Mis-Filing has serious consequences . . . Part I

Callador, Minor Arch-Angel (3rd class), was stressed.  And it showed.

As the angel hurried through the streets of downtown, weaving his way through the throngs of people huddled under their umbrellas and coats, his halo occasionally flickered briefly into existence like a failing lightbulb.  The few mortals who had managed to find shelter, staring bleakly out into the rain from bus stops and awnings, cast curious glances after him.

Although his wings stayed invisible, several pedestrians felt something soft yet bony brush them aside, spinning them around as he speed-walked past.  Fortunately, none of the other people were looking down as he passed.  They might have realized that the angel was walking on top of the large puddles of water covering the sidewalks and streets.

Despite several angry cries as he pushed through the crowd, Callador’s thoughts were elsewhere.  He was so distracted, he barely even bothered to apologize.  What he was about to do filled him to the brim with distaste, but he could see no other option.  “My back’s against the wall,” he muttered to himself as he turned and entered one of the large hotels, his feet splashing through the deep puddles.

Inside the hotel, the angel made a beeline for the main banquet hall, where a massive party was ensuing.  Small clusters of elegantly dressed men and women wove conversations on the latest trends, filling the air with murmuring.  A string quartet waxed classical in one corner, mainly to provide an acceptable level of background noise.  High class was enjoying itself.

Callador made his way through the crowds, scanning the faces as he searched.  Finally, he spotted his quarry, standing by the back buffet.  He adjusted his course, slowing as he drew closer.

“I need to talk to you,” he said once he was at the other man’s shoulder.

The other fellow turned to face him, one hand still clutching half a dozen jumbo shrimp.  “Well, hello there!” he exclaimed through a full mouth.  “Not quite dressed for the occasion, are we?”

Glancing down, Callador realized that he was still wrapped up in an overcoat, bundled up against the cold outside.  As the man slurped cocktail sauce from fat fingers, the angel snapped his own, transforming his clothes into a full tuxedo.  He reached up and checked his bow tie – it was always summoned perfectly, impeccably crisp and straight, but Callador felt that checking it was still necessary.  The other man didn’t appear unduly impressed.

“There, now I fit in at your little party here,” Callador hissed, as the man crammed another shrimp into his mouth.  “Now, will you stop eating and help me here?”

Leering at the angel, the man finally swallowed his mouthful of food.  “Okay, what?” he asked, once he could talk again.  “Something’s gotta be up, to get a mighty archangel down here bothering a little devil like me.”

“Salamon, argh-” the angel’s hands almost reflexively rose into clenching motions as he glared at the impudent little minion of Hell, but he forced himself to remain calm.  “Look.  Have you noticed the weather outside?”

Salamon shrugged, scooping up another handful of shrimp.  “Yeah, it’s been pretty wet the last few days,” he said.  “Listen, you have to try these things.  All the hippies are claiming genetic engineering is bad, but super-jumbo shrimp are totally worth the risk.”

“Yeah, it’s been more than just wet the last few days!” Callador persisted.  “It’s flooding, Salamon!  Flooding!  As in ‘break out the ark’ flooding!”

Finally, the devil looked up from the buffet.  “Wait, seriously?” he asked.  “Wasn’t that all done with forever ago?  I thought we had some sort of covenant thing?”

“We did, yes.”  To Salamon’s utter surprise, the angel actually looked embarrassed.  “Written out on stone tablets and everything.  We just seem to have, er, misplaced them for the moment.”

The devil was now staring, open-mouthed, at the angel.  “What!?” he exploded.  “You lost them?  And now you can’t stop this whole place from flooding?  Man, you, you, bureaucrats!”  He spat out the word like a curse.

Callador held up his hands defensively.  “Wait, I know how to fix this!  It’s okay!  I just need your help for a little bit of it.  Some of it may be, um, ever so slightly outside the lines.”

Salamon sighed.  He should have guessed, the moment he laid eyes on the angel.  “So you need me to come along, be the fall guy.  I see how things are.”

“Well . . . ” the angel trailed off.

“No, it’s okay.  Give me one second, here.”  Salamon scooped up a double handful of the shrimp from the buffet and slid them into the pocket of his suit jacket.  He reached for another helping, but then paused.  “I suppose if there is a flood, there will at least be plenty of shrimp,” he mused.  He turned to Callador.  “Okay.  Let’s go fix this screw-up of yours.”

