My Suburban Nightmare

By Chef Dispirited Artist

//Source.

1999 to 2005:

At first, I saw her at random.

I had an instant fixation.

Her eyes were two different colors: blue and hazel.

She wore bright red lipstick, and she had short hair with bangs. She dyed regularly.

The first time I saw her, I was in the train. She was on the platform.

We locked eyes through the train window.

She was going north I was heading south. My train went off, she waved goodbye.

Second time I saw her I was walking out of a pizza place. We locked eyes again as she slipped into a cab.

The third time I spotted her at my friend Jay’s party.

She was nose deep in a book, sitting by herself. She had changed her hair from red to pink.

I kept glancing at her for hours that night. After five beers I gathered enough courage to talk to her.

“Hi”

She kept reading.

“Your hair is different.”

She looked up from her book. She gave me a blank stare.

“Do you remember me?” I asked.

“Vaguely.” she said.

“I remember your eyes.”

She smirked, “Well aren’t you special?”

“No I didn’t mean it like that…not the novelty your eyes, rather a feeling I got.”

“What feeling?”

“I suppose I sensed melancholy? Am I wrong?”

She put her book down, “Where have you seen me?”

“Here and there, around the city.”

We were dating shortly after that.

She moved in. We bought a bed.

Then we got married.

She changed her style: youthful and alternative to mature and elegant.

I changed my major: bored English major to content Architectural major.

I became an architect and she became a marketer. We swapped the studio apartment for the suburban bungalow. We moved from The Village to Long Island.

We got pregnant, twice.

We had one boy and one girl, Carla age 7, Bryan age 9.


September 16th, 2012:

We were driving back from the hospital where Carla received a blood transfusion.

Carla was born with a rare liver disease. Because of Carla’s illness she needs a blood transfusion every 120 days.

My wife donated the blood; my blood type didn’t match Carla’s.

It was just after five when I made a left turn into our street.

Bryan should’ve been home from school for a while. I asked Veronica to pick him up and make him a snack.

I pulled in. The door flew open. Veronica was in tatters. Her hair was a mess. She has gunk all over her shirt. She screamed.

“I’VE HAD IT!”

She came marching towards the car.

She slowed down when she saw Carla. She twisted her face and softened her voice: fake pleasantries and baby talk.

She bent down to Carla’s height, “Hey baby girl. How was the hospital?”

“I got McDonalds!” Carla walked past her; my wife led our daughter inside.

Veronica got up, “That’s great sweetheart!”

Veronica flashed me a look. We watched Linda and Carla shut the front door.

Veronica softened her face, “I can’t do this Mr. Powers. I just can’t.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Well, it’s Bryan. I brought him from school and the whole drive back he was calling me a…”

“A what?”

“…a dirty-cunty-bitch.”

“Oh.”

“It’s not only that! He kept throwing things at me. So I let him watch TV, but he kept finding more things to throw.”

Veronica looked away, she held back a sob.

She was choked up, “Whenever I tried to grab him so I could talk to him he kept pinching me, biting, twisting my nipples, and screaming at me.”

I gave her 40 bucks and apologized.

I knocked Bryan’s room twice and entered.

He was sitting cross-legged facing the corner of the room. He had something in his hands but I couldn’t make it out.

“Hey bud, mind if I come in?”

He didn’t say anything. He didn’t budge.

I walked in and sat on the corner of his bed that was closest to him. He had a tiny lamp on making the red carpet look orange under its glow.

“I heard you had some problems with the babysitter today huh?”

Silence.

“Bryan?”

I got up. I pulled on his shoulder so I could make him face me. He struggled.

I was red hot.

I lost it, “BRYAN!”

He slowly turned his face to me. He lifted a hamster over his head, his body still facing the corner.

“Where did you get that Bryan?”

He finally spoke, “It’s the class hamster, today’s my turn to take care of it.”

“Oh, you got some food? A cage?”

He nodded. His attention went back to petting the hamster.

“Alright, good luck kiddo.”

I strolled out.

I left in a hurry. I wasn’t planning on going anywhere; I just needed to clear my head. I got in my car and went for a drive.

For the past two years Bryan has gotten progressively worse.

When he was seven, I got us into a car accident.

I got out of it with a broken leg and a few scratches. He spent three weeks in a coma.

Around the same time Carla was hospitalized. So even though I broke my leg in the crash, it was the least of my worries. I spent most of my time limping back and forth between hospital wings to check on my kids. After that one month of hell, Bryan woke up, Carla got better, and I removed my cast.

Life moved on.

