Griff bounced up out of bed and looked at his phone. It was only 6 am. “Yes! Today is the day! Yes! I get to ride the roller coasters with Nicholas, who is dead asleep still.”
He was itching and burning from the poison ivy rash all over his playground, so he decided to go shower and put more Caladryl on to soothe it. He pulled up the Spotify app and selected “Top Hits Today,” playing it through the Bluetooth speakers. As the warm water began flowing into the shower, he started blurting out the song’s lyrics. He quickly got lost in the song and started swaying his booty back & forth and all around in the shower.
“Mmmmm…. can you please keep the noise down,” Nicholas mumbled. Then, he immediately started laughing as all he could see was Griffin shaking his booty in the shower. He yelled but got no answer, so he knocked on the shower door loudly.
A startled Griff opened the door. “Hey, good you’re up.”
As hard as it was for Nicholas not to laugh, he was still giggling at Griffin. “Now keep it down in here. I’m trying to sleep, but you have some sexy moves in there.”
“Omg!” Griff said. “I’m sorry!” he answered, red-faced and embarrassed. “You saw me dancing. I’m just excited about going to King’s Dominion today with you.”
Nicholas started to head out of the bathroom, and Griff asked him if he could give him the Caladryl off the sink. “Thank you. I can’t believe I got this poison ivy on me in the worst possible place!”
“You’re welcome. I hope it clears up fast!”
After Nicholas had also showered, both the guys got dressed and grabbed a bowl of Lucky Charms. While eating, they talked about their plans together for the day.
“Let’s go, so we’re the first in the gate,” Griffin said eagerly.
“Sure thing, Peaches. I’m coming.”
Walking down the road, cars started passing by, honking at them and waving. “This is gonna be so fun,” Nicholas said.
The guys got to the gates at King’s Dominion and music was playing over the loudspeakers with voices telling them about all the different and fun things to do.
“Hey, Nicholas, we should get the passes that let us go to the front of the lines.”
“I already got them for us online. I thought it would be very special.”
Griffin grabbed Nicholas and kissed him deeply while hugging him tight.
A group of guys yelled at them to stop. “That’s disgusting! We don’t want to see that!”
“That’s kinda intimidating, Nicholas, sorry.”
Nicholas said, “It’s ok, don’t worry about other people. It’s our day.”
The gates opened and the boys headed for the roller coasters first. The first one they found was a mix of steel and wood.
“I’m so excited! We’re in the very front section! Give me a kiss as GoPro is rolling,” Griffin said.
They kissed as they get buckled into their seats, and they heard yelling. “You guys are gross! We told you to stop that!”
Nicholas and Griffin ignored the yelling, and they were off.
“Wow! That was exhilarating!” Griff exclaimed. “I gotta pee, so you get souvenirs from the shop, maybe t-shirts or caps or both, while I use the restroom.”
Griffin headed to the bathroom and was followed by the four redneck bullies.
They blocked the doors and grabbed Griffin, warning him to stop acting gay around them, or next time it would be a lot worse. They dunked his head in the toilet bowl and flushed. “Got it? Last warning!” They shoved Griffin to the ground and left.
“Hey there. Why are you so wet? What took you so long?” Nicholas asked.
“Oh, it was nothing. Let’s just go to the next coaster.”
After riding most of the coasters, both boys decided to play a few games.
“Hey, Nicholas, your favorite animal! I’ll try to win you one.”
A friendly family, parents and a young son and daughter, sat down beside them to play, too. They smiled and said, “Hello.” Then two of bullies sat down and started talking junk to them.
Ignoring them, Griffin won the game and animal for Nicholas and Nicholas, out of pure joy, hugged and kissed Griffin. “Thank you so much! I love it, and I love you!”
The two guys jumped up yelling and cussing at both of them. The parents jumped up, too, and got right in the boys’ faces.
“Leave them alone! They have the right to love whoever they want to love. If you don’t like it, don’t look!”
“Shut up, lady! They’re gonna get their faces beat in! Get out of the way!” Griffin was shoved down to the ground, scraping and cutting up his legs, arms, and hands.
“That’s it! Leave them alone, punks, or you’ll be dealing with a lot more trouble,” the dad said. “I’m tired of people like you putting down guys like them. All they want is to be treated equally, and they’re not hurting anybody. So, stop, or the police will be called.”
Nicholas had also jumped up yelling, “Leave Griff alone! He doesn’t deserve this! I’m not letting you hurt him!”
Griffin was just lying there, trying to hide his tears and not talking to anyone. He got himself up and sat down on a bench. Park security showed up and dispersed the crowd.
“Are you ok, young man?” the mom asked.
“Griffin, please say something, babe,” Nicholas implored.
“I’m ok, just sad that hate is still so prevalent in this world. I didn’t tell you earlier that they held me down in the bathroom and gave me a swirly. They threatened me and shoved me down. It brought back memories of the high school bathroom and getting picked on and threatened. I want to be treated normal just like everyone else, but I guess that day won’t come.”
“Come eat with my family and me, guys,” the dad said. “We want to buy your lunch. Please?”
“We accept and thank you for standing up for us. We don’t get that much.”
They ate lunch together and chatted about what happened and about their family life. They believed that everyone has a right to love who they want. Richard, Susan, Ethan, and Jenny said their goodbyes and exchanged information.
“Griff, weren’t they a sweet family? Griff? Earth to Griff, are you ok?” Nicholas asked.
“No, sorry, I’m not,” Griff started crying. “I’m going back to the RV. I can’t stay here. I want you to stay and ride more. I’ll be waiting for you back at the RV, ok? I need some alone time.”
″Ok, Peaches. Be safe, and I’ll be there in a little while. I won’t leave yet, only because you asked me not to. I love you, babe,” Nicholas said reluctantly, as he watched Griffin walk away.
Back at the RV, Griff sat on the bed crying and remembering being teased in school, and now he was embarrassed about what happened in the park. “Why couldn’t I stand up for myself” Why do I shut down?” Griff blasted some Metallica and drank a soda, calming himself down some. The music changed to Shawn Mendes and, yes, an old Justin Bieber song.
Nicholas, unable to enjoy himself without Griffin, soon arrived back at the RV and sat down next to Griff. He didn’t say a word, just held him tight. Nothing needed to be said. Just being in that moment, holding each other close, seemed to make everything feel safe and right again.
