Arden put their t-shirt on in the morning without a long sleeve shirt on underneath like usual. They resisted the urge to throw a hoodie on over their bare arms, not liking how vulnerable it made them feel. They ran their fingers over the bumpy scars, nausea squeezing their insides.
You alright? Benny asked, his voice soft in Arden’s head. They nodded, shaking out the nerves in their hands.
“I hate these scars,” Arden muttered. They felt a pang of guilt in the back of their head, but it wasn’t theirs. They paused and frowned.
“Are you alright?” they asked, “You don’t normally feel guilty about ... well, almost anything.”
I know, it’s weird, Benny admitted, I’m not used to it. But I feel … I feel bad about putting you in this situation. If I hadn’t tried to take you as a child, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
Arden stayed quiet. They weren’t sure if they were supposed to agree with Benny or defend that he was just doing his job. Because if Benny had never showed up in their life, then they would likely be in a boring high school class right now, not preparing to be bait for someone looking to make a demonic sacrifice.
Their silence went on just a moment to long, and Benny sighed in their head.
I’m not expecting you to defend me, if that’s what you’re worried about, he admitted, Just voicing my annoyance at myself.
“I’m not sure how I can defend the guy that was going to take me to Hell,” Arden admitted, “But I don’t like that you’re feeling guilty. Is there something that I can do to make you feel better?”
Benny chuckled quietly.
No. It’s alright. We just need to stop my brother. That will make me feel better.
Arden took one more deep breath before walking out into the hallway. They stuffed one hand in their pocket and walked with their knuckles brushing against the wall, trying to shrink into the brick. They might have been imagining it, but every person that passed them seemed to pause, staring at Arden’s arms. They felt horrible whenever their fingers brushed against them; they couldn’t even imagine how the scars must look. Despite the fact that they were fourteen years old, they showed no signs of fading with age.
It’s not as bad as you think it is, Benny whispered, hoping to reassure Arden. They weren’t sure they actually believed him, but they appreciated his effort. Arden shivered, not realizing how cold it was out in the hallway without their sleeves.
It was Friday, so Arden had plenty of places to be where they could attract the killer. They had classes all morning, then lunch in the cafeteria, more classes until three, and then an hour of free time before group therapy and mass. Normally Arden would go back to their room for that hour, but today they were going to stay out in the common area with Misty. Since she wasn’t shy about telling Arden how she didn’t like their plan, she refused to leave their side during the day.
“Hey, I thought you were going to wait for me at your door,” Misty’s voice made Arden jump. They’d been lost in their thoughts and hadn’t heard her sneak up on them. They turned their head towards her soul light, hoping they looked apologetic to her.
“Sorry. I knew if I didn’t leave when I did I was going to chicken out,” they said. Misty took Arden’s arm in hers, pulling them away from the wall a little ways. To her credit, she didn’t seem to turn her head to stare down at Arden’s scars.
“We don’t have to do this plan,” she whispered.
“Yes, we do,” Benny hissed back with Arden’s mouth. Arden felt Misty flinch. Benny’s voice still caught her off guard.
“Took my parents a long time to get used to him doing that too,” they said quietly.
“How are you used to it?” she asked. Arden shrugged.
“It’s just a fact of my life. Some people are double jointed, I have a demon that’s a pain in my ass,” they said.
“You’re not exactly the easiest person to be possessing, you know,” Benny whispered.
“Whatever you say, man,” Arden replied, a small smile on their lips.
“That’s so weird. I’m sorry but it really is,” Misty said.
“You’ll get used to it,” Arden and Benny said together.
“Okay, no. Don’t do the same time talking thing. That sounds like something out of a horror movie,” Misty pointed out. Arden had to admit, she had a point there.
“Speaking of movies, what do you think tonight’s feature is?” Arden asked, trying to distract the three of them from the realities of trying to lure a killer to them. Inside of their head, Benny groaned.
Fridays after Mass was a movie night. If a majority of the kids in the Center behaved throughout the day, they were treated to a movie. The last three movies were cancelled because of ‘uncooperative behavior’ from more than a few students. Mostly because the movies were rated PG, and usually so painfully boring they were a torture for demons and teenagers alike. On nights when the movie nights weren’t cancelled, Arden would avoid going unless Benny had been particularly annoying that day. The last movie night they went to was some kid’s cartoon about a unicorn and Benny screamed the entire time. Arden stubbornly stayed and listened to the whole thing, getting a serious migraine for the next few days.