Bryan’s grades boosted, but his behavior went south. Teachers would tell us how well he was doing academically but how horrible his behavior was. Bryan started reading advanced medical textbooks. He was memorizing anatomy. But he became more aloof, he distanced himself from his former friends, he lost interest in his favorite toys.

Bryan became a completely different person after the accident, as horrible as it sounds I felt like I killed my son.


September 23rd, 2012

I returned home late from a meeting. When I entered our room Linda was crying in the dark, tucked under the sheets of our bed.

“Linda?”

She sat up.

“Where were you?” She snapped.

“The meeting went on a little longer than expected.”

She threw a pillow at me.

“You know how hard it was for me tonight? You have no idea!”

“What happened?”

She mimicked me, “What happened?

She went hysterical, “BRYAN HAPPENED!”

I sat on the bed. She took a deep breath.

“The school called…” She was choked up.

She cleared her throat, “…They say that they found the class hamster dissected in a shoe box that was hidden in Bryan’s locker.”

My stomach dropped. My mind spun.

“What?”

“They want to see us first thing tomorrow morning.”


September 24th, 2012

We met with the principal, a guidance counselor, Bryan’s teacher, and a cop.

We were sat at the opposite side of a large table, inside what must have been the teacher’s meeting room. The principal and the guidance counselor were sitting, but the others stood, hovering over us.

It felt like they were looking down on my family.

I felt small, like a kid in trouble, like I got in a schoolyard tussle and the adults called Bryan and I in order to reprimand us.

The whole meeting was a blur. They masked their disgust and fear of my son with a condescending tone of pity.

The principal chimed in first.

“Bryan is a star student, but his behavior makes us worry about the safety of the other children.”

Bryan’s teacher said, “He is really a bright kid but he just needs more attention than most other children.”

The guidance counselor said, “There are many schools in the city that offer alternative education. They pride themselves on their ability to deal with even the most extreme cases.”

The cop said, “You know, Mr. Powers, some of these schools are a real knock out, I tell you. I seen some delinquents go to them and like…” the cop snapped his fingers, “…they change. Just like that, in a snap.”

Bryan just sat there without batting an eye. He just seemed bored by the whole thing. I couldn’t blame him.


October, 25th to December 10th, 2012

We took Bryan to see a shrink immediately after the hamster incident. It was about time.

We were apprehensive before because we thought therapy was too big a step for a nine year old…well mostly Linda thought that way.

Linda had an inherent distrust of outsiders.

For example, she decided to be the sole donor of blood for Carla, even though studies have shown the hospital blood is safer. So when I brought up Bryan seeing a shrink before she didn’t want to hear any of it.

The shrink told us that we shouldn’t rush to medication. He wanted time to properly evaluate Bryan.

Under his advice, we chose a school called ‘Brighter Future’.

The school told us that they specialized in cases like Bryan’s. They offered smaller classes and more supervision.

Bryan made a friend there. A kid named Lucas started coming to our house almost every day.

He was a meek kid, really pale, had a lot of freckles, and wore thick glasses. Bryan seemed to be doing well.

Our attention was primarily on Carla.

She was becoming weaker.

The doctors were worried. After a dozen scans, MRI’s, probing, and testing, they told us that her liver was failing. They put her on the transplant registry.

She needed a new liver.

We took her out of school and were visiting the children’s hospital every day.

Bryan had weekly visits with his therapist and Carla had regular dialysis sessions and check-ups.

Linda started taking anti-depressants.

I started drinking nightly.


January 11th, 2012

Bryan invited his friend Lucas over for dinner.

“So they are going to put a new liver in you?” Lucas asked Carla.

“Mmhmm.” She nodded.

“So how’s the school Bryan?” I asked.

“…the teachers are so dumb.”

“Why is that Bryan?”

“They don’t even understand basic biology.”

“Oh.”

Bryan got up and took his plate to the sink.

“Hey buddy! We are all sitting here eating, where’s your manners?”

Bryan signaled for Lucas to follow him.

“Go ahead Lucas.” I said.

I cleared up the table and washed the dishes. I pulled a bottle of wine out from under the sink. I’ve been hiding my bottles there for a little while by then, buried under some old rags and towels.

I went upstairs to my office to work on a property sketch. I couldn’t find my long ruler. Then I remembered using it in the basement to hang a framed picture.

I opened the basement door.

I switched on the lights and I heard shuffling and whispers.

I went down the stairs and looked around the corner.

Then—

Bryan and Lucas were wearing garbage bags. Their arms poked out of holes in the plastic. They had latex gloves on and medical masks.

Our dog Chip was face down on the work bench.

Bryan was holding a knife.

Blood was everywhere.

Chip was cut open.

I looked at Lucas and I screamed, “GO!”

He bolted up the stairs.

I walked to Bryan.

