Erik Dickash

"Dude, so what the fuck is up with Drew lately?"

A question oft repeated in recent times amongst Andrew Potamkin's friends, and for good reason too. Andrew had always been a stand-up guy. He was a pretty big guy, about 6'1" well-built. He'd always been a spectacular athlete, playing football from elementary school up until his freshman year in high school, when he decided to switch over to his school's amateur wrestling team, a team which he quickly became the captain of. Besides being an amazing talent, Andrew was a rather intelligent guy, ranked 13th out of his entire class. Andrew never let any of this go to his head, however, and was one of the most sociable guys one could ever meet. He had a very eclectic circle of friends, spanning pretty much every social group in his school, and he'd always stick up for his friends, no matter what adversity they came upon from their high school peers. Overall, Andrew was a pretty great person. Over the last month or so, however, Andrew had undergone an unexplainable change. It all started roughly a month ago, shortly after the high school's big wrestling meet against their rival school. Andrew's longtime rival, Chester Kearney, wrestled for that school, and throughout all his time on the wrestling team, Andrew had never been able to defeat him. Try as he might, he'd always come up short. No one really saw Andrew at all for about a week before the big meet in question, which was quite odd, as Andrew usually became very public in the school before a meet, going around and promoting the wrestling team. What was even more peculiar, however, was the actual meet itself. When he entered for his match with his rival, Andrew tore his rival apart, shutting him out, barely even giving him a chance to make an offensive action, and knocking him out for the victory. It was a thrilling surprise for the school, and his friends were happy to see him finally overcome his foe, but something seemed off about his performance. Andrew was always intense in his matches, but in this particular match, he seemed to possess a bloodthirsty rage, a level of rage previously unseen from the normally friendly young man. After the meet, Andrew's friends continued to notice a change in him. Andrew became noticeably less friendly, choosing instead to be alone. He'd often get into verbal spats with other peers, and occasionally, a physical fight would break out, in which Andrew would mercilessly tear apart the unfortunate punk who was up against him. Just recently, Andrew even stopped hanging out with his closest friends, which was the reason his friends called this meeting today.

"Something is definitely wrong with Andrew, guys," Brian stated solemnly. Brian Foley was pretty much Andrew's best friend. A small, skinny kid, Brian was always made fun of. If you looked up the word "geek" in the dictionary, chances are you'd find a large portrait of Brian next to the definition. Brian's friendship with Andrew began in 1st grade, when Andrew protected Brian from a group of bullies. They soon became the best of friends.

"Oh, wow, Brian, what clued you into that?" Derek responded in a nasty tone. Derek Watson was on the wrestling team as well, and was a tower of a man. At 6'6", Derek was feared throughout the school. If Brian was the textbook definition of a geek, then Derek was definitely the definition of a jock. The only "geek" that Derek was even semi-civil to was Brian, and with Brian, civil was used in a very liberal sense of the word.

"Dude, Derek, this isn't the time to go and mess with Brian," Vinnie interjected, trying to bring peace to the room. "We might have a serious situation on our hands here, and fighting amongst ourselves isn't gonna help us any." Vincent Baines was on the debate team. Vinnie usually tended to stay away from academic organizations, but he enjoyed the debate team simply for the pleasure of proving others wrong. Vinnie became friends with Andrew after overhearing him talking about abortion during lunch period in 8th grade. The two got into a heated debate that made them late to their next classes. The debate ended in a stalemate, and the two became friends out of respect for each other. Even now, Andrew would often come over Vinnie's house just to go up into his attic, where they'd always go to ensure privacy, and debate.

"I can't help it if Brian's being a wad," Derek said. "He's over here stating the obvious..."

