To Gavin Chappell...this is not a threat...
The eaves shook from the wind outside as the spring rain slapped the side of the house. He could see the silhouette of trees across the street as he looked out the window. Two candles burned, casting their light on to the pile of letters that were scattered over the ink stained wood of the desk. The candles cast strange shapes on the wall from weird oddities he collected and he watched them as his mood took on an even darker tone than it already had. He took a sip of his whiskey, a dribble running down his chin as he wondered why he didn’t just turn on the lights, this clearly wasn’t helping.
Putting his feet up on a chest, he sat with his back to the window as he looked up at a velvet painting of a Pegasus rearing up between the silhouettes of trees. An old clock chimed the midnight hour as he lowered his eyes to the clutter. Rejection letters from magazines and publishers, it seemed as of late a hopeless situation. There was no room in the world of literature for his works of love.
“Whoa man, love it but holy fuck that is dark...I don’t think we can use that...”
“Sorry but we didn’t even bother to read past the first sentence...” (It didn’t really say that, but it might as well have.)
And then there was his favorite,
“We think you did a really good job, the story is amazing, but your style is too intellectual for our readers...”
What a great way to say that your target audience is stupid. He took another swig of the whiskey and lit a cigarette, the smoke wrapping its way around the frame on the painting as it trailed towards the ceiling. He stared at the letters with hatred as he thought for a moment about lighting them all on fire, just watching them burn to ash and disappear from existence. But that would be stupid. Despite his self deprecating thoughts, he didn’t want to die in a house fire of his own making, especially surrounded by these bullshit letters. His friends were worried about his mental health, despite his assurances that it was just the stress of work and he had isolated, preferring the life of an outcast to their condescending tones and nervous looks.
A flash of lightning caught his attention as the heavens rumbled; strange clouds crowding the sky above that swirled against the flashes of light. It looked to him like whatever lay above was taking a photograph, documenting this exact moment in time. Perhaps whatever the fuck was up there liked to save moments of despair for its own amusement. Fuck if he knew. The house shook as another roll of thunder came from above. Bowling...that is what his mother always used to say. God bowling. To think that such a deity could bowl and take photographs while its creations suffered, what a dick.
He exhaled and watched the smoke create fantasies in the candlelight, his imagination starting to get the best of him as he felt a creeping dread run up his spine. A gust of wind hit the glass of the window and he jumped a little as some of the cool breathe made it through the glass and one of the candles blew out with a silent puff. Maybe it was the whiskey, but he felt as if the room held ominous vibes. Deciding that it was best to turn on the lights and get himself out of this funk, he took a final sip and slammed the glass down on the pile of papers that caused his lament.
Using the surface of the desk to push himself to his feet, he climbed out of the chair as some of the letters fell to the floor, a white pathway in the shadows. Stumbling a little, he waited for the world to stop swimming before he took another drag off of his cigarette. A crack of thunder erupted outside and caught off guard, he jumped to the side and hit the chest he had rested his feet on, slipping over the paper that coated the floor. He felt his feet sliding and tried to brace for the impact as he fell towards the desk.
His head hitting the top, he slid backwards as the candle fell to the papers, splashing his face with hot wax. Letting out a yelp, he rushed to pull himself up as the flame touched paper and the letters began to burn. Hitting them frantically, he saw his reflection in the glass front of the clock as god took another picture of him among the smoldering ashes at his desk. He looked wild and unkempt, a weeks worth of stubble covering his face. Letting out a sigh, he held the knot that was forming on his head as he looked at the half charred correspondences. He was about to turn his back to the sight when a glimmering light caught his attention.
Looking up at the wall he saw that the painting had begun to shimmer, a queer blue light traced along the Pegasus, it’s wings spread as it let out whatever sound Pegasus’ make as it reared two muscular legs. The sky in the painting had begun to sparkle and for a moment he thought he could smell the forest as he stood there entranced. Cautiously, he reached towards it, his fingertips tracing along the velvet surface. His skin was tingling and he pulled his hand back quickly in an instinctual fear when he felt a wet wind hit his face and the sound of a horse snorting. Wide eyed and bewildered, he fumbled backwards, almost falling again. As he watched in horror, the hooves of the Pegasus came down with a crash and suddenly the head of the mare burst through the surface of the painting and with a sideways glance whispered in a stutter,
“Wh-eell-ll whu-uh-eyee don’t you ki-ki-ill them Frrrrr-ed?”