The Cave

Author’s note: Taking a break from Outworld for an update, going back to good ol’ fantasy instead!  If you like Outworld, let me know – there’s more in the works!

The man squatted on the balls of his feet, gazing at the dark opening in front of him. He held the pose easily, occasionally rocking back and forth slightly in the warm tropical breezes.

Seagulls squawked in the distance, wheeling in the sky over the beach as they searched for tasty morsels to eat or steal. The beach was surrounded by a dense forest, which gave way further inland to the grassy foothills of a sharp cinder cone of a mountain. At the foot of this mountain, the man squatted among the swaying tall grass. His gaze was locked on the cave ahead.

The man’s meditation was interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps. He did not turn as the sound drew closer, accompanied by the gentle swishing of the reeds as they were brushed aside. Finally, with a clink of metal on metal, the newcomer laboriously lowered himself into an awkward kneel.

“In there, huh?” the newcomer asked. No greetings were exchanged. They had worked together so long that the words were largely unnecessary.

The squatting man nodded. Reaching up, he unshouldered a short bow, unwrapping the oilcloth looped protectively around the string. He lifted a single arrow from the quiver at his waist, running long fingers along the shaft to check for any damage or splitting. Judging it adequate, he nocked it carefully.

With this ritual complete, the squatting man finally glanced over at his compatriot. “Ready?” he asked.

The other man hauled himself to his feet, reaching up over his shoulder. With a grunt, he unsheathed a massive steel greatsword, holding it up on one shoulder like a baseball player at bat. “Ready,” he replied, sidling carefully through the grass towards the cave.

Holding the bow in one hand, the squatting man withdrew a small plastic instrument. He flicked it a few times with his thumb until a small, flickering flame appeared. He held the lighter up to the gauze tip of the arrow until it erupted it into flame.

Once the arrow was alight, the man rose to his feet as he drew back the bow in a single, smooth motion. He sighted in on the dark hole and loosed the arrow. Both men watched it fly into the darkness.

With a whooshing noise, the interior of the cave burst into orange flame. The crackling of the fire was accompanied by a guttural roar.  A dark shadow briefly crossed in front of the deep glow, and then a massive figure came rushing out of the hole in the ground.

Both men were ready. Another arrow pierced deep into the center of the beast’s chest, while the greatsword swung around to cut through the neck as if it was smoke. The howl was cut off suddenly as the lifeless body tumbled to the ground.

The knight readied his sword again. “Another?”

The archer shook his head. “Nope. This one’s a bull male. It would have killed any others.”

[Outworld] Others Are Out There

Author’s Note: Previous Chapter.  Musical Accompaniment.

I stared up at my imminent death, the all-consuming fog of happiness still keeping me paralyzed. All I could see was the dark red of the creature’s maw, surrounded by haphazardly placed fangs. A tiny voice in the back of my head shouted to run, to strike out, to do something, anything, but its cries were ineffectual. The long, twig-like arms, fingers spread and interlocked to form a loose cage, surrounded me and kept me from fleeing, even if I had the willpower to resist.

Suddenly, the creature jerked, once, twice, three times, as loud cracks rang out from behind me. As the body of the monster reeled, some small measure of sanity returned to me. Those sounds – were they gunshots? I railed at my muscles, sluggishly pulling myself to my feet.

Two more reports rang out, the sound seeming to come from the edge of the clearing. This time, I caught sight of the rounds tearing through the bestial creature, leaving splatters of dark ichor across the grass.

I didn’t know how long my protector would stay, or how many shots he had. Turning to face the cage of branched fingers, I swung my foot around and was pleased to see the bars shatter like toothpicks. I kicked several more times, widening the hole and eliciting another roar of pain from the broken monster. The hole was now wide enough for me to duck through, and I wasted no time in escaping the trap. I half-ran, half-stumbled to the edge of the clearing as the last vestiges of the happy fog retreated from my mind.

As I reached the edge of the clearing, I scanned the shadows for my savior. Looking around, I saw one shadow that seemed deeper, more substantial, than the others around it. I stepped forward towards it, but pulled up short when the muzzle of a decidedly-nasty looking automatic weapon emerged to point back at me.

