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The three of us sit together in my backyard, beer bottles spread all around our little triangle. Leftover garbage from the sandwiches we ate earlier accompany those same beer bottles. I personally prefer Modelo, but all Santiago managed to bring us were some lukewarm, probably decade-old, Mexican beers that tasted as awful as they looked. Half-way through drinking my second round, I thought I was chugging down piss. Still, booze is booze.
“This tastes like ass, and not the good kind,” Santiago says, belches, and then spits. “Yuck.”
“Last time you’re providing the beverages,” I say. “God, I rather drink mercury.” I peer over at Elena, and see that she has barely touched her own drink. By the disgusted look on her face, I can tell she feels the same way.
“One of the last nights of summer vacation,” Elena starts, “and I’m spending it with you dorks drinking this crap.”
“Ugh, don’t remind me,” Santi complains. “Why the hell does school have to start next week…”
“I mean, it’s senior year, guys,” I remind them. “Shit is going to be alright, and honestly we should be enjoying these moments right now. God knows when we can all fuck around like this anymore.”
“You have a point,” Santi says. “I’m not looking forward to seeing some of the people there, though. Bitches there just irritate me sometimes, and the guys are just as annoying.”
Once again, Santi finds the perfect words to express my feelings. If anything, high school has brought my cousins and me closer. Since the three of us are practically the same age, and the fact that we all attend the same institution, we’ve grown attached to one another. It was perfect that way.
We spend most of the night chatting and laughing, all while the moon crawls away from my backyard and its light disappears with it. It starts to get too dark for comfort, however, and we know eventually someone would need to make the annoying trip of turning on the lamplight. Neither one of us wants to go, however.
But as always, the darkness eventually becomes menacing.
“Alright, I ain’t getting up to turn on the lights,” Santi states. “Onetwothree, not it!”
“Not it!” I hear Elena shout, while my words seem stuck on my tongue.
“Dammit, that ain’t fair,” I say. Elena snorts and laughs. “Whatever.” I stand up, and drag myself towards the lamp. It hangs above Elena like a loose tooth. I flick the switch on, and a dim, yellow light pours all over the backyard.
I return to my seat. “What now, then?”
We all exchange looks of perplexity, unable to think of something to entertain ourselves. We made one simple rule whenever the three of us head downstairs to the backyard, and that is: Absolutely. No. Cellphones. We will not allow our phones to distract ourselves from interacting with one another.
“I mean it is getting late,” I begin. “How about we share some stories.” I stress that last word out with a malicious tone.
My cousins glance at me, and I raise my eyebrows to add more emphasis. They stare at each other for a quick second, and begin to giggle like kids who just broke an expensive vase and are lying about it. “Hey,” I say. “What’s so damn funny? Don’t be excluding me in any insiders, you bastards.”
“It’s nothing really,” Elena says, but continues to giggle whenever she looks at Santi. “Stop looking at me!”
“You stop!” Santi laughs.
“You’re both acting like a bunch of bitches,” I grunt. “C’moon. I wanna know what’s going on.”
“Well it’s funny you should mention that,” Santi says. “It just so happens that Elena and I have the scariest story you’ll ever hear.”
“I have a story?” Elena nearly screams. Santi and I both shush her, and remind her that we’re outside where the damn neighbors are trying to sleep. “Sorry, sorry. But anyways!” She points at Santi. “You’re the one that told me it.”
“Wha? You have a story, and it’s a scary one?” I ask, a bit astonished. “Well then! I can’t wait to hear this.”
I sometimes wonder how we acquired this deep love for the macabre. But when it comes down to it, I know it derives from the way our environment raised us. We grew up with Chucky, The Ring, the Saw series, and that’s just scratching the surface of all the other scary shit our developing minds absorbed over the years.
But we also need to give credit to our folks, of course. Our tradition to pass around horror stories like goodies on Halloween originated from our parents, and their own siblings and cousins. They used to all gather together, just how I’m doing right now, and share whatever imaginative tales plunged out of their minds.
“Yeah man,” Santi says. “And trust me when I say this: It’s really fucking terrifying.”
“You sure about that?” I question my cousin. “I don’t know man. I’ve seen some pretty fucked-up shit.”
“I’m more than positive, dude,” Santi says. “This shit will make you piss yourself.”
“Have you heard this story already, Elena?” I ask. She nods her head while smiling. “Forreal? Whacha think of it, then?”
“I mean…” Elena starts, “Honestly, for someone like Santi who never ever told a good scary story, it’s pretty freaking horrifying.”
“First thing first,” I say. “Is this story real or fake?”
