Savannah tore a blade of grass in half, then again, and again, until she sprinkled the green shards like confetti onto her leg. Then began ripping to shreds another one.
Across from her, Evan sipped a beer and gazed at the sky. The full moon’s light was dimmed by a dark gathering of clouds.
“Hopefully it doesn’t rain,” Evan said. “I’d hate to deal with a demon in the rain.”
Savannah snorted. She threw her palm full of torn grass at him. “Quit being like that.”
“Like what? I don’t mind getting the crew together for one last Halloween adventure. But don’t you think hanging out in a cemetery is enough? We have to do the whole demon thing?”
Savannah shrugged. She wore her hood and her dark, curly hair spilled out from it. “Honestly, it’s better than watching everyone get stoned or drunk.”
Evan glanced at his beer can.
“You don’t have to do that,” she said.
“Feel guilty. Feel inhibited by me. If you want to get drunk, do it. I won’t think less of you.”
“I’m not worried about you thinking less of me. I’m worried about hurting you. Or anyone.” He swirled the contents around his can.
“You’re not your father, Evan.”
“Yeah, well, he’s not my father when he drinks, either. The problem is he always drinks.”
Savannah started to chew on a nail. “Jose mowed lawns in our neighborhood for a month. Every day after school. On the weekends. Whenever he had free time, he mowed. Used our neighbors equipment. Said he’d pay him back for gas and maintenance.”
“He’s a smart kid, huh?”
Savannah nodded. “And determined. He hates it here.” She swallowed a lump in her throat, then took a deep breath. “One month he worked. Saved up a thousand bucks. To a twelve year old, that’s a fortune, you know.”
“I remember being twelve and having ten dollars. I would walk into the comic store like a king.”
Savannah wiped her index finger across her cheek. She sniffled. “He was so excited that he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He was going to save up until the end of the school year, save up enough money to fly us out of here. But when my heard he had a thousand dollars, she asked him why. Why’s a kid need that much money. She said he didn’t pay for rent, for food, for clothes, for shit.”
Evan dropped his gaze to his beer can as she continued with her story.
“She said he owed it to her. ‘You don’t need that damn money.’ He refused to tell her where he had put it. Came home from school, room torn apart, money missing. She was in her room. The needle was still in her arm, which was purple from the tourniquet still tight around her bicep. She stole her own son’s money to buy drugs.”
“What did he do?” Evan asked.
Savannah chuckled. “Found her stash as she was passed out. Emptied everything into the toilet. When she woke up, she found him sitting in the bathroom.”
They sat in silence for a moment. Evan turning the beer can around his hands. Savannah tearing blades of grass in half.
“So you’re leaving after high school?” Evan asked.
“I want to get Jose away from her. What about you?”
Evan drank then crushed the empty can. “I can’t leave my mom alone with him. Sometimes I think I’m the only thing keeping her tethered to this world. Besides, my dad has that shop. He said I can take over when he retires.”
She had so much more to say. What about us, Evan? When do we get our shot? Since fourth grade we have danced around each other, but we’ve never actually danced. Does that, do I, not mean anything to you?
Instead, she opted to say nothing. It wouldn’t matter. He’d clam. She’d feel awkward. QP, being obnoxiously perceptive, would call them out on their distance and widen the chasm.
“Hey, lovebirds,” QP said from a few yards away. “Quit ogling at each others’s privates and get over here. Tyler’s back. And we got ourselves a demon to summon.”
“Robert,” QP said. “Get your creepy ass in here. I know you’re chomping at the bit. I just want to know what you’re more excited about? To do something Satanic in the middle of a cemetery in a socially acceptable setting. Or because this is a stroke away from being a circle jerk.”
“Disgusting, QP,” Savannah said.
“What? He’s into that weird shit.”
Robert approached the nearly complete circle. He gripped Tyler’s and QP’s hands. Tyler glanced sideways at Robert.
They group stood in a circle, QP holding Evan’s hand. Evan holding Savannah’s. Savannah holding Tyler’s. Tyler holding Robert’s. Robert holding QP’s.
“Now that we look like a group of assholes, what do we do?” Savannah asked.
The fall breeze cut against QP’s body. He shivered.
“You know we have school tomorrow,” Tyler said. “I have an English test first period.” He glanced at Savannah, then at Robert.
