A single bare bulb hung from the ceiling in the cramped wooden shed illuminating the spot where Echo stood. Scattered around the shed were frightful relics of his youth cast in deep shadows. Stacks of old journals, toys, and a drum set took on frightful forms and set frightful shadows dancing along the wooden walls.
“Echo….Echo…” The raspy and desperate voice of his father called to him from a corner enveloped in darkness. “Echo please, help me. You have to….you have to come home.”
Echo looked to the door of the shack. His legs were cemented in place refusing his commands to make a hasty escape as if they knew any step into the shadows meant certain death. He could here rustling in the shadows all around him.
“Please Echo, I don’t have much time. Come home. You’ll learn everything there. I need your help.”
“Help?” A rising bitterness towards his father rose in his chest; a bitterness which ignited into anger burning away the fear that had set itself upon him. “You? You’re asking for my help, Mark?”
Echo had called his father by his first name ever since he left his home over a decade ago. The man had been little more than neglect interrupted by whirlwind gales of violence. He could still feel every strike and every bruised caused by his father. Every word uttered to break him down, every act of cruelty which led his mother to choose to leave this world at the end of a smoking gun, resonating within him.
“ECHO! PLEASE!” Slowly the broken form of his father crawled into the light. He lay on the floor in a crumpled heap. He looked up at his son. Dried vomit clung to his beard. Blood crusted about his face originating from an open wound in the back of his head. “I don’t have time. Don’t do it for me, do it for her. Please! You have to come home!”
Echo stepped back at the sight of the broken and mortally wounded man. His heart raced, pounding in his chest like a bird beating against its cage in an attempt to escape.
“Mark? What’s going on? What happened?”
From behind his father a weathered and taloned hand struck out from the darkness grasping the old man’s leg. It dragged him back into the darkness with lightning speed.
His father’s terrified screams faded into the darkness. The light over head dimmed and flashed over head fighting for strength to keep its light burning against the overwhelming darkness.
He turned with thoughts of the door behind him and the safety of open spaces. A shadowy figure figure stood between him and the door. The figure stood on impossibly long and lean legs. Echo couldn’t make out any arms on the creature just long legs attached to lean and muscular torso with an elephant-sized head.
The thing, the creature, crouched and stepped forward into the light. Its skin was a sickly grey like that of a corpse. The head was completely alien without eyes or nose; only a great maw filled with rows upon rows of hideously malformed jagged teeth. Like a great cat it locked its body preparing to strike. In an instant the thing lunged forward snarling maw open in anticipation.
Echo bolted upright in bed, heart still pounding. Cold sweat drenched his body. Clutching his chest he struggled to catch his breath. He nearly lunged out of bed when his cellphone rang.
The alarm clock on his dresser displayed 3:45 a.m. in bold red letters. He reached for the phone on the nightstand beside him.
“Yes. Who is this?”
“It’s Pastor Lucas.”
Fucking great. First a nightmare about Mark, and now a call from his pastor. He thought to himself.
“It’s almost four in the morning? What the hell do you want? And how did you get this number?”
“I’m sorry. It’s not important how I got your number. Look, this about your dad.”
“Mark.” Echo corrected. “What about him?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know how to say this…”
“Dammit. Just say it. I have to get up in an hour.”
“Echo, your dad passed away.”
“What?” Flashes of the nightmare came back to him. “When? How?”
“Just a few hours ago. It was an overdose of some kind. He passed out in the garage and hit his head. I’m so sorry. You need to come home. You’re his only family and we need you to help settle his affairs and lay him to rest.”
“What? No. Why? You made it quite clear a number of years ago that I was some kind of pariah. You stood with him in condemning me as some awful human being. He’s your problem. You deal with it.”
“Echo! How can you say that? He was your dad. Is God’s love so far from you?”
“Don’t start. You deal with him.”
“We can’t. There are legal decisions that only you can settle.”
Echo hung up the phone and set the ringer to silent. He laid back recalling the nightmare moments before the call.
What the fuck is going on?