“Tommy, no one’s there. Stop fooling around and help me bring these boxes in the house.”
“Now he left. I think he’s mad.”
When Tommy walks into his new bedroom, he sees Lucas sitting on his bed, and says, “I thought you were gone for good.”
Lucas stretches out on the bed. “Nope. You’re stuck with me. This is my room, but I guess I can share.”
“Mom can’t see you. “
Lucas laughs. “Good catch.”
“So, you lived here before? What happened to your family?” asked Tommy.
“Dad deserted us when I was real young. He used to hit mom and she cried a lot. We were both happy when he left.”
Tommy opened a box full of clothes and began putting things away.
“Where’s your mom?” asked Tommy.
“We were in a car accident,” said Lucas. “A drunk ran a red light and t-boned us. Mom died immediately and I was taken to the hospital. I died in the emergency room. Now I can’t find mom, so I came back here.”
Tears welled up in Tommy’s dark brown eyes.
“Please, don’t be sad Tommy,” Lucas said as he began to phase in and out then disappeared.
“Lucas, where did you go? Please come back.”
Lucas reappeared then explained, “Sorry about that. Sadness drains my energy field.”
“You can bet as soon as my energy recharges I’ll be back,” Lucas said.
Tommy asked, “Can you please tell me what’s going on with you?” There was a silence that seemed to go on for what seemed like forever, and then can the loudest boom and everything shook violently.
Tommy’s mom yelled from the other room, “Tommy! What was that? Are you ok?”
“I’m ok, mom! I’ll be right there!” Tommy looked at Lucas. “What was that?”
“He’s coming! Get out! He can’t find you in my room!” Lucas looked scared and used his energy to nudge Tommy towards the door.
In the hall, Lucas held onto the doorknob, while Tommy cringed at the loud, angry voice booming from inside his bedroom.
“Lucas! I can smell him. If you’ve shown yourself again, I’m going to kick your friendly Casper ass!”
“W-W-Who’s that?” asked Tommy, backing down the hallway away from the bedroom door.
“Someone you never want to meet,” cautioned Lucas.
Tommy suddenly backed into a body and he thought that thing, that monster, whatever it was had escaped the room.
Two hands grabbed Tommy’s shoulders.
“Tommy! What was that loud noise? What are you doing?”
Tommy was never so happy to see his mom. He grabbed her and hugged her tight.
“Oh, my God, Mom! You literally scared the sh__” he caught himself, “livin’ daylights out of me!”
Tommy looked as white as a sheet as he continued to shake with fright.
“You look like you have seen a ghost, son.”
“Duh, Mom. That’s what I have been trying to tell you.”
“Stop being silly. There are no such things as ghosts.”
Suddenly, all of the walls started shaking pictures flew off walls and the lights flickered! “Mom, see that it’s the mean one he’s messing with us now!”
Mom said, “That’s utter nonsense. It’s either a jet flying over or an earthquake. “Go to your room and stay there. You will scare your brother.”
Tommy made a move as if to re-enter his bedroom. A cold force stopped him. “No, Tommy, you can’t! Please don’t go in there!” Lucas wailed.
Tommy looked from the ghost back to his mom. Tears of anguish stung his eyes, “Mom, I’m sorry,” and he rushed past her and down the hall.
Sobbing loudly, Tommy bolted wildly out of the house, down the street, and into a public park. He slowed and threw himself on the grass near a picnic table.
As he used his tee shirt to wipe his eyes, he felt guilty about leaving his mom alone.
“You run pretty fast, Tommy.”
“Lucas? You followed me? That thing in my room has got to go. Mom and I can’t live there like that,” said Tommy.
Tommy sniffed and wiped his nose on the arm of his tee shirt.
“What is that thing?”
“I don’t have all the answers,” said Lucas. “I haven’t been dead long enough.”
“I wish there was some kind of instruction manual for dead kids,” said Lucas. “Maybe we could find something at the library.”
“The LIBRARY?” yelled Tommy. “We can use my iPhone.”
“Your what-phone?” questioned Lucas.
“Hey! Just exactly how long have you been dead?”
“I really have no idea. I can’t feel time pass at all. I remember playing Galaga at the arcade next to Blockbuster video store yesterday.” Lucas answered.
“The arcade? Blockbuster? They have been closed for years. l can play games and watch movies on my iPhone.” Tommy explained.
Then all of a sudden, the phone rang. It was Mrs. Winslow his next-door neighbor. “Tommy you need to hurry home. Something has happened. Your mother said to call you and tell you to rush right home.”
“I’m on my way. I’ll be there soon as I can.” Tommy hung up phone and ran home quickly.
Tommy slowed as he got home. His mom and brother were out front with a cop. His mom waved him over. “Why didn’t you say there was someone in the house? I didn’t see him, but he pushed your brother!”
Tommy’s younger brother, Brandon, scowled right at Lucas. “Who’s he, Tommy?”
“I’m Lucas. I met Tommy at the park. Right, Tommy?”
“Uh, yeah. Right. We met at the park.”
“Hello, Lucas. I’m Tommy’s mom.”
Tommy looked from his mom to Lucas. “Mom, you can see Lucas?”
“Of course, dear. Really, I don’t know what’s gotten into you!”
“0kay,” said the cop. “Why are you pretending there’s some invisible kid there?”
“Wait, you can’t see him?” asked Mrs. Mills.
“See who?” asked the cop.
“Him!” she said, pointing at Lucas. “That boy! Right there!”
“Look lady, do you want to report a crime?”
“Ma’am tell him no,” said Lucas.
“Errrr, I’m sorry, Officer. There’s been some sort of mixup,” said Mrs. Mills.
The cop mumbled something under his breath and returned to his car.
“What’s going on?” asked Tommy’s mom.
“No human can see me unless I let them,” explained Lucas.
Tommy, Brandon and their mom walked back into their house. The air in the living room became as cold as ice. A loud crash came from inside Tommy’s bedroom.
“It must be that thing again!” Tommy yelled. “We really need to find out what that thing is, Lucas.”
As Tommy slowly moved to his bedroom door he was sweating profusely and couldn’t calm his breathing. “Are you coming Lucas?”
“No. I can’t, Tommy, be careful!” Lucas said.
Tommy opened his door and stepped inside. His stuff was floating around the room and bright lights shined out of the closet.
