“I don’t need any sleep,” I said, taking a sip of my coffee. “I’ll be fine. What matters is keeping the book safe.”
“You can’t keep pushing yourself, Ralph,” Vicky replied. I could see the exhaustion on her face weighing in her. “I know you think it needs to be watched all the time, but I think, at least for tonight, that it would be fine.”
“You don’t know what this is,” I shot back, slamming my fist on the table. “This book is worth more than either of us. If you’re tired, go get some sleep.”
“I’m sorry.” Her voice was barely more than a whisper as her eyes fell from mine.
Vicky slid out of the booth and walked to the far side of the dining car. She sat at another table, facing away from me and put her head down.
The book on the table in front of me looked unassuming to most people that saw it. The lack of flourish or gold leaf on its cover made it look more like a beat-up journal than a weapon of mass destruction. I thought back to the only time I had ever opened the cover to the hundred-page book. I remembered the visions I had seen, the power that had poured from it, and the destruction it had caused not so long ago.
I picked the book up and slid it into the inner pocket of my jacket and stood up. I walked to the waiter’s bar and refilled my coffee before walking over to Vicky’s table.
“I’m sorry, Vicky, I shouldn’t have lost my temper. I just can’t let anything happen to the book,” I said.
“You act like you’re the only one that can protect it,” she said, looking up at me. Streaks of tears had cut through the dust on her face. “I can help. That’s why I’m here.”
“I know,” I said, nodding. “I know you gave up everything to come with me.”
An ear-piercing scream filled the room, and the dining car suddenly tilted to one side, throwing me into the table and sliding Vicky into the wall before everything righted itself once more. A window exploded near where I had been sitting as a grotesque figure pulled itself inside. I smelled the sulfur before I saw the black, cracked leather hide of the creature turning to face us. Vicky was pulling herself up when she saw it, the color draining from her face.
“W-what is that thing?” she whispered.
“What’s been chasing this book since I opened it,” I replied, reaching for the knife on my belt. “Run.”
I ran toward the beast as it screamed again and began lumbering toward me, pulling itself along by the backs of the booth seats. Its sharp gnarled teeth dripped with saliva as its dark beady eyes watched me. I launched myself off a booth, gripping the knife between two hands. The creature swung, connecting with my ribs hard enough that I felt the bones break from the force of it.
“Ralph!” Vicky yelled as I slammed into the wall of glasses behind the bar and slid to the floor.
The creature looked at me and roared in my face, splattering me with its spittle. I thrust upward with the knife, but the creature grabbed me by the wrist and pinned me to the wall. The crushing force of its grip made my hand open as I screamed in pain.
“You were never going to win,” it growled, extending a long, pointed tongue that slid up the side of my face. “You were never more than a morsel for me to consume. The book of the damned will be mine to use and control. I’ll use its power to finally bend all to my will.”
The creature reached inside my jacket for the book as I screamed, trying to free myself. Its grip was too strong, and my body had nearly reached its limit. I could smell the decay on its breath as the book came out and it chuckled. It looked at the book like it had nearly forgotten me, the hunger for power so evident in its eyes.
Another scream came, this time I recognized it, Vicky had jumped on the creature’s back. The beast bellowed in pain as I saw the flash of silver from the knives in Vicky’s hands. The creature released me as it tried to reach up to its back to pull her from it.
I dove for my knife and turned quickly, pushing the blade into the beast’s chest. It screamed and swung again, walloping me. I slid down the aisle behind the bar until I hit the back of a booth. I watched as the creature staggered, still trying to reach Vicky before it fell forward onto its face unmoving.
Vicky looked up at me, a mixture of terror and amazement on her face, “that wasn’t so hard,” she said.
“Don’t let your-” I said before the creature lurched, throwing Vicky. She slammed into a window and disappeared on the other side.
The creature pushed itself from the floor and turned to look at me. A black tar-like substance now dripped from its mouth as it smiled cruelly at me.
“You think that a few knives can stop me?” it croaked.
“No,” I replied, “but the runes on my blade will.”
The creature looked down as the runes etched into the hilt of my knife suddenly flashed. I watched its face turn from shock to concern as it reached for the blade. Light filled the dining car as I covered my eyes to protect myself from it. When the light faded, I uncovered my eyes to see the creature lying on its back wreathed in blue flames.
I crawled my way toward the broken window, pulling myself up on the seat and looked outside. Vicky lay in the grass, looking up at me. She had cuts all over whatever skin she had exposed.
“Is it dead?” she asked as she winced, pushing herself up onto her elbows.
“Yes,” I nodded.
“What now?” she asked.
I held up a finger and limped my way through the car to the door. I stepped out as Vicky was shakily getting to her feet.
“Now we get in the car, and we drive until we find someplace to either destroy this thing or make sure nothing and no one will ever get it again,” I said.