I left that story unfinished. This is the conclusion. It found its way into my head and wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote and published it, so here it is ....
Louis Charles Lohman
So many failed attempts. So many times he had come to retrieve the Symbol, and each time, somehow, the Symbol had found a way to remain behind. As though it didn't want to go back. As though it wanted him to gather those souls he took back with him.
There were dozens now. Each one was an agony to him. Each one tormented him and the pain in him grew stronger and stronger - as if that was even possible. The pain seemed to thin him. He felt more and more a wraith, the pain in his palm, and hand, and up his arm seemed to pull him further and further toward some destiny he couldn't fathom, and yet he knew he feared it.
He had lost all memory of who he was and where he had come from, so long, long ago. He just knew he kept coming back to this world where the Symbol was. He just knew he had to pull the Symbol back to its rightful place. He had no other knowledge. He had no other purpose.
He was back. And he could see her. She stood at a corner, under the protective cover of an empty newsstand.
It had been most of a year. She and the john had gone up to the room in the flophouse she used for 'business'. He was nervous, anxious. She wanted to slow him down. She knew if she didn't, it would all be over too soon for him, and then she might not get paid. He was half undressed almost as soon as they had gotten into the room.
She had seen the large gold figure eight on the chain around his neck. She wondered why he didn't take that off, too. But then she thought it wasn't really a big deal. She had excused herself by saying she needed to freshen up a bit. She had gone into the bathroom, run the water for a minute, and was drying her hands when she saw a flash of orange-white light around the edges of the bathroom door.
When she came out of the bathroom, she found the gold figure eight laying in the middle of the threadbare rug, next to an unrolled and empty condom. His clothes were on a chair in the corner of the room, next to the bed. She picked up the chain and put it round her neck. There was a scorch mark in the rug where the figure had lain.
There was no I.D. in his pants. Just a wad of money. She gladly took the money, but she really didn't want this chain and this THING on the chain. Somehow ... somehow she knew she had to keep it. But she knew, also, she didn't want it.
Several times in the last few months she had tried to rid herself of the figure eight. Once she had even tried to leave it in a dumpster. The next morning, she woke to find the chain around her neck. This thing scared her shitless.
It was one of those nights. Dark and stormy, a wild wind and icy rain. She stood her corner, but she knew there wouldn't be much traffic tonight, if any at all. This part of town didn't see much traffic at night to begin with, and a night like this just drove the number of johns down even further.
She saw him step off the curb of the far corner, diagonally across the intersection. He had a long beard and even longer hair. His hands were crossed over his chest, like a dead man. He seemed to float toward her, and he was naked.
His eyes seemed to glow a dull red, and his flesh was pale and grey, almost translucent. As he drew close, his hands came away from his chest and she could see the angry red glow in his palm which grew stronger as he drew closer and closer to her.
She could see the glowing figure eight in the palm of his hand. And she knew. He had come for the figure. And she was ready to give it to him.
She drew the chain over her head, undid the clasp, and pulled it through the loop of the figure eight. The figure began to glow and it floated up out of her hand and it hovered in midair, just above her, shimmering and brilliant.
His hand came close and the fingers of his hand wrapped around the figure and clasped it to his palm. His eyes cleared for a second, and in his eyes she could see immeasurable pain. And gratitude. He held his fist to the sky and opened his mouth and an intense orange-white beam of light shot out of his mouth and up into the sky. She blinked and he was gone.
He knelt, again, in front of the fire and the cask, and leaned forward, closer, for better inspection of this thing, this apparition, this uninvited guest in his room.
His finger traced the symbol on the top of the chest. He wondered what it meant, why it was there, how much treasure this thing would lead him to.
His finger found the clasp. He decided he must know. He MUST KNOW. But then, he thought perhaps not. He thought that maybe this was something best left unexplored.
He stood and returned to his chair, put his feet on the ottoman, and went back to reading his book.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of a sparkle of some sort, turned to look and saw there was nothing there.
He thought perhaps his mind was playing tricks on him. Just then, something in the wood in the fire popped and a spark drifted up the chimney.
"Ah", he thought. "That must have been it".