“And that was when Father Carrick banished the devil from that place and trapped him inside the stone. To this day you can see the print in the rock where the devil’s foot touched down.”
Mike and Jason stood against the garden fence. The younger children were gathered on the porch to hear the spooky tale that was pulled out and dusted off each October.
“Come on, Gramp. You’re not still telling that ol’ tale, are you?” Mike had heard it every year since he was seven. After ten years it was getting tired.
“It’s a crowd pleaser.” The old man winked at the wide eyed youngsters and turned to the two older boys. “And besides that, it’s a true story. You can look it up yourself.”
“Looking through books, trying to separate the facts from the superstition? Sounds too much like homework to me.” Mike grinned at his grandfather, to show he meant no harm.
Gramps waved the boys away. “Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Now get out of here you two scallywags. You’re ruining story time.” He rubbed his hands together and turned back to his audience. “Over the years the stone has worn and cracked. Perhaps one day it will finally break open, and the devil will be free once more, and bring evil to our little town…”
Mike poked Jason and jerked his head in the direction of the road. “I’ve got an idea.”
Dusk was closing in. Long October shadows reached out from houses and trees, and a light wind rattled the remaining leaves. One week before Halloween, and it was a good night for mischief.
“What do you think would happen if that stone was cracked open?” Mike asked.
Jason stuffed his hands deep into his pockets. “Well, for one thing, we’d find out if your Gramp’s story is true.”
“Right. But we’d also have a great set up for a Halloween prank.” Mike opened the gate to his backyard and headed toward the tool shed. “We could tell everyone that devil has escaped and he’s running around the town. The kids will be freaked. They’ll jump at every sound. It’ll be epic!”
The latch on the shed door was rusted. Mike yanked hard and the door creaked open. Jason grabbed a falling rake before it hit his friend in the head.
Mike sorted through the long handled tools stacked inside the door. “The stone could take a hundred years to split on its own, so we’ll help it along.”
“Should we ask your dad before we take his stuff?”
Mike snorted. “Are you kidding? He’ll be glad I’m actually using tools.” He handed Jason a pickaxe and gathered a shovel and crowbar. “We just have to wait until dark.”
By ten o’clock the town was quiet and the roads were empty of all but two boys with a shovel, a pickaxe, and a lantern.
The Devil’s Rock sat right at the edge of the road by the side of an old work shed. The boys held the lantern high to inspect the fissure. Light flickered across the craggy surface, and in the shadows they could plainly see the print of the devil’s cloven hoof.
Now that they were out in the dark, with the cold biting at their faces and hands, and the leaves rattling above, the task didn’t seem as spirited. With each swing of the pickaxe the undertaking became more intense, the effort more concentrated. Jason stopped to wipe the sweat from his brow as Mike jammed his shovel into the deepening crevice and pulled on the handle.
Something skittered through the bushes. Jason jumped and dropped the crowbar with a loud clang. The sound echoed though the quiet harbor. A dog barked somewhere in the distance, then all was quiet again.
Jason took up the crowbar to chip away at the stone. With one more heave on the shovel handle, the rock gave, and a large piece of stone fell away, throwing Mike off balance. Jason quickly dropped the crowbar and grabbed the pickaxe for one more mighty swing.
As the rock split apart, a strong gust of cold wind screamed along the street, pelting the boys with dry leaves and dust. It died off as quickly as it came, and the eerie silence that followed was broken by Mike’s laughter.
“Whooo! What a rush! For a second there I thought the devil was going to pop out of the rock to get us.” He laughed raucously from excitement and relief.
Jason stood staring into the hole created by the split in the rock. The crevice went down into the ground, a dark hollow revealed by their work. Mike stood next to him and held the lantern above the hole.
“Not much room in there,” said Mike. He looked around the street. All was quiet, serene, normal. There was no howling demon, no fire and brimstone, no cloven hoofed devil arriving in a puff of smoke to steal their souls.
Mike shrugged and slapped Jason on the back. “I guess it was just a story.” He picked up the shovel and turned back toward home.
Jason focused on the back of Mike’s head and grinned. “Yes. Just a story,” he said, and swung the pickaxe high.