“I don’t know…” Santi snickers. “I guess you have to wait and hear for yourself.”
“Don’t be such an asshole, dude,” I say. “You know you always gotta clarify if what we’re about to hear is either true or not. It prepares us for whatever emotional wreckage we may or may not feel.”
“Well how about this. I’ll tell you my amazing story, if you tell me a real scary story yourself. You must have a new one involving your haunted house.”
Elena twitches in her seat.
“See, why you gotta say that? Now Elena’s all scared and shit.” I nudge her with my elbow, you know, to be the annoying primo she knows and loves. Elena gives off an irritated smile. This time we really pissed her off.
“She has every right to be scared, like, what the fuck? Your house is freaking creepy,” Santi says.
I don’t blame Elena for feeling the way she feels. My house grew a reputation of it being haunted around the time we attended middle school. This was the sort of thing that made me special among my friends at the time. I guess you can say this also added to my overall love for horror, in a weird sort of way. Not just horror, but the absolute emotion that is fear. Some might hate it, but people like my cousins and I are addicted to that feeling. We love the way it crawls deep inside our skin, turns our blood cold, raises the hairs on our arms, and enervate our minds beyond measures.
“You’re still shook after what happened?” I ask my prima.
“Well, no-duh! How can I not be? That was probably the scariest thing that ever happened to me.” Elena shivers, even though earlier in the night she kept on yapping on and on about how hot it was outside.
“I still think you slept-walk,” Santi says. “I mean, what other explanation do you have?”
“I’ve never slept-walk before in my life!” I shush Elena again, and smack her knee as punishment. “Sorry again. But still… Somebody carried me to the guest room, and it wasn’t anyone in the house. I asked eve-ry-body, and they all said they did no such thing. That damn ghost—or demon—in George’s house scooped me up, and now I’m scared thinking about it.”
“Perfect,” I say. “Now that the mood is set, let’s hear that amazing story of yours, bro.”
“Ehh,” Santi mumbles. “Okay, fine.” I throw my hands up in the air, and scream in delight. This time Elena tells me to shut the fuck up.
“Okay. Here’s how it starts-”
Off in the distance we hear the sound of leaves crunching. This noise immediately shuts everyone up. I hold my breath, and gaze around my backyard. Elena and Santi follow my eyes. Although nobody says it, we all feel a bit intimidated by the turn of events.
The noise erupts again. This time Elena gasps and jumps from her seat. I look at Elena, and raise a single finger to my lips. Santi fixes his eyes near one of the entrances to my backyard. “I think it came from over there.”
“I was thinking the same thing,” I say. “But I’m not too sure. You think it’s an animal?”
“Probably,” Santi says. “Who’s going to check it out? Last time some skunks or raccoons or whatever the fuck dug inside your trashcans, and made a complete mess. I doubt your father will let it slide a second time. You know how he can be.”
“Maybe we should send Elena to go,” I tease her, but in a kind-hearted attempt to alleviate everyone’s unreasonable fear.
“Nu-uh.” Elena shakes her head. “Count me out on that.”
“Well I already got up to turn on the lamplight,” I state. “So, I guess that leaves you, huh, Santi?”
“I hate you both,” he mutters as he picks himself up, and moves towards the gate. Santi pulls the small switch open—its rusty hinges squeaking as loud as a pig getting slaughtered—and maunders out of my backyard.
Elena and I sit in silence as we wait for him to return. The wind blows harder as time passes by. Yellow and green leaves rain and billow all over the air. They land on the ground, forming large piles that reminds me of autumn approaching. “We should’ve brought blankets,” I break the quietness.
“What’s taking this kid so long?” Elena asks. We rear closer to where Santi left, and try to listen in on what he’s doing. We hear nothing but the rushing of cars outside. This worries me a bit.
“Okay,” Elena says. “What the hell happened to-”
“Boo!” Santi jumps in between Elena and I. I reel back in surprise, a scream of despair caught inside my throat. Elena, on the other hand, unleashes a cry as loud as a jet engine. She stumbles backwards, loses her balance, and falls back on her chair. Santi and I watch in pure hysteria as our cousin lands on the ground with her chair on top of her.
“Noo you didn’t!” I yell. Santi and I burst into laughter. We grab each other’s shoulders to support our outburst.
“That was not nice!” Elena interrupts our joy. She struggles to pick herself up from the ground, which only makes us laugh even more. I feel a bit guilty, however, so I go to assist her. She stands up, shoves me away, and proceeds to stomp towards Santi. “You’re an asshole, dude. What if I broke my neck?”
