Harold slowly breathed in the precious oxygen that was so difficult to keep these days. Hooked up to the monitors, he could tell he was doing "okay", which in a hospital meant he wasn't on the verge of death. The pain from cancer carving through his lung was ever present, but at least he was "okay".
He listened to the monitor in the dark as it beeped, the sound like the knell of a church bell, each one marking him as a doomed soul. Laying his head back on his pillow, he sighed.
At fifty-five, he had terminal cancer. This wasn't how his life was supposed to work... he'd just retired from his job and he was supposed to finally have time to try and write that book he'd always dreamed about. He was going to go on long vacations to far away places and spend more time with his grandchildren.
Grandchildren that had yet to visit him in the hospital, mostly due to the fact their parents didn't like him.
That was understandable, he supposed.
It wasn't like he liked himself.
He'd lived a life where business was more important than family. He'd stay late hours at the office, and leave extra early for work. He'd become Vice President of the company by his thirty-third birthday, an all-time record for the corporation. They'd treated him well, and he'd finally attained the status he'd always dreamed of.
He'd also received the divorce papers that same day. His wife was sick of coming in second, and she'd found a lover that she said "treated her right," whatever the hell that meant. She'd taken the kids and the house.
At the time, Harold hadn't minded.
But now, so close to death, he wished he could have a hand to hold. Someone to comfort him as he stared the Reaper in the face. What he wouldn't give for the chance to hear his grandchildren one last time, or listen to his sons' argue over his estate. He'd even like to see his ex-wife, if it meant he had a visitor that showed someone cared about him.
Beep... Beep... Beep...
Blinking, Harold lifted his head and looked towards the end of his bed, where the voice had come from. Perched on the railing of his bed was a man, squatting low with his arms dangling between his legs. His skin was a deathly pallor, with a slight tinge of blue just bright enough to make him appear bloodless.
But it was his face that made Harold's heart skip a beat; long and angular, the man had bulging eyes and a sinuous tongue waggling out of the side of his mouth, licking at his bare chest. The black thing was bulbous and slimy, leaving smears of thick saliva wherever it touched. The man, despite his tongue being out of his mouth, smiled and spoke again.
"You look like hell, Harry," it said. "But don't worry, soon all your problems will be solved."
"Who are you?" Harold rasped, his throat dry.
"Me? I'm just a spirit that has taken up residence in this House of the Dead. Many delicious subjects come and go, like a buffet for me to enjoy for eternity." It seemed pleased, it's dark eyes bulging as it spoke.
"Oh God," Harold said, not believing what he heard.
Suddenly the creature was on his chest, leaning down over Harold to where his tongue could wrap under Harold's chin and force him to look up into it's eyes.
"Oh no, no pleas to the Almighty for you... you're just a dreadful sinner hellbound, like most of the trash that comes through here. But don't worry... I'm here to end your suffering."
Harold grunted, trying to move his head in defiance. The tongue was so cold to the touch that it sent shivers down the rest of his body.
The tongue slid up his chin, leaving behind a sticky trail of saliva, before stopping at Harold's mouth. It was only then he realized that the lumps rising from the tongue held black eyes, unblinking orbs that seemed to peer into his very soul. The end of the tongue was fat, and had split into four sections. From it the spirit's voice came, a dark and sinister chuckle.
"Gimme a kiss Harry, just one last kiss," it said before plunging down upon his lips.
With a gurgle that quickly turned into retching, he felt something slide into his mouth and down his throat. It wriggled and squirmed, the stick saliva filling his mouth, the flavor an unwholesome taste akin to rotten sardines. For minutes Harold thrashed, his cried going silent as the creature sat atop his chest, hands pinning his arms to the bed.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the tongue began to pull up and out of Harold, fully popping off his mouth with a sickening squelch. The "mouth" of the tongue held several blackened lumps in it's folds before swallowing them with a rancid gulp.
The creature's mouth twisted up into a sick smile. "Goodbye Harold, and thank you for the meal. Don't worry, you won't be missed."
And with that the spirit was gone, allowing Harold to sit up and vomit over the railing of the bed. Blood and gore came from his mouth, spattering the tile flooring in a gross display of his internal bleeding.
Breathing in a raspy breath, he was surprised he was able to breathe so deeply. With a smile on his face at the fact he could have one last gulp of air, his heart shuddered and stopped within his chest. The long dirge of the monitor rang out, bringing a rush of nurses in to look at Harold's slumped form.
In the corner, unseen by them all, the spirit rubbed it's belly. The cancer that killed so many was the beasts favorite meal, next to watching the people it fed upon die moments after they were cured of their ailment.
"Goodbye Harold," it whispered as it smelled the sulphur and ozone rising within the room, a distant wail of agony issuing forth from nowhere as Harold's soul was condemned to the Pit. "It was a pleasure knowing you."