Please vote for the piece you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Apr 24, 2011.
  1. Finhorn - Coup d'État

    2 vote(s)
  2. Buggy - Playtime in Hell

    0 vote(s)
  3. geeksheikhomie - Lake of Fire

    1 vote(s)
  4. Siberith - Mistakes.

    1 vote(s)
  5. nzric - The Tale of Old Jim

    6 vote(s)
  6. Anthony Abruscato - The Red Head with Stunning Legs

    1 vote(s)
  7. Preacher - A girl has needs....

    2 vote(s)
  8. nastyjman - Mister Winters

    1 vote(s)
  9. K.S.A. - The Devil's Own

    0 vote(s)
  10. Taylee91 - Spawn of Sweet Pain

    2 vote(s)
  11. dnsralg - The Angel and Hal

    2 vote(s)
  12. Patrick94 - Devil Pact

    2 vote(s)
  13. -oz - Ibach

    1 vote(s)
  14. Tessie - Devil Pact

    2 vote(s)
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  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England

    Voting Short Story Contest 90: Devil Pact

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Apr 11, 2011.

    Voting Short Story Contest (90) Theme: Devil Pact

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned. No more entries are allowed in this contest.

    Voting will end Sunday 24th April 2011 to give you all a chance to read the entries.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under or over the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone.
  2. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Finhorn - Coup d'État

    “Too long have my only choices been between doing good and doing what I know is right.” – General Harib Grooni, 1976-2009.

    Harib Grooni set his M16 assault rifle with attached “red-dot” sniper scope down on the bistro table of the small apartment. He had been using it to look across the Congo River into the villa where Prime Minister Padrine was entertaining guests.

    “Harib, what do you see?” Frenchi asked.

    “Almost a third of the yard and a few frosted windows. I was hoping for better,” Harib sighed. He thought himself a marksman but it would still be a difficult shot.

    “It’s the best you’re going to get. This apartment is known to your government as a former KGB safe house. It’s taking me a lot of work and expense,” Frenchi emphasized the word expense “to convince your people that the Russians have sent a spy.” He lit a Russian cigarette with a local match then dropped the match on the tile. Frenchi didn’t smoke much anymore but he’d let it burn to leave a smell.

    Harib did not plan to cheat the man. He had a small bag of un-cataloged rough diamonds for a job well done, but not until the job was done. “I will admit that KGB is a good touch. It will still be hard to shoot from here.”

    Frenchi was especially pleased with the KGB angle. If the locals thought that the Russians had sent an unofficial observer they would, out of respect, leave him alone. It would also mean that Frenchi personally could move around in that hushed awe he liked so well.

    “I’ve heard that they’ll be having brunch on that lawn the day after tomorrow. I know that you can kill him, if you have a weapon worthy of a general,” Frenchi said and started to walk the small apartment to spread the smell of smoke.

    “What kind of weapon?”

    “Let me go find one. “I’ll bring it tomorrow. Ah, tomorrow, the day before your glorious revolution. You want me to meet you here?”

    “No, come to my place. That is where I will get ready. It is the hotel across from old capital building.”

    “Padrine’s building?”

    “No the guy before him,” Harib replied.

    “I’ll find it,” Frenchi said. He dropped what was left of the cigarette into half a glass of water and left.

    Fourteen miles up the river, two men tossed a third from a boat into the water. The tossee sank eight feet before floating back towards the surface. He reached buoyancy with part of his suit exposed to air while his head, arms and legs dangled in the slow surface current.

    Issode let it out as a contented sigh. She slept well knowing that Harib was next to her. He was usually angry and often violent but it wasn’t his fault. He was under a lot of stress and she asked stupid questions. He had told her that her questions would get her killed and she didn’t know if it would be by him or someone else. But she didn’t care. Soon he would lead the revolution and become Prime Minister, or maybe King. Then he wouldn’t need his secrets.

    Harib stirred and Issode woke but didn’t move. “Good morning,” he said loudly and kissed her until she kissed him back. There were three sharp raps on the door.

    He got up, in all his glory, and took his genuine pearl handled cowboy pistol from the night stand. Issode pulled the heavy blanket up to cover herself. It was uncomfortable on the warm morning but better than being seen by anyone but Harib.

    At the door a boy, not much younger than her brother, held a rifle and stammered. He was trying to report that nothing had happened during the night without looking Harib in the eye, or anywhere else. Last week Harib had shot one of them for being gay. Issode was still mad at him for that because she had had to stay under the blanket for an hour and a half while Harib paraded any of his men they could find past the body.

    This morning Harib listened to the boy for a moment before cutting him off mid-sentence by closing the door.

    “I need to go,” he said pulling on his pants.

    “Where to?” she asked. She came out from under the blanket to dress herself. He threw his leather and rubber combat boot at her. She knew better than to try and protect herself. Clumps of mud from the day before came lose when it hit her. She picked up the boot and brought it over to him.

    “Clean this place up and wash socks. I’ll be back for supper with Frenchi.”

    Issode heard him and nodded. “I love you,” she whispered.

    “I love you too but I don’t have time for it.” Harib finished putting on his boots then strapped on a holster.

    “You promise? You’re mine because I’m yours?”

    “Fine. Just have this place clean,” he said. Harib put on a shirt but left it unbuttoned and went out into the hall without looking back.

    She could see the boy in the hall peak at her and pretend that he hadn’t. It didn’t really matter to her. She was Harib’s and he was hers, both in essence and often in body. And when he was Prime Minister he would have time to show his love for her.

    Eleven miles away, the tall man continued to float face down as he would for the rest of the day. He wore an English-made suit with three buttons on the jacket and a wallet in the breast pocket. The wallet held several identification cards including a number of foreign press badges.

    He would drift more or less down the center of the river. In the late afternoon a group of fishermen spotted him and recognize him for the corpse that he was. They chose not to get involved.

    With a black box on his back Frenchi opened the door to Harib’s apartment building and was met by two youth with handguns tucked into their pants.

    “Watcha want?” the closest one asked.

    “Harib sent for me. Is he back yet?”

    “Who’s asking?”

    “Frenchi the Russian spy. Just shut up and tell him I’m here.”

    The second one glared at him and shoved his hand into his pants next to the gun, then nodded to the first. Frenchi smiled his biggest for the first man and pointed up the stairs. Smiling was important when he sold guns and bought souls.

    After a few moments the first guy returned following Harib.

    “Frenchi my friend,” Harib smiled. “I am so glad that you have come. Is that my gun on your back?”

    “It is. Thought that I was going to have to give you something else but I found this tucked in the back of my warehouse.”

    “You have a warehouse here in the Congo?”

    Frenchi grinned at Harib then reached out and grabbed the man firmly by the shoulder. “It’s just a small room I rent. I didn’t know this one was in there because it’s so full of weapons I haven’t sold you yet.”

    Harib laughed. “Let us go upstairs then. I have had both snake and duck prepared and Issode has been cleaning all day.”

    Several boys spotted the drifting body. He was bobbing up and down with the swells of the river. They threw small rocks at him as he spun in the current. In life he had worked for powerful people and been important to them. Indignities like this would have been met with summary executions. Now, children threw stones as the fish bit his nose and fingertips. The former VIP had seven more miles to go.

    Issode smiled at Harib as he came back in. She stopped smiling when she saw Frenchi. He was as tall as Harib, but lean. He had dark hair and eyes so brown as to be almost black. For a moment she met them and was lost in his gaze. He turned to look around the room and broke the spell.

    “Nice place, but not as nice as the one you’ll have tomorrow,” Frenchi said. She didn’t think that he meant the first part. The way he did a stutter step on the floor to test the carpet and how he inspected the walls and ceilings she knew that it wasn’t up to his standards.

    Frenchi’s sleeve brushed her bare shoulder as he passed her and swung his bundle down onto the bed. He unpacked a fifty caliber bolt action sniper rifle and one green grenade.

    “What is the grenade for?” Harib asked.

    “Where I’m from, we like to bring a gift the first time we visit someone’s home. What better gift than a grenade for your wife?” Both men laughed as Frenchi handed it to Issode. It was cold and felt heavier to heavy for its size. A wire ring at the top swung betraying the small tremor of her hands.

    “Ha! It is a good custom,” Harib agreed. “But Issode does not need a grenade, she can not fight. I will give it to someone else.”

    Issode blushed and retreated a few unnoticed steps across the room to check on the food. She knew that she wasn’t as strong or as smart as Harib. But still, she had great ideas of how things could and should be. Many of them had come from South Africa and other places women did things that excited her. They also scared her.

    Issode fussed with their dinner till Harib announced they were ready for it.

    She poured two small glasses of sweet smelling liquor for the men then divided the meat onto two plates then stood while they ate. They talked over Harib’s simple plan for the revolution. He would kill the prime minister from across the river. His shooting would be the signal for his men to blow a hole in the front wall and attack the lawn and the house. Then Harib would cross the river to join them. Frenchi said again that it was a good plan.

    Things turned to business and a small bag of diamonds losing Issode’s attention until Frenchi said “Promise me.”

    “I will. My word is good now and will be worth even more tomorrow,” Harib declared.

    Frenchi leaned his chair back to the wall. “So you’ll give me everything if I could guarantee that you make that shot tomorrow?”

    “Frenchi, are you going to do it for me? I have seen you shoot while we were testing the rifles for my men.”

    “Oh, not me,” Frenchi said. He picked the small bag of gems off the table and slipped it into his empty suit pocket. “I just want to know what kind of a man you really are. What would you give if I could guarantee that tomorrow you will kill Prime Minister Padrine and your revolution will succeed?”

    “Is this a trick? Do you know a secret?” Harib frowned.

    “Maybe I do. Promise that I’ll always be in your future and I’ll promise you victory.” Frenchi leaned forward and let his chair drop.

    “Okay. I promise you a place in the new government. As long as I have a future you’ll be in it.” Harib spoke with the authority of one whose word was already law.

    “It’s no secret; I just have what you need.” Frenchi reached into his other pocket and pulled out four large rifle rounds with light blue needles where the bullets should be. “These are depleted uranium rounds. Those are pins of uranium so hard that they’ll punch through an armored car.”

    Harib took one and stared at it.

    “They’re yours. I’ll give them and my rifle to you as a gift. Just remember your promise.”

    The sun broke through the clouds striking the body at the same time it illuminated Frenchi’s safe house window. During the night the body had been caught in the weeds for a few hours before being pushed free by the wake of a passing boat. The turbulent water had spun him face up. Before midmorning the man had become stuck again.

    Harib knocked once on the door to Frenchi’s hideout then entered. Frenchi had pulled the bistro table over to the window and put several sandbags on it.

    “Are you ready General Grooni?” Frenchi asked.

    “Yes.” Harib said getting out the rifle.

    Frenchi lit a cigarette and took a drag. “I’ve missed these. When you’re ready just settle the gun on the sandbags and you’ll have a great angle to shoot down from.”

    Harib nodded and studied the view through the open window. There was no breeze. He risked a look through the weapons scope. Nothing moved except for servants doing the final preparations for the meal. It was going to be a warm, muggy, breezeless day. One perfect for shooting.

    Frenchi finished his cigarette and ground the butt under his heel. “This is what I promised you, right?”

    “Yes. I can make this shot.” Harib got back down from the blind.

    “You will. I’ll see you in a bit.” Frenchi saluted then left.

    For half an hour Harib was alone with his thoughts while preparations finished below and the first group of important people came out onto the grass.

    When the Prime Minister came out, Harib got into position. Harib pulled the bolt back on the rifle revealing the breach. He dropped the first of the armor piercing rounds into it then pushed the bolt forward again.

    Harib took a breath and let it out. With the fleshy tip of his finger on the trigger, he aimed, and squeezed. The rifle sound exploded through the walls but he pulled the bolt back, dropped in a second round, and slammed it closed before the echo faded.

    Looking through the scope he saw the former Prime Minister lying still on the ground. A man ran over to him and hefted the limp body. Harib shot Padrine again. After he reloaded he looked and saw both men were down.

    There was an explosion with smoke and dust that Harib both heard and felt followed by the distant pops of small arms fire. He checked his western pistol and tried to see what was happening across the river taking shots when he could. After a while all he saw were ununiformed troops, his men.

    Harib left the apartment and went to a little boat he had stashed and was startled to see a dead man wedged partway under it. It looked like Frenchi.

    Harib raised his revolver and looked around. Then he put the gun away. The man in the water had obviously been dead for days. He was purple and bloated with fish bites. Still, he resembled Frenchi in build and dress.

    Harib knelt down on the bank and reached into the water to get a hold of the man’s suit coat. He pulled at it just enough to be able to check the breast pocket for diamonds. There were none, but he did find a wallet. Inside there were sever laminated cards. They looked like foreign press passes. A French driver’s license also caught his eye.

    He looked up again. On the far shore his men were celebrating and waiting for him. He waved to them then tucked the wallet into his own pocket. Going around to the other side of the boat he climbed in and started the motor.

