You were forced to turn your shirt inside out. The warm vinyl image sticks to your skin in the humid church. You keep peeling it back from your chest and stomach. You don’t even listen to Metallica, but the armored skeletons on the shirt screamed Halloween.
One Saturday a month, you go to the “world’s largest flea market” in your Texas city of less than 4,000. You barter over old Metallica t-shirts and crystals. The same way you’re not supposed to be wearing a Metallica t-shirt, your mother isn’t supposed to have a shelf of amethyst and rose quartz. Some things are harmless, your mother said. Then she dropped you off at church.
“I think maybe Sean should be Beelzebub instead,” Pastor Dustan tells you. You are being punished, but he is smiling. “It’s a lot harder to play the Lost Soul,” he says. You purposefully pulled the Beelzebub card out of the hat, spotting the index card with a giant capital B as you fished your hand around. Pastor Dustan hands you a script with Lost Soul highlighted.
You see from a few feet away that Lisa also has a Lost Soul script. This confirms that Pastor Dustan is dumping Lost Soul parts on the kids he doesn’t like. Everyone knows that when Lisa spends her summers with her dad in Florida she doesn’t go to church. She has a boyfriend three years older than her and posts daily pictures of him on Instagram. Lisa has to play a girl who puts naked pictures of herself online until a demon tracks her phone to her house and kidnaps her into human trafficking. She kills herself. That sounds cooler than what you’re stuck with: a D&D player who thinks the game is innocent until accidentally summoning the real Devil who drags your parents to hell. You end up falsely imprisoned and sent to the electric chair for the murder of your parents.
“You get to pretend to be electrocuted. That’s pretty cool.” Lisa moves to sit beside you. “I just have to pretend to swallow some pills and fall asleep. Lame.”
Is Lisa yearning for some Lost Soul camaraderie? You are not a lost soul, you are Beelzebub. There are skeletons rubbing against your chest. You deserve to be over in the small circle of demons and devils with Sean and Mariah and Joe, pretending to choke and drag each other. That’s where you belong. You are not in any kind of club with Lisa. You tug on the black fabric of your shirt again. You hear the puck of the vinyl unsticking from your skin.
“Lost Souls, I need you to make posters,” Pastor Dustan says, dropping white poster board and a box of old markers on the ground. “Think about what kind of posters your characters would have, like pop stars and wizards.” Then Pastor Dustan goes over to the demons and gives them materials to make pitchforks and scythes.
“We can help.” Sara and Marc are sitting down on the ground with you and Lisa. “We’re the parents,” Sara says.
“Because we’re old now I guess,” Marc adds. Sara and Marc are both taking online classes at Trinity Valley Community College. “Guess that’s why most people quit Hell House by college. You end up playing the parents.”
“I’m happy I don’t have to kill myself this year. It gets exhausting,” Sara says.
You look over again at Sean and Mariah and Joe. They are rubbing black and red paint on each other’s faces and laughing.
“This is going to be our best year ever, I can feel it,” Pastor Dustan says as he walks by. You see Sara smile at Pastor Dustan but the smile is too big. Of course your fake mother is hot for Pastor Dustan.
Your real mom is working at the grocery store when you get home from youth group. You go into the craft room where she crochets and watches Judge Judy. You close the door and take her crystals off their shelf. You arrange them in a circle around yourself and sit cross legged. You light her Pecan Pie Yankee Candle and set it with you inside the circle. You close your eyes. “I summon you,” you say out loud, unsure what you’re trying to summon. Nothing happens.
The windows are closed and the room is hot. The shirt is still sticking to you. You pull it completely off and toss it across the room. Your father is visiting your grandmother at the nursing home and your mother has two hours of work left, but you imagine them finding you naked from the waist up, in the dark room with the candle and crystals. The world is all Lost Souls and Beelzebubs and you don’t know where you fit in anymore. “Is anybody there?” you shout as loud as you can.
Where is the shoulder demon to egg you on, to encourage you to do something, anything? Where is the angel to beg you to stop, to blow the Yankee Candle out before you get in over your head? You get up from the circle of crystals and open Spotify on your phone. You search for Metallica. There is a song called The Four Horsemen. You press play.
You have been dying since the day you were born. You still don’t know what script Pastor Dustan should have given you, you only know the one you wanted. You lay down in the circle, flat on your back. They’ve come to take your life. You practice your convulsions in preparation for the fake electric chair. The rug chafes against the skin of your back as you writhe. The Horsemen are drawing nearer. You long for someone to walk in, to find you like this.
Donna Huneke lives in New Jersey. She has killed a lot of spotted lantern flies. Find her online @dmhuneke.