I’m so scared that I can’t move.

That’s never happened, which scares me even more.

Paralyzed, I watch a demon yanking apart the bloody remains of something – or someone.

A demon? What else can it be? It has spiked wings, horns coming out of its head, thorns covering its arms and legs, and a tail that moves and hisses like a snake. It seems to rattle with an internal cackle of self-satisfaction.

If that’s a man it’s ripped to shreds then the creature is much smaller than men. More the size of a chimp, it lifts the bone-jangled remains and tosses the scrap over the cliff.  First goes the head. Then a leg, followed by arms and a rag doll limbless torso. Blood reddens the sunset reflection off the still water.

The uncanny resemblance to Satanic imagery is freaking me out. Is this Hell?

If the whole Bible thing is for real I’m in serious trouble.

I start wondering if it’s too late to find Jesus just as the demon sees me.

He freezes, staring at me as blood drips from his claws.

The intelligence in his eyes tells me bluffs won’t work. He’s small but stronger than I am; I can tell from the way he pulled meat from bone.

I search myself for weapons. I have a camera, a phone, and some device I don’t recognize. But it’s too late anyway. When I look up the demon is on the branch above me.

Then its attention is drawn by someone approaching. A woman runs toward us on the trail. When I look up again the demon has vanished.

“Did you get it?” she asks breathlessly, looking at me expectantly. It’s my human wife, dressed in a work uniform of dark blue. It’s exactly what I’m wearing. I’m grateful to see her familiar face even if it has to be here. Or is this leading up to another torture in Hell? 

“Did you get the capture?” she asks, ignoring my drama. “I couldn’t get a good shot but you were really close. So?”

Hesitating to respond, I shrug uncommitted. “What’s our primary objective?” I ask before thinking.

The wife tilts her head mockingly, “To record the struggle of the unique creatures of the Bloodstrike Islands. And get paid for it.”

The one person I need to talk to is incapable of knowing the true situation. But at least this version of the Mrs. doesn’t think I’m nuts…yet. “How did you know the demon wasn’t going to attack us?” I ask.

“Come on, that’s Bloodstrike himself,” she laughs. “We’ve never seen him attack anyone who didn’t approach the seven islands. He came after that guy because he was the last of the four who tried to steal those eggs from the main island.”

“So…we’re recording it to…what? Show the world? So everyone can come and snatch an egg?”

“If you’re having anxiety over the spin, let me show you what I worked up,” the wife offers, tapping up a file and handing over her device. It’s a recording of her narration over scenes of outlandish life forms.

As I watch and listen my apprehension of Hell subsides, leaving me only with the unsettling prospect of alternate reality.

Unsettling forms squirm and squiggle, some no larger than dogs or cats but like creepy, multi-legged sprawling intestines with mouths hiding razor sharp teeth. They climb quickly,  effortlessly, anywhere eating anything except each other.

Tiny flying monsters zip haphazardly, dripping acid like dive bombers. Below them, crawling mushrooms sizzle and burn, squealing as they die.

“There are creatures we know little of, nurtured in lingering houses of natural experimentation branched away from ours,” the narration flows, “though not by far. Their rare, protected realms were never static. Within biological tornadoes cycles slowly brewed animals seen nowhere else in the universe. Upon their islands struggled prey and predator until clear planes of dominance were defined. And until they met humans, every island’s King believed that he ruled the world…”

I interrupt momentarily asking her, “So we aren’t actually in Hell? Praise Jesus.”

She looks amused but puzzled? “What’s ‘Jesus?'”

The presentation plays on. 

Lurching across the night sky but hanging low, leathery flapping sending a brief warning of his approach, Bloodstrike fights to protect his seven islands from the growing threat of explorers from outside worlds. In a montage they seem to come ever more frequently and in ever larger groups.

“Bloodstrike was inspired to hunt some of these intruders in order to stop their crimes upon the islanders,” continued the narration. “For a time it seemed to deter the visitations. When they noticed their dead were missing, the pack was scared away. But the pack, one by one, always returns…”

Oh no. It’s best to leave this alone. In fact, seal it off and don’t let anything out!

When we finish I go home with this version of my wife determined to calm down and to stay awake through the night trying to disperse images I can’t un-see, clinging to her constantly.

But she’s too tired for sex.