Who Let the Devil In? – Extended Cut
By Jeffrey Bishop
Our actions have consequences, as the Devil is happy to teach young Kevin.
Tell Time: 8 minutes 20 seconds
Scare Rating: 4/5 Ghosts
Kevin let himself in his house, dropped his backpack and slammed the door and locked it behind him. Breathing hard, he leaned back against it and tried to calm himself. He hadn’t been followed home, but he sure felt like he had been.
His Olympic trials-qualifying sprint quickly followed his shoplifting escapade. It wasn’t the first time he’d performed a five-finger discount at Wigglie’s Corner Store, but it was the first time he’d been caught.
Certain that he couldn’t be seen, Kevin had slipped a candy bar into his jacket pocket. He thought about grabbing another, thought better of it, and headed for the door, only to be confronted by Jimmy, the clerk.
“Whaddya doin’, Kev?” Jimmy asked him, shaking his head with disappointment. “Gimme the loot back and get out of here before I call the cops. Or worse: your mother!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t take anything,” Kevin lied. He was only a little surprised at how readily the lie came to him and off his lips. “I just gotta get home!”
“Drop the act, and the candy bar. I saw you pocket it. Let’s go.” Jimmy held out his hand to receive the merchandise.
“I said I don’t know …” but before Kevin could finish the sentence, the jumbo-size candy bar slipped out of his pocket and fell to the floor, right in front of both of them.
Mortified, Kevin dodged past Jimmy and ran the three blocks home.
A close call, but at least he was safe at home now. Safe to think about what he should do about the situation.
Small-time crime was a relatively new hobby for Kevin, but it was one that he was perfecting — and was increasingly enjoying the fruits of. He’d recently started to shoplift comics or candy at the store; he couldn’t believe how easy it was. There had been times that he’d take things that belonged to his friends when he was at their houses. Then, of course, he’d make up stories to cover up his new possessions with his mother, about found items or his generous friends sharing with him their candy or toys.
While the prizes of his new calling came easily, it seemed to Kevin that a corresponding degree of hurt came with it. The afternoon that he’d swiped a five-dollar bill from his best friend’s desk drawer stash preceded the evening that his mom came home early from her second job — fired. His mom was a hard, honest worker, and she really needed the job to help pay the bills. And though Kevin was glad to give her his new five-spot (“I earned it helping Mrs. Woods with her yard”) to help out with groceries that week, he couldn’t help but wonder how his ill-found fortunate was related to his mom’s poor luck.
There was also the first time he’d snatched a comic book from the store; he rode home on his bike fast, but wiped out at the corner in a mess of loose sand that had collected there. He banged himself up pretty badly, and his front wheel still bears a slight wobble. But that was all coincidence.
With this latest scare of almost being caught, however, Kevin was almost scared straight. He was suddenly starting to have doubts about his new and previously successful life of crime. He decided right then that he’d have to fly straight for a while, until things cooled down a bit.
“Whaddya doin’, Kev?” called a voice from the living room. It was the exact phrase that Jimmy had said, although it seemed rather more sinister this time. Who had said it? He was home alone, but he was apparently hearing voices in his head as a result of his misadventure. Kevin was obviously freaking out, paranoid.
“Come in here and let’s regale one another about the fun we’ve had together lately!” came the voice again. It was a deep voice, but had a sickening-sweet sing-song to it, both encouraging and mocking at the same time.
Afraid to look, but also afraid not to, Kevin slowly stepped toward the doorway to the living room and looked in. There, sitting on the family couch, sat a slender man in a slick, dark suit. His face was also dark, and reddish. He wore a pointed beard on his chin and a faux hawk on his head — both of which looked pointed and sculpted with gel. At each corner of his forehead were two smaller points — cowlicks or something else, Kevin thought. The man looked very comfortable — at home even — as he took long draws from a thick cigar, the smoke of which reeked of rotten eggs.
“Who are you?” challenged Kevin, more boldly than he might have wanted — or felt. “Who let you in, and what do you want?” he asked, more timidly.
