The Demon Side promises thrills, chills, and plenty of otherworldly action. When teenaged Etta moves into a house occupied by the fallen Demon Rahovart, she’s in for the fight of her life—and maybe the love of her life, too.
Chapter One, Chapter Two
De-mon (dè’men) n. [[<L daemon]] 1 an evil spirit 2 a source or agent of evil, harm, distress or ruin 3 an attendant power or spirit: genius 4 supernatural being of Greek mythology intermediate between Gods and men 5 One that has exceptional passion, drive, or effectiveness (a Demon for work) Webster’s Dictionary
I am called by many names—ghost, apparition, entity—and some have called me a vampire, but my given name is Rahovart. If you look up the definition you will find that I fall into the category of Demon. Ha-ha. “Exceptional passion,” so the definition states. It makes me laugh; for over five hundred years, I’ve only felt boredom. That is how far in my past I can remember. I’ve spent the last hundred or so years trapped in this “beautiful three-bedroom, two-full-bath, completely furnished twenty-one-hundred–square-foot Victorian with a gorgeous vista of the Potomac River located in historic Quantico Town for only fifty thousand dollars.” At least that’s how the realtor describes my “sanctuary” on the flyer.
Quantico Town is a civilian town smack dab in the middle of Marine Corps Base Quantico. Few Marines actually live in Quantico Town; they stay in base housing or the barracks where rent is free. A town of only five hundred and fifty people, it isn’t the hot spot to be for young men and women leaving home for the first time.
On Potomac Avenue alone—a road only four blocks long—there are five bars, several tailors, a Domino’s pizza, a laundry mat, and a Masonic Temple. That pretty much makes up what the locals call Q-Town. Or so I’ve heard from my former tenants. I haven’t actually seen the town. If dusty, dingy bars or having your uniforms tailored is what you’re looking for, this is the place to be. This combination makes Quantico Town a haven for fallen souls such as me. Fifty thousand for this place is really quite the deal if you ask me. Other listings for this neighborhood are going for considerably more. The furniture alone in this house is worth twice that, being so “antique.”
Why such a deal? Rumors have it that this place is haunted by angry spirits. Strange things go bump in the night. Objects move with no explanation, and if you listen closely, you can hear the voices of Civil War soldiers and chants of the Native Americans who once danced upon the grounds. What can I say? I am a master of my craft. In three years, I have managed to get rid of seven families. According to my eavesdropping on the realtor, family number eight will be looking at the house today. A couple in their forties with what I am assuming is a teenage daughter, since the realtor talked highly of the local high schools and their cheerleading squads. Oh, how I hate cheerleaders. This family may prove to be a little more difficult than most. The teenage girl I will scare, but her father may be a different story.
He is a Marine, conditioned to be fearless and tactical. I have only come up against one other Marine in this house. He was careless enough to get one of the barrack rats pregnant, married her, and took on three bastard stepchildren. He would explain away everything I did by saying the house is just old. His wife left him, taking the kids with her after a year of torment and abuse from me, and he still would not budge. After two years and every effort on my part, let’s just say he and I finally parted ways.
Today is the day I will get a chance to size up my prey, fresh meat, new blood. When people come to look at a house, they only pay attention to creaks in the floor and whether or not there is a dishwasher. I typically use this time to play small pranks—a door closing on its own, footsteps on the stairs when no one is there, or a shadow passing by. They don’t notice, too taken aback by the cherry wood railing of the stairs, decorative trim throughout, glass French doors, and authentic crystal chandeliers that hang from vaulted ceilings. I find it all rather stuffy. Dark colors make a home for me, but never quite scream “family living.”
One o’clock. The realtor arrived late. I waited on the stairs by the front door, but to my surprise, they entered from the back door of the house, right through the kitchen. “In here we have the dining area. As you can see, the cherry dining table seats up to eight comfortably and ties in perfectly with original accents and moldings in the room. The beautiful Swarovski crystal chandelier is a modern addition that adds just the right amount of lighting to showcase the room for any occasion.”
The realtor spoke like a seasoned con-artist. She had no heart. I guess that’s why I’ve had so many victims over the years; she has no remorse for how many people move out. She’s extremely obese but wears clothes two sizes too small and reeks of fast food onions and cheap perfume. Tacky red lipstick runs up the wrinkles on her thin chicken lips, and her hair-sprayed beehive could pass as a helmet for a crash test dummy.
Over the past twenty years, I have seen this woman swindle and cheat dozens of families. She’s only after the almighty dollar. No morals, no conscience. I wouldn’t offer her a doughnut even if she were on the street starving, much less hand her my life’s savings. Of course, I shouldn’t complain. She does a great job ensuring I have fresh souls to torture. “If this place is so great, why’s it empty?” A sarcastic resonance rang from the girl.
“You’ll have to excuse my daughter, Mrs. Riley. The idea of having to move again has been hard on her.” A man’s voice cut through the house.
“It’s fine, fine. Will your wife be joining us today, Gunnery Sergeant? Divad?”
