Suffer the Demon failed for the final time. The demon goddess Quzan was angry, and banished him to the mortal plane until he claimed one-hundred lives. Because the demon was a loudmouth bully, Quzan added a twist. Each time Suffer killed, he transformed into something more innocuous than before. He’d had his true powers for his first kill, by kill fifty was reduced to a rabid dog, and he’d made kill number ninety-eight as a hummingbird. That had been thirty years ago, as the mortals reckoned them. Suffer was stuck, one kill short of returning to his planar existence as an all powerful, cyclopean entity. Quzan sensed his impotent rage and delighted in it. So she changed the rules a tiny bit.
* * *
Harry jumped into his new Volkswagen Fox and turned up the radio. Huey Lewis blasted through the high-fi speakers. Harry scrambled for his new Rick Astley tape and popped it in as quickly as he could. That had been close. He couldn’t stand Huey Lewis or the News. The tape player had come with the car and it sounded amazing. Eight-tracks could never sound like that!
He hummed along, driving through the dark, nearly empty streets while on his way to visit Clare. Clare was cool, different than the chicks he’d dated in college. She wasn’t a hippy, for one thing. She had a kid, for another, which was weird but not as bad as he’d expected. Sometimes it was fun to play matchbox cars or Lite Brite with the little guy. They'd been dating for two months now, and it was going well.
He pulled up to Clare’s house a few minutes later. Her car was on the street, but all the lights were off. Odd. It was after ten, but she knew he was coming over. She was probably watching TV. He walked up to the door and opened it without knocking, a recent liberty. Despite his best efforts, Huey Lewis was in his head. It’s hip to be square.
Something was wrong. The house smelled of sulfur and copper. It was dark, too; darker than Harry had ever seen. It was an active darkness rather than a mere absence of light. The light from outside could not seem to penetrate the barrier of dark that existed in the house.
“Clare?” he called, taking one careful step into the house. “Brian?”
There was no answer. Harry’s hand reached for the light switch but in the dark he could not find it. He could hear something, though. Something was dripping within that dark hollow house.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. Every part of Harry’s soul told him to get out of the house. He could call the cops or come back tomorrow or … do something other than this. He took another step in. The coppery smell grew more intense. His hand, still scrambling for the light switch, brushed against something sticky.
He felt a warm breath on his neck as the dripping continued. The black darkness increased manifold. Harry was not sure if his eyes were closed or open. Drip. Drip. Drip. Whatever was dripping was falling into a puddle.
Fighting the urge to scream, Harry turned and ran back to the door. But he could not find it. Nothing was there; it was too dark to see. He slammed into the wall and suddenly, mercifully there was the light switch. He flicked it on and blinked in the sudden cessation of darkness. The light was weak and seemed wrong, as though it didn’t belong.
Harry was at the end of hallway, looking into the living room. No one was there; nothing was there. It seemed normal. Brian had left his Mr. Potato Head in the middle of the floor, right on the woven carpet Clare had brought back from Mexico. By coincidence, the toy’s eyes were scrunched up, as though the light were blinding it too. Harry checked behind the couch and around the room as best he could, but whatever had been dripping was not in here.
Harry checked the kitchen and the bathroom. Nothing was dripping in either, as far as he could tell. He checked Clare’s room; no one was in there. There was no sign of a struggle or anything. His mind grasped for a plausible explanation for this. Where had she gone? Only two places were left, and one he didn’t want to think about.
He opened Brian’s room. Nothing strange in here, except that Brian had left another Mr. Potato Head toy on his bed. The face on this one seemed angry; frightfully angry.
You’re going to die something whispered in Harry’s mind. He slammed the door shut and returned to the living room. He smelled the tangy, coppery smell of blood, stronger than ever. He was shaking.
Harry was out of options. He grabbed a flashlight from the top of the fridge, and walked out the backdoor down into the basement.
The basement smelled of mold and rotting fruit, dust and death. It was warm too, almost hot. Harry unbuttoned his top collar and shone the light around.
A voice that sounded of cold stone spoke in his head. Death, death, death it said. Harry’s mind countered with I want a new drug. Damn that Huey Lewis. He really didn't want to die with that song in his head.
To his surprise, Mr. Potato Head sat in the basement on the card table Clare brought up for parties. There was something on the table, sodden lumps of red and pink. The ceiling above dripped blood. With a sudden, sick shriek, Harry realized exactly what had happened to Clare and Brian. The potato’s face was complete, utter evil. Blood was on its lips.
Time to Suffer the rocky voice in his head whispered. His flashlight went out.
Harry screamed and screamed.
* * *
Later that night, Mr. Potato Head disappeared from the house forever.
"Mr. Potato Head"
Copyright: © 2010 Ahimsa Kerp
Ahimsa Kerp has lived on four continents, and been around the block long enough to collect an arresting assortment of useless information. His screenplays have won awards, his travel writing is published on Bootsnall, Airtreks, and the Matador Network, his fiction on Taverwench.com, demockeracy.com, and .ism and his novel comes out in the first quarter of 2011. Read his blog here: http://obscureclearly.