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I sped down the street on my bicycle, feeling the wind rush through my hair as the sun prepared to take a dip down below the horizon for the evening. Dead leaves blew around on the road like schools of fish evading a predator, and the crisp autumn air felt wonderful as it engulfed my speeding bike and me. Being in the fourth grade in a small town in New Jersey, I loved riding my bike every day after school, especially in the beautiful fall weather. I liked doing it alone. Sure, I would get my friends in on it during the weekends, but there was a part of me that needed solitude after a busy day at school.
During my treks around my neighborhood, I would come across something new each day. It could be the discovery that someone in my community owned a Great Dane, or that a house down the street from me was egged on Halloween night. But one day in the middle of November, I made another discovery. See, on the far side of my neighborhood, there is a road with a "dead end" sign. However, on this particular day I decided to see what was beyond it. After all, that sign didn't signify in any way some sort of end to the world. No, there was more beyond it, and on this particular afternoon, I decided to venture beyond it.
I sped past the sign and pedaled hard up a hill. Of course, when I got to the top, I looked down at a cul-de-sac, sitting dead and lifeless. Beyond the cul-de-sac was a dense forest. However, I noticed something about this forest. Right at the front of it was a dirt path, winding its way into the depths of the woods, just begging to be explored. Pedaling down the hill, I parked my bike at the edge of the forest and began walking down the dirt path.
I strutted down the path as my neighborhood seemed to move further and further away. Deep into the woods I went, past ghastly trees that had shed there autumn leaves. The cawing of crows filled the air as my footsteps crunched on the dirt path. After a couple minutes of walking, something began to come into view. It was none other than a small house, sitting in a clearing in this mysterious forest. The house looked like the most innocent little cottage one had ever seen.
For some reason, I had the urge to walk closer to the house. It had some sort of enchantment to it, one that simply said, "Come to me". I began to move toward the house, inching my way through the tall grass that surrounded the place. Suddenly, someone rounded the corner from the side, startling me. I almost jumped out of my skin, until I realized it was just a frail, old woman, hunched over and carrying a watering pot. Once she noticed me, she immediately developed an overly friendly expression.
"Well," she exclaimed, "hello, stranger!"
"I'm sorry, ma'am," I stammered, "I was just walking down that path, I didn't realize you lived here."
"Oh, it's quite alright," the old woman said, "in fact, I was just thinking about how much I would love a visitor!"
"Really?" I said.
"Certainly," she said, "won't you come in for some tea?"
I was shocked by her hospitality. I had never met someone so nice in my life. I wasn't sure about her offer, though. I told her that I wasn't sure how long I had until dark. The old woman told me I had at least an hour before sundown. I finally agreed to come inside.
I walked inside of the house, right behind the friendly old woman. I was immediately hit with a scent of candles and the aroma of newly baked cookies. A black cat walked out in front of us, giving me a cold stare before scampering off to another part of the home. The old woman and I entered her kitchen, where I sat down at the table as she prepared tea.
"So," said the old woman, "what is your name?"
"Stella," I said.
"What a pretty name," she said.
I sat as she poured water into the kettle, looking out her window at that enchanting forest. I was excited about this new place I had found. I had to show my friends around these woods. I looked back at the old woman.
"What's your name?" I said.
"Eileen," replied the woman.
"I like that name," I said.
She smiled at me before going back to fixing up our tea. The kindness that radiated from her was immense. Already, this Eileen lady was the nicest person I had spoken to in a long time. Finally, the tea was ready, and Eileen joined me at the table. We began to sip from our teacups like two British citizens, having small-talk. Our conversation propelled itself into the evening, so much so that it took me a while to realize that the sun had gone down. I also realized that my mother was going to kill me.
"Oh no," I said.
"What's the matter, dear?" said Eileen.
"It's dark," I said. "My mother's going to kill me."
I got up out of my chair, ready to make a quick exit. I really didn't want to walk through those woods alone at night. Just as I got up, so did Eileen. I walked over to her and reached out to shake her hand. She gently grasped my hands in both of hers. Her hands were very cold and frail.
