Mr. Nolin looked worse than before. His skin, which was so pale when I first saw him, had now gone an ashen gray. He panted in long labored breaths as blood and sweat had matted his clothing to him. He let out a small whimper as my Clone approached. He looked over his shoulder, only to see the others had moved in. They stood on the other side of the path in a line, staring with red glowing eyes at him and the tree. He pinned himself to the tree, as if he could disappear into it.
Hmm, a tree prison in Tartarus, there is an idea to propose to Mr. Hades.
The whimper grew worse and louder, if that’s possible, but Mr. Nolin successfully pulled it off. “You are dying, John. Come with me and for a while, we are together. I will give you rest and release from your burden. Lay them down, John; lay them down here and now.” I offered my skeletal hand to him, palm up.
His clothing had almost gone completely black. His time of running was nearing the end. I could still sense the denial coming, and when he opened his mouth to speak, I was not surprised. “I am fine…this is all…all in my head. I…I…just need to see the doctor and I am going to be fine,” he
“John, the doctor is in Canada, miles from here. The police and their dogs hunt you. I’ve come to give you release, sweet release. Take my hand, John. Take it,” I said, extending my hand to him.
He feebly reached up, almost grabbed it and the denial. “No,” he gasped out. “You’re cruel, you’re evil.”
I knew trying kindness was a long shot, but I had to try it. “No, John. No, I am inevitable. I am necessary.”
“Evil,” he croaked.
I threw my head back and laughed. “One should not throw stones, or call the kettle black, John.” I poked him in the chest with one long bony finger. He screamed as I slid my finger down his chest to the hole in his gut where the bullet went in. I jammed my finger in there and pushed. He fell to his knees and coughed up a fresh wad of blood.
“Tell me: if I am evil, what did they call you?” I asked, gesturing to the path as the mist from the ground swirls up, attaching to the echo of his soul, taking the shape of his victims in the mortal world. He watched, horrified, at the specters before him joining the ranks of my clones on the side of the path. He let out a small cry. “That one, John, in the schoolgirl outfit.” I pointed and John’s gaze followed my finger.
“No,” he cried hoarsely.
“Rebecca Sims, sixteen, on the way home from school when you dragged her into that alley. You raped her! She died in that alley, crying for her mother.”
“No!” John whispered.
“Or that tall black gentleman, Mr. Hatchcomb, you called him a filthy word before you shot in the back of the head. In the back like a coward!”
“No, this isn’t happening. This can’t be happening. I am supposed to live!” He bawled like a toddler who needs a nap.
I leaned in close and whispered, “There they are, gone, Manuel Torres, Sandy Kurtzman.” Every name brought a cry and a negation from John’s lips.
He wept into his hands, and I took pity on the poor wretch and spoke softly. The merry chase was almost at an end.
“It’s not real,” he wept through his fingers.
“That’s right, John it’s not real. It’s your mind trying to outrun your sins and me. If you want to escape us, you’ll have to get back to your car. The police have given up the search for the day. Drive to Canada, go see the doctor, live! Like you said, and I agree, it’s just your weary mind trying to escape. Let me show you one last trick, John,” I said.
“What?” John said, getting shakily to his feet, using the tree as support. All my clones and the ghosts of his victims grabbed hands on the path, forming a massive black cloud with a skull’s face in the center. Swirling around it is the face of every victim of John Nolin. He screamed and that amazing thing called adrenaline and for a dead guy, he was pretty goddamn fast.
He sprinted down the path, the cloud chasing and yelling recrimination at him. He tripped once, maybe twice, but got right back up and continued his mad dash to me in the clearing at the car. It was where the cloud was leading him, after all.
I remained on the hood, iPad in hand and it buzzed, a notification from Atropos. I slid my finger over it to open the email. It said one word in bright red bold capital letters: “DEAD” The smile on my face hurt as John came tripping into the clearing, the cloud impacting and exploding all around him.
For dramatic effect, I stepped into the dispersing cloud and when it cleared, I stood before him. His clothes had gone completely black as he knelt before me. I glared down at this wretched mortal. He crawled around me and I turned myself around to follow. I stopped him with the handle of my scythe when he was at the place I wanted him. He rose up on his knees and stared directly at the car as I placed a gloved hand on his shoulder. The merry chase had ended and now was the time for the reveal.