"Yeah, yeah, right," Vinnie said, exasperated. "Look, Seth should be here in a few minutes, and he might have an answer for why Drew's been so weird lately. Could you maybe not argue with each other for the next few minutes?" Vinnie had no idea why he was counting on Seth so much. After all, he was only going to snoop around Andrew's room. However, Seth was a damned good snoop. Suddenly, the door to Vinnie's room flew open. Seth Martinez was standing in the doorway, his trusty black backpack hanging off his right shoulder. Seth was a creepy guy, and other than Andrew, Brian, Derek, and Vinnie, no one really wanted to hang out with him. He was into the "dark arts," and that, naturally, weirded most people out. Seth was another of Andrew's longtime friends, having met each other in 3rd grade, before Seth found his penchant for the supernatural. Seth scurried into Vinnie's room, tossing his backpack down in the center.

"What did you find, Seth?" Brian inquired. Everyone's eyes were on Seth now. Seth unzipped his backpack and rummaged through it, finally pulling out a large brown book.

"Just as I expected," Seth said, staring intently at the book. "He's been possessed by a demon!" Brian, Derek, and Vinnie stared at Seth.

"You want me to kick his ass?" Derek asked. Vinnie shook his head. Seth threw open the cover of the book, and the others crowded around him as he pointed out specific passages in the book's text.

"This is obvious evidence that Andrew has been possessed by a demon, which he willingly summoned!" Seth continued, turning to a dog-eared page and pointing to a short paragraph. "He summoned this demon to enter his body in order to give him the strength to defeat his rival, but was unaware of the repercussions! Just look at this incantation!" Brian leaned over and read the passage Seth was referring to.

"To properly summon the demon Exodia," Brian read, "you must first surround yourself in a circle of fig leaves."

"Doesn't Drew have a fig tree growing outside his house?" Derek noted. Brian raised his hand to silence him, and continued reading.

"A sacrifice of one hamster must be made," Brian continued.

"Drew's hamster just died a month ago," Vinnie noted.

"The summoner must then repeat the following incantation," Brian continued to read. "Those who wish to seek great strength/Unleash the power from this page/Awake the demon from sleep's great length/And be instilled with unbound rage." The group of four sat silently for a moment after this. The silence was soon broken by Seth.

"It's so obvious!" he shouted. "Drew knew he couldn't win the match without this power, and now, the power's becoming too much for him to handle! We've got to exorcize this demon from him immediately!"

"And how do you expect us to do that?" Brian asked. Seth pointed to another section of the page, which Brian began reading from.

"To remove the demon from its host, the host must be fully restrained in a dark and dank place and surrounded by a circle of face-down tarot cards. Someone very close to the host must recite the following incantation in one breath: End the torment of this host/Release him from his darkest hour/Set free from him the evil ghost/And thus expunge unholy power. Be sure that the host is heavily restrained, as the demon's rage will build up violently as the incantation is read. It is also very important that the passage is read in one breath; a moment's interruption is enough to break the spell." Brian closed the book and looked at the others.

"Well," Derek said, "It looks like we'll have to get rid of this demon thing ourselves. I could take care of restraining Drew, but who's gonna read this thing and where are we gonna do it?"

"Brian should be the one to read it," Seth said without hesitation. "He's the closest to Drew." Everyone looked to Brian. He looked a little nervous, but nodded.

"And we'll do it in my attic," Vinnie said. "It's really dark and dank." Brian suddenly choked. Everyone again turned to him.

"What's the problem, Brian?" Seth asked.

"There's so many spiders in that attic," Brian coughed. Vinnie sighed and shook his head.

"Look, Brian, we know you're afraid of spiders," he said, "But this is for Drew. You have to deal with it. Now, I know exactly how to get Drew to my house. I'll call him over for a debate tomorrow night. He's never been able to pass up a good debate. When he gets to my house, you three will be waiting in the attic. When we get upstairs, Derek, you restrain him. Seth, you've got a ton of tarot cards. You'll set up a circle of them around him. Brian, you'll read the incantation." The four friends looked at each other and nodded. Come tomorrow night, they'd be rid of this problem for good.

The next night, Brian, Derek, and Seth gathered in Vinnie's attic. Vinnie was still downstairs, waiting for Andrew to arrive. Seth had come prepared, with tons of tarot cards. A large amount of them had already been placed in a circle in the darkest area of the attic. Derek was prepared with a huge length of rope. Brian was holding the book, his hands trembling like leaves in a powerful wind.