“Don’t move if you value your brains,” came a raspy voice from the shadow. I was more than willing to remain where I stood as a burly, muscular man moved cautiously out of the shadow. He said nothing more, staring at me, rifle still raised to his shoulder. There was little for me to do but stare back, examining the man who would become the closest thing Outworld has to a friend.

I estimated that my mysterious protector was in his late thirties, although his face was obscured by stubble, a black eyepatch, and a filthy-looking handkerchief wrapped around his forehead to hold back a shock of unkempt black hair. He wore a vest of black combat armor, panels wrapped over his hefty shoulders to further add to his bulky appearance. He looked thoroughly imposing, especially with the scowl currently plastered across his features.

“So,” he said at length, biting off the end of the vowel. “Who are you?”

Once again, I strained to remember anything about myself, but once again came up empty. “I don’t know,” I said honestly. The most common phrase in Outworld, it turns out.

“When did you get here?”

“Hold on,” I interjected, momentarily forgetting the situation. “I don’t even know where ‘here’ is!” In response, the man simply adjusted his grip conspicuously on the assault rifle in his arms. My burst of outrage deflated rapidly. “About two days ago,” I added. “I think. The whole day/night cycle seems to be kind of wonky here.”

The man lowered his weapon at this response, and I took the opportunity to grab a quick breath. “A newbie,” he said. I couldn’t tell if the emotion in his voice was disgust, resignation, frustration, or some combination of the three. “Well, allow me to be the first to welcome you,” he said, briefly adopting a false air of jollity.

“Welcome to where?”

The man spread his arms wide, gesturing with the assault rifle at the trees around us. “Outworld,” he said simply. “A whole new world, going on forever, filled with all sorts of wonderful sights and unique creatures, like the one you just met. “ He dropped the act, and spoke the most honest words I have ever heard another human being utter.

“You’re going to hate it here.”

Will he?  Perhaps the next chapter will be revealing . . .

[Outworld] No Longer Alone

Previous Chapter.  And of course, here’s your musical accompaniment for this chapter.

So here I was, trapped in some oversized forest with no idea where or who I was. And what had I brilliantly decided to do?  Start walking away from my only landmark. Brilliant, I know.

I walked for a long time. I couldn’t see the sun, and although there were periods of darkness, they didn’t seem to be the same length. Sometimes the darkness would last for hours, other times it felt like mere minutes. Later on, 

I learned that different places in Outworld have different days. Just another bit of unfamiliarity in this place.

As best I can tell, I walked for about two days before anything changed. There were pools of water here and there at the roots of the massive trees, and my thirst quickly overcame my concerns about disease. The gnawing hunger was slowly growing, but I was able to ignore it.

I was struggling to make my way over the humped roots of an especially large tree when I spotted a small clearing just ahead. Finally, a change in the scenery!  Throwing one leg over the root, I hurried forward.  There was even sunlight entering the clearing through a hole in the trees above!  To my gloom-adjusted eyes, it seemed like a blinding heaven.

Arriving at the edge of the clearing, I paused for a moment before stepping forward into the tall, gently waving grass.  In the middle of the clearing, a figure was sitting atop a large rock.  The light was still overwhelming my eyes, but I squinted to see what details I could.

The figure appeared to be a young girl, clothed in a simple white dress.  Her blonde hair hung in waves, and she was smiling happily.  I guessed that she couldn’t be older than six or seven years.  She was gazing off into the distance, looking towards the far side of the clearing.

I felt a wave of paternal instinct surge through me.  Who had abandoned this girl, this angel, out here in this empty forest?  Who would leave her behind?  As I stepped forward to comfort her, a small part of my mind wondered if I had perhaps been a father, before awaking that first day.  Perhaps that was from where my protective instinct arose.  Sorry, still no answers there.

But that day, I ran forward without concern into that clearing.  My arms were open.  What for?  Haven’t the foggiest idea.  Maybe I was going to sweep her up in a hug, maybe I was going to protect her from all the horrors that I would eventually discover lurking out in Outworld.  But all I knew was that I was happy – no, that the child would make me happy.  That I would only be happy as long as I was with her, that I would do anything to protect her, to keep her happy, even if it meant my own demise.  

As I approached, she turned to smile at me.  Her smile was even brighter than the beams of sunlight.  There was no trace of fear in her expression, only serenity.  For that moment, as we were about to touch, I felt fulfilled.  For that moment, the last moment in a very long time, there was no trace of worry or confusion in my mind.

