Eric Neher is an award-winning author who lives in Newcastle, Oklahoma. He is a continuing contributor to Uniqelahoma Magazine, as well as having numerous short and flash fiction stories published.

Notable works include “Permian Remorse”, “The Bane of Dave”, “Fractured Frame”, “The Cycle”, “A Haunted Cemetery”, and “Horrific Separation”.

His debut horror novel titled The Killing Pledge is now available.

Follow him on Twitter: @ENeherFiction
Email: ericneher3@gmail.com


by Eric Neher


James Carter staggered through the empty street, trying to ignore the concussive hammering of the enclosed beasts. Could these people not see them for what they really were: demons sent by a destroyer of worlds?

An explosion ignited behind his eyes and he could feel thin cracks zig-zag their way under his scalp. A low rumble vibrated within his chest and for a moment he wasn’t sure if he would be able to quell the scream that was threatening to emerge.

He knew he couldn’t scream. He had to somehow stay quiet. The need for silence was based on control.

This would not have been the first time he wanted to scream from the agony raging in the center of his mind. He had cried out before. But what he had learned was that if he did scream, the pain intensified, leaving him writhing upon whatever surface he managed to fall.

He was aware that whatever infected him strove to prevail, whispering its commands, demanding that he surrender. I can free you, it would say in a voice bubbling with poison. Give me the reins and be at peace.

But he refused, and soon the disease would be forced to creep back into whatever obscure crevice from which it had emerged.

James was fighting a war; an internal struggle that was both perpetual and hopeless. He knew this, which was why he now plodded his way out of town. It would have been quicker to drive, but the thought of sitting behind a 2015 Suburban while trying to contain this swelling fury filled him with trepidation. It was much safer to walk; to keep his speed maintainable and harmless, making it much easier to focus on his goal: ThunderBird Bridge.

That didn’t mean that images didn’t occasionally crash their way through. At first, he had been able to brush them away as imagination, produced by a fever that he had suddenly developed. How long ago had that been? A month? Two months? A year? James couldn’t remember.

Or perhaps wasn’t allowed to remember because when he tried, a rush of unhinged aggression would assault him, injecting thoughts of murder.   

There had been an older woman in the beginning. It had been her hand on his forehead that had delivered this curse. Or at least signaled its beginning. Had the witch done this to him? This woman was haunting, her voice occasionally overriding the continuous whisper that demanded he turn back.

“You don’t look so good,” she had said. Who had she been? It seemed as though it was important for him to recall.

James carefully allowed his mind to wander, ignoring the growing presence within. A face sprang from the ashes of his obliterated memory; a different woman, a younger one with raven hair and eyes that reminded him of an August morning on the shoreline.

 She is waiting for you, the demon’s voice said. Forget about this foolish venture and go back to her.

But was she waiting? James wiped away the image. It was dangerous to allow a memory to linger for too long.

He continued walking down the street. The houses were now becoming further apart and soon the broken pavement would switch to gravel. How much further then? No more than two miles, he was sure of that. Could he make it before the battle was lost? Of that, he wasn’t sure.

The raven-haired woman again flickered before him, begging to make another appearance but James refused. He wouldn’t risk it; the pain would be too great. But who was she?

Suddenly it came to him: Lisa. No, that wasn’t right. Linda! Yes, her name was Linda.

The whispering within his mind began to increase but James struggled to keep it at bay. Linda had been his wife for twenty-three years and he loved her. Or at least he loved her when he had been able to feel.

A thought burst through causing him to stop mid-stride. Had he killed her? The voice screamed out in affirmation, and for a moment he could see her lying on an oil-slicked concrete floor, blood spread around her head as her lifeless eyes gazed up in shock.

“That did not happen,” he mumbled to the demon. “Send me all the lies you want, but you won’t stop me.”

A cry to his left brought James out of the waking nightmare.

He turned just as a shapeless silhouette vanished into the lightless forest and for the first time in what seemed like ages, James felt no pain. The wind was bitter cold, and the numbness was sudden. He noticed the steam drifting off of his sweat-covered arms and was amazed to see that he wore only a T-shirt, jeans, and his old Converse tennis shoes. How had he made it so far without freezing to death?

Because the creature inside you doesn’t want you to die. It needs you.

