Spooky Season Storytime: Phone Tree

Things get humorous and gory when a group of horror icons, different enough to avoid any copywrite infringement of course, are thrust begrudgingly together after being conjured by an annoying group of teens. It’s a horror-comedy that’s like no other – well maybe not like no other, I didn’t really google if that was a fact or look into it or anything, kinda just talking out my ass here, but enjoy.

Usual warnings; foul language, bloody violence, sexual innuendo, beat-boxing, dad jokes.

Phone Tree by Eric David Roman

The Hell Pope passed through the wavering cosmic ripples of interdimensional space as disembodied and ominous chanting signaled their arrival, echoing throughout all dimensions. The sin demon’s crimson high-waisted floor-length skirt swept across the floor in thirty yards worth of fabric. It was frayed from time and the numerous hands which had pulled at the ends, begging for reprieve from the very demon they’d summoned. From the crown of the Hell Pope’s head, a series of linked chains akin to those from a bicycle ran through grooves carved deep within their flesh. Weaving throughout their face, neck, and across their shoulders before sliding down their arms, crisscrossing the chest and torso, cutting through their thighs, circling around their thick, exposed hanging sex, and running down each leg with dazzling asymmetric beauty. At their fingertips, the chains’ excess metal had been forged into lengthy, lethal nails.

The chains, slick and shiny from a fresh coat of oil, tightened and released with every motion—bringing a potent mix of oscillating sensations which never ceased. Weathered scarlet ribbons, affixed to the exposed bones within their forearm, wavered in the hellish winds accompanying the demon as they crossed the rift to where their disciple awaited them. Their disciple, who would have spent weeks to months preparing an altar properly adorned with the necessary offerings to summon them, deserved a show. And Hell Pope in turn made sure their entrance into the world was a full-on, balls-out, dramatic spectacle. Plus, they liked the pomp and circumstance. The disciple would bask in exuberant fear at the shocking elegance of Hell Pope’s appearance. Their chains oiled to a shine, glistening amongst flawless alabaster skin, dotted with piercings—along the raised ridge of their brow, down their nose, and in two rows from their full bottom lip to their scarred chest—sparkled from the polished black diamonds adorned on the ends.

Like a shark about to sink rows of serrated teeth into its prey, the Hell Pope’s pupils exploded into solid back as the searing sensations of the rift passed over cold, long dead skin. Taking their first step into the abode of the disciple who sat on a raggedy, brown couch?

The confused Hell Pope stopped in their tracks. The disciple should have been in position on all fours in front of the altar they’d lovingly prepared, ready to give over body and soul to their new Dom. As the rift closed, Hell Pope moved forward to get an answer from the perplexed figure on the couch—a chainsaw roared to life and ripped through the confused man’s head before he could register what was occurring in his humble living room.

In torrents of blood and brain matter, the man’s body collapsed under the pressure of the heavy equipment being driven through it. They wiped the blood off their lips and face giving it a taste as the proper and usually stoically poised Hell Pope instantly lost their regal posture, slouching while letting their arms hang loosely by their side. They coughed away their deeply melodic and foreboding voice—the one put on for their disciples—and addressed the hulking figure with the chainsaw. “What the fresh fuckery fuck are you doing to my disciple, you inbred hillbilly?” Hell Pope stomped their foot down and restrained going into the full tantrum they wanted to throw after a quick examination of the room showed there was no sacrificial altar prepared.

ButcherFace, the cannibalistic terror of the Midwest, stood stunned at the appearance of the Hell Pope. His own deformities were covered by faces confiscated from others. The one shown presently was hideous; aged, angry, and soaked with years of viscera, as were his clothes, apron, and the chainsaw still dripping from the fresh kill. “Hey,” he hit back defensively, “why you coming in so hot, man? I was here first, HP.” The articulate butcher flipped through the collection of faces affixed to his head like a swatch collection, settling for a blood-free one; a handsome businessman from New York who’d moisturized regularly. “Look, I don’t know where I am. I was chasing a cripple through a corn maze trying to catch some din, and then I was here. This sow was defenseless, man, you know how long it’s been since I had a meal I didn’t have to chase down first? Look at this thick-ass couch-potato man, that’s enough meat for two months, prolly fatty but the fam is hungry.”

“Your family is always hungry,” Hell Pope snapped, “and I don’t understand why I’m here either, so apologies for the outburst, friend. I’m as confused as you are. I don’t cross interdimensional rifts for nothing. Do you know how uncomfortable it is when you have a pierced asshole? Cosmic forces love pulling on that area specifically, and not in the good pain-is-pleasure kind of way, which is my kink, that shit just plain hurts.” They whined as they shifted their hips, trying to move the rusted metal piercing over.

“We all told you that piercing was a bad idea at the retreat, but you don’t listen.” The handsome-faced butcher shrugged as he collected the corpse from the couch. “What happens in Vilan De Mar stays in Vilan De Mar, right?”

