A dull ache stirred in the back of Elijah’s head. He opened his eyes and saw only blackness and a mesh of wire netting. A bucket smelling of waste had been deposited in the corner of his chain link enclosure.
Melancholy, gray light filtered into his prison through the grated ceiling. A fan spun overhead, warping the room into a melting pot of shadows and light. Through the flickers, he saw that his clothes had been stripped away.
Elijah felt panic for the first time in months. He tried to clutch his chest as an outpouring of pain set in. The handcuffs binding his wrists rendered such an action impossible.
Water rained from the grates above and stifled his words. He spat and cursed and scrambled away from the center of the room.
He slumped against the fence, dazed by the chilly blast. Where in the world had he been taken? Had he finally left the mortal coil behind only to find himself in Hell? He was startled by the explosion of labored breathing outside his cell. Through the shadows, he spied the outline of a thin man. Elijah struggled to his knees.
“Are you a prisoner like me?”
The figure on the other side crept closer.
“You…” it croaked, dragging itself along by his elbows and knees. “You aren’t a prisoner.” Elijah floundered backward as a strange face with bulging eyes tried to poke between the wire netting. The Žižkov Fiend pressed his forehead against the cage, staring at Elijah.
“Oh my,” Damik uttered with a grin. “You aren’t like the others. We are the same. Aren’t we? I don’t know how to describe it, but I know. I sense a kinship with you. Neither of us belongs here.”
“Did you put me here?”
Still trying to force himself between the gaps in the rusted fence, the Žižkov Fiend nodded.
The warmth leeched out of Elijah’s bones as he looked at that face. Those emaciated jaws. The eyes sinking into a pond of wrinkled flesh.
He could scarcely believe the emotions that this man’s appearance yanked out of him. His composure was all but forgotten. If he wanted to survive, he needed to latch on to a small measure of control and wield it to its full effect.
“How do you view us as the same?”
“I don’t expect you to understand.”
“Who does understand you?”
Damik retracted from the cage.
“There is one person. No, not quite a person. He is an angel. The purest of creatures. He understands me.”
“What does this angel understand about you?”
“He understands my torment. He understands why I fight to survive and protect myself. He knows about the demon. She is always watching me.”
Damik’s head snapped backward as if he expected to see the demon lurking over his shoulder.
“You have no idea of the things she’s done to me. I haven’t known a restful night’s sleep because of her. Every time I lie down, the Red Widow robs me of my body. Do you have any idea what it feels like to be toyed with by demons?”
“You feel affection for it, don’t you?” Damik stared at Elijah. The revulsion on his face didn’t stop Elijah from lobbing one more accusation. “The fact that you enjoy it brings you shame. This fuels your hatred for her.”
“You don’t know what she does.”
“But part of you enjoys it. Why?”
“It is the wretch within me that takes pleasure. It is the part that keeps me trapped in this world.”
“Killing her won’t change what you are.”