"Dude, Brian, calm the hell down," Derek said roughly. "All you gotta do is just say that rhyme in one breath, and the problem is solved. And it's a short little thing too, it ain't like you gotta read an entire essay. If you ask me, I got the tough job here. I gotta keep Drew tied up, and he you know how he is. He's fuckin' tough as it is, and with this demon inside got it easy." Before another word could be spoken, a sound was heard near the attic door. Everyone jumped into their hiding places as the door opened, and Andrew and Vinnie entered the attic. Brian looked at the silhouettes of his friends in the light that the doorway briefly cast into the dark attic, before the large wooden door creaked and closed. Brian took a deep breath, and cleared out his head. "This is going to be easy," he thought. "All I have to do is read this incantation. No problem at all."

"Alright, Vinnie, we gotta do this fast, I gotta get home," Andrew said, as he sat down in his usual chair. "What's tonight's topic?" Vinnie took a deep breath as he sat down opposite Andrew.

"Tonight's topic is the occult," Vinnie said calmly. He watched Andrew carefully for a reaction, but he showed none. Andrew was very good at hiding his inward emotions. "Recently, I've stumbled upon a few Internet sites where people described rituals used to summon demons." Again, Vinnie closely inspected Andrew in hopes of catching a facial twitch or a shift of any kind, but Andrew remained still.

"I've read up on the topic, and I believe that it is a completely and totally ridiculous notion," Vinnie continued. "The idea of setting up such an elaborate ritual is just preposterous. I mean, I've read about such ridiculous procedures as setting up circles of tarot cards and reading off an incantation to release the demon from the host." At that, the cue which was decided on, Derek and Seth leaped out of their hiding places. Before Andrew really had a moment to react, Derek and Seth had bound Andrew to the chair. The two lifted the chair and carried it into the circle of tarot cards, as Andrew screamed and yelled. Brian stepped out of his hiding space next, holding the book, open to the correct incantation. At the sight of his book, Andrew got even angrier.

"What the fuck are you guys doing with that?" he screamed. "That's mine!"

"Drew, this is for your own good," Vinnie said, as Derek wrapped his arms around Andrew, in case the rope wasn't enough to keep him restrained. Vinnie nodded to Brian, who took a deep breath.

"You can do it, Brian!" Seth screamed. "Say it!!"

"End the torment of this host..."

"You guys are so dead!" Andrew yelled, trying to escape.

"Release him from his darkest hour..."

Andrew's eyes rolled back into his head, and he was shaking violently. Derek held onto him with all his might, as the others waited in silent anticipation for Brian to finish the incantation.

"Set free from him the evil ghost..."

Andrew was shaking even more violently. A look of panic was on Derek's face, as he heard one of the loops of rope snap. He held him as tightly as possible in his massive bearhug.

"And thus expunge unholy..."

A single spider, descending from the ceiling on a thread, dropped onto Brian's forehead.

Brian gasped in fear.

Several minutes later, it was all over. The attic lay completely quiet, not a single iota of sound. After a moment or two of silence, Andrew raised his head. He looked at his hands, covered with crimson blood. Andrew surveyed the dark attic. He grinned an evil, demonic grin. Part of him really didn't want to do what he did, but that part really had no say anymore. He did what had to be done, and frankly, it was quite enjoyable. In fact, it felt so good, he had to do it again, no matter who the unfortunate victim was. Andrew was about to leave, when he noticed an object lying by his feet. Recognizing it, he picked up Brian's heart. For a moment, a memory flashed in Andrew's head, a memory of how Brian's heart used to race when he saw a spider. Andrew quickly dismissed that memory, licking some of the fresh blood off the heart. Still warm. Delicious. A single shaft of light illuminated a section of the attic, as Andrew slid out the doorway. Andrew took a last look at the bodies of his slaughtered friends, then closed the door, once again casting the attic into blackness.