Tony ran for days with only the faintest idea of a direction. The jungle all looked the same after the second day. At several points he thought he had missed the inn. But he carried on. Running. The creatures appeared from time to time, in large hoards. Sometimes Tony went hours without encountering one, and then fifteen would strike together. At some point during the first day Tony had lost the bride and the others that were following him. He briefly heard them call him, but he ignored them. Something inside him shouted to him. Telling him that he needed to get back to the inn. That the creatures were coming from the inn.
After a few days the jungle started to die. The trees were smaller, the grass no longer green and Tony could once again see the barren wasteland underneath him. The trees began to look spread out. Tony looked down for a moment and saw that he was running on road. He looked up and the trees were gone. The jungle was gone. He slowed his pace to a walk.
Tony walked along the road. He could see no end to it. If he looked behind him he would have seen no beginning. From time to time he thought to himself. It seemed like he had been walking down that road for an eternity. He knew where he was going, he knew it would take a while to get there.
The pistol had one bullet left. He decided to drop it. It was just extra weight and wouldn’t be any use in the long run.
Eventually Tony saw it on the horizon. The inn. Standing before him as it had done weeks beforehand. It hadn’t changed at all. He turned and looked back on himself and couldn’t see the jungle at all. Soon enough he was there.
Nothing had changed. Angela was behind the counter washing a glass.
“Another one,” she mumbled to herself before shouting. “Don’t you realise he got you? He gets us all in the end. There’s no denying that.”
“Angela. It’s me, Tony.”
“God, what are you doing here? Here to see Joe? He’s out back taking stock.”
“Don’t you know what’s going on out there? It’s a war. Jimmy. He’s hurt.”
“What do you want me to do about it? You come back from the city to tell us that?”
“No. There is something here. In this building. It’s the gateway. How the creatures are getting through.”
“Creatures? What are you going on about.” Angela tutted. “Sure. Whatever. You know your way about.”
Tony ran past the bar and into the back room. Joe was counting barrels and barely noticed Tony as he ran down the stairs. Somehow he just knew where to go.
“Tony,” Joe shouted. “Tony. Is that you?”
Tony ignored Joe’s calling and ran into the room he had stayed in so long before. He dropped the sword and fell to his knees near the scratchings in the wall. It was just there. He could feel it. The person who had stayed in the room before him had known it as well. That spot is where the higher forces could get through. It was the weak link in Jimmy’s world. Tony picked up his sword and rammed it into the wall. Cracks appeared and spread outwards. A bright light shone through. Tony took a step back as the wall crumbled. The floor started to fall through as well. Everything was falling into the light.
Tony turned and ran back out, up the stairs and out to the wasteland. Joe and Angela followed. The whole building became engulfed in holy light. It reached out to the sky and swallowed the building whole.
When Tony could finally see things again he saw that the inn had been replaced by a deep hole. For a few moments there was silence, and everything was still.
“What in god’s name was that?” Angela asked. “I mean it. What…”
“Shush,” Tony replied. “They’re coming.”
“What?” Angela didn’t need to continue her question.
The sound of a thousand squeals filled the ears of everyone there. And then they could see them. The little creatures as they crawled out of the pit, pulling themselves up in every direction.
“How many of them are there?” Joe shouted.
“I don’t know,” Tony said while tightening his grip on his sword. “More than I can handle. Go. To the city. I will hold them off long enough for you to warn the others. I don’t know how long we have to wait until Jimmy will be healed. Make sure they remember me. Make sure you tell him what I did today. Now go!”
Tony turned from his friends and ran at the approaching hoard. There was no way he would be able to fight so many. He would hold them just long enough for Joe and Angela to get away. He had to cause the fight. He knew that much. He had too. Jimmy was hurt inside. The weakness had grown after the bad blood and there was only one way to fix it and that was to tackle it head on.
“Tony. What are you doing?” Angela shouted.
Tony didn’t answer he just jumped at the first few creatures. Taking heads off left, right and centre. Part of him wished that he had kept the gun. He just wished he had kept more of the ammo. He looked back as mass amounts of the creatures passed him and saw that Joe and Angela didn’t run. Joe was smacking people with a broom he had taken from the basement while Angela was just about to throw the glass she had been cleaning at one of them. The broom snapped in two. Joe used his half to impale one of the closer creatures. Tony wanted to shout at them. He had sacrificed himself. He allowed them to warn the city that the fight was going to get worse, but instead they failed him.
As Tony watched his two friends become overwhelmed by the creatures he was taken by surprise. Within a second he was on the floor. A couple of them held him down. He knew he had failed and just hoped that Jimmy would give his family enough time to enjoy life before sentancing them to that place. He closed his eyes and waited for the end.
It never came.
Tony opened his eyes and saw a hand outstretched towards him. He took it and stood up. Jimmy was standing opposite him, with a smile on his face.
“Thank you, friend. You helped save me. I wish I could have done more for your friend.”
Tony looked over at Joe and Angela. Joe had been reduced to a puddle, but Angela still had some life in her.
“That portal that you closed. It was the link between me and the higher forces. You closed their hold over me. I harvested a soul and regained my power. The only thing holding me back was that portal. You closed it. The creatures which you saw here were the last of their kind. A mass army attacked at once in one final attempt, but I had enough power to destroy them. Thank you. I owe you my life.”
“How? How did I know what to do?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it was inside you from the beginning. Maybe you learnt it along the way. I don’t know.”
Tony watched as Angela crawled over to Joe and then cried over his body. She screamed and wailed. Jimmy walked over to her.
“I’m truly sorry for what happened to you. He will not be forgotten. You now have a purpose. The souls will keep on coming, and some of them will not understand. They will need your help. Take your place. You need to help those that come through here. I know it’s a tough job but there was a reason Joe picked you to stay at the inn.”
Jimmy walked back to Tony.
“I would like you to come with me. Please.”
As they walked back onto the main road a carriage past them. But it didn’t stop.
“You owe me,” Tony said. “Please leave my family alone.”
“I understand your worries about them. But I can’t go back on a deal. It would go against everything I stand for. I will make everything for you that you desire. I owe you everything, I know that. But I can’t grant more than I can give. Please do not ask me for more.”
“Please. Just leave them. They aren’t needed now. No one will know.”
“I will do my best. I do owe you. If you give me the rest of your soul I will leave your family. You can trust my word.”
Tony gave his soul. He walked with Jimmy to the city and enjoyed himself for years to come. He played games with the others, he read books written years before his time, saw plays that he never thought he could understand. Everything made sense.
One man walked along the road. He saw no beginning and he saw no end, yet he would have walked forever. All he knew was that he was meeting his dad in an inn somewhere along the road…