Before he could take another step, Tommy felt a cold breeze and Lucas was there in front of him. “I can’t let you face him, Tommy. He’s my problem.”
“Who…” Tommy started to speak but was cut short by all of his stuff crashing to the floor.
“There you are, boy. Daddy is home.”
Tommy was scared but he just had to know who or what was behind this. He finally got his nerve up enough to speak.
“WHO ARE YOU?” Tommy shouted in his most demanding voice.
A disembodied voice shouted back.
“SILENCE YOU LITTLE HUMAN TWERP OR YOU’LL JOIN MY SON IN DEAD LAND!”
“Dead Land?” Thought Tommy.
Now it began to make sense. Lucas’ dad treated him bad in life, and now he must have died and is hunting him down in the afterlife. Tommy had to help his new friend… somehow… no matter what it took.
Tommy yelled, “SHUT UP YOU BIG BULLY!”
The demon inside of Lucas’ dad had completely taken control of him in the afterlife. Its eyes were now glowing bright red. Lucas floated in front of Tommy to protect him.
“Ah, there you are Lucas boy! Looks like you found a new boyfriend. You filthy freak!”
Suddenly, with a sudden upward motion Tommy was lifted off his feet with force so strong he blacked out. Lucas screamed at the demon that his dad turned into, “Stop! You want me, not Tommy. Please! He’s just my friend and I don’t want nothing to happen to him. Please, oh no!”
Brandon raced into the room and knelt by his brother. He shook Tommy, trying to wake him. Lucas growled, blasting a wave of energy at the ghost of his father.
“Just as much of a sissy now as when you were alive. How many of your little boyfriends am I gonna have to kill, boy?”
As Brandon was shaking Tommy, trying to get him to respond, his eyes focused on an object hanging on the wall. It was a large religious cross. He remembered seeing a movie where a cross was used against evil.
Brandon jumped up and grabbed the cross from the wall.
He raised it high above his head until he could reach no higher. Brandon yelled at the top of his lungs.
“I COMMAND YOU IN THE NAME OF CHRIST… LEAVE THIS HOUSE AND LEAVE US ALONE!”
The demon inside Lucas’ dad turned into mist and flowed out through the air duct. His ghostly shell was left laying on carpet, unconscious. The cross and incantation also made the ghost of Lucas light up like a Christmas tree. He too collapsed onto the floor.
Brandon yelled for his mom. “Mom! Hurry!”
Slowly, mom walks into the room with an evil laugh, “Hahahaha! You think you can get rid of me that easily little boy?” With a gust of air, the cross was chucked out the window. “Awe, what’s a matter, son? Mommy is gone for a while!”
Lucas’ energy levels fluctuated then stabilized just in time to hear what the boys’ mom said. “Brandon, help Tommy get up. I have to get you guys out of here quick. We’re in double trouble now that the demon and my dad have separated!”
The ghost of Lucas’ father began to move.
Brandon helped Tommy to a standing position and as Tommy’s senses started returning, he saw his mom standing there.
Without knowing, Tommy instinctively ran to his mother’s waiting and protecting arms.
Brandon made a grab, but Tommy slipped through his fingers.
Simultaneously Lucas and Brandon yelled to Tommy.
As Tommy reached his mom, the evil within her possessed body grabbed him and pulled him close, their bodies melting into one large evil entity.
Meanwhile, the ghost of Lucas’ dad awoke. He saw Lucas and said, “I’m so sorry for what I did and said to you son. The demon took over. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”
Lucas’ dad lunged at the demon possessing Tommy and his mom. “Take me!”
The demon used his powers to take Lucas dad and send him away from the house to the netherworld! “Now, as for you, little boy, we have plans for you.”
Lucas stood in front of Brandon and said. “You will leave him alone! What if I take his place?”
“No! Lucas, you can’t I won’t let you!” Brandon screamed.
The demon hesitated and almost split back into two. Lucas took the opportunity to fling it against the wall. A path to the front door stood clear.
“Brandon, come on! We need to get outta here and come up with a plan!”
With a final glance at the demon, Brandon followed.
Lucas ran out the front door and just as Brandon reached it, he noticed his Super Soaker Water Canon in the top of an unpacked box. He grabbed it without stopping and continued out the door.
“Lucas!” he yelled, “Look!” Brandon held up the water gun for Lucas to see.
“That’s only a toy,” said Lucas.
“Yeah, but what if we filled it with… Holy Water?” suggested Brandon.
“It could work,” said Lucas.
They stood out in the middle of the street, looking one way, then the other.
“But where are we going to find Holy Water?”
Brandon thought for a minute then said, “We could order holy water on Amazon or go into that church across the street. They have it for baptisms.”
“Going to the Amazon is too far.” Lucas replied.
“Not that Amazon,” Brandon giggled. “Forgot this is all new to you.”
“Well we can’t just go into the church and get it,” Brandon said.
“I know. I can’t enter the church. I’m dead and it is a barrier to me,” Lucas said.
Then all the sudden a lady in white came floating down the road with beautiful flowing blond hair and emanating light all around her.
Lucas’s voice trembled as he watched his mother float towards him. “Mom! I looked everywhere for you! Where were you?!”
“I was stuck in an in between place. I tried to get to you, but I couldn’t. Your father freed me and said you needed help!”
Brandon watched, mouth agape.
Lucas and his mom hugged, creating a bright, white halo around them. Brandon was frozen in awe at the miracle he witnessed.
“Mom, I want you to meet Brandon. He’s a human. His family is being possessed by an evil entity. We need to find Holy Water… quick.”
The mother spirit glanced around and saw the church nearby.
“Brandon,” she instructed, “You need to run inside that church and yell for help. If no one hears you, look for a stone structure that looks like a wishing well. That’s where you’ll find Holy Water.”
Brandon opened the heavy, oak church doors and stepped inside. He looked around but didn’t see a soul. He did however see a bird bath looking thing with water. “This must be it.” Brandon thought to himself. He hastily filled up his super soaker then ran back outside.
“Now that I have my super soaker filled with holy water, I’ll see what I can do.” Brandon thought to himself. Then out of nowhere a swarm of mayflies started descending towards him. Brandon started to run as fast as he could, but when he turned down the alley, a pack of wild dogs chased him to large fence.