And then she reared up to strike.

Suddenly, through the haze of brilliant sunlight, she was growing taller, stretching, elongating, unfolding.  The folds of the white dress opened up, and the inside was blood red and lined with bladed fangs.  Her arms grew impossibly long and thin, wrapping around behind me like a cage.  Mind clouded with the fog of happiness, I couldn’t fathom what was happening.  Her mouth stretched, the bottom jaw falling away to reveal a hole, dark and red, reaching out for me . . .

Don’t stop now, go on to the next chapter!

[Outworld] Awakening

Author’s note: I think a lot of stories could use some musical accompaniment, to listen to as you read.  Here’s the song for this story.

There is one activity, I can guarantee you, that every person on earth does immediately after waking up.  That activity is checking their memory – trying to determine how they got there, what they were doing before they fell asleep, and what they need to do now.  Waking up and finding that memory missing, having no knowledge of where you are, how you got there, is one of the scariest feelings I know.

At least, I thought it was scary once upon a time.  I’ve seen much worse since then.  Welcome to Outworld.

I can still remember that first morning, waking up there.  Here.  I couldn’t tell you how long ago it was, though.  Could’ve been a few weeks, more likely a lifetime.  Time and space are funny in Outworld.

I opened my eyes, and for a moment felt the brief sense of confusion that every person feels before they remember where they are.  But that time, for me, that confusion never faded.  At that moment, I couldn’t tell you where I was, couldn’t tell you the date, couldn’t even tell you my name.  I still can’t, for that matter.  There’s still not much I can tell you about myself.

As I sat up and gazed around, still searching my head for something that wasn’t there any longer, if it had been there at all, I realized that I was sitting on an old sailing ship.  Well, half of one, anyway.  The prow of an old three-masted frigate was nestled into the earth at the foot of a massive tree; a god’s knife had cleanly sheared away the back half of the ship.  As I sat up, my movement sent a small barrel tumbling over the edge to land with a thump on the forest floor below.

Nothing made sense.  I climbed awkwardly to my feet.  I was dressed in a set of sturdy work boots, a pair of Levis, and wearing a North Face jacket.  That’s what the labels said, at least.  The canopy of leaves, seemingly miles above my head, tinted the world in shades of green.  For as far as I could see, massive trees reached up into the gloom.  Looking at the nearest of these trunks, I guessed that twenty men could not wrap their arms around its girth.

Well, there were coils of rope still on the decks, and I threw one over the side, lowering myself down to the spongy moss below.  Once my feet were upon the ground, I sat for a while in the penumbra of shadow cast by the ship, trying in vain to remember.  Nothing.  Not even a name.  As I sat, the shadows shifted around me, but I couldn’t tell what time it was.  The sun was obscured by the trees above, and only diffuse shafts of weak light filtered through to the forest floor.

Eventually, there was nothing left to it.  I stood up, stretching my limbs.  What direction?  I turned in a circle, but the woods all looked the same.  Eventually, I decided to head out in the opposite direction of the ship.  I figured maybe I’d find the other half, the stern, wherever it might have been left behind after being sliced in twain.  Just maybe there’d be some answers there.

Looking back now, I shouldn’t have bothered trying to make sense of what had happened.  I’ve learned that there’s darn little sense to be found in this place.  Just when you think you’ve seen the weirdest thing, something worse is waiting around the corner.  But that’s life in Outworld.

Want to read the next chapter?  Here’s the link.

The Exchange, Part I: The Idea!

Author’s note: Listen up, Internet: this idea is MINE.  I’m throwing an intellectual property claim on it right now.  If I find someone has started this bar and isn’t paying me any royalties, I will be furious.

There comes a time in every man’s life when he is confronted by a deep-seated and primal urge.  This desire usually sets in at some age between the late twenties and early forties; the timing is variable, but the strength of the desire is always overwhelmingly strong.

For me, that time came earlier than for most.  I was only just entering my twenty-sixth year of age when I pulled out my phone, dialed my best friend’s number, and spoke those fateful words:

“Dude, we should buy a bar.”

At first, the other end of the line was silent.  Then came: “Are you drunk right now?  Isn’t this a joke from that one show?”