HP rolled their eyes, no one questioned their choices, even if they were harboring the slightest tinges of regret. “This doesn’t make sense; it is a whole production to summon me across the chasm. Where’s the altar with my likeness in lunch meats? The 2 ¾ gallons of piss in the Waterford crystal decanter? The arrangement of dead Cardinals and Blue jays? And the flowers, hello, where’s the Irises, the Forget-Me-Nots, the Bougainvillea’s? I’m not normally an I don’t get out of bed for this kind of money type of demon, but I do not get out of bed for this shit. This was supposed to be my day off.”

The Hell Pope whined again as they examined the minimal living room: Neutral carpet, unimpressive furniture, cold and empty. “And ew…what is this—a furnished rental? How straight-divorced-man, tragic. I’m so over this.” HP held up their skinless left palm, through which all their chains crisscrossed like a railyard. Within the middle of the intersection, a blue flame appeared accompanied by the sound of a dial tone. HP pressed the bouncing blue flame once and tapped their foot impatiently. “So,” they asked, “you don’t really keep your mother on a rolling cart under a bed, right? Because at the retreat Lucas was saying you and your cousins only bring her out when you want a quick pump?”

ButcherFace flipped faces quickly from inside the kitchen until landing on another non-horrifying one; a grandfather, who’d saved his kids from ButcherFace but still looked pissed off he’d died doing it. “C’mon, man, that’s liberal media bullshit. They’re always painting us as a stereotype. We aren’t inbred idiot mutants who can’t speak. I’m just not going to talk to my food, man. I can’t humanize them like the rest of you do, this is straight-up cattle, bro.” ButcherFace ripped into the body he’d thrown on the counter, pulling out the organs, throwing what he didn’t care for to the cheap and dingey linoleum floor. “And I’m so tired of inbred being slung at me like it’s a slur too. Man, fucking royals do it. What does Lucas know anyway, he never leaves his woods, so I wanna know what he’s out there fucking?

“And no, man, Momma isn’t on some cart under a bed like a trundle, shit, we aren’t animals—she hangs in the closet on a pulley system. It’s great when the food runs, it’s the first place they go to hide. It’s always a hoot when they find her too.” Quicker than lightning he’d already switched to another face; a beautiful woman who appeared to be laughing, to which ButcherFace had continued to refreshen her caked-on makeup.

Hell Pope was about to respond to him when a coarse and throaty ‘hello?’ sounded off from the flame.

“I need you here please…we have a situation.”

“At this time of day?” The gruff voice popped off refusing to agree, “fuck that. Do you know what traffic from the hellscape to there is like right now, horrible. Fuck it. Nope.”

“It’s always horrible, it’s Hell. And who’s the assistant here? Get that warty, slime-covered ass here—now.” HP slapped their fingers down on their palm, putting out the flame.

“Man, if my assistant talked to me like that.” ButcherFace balled his fist, punching the corpse on the counter a few times. “I’ve got Jonathon good and trained, does what I need, on top of everything, I barely know he’s there.” He stopped for a moment quizzically wondering, “or did I kill him?” He shrugged the notion off.

“What do you think the hiring pool in the Hellscape is like? It isn’t filled with peppy grads with can-do attitudes…it’s fucking Hell.” A ring of blue fire appeared on the cream-colored carpet as a small Imp crawled out from the opening. Standing only three feet high on uneven legs with knobby joints, a peanut-shaped body, and a misshapen, lumpy, head, the tiny Imp stood there with an attitude ten times larger than itself.

“This better be fucking good,” It hissed.

“Well first, can you tell me where I am? And then we’ll tackle the bigger issue; why I’m here on my day off.”

The creature groaned as if being asked to help a friend move, and then drive them to the airport on the same day. Whipping out its palm a blue flame appeared, which it read like a tablet. “Well, you weren’t summoned, clearly,” It said with continued exhausted indifference, motioning around the room at the lack of the ritual’s accouterment being present. “You were conjured.”

“Is there a difference?” ButcherFace asked ripping off an arm, examining it closely, and tossing the unsatisfactory limb over his shoulder. “Man, you know I don’t deal with that foreign shit too often. Closest I had lately was a telekinetic chick who got feisty and ruined my barn. The Saw got her in the end though.”

“Conjuring is involuntary, means we were pulled from our realm by something or someone,” HP explained before turning to their assistant, who now scrolled through their social media, no longer paying attention. “Excuse me…if I may have another minute of your time.”

“The fuck…what else?”

“I swear to Cthulhu, I’ll rip you from asshole to forehead with my bare fucking hands.”

“Okay,” it said drawing the word out, giving no fucks, “do it.”

     “You’re the assistant.” HP bellowed, fuming enough that the lights in the room flickered as hell winds rose and ominous chanting began.

