My name is Marcia. I’m a chemistry grad student from New York, and Elena is my best friend. I would say my only friend, but that is not quite true. I have the occasional conversation with April, my lab partner at the faculty, and a kind of on-off acquaintance with the elderly Armenian woman who sells flowers near my apartment. But neither of them would ask me to go to their school reunion, like Elena did.
Technically, it was also my school reunion. She wanted to go and so I tagged along, which is how it had been since kindergarten. My parents tell me I used to follow her everywhere as a toddler. I don’t remember that. I do remember hiding behind Elena’s shoulder at parties, being the third wheel on four dates, and being the butt of endless jokes from Elena’s crowd: the kind of people who thought that nose piercings and black hair dye conferred on them a social superiority. School sucked, obviously. I couldn’t wait to get away to college, despite the fact that I was terrified of New York.
Elena and I had nothing in common. We don’t even look as though we’re from the same species. She’s short and feisty, with perfect lips, perfect curves, high cheek bones and immaculate short dark hair. I’m tall and gangly with a wiry, wavy auburn mop and no chest. . We irritated each other. I hated that she was impetuous, lazy, unreliable, and laughed at the stupidest thing. She said I was uptight and neurotic, and that I just needed a good fucking or a dose of antidepressants. So why did we still hang out?
Well, because she called me every day. She listened to me pouring out my anxieties on a regular basis. She always stuck up for me in school too. My most vivid school memory is of Elena, bent over Lotte Summers on the girls’ restroom floor, a fistful of Lotte’s hair in her hand, screaming into her face because Lotte had drawn a cartoon of me on the chalkboard before history class, with the word ‘Lesbyan’ underneath.
The reunion was her idea. Last year I had pretended to be sick and the year before that it was my exams, so I had run out of excuses. So there I was, on that cold dark March evening, sitting in the passenger seat of the car, silent, as she drove us back to New York.
You see, the other thing about Elena is that she never checks her messages. After two hours on the Garden State expressway to Pleasantville, followed by another hour beautifying herself at the Pleasantville Inn, while I tried to tame my hopelessly out of control hair, we drove across town to find that the Christie Memorial Hall was closed. There had been a plumbing incident. Elena hadn’t read the text.
She didn’t say anything at first, which was usually a bad sign. She bottled it up until we got back to the hotel. Then she lost it.
“All the way fucking down here and you whining every fucking mile.”
“I haven’t been whining!” I said, which wasn’t strictly true.
“I don’t want to spend another fucking second in this shitty town.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m driving back tonight.”
“What? It’s after nine now. Can’t we just stay here and go back in the morning?”
Elena scooped her clothes into a plastic bag and snatched her coat.
“I’m going home.”
She stormed out of the hotel room. I ran after her.
Elena was silent as we drove. I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to awaken the beast, but I noticed that she had turned off the Expressway and taken a country road. So I suggested that maybe she was going the wrong way.
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
“No, I’m just saying…”
“Do you want to fucking drive?”
“No, and there’s no need to swear.”
“I’ll swear if I fucking want to,” she said, and then let go of the wheel. The car veered violently to the left. “Do you want to take over?”
“No, for god’s sake El!”
She grabbed the wheel again and hunched over as we sped through the dark. I said nothing for a while. I felt foolish, sitting there in my prissy reunion dress. It felt like the night my Dad drove me home from the prom because Ethan turned up with Heather instead. Elena wasn’t there that night. Elena would have punched Heather. Elena wasn’t there, so I rang my Dad and he fetched me and we drove back through Pleasantville in the dark.
“Where are we?”
“Who the fuck knows. Bass Forest river forest or some shit like that.”
“Is that the Pine Barrens?”
Elena shrugged.“I guess.”
The unlit road seemed to be getting narrower. The forest either side of the road was a gloomy homogenous mass of black, a wall of impenetrable darkness.
“Is it…is it safe?”
Elena frowned, and her mouth hung open. “What kind of shit are you on about now?”
“I just meant, the road looks kind of narrow. And there are no lights. I’m not sure this road goes the right way.”
“Jesus, will you shut up already! I’ve driven this way like twenty times or more.”
I said nothing and looked out of the window. The endless expanse of the forest, the sense that it goes on forever knotted my stomach as it always did whenever my Dad drove us through the Pine Barrens to see our cousins in Long Island.
“Wait, is this about the Devil?”
“What?” I said, feeling a shiver run through me at the word.
“The Devil. The Jersey Devil.” She shook her head.
“No,” I lied.
“You’ve been on about that shit since kindergarten. The Devil? Seriously? I thought you were a scientist.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You were the one that believed in it, not me.”
“Oh I do believe in it. I’m just not shit-scared like you.”
“Okay, whatever,” I said. “I’m not having this argument.”
She smirked. “You know where the Devil came from, don’t you.”
“El, I’m not in the mood.”
“An old, dried up hag witch. She gave birth to it and when it was born it was so fucking hideous she cursed it and it killed her and ran into the forest.”
“El, stop it.”