He backed away in terror, the Pegasus snorting in his direction as it eyed him with an emotionless eye. It bared its teeth, the lip rolling up to reveal black and pink gums which in any other situation would be comedic, but at this moment struck horror into his mind. A long tongue lolled out of it’s mouth and feathers fluttered to the ground all around the room. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest as a flash of lightning lit the room at the exact moment the creature’s hooves tore out of the painting and clopped around wildly.
“Gih-giveeee me a moment...”
The animal began to force its body through the painting, a tearing sound filling the room as it tossed it’s body to and fro. He had backed into a wall by the door and slunk down to the ground as he watched the old wooden frame buckle and then snap into little daggers of wood that flew off to the sides as the Pegasus pulled its hind legs out and flipped its tail back and forth. It spread its wings out as if stretching and the books along the top of his desk went tumbling in every direction as the clock fell from the wall with the shattering of glass and wood. Looking surprised, the animal reared up and turned simultaneously as it brought its hooves up and down and let out a little childish shriek.
Shaking against the wall, Fred watched the nightmare that was unfolding in front of him as he listened to the sound of his pounding heart amongst the shattering of furniture and cries of the Pegasus. After a few moments it calmed itself down and a flurry of feathers floated around the room before coming to a rest on the ground. Taking a few steps towards him, the creature batted its eyes in an unnerving manner and said,
“Suh...suh….sorry ah-bout that Fr-fr—freddd. Buh-buh-but back to bis-bis-businesssss...we cuh-cuh-could kill them Fr-fr-fredddd...”
He buried his face into his hands to block out the sight of the Pegasus. How many drinks did he have tonight he wondered to himself. This can’t be real. Parting his fingers a little, he peered out at the creature that stared down at him patiently. It let out a snort as it pawed at the floor, sending a glass that had fallen over in the melee shattering against the wall.
“I’m sorry...if you...could just go back in the painting...I think I’ve had too much to drink tonight...” he whispered.
Slowly putting his hands against the floor, he pushed himself up, using the wall to stabilize himself. A flash of lightning lit the Pegasus in a horrific light as it smiled back at him. Without taking his eyes off of it, he edged his way over to the doorway and with a half-hearted smiled, nodded his head towards the beast and slid out into the hallway. The door shut with a click and for a moment he stood with his back pressed against it as he tried to convince himself that what had just happened was a drunken fantasy.
As he made his way stumbling towards the couch, he could hear the snorts of the creature to the soundtrack of the storm outside. Sitting down, he patted his pockets as he looked for his cigarettes. He had left them in the bedroom and there was no way he was going back in there until morning, so he laid down and tried to make himself comfortable. The rain outside pelted the windows and he fell into an uneasy sleep to the clopping of hooves and thunder that rolled down from the heavens.
The sun was reflecting off of the glass from a picture frame that hung on the wall as he saw brief glimpses of light from behind his closed eyelids that brought him out of the realm of dreams. He could hear catbirds tweeting away outside the window as they looked for their breakfast and he let out a yawn as he stretched. His head was pounding and his eyes felt like someone was taking razor blades to them as he tried to shake off a hangover and make sense of the night before.
Rising to his feet, he stretched a little more and felt the urgent need to empty his bladder as he made his way towards the bathroom. Walking into the hall, he stared at the bedroom door that was closed up tight across from the bathroom. Holding his breath, he stood with his face almost pressed to the wood as he listened for any sounds of life from the other side but silence greeted him. He let out a sigh of relief and then made his way to the bathroom.
The warm stream of liquid was a relief to him as he listened to the sound of it splashing into the toilet bowl. His head had begun to pulse and he pulled down the shade next to the toilet to block out the light. Definitely need to stop having nights like that he thought to himself, as he finished up and pulled some aspirin out of the medicine cabinet. His reflection looked like it had been to hell and back he thought as he dry swallowed two of the little white pills, noticing the knot that had formed where he must of hit his head in his drunken state.
From the doorway of the bathroom he stared at the closed door, working up the courage to go inside. He could feel his pulse racing as he took the four steps towards it and put his hand on the knob. Standing stock still, he listened and then before his nerves failed him, he turned the handle. As the door swung open he prepared himself for the worst. The room beyond was trashed as he looked onto a menagerie of broken glass, burnt paper and smashed furniture. The clock his great grandparents had brought here when they came to the States was smashed to pieces, the bent face of it forming a sad frown. He felt his stomach sink a little as he looked at the mess he was going to have to cleanup, but there were no feathers to be seen and the Pegasus was back in the painting where it belonged.
