I live in the town that hides at dusk.
This is a ritual repeated daily, and has been for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was a little girl, young and small and full of fear, my family has locked our door, shuttered our windows, brandished our weapons, and lit our candles, all before the day has expired.
Tonight is no different.
As the sun begins to fall, and the people retreat into their homes, I consider, for just one moment, what might happen if I stepped outside after dark.
Then I remember the code.
And above all: never go outside at night.
The Devil is a man in red. With eyes like amber and lips like honey, he seeks his prey as if he is a man desperate and hungry—and longing, it would seem, for his salvation.
On this night, so horribly cold out of the summer blue, he searches for his next victim on the streets of Austin, Texas. Tongue laced with fire, heart made of ice, he walks the road called 6 with abandon that comes naturally for a creature with his affliction. His eyes dance between the landscapes of buildings tall and broad, bright and dim. His gaze falls upon buildings modern and old, brick and mortar, lit and unlit, until eventually he comes upon the clubs where young men dance until they go home with one another.
If one thing is for certain, it is that the Devil does not care who his victims are. He has, throughout his years in America, made it a point to prey upon those whose hearts are filled with pain and suffering. These are the easiest victims, he knows, because no matter who they are—young or old, black or white, poor or rich—they are always tempted to succumb to him.
It was the blood that signaled that another end had begun.
She tried—without success—not to look, but in the end, she couldn’t help it, and wailed.
A mother always cried when she lost a child.
This would be her third.
And now she would stand trial.
Crowded around the holographic display were the people who wished to view the greatest being of all. Eyes wide, mouths agape, they held smartphones and handheld tablets at bay as security guards navigated the crowd in an attempt to gain control. There are no electronic devices allowed, they continued to say, as it was believed that the interference would cause disruptions within the holographic computing, but they didn’t care. All the people wanted to see was the greatest discovery known to mankind—which, at exactly 12:00, would rise from the depths of its mortal coffin and into its digital heaven within the world.
“This is Madeline Carter reporting to you live from Channel 3 news,” the reporter said, desperate to be heard beneath the gargantuan roar of the onlookers, “coming to you live from the National British Museum of London, where the Aspect of Knowledge is graciously being held for its ten-year anniversary. As you can see, the crowds have already flocked in an effort to observe what is unarguably the greatest phenomena on Earth.”
“She hasn’t been sleeping well the past few nights,” Elise said as she looked in on their sleeping six-month-old toddler.
“She’s probably just having nightmares,” her husband, George, said.
“Isn’t she a little young though?”
“Why else would she be waking up?” George said, running a hand along the doorjamb. “We’ve already checked the room to make sure it wasn’t anything else.”
They’d spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon to ensure that their daughter wouldn’t have any more of what the pediatric nurse had described as ‘nightly episodes.’ Babies, she’d said, were susceptible to even the slightest of stimuli. For that reason, the branch outside the window had been cut down, new curtains were freshly installed. The creaky doorjamb had been oiled and the flickering nightlight with the hummingbird heartbeat was gone. To Elise, the room was nothing short of perfection—picturesque in its pink hues and white trim, with its white cradle with pink down. Their daughter should’ve been fine. She shouldn’t have been waking up at night. She shouldn’t have been—
Screaming, Elise thought, like someone had broken in.