by Than Pence
Barry brings a friend home from school, though his mother is alarmed by this.
|Barry opened the door and saw his mother first. “Hi, mom,” he called out. He tried sounding casual, but he knew that his teenage heart was hammering in his chest. His new friend, Bill, was right behind him.
Barry’s mother first smiled and looked like she was about to greet her son, but then her eyes widened when she noticed Bill. “Honey,” she said, a bit loudly. “Who’s this young man with you?” she asked as she met the pair at the door.
He was still nervous. “Mom, this is Bill. He’s a friend from school. I’m going to take him up to my room and we’re going to hang out.” He felt like his tone was even and measured, but Barry knew his mother was picking up on his anxiousness, and adding her own to the mix.
“Um, okay,” she said with a wide, false grin. “Just… make sure to keep your voices down. Or, uh… Keep your shenanigans in check, dear.”
He stared into my mother’s eyes. “Mom, it’ll be okay. Don’t worry.”
Bill seemed confused but Barry ignored it. “Come on, Bill. My room’s upstairs.” His friend followed Barry and, once they were both in the purposefully dark bedroom, he closed the door and locked it.
“Why you lockin’ it, man?”
“My mom likes to barge in, unannounced.”
Bill looked nervously around the dark room. “Uh, well, it sure is dark in here. You got any—” The lights came on, cutting Bill’s question off. Barry could see he looked even more nervous than before. “Yeah, lights.” He looked around. “Oh, wow! You have a computer!”
Barry nodded. “You want to check it out?”
“I sure would,” answered Bill, nodding with enthusiasm. Barry knew it was an older model, but he guessed that Bill didn’t have much interaction with computers, judging by the look of his dingy clothes and hand-me-down backpack.
“Go ahead,” said Barry as he turned the computer on. “Take a look. I’m gonna get something out from under the bed.”
As Bill gave all of his attention to the machine, Barry reached for a wooden box under his bed. He opened it and quickly donned four rings. He then lit the tiny amount of incense that was left, praying it was enough, and turned to look at the back of Bill’s head.
Stepping forward, Barry grew nervous. The ritual might go wrong and leave Bill in a terrible mess. In that moment of anxiety, a knock came at the door. Bill’s attention forced his head to turn and he saw Barry standing just behind him.
“Barry? Is everything okay?”
He couldn’t answer. The rings wouldn’t work if any non-ritual words passed his lips.
“Hey, what’re you doing, man?”
Fear passed Bill’s face and Barry lunged, pressing his palms against Bill’s plump, freckled face. “Pass on, stray spirit. Pass on!” Bill started shrieking and Barry’s mother knocked more fervently at the door, but Barry didn’t hear anything she might’ve said. “Pass, and be free of this realm! Let the mortals be!”
Sputtering, Bill freed himself from Barry’s clutches. “You’re crazy, dude!” He ran for the door and unlocked it, but it didn’t budge. Barry leaped again and grabbed Bill’s face once more, repeating the same words until they sunk into Bill’s addled mind.
Within minutes, Bill was shimmering. His eyes were solid white and he didn’t touch the floor: he floated. Barry looked into Bill’s vacant eyes. “It’s your time to cross over, Bill. You’ve haunted your family and friends long enough. Eternity awaits you.” With that, Bill nodded and faded away.
In the silence, Barry heard the door knob slacken as his mother, on the other side, released it. She then opened the door. “That one almost got away, Bare.”
“But he didn’t, mom, and everything’s fine. Everyone’s fine.”
“I know that’s how it turned out this time, but that’s why I don’t want you sending ghosts to Heaven in the house. There’s too much risk. Your dad doesn’t do it.”
“Mom, he was walking around the school like he was still alive. I mean, I couldn’t do it at the school. People are everywhere. Plus, I forgot my rings, and his was a soul that couldn’t wait one more day. I noticed Paul DiFell eyeing Bill like he was his next meal.”
His mother nodded, looking at the floor. She knew the DiFells were a dangerous family of soul-eaters and Barry hoped she now understood why he had to bring his assignment home. “I’m sorry, mom. I’ll be more prepared, next time.”
She nodded. “Okay, honey. Next time.”
As she started for the stairs, Barry said “I’m not sure they always go to Heaven, mom.”
“What?” She looked startled.
“I mean, it’s nice to think so, but I don’t think they all go. I’m sure some go to Hell.” He hated saying it, but Barry figured that his mother should know.
She took on a distant gaze, looking through her son. “Well… how sad,” she finally said while her shoulders slumped. Turning, she walked downstairs and Barry removed his rings as he went back into his room.
Dropping them into the box, he remembered his incense was almost out. “Gotta get some more. Or borrow dad’s.” He snuffed out what little he had, closed the box, and slid it back under the bed. He then wept as he realized that, in the short time he’d known Bill, he felt sorry that the spirit might actually be in Hell now. And worse yet because he had put him there, rather than letting him wander ignorantly around the school, being ignored by his former classmates, and scaring the wits out of his grieving parents in their nearly-empty home.
But Barry knew people like the DiFells were out there. It was better to have your soul in Eternity, rather than be used to power an evil, soul-eating bastard.
Word Count: 982