Chapter Eight – The Devil.

Returning to his room, Jacob felt immensely tired. As he entered the bedroom, his eyes began to feel heavy. Lying down on the bed, he shut his eyes. Sleep came quickly.

Jacob dreamed.

In his dream, he was in a place of immense darkness. He was standing on some sort of walkway, which stretched off either side of him into the blackness. The only light appeared to emanate from his own head. His limbs felt heavy and his heart beat rapidly within his chest, as if it wanted to burst its way free and escape.

Willing himself to move, Jacob moved off to the left, walking into the shadows. Moving was difficult but he forced himself to put one leg in front of the other. For some reason, staying in one place felt foolish.

“Hello there,” said a voice, “little two-face.”

Jacob stopped. He stared around. The voice seemed to have come from everywhere. It was a deep, rumbling voice that echoed and bounced around. Something about it was hollow, empty and without life.

“Who’s there?” He said, trying hard to keep his voice steady.

Something moved in the darkness. It was very quick, if Jacob hadn’t been looking over the edge of the walkway on which he stood, he would have missed it. Out of the blackness something yet darker than the murky night flew at great speed, past the walkway and up into the air. Jacob heard a sound like the beating of vast wings.

“That is the wrong question,” the voice rumbled, “the right one, I think, is ‘what’s there?’ I have no name, little two-face.”

“Very well,” Jacob said, “what’s there?”

“Now that would be telling, wouldn’t it?” Spoke the darkness. “I’m very interested in you, little two-face. You have met our one-eyed friend, yes?”

“You mean Gabriel?” Jacob said, “I’ve met him. What about him?”

For a moment, the darkness was silent. There was a rustling sound and Jacob felt something pass very close over his head, making a blast of frozen air blow across his scalp. Suddenly this dream reminded him of the ballroom.

“I would like…” the voice said suddenly. This time it sounded like it came from directly in front of Jacob, “I would like you to destroy one-eye.”

“Destroy him?” Jacob squinted, trying to see into the dark. He could see nothing, his halo of personal light could not penetrate the gloom and reach the creature that lurked there. “Why would I want to do that?”

“Because you hate him,” said the voice, “because he is weak and broken and trapped in his own make-believe world. Because he is everything you have worked so hard not to be for all of your pathetic life, little two-face.”

Jacob felt his blood run cold. The creature in the darkness laughed, a barking cackle. It set Jacob’s teeth on edge.

“Does that scare you, little two-face?” The shadows whispered, “Does it scare you that I know you so well, that I understand all of your heart’s desires? Does it scare you how tempting my words are? Does it scare you how much you’d like to do exactly what I say?”

Breathing in deeply, Jacob shook his head. He licked his lips and narrowed his eyes. Then he turned his back on the thing in the darkness and began to walk away, across the walkway.

“What scares me,” he said as he walked, “is that I’ve apparently bought into all this supernatural rubbish. First I believe that Gabriel’s damned house really is haunted, now my very dreams are apparently fair game for whatever the hell you are.”

“Whatever the hell I am?” Said the darkness, “You’re getting warmer, little two-face.”

“Oh shut up!” Jacob yelled, “you don’t expect me to believe that I’m being tempted by a demon, do you? This is a dream. You do not exist. Any minute now I will open my eyes and I will have returned to the real world.”

There was a sound from behind Jacob. At first it was a scratching sound, like stone being ground against stone. Then there was a thudding noise. A repeated thud, thud, thud that got louder and louder.

Jacob started running. It was more out of instinct than anything else. Throwing himself forward, not looking where he was going, he pounded along the walkway. His breath came in gasps and his arms pumped furiously.

Something smashed into his left side and he was thrown into the air. Then he was falling, falling, falling and there was only darkness all around him.

“You are a fool and you will suffer for it,” said a voice.

Jacob’s eyes snapped open. He was sweating from head to toe. Somehow he’d manage to throw the covers off of himself in his sleep.

Standing up stiffly, Jacob checked his watch. It was nine in the morning and still very dark outside. Winter was drawing in, it seemed.

Jacob stepped towards the door. Then he paused and realised suddenly that he needed to change his clothes. They smelt strongly of sweat and clung .

Walking over to the chest of drawers next to his bed, Jacob opened the top draw. Somehow Gabriel had provided him with a selection of clothes that fitted him perfectly. He changed quickly.

As he did so, he thought about his dream. It seemed fainter and fainter each time he thought of it, like it was slowly dissolving from his memory. He remembered darkness, and a voice speaking to him through the darkness. He couldn’t remember what it had said, though.

This house was getting to him. All these stories were seeping into his subconscious and infecting his perceptions. Half-told rumours that ended in mystery or not at all. Tales that wound on and on and on into nothingness and were still heard even then, whispering their lies into the void.

Jacob finished dressing and sighed heavily to himself. He glanced up at the mirror. Something he saw made him pause and look again.

His brand. The little smiling face on his left cheek. It was oozing blood. It hadn’t done that in a long, long time. It looked all the world like it was weeping little bloody tears.

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