Horror Suspense Thriller

This story contains sensitive content

Warning: This story references abuse and violence in the abstract. Plus vague descriptions of death.

“The atmosphere is stagnant, and the food is too fattening”- K. Johnson

“The vibe is oppressive and the place is run down”- anonymous 

James read the most recent reviews of Sonny’s Country Kitchen, the restaurant he managed. Both were one-star reviews. There have been a lot of those lately. He knew all the bad reviews came from people just passing through. The locals loved Sonny’s. The problem is he agreed with the most recent review, but a more accurate description of the vibe would be impending doom. 

Sonny’s sits at the corner of Main and Elm streets in the unincorporated community of Twinston, Alabama. “Downtown” Twinston consists of Sonny’s, a corner store, the water board, and a stop sign. With a population of fewer than 100 people, they didn’t need much else. Sonny’s has been a stable presence in Twinston for generations, while other businesses come and go.

The strange thing about Sonny’s is no one knows who the owner is and no one knows who originally opened the restaurant. The locals didn’t mind this, they were just happy they had a local place to congregate. Every Monday night almost everyone met at Sonny’s to socialize and discuss issues that were happening in the community. As the manager of Sonny’s this made James the unofficial town mayor. 

James liked being able to help his community in any way he could. He felt connected to this community in a way that was hard to understand. He’s tried to move away, but he’s always felt a magnetic draw to come back. Five years ago when the management agency sent him the job offer to be the manager of Sonny’s he came back as soon as he could.

It’s 7 pm and just like every Monday night, the locals are starting to fill the dining room. It looks like most of the community will be attending tonight. A chill rushes down James’ spine. That sense of impending doom is growing by the minute. 

Just as everyone is beginning to settle in and quiet down, a man no one has ever seen before walks in. He is a very tall and pale man with an almost forgettable face. His eyes were his most distinguishing feature, they were obsidian in color and looked as though they were made of glass. Something about this man makes James feel like he wants to flee. When James looks around the room, he sees a few others who would like nothing more than to run. Strangely though, all the children are calm.

“Welcome everyone,” James says “ We have a new face among us tonight. Before we address any concerns, would you care to introduce yourself?” 

At first, it didn’t seem like he was going to say anything, but after a moment he stood. In a raspy voice, he answers. 

“My name is Jeremiah”

“Got a last name, Jeremiah?” James questions.

“Just Jeremiah” he replies stubbornly

Deciding he wasn’t going to get any more from Jeremiah, James moves on. Hopefully, they could end early tonight and return to the safety of their homes. The feeling of doom was growing. James could see others were starting to feel it too. 

“Do any of y’all have concerns that need to be addressed tonight?” James asks

“What is being done to get that big pothole filled in on Pine St? I popped another tire this morning.” Paul Jacobs stands to ask

“The county says they will get to it as soon as possible” James answers

“So in other words, nothing” Paul grumbles and everyone nods in agreement. They all knew it was the truth. The county didn’t place priority on unincorporated areas. Yet the county will fine whoever takes matters into their own hands.

“I think Jeremiah should tell us about himself. We should know who is living here” Shelby Morgan demands. She is one of the worst people to deal with in Twinston. If she doesn’t get her way she makes everyone else unhappy too.

“If he doesn’t wish to speak he doesn’t have to,” James warns

“How do we know he’s not a pervert going to prey on our children,” she yells “He's creepy enough.” The lights flicker just a bit and everyone shivers a bit in fear. The air is getting thick making it hard to breathe.

“Leave it be Shelby” Clint Morgan, her husband, demands as he drags her back into her chair. Surprisingly she complies.

Joanne Smith, a kind-hearted woman with no children of her own is the next to speak. “I wanted to ask if anyone would be willing to contribute to help build a rain shelter at the kids’ bus stop. They looked like wet cats the other morning.”

Most everyone agreed to help in some way, whether contributing towards the cost or time. That’s why these meetings were important. After a few more comments and socializing, James decided to call it a night. The atmosphere was almost suffocating. 

“We’ll meet again next week. Be safe on your way home,” James tells everyone. Just as he said this the door slams, the lights dim, and a cold wind rushes through the room. 

“Nobody is going anywhere!” Jeremiah booms. He is now behind James. No one saw him move.

Someone screams “Look at his eyes!”. His eyes are now glowing a fiery orange. He’s not human. 

“What are you?” James stammers, clearly terrified.

“ I am the guardian of the rift and I require payment” Jeremiah commands.

“What sort of payment?” James manages to ask


“You ain’t getting our children” Shelby Morgan screams.

“They are safe from me. You however are not!” Jeremiah moves faster than anyone could blink. His hand grabs Shelby by the throat. His mouth opens wide revealing razor-sharp teeth. Red fog leaves her eyes just before he bites, completely severing her head from her body. Shocked into silence, the rest of the room is too afraid to move. Jeremiah returns to the front of the room to speak. 

“You have one hour to choose which five of you will be sacrificed. Refuse and you all die” he then fades into the shadows.

