A Drink With the Devil
Originally written for Jolene Haley’s Spooky Showcase 2019 blog tour.
“No. No way in hell. No creepy-ass dolls. I draw the line.” Charlie scribbled Robert the Doll off the list so hard the pen wore through the paper. She went over it one more time for good measure, and shuddered.
Quinn giggled, but rubbed Charlie’s back. “It’s fine, babe. No dolls. Even if they do rate highest on the creepy scale for urban legends. I mean, if you’re going to find one that’s hard to disprove, the creepy factor of dolls alone—”
“No dolls, Quinn.”
Quinn laughed harder. “I got it. No dolls.”
Scott pointed further down the list. “What about this Hanging Tree? A saloon in Key West sounds like my kind of trip.”
Charlie rolled her eyes. “You would.”
“I don’t know, ghostly voices and haunted bathrooms seem perfect for Halloween.” Quinn scrolled through a page on her laptop. “I mean, the place has some serious history. It was a morgue, among other things, and was actually built around the city’s hanging tree. Apparently they found a dozen or more skeletons when they replaced the floor in the eighties.”
Charlie rested her chin on Quinn’s shoulder and looked at the page, her hands wrapping around her girlfriend’s waist. “I’ll give you the history, it’s good setup. But hauntings like that are way too easy to fake.
“Ooo, are we doing the Florida urban legends list? Assholes should’ve waited for me!” Amira dropped herself into Scott’s lap and grabbed the list. “Okay, one of you had a serious vendetta against this list.”
Scott laughed and kissed her cheek. “Charlie’s afraid of creepy dolls. She vetoed Robert.”
Amira made a disgusted look and pulled her dark hair over her shoulder. “Hardcore agree. I’m not going within ten miles of that fucker.” She read over the list, then snorted. “Seriously? Walt Disney’s head? Okay, even setting aside that cryogenics are complete science fiction, and that I wouldn’t actually put it past Disney to freeze Walt’s head, there’s no way in hell we could prove it. You don’t mess with Disney lawyers.”
Quinn laughed. “She’s got a point. Disney lawyers are scarier than any urban legend—and they’re definitely real.”
Scott made a pouty face, which looked pretty ridiculous on a guy who was over six feet and looked like he lived in the gym. “No Key West, no Disney… You’re killing all the fun trips.”
Quinn stole the list and crossed out Walt Disney’s cryogenic head. “The point isn’t supposed to be fun, it’s to study local urban legends and write a paper that nets us a good grade.” She glanced at the list, crossing off another one with a scowl. “And before you say anything, I’m not going looking for some bullshit skunk ape thing. That one is so obviously fake it’s ridiculous.”
“What about the Lake Okeechobee Monster?”
“Scott, that’s not even a thing.”
“Of course it is! Like Loch Ness or Lake Eire. It’s where all those skulls they keep digging up came from. It’s carnivorous.”
“Scott…” Amira gave him a look that was part pity, part are you kidding me right now?
“What about the Devil’s Chair?” Everyone turned back to Quinn, who was staring at her laptop again. “Or the Fairchild Oak?” She looked up, while everyone leaned in.
Charlie pointed at Quinn’s laptop. “What about the Tallahassee Witch? That one’s right here.”
Amira leaned over to look. “Yeah, which means half the class will probably do her.”
“I’d do her.”
Charlie leveled a look at Quinn and ran a hand over the shaved half of her head. “Babe, you’d do anything with boobs. Not that I object.” She grinned wide and leaned in for a kiss.
Amira raised an eyebrow as they made out. “You two are gross. And hot. But let’s revisit this Devil’s Chair thing. I’m intrigued. What’s the deal there?”
Quinn broke away from Charlie reluctantly. “It’s a graveyard in Cassadaga. Well, in a graveyard. A graveside bench that supposedly, if you sit there, you can hear the devil whisper. Actually, any visitor is supposed to hear voices until they leave. There’s accounts of dark figures in the shadows, people who’ve been attacked by them. People come away with deep slashes on their arms and back. It’s one of maybe a dozen devil’s chairs around the US and England, even one in Italy. So, a fairly widespread urban legend, but definitely local flair.”
“Okay, I hear potential—”
“Spiritualist capital of Florida,” Charlie added. “That town is crawling with psychics and shit.”
“No way, Quinn, you skipped the best part!” Scott grabbed the laptop and yanked it over. “Look, it says if you leave a cold beer on the seat, it’ll be empty in the morning!”
Charlie snorted. “Waste of a good beer if you ask me.”
That got a laugh from everyone, but it was Quinn that brought them back around. “So, are we doing this?”