“Do you really think we’ll be able to focus on a movie about gnomes or trolls or whatever with a serial killer on the loose?” Misty pointed out.
“To be fair, we’re the only ones that know it’s a serial killer. And the staff here are so concerned with sweeping stuff under the rug they’ll probably make it a mandatory attendance tonight,” Arden replied. Benny grumbled in the back of their head and Arden smirked.
“What’s funny?” Misty asked.
“Benny’s hoping that we’ll have to deal with a serial killer to get out of the movie,” they explained.
“We haven’t been to a good movie since we listened a closed caption version Drag Me to Hell before we got stuck in here,” Benny explained, “Man, that one was hilarious.”
“Yeah, no it wasn’t,” Arden retorted.
“That’s a pretty good movie,” Misty admitted.
“Thank you!” Benny said, his demonic voice going a little too loudly. Arden flinched and coughed, hoping to make anyone that might have heard him think that they had a cold or something. Misty pulled them down the hall a little faster.
“Okay, maybe you – Benny, you – should stop talking out loud so much,” she whispered, “We passed Father Gabriel and he definitely looked freaked out by your voice. Alright?”
Fine, Benny said quietly. Arden nodded for him.
“He doesn’t normally get to talk to other people,” they explained, feeling defensive of their friend, “He’s just enjoying having someone that’s not me to talk to.”
“We’ll have plenty of time to chat when we get rid of his brother and whoever is killing for him,” Misty said, “I’ll admit, I never expected to have a conversation about movies with a demon.”
Wait till she hears my opinions on music, Benny said quietly.
“Plenty of time for that later, Benny. Let’s just survive today first,” Arden said.
* * *
It turned out that the worst part of luring out a serial killer to ritually sacrifice you was the waiting. All day, Benny, Arden, and Misty were tensed and ready for someone to jump out of nowhere wielding some ritual knife and metal stakes. Every noise made Arden tense up and Benny nearly used his telekinesis every time a door slammed. Misty wasn’t much better – she clung to Arden’s arm whenever they walked anywhere, and she accidentally burned the back of their hand when a fight broke out in the cafeteria during lunch.
“How long do you think it’s going to take this guy to decide to strike?” Misty asked quietly. They were in the empty hallway, next to the water fountain. Arden shrugged, putting a cold paper towel on the back of their hand where Misty had singed them.
“He’s probably not going to make a move in a crowded place,” Arden pointed out, “I don’t think he’ll stab me in the middle of math … but that could be a good way to get out of algebra.”
Misty didn’t laugh, but Benny snickered in their head.
“Seriously, the only they should even have a chance is when I’m in the bathroom, or alone in the hallway,” they continued, raising an eyebrow in Misty’s direction, “If the killer has decided they want to kill me, they haven’t had an opening yet.”
“Well, I’m not leaving you alone if I can help it,” Misty said defensively. Benny made Arden take a step to the side, fearing another burn was in their future if they weren’t careful.
“I know. But maybe for the rest of the day if you could just ease off. Stay nearby in case there’s trouble, but don’t keep one hand on me at all times,” Arden said. They didn’t want to ask her to back off – apart from the accidental burn, they were really appreciating the closeness, and having someone new for Benny to talk to. They could feel that Benny was enjoying it too. But constantly being guarded was not exactly helpful to their bait plan.
“Fine. But if you get killed while I’m backing off, don’t even think about coming back as a ghost to haunt me,” Misty retorted.
“I promise,” Arden said.
I don’t, Benny admitted. Arden decided that Misty didn’t need to hear that.
Wait can demons even become ghosts? they asked quietly.
What do you think happened in that Amityville house? Benny pointed out. Arden raised their eyebrows in surprise. Every now and then Benny would catch them off guard like that.
“Alright, I’ll walk you to the next class but after that you’re on your own. But I’m not completely leaving you alone – just giving you some space,” Misty said, “I wish I had more supplies to make you a protection bag or something. I’d feel a lot better then.”
“Same,” Benny and Arden admitted in unison. Misty smacked them in the shoulder.
“I said not to do that anymore!” she hissed, but there was a hint of amusement in her voice. She patted Arden on the back once more before walking away, leaving the two of them alone. The further away her soul light got, the more nervous Arden found themselves feeling.