     “Assist this,” the creature silenced the noise with its hand before exiting back into the blue flame with a raised middle finger, “you’re in Sagewood, Illinois by the way.” HP stomped at the burned mark left in the carpet after it’d gone.

     “Why didn’t you just kill it?” ButcherFace asked returning to the living room, chewing on fresh pieces of a forearm.

     “’Cause,” HP whined, both annoyed and impressed with their assistant, “it’s the best assistant I’ve ever had. Sagewood though…that’s Naya’s purview.”


     “Naya Wright; the sleep stalker.” HP pulled up his blue flame again and dialed. “She was at the retreat.”

    “Oh yeah, the pretty, curvy one. She could oil my saw all night. Oil it real good.”

    HP shushed him when Naya’s message began and her bubbly, cheery voice spoke: “You reached your girl Naya, I’m not free right now, I’m out tracking and killing one of the fucking kids whose ancestors put me in the ground back in the day; gotta love 23 and Me. Leave your message and deets at the shink of the razors and I’ll get back at ya when I can.”

“Naya, hi, so ButcherFace and I seem to have been conjured to Sagewood this evening, and I was wondering if you knew maybe what that was all about? So, yeah, Sis, give a Sin Demon a callback.” HP closed their hand and paced around the living room. In their thousand years they’d been summoned to palaces and hovels, yet this had been the most depressing place by far.

     “Guess we have some time to talk about our benefits then?” ButcherFace asked, returning to the handsome businessman’s face.

     “If you have time to talk about your dues, which are still owed.” Hell Pope picked up the solitary picture in the room off the fireplace mantel; a picture of the deceased man and his teenage daughter hugging him. There was twist in their stomach, one that told them the girl was involved in their situation somehow.

     “Oh c’mon, I’m getting nowhere with our insurance company about my shoulder, they keep pushing back. I didn’t choose the saw man, it chose me, that’s how the damn thing works, how’s that a pre-fucking-existing condition?”

      “I’m not an insurance adjuster.”

     “No, but you’re our Union president, and you live in the Hellscape where the insurance office is located. But sure, sure, you can’t do anything, okay,” he bemoaned angrily. “Gas is going up too, not all of us have free mystical weapons at our disposal. Some of us have only good ol’ American-made muscle dammit.” Hell Pope mouthed the words along with him, a mantra they heard often from him, as ButcherFace flexed his large arms, rubbing his right shoulder once he lowered them.

     “If I have to hear the American muscle speech one more time. And my shit wasn’t free, hello, I had to let my soul get sodomized repeatedly by the ‘Librarian’. You think that was fun?” HP paused with a smirk, “well, it was a little. But do you think I wanted to look like this?” Hell Pope waved their hands over their body for emphasis, “trust me, no. But I’ll look into the insurance once you’ve paid your dues, a union only works if we’re all contributing to the–”

“–No, that’s bureaucratic bullshit. SaraBeth is a fucking doll, man, a fucking doll, and had no problem getting her body replaced after that kid’s mom ran over her with a lawnmower. She made one damn claim with no issues.”

“I will make a call, but I want to see dues–” about to continue, their palm blazed to life as the flame returned.

     “Hello…are you alone? All alone in that big house,” a menacing, digitally altered voice spoke.

     “For fuck sake Theodore, I am not in the mood.” Slapping their fingers down over their palm, HP demanded he come out.

      Accompanied by the audible metallic shriek of his knife, the masked killer jumped from a darkened doorway, shrouded in black robes with a white mask; a face shaped like a crescent moon. ButcherFace screamed, dropping the forearm, instantly flipping his faces to a bloody, angry one, and reeved the chainsaw in defense.

     “Dammit Theodore, every time!? He’s already riled up and going on about his fucking American muscle.” HP shouted, also annoyed at being startled. The Masked Killer had a lot of energy but didn’t know how to tone it down when with his peers. HP’s palm ignited again.

      In his raspy, killer’s voice, he apologized. “I thought this was my vic’s house.” He looked around at the change of scenery. “I am so confused. I was about to strike, slice through some skin and feel my bone, and then I was here.” Defeated at the lack of release, he moved to the couch where he sat and grew further annoyed at the sight of the bloody aftermath. “Aww, c’mon, you dudes have all the fun.”

     “Why are you here?”

     “I don’t know,” he said sheathing his hunting knife and relaxing his posture before pointing at the other two, “what are you two doing here? We have a phone tree for this very reason. Everyone’s listed so we don’t end up infringing on each other’s kills. Why’d we argue about who was gonna be on top of the damn thing for six hours if we aren’t going to use it?”

     “This wasn’t anyone’s kill Theodore; we were conjured here.”

     “What’s that, like some teens fingered a Ouija board or something?”

     “They’re different apparently,” ButcherFace added snidely, flipping his faces back to a clean, neutral one.

“I’m a human,” the Masked Killer said, “I’m into technology, not that mystic shit.”