I was fuming, “What are you doing?”

He was calm, “Studying.”

I felt my heart break.

I went down to my knees and held my face.

I let out a wild scream of animalistic devastation.

I heard someone running down the stairs.

I heard Linda scream.

I heard Carla from the top of the stairs.

She was peeking in, “What’s happening mommy?”

“STAY UPSTAIRS HONEY.” Linda was yelling back at her.


Later:

I bought my dog Chip when I started dating Linda. I loved that dog.

It was 5 P.M. when I caught the boys dissecting Chip. It was 9 P.M. when I sorted things out.

I left Lucas’s parents agreeing that the boys shouldn’t spend time together and that we didn’t need to inform the school.

I was mentally exhausted. I decided to hit the bars.

I had six shots and a few beers.

I kept telling myself that I didn’t hate my son. I kept telling myself that there was a way Bryan could get better.

I wasn’t 100% convinced.

I got wasted. I struggled to drive. Somehow I managed to make it home.

I got in bed. Linda was snoring. I stripped. I put on pajamas. I passed out.

I woke up.

The bed was jerking.

I rubbed my eyes.

My hand was sticky and wet.

The sheets were red.

I saw something on top of Linda. I sat up.

A bloody face. Tiny arms in the air.

He was holding a knife.

I watched, shell-shocked.

With all of the force his little body could muster Bryan stabbed Linda.

I threw him off. He fell. He hit the wall. He was on the floor.

The knife was in her body.

I pulled.

Blood gushed.

I wailed.

“Linda! LINDA!”

I shook her.

She was almost ripped to shreds.

I couldn’t breathe.

I looked at Bryan.

“W-Why?”

Perfectly calm, “I tried to give Carla a new liver, Chip’s liver. She lost a lot of blood. Now she needs Mommy’s blood for a blood transfusion to make her better.”

I ignited in a red hot flame of hate and fury.

I launched at Bryan. I punched him, again, and again, and again.

I strangled him.

I looked into his eyes.

He was going red.

He was mouthing something.

“D…da…addy”

I eased.

I let go.

I stumbled towards Carla’s room.

“CARLA! CARLA! BABY?”

I looked inside.

Red sheets.


2015

He was institutionalized.

Last I heard, he gnawed a nurse’s ear off. I stopped seeing him a long time ago.

I went underground and I move around a lot.

I’m numb.

My only plan is to drink.

I live off savings. I might as well be dead.

The Devil Game

By Chef InfernalNightmare333

Pray, for devils have no reason
Satan waits to curse your ways
Have you seen it in his eyes in the sunset?
Have you wondered if he’s laughing when he plays?
—Kansas, “The Devil Game”

This is a set of instructions for how to speak with the Devil.

Which, as those of you with any sort of brains at all might note, is a patently moronic proposition on the face of it; one likely to culminate in any number of thoroughly unpleasant fates. Honestly, it would probably be smarter to publish your credit card number on Facebook, or take up a career in crocodile-wrestling.

But then, that isn’t going to stop you, is it? Not if you’re sincerely interested, at least. Technically, if you do everything just right, there’s a fair chance you’ll walk away scot-free; and that seems to be reason enough for some people to decide that it’s a good idea. Especially if you’re the fate-tempting, thrill-seeking, scare-junkie type. Or the desperate type.

Which brings me to a point of clarification I ought to make. This is NOT a manual for making any kind of Faustian bargain—you know, the whole sell-your-soul type of deal. Although if you happened to bring it up in conversation, he certainly wouldn’t be one to refuse. Following through with such a foolhardy bargain, however, would necessitate removing some the protections which you will put in place for your conversation, and I don’t think I need to spell out for you why that would be a bad idea. If you’re really mathematically impaired enough to want to trade something that will last an infinite number of years for something that might last about ninety (tops), there are plenty of other rituals out there for you to follow. This one, if performed correctly, should only allow the two of you to talk.

This, perhaps, begs the question of why exactly you would want to speak with the Devil in the first place. (Maybe some of you just like the idea of making small talk with extremely dangerous occult entities, but for the sake of the human race I hope most of you aren’t quite that stupid.) Short answer is: he knows things. Things that some of you may have a deep, vested interest in finding out. I mean, he’s not omniscient or anything—much as he might like to pretend otherwise, he’s not God—but he’s definitely got a supernatural advantage over the kind of knowledge any human would be able to obtain. For example, he probably wouldn’t be able to predict when the next World War will happen, or tell you the cure for cancer… but he could very well be able to predict the winning numbers of tomorrow’s five-hundred million dollar Powerball drawing, or tell you what deadly, undiagnosed condition might be afflicting one of your loved ones.

