“You’ve got to be joking.”
My brother Daniel looked at me like I was the dumbest kid alive.
“Come on,” I said, “it’ll be fun. Get into the Halloween spirit.”
He sighed, snatched the book out of my hands and cracked it open. His eyes roved over the pages with feigned disinterest, but I knew I had him hooked. He shut the book and held it at arm’s length, scanning the cover.
“How to Summon Satan for Beginners,” he read. “Where did you even find a book like this?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
He shook his head and let out a long, exaggerated sigh, one that was surely meant to convey his disappointment in me.
“Fine,” he said, “I’ll play along. If it’ll make you happy. Just don’t let mom find out—she’ll skin us both alive.”
He opened the book and lay it on the ground between us.
“Okay, step one,” he said. “We need the blood of a sacrificial lamb.”
“Where are we going to get that?”
He frowned, and shook his head as he stared down at the page.
“You know what?” he said. “We don’t have any of this stuff.”
“Er, well,” I said. “We can just use kool-aid. That’s red, it should be close enough.”
“Good idea,” said my brother. “We also need: the horns of a goat, the bones of a righteous man, and a scream of despair.”
“Ah,” I said. “I know about the first one. Dad has something in the medicine cabinet called horny goat weed. That’ll do.”
“And I know about the second one,” said my brother. “We can use the dog’s bone. That only leaves the scream of despair.”
“Well we should be able to provide that,” I said.
My brother nodded.
“Okay,” he said, “let’s get everything together.”
We went our separate ways, me to the medicine cabinet and the pantry, and my brother to the dog. We piled the items together next to the book, and looked at the instructions.
“Okay,” said my brother. “It says to mix the blood with the horns of the goat, and stir with the bones of the righteous man. Add sugar to taste.”
“Okay,” I said. We mixed the objects together according to the instructions.
“Now,” my brother said, “the scream of despair.”
He let out a rather too-convincing wail that startled me and sent ripples through the mixture. The liquid in the kool-aid jug wobbled for a second, turned bright green then black, and began to smoke. A faint voice could be heard, murmuring something that could not quite be made out. It grew steadily louder.
“What the hell?” said the voice, and the kool-aid exploded with a terrible, infernal roar that shook the house, showering my room with red.
Standing where the kool-aid jug had been was a terrifically ugly creature. It had scaly red skin, two large, polished black horns, and a face that only a blind mother could love. Its feet were cloven hooves, and its long, reptilian tail swished about impatiently. It was dripping with red liquid.
It ran a yellow-clawed finger over its arm and popped it in its mouth.
“Is this kool-aid?” it said.
My mouth hung open so low that a fly could’ve landed inside of it, but my brother had the presence of mind to say, “Er, yeah.”
The creature ran another finger along itself and licked it, then smiled.
“Delicious,” it said, “but sticky.”
It spotted the book on the floor, bent down and picked it up, then gave it a long, squinting look.
“Say, where did you get this book?” it asked.
“Er, eBay,” I said, sheepishly.
“Huh,” said the creature.
“Excuse me, sir?” I ventured.
“Yes?” said the creature.
“Are you—ahem—are you…”
“Satan?” the creature finished for me.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Oh, doubtlessly,” said the creature. He opened his mouth to say something, but he was interrupted by a loud banging on our front door. From behind the door we could hear the sound of our crotchety, much-feared neighbor, old Ms. Cromwell. She was shouting in indignation.
“I know you’re in there,” she yelled. “That infernal racket you caused woke up my birds! MY BIRDS!”
“Who is that?” said Satan. “She sounds lovely.”
“That’s our neighbor Ms. Cromwell,” said my brother. “Don’t answer the door. She’s seriously mean—she’s got a big leather handbag filled with fruit that she’ll smack you right on the head with.”
“Oh, come on,” Satan said. He set the book back down on the floor and made his way to the front door. “Surely you’re exaggerating.”
We heard the sound of the front door open, and Satan warmly greeted the woman. What followed was an incoherent torrent of abuse in shrieking old lady soprano, and the familiar sound of a handbag colliding with a skull. After a minute or two, Ms. Cromwell seemed to tire herself out, and we could hear her heavy breathing on the porch.
“Hm,” came Satan’s voice. “You might be just the ticket.” There was a sudden scream, cut short by a wet ripping sound. Footsteps of cloven hooves approached our bedroom, and then Satan stood in the doorway. He was clad in Ms. Cromwell’s skin, which stretched and bulged in all the wrong places. His horns stuck out, and on top of one a rather bruised banana had been impaled.
“How do you like my new clothes?” said Satan.
“They’re uh…really nice?” I said.
“Oh no,” he said. “I was hoping they were hideous.”
“Uh, don’t worry,” said my brother, “they are.”
“You’re not just saying that?” he said.
“Definitely not,” said my brother. “I’ve never seen a human skin suit before–it makes me want to throw up.”
“Fantastic!” exclaimed Satan. He clapped his hands together. “Now I’d better get going, got people to kill, worlds to conquer, you know, same old same old.”
He bent down and picked up the book.
“Do you mind?” he asked.
We were both too stunned to reply. This did not seem to faze Satan, who thumbed to a page near the back and read out an incantation in a language that sounded like a trash compactor clearing its throat. A rift appeared in the reality of our bedroom, rippling out waves of distortion around it. It expanded into a wide, black mouth, and demons began to pour out by the dozens.
There were gray, scaly ones, green slimy ones, and even one that was pink and fuzzy. Once they had filled the room enough to be bumping shoulder to shoulder, Satan spat out a few more arcane words and the portal closed. He beamed as he eyed his work.
“Fantastic,” he said. “Now let’s go get some more human skin suits.”