     “It’s in the handbook,” HP fumed. They’d edited and bound everyone’s handbooks in the finest human flesh; hours’ worth of fucking around with photoshop and for what? “We need to find Naya and figure out what’s going on.”

     “Then let’s go find her,” ButcherFace shouted rummaging through the dead man’s cabinets. “This guy doesn’t have any sandwich baggies, no Tupperware, how I’m gonna get all of this home?” He continued to fumble around looking for a way to take home his leftovers, settling on a reusable grocery tote he stuffed with as much of the victim as he could. Limbs jutted out from the top and the bottom quickly soaked through with blood.

           “Come,” HP demanded, growing impatient and letting their regal tone slide back into their voice, “we need to figure out who conjured us.”

There was nothing out of the ordinary on the dark suburban street except for the three hellish figures making their way down the middle of it. Hell Pope led, following their intuition which they trusted to carry them in the right direction. Looking for, but not finding any remnants of witchcraft, which Hell Pope took as a teachable moment. They explained how mystic energies always left traces behind; an iridescent sheen in the air, or the lingering smell of burnt hair. The blue flame ignited in their palm.

     “Okay, I get all that, thanks for the lesson,” Theodore said, “but it doesn’t explain why you’re dressed like you’re going to a rave at Burning Man?” He laughed before mimicking a dance beat.

     “These are ceremonial,” Hell Pope defended. “I’m among the highest order of disciples within the hellscape. And who the fuck are you to read someone looking like a defunct 80’s McDonald’s campaign. I wouldn’t be scared by you.”

     “Hey, chain-face,” Theo defended loudly, his voice growing angrier. “This is my eighth go-round killing these privileged young assholes, choosing a look each time is getting harder. I can’t change it too much, and there’s only so much my ensemble allows for—and this was the only mask left in the wardrobe closet, which, why do I pay dues if that thing is always empty?”

     “Exactly why I D.I.Y,” ButcherFace rifled through his collection of faces, which played out like a flipbook changing expressions from happy, to terrifying, to strangely sad, to horrifying, to oddly sexy. “I like to keep things fresh and fucked up.”

      “That you do,” Theodore and the butcher exchanged a genial fist bump before both took in the scenery around them. “White suburbia; my favorite playground. The air is crisp, and they’re all lined up so nicely for the running and screaming.”

      “Man, this is nice. I’ve got to sit around and wait for some assholes to wander through or break down, but they’re just lined up for the slaughter here. I’ve been stuck in the backwoods too goddamn long.” ButcherFace was wide-eyed at the sight of all the houses, all the potential faces that could be added to the collection on him and the others at home.

     HP sighed, sensing what their comrades wanted, and relented. “Fine, my brothers…but only one,” they added sternly, “one kill, and then back to the business at hand.”

     The chainsaw-wielding cannibal flipped through faces until landing on a bloody, smiley face, and disappeared happily, nearly skipping away with his chainsaw reeving. And with his metallic shriek, Theodore disappeared as well. HP would have partaken too, able to sniff out the people in their homes lavishing in pleasures and sin and those who desired more than even their human-bound hearts knew. Hell Pope could have selected any home and made an entrance, ripping flesh and spirit apart until they came in unbridled ecstasy, sometimes a quickie was just what a demon needed. But Hell Pope continued walking, awkwardly twisting, and lightly gyrating their hips while trying to hide the fact they were doing so, as the piercing in their rear had reached an annoying level of discomfort.

      HP stopped, believing no one was present to see what they were going to do, and slid their hand back and down under the waist of their skirt, their nails almost to the bar which irritated their pursed behind, gripping it, they were about to twist off the end and remove it, when a car’s headlights shined on them. Frozen with momentary embarrassment, Hell Pope looked forward at the car stopped short with a chorus of screeching tires. They straightened up to see the vehicle crammed full of frightened teenagers. The front passenger holding a golden, gem-encrusted amulet that gleamed with mystic remnants. The teens screamed at the sight of The Hell Pope before yelling at each other. HP threw out their arms dramatically, summoning hell winds that slammed against the car, rocking it.

      The driver, a young woman, with a deep, bloody gash along her forehead, gritted her teeth as her eyes burned. HP recognized the driver, the girl from the picture in the house. Had she been the one who’d conjured them? The girl slammed the gas, barreling the car toward the Hell Pope, who rose from the ground, effortlessly floating over the car as it sped past. Returning to the ground, another vehicle screamed around the corner in front of them, one with exaggerated features along its front grill giving the vehicle a demonic visage, complete with a collection of exaggerated tailpipes, each one blasting fire. The teenager’s car sped off, but as the demon buggy passed HP, they heard a familiar voice.

     “Oh, shit…hey Boo.”

The demon buggy melted in a vibrant smear of dreamy watercolors which reconstituted into Naya. The tall, voluptuous, sleep stalker sashayed down the road in a skin-tight black and purple catsuit. Her long, thick braids were threaded with different colored ribbons bouncing around her as she moved. Along with a series of dangling earrings, which ran in a series up the length of the ear—her razors. “Not that I’m never happy to see my Boo-boo, but what’re you doing here?”

