Vacant Throne



001.003 Near Death Experiences - Off the Books


“I’d tell you that it will be painless, just a few pricks and then an eternity of happiness and pleasure, but angels are forbidden from lying. I’ve been trying to get around that little annoyance for—”

Shut up,” Alyssa hissed to the overly chipper thing. Though she didn’t know why she bothered. The angel wasn’t even trying to be quiet.

Which actually lent credit to her claims of being supernatural. Standing right in the doorway out of Alyssa’s parents’ room and talking, the angel avoided all illusions of subtlety. With the third intruder of the evening being just down the hall, he either would have seen the angel or heard her. Alyssa hadn’t totally discounted the idea that everything was a prank. The angel’s light-show back in Clark’s room could have been nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

For the moment, Alyssa was leaning towards believing the angel’s outlandish claims. Pranks tended to go south once one of the people died. Or so she would expect.

Alyssa found the father’s anguished cries too real to fake. Movies just didn’t quite get anguish right. The noises he made were unnerving on a level that Alyssa had never experienced before.

He started out berating his son, Gilbert, for laziness. That stopped the moment that he had seen his son’s legs sticking out of the bedroom—presumably; Alyssa had still been in the closet at the time. In her flight from her brother’s bedroom, she hadn’t shut off the lights. It would have been attention grabbing and obvious to anyone who moved from the entryway to the hall.

From then on, he let out a few confused whispers of “Gilbert?” and “Boy?” as he made his way down the hall.

“No, no, no!” he had cried just as Alyssa worked up the nerve to peek out of the closet and toward him.

He sat at the bedroom’s threshold, sobbing while cradling his son’s body and rocking back and forth.

It honestly had Alyssa feeling sick to be watching and listening to him while knowing that she had killed his son. Had the kid even been armed? She hadn’t checked. Neither had she noticed any weapons falling to the floor, though he could easily have landed on them before she had turned on the lights.

A part of her wanted to say that they deserved it for breaking into her home. At the same time, listening grew harder and harder the longer she heard the grown man crying.

She kept one eye around the edge of the door frame, watching him anyway. Watching made her slightly nervous for reasons entirely unrelated to her having killed Gilbert. At any moment, he could notice her leaning around the corner. At the moment, he had his back to her. So long as he kept it that way, she should be mildly safe.

“Ugh, he should have shot you by now. Right in the knee so you can’t run away. You’re going to miss your deadline. Heh. Deadline,” she said with a chuckle. “I crack myself up.”

Alyssa, entirely unamused, did not bother humoring the thing by responding. Instead, she peeked around the side of the door frame again, making sure that the man was still down the hall. If she hadn’t been so foolish as to leave her cell phone, she could have called for help. They had long since gotten rid of landlines in the house. For now, she was just hoping that the angel was right, strange as that might seem.

In some potential future that the angel believed in, that man killed her inside Clark’s bedroom. He probably found her right after finding his son and, in a rage, murdered her. With her hiding away on the opposite end of the house, he might have a moment to calm down and rationalize his actions.

“I have other souls to collect, you know? Maybe it’s time for some Divine Inspiration!”

Alyssa tore her eyes from the hall and met the glowing eyes of the angel.

Arms crossed over her chest, the angel put on a smug smirk as she snapped her fingers. The moment she did, a footstep echoed up the hall.

“You!” Another step resounded through the house.

At the sound, Alyssa couldn’t help herself. She peeked around the door frame again.

“You did this to ma boy?” He had moved too far out of the light to see his face as anything but shadows and gray wisps of hair almost glowing against the background light. Tear streaks glistened on his face despite the poor light. “I’ll kill you. Ya ain’t getting away.”

His shaking arm snapped up to point at Alyssa. A metallic glint at the end of his arm caught the faint light.

Alyssa dove to the side. The deafening crack of a gunshot rang through the house an instant after. She couldn’t tell where it hit, but she wasn’t going to stick around to find out. Crawling on her hands and knees as another two gunshots fired off from somewhere down the hall, Alyssa made it to the far side of the bed.

All the while, the angel stood in the open with a grin on her face.

This time, Alyssa did not peek over the top of the bed when the footsteps shifted from the hardwood hall to the soft carpeted bedroom. She kept her head down, her hands on the pistol, and her finger on the trigger.

“It’s over girl,” he said, flicking on the lights.

Pain stung her eyes from the sudden brightness. Sheer adrenaline and force of will kept her eyes open despite the constricting of her pupils. Despite her eyes’ issues, her ears worked without error.

The footsteps continued into the room. Not towards Alyssa, but to the open door of the walk-in closet on the opposite side of the room.

He hadn’t seen her crouched behind the bed!

She didn’t have much time. Sooner or later, he would realize that she wasn’t in the closet. For the moment, he had his back to her once again.

Dishonorable? Maybe. But what good was honor when she was dead?

Alyssa popped out of her hiding spot gun first, resting her elbows on the top of the bed to help steady her trembling arms. The man flicked on the closet lights as he moved over to one side, knocking back a set of suit jackets to look behind them. With the lights on, Alyssa had a perfect view. She waited for a few seconds, just long enough for the man to move away from the side of the closet and back into full view.

Her finger pulled back on the trigger. Not just once. Alyssa squeezed down three times, sending three supersonic slugs slinging down into the narrow closet. Just like shooting down a shooting range.

Except she didn’t have ear protection on.

In fiction, fights could end in a single shot. They often did. Accidents often ended with a single shot in real life as well. But there were always stories about people who got shot ten times only to kill their assailant and make it to a hospital in time to live. That was a chance that Alyssa did not want to take.

Gritting her teeth, Alyssa fired two more times. She couldn’t tell if all of her bullets had hit. Some had. Blood trickled from three holes in his back, running down his denim jacket.

The man moved to one side of the closet, out of sight. Alyssa couldn’t tell if he had slumped over because she had hit something critical or if he was moving for better cover. Either way, she ducked back down and moved from being near the wall to the end of the bed. It wasn’t a far movement, but might just save her life if the man had caught a glimpse of her.

There she waited with her head down, straining her ears to hear any sign of movement from the closet.

“You—You killed him!”

Alyssa jumped, just about shooting herself in the thigh. Carefully removing her quaking finger from the trigger of the warm gun, she shot the angel nothing more than a glare. She didn’t know where the angel had gone after shouting about divine inspiration. Unless the angel represented some figment of Alyssa’s guilty conscience, a being of that power should have been able to knock away her gun just like the machete. Alyssa would have been entirely at the mercy of the intruder.

Yet the angel had just stood in the corner, watching with her dazzling eyes.

“You can’t just kill him,” she shrieked. All of her earlier chipper glee vanished. In its place, her voice carried a tone of fear.

Peeking around the side of the bed, Alyssa watched as the angel pulled out her black book again. Black nailed fingers flipped past the page marked with the ribbon that she had shown Alyssa earlier. The angel stopped at and stared at another page, slowly opening her mouth in abject horror.

“Oh no…”


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