Of course, the Prince of Darkness doesn’t just go around giving out winning lottery numbers to anybody who asks. And trusting any sort of information obtained from a being commonly described as “the father of all lies” is liable to land you in a worse situation than you were in when you started. However, if you’re really dead set on finding something out, and you’re exhausted all other options, there IS a way to try to get accurate information out of the guy.

You see, like so many of the more urbane villains in popular culture, the Devil has a bit of a penchant for games and gambling. Of course, the reason he likes them so much is that he almost always wins. Unless you happen to be a fiddler named Johnny or are being represented by Daniel Webster, you’re probably going to get your ass handed to you. But, if you’re determined enough to want to face the risks and the long odds, there’s a certain game the two of you could play to try to win the information you need.

First things first, though. We’ll start off with a description of the summoning process, then get into the rules of the game, some tips for how to play, and finally, of course, the inevitable litany of arcane shit that might go horribly wrong.

In order to contact your conversational partner, you’ll need to go to a church at midnight. It doesn’t matter what kind of church—large or small, old or new, liberal or conservative—just as long as you’re sure it will be empty. The last thing you want is for some preacher to walk in on you while you’re in the middle of this (for the sake of the preacher’s well-being, as much as your own). The process will probably work best if you try it on a new moon, or a full moon, or Friday the 13th, or Halloween… the actual day is less important that the psychological effect it has on you (as long as you don’t try it on Christmas Eve or something stupid like that, you should be fine).

The time is important, though. You don’t have to start or end your ritual at exactly 12:00:00am Greenwich Atomic time or anything, but as a general rule of thumb you ought to show up a bit before midnight and have everything set up by no later than ten or fifteen after. Show up a lot before midnight if you don’t know how you’re going to get in. Shockingly enough, most Houses of God do tend to lock their doors at night, at least if no one’s there to watch over them (and remember, we want empty, got it?)

There are, of course, certain things you need to bring, and certain things you can’t bring. For this ritual, you will NEED:

  • A full can of salt—you won’t need to use all of it, but it’s always better to have more than you need than to have less.
  • Seven candles, red or white being preferable.
  • Something to light the candles with. You would be shocked how often people forget this. Occult ritual or not, they aren’t going to magically light themselves!
  • A length of red string, rope, yarn, or thread.
  • A full-length floor or wall mirror. Ideally, you’ll want to find one of these already present in the church (they’re a bit unwieldy to be lugging around with you during a break-in). However, if there really aren’t any there, you’ll have to bring your own.

You might also find it useful to bring some markers, pencils, paper, a flashlight, and any sort of tools that might be necessary to secure your entrance into the church.

You will NOT be permitted to bring in any electronic or timekeeping devices. THIS INCLUDES all cell phones, smartphones, tablets, E-Readers, mp3 players, PDAs, calculators, wristwatches, pocket watches, kitchen timers, hourglasses, etc, etc, etc. (Seriously, it’s worse than the SAT.) If you’re one of those people who has your smartphone practically wired into your brain, don’t worry—you can bring those things with you to the church as long as you leave them outside the room in which you will be doing the ritual. If you brought a flashlight (helpful for finding your way around without attracting unwanted attention), leave that outside too.

Also, don’t bring in any sort of religious paraphernalia to protect you, especially if it pertains to the Abrahamic religions. (And yes, if those goth-y black cross earrings you’re wearing are hanging right-side up, they count.) If you have any kind of holy symbols like that with you, the Devil will simply refuse to show up.

Don’t worry, you’re not going in totally unprotected. In fact, most of the supplies with you are not for any sort of Devil-summoning ritual, but for your own protection—old superstitions and folk magic remedies to guard oneself from evil. From what I know of it, the effect’s mostly based on the power of belief, so there are probably numerous other objects, artifacts, and procedures that would work just as well. If you’d like to risk being left helpless at the mercy of the Devil in order to test that theory, feel free to experiment! However, for anyone without a psychotic death wish, I’d recommend sticking to the ritual as follows:

Once you’re sure you have all the right supplies with you, make your way into the church and find someplace to set up. It can be anywhere from the main sanctuary where services are held, to a Sunday school classroom, to a walk-in supply closet—as long as you have a sufficient amount of open floor space and are certain not to be disturbed. Set up your mirror first—this is where the Devil will appear when you summon him. As such, you mustn’t complete the summoning until you’ve laid down certain wards around it.

First, surround the mirror with an unbroken circle of salt. If the mirror is hanging on a wall or door, lay down a semicircle around it instead, making sure that the salt touches the wall at both ends. Then, wrap your red string around the mirror several times. The color red, especially red string, is symbolic of protection in the folklore of many cultures and religions. This is also why red candles are a good idea.

