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This short story was written in response to a writer’s prompt about meeting the devil.

“You did not! You’re just trying to scare me,” Emily scoffed. She was silent for three seconds (he counted) before she started whining again. “No such thing as devils.”

Emily’s constant chatter was one of the hundred or so things that irritated him to death.

“Nobody else has to take their little sister everywhere,” T.K. complained to his parents, but they never listened. “It won’t hurt you to have her along,” his mother said. “She needs somebody to play with.”

T.K. thought of his plan and couldnt stifle a grin. “Bet you’re too much of a scaredy cat to go in that old house.”

“Am not!” Emily retorted. “I’ll tell Mama you called me a scaredy cat.”

“Come on then. Put your money where your mouth is.” Emily didn’t have any money and T.K. didn’t know what put your money where your mouth is meant, but his father said it whenever he wanted somebody to quit talking and take action and T.K. was ready for action. If his plan didn’t stop Emily from wanting to tag along, nothing would.

Two more blocks and they were at the Cruller place, only the Crullers were long gone. The house had been vacant for years. It lurked in the shadows of knarled oaks and overgrown boxwoods, a hulking eyesore at the far end of Main Street. The perfect place for a club.

“We’re starting a club and no girls allowed.” T.K.’s best friend Ben had been emphatic. “You gotta ditch Emily.”

But T.K. had to hand it to her; Emily wasn’t easy to ditch. She squared her shoulders, shot a defiant look at T.K., and stomped toward the house, ponytail swinging.

“Wait up. We got to go through the back door so nobody can see us from the street,” T.K. cautioned, the Cruller house being strictly off limits. “This way.” He led her through a weed-choked yard and away from prying eyes, where the unlatched back door swung open at his touch.

The air inside was thick with dust and a smell that made T.K. think of dungeons and dark, slimy things. He shuddered involuntarily.

“You ain’t scared, are you?” Emily touched his fingers and he almost jumped.

“Course not. I ain’t no girl.”

Ben had given him detailed instructions: slip through the back part of the house until you get to the last door at the end of the hall, then start down the steps toward the cellar. Creeping down those dark, narrow stairs should scare the fool out of any girl.

“This way,” T.K. said, wishing he had brought a flashlight. Even in broad daylight the hallway was lost in shadows, dark doors barely distinguishable from grey walls. He could hear Emily breathing ashmatically, for once in her life not talking. They crept further and further, darkness deepening.

Finally they reached the end of the hall and T.K. shoved the cellar door. It balked before creaking slowly open, a swoosh of fetid air escaping those black depths.

“You goin’ down there?” Emily whispered.

T.K. took a tentative step. Then another. Come on, Ben, he almost said out loud. I don’t want to go all the way to the cellar.

At that minute, as if hearing his thoughts, it sprang from the dark, eyes glittering, mouth a gaping hole that emitted a wretched scream matched only by the scream that tore from Emily’s throat. She plunged down the hall, T.K. fast on her heels. Behind them the thing gained traction, casting elongated shadows that writhed and danced across the ceiling. Emily, sprinting like a deer, ponytail flying, called behind her, “Run, T.K. Run! Hurry!”

They tumbled out the door, slashed through knee-high weeds, T.K. running until he was out of breath and Emily rounding the corner, disappearing from sight. He had never seen anybody run so fast in their life. He slowed down, doubled over, and allowed the laughter to well up in great, unstoppable waves as he replayed the scene over and over in his mind. Even he had been scared half to death.

He was still laughing, tears streaking his cheeks, when he turned around to retrace his steps to the Cruller house.

That’s when he spotted Ben.

“Hey man, that was awesome…” T.K. began.

Ben interrupted. “I’m sorry, man. I had to stay after school today for in-school suspension and couldn’t get to the house. But I got my devil costume ready. Can we try for tomorrow?”

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Writer, editor, publisher, journalist, author, columnist, believer in enjoying my journey and helping other people enjoy theirs.

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