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Blame the Lights

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Todd tried staying away from Pepito's affairs as long as he could, but who would have known that an impromptu trip to the basement would completely mess that up?

All those years of refusing Pepito's cleverly worded job offers, even receiving a few from Señor Diablo himself, were now moot. Todd had tried so hard to live life as normally as he could in the Diablo household, and for a time, he'd been doing such a good job of it.

He had enrolled himself in a local community college and finally took the time to sit down with a proper lawyer and go through the necessary paperwork regarding his parents' house and their untimely demise*. He had even acquired himself a little side job working as a secretary at his college too! Things were going so well... until now.

Todd had come home from his evening classes to an empty house. Upon opening the fridge, he had found a yellow sticky note with a hastily scrawled message from Rosemary saying that she would be at the store stocking up on groceries and buying ingredients for a late dinner, and wouldn't be back for another three hours. There was no point in wondering where Pepito was; Pepito was nearly always away on some job or another.

Unfortunately, only 30 minutes in, a rolling blackout had taken hold of the neighborhood. Todd had been suddenly plunged in complete and utter darkness. In a panic, Todd did the only logical thing he could think of. He prepared himself to go check out the circuit breaker, which was in the basement. Even his immense fear of the dark couldn't stop him from wanting to find that circuit breaker.

Luck hadn't been on his side. Since he hadn't lived with the Diablos for very long, just a little over two months, he didn't know if their household owned any emergency provisions like flashlights and candles. The only light he had on him was the flashlight app from his phone, and in a big house in the dark, it didn't help much. Todd dismally mused that things like flashlights and extra batteries weren't of any use to Satan and the Anti-Christ, not when they could both conjure up hellfire at whim.

As Todd fumbled about through the dark, he tried not to jump at the sound of the floorboards creaking under his weight, or the way the shadows danced about him, morphing into shapes that he could only recall from his nightmares. When he'd finally gotten to the basement, his flashlight app couldn't save him from tripping his way down the stairs and landing at the very bottom with a harsh thud.

“Ow...” he muttered as he came to, a little dizzy. He sat crumpled in a heap on the basement floor, his knees sore and raw. They were probably bleeding, he thought to himself. He'd taken a pretty bad fall, after all. After spending a couple of seconds trying to regain his bearings, Todd finally surveyed his surroundings. The basement was dark, as basements should be; however, something was off.

There were shelves propped up against all of the basement walls, and they were glowing. There were reds, blues, purples, greens, and even a candid white light. Their soft glow bathed the entire basement with a dim light that emanated some sort of pseudo warmth. Some of the lights were encased in glass mason jars, some were in what appeared to be Tupperware containers. And there were so many of them that every shelf was filled completely.

Todd slowly heaved himself up, his legs shaking with his weight. His legs felt so weak, his thighs tense and drawn taut. He gingerly turned himself about, basking in the glow. Todd marveled at them all, eyes transfixed. What were they?

Todd shook his head, an ominous feeling suddenly overcoming him. His throat felt dry, his palms clammy and sticky, and his legs were starting to tremble. He wasn't that scared was he? So why such a strong response? It felt as if his mind wasn't synching up with his body.

'I need to leave,' he thought fleetingly, his feet still glued to the cement floor. There was a reason why Pepito never bothered taking him to the basement. Todd sometimes forgot they even had a basement to begin with, but he had to get to that circuit breaker.

He knew he should have high-tailed it out of there the first moment he came to, he knew he shouldn't be taking cautious steps towards the shelves, but his body seemed to be on autopilot. He felt compelled to them, as if the light has some relentless, magnetic grip on his body.

He found himself standing a foot away from the farthest shelf, staring into a white light that pulsated from inside a foggy mason jar. He breathed with the pulse, his lungs filling with warm air, his eyes starting to water, tears leaking down his ruddy cheeks. He wiped at his face with the hem of his sleeve, and when he pulled his hand away, he let out a shrill shriek. There was blood on the fabric, and smeared blood on his wrist, and-- .

“No, no,” Todd wailed, frantically wiping at his eyes. When he looked down at his hands again, there were more streaks of blood coating his fingers and smudged against his wrist. Todd didn't want to panic, but he did anyway. Panicking was something he had done his whole life: anxiousness, terror, fright, you name it. He was well versed in the area of sheer and utter panic.

He kept wiping at his face, his cheeks slippery and wet with streaks of blood. In his haste to wipe it all off, he may have flicked a few droplets here and there, but he didn't care. What was happening to him? Was he going to die?? Why had he even bothered going to the basement?! He should have just walked to the nearby Starbucks and camped there until Rosemary returned.

The blood was starting to seep through his fingers, warm and thick, and as he flung more of it away, he heard a sharp crack echo through the room, like glass splitting. Before he had time to react, he was thrown 10 feet across the room where he landed on his backside on the harsh concrete below.