    Alone on the river, Harib saw frosted glass being broken out of several of the building widows before shooting started again. He didn’t get his own gun out of its holster but he did see Frenchi walking on the water.

    Frenchi crossed the river’s flow to him. In reality Harib’s unmanned boat was turning sideways and a vicious gun battle was starting between those in the building and those on the lawn. For Harib, time had ended.

    “Congratulations Mr. Prime Minister. You’re revolution is a success.”

    Harib looked at him incredulously. From the several holes in his ghostly chest he could feel and see a bright light leaking out.

    “That’s your soul. Before too long, it’s all that’s going to be left of you.” Frenchi reached out with a cupped hand. “I’d appreciate if you’d just give it to me. You got to kill him, now I get to always be in your future.”

    Harib covered the leaking holes. He hadn’t promised his soul had he? No, just his future. Who owned his soul? Issode must. She had made him promise it would be hers. Harib took a step towards home. When he didn’t sink, he took another, faster, one.

    “I love to watch you run,” Frenchi called after him.

    Harib climbed the river’s bank and sprinted down a street as best he could while keeping both his hands on his chest. Glancing back as he turned a corner he saw Frenchi leisurely walking behind him. The ground seemed to be skipping under the man’s feet, keeping him close without effort on his part.

    Harib passed through a car that didn’t see him crossing the road then set off through walls instead of following the pavement. He got to his building and started up the stairs. With his first step up he passed through the stairs while his momentum carried him forward.

    Frenchi entered through a wall. “Haven’t learned how to climb yet? You’re lucky I suppose. Lots of people just fall through the ground and out into space when they die.”

    Harib concentrated and took a step up. Making his way to his room he pulled at the doorknob by habit, then walked through the door.

    Issode saw him and screamed.

    He stumbled to where she cowered and released his soul to her. In seconds he was gone.

    Issode instinctively held the sphere of light as Harib’s ghost dissipated. Frenchi opened the door.

    “Hi Issode. Can I have that?” he smiled.

    She stood up and shifted her shoulders to straighten her clothing the best she could without using her hands. She knew that somehow she carried Harib. “No. He’s mine.”

    “I’m pretty sure you’re wrong. He traded that ball to me so he could be in charge here. He ran the country for about five minutes until, like his predecessor, he was gunned down.”

    Harib saw the room then his gaze wandered out of the building looking for his body. He already missed its warmth and a feeling, of togetherness, that he never knew he had. Issode gripped him tight to her chest and it was maddening. To touch a body without having one started unscratchable itches in the back of his mind.

    “Come now Issode. You don’t want that old thing. It’s tattered around the edges and it can’t do anything for you. But I can.” He took a casual few steps closer.

    “Like what?” she asked only because it was expected.

    “How about I get you what you wanted yesterday. Harib’s dead so I’ll give you his pearl handled revolver. With it, people will respect you like they respected him. Trust me, I know the others and I know they would rather put you in charge then fight.”

    Harib gave up the search for his body and thought as loud as he could for her not to trust Frenchi.

    Frenchi smiled at him with teeth.

    “And I wouldn’t die. I mean soon.”

    “You have my word that I will not come for you until you’re ready for me. I’m going to like you in charge even better than Harib. Just give him to me.”

    Issode hesitated. “Okay.”
  3. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Buggy - Playtime in Hell

    Three little blurs of color danced through the sparse forest with delight, swinging from the delicate branches of charred trees and landing with squeals of happiness in the piles of ash.

    “Look out below!” called Nan, the blue blur, as she jumped down on top of her purple playmate’s head.

    “Hey!” Shaelynn yelled, holding his scalp. His face crumpled and violet tears began running down his face. “You hurt me!”

    “Oh don’t be such a baby!” Nan said angrily, whacking him over the head with a dead branch. This was the third time Shaelynn had started bawling today, and they’d been out playing barely an hour. If there was anything that Nan hated, it was a sniveling crybaby. He was two whole years older than her, and she didn’t ever cry!

    “Come on, Nan. Be cool,” Rebok said, hopping over and extending to Shaelynn his bright green hand. Shaelynn pulled himself up and stuck his tongue out at Nan. She growled and crouched to tackle him, but stopped at a disapproving glance from her older brother.

    “I’m hungry,” Shaelynn whined as his tears dried. Rebok rolled his eyes.

    “Tag! You’re it!” Rebok called out suddenly, slapping his sister’s back and taking off. She screamed and took after him with a wild smile, and Shaelynn joined a few paces later, forgetting his imagined hunger pangs. Nan caught up with Rebok as the trees cleared and a scorched field opened up.

    “Ha!” she called triumphantly as she smacked him and ran past. Rebok swiveled and tagged his purple friend, stomping off through the blackened cornhusks. Shaelynn huffed and heaved towards Nan, who stayed just out of reach, taunting him. Finally, Shaelynn got a suspicious burst of energy and grabbed Nan’s tail just as she thought she had cleared him. She yelped and fell to the ground in surprise.

    “You! You-“ she angrily struggled to get out an insult.

    “Hey guys! Come see this!”

    They turned to where Rebok’s voice was coming from but saw nothing. Nan stood up and brushed off her bare behind before jogging toward her brother’s voice. Shaelynn hung back, watching her. Suddenly she disappeared into the ground.

    “Hey! Wait for me!”

    As he ran over he saw the field had a strange sinkhole, at the bottom of which Nan and Rebok were crouched over something shiny. Soon, all three of them, naked bodies identical except in color, were peering into the shining mysterious thing. It was a pool of water, but they had never seen anything like it. Through its clear, lively depths they could see something moving at the bottom.

    “What is that?” Shaelynn whispered.

    “I don’t know but I touched it before you guys came, and it felt really icky. My hand hurts now,” Rebok warned. Nan tilted her head and leaned her little blue nose in for a closer look. Suddenly she sat straight up.

    “There’s an ugly devil down there!” she said. Her eyes were twinkling with excitement. She reached her hand toward the pool.

    “Nan, don’t – “ Rebok started, but it was to late, Nan’s arm was deep in the pool, her jubilant expression replaced with pain.

    “Ouch! Re, its hurting me!” she cried. Quickly, Rebok took hold of her free arm and jerked her away from the pool. Along with her arm came a strange pinkish grown up, only he had no tail and he was covered in odd cloth, cut to form his body shape. Nan scuttled away and bent to nurse her arm. It had turned a color somehow similar to the ugly thing from the pool.

    The thing itself looked very horrified.

    “What’s going on?” it asked, taking in the desolate lands and the little devils. Suddenly Rebok remembered something his father had told him, about people on the other side, and how it was a devil’s job to bring them over, but only when the time was right.
    “Are you… a hooman?” Rebok asked, his face a mask of solidarity. He saw Shaelynn, frozen behind the hooman.

    “Of course I’m human, what the hell are you?” it said.

    “Nan! You killed it! Oh geez, we are going to be in so much trouble!” Shaelynn whined, having come to the same conclusion as Rebok.

    “Shut up you! This isn’t my fault!” Nan called back. Her arm was returning to its normal blue.

    “Whoa, what do you mean, ‘killed it’? Whose dead?” the human asked nervously.

    “You, dummy,” Nan grouched, walking up to it and kicking it in the shin.


    “Get back in!” she said, pushing it toward the pool. It fell a few steps back but the pool had dried up. The three little devils groaned.

    “So… what now?” the hooman asked. Rebok was somewhat surprised how well it was taking its own demise, but then, what could one expect, it was a hooman, practically an animal. It looked so much like a devil though…

    “Come here guys,” Rebok waved at his purple and blue partners. The three of them huddled up and talked in hushed tones, casting quick glances over their shoulders at the hooman every so often. It took a deep breath and crossed its arms. It’s name was Todd and he had been in the middle of a rather enjoyable TV dinner back on Earth, but he thought if hell was just a burnt up place with troublesome little punks, he could probably do okay here.

    “Okay!” Nan said suddenly, and their group broke up, heading cautiously towards Todd.

    “We’re taking you to see Papa,” Nan said grabbing his hand and tugging him toward the tree line. Todd followed easily, although the thought of a full-grown devil made him a little worried. As they passed between the trees, Nan eventually released him, content that he would follow, and the three of them went dashing around, rocketing through the trees, falling behind, zooming ahead. Todd just followed the general noise.

    Until it fell silent. Todd stopped and looked around. He couldn’t see any of their bright colors. He strained to hear Nan’s cackle, or Shaelynn’s out-of-breath pant. Nothing.

    “You coming?” Rebok said suddenly, popping his head from behind a tree. Todd smiled with relief.


    Nan landed on Todd, having just smashed him over the head with a rock, and set in to him again. Shaelynn raced up with a thick tree limb and began slamming it into the hooman’s squishy, pale body. Rebok slowly walked toward them, his face blank. When the motion stopped he asked, “Is it done?”

    “Yeah!” Nan wheezed, smiling happily as she sprawled across the still body. Shaelynn wiped some of the funny red stuff off his face and dropped his branch.

    “Okay, come here then, both of you.”

    The three devils circled up, their blue, green, and purple heads bumping together.

    “We can’t tell any one about this,” Rebok said firmly. Nan nodded, and Shaelynn murmured his assent.

    “If anyone found out we killed a hooman and then made it sleep, we would be in big trouble. So we have to promise. We have to never tell anyone what happened, ever. Okay?”


    “Nan, do you promise?” Rebok looked in her eyes. She knew he would do anything to protect her. She was the one who killed the stupid thing, and she would never have thought to make it sleep without him. She hung her head.

    “I promise.”

    “Good. Shaelynn, do you promise?”


    Rebok stared at him.

    “Okay! I promise. Geez.”

    “Good.” Rebok straightened up, somewhat relieved.

    “Hang on,” Shaelynn said, “Rebok, do you promise?”

    Nan smacked him on the head. “Oh course he does, dummy!”

    “I do, I promise,” Rebok said grinning.

    “What do we do with the hooman now?”

    The three turned toward the pulpy pink and red pile, crumpled in a mound of cinders.

    “Bury it!”

  4. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    geeksheikhomie - Lake of Fire

    It was a cold night when Andrew found himself sitting at an inner city bus stop. The moon was slightly showing, shining on the stained ground and mounds of trash that blanketed the street. Andrew stared at the tattered rag he had been sleeping on for the past few weeks. It was about this time at night when he would try to fall asleep, as few people dared to venture these streets in the dark.

    Nonetheless, he waited, pondering his unfortunate circumstances. He had left his old life quite a while ago, yet it still hung over him. How could it have possibly come to this? Sleeping on the bench of a bus-stop… The state he was in today would have felt so alien to his old self. That’s all he was now: A shell of his former self.

    His eyes brought him to the old can he carried around with him. “Money please” was written on the front, yet he found the can empty with the exception of a few pebbles placed in there to make it sound like people were actually donating. He knew why no one would. All he needed to do was look in a mirror. The rotten, smelly clothes he wore, torn to fringes were enough to make people run away. His long, unkempt beard was enough to scare even himself.

    A bus then pulled up. Two elderly women walked out of the bus. He shook his cup at them halfheartedly, as they full heartedly ignored him. He looked back down at his cup as the bus pulled away. His eyes slowly began to water.

    That was when a man came walking from behind and sat down next to him. He was far taller then Andrew, about 6’4, and had tall, greasy, gray hair. His face was folded into an insightful grimace, which at first sent chills up Andrews’ spine. Andrew then made slight eye contact with him, before he quickly turned away.

    “Hi Andrew,” he said.

    Andrew practically jumped out of his seat. “How do you know my name?” He asked alarmed.

    The man smiled. “I walk through this area every day. I know you and all of your neighbors.” Andrew groaned and began to walk away. “You were born in Milwaukee to John and Sarah Reese. After attending Gonzaga College, you started a business as a venture capitalist. You were quite successful at it too. It was there you met your wife, Lily. Your life was perfect. But all good things end, right? Lily died in childbirth, and the baby was stillborn. It drove you to drink. And that is how you ended up here,” The man said.

    Andrew turned around and stormed back over to the bench. “What’s your problem? Huh? You just come out here and explain to people while they’re so screwed up?!” He yelled at the man.

    “I’m sorry if I offended you.”

    “You’re damn right you’re sorry!” The man nodded his head. “What’s your name anyway?” Andrew asked.

    “Mr. Gillian,” He replied.

    “No first name?”


    Andrew rolled his eyes. “And I’m the weird one…”

    “You’re not weird,” Gillian said.

    “That’s it! You’re insane. I’m getting out of here!” Andrew said as he grabbed his old rag and walked away.

    “It’s about to rain Andrew. You might want an umbrella.”

    “And how do you suppose I get one of those?” Andrew sighed as he continued to walk away.

    “Well, I’d give you mine if I had one, but let me see if I can do something else,” Gillian told him. Then, in front of Andrews’ eyes, his rag began to shift from side to side and turn black. He threw it to the ground as it continued to swim in infinite loops around itself. Unbelievably, it began to morph into an umbrella. He picked it up, realizing what had just happened. The umbrella was black, with a red streak on each side.