Yet now it was gone. Why? Perhaps it had finally reached its limit, which was why James had suddenly found himself freed from its shackles. If it was ever there, to begin with. That was something that he must be willing to face: he might be completely delusional.

He began to turn back towards town when a crimson light shattered the darkness to his left. The beacon fell upon a cottonwood like a spotlight to a stage, its beam focusing on a rope dangling off of the lowest branch, and at its end was a noose. A sound, like a boulder splitting, echoed out from the shrouded forest. James stumbled back just as a small deck with a narrow set of stairs appeared beneath the rope.

The spotlight shifted to where a new woman was just stepping out of the shadows of the treeline. She was middle-aged and wore a pullover dress and her hair was covered by a bonnet. The woman stopped and turned towards James, the red light reflecting from her eyes with a ghostly hue.

“Look at me, Little Jimmy,” she said, her voice sounding distorted. “Do you recognize me?”

James tried to turn away, but couldn’t.

“Look close,” she said. His newfound clarity then went to work, recalling names and faces that had long ago come and gone until, like a spinning wheel, it finally stopped on a match.

“Abigail Pearce,” he said. “You’re Abigail Pearce.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “You do remember.” 

“You were our neighbor when I was a kid,” said James. “You killed yourself in your garage.”

Abigail Pearce flinched as if she had been slapped and said, “That’s what you remember? Not the chocolate chip cookies or Christmas presents? Just that I killed myself?”

This woman who stood before him had been the cause of many nightmares when he was a child. She was the first person that he had known who had died and the only person he had known who had committed suicide.

“You don’t have to answer,” she said. The woman then made her way to the foot of the stairs. “It’s not important. But what is important is the lesson that I’m about to teach you.”

Abigail Pearce began to climb. “They’re right, you know,” she said, stopping on the deck at the top of the stairs. “Those who choose the easy way out will pay for eternity.”

James felt his pulse thrumming in his chest like a live wire. “Please don’t do this,” he whined.

Abigail Pearce placed the noose around her head and tightened it until the knot was sitting securely at the side of her neck.

“Pay attention, sweetheart,” said Abigail Pearce. “This is important.”

The platform vanished, sending the woman’s body plummeting down. James watched in horror as Abigail Pearce’s legs twitched uncontrollably. And then she was still.

A burst of orange flooded from underneath Abigail Pearce’s elevated body. Crackling flames danced out of a jagged crevice, rising, engulfing the woman.

An anguished cry pierced the flares as a large claw-like hand, cracked and blackened, suddenly lunged up, grabbing Abigail Pearce by her ankle. Another scream sent hooks of terror down James’ spine and then she was gone.

The darkness closed in like a curtain, leaving only the sounds of subtle gusts rustling through the stripped branches of the trees. Battered nerves were working on their own, causing James to struggle for air while his knees trembled. This horrific scene had concluded like some kind of warped Faustian play.

The religious implications were quite clear. But he had never believed in such things, nor could he accept that poor Abigail Pearce had been sentenced to an eternal lake of fire because of her action. Did she truly deserve to go to hell?

The clarity was gaining courage and with it came resolution. James would go home. He had to admit he was having a psychotic episode. He wouldn’t dare wait until morning but instead, connect with a hospital tonight.

He turned back towards town, his feet twisting on the small stones.

 Yes, go home, he thought to himself, his arms pumping back and forth with each stride.

The demon’s voice was back. But give it until tomorrow before you check yourself into the nut house. Yes, that did seem more prudent, now that he…

James came to a sudden stop. I’m going to the hospital as soon as I get back home, he thought.

 No, you’re going to wait, the demon whispered.

“Damn you!” he cried out, then recoiled in horror. He had made noise! A venomous laugh vibrated his skull and in his mind’s eye, he could see the silhouette of the infiltrator leaning against its cave-like lair, its long-fingered hands clapping.

The whispering erupted like a reptilian choir, filling his ears with the enraging madness that had been eating away at him for so long.

We were so close, it said. Keep leaving town and I will make it stop.

“I will not,” James whispered through clenched teeth. He forced himself to turn around and go back to the bridge, fighting against the boiling pain, struggling with each step as if walking into a hurricane.

 Do you want to burn in flames with Abigail Pearce?

“What do you want from me?” James whispered.

From you? I am you. I always have been.

“That’s not true,” said James, speaking louder. “I’ve seen you.”

Have you? Like you saw poor Abigail Pearce?