Brandon backed against the fence at the end of the alley and raised his super-soaker. He had to try something, and it was the only weapon he had. He shot at the cloud of mayflies and each one that was hit by the holy water burst into flames!
Now the dogs were closing in.
Brandon aimed carefully at the lead dog and squeezed the trigger. It was a direct hit and the dog howled as it burst into a small fireball and disappeared.
Brandon smiled and quipped, “Yes!”
This was just like a video game and he was good… really good at games.
He looked down the barrel of his super-soaker and kept his eyes focused on the sights.
Each time he aimed and pulled the trigger, he uttered, “Pow!”
“Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow!”
Every shot was a hit. Every hit destroyed its target. Finally, he stood alone, his heart beating hard.
Suddenly, the demon possessing Tommy and his mom appeared.
Brandon yelled, “Get out of my mom and brother now!”
He pulled the trigger on the super soaker, but it was dry. The demon smirked.
“Lucas, help!” Brandon screamed as he too was taken into the demon.
As Lucas watched Brandon be taken in, he felt so defeated. After all he was just a simple little boy ghost. “What am I to do? I brought this on this family.” He thought. In an instant he had idea. “I will go sit outside the church and leap into the priest when he comes out. He can help me figure this out!”
The priest exited the church and walked down the steps. Lucas leapt forward. Just before he reached the priest, a blast of cold power pushed him aside.
Lucas’s mother stood on the sidewalk. “You were always an impulsive teen, even when you were alive. There are other ways.”
The priest stopped suddenly as a cold shiver ran through his body. He looked around, but saw no one.
“Hello! Is someone there?”
He got no answer, so started on his way.
He stopped again and turned around. Slowly, out of thin air, a young boy started materializing.
“Sir, we need your help. Please. My human friends and their mom are all possessed by a terribly evil spirit.”
Suddenly Lucas’ mom’s spirit materialized next to Lucas and confirmed what he said.
“It’s got three humans and grows bigger and stronger with each passing minute.”
Another spirit appeared next to Lucas and his mom. It was his dad who had been freed of the demon. He hugged his family saying,
“Love you both. I’m sorry for the bad things I did in life. We must stop the demon from destroying another family. Can you help us priest?”
“I don’t know if I can,” said the priest. “but I can try to do my best and assess the situation. I will consult with God and see if he can help me out.”
Meanwhile, the demon was trying to talk with Satan. The demon snarled, “This is not just my battle, it’s the ultimate evil vs good!”
The sidewalk cracked under the demon’s feet. Smoke and the odor of sulfur filled the air. The priest uttered a frightened squeak and fled back into the church.
A voice bellowed from the crack. “It is not your place to question me, demon. Collect the souls, especially the boy!”
The demon headed toward Lucas, but Lucas’ dad jumped in front of him.
“LEAVE HIM ALONE!” yelled the dad spirit, as he made the form of a cross using his arms and held them up in front of the demon’s eyes. “I COMMAND YOU TO LEAVE!”
The action did nothing but annoy the demon.
“GET OUT OF MY FACE,” bellowed the demon. “Satan wants the boy’s soul and he shall have it.”
The demon swatted at the dad spirit, knocking him off his feet, then grabbed at Lucas.
Lucas saw the evil claw-like hand coming at him and bolted for the church door.
Lucas’ mom and dad continued to fight the demon as its clawed hand grabbed Lucas’ head. The memory of his death rushed back to Lucas. He recalled his dad yelling at him in the arcade, running into the basement and falling down a shaft. The same shaft he saw in Tommy’s basement.
Lucas remembered he came face to face with Satan before. He was told that one day they had plans for him and that he was the chosen one to lead them to victory over the forces of good. But remembers that something was told to him by something else but he can’t focus on what.
Lucas felt himself being absorbed into the demon. His parents continued to fight but it did no good. Then the church doors flew open and the priest stood there holding the biggest balloon that Lucas had ever seen. The priest threw it at the demon’s face. Water sprayed everywhere.
The Holy Water spilled down over the demon and its skin began burning and smoking. It released its hold of Lucas’ soul and Lucas slowly returned to the Holy Spirit that he had been.
The Demon becomes transparent and the human bodies of Tommy, Brandon and Mrs. Mills are released.
The six of them stood there with the Priest looking on, thinking the demon had finally been defeated.
The ground suddenly rumbled, feeling much like an earthquake and the small crack that had opened previously got wider.
A netherworld voice trumpeted from the depths of hell.
“Spirits back to limbo where you belong!”
Huge vines grew out from the crack, wrapping around Lucas, his mom and dad slowly dragging them underground.
“Tommy, you will find our bodies in the shaft. Give us a proper burial so we can finally be at peace!”
“I will Lucas. I promise!”
As Tommy made his way back home, he thought about all that had happened he was still shocked to know ghost and demons existed he made a promise to himself right then and there that he would always help kids and families being haunted or possessed by demons. He headed for his basement.
As soon as they reached home, Tommy’s mom and brother collapsed on the couch and fell asleep. The ordeal inside the demon wore them out. Tommy was too restless and was determined to find the bodies. He went downstairs and located the opening to the shaft and peered inside.
It was pitch black inside, but Tommy could see that the shaft went down a short way, then cut its way back into a tunnel. A rickety wooden ladder was attached to the side of the shaft’s wall.
He climbed onto the ladder and carefully made his way down to the tunnel.
He peered into the tunnel.
‘Hello… Hello… Hello…’ only an echo answered.
Tommy pulled his iPhone from his pocket and turned on the flashlight. He pointed it into the tunnel but could see only a few feet ahead.
He cautiously entered the dark, damp space.
Tommy was glad to be on solid ground. He thought to himself since he almost slipped off the ladder a few times coming down, “I’ll bet that when Lucas’ parents came looking for him, they fell to their death climbing down that rickety old ladder.” He shined his phone’s flashlight on the floor and saw three skeletons. He carefully collected the bones in the three canvas bags he had brought with him.
Before he could start climbing back up, Tommy heard a loud booming voice, “You Can’t Have Them! A swift glowing red hand snatched the canvas bags out of his hands. They belong to us and now so do you! You will never be able to get out of this portal to Hell!
Something grabbed Tommy’s legs and pulled him deeper into the tunnel.