    “H-h-how did you do that?” Andrew asked amazed.

    “Sit down Andrew.”

    He staggered forward in disbelief. “B-but that’s impossible.”

    “I know, right?” Gillian smiled.

    Then, as Andrew sat down, he felt a raindrop on his forehead. He looked up into the air and opened his umbrella, as his eyes were overcome with a confused, yet undying gratitude towards the strange man.
    Andrew could not get anything else out: “A-are you a God?”

    “No, I’m anything but a God,” he said with a smirk. “You’ve been cast into a lake of fire and brimstone Andrew. I want to help get you out,” Mr. Gillian told him.

    “I don’t know if you can help me. I may have dug myself too deep.”

    “There’s no such thing as too deep,” Gillian said as he laid his hand on Andrews’ leg gently. It gave Andrew an addicting chill that steamed through his leg and up into his body.

    “My wife always told me that we are all deeply desperate for help, and we are just too proud to admit it,” Andrew said. “When she died, that desperation wasn’t deep anymore. Does that mean its’ shallow?”

    “Not at all Andrew. You see, I can give you back the life you had ripped away from you.”

    His eyes lit up. “You can?”

    “Yes. But I need something in return.”

    “Of course, anything,” Andrew said.

    “All that I want from you is a promise of loyalty Andrew. I won’t ask you to do anything for me, but I want to know that if I did, you would return the favor I did for you,” Gillian stated.

    “Then that’s that. I promise you my loyalty.”

    “Wonderful,” Gillian smiled. “Go onto that bus, and get off at the stop you normally would. When you do, your entire life will change.” Andrew nodded his head, as if to say thank you as Gillian picked up his briefcase and walked away. “Oh, one more thing Andrew. I need you to promise to wear this coat,” He said, as he handed him an old gray trench coat.

    “Sure, yeah,” Andrew replied.

    “Good luck,” Gillian said as he disappeared into the darkness.

    Andrew put on the coat and sat back down on the bench, throwing his umbrella to the ground. He often had thought about why he seemed to never have any relief. It now occurred to him that all the relief and help he had been missing had come all at once, and in a greater form than every imaginable. Gillian may not have been God, but he was one in Andrews’ eyes.

    The bus arrived and Andrew began to wonder what it would feel like when his life changed. Would he suddenly feel a rush of satisfaction and happiness, or would he not even remember what had just happened? Would he not feel anything at all, and his life would simply change?

    He then felt something that nearly consumed him: fear. He wanted to leave his current state so horribly, but it was as if a glimpse of fear rushed through his body. It pulled him away from the bus stop, as if it was telling him to take a different path. He almost did not step on the bus, until the thought of what could be began to erase any doubt.

    Many stared at Andrew as he stepped on bus, and for the first time in a long time, he laughed. They had no clue what was going on. In only a couple of minutes, Andrew would be one of them. He would be normal. No one would fear him when he walked through the streets. He would be loved.

    Andrew sat down in the seat, and closed his eyes waiting for his new life to flow through him. A few seconds later, he opened them. Nothing seemed different to him. Was something wrong, or would it just be a different kind of new life? He waited even longer. Still, nothing seemed to feel different.

    He began to panic. Maybe if he stepped off the bus, something would change. That had to be it. He stood up to exit the bus, as he noticed the faces still glaring at him. His blood ran cold.

    Stepping out of the bus, he began to feel a chill deep within himself. It was as if something was hanging over him; as if there was a catch in the promises Mr. Gillian had made. Andrew scanned the street looking for something, anything different. Before he knew it, his eyes were drawn towards a man.

    It was Gillian. Again. But this time, he was dressed in uniform as a police officer. His hair was shorter, his body was slimmer and his eyes flashed with brightness that Andrew had not seen only minutes before. Around him, stood three other police officers, a man and a woman. They were chatting, as Gillians’ eyes met Andrews. Gillian whispered something to his partners who turned around.

    Andrew considered running, but something kept him there, frozen. The officers’ walked towards him. “Sir, are you all right?” the woman asked.

    “Yeah, I’m fine,” Andrew said, shell-shocked.

    “Your coat is bloody,” Gillian pointed out.

    Andrew hadn’t noticed, but the coat he had been handed moments before had been covered in fresh bloodstains. “B-but you gave it to me,” he said.

    “Delusional,” Gillian said reaching for the coat as the other officers nodded their heads.

    “Wait, isn’t that the coat from the Melovsky case?” The other officer asked frantically.

    The woman’s eyes widened. “I think it is.”

    “How did she describe the man?” Gillian asked.

    “She said he was about 5’11, clearly homeless, with an unkempt beard,” The man answered. “She also added he was delusional.”

    “Where were you today?” the woman asked Andrew with an intensity shooting out of her eyes.

    “With him,” Andrew replied, pointing at Gillian.

    The three of them gave an affirming glance to one another. “You’re under arrest for murder in the first degree,” the man trailed on.

    Andrew fought back as tears began to roll down his face. “What about loyalty Gillian? Remember, I took an oath! You promised to change my life! You promised me my old life back! Remember?!” Andrew screamed.

    Gillian grabbed Andrew and held him against a wall, helping the other officer take control. Then, he subtly whispered something into Andrews’ ear: “Loyalty isn’t a two-way street…”

    “Take him away,” Gillian said at full volume. “He better be ready to go to hell.”
  5. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Siberith - Mistakes.

    It twas a very dark night, although this is the typical scene of something dreadful about to happen, Mark didn't see it that way at all.

    Mark Braham, a 21 year old man who had his whole life ahead of him. At the age of 14 he was already star running back for his Varisty football team and gave there school a back to back to back to back state championship. Scouts around the nation wanted him, he already signed to Ohio State University, but ended up doing the number one thing you should never do as an Athlete. He started Partying. He was up all night everynight, getting hammered or high as airplanes. People started to notice his lack in sports and school, therefor people were more curious with him.

    One night, he was found past out in a trash bin outside a local bar. Word got out; and he became the top story for all new cast that day. Which ended his football career.

    Now, Mark sits on an old busway bench looking into the distance of the night with guilt covering him like a thick blanket, and thinking what he could of done in his life to make it all better. When sitting there, a man came up beside him. The man's face was hard to identfy, but he wore an old leather type cowboy hat, a brown leather trench coat that seemed to go all the way down to his feet, he wore very faded striped kackies, and a nice pair of black shoes.

    Mark glanced over at him for a second and quickly looked back into the distance of what he once was seeing. The man stared straight ahead the whole time as well. What seemed to be hours of silence as they sat there, the man sighed, which made Mark jump not realizing how quiet it actually was out there in the middle of the night.

    The man, still staring straight into the night, said in a very deep, almost demon-like voice. "So Mark, life's not turning out as you planned, has it?"

    Mark looked over and replied, "What?"

    The man still stared out into the night. "Drugs and Alchohol can get the worst of you."

    Mark was somewhat irrated with this man, as well as being extremely creeped out. "Man, what the hell is wrong with you?"

    "Oh nothing is wrong with me, its you at what we're focusing on now, so lets talk more about you. Mark, you always were the rowdy type. Always getting into trouble, always being hurtful towards your peers, and somehow always managed out top. Always managed to be the big shot, huh? Well, now look where your at. Remeber that kid Nathan at your school? Such a scrawny weekling wasn't he? Didn't he deserve to get beat up everyday? Well now look at Nathan, scoring a perfect 36 on his ATC, getting a Rhode Scholar, and decided to take control of the ecomnic crisis and ended up becoming one of the most succesful business men in the world as well as becoming one of the most loved men of the world. He even got the Noble Peace Prize. Yes, remeber Nathan? What did you say to him again? That 'you will never become succesful in life?' Oh yeah, I remeber that, and now look at you."

    The whole time the man stared straight ahead.
    Mark, was now almost shivering, "W-Who, are you?"

    From the dim light from the moon you could see a dim expression of a smile, and the man turned his head. He looked like a middle aged man, his eyes were a very dark brown, he was slightly pale and had small black goatee.

    "How about we just find out." He blinked and his eyes turned a deep red. Something then hit Mark and he was knocked unconsious.

    When Mark woke up he was in an empty room, all dark, all silent. Then, a figure appeared walking out of the darkness. It was the man.

    Mark tried to get up and runaway but he then found himself chained up with chains piercing through his hands and feet. It brought incredible pain to move. Mark yelled out, "YOU CRAZY BASTARD! LET ME GO!"

    "There is no use in yelling," the man said, "besides, I'm not here to kill you, I'm here to make a proposition for you."

    "What?" Mark said, already out of breath and in serious pain.

    "Your life could end in a second; look up."

    Mark looked up to notice a huge axe like structure read to come down and chop him in two. He felt like he was becoming a victim of those SAW movies.

    "Just listen to me, and everything will be fine. I can save you, I will save you from this wrecthed life and this trap. You must know, I will always be everywhere, watching and scanning your every move. Don't mess up. You know the gates on Cherry St. right?"

    Mark didn't have a clue what he was talking about, but nodded his head anyways to just realive him of this pain.

    The man backhanded him in a very fierce and painful swoop. "Fool! You must remeber I know everything!"

    "Now, on Cherry St. there is a giant gate which leads to the rich neighborhood that branches from it. Go to the house 4A, its your house now. All Morgage is paid, and all your bills will be paid automatically. Sounds nice, huh?"

    "Very nice" Mark said in a whispering tone.

    "Good, but to enter, you must be at a very high speed; a car will do for you. Find a car, and drive down the road at atleast 80 MPH. This way no securuity cameras or officers could stop you at any moment. Immediately, after you pass the gate, you must jump out of the car; dive out of the car."

    "Ok" Mark said, he would do anything now because the pain was almost unbearable.

    "Oh, and one more clue, the gate always opens everyday on a reguraly check at 4:31 PM. You have one shot, don't screw it up."

    The air started to become heavier to Mark, he began to black out again.

    When Mark regained conscious he was back at the old bus bench. He was now starting to become worried, "was it only a dream?" he thought to himself. He then felt a cold chill which gave him a definet NO.

    Mark then, proceded to the task.

    The time was 12:23 PM. Mark surveyed the area of the street and noticed a woman suddenly parked and opened her door to go pick something up at her Jeweler. He noticed that she left the car keys, he quickly advanced to the door and took the car and drove off. The woman turned around abrutly and tried to chase after him but was completely useless.

    He drove the car down 8 blocks and parked it in a back alleyway and stayed at a local bar for the next 3 hour. At 4:00 PM he went off to find this "Cherry St." He searched all over the town and at 4:23 PM he finally found Cherry St. It was a straight drop hill with tons of civilians and cars. In the distance he saw the big gate. He waited.

    4:30 PM, Mark became very nervous, almost scared. He almost was about to stop, and then that cold chill came over him again and gave him that definet YOU HAVE TO DO IT feeling. So he continued.

    The last minute felt like it took forever, and it practically was, the whole Earth slowed down to him. Finally the clock in the car struck 4:31. The gate started to barely creep open. The cold chill down his spine urged him to go, and Mark floored it.

    He went down the hill dodging civilians, and cars. Barely managing to stay alive.
    65 MPH.. 66 MPH.. 67 MPH. He was gaining extremely high speeds, and although the cars seemed to be cleared the people was not, he ended up barely skidding the side of an old woman in a wheel chair.
    78 MPH.. 79 MPH.. 80 MPH!

    He was right there at the gate, and right when he hit the ledge into going through the gate he quickly opened the door and dived out. Instead of landing in blissfulness, he began to fall in a dark hole, and the more he fell the more he heard screams and the more he felt extreme amounts of heat. He fell, and fell, and finally heard a dark voice which sounded very similar to the man he met on the bus bench but more demonic like.

    "WELCOME TO HELL MARK!" it yelled.

    Mark screamed in terror and cried out, "YOU PROMISED ME YOU WOULD FIX MY LIFE!"

    As Mark desended into the deep pit of fiery death he vaguely heard the man, which he now was conviced was the Devil, "Oh yes, I forgot to tell you one thing.."

    Mark began to burn and the screams became very eerie and loud but he heard the Devil yell out over all of them..

    "I LIED!"
  6. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    nzric - The Tale of Old Jim

    (to be told over a pint of lager in a noisy bar)

    Old Jim Tarrant walked with the devil and he won. He did. The old bugger didn’t know what hit him.

    This is a yarn about a hardcase bloke and the king of sin, so don’t mind my language if I go blimmin and blastin, and cursin and cussin, ‘cause you’re sure as **** got to have a stronger gut than that if you want to hear any tale of the devil.

    Now Jim Tarrant lived in a dusty railside hole called Gaviston, what we folks call an outhouse town ‘cause the only souls there are piss poor and **** outta luck. Jim was more of the former than the latter, but the latter caught him right by the short’n’curlies when the devil knocked on his door one day. It was a right old sight, the devil with his horns and his cape and his tail swishing round and banging the patio door with his pitchfork, and Jim said “righto mate, what can I do for you?”