"Thank you so much for having me," I said.
Eileen suddenly developed a sad expression, one filled with disappointment and sorrow.
"Won't you stay a bit longer?" she said.
"Oh, I wish I could," I said, "really, I do. But I really have to get home."
"Oh, just a bit longer," said Eileen.
Well, now I was a bit annoyed. She still had my hand cupped within both of hers. Whenever I tried to pull away, she continued to grab at my hand.
"Listen, Eileen," I said, still trying to sound as friendly as possible, "I can come back tomorrow. Please let me go home."
"Stella," said Eileen, "all I ask is that you stay a little longer. It is very lonely out here."
She continued to grasp my hand, now a bit more tightly. I became extremely annoyed.
"Eileen," I said, "I really have to get home. Please let go."
I jerked my hand away from her, freeing myself of her grasp. I turned away and began walking away from her, refusing to look back. Suddenly, Eileen uttered something that, a minute ago, I could never have imagined her saying, not in my wildest dreams.
"Get back here, you little bitch."
I was shocked. When she said this, her voice sounded extremely gravely and malevolent. I turned around to face her, my jaw gaping open at what I had just heard. What I saw frightened me. Eileen stood there, hunched over, with a furious expression on her face. She looked like an angry goblin of sorts, her expression communicating to me that she wanted to rip my head right off of my shoulders. However, what struck me even more than this was the large candle she clutched tightly in her hand. And when I say it struck me, I mean that quite literally, because the next thing I knew, Eileen hurled the heavy candle right at my face. The candle struck my forehead, knocking me down on the ground.
I clutched my forehead in pain, feeling blood begin to flow onto my hand. As I moved my hand away, I saw Eileen make a dash for me, grabbing me by my ankles.
"Stella stays!" she screamed, before cackling aloud like a Halloween witch.
Eileen began to drag me across the floor by my legs. This frail old woman had the strength of a grown man. I was astounded, and I was also in big trouble. She dragged me over to a door in the hallway, and opened it. In a split-second, I knew where that door led to. Her basement. I quickly began to attempt crawling away, but Eileen noticed and pounced back on me like a cat after a mouse. She started dragging me down into the basement, and I clawed at the floor for dear life. Most of my body was now in the cellar, with only my head sticking out of the doorway. Eileen suddenly let go of my legs and ran back up the stairs. I had no idea what she was doing now. Well, before I had time to even move, I watched as Eileen grabbed the cellar door and swung it right into my face. And the next thing I saw... was darkness.
When I finally came to, I was lying on the filthy floor of a musty cellar. One light was on, dimly lighting the room. My head hurt badly, and when I reached up and felt my forehead, I felt nothing but dried blood from where the candle and the door had struck me. I felt extremely weak, and it took quite a bit of strength to begin getting up off of the floor.
Once I got up, I noticed something else on the floor. I screamed out loud when I saw it. Lying there, on the floor, was a dead body. It looked like a man, but I couldn't tell because it was so decayed. The skin was a sickly green color. The odor of the corpse began to fill my nose, smelling worse than anything I had ever smelled in my life. I continued to scream at the top of my lungs, running up the stairs, toward the basement door. Of course the door was locked. I pounded on it, frustrated and scared out of my wits.
"Let me out of here!" I screamed.
Suddenly, a loud, male voice shouted at me.
"Shut the hell up!"
I immediately stopped pounding and screaming. Who else was here? I looked back over my shoulder, down at the corpse. I sat with my back against the door, watching it. I couldn't even stand being in its vicinity. I kept on staring and staring at this corpse on the ground, I couldn't peel my eyes away from it. It was as if I needed to keep an eye on it for some reason. However, I soon mustered up the courage to look away from it for just a moment to look under the basement door. I saw Eileen's feet, and the feet of someone else, presumably the man who just told me to shut up. I jerked my head back around, looking down the stairwell to keep an eye on the corpse. And that's when the corpse began to get up.
