Halloween Challenge Honorable Mention
Despite the blackening around the edges, and the unmistakable smell of brimstone, the card below Kenny’s feet was still perfectly legible.
He was hesitant to pick it up at first. But then he remembered how he had trekked through miles of countryside on a moonless night to arrive at these crossroads. If he truly was scared of what might happen, he would’ve forgotten about this foolish quest. He would have continued his journey of staring at a blank computer screen hoping the words would magically write themselves.
He crouched and gingerly poked at the card. It wasn’t as hot as he expected but it definitely felt like it came out of something warm, probably beneath his feet at that very moment.
Kenny picked up the card, straightened himself and pulled out his phone. Using the flashlight app he glanced at the surface. Nothing but blank white space was on the back but the front held a message that was written in the fanciest handwriting he had ever seen.
“The manner of your summoning is heavily outdated. Be on your computer at the stroke of midnight tomorrow evening, not one second sooner.”
Kenny barely had enough time to re-read the cryptic remark before flames engulfed the entire surface. He yelped and dropped the card on the ground. He stared mesmerized as the card quickly disintegrated until nothing remained. Not even ashes could be seen. Yet the sinking dread that spread throughout his body like a horrible virus was still very much present.
Throughout the next day Kenny could barely rise out of bed let alone type a paragraph on his home computer.
He had only been writing for six months. All the while he thought, foolishly in hindsight, that every editor in the country would read his prose and offer him contract after contract. But several generic rejection responses later he felt his self esteem wither more and more. It soon came to a point where he was hesitant to write anything down, afraid that it would ultimately fail as a product in the end.
Even living right beside a graveyard didn’t seem to stir his imagination anymore.
Nowadays, instead of writing prose, he’d mindlessly scroll through various paranormal articles in the hope that something would stir his imagination.
It was on one such occasion that he came upon an old legend about a crossroads, long abandoned by time and unknown to most of the population of his quaint town.
He was hesitant to go through with such an act. Despite the opportunity to achieve worldwide success that would make Stephen King look like a homeless beggar, he knew the consequences were still drastic.
But with every trip to the bookstore, and the piles and piles of books almost mocking him for his lack of writing effort, he decided to throw caution to the wind.
“Maybe there’s a clause or a loophole that can get me out in the end,” he thought to himself as he stared intently at his tropical screensaver. “Or maybe I’ll be the one millionth customer and he’ll spare my soul.”
When the time on his desktop computer struck midnight, the palm trees suddenly melted into a pile of brown and green goo. The sea turned a shade of red similar to a torrent of blood and the sky mutated into an ugly shade of black.
Suddenly the screen became incredibly pixelated, almost like the worst virus imaginable had invaded the poor laptop’s soul. The colors and images became a scrambled mess of pixels randomly swirling in all directions before a single crystal clear image appeared.
From what little Kenny could see of the chair, it appeared cushiony and dipped in the same blood red color as the sea moments before. The rest of the background appeared to be black, but Kenny thought he could make out several shelves of books lined up perfectly behind the chair.
The figure in said chair was only visible from the chest down. His suit, a rich velvet red colour glowed gently in the light of the candles being lit. The rest of his face was encased in an inky darkness. Kenny didn’t need to see the creature’s face to know that he was staring straight at him.
“Good evening,” the figure spoke in a rich baritone dipped in venom. “I see you’ve received my message.”
Kenny grabbed his wine glass so shakily he was surprised it didn’t drop to the floor.
“Y-Yes…uh…Mr. Satan is it?”
“Let’s leave names out of this shall we?” The figure entwined his black gloved fingers. “I already know what you want and might I say it’s rather unoriginal.”
“Unoriginal?” For a moment Kenny forgot he was talking to the Lord of Darkness and knocked back a hefty amount of Pinot Noir.
“Do you know that I have a whole back catalogue of writers wanting to make it big?” the figure continued. “Couldn’t you make my job more interesting? What’s wrong with wishing for your own candy factory or to be the first to colonize Mars?”
“Can’t you just do this for me? I mean…if it’s not too much trouble.”
The figure sat motionless, not even twitching a muscle. Knowing this being had the power to infect his computer; Kenny initially thought his computer had frozen.
Suddenly the figure dropped his hands into his lap and began to chuckle. The slow methodical chuckles soon grew into an all powerful laugh. If Kenny could see Satan’s face he probably would’ve had tears in his eyes. And they certainly would be made out of blood.
Satan raised his right index finger to his mouth and a blue flame shot out. As it lit the cigar, Kenny could briefly make out the man’s red tipped fangs.
“Maybe you should’ve sold your soul to be a comedian,” Satan spoke after a long drag. “You do have talent in making me laugh at least.”
“I don’t get the punchline though,” said Kenny.
“You see dear boy…people have been coming to me for everything and anything. All these deeds ultimately add up to more souls for my collection. Have you ever wondered what happens when a collection gets overfilled?”
Through the open kitchen window, low guttural moans could be heard.
“You c-clean them out?”
“That’s right,” Satan replied as took another drag on his cigar. A quiet sort of laughing could be heard as he exhaled. “So I’m afraid I won’t be able to grant your request. But don’t worry, your biggest fans are just dying to meet you.”
The moaning outside grew louder as an inhuman screeching was added to the mix. With his skin becoming prickly all over, Kenny slowly turned around.
The open window only offered the sounds of crickets chirping along with the curious sounds of several ambulances roaring down the nearby highway.
“V-Very funny,” Kenny began as he turned his attention back to the computer. “But I think…”
The screen was back to its tropical screensaver as if nothing had happened.
Kenny let loose a shaky breath as he picked up his glass and made his way into the kitchen.
“Well,” he spoke to himself, hoping to talk himself out of a panic attack. “At least I kept my soul.”
He made his way towards the window and reached for the latch.
The swarm of rotting arms burst through the glass and dug their black crusty nails into his pale flesh. Kenny couldn’t even let out a scream as another set of arms grabbed him from behind and dragged him away.
Carson lives in Calgary, Alberta and enjoys writing speculative fiction in order to enrich his everyday life. His drabble (So Close Yet So Far) was published under Horror Tree’s very own ‘Trembling With Fear’ series.