The creature slipped its leathery red arm up through the crack in the earth. The smell of sulfur inundated the freshly cut back yard. As it pulled the rest of its emaciated form from the steamy chasm, it looked up to its destination: a window with yellow curtains drawn open. The young girl that usually resided there was terrified of monsters, especially skinny red ones. The creature slipped up the white lattice and slid the window open. As he stepped inside he smelled hints of strawberry and vanilla, but more importantly, he smelled innocence.
He looked down to see if the fissure from which he emerged had receded, and, seeing it had done so, went about exploring the girl's room. He looked at the pictures of her family and friends pinned up on a cork board above her bed. Her name was Sarah, made clear by the large silver stickers on the board reading "Sarahs Loves"—the lack of apostrophe making her youth even more obvious. He already knew her name but enjoyed seeing that she thought her name mattered.
She looked so happy, and all her friends and family looked happier having known her. The left corner of his giant maw started slowly curling up, no more than a quarter inch, but clearly indicating this one would be exceptionally fun.
Opening his grinning mouth and flicking his forked tongue, he began making the sign of the cross: first touching his forehead, but, rather than stopping at the heart, he continued down to his groin and tapped before crossing left to right at his thrusting hips. An inverted and perverted version of something he knew this family held so dear. The creature then lifted his gnarled hand to his lips and kissed his scaly middle finger before raising it to the sky. Transgressive acts committed for nothing more than his own pleasure.
He opened the girl's drawers, one by one, lifting out different pieces of clothing and smelling them—deeply inhaling her juvenile scent before placing them delicately back in their proper place. He sat on her bed and fell back, allowing himself to become one with the bed, the room, and the child. He rolled up in her comforter and chuckled at the darkly ironic pun: her torturer being one with her "comforter". He wondered if she would even make it under this blanket again. Her curiosity would have to decide. For a moment the creature struggled against a frenzy—the ecstatic thought of snatching the young girl's tongue from her pretty little screaming mouth was almost too much to bear.
The house was still quiet, but he knew it wouldn't remain so for long, so he pushed himself up and made his way to the narrow white door at the left of her bed. He was overjoyed by the large walk-in closet, especially the cap and gown in the back left corner. A very convenient hiding place. The girl's mother had given her the dress to help her deal with the loss of her older brother. He had been killed by a drunk driver a year earlier. It was less than a month after he had worn it when it found its way into the girl's possession. It still smelled of her hero. The creature slowly strolled towards the back, running his hands along the edges of soft cotton as he dreamed of the child's terrified face. He longed to see her tears and hear her cries of horror and pain. He slipped in behind the large black gown just before he heard the front door open.
Stacy tapped on her phone as she walked through the school parking lot, eagerly awaiting details on what her best friend, Carly, wanted to do before the party tonight. She was in favor of watching the new scary movie that was playing, something about demons, but she knew Carly wasn't much into horror films. She scared too easily. Stacy slipped behind the wheel of her yellow Jetta and buckled her seatbelt. She considered flipping off the school as she drove away, but decided it didn't deserve her time. About fifteen minutes later, just after she had turned onto the street where she lived, the text came through. She lifted the phone and was delighted to see that her friend had agreed to go to the movies as long as she didn't have to drive. Stacy typed the words:
"awesome love. ur the best!!"
As soon as the message was sent, she looked up to see a young girl on a bike, swerving onto the street in front of her. She slammed on the brakes at the same time the child slammed into the pavement. Stacy felt the car lift slightly as it came to a stop, knowing what the bump was all about. The girl, pinned between the asphalt and the three thousand pound death machine, didn't make a sound—but Stacy did. She screamed and wept frantically. She leaned over to look under the car only to come face to face with what was now barely recognizable as a human. The girl's nose had been ripped off and an eye was hanging from its socket; she couldn't be sure which side it was from. Her lower jaw was missing and her tongue, now separated from her body, was lying on the road beside what was left of her head. The little pink and white license plate on the bike was sticking out from under the car with the word "SARAH" written in raised letters.
The creature waited, not knowing his job was already done. After several hours of drooling with anticipation, he grew impatient. He crept to the closet door and cracked it open just as delicious cries of grief began ringing out from the floor below. Although the mother's pain was like music to his ears, he also knew she wasn't the only one that had suffered a great loss this evening. This had happened twice before. With his head hung in shame, he scurried down the lattice and watched as the cavern reopened for his passage.
Dreading the forthcoming ridicule, he took a deep breath and jumped in. Once arriving at the hellish headquarters, he was forced to make the hideous walk of shame—every demon's worst fear. Word of his failure had preceded him, and many were lined up, with rather wide grins on their faces. He was laughed at and spat on, called names the human tongue wasn't capable of uttering. As he walked past a beautiful succubus, she swiftly kicked him in the groin, stating, "You won't be needing that any time soon."
After recovering from his many abuses, the disgraced being found his way to the dispatch office. It was customary for a failed mission to be immediately redeemed by a successful one. The operator at the desk glared as he entered and quickly handed him a stack of black papers. The creature, eager to regain respect, made a quick exit and ran straight to transport. On his way he looked down at his orders; he didn't recognize the name, but, not surprisingly, the street was the same as the last. His mouth salivated, dripping onto the pages as he tossed them over his shoulder. Motivated by revenge, they often moved on the same area again.
Moments later he found himself dragging his ragged body up through another steamy opening, once again looking up to a second floor window. This girl's fear level was much lower than the last, but he was determined she would scream like all the rest. He knew he needed to go above and beyond with this one. He shimmied up the gutter's down-spout and slid the window open just like before. As he slipped his sinewy form through the space, he was greeted with a horror from which he knew he would never recover. A teenage girl, one that would normally be on her way to school, was hanging from a rope tied to the ceiling fan.
The demon felt as if he'd been kicked in the groin a second time. He knew he would never live this one down. Two in a row had never happened. He would be the first. As he turned to leave, he heard the girl's phone ring. Curiosity overcame him, and he moved towards the phone. He lifted it to look at the glowing blue screen, "Carly is calling..." it said. The creature flipped it open, hoping to hear a bit of fear in a concerned friend's voice.
"Stacy, is that you? Are you ok?"
(Author's Note: Special thanks to ChristianWallis for his help in the workshop.)
Written by Jay ten