• "Rosie, baby, you've got to stop this." the dog, however, nuzzled my crotch again. "I already have a girlfriend. Come on! Are you even LISTENING to me?"

    I could hear footsteps fast approaching. When Dani entered the room she looked from me to the dog. Rosie had her nose exactly where I didn't want it.

    "What in the hell are you two doing?!" The smile playing across her lips betrayed the accusation as a joke.

    "It isn't what it looks like!" I protested, though it was unnecessary. I tried pushing Rosie's nose away again, but she just wouldn't budge. If only I could understand what she was thinking...

    In any case, Dani beckoned me to follow her out of her small kitchen. Passing her parents in the living room with a wave, we jogged together up the steep stairs and she pushed open the bleached white door to her bedroom.

    Posters covered the walls. Well, posters and drawings and lists, that is. Dani had always been fond of lists, for whatever reason.

    In the middle of the badly carpeted floor lay an open book. It was a thick volume, at least nine hundred pages, each sheet cast with gold edges.

    “This is what you wanted to show me?” I questioned, already confused.

    “Yeah, it’s cool, isn’t it? Wait, I already know it is, don’t answer that. Rhetorical, you see.” She stammered like a child, talking too fast, tripping over her words.

    “Right, I know what a rhetorical question is. But… like… what is it?”

    “I need you to tell me something first.”


    “Yeah, alright. You love me, right? You said that, right?”

    “Yeah, duh I love you, I mean you think I do that stuff with just anyone?” I admit I was a little taken aback by her question. As far as the expectations I had for today… well let’s just say that this wasn’t on the list of things I was imagining. For her part, Dani looked down to hide her rosy cheeks. She brushed a few strands of hair out of her face and looked up once again, straight into my eyes.

    “Okay. You love me no matter what? No matter who I am? No matter what I do?”

    “What, are you going to tell me you’re an alien?” I joked.

    “No, that’s not it, exactly.”


    “Yeah. This book… this… ummm… they called it a ‘tome’ I think, it’s a book of black magic.”

    “You’re shitting me.”

    “I s**t you not.”

    “Where the hell would you get something like that?” I admit, I was a little freaked out. I’m a kind of superstitious guy, and besides that, the sky outside was dark and stormy, and this was turning into something out of a horror flick.

    “You really don’t want to know…” she mumbled, seeming nervous for the first time.

    “What? It can’t be THAT bad…”

    “I got it…” she began to whisper “…I got it at a meeting. I went to…”

    “A meeting of what?”

    “Just a meeting, okay! But think about it! All the people that annoy you all the time? Those jerks from school? The teachers? We can get back at them now! Think about it!” Dani, sitting in front of the large window, was backlit by a flash of lightning. I closed my eyes slowly, thinking about what she proposed. The thing probably wouldn’t work, of course, but if it did… I could get back at all those people who pushed me around! Back at all those guys who pushed me around in the locker room! But… it wouldn’t be right…

    “It’s probably not going to work, you know that right?”

    “What if I already tried it? What if I KNOW it works?” her voice was challenging, like I had questioned her integrity.

    “Did you?”

    “No… I was too scared. I wanted to wait for you…” I couldn’t help but laugh. Her confrontational attitude was gone in two seconds flat. She crawled closer to me and lightly pulled me towards her. We sat together, just staring at the book. No words were necessary, because I know we were both thinking the same thing. ‘It’s probably not going to work, but is it worth the risk that it will?’

    “So…” she whispered.

    “Yeah.” I agreed.

    Suddenly, we heard footsteps trudging up the stairs. They were surprisingly heavy… they almost didn’t sound human. Chills went up and down my spine. Could this book, just by being open, call upon some evil spirit? I could feel goose bumps trailing down my arm. Just out of sight, right behind the door frame, I heard a deep animal sigh. I admit, a little shriek escaped my lips.

    Strangely, Dani didn’t seem even the slightest bit jittery. Instead, she laughed and shook her head.

    “Rosie, come here baby!”

    I felt like a dolt. Of COURSE it was Rosie. The massive husky lumbered into the room, sniffing my crotch in passing, and rolling over onto Dani’s lap.

    She looked at me for a moment, and we both started laughing simultaneously. All of my anxiety slipped away. I took Dani’s hand in mine, and we looked into each other’s eyes. Maybe this ridiculous business was going to just go away.

    Suddenly, and rather unexpectedly, I might add, Rosie rolled over again, practically jumping up and staring directly at the open book in the middle of the room. She approached it cautiously, circling it and sniffing occasionally. She whined, and tucked her tail in between her legs, and quickly exiting the room once again.

    “That’s, um, odd…” I commented nervously, hoping that the book would suddenly disappear, leaving us without the heavy weight of its existence. Dani’s eyes, meanwhile, had drifted down to the open pages, and seemed to be glued there. An expression of pure anguish washed over her face.


    She seemed hypnotized. Not only did she not acknowledge my question, she didn’t seem to have processed it.

