By Nathan Veyon
The sound haunts my nightmares and plagues my every waking hour. The Detior’s talons scrape the wall as its cane taps along. Harbingers of pain and torment, no Detior truly needs help walking, but they all enjoy the sounds of suffering. Each cane is a single column of crimson death with a finely honed bone-white tip, perfect for eviscerating hope. If left standing, the murdered dreams of hundreds leaked out into bloodred puddles.
I am but a simple crafter of words. Who am I to stand before this power, this hunger? The Detior approaches, and I crouch over my work in my small cell of stone gothic horror. Perhaps the beast is merely passing by to afflict some other poor soul.
One final scritch and silence.
I dare not look. An odd current of air chills me. Light from my small lamp bends toward the growing shadow, absorbed by an insatiable hunger.
I turn. Leathery wings wrap around a figure cloaked in darkness and sorrow. I keep my head down, staring at the gleaming point of its cane, which already leaks a pool of red. I proffer my few pages, hoping something might survive my tormentor’s hunger.
The offering is received. The cane lifts. Unable to watch, I turn back to my desk. Strange sniffing noises come from the hood as the Detior feeds.
“Keeeep wooorking!” Its voice is deeper and stronger after such a fresh meal.
With trembling hands, I take back the wounded, bleeding manuscript and spread the pages of my excoriated dream before me. Wistfully I examine the void where whole paragraphs have been consumed. I manage a trembling smile. A single line has escaped my tormentor’s wrath. Yet the cruelly inked Show Don’t Tell’s scattered with frightening regularity across the pages drive away my moment of joy.
I consider feeding the whole mess to the fire. Free myself of the agony. Yet I can’t. So, I recraft the words, add flesh to characters, describe the action. Carefully, I rewrite each bloodied scene.
My eyes, bleary from tears and strain, barely notice the darkening shadow that looms over me. A spectral hand reaches down and casually scoops up my careworn pages.
With each shuffle of paper, my heart briefly stops, but the dreaded crimson death never leaves the floor. The pooling red is not applied to my work.
“This is accept—”
I sit up. My eyes refuse to focus on the bright light of my computer screen. I rub the sleep from them and read the alert.
1 new message
I click on the popup. My email opens. The bolded title grips me. Your flash fiction has been reviewed: 271 edits.
I break out in a cold sweat. Shuddering, I slam my laptop shut. The beast can wait for tomorrow.
Author’s note: This story was originally 10,000 words...