SLEEPOVER

Girls just wanna have fun, right?

Cindy could overhear the others talking as she listened through the bathroom door. She had just changed into her grey sweatpants and white T-shirt in this upstairs bedroom bathroom, so she was ready for the party to begin, but now she was regretting accepting this invitation.

“Why did you invite her again?” asked Melissa.

Melissa was Misty’s right-hand lackey, and both of them together were the terror of the eleventh grade. Cindy knew this—everyone did—but she had accepted their invitation anyway.

“Because we need a sixth,” replied Misty. “We have the whole gang here, but that’s only five of us, and to complete the circle, we need a sixth.”

Misty was the unofficial boss of their high school, and she wasn’t even a senior. No, only a fool would cross her, but that was the problem, because Cindy really didn’t want to be here, but she was afraid to tell Misty “No.” You didn’t tell Misty “No.”

“What’s with that stupid old book anyway?” asked Melissa. “Why are you so obsessed with it?”

“Obsessed?” asked Misty. “Isn’t that a big word for you? Look, the only thing worthwhile my crazy old grandma ever did for me was leave me that book. The ritual is going to work, and it’s going to give us power.”

“We’re sixteen,” scoffed Melissa. “What are we going to do with power?”

“Anything we want,” said Misty. “I don’t know about you, but I want a million dollars.”

“Even if that’s true, you’re just going to share this ‘power’ with a dork like Cindy?” asked Melissa.

“If that’s what it takes,” replied Misty.

Cindy frowned as she looked at herself in the mirror. She did not think of herself as a dork…She did not like that word. She was skinny, she had long curly black hair surrounding a gawky face, and she wore thick square glasses just so she could see, but she was not a dork.

She liked the same music the others liked, like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson. She liked the same magazines the others liked, like Bop and Seventeen and Teen. She even liked the same shows the others liked, like Family Ties and The Facts of Life and Square Pegs. It wasn’t fair that she’d been pushed into a corner just to be the butt of a joke.

No, life had definitely not been fair to her. She wanted to sing and dance like the stars, but she knew she never would. The stars were beautiful…For one thing, she didn’t even have any real boobs yet. The other girls had grown in theirs, but hers were still M.I.A. She was just so flat, and that was really frustrating.

She wanted a boyfriend, too. All of the other girls had boyfriends, but none of the boys liked her. They didn’t like her at all. Misty was dating Brandon Marsh, the most popular boy in school, and Misty was a terrible person. Misty didn’t deserve anything like that…It was just so unfair.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. The others had been mean to her, terribly mean, in fact—Misty and Melissa and Becky and Janet and Donna…well, maybe not Becky—but Cindy wasn’t stupid. Maybe they would treat her a little better if she was in their circle…Anything was better than being at the bottom.

Still…what was this about a book?

She grabbed her overnight bag and opened the bathroom door. Misty and Melissa immediately swiveled to stare her down, but that was okay. Cindy had already expected this kind of treatment.

Misty was the tall and popular redhead, with Melissa being short and dark-haired. Both of them were the prettiest girls in school, so Cindy could not help but want to be in their circle. It was survival of the fittest when it came to being a junior in high school.

She decided to ignore the open hostility their gazes imparted upon her. She dropped her overnight bag in the corner of the bedroom where the other girls had put theirs, and then she turned to address her slightly-hostile host.

“I heard something about a book?” she asked.

“Were you eavesdropping on us!” asked Melissa in a hostile tone.

“No, I was just—” began Cindy.

“It’s fine,” said Misty as she waved off Melissa. “I do have a book, a very special book, and I’ll be revealing it shortly.”

“Oh?” asked Cindy.

“Just shut up and gather round,” ordered Melissa.

“That’s right!” smiled Misty. “We’re all going to get in a circle tonight.”

“What for?” asked Cindy.

“We’re going to summon a demon!” giggled Becky.

Becky had straight brown hair and a plain face, yet she had somehow made it into the popular circle. She was kind of stupid, but people liked her anyway. It really was unfair.

Still…they were going to summon a demon?

“S…Summon a demon?” stammered Cindy.

“Oh, don’t tell me you’re chicken,” said Janet.

Janet was a natural blonde and kind of mean, especially to the boys, but that meanness just made her more popular for some reason. It was kind of unfathomable.

But yet again…they were going to summon a demon?

“I…I…I’m not chicken,” stumbled Cindy. “It’s just that, isn’t this kind of thing dangerous?”

“Only if it’s real,” scoffed Donna. “This is just for fun, stupid.”

Donna had straight brown hair like Becky, but she was better looking in the face, though she was a pessimist that didn’t believe in anything supernatural. She was probably only here because Misty had demanded Janet come.

Janet and Donna were always together, and Donna was Janet’s yes-girl. They were the off-brand version of Misty and Melissa, which made them doubly annoying, because they were just as terrible to Cindy as Misty and Melissa were, if not more so.

“I’m not stupid,” frowned Cindy. “I was just asking a question.”

“Yeah, a stupid question,” said Donna.

“I’m just saying—” began Cindy.

“That we’re all going to have fun,” said Misty. “My parents are out of state for the weekend, which means us girls get to play while they’re gone…Cyndi Lauper is right, you know. Girls just wanna have fun.”

“Uh, huh…” said Cindy.

But her reticence was not welcomed.

“Why did you have to invite her?” asked Donna.

“I know,” frowned Melissa. “What a dork.”

“Because she’s going to be one of us now,” said Misty. “Isn’t that right, Cindy?”

“Y…Yeah,” said Cindy.

Still…she was really unsure about this. Summoning demons? What was that about?

This was irrelevant at the moment, of course. The other girls were just as unhappy about the current situation, but not for the same reasons.

“Great,” said Donna. “Now we have a dork hanging around. Hopefully, we’re not all ostracized by the time ’84 rolls around. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be in the same category as this dork and Lauren Grouper.”

