“I suppose you’re here to collect.”
“I need a favor.”
Expected return. I hadn’t seen Bub in 7 years. Not since I made a deal with him that assured he’d be back to visit one day. That first time he dressed in a crisp white suit. Neck to shoes. All white. Today that suit has lost its crispness and is covered in dirt and a few other substances I can’t identify.
This won’t end well.
“You need a favor?”
“I know this is a little unexpected. Hell, I wasn’t even expecting this, but I’m out of options.”
“What do I get for helping you?”
He held out his hand, a small dancing light rested in his palm. I never saw what it looked like when I gave it to him all those years ago, but I knew exactly what it was.
“What’s the catch?” There’s always a catch with this guy.
“No tricks, no catch, just a sincere request and a promise to give this back to you.”
“I want it back first. And I want this all in writing. Only this time, you sign your name in blood.”
“It will be done. I promise.”
He promises. Last time I heard that, I was younger and more gullible. Bub’s promises should never be taken at face value. I should have known this already, but I was desperate and broke and had my reputation on the line. To paraphrase The Godfather, he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Since then the shine of that offer faded. Life without a soul. Harder than I thought it would be. Now he’s offering to give it back. God knows what he needs me for, but a chance at avoiding damnation makes it tempting.
Of course, temptation brought me here in the first place.
Bub and his promises. Bub, short for Beelzebub. AKA: Lucifer, Satan, Asmodeus, the fucking devil.
Well, you know what they say, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
“It’s not that easy.”
“I’m not trying to trick you, but there is a catch.”
“You said no catch.”
“I lied,” he said, almost apologetically, “after all, I’m the devil. It’s kind of my thing.”
No shit. He lied to me 7 years ago. I have often heard that people find change difficult. This isn’t a person I’m dealing with. Therefore, I’m going with impossible to change. Seven years ago I signed my name in blood on the dotted line. Desperate to achieve something I thought was impossible, I succumbed to the temptation.
To put it lightly, I regret the decision. Deals with Bub are smoke and mirrors. He promises the world, but the deal ends with a Twilight Zone worthy twist. I don’t want to work with him again. Although, I don’t know how I’ll get my soul back otherwise.
“Why don’t you come and explain why you look like burnt toast dipped in shit.”
We stepped into my kitchen. He wearily sat on a stool by my breakfast nook. When I say wearily- it was a weary weighted down by millenia of existence.
“Can I get you something? What do demons drink when they’re feeling down? Vodka, beer, coffee, bleach?”
“Just some iced tea if you have it. I’ve never had alcohol in this condition before. Don’t know what it will do to me.”
He explained that he lost his devilish powers in a coup for the throne of Hell. With it he lost his powers and was rendered human. “A fate worse than death for angels and demons alike,” he explained. Forlorn and in unfamiliar territory, he came to me for assistance. I’m not sure how I can help or if I even want to, but the puppy dog look in his eyes melted me and I figured I could at least say something consoling to him.
“Human, huh? I guess that explains why you look and smell like something wiped their ass with a sweaty armpit.”
“Seriously. You smell like Newark, NJ on a hot Tuesday.”
His face changed quickly from patheticness to annoyance almost instantly. Mission accomplished.
“How were you overthrown? Who could do it?”
“Can you please be serious?” I put on my best serious face. He didn’t seem impressed.
“If I’m translating my Latin correctly,” I said, “Bellum means war or destruction. A demon named war. Kind of on the nose, isn’t it?”
“Connect the dots. Bellum, war. He wasn’t alone. His siblings helped him. Pestis, Famis, and Mortem.”
“You’re talking about the 4 horsemen of the Apocolypse aren’t you?”
“Ding, ding, ding, show the meatbag what he’s one.”
I reminded him that he is a meatbag now too. He jumped out of his seat in anger, fist clenched. He stared at me. I think he was trying to make my head explode. He forgot he lost his powers. A fart escaped him. He spun around in panic. He really doesn’t know how to be human. This will be a fun kind of vengeance.
“You still haven’t explained how I can help. And how you’ll return my soul?” I looked over at the Mason jar we placed the soul in for safe keeping. So much agony for so little a thing.
“I need your skills.”
“I’m an archeologist. What am I supposed to do for you? Dig a tunnel to Hell.”
His silence was deafening.