They Come From The Dark
Callie Summers was moving her fingers over the smooth surface of a crystal ball that was on a golden bird’s talon set in the center of a table before her. Her long thin digits were making what appeared to be smoke inside it spin. The fingers of her other hand unconsciously fiddled with the velvet tassels hanging off the purple, blue and green paisley print scarf that was being used as a tablecloth.
She was staring up at the phosphorescent greenish yellow planet and star mobile that was spiraling above her head, wishing she were somewhere else.
She was beginning to question all her beliefs and convictions.
Callie had always felt she had a special connection to the cosmos and beyond – as she called it. She had given true foretellings for clients before but it had been a long time. She could not seem to connect to the beyond anymore. She hadn’t had a proper reading or premonition in close to a month now, though she had faked it well enough. She was good at reading people, with a few well-asked questions she could give the impression she had learned it all by reading a person’s mind.
She wasn’t sure she could fake it again. She didn’t like how it made her feel or lying to people. There was more than one who thought that was exactly what she’d been doing all along – pretending to be a psychic.
Callie jumped as the brass bell over her door rattled shrilly telling her someone had just entered her shop, Summer Sage. She hoped they were only interested in a love potion or wanted a poultice to get rid of headaches. She started to stand up to find out when the face of an older woman with tight curled purplish hair peered through the black velvet curtains she had set up inside the booth to make the people feel they were getting the full treatment.
It was clichéd but people had certain expectations when they went to have their palms read.
“Hello, ma’am,” said Callie. She tried hard to get an image of the woman’s name or why she was there but was seeing only a blankness… There was a day all a person’s most intimate details would flood into her mind as soon as she saw them, and that was only because she had learned how to block out those details. It was useless, she was getting nothing but some fuzzy pictures of a black and white spotted dog and a red blanket.
The woman stepped fully into the room and said, “I… I am…” She was wringing her hands and kept wiping tears from her red and swollen eyes. “I need…”
Callie was about to ask if she was looking for a lost dog; praying that was what she was there for. She didn’t think she could take another person calling her a complete fraud to her face. She got very lightheaded all of a sudden and fell back in her seat.
The elderly woman had been frightened to enter the shop but she was unsure where else to turn. Something was drawing her to this shop; something was telling her she would get help here. She started to the room hidden by the curtain, knowing it was there she wanted to go. As she stepped into it another feeling came over her, one that said she was wrong, what she heard next made her sure she was going mad.
Callie got a clear and distinct phrase in her mind as she looked into the woman’s eyes; she spoke it aloud, “They come from the dark.”
“Wha… what?” cried the older woman, backing away. She was certain she didn’t want to be here now, what she saw next confirmed this.
The younger woman’s eyes went all cloudy and she began to speak in an odd voice, one that couldn’t possibly come from her throat on its own.
“You cannot get away from us,” came from Callie’s mouth, in a voice that was about two octaves deeper than most men’s voices would be. “You will help to complete our proviso,” said that deep voice. The body it was coming from began to rise then and the thing possessing Callie brought her hands, which were twisted and curved like three fingered claws, up and moved them toward the older woman’s throat.
That woman was frozen in place, her eyelids and the tears running down her cheeks the only parts of her that seemed able to move. A strange feeling came over her then and she heard an equally deep voice say, “You must stop this now,” just as the younger woman’s twisted hands met her throat. It had come from the old woman’s lips; her own eyes now solid black and glossy.
Callie fell back then, screaming and clawing at her own throat.
The older woman’s eyes cleared and, in her own shaky voice, she said, “No… no… not again.” She turned and ran from the small booth and out the door of the shop, slamming it hard against the brick wall beside it.
The bottom panel of glass cracked from the hard impact but the toughening of the pane, which was a security measure, kept it from breaking completely. The transparent film that lined the inside of the double pane was holding all the tiny cuboid pieces in place making hundreds of tiny prisms form in the light of the streetlamp reflecting off it.
Callie came awake with a sudden jolt with the crashing of that door.
A wave of dizziness washed over her and she began to shake violently then she jumped and fell back again as she got a flood of images. Her hands went to the sides of her head, trying to keep it from splitting open from the onslaught.
