Never Tease the Devil
By Brent Rankin

It was such a tiny demon, itty-bitty, about the size of a man’s thumb. The goblin was captured inside an amber colored bottle, with a Grecian cork solidly crammed into the top and sealed with red wax. It was said it wasn’t wax, but dried blood. It frightened the demon and kept him potted in the bottle. Some Holy thing. Still, the inside of the bottle was misty, damp, and you had to squint to see something red floating around inside.
My uncle brought it back from Greece, when he was discharged from the Merchant Marines. Brought back the spirit, a few social diseases, and a drinking problem. One night, during one of his binges, he bragged that he had heard about the duende and how the ones who had it, some monks, protected it with their lives. Must be valuable, he thought. So, in a drunken stupor, he stole it. Just walked in the monastery, tucked it under his shirt, and walked out.
Now it sat on a bookshelf in my den. Eveytime my uncle came over, drunk, he’d retell the story. Again. And again.
I’m not sure how it happened, but one evening my uncle came about, drunker than usual. He had a grip on a liter of Dewar’s and had thrown away the cap.
“Time to let the demon out,” he slurred.
I thought he was speaking metaphorically, about the scotch he was drinking. I was wrong.
He put down the Dewar’s and grabbed the amber bottle. He held it up to his nose, trying to focus on its contents. He shook it. Looked at it again. Then shook it again.
“Damn thing must be dead.” He burped.
It got very quiet in the house, then. The lights flickered like in an old horror movie and the wind blew open the curtains on a window. That’s when the lights went out and the room was dark as cigar ash.
Then I heard a munching sound. That’s it: a munching sound. Like rats eating stale cheese. I couldn’t figure where the sound was coming from. My uncle hissed (at least I thought it was my uncle).
I heard a scream cut short. I turned and ran, but not very far. Tripping over something, I landed face first and knocked myself out cold.
Don’t know how long I was out, but when I opened my eyes, the lights were back on, the amber bottle was back on the shelf, and my uncle was on the sofa, dead. Pale ugly blue face and hands, the blood had been drained completely out of his body. I went to his carcass and felt for a pulse. Nope, he was dead and cold.
I was going for the phone when I passed the amber bottle on the bookcase shelf. Something about it was different. Something I couldn’t…no, there it was. Yeah, I suppose if I was shook up in a bottle, plugged with a Grecian cork, I’d get angry, too.
There was fresh wax around the cork in the bottle.

- - -
Drinking dirty water behind abandoned buildings will give a man incredible nightmares.
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1 Response
  1. Shelley Says:

    Another very good story from Brent Rankin! Always interesting, can't stop reading and wish it was longer. A future best-selling author.

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