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I remember that day, the day I got that phone call at work. I remember hearing my wife on the phone, ecstatic but hurried. She told me our baby was coming. I had dropped the stack of papers I was carrying and left the building. When I got home, I saw her waiting patiently on the couch. Her will was formidable; I always liked that aspect of her. We got in the car and rushed off to the hospital.

When we got in the ER, she was carted away. Even though I was eventually allowed to go back with her, it still pains me I missed her actually giving birth. They held me up due to suspicion that I was some asshole criminal they had seen on the news earlier. I fought to get past the guards but they were all over me. When I eventually did get cleared, it was too late. When I explained what had happened to her, she was upset that I wasn’t there for her, but was glad I was there now. I promised myself that day that I wouldn’t let either of them out of my sight or in harms way. I couldn’t even give that much to them.

Everyone had clocked out early one night, leaving me to do most of the work. The coffee machine became a good friend that night, as I was stuck finishing their portion of the typing as well as cleaning up the place. When I finally did get all the work done, I immediately got in my car and started on my way home. It killed me that I had to do so, but it was always this nagging feeling I got when I wasn’t home that something would happen to them. I’d call multiple times throughout that night, checking to make sure they were ok and to let her know that I was working late. She had fallen asleep about an hour after my last call and didn’t pick up any others.

It wasn’t even that I hated the most about the whole thing. It was such a simple action that I did that ruined my chances of stopping… that thing. It was late and I hadn’t had any dinner so naturally, I was going to hit somewhere up. The only places open at that hour were fast food restaurants and gas stations. All the high class or at least halfway decent places closed long ago. I went through the drive through at a little fast food joint and picked up a few things; a couple burgers and fries. All in all, a simple, quick mind you, pit stop. I didn’t want to eat there in the parking lot. I just wanted to get home, kick back with my half assed meal, and relax to some late night movie. In hindsight, it was an ignorant move. Those few minutes meant the lives of both of them.

It didn’t take me much longer to arrive back at my house. I grabbed my food and started up the path towards the front door. Bag in hand and key at the ready, I put the key in the lock. Quickly, I realized that the door wasn’t locked. In fact, it was slightly cracked open. Tentatively, I put the key away and reached for my gun in the back of my pants. That didn’t help my worry, as I had left the gun back at the office. I usually took it out and hid in my drawer when I sat down due to it being quite uncomfortable and put it back when the day was over. However, due to me working late and feeling rushed to get home, it was still at the office.

My basic training took over and I put everything down, getting ready to sneak into the house as to not startle whoever was inside. It’s silly to think I’d need something as simple as basic training for only being an accountant at the police station but I assume it’s necessary protocol. I peaked in the crack of the door then gave it a light push. I was greeted by a vast darkness, silence pervading the air. Cautious steps I took inside, my ears listening for even the slightest breath and my palms, though sweaty and nervous, balled up into fists. Maybe it wasn’t needed. Perhaps she just left the door open by accident and went to bed not being any the wiser. I wasn’t too sure of myself in that sense and wasn’t ready to take any chances. Violence or aggression is the core response of a human in an intimate and inevitable negative encounter.

I didn’t want to turn the lights on as a precaution to spooking any unknown person. To the left was the kitchen, which only lead outside and to the right where our bedroom and our newborn sons’ were. I instinctively went to the right; making sure each step I took stayed in bounds of what I considered to be quiet. The hardwood floors, usually unmistakably audible were surprisingly dormant of sound. Perhaps the act of god or my wife had bought and installed new floors when I was gone. Ridiculous. I shook the thought away in an instant, as it didn’t pertain to my current task.

I had just started down the hallway. First objective was to check to make sure everyone was all right then to grab my other pistol I kept at home and make sure no one was camping in my house somewhere. I checked our room, which was immediately right when in the hallway. I creaked open the door as to look at the bed. There she lay, sound asleep, alone in the large queen sized bed. She was fine and I didn’t notice anyone standing around the bed. I left the door ajar and began walking back towards our sons’ room.