“Let’s not get testy, girls,” said Misty. “We need Cindy with us, especially for tonight. There has to be six…Now, no more arguing with me…We have our fun to get to…This is a sleepover, right? We’re supposed to have fun…Now, everybody gather round, and I’ll show you my crazy old grandma’s book.”

“Yeah!” said Becky. “Let’s see it!…Is it a book of spells?”

“Something like that,” smiled Misty.

The popular redhead was all smiles, but there was something sinister in her green eyes that Cindy did not like. It was hidden there, a maliciousness, a malign force just beneath the surface, that surface a thin veneer of legitimacy that Misty always wore like so much makeup.

Misty rolled back the sleaves of the knit pink sweater she was in, got down on her hands and knees upon the short blue carpet of her bedroom, and pulled out a large tome from beneath her bed.

The tome in question was a relic to be sure. It was fairly thick for such an old book, as it was surely made long, long before even Misty’s grandmother’s time, as the covers were made from some unidentifiable dark leather and the bindings were large stitches of old crimson thread. On the cover was a symbol that Cindy had seen before, the reverse five-pointed star in a circle, a blood-red pentagram etched into the book.

Misty waved everyone forward as they all gathered around her. The popular redhead sat up on her knees as she smiled and tapped the front cover of the monstrous book.

“My grandmother told me this book is—” she began.

Cindy blurted out the first thing that came to mind, a private fear she held, one in which she knew exactly what this book was.

The Necronomicon?” she asked. “Is that what it is?”

Misty let forth a disturbing laugh and shook her head no.

“The Necro-what?” asked Melissa.

The Necronomicon is Lovecraft’s invention,” replied Misty.

“Lovecraft?” asked Becky. “What’s a Lovecraft? Is that like The Love Boat?”

Everyone else laughed, but Cindy did not find Becky’s ignorance particularly amusing.

“Uhhh…no,” chuckled Misty. “H.P. Lovecraft was an author from the 1920s. Cindy, here, is a bookworm, so she would know that name.”

Of course, Cindy did not like being relegated into the “nerd” corner.

“If I’m a bookworm, then how do you know it?” asked Cindy.

“Because I’ve studied this book,” said Misty. “I went to the library and looked up anything I could find out about it, but there’s nothing I could find that didn’t deal with Lovecraft. It was really annoying.”

“So it isn’t The Necronomicon?” asked Cindy.

“No,” said Misty with another shake of her head. “The Necronomicon isn’t real. Lovecraft made it up…but he may have based it off of this book…The Pentagony.”

The Pentagony?” asked Becky. “That sounds ominous.”

“It should,” smirked Misty. “Only a few copies were ever made, and they all belong to crazy old women like my dear, departed grandma. Thanks to her, this one belongs to me…It’s valuable beyond words.”

“So what’s so special about it?” asked Melissa.

“I was getting to that,” smiled Misty.

Her smile was condescending, something Cindy picked up on immediately, and something Melissa had not. It occurred to Cindy that Melissa was too trusting and too stupid to figure out that her best “friend” was nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing…Cindy was not about to trust Misty in any way, shape, or form, but she needed the popular redhead to become popular herself, or at least, less hated.

“This book is so old that its original name, if it had one, is lost to time,” said Misty. “The title is called The Pentagony because it’s a mix of ‘penta,’ the Ancient Greek word for ‘five,’ and ‘agony,’ which is an Old French and Latin derivative of the original Greek word.”

“None of that made any sense,” said Janet.

But it had made sense to Cindy, and this sounded like they were playing with fire. Furthermore, Misty had just proven herself to be very smart, far smarter than Cindy had originally given her credit for. She had not known that the popular redhead was so educated…

Now it really wasn’t fair. If she didn’t even have the brains to compete with the likes of Misty, then what did she have?

“It stands for ‘the five agonies,’” smirked Misty. “The five agonies are ambition, seduction…which includes deception…defilement, pleonexia…or greed, for lack of a better word…and estrangement.”

“None of those sound good,” frowned Becky.

“Thank you, Becky,” whispered Cindy, but Misty heard her.

“What was that?” asked the popular redhead.

“N…Nothing,” stammered Cindy.

“Mmm, hmm, right,” said Misty. “Just be quiet and listen, Cindy. You’re lucky I’m even talking to you, much less inviting you over.”

“Exactly,” snorted Melissa.

Cindy winced over this admonishment. She really needed to keep her mouth shut.

“Anyway, the five agonies are centered around the five types of demons,” continued Misty.

Of course, Cindy could not keep her mouth shut over this. She did not want to play around with demons regardless of whether they were real or not. She didn’t know if the supernatural was real, but she really didn’t want to find out. Nevertheless, if they were going to summon a demon, she did have some standards. She did not want to end up summoning anything absolutely horrifying to the eyes.

“These aren’t like the weird horrors with tentacles and eyes like in Lovecraft?” she asked.

“No,” said Misty. “No, that was Lovecraft’s fantasy. This is more the ‘traditional’ type of demon…You see, what people don’t know is that a demon can be summoned in order to gain mastery over them, and once you have that mastery, you have power…real power.”

“Okay, whatever,” snorted Donna. “So, what are we talking about here? What’s this ‘power’ you keep mentioning?”

“Like anything you can think of,” said Misty. “But what I have in mind is a little different. What I have in mind is more subtle than just an outright wish.”

“What’s that?” asked Janet.

“The demon I want to summon is actually a demoness,” continued Misty. “I know because my grandmother translated a lot of this book from Latin to English—Latin, which, I might add, none of us can read—and that Latin had been translated from Ancient Greek, and that had been translated from an older language, probably an ancient language that originated out of the Middle East.”

“That’s a lot of translations,” said Cindy.

“Yes, but the rituals still work, even from the English,” said Misty.

“So who are we summoning, then?” asked Cindy.

She had a strange premonition that this was indeed a very bad idea. Even so, she wanted to know the name of who or what they would be summoning.

