Colton emerged from the back bedroom, closing the door silently behind him, his face ashen.

Amy whispered, “Jen and Morris left. They took the keys and left. They—”

“I know. He knows. He knew they were going to leave before they did it. He knows what's going to happen.” He sat down heavily in the recliner. “At least, that's what he says. I believe him.”

“Is he... going after them?”

Colton shook his head slowly from side to side. He stared at the pentagram burned into the hardwood floor, the overturned candles, the pool of blood. His own blood.

“Why not?”

“He's tired. He doesn't have to do it now. He knows where they are, if he decides to kill them he can do it whenever he wants.”

There was a demon in the bedroom. The pentagram hadn't imprisoned him at all and everything had gone immediately to shit. He didn't even look like a demon, not like from any illustration they'd ever seen. He looked like some sort of alien creature from the movies: six legs and crab-like claws, brown and black and purple and horrid-smelling.

Amy had gathered herself into a ball on the couch, arms and legs drawn up protectively against her body. She stared at the front door.

“If we leave he'll kill us too, when he's rested.”

She started crying. He wanted to get up, walk over, sit down beside her, comfort her, but he was weak from the blood loss. “He's hungry.”

“What? How do you know?”

“He's in my head, talking to me. Order a pizza.”

After a long pause, she sniffed and reached for her cell phone where it had fallen on the floor. There was blood on it, his blood, and she wiped it off onto the couch cushions.

“Don't cry on the phone or they'll know something's wrong.”

“I have an app.”


“What should I get on it?”

“It doesn't matter. Whatever you want. He's going to eat the delivery boy.”

“Oh, Jesus, Colton...”

“Just do it, Amy. He'll eat you if it takes too long.”

She ordered two pizzas, plain because she couldn't concentrate on choosing toppings. “Half hour. I put it on your card.”

“Fine. I have to go back in.”

“What does he want?”

He looked at her for a long moment, and then said. “I just have to go back in. He wants me in there. Amy, don't run. I'm asking you not to run. Be smart. We've got to be smart.”

“Too late.”

Colton went back into the bedroom. The bed had been disassembled, and the box spring and mattress were laid out haphazardly on the floor, the demon's seven-foot frame sprawled across them.

The Demon's voice was a needle in his head. Bring the delivery man to me when he arrives. You have a gun.

There was no sense lying. “Yes. It's in the desk drawer out in the living room.”

Use it to force him to the doorway here and I will take him.

“Yes.” He tried to turn to leave but couldn't.

Amy will stay.

“I think so—”

She will stay. I see it. The others will return. You will serve me.

“Yes. What... what will you need us to do? I only ask so I will be prepared, and so that I can prepare Amy.”

You will serve me.


Go now.


Colton went back out into the living room to find Jen and Morris standing in the front hall. “He said you'd come back.”

Jen started in, talking manically. “He's been in our heads the whole time. We got to the bridge but it just got stronger and stronger—”

Morris interrupted, “Where's Amy?”

“In the bathroom, throwing up. She's pregnant. She hasn't told me.”

They didn't ask how he knew. He went to get the gun from the drawer. It was cold and heavy in his hand.

“Colton. What do we do?”

Colton laughed, a little too hard. “What can we do? We've already done what we're going to do, to him. He knows how it's going to play out. He knows—“

“But what if he's lying?” Morris interrupted, pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose.

Kill them.

“What do you mean? He said you'd left and you had. He said you'd come back and you did—”

“No, I mean about what happens next. What if he's using what he knows to try to make us not do what we're going to do?”

“What can we do? He can kill us whenever—”

“What if that's just what he wants us to think, Colton?”

Kill them both. Now is the time.

Morris continued. “You're not going to kill us, Colton. It's what he wants you to do, but you have free will.”

Kill them now.

He knew the gun was loaded; he'd made sure before they'd started the chanting, just in case.

Point and shoot. They must be punished. You will serve me. Amy will serve me.

Colton raised the gun halfway, and then let it drop.

“Go in there, Colton. He's weak; it took all his energy to break out of the pentagram. It looked easy, but it wasn't. You know I'm right, you're in his head just like he's in yours. He's starved and defenseless. Go in there. Or give it to me and I'll do it.”

Morris had never even touched a gun. Colton went to the bedroom door. The demon's teeth were bared but he was motionless. You will not kill me. You will try and fail, and to punish you I will punish Amy.

Colton raised the gun. Amy had come out of the bathroom, specks of vomit on her blouse and on her arm. She stood next to Jen, saying nothing. The demon was telling her to stop him, to convince him to stop, to rush him, to take the gun away, to kill him. He could feel her resisting.

You cannot kill me with bullets. If you fire you will know Hell and then death and then Hell again. Obey and you will be rewarded. It tried to rise from the mattress but only managed to prop itself up on three of six bony, horned elbows.

Colton pointed the gun at the misshapen head and squeezed the trigger.

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