Speaking of the candles, set them up around the outside of your circle (or semicircle) of salt, spaced at relatively even intervals. No, you do not have to get out measuring tape and make it exactly perfect, but do at least try to make it look as though it was set up by someone old enough to be trusted with matches. Light the candles in a clockwise fashion, being careful not to disturb the salt—if you break the circle, you’ll have to start all over again. Once all of the candles are lit and burning strongly, your protective wards are complete. You are now ready to proceed to the actual summoning.

To do so, you first must get the Devil’s attention and demonstrate your resolve by performing some sort of sacrilegious act in the holy space. Turning a crucifix or cross upside-down is fairly conventional, but it’s not the only option. For example, I know of a kid who once fulfilled this requirement by scribbling obnoxious graffiti all over a painting of Jesus hanging in his Sunday school classroom.

(The nice thing about turning a cross upside-down is that once you’ve finished your encounter—assuming you’ve survived it in one piece—you can just flip it right-side-up again and no one’s the wiser… sidestepping the relatively minor but still irritating risk of having your Sunday school turn into a reenactment of the Spanish Inquisition for the next month and a half.)

After you’ve finished doing whatever offensive thing you decide on, shut all doors to the room and turn off all of the lights, so that the space is lit only by the candles. Face the mirror and stare deeply into it, concentrating on your desired outcome. There are no incantations, no arcane strings of Latin you have to recite. Just look into the mirror and wish as hard as you can for the Devil to appear there. After a few moments of this, when you feel ready, close your eyes and count to ten. Then open them.

If all has gone correctly, you will no longer see your own reflection. You will be looking at the Devil… or at least, looking at the way the Devil has chosen to appear to you. Chances are, he won’t look like your conventional red, horned demon with goat legs and a pitchfork, nor any other sort of terrible apparition. No point in scaring you off now… better to lure you in, make you feel safe. To that end, he generally takes on the appearance of a fairly average, nondescript human being. If anything, he’s prone to vanity and will lean towards the more attractive end of the spectrum.

The only really frightening part of him will be his eyes. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t hide the sinister gleam smoldering deep within them, the malevolent amusement and hunger, like the eyes of a spider contemplating a fly struggling in its web. They’re supremely confident, those eyes… confident, and without pity. Don’t look into them too deeply, or you’ll begin to feel helpless and paralyzed with dread, losing your hope and your will to fight.

Since you’ll probably be just standing there staring at him in shock for a few moments (having on some level expected for the ritual to fail), he’ll initiate the conversation by asking you what it is you desire from him. If you can gather your wits enough to string together a coherent sentence, you should respond with something like: “I wish to challenge you in a game of question-and-response.”

Even if you don’t get the words exactly right, he’ll know what you mean, and he’ll accept your request with a wide, predatory grin of anticipation. He’s been playing this game for a long time, you see, and he’s very good at it. Most humans, on the other hand, are very bad at it. This gives him a chance to, at the very least, thoroughly mess with your mind, and at most… well, we’ll save that for the “litany of shit that could go wrong”. You’ll have to play it very smart to avoid justifying his expectations.

The general rules to the game are very simple, with a few caveats that can make things more complicated. He’ll begin by asking you a question (he always initiates the game). It can be anything from a piece of obscure trivia, to a riddle, to an extremely personal inquiry. Don’t worry, you won’t be immediately plunged into Hell if you get the wrong answer or anything like that. As a matter of fact, he won’t even tell you whether you got the answer right or wrong.

After you’ve answered his question, you get to ask him one in return. Now, here’s where the consequences of your response come in. If you answered his last question correctly, he will respond to your question as honestly and accurately as he is able. However, if you answered it incorrectly, he is free to lie to you as he sees fit. Perhaps if you’ve asked him something you’re better off not knowing, he’ll tell you the truth about it anyway. More likely, he’ll feed you the most insidious, damaging lie he can come up with. Either way, after he’s responded, he’ll ask you another question, and the process will repeat over and over again until you decide to call it quits.

Now, you may be sitting there thinking that it sounds fairly easy to get the information you need… all you have to do is wait for a question you can answer correctly, and then take that opportunity to ask him what you really want to know, ignoring everything else he’s said. Well, it’s not that simple. The Devil will never give you an easy question, one that you can be completely sure of the answer to.

He may instead give you questions that you have some vague knowledge of, that you think maybe you know the answer to but aren’t really confident… thus forcing you to endlessly second-guess yourself, obsessing over whether or not you can trust the information that he gave you next. Perhaps you’ll think that what he said was a lie, wish it was a lie, but be eternally consumed by doubt, unable to fully convince yourself that you were wrong. Or perhaps you’ll have to make a huge choice based on the information that he gave you, and be tormented by fear and indecisiveness as you realize that your fate (and perhaps that of others, as well) rests entirely upon whether or not you were able to correctly recall some arcane piece of trivia that you don’t even remember now.

