Through the empty door frame I can see the creature storming back and forth, throwing its head back and screeching. Sometimes its front leg darts through the door frame and grabs for me again, like a cat after a toy. The flashes of lightening throw its face into stark relief, illuminating a strikingly familiar image: open jaws, glaring eyes, lips pulled back over the teeth in a death's-head grin.

Ages ago, when I still worked in sales, I often saw people with that face, jerking and rocking along with the dance music among the dim lights and smoky interiors. Watching the creature, I remember how their sunken eyes stared vacantly out from finger-slashed faces. And as I did then, I shudder and turn away. What they do with their lives isn't my responsibility.

After a few minutes the creature retreats to the center aisle and folds its wings back in repose. Its head stays fixed in my direction.

I begin to take stock of my position. I'm still carrying the purse looped over my shoulder, but I'm now even farther from the front entrance, and my only exit path is once again blocked by the creature. I glance up at the floor-length boarded windows to my left, arching high against the back wall of the church. The storm is still raging, though I can spot the occasional star peeping through scattered holes in the clouds. Lightening flashes again, and I notice an unusually large patch of brightness at the very top of the boards. I crane my neck and peer at it again through the empty doorframe; yes, there it is! A gap in the boards just large enough for me to crawl through.

I lean back against the sacristy wall. I don't have any climbing equipment, but the boards should provide enough grip. I've climbed my share of trees, and Gavril and I used to go bouldering back when I lived in the States. There must be some way to distract the creature while I'm trying to scale the boards.

I remember how the creature turned its head away from the torch, and decide to try that again. Fire might not be enough to destroy it, but the light from the flame should keep it away long enough for me to escape. It won't be much of a deterrent, so I will have to climb quickly. Unfortunately, the empty bottle of nail polish means I don't have anything else to burn to make the flame bigger. I can only use my lighter, and I know that won't be nearly enough.

As I stare despondently out at a pool of water on the church floor, however, it dawns on me.

I dig through the contents of my purse for a few moments before surfacing with my prize: a makeup compact. Another strip of cloth torn from my shirt allows me to bind the lighter to the open compact. I slip behind a wall, out of view of the creature, and snap the lighter – perfect. The flat mirror means I won't be able to focus the light much, but it will at least let me reflect the light into the creature's eyes, blinding it long enough for me to escape.

I tug my purse to make sure it's secure and move toward the empty doorway. Inching closer, I peer out at the creature. It sits quietly in the center aisle, but I can see its eyes fixed on me, and I can almost detect a gleam of excitement in the stone orbs. I hold my breath and stare at it as my grip on the lighter strengthens. The creature stares back, immobile. I flick the lighter open and step out of the sacristy.

It lunges toward me. I swing the lighter. The amber glow falls on its face. It snarls and swings its head aside as if struck. I watch as it wheels around and rages, but the light keeps it at bay. The flame is weak, but the mirror focuses the light enough to keep the creature away. It won't move closer for fear of the light.

Wary, I begin to back along the wall of the church until I'm directly below the floor-length boarded windows. I reach behind me and grip the sodden wood, pulling myself up. The creature snarls again and circles around on the floor, outside the weak circle of light. I take a deep breath and begin to climb.

I press my hips close to the boards and shove my sneakers into footholds. Holding the lighter open while climbing is cumbersome, so I grip it tightly, afraid the wet surface will fly out of my hand like a bar of soap. Behind me, the creature screeches and lunges; I'm forced to periodically turn around and wave the lighter in its eyes. It darts away, hissing, when the light hits it. My hands, damp with rain and perspiration, scramble blindly among the boards, searching for handholds. The bitter wind spits rain at me through the cracks in the wood. The muscles in my arms and legs begin to ache as I climb slowly higher.

Halfway up the wall, I feel a sudden rush of wind. My hand gripping the boards, I wheel around in time to see the creature diving in like a falcon. The lighter flashes. The creature screeches and turns away, wheeling to the far end of the church. It's building up speed for its attacks. As it closes in again, I swing the lighter furiously. The creature banks away again, but the flame sputters.

And goes out.

The creature begins to circle around again. I click the lighter a few times and the flame pops back on. I twist my head up and spy the opening not far above me. As the creature closes in again, I begin to scramble up the boards more quickly.

The creature approaches. I flash the lighter again, but this time I've waited too long. The creature brakes sharply with its wings before wheeling away. A sudden gust of air hits my face. I close my eyes and turn to the wall. The creature's wings snap in the cold air as it turns again for the far end of the church. I turn my head back and open my eyes, and that's when I notice the flame is out. I flick the lighter again.

It doesn't respond.

Shit. The dead lighter falls through the air and shatters against the floor. I scurry up the boards. The opening is just ahead. Weak starlight winks through tiny rips in the clouds and dribbles down on the boards. I force my aching muscles to respond. Faster. Rain pelts my hands as I inch toward the top. It's only a few feet away.

I hear a rush of wind at my back. The creature is closing in. It screeches behind me. I brace my feet against the creaking board and jump, thrusting myself at the opening.

For a moment, I feel the wind on my hands as they reach out into the rainy night. Then an enormous force flattens me against the boards. I feel something seize my arms and push off, yanking me off the wall. My hands snatch wildly at air as I tumble backward through space.

The creature holds me and dives toward the floor. My stomach churns. Unable to use my arms, I kick back with my legs, and feel a satisfying thump as one of them connects with the creature's stomach. The creature doesn't react, My head continues its trajectory toward the stone floor. Panicked, I swing my legs back and snag them around the creature's rear leg.

My head is jerked up. The creature snarls and banks right, trying to shake me loose. I lock my ankles around the rear leg and refuse to let go. The creature circles around and drops one of my arms to swipe at me. I swing myself around and grip the other front leg, the one still holding my arm. The creature banks again, but too slowly. Its wing clips the pew and we tumble together to the stone floor.

I hit the ground and feel the wind knocked out of me. I land on my side and roll several feet down the aisle, as if I had jumped from a moving car. I sit up with my head spinning and try to get my bearings. My upper arms are killing me, and my back and ribs are aching from the impact. I think bitterly of the panoply of bruises I will find if I ever get out of this. In front of me, just a few feet from the entrance, the creature has landed on its side with a wing wedged beneath its body. It's struggling to get up.

There isn't enough time for me to run past it. Swearing, I wrap an arm around my middle and dive under the pews. I work my way slowly back to the right wall of the church. From under the pew I see the creature has righted itself and is swinging its head again, looking for me. I swear again and look longingly up at the opening in the boarded window.

I shiver in my rain-soaked clothes, knowing I'm in danger of freezing as soon as my adrenaline falls. The rain thunders down outside. There are still many hours left to the night, too long for me to wait, and now I'm back at square one. With no nail polish, no lighter, and no hope of escape.