by DeAnna Knippling
Warning: Strong language and adult situations.
I set this behind my grandparents’ house–actually, it’s behind my great-grandmother’s little house, across the road from my grandparents. The roses come from the other side of the family, though. The places I played as a kid have become abandoned as generations of farmers stop farming. It’s very sad.
Ellen warned her fiance Philip not to get involved with the Rockford brothers. But now he has gone with them down a dark path heavy with deadfalls and demons, and only she can bring him back.
In life, we follow some paths we shouldn’t; we open some doors we were never meant to go through; we acquire regrets as though they were limited-time collectable figurines and line them up on the shelves of our hearts, dusting them on a regular basis. I’m not sayin’ that I’m above all that. I’m just saying, if you open a door, you better know how to shut it. I learned that one the hard way, in the woods behind Grandmother’s house.
To sum up, my brother Jim and I were playing back there and dug up under the rotten old leaf mold. It was spring, and I think that’s what saved us, because the long winter was over, but it wasn’t warm enough for all the grownup to be out in the fields. The door was a bare tin cover with an iron lock on it, only the iron had rusted through, mostly, and we beat it the rest of the way off with a piece of granite that had worked its way up from under the soil, out in the field. The edge of the wood was lined with those things, as they got chucked out of the fields.
We were able to open the door, only because we’d happened to read a certain book earlier that morning. But I’ll describe that more later. We climbed down the worn metal ladder bolted to the side of the hole, down a long dirt tunnel, and into a magical world: to us two kids, it was a candyland where we ate pink happiness and drank blue sky and bounced on marshmallow clouds of joy.
Fortunately Grandmother caught up with us and set off her old travel alarm clock, which rang to wake the dead, right in our ears. In a second we could see just where we’d gone: straight to Hell. There are places where pieces of Hell come up to the surface, like hard pieces of granite in the field. Some folks get rid of ‘em. Some people keep ‘em around, in case they’re needed, like a pile of hard rock. And if you’re one to argue that nobody ought to keep pieces of Hell around and can’t understand that they might be needed, this story ain’t for you.
The demons fell on us as soon as they saw that we could see what they really were—screamin’ and hollerin’ the way we were, no wonder—but Grandma had a bit of fire in her hand, blue and bright, and she tore bits of it off and threw it at the demons, who flinched back from it. Why demons shimmering with heat and thick with scales and horns should have been afraid of that blue fire, I still don’t know, but that’s the way it was.
She got us back up through the door and out, and shut it. To sum up, my ass hurt bad for a few days after that, and the door got a new lock. But it wasn’t never buried under the leaves again, not while Grandmother was still alive.