“Very perceptive, Cindy,” replied Misty. “We’re not just summoning some random no name…No, we’re summoning Allerakth the Dancer. She’s what’s called a ‘succubus.’ With her influence, we can get people to do what we want, especially men, and therefore, we can get whatever we want…

“More powerful demons can grant big wishes that rewrite reality, but they’re much harder to control. What we’re going for is more subtle…It’s influence. It’s the difference between opening a locked door with a lockpick or with a sledgehammer. Both work, but the lockpick is the less obtrusive route…We’re taking the smart route that doesn’t alarm the powers that be. That’s why we’re using Allerakth. As far as demons go, she’s the ‘safest’ to summon.”

From what Cindy understood, there wasn’t really any kind of a “safe” demon, but Misty was calling the shots here.

“We’re going to set up a pentagram in the basement and trap her in it,” continued Misty. “I’ve already drawn the pentagram and the matching symbols from the book. All we have to do is light the candles and say the words.”

“And then what?” asked Janet.

“And then we make her give us what we want,” said Misty in a smug tone. “I’ve studied this book extensively. I already know how to force her to give us what we want. As far as demons go, succubae aren’t exactly at the top of the command chain. They’re not really even middle management.”

Cindy did not like this at all. She knew what a “succubus” was, and the connotations attached to that word were dirty and gross. She was human, of course, and she had those kinds of feelings like anyone else, but she wasn’t one to obsess about them…Thinking about sex disturbed her a little anyway…To be honest, she didn’t like any of this, not the succubus part, and certainly not the summoning part.

“Isn’t this really dangerous?” she asked without thinking.

“What are you, chicken?” sneered Melissa. “Just shut up and follow along.”

“You want to be one of us, right?” asked Misty.

It was Misty’s almost-sincere gaze that trapped Cindy into acquiescence. She knew in her heart that the popular redhead could not be trusted, but still…to finally be accepted into their group?…She could not simply pass this opportunity by.

“I…uhhh…Okay…” said Cindy weakly.

“Good,” smiled Misty. “Then let’s head to the basement.”

The popular redhead led them downstairs, through the living room, into the kitchen, and then through the basement door into the basement. Misty flicked on the basement lights, and they all walked down the creaky wooden steps into the basement until they were in a large open space, a void of anything but concrete floor and walls.

“It’s empty down here,” said Janet.

“It floods down here, and Misty’s parents haven’t fixed that yet,” said Melissa dryly.

“They’re getting around to it,” shrugged Misty. “It’s expensive to just rework the entire bottom of the house.”

“Is that why there’s nothing down here?” asked Becky.

Misty gave the slightly stupid girl a rather frustrated, if not downright insulting, look.

“Yes, Becky,” sighed Misty. “There’s nothing down here because when the basement floods, anything down here would get ruined.”

“Duh, dummy,” scoffed Melissa.

“Oh…” replied Becky.

Cindy shook her head at all of this. First of all, the basement wasn’t entirely empty because Misty had been busy. There was a large pentagram drawn in white chalk that spanned a good eight feet in diameter, that pentagram filled with weird symbols drawn in said white chalk, and at each of the five points of that pentagram’s star was a single red candle ready to be lit…No, Cindy didn’t like this at all.

“Everyone, sit at one of the five points of the star, right in front of a candle,” ordered Misty. “You’re going to have to light your candle when I say so…Melissa, remember that notepad I told you to hold?…Hand out the notepad paper, one sheet to everyone, including yourself. Don’t give me one, though. I have to read from the book.”

Misty’s yes-girl tore off five sheets of paper from a notepad and handed one page to each of the other girls, save Misty, who held her precious old book in her own slender hands. Melissa then kept one page for herself.

Cindy reluctantly took her slip of paper and then sat down, legs crossed, in front of one of the star points in-between Becky and Janet.

Her anxiety grew as she sat there in strange anticipation of whatever was to come. She had a terrible feeling that Misty’s ritual was going to work, and this scared her on a deep level, but she was even more scared of being ostracized, so she kept her mouth shut against her better judgement.

“Everybody, take the small matchbox in front of you and light your candle,” ordered Misty.

They all complied without argument, lighting their candles without further coaxing.

Cindy removed a single match from a tiny matchbox on her right and lit the large red candle before her.

Once all of the candles were lit, Melissa asked a very insightful question.

“Where are you sitting?” she asked as she looked up at their unofficial “leader.”

“I have to stand and read from the book,” smiled Misty. “Now, everyone, be quiet. Put the sheet of paper Melissa gave you in between your legs, close your eyes, and hold each other’s hands so we can complete the circle.”

“Eww!” exclaimed Janet. “I have to hold hands with this dork?”

Cindy knew that insult was directed solely at her, and this bothered her, but Becky, surprisingly enough, stood up for her in that single moment.

“Cindy’s not that bad,” said the slightly-stupid girl. “At least she’s not Lauren Grouper.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Janet.

Lauren Grouper was another ostracized girl at school, someone Cindy now felt infinitely sorry for.

Misty and her friends really were mean, but…Cindy wanted to be a part of their group anyway. She did not want to be at the bottom anymore. She had said it to herself before, and she would say it again: It was survival of the fittest when you were a junior in high school.

Cindy took Becky’s hand and then Janet’s, though Janet treated her touch as if she were a victim of the black plague.

“Everybody, close your eyes,” said Misty. “It’s time to read from the book.”

“Okay!” said Becky happily. “This is going to be fun!”

Cindy wondered if Becky was really all there or not, and apparently, so did Janet.

“We’re summoning a demon, doofus,” scoffed the blonde. “I don’t think it’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be scary.”

“Well, I think it’s fun,” said Becky, a frown etched across her plain face.

Cindy shook her head and closed her eyes. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen, so…

“Okay, everyone’s eyes are closed,” said Misty. “Now it’s time for the incantation…I need absolute quiet for this, and whatever you do, do not open your eyes. You’ll ruin the summoning. Those are the instructions in the book. Just don’t do it.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Janet. “Did you hear that, Donna?”