“You’re a coward,” said James. “Why not just show yourself right now so I can face my tormentor?”

For a moment the only sound that James could hear was the pounding of his own heart. He could see the clearing of the trees in the low silver light. It was the break where the bridge began.

Your resilience is commendable, so allow me to prove it.

“How would you do that?” said James, slowing his stride.

A gust of wind struck his face and the shadowed scenery began to change, melting into swirling colors of lavender, green and yellow. Then the spinning began to slow and the colors began to fall into place.

James found himself standing on a cobblestone road, much wider than the one leading to ThunderBird Bridge. On each side stood chiseled statues with faces locked in cruelty. 

In the distance, he could see a caravan of people slowly moving toward a weathered temple. They were chanting in a language that James couldn’t understand, their bodies draped in long flowing robes reflecting gold. As they drew closer, he noticed that behind them was a line of men, women, and children, all stripped naked and chained.

Those are the sacrifices.

“Why are you showing me this?” said James.

 I want you to see through the eyes of the hopeless.

“We don’t kill over religion anymore.”

 Really? Jonestown? Jihad? The Ku Klux Klan?

“Those are lunatics,” said James. “Cults led by madmen.”

 As were these.

“What do you need me for?”

 Keep watching.

The group had come to a stop at the base of a wide set of sandstone steps that climbed to the dark mouth of an opening midway up the temple. The void rippled like a heavy sheet in the wind, and out of it appeared a man wearing a long blood-red cloak. His head was adorned with a crown crested in long razor-edged feathers.

Do you recognize him?

James did and felt his legs go weak. “That’s not possible,” he said.

So you see? It has always been.

The people fell to their knees, crying out salutations to the deity that now stood above them. Two rose to their feet and began to pull the chain. James watched in horrific fascination as they reached the top, coming to a standstill beside their leader. Then, one after another, they marched into the opening. There were no screams; they just entered the void and were gone.

“Where did they go?” said James.

To serve.

James then felt a chill on his shoulder. The deity from the mountain was now standing next to him, his cloak billowing like swirling smoke. But it was his face that had turned James into stone. The face was his own; only the eyes emanated an emerald glow.

Do you see it now? his internal demon said. They want to be led. Have to be led.

“You still haven’t answered my question,” said James. “What do you need me for?”

 I am a symbol. For this tribe I was Xenophon and for their enemy across the water, I was Dragus. Each fought with both of my names screaming out from their throats.

James struggled to hide the revulsion that now gripped his gut. The burning in his skull was gone and the voices had been silenced. Perhaps this thing had once again voided itself from his body. And still, the possibility of this being nothing more than his broken mind lingered like a gray cloud.Whether or not it was an entity didn’t matter. What did matter was how much it seemed to love hearing itself speak.

“You say we and then talk as if it was just you,” said James. The treeline stood only a hundred or so yards away. No more than a football field. Could he make it before the fire again ignited in his head?

We have been connected since the beginning. You have provided me with the vessel that has allowed me to exist for so long. That is why I need you. And in return, I have granted you countless rebirths.

The bridge was only seventy yards away and James could hear the distant collision of water crashing against a rocky bank. The current would be strong and that was good. Just a few more feet and he would have to try.

His mirror image was walking beside him, still droning on, presenting the many benefits of being its soulless container; its immortal carrier.

James came to a stop just as the rusted rails of the bridge appeared in the low light. “I accept,” he said. “Only no more fire in my head or voices.”

 It is done, said the doppelganger. James stood rigid, hiding the surging fear that was threatening his resolve. The mimic suddenly became transparent, losing its solidity like dry ice. The mist casually drifted towards him for there was now no need to hurry; the deal had been made.

James allowed the entity to enter, watching it filter its way into the hollow of his chest.

Leave the town, it said, its voice now sounding like a commander. We have much to do.

“Yes, we do,” said James, dashing forward, sprinting for the bridge that led back to town.

James could feel the entity momentarily freeze, as if unsure of what it should do. An inferno then exploded within James’s mind. Steam, like boiling water being thrown into snow, began wafting off of his body.

Stop! Stop!

The sound reverberated with ear-shattering precision, blurring his vision, and causing him to stumble. James barely noticed the feel of the wood planks under his feet, he was much too focused on the guard rail that now waited for him just ten feet away.

