Nicole skirted around a tree to avoid some other people walking by, pulling Sophie along with her. Sophie and Nicole were out trick-or-treating. They had gone with their cousins, but somewhere along the way they had fallen behind and lost them.
“I wish we were somewhere there wasn’t COVID,” she muttered as she returned to the sidewalk.
“Ya, me too, but at least we’re out here trick-or-tre – oh look at that costume!” Sophie pointed.
“Yeah, it’s really cool,” Nicole agreed.
They visited a couple more houses, keeping their distance and taking treats from tables. . .
. . . and outstretched poles.
Suddenly Nicole jumped. “What was that?!” she asked.
“What?” Sophie asked back.
“Why’d you tap my shoulder?”
“I didn’t do anything! I was right here the whole time and I’m not near your shoulder.” Sophie protested.
“You’re sure it wasn’t you?”
“Ya. I know I normally do things, but that wasn’t me. Prob’ly just a tree.”
“Trees don’t move,” but Nicole let it slide.
“Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!” Sophie chanted.
“There you go, lovelies, on the table. Let me guess – an angel and a mouse?” the lady asked.
“No, I’m a squirrel, miss!” Sophie said.
They continued on.
All of a sudden, Sophie said “Did you feel that? Something just touched me!”
“It wasn’t me. Now do you see what I’m talking about?” Nicole said.
“Well, then what was it?” Sophie asked.
Sophie and Nicole looked left, right, down, up, looking for something in the trees or bushes. Finally they turned right around, and there, standing before them was . . .
. . . the devil! Nicole’s eyes widened and Sophie tried to bite back a scream.
The devil placed a hand on each of their shoulders, and before they could worry about COVID-19 and physical distancing, they were turning and twisting.
When it finally stopped, they were nowhere they’d ever been before. It was dark and gloomy, smelling of sulphur (not the good dragon-y kind) and irony blood (also not the good kind).
“Where are we?” Nicole squeaked.
“You wanted somewhere without your pandemic disease, now you’ve got it. Welcome to the Underworld!” the devil cackled.
Nicole looked at Sophie, panicking. “How’re we going to get out of this?” she worried.
“Gotta be some way,” Sophie said grimly. “Devils ‘n’ tricks ‘n’ all. Got a cross?”
“Ya, me neither. Devils don’t like ’em. Religion, I guess? Hey, is there any way out?” Sophie courageously asked the devil.
“Nope,” the devil smirked.
Sophie tried to stay cool. “There’s gotta be a way! We’re the living! You’re required to have a trick or some way, aren’t you?” she said desperately.
The devil glared at her. “Fine. Tame Cerberus and you may leave. But remember Angel, you wanted to be here,” the devil said, directing the last sentence to Nicole.
“No, I didn’t want to be here, I-” Nicole started.
“That’s it, keep wasting your time. I will be thrilled to take your souls at the end of the night.”
“The end of the night? We only have until then?” Nicole asked nervously. It had been 7 o’clock when they had gone out trick-or-treating, and some time had passed since then, so that left maybe 5 hours if they were lucky.
“Well, of course, that’s when Hallowe’en ends and all rules return to normal. No living can enter or exit the Underworld then.” With that, the devil left, black cape swishing.
“What’s a Cerberus?” Sophie asked quickly.
“Three-headed dog. Guardian of the Underworld,” Nicole gulped.
“Oh, no,” Sophie agreed, just as Cerberus themself (is Cerberus three dogs or one?) came tearing towards them, teeth set to destroy.
“Wha’do we do? Whadowedo? Whadowedo?” Sophie cried.
Nicole thought fast and grabbed a large rock from the floor and launched it as far as she could. She got it pretty far. Cerberus bolted after it jaws (all three sets) gnashing together.
“You said it yourself, there’s gotta be a trick,” Nicole burst out breathlessly.
“Ya, but what?” Sophie asked.
“You got a bone?”
“No. What else do dogs like?”
“You.” Nicole said simply.
“Because dogs like you and you’re a squirrel now!” Nicole exclaimed.
“Oh,” Sophie paused quickly, then said “But do you think Cerberus has ever seen a squirrel before? There aren’t any in the Underworld are there?”
“I guess not.” Nicole admitted.
Cerberus came bounding back, chewing the hard rock to bits. Nicole picked up another rock, and trembling, held it out.
“See this?” Nicole threw the rock. “Come on, bring it back, that’s a good dog!” Her voice quavered, but she tried to stand tall.
“What’re you doin’?” Sophie demanded, scared for her life.
“Trying to get Cerberus to play? Kindness, I guess? It worked in the tale of Baba Yaga the bony-legged witch and in that Dragon-dear story,” Nicole explained.
“Okay, that’s smart. It’s not like we can tackle him like Heracles.” Sophie said.