From the kitchen, I assumed, I heard a sniff. It was quiet, but still loud enough and subtle enough for me to hear. It made me stop, as to avoid making any noise at all. There was more sniffing and the feeling of something moving closer. I turned ever so slightly to look over my shoulder into the living room. I couldn’t see anything but a new sound did ensue. It was the sound of small feet with what sounded like rock attached to them. No. I knew that sound. It was the sound of an animal with claws or perhaps long nails walking on a hard surface. I turned more and stuck my head further into the other room. Nothing. Still nothing made its presence clear to me. The sound then stopped as well as the sniffing. I stood there for a few more moments staring into the shadows till I turned back to walking down the hall.

Only had to check our sons’ room, then I’d be able to grab my gun and check the rest of the house. I could have got it when I checked our room, however, opening the gun safe requires a light and the sound that the safe would make would certainly alert any burglars to my location. As I crept along the hallway, I become more and more unnerved by the eerie silence. It put me off mentally to be in a situation like this; to be wandering aimlessly in the dark with a vague goal in mind all the while dealing with the possibility of an unknown force. Perhaps I was over excited and my imagination veered off on a tangent. Regardless, I had to press on.

Opening the door to my son’s room, I was immediately greeted with the sight of his baby blue painted walls, covered in his doodles. The crib lay next to the window with faint moonlight gleaming of the plastic toys adorning the floor. The night-light in the corner illuminated the child’s room. It wasn’t that bright. It only gave off about as much light as a normal candle would. My son lay in his crib; all wrapped up in a hand sewn blanket his mother made him. He was truly a sight to behold. I went over to where he was and peered over the edge of the small bed. He was fast asleep, completely oblivious to what was happening. More or less, what would happen.

A sudden crash came from behind me and shortly after that and I heard the sound of tiny objects being tossed about. I turned and ran back down the hall to our bedroom. When I arrived to the opening of the room, splintered wood littered the floor as well as a thick layer of what looked like dust floating about the floor. It was quite dark in the room so I quickly reached for the light switch. With a flick of the switch, nothing happened. Looking over at my bed, and more importantly her, I saw it on top of her. A vicious growl was emitted from the beast as my eyes locked onto its form.

At first, it appeared to just simply be a cloud of smoke, however, as I observed further, it appeared to have four legs coming from the mass. The ethereal mist then began to take a much more solid form, as it curved and shaped in a canine of some sort. A wolf. It snarled at my sleeping wife then seemed to realize that I was still in the room. It turned its head slowly in my direction, meeting my gaze. Our eyes matched each other’s though it seemed I wasn’t able to move. It was at this moment that I noticed two things. One, even though I could see faint indentations on the bed were it was standing; it didn’t seem to have paws. It was almost hovering above her. Second, she was still asleep. Through all this, the door being smashed open, the wolf jumping onto her, and the low in tone but very audible growls and snarls that came from the animal’s mouth.

Perhaps it knew what I was thinking; that if it touched her, I’d try in vain to defend her. Honestly, I didn’t know how to defend her. I wasn’t even sure this apparition before me was even there. It dared a glance back down at her then at me. I knew it knew what I was thinking. Without another sound, it turned and looked back down to her. Its mighty phantom jowls opened and a heavy dark smog emanated from within its chest. It covered her face, making her appearance turn darker and darker. The smoke began to crawl from her face down her body to her toes. As is covered her body, my rage started to boil and I began to regain control of my faculties. My confidence and adamant will to protect my family fumed. Both my hands clenched into tight fists, my knuckles turning red from the nervousness and the adrenaline. That was the moment I would’ve lunged at it, though something stopped me, something I wouldn’t have expected.