Scott, still playing with the laptop, barked out a laugh. “Fuck yeah! I vote yes. And then spend the rest of the weekend at Smyrna Beach. Look how close it is!”
Amira nodded. “Good plan. As long as we’re not also hitting up that stupid Ponce de Leon Fountain of Youth bullshit, I’m game.”
Charlie leaned over and kissed Quinn. “Bring your bikini, babe. Sounds like we’re doing this.”
“Okay, this is the creepiest town ever. It’s like The Shining and Deliverance had a baby, and that baby got all freaky with every palm reader, fortune teller, and psychic in Florida.” Amira looked around at the small, rural town, and grinned. “I like it.”
Quinn, Charlie, and Scott looked around with slightly less enthusiasm. The town was definitely small. Extra rural. Borderline swamp, like a lot of Florida. But the Spiritualist Camp was something else entirely. Mediums, psychics, spiritual therapists, tarot and palm readers… Every spiritualist variation imaginable, and then some. A street sign read Spiritualist Street running one way, and Mediumship Way running the other. Another sign ran SLOW…GHOST XSSING. Another, CAUTION SPIRIT X-ING AHEAD.
“This place is unreal.” Scott whistled. “Off the chain.”
“It’s something, alright… Completely overboard, if you ask me.” Quinn pulled out her phone as Charlie leaned on her arm. “So the cemetery is just up the road there. Do we want to hang out around scamville here, or head straight there?”
“What? I don’t believe in this stuff. You know that. Why do you think I want to debunk it?”
Charlie shook her head, then nodded at the town. “Just try not to piss off the locals, okay? I’m not taking the chance there’s one genuine witch who knows how to throw a good hex.”
Quinn groaned, but Scott cut them off. “Look, we’ve still got a little bit of time until sunset, so why don’t we go grab a few six packs and head over? We can do this thing, leave our beer offering, and find a hotel, then hit the beach in the morning.”
Amira stopped him with a hand on his chest. “Great plan, but we did talk about this. We can’t debunk if we’re in a hotel room.”
“Fine, whatever, but if the devil does show up, don’t expect me to save any of you ladies. I leave that to Quinn.”
“Fair enough, but I draw the line at fiddles, silver knives, or holy water.”
Scott snorted, heading in the direction of a convenience store. “With your luck? The devil’s a woman, and you can save us all by fucking her.”
“I’d watch that!” Amira and Charlie, called out together, laughing. Quinn just shrugged and grinned, not bothering to deny it.
“Alright, alright. Let’s go find some Devil’s Chair IPA and go see this chair. I have a feeling it’s going to be a boring night.”
“This sucks balls.” Scott drained the last of his beer and propped himself up along the brick wall next to the chair. Amira dozed against his chest, while Quinn and Charlie lounged in a similar position opposite them.
Quinn shrugged. “Sorry we don’t rate a visit from the Queen of Darkness herself.” They’d all taken turns sitting in the chair (pics to prove it happened), exploring the small graveyard, and now napping. Quinn stretched, careful not to disturb Charlie, and leaned her head back. “Urban legends are bullshit. They get their power from groupthink. Beyond that, they’re just fun stories, shit that people make up to try and scare each other.”
Scott made a noise of agreement, then settled into silence. Around them, there was nothing but the quiet of nature at night. The wind in the trees and tall grass, the usual night bugs and birds and frogs. Easy to mistake for whispers in the dark, if a person was feeling open to suggestion. And with a whole town full of suggestion? Quinn didn’t really find it surprising that so many people were convinced this was real.
Quinn scratched carefully at her arm, and stared up into the clear, dark sky. It was long past midnight, no moon in the sky, but at least the sweltering Florida heat had backed off for a bit.
She glanced at Scott, who appeared to be halfway to a snore, and rolled her eyes.
“Nice try, Scott.” She glared at him, and eventually an eye peeked open, and he snickered.
“Charlie or Amira would’ve bought it.”
Quinn snorted softly. “Probably.”
A longer stretch of silence, after which it looked like Scott really had passed out.
Eventually, Quinn did too.
“Beach beats cemetery any day. Good call on this, Scott.” Charlie turned her face up to the sun and pulled the tie out of her hair, letting blonde curls flood down over her shoulders. The sea breeze pulled and tugged as she ran her fingers through it.
Amira laughed, shaking her head and stretching as everyone else piled out of the car behind her. “It was definitely one of the most boring night’s I’ve spent. No ghosts, no whispers, and definitely no devil.” The beer they’d left on the chair was even, surprising no one (but disappointing Scott), still full when they’d all woken. Warm, too, though that was also not surprising, given that it was still Florida, and not brutally hot didn’t mean anywhere close to cool.