    “You can invite me in,” the devil said, “I can’t come in if you don’t.”

    And Jim laughed and said “You’ve got some cheek mate, but you’re the devil after all so I can’t blame ya trying. Why would I invite the devil in?”

    “‘Cause I can grant your hearts desires” said the devil, and Jim thought that’s a sales pitch if ever I heard one.

    “Don’t mind if I don’t,” Jim said, “so on your way and don’t bash the camellias on your way out.” And the devil cursed and cussed but he had no choice ‘cause Jim said no.

    But the devil is the devil and he came to Jim’s patio every day after that. Bang, bang, bang with his pitchfork, “Jim, Jim, let me come in mate, I’ll grant you your hearts desires.”

    “And if I tell you to bugger off?”

    “I’ll chase you down and knock your door every day till you make a pact or I drive you crazy.” And Jim knew he would because it was the devil after all.

    So Jim was in a bind and he said to the devil, “Righto, if you won’t give me peace I need to know what I’m getting in for.” The devil agreed and asked what Jim was on about. “I want you to show me some pacts before I tell you my hearts desires.”

    And the devil agreed and Jim got one day of rest with no banging and no scorch marks on the patio. He wrote his hearts desires on a piece of paper and put the paper in an envelope and the envelope on the mantelpiece, then the devil came to his door and Jim went outside to walk with him.

    They walked for years, did Jim Tarrant and the devil. Every day the devil asked for his hearts desires and each day Jim said “I wrote ‘em all down on my mantelpiece but you ain’t shown me what I’m getting in for.”

    So the devil took Jim to the city of Testimony there was an old man whose wife just died. The man made a pact to bring his wife back and the devil was true to his word, but the wife came all rotten and corpse-ish and the man went full-blown crazy. The hospital came and locked him away where the man was always yelling away “let me see my wife again!”.

    Then the devil took Jim to the town of Dedication to a man so poor he couldn’t feed his family. And the devil told the man he could make a pact so the family could eat their fill like hogs every night. But Jim was onto the devil and he went to the man and told him not to take the pact, not just yet. Jim was more stubborn than the man was desperate and he stayed while the man worked and toiled and sweated to put food on the table. Every night the man would wring his hands and Jim would say “just one more day at a time mate” till the rains came back and the crops were good, and the family ate well again.

    And the devil cursed Jim and stamped and strutted but Jim told him alls fair cause the man made his own choice, and they walked again.

    They walked ‘cross continents, and the devil was on the hunt for his game, and he sniffed out a poor mother in the country of Gharm whose child just died. The devil whispered and hinted and “I’ll give ya your baby back” he said, but she yelled at the devil and chased him out with cussin and the evil eye. Jim was impressed and he and the woman got talking and meeting every day for weeks, so sooner than later they were friendlier than ever. But the devil said “Jim we got a deal” and took Jim away before too long, but not before Jim said he didn’t have a ring but he’d be back if it killed him. The devil said “watch what you wish for mate” and Jim shut up and they walked again.

    And they went to the city of Knesis to a lazy man with a thick gut and wide appetites. And the man invited the devil in his house and made the pact without thinking twice. He asked for money and women and food and the devil gave him all that. The devil said to Jim “Now this is the right idea ain’t it” and they watched as the lazy man got bigger and drunker and bedded all the women and bought gaudy toys with his money.

    But Jim made the devil stay to see what the man was getting in for, a deal is a deal after all. Sure as **** the lazy man got tired of his money and trinkets, and jealous of the women, and ill from the food and drunk and when he died early and alone and unhappy everyone agreed he had it coming.

    So Jim said “Right I’ve had enough” and the devil said a deal’s a deal and they walked back to Gaviston.

    When they got to Jim’s door he invited the devil straight in, devil hoofs clicking behind him down the hall and the tail knocking picture frames on the way past. But the devil is a gentleman and left his pitchfork on the patio.

    And Jim got the envelope where inside was six lines on the paper. The devil smacked his lips and rubbed his hands cause the best pacts are the ones from greedy folk.

    Then Jim read the lines to himself and said to the devil “Righto, on your way.”

    “What?!” boomed the devil in his big devil voice. “We had a pact. I will grant your hearts desires.”

    “Well done,” said Jim smoothly, “and you can shove your pact. I’ve had my hearts desires and I don’t need you no more.”

    The devil stamped and torched the furniture but Jim held firm. He held the list in front of him and took a pen from the mantelpiece.

    “One. Travel the world. Damn straight we did, right old holiday it was too.” He struck out the line with the pen.

    The devil cursed and beat the cushions.

    “Two. See true love in the world,” said Jim. The devil said Testimony didn’t count, the wife was dead and rotten and the husband gone full-blown crazy, but Jim said it didn’t make no difference to them for each other did it. Another line gone.

    “Three. Save a good man’s soul, and Dedication was the place I did it.”

    “Four. Find a wife,” Jim said, thinking of his beau in Gharm. The devil said he would never let it happen but Jim said it’s not as if you have any bloody choice in the matter. The pen crossed the line and Jim crossed his heart.

    “Five. Know the value of a hard day’s work.” The devil said the lazy man from Knesis was his own and he was taking him to hell. Jim replied that some people have it coming to them but at least we can all learn a lesson from it.

    The devil showed his teeth and said he’d take Jim down with him anyway. But Jim laughed and said “crap to you, we both know it don’t work that way.”

    So the devil cursed and smoked and fumed, and a great pit opened in the living room and the devil climbed down to hell’s furnace. The pit where the damned souls writhe and cries can be heard echoing through the foul and rancid air. And Jim went to the patio and got the devil’s pitchfork, threw it down the pit and yelled “Now piss off!”. And the pit closed with a pop.

    Then Jim took his pen and crossed the last line that said, “laugh in the face of the devil”, then he opened his bank book. A train and a plane and a train to Gharm costs a lot for someone from Gaviston and he had a devil of a time getting the money, but Jim of course was stubborn and he made it in the end, and both him and his wife agreed that some things are worth the hard slog.

    And I’ll drink to that.
    1 person likes this.
  7. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Anthony Abruscato - The Red Head with Stunning Legs

    Soft piano music filled the room with speckles of murmured words by men in luxurious suits and women in exquisite dresses. The restaurant’s waiting area had visitors jammed from wall to wall with more entering. Rustic double doors barely stopped the bodies from pouring into the street. The maître d’ stood on a stool behind a podium occasionally herding a visitor to a table.

    The double doors opened wide and the crowd parted. Whispers and eyes followed Charlie Moore as he effortlessly approached the podium.

    “Charlie Moore,” said Charlie.

    The maître d’ examined Charlie’s tousled hair and dark sunglasses. “Why yes, sir,” said the maître d’. “Your party is already seated.”

    Charlie removed the sunglasses and looked over his shoulder. The crowd had rejoined as one and stood admiring his tall muscular body. Masculine swagger accented his expensive Spanish suit.

    The maître d’ escorted Charlie down a path between the sea of tables. No one batted an eye. Everyone was entrenched in conversation. This side of the podium held a higher class of people.

    “Your seat, sir,” said the maître d’. His skeletal frame struggled to pull out the empty chair. Charlie sat down. A beautiful woman with bright red hair gazed at him from across the little table. Her black dress clung to her body as though the seamstress sewed around her. A pair of legs known to have caused traffic accidents escaped the bottom of the dress.

    “I thought I was going to have to go looking for you,” said the woman.

    “It’s not my style to stand up a gorgeous woman,” said Charlie. “You haven’t aged a bit.”

    “Membership has its privileges.”

    A ghastly waiter loomed over the table. The dark rings around his eyes and pale skin looked as if death himself sneezed in his food.

    “Are we having any drinks tonight,” said the waiter.

    Charlie responded without a beat. “Bourbon rocks and martini extra dry, extra olives for the lady.”

    The waiter nodded then drifted back to wherever he came.

    “All these years and you still remember,” said the woman.

    Charlie smirked.

    “A single drink then its time to go.” Her tone was firm.

    The smirk disappeared from Charlie’s face. “I don’t think we should do this anymore.”

    The woman laughed.

    “Charlie. Charlie. Charlie. You speak to me as though you have a choice.”

    He slouched in his chair.


    Under the table, Charlie pulled the hammer back on his Colt .45. The tense grip made his knuckles turn white.

    “Ah, I see,” said the woman.

    She removed her lipstick from her purse and added a fresh layer. It was no accident the lipstick matched the fiery hair.

    “What are−,” she stopped short.

    Both were silent as the returning waiter set down the drinks. He nodded then left.

    “What are you doing?” said the woman while pushing an olive into her mouth.

    “I’m walking out of here. I’m never going to see you again,” said Charlie.

    “Is that so?”


    The woman dropped another olive into her mouth.

    “God, I love these olives.”

    “Maybe you wouldn’t be so cavalier if you knew I had a piece pointed at you.”

    “I know. Do you think this is the first time someone pulled a gun on me?”

    “I don’t want to shoot you.”

    “You are not the first person who tried to escape me. There were others. Many of them.”

    “How did it go for them?”

    “The same way. Every time. It’s going to be the same for you.”

    The woman took a big sip from her martini then continued. “I gave you the essence of life−the front seat to an elite lifestyle that only a few are allowed to spectate let alone live. Now you try and renege?”

    “I don’t want to go.”

    “It is your time.”

    Charlie’s eyes shifted from left to right. Sweat started to fall from his chiseled jaw leaving little dark spots on the table.

    “It has been one century, Charlie,” said the woman. “One century since we sat here for the first time. I bestowed upon you limitless possibilities for a payment I wish to collect today. Now!”

    “I will kill you. Right in front of all these people.” Charlie squinted his eyes.

    The woman winked and took another sip from her drink. Charlie could feel the perspiration soaking through his shirt.

    A slight tingle shot through the hand gripping the pistol. The tingle began to grow in intensity. The pistol was getting hotter. The bite from the extreme heat sent signals to Charlie’s brain telling him to let go. He tried to fight it. Letting go of the pistol meant letting go of the upper hand. If he only knew the battle was lost when he walked through the door.

    The smell of burning flesh leaked from under the table. A few of the surrounding patrons twitched their nostrils at the smell but nothing further.

    Conversations continued, drinks were served, and Charlie dropped the gun. He immediately cupped his wounded hand and took deep breaths to refrain from screaming.

    “You are not a child, Charles Moore,” said the woman as she slammed her empty martini glass on the table. “My drink is finished. I’m walking out that door. You can either come with me quietly or−.” She stopped and calmed herself.

    “I’ll go nowhere with you,” said Charlie grinding his teeth.

    A layer of sweat covered his face. The woman with red hair and stunning legs popped the last olive in her mouth.

    “So be it,” she said.

    The woman stood and kissed Charlie on the lips. Charlie turned and watched the mesmerizing hips carry such a beautiful creature out the door.

    He spun around in his seat. No one saw anything. Tears began to roll down his cheeks. Saliva sprayed in all directions as he began to laugh.

    “I did it. I did it,” he said.

    Smitten with his accomplishments, Charlie took a sip of bourbon and let out a sigh of relief. His hand was already feeling better.

    Charlie took one sip after another until the drink was gone. He slammed the empty tumbler on the table but did not let go. Something struck him as odd. His hand looked foreign to him. What was once a strong dark hand was now pale and wrinkly. He began to cough uncontrollably.

    Charlie tried to spring from his chair but his body would not allow it. The crunch of shattering bones overrode the sound of music. He screamed in pain and fell onto the closest table. Hors d'oeuvres and champagne bombarded everyone within the blast radius. Patrons began to crowd around the mishap. Charlie searched the mess on the floor. He grabbed the stainless steel bucket that housed the ice for the champagne. The reflection was unfamiliar. An ancient fossil looked back. His teeth lost their grip and rained down onto the floor. Excruciating pain forced Charlie into a ball.

    The piano music softened and lights began to dim.

    Charlie could see silhouettes leaning over him. One was the ghastly waiter. The cough erupted violently leaving traces of blood on a now oversized Spanish suit. Wrinkle upon wrinkle unfolded where skin was visible. Charlie’s eyes closed completely. The wrinkles on his face were too heavy to hoist up.

    The deathly waiter stood tall and said, “Tell the maître d’ that a table opened up.”
  8. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Preacher - A girl has needs....

    I remember that Marcus had looked as if he was asleep. He was laying against the wall, his head partially in the shadow of the desk where the light from the LED lantern couldn’t reach. In the darkness of that shadow, I couldn’t see the spray of blood that fanned out behind him and climbed the wall, but I knew it was there. He had placed his pistol against his temple and pulled the trigger, right about sundown. His last words had been almost unintelligible, a whispered prayer or maybe just a last curse at that fickle bitch, Fate.
    Selfish bastard.

    Yes, I was angry, and I had good reason. We had started this together and had planned on sticking together until the end, but he gave up. It really was as simple as that, he just gave up. He took the easy way out, leaving me all alone, the last living person in town. I had plenty of supplies, weapon power cells enough to wipe out the whole damn city and enough fuel pellets for the generator to last for ten years, even if the solar panels we had put out were destroyed. Fat lot of good it was going to do me all by myself; you needed backup, a partner or a team to survive.