“Yep,” said Donna. “I’m not the one to worry about, though. You should worry about Becky. She’s the one with cheese for brains.”

“Hey!” protested the slightly-stupid girl. “I’m not going to open my eyes.”

“N…Neither am I,” stammered Cindy.

She was afraid to open her eyes anyway. She was afraid she would open them and see something horrible standing in the center of this large pentagram. She most certainly did not want to experience that, but she knew herself quite well, and she had a habit of staring directly at whatever terrified her, ensuring she would have nightmares for weeks. This always happened whenever there was a horror movie on TV. Nevertheless, she would try to keep her eyes shut this time.

“Good,” said Misty. “Now everybody, shut up and sit quietly while I read from the book…and remember, whatever you do, do not open your eyes until I say so…One more thing…After I read a line, everyone has to repeat it. I’ll read one line at a time so that everyone can follow along. Be quiet until after I’ve read a line, then repeat it. Understood?”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Janet. “We’ll repeat after you.”

“This is fun!” giggled Becky.

“Just shut up and do as she says,” said Donna.

“Quiet, everybody!” hissed Melissa.

“No matter what happens, don’t open your eyes,” warned Misty one last time. “I mean it. Anyone that breaks the circle is kicked out of the club…Am I clear? I already know Melissa won’t screw it up, so none of you others had better screw this up for me.”

“Tell that to Dork, here,” said Janet.

Cindy winced at that insult. She was really getting tired of the blonde’s caustic mouth.

“I’m not worried about Cindy,” said Misty nonchalantly. “She’s too much of a coward to open her eyes, but in this case, that’s a good thing, because I already know she won’t screw up the ritual.”

Cindy winced yet again at that insult, but it was also a compliment, if not a backhanded one.

“So don’t screw this up for me, Janet,” warned Misty. “Things are about to get hairy down here, and I don’t want you freaking out and ruining it.”

“Yeah, yeah,” muttered Janet. “I’m not going to freak out…Are we going to do this or what? Let’s get this done. I don’t want to touch Dork’s hand any longer than I have to.”

Cindy really wanted to rip out the blonde’s naturally golden hair, but she kept her temper in check for her own sake.

They sat there for a few seconds of silent and uncomfortable handholding, and then Misty began to read.

“Let the Black Gate open,” chanted Misty.

“Let the Black Gate open,” said everyone else, including Cindy.

“Let the Starless Void swallow,” chanted Misty.

“Let the Starless Void swallow,” chanted everyone else.

A breeze picked up, a slight gust of wind, which was weird, really weird, considering they were all down in the basement and none of the tiny basement windows were open. What was even stranger was that Cindy could only feel that breeze around her head and shoulders and not on any other part of her.

“We traverse the Hollow Sea,” chanted Misty.

“We traverse the Hollow Sea,” chanted everyone else.

“Five are we, for five is the number of Man,” chanted Misty.

“Five are we, for five is the number of Man,” said everyone else.

The breeze around Cindy’s head and shoulders turned into a whipping wind that flung her curly black hair back and forth, and she struggled not to open her eyes.

The other girls cried out a little, but Misty shushed them.

“Don’t break the circle!” hissed the popular blonde. “Something bad will happen if you do! We have to complete the ritual! Don’t open your eyes!”

The wind died down a little, as did the girls suffering through it.

“Five are we, for five is the number of Man,” chanted Misty again.

They repeated the line as before, and the wind picked up again in time with their chanting.

Cindy felt a cold chill grip her heart…This summoning actually seemed to be working. Her private fears were being realized.

“Let the Sixth fetter,” chanted Misty.

“Let the Sixth fetter,” chanted everyone else, including Cindy.

She did not want to engage in this madness any longer, but she felt compelled to, a strange calling she could not resist, a calling that was infernal in nature; she just knew it.

“We open the Black Gate,” chanted Misty.

“We open the Black Gate,” chanted everyone else.

“We pull forth Allerakth the Dancer,” chanted Misty.

“We pull forth Allerakth the Dancer,” chanted everyone else.

Cindy trembled and clutched Janet and Becky’s hands as the wind around her head and shoulders continued to whip her long, curly, black hair around. She could hear a whispering in the back of her mind, a sultry voice that spoke to her in a wanton tone.

“Look at me, Cindy,” said the voice.

She opened her eyes without meaning to, that terrible habit she had coming forth to play, but once her dark eyes were open, she could not shut them again.

She could see that the others had their eyes closed as Misty read from the book. The popular redhead was thoroughly engrossed within the pages of that cursed tome, so Misty did not see what Cindy saw, or she may have stopped reading.

Cindy could see a humanoid shape in the center of the pentagram, a wispy, shadowy form of a nude woman as the candle smoke gathered in the center to form that image, and that image spun and danced as the wind picked up all around them to blow everyone’s hair to and fro.

“We pull forth Allerakth the Seducer,” chanted Misty.

“We pull forth Allerakth the Seducer,” said everyone else.

“We pull forth Allerakth the Deceiver,” chanted Misty.

“We pull forth Allerakth the Deceiver,” repeated the group.

The wind whipped around Cindy’s head and shoulders as she held tightly to the two girls’ hands. She wanted to get up and run, but the whispering in her mind told her to stay, and she was too scared to ignore it.

“Stay with me, Cindy,” came the voice at the back of her mind. “We can dance together.”

The shape of smoke in the center was beautiful, a dancing, naked woman of perfect proportions, and that shape spun and twirled with otherworldly grace. Cindy could not take her eyes off it.

“Let Allerakth cross the Hollow Sea,” chanted Misty.

“Let Allerakth cross the Hollow Sea,” chanted everyone else.

“Let Allerakth cross the Starless Void,” chanted Misty.

“Let Allerakth cross the Starless Void,” chanted the group.

