Gary couldn’t believe his mom. They were moving again and this time to an old spooky house in New Jersey, thousands of miles away from the beaches of California and his friends. It was too faraway from his favorite baseball team,The Angels.
“It’s only temporary, Gary,” said his mom hugging him. “Until we get settled at my job. We’ll move to a high rise apartment in the city. “
“I think you’ll like it here,” said the realtor. “There is a pine forest out back. I have a boy just like you and he loves playing out in the woods.” When the realtor smiled, Gary looked away. He noticed his crooked teeth and the dandruff on his plaid shirt.
“I don’t like this place, mom,” Gary sulked. He rolled the autographed baseball in his pant pocket. It was a souvenir from a game and his most precious possession.
“You’ll have a room of your own.”
Gary looked out the dirty window full of cobwebs. It hadn’t been washed for years. The sky was gray and the trees had no leaves.
“You’re really getting this place for a bargain. It belonged to my parents. They lived here untl they died.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Gary’s mom.
The floors creaked as they walked from the kitchen to the living room. There was a covered velvet sofa and a head of a dead deer on top of a brick chimney. The deer’s tired lonely eyes gazed at Gary.
“Who killed him?”
The realtor stooped down and wrapped his long slimy fingers on his shoulder. Gary felt a chill down his spine.
“The Jersey Devil,” the realtor whispered in his ear.
That was the first time Gary had heard that name. And no, he wasn’t scared at all. He was ten and a Boy Scout. He knew that kids and grown-ups made up things like the devil to entertain in the same way they made fake videos of vampires and goblins on Youtube. But there was something about the way the realtor said his name that spooked Gary or maybe it was the way the head of the dead deer jerked his antlers when he spoke. Gary squinted his eyes.
“Mom, I’m going to go out back.”
“Okay, but be right back in ten minutes,” she said.
The wet autumn leaves stuck to the bottom of his baseball sneakers. A breeze rattled the barren tree branches. He walked towards the side of the dark brown house and noticed hoof tracks. A coyote? He followed the tracks and stumbled on a rock. He wasn’t clumsy. He was a baseball pitcher on his Little League team. Blood smeared on his mouth, but Gary didn’t cry.
He shoveled the leaves with his bare hands and found a grey tombstone. He read the etched name out loud.
“Mrs. Shroud, Born 1720 — Died 2010.”
That was impossible. No one lived for 300 years. Suddenly, he remembered that the realtor’s name was Mr. Shroud.
Gary ran as fast as he could back into the house.
“Mom,” he called out, but no one answered. “Where are you?”
Gary turned around. He heard a rustling sound-clawing against the window, wings flapping in the air. And on the dining room table stood a red creature around three feet high, the head as big as a sheepdog, and the face of a wild horse. It had a long spiky tale and let out a bark as it’s small arms batted in the air.
“The Jersey Devil! The Jersey Devil!”
It sustained itself with its two long hind feet. Its crooked sharp teeth oozed with blood. Gary’s eyes tracked the splatters– human flesh stuck to the window.
It gazed at him, studying him as it barked.
Gary took the baseball out of his pocket, placed his fingers on the soft cowhide, and swirled it into a fastball. He knocked the Jersey Devil into the ground.
“Mom,” he called out again and no one answered. Tears rolled down his cheeks as his body trembled.
The Devil wriggled his body on the ground moving towards the chimney. He picked up the baseball off the ground and struck him again.
Gary rushed upstairs and opened the door of the closets, the bedrooms, and looked everywhere. He raced back downstairs and searched even beneath the kichen sink. He couldn’t find his mom or the realtor. Their cars were still parked up front.
Why hadn’t he thought of it before?
The Jersey Devil let out a piercing painful bark as it crawled back on its two hind feet.
The creature, the Devil, the thing that hurt his mom was Mr. Shroud.
He ran as fast as he could out of the dark old house. As he looked behind, at least, a quarter mile away, he noticed the Devil flying out of the chimney and into the Pine Barren woods.