    Do you know what the word decimate means? It means to kill one in ten. I don’t know what the hell to call what happened to us, to the human race, or if there is even a word to describe the horror. One, out of every thousand people alive last year, is still alive today. One in a thousand.

    The news, while it was still being broadcast, called the plague a bio-mechanical virus. The infected were horrific, at least for a little while. For several hours, as the virus wormed its way into their brains, they would become extremely violent. They would attack anyone near them and their bites would spread the plague. At first, it was a madhouse, the infection spreading like wildfire. Eventually it calmed and the spread slowed, but it never really disappeared. We were forced to hole up, hide out and shoot first.

    Each news outlet, each talking head and government mouthpiece had a different idea, a different scapegoat. The churches almost universally called it the will of God and a judgment against man for toying with God’s creations.

    So that day, in that boarded up house, with just the corpse of my friend to bear witness, I knelt down and I prayed.

    I know, I know, I had always claimed that I was an apathetic agnostic. I said I didn’t know and didn’t really give a damn if there was a God, but I remember thinking that it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot. I hadn’t prayed since Sunday school, so I wasn’t even sure if I was doing it correctly. Hell, I’d never really been involved in religion, beyond my parent’s desultory attempts to get me interested in church when I was a kid. I don’t think they even believed, but it was the seventies and if you were a good parent, you took your kid to church. So, feeling foolish, but desperate enough to give it a shot, I knelt in front of the boarded up windows, the first rays of the morning sun peeking through the spaces between the wooden slats, and I prayed aloud.

    “Lord, I know I have been dismissive about your existence, and if you can really see into my heart, you know that even now I don’t really believe. I am talking to you because I am close to the end and the world is falling apart around me. I suppose it could be part of some big plan, but I find it hard to believe that you would wipe out the whole human race. Even in the bible stories, you left a core of believers behind to start over, like with that Noah guy. Since I am the last living person in this god-forsak...um....flea-bitten town, I can only hope that you have chosen me to be that survivor. Oh, and a sign or something would be awfully nice.”

    I ran out of steam at that point, and added an ‘Amen’ as an afterthought. I remained on my knees for a while longer, trying to appear as pious as I could.

    Yeah, okay, I was a cynical bastard even then, so sue me.

    It was the smell that hit me first, like that of a freshly-struck match, acrid and biting, but familiar and, somehow, comforting. It faded quickly, leaving behind the familiar stink of rotting flesh and the coppery smell of fresh blood, but there was a lingering scent of burning incense. Then I heard a whispering voice, shockingly loud in the silence of the room.

    “Praying to Him? Really? You might as well eat a bullet like Marcus did.” The voice was female, low and sultry; a silken promise that sent a tingle up my spine. It came from somewhere over my right shoulder, where the door to the kitchen had been before we scavenged it to board up the windows.

    When I turned there was no one in sight, but the voice continued just the same.

    “He’s not listening, you know. He wrote you off, all of you, a couple of thousand years ago. Just another failed experiment. The only reason He didn’t just end it all was that He refuses to admit defeat. He always was a sore loser.”

    The sunlight, streaming through the cracks in the boards, illuminated drifting motes of dust. As s the minuscule specs neared the open doorway, they abruptly changed direction, creating a dust-free void that provided a hint; a guess at a shape that should be there.

    “This invisible bit is kinda cool, but it is also just a little creepy.”

    There was no response from the voice, so I asked, “So you are... what? The Devil? One of those succubus things? Hey, are you going to offer to save me in exchange for my soul?”

    “Your soul? Your soul is already mine! Besides, the game was as good as over two thousand years ago. As soon as the last of you die, we have to settle up on our bet, but here’s the thing. I don’t want to win.”

    “Um... okay? A Bet? Pardon a poor, stupid human, but I don’t have a clue what you are talking about.”

    “Gee, there’s a surprise. Look, I’ll make it simple. I have a bargain for you. I can make sure that you survive, and can give you the knowledge and tools to rebuild your society. I will lead you to other survivors and I will make you the king, the most powerful man on Earth.”

    “And you get what out of this? A place to play with your toys? Someone to torture people for your amusement? I am not a holy kind of guy, but I am not deliberately cruel either. I don’t know if surviving is worth that price.”

    “No, no, no. I want you to build a society of good people, law-abiding people. I want you to worship God and lead your people to do the same. You will be the new Moses, the new savior. Start again and build a society that believes, one that behaves. I know God, better than your people ever could. I am convinced that if you do this, he will come back. He will be interested again and get involved.”

    “You want me to build a society that is pious, that worships God and follows his commandments.”


    “And doing this will mean that you lose your bet and that God wins.”


    “I’m still confused.”

    There was an audible sigh that caused an eddy in the floating motes of dust.

    “I can’t believe I am having to explain this to a human.” There was a pause, another sigh, and noise that sounded suspiciously like the sound of shuffling feet.

    “He has this flaw, you see. Well, I consider it a flaw, anyway. He always keeps his word. Always. Anyway, our bet was of a....sensitive nature. That omnipotent thing? Well, impotent is more like it, as in my husband and I have not been... intimate, in a very, very long time.”

    “Wait, God and the Devil are married?”

    “Yes, as your people reckon things. He said, and this was a long time ago, back when things were still pretty hot between us, he said that if he won, he would get to ravish me over and over again; that I would have to willingly submit to him. Since he always keeps his word, I am sure he will keep this promise as well.”

    “So you are going to throw the game. Lose so you can...”

    “Yes, and don’t make it sound so sordid.”

    “I’m sorry, the thought of God and the Devil turning humankind’s existence into a sex game is a bit much to take in.“

    “It didn’t start off that way. His interest in this world, and his interest in intimacy, seemed to decline at the same time. I think that if you can get him interested in the world again...”

    I could almost hear the shrug in her voice.

    “A girl has needs, you know?”
  9. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    nastyjman - Mister Winters

    “And how many years did the doctors give you Mister Winters?” said the man with a red business suit, a red necktie, a red fedora hat and a spotless, white dress shirt. Coincidentally, this man's name was Red. He wore sunglasses inside the office, sitting by the edge of Mister Winters' desk with his legs crossed.

    “Six,” said Mister Winters.

    “Six Years?”

    “Six Months.”

    “Oh, my kind of number,” said Red (he liked numbers that were divisible by three).

    Mister Winters sat behind his desk with a document between his hands. It was six pages long and was printed on a legal-sized paper from a dot-matrix printer. His eyes scanned every word, every sentence, every punctuation. He flipped a page and began reading the “Terms and Conditions.”

    Red looked around the office and was depressed by it. The executive walls were barren except for a calendar and an industrial sized clock. The floor was checkered black and white. Book shelves were filled with company reports, profit-&-loss reports, revenue reports, some sales strategies and, probably, some motivational books. Red turned to Mister Winters' desk: pens were organized by height and color; stacks of paper were piled without a page askew; the computer screen was dead; and his nameplate was clean, metallic.

    “How's your family Mister Winters?” asked Red, scanning the office for a picture frame or any adornments.

    “Thrice divorced. Seven children. Five are graduates. Two are dead-beats. None deserve the company.”

    There was nothing inside the room that was interesting: not one photo of a family member or a friend, not even a photo of himself. No pots of plants. No vase of flowers. Red turned back to Mister Winters who was now staring at him. It startled Red.

    “Once I sign this,” said Mister Winters, “I gain 20 more years to live. Correct?”

    Red nodded and feigned a smile.

    “And a breach of this contract, stated on page four, will refund my soul to its original state and will be placed neither in hell nor heaven but limbo. Correct?”

    “Uh huh.”

    “Is that a 'yes' or a 'no'?” said Mister Winters in a stern voice.

    “It's a yes.”

    Mister Winters broke his stare and returned to the document. Red invited himself to the bookshelf with the reports and strategies. He checked if he read anything else besides numbers, graphs and charts. There was a Venn-Diagram somewhere in 1995's Sales Strategy. Red dragged his finger on the dusty shelf, drawing a smiley face near 1994's Revenue Report.

    “Mister Winters” said Red, drawing a flower, “what do you do for fun?”

    Mister Winters didn't respond. He continued reading the document, scanning for any loopholes. He heard him but brushed it aside, pretending he didn't hear.

    “Do you play golf like the other businessmen? Do you fornicate? Commit adultery? Read the Sunday Times perhaps? Do you have any hobbies Mister Wint-”

    “Please,” said Mister Winters, “Be silent. I would like to thoroughly examine this agreement in peace.”

    Red smiled in response, but he was growing impatient. His previous deals weren't this boring. Also, this was the first time Red had been creeped out by a mortal who was dying of some sort of cancer, which Red didn't care to learn. Also, the mortal smelled funny – like decaying newspaper.

    Red played with his fingers, stacking his thumbs upon one another and drumming his palms with his finger tips. He sashayed and pranced across the floor, pretending to be the white queen ready for a checkmate. He took quick glances at Mister Winters who was still embedded on the document. Red made noises with his nose and lips, inhaling and exhaling in differing degrees to make different sounds. Some were whistle-like, some were horse-like.

    “Okay Devil,” said Mister Winters.

    “Please. Call me Red.”

    Mister Winters looked up. Red teleported at the front of the desk with his hands behind his back – he was still fiddling with his fingers.

    “Red,” continued Mister Winters, “I'm ready to sign.”

    Mister Winters took a steel-cased pen from the metallic pen-cup. He placed the tip on the dotted line labeled “Wishee,” which was adjacent to the dotted line labeled “Wishor.” Mister Winters applied graceful pressure to the document and made his loops and curls and a binding strike. No ink displayed his signature.

    “These kinds of deals,” said Red, “need not mortal inventions Mister Winters.”

    Out from Red's pocket was a glass pen. He handed it to Mister Winters who was enchanted by the wisp and smoke within its hull. He looked closer. There were spaces within the wisps: they resembled stretching mouths and twisting eyes. He thought he had heard wails and screams – and a grave warning.

    Regardless, Mister Winters pressed the tip against the “Wishee” line, began with an upward stroke and crossed it with a loop. He made more inward strokes and outward strokes, a semblance of his first initial and last name. The signature was etched, but the agreement wasn't sealed: the “Wishee” line remained blank.

    Red noticed the technical difficulty. He drew out a similar pen from his pocket and gave it to Mister Winters. With a loop-de-loop and some gobbledygook, the agreement remained moot. It was still blank.

    “Mister Winters,” said Red in a firm tone, “Please look into my eyes.”

    So he did. Red pulled his sunglasses down and revealed what lay beneath: his eyes were as hollow as November mourning's eve, and they had a faint, red glow within their chasm. And behold, Mister Winters saw his almighty father who told him he was stupid and would amount to nothing. And he saw his loving mother who told him he was the love of her life and was everything to her. And he saw himself scale the highest mountain called “Master of Business Administration.” And he saw his self parting a sea of people as he walked through his warehouse, his lobby and his building named “W Enterprises, Inc.”

    Mister Winters gasped for air. Red hid his eyes with his sunglasses, and then he snatched the document from Mister Winters' hands and turned around for the door.

    “What? Where are you going?” said Mister Winters still struggling to catch his breath, “God damn it! We have a deal to close!”

    Mister Winters just broke a rule in the Ten Commandments, a rule made up by a mortal named Moses which, supposedly, he received from a god. The rule – or commandment – states, “Thou shalt not take the lord's name in vain.”

    “There is no deal Mister Winters,” said Red, “In order for the contract to be enforced, the agreement requires at least one soul – You sir, don't have one.”

    Mister Winters sprang up from his seat, slamming his fists on top of his desk.

    “What do you mean I don't have one? Everyone has a soul!”

    “For some reason Mister Winters, you lost yours,” Red retorted.

    The last time Mister Winters showed grief – fear – was the time when his mother died. That was 44 years ago when he was only seven years old. And he was fathered by his almighty father who didn't make breakfast, who didn't make lunch and who didn't make dinner. That was a woman's job. And his father told him that he ought to be diligent, ought to be cold and ought to be ruthless. That was a man's job.

    Mister Winters was pushed back down to his seat. He was like Atlas, burdened by his revelation which he couldn't easily shrug. He attempted to cry, but his tear-ducts were as empty as an abandoned car's gas tank. He looked up to Red, begging.

    “How,” said Mister Winters, “how do I get it back?”

    Red let out a long and deliberate sigh.