The beautiful, otherworldly shape in the center of the pentagram stopped and turned to stare directly into Cindy’s dark eyes. There were two pinpoints of vermillion light in that smoke where its eyes should have been, and those two pinpoints of light burrowed into Cindy, burrowing into the very depths of her mind right down to her innocent soul.

She felt cold inside, and not because of the wind whipping around her. Her skin felt hot as if touched by flames, but her insides felt ice cold, a chill that wrapped around her very essence of being.

“We pull Allerakth through the Black Gate,” chanted Misty.

“We pull Allerakth through the Black Gate,” chanted the rest of the girls.

“We fetter Allerakth,” chanted Misty.

“We fetter Allerakth,” chanted the girls.

The weird form of smoke danced in a circle again, only this time its wispy hair turned thick and curly like Cindy’s own, and it swung its wide hips in a circle until it stopped to stare at Cindy again with those bright pinpoints of crimson light, those twin beacons of strange, unholy desire.

Cindy felt an abnormal heat building up inside the cold within her. It was faint at first, and then it grew little by little, making her sweat, even as the wind continued to whip around her. Her body felt strange, excited, something private that was not for the company of these girls, and she did not like it.

She did not like the weird feelings this vision of smoke brought down upon her, but the tingling in her skin, the electricity that ran through her, was very powerful. She had visions of herself with attractive men, strange desires too graphic for her own normal imagination, and this disgusted her, making her tremble as she resisted those unnatural urges.

“The sacrifice shall be made,” chanted Misty. “The pact shall be sealed.”

“The sacrifice shall be made,” chanted the girls. “The pact shall be sealed.”

They repeated the lines, but Cindy did so against her own will. She was not in control anymore, not while having to fight off the raging flames of desire within her. It was taking everything she had to fight these unwanted feelings, and this frightened her like nothing else.

The smokey, otherworldly dancer in the center of the pentagram twirled a few more times before staring one last time into Cindy’s wide and horrified eyes.

“We can dance together,” came the voice in Cindy’s mind. “Don’t you want to be a star?”

“Let the order be written,” chanted Misty. “Let the pact be sealed.”

“Let the order be written,” chanted the girls. “Let the pact be sealed.”

As soon as the group had finished that last line, the wind suddenly stopped, and the dancer in the center of the pentagram turned into formless candle smoke.

Cindy’s logical, rational mind came to the surface of her brain, and that logical self tried to explain away the mysterious, otherworldly dancer as a weird coincidence of light and smoke, or maybe the strange image had been a hallucination caused by anxious hysteria, but whatever the case, she did not want to believe in it. She did not want to believe that thing in the center of the pentagram could possibly have been real.

Cindy took in a breath and shook her head a couple of times, because she felt whole again, her normal self, unviolated by whatever dark force she had thought had threatened to grip her immortal soul.

Janet ripped her hand away from her and gave her a deep and unforgiving scowl.

“Are you trying to break my hand, dork?” she asked.

Cindy ignored the volatile blonde. She was simply trying to recover from…whatever had just happened. She felt heated, flushed, a leftover of whatever strange hysteria had tried to violate her, and she shook a little as she tried to bring herself down from that strange and excited physical high. She could feel it all the way down between her legs, and she did not like it. She did not like it at all.

“That was wild!” grinned Becky. “Wasn’t that crazy!”

“Y…Yeah…” stammered Melissa.

Even Misty’s right-hand yes-girl was freaked out by what had just happened.

“Okay, everyone,” said Misty. “Look at the paper you have and tell me what’s written on it.”

Cindy stared down at the slip of paper between her legs. In spite of all the wind that had whipped around them, not one piece of paper had blown away from any of them.

The other girls picked up their papers and studied them.

“Mine says, ‘first,’” said Melissa.

“Mine says, ‘fourth,’” said Becky.

“That’s weird,” said Donna. “The writing is in big red cursive, like from a pen, but it’s turning brown and leaking through.”

“It’s blood,” smiled Misty.

“Ha, ha,” sneered Donna. “I don’t know how you set up this trick, but you’re pretty good at this, I’ll give you that. You should go on stage.”

“Uh, huh…” smirked Misty. “Just tell me what’s on the paper, Donna.”

“It says, ‘third,’” shrugged Donna. “So? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Yeah,” said Janet. “Why does mine say, ‘second’? Shouldn’t mine be first? Why does Melissa get to be first?”

The mean blonde sitting directly across from Melissa stuck out her tongue at her.

“Because I’m number one, doofus,” replied Melissa as she returned the gesture.

“What’s on your paper, Cindy?” asked Misty.

Cindy picked up her piece of paper and stared down at it.

“Well?” asked Misty.

To be fair, Cindy was still simply trying to recover from the harrowing violation she had just experienced, so what was on the paper did not quite register in her own mind at first, so it took her a few seconds to comprehend what she was reading, but by the time she did comprehend it and her lips parted to speak, she was interrupted.

She was about to speak aloud what was on her slip of paper, but the paper in her hands burst into flames, as did all the other slips of paper. The girls squealed and threw the burning bits away from them out of reflex, but Cindy was too stunned to do anything but stare down at the empty space where her piece of paper had been.

“Oh, well,” sighed Misty. “I already know Cindy’s number then. It must be five.”

But that was not what had been written on Cindy’s paper…Not to mention that Misty’s nonchalant reaction to the spontaneous combustion was not normal at all, not in the slightest.

But Cindy’s fearful pondering was interrupted yet again.

“How long has that been there?” asked Melissa.

The yes-girl’s voice drew Cindy’s attention toward the center of the pentagram.

In the center of the large encircled star was a black knife made of what looked like some heavy metal, something Cindy could not identify. The blade was deadly sharp and wickedly serrated, and its handle looked like it was made from bone…human bone…Cindy just knew this morbid fact for some weird reason. In fact, she was strangely sure of it. There was no “looked like.” The knife in the pentagram had a handle made of human bone; she just knew it.

“Ooo,” said Misty as she clutched her own arms through her pink sweater. “This was what I was waiting for. Just looking at it gives me chills.”