“It was so damn worth it, though,” Santi says, still smiling about it.
“Okay, whatever happened, happened,” I say. “Just go on and tell your story, please.”
“You right,” Santi says, and we all sit back down. Elena still stares at Santi with mild hatred. It’ll pass, though. It always does.
“Here it comes,” Santi begins. He hunches down a bit, and rests his elbows on his thighs. Elena and I lock our eyes with his.
“You guys remember that little girl who died in a car accident near the grocery store?” Santi asks us. A strict look takes over his face, unlike his usual playful expression.
“You mean Cassandra? Cassandra Gutierrez?” I ask. “What about her?”
“Wait a minute…” Elena begins.
“Sh! I want zero interruptions,” Santi says. “But yeah, her. You wanna know the true story as to what happened to her?”
“There’s a story involving her death?” I ask.
“Oh there’s a story alright,” Santi says. “It turns out this crazy bitch was well acquainted with the devil. I know what chur thinkin’, but trust me guys when I say it’s true. You know all the stupid shit little kids be doin’ nowadays. Someone in the high school probably influenced her or some shit.
“Anyways, rumors got to her that there was a special type of ritual that will, now get this, ‘transform’ you into a demon or some shit along those lines. I know, it sounds hysterical. As fake as it sounds, however, this ritual might hold some truth after what I’m about to say.
“It isn’t like any other ritual. For starters, this thing needs to last over seven months. Within those seven months, each month you had to perform a different task. What I mean by that is, for example, the first month you had to tell at least ten lies a day. It starts off easy and all, but as you can imagine, it gets worse as time goes on.
“So when she first started, she just kept on lying without stopping. Cassandra had no trouble completing that first task. The second month, however, was a bit more challenging. It requires the person to rob something from someone every day.
“She was a bit hesitant to do so, since she wanted proof that the devil will actually come to her right after those seven months. Kids told her that a demon usually arrives during the first or second month, but this hadn’t happen to Cassandra yet. Finally, however, around the middle of the second month, the devil paid her a visit. But again, robbing a store or stealing someone’s wallet ain’t that difficult. We be robbin’ places left and right.” Santi flicks my knee with his hand, and winks at me.
I struggle to offer him a smile back.
“But yeah, the devil came to her dreams, and stated that for now on, she’ll follow his instructions. Now that Cassandra had full proof she was ready to sail. The bitch usually took money from her parents, or once in a while smuggled some food from the same grocery store where she was run over.
“The third month came, and the devil commanded her to commit blasphemy as much as possible within a month. I cannot fully explain to you all the crazy shit this bitch did. Cassandra was a complete mess!” Santi laughs to himself. “Dear god. The girl used the lord’s name in vein, pissed on a number of bibles, went to church late at night and vandalized the entire area. I’ll give her props for being one creative cunt. She makes the three of us look like a bunch of wimps.
“Anyways, the fourth month came, and the devil gave new orders. Every weekend of that month she had to perform a worshiping in honor of Lucifer. I don’t have all the little details on what she did exactly, but you guys can imagine all the crazy shit that went down. So far, in my opinion, most of the stuff she had to do wasn’t that bad.
“But then came the fifth month. Here’s where it gets juicy! The devil told Cassandra she needed to kill an animal every single day. Every damn day! Imagine that? The devil said it doesn’t matter what type of animal, just as long as she progresses as the weeks pass by. She started off with bugs, birds, and all that other shit. Then she started murdering squirrels and raccoons. If you ask me, she did this town a favor slaughtering those animals. They can be annoying as fuck.
“But yeah, then she killed dogs and cats that roamed the streets. At last, this crazy bitch burned down an entire farm. A fucking farm. I’m telling ya, these white people are crazy.
“At this point, the devil already knew she was the one. So that’s why, during the sixth month, he asked her to do some real wicked shit.
“The demon asked her to kill another human being.” A sinister smile curves up Santi’s lips.
Elena sucks in her breath. “No. No, don’t say…”
“Listen to this, guys,” Santi says. “Cassandra doubted herself if she could really do it. I mean that’s some serious shit, you know, to take another person’s life. The devil didn’t give her an exact date, but said it had to be within that sixth month.”
“Well did she do it?” Elena and I ask in unison.
“Supposedly, she killed some hobo near our neighborhood,” Santi reveals to us. “I don’t know if that’s true or not, but that’s what a lot of people are speculating. Everyone is sure, however, that this bitch definitely murdered another human being. I can tell by your grim faces that this is scary as fuck. I know, trust me.”
“Jesus…” I’m left completely speechless. “I always perceived Cassandra to be an innocent girl. But to kill someone? Holy shit.”