    “Well, for starters,” said Red, “take a six-week vacation.”
  10. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    K.S.A. - The Devil's Own

    Dear Diary (you pain-in-my-a** assignment from that pain-in-the-a** trainer),

    The sniffling is pissing the crap outta me! Those stupid fleshies (read: Humans) really know how to get on my nerves. Or maybe it’s just all this frustrated energy from being a good little boy, for the past two hours, that‘s making me twitchy. ‘How to be a Devil: 101’ is the stupidest class I’ve ever attended in my very long (about 120 years) youngling life. If I don’t get rid of at least some of this pent-up energy, I’ll blow something up. And no, I’m not kidding. I am my father’s son after all – ten times as destructive as any red horn training down here with me. Seriously though, who the hell (Whoops!) would try to teach the future King-in-waiting the meaning of patience. Tell me because I’m going to - nah, need to - fire him (pun totally intended)! [Aside: Actually, I’m feeling a bit too lazy to take on one of the oldies right now so, to whomsoever is reading this, meet me back in the training room in an hour and you can dish!]

    Now, getting back to the matter at hand – my impending meltdown. I know those slush-brained trainers think it’s a good idea to rein in all this rage but…what’s the point? Am I not destined to destroy Heaven & Earth - & reduce them to a pile of burning ash - in a couple of millennia? Is my father not the multi-horned, tail-swishing, red-as-a-fire-engine King he is because of all the tantrums he’s thrown? (Oh wait, I think that was Ma) Then what good would it do for me to be as patient as an angel? Those feather-brained twits take about a century to react to a whoopee-cushion prank for Lucifer’s sake! I know I’ve been getting a little carried away on my ‘Soul Collecting’ assignments but hasn’t anyone ever heard of extra credit?

    And sniffling from a full-grown & dried-out fleshie, who’s had his chance at world domination, simply doesn’t sit well with me. Gives me gas, you know? And the last time I had “trouble”, there was a volcanic eruption on at least 3 continents, with the highest ever recorded levels of Sulphuric dispersion. I’m sure nobody wants to go through that again! We had diplomats from Up Above dropping in for a visit a little too often for Da’s liking.

    So, since I want to keep him from starting another Ice Age (the heaters down here flipped out & formed a Conga line last time that happened), I’ll just slip out for a bit and drag down the monkey-face, with a toothbrush for a moustache, who is responsible for the fleshies ongoing “World War”. [Aside: How pompous are they, thinking they are important enough to call themselves “The World”?] I’m sure they’ll give me a Golden Horn for it during graduation. So, off I go to catch me a Dictator. Wish me Luck (Pah! Like I need it)!

    Toodle Pippers [Aside: I said “pippers” not “pipers”, you stinky mini-meatballs (Read: Fleshie offspring)! He’s gone to fetch us some more like you (don’t know why though; we’re all set for the winter), so buzz off alright!]
  11. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Taylee91 - Spawn of Sweet Pain

    The little devil sat on the end of the kitchen table and smiled up at me. It looked so cute and innocent sitting there in the dim light from the overhead lamp. But at the back of my mind, I knew how cunning it could be. I knew that at the center of its heart was deceit. All it would take was some more time before it could wriggle its way into my soul.

    I snapped my heavy eyelids opens as a strange sensation entered my body. It was an aching, yearning. Shaking myself awake, I scowled back at the little devil. No, not this time.

    "Come one, it won't be so bad." It whispered through the darkness, almost sensing what I was thinking. "What's the big deal? You know sooner or later you'll give in."

    "No, I won't. I won't!" I said clinching my teeth. "You won't get me this time time."

    The devil cackled in a high-pitched tone. "Julie, Julie." It said with a disappointed air. "When will you learn? When will you understand? You can't win against me. We've been through this many times."

    "No, you're the one who doesn't understand. You think think that your charm will win me over. Well sorry to announce, but your charm is wearing thin!"

    My small enemy shook its head. "I do understand, Julie. That's why I'm here. I know how you're feeling right now. You need someone. You need me."

    "Oh, really? I need you?" I shot back.

    "Yes. You'll gain so much from me." It said with a smile.

    "What will I gain?"

    "You'll gain an energy from me that could never be found through anything else. Make this pact with me. Give me your hand. It will be over before you know it."

    I slumped back in my chair and tapped my foot on the cold tile floor impatiently. My right hand hung slack at my side. Damn! If only I had stayed in bed! Night was the time when I was always more vulnerable. And the little twerp knew it.

    But that tight pain in my body couldn't be ignored. It screamed for my attention. For all I knew it could have been the little devil invading my thoughts.

    I closed my eyes against the pressure as my body contorted and flexed. "No! Leave me alone! Go away...." I cried.

    A hundred thoughts surged into my head. They shrieked, "Julie! Take me! I promise, I promise everything will be all right. Give me your hand!"

    With much hesitation, I began to relinquish my hand. The devil smiled at my choice, then broke into a laughing spell, obviously enjoying the pain I was in. "Come to me my sweet."

    I couldn't stand it any longer. I was going mad! I raised my hand to the table, betrayed my hand to the little evil one -- then took a bite. The thick chocolately sponge filled my mouth and spun itself together with the thick sweet cream. Heaven. Absolute Heaven.

    As soon as I was done and had risen from my chair, the rest of the little devils began calling me from the cupboard. "Julie! Don't forget us! Julie!"

    But not tonight. I had already given in. It was time the little devils suffered. Not me.
  12. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    dnsralg - The Angel and Hal

    Hal’s crusty eyes slowly fluttered open. He sat up from the floor in a stretch, fully awake the moment he inhaled through his nose. The after-stench from Megan’s house parties always lent itself as a crude sal volatile in the morning. His head throbbed to the beat of the last song he could remember from the night before and he imagined his tongue much like the ray of a novelty starfish. He was still wearing his socks and wife beater, but needed to find his black slacks before he went to work. His stomach dropped to the floor. “Which is where I should be,” he thought, this time aloud. He saw a gentle glow peeking from behind the heavy drapes and hoped it was earlier than it looked. Behind him, his girlfriend, Megan, slept curled up on the couch. Several other people slept in the room as well, mostly Megan’s friends from work; one shot upright at the sound of Hal’s voice.

    “What are you doing awake, Hal?” she asked, gathering her tiny blanket around her body.

    “Do you know what time it is,” Hal asked, “and where my pants could be?”

    She poked a stick arm out from under the blanket. Around her wrist was a bulky plastic watch with a digital readout. “Six thirty-three,” she slowly rose from the floor, “why?”

    Hal’s chest tightened. He examined the floor around him, “Where are my goddamn pants!” He shifted his weight and felt something beneath him. He rose to his feet, grabbed his pants from the floor, and stuffed his legs inside without bothering to zip or button the waist. “Tell Megan I went to work,” he said as he hurried to the door, pausing next to it to slip on his shoes.

    “You’re late.”

    Hal rushed to punch in, next to the clock stood the night manager he was scheduled to relieve a full hour ago. “I know, I’m sorry,” he said, “I overslept,” he grimaced as he looked into her eyes; he saw something cruel.

    She crossed her arms, “Hal, it’s not like this hasn’t happened before. I had to report you this time, I’m sick of this ****,” she smirked, “and I’m not the only one.”

    Hal sat down at his desk and signed-on to his user account.

    Punch that bitch in the mouth! You know I can’t do that. When will you grow a pair, Hal?

    When will you leave me alone?

    I will never leave you, Hal. No matter what, I will always be here to help you.

    “Hal, are you listening to me?” A fat, hairy hand landed on Hal’s left shoulder, interrupting the angel. His boss continued, “I need you to gather your personal belongings and log out of the system. Do you understand, Hal? What I’m trying to say is,” he picked his hand up off of Hal’s shoulder, “I have to fire you, it’s company policy.”

    Hal was a ghost in the background, clutching his dog bobble-head and a framed picture of Megan, his “personal effects.” He walked toward the exit a broken man, but his path was blocked before he could reach the door by that ****-ass night manager. Enough is enough, he thought.

    “Now I have to work your shift too,” she started to reprimand him, but Hal could no longer withstand her arrogance. He dropped his belongings to the ground and raised his left arm, his hand balled into a fist. The picture frame hit the floor as he pulled back his arm. The glass shattered as he connected to her face. On the ground, Megan smiled up at Hal as pretty red droplets stained her skin.

    Megan’s a real beauty, Hal.

    Hal switched on the radio, increasing the volume until it drowned out the noise in his head. If he could lose himself to the music, he could escape from his ****ty life. Layne Staley screamed along with Hal this time, “Feed my eyes! Can you sew them shut? Jesus Christ! Deny your maker…” Layne knew the fit of Hal’s shoes.

    Hal opened his cell phone and pushed the on button. He had several missed calls that he would never check and a text message from Megan. “Where are you?” he read aloud. Why is everyone such an asshole? Instead of replying to the message, he called her phone.

    “Hey, this is Megan, leave a message. Beep! Just kidding! Here comes the real beep…”

    Now she’s too important to take your calls?

    “Hey, I told your friend to tell you I was leaving for work. Call me back, okay?” Hal shut the phone, disgusted with himself, and closed his eyes, still exhausted from the night before. Hearing a ringing in his ears, Hal answered the phone, “Megan?”

    Nope, just me, and the phone didn’t ring.

    The station took a short break for advertisements, allowing the angel to invade Hal’s thoughts once more. Hal’s phone rang, this time it wasn’t a hallucination. Megan’s name flashed on the screen.

    “Megan, I need to talk to you. I had the worst day imaginable.”

    “Can you come over?”

    “Yeah, I’m on my way.”

    “I thought you were at work – I’m in the middle of something. I didn’t expect to meet up with you until later.”

    She’s fooling around, Hal. You have to catch her!

    Hal stood on Megan’s porch after he rang the bell. He waited and then called her phone to see why she hadn’t opened the door.

    “Hey, this is Megan, leave a mes--” Hal ended the call and sat on the stoop.

    Restless, he stood back up, stepped back over to the door, and turned the doorknob. The knob turned and the door opened under Hal’s gentle push. He flipped the light switch, leaning inside without entering. “Megan?” he called out. With no response, Hal flipped the switch and closed the door.

    If she’s not here supporting you, who is she out with?

    A tapping noise woke Hal from his nap. Megan pawed at the window, like a kitten, to get his attention; her other hand wrapped around the middle of a large brown bag, the bottom of which rested on her hip. Hal opened the car door.

    “What are you doing here, Hal?”

    “Where were you?”

    “You’re silly; I told you I was busy. You can help me carry stuff inside,” she raised her hip to preserve her grip on the bag, “I can handle this bag. The heavy stuff’s in my car,” she added as she sauntered to the front door. Hal tried to believe her, but the angels words were stuck in his head.

    Hal walked behind his car to where Megan parked. In the backseat were two Heineken mini-kegs, buckled in like children, and a case of Corona between them. He unbuckled a keg, carrying it and the case of Corona to the front door. Megan left the door open behind her for Hal. He carried all the drinks in from her car while she emptied her bag on the counter.

    “How about a little party pre-game?” Megan dragged the soft pad of her index finger down Hal’s cheek sending a shiver through his body. I believe you, Megan. Hal allowed his spirits to rise.

    “Babe, you’re done after one beer. Why don’t you wait ‘til the party starts?” he chuckled.

    “Okay, how about a little playtime?” She grabbed the waistband of his trousers and pulled his body into hers. Hal wrapped his arms around her, one hand reaching down to cup her buttocks and the other rubbing the small of her back.

    She’s trying to trick you. She wants you to think everything is okay until the time is right to leave you.

    “I think that’s just what I need to get me into the party spirit,” Hal said, ignoring the angel.

    The doorbell rang, waking Hal with Megan still asleep in his arms. Hal put his boxers and shirt on to go open the door. He looked through the small window next to the door and saw a man all in black on the other side. The man turned; Hal caught a glimpse of the man’s silver badge before ducking below the window.

    “I saw you,” the man said through the door, “My name is Jerry Smith, I’m with the local police department.” Caught, Hal stood and opened the door. “I assume you’re Marshall Poole?”

    “Hal. How can I help you, Officer?”

    “We received a phone call from this residence about a domestic dispute; a ‘Miranda’ who says she attended a party here last night where you were getting physical with your girlfriend.”

    “I’m sorry, Officer, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Hal started to close the door, but Officer Smith stopped it with his hand.

    “Sir, the complaint was against you. Is Megan Hacuenda inside? I’d like to speak with her.”

    “She’s asleep. I’ll have her call you when she wakes up.”

    He began to step inside. “May I come in?”

    No. Say no!

    Hal figured the easiest way to get rid of this guy was to just let him talk to Megan. “Come in; I’ll go get her.”

    Hal went back to Megan’s bedroom. Megan was still fast asleep. “Megan,” he whispered, “Megan,” he repeated, this time gently shaking her shoulder, “Stop playing. There’s a police officer who wants to talk with you.” Hal turned his head and saw the officer waiting impatiently at the door.

    “Maybe you should let me try while you wait outside.”

    “I don’t understand,” he said, but respectfully left the room. Hal watched from outside as Officer Smith pulled the comforter off of Megan. Beneath the thick blanket, Megan looked like a fallen angel. Around her, blood soaked into the bed and webbed out as her glorious wings. Hal felt helpless.

    “She wasn’t like this! I swear she wasn’t like this when you knocked on the door!”

    That’s not what I heard.

    Hal collapsed into a pile of flesh and bones with no human inside.

