DRAKE CRACKED KNUCKLES staring at the bed as the urge to pee knifed his bladder. Why am I so damned concerned? Taking a cautionary breath, he approached the side of the bed closest to the door. “Hello, I'm here for a reading.” He squinted, trying to make out the figure he'd seen earlier. Beyond the veil a shape moved in jerky movements as if a giant crab was underneath blankets. Drake cleared his throat and sat on a dusty chair, refocusing on the painting of the madam. “Hello palm reader person. I'm not sure what to do.”

“Yes you do know what to do,” a raspy voice replied.

Drake couldn't distinguish if it was male or female. Focusing on the weave, a weathered hand shot out from behind the billowy cloth like a rabid rodent.

“Shit!” Drake jumped.

The boney hand hung in the air and receded behind the veil like a wave at the beach. Dark scenarios ran through his mind as he stood waiting for the worst. But silence reigned. Cocking his head, he heard laborious breathing. In and out, oxygen was exchanged with carbon dioxide as weak lungs continued giving life to something.

“If you think this is a game I'm leaving.” He could hear the breathing keep a steady, seesaw pace. With one hand, he pulled the veil back, while raising the other into a ham fist.

The powerful stench of dried urine burned his nostrils, making him recoil. Refocusing, an old woman in a tattered gown that hung upon her frame like sackcloth on an Auschwitz survivor lay in bed. Her face was gaunt and sunken, paper thin flesh plastered upon skull. She appeared hollow as she turned with white eyes. Dying life emanated from her. Around her bony neck hung the pentagram necklace, the one the madam wore in the portrait.

Drake's heart raced, followed by respirations. Then the temperature dropped. His breath rode the air as if standing in a snowy field. He rubbed his robust arms, shivering in his leather. The old lady's nostrils flared as she took in a raspy breath. “Give me your hand.” She offered her bony appendage. He left her hanging, transfixed by her eyes – hard boiled eggs stuffed into sockets, he thought. She lunged forward like a pouncing fox and grabbed his hand giving him no time to react. Squeezing it with iron will, she pulled him close. Her eyes went wide in a crazed expression as her mouth opened, exposing a toothless cave. He tried breaking free but her gorilla strength held him fast.

“Fuck!” He grabbed the bed post with his free hand and hung on, straining with bull strength to steady his body against other worldly power.

The old lady gasped, narrowing her eyes into white slits. “Oh the hunter has finally come to me. Why have you come here?”

“What... are you... talking about?” he managed. A knife–like pain shot through his chest, sending him to a knee. She continued to hang on, turning his hand white as searing pain continued to run through his body setting organs afire. He thought he was having a heart attack, but the pain began to fade as quickly as it had arrived, allowing him to catch a breath. “What do you mean... by... hunter? I'm... just here... to see.”

“Just to see?” she snickered. “The hunter wishes to see. But his judgment is clouded by the deeemoann.”

A clammy sweat broke across his body as the temperature increased in the dank room. He wanted to rip his clothes off and jump into a cool stream as an invisible wave of stuffy heat licked at him like hot smog.

“I see it and you see it too,” she continued. “It drives the good to do evil.”

Drake tried to pull his hand away, but his arm began to shake as if he just finished a heavy set of bicep curls.

“Do you seek good or bad? Or perhaps it is balance between the two that you offer?”

“I don't understand what you mean by balance,” he stressed.

“Yes you do,” she snapped. “One of the rare ones who has pierced the illusion to see the truth. You have embraced the fire to cleanse the wound.”

“This is insane! What are you talking about?!”

“You must use the darkness but do not turn to it. You are the bastard to kill the evil ones who walk the earth.”

Drake grunted out a renewed effort, causing veins to bulge across his head. He ripped his hand from her stony grip and flew backwards, slamming into the wall, cracking plaster like rotten wood. Gripping his chest, he took a few breaths and finally stood. The old woman stared with bony hands clasped upon her chest.

“What evil?” he managed.

“If you aren't careful, hunter, you will be consumed by it and you will fail. Your flame will be extinguished and despair will strangle your soul.”

“I am getting tired of your–” A feeling of gut rot welled up in his belly. He closed his eyes, “Oh shit,” and bolted for the door. Running into the hallway, puke began to well up, sending acrid bile across his tongue. He rushed down the three flights of stairs with a hand across his mouth. Landing at the bottom, he sprinted through the crystal ball room.

A yuppie couple wearing casual pants and L.L. Bean sweaters sat with Serena who talked about their dog, Buddy. Everyone looked up, startled by the invasion as Drake barreled through like a wild man with peppers in his mouth.

Racing out the lobby, he sprinted down porch steps. Noticing the dark of night and fresh air, he stopped, taking in several deep breaths as the horrible feeling to puke subsided. I couldn't have been inside for more than an hour. Looking at his watch, he calculated four hours had passed. Scanning the sky, dark, cloudy behemoths coiled up in a shadowy dance like an evil vortex.

He made his way through the mass of shoppers for his car and leaned over the hood. “Get me to a warm bed.” Then the pitter patter of rain began to fall across the steel body of the Nova. Looking up, clouds swirled in maddening fashion, releasing buckets of rain on the city. Gut rot began to push again, blurring his vision, making it difficult to distinguish faces passing by. He grabbed his aching belly and doubled over spraying yellowish vomit across the sidewalk. Shoppers scattered to avoid the mess as Drake went to all fours. It felt good to give it up. He puked the last of it, watching the rain dilute it to a yellow, syrupy soup. Exhausted, he sat up on his knees and looked to the sky as rain pelted him. Vision clearing, stomach easing, he closed his eyes feeling like he had purged poison.

A nearby street lamp illuminated the sideways pattern of rain as it swept down upon shoppers like a possessed torrent. Puddles formed and streams of water washed trash into storm drains.

A troubled look crossed Drake's face as water pelted him in his motorcycle jacket, matting his hair into a wet, black mop. And there was given unto him a great sword and destiny watched after him. He stood as thunder rolled in the background like a charging herd of buffalo. Standing tall, he looked like a mad biker ready to kill as thunder showers continued. He threw his arms up, clenching massive fists, and roared like a warrior in the midst of battle frenzy. Several shoppers fell in fear.

“Damn crazy man!” someone yelled in passing.

Drake grinned at the storm above, eyes flickering like blue ice.