As I tried to charge at this hellish beast, my feet seemed anchored to the floor. I couldn’t move at all. I was paralyzed. Quickly looking down at my feet in a panic, I saw that the dust that was on the floor seemed ever denser around my feet and ankles. I reached down and attempted to pull and tug at them, though they didn’t budge. The dust began to latch on my hands and I suddenly recoiled. It hurt. Not a burning pain, just a blunt pain. It was almost as if my hand was being crushed or squeezed. Bringing my hands back up, I saw the dust still hovering and floating about my hands. An immense weight set upon my hands, forcing me to lower them. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t move my hands or legs.

I looked back up at the hellhound and saw the smog becoming thicker and thicker, consuming her body. The wolf closed its demonic maw and watched its work. The smoke got darker, almost making her features indistinguishable. Bright and pure moonlight rose from the windowsill, as the clouds above moved out of the way. The room illuminated with the heavenly light, making the apparition and the scene before me all the clearer. The hound was a horrifying sight indeed with its mangled fur, tattered tail, and a head that consisted of eyes of deep red and wickedly sharp teeth. When looking at it a bit more, it looked as if the body was slightly transparent, almost like the smoke it breathed. Looking down once again, I noticed that the dust on the ground was the same that came from its mouth, though it wasn’t quite exactly right, this smoke was different. My eyes widened in realization at what this smoke looked like and what it was doing to me.

Little hands and tiny ghostly mouths were flowing in and around the smog like trash in a river. It was grabbing and pulling at my legs and pants and the mouths seemed to be chewing on me. I tried yanking my leg away but my leg was locked to the ground firmly. Panicked breathing picked up in my lungs as my fruitless attempts at freedom where proven to be in vain. An unearthly growl came from the un-amused monster. I didn’t look up this time at its attempt to get my attention. At the time, I believed in a mere few seconds I would be free and I’d be able to lash out at the beast that was on top of my wife.

Voices. Voices could be heard very faintly. I didn’t know how or where they came from but I could hear them. They started very quietly and gradually got louder. I shot glances all around trying to find the source. I didn’t see anyone or anything other than the monster and myself. After listening to it for a moment, I started to hone in on the origination. It sounded as if it was coming from the wolfs now open mouth. It was breathing its smoke back in, even some from the floor. I watched in astonishment as a new phenomenon happened. As it breathed in, lines and marks began to glow that I hadn’t noticed previously through its eyes and on its back down to its tail. They appeared almost tribal like in the style. It glowed a stronger and stronger blood red as it sucked the smoke back in. The transparency seemed to fade as well, becoming more physical. I could no longer see through it and its paws took shape. Jet-black claws protruded from its wide paws. Now that it was more visible, it looked malnourished and gangly.

The voices got louder and ever more present. I couldn’t raise my hands to protect my ears as the hellish mumbling reached damaging levels. I clenched my teeth and shut my eyes, trying desperately to block out what was happening to me. I couldn’t escape from the nightmare. As I tried to break free, I could feel my panic reach its climax, my eyes darting behind closed eyelids, body shaking, and blood pressure rising. Just when I thought I would lose it, it all stopped instantaneously. It actually took me off guard for a moment. I opened my eyes slowly while my ears rang. The wolf wasn’t on the bed anymore and, as far as I could tell, not even in the room. For some reason, I still wasn’t able to move. Looking at my feet, I didn’t see any demonic smoke or dust at all, just my plain old sneakers. Lifting my right leg proved useless, as I was still held in place. Then I remembered my wife. Was she all right? What had the wolf done to her? I thought to myself.

The glorious moonlight crawled across the bed and bathed her in the alabaster light. What lied there… couldn’t have been real. My wife, my once beautiful wife, looked burned, charred even. Her skin had darkened and crusted. Her face was sunken in and lifeless. Fear crept up within me as my mind raced alongside my imagination of what could have possibly happened. It pained me to have just stood there and watched all this happen. I was helpless… useless. A tear fell from my eye and landed on my cheek lazily. I was so confused, so lost. The whole situation was just a rapid cluster fuck after another. I didn’t know how to react to any of it or how to respond to this. Then again, ask yourself this, what would you do? When you can’t do anything to stop something you know is terrible or wrong. So I stood there for a few minutes wondering if I’d ever be saved from this. I prayed and prayed for some savior or angel to liberate me. Shortly after, I was liberated, not by an angle, but a demon.

