Afflictions: Part Thirty Two

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Ashley walked side by side with Arte, down the halls of the school. It was dark, lit only by the emergency lights, since they were here after hours. It was nearly midnight after an agonizing night of walking around in awkward silence. She was starting to get tired, and kinda needed to use the restroom. They’d been doing a sweep of the school at irregular intervals, to try to catch whatever has been lurking around here, and were about halfway through this sweep, so it’d be a minute before they got back to the room.

“Hey, Arte?” She whispered. “I think I’m gonna need to stop in the bathroom.”

“Fine, we’ll make a detour.” Arte replied.

The pair made their way over to the nearest restroom. Their footsteps on the tile echoed through the halls. Ashley was reminded how eerie schools were afterhours, even when you weren’t actively expecting something to pop out at you. They’d gotten permission from Dr. Flores for Ashley to carry tonight, but if anything that left her more on edge. She knew she could take a life if she needed to, but she hated the experience.

Once they were there, Arte poked her head inside both the men’s and the women’s. “Coast is clear. I won’t go too far.”

Ashley nodded and stepped into the dimly lit restroom. The flickering fluorescent lights did little to ease her anxieties. She took a deep breath and reminded herself that she’d been through worse before, and it would be fine. She did what she came to do, and washed up.

For a moment, she thought she heard something, but she listened again and it was dead silent. She poked her head out of the restroom, and Arte was nowhere to be found.

 Her heart started pounding as she looked around. She had said she wouldn’t go far, so she should be nearby. She tiptoed to the nearest corner, and poked her head around. A figure with a flashlight was confidently walking her way.

She sighed with relief. “Arte, there you are. I was getting worried.”

“Hey, what are you doing here?” A man’s voice answered.

The flashlight came to shine on her, and she couldn’t see anything, except that the figure was drawing near.

“I- Uh…” She took a couple of steps back. After a second, the light was no longer in her eyes, and she could make out more details of the man. He was wearing a polo and dark pants, and wore a badge that said security.

“Are you a supposed to be here?” He asked. His brow was furrowed.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” She again sighed with relief. “I’m filling in long-term for the math teacher. Dr. Flores said he would fill in security.”

“Oh, that’s my bad.” He laughed. “You’re the long-term sub, that’s right. He did mention something about you staying late. Your fiancé in the room?” He looked around.

“Well, we were taking a lap around the school, and I said I needed to stop in the restroom, and she said she’d wait outside, but I’m not sure where she went…” Ashley trailed off. She felt a little uneasy again.

“It’s a little dangerous to be wondering around on your own, don’t you think? What with the kidnapping, nefarious parties, and whatever’s roaming the halls at night.” He nodded, his smile unchanging.

Ashley stammered for a moment. Something was wrong here…

Her vision began to blur, as she looked at the man. His figure began to distort, with his face flashing different colors, eventually settling on red. His hat exploded into shreds as curled horns sprouted from his skull.

“Not safe at all around here, I’m afraid.” He shook his head.

“What… Are you?” She stumbled backwards and pulled out her pistol.

“I think the more pertinent question is what do I want? This leads, of course, to the even more pertinent question of what do you want?” The devil leaned up against the wall, scraping his horns against the paint.

“What…?” Ashley stopped herself. She was getting distracted and playing right into his hands. She leveled her pistol at him. “What did you do to Arte?”

“I didn’t do anything. She ran away all on her own.” He shrugged, then began to pace, completely ignoring her pistol. “I can offer you a deal, you know. Anything you desire, I can grant.”

“What do you mean…?” She lowered her firearm.

“I could give you more power, something more than that.” He gestured to her gun. “I could grant you happiness, beyond your wildest dreams. Pure marital bliss.”

She paused for a moment. He seemed to know a lot, but clearly not all that much. She and Arte may be fighting right now, but she was still perfectly happy with her, and she and Arte could protect themselves fine with their friends help if they needed to. “Not interested.”

“Really?” He looked off to the side. “I really figured we had her with that one. Unfortunate really. Was that the best you had?”

“You seem to know a lot, so tell me this. Where is Jessica?” She leveled her pistol again. He was starting to act erratic, so she needed to be on guard.

“Oh the girl who’s been kidnapped? I haven’t had anything to do with that.” He shook his head. “I don’t believe I’ll be making any headway here tonight. You two are quite stubborn, aren’t you?”

Ashley’s heart sank again. “So you did do something to Arte! Where is she?”

“Well, technically I haven’t done anything, unless you want to be pedantic about the word. Well, whatever she’s coming this way it’ll be fine.” He reached into his pocket.

When he reached for something Ashley’s finger tensed, and her gun went off.

The devil stumbled backwards and shouted in pain. “You shot me? Wow, she shot me!” He shook his head, and pulled out something from his pocket. “Just take the card damn it.”

Held in his outstretched hand was a white business card. She took it, and he immediately disappeared.

She stood there shaking, and sank to the floor.

Previous Part ______________ Next Part

Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

Doing much better this week! Just a little fun fact. I organize seasons in character focus, act, and part. This part was “Arte 3:2”. Just thought it was funny.

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