“And now,” grinned the tall stranger sitting across from me in the diner, “just sign on the dotted line at the bottom.”
For just a moment, I hesitated. A little voice in the back of my head insisted that this was a bad idea. Even if he wasn’t the Actual Literal Devil, Satan Himself, the man sitting on the other side of the booth from me looked very imposing. Scary, that was a better word for him. Terrifying, that was even better.
And he wanted my soul. Was willing to give me, Gary Albert of Bumfuck, Wisconsin, a hundred thousand dollars for my soul. Right here and now – he’d already shown me the cash.
The little voice in my head cried out that this was a bad idea. Surely, if he was willing to pay so much for my soul, it was actually important, and I shouldn’t sell it? But that little voice was drowned out by other voices, telling me just how much I could buy for a hundred thousand freaking dollars!
I could turn my whole life around. This was my only option.
I picked up the pen and scrawled my name across the bottom of the incredibly dense legal document that the man had lain in front of me.
Across the table from me, he smiled, spreading his lips far wider than a man ought to be able to do. “Excellent,” he hissed, his tongue flicking out to dart between those teeth. Was it my imagination, or was it forked? “And now, I’ll just take-”
He reached out for me, his fingers crooked like claws – but instead of dragging a beam of light out of my chest, like I’d expected, the fingers just bounced harmlessly off of my shirt.
“Er.” The Devil’s smile vanished. “Maybe it just needs a moment to kick in.”
He reached out again, but once again succeeded only in plucking at my shirt. A little annoyed at being felt up, I grabbed his hand to pull it aside before he could pop a button. This was my only unstained dress shirt left.
But when my hand closed on his wrist, it seemed to somehow slip right through his skin – and something black and slimy flowed up me, wrapping around my arm and sinking into me!
With a scream, I hauled my hand back – but the dark object came with me! It seemed to somehow crawl up my arm, diving into me! With it came a heady rush, much greater than the first time I’d tried cocaine, even wilder than that time when Big Jim threw in some free Oxy with my weed order and I spent the entire weekend splayed out on my couch in bliss. This feeling, as the darkness poured into me, made me feel twenty and in the prime of life again, strong enough to fuck the entire cheerleading team while beating the crap out of their damn football boyfriends, strong enough to get up and punch my old foreman boss in the face for daring to fire me, break his damn nose and then kick him until I felt his ribs snap, lead a revolution, burn the damn town down, find God himself and show him that he couldn’t command me-
“Oh my god,” I gasped out, my eyes rising up to lock onto those of the Devil, who looked similarly panicked across from me. “What just happened?”
The tall, dark man opened and closed his mouth a couple times, not producing any sound. “The contract!” he finally managed to get out, snatching it up from the table. “It must be something in-”
His eyes, scrolling down over the dense text, suddenly came to a stop. His whole face went slack, like someone had sucked the life out of it. “That bastard of a lawyer,” he whispered. “I knew I shouldn’t have trusted him.”
“What’s going on?” I asked. My voice sounded like it came from very far away. I felt both alive and overwhelmed, as if I stood on the edge of a knife blade, somehow balancing on the absurdly thin edge.
The Devil looked back at me. “There’s been a mix-up,” he said softly. “Instead of me buying your soul, it seems that I accidentally sold you mine.”
“What?” I couldn’t think. “Is that possible?”
He let out a sharp, bitter laugh. “Evidently. Look at us.”
“What was the price?”
Again, the Devil consulted the contract. “Ah. Eighteen cents. What an asshole.”
Moving of its own volition, my hand dipped itself into my pocket and pulled out a quarter. “Keep the change,” my lips said, as I slid it across to him.
The Devil glared contemptuously down at the quarter, and it melted into a little puddle of molten metal. “I will, of course,” he hissed, “be needing that soul back.”
Instead of answering, however, I just grinned cheekily at him. I felt good, better than I’d felt in years. Even better than the heroin made me feel. In fact, with this power running through my veins, I couldn’t even consider the idea of sullying it with anything as bland as heroin.
“I don’t think so, Lucy,” I said, watching the man prickle at the diminutive name. “See, I now realize my problem before. I didn’t have any purpose. There was nothing to drive me forward.”
The Devil looked ready to put his head in his hands. “And now?” he asked, sounding like he already guessed the answer.
I walked away from the table, stepping outside. I heard the tall man’s footsteps as he followed after me. Out in the parking lot, I tilted my head back, looking up at the dark night sky with its dusting of stars.
“Heaven’s up there, isn’t it?” I asked.
“I mean, up there is a bit of a misnomer,” he started to reply, but I wasn’t really listening.
“And God’s in Heaven, watching over all the suffering that happens, not doing anything to fix it,” I went on, hearing the anger swell in my voice, savoring the unique flavor of this rage. I’d ranted at God before, of course, when I felt the shakes after the injection wore off. I’d cursed his name, railed against him. Maybe that was how the Devil knew to first approach me.
But now… I stretched out my hand, tensed my fingers, and saw flame roar over them. The flames burned brilliantly on my skin, not harming me one iota.
Now, I had the power to do something about it.
“I think,” I said, loving the sound of this idea as it left my head and sprang into existence, “that it’s time we lay siege to Heaven. Time that we take things back from God, start getting our own way around here. Don’t you think, Lucifer? Time for the war to finally finish?”
Behind me, the Devil rolled his eyes. “Every time,” he muttered to himself. “Every time, it’s the first thing they do. Always ‘oh, let’s go to war with Heaven.’ Never creating a new type of pygmy elephant, or a tastier brussels sprout, or anything useful. Always the war with Heaven, every time.”
I didn’t hear him. All I had to do was…
I reached out, and tore a hole in space and time. A portal. “Coming, Lucy?” I called over my shoulder as I stepped through.
“Every time,” the Devil muttered again to himself, but he followed after me, stepping through the portal in the parking lot outside the diner.