“It slaughters sheep and cattle and bears and anyone who gets lost in the woods. The government has been trying to catch it for years. I’ve seen the pictures. You should see what it did to that tramcar at Haddon Heights. It just rips sheep to shreds. Blood and intestines everywhere…”
She smirked. Then without warning, she turned the wheel. The car pulled over and slowed to a halt, crunching over the gravel and riding up a little on the grass.
“What are you doing? Why have we stopped?”
I had a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach, the kind I always felt whenever I thought El was about to pull a prank. She reached over and before I could stop her, she grabbed my phone, which had been resting in my lap. Then she pressed the window button and threw my phone out into the darkness.
“What the hell!”
She smiled. “What’s the problem?”
“What’s the problem? You threw my phone out the window? You’re…you’re crazy.”
“Aww, you almost said a swear word.”
“All you have to do is get out of the car and fetch it.”
“You fetch it!”
She shrugged. “It’s not my phone.”
“Why did you do that? Why would you?”
“Because you’ve been such a pain in the ass and I’m sick of you.”
“Well I’m not getting out.”
“Fine,” she said, firing up the engine.
I started to panic. Everything was on that phone. My whole life, such as it was.
“Okay,” I said, “Just wait.” I cranked open the door just a crack. I could see the phone, but it was beyond arms reach.
“Come on!” she said, revving the engine.
I pushed open the door and stepped out onto the road. Instantly I felt the cold air on my bare calves. I took a step away from the car and in that moment I heard the engine roar. “Wait!”
I saw Elena lean over and close the passenger door as the car pulled away. “Wait! Please!”
I tried to run after her, but it was no use. The red lights grew smaller and smaller and then disappeared into the gloom. I was alone.
She would come back. I was sure of that. She would definitely come back. This was a situation, but she would come back.
I stood by the side of the road, trying not to think about the Jersey Devil, about the drawings of a hideous creature with wings and claws and antlers, about the story that scared me so much I dug a hole in the sand behind our house and buried the pages a foot down.
I called Elena’s cell phone. Of course there was no answer. She would be back, I was sure of that. She always came back.
I knelt at the side of the road, trying not to notice the cold breeze on my shoulders or the horrible sensation that I was being watched. I hugged my arms around myself and tried dialing Elena again. Nothing.
The scream caught me by surprise. It faded so quickly I wasn’t sure whether I had imagined it. Then I heard it again. A horrible, caterwauling, inhuman scream.
I stood up, mouth open in horror, body tensed, ready to run. In the woods opposite I saw movement. A shape, a darker mass, moving in the gloom. Another scream echoed out from the woodland and I gave an involuntary yelp. A fourth scream. Closer than the others.
My legs started moving before I had worked out where I was going. I stumbled and ran across the brushy tussocks of wild grass by the edge of the road and into the musky darkness of the forest. I passed a few trees, than I turned and knelt, kneeling behind a trunk. I peered through the gloom.
I was sure that I could see that shape in the woods across the road. It was moving again, and it was getting bigger. I thought I could try staying still, close to the road and hope that whatever it was, it didn’t see me. But that required bravery and steely resolve and I had none of those qualities. I wanted to run and run and never stop running, and with another little yelp, I pushed myself off from the tree and ran into the darkness.
Covering the ground wasn’t easy. My heels were flatter than Elena’s, but they picked up all manner of leaves and grit and dirt, and my thin black dress snagged on branches and trunks and bushes. After some time running aimlessly, I stopped and rested against a tree. I tried to think clearly. I had a rough mental image of where the road was and came up with an optimistic plan to circle back around and join the road further up. But it didn’t work. My mental map was completely inaccurate and whichever way I walked seemed to lead me further and further into the dark. The tears that had been welling up in my streamed down my face as I stumbled on, hopelessly lost.
From time to time I tried to get a hold of myself. I leant on a tree trunk and practiced my Zen breathing techniques. But every time that I began to calm down, I heard another eerie forest sound, a distant screech or a chatter or a scraping noise that propelled me forwards in blind panic, wandering through the endless pine forests, lost and tearful. I would have given anything to see Elena again, anything. I replayed this thought in my mind as I ran, replayed it over and over again. I would have given anything to see her again.
After what seemed like hours of hopeless wandering, I crashed through a thicket of saplings that scraped across my face. I closed my eyes as I pushed through the spiky branches and when I opened them again, I was standing at the edge of a clearing.
The clearing was bathed in moonlight, which turned the grass a sickly, dark shade of green. I took a few wary steps into the light. Looking up I could see the edges of clouds skirting the moon. The bright white orb shone pure and straight into this eerie space.
Then I saw it. A movement in the trees. A dark shape, a mass in the trees opposite. I knew I should run. But the light in that clearing was a relief after the depths of the forest, and I was exhausted. My dress was stained with mud and dirt; my feet ached. I couldn’t move.
