“We need to go back,” Nathan said. “It’s getting late.”
Shelly didn’t say anything and instead continued to ride her bike along the sidewalk, leaving her brother behind.
“You’re going to get grounded!” he yelled as he rode back to their house.
She didn’t care. Mostly because any punishment received for having this much fun–this much freedom–was, in her mind, totally worth it. Riding her bicycle was one of the few things that brought Shelly any real joy.
School wasn’t fun anymore, she didn’t have many friends, mommy and daddy still argued some days. This was in addition to the other people who lived in her head that argued with one another and tried to tell her what to do.
Sometimes they would appear outside of her head and try to goad her into doing what they wanted. When she tried to explain this to her parents, that’s when they told her about devils and the angels.
“Everyone has a devil and an angel sitting on their shoulders,” her mother explained. “Our little devils try to get us to do things we don’t want to–or shouldn’t–do, while our angel asks us to do the right thing.”
“Like in the cartoons?” Shelly asked.
“Just like that, yes,” Mommy said, smiling. “Remember to always do the right thing, Shelly bean.”
She rode her bike along the sidewalk that snaked around the back end of the housing development. The path followed the two lane road around a blind curve that spilled out into a large construction area that went on for miles. Nathan had nicknamed it ‘the graveyard’ and was one of the few places they were not allowed to go.
As she rode along, she looked up and saw a man in a dark suit standing in her way. She knew him as a devil and avoided looking into his eyes as much as she ignored anything he said.
“You know you’re not supposed to ride out this way,” the man said. “It’s starting to get dark. You know what that means.”
Shelly closed her eyes and held her breath as she passed through him. Once she felt the ghostly feel of the man’s jacket tickle the sides and back of her neck, she opened her eyes and let out a breath, peddling faster. Despite her curiosity, she never looked back to see if he was still there or not.
There was always a general sense of fear about going around the blind curve towards the graveyard. The sidewalk ended right before reaching the corner house due to the cul de sac that intersected with its driveway. There was also the issue of speeding cars.
Sometimes there was no way to know if a car was coming until they were right there, turning. The best time to know for sure, ironically, was later at night when everyone’s daytime lights would automatically shine out ahead of them. But at five or six in the evening it was much harder to tell.
She tended to stay as close to the side of the corner house’s wooden fence as possible and she listened closely for any signs of oncoming traffic.
The last time Shelly had gone with her brother to the graveyard, Nathan had clambered up the side and to the top of a bulldozer. He offered for her to do the same. Too afraid to fall, she declined–saying that she didn’t feel like doing that. He teased her about being a chicken and eased himself down safely.
This time around she was determined to prove him wrong. It didn’t matter if he wasn’t there to see her do it or not.
Riding through the debris and dirt of the graveyard, Shelly stopped before the bulldozer and looked it over for a minute before extending her kickstand and getting closer to inspect it. Remembering how Nathan had done it, she reached her arms up to grab a hold of the dozer’s treads and used that leverage to pull herself up. After several tries, she managed to get her little legs over the edge of the tread belt.
She dusted herself off and began to explore the cabin and play pretend while on top of it. Before she realized what time it was, it had already grown dark outside. Slowly getting down from her vantage point, she climbed back onto her bike and began to ride back to the house in a hurry.
Tracing her path the same way she came, she saw the devil again on the corner. As she approached, she again closed her eyes and began talking over his words, never hearing what he said.
She never saw the speeding car coming up behind her along the blind curve.