“What is it?” asked Becky.

“It’s a knife, stupid,” said Janet.

“It’s not just any knife,” grinned Misty. “It’s the Secespita Daemonium. Allerakth must have sent it…It’s part of the ritual.”

“Uh, huh,” said Donna. “Look, your cheap dime-store tricks were fun at first, but now this is getting old.”

“You wanted to have fun tonight, and this is fun,” shrugged Misty. “You think this is theater, right? You think I’m playing a show for you, do you? You said I should be up on stage, so this is just a show, right?”

“Yeah, obviously,” said Donna.

“Good,” smiled Misty. “That’s really good, because I have more, but only if you’re not chicken, because now it gets really scary. You have to sit tight, though, and watch the show. Don’t be a chicken and run.”

“You think I’m chicken?” scowled Donna. “I’m not scared of anything; you know that.”

“Okay,” shrugged Misty. “Let’s continue then, shall we?”

“Yeah, lets,” scoffed Donna. “What does the knife have to do with any of this?”

“Let me show you,” smiled Misty.

She picked up the large and deadly-looking blade from out of the center of the pentagram, that black knife long and sharp, its shape gleaming in spite of its ebony makeup and the soft, dim glow of the basement lights. She held it with almost loving grace within her right palm for a few seconds, and then she gripped it tightly, a wicked smile on her red lips.

“What are you gonna do with that?” asked Donna.

The popular redhead grabbed a chunk of Melissa’s short black hair and pulled her head back. Cindy sucked in her breath in horror as Misty slit her own best friend’s throat with ease, the sharp blade running across the girl’s bare neckline to spring forth a spraying fountain of bright red blood.

The other girls shrieked and screeched, but unbelieving Donna simply laughed as Melissa choked out a bloody death gurgle.

Misty simply smiled in return, dragged the dying Melissa toward the center of the pentagram by her own short dark hair, and then she dropped Melissa’s bleeding body in that center like so much trash.

Melissa’s blood spurted out of her gashed throat in a red waterfall as everyone simply stared at the murdered girl choking in her own death throes.

“It’s very simple,” shrugged Misty. “I kill you one by one, I let your blood spray around the room, I drop you in the center here, and then I step into the center of the pentagram to seal the pact. It’s that simple. That’s how the ritual works.”

“Ha, ha,” said Donna as she rolled her eyes. “Very funny…How lame. I’ve seen better effects at the drive-in.”

Cindy could not move. She stared in wide-eyed horror at Melissa’s own lifeless eyes…This was not some joke or trick. Misty had just murdered her own best friend, and she had done it right in front of everyone.

“Look at this dork next to me,” chuckled Janet. “She’s about to pee her pants.”

Cindy ignored her as she trembled in place. This was beyond horrific, and her mind was temporarily in a happy place, someplace that definitely wasn’t down in this terrifying murder basement. Her lips parted to let forth a short gasp, yet everyone else simply stared at her.

“Geez, you’re as white as a sheet,” scoffed Janet. “It’s not even real blood, stupid. It’s just corn syrup. Melissa’s such a hack, even her death is hammy…God, you’re such a dork, Cindy. Stop acting like you’re going to have a heart attack…Look, stupid…”

The mean blonde shuffled forward on her hands and knees to the center of the pentagram where Melissa’s body lay. Her right-hand fingers reached forward to touch fresh blood as she held those crimson-stained digits up to the light.

“See?” she said. “This isn’t real…Wait…What the—”

Misty grabbed Janet’s naturally blonde hair, pulled her head back, and quickly slit her throat as well. She forced Janet’s head over the center of the star as the blonde’s life’s blood spilled over Melissa’s dead, lifeless face.

Janet gurgled out a dying choke as her own blood sprayed out everywhere, including all over the chalk pentagram, yet that chalk did not wash away, nor would it. Cindy also knew this permanence of chalk for a fact, though she did not know how she knew such a thing.

Misty dropped Janet’s body, looked up, and smiled.

“Who’s next?” she asked. “What was the order?…Oh, right…”

Donna stood up and cocked her head to one side as she studied Janet’s body.

“What is this!” she cried in angry disbelief. “You didn’t tell me you were in on it, Janet!…Unbelievable…Get up!”

She walked forward to pull up her clearly dead friend, but Misty was on her in a flash, the knife in the redhead’s right hand stabbing upwards and inwards through Donna’s throat and directly up into the unbeliever’s brain.

Donna turned and staggered in a circle for a few seconds before falling to the concrete floor after that, her brown eyes rolled up in the whites, and Cindy knew right then that the young woman had died before she had even hit the floor.

“W…Wait…” said Becky in a shaky voice.

As stupid as she was, the girl was finally beginning to realize what Cindy already knew.

“H…Hey, wait a minute,” continued Becky. “Are…Are they dead? Did…Did you just kill them? Are they really dead?”

“Of course, they are, Becky,” sighed Misty. “When I said I was going to kill you all, I was telling the truth, dummy. What part of this did you not understand? How else can I seal the pact?”

Misty gave poor, slightly-stupid Becky a frustrated shake of her head and walked over to Donna’s body. She pulled the demonic knife from Donna’s throat and quickly hauled the fresh corpse into the center of the pentagram, throwing Donna on top of the other two as if she were a side of beef.

There was blood everywhere now. It was all over the pentagram and on the floor. It was like a slaughterhouse down here, and yet the slightly-stupid girl next to Cindy was only now just figuring out what was going on.

“This…This is a joke, right?” asked Becky. “This is all a joke, right?”

The young woman began to cry, and Cindy immediately felt sorry for her.

“I’m afraid not,” grinned Misty. “It’s your turn, Becky. Now be a good girl like Cindy and just sit and wait to be slaughtered. Because you participated in the summoning, you’ll be going to Hell to be tortured, but that’s okay…It should be fine. I don’t know exactly what they do down there, but you probably won’t like it at all, but I have to complete the ritual, so that’s not my concern. Now sit still so I can kill you.”