Complete chaos erupted. Everyone is screaming at each other. The only ones calm enough to focus on the task at hand are James, Joanne, and Clint. Clint looks to be in shock but strangely not upset in the slightest

“I always knew she would mess with the wrong person one day” Clint deadpans.

James knew he needed to restore order quickly. He grabs an iron skillet from the wall and drops it hard. It lands with a loud bang startling everyone to silence.

“We need to solve this. He is serious and won’t hesitate to slaughter us all” he says while pointing at Shelby’s body, driving the point home.

“I have too much to live for to die!” Jason Stewart panicking. He had just graduated college and been hired by a Fortune 500 company. 

James made note of everything he knew about Jason. Jason and his sister were orphaned several years before. He treats his sister horribly and he used her portion of their inheritance to pay for his college, leaving her with nothing. If Joanne hadn’t stepped in Melody would have been left to fend for herself. 

“He’s a selfish waste of space,” Clint says.

“If I could adopt that girl I would. She needs stability. The way he treats that girl is terrible, Robert and Darlene would be ashamed” Joanne adds. “ If the state didn’t send a check to him every month he would have put her out a long time ago”

“He is chosen,” James says in an odd tenor.

“Agreed” Clint and Joanne concur in that same tone.


Unbeknownst to the people above, Jeremiah sat in an underground chamber beneath the restaurant. He could sense every time a sacrifice was decided. James was correct. Jeremiah was not human. He is a demon. His true name Tlglanmr translates to Jeremiah, Guardian of the Rift. 

A rift between the human and demon realms exists in the exact spot where the restaurant occupies. Jeremiah has a sworn duty to keep the horrors from the demon realm from wreaking havoc on the humans. For untold millennia he has guarded the rift, but every so often he needs sacrificial energy to keep the seal from breaking. 

Humans are a great indicator that the seal is holding. When the seal is weakening, humans begin to react to it. Some humans are more easily influenced by the rift’s energy and are more likely to act on their impulses and desires. Those severely affected must be sacrificed to contain that energy. It was decided by Jeremiah and higher-level demons to seal the rift in a place that would be sure to attract humans.

During Prehistoric times nomadic humans gathered here. Access to freshwater was easy and hunting was plentiful. In the precolonial era Native tribes used this place as a meeting point to socialize, trade, and discuss peace treaties with other tribes. As time moved to the present and humans became more advanced, Jeremiah had to do something to keep the humans coming to this location. When non-native humans started to come to the area, Jeremiah built a tavern. Years later that tavern became Sonny’s.

The humans also benefited from this arrangement. They were protected from most natural disasters by the rift’s energy. The area mostly remained a peaceful community with a low population. Violent crime only happened when a human was severely influenced by the rift or when an outsider passed through the area. 

Jeremiah lived a lonely existence for the most part. Every few centuries he took a human mate. Sometimes there were children, sometimes not. His distant descendants still retained enough demonic genes to sense the strength of the rift. Most didn’t live in the area. A few pass through at times, their instincts tell them something isn’t right, hence the one-star reviews the restaurant has gotten lately. A few descendants were drawn to the rift like a moth to a flame. James, Joanne, and Clint were three of those. They are the ones who are choosing the sacrifices. If left up to the pure humans the seal would completely break.


The clock chimes signaling the end of the hour. Jeremiah steps into the shadows moving into the dining room. He stays shielded watching and listening to everything taking place.

“James, are you sure you want to do this?” He hears Joanne ask

“We need a fifth, everyone else has children who need their parents” James explains

“We are going to make enemies tonight,” Clint says, rubbing his eyes.  

Jeremiah steps from the shadows. The first to notice screams alerting the others to his presence. Jeremiah waves his hand and the room falls silent.

“Have you made your choices?” He demands

“No one is being sacrificed!” a voice yells from the back of the room and most of the room murmurs in agreement.

“It’s not your decision. It’s theirs” Jeremiah points to the trio. This is met with loud protests.

“What right do they have to choose for all of us?” Sarah Gillum questions.

“They are my choice” Jeremiah responds

This was too much for Phillip Martin. With a scream, he tries to rush Jeremiah. Before Phillip could reach him, Jeremiah waves his hand and everyone is frozen in place other than the trio. Jeremiah looks at the them and asks.

“He was chosen, why?” James steps forward trembling with every step and responds.

“He is a violent man. He was convicted of gruesome rape and murder. When he was released despite the victim’s family’s protests, he returned to the area and he continues to try to force himself upon others” 

Jeremiah’s eyes begin to burn in that orange color. As he stares into Phillip’s frozen orbs, a red fog pours from Phillip’s eyes into his. The trio could feel a pulse of power and the feeling of doom lessened a little bit. Phillip’s body dropped to the ground. Jeremiah stood still for a while.

“He had other victims. When you leave, call the Sheriff to check the abandoned mine shaft on his property” Jeremiah finally speaks. “ I will unfreeze all of you if you behave yourselves.”

Jeremiah looks around the room, nods, and then waves his hand unfreezing everyone. Those who are not too shocked to move settle into their seats. Jeremiah again looks at the trio, points to Joanne, and asks “Who is your next choice?”