Quinn climbed out last, shrugging stiff shoulders. Relaxing on the beach was definitely preferable to sitting against a brick wall on hard ground all night. The half hour drive from Cassadaga had only highlighted the aches she’d developed the night before, and made the itching between her shoulders even more irritating. “Well, it’s too early to check in still, so I’m going to go change and lay in the sun for a bit. Anyone coming with?”
“Don’t even have to ask, babe.”
One convenient bathroom change later, a stop back at the car for towels and supplies, and the four of them found a place in the sand. Scott stripped off his shirt and headed straight for the surf, Amira chasing after him. Quinn shook her head and beckoned to Charlie. “Let me get you sunscreened, hon. Don’t want to ruin the weekend with a burn.”
Charlie shrugged off her clothes with a groan. “The sun hates me.”
“It’s just jealous. Come—” Quinn broke off when Charlie turned around. “Babe?”
Charlie looked over her shoulder, her brows pulled together. “What?”
Quinn reached up hesitantly, tracing the deep, angry scratches as gently as she could with her fingertips. “Where did these come from?”
Charlie winced at Quinn’s touch. “The fuck?”
Stepping back, Quinn fumbled for her phone. “Hang on, just hold still.” She snapped a picture then, shaking, held it up to her girlfriend. Charlie’s eyes went wide.
Jagged red lines like claw marks crisscrossed the skin of her back and shoulders. There was no blood, but the scratches were deep. Not the work of anyone—or anything—human. Charlie stared at disbelief, shrinking in on herself right before Quinn’s eyes. “I don’t… I don’t know. What the hell, Quinn? What’s going on?”
“Maybe it’s an allergic reaction?”
Charlie stared at her, torn between wanting to believe her, and not wanting to say what they were both trying not to think. “Maybe?” She reached for her shirt, pulling it back on, wanting to hide.
I don’t believe in this stuff, remember?
Quinn, feeling the itching pain between her shoulder blades that she’d been telling herself all morning was just stiffness, yanked off her shirt. She squeezed her eyes shut at Charlie’s gasp. She didn’t even have to ask.
Grabbing Charlie’s hand, she half ran to the water. “Maybe the saltwater…”
It was a ridiculous thing to say, but Charlie didn’t comment.
The scratches got worse. They ached and burned, and Quinn tried to tell herself they didn’t feel deeper the next morning. Scott and Amira thought it was a prank. Charlie blew it off, telling them what they wanted to hear. They spent another day at the beach, hoping the eternal Florida sun would chase away the darkness that seemed suddenly closer. Charlie had slept fitfully, whimpering while tucked against Quinn’s chest, but Quinn had hardly slept at all, trying to convince herself she wasn’t hearing whispers in the shadows of their room.
The sun didn’t help.
The whispers got louder.
Three weeks. The scratches had faded, but Quinn could still feel them burning under her skin. Charlie had deep shadows under her eyes, moved through her classes like a zombie. She slept fitfully, mumbling words Quinn could never make out.
Unlike the voices in the dark.
Those, she could hear just fine. Just like the shadows she could see even in the day.
Voices that whispered horrible things. Shadows that crept and slithered, enacting terrible things. And a tug in Quinn’s chest that made her want to listen.
By the time winter break came, Charlie was a shell. And Quinn… Quinn could barely hold back the gruesome thoughts that plagued her sleep-deprived mind. Thoughts of blood and terror, things that sliced and squelched and dripped. At Amira and Scott’s request (begging, more like), they’d both visited the campus clinic.
It didn’t help.
“Maybe getting away will be good.” Amira sounded more like she wanted to believe, like she was trying hard to force herself to believe, than like she actually believed.
None of them believed.
The darkness, for once, was silent. No screams, no whispers, just the occasional faint drip. Quinn reveled in it. She licked her sticky fingers and thumbed at her phone. The light from the screen did little to combat the shadows of the room, but she didn’t care anymore. It didn’t matter. She could see just fine.
Quinn: Did you do it?
The reply came quickly.
Quinn: How do you feel?
She knew the answer. She hadn’t felt this good in months. Charlie had to feel the same.
Charlie: Indescribably good.
She grinned, licking her fingers again, savoring the copper tang. The light from her phone was just enough to turn the dripping dark on them red.
Charlie: I can’t wait to do it again. Together, this time.
Quinn’s grin took on a predatory cast, teeth red and almost sharp looking in the light of her phone.
Quinn: Me too. All hail the Queen.
She could almost hear Charlie’s laughter through her text.
Charlie: All hail the Queen, babe.
In the darkness, Quinn’s eyes glowed.
Originally written for Jolene Haley's Spooky Showcase blog tour in 2017.
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