“The story doesn’t end here, guys,” Santi whispers. “This next part is my favorite.
“So yeah, she killed the hobo. The seventh month comes; the final obstacle. Just thinking about it, I can only imagine the pressure and anticipation Cassandra must’ve felt. So what happens was, the devil told her in order for her to complete the ritual, she needed to kill a member of her family.
“And you wanna know what this bitch did? She pussied out last minute. She couldn’t do it. I guess she must’ve loved her family that much. I mean, in my opinion, she’s really stupid. You already killed another human being, and at this point you’re considered a piece of shit. Why not just kill someone in your family. It could’ve been an uncle, an aunt, a sister.
What the fuck did he just say?
“Um,” I begin, “you still haven’t explained how she…died.” Something doesn’t fit right. This fear flowing through my veins feels…demented.
“Oh, that?” Santi says. “Well, I killed her. I ran that bitch over.”
My mind goes blank. Santi shifts his eyes towards mine. A weight of dread unfolds inside me. I don’t see my cousin. I see someone else. I see a monster dwelling inside him.
“What did you just say?” Elena stutters. Santi, in return, provides us with his most doleful expression yet.
“I said, I killed Cassandra. What’s so hard about it? I ran the bitch over. See, what she didn’t know was that I was also completing my seven month trial. The devil informed me on my sixth month that she backed off, so he suggested that I should eliminate her. Bam! That easy. I was able to complete my second to last task.
“But the story doesn’t end there. I guess that leaves me-”
That same crunching noise that interrupted Santi in the begin returns to cut him off again.
“Goddammit!” Santi barks in rage. “I’ll go check that shit out again. I thought I fucking got rid of those damn animals.” Once again he leaves Elena and me all by ourselves in my backyard.
We sit in disturbed silence. This time I feel completely afraid to move a single joint. I try to stop my hands from shaking, but this fright itching deep inside my skin prevents me from maintaining my composure.
“Hey,” Elena says. I’m startled by the sudden sound of her voice. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. I have to tell you something, though.”
“Please keep on talking,” I whimper. “Hearing you talk is calming me down.”
“That’s not the story he told me earlier,” Elena says. “He told me something completely different. I- I don’t know what the hell kind of story he just told right-”
“I’m back!” Santi says in his cheerful tone, the one I’ve come to associate my favorite cousin with. Elena and I jump in our seats. “Sorry I took so long, but I wanted to scram away all of those goddamn raccoons. You gotta do something about that, bro-”
Elena and I stare at our cousin with trepidation. “What? Why the solemn faces? Aww, are you guys scared even before I tell my awesome story?”
“Just what the fuck do you mean, dude,” Elena bickers. “What kind of story were you telling before, you sick fuck! That wasn’t very nice of you to just shit on Cassandra’s grave like that.”
“Okay, hold the fuck up,” Santi remarks. “Why the hell are you all up in my shit with that bitchy tone of yours, cuz? What the hell did I do wrong? I just got here. I haven’t even said my story yet. And why do you even bring up Cassandra?”
“Bullshit,” Elena mouths off. “If this is some sick prank, then just stop it, you asshole. You scared George and me pretty badly.”
“You need to calm the hell down,” Santi argues back. “Yo, George! Tell her to chill, bro. What the hell happened that made her all crazy just now?”
I remain quiet. I wait to see if Elena figures it out. But it’s more than that. I can’t help but to stay mute. The realization of it all leaves me stagnant. Dismay takes over my mind.
“Do you hear me?” Santi repeats himself. “Dude, are you…okay? You don’t look too well.” I switch my gaze from the ground, and stare at Elena. It takes her a moment, but she finally gets it. I see her eyes swell, and the first of many tears spill down her ruddy cheeks.
“Santi,” I whisper. “How does the story end? Please tell me you remember a little bit.”
“Bro, I have no idea what you’re talking-”
“Santi!” I spring up from my chair, knocking the damn thing down. I march towards my cousin, grab his shoulders, and rattle his goddamn body. “Please, you have to remember! How does the story end? What happens next?!” From behind me I hear Elena sob. She whispers a silent prayer to herself. It’s all useless, however. We’re fucked.
“Santi…Don’t do it please,” I cry on his shoulders. “Don’t kill Elena or me.”
The sound of leaves breaking comes again. This time, however, I hear the crunch right behind Santi.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “But… I don’t know what I did. The beers…”
“What? What do you mean the beers?”
“The poison,” Santi slowly mumbles. “One of us is going to die.”
Written by TheSplitPersonality