“Why, I’m the Devil, of course,” replied the stranger. “But you knew that already, didn’t you? Because this isn’t our first meeting. As for who let me in, it was you who let me in!”
The Devil took a long draw from his cigar and motioned to Kevin to sit in the armchair across the small room from him. The young man remained standing, but his legs were trembling, maybe from the run home.
“And as for what I want,” continued the tempter. “I want you … ” he paused for effect. “I want you and me to spend a lot more time together.” Kevin shuddered at the suggestion.
“What happened to you today was a little setback, sure. You feel bad, a natural feeling. You’re worried that your mom’s going to find out. Oh, she will!” said the Devil, almost gleefully. “But I can fix that.”
Kevin stared off into space as the Devil filled the air with smoke and words that were equally sickening-sweet. As the guest droned on, almost hypnotically, Kevin became focused on the fine Italian leather shoes the imp wore, and traced his eyes over the delicate stitching that ran around the toes of the slipper.
Kevin could feel himself being drawn — almost physically — into what the Devil was saying. No, not drawn into the words, but drawn into the Devil himself. And not drawn physically, but rather, more-than-physically — metaphysically, if he’d known the word — as though he was leaving his body behind him in the chair.
It was an easy feeling being drawn in that way, but it made Kevin feel sick, too. It felt like one too many rides on the tilt-a-whirl. It felt like too much Halloween candy. It felt … wrong.
“You said I let you in,” interrupted Kevin, struggling to emerge from his stupor. “How did I let you in?”
The Devil laughed heartily at the question — or at the fact that the boy still had the will for any questions left in him despite the bewitchment. His amusement quickly soured, however, as he assumed an accusatory demeanor.
“You are a smart boy,” stated the Devil, opening his case. “You go to Sunday School with you mother. You know right from wrong, good from evil. You know what sin is. I’m winning when I tempt you to sin. I don’t need to knock, knock, knock on your door, like He does. Every time you let yourself be tempted, you crack open the door a little bit more for me.
“You didn’t think I’d get in though, did you?” sneered the Devil. “Did you think that maybe you weren’t that evil? Or that you weren’t evil that often?” The formerly charming imp was now like a seething snake, spitting his accusations at the youth.
“You’re on the path now, boy!” bellowed the Devil, with a storm of fervor and excitement that appeared seemingly from nowhere. “Let’s go for a ride to oblivion — I think you’ll have a grand time on the way down!”
The Devil rose and extended his hand in invitation.
Kevin didn’t know what to do. He’d enjoyed the prize, and he’d even got a little thrill from the deeds he’d done. But he’d always felt shame and remorse. More than that, he didn’t want to hurt anyone anymore — not himself, not his friends, not Jimmy and not his mother.
Kevin closed his eyes and prayed. He prayed a real prayer, perhaps his first real prayer ever. It was a heartfelt call to God for an answer, for help.
He never did hear a voice. But almost as the plea fell from his lips, he recalled something from the Bible that he’d learned in church. He stood up to the Devil before him.
“Get behind me, Satan!” he yelled. Filled with another power, Kevin took a step toward the Devil, whose hand seemed to wither and withdraw in the face of such resistance. “Get behind me you snake! Get out of my house, and get out of my life!”
With those words, the Devil recoiled. He seemed to physically shrink before the boy. Though not as small, he seemed almost like a mouse, and scurried about, tracing small figures on the floor in front of the divan.
“Get out!” Kevin commanded as he crossed the room and unlatched and opened the door. The Devil, shriveled and pathetic now, scampered out the door and away from the house, defeated.
Kevin’s mom arrived home from work soon afterwards, and found her son asleep on the floor in the living room, passed out from exhaustion. When he woke, he hugged her tightly. He knew he was safe. He might not tell her about the Devil, but he would tell her about what he’d done, he would apologize and he would repent. And it would all be ok. Because he knew that for the first time in a long time, he was safe.