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red_water[Reality being what it is, I’m going to write one a week, rather than one a day. As Ray Bradbury apparently said: “write a short story a week, you can’ possibly have 52 terrible stories.” I’m sure it was Bradbury in his Zen of writing book. I know he also said to write four pages a day. Another teacher said that one would find the time – could find the time in any day. However, I’m fighting with a lot of things right now, not the least of which is my own self. So I’m starting with one thing a week – which I may or may not post here depending on their horridness. I know I can do that. I have a goal!]

Prompt from Writing Prompts that Don’t Suck.

Write about a door-to-door salesman who sells souls to demons in hell. (As opposed to demons who live in Hawaii.)

Frank closed his laptop with a sigh. His numbers were really down and he couldn’t put his finger on why. It wasn’t like his product was crap. Far from it, in fact he had gained notoriety for having the purest product ten years running. Thing was, his sales were still down. Way down. This time last year he had a third again what he had now. He needed to pick it up or he’d never be able to afford his trip to Nunavut this year. (When you worked a large portion of your time in hell, you liked to get away to a chiller climate.)

Frank tossed back the last of his drink and prepared for his evening’s work. Today he was in Undervegas, which was usually the best place to sell his product. Pristine souls like the ones he collected were hard to come by in a shifty place like this. He exited the motel, looking dapper in his lime green leisure suit. Gold winked at throat and on his fingers. He headed down main and into one of the hotels that oozed glitterati and demonic funk. At the concierge he smiled at the stick thin hostess behind the counter, who smiled at him with rows of filed teeth.

“Evening Frank, Zel told me he was expecting you. You can go on up. He’s in the penthouse this time.”

“Thanks, Roz,” Frank said an tossed a glittery little rock towards her. She caught it in a taloned hand. “On the house.”

“Thanks, doll,” he heard as he stepped into the elevator.

Strictly speaking, Frank was not a demon. However, being the enterprising soul he was, he was as close as a human could ever get. His extended stays in the underworld had altered his perception of heat, so he did no perspire too much in his lime green suit. However, his client might make him sweat a little. He knocked on the door of the penthouse and entered when he heard Zel bellow for him to do so.

“Frank! My man, how are you doing in this fetid armpit of a city?”

“You know me, Zel. I’m always fantastic.”

“Drink?” The creature before him asked, raising a glass in one tentacle. At Frank’s nod, two more tentacles picked up the decanter and another glass. There was no ice, but Frank welcomed the wetness in his parched mouth.

“So how are things, Zel?”

“Not as fabulous as you might think. Please tell me you have something for me to cheer an old demon up, eh?”

“Only the best!” Frank said and laid his briefcase on the smoked glass coffee table. He forced himself to not look at the faces trapped inside the glass. Inside his briefcase were eight little packages, each filled with a handful of many faceted crystals; concentrated souls of the freshly damned. The demon bent over the briefcase and took a deep breath.

“However do you find such tasty little morsels?” Frank shrugged. It was no accident that he moonlighted as a “movie producer’ on the side.

“How much for the whole lot?” Frank was surprised.

“Seriously? Zel, that’s got to be at least four weeks worth. It ain’t gonna be cheap!”

“Seriously. All my cronies have been complaining that the fresh souls are getting harder and harder to find. It’s like there’s a drought,” Zel said. “You sell all of these to me, I’ll see you get a cut of my profit.”

“You know the standard per soul Zel, you take em all I’ll give you a 5% discount.”

“You drive a hard bargain,” Zel said and offered his one human hand for Frank to shake. Frank closed the briefcase. Zel rang a bell and Frank heard the clatter of insectoid feet on the hardwood floor as the accountant entered, the tie looking ridiculous on the segmented neck. Frank eyeballed the neatly bundled banknotes, initialled the transfer paper and nodded to the accountant who scuttled off.

“So have you heard any rumours about this drought?” Frank asked, getting to his feet.

“Indeed I have,” Zel said, slamming his tumbler down. “It seems the man upstairs has sent one of those meddling winged things to curb our business. Frank nearly choked on his bourbon and coughed for a few moments before he could regain his composure. Zel nodded all of his heads. This explained everything and this would also mark the end of what had been a lucrative business for Frank. If he were ever to hope to miss out on eternity in Zel’s home domain that meant he had to use this opportunity.

“That’s terrible news. This is going to effect my supply.”

“And demand. Most critters around here are afraid to make a purchase else they get caught in the act.”

“Thanks for the info Zel, I owe you one. But right now, I think you’ll agree, I had better get going. If I’m going to keep the channels open I’ve got to do some rearranging.”

“You do that,” Zel said.

Frank didn’t bother to say anything to Roz on his exit. He was sweating in earnest now. If the angel; be it seraphim or nephilim, found him first, he was a goner. He could forget eternity anywhere and he intended to live. But how best to do that? How best to thwart them both? Confess.

Yes, that was it. If he confessed, if he sold out Zel and the others he could trade the info for an afterlife. He didn’t even care where at this point. Oblivion was no choice at all. His palms sweated all over the steering wheel of the trans am as he drove and as he pulled into the driveway of his little bungalow he felt his heart plummet into his feet. He hadn’t left his lights on and light was now spilling from every window and across the shadowed lawn. The Messenger had found him already.

He trudged up the steps. Inside, the angel was seated in his favourite recliner. Honey Boo Boo was on the screen and the creature was chucking to itself.

“Humans are such odd creatures, are they not?”

Frank swallowed as the angel turned his gaze towards him. The angel’s entire body glowed and Frank’s eyes watered. He undid the button on his shirt and waited.

“You’re nervous,” the angel observed. “You must know why I am here.”

Frank gave a little nod.

“I will give you a choice.”

Again Frank nodded.

“You will give up all your connections and schemes. If you do this, I will put in a recommendation with the almighty provided that you change your ways. If you do not, then I will have no choice but to offer the nether regions of hell for your eternity.”

“What recommendation?”

“Oblivion. It is the best I can do, under the circumstances. Most would prefer that over eternity in torment.”

“I won’t.”

“Won’t?”

“I’d prefer hell I think, to non existence.”

The angel stared at the little man in the lime green suit.

“Pity,” it said and suddenly the light brightened and then went out. The house was empty except for Frank and the TV. He took a shaky breath and then stepped forward and fell.

And fell.

***

“Morning, Frank,” a familiar voice said and Frank cracked his eyes open to see the many heads of Zel all peering at him. All he could smell was sulphur and char. He sat up. Iron bars blocked he and Zel off from other cells full of other creatures.

“What is this place?”

“Central processing. Looks like we all lost our surface permits.”

“Surface?”

“Yeah, don’tcha know? The man downstairs gave you full demonship when you didn’t sell me out. Course, now you need the proper paperwork to be upside, but we can work all that out in a few centuries, eh?”

Frank looked down only to realise he wasn’t wearing his suit anymore. But he was still lime green. He sighed and damned his fashion sense. Zel only laughed.

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