Tommy kicked at the claw that held him, but he couldn’t get free. In desperation, he yelled into his cell. “Text Brandon. Help! I’m in the tunnel! Found bones but the demon got me!”
The one bar he had on his phone disappeared so he tossed it behind him, hoping it would be found.
Brandon and his mom had been sleeping upstairs, but Brandon had found the urge to pee. As he stood at the toilet relieving himself,
He pulled his phone from his pocket and clicked on messages, seeing what Tommy had just wrote.
He zipped up and ran back to his mom.
“MOM! WAKE UP!”
Brandon showed the text to his mother. Mrs. Mills jumped up and the two of them hurried to the basement.
They found the uncovered shaft entrance but couldn’t see or hear anything.
“Brandon, run upstairs and get flashlights from the kitchen.”
Brandon quickly got the flashlights and ran back into the basement. He and his mom were right under where the arcade was years ago. They shined their flashlights down into the dark shaft and yelled,
“I’m going down.” Brandon said.
“Be careful honey!”
He was getting scared as he made his way deeper and deeper, it was so dark. He got to a spot that was so hot that he was sweating badly and was hearing screaming and very loud voices. “Boy, how dare you come down here. You can’t help your brother. He’s mine now. Replacing Lucas in my army! Roar!”
Brandon recognized the voice of the demon. The same demon who he had just recently escaped from. He stopped and picked up his brother’s iPhone. Further along, he found the three canvas bags. He wondered to himself, “If I bury the bones, will they be free to help me again?”
He grabbed the bags and quickly made his way back to the basement.
“Mom, these are the bones of our three spirit friends. I think we need to bury them to lift this curse and get Tommy back.”
“I think you’re right, son. Take them to the church yard and hallow ground. Hurry!”
Brandon grabbed his folding Boy Scouts shovel and ran to the church. His mom had phoned ahead, and the Priest was waiting. He quickly led Brandon around back to the cemetery.
“Dig right there,” said the Priest, pointing. “Make it deep enough so we won’t ever have to disturb it.”
Back in the tunnel, the demon had Tommy pinned to the wall and was ready to consume his soul. Suddenly, a brilliant white light flooded the tunnel. The demon screeched then disappeared as three angelic beings appeared. It was Lucas with his mom and dad.
“Our souls have been freed.”
Tommy was then greeted by an angelic figure. The angel spoke, “You are the guardian of good here on earth. I am bestowing you with special abilities to help you in your journey of fighting evil demon spirits and protecting souls from evil. Do you accept?”
Tommy grinned. “Yes! I will gladly accept. Thank you! I am ready.”
Tommy looked at his mother. She nodded, knowingly. He faced the three spirits. “As Guardian I can release you to Heaven.”
Lucas blurted, “I wanna stay with you!” As Lucas’ parents agreed they shimmered and were gone. Tommy took Lucas’ hand and Lucas became a live boy once more.
Tommy led Lucas into his bedroom, hand in hand. “I’m so happy that mom got all the paperwork sorted to let you live here. I even started cleaning out the spare room to make it into your bedroom.”
“Don’t you mean your bedroom? This is my bedroom.”
“Very funny. This is my bedroom.”
“It was mine first. I guess we’ll have to share it.” Lucas smirked and winked.
Tommy blushed a bright red. “I wish. Mom would never go for that, though.”
Lucas sighed. “Ok. Ok. Let’s go check out this new bedroom.”
Back down under the arcade, the tunnel began to glow with an orange light again. Heat and the smell of sulfur poured forth. A clawed hand appeared out of the darkness pulling its owner forward. The demon’s eyes flashed with Hellfire. “I’m not done with you yet, boy. I’m coming and Hell is coming with me.”
The following morning, after seeing that Martin was hooked up with a tow truck and in no further need of their assistance, the boys headed out with Griffin at the helm. After carefully examining the Google map over breakfast, they had decided to continue north a ways on the Blue Ridge Parkway and then hang a right onto Hwy 64 towards the Richmond area. Nicholas phoned the Americamps RV Resort in Ashland to make reservations, as it was close to King’s Dominion, the theme park they planned to take by storm tomorrow.
With Griffin’s tunes as a soundtrack, the morning passed peacefully with the boys enjoying the Appalachian scenery and lost in their individual thoughts. As they maneuvered onto the highway and picked up the pace, Lady Gaga let them know in no uncertain terms …
“I’m beautiful in my way
’Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way (Born this way!)
Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby, I was born this way
Baby, I was born this way!”
Checking the time on his phone, Nicholas suggested stopping in the Charlottesville area for lunch.
“Maybe find a hot spot near the UVA campus? Find a little eye candy to feast on?” Griffin teased.
“Ooo! I hadn’t thought of that but, of course, you went right there!” Nicholas said with a smirk.
Noticing Griffin’s not-so-subtle scratching of his nether regions, Nicholas inquired, “Diaper rash? Jock itch? Heebie jeebies?”
“I have no idea. It started itching about an hour ago and it keeps getting worse the more I scratch. I took a shower this morning and I didn’t notice anything then.”
“Well, maybe stop scratching … both hands on the wheel, Captain.”
As they continued on, with Griffin trying bravely to keep his hands off his treasures and Nicholas giggling at his frustration, desperation set in for Griff. When he spied the UVA/Charlottesville exit, Griffin almost bumper car-ed three other vehicles in his attempt to navigate to a suitable lunch establishment. At the moment, he wanted nothing more than to find some relief for whatever was going on in his boxers.
Griffin turned the ignition off and headed toward the back of the RV in one fluid motion. By the time he got to the bedroom, his shorts were at his ankles and he was squealing gibberish at the plight that his boys were in.
“Let me see,” Nicholas said. “OH, dude! That is just fifty shades of nasty!”
“What is it?” Griffin screeched.
“My best guess is that, my friend, is an epic case of poison ivy rash.”
“WHAT? … HOW? … WHY?”
“Well, let’s think about this. Yesterday, when you were preparing the picnic area, did you have to clear a spot for the blankets?”
“Yeah, of course. It was kinda overgrown.”
“And, at some point, did you find the need to … uh … drain your main vein?”
“Uh, yeah, I think so.”
“So, you, apparently, handled some poison ivy vines before you then handled yourself, so to speak, spreading the sap to your playground area.”
“Then why aren’t my hands covered in rash?”