Cerberus came loping back with the rock in one mouth, the others still growling madly.
“Ya, good Cerberus dear,” Sophie tried to reach out carefully for the rock. Cerberus snapped, nearly taking off her fingers.
“Ah!” Sophie jumped back.
“No, no, Cerberus, you don’t bite a friend,” Nicole reprimanded hesitantly.
She gently and very very carefully reached out a hand for Cerberus to sniff.
Cerberus did, so Nicole, still talking as calmly as she could (which wasn’t too calm) to the dog, ran a hand along one of Cerberus’s ears (and then had to scratch each and every ear in turn, for Cerberus’s many heads got jealous).
“See, that’s it. You behave nicely, and I’ll scratch you.”
Sophie reached out her hand again, and began to scratch Cerberus too, once she had passed the sniff test by all three heads.
For the next few hours, Sophie and Nicole played and cuddled with Cerberus. Sophie even tried to teach Cerberus about squirrels.
Cerberus kept on running away when Sophie, chattering loudly, got too close, convinced that she was supposed to chase the dog instead of the other way around.
“No, Cerberus,” Sophie laughed. “That’s not quite it!”
In the end, she concluded that Cerberus would never make a good guard dog back on Earth. She had just told Nicole this when she remembered their situation and her face fell. “Do you we’ll actually get to return home? I miss ForestPoodle.”
“Well, I think we’ve tamed Cerberus, don’t you? I think all Cerberus ever wanted was someone to play with,” Nicole said.
“Ya.” Sophie agreed.
Just then the devil returned and saw Cerberus snuggled right up to Sophie and Nicole. The devil frowned, looking very disappointed, but spoke “Well, you’ve certainly tamed Cerberus, I can’t begrudge you that, but I did say you MAY return to your world, and I have decided that that ‘may’ will become ‘will not’.”
“My words, my choice,” the devil said, laughing at the stricken looks on their faces.
“But you said-” Nicole protested.
“And I said ‘may’. You’re much too fun to have around. Would you fancy being eaten by Ammit the Devourer or would you prefer trying your luck with my alter ego, the Grimm Reaper? Or perhaps a bath in the boiling vats of sin will help you.”
“There’s gotta be some way,” Sophie insisted to herself, and to the devil.
“Really? I assure you there is not. I will enjoy seeing you suffer,” the devil replied.
“We’re gonna die,” Nicole started to cry. “I didn’t want this when I made that silly wish. Please, a world with COVID is better than this.”
“Ah, but you said, and there is no going back now.” But the devil’s cackle was cut short by a low growl.
Something pounced on the devil, knocking the devil to the ground.
“Cerberus,” Sophie whispered in wonder.
One of Cerberus’s heads turned and barked what sounded to Sophie a lot like ‘Take the cape’.
Sophie ran towards the devil’s black cloak lying beside the battle.
‘Same time,’ Cerberus barked loudly. At least, that’s what it sounded like.
Nicole heard this and yelled “Wait!” just as Sophie was about to pick it up.
“Together!” Nicole screamed over the din of Cerberus and the devil’s fight. “We have to touch it together!”
“On three!” Sophie cried back.
“Three!” They yelled together.
Sophie and Nicole each snatched a corner of the devil’s cape and instantly they were transported back to where they had been standing in the the living world.
“Whew, just in time,” Nicole said, pointing to Sophie’s watch. It clicked to midnight.
“One more second and we woulda been done,” Sophie agreed.
“Hey, we’ve still got the devil’s cloak. Is that good luck or bad?” Nicole said.
* * *
So, I edited my pictures (well, some of them) this time! What do you think? It’s my first time really editing pictures, and I will admit I just used the thing already on the computer I’m using. It’s probably some Microsoft Photos thing or other. But still! I sort of edited things!
Also, I hate devil stories. Like, really don’t like them. XD My French teacher made us read some in class last year and they were not fun. And then I went and wrote my own devil story . . . Why? Well, because ghosts and skeletons are pretty common, and I forgot that vampires – which are really cool – existed!
Anyhow, Happy Hallowe’en to everyone and I hope you all do something to celebrate today! Check out the blue moon tonight! (Although if your city is not recommending you go out trick-or-treating, you probably shouldn’t. The only reason Sophie and Nicole went was because I wrote this before any recommendations were made. AND they would be wearing masks if they were actual people, but guess who somehow forgot to make them some . . .)
I did put a lot of work into this photostory, so please comment if you liked it! What kind of luck do you think the devil’s cloak is?
Here’s to devil stories! Booooooo . . .
-ForestPoodle (and Nicole and Sophie and Hailey and Charlotte and MiFi Kaala/Weejo/Anna (Cerberus), because I’m gonna get in trouble if I don’t mention them!)