include this line anywhere in your story: “the rouged coals languish long after midnight.”

We set out down the dark road that led from the openess of the bay and marshes, our tires crunching clam shells as we pulled out of Captain Bill’s Seafood parking lot. Led into the confines of the Pine Barrens where the wind howled from all directions. Dead leaves whipped behind us, marking the change in seasons, and the coming of the cold months ahead. We came around the first bend fully surrounded by towering pines and I noticed an incredibly aggressive glow coming from the direction we were heading. “What the fuck do you think that is?” I mutter to Janette.

“Probably just some drunk hicks with a bonfire that’ll could end up burning the woods down later tonight,” she unattentively answers, looking at her iPhone.

“Are you playing that pointless game again?” I ask.

“What?! Do you have a problem with it?” She snaps back.

“I just think it’s rude. It makes me feel like I can’t have a conversation with you because you’re busy with something. Well I’m busy with something too, driving!”

“Fine, I’ll stop playing the fucking game. What do you want to get off your chest? What is so important that we need to talk right now?”

“Well I didn’t have anything particular in mind I guess. Just being able to talk if I had something to say would be nice.”

“God damn it Sam! Why are things always about—” something smashes the windshield. A big something. It runs me off the road it’s got such brut force behind it. The car runs down a ditch and slams to a stop on the opposite side. I can’t really see anything, there’s too much dirt and blood in my face. I didn’t get a look at what smashed into the car, and as I begin rubbing my face with my sleeve I realize there’s nothing on the car, or on our laps.

Jeanette grabs me with both hands, “What the fuck was that Sam? What the fuck happened?”

“I don’t know,” I stammer. “It must have been a buck. It probably rolled over the roof and is back there in the road.”

Both of us are remarkably uninjured besides a few scrapes. The car isn’t too bad off, not accordioned or anything, but not driveable either. We get out and walk up the short ditchside to the road. Jeanette already has triple-A on the phone, “They’ll be here in 30 minutes to an hour.”

“That’s not too bad.”

“Yeah, but it’s cold, and dark.”

I notice the glow of that redneck bonfire about a half mile up the road. “Well they probably saw our lights and heard the crash, so we could go over there and stay warm by their fire while we wait for the tow truck. We’ll be able to see his lights from there easily.”

We start walking down the dark, heavily forested road—the beam of the iPhone shining a small path. Not another car in the road. As we strode closer I still heard no voices, “These guys seem quiet for the hicks we thought they were.” I slip on something but catch myself. Janette immediately moves the iPhone’s beam towards the ground where I slipped. “That deer must have scampered off this way,” I mention as we both realize it is a trail of blood.

“If it was from the deer then why is there just a puddle of blood here and no trail from the car or ahead?” Jeanette questions.

A shriek distinctly not human scorches above us. We jolt our necks to find a black mass flapping heinous wings 30 feet above. As expected, Janette screams. I clinch her hand and drag her towards the fire not too far off. It’s under the shroud of the tall pines. Closer, I notice the fire is slowly dying. The glowing embers are a safety that I know we must reach.

___________________________________

Janette doesn’t stop hyperventilating as we near the fire. “It’s safe here. They’ve probably got guns to protect us from whatever the hell that was,” I try to comfort her.

As we jump off the road and onto the dirt path that opens to the fire we realize no one is tending it. “That’s odd,” I mention. The fire seems to be dying and a few bottles of empty beer are scattered about the site. “Why is no one here Sam?” Janette manages to blurt out.

“They probably just left.”

“Why is there a truck right over there then?” Janette points out the hick-mobile 30 yards from the fire in the other direction from whence we came.

“I’m not sure, I didn’t notice that before.”

Janette is staring straight down. The moonlight leaks through the ozone created by the pines. Another puddle of blood.

“Sam, WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?”

It was getting late. I have no fucking idea what was going on in the woods there. It was getting cold. The rouged coals of the fire languish long after midnight.

A swooping whoosh that rattles the top of the pines passes overhead. It drops something as it’s screech pierces again. A rather large mass crashes through the layers of branches and bashes to the ground a mere 15 feet behind us. It hit the way a body would hit a hard surface.

Janette screams again. I think she’s attempting to match that of the creature and scare it away. “Sam! WHAT THE FUCK?”

“Okay, let’s just keep calm. Whatever it is flying around it’s not overhead at the moment because we can’t hear it whooshing those trees. That thing that fell over there was a body I think though. Whoever it is is dead. Where’s your iPhone? We need to call 9-1-1.”

“I–I don’t know. I–think I dropped it somewhere.”

The light of the fire was dying. “Well my phone is in the wrecked car. I’m going to go get it then.”

Janette is frozen with a shocking indecision. I can see she can’t decide whether to stay alone under the protection of the pines or go into the open air with me. She knows the wrong choice could mean her life—and mine. Her immobility tells me that we’re separating for a few moments.

I start heading back to the road after picking up a suitable bashing stick incase that thing decides to make a move—I was figuring it probably would. That’s why I needed to be quick.

___________________________________

I’m nearly to the road when the whooshing comes back our way. Pine needles shake from the tops of their trees. I freeze in my tracks, “Are you okay Janette?” As I glare back her way.

“It sounded like it was heading towards the road! Don’t go out there!”

I hear a double thud on the pavement and a resounding flap follows. Click-clack. Click-clack. I manage to break free from the shock at the realization of what could be headed my way and sprint back to Janette. A huff of nostrils diffuses the click-clack. Janette’s face is petrified and iced up. Before fully reaching her I do a quick 180. A dark, man-size figure is scuffling, one hind leg after the other. A forked-tail swings into sight. Short arms and a horned-head lead into the dying light of the coals as it’s wings open with a simultaneous screech. The Jersey Devil is alive and well.

I snatch Janette’s arm and blaze a trail deep into the woods. Probably not the smartest option. But putting an immediate distance between us and the Devil is all that matters in the darkness of the Pine Barrens.

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