Cindy watched the growing stain in Becky’s grey sweatpants as the girl peed herself.

“NO!” screamed the slightly-stupid girl.

Becky stood and turned to run, but Misty ran her down with ease. The redhead plunged the knife into Becky’s exposed back, and the slightly-stupid girl went down hard with a loud scream. Misty stabbed her one more time in the back before pulling the girl’s head up to slit her exposed throat.

Cindy stared down at the blood that covered her. She had been sprayed with these murdered girls’ blood here and there, and she was only now just noticing it. It was on her night clothes and all over her face as well.

She could taste someone’s blood, probably Janet’s, because the mean blonde had been the closest to her upon death, but this simple awareness of that copper taste brought up something inside her, something that did not belong. She could feel a presence there, a dark and sinister presence, and she did not like it, but that presence delayed her inner terror, giving her a weird and unnatural inner strength.

“That means you’re number five, Cindy,” smiled Misty. “Welcome to the club! Now just sit right there so I can kill you. It’ll only hurt for a moment, and then you’ll die and go to Hell. I’ll get my power from Allerakth, and everyone wins…Well, I’ll win, and you’ll be tortured in Hell, but that sounds like a ‘you’ problem…You know what? I’ll just stop talking and kill you now.”

But Misty’s annoying voice was drowned out by the pumping of Cindy’s own blood in her hearing. She could feel more than just an abatement of fear now. She felt energized, electric inside, those weird and unnatural feelings violating her once more, and she did not like it, but she didn’t fight it this time, because this time they were giving her some disturbing form of sadistic courage.

The redhead ran toward her and stabbed downwards at her face, but Cindy reached up and caught Misty’s offending wrist with her own left hand, stopping the point of the blade just before it reached her left eye.

Misty grunted and pushed hard against her, but to no avail.

“You’re number five!” hissed the popular redhead. “Just die already! I need your blood!”

“No…” said Cindy in a weird voice.

She felt different now, stranger than strange. Someone or something was whispering to her in the back of her mind, so she listened, not because she wanted to, but because she needed to. This voice was attached to her like some kind of parasite, but it was also giving her strength, more strength than she had ever felt in her entire life, far more strength than any human had a right to possess.

Misty reached down with her left hand to pull Cindy’s hair, but Cindy caught that wrist as well. The redhead standing above Cindy pushed and struggled against her, but Cindy stood on two confident and solid legs to fully confront her would-be killer, standing tall to face the popular girl.

Misty grunted, pushed, and strained to stab her, but to no avail. The sadistic redhead could not move the deadly tip of the ebony knife one fraction of an inch closer to Cindy, and this frustration of delay played out upon Misty’s pretty face in the form of a swiftly growing rage.

“Why are you so strong!” she screeched. “No one is this strong!…Die already! You’re the fifth! I need your blood!”

“No,” repeated Cindy. “No, I’m not the fifth. That’s not what my paper said.”

“Wh…What?” asked Misty.

Her previously enraged face changed to genuine surprise at this confession.

“My paper said I was the sixth,” said Cindy matter-of-factly.

“That’s not possible!” shrieked Misty. “I’m the sixth! I have to be!”

“No,” said Cindy in weird excitement.

She felt absolutely charged all over her body, as if soft fingers were running up and down her most sensitive parts. It was perverse and disturbing, but it was also giving her an unholy strength that could not be denied, certainly not by the likes of Misty.

“No, you’re the fifth; I’m the sixth,” she said in a shaky, tremulous voice. “I’m supposed to kill you. In fact, you’re the one going to Hell…You’re going to Hell, Misty, and they’re going to peel off your skin and do terrible, terrible things to you down there…How do I know this?…Well, here, I’ll show you.”

Cindy pulled down hard with both hands, gripping Misty’s wrists tightly, and the popular redhead’s arms came off at the shoulders, tearing off her body by means of some unholy, impossible strength, the arms coming off along with the rose-pink sleaves of the sadistic young woman’s knit sweater.

Misty screamed in absolute agony as the stumps at her shoulders sprayed blood everywhere around the basement like some horrific lawn sprinkler.

Cindy dropped Misty’s disembodied left arm to the floor, gripped Misty’s detached right arm with both hands, turned it around to where the fist was facing away from her, and then swung the limb like an axe. The unholy knife that was still gripped within Misty’s fingers plunged itself straight through the popular redhead’s forehead, right through her skull, and directly into her brain.

Misty’s green eyes rolled upwards and stared at nothing as she stood and wobbled for a second, and then she fell backwards into the center of the pentagram to land upon the other bodies there.

Cindy stared down at the pile of bodies and shook, trembling in place from the demonic power within her, because this horror was not yet through with her.

“Complete me,” came a sultry voice inside her head.

She struggled against this voice, this dark force inside her, but she staggered along anyway in a stop-motion walk of clockwork jerking that led her to poor dead Becky’s body. She gripped the dead girl’s legs and dragged her toward the pentagram without wanting to.

“No…No, wait…” struggled Cindy.

The words “SEAL THE PACT” formed in blood all over the stark grey floor, that phrase everywhere, blood just congealing into those words, as Cindy dragged Becky backwards without her own volition, though she fought this otherworldly control with everything she had.

“Seal the pact,” came the sultry voice inside her head.

“I don’t want to!” cried Cindy.

She deposited Becky’s body in the pentagram, but she refused to step inside it. It was a monstrous struggle of wills, as the bodies of all five girls were now within the confines of the evil circle. She had to fight with everything she had inside her in order to keep from stepping into that terrible center.

“But you do,” came the sultry voice.

“N…No…” struggled Cindy.

She was crying now, a stream of tears that would not stop flowing. She wanted out of this basement. She needed out of this basement. She needed to leave this place far behind her. If she really was going to Hell because of this ritual, maybe there was some way to undo that curse, but first she had to leave this awful murder basement.

