The One Who Devours Souls
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The One Who Devours Souls arrives in the bleak, gray hours of the morning, when all good men lie afearing their beds. He (for it is a he, though the strange raiments it wears, and the viscous fluids in its hair make its sex vague) steps from his carriage, a cursed device made for kings in distant lands and bought by the persecution of righteous men, and walks, measured and even as old age, to the threshold, where he strikes the door but thrice. He calls my name, and chills run down my spine, as though death itself were upon me. Death would, in fact, be a blessing, compared to the torment this creature intends for me.

I shake my head, but he strikes three times again, and says my name. I quail in my chair, staring bleakly at the place she once sat beside me, before the doom befell me. Three times again, and paid for all. Thrice three, and I am compelled to rise, to unbolt the door, and let the creature in.

He takes my hand in his, his grip like a leech's. My hand falls back to my side, my strength gone. I fall back to my seat, and he takes the other. The place where she once sat. Does he know? He must. He knows all that is in my house, from attic to basement, room to room. There is little that could have escaped his notice. His lists.

He speaks and his voice is like unto the droning of insects, and I can feel a burning madness in my mind. How could his voice have beguiled others so? And yet it had, for what other explanation could there be? How else could my situation, once so full of fortune, have turned to Jobian loss and regret? The words, it was his words! Nothing left his mouth that was not carefully selected, the words placed one after the other like the stones of a wall, seeming so innocuous until you noticed the traps he had lain, and then it was too late.

He lifts the container at his side, and places it reverently on the table, like an idol placed just so before a sacrifice is laid screaming on the altar. The latches are opened with an ominous click, and from the darkness thus revealed, he pulls out several documents, their words arcane and their meanings as treacherous as a pit of vipers.

"Read," he commands. I try, knowing how much is at stake, knowing that one missed word will ruin me, even beyond the state I find myself in, but my mind can make no sense of the twisted sentences. I read, and re-read, and can no more tell you what I see than I can recall the vows I once made to her. Finally, I give up. My eyes hollow, I stare up at him, searching for some trace of humanity in that dead visage, some remnant of charity or pity. He returns my gaze, and I look away, unable to meet those cold, reptilian eyes.

"Sign here," he says, gesturing to a line. I find a pen in my hand, though I cannot recall having picked it up. Numbly, as though I were only watching it happen, as though I were not an active participant, I sign my name in an unsteady script. More lines are singled out for my name, my one true name, and so I give him power over me.

"Thank you, Mister Johnson," he says, picking up the briefcase. "Your ex-wife will be expecting the first alimony check no later than thirty days. Good day."

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