I would not say I'm a religious man, far from it actually. I renounced my faith in my late teenage years, like most did in my generation. We saw through the bullshit of money hungry priests and nitpicking bible thumpers. Not to say there weren't amazing people who were religious, just from my experience, they were far and few between. But, despite my lack of faith I did pray occasionally. I usually resorted to praying when I felt I've hit the worst parts of my life, when I feel the most hopeless. Selfish…I know. But there's something deep within us, within our minds, that make us want to reach out and grasp some sort of hope even when we know everything is against us. But enough of my rambling.

The incident happened last year. I was thousands in debt at a casino, it was a last-ditch effort to get enough money to pay off some loans I took out at the bank, to help pay off my car as wells as student debts. I was in too deep before I even realized how truly fucked I was that night. I knew the dealer was force shuffling the cards, but I couldn't call him out on it, id just look like a sore loser and I certainly couldn't make a scene or I'd get kicked out for misconduct. So I resorted to the last thing I could do, I prayed, I prayed that I'd get a better hand than the other three players surrounding the table. Two of the three players went all in, so I followed suit, throwing in my last thousand.

I fidgeted nervously while the cards were being shuffled and dealt. The sound of the flicking cards rang loud in my ears even with the busy casino bustling around us. It felt like an eternity before the dealer was done. With shaky hands I gingerly picked up my cards, and my heart sank. A pair of twos. Despite the dealer having a stone face, I could see the ghost of a grin on his face. I was so focused on the dealer that I didn't even notice the other player's faces going white with shock. We laid down the cards, two hands were junk, and the third being a pair of ones. I did it…my prayer was answered, and I got a better hand than all of them! The other players glared at the dealer who was sweating bullets at this point, but I didn't care. What I DID care about, was the fifteen thousand and some change that I had just won! It was enough to pay off loans in total, as well as my next semester.

Overjoyed, I quickly took my winnings to the exchange counter before I was tempted to gamble it all away again. It felt too good to be true, and deep down I knew there was a catch somewhere, but It felt like I was walking on sunshine, so I didn't care all that much. Cash in hand I confidently walked to the elevator that led to the hotel rooms upstairs, oblivious to the fact that the dealer and two of the players from earlier were tailing me. When I got into the small steel box It took me a moment to notice them pushing through the crowd of guests, and it took a moment more to understand the implications. When my common sense finally took over, I repeatedly pressed the close door button as fast as humanly possible. They noticed I had caught wind of them and tried even harder to get through the bustling crowd, thankfully the casino was extremely busy at that time of night and they couldn't quite make it to the elevator. They did, however, get close enough for me to see the murder in their eyes and the glint of something sharp in one of the their hands as the doors slid shut.

I wasn't out of the woods yet though, there was still the stairwell, and the fact one of them was an employee, who could have easily found out my room number. The ride up was tense as I readied myself to dash out of the elevator, anxiously staring at the numbers light up above the door.

10…

11…

12…

13, the moment the door opened enough to let me pass I sprinted full tilt out of it and too the right! Somewhere behind me I heard the heavy door of the stairwell slam open. I fucking knew it. I didn't have to glance back to know who was trailing me, I could hear multiple pairs of footsteps struggling to catch up to me loud and clear. The run up 13 flights of stairs must have exhausted them out enough for me to outrun them, and I wasn't sure I would have been able to if they hadn't been so tired. After what felt like minutes of running, despite it most likely being a moment or two, I finally got to my room and fumbled with my keys more than I'd like to admit before gaining entry. It was in the nick of time too, as soon as I closed and locked the door back, I could hear shouting and banging on the other side! I didn't let this triumph get the best of me like it did with the poker game, I had to think of any other dangers that may come. All of a sudden, the shouting and banging had stopped, and the it hit me, the reason they knew the floor I was on was because they had an employee, and if they had an employee, they had spare keys. Without wasting a moment, I jumped into action and slid the desk and dresser Infront of the door. I checked the window to see if there were any fire escapes they could climb or patios they could hop from, and there were none.

Finally, safe from any immediate danger, I unwound a little bit, though the sound of my pounding heart in my ears took longer to go away. Covered in sweat and smelling of the cigars that were being smoked down at the casino floor, I decided to strip down and take a shower. Oddly enough, no amount of hot or cold water running down my body was enough to unravel the knot of anxiety in my chest. The danger was over, wasn't it? I chalked it up to nerves and excitement. Thoroughly cleaned and free of my nasty clothes I sprawled onto the bed and let out a sigh of relief that was quickly stifled by a yawn. I wish I could say I had the sense to stay awake and listen for the sound of keys in my lock, but I was too tired to care, I was pretty sure I barricaded the door enough. Physically and Emotionally strained after today's events I waited for sleep to take me. I felt the usual pull of unconsciousness tugging at my mind but, oddly enough, it was also tugging at the knot in my chest. The pull became stronger and stronger as I felt my mind slip farther away from the waking world. And then there was nothing but pain.

It felt like fire had sprung from my limbs to converge on my pounding heart, the searing heat seeping into every bone of my body! But despite all of that, the pain that was in my mind was by far the worst. The pull that I thought was blissful sleep turned to something more sinister, like long slender claws of darkness threatening to pull me into the horrifying abyss of insanity. They were ice cold on the edges of my mind but left searing burns wherever they touched, they grasped and clawed trying to grab hold of my very being! I fought with everything I had, but it wasn't enough, whatever those claws were they had found purchase in the deep recesses of my mind. I expected to be pulled down into oblivion…god I wish that were the case. Instead, whatever was connected to those dark appendages was hauling itself up into my mind from whatever hell it originated from. each pull brought visions of unholy abominations, of hell and chaos, every moment brought an eternity of suffering and anguish onto my mind and body.

And as fast as the pain came, it had ended. I lay there, my mind reeling, trying to figure out what the hell just happened.

My child.

A voice somehow reverberated through out my entire body yet had no definable source.

Do not be afraid, for your prayers have been answer by me.

I opened my eyes to see an abomination hovering above me. A Grotesque conglomeration of eyes and several pairs of blood red wings surrounded by rings of fire. If I could scream, I would have, but my body was still trying to recover from whatever this thing had done to me.

I have seen your suffering and have recognized you as worthy of my assistance, tell me, what is it you seek in life.

Only one thing came to mind in that moment, "F-For you t-to leave me t-the fuck alone!" It was a struggle to even get a word out, much less that whole sentence, but it seemed to get the message clearly. I didn't care if it was here to help, I didn't want to be near this thing any longer than I had to be

Impudence will get you nowhere with me. But if that is what your wish, then so be it. However, know this, I will visit again in the future. I will keep visiting you, for I have marked you. You are mine as much as I am now yours until the day of your end.

The rings of fire around the creature seemed to burn brighter and brighter, until my vision was filled with nothing but white light, and then it was gone, not a trace aside from the acrid smell of burning flesh and it's words ringing inside my head. I didn't know what that thing was or what it wanted from me, all I know is that I never wanted to see it again, but I didn't have that option, at least at that time I didn't think I did.

I click off the voice recorder and play back the tape. I made sure that the events were properly chronicled before I put the barrel of the gun to my temple. I've made my choice, and I prayed that I never see that thing on the other side.