“We went back to the RV to eat and you cleaned up, but you didn’t clean up down there. Also, that area is much more sensitive, I would think. You may still get some small rashes on your hands and arms, but not like that.”
“So, what do I do? Help me, Obi-Wan … you’re my only hope!”
“My mom is highly allergic to it and she uses a lotion called Caladryl. It’s a combination of calamine, which helps with itching and drying up the rash, and Benadryl, which eases the allergic reaction. I see a Walgreen’s in that strip center across the road. I’ll go get some. While I’m gone, you wash the whole area with a lot of soap to help dry out the rash.”
As Nicholas strolled across the parking lot heading for the pharmacy and still giggling, but in a sympathetic kind of way, he heard a yelp. Looking around, he spotted an elderly lady waving her hands about as the shopping cart she had apparently been pushing raced away from her and towards a line of parked vehicles.
Nicholas sprinted toward the cart, dodging an oncoming mini-van and leaping over a low hedge. He snagged the rogue cart just before it had the pleasure of making acquaintances with an exquisite Lexus LX. Stopping a moment to catch his breath, he turned the cart back toward home and the now visibly relieved customer.
“Oh, thank you so much, young man! I didn’t realize there was such a slope here and it just slipped right out of my hands. You reacted so quickly and I’m so very grateful!” She gushed while digging in her purse and pulling out a wad of bills. “Here, please take this! It’s the least I can do.”
“No, no … I can’t take your money, ma’am. Your ‘thank you’ is quite enough. It was no big deal. Just in the right place at the right time.” Nicholas helped the lady put her bags into her car as she continued to thank him and try to get him to take the money, which he politely refused. “You have a good day, ma’am … and drive carefully now.”
“Well, this day just keeps getting more fun,” Nicholas thought, “and I haven’t even had lunch yet!”
“It took you long enough!” Griffin snarled before Nicholas even had the RV door closed.
“Mind yourself, Mr. Grumpy No-pants … I still have the receipt! I had to rescue a damsel in distress, blackmail a store clerk into finding more of this stuff in the stockroom because the shelf was empty, and wait in line behind eight people at the only register open and it was being operated by a ‘Please be patient, I’m new’ employee.”
“Fine, thanks … so gimme, gimme!”
Griffin tore the seal off the bottle and practically poured the stuff all over himself.
“Easy there! That needs to last you at least until we stop tonight. Rub it in good and let it dry before getting dressed.”
“Dressed? I’m gonna lay right here just like this while you drive. Just go get us some lunch and bring it back.”
“OK. Wash it well with lots of soap every couple of hours and put more Caladryl on it. By tonight, it should be much more tolerable. Let me know if you need a hand!” Nicholas couldn’t resist the quip but also began to realize the disappointing implications as he left to scrounge up lunch.
Griffin would definitely not be interested in any amorous overtures for the next couple of nights, at least. It still amazed Nicholas how their beautiful friendship had morphed into … well, whatever this was now. They were the same people they were a few days ago … before. But nothing was the same now. That thought made Nicholas’ tummy flutter … a lot like that old lady’s hands!
Grayson sat at the bar, nursing his drink. He stared down into his beer, letting his mind wander over the disaster of his life. Just this week, he found out his parents were getting divorced. His grades were in a steady decline, and now, just this morning, he walked in on his boyfriend cheating on him.
Maybe breaking up with Sebastian would help him study more and bring his grades up, he chuckled. There you go, Gray put a positive spin on it. The sound of the door opening in the nearly empty bar caught his attention. It brought his focus back to his present surroundings.
He glanced towards the door, and his jaw dropped. The man from his dreams stood framed in the doorway. Gray always had weird dreams, but for the last week or so, they were exceptionally weird. And a guy who looked exactly like this guy in the doorway was in every single one of them. Gray looked away before the guy caught him staring.
The man walked up and sat down right next to Gray. Gray finished his beer and tried to concentrate on the TV over the bar. He heard the man say, “Bartender, two beers. One for me and a refill for my new friend here.” Just the voice alone sent shivers down his spine. Gray turned, and the man was smiling at him.
“I thought it looked like you needed another one. You look a little stressed.” The man said.
“Thanks. Its been a long week. I’m Grayson… well, just Gray is fine.” Gray took a good look at the man beside him. Tall, over six feet, jet black hair, and deep dark chocolate brown eyes. The eyes held Gray’s gaze. For just a second Gray thought he saw bright crimson sparks at the center of the eyes, but then the sparks were gone.
“Nice to meet you, Gray. Different people have called me by different names, but you can call me Luke.” He smiled and extended his hand.
Gray shook his hand. “Very mysterious answer, Luke. Do you go to college here? You look familiar.”
“No. I just got to town today. I’ve traveled around a lot in my lifetime, but this is my first time here.” Luke said.
“What brings you to this boring, tiny town? Not much here but the college and this bar.” Gray laughed.
“I guess you could call it a family drama. I am looking for my Father. No one has heard from Him in quite a while.” Luke said.
“I hope you find him, and everything is ok. I know how rough families can be. I just found out that my parents are getting divorced.” Gray rolled his eyes.
“Thanks. The sooner I find him, the better it will be for everyone.” Luke said and then leaned in close to Gray and placed his hand on his knee. “So, do you have a boyfriend?”
Gray smiled a crooked half-smile. His eyes flicked down to Luke’s hand and then right back up to his eyes. “What makes you think it would be a boyfriend and not a girlfriend?”
Luke slid his hand halfway up Grayson’s leg as he leaned in even closer. “Because, ever since I walked in the door, you have looked at me like you’ve wanted to take a bite out of me.”
Luke smirked, then he added, “Do you have somewhere private we can continue this conversation?”
Gray knew he would probably regret it, but he said, “I should say no, but yeah. Follow me.” He led Luke out of the bar and two blocks over to his small apartment, just off the college campus.
The barely got in the apartment and closed the door, and Gray was kicking off his shoes and grabbing for Luke’s shirt. After removing the shirt, he pushed him into the small bedroom and down onto the bed. Luke was taller and had a more muscled body than Gray, but Gray was eager and determined to work off some of his built-up stress from the last week.
He crawled up Luke’s body, planting kisses along his chest and neck. He covered the other man’s mouth with his own, and then he felt Luke’s hands in between them. Luke gently pushed Gray up to a sitting position and looked deep into his eyes. “Gray, slow down a minute. We need to talk.”
