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Who Knows What Evil Lurks? : We do. Think killer mushrooms. Think crafty spiders. The winning entries in our scary story contest will leave you begging for more. : Speak of This, No More

October 31, 1994|DON YAFFEE | Yaffee, 40, is an accounting manager for FHP. The father of three children, he lives in Cypress with his wife, Lorraine

The steady burning campfire provided the only light that night. The moon was strangely absent from the sky. There were no other campfires to be seen along the stretch of ocean cliffs where we chose to set up camp. We ate, we drank, we sang, and then we began to debate a topic that would forever change our lives.

I don't remember how or why we were discussing the existence of the devil. The subject just came up.

The four of us were in our early 20s, from different backgrounds, who worked together at a popular sandwich and ice cream shop. We treated the subject of the devil in a carefree manner. None of us really understood religion, and that probably cost my best friends their lives.

We challenged each other on how many different names for the devil we could list. We laughed at each other's failed spellings and pronunciations. Beelzebub and Mephistopheles caused the greatest amount of laughter. The memories are fond, but it is fear and uneasiness that I sense as I relive that night.

I did not see from which direction the tall, thin, fragile-looking old man appeared. He was just there. We were not concerned that he had come out of nowhere--it was dark; you couldn't see anything beyond the reach of the fire's light, not even your hand in front of your face. We had been trying to scare each other all night and became indifferent to strange sounds and rustling noises.

The old man stood near the fire in a plain-vested black suit with a black ribbon tie and a wide-brimmed black hat. You could see the reflection of the fire in his vacant eyes. His gnarled, wrinkled, aged hand shook slightly as he pointed his crooked finger at each of us. He spoke in a whisper, "Speak of what you do not know, feel the presence of evil." He turned and walked away.

The old man's visit was no more than an interruption of our lighthearted evening. Every time you go downtown, you hear people shouting or mumbling passages from the Bible, so we did not give this incident a second thought.

It was late when we returned home from our trip. Nevertheless, an impromptu party broke out as our friends got off work and came over to our apartment. We all worked in the restaurant business, so it wasn't unusual for us to be up late. We were telling everyone about our trip and especially about the crazy old man. A loud pounding on the door startled us.

I figured it was the landlord or a neighbor telling us to quiet down. I opened the door and there he was. The old man.

The black suit, the wide-brimmed black hat and the reflection of the fire in his eyes. He pointed that crooked, wrinkled finger at us. He had a look of disgust when he muttered, "Your innocence amuses me. This is final. Speak of this, no more."

Even though the courtyard is well-lighted, he turned and vanished into a patch of darkness. A shadow, I convinced myself.

I have not told this story to anyone since that night. My three friends were not as loyal to the old man's command and retold the story several times. Their lives were extinguished in separate fiery accidents; one in a car, one in a barbecue propane tank explosion, and one when a cigarette set his bed on fire, according to the fire department--even though he didn't smoke.

I have to believe that their deaths were not related to the old man's visit. That is why I have written this account of what happened that night. I must prove to myself once and for all that nothing will happen if I tell our story.

My story is over and my superstition challenged. If my fate is to be an infernal demise, my advice to you from beyond the grave is to heed the old man's words and speak of this, no more.

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