Rick McQuiston

31704 Shawn

Warren, Mich. 48088

Many_Midnights approx. 1148 words

The Starved Demon

By Rick McQuiston

Mike sat in his worn, green chair. He rested one arm on a cracked vinyl armrest and the other supported his head, his chin cupped in his hand. A paperback novel sat on his lap, the bookmarker nestled on the page he'd just read.

"Do you fear being alone?" the disembodied voice asked.

A thick silence followed as Mike pondered both the words and what his reply might be.

"Do you fear being alone?" the voice asked again. "And if so, what would you do if it came to fruition?"

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Mike felt a presence in the room with him. It was malevolent and hungry, like a starved demand closing in on an unsuspecting traveler.

"Like anyone else I am afraid of being alone, but I am a man of simple tastes. Food, drink, comfort, and the occasional diversions such as a good book to read or soothing music to relax to are all I need to be content."

"I see," the voice said with an air of annoyance. "I must say though that you do disappoint me. Others have proved to be more interesting, more complex, tastier."

The last word sent a sliver of fear down Mike's spine.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you," he replied, trying his best to keep calm. "But you are the one who kidnapped and locked me up in here."

"You have whatever you ask for."

It was true. He asked for food and there was a steak on a plate in front of him. He asked for wine and there was a vintage bottle of red Chardonnay next to the steak. He asked for a television and one materialized on the wall. He even requested his favorite chair, the one he spent countless hours sitting in

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when he was a kid, and there it was, the same chair, right down to the tear in the vinyl he'd made one day when his pants got caught while standing up.

"Yes, you have given me whatever I ask for, except for my freedom. When I asked for that you denied me."

"You must understand," the voice continued, ignoring the previous statement, "that there are horrors worse than being in this room with anything you want. I'm saving you from a terrible revelation, something that you might not be able to deal with if you were confronted with it."

Mike became upset. He had grown weary of the games. He was comfortable and yet still a prisoner. "I want to be free!" he shouted. "I want to leave this room!"

The voice grew silent for a moment, as if thinking over the request, and then spoke.

The reply startled Mike.

"As you wish."

Tense seconds slipped into minutes before a creaking noise echoed in the featureless room.

Mike did the only thing he could think of: he waited.

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A shaft of light lit the far corner of the room, not more than 20 feet from where Mike sat. It began as a bright dot six feet off the floor and stretched horizontally for three feet, and then vertically, from each end of the line down to the ground, forming a rectangular shape of light that contrasted sharply with the blackness around it.

Mike bolted to his feet. He recognized it for what it was: a door. He stumbled across the room, ignoring the possible danger, and made his way toward his supposed escape.

"But you must remember what I told you," the voice chimed in, as if deliberately stalling for time.

Mike stopped and looked around the room. "What? What did you tell me?"

"That I'm saving you from a terrible revelation."

Mike listened to the words, trying to decipher their true meaning, but all he heard was an underlying evil, a hidden agenda with dark implications.

Turning to face the door, Mike lunged toward it. He didn't care where it led, only that it was real and not some fabricated prop from his childhood.

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"I warn you," the voice continued. "Stay here and you can have anything you want. Go through that door and you will realize horrors beyond your nightmares."

"I don't believe you!" Mike shouted back while fumbling for a handle. He eventually found one and grasped it in his sweaty hand, turning it and stepping through the doorway.

The demon smiled.

The first thing Mike noticed was the sky. It wasn't blue or gray and there were no clouds, nor sun. In fact, it was nothing more than a blank sheet of pale-red emptiness. Then he saw the carnage. Twisted heaps of scrap metal littered the ground as far as his disbelieving eyes could see; uprooted trees lay on their sides like discarded boards around a construction site, and completing the painting of horror were gaping holes dotting the landscape.

Mike struggled to take it all in. The world as he knew it was gone, replaced by an apocalyptic nightmare.

"Mankind destroyed itself," the voice calmly stated from the darkness of the room. "A nuclear war decimated the planet. I saved you by bringing you here, keeping you safe from radiation fallout and roving disease. I gave you everything you asked for,

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except, of course, the one thing I knew you wouldn't truly want."

Mike fell to his knees and cupped his face in his hands. Tears burned his cheeks as they trickled through his fingers. He thought of the only viable option left to him (suicide) but couldn't bring himself to do it. He wanted to live. Despite his situation, he wanted to live.

But you can live. All you have to do is turn around and walk back into the room.

You can have anything you ask for and live out the remainder of your days in comfort.

Mike decided to listen to the voice in his head. He could live in comfort. He'd have books to read and movies to watch and wine to drink. He forced himself to his feet and spun around to face the doorway.

Then the light that framed the doorway suddenly vanished, quickly followed by the door itself.

Mike stood there amid the desolation and destruction of a post-apocalyptic world, staring at a patch of emptiness where the door used to be. "No!" he cried and collapsed to his knees.

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He could feel his will to live being drained, like a pitcher of water with a slight crack at the bottom, seeping out in a slow but steady trickle.

And the demon, nestled snugly in its writhing bed of worms, suckled its prey. Hopelessness tasted so good, despair had such a nice tang to its flavor. It savored every drop of Mike's misery for it had not eaten in a long time and was bordering on starving.

And when it was done sucking Mike dry it would feast on his flesh.