The embodiment of the wolf rose from the floor on the other side of the bed. Its marks and coat seem more vibrant and brilliant than ever. My eyes snapped to it as it finished its summons, brought forth from my despair. It sat there only for a moment for its jaw opened and revealed its still horrific maw that led to oblivion. I didn’t know what to do other than speak to the apparition.

“Why… What are you…” I said softly. I came off more scared than intimidating which wasn’t too far from what I actually felt. It merely let out a low throaty growl.

“T-tell me you… monster… What the hell are you.” It growled once more only louder.

“Tell me! What have you done to her! Why her!” My face boiled as my blood reached a fevered pitch. Its jaw dropped exceedingly low and howled the highest shrill scream I’d ever heard and charged at me around the bed. It all happened in a flash and I still couldn’t move. I couldn’t get out of its way as it plowed into my legs. Something that hadn’t happened during this entire ordeal then happened. I moved, though it wasn’t me moving of my own accord, I was falling, falling forward. The wolf disappeared under me as my face collided with the ground. With my hands still being paralyzed, I couldn’t bring them up to dampen my fall. I landed with a dull thud on the wood floor.

My vision blurred for momentary and after the stars cleared, I was met with the sight of my bedroom floor covered in dust. This wasn’t the dust from before, it was more visible, powdery, and ashy. I could move my arms a bit and I tried getting my hands underneath me. As soon as my hands met the ground, I felt them crumple. My arms fell flat against the ground again, leaving me confused and afraid. Leaning over on my side, I pulled my right arm up to my face to see what had happened. My breath picked up again and a nervous sweat broke out. My hand wasn’t even there. The only thing that was at the end of my arm was charred stump. Looking down on the ground, a pile of dust and ash laid where I had tried putting my hands down. Scared, I turned over more to get a glimpse at my legs. I could hear my blood pound in my ears and my body throbbed with my heartbeat. My legs, from my feet to just below my kneecap, was gone, flesh and fabric all. A crescendo rose in my voice as I cried out in panic and fear that both of my hands and my legs were gone.

I lay there squirming around in the ashes of my body. What was going on! I screamed in my head. I was never more afraid than at that exact moment. I was terrified at how things gone from a normal day to hell on earth. I remembered my wife and son. I had to see if they were ok. Through panicked tears and fumbling, I managed to crawl on my elbows to the side of my bed. I sat back up against my bed and reached up, trying to grab onto the top so I could pull myself up. After a strenuous series of failed attempts, I finally managed to get a grip and haul myself up. I lay back and look up to see my wife. I reached out with my right arm to try and get her attention and to see if she was all right.

“Honey, are you ok?” I struggled to scoot closer as I couldn’t quite reach.

“Honey, hey, wake u-“ I stopped as my stub arm made contact with her. When it touched her on her arm, her arm crumpled into dust. The crumbling trailed up her arm and stopped when it reached her torso. I recoiled and tried sitting up though the way I was positioned, I fell from the bed and onto the floor. Slumping over it hit me that she was gone. Gone forever due to whatever it was that wolf had done. To this day, it kills me that I never got to tell her goodbye. I never got the chance to tell her I loved her and that she meant more to me than anything in the world and that I’d never let anything happen to her. I was going to fall over and just lay there defeated but there was still one thing plaguing my mind. I had to check on my son. I had to save him if that wolf was still in the house. Getting back up on my elbows, I crawled out into the hallway and began to make my way down the hall towards his room.

I stopped halfway down the hall, my breath caught in my throat. The apparition of the wolf morphed from the floor once again. As it finished, its eyes met with mine, unfeeling and uncaring. I seethed with hatred at this monster. I wanted so much to get up and grab this dog by the scruff of the neck and slam him against the wall till it was dead. It knew I felt like this and simply tempted me by sitting at the end of the hall very still and very silent. To some, this may come off as a docile behavior though to me, it was just taunting me. A new sound came from the darkness of the house; one I prayed I’d never hear.

