Conrad Phillips pulled his ‘74 Ford Pickup to the side of the road and checked his notes. This is it. Where Barker Road splits into Cherry Lane and Madison Road.
An old cypress tree stood near the road. Its roots branched into thick, brown octopus legs. He grabbed the shovel and a paper sack from the back of his pickup and walked to the tree.
His back to the tree, Conrad consulted his notes once more before marching ten paces. This placed him in the middle of the fork in the road. He started digging.
The ground was softer than he’d expected. It should be like concrete with all the cars driving over it. Conrad looked around and chuckled. What cars? Mine’s probably the first in days.
When the hole was a foot deep he knelt in front of it and placed his notes on one side and the sack on the other.
Here goes nothing.
He took an apple from the sack and dropped it into the hole. “This represents health, for strength and vigor all my days.”
He placed a dollar bill in the hole next to the apple. “Money represents the success that will be mine.”
A small Tupperware container of sand was next. He poured the contents into the hole. “May my friends be as numerous as sand on the beach.”
Conrad spread several spoonfuls of honey over the hole’s contents. “To sweetly bind together all areas of my life.”
He refilled the hole and sat back, waiting.
What did I expect? That this Hoo Doo stuff would really work? He returned the shovel and sack to his truck. Turning back, he noticed the dark man.
The man wore black. His shirt, pants and boots were all the color of night. Atop his head sat a stovepipe hat, like Lincoln’s. He stood at the fork in the road and slowly extended his arm. One long, bone-white finger beckoned Conrad to approach.
Conrad gulped and moved toward the dark man.
The dark man cocked his head sideways. “You enter into this contract of your own free will?”
Conrad’s insides turned sour at the sound of the man’s voice. The voice sounded … rancid. He suppressed the urge to be sick and nodded his head.
The dark man raised his arm once more and slowly extended his finger towards Conrad’s chest. His finger burned through Conrad’s shirt, sending tendrils of smoke into the air. It pressed into the flesh over his heart, hissing, and continued through flesh and bone until it touched his heart.
Conrad fell to his knees. His mouth opened wide, but the scream caught in his throat and wouldn’t come out.
“It is done. I will collect in ten years.” The dark man removed his finger from Conrad’s chest.
The scream finally came. Conrad ripped open his shirt to see where the man had touched him. He was branded with a dark scar. It was a smiley face, but this face didn’t look happy, it looked sinister. As Conrad watched, the smiley face winked at him.
Conrad looked up. The man was gone.