“You want to be popular,” said the voice in her head. “You want to be famous. You want to be beautiful…Don’t leave, Cindy. I love you.”

An image popped into her mind’s eye, a picture of a beautiful woman in a gorgeous blue dress, and this woman was indeed as beautiful as anything those magazines Cindy had spent countless hours ogling over. This woman was everything she had always wanted to be, this woman with an hourglass figure and long, flowing, curly, black hair.

The woman in her mind’s-eye vision rivaled the one in the smoke, an unbelievably gorgeous, magnificent star of a woman, bright and shining like a nova, and beneath her dancing figure was a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, and Cindy’s name was on that star.

It came to her all at once.

“Th…That’s me?” wept Cindy. “Is that me?”

“Yes,” came the sultry voice. “With me, you’ll have everything you’ve ever wanted…Join with me. Seal the pact…Bind us together…Don’t leave me trapped down here…You know what you really want…Join with me, Cindy. Let us be one…No one will ever pick on you again…Don’t be like Lauren Grouper…alone and without friends…

“Together, we will take everything that belongs to us…Those other girls weren’t your friends…I’m your only real friend, Cindy…I saved you…I gave you my strength when you needed it…Misty would have killed you…You know this…You know I’m your only real friend…I love you…

“You can be beautiful…You can have any man you want…You can have dozens of men…I know all your secret desires…I know all your fantasies…I know what you do when you’re alone with your magazines…I know everything about you…You don’t have to be ashamed…Come to me, Cindy…We’ll dance together…The whole world will be our ballroom…Come dance with me…Don’t you want to dance?”

The beautiful woman in Cindy’s vision opened up her arms in acceptance, unjudging, open-minded acceptance, and Cindy took a step forward, but this time she wanted to.

Part of Cindy wanted to run from this murder basement, but another part of her wanted what she knew she could never have…to be the most popular girl in school…to date Brandon Marsh…but more than that. In the end, high school was small change…If she stepped into this circle, she could actually be famous…a star…She could act and sing and dance in front of the camera…be on the big screen…have her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame…

She sobbed as she gave into the dark pull and admitted to herself what she really wanted in life, finally accepting what it was she needed, and through that acceptance, join as one with her new friend.

There was nothing more to think about.

She stepped into the center of the pentagram to join the bodies of her classmates.

The blood of the slain girls sprayed upwards from the bodies to bathe Cindy in a sanguine fountain, springing from the floor here and there and everywhere, spraying her until there was nothing left of those bodies but dried and withered husks, desiccated mummies that looked like they’d been dead for decades.

The blood ran down her skin and soaked into her once-white T-shirt and her grey sweatpants, and she felt it draw into her, all of it, drawing into her skin and clothes until it vanished, but not just into her clothes and skin, but into her soul, deep down into her soul, and she loved the dark power it granted.

She drank all of it in, drinking it in through her skin and hair, and her mouth opened in a gaping smile, gulping in what entered her mouth, gulping it down as fast as she could.

The lights popped above her as the concrete walls in this large and empty basement set aflame, burning without heed to the laws of thermodynamics, the heat and flames everywhere around her.

She fell to her knees to the concrete floor to perch precariously above the withered husks that had once been her classmates.

Her hands shook as she brought them up to her face. Her vision was suddenly blurry, so she removed her thick glasses, and then her vision was perfect.

“I…I can see…” she stammered.

She looked down and gaped as her almost non-existent breasts instantly swelled beneath her shirt, growing out to a perfect size, and then her hips widened, granting her an hourglass shape, the ecstasy of this transformation overtaking her.

She was like a closed flower that looked ugly underneath, but then those closed petals had opened, and now she was showing all her beauty to the world. She knew her face was gorgeous now, because she was beautiful now, her, the skinny dork with the soda-bottle glasses.

She was beautiful in the sense of what others considered beautiful, and she would have held a tinge of regret over this in the past, because it was a loss of identity, a loss of who she was, but now?…No, this was what she wanted, what she had always really wanted, and she fully accepted this.

But there was more to come, much more, something horrifying but bewitching all the same, for her other half had her own secrets.

Cindy could see her own future now, and she could see all the secrets only her mutual “friend” could see, dark secrets that were now part of her forever, so she let out her other half. She let out Allerakth the Dancer because she knew now that this dark force was her only real friend.

Black nails grew upon the tips of her fingers as she felt the skin on her forehead burst open with sudden pain. She reached up to feel the two long black horns that had grown out from there, and then black wings erupted from her back and through her shirt to unfold outwards, large, ebon bat wings that spread out in an eight-foot span. She felt a long and black, barbed tail poke up and out from her sweatpants as it snaked up and around to show itself in her surprised vision.

Cindy laughed long and loud as the tears rolled down her face and the fire spread around her, her mouth wide open with that crazed laughter, her new fanged canines glistening in the light of the demonic flames roaring away in this terrifying murder basement.

The withered bodies before her caught aflame, and yet she did not feel that fire, for it could not burn her, and she laughed as she cried at the same time, a dual spike of conflicting emotions that was her life and always had been.

Nothing could stop her now. No one could hurt her, and she would never be unpopular again.

**********

Misty’s home burned away as the fire department was busy trying to put out that blaze, but there was not much left of the house…or anything in it.

Cindy stared up at the paramedic as the man placed an oxygen mask over her narrow face.

“It’s going to be okay, sweet heart,” said the paramedic. “You’re going to be all right. It’s a miracle you escaped without any burns. You’ve just got a little smoke in you. You’ve been breathing in smoke, but you’ll be all right. Just a little smoke in you.”

She silently nodded once at him as she was carried into the back of the ambulance on a stretcher.

Of course, she already knew things were going to be all right. In fact, they were going to be better than all right from now on, because she was finally beautiful, an undiscovered star waiting to burst her light upon the night sky. Yes, things were going to be incredible, because she was now a dancer, and the world was her ballroom.

Sleepover Copyright © 2022 Matthew L. Marlott

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