“No, she’s finishing up with our packing back in North Carolina. Etta and I came ahead to get things ready in our new town. We can’t have her missing any school.” The man’s voice held a firm tone with a bit of a high pitch to it. Maybe all of his years yelling like a buffoon in some poor schmuck’s face strained his vocal cords.
I crept slowly down the stairs to get a good look at my soon-to-be roommates. Mr. Divad appeared exactly as I imagined: five-foot-nine, one hundred eighty pounds, neat short hair, and squared-off stance with his chest puffing out of his grey polo shirt. If his black dress slacks were any tighter, I’d see more of him than I would care to. He is definitely your typical all-American Marine. Physically, he seemed fit enough to take a beating, but was his mind strong enough to endure the torment that I would soon unleash on him? Etta, on the other hand, was not what I pictured at all. She stood at least five- foot-seven with a little extra weight around her middle, putting her at maybe a hundred and sixty pounds. Her curly brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail, except for long bangs that seemed to fall in her eyes every other second. She shared her father’s chocolate brown eyes, but her full lips must have come from her mother. Her slightly baggy jeans were pulled as high as they could go and her flannel shirt covered any shape she might have. Her whole outfit and stance screamed tomboy. Etta might not be as easy to scare as I first thought.
Girly girls are easy to run off. Throw one roach in their hair, and they’re ready to pull up stakes and move across the country. Tomboys on the other hand tend to think like…well, boys. A simple cockroach or creaking door isn’t enough to scare them. I sensed that Etta would be a tough challenge. In some demented way that inspired me to be even more creative. I was ready for the test.
“On the second floor, you’ll find two spacious bedrooms and the master bedroom, which has a beautiful full bathroom.” The realtor’s raspy voice carried throughout the house. She always talked louder than she needed to.
I hated attention hounds. They always took attention off of me. Now they were coming upstairs, my favorite place to play. A good way for me to get a sense of a person and what they’re about is what I call a walkthrough. It’s basically how it sounds. I open my senses as they walk through me and gather all energy coming from their living flesh. Standing at the top of the stairs, I watched as the realtor came up, followed by Mr. Divad, and behind him, one baby step at a time, Etta.
Etta had barely made it to the third of fifteen stairs by the time her father went off looking at bedroom number two. She stared as if she knew something was wrong. She knew I stood there, waiting. A youth’s intuition—a sense many don’t ever use. The young live on what excites them at the moment. After what seemed an eternity, she made it to the last step and stopped. Her gaze moved down to my feet and traveled up until it met mine. She knew.
“Could you move please?” Etta whispered. Without even thinking, I moved to the side and allowed her to walk past me.
I spun around, dumbfounded, as she joined her father in the last bedroom. There was absolutely no way she could have seen my physical form. In all of my five hundred years stuck in this disgusting place, I have never had another being see me without me permitting it. They could feel my breath or my cold sensation, but only when I granted them the ability. How did she know? It had to be a fluke.
I sauntered into the third bedroom, taking extra measures to conceal my presence. Etta stood by the window, staring out at the murky Potomac River below. In a blink I stood next to her, tracing her long, triangular face with my gaze. She looked from the window towards me. This was getting interesting. I had to be sure she could not see me or if she did, that she knew I wasn’t friendly. I blew onto her neck. Her body shivered from my cold breath.
“Stay away from me,” she spat, leaving me in total shock.
Before my next trick, Mr. Divad came up behind Etta and rubbed her arms.
“Is everything okay?” Mr. Divad asked his daughter.
“Just great.” Etta pushed away from her father and just before she huffed out of the room, she threw me a long scowl.
She could see me. Not just feel me, but actually see me. Dozens of psychics and exorcists have claimed to sense spirits in this house, but not a single one ever noticed me. Every now and then one would get lucky and point my way. “He’s standing there watching us.” I never had the feeling they actually caught a glimpse of me. It was all just hoo-do-voodoo bologna they spewed so they could make a buck.
This was completely different. She saw me and she spoke directly to me, but before I could get my composure and test her again, they’d left. I didn’t hear if they were buying the place or not. Were they coming back? If so, when would they be moving in? I had to learn more about this girl. When you’ve been around as long as I have, time just fades away, but now I counted every second as I paced back and forth waiting to see Etta come through the front door again.
Day one: nothing. Day two: nothing. Weeks went by and still nothing. She probably told her dad about the cold draft in the bedroom, so he decided not to buy. I may have waited for nothing. I’ve scared a family off in less than a month, but never the first day they viewed the home. It would be an all-time record. But Etta wasn’t scared. Annoyed, yes, but not scared. The more I tried not to think about Etta and her Demon vision, the more I did think about her.
“We’re home!” Mr. Divad yelled as he struggled to get an enormous box through the double doors.
I waited to see Etta’s reaction when she came through the door and saw me. Mr. Divad walked back outside. Where was Etta? Unfortunately, since I am a Demon, I can’t see anything outside except pitch black and swirls of infernal flames. The outside world resembled the Hell I’d once known, except now the inside of my Hell has ice water, double-sided fireplaces, and horrible pink floral wallpaper. Through the blackness, two brown eyes came into focus as they approached the front door.