“Dude, it’s our senior year,” QP said. “You have eight more years of school to look forward to. We only got eight more months together. Can’t you ever just enjoy the fucking moment? You’re holding the hand of the hottest girl you know. And your boyfriend’s hand. It’s like your wet-dream fantasy.”
“Robert’s not my boyfriend,” Tyler said, muttering the words.
“QP,” Evan said. “It feels like you dumped your hand into a bucket of water. Can we move on with this so I don’t have to touch you anymore?”
“Okay.” QP cleared his throat. “In order for the summoning to work, we must all be holding each other’s hands as we stand in a circle.”
“Check,” Savannah said.
“Wait,” Evan interrupted. “Where’d you find these instructions. Is there like a how-to manual on the internet?”
“Not that it matters, but in my grandma’s attic with my grandpa’s old shit. Now, can we get on with this?”
Every nodded or mumbled their consent.
“We all have to close our eyes and visualize the demon. It wears a white mask. The mouth and the eyes on the mask are sewn shut. Remember, belief equates to power. If we can all picture the demon in our minds, it might have enough strength to break through to our world. Everyone, close your eyes.”
QP kept his eyes opened to make sure everyone else closed theirs. When he was content, he closed his, as well.
Visualize Dumah. Pure, white mask. The same white as a virgin’s dress.”
“QP,” Savannah said.
He shushed her. “We have to focus. The mask is white, like a dove, like the snow on an untouched mountaintop. The eyes are black and stitched shut. The lips are curled into a smile, a manic grin, and they, too, are sewn together. Picture the face. Imagine his name. Dumah.”
QP peeked around the circle to make sure everyone still had their eyes closed. They did.
“Now, hold that image in our mind’s eye. And, together, we’ll say his name. It has to be clear and loud. One. Two. Three.”
They all said, “Dumah.”
“Again,” QP said. “One. Two. Three.”
They repeated the name, three times in all.
“Remember to keep the circle by holding hands. Our bond will entrap the demon and not allow it to run loose throughout the world. It can’t hurt you as long we are holding hands. Understood?” QP asked.
“Can I open my eyes?” Savannah asked.
QP didn’t respond for a prolonged minute. He whispered nonsensical words, his desperate whispering the only sounds of the night. “Now everyone can open their eyes.”
A figure stood in their circle. It hunched over, face between its knees and arms over its head.
Tyler yelped, then asked, “What the hell is that?” His voice was soft and it trembled.
“Don’t break the circle,” QP said, nearly shouted. “You’ll release it into the world. Remember, it can’t harm us if we keep our strength.” He tightened his sweaty grip on Evan’s hand.
“QP, this isn’t funny,” Evan said, his breath heavy.
Robert stood stone still. His face a blanket of terror.
The figure before them slowly stood, straightening out its spine. It faced Tyler and made animalistic noises.
The edges of the mask were visible to QP. He noticed the color of the material, not white, but burlap tan. He heard Tyler gasp, as if stabbed in the gut.
The figure turned, staring for a moment at each individual, finally landing on QP. The eyes and mouth were sewn shut. The demon’s gaze lingered on him. QP bit his lower lip and closed his eyes.
As he did, Evan said, “Savannah, don’t.”
QP shot a glance over to her. She had released Evan’s hand, and she tugged to free her other. But Tyler wouldn’t release his grip from her’s. She jerked and whipped her hand away. He stared at his dangling arm, then at her.
“Why?” he asked before turning around, stepping back, tripping over his gangly legs, and stumbling.
QP couldn’t contain it anymore. The laughter boiled from his pores, leaked from his eyes, exploded from his chest and up his throat. He hunched over and cackled. Threw his head back and howled.
The demon joined in the chorus, falling to its knees and chuckling like a delirious child.
Tyler must have heard the cacophony. He paused in his un-athletic escape and stared at QP and the demon Dumah.
QP pointed right at him, unable to speak for lack of breath. He looked at Robert, whose face had shifted from fear to confusion, and that brought on a new fit.
Savannah shook her head and strolled up to the demon, ripped off its mask. Tears ran down Jimmy’s cheeks as he fought against bouts of boisterous amusement.
“You should’ve seen your face,” QP said, standing on wobbly legs and wiping tears from his cheeks. “I’m serious. Evan, I thought you were about to scream when you opened your eyes. And, Tyler,” QP managed between interruptions of giggles. “Tyler, I think you might need some new pants. Just like eighth grade.”
