Dan reaches over to his bag and pulls out his math book. In the front pouch, I notice a small novel with a black cover. “Hey,” I say, nodding my head in the backpack’s direction. “Whatcha reading?”
“Uh, nothing,” he answers, shrugging his shoulders.
I put out my arms and tap my fingers together like a baby grasping at something. “Lemme see it!”
“Nah. It’s really nothing,” he repeats, but he’s unconvincing, and it makes my curiosity burn a hole in my brain.
Kit’s curiosity is piqued as well, so she stands up and moves behind the chair with the backpack. “Now, now,” she sings. “No secrets here, Dan!” She grabs the bag from the chair and pulls out the book. “The Satanic Bible?”
Dan quickly shoots up from the chair, snatches the book away from her, and cradles it to his chest as to hide the cover from us. “Shhhh…” he admonishes as he looks side to side, assessing if my mother was in the vicinity or not.
I hold out my hand again. “What are you reading that for?” I ask. “Give it here.”
Reluctantly, he turns the book over to me, and I examine the cover, the spine, and the back like an investigator studying a piece of crime-scene evidence. Only, I don’t have on rubber gloves. I’ve known about this book. Heard about it. Knew the story of the author, Dr. Anton LaVey, and his Church of Satan. Practically, every youth ministry I had attended had mentioned the evil of this piece of literature at some point in time: If you even look at the book, you can be possessed. Being in its presence alone can have a profound effect on your heavenly soul. Dare not open or read the pages for fear of infiltration by a powerful demonic force. But as I actually hold the book for the first time in my life, I feel … nothing. No fear. No wonder. No spooky taboo. I press the book in my palms trying to feel for any ‘other-worldly’ vibrations or indication that if I open it up I will be damned to hell. But no. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. And more lies and deception from my past teachers come into clear view. “Dude. It’s just a book.”
“Yeah, I know it’s just a book,” he huffs, grabs it from me, and shoves it back into his bag.
The three of us sit back down in silence for a few minutes.
“You okay, man?” Kit asks, concerned.
Clearly, he’s not.
“Where’d you get it?” I ask.
“Why’d you get it?” Kit emphasizes.
Dan looks behind him and scans the kitchen again. Then, he moves his upper body slightly across the table as if to beckon me and Kit to huddle in. We oblige him and he speaks in a soft, hushed tone: “Thomas. This guy from my school. He got the connection with that Ricky kid and the Knights of the Black Circle.”
“The Knights of the Black Circle?” I ask. “What’s that?”
Dan glares at me and holds up his arm revealing the faded black circles drawn up and down his arm, over and over and over. I had thought they were just silly drawings borne out of boredom, but…
“They wanted him to read the book and know some stuff before they accepted him,” he continues. “Thomas said he could probably get me in, too, and told me what passages to study and shit.”
Kit’s pretty eyes widen, and her bangs touch her eyelashes again. “He knows the Acid King?”
A sneer forms on Dan’s lips and he nods. “Uh huh.”
“Wait,” I protest. “What are you talking about? Who are the Knights of the Black Circle?
What’s an Acid King?”
“The Knights…” Dan explains, “they’re a group. Local. They do stuff. They know stuff.”