All Stories, General Fiction

The Vow by Phoebe Reeves-Murray

On impact, the demon exploded out of the steering wheel airbag and ripped my husband away from this world.

He’d insisted on following too close behind a funeral procession. I begged him to slow down. Enraged, he sped up, refusing to look at me or the cars in front of him. The procession’s last car had stopped. I choked out a warning cry, gripped the seat, turned my head away, shut my eyes. Sunlight warmed my face. Wind whispered in my ears. I floated up out of my seat. As I drifted, I thought maybe we’re not going to crash after all. My body flung forward, crushing my legs into the dashboard. Half blinded by airbag gunpowder dust, I struggled to pull the seatbelt out from under my ribs. But the demon had already taken my husband away.

I’d returned to and rescued this man I married from living in his heated police car in the driveway of his abandoned house. He’d been my prince when we were young, carefully escorting me home in his barely functional car. In my driveway, he kissed me passionately and professed his love.

But there are things that ride around on our souls—something I didn’t know then as I refused this man who desperately tried to be Prince Charming.

I returned to him just before our hair had started to turn grey. I wasn’t his first wife, or even his second. But the third time’s a charm, I told myself as he shone on me like the sun. He told me, “I have two children. They love me. They understand I couldn’t bring them with me when I have nowhere to live myself.” Red flags waved. Warning bells clanged. But I wasn’t part of his disturbing past. I believed I was strong enough to love him. His crowds of “friends” cheered that I was lucky to have him.

But I didn’t have him. In that car crash, I hurtled into a violent custody battle between a goblin and a demon for the ultimate possession of my husband. Creatures of trauma wage custody battles. This demon and this goblin were such creatures. My husband was their changeling.

Goblin and demon produced a spawn from a toxic tryst. The goblin was determined to hide the spawn from the demon in a human infant. Seizing the baby who would become my husband from his cradle, the goblin stretched her mouth over his head and vomited her spawn down his throat, up his nose. It flooded into his eyes, smashing the irreplaceable stained-glass windows of his soul.

The demon smelled her matter and clawed into my husband’s head. Too late. Human soul and demon spawn had blended into a changeling.  The demon’s rage ripped apart my husband’s mind, and his soul split white/split black.

From cradle to car accident, demon and goblin hauled him in an endless tug of war, trapping him in the limbo of the lightless stone cellar of his abandoned house. There, my husband stitched his destroyed soul back together by scratching picture after picture of monsters he called superheroes into blackened stones, convinced that only they could save him.

But I was real. The superheroes weren’t. I believed deep inside, his soul was whole. I vowed I’d defeat the demon and the goblin because I loved him.

I staggered from the car wreck to where demon and goblin swooped, tearing apart my husband’s house, circling over the foundation’s hole.

I jumped into the pit, falling forever, until I hit the ground at my husband’s feet. He jumped on me, breaking my ribs, focused only on reaching more stones where he could gouge his superhero images.

I convinced him to put his arms around my neck, swearing I’d carry him to the higher stones. My fingers bled as I clawed our way up the black wall of burned granite.

My husband dug his heels into my aching ribs. Alternating my grip so we wouldn’t fall back into the pit and so I could keep carrying us up, I gave him my bleeding fingers to create what he wanted to see.

A tornado of burning embers swirled from the fire clouds of the demon and goblin’s battle. I choked. My eyes burned as I carried us past figures he’d painted using his children’s blood.

The darkness was suffocating. I’m your wife. I held him against my heart and kissed the raw scars crisscrossing his entire body. As I did, glowing particles cycloned around us: green-blue pieces of me flashing like fireflies, orange-red pieces of him burning like stars. He grabbed for the pieces of himself. They scorched his hands. He cried when he discovered they died to charred black in his grip. “I need something that stays bright forever,” he said.

Tears ran down my face as I held his blackened fingers to his cheeks, then to mine. He stared at me as I waved our hands through the green-blue and red-orange of our light. The glowing particles clung to the tears on our fingers and began to burn. Our blazing hands drew universes in the air all around us.

He launched himself off me as I hauled us onto solid earth. “No, it has to be only my light!”

But I couldn’t extinguish the light shining from my own hands. I waved my fingers and their glowing light over me, burning away the pit’s filth so that he could see I loved him.

The demon and the goblin descended. My husband howled and tried to rip the light from my hands. I grabbed his hands. Our light swirled up our arms, a shining double helix. I looked into his eyes. “I am your wife.”

But his eyes reflected no light. The demon and the goblin seized him and pulled, blowing flames at each other and set my husband on fire. Blazing, he leapt into the black hole and exploded, falling like a dying star.


Phoebe Reeves

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3 thoughts on “The Vow by Phoebe Reeves-Murray”

  1. This beautifully displays the extreme expansion of a single moment. Allegorical and thoughtful; moreover, a bit ironic, considering how the accident happened. For one slippery moment, which still lingers, I had thought that his wife’s love had damned him, for, perhaps he loved the light more than he did her, his third true love. Who’s to say, really? Things usually work out better when they hold on to their mystery.


  2. Hi Phoebe,
    I have read this a few times and I see something different each time.
    It is very vivid but the meaning has more depth.
    I think when reading this we could all consider our own meaning to each other.
    A very thoughtful and interesting piece of work.


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