A soft footfall was the sound that woke him up. It seemed to echo through the silent room. Even before fully coming to consciousness, Adrian knew something was wrong. He cracked open one of his eyes but saw nothing out of the ordinary. He attempted to move but quickly discovered that his hands and feet were bound together by plastic zip ties. A piece of duct tape pulled taut the skin around his mouth. He was trapped. But that was impossible. No one could have done this without waking him up. Unless . . .
A rumbling chuckle broke his train of thought as his captor strode around the couch and into Adrian’s line of sight. He was not entirely surprised to identify the face of Eugene Banks, although his presence was far more sinister and commanding than before. This was not the even-tempered lawyer he’d been sent to assassinate.
“Well Mr. Nox, it appears you have fallen right into my trap,” He began to pace in front of Adrian with a wicked smile on his face. He continued, “Of course, you are a reasonably intelligent man and I’m sure you have figured out your mistake by now.”
Adrian’s eyes darted to the empty beer bottle on the table and back. Eugene Banks laughed, “Marvelous! I knew you would figure out that it was drugged but, alas, you figured it out too late.”
Adrian’s eyes flared with rage. He wanted to yell, to attack this man but he could not. Meanwhile, his captor continued to taunt him. “Yes,” he said, carefully considering Adrian, “You have quite a spirit, don’t you? It’s too bad I have to kill you. You’re really something else, Adrian Nox. Even now, you’re thinking of a way to escape, a way to beat me. I can just see the wheels turning in your head. But it’s no use. I have no choice but to kill you because, well, you know my secret.”
Adrian’s brow furrowed but the imitation Eugene Banks only laughed at his confusion. “You know what I can do, Adrian. And even if you don’t know what I am, I cannot allow anyone who has witnessed my powers to survive,” The confusion only mounted in Adrian’s eyes. The creature gave him an amused smirk, “But you still don’t understand, do you? Well, how about a demonstration before your death?”
Smug smile still in place, the physique of Eugene Banks began to morph. His eyes turned a strange golden color but everything else about his appearance was in transit. His face, his shape and all his features changed, as he transformed into different people, one after another. There was no rhyme or reason to these mutations, the people he became were all random strangers but the creature never remained as one person for long. Upon witnessing his adversary’s power, Adrian felt a thick drop of fear run down his spine and settle in his stomach. He had never seen anything like this before and had no idea how to combat it, especially in his current state.
“Well,” the creature crowed in an unnatural voice, “What do you think? Pretty impressive, right? I can even be you.”
Then the monster morphed into an exact copy of Adrian, identical to him in every way. It laughed and spoke to him in his own voice, “Not bad,” the creature said, flexing its arm, “I may keep this body for a while after I kill you. But first-”
Adrian quickly realized that his time was running out as the monster began a much more grotesque transformation. The form it was taking now clearly intended for its most deadly strike. Its fingers grew long, with sharp, hooked claws on the ends. Its body became hideously disproportioned as it grew tall and skinny, with spindly limbs and a narrow chest. The head sprouted a long, hawk-like nose and huge, pointed ears. Its chin jutted out and jagged, knife-like teeth filled its mouth. Adrian watched in horror as the monster distorted his own features to create a creature not even remotely human.
The voice that came from it now was high pitched and metallic, its laugh making a shrill screeching sound. “This is my favorite part,” it shrieked, “The fear in your eyes when you see my true form. The form I was about to show Eugene Banks before you barged in and robbed me of a perfectly good meal. But no matter. You will make amends by taking his place.”
The creature lunged forward. Adrian flipped himself off the couch and onto the floor with a thud. The monster slammed itself on the sofa, its claws shredding the fabric while its weight caused the structure to collapse. It hesitated for a moment, just long enough for Adrian to hook his feet under the coffee table. With an inhuman scream of rage, it dove for him again but this time he kicked the table at the creature’s head, the impact sending it flying behind the couch. Adrian wrested his gun from its holster. The monster hadn’t thought to take it from him. When the creature reared its ugly head again, Adrian had the weapon pointed directly at him. This time, he would shoot to kill.
“Ha! You think that foolish piece of human machinery can hurt me?” It sneered as it began its attack anew. Adrian pulled the trigger, causing blood to splatter all over the room, himself included. The creature collapsed next to him but he knew better than to trust that it would stay dead. He ripped the duct tape off his mouth. Using his elbows to propel him forward, he made his way to the kitchen where he got a pair of scissors and cut himself free.
Cautiously, he made his way back to the body of the creature, a gun in one hand and a large knife in the other. He wasn’t sure what he was dealing with but he was determined to end it. It didn’t seem to be regenerating itself like the last time and Adrian began to hope that it might really be dead. He nudged it with his foot. No reaction. Adrian took a firmer grip on the knife in his hand; there was only one way to be sure. Without warning, he plunged the knife straight through one of the creature’s hands. A metallic screech escaped the monster as it swung at Adrian, raking its razor-sharp claws across his forearm.
He leapt back in surprise. The creature before him appeared to be indestructible. It struggled to get to its feet but the knife pinned its hand to the ground. Adrian moved around the creature, careful to stay well out of the reach of its free hand, which it swung around violently as it hissed obscenities. Backing against the far wall, he realized he was running out of options. The knife wouldn’t hold it indefinitely and there didn’t seem to be a way to kill it.
A beacon of white in the corner of the apartment caught his eye. Squinting, he saw that it was a piece of paper with writing on it; the one Belle had given him. But that was impossible. He was sure he had thrown it out the window. His memory grew foggy on this point and he wondered if this was a side effect of the drug the creature had put in his drink. The monster screamed again, now focusing its energy on freeing itself. Seizing the paper, Adrian snatched his phone out of his pocket and dialed the number.
“Hello?” The voice that answered sounded sweet and carefree, a stark contrast to the situation he was facing. With a final tug, the creature wrenched the knife out of the ground. Adrian dove into the bathroom with the monster on his heels. He barely managed to slam the door in its face.
“Belle?” he asked, “This is Adrian Nox.”
“Adrian!” she responded, surprised. The creature began to throw itself at the door. He leaned all his weight against it. “How are you? Have you considered our offer?”
“Yeah, about that. I’m actually more interested in the . . . thing I shot this morning. How do I kill it?”
“I’m not supposed to tell you anything,” she said gravely.
“What if it were life or death?” he pleaded. The door began to splinter. The monster released a triumphant laugh that sounded like nails on a chalkboard. Adrian cringed.
“Oh no! Is that him?” she cried, “Adrian, you have to get out of there. Those things are nearly impossible to kill.”
“Oh great.” The creature had its long fingers wrapped around the edges of the door, clawing at Adrian. “Is there a way I can slow it down?”
“Maybe. They can’t stand loud, high-pitched noises. It hurts their ears. But that won’t stall him for long.”
“Right. Thanks,” he said as he tried to think of a way to implement this information, “I have to go now. Evil monster trying to kill me. You understand.”
“Just hang on. I’m on my way.” And then the line went