I shook my head, forgetting that he couldn’t see me.  “No, I’m sober!  And serious!  Wouldn’t it be great to have a bar?”

“We don’t know anything about running a bar, though!  And we don’t have a liquor license.  Screw that, we don’t even have a building!”

“Yeah, but I’ve got the best concept for it!” I insisted.  “Listen to this.  We’re going to get one of those big LED stock tickers and run it all the way around the bar, up on the top, okay?”

“Okay . . .”

“The stock ticker will scroll around, showing the prices of drinks.  But we’ll change the prices of drinks up or down every half hour, and the ticker will adjust to show the new prices, and will show them in green or red, with arrows to show whether the price is going down or up.”

There was silence on the phone for a moment.  “Okay, I have to admit that it’s a pretty cool idea,” my friend said.  “But it’s just a gimmick, and it will make things confusing for the staff.”

“Not at all!” I protested.  “First off, we’ll pick the changes for the drink prices ahead of time, and we’ll program them all into the computer at the bar so that it automatically adjusts and always charges the correct price.  And we’ll have the whole thing be themed like the stock market!  Half the TVs will be showing finance channels, we’ll cater to the upscale MBA crowd, and maybe have a competition where people guess at which stocks will show the highest gains the next day, and if they’re right, they get a free drink!”

“You’ve put some thought into this, haven’t you?” my friend asked wryly.

I grinned.  I knew that I had him hooked.  Now to reel him in.  “You haven’t heard the name of the bar yet.”

“Ugh, I’m going to hate myself for asking.  What’s the name of the bar?”

I waited a moment, savoring the words in my mouth.  “The Exchange.”

My friend didn’t say a word.  I knew better than to keep talking, and simply smiled and held my tongue.  “Damn, that’s cool,” he said finally.  “All right, I’m in.  What next?”

Part II coming soon; stay tuned!

To Do

To Do list

1. Figure out dinner plans

2. Do laundry

3. Look up professors

4. Clean dishes

5. Catch up on emails
6. Buy groceries
7. Order more contacts
8. Clean fridge
9. Finish uploading Facebook photos
10. Write more blog posts      11. Send stories to publishers     12. Check up on research paper     13. Email Will about another meeting    14. Find more forks    15. Look up gun safety classes    16. Clean bathroom   17. Work out saturation curve   18. Reimbursements  19. Upgrade bank passwords  20. Practice grad questions 21.Edit novel 22.See sister 23.Automatic investing.24.organize.songs.25.play.guitar.26.date.27.earn.28.sleep….


1. Make a list.

2. Sort list for ease.

3. Sort list for importance.

4. Start.

Flash Fiction Final

“Ready, and, begin!” the teacher intones from the front of the room.

I stare down at the blank paper, pencil in hand.  Ugh!  What sort of person decides that a creative fiction class should have an in-class final?

Okay, I know this.  All we have to do is write a piece of flash fiction.  And we’ve been studying it all semester.  Let’s see here . . .

First, we need to establish setting.  Or maybe characters.  Every author does it differently.  Oh man, that clock is going fast, and I’ve only got a half hour for this test!

Wait a second.  I remember that one strategy is to start in the middle, in the action.  Well, I’m here, panicking, as I’m trying to make it through the spring of my sophomore year.  Summer’s only a few days around the corner, and this final is one of the dwindling number of barriers between me and sweet, balmy, outdoor freedom.

All right, my initial premise is settled – time to add some description to the setting.  Sparing a quick glance up from my paper, I can gaze out across the sea of bent heads.  The halogen lights, hung high above the stadium seats of the cavernous lecture hall, can’t compete with the bright sunlight streaming in through the tiny windows in back.  Now, more than ever, that sunlight calls out to me with a siren song, tempting me from this paper.  But I resist.

I’m sitting about halfway up in the large hall, at what I have deemed the optimal distance from our professor. I’m too far back to be called on for questions, and high enough so that he can’t see whether I’m taking notes or doodling pictures of that pretty girl that sits off to my right.  I’m still close enough to the front, however, to be recognizable as a face in the crowd, to pick up those ever-helpful attendance and participation points.  The know-it-alls sit in front of me, the slackers behind me.

Oh my god, fifteen minutes have gone by already!?  This test is half over already!  I know I have a problem sometimes with time management, but this is ridiculous!