My son had awakened at some point and began to cry. His call of distress was heard clearly by the beast as its ears perked. The wolf let out an angered bark aimed at the infant, as it wasn’t what he wanted to play with right now. He wanted to toy with me, not with the life of some baby. I looked right through the wolf at my son, trying to subconsciously tell him to be silent and that it would all be ok. He didn’t cease his cries. The monster barked louder and in a more annoyed manner. Even though my sons cries got more audible and the wolfs patience wore thin I knew this would not end well. The beast gazed into my eyes, contemplating his next move. A devilish smirk could almost be made out on its face as an idea formed. I knew what he was going to do. I had to stop this.

“Don’t.” was all I could make out. Immediately after I said that, the monster turned and ran into my son’s room. I could see it run up to my son’s crib and leap up into it.

“Stop!” I yelled, but it was too late. The beast first stood over my son then lounged inward at my son. I couldn’t see him because of the crib walls, which I might have considered a blessing though I knew what was happening on the other side. Sounds of enraged growls and barks as well as the sound of something along the lines Velcro being pulled apart came from the crib. I tried desperately to crawl into the room as fast as I could though something stopped me once again. Turning to look behind me I saw the same smoke from before crawling up my legs, holding me back. Looking back, I saw bits and pieces of various things fly from the other side of the crib wall. It made my stomach turn and twist into knots and I about threw up right there. I closed my eyes and put my head down on the ground. Voices began to become audible once more.

Though as quickly as the slaughter had begun, it had stopped. Opening my eyes, I couldn’t see anything. My eyesight then faded in and out for a moment as I looked into the room. The wolf was just now getting out of the crib and licking its paws. As my vision started to go completely black, I saw a round circle open up from the floor. Smoke crawled and fire spat from the hole as the wolf entered it, leaving the nightmarish home and its destroyed family behind. Shortly after, my sight when black and I felt my head hit the floor.

I awoke the next morning in a haze, the sounds of rushing feet and sirens pervaded the air. I could numbly feel my body being picked up then placed down on a flat surface. I then felt myself start to move. I can only assume I was put on a stretcher and was taken to the hospital. The doctors didn’t have a viable explanation for my injuries and every time I tried to tell them what had happened, they didn’t believe me. I was immediately made as a suspect for burning my wife and slaughtering my son. No amount of logic or reason let me get a word in edgewise.

So I sat in that hospital for a few days, waiting for something, anything to happen. It was stressful enough I was here but added onto that was my guilt that I wasn’t home in time. I had thought about it and thought about it. If I wouldn’t have gotten that fast food, I would’ve made it home before the monster attacked and I could’ve gotten them out of the house and hid somewhere. Though the more I pondered that ideal, the more it becomes apparent that even if I did get home earlier, I wouldn’t have known that this would happen. Even if I did know, I would have no idea how to combat this being. In the end, nothing could’ve saved them I guess.

Though something peculiar transpired after about a week of being in the hospital. I had got a visitor. I wasn’t expecting anyone and didn’t think anyone would take the time to come out and see me, not after what everyone thought I did. The nurse let an old man into my room saying only that he wanted to speak with me. The man was an elderly man with a brown tattered cloak that draped around him and to the floor. His pants had holes in them and his plain black shirt showed signs of wear and tear. He was about my height though a tad skinner and the only other thing he had on him was some dusty old book. He took the seat right next to me without saying a word. I was dumbfounded for a time, as I had no idea what to say to this man. When I finally found the words, I said to him.

“Can I help y-“

“I’m well aware of why you’re in this hospital.” He interrupted, his voice gravelly and low. “You were visited, you not?”

“Huh? What do you mean?” I retorted. I didn’t want to answer him truthfully right away.