We’re going to be fine, Benny said. Arden nodded, but their stomach was starting to twist in knots again. They stood up quickly and headed towards the bathroom.
You’re not going to throw up again, are you? Benny asked, concerned. Arden shook their head as they made their way down the hallway. The hallway was empty and eerily quiet. They wondered if the silence felt more eerie than usual just because of the situation they were in. They kept thinking that someone was behind them, but they couldn’t really turn around to keep an eye out for someone’s soul light without giving away that they weren’t 100% blind. But on the other hand, they really didn’t want to get caught off guard.
I think we passed the bathroom two doors back, Benny said, pulling Arden out of their anxious thoughts.
“Right. Sorry,” they muttered, turning around and heading back towards the bathroom.
It’s your bladder, not mine, Benny joked. Arden went into the bathroom and straight to the sink, splashing cold water on their face. They took a few deep breaths before grabbing a paper towel to dry their face. As they dried off, a stall door opened behind them. Arden tensed up, feeling Benny’s telekinetic energy sparking in their hands.
Easy, Arden thought as the other person went to a sink and started washing their hands. In the corner of their eye, they saw a familiarly dim soul light.
“Damn, what the hell happened to your arms? You do that to yourself?” Call-Me-Ted asked. Arden turned towards him and raised their eyebrows.
“Real tactful, Ted,” Arden said sarcastically, “Is that how you learned how Danny lost two of his fingers?”
“Hey, no need to be rude, you little shit,” Ted snapped. Arden just shook their head and started to make their way out of the bathroom. Ted stormed in front of Arden, blocking their exit.
“I’m still talking to you, Arden,” he said, getting close to Arden’s face. They cringed at the smell of Ted’s breath. They felt Benny stir in the back of their head, eager for a fight.
“Didn’t really think there was going to be a follow up to ‘you little shit,’” Arden replied, “Can I please get by?”
“No, I think I have a few more things to say,” Ted said, “I never liked you, Bishop.”
“Really? You hide it so well,” Arden retorted. Ted’s furious and rotten breathing started to go faster as he became more furious.
Are we trying to pick a fight with him? Not that I’m complaining, I’ve been wanting to kick his ass for months, Benny commented.
Only if he’s the killer, Arden replied, grinning at the idea that his friend would finally get to beat up a man they both hated.
Whoa. No. You’re not pushing this just for my amusement, Benny said. Arden’s limbs stiffened as they felt Benny force control over their body. They wanted to protest and fight back for control, but Benny had taken over their mouth too. He made Arden stop grinning and take a step back from Ted, shrugging their shoulders sheepishly.
“Sorry, Ted,” Benny muttered, using Arden’s voice, “Didn’t mean to disrespect you. I’m just having an off day.”
“Whatever,” Ted sneered. He walked past Arden, shoving them with his shoulder roughly before leaving the bathroom. Once the door slammed shut, Arden expected Benny to release control, but he still held on tight.
Benny, what are you doing? Let go, Arden protested, started to freak out. Not being able to see was bad enough, but when Benny had full control of their body, they felt like they were just floating in a pit of blackness. Benny shook their head.
“Just hang on, Arden,” Benny said, using his own voice now, “I’m trying to keep you from getting your ass kicked. Or killed. You’re on time out.”
Dude, come on, you know I hate it when you do this, Arden was begging now, their heart racing, And you know it hurts you too! This is going to suck tomorrow!
“Arden, if you try picking fights with people just to find a killer, neither of us will live till tomorrow,” Benny retorted, “Quit being stupid.”
You’re the one being stupid! The longer you run the body the weaker you’ll get! We won’t be able to fight whoever is trying to summon your brother!
“As long as it keeps us alive, that’s all that matters,” Benny said, heading out of the bathroom. He put Arden’s hand against the wall and started walking. Arden felt their chest tighten with panic when they realized they couldn’t feel the rough brick on their fingertips.
You God damn dick! Arden yelled in Benny’s head. Benny flinched at the G word and shook his head, hissing slightly.
Before Benny could reply or Arden could yell at him anymore, something covered their mouth from behind. Benny struggled, but inhaled a horrible chemical smell. The back of their hand burned with searing pain and they both tried to cry out for help.
Everything was already black, but Arden and Benny still passed out, dropping to the floor.