The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Another Man’s Poison
by Naching T. Kassa
Klaus Herrman sat behind the rusted bars, his eyes on the shadows shambling in the moonlight.
The dead gathered. Their numbers swelling.
His mind, clear as ever, reached back to the chain of moments long before the one he occupied. He had not believed in the devil then.
The year 1946 had begun with a chill he had never known, nor would long forget. Gone were the days of the sun, the days ushered in by his beloved Fuhrer. They had fled in April of ’45 when a bullet had creased the god’s skull.
Klaus, once a hero of the Reich, lay sprawled in his cell while the mongrels bayed outside the door. They called for his blood.
Two guards stood watch outside his cell. Neither responded when he asked for water and food. Cold stares were all he received.
Two hours before Klaus’ execution, a man entered the room outside his cell. Clothed in black with eyes to match, he slipped in like a shadow. If the guards saw him, they gave no sign.
The man stopped before the cell; he grasped the bars and shook his head.
“The end is nigh, Klaus,” he said, his voice soft.
“Who are you?”
“A friend,” the man replied. “Call me, Luke.”
He grinned and Klaus’ scalp prickled.
“My friends are dead.”
“Not all. There are those who think of you. I have come on behalf of just such a person.”
“Her name is Elsa Buren.”
“She has given her soul to save you.”
The man shrugged. “I’m here to keep my end of the bargain not question the ways of a woman’s heart.”
Klaus glanced at the guards. He lowered his voice. “You have come to free me?”
“If immortality is freedom, then yes, I suppose I have.”
“You will live forever, my friend. You’ll never know thirst, or hunger, or death again. Once you take my hand and accept this gift, not even the rope can kill you.”
“I won’t hang?”
“Nope.” Luke slid his hand between the bars. “Just take my hand and I’ll be on my way.”
Klaus eyed the pale palm. No lines marred the surface.
“Time is precious,” Luke whispered. “Do you hear the seconds?”
Something ticked within Klaus’s mind. The sound grew faster, filling his ears.
“That’s your life ticking away,” Luke shouted.
Klaus reached out. He grasped the offered hand.
The ticking ceased.
“Good man,” Luke said. He shook Klaus’ hand twice and released it.
“I don’t feel any different. Where are you going?”
“My work is done. Have a good life, Herr Herrman.”
“Wait! Come back!”
Luke strolled past the two guards and out the door. He didn’t look back.
An hour after he’d gone, soldiers took Klaus to Nuremberg Prison’s gymnasium. Thirteen steps led him to a harsh hemp noose and a short drop.
Several fruitless executions followed. With each one, Klaus’ confidence grew. He needed neither food nor drink for with immortality came invincibility.
And, then they built the cell. An impenetrable chamber with bars of thick steel. They kept Klaus in and the world out.
He remained there until the end. Until the guards no longer came. Until the dead rose to shuffle outside his cell.
There had never been so many dead before. They milled about outside watching him with white-filmed eyes and gnashing their blunt teeth. Skin and hair sloughed to the floor unnoticed and the bars, brittle and rusted, shuddered when brushed by their bodies.
Soon, they would break through. They would swarm over him.
“Looks like the end is nigh,” a voice said.
Klaus looked up into a pair of black eyes.
The man beyond the bars bowed. “In the flesh.”
“You have to get me out of here.”
“Sorry, Bud. No can do.”
Luke leaned against the bars. They shifted under his weight.
“Don’t do that! They’ll get in!”
“Oh, I know they will. That’s the whole point. What’s the matter, Klaus? You can’t die.”
“I know… but…”
“Ah, yes. You still feel pain. Can you imagine those blunt teeth biting and gnawing for an eternity?”
The bars shifted again.
“Don’t! Please! I’ll do anything. Do you want my soul? It’s yours. I…”
Luke yawned and Klaus fell silent.
“I own your soul. Your actions condemned you to my custody long ago.”
“Is there nothing I can do?”
“Well… it is the Apocalypse and you are the last man on earth. We’re at a standstill until I collect you.”
“I can’t violate a contract. Elsa gave her soul that you might live.”
“Did she give it out of love?”
“I suppose so.”
“That negates the contract, does it not?”
Luke stared into Klaus’ eyes.
“Well, I’ll be damned. I believe it does.”
Tears glittered in Klaus’ eyes. “Free me.”
Luke pushed a hand between the rusted bars. Klaus took it.
When Luke pulled away the bars broke and fell. The dead ceased their mingling, their eyes focused on Klaus.
“Wait…” Klaus said. “You said you’d free me!”
The dead rushed forward as one.
Luke grinned. “Consider yourself free.”
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of Nina D’Arcangela
More from Naching T. Kassa:
It’s the Final Masquerade and it’s your turn to dance.
The evening is ending and the guests are ready to leave, but the final event of the evening is just beginning — the unmasking.
Welcome to Final Masquerade where no one is who they seem.
Stories written by Daniel I. Russell * Ken MacGregor * J.C. Delisle * Joshua Chaplinsky * Lori Safranek * D.S. Ullery * Samantha Lienhard * Thomas Kleaton * Josh Strnad * Naching T. Kassa * Roy C. Booth & Axel Kohagen * Sheldon Woodbury * Craig Steven * Gregory L. Norris * Jay Eales * Dale W. Glaser * R.K. Kombrinck * Jonathan Cromack * Brian C. Baer * Adrian Chamberlin