    Hal slept all day until his phone rang, around ten at night. With a feeling unlike anything, he opened his phone, overjoyed to have seen Megan’s name on the screen.

    “Where the hell are you, Hal?” she asked before he could greet her, “You better not be in bed. Come over!” Megan ended the call, again before Hal could respond.

    Megan’s fine, go have some fun. While you still can.

    Hal could hear Megan’s house before he could see it; as he parked in front of the house, he could feel the vibrations from the bass. He entered her house and was immediately overwhelmed by the sight and smell of a continuously swelling party. He walked to the kitchen, encountering Megan’s drunk friends. Megan was in the kitchen sitting at her table.

    “Haaalllllll,” she slurred, “I dim’t thnk youuu would come! Yaaayy!” Megan was about three drinks past her limit, her motor skill dramatically altered. “Bed!” Hal carried Megan to bed, laid her gently atop the covers, and went to join the party.

    Drink! Drink! Drink! Yes, yes! It’s good to let loose ever so often.

    Hal drank until his senses lost all credibility.

    “Hey. Can I sit here?” a girl gestured to the space to Hal’s left. Hal failed to respond, but she sat next to him anyway. “My name’s Miranda.”

    Look! Megan’s awake.

    Hal looked her over and replied, “I’m glad you’re awake.” She leaned over to kiss him on the lips.

    Don’t you want her, Hal?

    He grabbed the back of her neck and held her face so it touched his. They were glued at the lips with the saliva of infidelity.

    “Hal!” The most awful thing that could possibly happen to Hal was happening now. Megan, awake and sober enough to regain control of her body, stood over Hal. He moved to follow her as she ran to her room, to explain his confusion, but a slim, powerful arm held him back. He looked at Miranda. Around her wrist was a plastic watch with a digital readout.

    “You!” he said. Hal tore away from Miranda’s hold and knocked on Megan’s locked door. “I’m sorry, Megan. It was a mistake; I would never cheat on you!” he began to kick the door, still knocking and shouting, “I need you, Megan! I can’t survive without you!” Hal then threw his body at the door over and over, but it still would not give.

    Two of Megan’s male friends grabbed Hal to remove him from the party. He sat outside of the house, on Megan’s stoop where he lost his self-confidence. He imagined his shoulder occupied, tried to visualize his angel so he wouldn’t feel so painfully alone. He closed his eyes and fought the stinging sensation from falling out as tears. When he opened his eyes, he was no longer alone on the stoop. On his left was his angel in human form, but inhumanly beautiful; it was a cruel beauty that only one cast from Heaven could carry. He radiated power and sensuality; this demon sat next to Hal, preening and over-confident.

    “I can help, Hal,” the demon said, “I can guarantee Megan will never leave you and I can make all of your problems disappear.”

    Hal couldn’t fight the temptation of the dark angel’s voice; he couldn’t fight the temptation of the demon’s proposition. “At what cost?” he asked.

    “Through helping you, I receive my payment,” he said as he put his arm over Hal’s shoulders, “Do we have a deal?” The dark angel smiled irresistibly. Hal extended his hand to the demon, who grabbed it, hitting Hal hard in the face as they shook hands, cloaking Hal’s world in the darkness of slumber.

    Hal awoke on the floor in front of Megan’s couch. He was wearing a tank top, boxers, and socks. Megan was asleep on the couch.

    “What are you doing awake, Hal?” Miranda asked, gathering her tiny blanket around her body.

    “I just had the strangest dream.”

    She stood up. “I’ll be back.”

    Hal scratched his scalp. “Sure.” Everything seemed so familiar, but he couldn’t quite remember why. It was like mega-déjà vu. Megan woke up a let out a quiet moan. Hal turned to look at her, her beauty rendered him speechless for a moment. “Megan, I’m so happy to see you. I had the strangest dream.”

    “Don’t you have to work today?” she asked.

    She wants to get rid of you.

    “No, I took the day off, but that was my dream! I woke up here and was late to work, so my boss fired me and I punched a coworker.” Hal smiled and jumped onto the couch with her.

    “Wow, what an intense dream!”

    He pulled her into a bear hug and held tightly. “Promise you’ll never leave me, Megan. I love you so much; you keep me afloat.”

    Megan wore a sad smile on her face. She dragged the soft pad of her index finger gently down his face.

    She met someone else. She wants to break up with you.

    “What do you mean?”

    “Hal, I,” she cleared her throat, “I didn’t say anything,” she pushed her body away from his.

    She’s acting suspicious, Hal.

    Hal felt his patience shatter. “Who is he?” he growled.

    “There’s no one else, Hal, I swear!”


    “Why, Megan? Why won’t you love me?” he asked as he began to shake her, “Why won’t you love me?” Hal’s angry growls woke Megan’s friends. “Get out of here! Leave!” He picked up an empty bottle from the night before and threw it at the nearest head. The group scrambled to leave, Hal and Megan still crushed together on the couch, until there was no one else in the room. “You think you can leave me? You can’t leave me! You won’t leave me!”

    She chose not to love you, tell her!

    He shouted into her face, “You chose not to love me.” Hal picked her up by the arm. “How can I make you love me?”

    Hal carried Megan into her bedroom despite Megan’s struggle. Behind them, the front door slammed shut. He pulled the blankets off of her bed with his free hand and threw her onto the mattress. She pleaded, “I DO love you, Hal; there’s no one else!” He grabbed another bottle from the floor and shattered it against her dresser.


    “Now you can’t leave me,” he said as he raised a shard of glass above his head, “You will never leave me.”

    Hal stood above Megan’s body; the dark angel standing next to him.

    “Good job, Hal,” the demon said as he ushered Hal from the bedroom, “Megan will forever be yours, and as payment I get Megan’s pretty, little soul.”

    “Now she can’t leave me.”

    I never stopped loving you, Hal.


    You did the right thing.

    “Who are you talking to?” Officer Smith asked. He stood nearby, impatiently waiting to talk to Megan.

    Eight years ago, I killed the love of my life, Megan. At the time, I was sure I was doing the right thing for both of us. I now know that my “angel” was really just a symptom of my disease. Other voices come and go; some of them are just visiting and some are looking for a new home. Since the deal I made with the demon, I created a “Megan” to talk to. Sometimes I feel like I’m evil and don’t deserve to live anymore. Sometimes the voices tell me to hurt myself. I have to remember the difference between us; I am not a bad person, I am a sick person. As long as I take my medicine, though, my mind is my own.
  13. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Patrick94 - Devil Pact

    Ever since the Cold War ended, life's been pretty ****ty. I mean, the Cold War was barely a war, and it gets two capital letters?! Bull****.
    So thought the devil as he sat outside God's office. He glanced at his watch. Twenty five past forever already! What was taking Shakespeare so long? Eventually, he heard God's booming voice ring around the Heavens. It was at once everywhere and nowhere, the loudest sound and the sweetest melody, all in one. Power resonated within. It was the total opposite of Justin Bieber.
    "Thank You. You May Leave." as Shakespeare left the room, he gave the devil a quick nod.
    "I trust Hell's in good shape?"
    "Couldn't be better." But of course, it could. There hadn't been anything exciting happen since Hitler was demoted. The devil shuddered. It scared him to think there was a place worse than Hell.
    A bell chimed. A choir of angels hummed. The Lord cleared his throat within his dominion.
    It was time for the devil and the Lord to speak.

    "Lucifer," said God. His voice was so loving and full of goodwill that the devil could not help but bow.
    The devil uttered the Lord's real name. He was one of only three beings in the existence of Infinity and its twenty nine dimensions to know what It was.
    "I assume you know why I came?" The inquisition was rhetorical.
    "Yes. I Got Your Fax."
    "Yeah, about that, my phone's dead, so I couldn't call."
    "Skype Would Have Been Easier."
    The devil swore. How could he have forgotten Skype?
    "No Matter. We May Still Proceed. Peter?" Saint Peter entered the office, munching on a Gargantuan Mac. They were half price this side of eternity.
    "I 'ave the relevant documents, m'Lord," contributed he. "Awright, mate," he greeted the devil. The awful English accent came from the time he had to stop the British from invading Ireland. The Irish were the Lord's favourite race, created after an accidental explosion in Lab Seventeen.
    "Thank You. Now, Lucifer, Your Inquiry Is A Serious One-"
    Suddenly the devil exploded in talk. He couldn't help himself. It was like a hurricane had been called off for a few months, and he had to keep his powers chained up in that time. "Life has gotten SO boring. Nothing will happen after global warming, and global warming's hardly exciting, is it? In seventeen short Earth years, they'll" humans "all be dead. What happened to the glory days of Mussolini and Hitler?" Then the Lord did something the devil did not expect. He sighed.
    "I Know. As It Is Written, As It Will Be." He was referring to the Book. The Book was so powerful, even the Creator of Time, Gravity and Coke could not utter its name. It was not older than God, for before time there was no measurement of being, but it was the most powerful force in Infinity and its twenty nine dimensions that was relatively well known about. "But."
    The devil's heart - metaphorically speaking, of course - leapt. He had never heard Him use that word in that context before. Suddenly there was a massive change in the Heavens. The temperature dropped. The blue sky dropped from the level it was all all the way down to perfect. It was enough to make Peter shiver in fear.
    "But?" whispered the devil.
    "I Have Moderated Time, Space And Life For All Of Ever, And It's Beginning To Take Its Toll. I Think I That I Am Going Insane. It Took Me Time To Complete The Independant's Crossword." The devil gasped, and Peter screamed. For the Lord to be known as anything less than the Whole Being Of Light and Good was baleful, blasphemy. "I Read Your Report. And Your Offer."
    Suddenly the devil felt light headed. He was seconds away from securing the greatest contractual signature since Ryan Giggs signed for Manchester United. "And?" The whole of everything changed. The halo above the Lord's head exploded. The ground imploded. Peter was wiped from the face of oblivion, dying screaming. The Palace of Light shattered into seven hundred and ninety three thousand trillion pieces. The Heavens was in disarray. But worse was to come. The Lord, the Master of Life and Death, signed the dotted line. A droning wail escaped the air. The fabric of destiny and the Factual Evidence And Balance Spawning chamber were ripped apart. Time went crooked. A jagged smile escaped the Lord's godly features. "I Accept Your Offer."
    The Devil rose from his chair. He felt a surge of power so strong He had to bite His tongue to stop Him from singing the German national anthem of 1939. "Are You Ready To Cause Havoc?" This was the Devil. He was now on par with the Creator of the Four Natural Forces.
    "The Twenty First Of May Two Thousand And Eleven, Universe Time." The Lord nodded an affirmative. He let loose a roar of naked strength. "Unleash The ArchAngels!" He screamed at All and Nothing. From Nothing rose the ArchAngels, headed by Michael. "Yes, my Lord," uttered Michael. No expression escaped his face. His sole aim in being was to serve the Lord.
    "Ready The Forces For Battle," said the Lord.
    "On who?"
    "My Father."
  14. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    -oz - Ibach

    They say Ibach was haunted. Elisabeth von Wexler could somewhat see why.

    The Northern Lights did their slow dance on top of the world, surrounded by the blackness that held the stars. Almost a mockery of the Black Forest, she thought, glancing back at the trees around her. Her baby squirmed in her arms, letting out a small cry. Elisabeth began to sway back and forth again, trying to keep the baby from starting his cry. She sighed. The doctor had said that the baby would be relieved with the fresh air, but he had been saying that for the past several weeks. If only Albrecht were here to see the baby...

    Elisabeth wasn’t sure that she would see either of them again. The baby was dying, yet another victim of the Black Death, but thankfully he was one of the only few in Ibach. The doctor warned her not to touch the baby, but little Johann was of her own flesh; she would die herself to see him live.

    The church bell began to ring, a call for Vespers. Elisabeth went back inside, watching the servants leave for the service. She had no intention of going; instead, she pulled out a piece of parchment and the ink vial, and began to write, a skill she had been taught over the years.

    Dearest Albrecht,

    I pray for your safety each day, and I pray the war is going well. Ibach is doing well enough; the foresters and bowyers are performing as well as ever. There has been a small amount of trouble, but the man you put in charge has done an admirable job of keeping the peace.

    I have bad news though; our son has been cursed with a plague. The commoners call it the Black Death. Sores have covered his body, and several of his toes have turned black. I fear he will not live much longer. I will admit to you that I have a few sores myself, though I have told no one. If you get this, please hurry back.

    With all my love,



    Albrecht von Wexler was resting in a tent when the messenger came. Rest was important when you were a Crusader; constant battle and a steady push ensured a severe lack of sleep. Letters from home were more important than sleep though, and he got up to receive the letter. He thanked the messenger and stepped outside so that he could read the letter in the daylight.

    This letter was not good news, just the opposite. His mind began racing how he could get home. The upcoming battle in a week was inevitable, but after that, he might be able to use one of the horses and go back north to his home. He folded up the letter, sticking it in a breast pocket, and decided that he had better get some sleep before the battle.