(You’ll never remember the exact questions the Devil asked you, by the way; that would make it too easy for you to go back and check on your responses.)

Or maybe, instead of testing your knowledge, he’ll ask you something personal, something you even lie to yourself about. You’ll answer back to him, thinking you’ve gotten the question correct (“No, I don’t resent my sister”… “Yes, I would turn the money in to the police!”)—but he’ll know better. He’ll know better than you do that you’re lying, and he’ll lie to you in return. And you’ll believe him. You’ll believe him until you are no longer able to deceive yourself, and by then it might be too late…

Or maybe… maybe he won’t even give you a chance to get an accurate response at all. Maybe he’ll just ask you endless strings of completely impossible questions, making you more and more frustrated and disheartened as you realize you’ll never be able to force him to tell you the truth. Questions like:

“What was the exact height of Mount Everest in centimeters in the year 1666?”

Or “What is the air-speed-velocity of an un-laden swallow?”

(Although, knowing his sense of humor, if he ever asked the latter he might consider “African or European?” a correct response.)

There are a couple of ways to short-circuit this particular strategy, however—additional rules and courses of action that make the game more interesting and prevent you from being stonewalled completely. Although in all honesty, he probably wants for you to try one of those options anyway.

The first option is to ask him a riddle instead of a question. If you somehow manage to stump him and he answers the riddle wrong or gives up, he’ll be obligated to give you a truthful response to your next question. If he answers the riddle correctly—once again, don’t worry, he won’t pounce on you like a sphinx or drag you into Hell. What will happen is that he will get a “pass”, allowing him to lie in response to one question he would otherwise be obligated to answer truthfully.

Honestly, if he gets a pass, you might as well just give up and quit the game right there. It’s nearly impossible to determine when he’s telling you the truth under the best of conditions. Adding another layer of complexity by constantly trying to figure out when and if he’s used his pass… it’s about enough to make any normal person’s brain explode. There’s no way. Just forget it.

The second option is for you to take a “dare” from him. If you accept it and vow to follow through, then once again he’ll have to answer your next question truthfully. If you choose instead to reject it, he’ll get another “pass”.

Now before you freak out and reject that whole idea completely, you should know that he won’t ask you to do anything overly dramatic or unspeakably evil, like blow up a hospital or murder somebody. As a rule of thumb, most dares won’t involve direct loss of life or any major felonies. However, they certainly won’t be easy. Inflicting severe pain on yourself, doing something that terrifies the shit out of you… cutting off a treasured relationship, publicly humiliating yourself or someone you love… all of these things and more, things you might not even be able to imagine, are completely on the table.

If you’re willing to go that far, to put yourself in that kind of position… you’ll get your answer. However, if he manages to come up with the one thing you know you simply can’t or won’t do… well, then once again you might as well just quit.

One last thing — DON’T think you can just tell him you’re going to do something and then not do it. If you accept a dare and then don’t follow through with it… well, let’s just say there will be consequences. Just suck it up and keep your promise, no matter WHAT it was. Trust me, you’re better off that way.

Finally, when you’ve either gotten the information you wanted or given up on it completely, you may end the ritual by simply thanking the Devil for accepting your request, bowing politely at the waist, and bidding him farewell. The surface of the mirror will seem to swim and flicker for a moment, and then you will be looking at your own reflection again. Only when you are absolutely certain that you’re looking into your own two eyes again may you turn away from the mirror, flick the lights back on, and begin dismantling your protections.

Now—and this is important—even if you haven’t gotten the information that you wanted, you MUST end the ritual in this manner before 66 minutes have elapsed. Well, I suppose that technically you have 66 minutes and 6 seconds (subtle, right?), but if you’re seriously going to try to cut it that close without any kind of timekeeping device, you’re probably screwed anyway. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that you keep to this time limit. I’ll save the reason behind that for the end, but don’t skip ahead… I’ve still got a few important tips on how to play:

