The Demon Within

Submitted into Contest #238 in response to: Write a story including the line “I can’t say it.”... view prompt


Horror Fantasy

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The force of the door slamming shut caused Karina to startle in her chair, the chains connecting her wrist and ankle cuffs clinking loudly against the metal rings holding her in place. With an audible huff, a large, cleanly shaved man in a crisp black suit sat heavily in the chair across the small metal table from her. His dark brown eyes were as hard as the rest of his features. He didn’t even try to hide his disdain for her as he tossed a folder on the table between them. She had just enough time to notice her name stamped across the top before he flipped it open.  

“Karina Bartell. Age twenty. Parents deceased, no other living relatives. Barely graduated from Mount Vlad High School two years ago, enrolled in the local community college, but never attended.” He looked up from the file and would have scanned her from head to toe if the table hadn’t been in the way. “Not a whole lot to look at, are you?”  

Karina cringed. She knew she was plain but didn’t understand what that had to do with why she was here, chained to a table in a small, featureless room.  

“So, what?” He continued. “Didn’t make any friends in school, so you decided to go on a killing spree?” The man pulled a stack of pictures from her file and tossed them on the table, scattering the photographs across the cold surface. She immediately pulled away as far as she could from the gruesome scenes before her, squeezing her eyes shut. “Or let me guess, you’re innocent? Or maybe we’ve got the wrong person? Look at the pictures.”  

Eyes squeezed shut, Karina vehemently shook her head. The man slammed a fist on the table, the sudden malice eliciting a small sob from her. 

“Look at them!”  

Her body began to tremble as she slowly opened her eyes. She already knew what the pictures would depict, but even that knowledge didn’t stop the nausea from roiling in her stomach. Dismembered figures lay scattered throughout the apartment living room, blood painting every surface a vibrant red. Unable to stand the sight any longer, she slammed her eyes shut once more. A scene redder and bloodier than the pictures had the ability to portray filled her mind’s eye as memories of the previous night surfaced. Chanting, then screaming. Then blood. So much blood.  

“Pathetic.” Karina was grateful for the man’s words. Though they were laced with contempt, they brought her back to the present. “Can’t even look at the mess you made.” The man shook his head before standing and stalking out of the room, once again slamming the door behind him.  

Karina tried to keep her gaze focused on the far wall, rather than the pictures that still lay before her. A few moments later, the door opened again. This time, someone else entered the room and closed the door softly. He also wore a business suit, though the jacket was missing, and his sleeves were unbuttoned and pushed up to his elbows. Where the last man had been all hard angles and features, this one was soft. His brown hair was askew, as if he had either just woken up, or had run his hands through his hair too many times. A light stubble spread across his chin, and she could see the beginnings of deep bags forming under his light green eyes. Despite his haggard appearance, she found him to be quite handsome.  

“Hello, Karina. My name is Jeremy. I believe you already met Clint earlier, another detective. As usual, I must apologize for his uncouth behavior. We aren’t here to call anyone names, we just want to know what happened.” She found some of the tension leaving her body at his soft tone.  

“I don’t believe it. They are actually playing good cop, bad cop.” 

Any tension Karina had lost returned tenfold at the hissing voice. Jeremy noticed her discomfort and tilted his head slightly. His gentle approach had clearly meant to put her at ease. She tried to force a smile to placate his curiosity. It must have worked, for the detective turned his attention to the table and the pictures spread across its metal surface.  

Jeremy gathered up the pictures and flipped through them as casually as one might when looking through pictures of landscape, not gore and death.  

A slim, tall figure stepped out from behind Karina and lazily strolled toward the detective. Panic sheared through her chest as she stared intently at the top of Jeremy’s head, refusing to acknowledge the gangly figure.  

It appeared to wear a closely tailored pinstripe suit of grey and black. The tight-fitting material accentuated the legs that were a little too thin and disproportionately long arms when compared to the rest of its body. The figures' face could be considered handsome if not looked too closely. If one were to closely study its face, they would notice that the black eyes, pale skin, and even blacker hair was somehow… wrong.  

As the figure leisurely made its way behind the detective, it leaned over his shoulder and studied the man’s face.  

So this is what you find attractive?” Every word that left the creature's mouth made her cringe. Though she refused to look at it, its disdain was evident in the tone. “How… interesting.”  

Its focus turned from Jeremy and to the file open in his hands. Two full minutes of uninterrupted silence passed while the detective studied the pictures, and then her file.  

“What actually happened?” 

His sudden question, though spoken softly, startled Karina. He hadn’t looked up from her file, his gaze locked on something she couldn’t see. Behind him, the figure’s attention was also caught inside her file at whatever Jeremy looked at. Slowly, an unnaturally wide smile stretched across its face, pearly white teeth fit together in jagged lines as if each tooth had been filed to a sharp point.  

 When she didn’t answer, the detective finally closed her file and turned his attention to her. He seemed completely unaware of the creature standing over his shoulder.  

“I don’t think you murdered those women. But I think you know who did. Or what did…” 

Her eyes widened with surprise, and it took all her willpower not to cower as the figure hissed out a chuckle. Instead, she kept her eyes latched onto the exhausted, yet clear, gaze of the man across from her. Neither said anything for another minute.  

