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Jury Selection

“Don’t have a cow, Lisa!” Jennifer snapped at her roommate as she shouldered open the door to the science club’s pseudo-fraternity house. “You said you wanted to loosen up! Don’t tell me you don’t want to loosen up.”

“Jen, this is the science club’s house. You’ve taken me to a place where grown men play video games and drink too much soda. God, Jen, we’re the only ones within a five mile radius with elevated estrogen levels! Really, the only way I’ll stay here tonight is if these nerds have mixed one illegal substance with another and they’re hiding it in their basement or whatever,” Lisa ranted as she swiped a half empty beer can from the nearest coffee table.

Despite Lisa’s disgust with the house’s inhabitants, Jennifer could agree that the building was certainly odd. According to neighborhood and campus legend, the three-story sagging and creaking shack had been abandoned since it was first built. Twenty years after its construction, a professor driven mad by an experiment gone wrong had gone streaking down the block, locking himself in the attic of the abandoned house. Of course, he never came out, and kids that poked around the building in subsequent years found discarded bolts, shards of glass, and the occasional reptile creeping around the perimeter. Back in her first year, Jennifer heard that the professor collected insects and ate so many of them that he became a giant beetle, forever destined to wander around the third story and its abundant natural lighting. While this rumor gained quite a bit of traction, the most common myth read that the professor was eaten by a giant python that escaped from the zoo, but he never died. Instead, he and the snake morphed to become the legendary basilisk.

“Oh my God, he’s playing fucking Tetris!” Lisa’s nasally voice whined into Jennifer’s ear, arms locked around her neck and breaking her nostalgic spell. “And what’s that? Oh my God, oh my God, it’s Centipede. We have to bounce right now!” she continued in a stage whisper as she sniffed at the various computers set up on the floor and tables.

“Honestly, I’m more of a Ms. Pac-Man gal, myself,” Jennifer joked, darting from beneath Lisa’s tight grip on her shoulders. “Why don’t you go outside for a minute? You can’t catch geek disease in the night air,” she suggested, patting Lisa’s shoulder in mock sympathy.

“News flash, geek disease is airborne. That’s common knowledge. And don’t think you can leave me alone tonight!” Lisa stated defiantly, poking Jennifer in the stomach before tightly interlocking their arms. A short yelp abruptly resounded in Jennifer’s ear as the lights suddenly went out, leaving the first floor in total darkness. The beat of a popular song that had been playing since the girls first entered began to pulse through the walls in earnest, hushing everyone in the house.

“Legend. Myth. Rumor. All traits describing fictitious beasts that don’t follow the rules laid out by the sciences. Half man, half horse. Shapeshifter. Perhaps, a serpent king? In our unearthing, have we summoned the devil himself?” a booming voice crackled through the air, accompanied by the exciting shuffle of feet. “Be aware, this is no average mixer. This is something bigger than all of us, both literally and metaphorically. You have all been gathered here tonight to witness something spectacular, something monumental, something that defies the laws of nature!” the voice continued. The rustling of a tarp mingled with the murmurs and whispers of the crowd surrounding the pair. Ignoring Lisa’s frantic tugging on her sleeve, Jennifer peered between the shoulders of the guests in front of her, who had formed a circle in the living room. Her eyes alit upon a large cage that shuddered erratically in the center of the space. A man in a dark cape twice his size wielded a large cane, which he tapped on top of the cage as he spoke. The crowd behind the pair moved closer to the cage in anticipation, rows of people swaying in time with the music, both crowd and bass line anxiously waiting for the beloved instrumental section.

“Nature has been melded with the unnatural, the mysterious with the known. They say the legends are false? Our peers, our very institution, will mock us no more! It is time for us to wield this weapon of mass destruction. Unleash the basilisk!” the man cried as he moved the megaphone from his mouth and swatted the cage with his cane. Jennifer’s eyes widened as the tarp was lifted to reveal a large, slithering lump on the ground. Enormous fangs and chilling eyes were the only visible objects within the moving mass. Juniper green slits surveyed the room as the creature’s mouth slowly opened and closed to test its range of motion. A slime-like substance slowly dripped onto the ground, burning a hole through the carpet on impact. The cage door appeared to unlock on its own, and the basilisk’s ebony scales fluttered slightly and settled back into its body as it felt the temperature change. The room became colder than ice, but no one dared to move. The monstrous being appeared to be eyeing its victims one by one, tail wrapping through the metal of the cage as it sniffed at the partygoers, finally settling its line of vision on the record player in the corner of the room. The crowd parted in an almost biblical fashion, allowing the scientific discovery to feel its way around the room, tongue gently flickering out to test its surroundings. As the song neared the highly anticipated guitar solo, the basilisk’s head suddenly stood up straight, cocking its head sharply to the side, body rising and becoming rigid.

It was deathly still. The only movement came from the sound waves produced by the spinning vinyl. The basilisk breathed in and out, slowly, steadily. The speaker who had opened the cage raised his arms over his head, mouth opening to shout, when the familiar chord progression of the song’s bridge vibrated through the air, causing the basilisk to whip around and snatch the caped man into its mouth, crushing him in half and swallowing him.

It happened in a blur but everyone knew it was grotesque. The same chords repeated – A, D, E, A – as additional instruments and sound effects were layered into the song. A dark red shadow loomed menacingly outside the house as the basilisk honed in on its next victim, its tongue lashing out rapidly. A shaky breath escaped Jennifer as she whipped around looking for Lisa, who was nowhere to be found, the floorboards creaking in a steady 4/4 rhythm on the second and third floors, almost as if the song had awoken all that was hellish and otherworldly. The thump of feet on the wooden floors accompanied a neon red glow that made its way in through the ceiling cracks and washed over the panicking bodies. The shimmering light illuminated the basilisk’s filmy eyes as its tail moved slightly to puncture the chest of a man inching towards the cage, the cymbals providing a soundtrack for the impaled body as it was flung about like a doll. The survivors leapt over the mutilated bodies strewn on the floor in time with the drums. A shriek pierced the air as the last chorus began to play.

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Ankle boots stepped around the mangled and twisted bodies, bloodied footprints marking Lisa’s path as she wandered through the first floor. The computer screens had gone blood red and several whistling moans emerged from the walls of the house, as if spirits were trapped inside. The record gently scratched, warbling the guitar. All the clocks in the house had stopped, frost curling into the glass and freezing time itself. The partygoers were dead.

As Lisa’s hand ran over the bowed head of the basilisk, of her creation, of the demon that possessed her, she stopped short of a hand she quickly recognized as Jennifer’s. Tilting her head slightly, her soulless black eyes scanned the floor for the rest of Jennifer’s body, which was nowhere to be found. Lisa bent down, golden earrings gently brushing against her neck. As she straightened, her eyes flickered to the detached body part she held, blood slowly dripping between her fingers. The watch on the wrist of Jennifer’s hand read 2:00 AM.

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