She saw the woman who had just been in her shop running frantically up the dark alley her shop was at the end of, looking over her shoulder as if she was being chased. It was a strange viewpoint, like she was having an out of body experience, her soul flying above the woman. She was sucked inside the older body when the woman opened her mouth to scream then she was seeing through the other woman’s eyes – seeing what it was she was running away from.
She had never seen anything so frightening in her life; three gray humanish forms with no real features and only short stubby arms held tight to their bodies were gaining on her, on them, very fast. They weren’t really running, more floating a few inches off the road, and they didn’t cast shadows, only odd blackish holes showed beneath them. She watched the devoid silhouette of one of these things move over a puddle of water in the alley and gasped as the surface rippled erratically like it was getting ready to boil then she saw its reflection – it looked like it was only smoke coalescing tightly.
Callie wished she could make the old woman run faster but she couldn’t move her body, she also couldn’t get herself out of the woman’s body. She felt sure her heart was going to stop when the three forms reached them and when she felt the deathly cold grip of their three fingered hands close over the other woman’s arms.
The cold spread out from those tight grips and engulfed the older woman’s body. Callie’s mind, inside the woman’s mind, screamed then suddenly she was thrust out of the woman’s body with a jolt.
It took the young woman a second to realize where she was because she didn’t recognize it. She saw a queen size bed beneath her. A hand woven quilt in a patchwork pattern of purples and pinks was covering two bodies in that bed. One looked like it had been an elderly man by the wispy gray hair on his head but his body was dry and shriveled up like he was a mummy without his wrapping, the other was the woman that had been in her shop.
How could she be here in her bed, and in my shop at the same time? Callie wondered; beyond confused now.
She was about to call out to the woman when she saw three blackish gray forms like what had been chasing them step from the deep shadows of the corner – out of the very shadow itself.
Callie watched in horror as the things floated to the woman’s side of the bed, raised their stunted arms over her and began to chant in an eerie sounding language she didn’t understand but made the hairs all over her body prickle. The woman’s back arched violently then her body came off the bed and she twisted up, first this way then that, as if huge invisible hands were ringing out a washcloth.
Callie held her breath as she heard the last breath leave the woman’s body then watched her soul leave it. She had seen death many times, been witness to many a soul depart living flesh. It didn’t frighten her but it still made all the hairs on the back of her neck rise and goose pimples form all over her body.
This woman’s soul didn’t float up to the light as she had watched other people’s do; this one seemed to struggle.
One of the beings by her side brought out what looked like an urn. It took the cover off this vessel then the woman’s soul was sucked inside it.
Callie panicked as she felt her own getting pulled down, then even more when she saw the beings turn and raise their faces, or where their faces should be, to look at her.
They didn’t have eyes or mouths, only two small holes like nostrils and a hole on either side of their heads, like ears.
She opened her ethereal mouth to scream and shook herself awake.
Callie opened her eyes but she couldn’t see anything, only pitch-blackness around her. She thought for a moment she had been struck blind. Her breath was coming in painful hitches, from a raw and dry throat, and she was covered with cold sweat. She began to panic when she realized something was on top of her. She kicked out hard with her legs and felt whatever it was move off her quickly.
Her eyes had begun to adjust to the sparse light around her now. She breathed a sigh of relief when she realized she was in her own bedroom, in her own bed and it was only the thick cotton comforter, which she had doubled over because it was especially cold when she went to bed, that she had felt the weight of.
The woman’s drafty loft apartment was hard to keep warm on a typical night but this one was one of the coldest of the year. In fact the coldest on record for Indigo City, whose nights on average didn’t fall below thirty degrees – even in the dead of winter. It was early spring by the calendar but the temperature outside this night was only fifteen degrees. Inside her bedroom, being on the north side of her apartment, might have been forty degrees.
She was wearing only a thin tank top and pajama shorts but she actually didn’t mind the cold air that was rushing in to replace the warm blanket at that moment. Except that it was drying the sweat fast and making her shiver with a frenzy. Some of this was due to the adrenaline rushing through her veins just then as well though.
She tried to tell herself she had only had a bad nightmare but she knew better. It had been months since she’d had a premonition and she had never had one like this before – it had seemed so real. She wouldn’t mind if it was many more before she had another, if ever again.