  1. Be very careful what sort of personal information you give out. Try not to talk about yourself, especially your emotions and problems, any more than absolutely necessary. This guy knows human psychology like the back of his hand, and he will get inside of your head. It’s like talking to Hannibal Lecter. Give him enough to work with and, even if you don’t believe a single word he says, he will still find ways to fuck with your mind like nobody’s business. If anything he asks makes you even remotely uncomfortable, do not hesitate to lie through your teeth. There will be plenty of other questions.
  2. On a similar note, try to keep the game on track and moving briskly. Unstructured interactions of any kind are to be avoided. Chances are that at some point he will try to draw you off on a tangent—discussing something that fascinates you, analyzing a response you’ve given him, or finding some other excuse to speak at length without moving the game forward. This is not only a waste of valuable time but also another excellent opportunity to mess with your mind.
  3. If you choose to give him a riddle, use one you’ve made up yourself. If your riddle has ever been written down anywhere at all, from the pages of The Hobbit to some long-lost tome of ancient magic, he will already know the answer. That said, it still has to be a legitimate riddle, with an answer that makes logical sense from some angle. You can’t just ask something like “What’s green, has ten legs, and hops?” then claim for some inexplicable reason that the answer was “marshmallows”. Nor can you ask him a straight question like “What have I got in my pocket?” (he probably knows that, anyway). There are no hard-and-fast rules to determine whether a riddle makes sense or not, but you’re a reasonable human being. Your ancestors ate from the Tree of Knowledge. Please, for the love of crap, use common sense.
  4. If you choose to take a dare, there is a slight chance that the Devil will ask you to do something seemingly easy… deliver a letter, for instance, or scribble a ten-digit number in a public restroom stall. If he does ask you for something like this, and you have even a shred of common decency in you, do NOT accept. Chances are that he’s using you to further some sinister plot, one liable to ruin a lot of lives and harm a lot of people. Who knows, maybe you’re the type of person who really doesn’t mind throwing an unknown number of total strangers under a bus to find out what you want to know… but at least be aware that is what you’re doing.
  5. Last, but not least, be very aware of the time. It might be helpful to do some practicing beforehand and get a feel for how long an hour is without a watch. The Devil will probably put off discussing the things you’re most keen to find out for as long as he can; and as you near the 66 minute deadline, he’ll start trying harder and harder to distract you, captivate you, and otherwise keep you playing until it’s too late. He’ll string you along, feed you little glimmers of false hope, keep you thinking: “Just a few more minutes… I’m almost there!” Don’t fall for it. Don’t go over the time limit. No matter what.

Now, you might be thinking that this game really doesn’t sound all that dangerous so far… threats of psychological damage rarely seem to carry the same weight as threats of physical damage, even though their costs are often just as great. Hate to burst your bubble, but the game is far from safe. There are plenty of ways for you to seriously screw yourself over both physically and mentally (not to mention spiritually). And it is with these that I will conclude, in the vain hope that they may make some sort of impression…

First, while you are speaking with the Devil, do NOT let him out of your sight. Keep staring into the mirror no matter what happens. He will undoubtedly try various tricks to make you look away… You will hear noises behind you, feel eyes on the back of your neck, see shadowy phantoms writhing in the depths of the mirror. A cold breath will blow upon you from behind, smelling like the crypt. A deep silence will settle, only to be interrupted by a loud SMACK directly behind your head, giving you about the worst jump-scare you’ve ever had. Hell, the Devil may even abandon a measure of his own dignified façade and give a sudden jump of feigned shock, shouting loudly and pointing behind you with a very convincing look of terror on his face. Whatever he might test you with, you must not look away from him. If you look away, if you lose sight of him completely—even for one second—you will look back at the mirror to find him gone.

Well, not gone. Out of the mirror. In the room.

With you.

Exactly how much of your body the police will find the next morning, and what state it’s in, will depend entirely on the sort of mood he’s in.

The same thing goes if you break any of the protections you laid down before beginning the ritual. Interrupting the circle of salt, letting the red string unwind, knocking over a candle or letting one go out… any of these things will free him from the mirror, and then—well, you’re all a bunch of creative horror junkies. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks.

On a different topic, you may reach a point in the game (probably after a long series of maddeningly impossible questions) where the Devil asks you the deceptively simple question “What is your full name?” You MUST NOT give it to him. Names can be things of great power. Although the Devil will, of course, already know your name, telling it to him yourself is akin to inviting a vampire into your home. Your name is deeply synonymous with your own, inner self; thus, giving him your name is powerfully symbolic of giving him your self. If you are foolish enough to make this mistake, all of your protections will be for naught, and he will seize upon your unwitting offer with malicious glee, stealing away your soul and dragging it back with him into Hell.

At least this way the police will find a complete, identifiable body. As a matter of fact, your vacant shell will be totally unblemished, seemingly having dropped dead of sheer terror.

