circle of satan
Hikaru lived with his grandparents in a town just west of Kyoto. Every day, he woke up, ate breakfast, went to school, came home, ate supper, and went to bed. Every day, he looked at his neighboring house as his bus drove by.
The old, decrepit house that creaked and howled in the night.
Every time he looked at it, he shivered. Something watched him inside of that house. Someone.
Just waiting for the right moment.
During lunch at school, Hikaru’s friend Akiro dared him to investigate the house at midnight.
“Because. That’s when the demons come out.”
Akiro crossed his arms. “I’m serious.”
Hikaru looked at his friend in disbelief. “I don’t believe in that kind of crap.”
Akiro chewed on his lip. “You will when you hear what happened when I dared Shiro to go in it at midnight.”
Hikaru paused mid-bite. “What happened?”
“Didn’t you realize he’s not at school today?”
Hikaru put down his lunch, scanning the room. Akiro was right. Shiro wasn’t here.
Shaking off the chills in his spine, Hikaru picked up his apple. “Probably just sick from going into that drafty house.”
“He’s not at home, either,” Akiro continued breathlessly. “Hika, something’s wrong. I saw his mom crying through the window. He’s missing!”
Hikaru wrinkled his nose. “Why are you so nosy?”
“I was born into it, okay? Back to the point!”
Hikaru sighed. Akiro was incredibly annoying when he wanted something.
“Pleeeease?” Akiro pleaded, eyes brimming with fake tears.
Hikaru regarded his friend, shaking his head. “Only if you come too.”
“I was going to force my way along anyway.”
Hikaru’s alarm rand loudly at exactly 12:00 AM. Silencing it quickly, he slipped out of bed and put on his jacket and tennis shoes. He also snatched his flashlight and pre-packed chip bags. This was going to be a long night.
Akiro was waiting in the yard, grinning. “Hey, Hika.”
They walked across the street and tromped up the front steps. Hikaru gently laid his hand on the door and pushed.
It opened with a loud creak. Akiro looked at him, and he nodded. They both clicked their flashlights on and went inside, closing the door behind them.
Hikaru’s breath was unsteady as they made their way through the hall. At one point, he jumped at a mouse skittering through the corridor. Akiro took his hand comfortingly, and they walked on.
It was extremely dusty, and Akiro sneezed and sniveled all the way through, with Hikaru shushing him, terrified. All in all, though, it wasn’t as bad as he expected. Yes, it was creepy, but not scary.
The last room was the library. The atmosphere was somewhat different here, a little more foreboding, even sinister. What if―
Rushing over, Hikaru found Akiro sprawled on the floor on a thick Persian rug.
“Akiro!” Hikaru bent over him.
Akiro swatted him away, a little pink. “I’m fine. I tripped on this stupid rug.”
While Akiro got up and brushed himself off, Hikaru knelt down and peeled the rug off the floor.
A wooden trapdoor lay slightly dislodged in the floor.
Akiro glanced down. “Wha― no. No way.”
Hikaru ignored him and opened the trapdoor. “Yes.”
Before Akiro could protest, Hikaru grabbed his hand and pulled him down with him.
They both landed on cold, hard stone. Hikaru was unharmed, but Akiro landed with a disgustingly wet snap and lots of screaming.
“Shh!” Hikaru crawled over blindly and put his hand over Akiro’s mouth. “Let me look.”
He proceeded to tap every bone in Akiro’s body until he reached his left ankle. Akiro whimpered. Thinking fast, Hikaru tore a strip of fabric off of his jacket and tied it around Akiro’s broken ankle in a sort of cast.
“My flashlight is broken,” he whispered. “Did yours make it?”
Akiro fumbled around and gave Hikaru his flashlight. He tried the switch; it still worked. He stood up, shining the beam up at the ceiling. The trapdoor was too far ahead. He shined the flashlight at the floor and gasped.
Red paint was traced around the floor in an unmistakable pentagram. Burnt-out candles stood defiantly at the corners.
“Akiro,” Hikaru murmured. “Look at this.”
Akiro made a feeble effort to get up and fell back down, gasping. Hikaru bent down and looped his arm around Akiro’s shoulders. Akiro tried again, this time succeeding in wobbling up to his feet, leaning much of his weight on Hikaru. Struggling to hold Akiro, Hikaru shined the the flashlight on the floor. It was Akiro’s turn to gasp.
All of the sudden, the flashlight went out.
Hikaru took a sharp inhale. He was terrified of the dark. Akiro took his hand, as he had done in the hall.
He did as Akiro instructed, taking a deep breath and then slowly letting it all go.
Then the candles suddenly lit themselves, casting ominous shadows on the stone walls.
Akiro frantically searched Hikaru’s pockets.
"What are you--"
“Shush, I'm trying to save our lives."
He succeeded in pulling out a long rope. He pulled a pocket knife out of his own jacket. He opened the knife, tied the rope to it, and threw it up at the trapdoor.
The knife hit the wood with a loud thunk.
“Genius!” Hikaru wheezed.
“Try to save your breath, Hika.”
Hikaru and Akiro struggled up the rope. When they reached the top, Hikaru stopped.
“Hold on, A. I have an idea, it's gonna hurt.”
Hikaru dug his feet into the bricks and leaned back into Akiro very hard so they wouldn’t fall. Akiro gasped in pain. Hikaru reached up, pushed open the trapdoor, gripped Akiro’s hand, and threw him up into the library, climbing out after he did.
“Did you have to do it so hard?” Akiro sat on the wood, rubbing his ankle.
“Pain means you’re alive, A. C'mon.”
Hikaru picked him up and carried his friend out of the house, ignoring every red-faced protest that left Akiro's mouth.
“Ma’am, it’s only a minor break…”
Akiro’s mother sat, sniffling, in the ER. “I don’t care. Akiro, you are grounded. No TV. No computer. No phone for calling friends, either. I don’t want to hear you complaining about my 'harsh regime' all day every day. That’s what you did last time.”
Hikaru saw this as his cue to leave. “See you at school, A.”
Akiro waved halfheartedly from the waiting room bench.
Hikaru was grounded as well; he received a lengthy talk about staying safe and not breaking into “that poor American man’s house”. He didn't need it, however.
After what he saw, he never would go again.
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