Callie took a deep breath and pushed the sweat dampened golden hair from her young, angular face. She used the edge of the blanket to wipe her forehead, neck and the exposed part of her chest then she lay back down and fought to make her heart rate slow. The cold was beginning to only feel cold now so she pulled the blankets back over her. She lay staring at the ripple effect of the moon reflecting off the river that ran beside her loft on her ceiling. Most nights it had a calming effect on her, this one it only made her more anxious.
Finally she allowed her heavy eyes to close again.
An image of a male lion with a thick mane, a long tufted tail and the head, wings and talons of an eagle formed in Callie’s mind just as she was falling asleep again. She couldn’t say why this helped calm her, she had always thought a griffon was a horrid looking creature.
Earlier that night and across town:
A blondish brown haired six foot three man stood in the center of a large picture window gazing down at a symbol that had haunted him all his life and been one of great comfort to him. It was of a mythical creature with the body, tail and thick mane of a lion and the head, talons and wings of an eagle – commonly known in mythology as a griffon.
He had often used a symbol like it on his written correspondence growing up, sometimes doodling it on the corner of his school papers in place of his name since it was the same only spelled different.
The symbol Gryphon Blake was staring down at this day was a profile of the creature in a proud seated stance on a backlit sign that was spinning on an axis in the center of a flowerbed full of red, yellow, purple and pink tulips in full bloom in the courtyard in front of his business, Griffon Concepts, Inc. Another like this sign graced the side of his building. The window of his office was set in its head and stone versions of the creature were set on each side of the drive up to the building.
G.C.I. was a scientific think tank that held contracts with many major scientific, medical, environmental, pharmaceutical, technological and aeronautical companies, government agencies, a few military and private facilities and many colleges. His company was involved in everything from developing the norm: medicines, vaccines, weapons of war, space rocketry, communication satellites and multi-functional robots, to the unthinkable: a failed attempt to create a time travel device and a machine that was supposed to detect ghosts.
He knew a lot of the agencies his company dealt with, as well as much of the scientific and academic world, thought he and his employees were jokes but it didn’t stop many of them from offering financing for their unconventional concepts when they needed it.
Gryphon was preparing for a seminar he was giving at Northern Biscayne University, his Alma Mata, tomorrow on his phase shift device; another of his company’s, and his own personal, inventions that was thought to be a complete joke.
He sniffed with indignation.
Gryphon could care less if he ever received public recognition as an asset to the scientific community but hoped someday his company and the brilliant people employed here would be.
Gryphon jumped as a soft tapping came from the door behind him.
“Come in,” he said over his shoulder in a voice far calmer than he expected it to be. He had no idea how much longer he might have stayed at that window if not for the interruption.
The door opened slowly to the face of a woman of about twenty. She had big green eyes and bright red hair, which was pinned up in a loose bun on top of her head; a number two lead pencil stuck through the center of it like an old schoolmarm.
“Excuse me, Dr. Blake,” said this woman.
“What is it, Sandra?” asked Gryphon as he turned from the window, walked to his large mahogany desk, which was set cattycornered and off center in the center of the room, and lifted the cup of coffee he had poured himself before going to the window for a moment of reflection. It was still steaming so he blew across the top of it then took a sip.
“The car has arrived for you, sir,” said the woman as she stepped inside, his dark brown leather and suede briefcase in her hand.
Gryphon had only a blank stare on his face.
Sandra was attractive enough, if you liked her type.
Today she was dressed in a gray tweed jacket over a light pink cashmere sweater that was tight enough to show every lacey detail of the bra beneath it and a pink and purple plaid skirt that was so short she couldn’t bend over without the bottom of her underpants, which were just as lacy if Gryphon didn’t miss his guess, would be showing. She was wearing black stiletto heals with no nylons so her well-tanned, muscular legs, which went all the way up, were clear as well – hoping to catch his eye he guessed.
He knew she had a crush on him, she had let it be known in little ways since the day he had first seen her in his office, interviewing for the position of his secretary and assistant. His business partner and best friend, D.J., had asked him jokingly if he hired her in hopes of an easy lay – or at least he hoped it was a joke.
The man could be very crass at times.
