A spooky story: The devil in Breaking New Grounds

Zach Lewis

Sophia took a sip of her medium roast Ethiopian coffee out of an orange ceramic mug inside Breaking New Grounds, a coffee shop on Main Street. She looked at her friends Emily, Sam, Ian and Caleb and asked, “You know why this place is called Breaking New Grounds, right?” Sophia took another sip and all four shook their heads in the universal sign for no as Emily bit into her pistachio muffin, Caleb dipped his apricot scone into his cappuccino and Sam and Ian gently gulped some dark roast java. They were sitting at a high-top table in the front of the café. “Well, it’s foundation was built on top of an ancient native burial ground.” 

“Shut up, no, really?” asked Emily. 

“Fake news,” Sam said. The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip vegan cookies wafted throughout the café. 

“No, it’s true, all of Durham is built up over stolen indigenous people’s land,” Sophia stated as she took her fuzzy beige cashmere sweater off. “Do you feel hot right now?” Sam and Ian took off their UNH hoodies as well. 

“No,” Emily replied. Emily noticed sweat beading on everyone’s forehead like little rain droplets on a seashell. “Does anyone need some water?” Emily asked as she turned around in her seat and pulled a blue Hydro Flask out of her bookbag. When she looked back at Sophia, Emily dropped her bottle. The dark side of Sophia’s two eyes had eclipsed outward as the whites of her stared at Emily. Sam and Ian were drooling blood and Caleb was crying worms. Sophia pointed her fingers that were contorted and twisted like an ancient tree at the large black steel coffee roaster in the front of the store. The machine turns on. Emily turned to face the machine and shouts over the Nirvana song “In Bloom,” “Oh my god! Are you all okay?” 

“Yeah, are you okay?” Sophia’s eyes returned to their natural orbit, “I was just a little hot, that’s why you layer,” she said as she took another sip of coffee. “Also, I was just joking about the name…” Sophia stated as the table started to shake. No drinks spilled. 

“Okay, I wasn’t the only one who noticed that,” Emily said. 

“It was the spirits,” Caleb said with eyes wide. The table shook again. Emily looked under the table and noticed Sam’s legs rocking the table back and forth. Sam looked like if Brad Pitt had a work ethic and took care of his body. Fortunately, he did not let that fact go to his head. He was a humble prankster. 

“Lighten up, I think the pistachio is messing with your head, it’s not like the world is ending,” Sam said. 

“Maybe I’ve had too much caffeine, I could have sworn that Sophia was, and you two were, well, never mind. Do you want the rest of my muffin?” Emily asked no one as she reached down to pick up her dropped Hydro Flask. Ian took a bite and peered around the room. He saw a stack of burlap sacks with the red words “El Conquistador” painted on its front. These bags began to collect and morph into the rough shape of a bipedal entity. A sinister burlap creature that grabbed a short, red-headed barista and shoved her into a sack filled with venomous snakes. 

“Um, guys, what the f***?!” Ian exclaimed as the other four turned around to look at the counter. 

“The barista is collecting roasted coffee beans to grind,” Emily said. They all looked and saw the same barista happily grinding espresso beans to make a latte. “Wait, did you see something weird too?” she asked. 

“Yes, I could have sworn that those coffee bags devoured that barista,” Ian said as he took off his baseball cap to emphasize the seriousness of the situation. “No one else saw that?” he asked. Again, all four shook their heads. Caleb was listening to an Action Bronson song on his earbuds, so his head was already shaking to the rhythm, but, like the others, he hadn’t seen a thing. 

“Maybe we should go guys?” Emily asked. Radiohead’s song “Climbing Up the Walls” began to play on the speakers. They all agreed. Sophia put her sweater in her New Yorker bag, Ian grabbed his hat, Sam swallowed the rest of his joe, Emily put her notebook in her bookbag and Caleb wrapped up his earbuds. Earbuds don’t have wires, but the sentiment is the same. They all looked at each other. 

“I can’t move,” they all said at once. “What?” They asked in unison. Inky black shadows started flowing up the walls. The larger ones burned the walls. The smaller ones turned into spiders. These spiders began to crawl over the five students. The spiders left a trail of yellow slime. The spiders were chanting a noise that one could charitably describe as unpleasant. It sounded like teeth scraping on a car door. A voice is heard off in the distance but it’s more of an echo. The voice got louder. All went black. The voice continued. 

“All that have vanished shall return and those that remain shall forfeit their souls to me,” boomed the disembodied voice. The lights returned. The five students were still in their chairs, but the café was not as it was before. Coffee grounds, muffin tops and coffee cups littered the ground. 

“Hey guys, I can move again,” Emily said. The words pierced through the silence like a knife through a styrofoam Dunkin Donuts coffee cup. 

“Where is everyone, what happened?” Sophia asked. The café was empty. 

“The spider slime was real though, see, I’m super sticky,” Sam said as he started to throw up. “Look away everyone, I’m okay though.” A rustling is heard in the back of Breaking New Grounds as all five run out the door and past the Bank of America ATM on Main Street.  

“The sky is purple,” Ian said. “Watch out!” he screamed as an orange skeleton-demon bit into Caleb’s face as he stabbed a flaming sword through Sophia and Sam’s torsos. The creature cackled as pieces of the moon meteor into the Earth. The warning, although the right thing to do, did not save Ian and Emily’s friends. The two survivors ran toward the Memorial Union Building where an Anti-Doomsday device is kept for just such occasions. 

“I’m glad the university didn’t renew those lecturer contracts so they could afford this device,” Emily said. 

“Totally clutch right now,” Ian said as they made it through the automatic doors. None of the monsters could get through though because automatic doors work on recognition of souls. They ran by the bookstore and into the newsroom. They’re met by the Devil himself, the Devil. 

“Looking for this?” the Devil asked as he held the Anti-Armageddon Device. It’s in the shape of a book because it is a book. 

“You know we are, don’t play dumb,” Emily said. 

“I know, I was just, never mind, ugh… If you don’t want to have fun, I’ll just kill you now,” the Devil said as he looked down at his scaly red hooves. 

“Are your feelings hurt?” Ian asked. 

“No, it’s just …” the Devil trailed off. 

“What is it, you can talk to us, we’re journalists,” Emily said. 

“Well,” the Devil began, “This is a big day for me, so I have a lot of expectations and, well, it’s like you two don’t even want to have fun with it. I mean, you ate the pistachio muffin, you know what that means.” Both Ian and Emily were silent. 

“Um, sure,” Emily said. Sam was right about the muffin… in a way… she thought. “It’s not about the indigenous land?” 

“Of course not. That’s truly awful but I had nothing to do with that. You humans are the worst, but no, it’s about the pistachio muffin, don’t tell me you don’t know about the muffin?” the Devil asked. 

“No, no, we do, we’ll play with you,” Ian said as he motioned Emily to grab the Anti-End-Of-Days device which is now on a table. She slowly inched forward as Ian distracted the Devil with talk about the American political process. 

“It’s gone a bit far in my opinion, and that’s the guy you pick but… Hey, stop that!” the Devil shouted as Emily picked up the book, turned to the first page and recited the magic words to undo all the devastation. 

“Please set the world back to how it was, we (humanity) are truly sorry for everything. Pretty please, with a cherry on top.” She finished reading. “That’s it? That’s dumb.” 

“It’s not dumb!” shouted the Devil. “You’re dumb, you’re all dumb,” he cried as he disappeared. 

“The Devil wasn’t very nice. In fact, he seemed really insecure,” Ian said. 

“Yeah, it’s sad. Anyways, let’s go see if those Gerblins are gone and our friends are still alive.” They headed back into the purple-colored world.