Carrying a box under her arm and Fender Stratocaster guitar case in the other, Etta finally appeared. Stopping for a moment to stare at me, she sighed deeply. When she took a breath in, her face curled in disgust. Demons tend to smell pretty foul. Not that I would really know. It’s only what I have heard from victims in the past. They’ve compared my smell to that of a dead cat in the walls. Could I be any more disgusting than that, a dead cat in the walls?
“Can you see me?” I whispered softly to Etta as she stood in the doorway. I waited, but Etta didn’t respond. She stared at me until her father almost knocked her over with another giant box. The collision sent the box marked “office” and its contents crashing to the ground.
“Okay, Etta?” he asked, looking torn between comforting her and checking on the box. Uneasiness lingered between them. Why would a father and daughter find it so uncomfortable to be in the same room? This could play to my advantage. Dysfunctional family members are easy to pit against each other.
“I’m fine. Which room’s mine?” Etta asked in annoyed tone.
“Last one on the left,” Mr. Divad answered, choosing to check on the box instead of his daughter.
Etta and I would be sharing a room. This could get awkward. But of course, I wouldn’t mind seeing what hid underneath her clothes. I wouldn’t be a true Demon if there wasn’t a little bit of a perverted side to me, now would I? I felt a twinge of long-dead excitement. Etta wasn’t a supermodel by any means, but there was something naturally beautiful about her. She wore no makeup that I could detect, save for a hint of clear lip gloss.
“Well, isn’t this lovely?” A middle-aged woman stepped into the room.
I figured she must be Etta’s mother. I didn’t need a walkthrough to know what this lady had to hide. Her hair had been bleached so much it resembled the straw you stuff in a scarecrow. Her crow’s feet made her stale blue eyes appear sunken; her skull was swallowing them whole. The left side of her face didn’t move as smoothly as the rest. My guess, she’d had a failed Botox injection. Her cheap lime green pantsuit reeked of vodka and cigarettes.
Great! Another alcoholic mother! They spend half of their time so inebriated that they don’t even notice when their own kitchen is on fire. Have another drink, light another cigarette—and ignore the Demon in room. Etta sized me up as I watched her mother and father walk through the house.
“I know you see me,” I whispered as Etta moved just two inches from me.
I could feel her heart beating. Though she showed no outward signs of fear, her heartbeat told me a different story. She knew I was there, but did she know exactly what I was?
“Leave me alone, especially in front of my parents, okay?” Etta murmured.
She didn’t want her parents to see her talking to thin air. I understood, I suppose. Of course, I didn’t really care. It just made my job that much easier.
“You can hear me, too!” “Just move so I can unpack.” Etta rolled her eyes, as if I were the inconvenience.
Well, I suppose I am an inconvenience. As she walked past me, it dawned on me that she knew what would happen if she walked through me. Every moment of her life, every secret she’d ever kept, every fear, every dream, every dark or perverted thought would be open for me to see. Nothing would ever be safe from me. That’s exactly why I loved walkthroughs when new tenants arrived. But how did she know? What exactly did she know? My thoughts were beginning to repeat themselves. I didn’t like that one bit. I’m the Demon! I’m the one who is supposed to control the situation!
As Etta made it to the top stair, I flashed up and into her. Quick images of rape, molestation, beating, suicide attempts, and pain filled me. Strange enough, usually I could see a person’s attacker or abuser in their thoughts, but there was no one in Etta. No face, no hand, nothing but emptiness. Quickly, Etta turned her thoughts to the Potomac River. I had photos of the river in newspapers, but now I observed the water move through Etta’s eyes.
“Get out! Get out!” Etta screamed as she hit herself in the chest with her fists. Her father came running out of one of the rooms with the speed of a bullet. Her mother simply lollygagged her way to Etta. The woman scowled and rolled her eyes. I popped back out to watch the interaction between the three. I found it odd that they were uncomfortable around each other earlier, but now Etta wanted her father’s arms.
Family dynamics always confused me. The whole love/hate relationship made no sense. Like I said, the only thing I have ever felt was boredom and a little irritation.
“Baby, are you okay?” Mr. Divad tried desperately to catch his breath and composure. “Yeah, is the baby okay?” her mother said with disgust in her voice, as she turned back toward the bedroom.
“I’m fine. Sorry.” Etta spoke sheepishly.
“Did you take your meds today?” her father asked.
“No, sorry, Dad. With the excitement of the move, I must have forgotten.”
“I’ll go get them. Want a Pepsi to take them with?” “Pepsi would be great.” Etta gave her father a weak smile as he walked down the stairs to the kitchen.
“Don’t you ever do that again, do you hear me?” Etta turned back to me, picked up her guitar case, and stormed off to our room.
So, I now knew my new roommate took medication. Probably from the suicide attempt I witnessed, which was caused by the abuse she endured. The girl was damaged from the inside out. But none of that information proved useful to me right now. She knew too much about me, or at least my kind. Her knowledge of what I could do, what I would do, was unexpected. Etta also knew how to block her thoughts, which is frustrating for any Demon. These aren’t skills you just pick up on or learn online. I needed to learn more. I came to be truly excited.