He wondered himself why he had hired her. She wasn’t the brightest of the candidates for the job, nor the most qualified, but there was something about her that felt comfortable. He was certain it wasn’t thoughts of bedding her.
He hadn’t been with a woman in close to six months, which by coincident had been just about the time Sandra had come in for her interview. He hadn’t sworn off women, he did hope someday to date again and maybe, one day, get married, but his last relationship had ended rather hard. He had fallen deeply in love with that woman, deeper than he had admitted even to himself until it was too late. He had been hurt bad when it ended abruptly.
It hadn’t been over another man or another woman it had been over his work.
She had said, through shouts at the top of her lungs, the last time Gryphon saw her, that he cared more about his stupid science projects than he did her. He would later admit to himself that he had spent too much time at the office near the end of their relationship. He could never make her understand that brainstorms came when they came, sometimes even in the middle of a romantic dinner or making love. He had never found anyone that understood that except for D.J., who had never been able to keep a relationship going for long either.
He supposed there was a reality in this thought process he should look deeper at but he wasn’t in the mood just then.
“Tell Jacob to leave my car out front, I’m not quite ready to go yet,” said Gryphon in a monotone voice.
The woman stayed in the doorway as if she had something else she wanted to say.
He thought seriously about waving her away but instead said, “Was there something else, Sandra?”
“I wanted to say that I hope your seminar tomorrow goes well,” said the woman smiling brightly.
His eyes left her as he lifted the cup to his lips again.
She watched him pucker his lips to drink from the cup and wished it was to kiss her; she parted her own lips unconsciously then.
“You and me both, Sandra, you and me both,” said the man, oblivious of what was going through the mind of the woman standing before him.
“I… I also wanted to let you know that I believe in your work, Dr. Blake, I really think someday you will be recognized as you should be.”
While he was looking away she took the opportunity to look him over again. She liked it when he dressed casual. He looked good in the jeans, which were tighter than his usual slacks. The top four buttons of his shirt were undone, instead of being buttoned to the top with a tie. She could see the hair of the top of his chest through that opening, which only made her want to see more.
“Thanks, Sandra,” said Gryphon. He had started for a door between two floor to ceiling bookcases as he said this. It was the entrance to his executive washroom. He realized the woman was still standing in the doorway as he reached it. “Something else?” he said over his shoulder.
“Um… I noticed you never left for lunch today and didn’t order anything in… You really need to keep up your strength… I am sure I don’t need to remind you of how long it took you to get over the flu last month.”
He had been sick for a few days but he hadn’t been as bad as he had told her he was the fourth or fifth days of absence. He just hadn’t felt like working. He knew someone would insist he come in to see their latest ideas if he hadn’t.
He was actually trying to get himself back right because the third day of his absence would have been his fourth anniversary with Adrienne.
“I appreciate the worry, Sandra, but I’m feeling perfectly fine, honestly. I had a bag of dehydrated fruit and nuts in my drawer and a bottle of Gatorade from the fridge.”
The fact that she still hadn’t left told him she wasn’t going to let him off so easy. “You know how little I like people beating around the bush, Sandra, just come out and say what you want to say.”
“Did you… Would it be inappropriate for me to ask… Would you be interested in going to dinner with me?” Sandra thought he was about the finest looking man she had ever seen and wanted desperately to tell him but wasn’t sure how she could without him thinking she was only trying to win favors and get a bigger paycheck.
“I appreciate the invitation, Sandra, but I wouldn’t be much for company tonight. I need to practice my talk and go over my notes… which will take me most of the evening,” said the man, taking another step.
“You could practice your speech on me,” said the woman’s hope filled voice.
“Again, I appreciate the offer but I am still going to say no. I left a list of things I would like you to see about before the end of the day and I hope you have a good weekend,” said the man as he continued into the washroom and closed the door.
Sandra saw the list on the center of her boss’s desk, beside his cup of coffee, handwritten in his scrolling penmanship. She set his case down on the desk and placed her hand on top of it for a moment, just feeling the soft suede and leather material. She took the list and looked at the neat writing, wishing it was a personal note to her, or more like a love letter. She looked at the door the man was behind and wished again he would consider her as more than just an employee.