He let out a sigh of relief and turned from the mess, saving it for later as he walked out into the kitchen to make some coffee. He scooped some coffee from a ceramic container decorated with frolicking kittens and began to filled up the water, hoping the caffeine would help his headache. The aroma of the brewing coffee began to fill the house as he shuffled to the living room and picking up the television remote, switched it on. A scrawny man with too much makeup on was telling everyone what the weather would be and taking a mug from the dish rack beside the sink, he poured himself a cup. His hand was shaking as he poured it and while he decided if it was nerves or the hangover causing it, he decided he needed to cut back on the drinking. Putting the cup to his lips, he took his first sip as the voice of a newscaster drifted into the kitchen.
“In a weird turn of events, the publisher of a well-known mystery/horror magazine has become one of his stories as police are puzzled by his gruesome murder. Sources say that he was trampled to death by a horse it would appear, the catch? He was on the fourth floor of the building where the magazine’s offices are.”
The first sip of coffee had hardly hit his tongue when he spit it back out. Rushing into the other room the hot liquid splashed over the lip of the cup and burned his hand as he dropped it to the floor with a crash. Shaking his hand, he turned the volume on the television up as he listened to the report, the cold grip of fear on the back of his neck. Just last week he had received a not so positive response from that very same magazine. He could hear the dark suggestion of the Pegasus in his head as he told himself that it couldn’t be possible.
It had to be a coincidence, there was no logical way that a Pegasus could have climbed out of his painting and murdered someone. Just a coincidence he told himself. Grabbing a new cup from the cabinet, he poured himself a second mug as he tried to shake the feeling that clung to the back of his mind and concentrate on the mess that he had to clean up. No more of this nonsense he thought, don’t let your imagination get the best of you, it had to be a coincidence.
The day past uneventful as he cleaned up the mess from the night before and ran some errands. Wherever he went however, he could hear the hushed whispers as people talked about the strange murder that had happened the night before. As evening approached he felt a creeping anxiety that grew stronger as the shadow of twilight fell over the land. He couldn’t shake the dread that he felt and after a quick dinner he decided to turn in early for the night. The house was silent and he left all the lights on, a small reassurance that he was alone as he made his way into the bedroom.
He glanced over at the pile of broken wood he had left in a corner to clean up the next day. Avoiding letting his eyes fall upon the desk and the painting, he changed into some pajamas and chuckled anxiously to himself. This was stupid, here he was alone in the house with all the lights on like some child who was scared by watching a horror movie while their parents were on vacation. Forcing himself to look at the painting, he approached the desk and cautiously poked at the velvet surface. It bounced a little bit like a tiny trampoline, but that was it. Nothing came rushing out at him, the creature that adorned it hadn’t moved. Nothing. Picking up a decanter filled with wine, he took a swig of it to calm himself. With another little chuckle, he climbed into bed and pulled the blankets up to his chin as he drifted away to dream land.
He woke with a start, feeling a presence near. The covers shielded his sight from whatever was out there, but he could feel a warm breath that came in quick spurts as if something was panting. Without pulling the covers back, he glanced over at the clock and saw that it was two in the morning. The presence wasn’t going away and he knew that he would have to face it, but the fear he had felt the night before was quickly coming back. Building up the nerve to face whatever was there, he began to pull the covers off his head as he heard the distinct sound of hooves.
As he turned his head he let out a yelp as the face of the Pegasus stared at him from the side of the bed, its maw covered in dry blood. It was foaming at the mouth and its mane was disheveled as it looked at him with the crazed eyes that only horse-like creatures seem to have. He tried to push himself quickly to the other side of the bed, but before he could even move a couple inches he felt a heavy pressure as it put a hoof on his waist.
“Fr-eh-eh-ehdddd….whuh-whuh-where ya go-go-goinnnn?”
He screamed and frantically tried to unpin himself as it leaned in and tilted its head to the side, spittle flying from it’s lips as it snorted at him.
“I n-eh-eh-ehdddd more bl-bluh-uhhhddd Fr-eh-eh-ehddd...”
It slid its leg back to the ground and he scrambled to his feet, the bed between them as he shook his head from side to side in disbelief.
“No...no you aren’t real...this is all a fucking dream...go away...you aren’t real...”