Okay.  Need to write.  Now that I’ve got a setting, some description, I need to add a plot.  Something has to happen.  Or maybe something has already happened, and I fill it in with flashbacks or backstory.  I gaze off, everything blurs, and I see the past as if I’m in a cheesy TV drama.

No, I can’t waste valuable time daydreaming right now!  That pretty girl over on my right is writing really fast.  She’s always got a good idea of what’s going on.  Heather, her name is.  I’ve been working up the courage all semester to go over and say hi, but I haven’t made a move yet.  And I’ve tried, believe me.  So many times I’ve headed for her as soon as the professor calls it a day.  But I always freeze up – I have no witty opener, no million-watt smile to flash.  And what would she, with her curly blonde hair, her sorority shirt, her drawstring bag, see in a guy like me?

Crap.  Seven minutes left.  All right, I’m going to ask out Heather after this test.  I’m going to go up, give her a smile, ask her how it went.  I’ll listen to everything she says, and she’ll see that I really am giving her my full attention.  Coffee will turn into dinner, which will turn into drinks, and I’ll walk her all the way back to her house even though it’s across campus.  I’ll shyly ask for her number, and send her a text saying good night.  She’ll agree to go out again, and I’ll work to plan out the perfect evening.

Of course, you’ll never know if I follow through or not.  That’s the downside to flash fiction; sometimes the resolution at the end is imperfect, whether due to running out of words, not having a fully developed story, or in my case, running out of time.

One minute left.  Heather’s standing up to hand in her paper now.  Looks like I’m done, too.  I know it’s cliche, but I think stories should always end the same way – at least the happy stories.  And I hope this turns out to be a happy story.

The End.

Calcifer on Karma, Part II

Author’s note: Part I can be found here.

Nothing special seemed to be happening at the front counter of the coffee shop.  I looked at my companion again with a quizzical look.  “I don’t see it,” I said.

Calcifer sighed, but explained.  “See that girl in line?  The second one from the front?” he asked, pointing obtrusively.

I nodded, looking the girl over.  She was young, maybe in her early twenties, and had a cute, perky face.  Waves of long, dark brown hair cascaded over her shoulders and down her back.  She was dressed in a leather jacket, denim skirt, and multicolored leggings.  “What about her?” I asked.

The grin stretched from ear to ear on the devil’s face.  “Your boy Danny up there at the counter?  This girl’s his soulmate,” he said triumphantly.  “And he’s about to totally blow it!  A million points, straight down the tube!”

At first, I wanted to confirm that I had just heard, from a supernatural being, that soulmates actually existed.  But there was a more pressing matter at hand.  “He’s going to blow it?” I repeated.

“Oh yeah, big time!” Calcifer guffawed.  “He’s going to chat with her for a minute, and she’s going to just light up his life.  And then she’s going to get her coffee, and he’ll want to go talk with her some more but he can’t leave work, and she’s going to walk out the door and vanish forever.

“And best of all,” he continued, “in that split second before she leaves?  Danny boy’s going to realize that she’s the perfect girl for him, and his heart is going to just break!  I wouldn’t be surprised if he spits in coffees for the rest of the day and kicks a puppy on the way home.  He’s going to lose so many points on this, it will take him years to recover!”

I was aghast.  “That’s horrible!  How can you be enjoying this?”

Calcifer shot a quick glare at me.  He reached up and pulled back the hair on his forehead, revealing two small, nub-like horns.  “Devil, remember?  I thrive on suffering like this,” he said.  “Look, there she goes!”

I turned back to the front to watch the girl step away from the counter, moving down the line to where she would pick up her coffee.  Danny was standing at the register, staring dreamily after her, completely tuning out the words of the next customer.

“It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion,” Calcifer said happily next to me.  “You know that it’s going to be destruction, murder, mayhem, the whole nine yards, but you still are just mesmerized by it.  Beautiful, dark, poetry in motion.”

I glared at him.  “Yeah, but you’re forgetting one thing,” I said.

“What’s that?”

“Me!” I answered.  I stood up and pushed my way towards the front of the line through the crowded shop.  The girl had by now received her coffee, and was making her way towards the door.  I caught a glimpse of Danny’s face, and Calcifer was right: he looked completely, utterly, crushingly heartbroken.  “Danny!” I yelled.