    “Dani, what’s going on? You’re starting to creep me out! Please, say something!”

    When she ignored my pleading, I reached over and grabbed her shoulder, more than a little nervous. She could be faking, trying to freak me out, but she was never much of an actress. She radiated intensity, and I don’t think even Tom Hanks could put on a production this authentic.

    My hand still on her shoulder, I whispered her name one more time. Just as I opened my mouth to call for her parents, Dani turned her head to look at me. The movement was almost mechanical, and her eyes seemed glossy. There was also a whitish tint to them, as if she were blind, cataracts lurking just beneath the surface. “D-“ I was cut off before I could even finish her name.

    When she opened her mouth to speak, it seemed like such an action was completely foreign to her. If this were a cartoon, you would probably see dust and cobwebs inside, along with a creaking door sound effect.

    “Eric,” she wheezed, “I have a job to do. They told me, I need to do it, they told me it was important. Help me, and you will be rewarded! They told me!”

    The room was lit up with the obligatory flash of lightning. It was as if I had been thrown into the plot climax of a rather cheesy horror flick. The deep rumbling of thunder did nothing to silence the thought. I would definitely be laughing if I wasn’t so scared, if it wasn’t so real.

    Another flash of lightning came. It seemed dangerously close, and was accompanied by the tinny sound of rain battering the roof. Suddenly, the power cut out. Sitting there in the dark, the only thought I could manage was: ‘the plot thickens.’


    A high pitched squeal of laughter erupted from somewhere across the room. I was temporarily confused. She had been sitting right beside me a moment ago.

    “THEY’RE HERE!” she screamed, cackling insanely. “They’re here, they’re here, they’ve come for us, help me help me, you’ll be rewarded they’re coming for US!”

    Suddenly, another flash of lightning illuminated the room. Dani sat in the corner, rocking back and forth clutching the book. I no longer had any sense of what was going on. I could still hear her psycho babble, coming in waves of volume, switching between whispers and screams.

    I could see that outside, the conditions were no less insane. The wind was blowing trees around like they were mere blades of grass.

    “Dani!” I screamed, “What’s going on?” Stupid question number one, of course, she didn’t respond at all. “We need to get to the basement! We’ll be safer there, please, come with me!”

    I was too nervous to go to her and try to pull her up. Suddenly, I felt a jolt and it seemed as if the whole house had swayed. For her part, Dani noticed this new development and responded by hissing and screaming at the rattling windows.

    “Nonbeliever! Fiend! Foolish tyrannical forces of the known universe and the blackness-“ however, she was cut off mid rant by another jolt. The house seemed to be growing warmer, and it was with that realization that I began to piece together some crucial facts. Everything clicked together in my head, and a wave of terror shook my body like a physical blast.

    “Dani! The house is on fire! We need to get out of here!”


    I could hear Dani’s parents, amazingly absent until this point, racing up the stairs, calling our names. Dani continued to rock back and forth, repeating the same sentence over and over again.

    “Dani! Come with me! We’ll… we’ll save the book!”

    I quickly made my way through her room, and offered out my hand to help her up. She stuffed the book into my open hand, and I tucked it into the crook of my arm, pulling her up as I did so. She was more responsive, but not exactly helpful as I pushed her bedroom door open.

    Immediately, I felt wind whipping around the small hallway. Drops of icey rain stung my eyes and face, as well as my bear arms. The entry point for nature’s fury seemed to be the large hole in the roof, a crater caused by a fallen tree towards the end of the hallway. I was surprised it hadn’t crushed us. As I had previously figured out, the upper branches of the tree were, in fact, on fire. The flames were eating their way through the wood, burning a path towards us.

    I still held Dani firmly by the arm. She was shrieking uncontrollably, and I had to wonder what her parents would think. The stairs were, amazingly, unobstructed. It was practically a straight shot out the door, as long as we could hurry.

    I pulled Dani, not so gently, I might add, down the stairs with me. We were almost out, coughing and wheezing, scared shitless, and our lungs would probably be scarred by smoke inhalation, but almost out.

    After what seemed like an eternity climbing down the steep and unforgiving stairs, we reached the bottom. I was so relieved to be alive that I didn’t even notice that somewhere along the way, the book had fallen out of my arms.

    Dani, quickly picked up on this fact. She screamed and started to hit me. I would not release her. She scratched my arms and my face, drawing a line of beaded blood down my cheek. With all the force of a professional linebacker, I pulled her out of the burning building, running on adrenaline alone.

    After we got some ways away, into the street, into safety, we turned around, observing the luminescent flames. Dani, now holding onto me just as I was holding her, slid to the ground. If I had to guess, I would say she was just exhausted, because she was still breathing normally and everything. I made sure to check.

    As I watched the flames, listening to the crackling as well as Dani’s hysteric parents, I became transfixed.

    The book was still in there. The book… I need to get the book… they’ll reward me… the book… I need to GET IT.

    The book….

    I heard screaming behind me as I ran back into the flaming house.