Gryphon hit the flush button on the wall over the commode and turned to the black and green marble sink. He waved his hand under the tap of the faucet to turn it on. It shut off as soon as his hands left it. He grabbed a black towel monogrammed with a golden griffon and his initial G.A.B. from the rod beside him, dried his hands then tossed it onto the corner of the vanity. He was looking at his reflection as he was doing this, unsure if he liked what he was seeing or not.
He was considered quite handsome, he had been voted one of the counties top ten most eligible bachelors several years running – this year he was number one.
D.J. had immensely enjoyed rubbing in this fact, having made an announcement over the paging system of the building. He had also given several of his coworkers a copy of the issue and paid them to stop their boss and ask him for an autograph. The man had also left a copy on his desk, opened to the middle of the photo spread, which showed a picture of him in partial profile, wearing dark sunglasses, a red cotton polo shirt and khaki shorts, taken while he was out walking on the boardwalk a few weeks before.
The only reason he had read the article was so he could have any incorrect or inaccurate information corrected in the next issue. Not that he cared if they got anything wrong about him he just wanted his company shown in the best possible light – no publicity is bad publicity.
He sniggered as he remembered reading over his stats, which listed his best attributes as his eyes, his smile and his ass. Those were three things he always thought could use improving.
Gryphon didn’t think he was bad looking but he knew there were many that were better looking. He had been told by enough women over the years that he was attractive to believe he was to them but unlike a lot of men who are told this enough times it had never sunk in. He had just turned forty-three a few months before, which had always seemed like such an ancient age until he reached forty.
He ran his large hand through his tousled hair that was in need of a cut; it was beginning to curl wildly along the edges.
It was still pretty much the same color it had been all his life – a mottled blondish brown. He didn’t have many grays yet but there was more than he would like to see. He was thankful he still had most of it. His business partner, David Jacob Wright, affectionately referred to as D.J. by people that knew him well, was only thirty-three and already had thinning hair and a widow’s peak started.
His hair, like his eyes, which were a blue-gray, tended to look a different color depending on what he was wearing and what lighting he was in. The fluorescent lights over his head in this room made his hair actually look a touch on the reddish side and his eyes more gray than blue. They also looked very tired and a touch bloodshot.
He reached into the medicine cabinet over the sink, took out a bottle of Visine and put two drops into each eye then looked back at his reflection.
He was tall, had broad shoulders and was well built, naturally so by luck, since he wasn’t one to want to exercise. He used to jog when he was younger and had even managed to go to the gym for about three months about three years ago but when he realized he hadn’t returned in six weeks he decided to let his membership lapse.
He was wearing a medium blue fitted button up shirt, which wasn’t tucked in and was unbuttoned down the front more than usual, his chest hair was spilling out the opening and the edges of his clavicles were showing.
He remembered Adrienne always said he looked sexy this way but that was something he had never really considered himself to be.
He was wearing blue stonewashed jeans today, the edges of the pockets and along the bottom of the legs were fraying and they were faded more along the tops of the thighs than any other part of his legs. He supposed he should throw them away but they were comfortable. He typically wore silk dress shirts, linen slacks and a tie to work and had a sports jacket with him for meetings but he wasn’t supposed to be working today.
He had only come in to get his notes for his talk tomorrow but he had ended up there all afternoon.
Gryphon practiced his smile in the mirror, trying to make it look genuine, not forced. It still looked more like a grimace to him. He finally gave up and splashed water in his face.
He didn’t know why he kept putting himself through this kind of torture. He hated public speaking with a passion; not because he wasn’t good at it, he was actually very good at it and he had a voice that was made for it – it was deep, melodic and it carried well, even without a microphone – but he didn’t like being judged. He always felt at least half the crowd was there only to see him fail and fall on his face.
He cleared his throat and began to recite his usual opening statement in his deep speaking voice, “Good afternoon, students, faculty and visitors of the university. I know that you have all come here with certain expectations of what you will see, hear and learn, I promise to do my best to make sure you also understand when you leave. First I want to explain what phase shifting is and what it does.” He sniggered a little then and said to himself in his usual voice, which was only a little less deep, “Half of them won’t understand, do you suppose even a quarter of them will care?”
He turned from his reflection, opened the door, stepped back into his office and jumped a foot.