      “Someone conjured us, but I think I figured it out.” HP glanced back at the teen’s car. “I called you.”

     “Oh, those little pricks have been working my nerves since they woke me up, haven’t had a minute to check my phone.” She pointed at the fading red taillights, “already killed two of ‘em, but damn they’re annoying as hell.”

“What happened?”

“What always happens; these asses came to my resting place with some amulet bullshit and black magic nonsense they found on the internet. They didn’t even understand how to do it properly and woke me up from my nap. I am pissed. I was trying to give this shithole a decade or two of peace, let me chill, go on a nice vacay. I was giving them time to repopulate and really build up my legend, and then I’d return to kill the shit out of ‘em. But these shits ruined my plans.”

      “Fucking humans. It’s my day off today,” HP whined, “you any idea how hard it is to get a day off in the Hellscape lately? I didn’t want to put these damn chains on, or these fucking arm ribbons, but I get the notice and I’m out the door. I wasn’t even going to torture anyone today, I wanted to relax. It’s called self-care dammit and no one is going to give it to you, you have to take it. And now I’m stuck here with ButcherFace and Theodore.” They spoke the name with such disdain.

     “Oh, Boo.” She empathized, before getting louder as a warning to all who could hear.
“See, don’t be playing with ancient relics, using spells and fuckery you don’t understand. It could gonna ruin another bitch’s day. I mean—audacity. I’m sorry you got swept up in this Boo, you know what, ya’ll here so let’s go kill their asses ‘cause now I’m heated.”

     “Yes,” HP agreed, “but we need them to reverse what they did first before more of us start showing up.” They shuddered at the thought and flicked their wrist to ignite their phone. “You’re looking good Naya, I mean always, but, tonight, damn. Do you wear this when you’re haunting their dreams?” They asked admiring her outfit.

     “No, this is just for me. To them, I look like the little girl their racist ancestors dragged behind a truck and hung from a tree, and then I become whatever they fear the most. But this,” she said running her hands over her sexy curves, “this is for me, to remind myself how damn sexy I am. It’s what Rihanna wants for us.”

     As HP nodded, their assistant answered with a loud screech demanding to know why they were being bothered again. “Get here now please.” HP ended the call before any protests could be heard.

The creature appeared as it had in the living room, its small, boil-ridden face twisted in anger, “what else could you need now? Sometimes your incompetence is staggering.”

     HP ignored the comment and turned to Naya, “please describe the amulet in question to my assistant and we’ll figure this out.” The Imp flicked its wrist in a huff and then flexed its pointer finger on the opposite hand, whose tip was lit with a blue flame. It used the finger as a stylus and drew everything Naya described.

The Imp only needed a minute and then with a flourish of hand movements, displayed the amulet on a fire screen in front of them. “The Amulet of Ara’man Pfier.” It said curtly, “to reverse the ritual conjuring, the humans need the Goblet of Isha, fresh virgin blood, and then–” It stopped and stared at them blankly. “Why the fuck am I telling you. You two can’t fucking do any of this. The goblet, conveniently, is here in the local history museum, I’ll see the humans figure this out. Is there any-fucking-thing else or can I go?” HP waved their ranting assistant off who disappeared as quickly as it arrived.

“Wow, that thing is something else.”

“I know, I love it. So now we know what–” They were interrupted by screams as a distraught woman, who held onto a cordless phone for dear life, ran up to them clearly expecting to find friendlier faces. Upon seeing them, she screamed louder. The annoying loud metallic shriek sounded off again as Theodore popped up behind her, sending his hunting knife through her neck in the smoothest and most fluid of gestures.

“Dammit, Theodore!” Naya yelled startled by his appearance. “Do you gotta do the noise every damn time?”

“Sorry…nice to see you again, Naya.” The blond woman turned around and looked at the Masked Killer, choking on the blood spurting out of her neck wound. He waved goodbye as her body crumpled to the ground still bleeding out.

“You too, Theo, but damn.” The slim razor-sharp dangles from Naya’s earrings had detached and grown to full-size blades floating around her head and ready to strike. When she relaxed, they returned to being jewelry.

A chainsaw roared loudly announcing ButcherFace’s return as he sauntered up to them, covered in fresh gore, his reusable shopping bag now struggling to contain the numerous new body parts which had been shoved indiscriminately into it. At seeing Naya, he set his weapon down and flipped faces to the handsome businessman, adding a sheepish hello.

“Gordon,” she said with a seductive wiggle.

He moved two faces back and forth, winking at her. “Nice to see you again, it’s been a while. Change your hair?”

“Yeah, you like?” She asked flipping her braids around and winking back. “You know I do love me a big, strapping man covered in blood.”

“I do.”