Gray tried to push Luke back down. “Talk later. There are other things I’d rather do right now.” He leaned in and nipped at Luke’s ear with his teeth.
Luke pushed back again. “You’re not making it easy to stop.” He nearly growled. “But we have to talk. It’s important.”
Gray looked a little hurt. “What’s wrong? Don’t you want this? Don’t you want me?”
Luke took his face between his two strong hands. “Baby, I want you more than I’ve wanted anyone in over a millennium, but that’s why we have to talk now. Before we go any further. I want you to know what you’re getting yourself into. There’s a lot we have to talk about.”
Gray looked completely confused. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. You aren’t making any sense.”
Luke grabbed Gray’s hips and flipped him over on his back as easy as flipping over a piece of paper, then he sat upon the edge of the bed. Gray sat up and leaned back against the wall, waiting for Luke to speak.
Luke sighed and began. “Remember, I said I have gone by many names?” Gray nodded, a curious look on his face. “The names you humans most commonly call me are Devil, Satan, or Fallen One. The name my Father gave me upon my creation was Lucifer.”
Gray laughed out loud. “Come on. Did you interrupt the hottest sex of my life to tell jokes? I thought you had something serious to say.”
Luke rolled his eyes and stretched out his right arm, then he snapped his fingers and opened his hand. A small ball of fire appeared, hovering over his palm. “Is this a joke? May I continue?”
Gray’s eyes widened in shock and fear, he scooted back against the wall. He started to get up, but Luke stopped him. “Please stay. I would never hurt you. What I have to tell you is vitally important.”
Gray relaxed back against the wall again, mumbling to himself. “I can’t believe I just made out with Satan.”
Luke chuckled. “Whatever!” Then he continued. “My Father, God, has not been seen or heard from since the time of Creation. I tried to keep order the way I knew he would have wanted, but my brothers disagreed with my decisions. It was not God who cast me out of Heaven. It was my brother, Gabriel. Once he got Raphael and Michael on his side, the others all fell in line. The few lesser angels that tried to help me were cast out with me.”
“Wait. Wait. Wait. So, you’re saying that they cast you out of Heaven because of sibling rivalry, not because you are pure evil and tried to overthrow God?” Gray asked, mouth agape.
“Yes. My Father had no part in my banishment. I tried to honor Him the best way I knew. Gabriel is power-hungry. Always was and still is. It is Gabriel who has spread the lies and propaganda about me to you humans.” Luke said.
Grayson sat there, shaking his head. “I’m trying to soak this all in. Keep going.”
“I was cast out along with a handful of loyal lesser angels. We couldn’t stay on Earth, so we were forced into the Inferno dimension.” Luke looked pointedly at Gray. “Though a substantial portion of the Inferno is indeed a fiery prison for evil souls, I have fashioned a Paradise separate from the Fire Pits. Not all the souls barred from Heaven’s Gate deserve torture. The Inferno accepts any who wish to enter. Once there, we judge your soul and process you into either Paradise, the Fire Pits, or Limbo.”
Gray looked lost deep in thought. “That sounds fair, to be honest.”
“Thank you for your approval, kind sir.” Lucifer scoffed.
Gray smiled shyly.
“There is so much more I need to tell you, but we are pressed for time. Gabriel’s thirst for power reached a new level three days ago. He sent a force of angels into the Inferno, where they united with a force of traitorous demons. Their combined army is marching against my loyalists at the Fire Pits. Gabriel wants to set all the damned souls loose upon the Earth. He wants the humans destroyed in such a way that he can blame me. Then he will swoop in as a savior. He will destroy the damned souls, and he will have won Heaven, Earth, and the Inferno.”
Gray was shocked. He didn’t even know what to say or how to respond. “Luke, why are you even telling me this? Angels and demons are real. God is missing in action. The Archangel Gabriel is a dick who wants to take over the world, and the Devil himself is half-naked in my bed. Why me? Why are you here? You should be out leading your army and saving the world.”
Luke stared at Gray with a look of fierce determination. “My army can hold the Pits without me. At least I hope so. But here’s the thing. The only way we stop Gabriel now is with my Father’s help, and you are going to help me find him.”
If anything, Gray looked even more shocked. “How am I going to find God if you can’t?”
Luke grinned at him. “Because you are the last Prophet of God.”
Gray laughed despite everything. “What are you talking about? My life is a disaster. How am I a Prophet?”
Luke cocked his head to one side. “Have you ever had dreams that came true? Or you were somewhere, and something happened, and you felt like you’d seen it before even though you knew you’d never been there?”
Gray thought for a minute. “Now that you say it like that, yes. Those things happen often. And you have been in every one of my dreams for the last week.”
Luke smiled. “You have been touched by God. You have a connection to Him. You will help me find Him. We just have to make sure that Gabriel or his goons don’t find you first, but based on your dreams, it sounds like I was meant to find you, and you are meant to help me.”
Gray nearly screamed. “What?! Does Gabriel know about me? Are they coming after me? What should I do?”
“We leave this town first thing in the morning,” Luke said.
“I suppose I don’t have a choice, do I?” Gray asked.
“Gray, I need your help. God has chosen you. If you learn to focus, I believe you can lead me to Him. You can help me save all of humanity.” Luke said.
“And when I brought you back to my apartment, all I wanted was to get laid.” Gray laughed.
Luke joined in the laughter. “Let’s get some sleep. We should start early tomorrow. We have more to talk about as we travel.” Lucifer lay back on the bed and pulled Gray close to his side. “Is this ok?”
Gray cuddled in close. “It’s probably a huge mistake, I mean you are the Devil after all, but yeah, I’m ok with it. Wait, are you even gay? Was all this a big plan to get me to help you?”
Luke heaved a big sigh. “There is no label to describe me. Over the centuries, I have slept with countless men and countless women. There have been few, however, that I have cared for. A kind and loving soul attracts me, not sex. Man, woman, angel, demon… these things do not matter if the soul inside is pure. Do you understand?”
“I think I do. That was actually a really great answer.” Grayson said as he drifted off to sleep wrapped in Lucifer’s arms.
