#FridayFiction – The Devil You Know

So I have an idea for something to get me writing more that will hopefully help others, as well.

On Fridays I’m going to try to post a little story that’s complete in itself and follows along from a theme or prompt which I’ll add here in case anyone else wants to play along.

If you’re inspired to write something for the prompt, the rules are simple:

  • Keep it short — between 500 and 3,500 words is a good length.
  • Interpret the prompt anyway you see fit.
  • Leave a comment with a link to where you post your story online so others can go read it.
  • Other than that, anything goes! Fiction, nonfiction, erotica, whatever you want. Have fun with it!

Because today’s Friday the 13th, that’s the prompt, Thirteen.

My story is a piece of micro flash I wrote as a YA story a few years back and wanted to one day turn into something longer, but I never got around to it. I even made a cover! It was originally titled Being Thirteen, which is why the phrase repeats throughout the piece, but I retitled it to The Devil You Know.

The Devil You Know (813 words)

Copyright © 2016 J.M. Snyder

Being thirteen means being unwanted. His siblings overburden his mother — if eight is enough, twelve is too much, and thirteen … well, he sends her over the edge. From his first breath, he was ignored, excluded, written off. She has no time left for him, no love either, and he grows like a weed, wild and untended. A lesser son might have been tamped down or smothered, but somehow, Dean manages to thrive despite her lack of affection.

Or perhaps because of it.

Being thirteen means being alone. None of his brothers and sisters play with him; they’re all too old or too busy. He learns the art of silence because that’s all he hears. No one speaks to him, so he doesn’t speak in return. No one would listen if he did, but he doesn’t listen to them, either.

In school, the other kids avoid him. He’s too odd to fit in — he doesn’t laugh as easily as they do, doesn’t smile much, doesn’t cry. In the classroom, he fades into the walls. In a crowd, he vanishes.

The older boys who bully anyone different ignore him, as if he doesn’t exist. Sometimes he wonders if he might not. How would he know? He isn’t sure. Every now and then he wonders what would happen if he spoke to one of those older boys, made a taunting remark or, heaven forbid, just said hello. Would they focus on him then? Zero in on him, make him a target?

How would it feel to be caught in someone’s sights? To be noticed for once in his life? He doesn’t know.

Being thirteen means being invisible. After school, he lingers in the woods outside the town. Alone, hidden, safe. Out of sight, out of mind. He sits on a log stretched across a drainage ditch and tosses rocks into the sewage, waiting for each plink of stone, each ripple of water, to prove he’s there.

As the last splash fades away, he hears shoes pounding gravel, the rustle of branches pushed apart, a heavy panting breath. “Get him!” someone cries — one of the school bullies, Dean recognizes the voice.

Then there’s a scuffle as the bullies attack their prey.

Dean creeps closer and peers through the brambles. They’ve tackled another kid, someone Dean’s age, a boy in his class he thinks is named Timmy. The only reason he knows the boy’s name is because, once, Timmy smiled at him. That never happened before, or since. As if he alone could see Dean.

Three large guys pin Timmy down; a fourth kicks dirt into his face. A sneaker connects with Timmy’s glasses, knocking them askew.

A low growl tickles the back of Dean’s throat, startling him. The sound easily carries across to the fight and stops the next kick aimed at Timmy’s face. “What was that?” one of the bullies asks.

The others freeze, listening. Dean hears the noise coming from himself and tries to tamp it down, but it grows before he can stop it. His mouth opens in a ferocious roar. A red curtain drops over his vision, blanketing his world. His skin feels tight and sweaty, his bones ache. Pain flashes through his temples, shoots across his scalp, and spreads over his shoulders. He imagines wings erupting from his flesh, tearing his shirt to spread wide. Black, bat-like wings. Demon’s wings.

Being thirteen means being reckless. Without thinking, he surges through the brambles. He’s twenty feet tall, invincible, bullet-proof. Another roar escapes him and all four faces in the clearing turn his way. Their hardened features blanch with surprise, then fear. They see Dean, finally, as he really is, how he really feels inside. They see a demon towering over them, and their screams of terror send them scrambling for safety. Back to town, out of the woods, away from Dean.

Timmy remains cowering on the ground. With his glasses askance, he can’t see Dean, or what Dean has become. “Who’s there?”

Dean steps back into the brambles. The wings are fading, along with his bravery. His skin feels stretchy and loose, his heart flutters, and the only roar now is his blood in his ears.

Sitting up, Timmy brushes the dirt from his face and straightens his glasses. “Hello? Who … ?”

Through the prickly branches, Dean watches Timmy peer through dusty lens. “Hello? Who’s out there?”

But Dean knows all there is to know about being invisible. He evaporates into the shadows and the trees, and feels as if he might be able to wink out of reality altogether.

As Timmy pushes himself up off the ground, he wipes his glasses on his dingy shirt and peers into the forest. Right at Dean, as if only he can see through the leaves to the boy hidden inside.

Dean misses being thirteen. Being unnoticed. He wants to disappear.