“If you two are done,” Hell Pope interjected as they raised their arms and spoke in a language unknown to all but those in the deepest realms of the Hellscape. The space in front of them crackled and popped from rainbow sparks as a portal ripped the air open and through it, the museum’s interior could be seen.

“How very Marvel movie of you.” Theodore snickered.

“Take a deep breath when you cross,” HP warned, ignoring him. They stepped up to the doorway and then through, adding; “it’s going to tug on your asshole.”

Crossing the rift into the empty natural history museum, they faced a bewildered security guard who shakily held a flashlight in their direction. Terrified at the cacophony of hellish beasts in his presence, especially the Hell Pope who stood in front. The guard went to speak, to demand the costumed freaks leave but was silenced by an ominous chanting which snagged his attention. The museum around him melted into shadow and Hell Pope embodied their full regal posture; back straight, arms by their sides so the frayed ribbons fluttered behind them. The fingertips tapped against the chains running through the thigh muscles. On cue, a ring of deep red light appeared behind Hell Pope.

“Well, Boo knows how to make an entrance.” Naya admired the scene from behind the shadow curtain which obscured them.

“Why does HP get the light show and the wind machines like they’re Beyonce?” Theodore asked watching the security guard tremble before the sin demon’s imposing presence. “I’m running around here like an asshole with a smartphone from 20-fucking-13 that has a cracked screen.”

“I smell your sin.” HP’s deep, melodic voice rose in a way that told the others to shut up, I’m working. “You harbor desires for youthful bodies—very youthful. You’ve satisfied them many times, haven’t you? Touched upon those in your own family, among others. And afterward the same charade of feigned guilt, the same vague assurances you won’t give in to them again. Yet, every night you fall upon knees used to prey and call out to him to ease the pain and guilt your indulgences have wrought upon your soul.”

“What the hell are you?” The guard, trembling from the truths spoken aloud moved his hand for the taser on his holster.

HP rose two feet off the floor softly as a feather in reverse. “I can be your deliverer, Mr. Harrigan. Your absolution. We can fill in where your father and god hath abandoned you. I can free you to enjoy the splendid agonies you seek. Your soul need not bear the heft of your devious deceits any longer. Pleasures are awaiting you within the hallowed halls of the Hellscape.”

The guard stepped back, hand still near the taser but his fear refused to allow his fingers to grasp the weapon. Unable to resist, the guard gave the demon a soft, almost indiscernible nod of the head. “Splendid.” Harrigan was wrenched from his feet into the air and presented in front of Hell Pope, who sprung forward tunneling their nails deep into the guard’s chest, flaying skin from muscle and shredding muscle to bone. Pieces of the security guard rained down on the freshly polished floor in wet, loud slaps, followed by the hollow thud of Harrigan’s eviscerated corpse.

As HP returned to the floor, wiping their nails on their skirt, their body tingling from orgasm, their palm ignited. “Do you always give such a pompous speech? Can’t you just kill them?” Theodore asked, chuckling. “Wrought upon you,” he mimicked Hell Pope’s deep voice, “the hallowed halls of the hellscape. I am your deliverer. Dude, what a load of shit.”

“Dammit, Theodore!” Hell Pope’s rebuttal was cut short when through the glass front doors they noticed the teenager’s car racing up the parking lot toward the museum. HP swished their hand over Harrigan’s body which was instantly dispersed in a fiery show. “Find a dark corner and kill everyone.” Hell Pope snapped their pierced fingers to ensure everyone’s attention, “but we need them to finish this ritual, so do not kill the girl with the amulet.”

Theodore disappeared and ButcherFace nodded as he backed away into the dark. Naya stayed with HP as they made their way to the goblet where HP’s palm ignited again. “Dammit, Theodore!”

“It’s not him,” ButcherFace yelled from across the museum.

Hell Pope answered, only to be immediately yelled at by their assistant. “Here’s the fucking thing you didn’t ask me for, but were about to realize you need. And since I don’t want you to bother me the rest of the fucking day, I’m giving it to you now. So, here. Also, fuck off.” From the flame, a light shot out and wrapped around HP’s fingers as the call ended.

“What’s that?” Naya asked.

“A little something to help us,” HP explained watching the light circle around their finger in a holding pattern. “It’ll show the one with the amulet what she needs to do, another vision to go with the one that led them here. That little gross wad of goofy goo is the best. Shall we?” They motioned to the ceiling and began to rise. Naya followed as they hovered between the hanging models of the covered wagons belonging to the town’s first settlers.

From their raised view, HP watched as the seven teens struggled to break through the front doors. “Why are there so many of them? I know I’m not versed in these ways, but at this point aren’t they usually dwindled down to the, what do you call them, the final one?”

