There wasn’t time to try and fabricate a lie to get her to vacate the premises. Then I smelled it. Akin to rotten meat and bad eggs. A marker, telling me that evil was near.
The other customer pulled the collar of his t-shirt over his nose. “Gross, what is that smell?”
Emma covered her own nose. “Ugh, I don’t know but it can’t be good.” Then she noticed me searching the empty space above all the wine racks and asked, “What? Do you think the power is going to blow?” She looked around the store along with me.
“Yes,” I said, allowing her to come to her own conclusions again while trying to lead her away from the refrigerators. I couldn’t anticipate where it was going to attack from, so I kept Emma close to my side.
Emma broke from my grip and jogged to her register. “Let me grab my phone so I can call the fire department from outside.”
“No.” I cried out, but I was too late. She raced in the opposite direction of the front doors.
“Travis, you need to get out of here, too,” she yelled to the other customer, grabbing her phone from under the counter. All the refrigerators lining the walls screeched and howled like tortured animals.
Before Travis could get far, a scream wailed through the store, piercing through the racket of the refrigerators. The high pitch made the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck stick up like needles. My skin broke out in a cold sweat. This wasn’t like the icy single-digit temperature outside, the cold blanketing the store now had an unnatural underlying heat to it that I’d become all too familiar with. While Emma and Travis threw their hands up to protect their ears, Emma’s phone clattered to the ground. I whirled around. The screech had come from the front doors.
A mass of energy materialized five feet above the ground. It resembled a dense gray fog, swirling and curling around itself until a shape like the top half of a skull emerged from its center. The eyes were two sucking holes of darkness. A dark mouth yawned out of the fog with another scream. The form swelled with what I could sense as anticipation and raw, desperate hunger.
A soul eater. It appeared between me and the way out. Soul eaters don’t appear in human form like benign ghosts. They are twisted and demonic—their only purpose, to consume and destroy souls.
A sharp gasp from Emma behind me told me she saw it just fine too. I prayed to the gods that she wouldn’t panic and do anything to hurt herself. Curses streamed out from Travis somewhere behind me.
This was what I’d been waiting for. Throwing back the hood of my jacket, I stepped up to face off with the soul eater. I’d prefer there were no witnesses, but there was no time to protect them from knowledge of the dark. It was more imperative I protect their souls. Squaring my hips, I pressed my fingers together to make a triangle for the Holy Trinity. Taking in a deep breath, I began to chant, “Luminatos treahgo eearhovotas.” It was in a tongue strange to Emma and Travis, no doubt. The language was as old as time itself. I poured every bit of belief I possessed into my words to banish the soul eater back to the Stygian, the dark world. It was by a powerful force of sheer will that would banish this spirit away.
The soul eater advanced though I knew it wasn’t coming for me. It wanted Emma. It coveted her soul. It would suck her up like sweet honey. Or that Travis guy, although I bet he wouldn’t be as delicious.
“Laseto, reinetic, ioenai.”
It let loose another high-pitched scream as light gathered between my hands with a comforting warmth. Fear for Emma made my throat squeeze tight. I refused to let anything happen to her, but gods I wished she had gotten out of here. I needed the whole of my focus on the soul eater.
The light from my hands spread, pure rays stretching toward the evil spirit. Sweat broke on my brow as I felt the pushback of its’ dark power. I was almost there; my power had almost reached its peak. It was like a wave cresting, preparing to break in a heady rush to extinguish the dark being.
Before my power could reach its zenith, the resistance of dark energy from the soul eater dissipated. I was awash in surprise, and my own unused forced back-splashed without a counterforce to focus it, in a sprinkle around me like sweet raindrops. It had never taken so little effort to banish a dark entity. Relaxing my hands and stance, I realized I hadn’t.
The dark incorporeal form was still present, but it was changing, undergoing some kind of metamorphoses. The swirling mist solidified and from it stepped out a very real, very solid foot.