The children were in bed, carefully watched over by the slightly older children of the town.
It was certainly not a big town. Every adult of age, every single one, had made their way to the dance hall on main street.
There were snacks provided by the women of the town. Beer, liquor, and wine provided by the men. The music was loud, the laughter was louder, and everyone was ready for the big event.
It had been a hard week leading up to tonight. There were many goodbyes, some more mournful than others. Twenty-two graves needed digging. Thankfully there were more than enough children to help. Lots of slaughtered sheep.
Harold didn’t mind the sheep slaughtering. He’d offered to do it for the entire town at church the previous Sunday. His hair was pure white, his hands withered, his posture poor, but he had the strength of the strongest men currently serving in the war.
Clean of the blood, tonight he and Elda danced.
Tonight was Richard and Dolores’s first night out with the rest of the adults of the town. In their seven years of marriage they had birthed five beautiful children, four boys and a girl. They had been told vague stories of what was going to happen, but were also told “it’s all going to be much less of a shock and worry if you know what’s in store. It’s best to just be open to everything and let it happen.”
Jonah, amidst the noise, raised his glass to the townspeople and shouted “To the health of our clans!”
Those with drinks raised theirs and drank.
No one in town had been sick in the last eighty years. No one had died in the last ten.
Expected, though still surprising, the music coming from the Edison phonograph began to slow. The words became unintelligible. It slowed and slowed but never stopped. All party attendants lowered their drinks, ceased their dancing, and most smiles faded away completely.
From just beyond the doors to the main hall, the heavy wooden and glass doors could be heard opening with the loud groan of wood. One step. A sick crunch made its way inside the building. Two steps. The sound of a wet mop slapped the floor as the front door slammed shut behind the guest of honor. Three steps. The crunch grew louder as a phlegmy rasp eased its way into the hall. Four steps. Four obsidian fingers curled around the door frame, right were the four grooves had seemed to have always been. They gripped hard as the wood protested with a light popping sound.
In the doorway appeared a misshapen being. Many attempted to make sense of the creature by trying to compare its features as to those of humans. Perhaps even other animals. But much of the demon was beyond human comprehension.
This being the first time Richard and Dolores had seen it, they attempted to define it. The task was impossible. A red, bloodshot eye may glance about the room, blink, and then be an anus. Its limbs shifted in size, number, and color. In a moment it might appear to have twelve arms, the size of infant’s arms, devoid of all substance. In the next moment, it may have no arms and be made up of the future memories of the pain of your death.
“I arrive,” the thing croaked, sounding like a whisper in the room but an amplified feedback in the minds of all present. “Do you keep our bargain?”
George Black, mayor, church and school board president, stepped forward. With all the courage and dignity he could muster, said “We will keep our bargain.”
Across the small town, much happened. In some cases it had already been happening. It happened quickly and creatively. It happened slowly and painfully.
The Johnson boy shot himself in the throat with a shotgun.
The David Everett boy threw himself off of the roof of his father’s shed for the fifth time.
The Carol Jameson had been snacking on lye.
The Reed’s youngest son, a boy of four, set his bed on fire playing with matches.
All across the town, twenty-two children died simultaneously. Twenty-two babysitters wailed in terror and mourning.
“Then it shall be done.” The creature walked about the room at an impossible pace on what looked like a broken leg. “All families present shall sacrifice one member. One child.”
“In return for the souls of your children I shall keep sickness, age, and death at bay. You have my word, if I have your blood.”
The townspeople responded in unison.
“You have our blood.”
It was then that the men moved to the janitor’s closet and began to remove buckets of the sheep’s blood. As they did, the women began undressing themselves. The men doused the women, themselves, the floor, the windows and walls, and removed their clothes as well.
The creature made of nothing and everything evil walked about the room. Everyone was covered in the thick red liquid. The lights were covered as well, casting crimson light over the entire room and naked, gasping, grunting bodies of the townspeople. No one knew who they were engaged with. No one cared. The room was a pulsing mass of pleasure. The demon was pleased.
“You have been granted your fertility pact once more,” it whispered. “Ten years and I shall return. If you wish to pledge your blood and bodies to me, you will be here.”
In the mindless carnival of flesh, no one paid any attention to the demon’s words. They felt the promise on their souls and fucked just a little bit harder to try to forget.