Last, but certainly not least, there’s the matter of what happens if you go over the time limit. This is arguably the worst thing you can do. You won’t think so at first… the Devil will give you no indication that you have in fact exceeded the time limit and you will conclude the ritual as if nothing had gone wrong. Perhaps, as the Devil’s image in the mirror trembles and gives way, you’ll see a particularly nasty, triumphant smirk flash across his face, but this will be easily dismissed as your imagination. You’ll turn the lights back on, gather your belongings, and go to leave the room. But, when you open the door, you will see… nothing.

That’s right, nothing. Just a flat, white void extending infinitely in all directions. Only the room which was reflected in the mirror will now exist.

Incidentally, if you turn back around to face the mirror again, you may catch a last glimpse of your own reflection. Perhaps it will even turn and favor you with a smirk and a cheeky wave before sweeping out the door into the perfectly normal church hallway outside.

As you may have already figured out, you yourself are no longer in the church. Your soul is now trapped in the mirror, and the Devil has taken the liberty of possessing your body, now that you are no longer using it.

Pound on the glass and scream all you like, you’ll never get out on your own, and no exorcist can help you. But don’t worry, it’s not like you’re in Hell, right? At least, not necessarily…

What you have to understand, see, is that a human soul stripped bare of its flesh is a deeply volatile and vulnerable thing, especially when trapped in the land of the living. You are now an entity of purely mental properties, and as such, the barriers between what is real to you and what is imaginary have been completely dissolved. As you fill that reflected room with your anger, your sorrow, your fear at being trapped, these emotions will begin to coalesce, given form by your mind. If you’re not particularly imaginative, these creatures may not be too terrible, may not be able to inflict too much horror and pain. With time, you may even be able to teach yourself to get rid of them.

If, however, yours is a mind haunted by monsters…a mind that is vibrantly creative and imaginative and more than usually twisted… well, there’s no telling what horrors might come clawing their way out of the maelstrom, tasting sweet release from the confines of your subconscious, hungering for your terror and suffering. They will refuse to be banished, dragging you kicking and screaming into an endless positive feedback loop of pain and fear.

Needless to say, if you’re a regular patron of websites like this one, you’re probably pretty well fucked.

There’s only one way to find release from the mirror and the world that you’ve created therein. They say that if you call to the Devil once more and ask him to free you from the mirror, he’ll be willing to take you out.

For the usual fee, of course.

Who knows, maybe if your imagination is twisted and powerful enough to create a personal Hell that leaves you begging for the real thing, those talents might be put to good use. There are over seven billion people in the world, after all; even the Devil himself can’t be messing with all of their minds at once. Talented help is always appreciated.

Of course, the corollary to your being trapped inside the mirror is that the Devil now gets to do whatever he wants in your body until sunrise. At around that time, your body will mercifully drop dead from the strain of the possession; autopsy will probably identify the cause as some kind of coronary event. Don’t get too relieved, though, he’s perfectly capable of stirring up plenty of trouble in those few hours.

For instance, he may decide to do something big and dramatic, like purchase a large meat cleaver and go on a murder spree, starting with the names in your address book and working his way out to complete strangers if he has time. Or perhaps he’ll focus on only one person, someone who trusts you completely, using your persona to get him or her alone and vulnerable, and then… well, no need to describe it here. Once again, I’m sure you can think of a few things.

Starting to see why I called this the worst outcome yet?

Of course, there’s also a chance he won’t lay a finger on any of your loved ones, instead deciding to do something a little more subtle… more insidious. Like drop off a few nondescript, unmarked packages on certain doorsteps in the dangerous part of town. Or locate a particular dusty, age-yellowed text in the storeroom of your local library and intentionally misfile it in the Young Adult Literature section. Or whisper seven very choice words into the ear of the distracted-looking young redhead waiting for the 3am subway train.

Or maybe he’ll decide that, in this age of waning superstition, not enough people are getting interested in his games, and the knowledge of them is in danger of being lost. Maybe he’ll decide he needs to get the word out a bit more, do a bit of networking, attract some new suckers… ahem, “challengers”. Maybe he’ll take a quick peek at your browser history, see where the impressionable, curious minds are hanging out these days. Maybe he’ll even write a quick tutorial, in modern parlance rather than some inscrutable, obsolete demonological text… post it on the Internet and see how many bites he gets…

Haha, maybe I really shouldn’t have gone there. But if you’ve made it this far without shying, a little twist at the end isn’t going to put you off, is it, dear Reader? I’m sure there are plenty of intrepid adventurers among you with burning questions you’d like answered. And you’re all a smart bunch. You know the pitfalls, you know the conventions, you live and breathe this sort of thing, do you not? There’s no way you’d fall into any of the obvious traps, right? You’re not some Dick or Jane off the street, after all; you’d be bringing a whole new level of competition. You would…

Oh, excuse me just a moment, I think I hear someone calling for me…