In an instant, a gust of air whooshed past him, followed by a blinding white light and the most hideous, blood curdling music he'd ever heard in his life. It erupted through the room as if it were being blasted through stadium speakers. It was a chaotic mash of trumpet sounds with nary a start or end. It had no tune, it had no beat, it had no rhythm or cohesive flow. It was just loud and grating and terrifying. He put his hands to his ears in vain, and just when it felt like he would pass out from the sheer volume alone, it suddenly stopped.

With dried blood crusting on his cheeks, Todd sat still in the now quiet basement, but it didn't remain that way for long. Todd didn't even have time to gather himself together when a loud pop reverberated about the room.

“Todd, estás bien?” Pepito's disembodied voice rang out, and Todd nearly cried out in both fear and relief. Todd felt warm hands at his face, in his hair, on his neck. He heard another popping sound but it was gentler this time, and when he opened his eyes again they were no longer in the basement, but in Pepito's room.

They were on the bed perched on the edge of the mattress. The rolling blackout was still in full force, but the light from the moon shone in through the open window, bathing the room in a soft glow.

Pepito still held Todd's face in his hands, clawed thumbs gently flicking away the leftover trails of crusted blood. The anti-christ's mismatched eyes were open wide, and Todd felt picked apart by Pepito's probing stare.

“You should not have been down there,” Pepito whispered, and though this was said gently, Todd still felt the harsh sting of the reprimand.

“I know, I know, I just wanted to find the breaker,” Todd rushed out, meeting Pepito's stare. “I'm so sorry, I don't know what happened but I'm sorry!!”

Espera aquí, I must go check,” Pepito shushed him. He squeezed Todd's hands, and Todd watched as Pepito dematerialized, his existence fading in a cloud of black smoke. Pepito was absent for only 30 seconds before he popped back into existence with a grim expression on his face.

“Did you hear any music?” Pepito asked abruptly.

“It was horrible,” Todd replied immediately, softly. He crossed his legs, his fingers finding purchase on the coverlet beneath him. “It was the most ugliest sound I've--.”

Chingado,” Pepito cursed under his breath, and Todd stilled. The human hunched in on himself, fully aware that something was not right, and he had caused it.

“I'm sorry,” Todd said softly.

“No, not you,” Pepito amended, floating across the room where he silently landed in front of Todd.

“Pepito, what did I do?” Todd began again, clutching at his head. He felt the mattress dip beside him, felt Pepito's hands seek his own.

“You may have accidentally unleashed a demon,” Pepito responded, squeezing Todd's hands.

“A what? How could-- you mean all those glowing lights were demons?!” Todd shrieked, nearly falling off the bed. His fingers nearly gouged into Pepito's palms, but Pepito didn't seem to mind the pain. “You mean I was surrounded by a wall of demons?”

Todd let the new information sink in. For nearly 20 minutes, he had been surrounded by rows and rows of bottled demons, in the dark, at night, alone. He quickly turned to Pepito, eyes wide with disbelief and accusation, “Pepito, please tell me why you have a basement full of canned demons!! Why didn't you warn me?!”

“You have not been living with us for long,” Pepito sighed, rubbing at his temples. “We have not had to worry about cute little humans wandering into basements alone, at night.” Pepito smiled teasingly at Todd. It was a smile full of fanged teeth, but it was genuine. “Perdóname, maybe that should have been the first thing we warned you about.”

“No kidding!” Todd yelped, fingers carding through his hair. “And I still don't know how I could have unleashed a demon, I didn't even touch anything.”

“Blood sacrifice,” Pepito offered, gesturing to his eyes. “Your blood must have gotten onto one of the bottles.”

“I still don't understand-- .”

“The demons down below are in an unbridled, raw state,” Pepito interrupted, crossing his arms. “Around father or myself, there is no threat of any demons accidentally escaping; however, around humans, it is an entirely different matter. Anything can set them off, as long as a human is present.”

Todd gulped, pooling his hands in his lap. Oh man, he really did mess up big time.

Pepito reached over and stuck out his hands, motioning for Todd to grip on, and when the human latched on, Pepito brought them both back on the edge of the bed. The human sullenly looked up, still muddled with guilt and shame, and settled eyes on Pepito who was staring at him with a mischievous grin.

“It is embarrassingly easy for a human to summon a demon,” Pepito lilted, disentangling his fingers and placing his thumb on the jut of Todd's chin. Before Todd could question him, Pepito quickly leaned in and planted a brief kiss upon the human's lips, and then stood up from the bed.

Bueno, I have an idea,” Pepito piped up. He rounded upon Todd, clasping his hands in front of him with an excited tremor. “Perhaps this situation is not all bad.”

Todd didn't like Pepito's tone of voice, nor the implications behind what he just said.

Pobrecito, ven, limpie tu cara or else mother will scream when she sees you,” Pepito said through a raspy laugh, and tugged Todd along to the bathroom.