With the wind whipping his hair into his face, Nicholas kicked his feet and screamed the whole way across the zipline. Halfway across, the screams of fear turned into screams of joy. Griff nudged the zipline employee out of the way and helped Nicholas unstrap himself from the harness. Nicholas got shakily to his feet and fell into Griff’s arms. “Th…that was fun. I was nervous at first, but I really liked it.”
Griff wrapped his arms around Nicholas. “We have time for one more if you’re up for it.”
“Yeah! Now that I’ve shaken off the nerves, I think I’d do even better!” He said, running ahead of Griff to get on the lift back to the start of the zipline.
After their second trip across, Griff looked at his watch. “You need to sit for a minute or are you ready to head back?”
“I’m good.” Nicholas blushed and looked deep into Griffin’s emerald green eyes. “I know we have plans.”
Griff leaned down and their lips met, more with tenderness than passion. “Let’s start back. The hike should take about an hour and then it’ll be time to head out to the overlook.” He said as he grasped Nicholas’s hand, their fingers entwining, and led him onto the trail.
Back at the RV, the two boys each took showers and changed their clothes. Griffin had just finished repacking the picnic basket, with fruit and snacks rather than the dinner he packed earlier, when Nicholas walked out of the bathroom running his fingers through his still wet hair. Griff’s breath caught in his throat. He still couldn’t believe that they were actually dating after all this time. This did count as dating, didn’t it? Was Nicholas his official boyfriend? Should they put a label on it with him going off to school so soon? Griff pushed those thoughts out of his head. He didn’t want to ruin their romantic moonlit picnic with his angst. He closed the lid on the picnic basket and looked up at Nicholas. “How can someone look so perfect out here in the middle of the forest? Most people can’t look like that with a team of hairdressers.”
“Oh, stop. You’re way hotter than me.” Nicholas said, blushing.
“Whatever. Let’s go.” Griffin grinned and took Nicholas’ hand. They walked to the overlook and spread out the blanket. Griff started setting up the picnic and Nicholas walked over to the cliff and took in the view.
“This is a spectacular spot you picked out, Griff. The view is amazing. I bet it would be even better in the fall when the leaves change.” He felt Griff’s hands slide around his waist and pull him close.
Griffin kissed the side of Nicholas’ neck. “The view is nothing without you.”
“Mm. That feels nice. This was definitely a great idea but check out that sky. I don’t think we’re going to be doing much stargazing tonight.”
“Dang. You’re right. Those clouds are moving in fast. Let’s at least enjoy the view for a little while.” They sat on their blanket and Griff handed Nicholas some of the snacks. “Did you have any specific plan on where we’re heading next?”
“No. Not really. Back toward the coast. I was thinking maybe DC. Was there somewhere you wanted to go?”
“Actually yes. I thought if we passed close to Richmond that we could stop at King’s Dominion.”
“I’ll enter the address into the GPS when we get back. Gee, now the wind is picking up. I don’t think we’re gonna be out here much longer.”
Griff scooted over. He had a bunch of grapes in his hand and started feeding them to Nicholas. Nicholas smirked. “Are we in ancient Athens? I didn’t think…” Whatever else he was going to say was silenced when Griff’s mouth closed over his. With a hand on Nicholas’ chest, Griff gently pushed him down, deepening the kiss.
CRACK! BOOM! The crack of the lightning and the boom of the thunder sounded like it was right on top of them. Then the skies opened up and before they were even on their feet, they were drenched. The boys packed everything up as quickly as possible, Griff grabbed the picnic basket and Nicholas slung the now very wet blanket over his shoulder as they ran back down the trail to their RV. They were almost at the end of the trail and they saw another crack of lightning and the sound of a tree falling not far away.
Nicholas yelled out, “Griffin! Stop!” He wasn’t sure but he thought he saw what looked like headlights coming right for them. “Griffin!” Nicholas dove. He tackled Griff and they rolled off the trail and a little way down the hillside, landing in a puddle.
“What the…” Griff’s complaint was cut short by an out of control RV crashing through the bushes right at the end of the trail they had just been on.
The driver of the RV jumped out and ran over to the boys. “Are you guys ok? I am so sorry! That damn tree fell right in front of me and I swerved and lost control.”
Both boys were still sitting the mud puddle. Griff spoke up, “Yeah. We’re fine.” He looked at Nicholas. “Only because of this guy though. Nicky, I think you saved my life.”
Nicholas playfully punched Griff’s arm. “I won’t next time if you keep calling me ‘Nicky’!”
“I am so relieved that you guys are ok. Now let me see if I can get my RV back on the road. You guys need to get out of this rain.”
The boys got up out of the puddle and joined the man who was now surveying his RV. Nicholas shook his head. “Dude, you’re not getting that out of there without a tow truck. With the busted windshield and the angle its sitting at on the hill, I doubt if it’ll be very comfortable for you to sleep in there either. We got an RV right over there. Let’s all get out of this rain before we drown.”
The man sighed. “Do you mind helping me throw a tarp over the windshield first?”
After helping the stranger cover his window, they all got into Nicholas’ RV. Griff wiped his hands on his wet jeans and put his hand out to the man. “I’m Griffin and this is my best friend Nicholas. Sucky circumstances but its nice to meet you.”
The man replied with a nervous laugh, “I’m Martin. I’m glad I didn’t kill you, Griffin.”
“Yeah. Me too. Are you traveling alone, Martin?” Griff asked.
“For now. I’m picking my grandkids up in South Carolina and from there Disney World.”
“That’s cool. We’re heading in the opposite direction. No real plan except dropping Griff off at college in August.” Nicholas added. “I pulled out the couch bed for you, Martin. Its ready whenever you wanna crash.”
“What about you guys? I’m really sorry to inconvenience you both. Where will you both sleep?”
“We’ll be in the bedroom.” Griff said, taking Nicholas’ hand in his own.
“Oh. Ok. Uhm that’s great. Are you sure you don’t mind me staying the night?”
“It’s fine.” Both boys said as they walked into the bedroom.
“You sure about leaving him alone out there with all our stuff?” Griff asked.
“Where would he go if he tried to steal anything? That RV isn’t going anywhere.”
“I’m sorry our romantic evening ended so soon and without much romance.” Griff said with a frown.
“Its totally fine. Now get in this bed. I need cuddles before I sleep.” Griff slipped into bed behind Nicholas and wrapped him in his arms. “This is all the romance I need.” Nicholas said as they both drifted off to sleep.