizz gave the demon both barrels. The bare light bulb swung around so much it left glowing purple afterimages on his retinas which didn’t help with the smoke from the shotgun blasts to see where he had hit the raggedy bastard. He knew he had hit him because he heard a strangled wail filled with anger and pain that he knew wasn’t Trane because he would have cursed him off if he had been hit.
Trane actually was hurt because some of the scatter from Grizz’s shells had hit him in his right shoulder, the same side as the bullet wound the demon had given him earlier that night. The smoking black goo that flew from the demon’s chest which Trane guessed was the creature’s lifeblood added to his pain when it gushed over his chest, burning his flesh, and the right hand he used to hold the knife pinned through the demon’s claw.
So much pain but the Old Man had taught both of them how to move past that. They had to see this through to its final end, Trane thought, as he pulled out one of Uncle Zack’s Colts and started firing into the abomination’s lolling, off center head.
He got off the six shots so fast he thought he was holding an automatic pistol while the demon beat on his head with its free fist. Grizz had loaded two more of the silvered shells and let the evil thing have it but by that time the bloodlust was on Grizz who flipped the barrels of the shotgun around to beat the thing with the handle.
Trane forgot or no longer cared about the other six-shooter as he pulled the knife out of the table and the demon’s claw and stabbed it deep into its chest to get any blood he could out of its shriveled, desiccated heart or whatever beat under its sternum. The same bloodlust had taken over him just as much as Grizz as he ignored the keening, scalding pain of his wounds from the nine and shotgun fire and Daemon’s fetid blood as it burned his forearms.
Grizz and Trane were cousins, not brothers, but in that shed under the swaying light they were of one mind as they savagely wrestled and beat down the demon that had tormented their family for so many years. Their tears and howls of angry sadness mingled with the death cries of the beast as they all rolled along the floor of tiny space.
“Move, Trane! Get off him!” Grizz screamed as he raised the stock of the shotgun over his head to slam it down for the deathblow.
The handle landed with a wet ka-chuk as it split the demon’s head in half. The demon’s life force broke and shook the earth as it left the haunted cop’s body and went screaming back to whatever level of Hell it had come from so many years ago when Henry and Zachary’s great-grandfather had conjured him up to help him and his out of bondage.
The silence left in the aftermath of Daemon’s passing was staggering, almost deafening after the roaring noise of their battle with Daemon. If It hadn’t been for the smoke coming from the dissolving corpse of Daemon’s host and the disarray left from the battle then it would have been just another late Saturday night before daybreak in late October in a southern small town. Even the lightbulb had stopped swaying to and fro as the light shown down on Grizz and Trane with his battered, broken body.
“Trane…Trane…come on, cuz. Get up, man,” Grizz pleaded with his prone cousin even though he knew the demon wouldn’t be the only one not walking out of that shed.
“Leave me alone, ya damn bum. I’m trying to rest,” Trane said in a weak whisper.
“It’s not time for you to rest, T. You can’t leave me and the family now. We won, man, we won.”
“I know but the Old Man always said…always said one or both of us might not make it out of this alive,” Trane said with much effort. “Is that bastard gone?”
“Yeah, that devil’s back in his hell but you can’t go with him,” Grizz said as a tear started running out of his eye.
“Whatever, man….whatever. We all gotta die. I can go knowing we saved our folks. It don’t matter about…,” said Trane as his body shuddered from his last breath.
“Trane…Trane…Trane,” Grizz repeated as the bright, blazing sun started to rise in the East to let him know a new day was dawning after too long a night. A nocturne that had claimed so much from his family including his cousin who had been much more than a brother to him.
The Old Man always told them the inheritance would be a heavy load that could break them just like it had broken so many in the clan before. Trane carried that weight though and left a new inheritance for Grizz and the family filled with dazzling possibility. That was the future, however, because in this present Grizz needed the remaining gloom to weep for his indomitable, unconquerable kinsman.