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Milton turned and looked at me, pleading silently for me to please bear with him and be patient. I nodded faintly. Milton seemed to be tiring of Virginia as well, but could not quite extricate himself from the situation without feeling a lot of guilt. I decided to try and help him out for once.

"Why are you afraid to walk to your car?" I asked.

"Because it's dark!" she spat at me. Her animal instincts were on the mark. She intuitively knew that I was willing to leave her there without a second glance.

"Well, we'll walk you to your car, then", Milton said.

"Yes, we'll walk you to your car," I agreed, eager to get home to leftover lasagna and my presentation.

"Okay," she agreed.

She gathered her things and we descended from the language building. Milton, still trying to do his best by her, asked, "Are you afraid because it's Halloween?"

Virginia stopped dead in her tracks. "You know," she said mystically, gazing at Milton in a glazed manner.

Milton again looked at me and I shrugged slightly. I had no idea what it was that Milton supposedly knew. Milton tried to cover well and still try to get information from Virginia. He began to walk again, Virginia following him like a kicked dog that had found a kind human to feed it. "You know, Virginia, I think I understand, but you know how these things can be. Tell me what you know and I'll see if it meshes with what I know."

We walked about a hundred yards before she said anything. "The portal," she whispered, finally.

"What?" I asked, wondering if I had misheard her.

"The portal of hell," she said.

"The portal of hell?" Milton asked back, as if verifying.

"Yes, the portal of hell," she murmured ecstatically.

"Where is this portal of hell?" Milton asked.

"Beneath us."

I had heard enough. I was cold, hungry, and entirely too busy to be listening to the ravings of a kook. "Virginia, there is no portal of hell beneath us," I snapped.

Virginia turned and looked at the ground and said, "You're right." Although her voice still had that mystical lilt to it, I was pleased to see that my comment seemed to cause her to return to reality. Maybe that was what she needed all along. She didn't need Milton's soft support, but instead she needed a good kick in the pants.

Then she said, "It's actually south of here."

"What portal of hell?" Milton asked.

"You know full well what it is," Virginia said, her voice rising. She felt we were making fun of her, I'm sure.

"Virginia, Milton knows but I don't. Please explain it to me so I won't be left out of what you guys are talking about."

"There are thirteen portals of hell in the world and one of them lies under Denton...at Beltane and Halloween, horrible things come out of them...horrible monstersŠsome of them look like people, but they aren't..." She paused and looked at Milton for support. He began to nod assiduously and nudged me to do the same. We both stood there, nodding at the strange girl as if she was making perfect sense. "They aren't people," she pleaded with us.

"Have you seen these things?" I asked.

"No, but they speak to me. At first I heard voices too low to be understood, but then later I could hear them more clearly. They were speaking in a language that sounded familiar, but I couldn't understand it. I later figured out that it was Latin, but it was being spoken backwards."

"What do they say to you?" Milton asked.


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