The dark mass emerged from the trees and as its shape entered the clearing, I felt my skin prickle with horror. It, whatever it was, moved with the muscular power and ease of a centaur, though it seemed to have a hunched back. It had four legs, but there was something strange about its front legs and as it moved into the light, I realized with horror that the legs were scaly. The head of the creature seemed twisted and deformed and bore two giant, cruel antlers that gleamed in the light. The shadow of the forest clung to it, then I realized that the shadows were wings. Giant, leathery wings, half-spread. It was the New Jersey Devil. It was real and it was looking right at me.
I was struck motionless with terror as I watched the creature move easily, languidly towards me. As it lifted its front legs alternately to step through the grass, I could see that they ended not in hooves, but in claws. I felt a wave of revulsion. I stumbled backwards a few steps, but I was too scared to turn my back on it. As it walked, the shape on its back unwound and slipped off, dropping onto the grass and standing upright. It was a human. Whoever it was walked towards me, and I could see that she was a woman. Short, with wide hips, naked, her full breasts gleaming as she strolled through the moonlit clearing. It was Elena!
“Elena! Run!” I half-shouted, half-whispered. The creature tilted its head as though listening. Elena was getting closer, but she didn’t seem to be in a hurry. She was smiling, as though she was in a daze. The creature began to move again.
“Elena, run!” I said.
“Run,” she smiled, “Why would I do that?”
She stopped maybe ten feet from me, and the creature was now level with her, its massive bulk towering over her. She smiled up at it. She was gazing at it, adoringly. Then she pressed her lips to the leg of the creature. She kissed its rough hairy body, running her hands over it before turning to me, smiling and beckoning me to join her.
I shook my head.
“There’s no need to be afraid,” she slurred.
The horror of it was too much. I snapped. I turned and ran, headlong back to the forest. But I wasn’t quick enough. I heard rumbling behind me, then a gust and a creak of those great leathery wings. As I stumbled forwards I half-turned in time to see the body of the creature loom over me. I screamed but my screams were muffled as a sudden, overwhelming weight pressed me into the ground.
I struggled, trying to free myself from the crushing weight on my chest. After a second or two, it lifted, but still I couldn’t move. Something had me by the wrists. The creature loomed over me, a shadow blocking out the moon.
“There’s no need to run,” said Elena’s voice.
I looked over to see her hands gripping my wrists, pinning me down.
“Let me go!”
I tried to struggle but it was hopeless. She had always been stronger than me, and now her strength seemed superhuman.
“Just relax,” she purred, her head close to mine.
“No, no, no,” I said, my voice cracking.
The creature’s shadow was over me and it’s scaly legs were planted either side of my body. I saw a sharp claw glint in the moonlight, and I screamed, closing my eyes. There was a ripping sound and I felt cold air was across my body, and when I opened my eyes, my dress was ruined and lay in shreds around me, while my bra had been ripped in two.
“No!” I tried to struggle again but Elena held me down.
“Shh,” she said, “It will be okay. It will be wonderful.”
The creature lowered its head to me. I saw a hideous brown tongue slip out of its mouth and felt a thick, abrasive sensation on my leg, bruising my thighs with the force of its licking. The drool glistened in the moonlight and I felt dampness on my skin. I struggled again, as the creature took another step, and its rough tongue dragged across my exposed chest, my breasts, my hardening nipples. It’s long hideous head with a scaly black nose and a mouth full of cracked, broken teeth hung over my face. I closed my eyes and tensed myself. But it did not lick my face; instead I felt a clammy sensation as its drool dribbled onto my chin and my lips, trickling down my neck.
I don’t know what that drool was. It was a strange chemical compound that started to heat my skin. I could feel my whole body was growing warmer. I was feeling numb, relaxed, woozy, drunk, and something else. I realized with horror that I was beginning to feel aroused!
My nipples were standing proud and then I felt something brush over them. Elena was kneeling by my side. She was no longer holding me down, but I didn’t want to run anymore. I watched, mouth open, throat dry as Elena kissed my nipples, one after the other, as we lay in the shadow of that grotesque creature, its front legs planted on each side of my knees.
Elena kissed all the way up my body, and stroked my neck. She cradled my head and lifted me up, pressing her lips, coated in drool, onto mine. I felt her tenderness, and the drool seeping into my throat, filling me with warmth, and I pressed my tongue against hers. I realized that I wanted to kiss her, to kiss her and never stop kissing her, but then she pulled away, suddenly. She smiled at me, and patted the ground. I shuffled onto my knees next to her, our hips pressed together. The creature trotted forwards until it was directly over us, and then I saw it.
I gasped. The creature had human genitalia. Its massive cock emerged from the shadows and hung just inches from our faces. Elena reached out, wrapping her fingers around it though she could barely encompass half of its girth. The creature snuffled and snorted. Looking over at me, Elena ran her tongue over the head of the cock. I watched as she explored the swelling cock with her tongue, at first fascinated, then overwhelmed with desire, until I could bear it no longer. I had to have that cock. I reached forward to grab it, wrapping my fingers around it as best as I could. Then I leant forward and took it in my mouth…..
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