“See Boo…you only fuck with kinky sub-bitches who already wanted you to come fuck with their booty holes. We deal with teenage douchebags and let me tell you, they’re awful. And their friend groups are getting bigger. I’ve been getting some lame-ass Final boys and girls lately, in my opinion. No fight, no charisma, cocky little bitches with unclever one-liners. Like c’mon, don’t they realize they’re going to be the first one dead when I bounce back, so who’s all cocky now you dumb bitch.” She stopped herself, fanning at her eyes, reigning in the anger being woken from her nap had stirred up. “And this is why I was taking a break, shit’s too much lately.”

Her bosom rang in response. “And they’re so rude,” Theodore said through the speakerphone. “Every one of them wants to get ballsy and phone tango with me like they can do what I do, but better. I don’t have time for ‘hold-my-beer’ moments, I’ve got business to handle. I mean where’s the respect, where’s the fear?”

“Perhaps the crescent moon mask has a hand in that,” HP responded drolly.

Theodore huffed but continued, “and you’re right, these fucks keep expanding their ‘chosen family’ and it’s like, I’m only one dude. Why are they bringing their cousins into this? Even when I have a partner, it’s too much. I’m all for inclusion, but when they were all white with one token friend, it was kind of easier. I’m not complaining mind you, I’m all for a more colorful, tolerant world, which means more kills for us frankly.”

“That’s very worldly of you Theo,” Naya nodded as HP rolled their eyes.

“Growth is possible, plus I’ve learned how to ask, Are you alone in the house in six different languages.”

“Theodore, your annoying ass has a point. When it was just a little circle of cliché white bitches, they kept that shit tight. I could move through them in three days, tops. Then pack up and hit the spa till an idiot summons me back the following year. Hell, their dreams used to be easier too. I don’t know what’s up with the youth of today, but that shit’s already a full-blown anxiety nightmare before I even get in there. Listen, if I’m walking into your dream and I say what the fuck is going on here? There’s a problem.

“And where’s the challenge for me? They’re already getting dp’d by anxiety and depression. Has ‘em all worked up. All I need to do is say, boo, and they’re dead. Where’s the artistry? How am I going to win Most Innovative Kill at the retreat if all I’m saying is boo? I am master of my craft dammit, I’m the fucking Sleep Stalker.” Naya caught herself, reigning in her anger once more.

“I can’t eat teens anymore either,” ButcherFace added, “they’re doped up on all kinds of shit. Meat tastes funny, and then it makes me feel funny too, but not in a fun, let’s watch cartoons way. I’m up for six hours cleaning my workshop—cleaning my workshop. I live in a fucking slaughterhouse, it don’t need to be clean. But there I am scrubbing the floor. Ridiculous.

“And yet they’re the only ones who break down in the backwoods, man. Sure, I get a family in an RV here and there, maybe a lawyer or a census taker, but it’s mainly teens. We came to see our father’s old house. We were on our way to a concert. We’re out here to worship our Moon Goddess. I’m sick of ‘em, man. Can I petition for a new class of vics? There’s got to be something we can do; maybe I relocate? Outside a suburb perhaps?”

“You’ve been in the suburbs for five goddamn minutes Gordon; can we maybe discuss relocation requests at a more appropriate time?”

“I’m noticing, HP, that it never seems to be a good time for you when I want to discuss things. Yeah, man, I think next election you’re going to have some competition.”

Before the sin demon could respond with more than a scowl—they’d run unopposed for seven centuries—the ragged group of teens broke through the glass doors with a trashcan. “This is my fucking day off; can we just get this over with.”

The teens scattered aimlessly through the large, three-room museum, crying, and screaming orders at each other; find the goblet, find a phone. My uncle is the security guard, find him. The two girls from the front seat stopped, no longer able to go any further without breaking down into an argument. The driver with the wounded head accused the girl holding the amulet of the situation being all her fault. When the metallic shriek was heard, followed by the screams of their friends, their argument quickly ended.

HP and Naya floated over the chaos, searching for the girl holding the amulet. A man’s scream was cut short by the sound of the saw, which sent the rest panicking around all the displays and racing into the other rooms. When HP found the girl clutching the amulet, Jenny, as she was called. They twirled their finger and sent the light to her head, causing Jenny to collapse on her way to the antiquities room.

“Oh Boo, that one hates clowns, excuse me while I go fuck with him.” Naya excused herself, pointing out a boy who rushed over to help Chelsea, the driver, get Jenny back to her feet. In the blink of an eye, Naya became a terrifying clown and dove down to the floor chasing away the boy, who screamed louder than anyone else. “You shouldn’t have woken me from my nap motherfucker.”

Another scream, another roar of the chainsaw, and HP remained by Jenny as the girl awoke. “I had a vision!” She dramatically grabbed at Chelsea, shouting about how they needed to find the goblet, that she knew what to do. HP rolled their eyes following the girls, ensuring the chaos of their friends being butchered didn’t deter them until they reached the display in the back of the far room housing the goblet. Chelsea slammed her fist into the glass, not caring it shredded the skin, and retrieved the goblet.

