The atmosphere in the room had turned sinister.
I could sense the entity in the room, and there was no mistaking its hostility.
“Mrs Grenville, stay close to me,” I said.
We stood very still. The room had become dim, dark almost. A slow creaking started up in the corner. Mrs Grenville whimpered. The wooden horse began to rock, ever so slowly. On the dresser the music box clicked open. The ballerina inside turned slowly, silently, her marble eyes fixed on something unseen.
“Is it the child? Is it Sarah?”
I made sure my grip on her hand was tight. “No,” I said.
Mrs Grenville screamed as something came flying at us. I felt a searing pain in my left jaw. Blood dripped onto my shoes.
Another object hurtled toward us. And another, and another.
“Sarah, Sarah please stop this,” Mrs Grenville was wailing.
From the darkness came a child’s soft crying.”I don’t want to play this game anymore, Nari.”
Nariamut, I thought. An ancient Assyrian water demon known for feeding on the souls of the restless. He was defeated during the Great Fire of Nineveh in 612BC, and sealed in a stone tablet.
I had the vial of holy water with me but I knew it would not be strong enough. This was an entity that had been wreaking havoc upon cities I had only read about in history books.
Mrs Grenville screamed again. I rushed to her side. She was on the floor, an angry gash splitting her cheek open. She was breathing heavily.
“Stay calm, Mrs Grenville,” I urged, though I myself knew there was no hope to be had. We were to die in this room. “Can you stand?”
“No, I… I feel quite…hot, so hot…”
I put a hand to her forehead, alarmed. As I did, several things suddenly clicked into place in my mind. Sarah’s father dying in the fire. Sarah’s ongoing battle with febrile seizures. And Nariamut himself, sealed in stone as the walls of Nineveh burnt to the ground around him.
“Mrs Grenville, do you have a lighter?”
I fumbled in my pocket. When my fingers met cold metal I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew what I had to do.
There was terrible screaming as the flames rose.
I watched silently, holding a sobbing Mrs Grenville, as the wooden horse, the music box, and Sarah’s portrait on the wall were devoured in hot, angry flames.
Mrs Grenville blew into the handkerchief I had given her. “I must thank you,
Mr Harding, for all you have done for us. Though I do wish we could have helped poor Sarah.”
“But don’t you understand, Mrs Grenville? We have helped Sarah. It was the demon Nariamut who was preventing her from passing on. She was his only tie to this world. He was too weak to transfer hosts that last time. With the wretched creature gone, Sarah can finally rest in peace.”
Mrs Grenville looked at me wide-eyed. “But is he truly gone?”
“I am sure of it The fire of Nineveh weakened him but did not destroy him. This fire will have devoured him completely.”
She seemed content with that answer.
The orphanage had not survived the fire, but we had managed to get all the children out in time. Thankfully Nariamut’s death had unlocked the door before the flames had reached us.
I wondered what Mrs Grenville would do with her life now. Then again, that wasn’t for me to decide.
I put on my top hat, bid her farewell, and went on my may.
Somewhere out there was my next job.