Artemis stopped five times in the first ten minutes of walking. “These are the worst shoes for hiking,” she whined. Five minutes later she kicked off her flats.
Vince wheezed and sweated, but he refused to stop. We’re almost to the top, he assured his father.
Eventually the trees shrunk and they could see the tops of them if they looked back. As soon as Vince saw the clearing, he knew they made it.
“I gotta take a break.”
“No, mom, we’re almost there!”
She wiped sweat from her forehead. “Just let me sit for a minute. Maybe five.”
He tugged her arm. “No, mom, come on! Just one more minute and we’ll be there.”
“Need…Need to sit…for a minute. Maybe…Maybe two.”
Accepting that she would not get up, he stuck his hands under arms and picked her up. She protested, swearing and spitting. He ignored her, finally making it to the top.
Artemis stopped struggling. Vince straightened up, seeing his pale and shaking father.
The man with charcoal skin and orange hair faced them. “You’re early,” he said again, arms crossed.
Artemis’s heart skipped a beat at the sight of him and Gerry. She said, “Who the hell are you?”
“I’m the one who’s making sure no sin goes unpunished.”
Gerry had an axe in his hands. Terry’s toes reached over the pit. Both men were crying.
Artemis’s eyes rolled to the back her head, her knees buckled, and she fell face first into the dirt.
Satan snorted. Rage ebbed in the back of Vincent’s head.
“Dad, put down the axe.”
“He can’t until he finishes his job,” Satan said. A smile curled up his face, wider than humanly possible. “You’re a special boy, aren’t you, Vincent? A little stupid, but special.”
“I’m not stupid.” It was the first time he said that. After all the times people degraded his below average intelligence, reprimanded him for being slow, he finally stood up for himself. He said to Satan:
Gerry detected unease creeping onto Satan’s menacing face. He lowered the axe.
“Don’t you drop that,” Satan growled at him without looking.
For the first time Officer Hardy spoke, “Is this happening or not?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Satan waved him off. “We’re just thrown a little off schedule.” He looked to Gerry. “Do it now.”
“I can’t just kill a man.”
“Yes, you can.”
Against Gerry’s will, his arms raised, his fingers involuntarily tightening around the axe. “No,” he grimaced.
Vince yelled, “Stop!”
Artemis stirred in the dirt.
Satan put up a hand. “Can you please shut up until this is over? You’ll get your turn.”
“What do you mean he’ll get his turn?”
“After you’re done murdering Terry, Vincent will murder you. I like to call it the circle of death.”
“But he didn’t do anything!”
“Yeah, but imagine getting one of God’s chosen to kill. What a plot twist, am I right?”
“You can’t make him––” The axe rose over his head. He yelped and struggled to lower it. He had no control over his body anymore.
“You little shit…”
Vince turned to see Artemis lift her head. Now she had a broken nose to go along with her broken hand. As soon as he looked into her eyes, he knew she was royally pissed off. He took a step away from her, closer to Satan.
“Don’t move. Stay where you are,” he commanded.
Vince felt a strong force wind around him like a rope.
Thick drops of sweat dripped from Gerry’s chin. Satan was completely enraptured with the glistening axe. If he made Gerry’s arms go back any farther, they’d pop out of their sockets.
“Get ready to die, Terry.”
He closed his eyes, his chest heaving in great sobs.
Officer Hardy went on sucking his mustache.
Artemis charged Satan. She didn’t know what was happening, but she knew that he was the one orchestrating everything. The wind was knocked out of him and he fell to the ground with an umph!
The invisible rope vanished from Vince for a split second. He yelled at his father, “Get him, dad! Do it now!”
“I can’t move!”
Vince wrestled for the axe but Gerry’s fingers wouldn’t loosen. He pulled away from his son, but Vince pried his fingers off one by one, until the glistening axe was now his.
Artemis rolled off Satan. His skin gave her second degree burns. Blood from her nose fell onto him and sizzled.
Vince wasted no time in bringing the axe down on Satan, wedging the sharp blade between his ribs. Fire ascended from the incision.
Terry ran back to the trail. Officer Hardy drew his gun and fired, hitting him in the right shoulder. Artemis and Gerry looked that way while Vince brought the axe down a second time, severing Satan’s large intestine.
Officer Hardy’s second shot entered through Terry’s right cheek and exited through the left side of his jaw. He gurgled on his own blood. One more shot between the eyes and he was dead. Afterward, Officer Hardy holstered his gun and left down the trial.
Vince rolled Satan’s body into the pit, a trail of flames following him. Gerry offered Artemis his shirt while Vince cut off Satan’s head.
“You look like shit,” she said, coming a hand through Gerry’s unkempt hair.
His parents stared into the pit, clutching each other. Out of breath, Vince dropped the axe and turned to his parents. Reading their terrified expressions, he said, “I’m not stupid.”
Gerry gulped, helping his son out of the pit. “No, you’re not stupid, Vinny. You’re not stupid.”
Vince looked at his mom. “You’re not stupid,” she said, “but you are a little shit for lettin me fall on my face.”
Unable to contain himself, Vince laughed, and his parents laughed with him.
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