Jimmy’s bumbling laughter applauded QP’s observations. “No. The best was Bobby-Boy. He turned into a wall.”
QP tapped Jimmy’s shoulder. “Dude, I know. I saw that. Bobby-Boy, what happened? You talk this big game about becoming a serial killer and worshiping all these demons and shit, yet you can’t even hold your shit when you see a kid in a mask.”
“I never said any of that.”
“You’re both idiots,” Savannah said. “I wish the stupid demon was real. That way, maybe, he’d tear both your dicks off so I won’t have to.”
QP glanced at Jimmy and pursed his lips, made a kissing noise. “You here that Jimbo? She wants to yank our dicks.”
“Dream come true,” Jimmy said.
“You’re both perverts.”
“This was all a joke?” Evan asked. “You’re a moron QP. And you’re a bigger idiot for following along, Jimmy.”
QP shrugged. “At least we still have some weed and beer. You thirsty?”
“Hell yeah,” Jimmy said, turning toward Robert. “Yo, Bobby-Boy. Can you toss us a beer?”
Robert slipped the backpack he wore off his shoulder and unzipped the large portion. He tossed a beer to Evan, Savannah, and QP.
“What about me, boy?” Jimmy asked with a redneck tone.
Jimmy stood over six feet tall and weighed just under two hundred pounds of pure muscle. Farm strength, he often said. But the farm contributed to more than his growth. Jimmy acquired a few racist traits. And though they often bled from his lips as jokes, Robert flinched at each one with a broken smile. Especially when Jimmy called him boy.
“Grab your own beer,” Robert said, his hands twisting the backpack’s strap.
“What you say to me? Boy.” Jimmy stood to his full height and towered over Robert.
“I said,” Robert started, pushing up his glasses on his nose. “I said I ain’t your boy.”
Evan, always the moderator, motioned to step in between them, but Savannah grabbed his wrist and yanked him back. She shook her head. “They need to work this out.”
“What you gonna do? Boy. You love that the serial killer shit. So go on then. Try and kill me. I’ll give you a free shot.”
Jimmy reached down at his feet and picked up the mask that Savannah had jerked from his head, then he pulled it over his face. He stepped toward Robert and lifted his head to expose his neck.
“Get me a beer. Boy.” Jimmy’s voice was muffled behind the mask.
“You want a beer?” Robert asked, reaching into the bag. “You want a beer?” He brought out a can then chucked it in the direction of Jimmy’s head.
It missed by a couple feet, but he had thrown it.
Evan pulled away from Savannah and leaped between them, grabbing Jimmy by the shoulders and trying to get his attention. But Jimmy peered over Evan’s head and puffed at Robert like an enraged bull.
He shoved Evan to the side, then bounded toward Robert, spearing the smaller kid to the ground.
Robert’s head missed the corner of a tombstone by less than an inch. His hands and forearms covered his face.
Jimmy pounded on Robert’s neck and head, until Evan and Savannah worked together to drag him off.
Tyler appeared from nowhere and inspected Robert, asked if he was okay. Robert croaked a response, then Tyler turned to face Jimmy.
QP didn’t move. He didn’t know what to do. He just observed the chaos ensue.
He watched, in slow motion, as Savannah and Evan and Tyler spoke with Jimmy. He noticed Robert reach into the bag and grab another beer can. It happened like a movie.
Robert stood from the ground. His lip bled. He clutched the beer like a stone and dragged his feet forward. Jimmy saw him, shoved away Savannah. She stumbled backward and tripped over a memorial marker.
Evan turned from a peacemaker to a fiery ball of wrath. He caught Jimmy unaware with an uppercut to the chin, staggering the larger boy. He followed the punch with a hook across the jaw.
Something gave and cracked. QP didn’t know if it was Jimmy’s jaw or Evan’s wrist.
Jimmy swayed, like a small boat tossed in the ocean. He tried to engage with Evan, but staggered forward, nearly losing his balance.
Robert moseyed up behind him. He cocked the full beer can to his ear, then smashed it against Jimmy’s temple. Beer hissed from the broken aluminum and misted into the night.
Jimmy dropped awkwardly to his knees, then rolled onto his face, his head whiplashing against the edge of a tombstone.
Blood slugged over the edge of the burlap mask near his temple. It didn’t gush or spray, just clumped like an engorged worm that slowly stretched toward the earth.