On the second yell, he heard his name, and turned towards me.  I gesticulated wildly towards the door.  “Go after her!” I howled.  “I got the register!  Go!”

He opened his mouth to phrase another question, but I doubled my hand motions.  Finally, apparently deciding that true love was worth the risk of abandoning the $129 in the register, he dashed around the counter and sprinted for the door, dodging around patrons and managing to only spill two drinks.  As I circled the counter, I saw him make it to the door and dash outside.

A few minutes later, Calcifer sidled up to the side of the counter as I was finishing the last of the mob of customers.  A quick glance showed that he was fuming.  “What happened?” I asked.

“He caught up to her, no thanks to you,” grumbled the devil.  “They’ve got a date set for tomorrow.  He picked up five thousand points just for catching up with her, and another ten thousand for totally making her day.  And now she’s off to go give points to a whole bunch of other people who probably don’t deserve it.  The whole thing makes me sick.”

“Well, I’m glad,” I respond.  “It feels good to do a good deed like that.”

“Nah, that’s just your own points talking,” he said.

“My points?”

“You introduced someone to their soulmate!” Calcifer half-shouted at me.  “That’s five thousand for stepping in for a friend, and probably at least a hundred thousand when they get married.  Freaking lottery, that’s what it is.”

Calcifer was still angry as he stomped off to his usual booth in the back of the shop, but I had a smile on my face for the rest of the day.  I was happy to know that, although I regularly consorted with a denizen of Hell, I was still a good person.

Calcifer on Karma, Part I

Author’s note: Yay, another story with one of my favorite demons!  Oops, devil!  Don’t tell him I slipped!

When I arrived at the coffee shop for my shift this morning, I immediately noticed two unusual things.  First, Calcifer had already arrived, and looked surprisingly awake and alert.  Second, he was not sitting at his usual booth in the back of the shop, but was instead perched at a table up front, near the customer line.

Normally, a slight change in a regular’s schedule wouldn’t have thrown me for a loop.  But when that regular is a genuine honest-to-badness devil, I tend to pay more attention.  Giving a slight wave to Danny, behind the counter, to indicate that I would need a few minutes, I pulled up a chair next to the grinning fallen angel.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.  “What are you doing here so early, and up front?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t miss this for the world!” Calcifer chortled in response.  He nodded towards the front counter.  “I’m about to watch someone blow about a million points.  This is going to be hilarious!”

“Hold on,” I broke in, waving my hand in front of Calcifer’s face in a futile effort to get his full attention.  “Points?  What are you talking about?”

Finally, the devil turned to look at me.  “Points,” he repeated.  “You know, the game of life?  How much you’re winning by?”

My confusion must have been obvious.  With a reluctant sigh, the devil turned to face me.  “Look, do you ever compare yourself to other people?” he asked.  “In terms of looks, success, money, education, smarts, whatever.  You don’t need to answer – I know you do.  All humans do it.  They’re determining who’s winning more at life; the winner is the one who has more points.”

“But it’s like that one TV show, right?  The points don’t matter?”

This elicited another laugh.  “What?  Of course they matter!  How else would we measure your success?”

I stared at Calcifer, trying to understand.  “You mean when we die?”

“Yes, of course when you die!” he snapped.  “When you die, you head off to be judged, to determine what happens to you next.  If you’ve got a lot of points, it means that you led a successful life, and you get top pick of the prime real estate.  If you don’t have a lot of points, well, your choices are a lot more limited.”

“I don’t believe this!” I sputtered.  “I thought that you just had to live a good life, and you get into Heaven!”

“And living a good life gets you points!” retorted Calcifer.  “Land a nice steady job?  Couple thousand points, more if you work for a do-gooder company.  Meet your wife?  You just brought a lifetime of happiness to someone, that’s definitely worth some points.  Have kids?  Creating new lives must be worth points, don’t you think?”

I shook my head as I thought about this.  “Okay, it’s a messed up sort of judgement, but it’s still a judgement system of sorts,” I finally conceded.  “But that doesn’t explain what you’re doing up here.”

This brought a grin to the devil’s face.  “Points are important, but you only get them if you succeed,” he said happily.  “If you fail at an opportunity, however, you lose points.  The bigger the missed opportunity, the more points down the drain.  And this is going to be a doozy!”

Part II can be found here!