“Jason Stewart” she responds in a whisper. “He mentally abuses and neglects his thirteen-year-old sister”

Jeremiah turns to look around the room. Eyes landing on Jason, he knows that Jason will try to run. He steps through the shadows and pulls him to the front of the room. Jeremiah freezes him before he can make a sound. Before Jeremiah could ask the trio their next choice a young woman steps forward.

“ I chose to be sacrificed,” Jessica Taylor says calmly

“ Your soul is pure, why do you volunteer?” Jeremiah curiously asks. Jessica’s eyes fill with tears and she answers in a trembling voice.

“ I have end-stage ovarian cancer. The doctor’s found it too late to treat. All they can do is make me comfortable while I wait to die.”

Jeremiah takes a step toward her. Taking a deep breath his eyes begin to glow a soothing purple.

“I see,” he says in a gentle voice “You won’t feel any pain”

He holds his hand out for her to grasp. She takes it. When he stares into her eyes a beautiful white light moves from her to him. The trio feels most of the feeling of doom being pushed away. Jeremiah catches Jessica before she falls and gently places her away from the others. He almost looks peaceful. Suddenly he demands

“Melody Stewart, come to me”

Melody was the lone teenager in the restaurant. She was in a trance-like state as she walked to Jeremiah. When she reaches him, he gently takes her hand. He tilts her head so he can look into her eyes.

“Who hurt you, child?” he asks

“My brother and Calvin Jones” she replies in a monotone voice. Calvin Jones was the best friend of the currently frozen Jason Stewart.

“Is he here tonight?” Jeremiah asks the room.

“He lives in Birmingham” Clint States.

Jeremiah nods and takes a step into the shadows. Less than a minute later he emerges from them with a kicking and screaming Calvin.

“They will not hurt you anymore,” Jeremiah tells Melody.

Jeremiah simultaneously lifts both Calvin and Jason by their throats, one in each hand. His eyes begin to glow once again. Black fog pours from both of their eyes into Jeremiah’s. The trio feels the sense of doom completely disappear. Jeremiah tosses both of their bodies to the side.

“Contract fulfilled” Jeremiah and the trio intoned. 

He turns to the trio and addresses Joanne first. 

“Take care of her,” he tells her, nodding at Melody. He then turns to Clint.

“Shelby abused your children when you were away for work. Your first child’s death was not SIDS,” Jeremiah states. Clint nods. He always suspected both but never had proof.

“You three and Clint’s children are the only ones who can retain the memory of tonight,” Jeremiah turns back to Clint. “You must tell them the truth when they can understand, they will believe you even with only vague memories”

He waves his hand and all the bodies disappear except for Jessica’s. He turns to leave but in a rush of adrenaline James didn’t know he had, he grabs the sleeve of Jeremiah’s robe. Jeremiah stops and turns to James.

“Why us?” he asks referring to the trio.

“Simple, you aren’t fully human,” Jeremiah says, disappearing before he could be questioned further.

“Now what?” Clint asks. 

“We help Jessica’s family give her a proper burial and then hope the authorities ignore us like they always do,” James says as he watches the townsfolk leave the restaurant. 


The weeks pass and slowly life in Twinston returns to normal. Every week the town still meets to discuss local problems. The community is still feeling the after-effects of the heinous acts of Phillip Martin. They don’t know the full truth. No one but the trio does. It’s better that way.

James hears the ding of the restaurant’s door signaling a customer has walked in. It’s Clint and in his hand is the local newspaper. 

“Have you read this month’s reviews yet?” Clint asks.

“Not yet why?” James responds. Clint just hands him the paper. James opens the paper and reads. The first is a five-star review. “The atmosphere has improved dramatically. I look forward to eating here again”- K. Johnson. The next few are the typical everyday reviews. The last one caused James to double-take.

“ The staff are attentive and take their duties seriously. I look forward to visiting again soon on a day that’s not as busy” - Jeremiah

April 12, 2022 01:15

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17:58 May 04, 2022

Hi Nicole - I'm back to leave you a critique as requested. I hope this is taken as constructive - I only aim to help... The opening is a strong nod to the prompt, which is always good - I might just suggest that you include a reference to the one star in the reviews themselves, rather than spelling it out for the reader later in the text. It may just be a little smoother that way. All the way through this piece you have a tendency to jump tenses between past and present - it is a bit distracting and leaves me wondering where we are in ti...


Nicole Bolding
03:33 May 05, 2022

Thanks so much. Some of the tenses we're originally how you suggested. It didn't sound right in my head so I changed them. One of my biggest issues is second guessing myself.


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12:50 May 02, 2022

Hi Nicole, I got this in critique circle. It's an interesting story. One thing I would say is that you need to be a bit more careful with your tenses, it jumps around quite a lot and that's quite distracting. I like the idea of a demon and human sacrifice, I do like darker stories. If you'd like me to leave a full critique please let me know by replying to this comment.


Nicole Bolding
03:01 May 03, 2022

Yes I'd love that. Thank you. Anything to help my writing improve.


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