“You were visited by something that night in your home, weren’t you? You met something that you’ve never seen before.” He persisted. I thought of trying to prolong this little conversation, but I figured that the sooner I start answering his questions, the sooner he’d leave. I tried putting words together but I couldn’t find them. I simply gave an affirmative nod.

“It was an animal, correct? One with very interesting characteristics.” Again, I gave another nod.

“My dear boy, you are indeed lucky to be alive.”

“No, I’m not.” I said flatly.

“Hmm? What do you mean?”

“I let them die. I couldn’t protect them. I… I promised I’d never let them out of my sight or let anything happen to them…” The pain began resurfacing in my words.

“My boy, there is nothing you could’ve done to harm the Wolf of Tartarus.” His words had a strong feeling of caution behind them.

“The Wolf of Tartarus? The hell is that?” I said giving him a ponderous look. He laid the book on his lap and flipped the pages open. The book had to be made of very old paper of some kind, as it seemed quite delicate small pieces of dust came off the pages as he looked. As he scanned the book, he found the passage he was searching for and stopped the pages there.

“Allow me to tell you. The Wolf of Tartarus, also known as the Hellhound of Hades, is a demi-god like being sent by Hades to collect human souls. As you can tell, this was no ordinary wolf you encountered, boy. This wolf was made by Hades himself to be able to pass freely from the underworld to the human world. Remaining hidden within the darkness of the night and able to spring forth from any shadow, this wolf collects the souls of humans in which it is able to bring back to the underworld.”

“Woah, hang on a second man. Slow down and explain this. You’re telling me all this way too fast.”

“Do you wish to know what you encountered or not.” He snapped back. I did want to know but he was bombarding with information, it was hard to keep up. Still though, I didn’t want to question him anymore.

“Yes, I do. Please continue.”

“Mmm. Now then, the wolf will keep collecting souls, traveling back and forth between this world and the other until it gathers enough souls to give to Hades to instill within his armies. When enough have been collected, Hades will be at his strongest and he’ll rise to turn this world to ash to exact revenge. Only Hades and the Tartarus Wolf are able to traverse the dimensions right now. The wolf’s appearance varies slightly from person to person but it’s pretty much how you saw it that night. The way in which the wolf attacks its prey is similar to a normal earth wolf; singling it out, chasing it down, and going for the neck. Though if the prey is already incapacitated, it will go right ahead with stealing the prey’s soul. The wolf will emit a dense and hellish mist on its prey to steal the life and soul away from the target. The wolf is able to change its form, become ethereal, turn flesh to ash, as well as a number of other things. The wolf is a demi-god after all.”

I guess it answered some of the questions I had, but so many more began to race in my head at that point. After his explanation, he stood from his chair and started to walk out. There’s so much that I wanted to ask him, who he was, what the hell he was doing here, and how did he know so much about what happened. I was about to open my mouth to ask him when he said to me,

“Stifle your inquires, boy. There’s nothing you can do to stop the wolf from achieving its objective and you can’t bring your family back. You’re powerless to Hades’ might. I would recommend your next move to heal up and leave this place. Run and hide, for neither the wolf nor Hades like to leave survivors of hunts. Though, under some circumstances, they may spare a select few for a time.” He explained as he reached the door, resting his hand on the knob. That last statement of his seemed slightly ominous to me. This raised the question though, why me? Why was I spared? I had to know at least that.

“Let me at least ask you these two things. First, who are you?” I asked him in a firm voice. He turned his head towards me.

“You can refer to me as prophet or an ally or even the bearer of bad news. Truth be told, I have many names. Call me what you will.” He turned back to the door and opened it up.

“And the other thing, why did he let me live?”

“He likes playing with his prey before he kills them.”

My heart sank with this new information. Options and possibilities began racing across the forefront of my mind. With his last statement, he left the room. As he left however, something caught my eye, stopping my train of thought momentary. I could have sworn that as he left, I could see the faintest bit of black dust or ash fly out from the bottom of his cloak.