With that the Pegasus rose up and slammed its legs back down as the room shook. Whipping its tail from side to side it knocked pictures from the wall as it whinnied. With another crash, it rose and fell and he feared for his life as he backed as far away from it as he could, its awful demand repeated in a horribly guttural voice. It began to flap its wings and as papers whipped around the room he turned from the sight and emptied his stomach into the corner, the bloody maniacal look of the animal too much for him to handle.
“Fr-eh-eh-ehddd, feed meeeeee...”
“Go away...I don’t have anything to feed you...just...get back in the painting where you belong...”
With a look of outrage the beast clopped around the bed wildly. As it approached him he began to scream, hoping that this vision would just disappear. With another crash it reared up and back down, its feet just barely grazing him. Shielding his head, he cowered on the floor beside his desk and began to weep. The horse let out a snort that almost sounded like laughter as it brought its head down swiftly and pulled the surviving letters from the night before from the desk in its mouth. Shoving them into his face, the nauseating hot breath like a slap in the face it whispered between clenched teeth,
“Fr-eh-eh-ehddd...wha...wha...attt aboutttt th-eseeee? Feed meeee Fr-eh-eh-ehddd...”
He felt like he was going mad as the Pegasus lunged the papers in his direction. He rocked back and forth in the corner, his face covered in tears as he whispered go away at the creature. None of this could be real he thought to himself, just go away, none of this is real. With an agitated snort, it reared up and he thought for a moment that it was going to crush him beneath it. He prayed for a quick death, anything to make this impossible beast leave his sight.
His prayers were answered by the sound of breaking glass, as its hooves smashed through the window beside his desk and with the tinkling of falling shards he heard it force its way through. His body was covered in sweat and the cold air chilled him quickly as he slowly lowered his arms that had covered his face and looked up at the gaping hole where the window had been. Bewildered, he reached up slowly and touched a jagged shard of broken glass to make sure that it was real and then scuttled away from it.
The sounds of the Pegasus faded into the distance and he waited for the sound of sirens, but none came. How none of the neighbors had awoken to the noise it had created, he couldn’t be sure, but he did know that this time it was real. As unbelievable as it was, this creature had chosen him and it was a danger to others. It hit him that he should warn the world and he dove for the rejection letters that it had let fall to the ground, but then he realized there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t call publishers who had just recently rejected his work at two in the morning raving about a Pegasus, they would think that he was insane. He reached for the decanter, but it was empty to his disappointment.
Taking up a pillow and blanket, he eyed the broken window as he shut the bedroom door tightly. Placing them on the couch, he hurried back to the hallway and grabbing the edge of a bookcase, he slid it slowly in front of the door and hoped that if the creature came back, it would leave him be. He thought about calling the police, but what would he say? The only way out of this situation he would have to find himself, there was no one he could call, but he needed to warn the people whose names were on those letters.
With morning however came the news that he was already too late. As he nervously sipped his coffee with a shaking hand, he watched the news and saw that another publisher had been murdered, his body left unrecognizable. All that was found at the crime scene were bloody hoof prints. Cracking the door to the bedroom slightly, he peered into the room. The Pegasus was back in the painting where it belonged and the hole in the wall was gone. Closing it back up, he paced in the living room as he went back and forth in his head over what he should do. After twenty minutes of debating with himself, he knew what had to be done. Taking his phone from his pocket, he looked up the number he needed and dialing it, he waited for a voice on the other end.
“Devin Jappell & Associates, how may I help you?”
“Umm...yes...could I speak to Devin, this is kind of a private matter?”
“One moment sir...”
He waited impatiently as a pop song from the 90s played in his head. Tapping his finger on the back of the phone, he mulled over what on earth he was even going to say, when a voice picked up on the other end,
“Devin Jappell here, how can I help you?”
“You need to get to safety. It’s going to come for you. Just get the fuck out...I don’t know where you will be safe but the Pegasus is coming...”
“Is this some kind of joke?”
There was a click and the dial tone on the other end of the line droned on in his head as he stared at the wall. He felt a spark of anger as he listened to the tone carry on. He knew what he was saying sounded crazy, but he hadn’t even been given a chance to explain. Another rejection from these pricks and their all mighty view of themselves. Well fuck it, he had tried. Disconnecting the call, he tossed his phone onto the couch and saw the letters sitting on a table. Three rejections, just sitting there mocking him. Taking them in his hand, he brought them over to the kitchen sink and taking a lighter from his pocket he put them to the flame.
