Johnathan and Aileen sat on the bed, their backs to each other. Their motel room was dark. Johnathan was exhausted. His clothes were visibly battered and torn, his pant leg now consisting of meager strands of fabric. His hair had never been noticeably tidy, but had become significantly less so during the whole experience. Every inch of his body ached, a constant burn immediately under the skin. Every joint in his body was rigid. Every motion brought a collection of painful pops and cracks.
He was also covered in human blood. It wasn’t his.
Whose blood it was, he couldn’t be sure. It had poured from the vortex without warning. This was unusual, even more than a random torrent of human blood would typically be. Johnathan had torn through Creation before, having personally experienced six of the eight plains of existence. In all the times he’d pushed himself out of this world and into another, he’d never seen so much blood. Not even in the Abyss.
“Whelp.” Aileen, who was considerably less messy after their ordeal, laughed slightly and shook her head. “That could’ve gone better.” She looked over her shoulder at him. “Christ, Johnny, what were we thinking?”
“I was thinking we’d be in and out.” Johnathan had gotten the wind knocked out of him no less than a dozen times in the past thirty minutes. This was a new record for him, and it made talking rather difficult. “Not quite sure what you were thinking.”
“I was thinking that you’ve done this before. I thought you’d know what to do.”
“Drat.” Johnathan had an uncanny ability to sum up an entire situation so eloquently.
“Quite.” Aileen glanced over to the head of the bed. On the wall, about a foot and a half under the ceiling, was a hole, not in the wall but in the fabric of reality. It shimmered black and glowed a dull glow. There was still a fair bit of blood trickling out. “Thoughts on that thing?” This hole was a tear in Creation, intentionally created by the two to access the depths of the Abyss. “Can’t exactly leave it in this place. The next poor sap stuck in this room’ll definitely notice.”
“The next poor sap is going to be some junkie who managed to scrape enough together to rent a woman. I think he’ll be more than a bit distracted.”
“Still, though.” Aileen pulled herself to her feet and climbed onto the bed. She simply stepped up, hardly paying it any mind. Her balance was impressive. Without a moment’s hesitation, she plunged her arm up to the elbow in the shimmering hole. The feeling was like placing your arm in a warm bath, except instead of water, it was an empty blackness where neither time nor space had meaning. She fished around for a moment, a puzzled look on her face. “Hey. Did you lose a shoe?”
Johnathan glanced down at his feet, his neck cracking as he moved. He grimaced for a brief moment. Both of his feet were covered. “Nope.”
“Never mind then. Wait. Not a shoe.” She groped the unseen object for a moment. “Definitely not a shoe.”
“What is it, then?”
Before she could figure it out, Aileen noticed a light metallic tapping. She glanced around the room before her gaze landed on the doorknob. She realized what was happening just a moment too late, when the door was already being thrown open, the lock easily defeated by a pin. Since the inside of the room was dark and the outside was relatively lit, it took a moment for Johnathan and Aileen to so much as make out the outline of the figure in the doorway. He was rather short, with wide shoulders and a square head. He stood just outside, motionless.
Aileen pulled her arm from the wall with an audible squelching noise. Without a word, she hopped down from the bed. She walked to the door, her head hung low.
“Wait in the car.” The man stepped to the side, letting Aileen pass. “You too, Johnathan.” He gestured towards the sidewalk. “Come.”
Johnathan stood up. He walked to the door, without a word, tracking blood across the floor.
Aileen scooted across the seat, making room for Johnathan. He opened the door and climbed inside. They glanced at each other for a brief moment, each feeling the shame of being caught. An instant later, they each turned their attention to their respective windows, solemnly staring into the night.
In the motel room, the man looked around at the ruined room. He outstretched one arm, gently running his finger down a thin line of chalk. He turned his head to the bed, at the shimmering black portal above the headboard. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small silver pocket watch. He wound it once, twice, and a third time, and turned the face towards the portal. With a soft gurgle, the portal closed, one final drop of blood falling to the already bloody pillow below.
The man let out a groan before heading out to his car, where his daughter and nephew waited.