The figure stood suddenly, the abrupt movement catching her attention. She instantly regretted it. Though she snapped her gaze immediately back to his, Jeremy hadn’t missed her reaction and started to turn around.  


The detective startled at her shriek and embarrassment flooded her, but he thankfully turned fully back to her. Rather than confused by her outburst, he faced her with a look of confirmation.  

Karina felt as though she had either passed or failed some sort of test. She wasn’t sure which would be better, in this situation.  

“It’s here, isn’t it?” 

She was already shaking her head vigorously when she realized that by denying his claim, she only proved that he was right.  

“What really happened that night?” 

She shook her head again, biting her lips together to keep them from trembling. Without taking his eyes from her, Jeremy flipped open the file and turned it around to face her. Three pictures were spread across the open file, each showing different angles of the living room covered in gore. In the center of the room, completely untouched by the blood and viscera, was a chalk-drawn circle about three feet in diameter. Odd swirling runes ran along its circumference. 

As she stared at the pictures, she swore she could hear the chanting voices from that night as they devolved into screams of terror. Red slowly clouded her vision as the screams became louder. The red turning a deeper shade, just like- 

“This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this.” The detective's words snapped her back into the moment. There was no screaming. No blood. Just her, Jeremy, and the grinning demon behind him.   

“This isn’t the first time something has been pulled into our world. But I need to know what it is, so that we can find a way to get rid of it.” He held her gaze again, pleading and sincere. “I know you’re scared. But I need to know. What is its name?” 

The demon, unable to hold in its amusement any longer, barked out a laugh and spun in a circle behind the detective's back.  

Oh yes! Tell him my name! Go ahead, I don’t mind.”  

Karina knew exactly what would happen if she did. She cleared her throat and Jeremy leaned forward in rapt attention.  

“I can’t say it.” 

The demon scoffed and turned away in irritation, just as Jeremy leaned back in his chair and released a sigh of disappointment.  

“Then I don’t know how to help you. Unless you tell me what really killed all of those women, you will end up taking the blame. You are so young and have so much to live for! Are you really alright with throwing it away to spend the rest of your life in prison?”  

As he spoke, Karina slowly sank into her chair, her terror momentarily overruled by bone-deep exhaustion. She didn’t know what to do. If she uttered that thing’s name, its power would again be unleashed. She had just barely managed to contain it that night by trapping it within her own body. If she released it, she knew she wouldn’t have the strength to trap it again.  

The demon hissed at her, its face distorting in anger. She cringed, giving up on pretending it wasn’t there. Jeremy watched her closely, allowing her time to think.  

Decision made; Karina took a deep breath. She sat up as tall and straight as she could, as much as her chained wrists would allow, and looked at the detective head on. Every bit of strength she portrayed was fabricated. 

“You really want to help?”  

Jeremy smiled wide. His relief caused her gut to twist in anxiety.  

“Yes. Absolutely.” 

“Then this is what you need to do.” 

He pulled a pen and tiny notebook from a hidden pocket and leaned forward, eager. As soon as she started speaking, he put pen to paper.  

“You need to lock me away.”  

He had only scribbled the first few words before he stopped and looked up at her sharply. His brows furrowed in confusion. Before he could respond, she continued.  

“There is no getting rid of what this thing is.” The demon hissed at her again. She openly glared at it. Despite the strength she tried to show, tears of fear, frustration, and defeat stung her eyes. “You need to lock me away from everyone. Killing me won't work either, as my death will release it again. That,” she nodded toward the pictures of her dismembered friends, “is after only a few seconds of it being released.”  

His eyes widened in shock, and he glanced quickly about the room, as if he would find the demon crouching in the corner.  

Stop this!” In a blur, the demon jumped onto the table, scattering the pictures and her file. It skittered across the surface to hiss in her face, its pointed teeth elongating. A loud clang echoed in the small room as Jeremy’s chair flew backward, the man toppling to the floor.  

“I have bound the demon to my soul.” Her voice rose to drown out the insistent hissing and gnashing teeth. “To speak its name is to release it. To end my life is to release it. The only thing you can do to keep it away from others is lock me away where no one can know its name.”  

You think this will solve anything? You will die someday! And I will be free then!” It lunged for her and she flinched back. Just before its claws could sink into her skin, the demon hit an invisible wall. Enraged, it flailed and tore at the barrier.  

Jeremy watched her from where he had fallen, wide-eyed and face pale with terror. The table rocked and trembled with the force of the thrashing demon.  

“Please.” Her voice broke under the weight of her sobs. “You have to lock me, lock it, away!”  

Scrambling, the detective shot up from the floor and out the metal door, which slammed quickly behind him.  

You’ll pay for this!” The demon continued to writhe and hiss. Karina slowly began to tune it out, retreating into herself and trying not to think of the countless empty years ahead that she had to look forward to.  

“This is your fault! You brought me into this world! You and the others!” 

“You’re right.” Her voice was hardly more than a raspy whisper, but the demon heard her and paused. “We did bring you here. My friends paid for that with their lives. And now I will do the same.”  

February 24, 2024 04:51

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