I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, and I thought so for a while. However, once the corpse actually got to its feet, I knew my vision didn't wasn't failing me. It had its back to me, and I held back the urge to scream. Tears began to well up in my eyes as the corpse slowly turned around. Once it did, it gradually tilted its head upward, looking up the stairwell, right at me. Its eyes were pitch black, and its decayed mouth gave its face a toothy grin. I started screaming again, just as the decayed person began to walk up the stairs towards me. It walked slowly and wobbly, trying to keep balanced on its decaying legs. I pounded on the door again, though nothing good could have even come of that. After a few seconds of doing this, I gave up, and just sat with my back pressed up against the door, watching as this decaying zombie slowly made its way toward me.
I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do but watch as this thing inched its way toward me. By some miracle of God, about halfway up the stairs, the rotting person stumbled and fell flat on its stomach on the stairs. Just as it began to get back to its feet, I fell backward as the door I had been leaning against was opened. I looked behind me to see a scrawny old man standing in the doorway. Addressing the creature, he screamed at it.
The zombie immediately put its hands forward as if to show the old man respect. And then, to my surprise, it spoke.
"Yessssss, master," it whispered.
The zombie turned away and began to walk back down the stairs. The scrawny old man then looked down at me, just as Eileen walked over to join us.
"Stella," said Eileen, "this is uncle Leo. Won't you say hello?"
"No," I said, "Fuck off!"
"Oh," said Eileen, "what terrible language for such a young girl. Sounds like you need a lesson in manners. What do you think, Leo?"
Leo grinned with delight as he stepped on my wrist, preventing me from getting up. All I could do was scream out in pain. I was too weak to fight back, still groggy from being knocked out.
"I think it's a very bright idea, Eileen," he said. "I think I know the best way to teach her some obedience. I say she has a little chat with Lucifer."
My heart sank when I heard this. Questions raced through my mind. Did that mean they were going to kill me? They can't actually mean speaking to the devil, can they? Before I could ponder these questions, Leo called back to the zombie, whistling at it like it was a dog.
"Lester!" he said. "Grab her!"
Well, Lester immediately began walking up the stairs, this time in quick fashion, as if it was scared of Leo.
"Any day!" yelled Leo.
The rotting Lester grabbed me by the waist and hoisted me up over his shoulder. I screamed out once again as I now had the pleasure of smelling his horrible, rotting stench up close. It carried me down the stairs and dropped me down on the ground. I landed hard on my knee, and pain immediately shot up my leg. I didn't have faith in my abilities to walk at this point. When I looked up, I noticed something I hadn't had time to notice before. In the back corner of the basement, shrouded in shadows, sat a horrifying statue. It was a statue of a demon, or a gargoyle of some sort, with goat-like horns, sharp claws, and hoofed feet. Above the statue, on the wall, an upside down cross was painted. In my pain, everything was such a blur. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Eileen grab a book off of the floor in the opposite corner of the basement. Lester then stood to my left like a bodyguard, while Leo took up the right. Eileen walked over to join us, opening the book, and reciting words from it.
The words were in another language, one I did not recognize. As Eileen continued to chant, she gradually raised her voice louder and louder. Leo and Lester then began chanting with her. The chants grew louder still, and to my utter amazement, the lips and eyelids of the statue began to quiver. Once again, like with Lester, I hoped my eyes were playing tricks on me. And like before, I realized they weren't, as the eyelids of the statue opened to reveal pitch-black eyes. The jaw of the statue unhinged and began to open, as the dark eyes started glowing a vibrant red. A roar erupted from the statue, as white mist rose up from behind it. The roar was so loud, so deep, that I instinctively knew that it was not of this world. The mist drew closer and closer to me, as Eileen's chants grew faster and faster, until it sounded like she was simply speaking gibberish.
The mist got within touching range of me, and began to almost investigate me, if you will. It was almost like a snake, coiling and swaying this way and that, studying me in a way. Eileen, Leo, and Lester stopped their chanting. Eileen seemed to grow frustrated.
"Why isn't he taking her?! He took Lester just fine!"