He was able to finally scream. “Enjoy the ride to hell, motherfucker!”


It’s hard to know when to make the right move or even what the right move is, sixteen year-old Dan Larson thought as he sat with his arm draped over Carol Brown’s shoulder.

Her head was resting on his chest, which surely meant that she was at least open to the possibility of a kiss and perhaps even a quick caress of her sweater.

But exactly how does one know for sure? You don’t just ask: “Hey do you want to kiss? Do you mind if my hand wanders?” That seemed a little unromantic, even rude.

In the movies, it always seemed like a mutual act, like they both shared some kind of mental link. That, of course, was total bullshit just like so many other things that Hollywood promoted.

So Dan continued to sit with Carol on the southern bank of the Chickasaw River in a cloud of confusion. The sound of the river flowing past, along with the low illumination of the half-moon certainly provided the ambiance, plus she had agreed to go with him to the bridge. Surely she knew this might go beyond a conversation, and yet he hesitated.

Suddenly her hand was on his lap and she gave it a gentle squeeze.

“Hey,” she said. Dan turned his face towards her, his heart skipping into third gear. Carol leaned closer, her eyes closing as her mouth went from a smile to sensual. Dan pulled her closer until their lips touched, sending a million electric charges throughout his body. Carol pulled away, her eyes reflecting in the moonlight.

“Do you want to go further—,” she began but was quickly silenced by a sound ripping through the night. At first, they couldn’t make it out. It was like a monotone of rupturing growls; repetitive and monstrous. Dan was forced to muffle a scream from Carol’s fingernails drilling into his leg.

“What is that?” she gasped.

Dan unlocked her skin-piercing grip and said, “I don’t know.”

The roaring was louder. Stop! Stop!

 Dan scooted away from the riverbank, pulling Carol with him.

“Wait,” she said and pointed towards ThunderBird Bridge. “Look.”

Dan followed her gaze and let out a gasp. A man was marching out towards the center, his body billowing smoke as if on fire, his arms pumping wildly, shouting like a madman:  Stop! Stop!

“What’s he doing?” said Carol, her hand now trembling in Dan’s.

“I don’t know,” said Dan. “Stay down.”

The man came to a standstill, his arms falling to his side.

“He’s crazy,” said Carol.

 No shit, thought Dan to himself.

As if to confirm, the man let out a blood-chilling scream: “Enjoy the ride to hell, motherfucker!” and then sprinted for the side of ThunderBird Bridge.
Dan sprang to his feet just as the man cleared the railing and plummeted into the raging current.

“Oh my god!” said Carol, now standing at his side. “He jumped! What do we do?”

Dan began to wade out into the dark water.

“Don’t go out there!” Carol screamed at him. “The current’s too fast! Let’s just call 911!”

Dan paused with the freezing tide swirling around his knees and even at this depth he knew Carol was right. The current was too strong and by now the man had to be a quarter of a mile downstream.

He was about to turn back to the bank when he felt something gently brush against his leg. He quickly shot his arm into the water, feeling nothing but the steady onslaught of the river.

“My phone’s in the truck,” he called out to her, turning and making his way back to the bank. “Go ahead and get it and call 911.”

But he was shocked at how Carol looked, standing on the riverbank. She stood near the edge of the water, her jaw hanging loose with her eyes closed, and her arms wrapped around her winter coat.

“Hey,” said Dan, reaching the bank, his foot slipping in the mud. “Are you okay?”

The girl let out a moan and collapsed to the ground. Within seconds Dan was kneeling next to her. Carol was shivering, her breath coming in gasps.

“What’s happening?” he asked.

“I...don’t feel good,” Carol said. “Take me home.”

Dan gently helped her to her feet and threw his arm around her waist, silently cursing his luck. Now he would have nothing to brag about to his friends the next day. Damn that dude for choosing this night to commit suicide!

Together the two teens slowly walked back to his Ford.


They made their way towards town; the same town that James Carter had stumbled out of two hours before. Carol sat with her head resting on the window, watching the wall of darkness glide by while next to her Dan blabbed away on his cell phone to the local authorities.

Although she still felt shaky over the shock of seeing someone jump from the bridge, a smile curled the corners of Carol’s mouth as she remembered the look on that man’s face when he saw the manikin made out to resemble Abigail Pearce hanging there...that had been a good Halloween prank done by her and her friends.