The girls then fought over who would give the blood, and who’d read the ritual in reverse, each wanting to be the one who made amends. The entire ordeal was annoyingly too long, and Hell Pope descended to the floor—chanting, winds, and dramatic lights accompanying—a good ways away from the girls, but their entrance was noticed.

Beginning the slow procession towards Jenny, HP hoped the lingering walk and the encroachment of their intimidating presence would motivate the girls to complete the ritual. Naya returned to their side, joining the slow crawl, this time in the form of her younger self. The girls reacted viscerally to her, having already been tormented for most of the evening, and lapsed back into pleading for forgiveness.

“No one forgave me for the color of my skin.” The sugary sweet voice of young Naya taunted the girls. “I was just walking home to momma…look at what they did to me.” She held up her arms, ravaged and raw from the road rash they’d endured. The scared skin began to bleed, with each drop of blood turned into a screaming face, which howled in agonizing pain before falling to the floor.

Hell Pope stared at the screaming drops of blood in amazement, “Holy hellfire that’s awesome, get it, Sis.”

“I told you, it’s all about the artistry baby. Do you think those two idiots are going to get the ritual done by the time we get there?”

“I hope so. I hate taunting-slow-as-possible-moving-toward-the victim walks.” They extended their arms, commanding attention, and spoke again in the coarse language of the Hellscape. In response, the walls of the antiquities room began to pulsate and moan sexually before the oozing dark blood began to seep down them. The other display cases exploded, raining glass down as the girls rushed to fill the goblet with their blood. Both grabbed their phones and both felt the need to repeat the ritual they’d found online in reverse, but only Jenny held the amulet and ran her fingers around the surface in the circular motion the ritual called for.

ButcherFace and the Masked Killer joined Naya, but they all held back as Hell Pope moved closer to the girls. When a good twenty feet away, they upped the hell winds and were about to begin their normal spiel when they noticed Jenny was rubbing the amulet in the wrong direction. The ritual would never work. More of their kind would join them and HP could barely handle the quartet they had now. Between the howling winds and the girls’ frightened cries, HP grew impatient and broke free of their demonic persona, shouting at Jenny as matter-of-factly as they could. “Oh, for fuck sake it’s counter-clockwise, you stupid cow.”

For a moment all the noise stopped, and the girls stared at the Hell Pope with curious expressions while both quietly releasing a ‘what?’ HP swallowed hard, frozen, unable to think of something to say and instead screeched loudly. An action that pushed the chains running through their skin up and away from their body as far as they could go. It was an unsettling sight that shocked the girls back into action. Jenny reversed the circular motions and once she completed a rotation, a wave of energy escaped the amulet and moved through the museum.

Hell Pope and crew remained but were no longer visible to the girls. To them, the perception was the ritual had been successful and they were once again safe, sans any friends, but safe. Sobbing, they helped each other to their feet, clinging onto one another like drunken frat bros, as they hobbled out of the antiquities room unaware of the eye rolls, groans, and boos they were receiving.

“The amulet’s effects will wear off in a moment and we should all return home.” HP explained, “I must say, good work here tonight everyone.” The group exchanged professional formalities; complementing each other’s kills and personal styles.

“Man, can’t we kill them too?” ButcherFace asked watching the girls stopping at the sight of their mutilated friends, only to break down into further hysterics. “They’re the ones who fucked up our day.”

“We damn well should,” Naya added, covering her ears to their theatrics. “That’s what you get for fucking around with the dark shit you don’t know anything about. Don’t do it again.” She threw up her hands knowing they could not hear her. “Don’t worry, Gordon, I’m gonna pop into their dreams as soon as they’re asleep and remind ‘em I’m still around.” She winked at him again.

ButcherFace flipped his faces a final time to the handsome businessman and grabbed his tote and chainsaw before waving a soft goodbye to Naya as he dissipated into the air.

The metallic shriek sounded one more, causing both Naya and HP to jump. “Till next time peeps,” Theodore’s laugh lingered longer than he did.

“Thanks for your help, Boo,” Naya said, and since everyone else had gone, she leaned in and hugged them. “I’ll be in West Hellscape next week for a spa day, see if you can join me? Let’s get drinks at that bar we hit up last time, and I’d love to go to that torture palace too, I need to get my freak on.”

“Yes! I’ll have my assistant make reservations, it’s a date.” HP blew her a kiss as she faded away in a dreamy swirl of melting colors. Examining the bloody mess of the museum as the rift opened for them to depart, Hell Pope nodded to themselves, satisfied at the carnage spilled around them. Pausing before entering the rift, they reached down under the waistband of their ceremonial skirt, and with a firm grip ripped the bastard piercing from their anus, along with some of the flesh as well. Holding the small black diamond-encrusted bar up to reflect the light, Hell Pope cursed the two-inch bastard before throwing it to the floor. There was a loud sigh of relief as they entered the rift and returned to the Hellscape.

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