“Who are you kidding, you’d be happy if even a tenth of them do,” said a man standing at Gryphon’s bar pouring himself a scotch on the rocks from his bottle of Glenlivet.
“You do know it is rude to listen in on a person’s personal conversations,” said Gryphon as he shut the light in the room behind him off and closed the door panel.
“You were speaking loud enough I could have heard you from my office,” said the man as he held the bottle of single malt up, in offer to pour the other a drink. He set it down when the other man shook his head. He held the glass of amber liquor in his hand up in a mock toast then took a sip. His office was about a hundred feet away, on the other side of the building.
“And,” continued Gryphon, “to walk into someone’s office uninvited?”
“Like you haven’t done it to me in mine a million or more times.”
“This is my company, so your office in essence is my office as well,” said Gryphon, holding up a cork coaster with the company logo on it up. He tossed it to the other man so he wouldn’t set the sweating glass down on his fine wood furniture.
“Touché,” said the man then he sniggered and pointed at the door as he said, “I saw the dreamy look in your secretary’s eyes as I came in, did you finally tag her?”
“Very crass, D.J.,” said Gryphon pointedly.
“Like you don’t know she would lay down and spread them willingly with even a hint from you.”
Gryphon grunted in disgust then put his fisted hands on his hips and said, “Have you come for a reason, other than to make rude remarks about my secretary?”
“Actually, I did. I got the test results on the rats we injected with the synthetic growth hormone,” said his partner.
Gryphon waited, knowing his friend was pausing because he wanted to be dramatic; he wasn’t disappointed.
“As we suspected their muscle mass is larger than usual but their bones aren’t keeping up, their brains aren’t developing like they should, can’t even make it halfway through the maze before they freeze up, and they are still developing cancer cells at the same rate,” said the man walking around the perimeter of the room.
“So, back to the drawing board on that one?”
“We are getting closer, but yeah, afraid so,” said D.J. as he sat on the arm of the coach, finished the drink then sucked an ice cube into his mouth and chewed on it. “You still freaking out about tomorrow?”
“I do not freak out,” said Gryphon indignantly.
“The growth hormone had another effect that surprised us,” said the man as he went to pour himself another drink.
“If you were to take a small dose you wouldn’t be worried about tomorrow anymore,” said D.J..
“No, but important things might start falling off me… Gee, I think I will pass,” said Gryphon with a look that said he wondered why the other might think he would want to.
“I am only trying to make you lighten up some, Gryph. We both know you will do just fine. You always do. The women will all be drooling over your hot eyes,” said the man, batting his eyes quickly, “and the men will scoff at you because the women are all drooling.”
Gryphon held a middle finger up to his friend.
D.J. smirked and said, “Are you here much longer?”
“No. I am heading out in a matter of minutes.”
“Can I catch a ride with you?”
“What happened to your car?”
“It’s in the shop, getting a new paint job.”
“Didn’t you just get it painted as you put it the hottest color on the market right now teal green last month?” asked Gryphon as he opened the briefcase his secretary left him and put his note cards and the slides he had prepared into it.
“Yeah, but we just developed a new paint in the chem lab that changes colors depending on the angle you look at the car… red to purple to blue and back… think of all the things I could get away with if no one can get the color of my car right.”
“I have told you before, D.J., you cannot use our technology for crime,” said Gryphon.
He knew D.J. was only teasing him but he also knew the man wouldn’t be satisfied or stop until he had said something similar to show his outrage. This was like a game between them – for D.J. to see how annoyed he could make Gryphon and for Gryphon to see how long D.J. thought he could get away with it.
“You wouldn’t have to kiss so many asses if I robbed a few banks though,” sniggered the younger man.
“You can kiss my ass,” said Gryphon, as he took the man’s empty glass from him and set it in the sink on the bar then turned back to him and said, “My car is out front. Go on down, I will be right along.”
“Yes, massa,” said the man, bowing to what was essentially his boss as he backed out the door.
Gryphon couldn’t help but smile at the idiot’s antics.
He took one last look at the window, at the odd pinkish purple clouds of the sunset, then walked out the door of his office. He locked it behind him, walked past the desk of his secretary without even responding to her, walked up to the elevator and pushed the down button. He hated elevators; he wondered almost everyday why he had decided to have his office on the top floor of the building.