Oh no, I thought. Was I to end up like Lester? Before I could think, the mist coiled around me and levitated me up off of the filthy basement floor. I screamed out as it carried me over to the statue. I soon found myself staring into the bright, glowing red eyes of the demonic statue, whining as its nostrils quivered. It was smelling me. I shivered as I felt its nostrils exhale onto me. Suddenly, the mist seemed to evaporate, and I was dropped onto the floor. The eyes of the statue quickly shut, as did its gaping jaws. Eileen and Leo both looked infuriated.
"He doesn't want her!" yelled Leo.
"Ugh," exclaimed Eileen. "Can't say I blame him."
Eileen then began to walk over to the back of the room. I watched as she knelt down to grab something. It was a red tank of gasoline. She developed a sinister smile on her face as she walked toward me with it. As she advanced toward me, Leo pulled a matchbox out of his pocket, handing it to Lester.
"We'll let Lester do the honors since he's been so good," said Leo.
Eileen cackled with delight as she approached me, now standing over me. Lester slowly but surely pulled a match out of the matchbox, and proceeded to light it.
"Well, Stella," said Eileen, "it's time to burn bright like the stars you were named after!"
I had to act fast. Just as Eileen began to tip the nozzle forward, ready to soak me with gasoline, I reached out with my foot and kicked at the tank as hard as I could. The tank was pretty light, as it was propelled by my foot, right into Lester. Lester was immediately engulfed in flames as the match he had just lit ignited the gas. He screamed out a horrible scream as I used every ounce of strength within me to get up off of the ground and make a dash for the stairs. In the confusion, I was given a head start, due to Eileen and Leo being distracted by Lester's burning.
"Fire bad! Fire bad!" screamed Lester.
No, I thought. Fire good. As Eileen and Leo came to their senses, they rushed up the stairs after me. But I had been given a great head start. I quickly glanced over my shoulder to see Lester flailing around wildly, causing other things in the basement to catch fire as well. I ran up the stairs and out of the basement, desperate to escape that awful place. I ran out the door and toward the woods. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Leo about 10 feet away, running after me. I quickened my pace as best I could, hobbling with a likely broken leg. Before I knew it, my leg seemed to fail me as I felt Leo tackle me from behind. I toppled to the ground, with a grinning Leo on my back.
"You're coming with us!" he exclaimed with glee.
I began swatting at his face, to no avail. He wasn't fazed by anything I did. I began scouring the ground for something, anything to hit him with. As he started dragging me across the lawn and back toward the house, I spotted a rock on the ground. I quickly reached for it, grasping it in my hand, holding on to it for dear life. Oh boy, I thought. Please let this work.
I jerked my body around so I was now being dragged on my back. Rearing back, I hurled the rock at Leo, hitting that bastard right in the face. He immediately let go, clutching his face in pain. I got up as best I could, running to the forest. I ran down the path, continually looking over my shoulder. Neither Eileen nor Leo were following me. I finally came out on the other side of the forest to see my bike. Oh, my sweet bike, I thought. I mounted it quickly and rode the hell out of there.
Well, back at my house, I told my parents everything, and the authorities were of course contacted. Apparently, when the police arrived at the house, the place was burnt down. No one was found there, not even Lester. I couldn't believe what I had seen. Poor Lester, that wasn't him trying to hurt me. He was a normal person before, just like me. But unlike me, the misty evil spirit likely took him, assimilating him as a slave to Lucifer. All I wanted to do was forget. After a few days, my parents decided it was definitely a good idea to move. I was with them, 100 percent. I would miss my friends and my neighbors, I'd miss my school, but I simply couldn't live down the street from that house. I could not do it. The night my parents told me we were moving, I climbed into bed, finally feeling safe and secure. I knew this was one of the last nights I'd be sleeping in this room.
However, I wished we had moved just a bit sooner, because that night, I heard a scratching noise at my window. When I turned to see what it was, I was in shock.
It was a charred Lester, looking through the window at me. He was burnt to a crisp.
"Fire bad," he said, through the window. "Fire bad."
Written by Jake Wick
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