He could feel a headache coming on as he rubbed the knot on his head and watched the paper turn to ash. His head was beginning to pound and he made a mental note that he should probably go to the doctor at some point and have them check him out, seeing as the knot had grown bigger. The last of the fire burned out and he headed for the bedroom as he thought of the audacity of the people in the magazine industry. They never could give someone a break, even if it meant life or death.
Sliding the bookcase from in front of the door, he shoved the door open and stormed into the room. Crossing over to the desk, he wiped across it with his arms as piles of books fell to the floor with candle sticks and bits of bone from the strange things in his collection. Grabbing a letter opener from a drawer, he looked up at the beast from the painting as he began to slice it to pieces. Collapsing to the ground, he felt tears begin to flow as he wept, the remnants of the painting scattered around him.
Clop…. Clop… Clop… Clop...
The sound of hooves echoed off the sidewalk in the early morning. Soon the sun would rise he thought, as his warm breath fogged up the glass of the door he had stopped in front of. He scanned the empty street for movement and seeing none, he brought his hoof down hard on the door. There was an explosion of glass as little shards scattered to the ground around him sparkling in the light from the street. With another strong kick the door opened and he walked inside, a trail of feathers fluttering behind him.
His tail swished behind him as he plodded his way across the lobby as he softly brayed. The hunger was overwhelming and the anticipation was driving him into a frenzy as he made his way up stairwells and down dusty hallways. He needed blood. A rain of glass fell on him as he smashed out the lights at one end of the hall outside of an office door with a little frosted window on it. Soon, it would be time he thought to himself in the darkness...soon.
The first slight glow on the horizon was starting to paint the sky as Devin arrived at the office. Parking his car, he made his way to the front of the building in the cool morning air. Making his way along the sidewalk he saw the sparkling of glass and following it up to the building he noticed that the glass on the door had been smashed out. Cautiously, he stepped around the shards on the ground and peered inside. The lobby was empty and with a shake of his head, he made his way inside, casting a curious look at the white feathers he saw scattered around.
Damn kids, he thought to himself. He really needed to find a new location for his office, the crime rate had tripled in the past few years and he was considering moving the whole business out of the city. The days of large publishing houses having a need for the city were over, many presses were closing their doors and moving to quieter locations. The industrial yards, skyscrapers and cement were a thing of the past for his trade, swallowed by the beast that was called the internet.
The elevator door slid open and he took a sip of coffee from the travel mug he held as he walked in and pressed the dimly lit number three. With a soft click the door shut and then there was a moment of silence, before the whoosh as it lurched to life and began to ascend. He ran his hand along his beard as he contemplated the day ahead. Hopefully it would be over quickly and he could make it home without any weirdness, but the publishing industry was a strange one.
He thought about the strange call from the manic failed author the day before. He knew who it was of course, the man had sent numerous pitches to them before. They always had strange topics; odd ideas that no one in their right mind would read. But to threaten him with a Pegasus? That was a little out there even for this guy. He shook his head as he felt the elevator come to a rough stop.
The elevator gave off a ding as he waited for the doors to slide open. Taking a sip off his coffee, he looked into the dark hallway in front of him. He made a mental note to call maintenance and have them check the fixtures and get them back on and stepped out of the elevator. He had taken only two steps when he noticed the feathers. Before he could react though, he heard a scraping sound against carpet and then the ominous clopping of hooves.
“The strange killings have continued as the police prepare for another press conference about a third victim. Renowned publisher Devin Jappell was found slain in the early morning by what police are calling a madman. More details are to come, but sources are describing the crime scene as the work of someone truly insane...”
A nervous laugh came from him as the light flickered in the bathroom from a fixture that had been pulled out of the wall. He rubbed the knot on his head as his jaw clenched and unclenched, his naked reflection staring back at him with wild eyes. Muttering incomprehensibly to himself, he lifted the papier-mâché mask over his head with bloody hands and looked into the eyes of the Pegasus. The news droned on from the other room as he admired his wings, the fresh feathers looked beautiful on the wire frame.
Darkness would soon descend and he could feel the hunger growing. He needed more blood and Fred would bring it to him. Soon. Leaving the bathroom, he made his way into the bedroom and standing over his desk he slid open a drawer. Pulling a thick stack of letters out of it, he whinnied as he looked at the name and address on the top of the pile. Picking up a pair of gloves that rested on his desk, he slid his fingers into their comforting embrace. They were heavy with the horse hooves he had bought last year at an oddity shop attached to them, but they were effective. This was a story that no one would forget, he nickered to himself, this was his masterpiece.