    It was two weeks later with no word from Albrecht. Johann was no better; more toes and a few fingers had darkened, and part of his leg had started to turn black. Elisabeth was starting to worry about herself as well; it was getting harder to hide the plague on her own body. She routinely kicked out the servants, and when she did go into town, she was sure to wear the most full dresses she had.

    It was obvious that word had spread though; talk of demons at the house spread amongst the small town, and the head bowyer who gave the report at the end of the week stopped coming by, replaced by a nervous young man, obviously a worker, given the calluses on his hands. Elisabeth started to give thought to the rumors herself; a rat making a healthy life in her kitchen was imagined to be multiple things before she finally saw its naked tail disappear out the window.

    There were other, less easily explained demons around the house: the fireplace would suddenly douse itself, creaks on the stairs could be heard at night when everyone was asleep, and several of the barnyard animals were found slaughtered despite there being guards. Each could be easily explained by several rascals of the village, but each one questioned claimed innocence. Despite the common explanation, the servants, guards, and Elisabeth herself became more and more nervous. As a remedy, Elisabeth had stopped going to church altogether, deciding that if she were to not believe in false spirits existing, no spirit should exist at all.

    It wasn’t until the plague spread onto her face that she made it public to the servants. Their response wasn’t unexpected, but it still caught her by surprise: the house was locked and warded, with her and the child inside. The windows were boarded up, and the doors were locked from the outside. Food was still delivered, but it was only given to her by the lowest ranking servant, and she hurried out as soon as she set it down. Life quickly became miserable as she fell further into illness.

    Her only wish was simple: Albrecht, please come quickly.


    The battle took longer to start than Albrecht would have wished. It did not start when they told him it would; it was a full week after the original date with still no word of advancing.

    He had just woken up full of dread; he had just had a dream where his wife and child lay dead and blackened, as if burned from a fire. He needed some fresh air to clear his mind, so he stepped outside. The night was neither dark nor silent tonight, and it took his waking mind a few moments to figure out why: they were under attack.

    He shouted a warning into the tent, waking the others up. Their archery brigade was small, being one of the few German parts of the army, but they took pride in always backing the army up in a fight. He dashed in and put on his leather armor and quiver, and grabbed his bow. He was the first outside to witness the slaughter.

    An army of Muslims had snuck outside the camp in the dark, each with a quiver of tar-covered arrows. They had brought just enough wood each to start a small fire, where they lit their arrows and sent them into the Christian camp. Tents were catching on fire, and as they went, the archers aimed further and further back in the camp, intent of setting all the tents on fire.

    An arrow whizzed past Albrecht’s head, starting their own tent on fire. He yelled a warning and began running towards the edge of the camp. There was no point on waiting for the rest of his brigade; this battle had quickly turned into an every-man-for-himself scenario.

    His fortunate luck would not hold though; an arrow sliced through his calf, and he fell headlong into a small furrow. He gasped and grabbed the leg; it had started to bleed profusely. If he didn’t receive help right away, he would bleed out and die. He began to yell for help, but he quickly realized that it was useless. Everyone was either out to save his own skin or mount a counterattack. It wasn’t until he heard the faint sounds of normal walking that his mind began to panic.

    The quick death of a slashed throat, the more prolonged death of being watched bleed to death, and the visions of even worse forms of deadly torture filled his mind. Albrecht was extremely surprised and more than relieved to see a white man, as white as English royalty, stand over him. He began to talk to him in German though, and Albrecht listened very carefully.

    The man introduced himself as Lucifer, and gave a very simple proposal. If Albrecht would give up his soul, he would not only save his life, but his wife and child’s as well. Not only that, but Albrecht would instantly be home to deal with them. All Albrecht had to do was give up his soul, and everything would be all right.

    Albrecht stared up at the man in disbelief. Surely this must be a joke. The man smiled, and a shadow filtered across his face. Something was flying across the moon, something that looked an awful lot like a dragon.

    The man continued his soothsaying. If Albrecht were to turn down this offer, the man would guarantee the death of his wife, son, and of Albrecht himself. His town would be anathema and this army would be completely killed with this attack. All Albrecht had to do to prevent all this was to give up his soul. Everything would be put back in place, and life as he knew it would continue.

    Albrecht felt dizzy; surely his life could not end this way. He looked down at his leg to find the field red with his own blood. Dropping his head back to the earth, he closed his eyes and gave up his soul.


    Elisabeth stood on the porch looking out onto the Black Forest. She was wrapped in a shawl to keep her warm from the slight winds; she had lost about thirty pounds from the plague and she would be visibly scarred for life. She was alive though, one of the only victims to survive the Black Death.

    Young Johann’s laughter floated out through the window, putting a sad smile on her face. He would likely fully recover from his fight with the plague, minus the few digits that had fallen off. She would always remember the look on Albrecht’s face when he saw his son though; she had gotten used to the slow progression of the plague and hadn’t realized how close their son had come to death.

    Albrecht had instilled more fear than the town would ever know again when he arrived on the back of a dragon. He had only whispered all that had happened when they were lying in bed, and she would bet that he would never speak of it again for as long as they lived.

    They say Ibach was haunted. Elisabeth von Wexler knew why.
  15. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Tessie - Devil Pact

    There was the din of rushing water, the smell of leaking gasoline in the darkened cabin. Electrical wires sparked before dying with a charged and explosive pop.

    The pressure of the water pummeled against him. He gasped for air and struggled to stand. He had been alone in the darkness for a matter of minutes, but it felt much longer. Last he remembered, his mapping instruments were in front of him, spread out on a map of coastal China, but all of that had been thrown into the air in the crash landing.

    The flooding water was pushing him aft, nearer to the tail of the B-25 Mitchell Bomber. Up, up. Not down. Air. He flared his arms and swam for the surface. His muscles flexed under the pressure. His chest held tight, and the temptation to breath subsided. Now was the moment when all his skills and knowledge of the secret mission were to take full effect. He had seen Tokyo in flames, and now he had to ensure he would live to tell his grandchildren.

    A loud clanging in the water split his eardrums. He swam harder and was surprised as he broke the murky surface. Someone was calling him. He recognized that voice. He yelled,

    "Damn it, Earl! Give me a hand!"

    He looked around and then cursed his luck in the darkness. Why couldn’t they had bailed over the mainland? Why had they run out of gas faster than some of the other sixteen bombers? He cursed not for being slow when the holler reached him that they were going down in the China Sea, but because he was in this position at all. The bombing operation had been successful. Their targets had been hit, and there had, in fact, been very little anti-aircraft fire to challenge them. But they had launched earlier than expected, putting the whole mission in jeopardy, and instead of a makeshift airstrip of inland China, he was now floundering in the sea, far away from safety.

    The door of the cabin was jarred and folded like an origami animal. He pushed on it. The hinges wouldn't budge.

    Earl frantically called to him through the crack. "Get your ass out of that cabin, Johnny! Get your ass out of that cabin!"

    He could sense the anxious frustration in his comrade's voice. They were all scared. Was "Top Secret" supposed to entail this, bailing out over the ocean in the middle of the night? But he had agreed to this mission. He had agreed when Japanese fishing boats had spotted them. He had agreed when Colonel Doolittle had asked them to launch the bombers ten hours early and one-hundred seventy nautical miles farther from Japan than expected. He had agreed to it all, and now he was facing the consequences. Did he have any regrets? He couldn’t decide just then.

    Admiral Halsey had had no choice while atop the bridge of the USS Enterprise but to flash the order for the crews of the sixteen bombers to proceed. Pearl Harbor had been not more than four months before, and Johnny remembered the pride and euphoria that had erupted on the deck of the USS Hornet when the first B-25 Mitchell Bomber had lifted from the tossing air deck amid stormy swells. The runway had been soaked. Sea mist pelted the windshields of the taxiing bombers. It was a mission of hell from the start as if the devil himself had spat doom on the venture.

    But as he hurled all his strength against the broken, cabin door, he knew he wouldn’t give in. He poked his arms through the crack and pulled the door from the frame. The brittle metal squealed. More water rushed in, hitting his face with a cold slap of reality. The bomber was going down quick. This was no time to dawdle.

    He took a lungful of air and squeezed through the opening, arms first, his legs kicking. He made it halfway through when his torso got caught on the bottleneck opening. He kicked harder, pushed against the door jam. His waist broke free momentarily, but his right leg snagged on something in the wreckage. Pain shot up his knee and hip. He screamed, unintentionally letting air escape in gurgling bubbles.

    For a moment, the noise of the sinking bomber faded. A calm settled. It would be easier to stop. It would be easier to give in. He could make this quick and relatively painless. By now the whole plane would have been flooded, except the cockpit, and that was far away on the other side of the cabin door. This was it. This is where he had to stop.

    Then a hand tapped him on the shoulder. He saw nothing but the blurring water and a torrent of air bubbles and engine oil. Damn it, he wasn’t about to give up. He gripped Earl’s arm and was pulled through. Another scream went out as his leg was ripped to shreds, metal scraped the bone. He came up out of the water, breathless and in agony. The darkness prevented him from seeing Earl, but he heard him gurgle as the water splashed into his face,

    "You lucky bastard. They're not gonna make a martyr out of you yet. Not on my watch."

    "Took you long enough. I knew I could count on you." John said limply, as Earl shuffled through the waist-deep water, carrying him over his shoulder. "Did everybody get out?" John asked.

    "Yep, everyone except you. You’re holding up the whole mission, you know." Earl paused and chuckled as they reached the cockpit. "Better apologize to the captain for making him worry."

    John attempted a laugh. Then he bit his cheek as he maneuvered himself out the broken cockpit window and splashed into the cold water again. Earl quickly followed, jumping down behind him. Then he took hold of John’s shoulder as they paddled for the emergency raft. Flashlights lit the water and a hail reached them.

    "Earl, that better be a live body you’ve got there!" someone laughed.

    "I wasn’t about to let him go down, even if it meant I had to tear him from the wreckage myself." Earl said, grinning. He lifted John’s arm from around his neck, and handed him over to the two other crewmen.

    With a grunt, John was heaved up and flopped into the rubber raft. He sighed and moved himself using only his arms, leaving his leg limp. Morrison, the gunner, cracked open the first aid kit and constructed a bandage as best he could.

    "We’re not far from the coast," the captain said. "I think I can see it from here. So, let’s shake a leg and get paddling."

    John hardly registered his words. His teeth chattered in his head. He was shivering and his consciousness was slipping. The cold and pain was consuming him again. Morrison took off his jacket and wrapped it around him, giving him a concerned pat on the shoulder. It would be easy to relent and go to sleep, John thought. It would make him feel better. His eyelids drooped.

    Morrison felt his cheek with the back of a hand. He lightly slapped him.

    "Hey, hey! Come on, Jack, stay with us." he said. "We’re almost at the shore. Come on, stay awake, Jack."

    Then he felt Earl punch his shoulder and breath in his ear, "Come on, Johnny. Don't you dare give up on us."

    No, let me be, John thought. He wanted to sleep. Every fiber in him screamed for it. "I’m so cold." he stuttered, closing his eyes.

    "What’s the matter with him?" the captain asked, overhearing the exchange.

    Morrison quickly wrapped the rubber tarp around John for extra insulation. Earl said, "Everett’s hurt, sir. Says he's cold."

    The captain stepped over, taking a flashlight from one of the other crew. He sat beside John and aimed the flashlight on him. Then he made a low whistle, carefully touching his forehead. John writhed in pain and then remained still. "Looks like you took a pretty hard hit there, Everett.” the captain said. “How’d that happen?"

    John felt his lips flutter and his teeth chatter as he tried to speak. Every movement used precious energy. Water dripped from his hairline down his nose. It was a pink color and tainted with blood.

    "I - I - don’t - know, sir." he managed to answer.

    The captain took some gauze from the first aid kit. He pressed it against the wound and then expertly wrapped it around his head to compress the blood flow. "Take it easy." he said as he helped John lay flat. "That’s better. Now, we’ll be at the shore before you know it."

    In the dim aura of the flashlight, John saw him smile. It was the same smile he had seen Doolittle flash the eighty other bombers before saluting the whole and taking off the flight deck of the Hornet. They both seemed so confident. But Col. Doolittle, the leader of the entire outfit, hadn’t been spotted since the bombers had reached Tokyo, and John knew his captain must have much graver things to contemplate than the death of one of his own crew. The Japs wouldn’t stop until they had hunted them down like the receiver with the football on 4th down. And in addition, they were nowhere near the end zone. They were on the other side of the 50yard line. The other side of China.

    The coldness surrounded him again. He could feel himself slipping away. It was too cold. He had lost too much blood. He could see no way out.

    Morrison began murmuring something. John strained to hear. "Mary, mother of Jesus, save us in this dark and troubling hour. . ."

    A familiar image of him sitting in confession entered his mind. As a little child he had been there practically every week. He kept messing things up, and even when he had grown older, that is what had gotten him through his troubling, teenage years. That was the ultimate source he could turn to for strength. But where was that strength now, when he needed it most?

    John moved his arm under his jacket. He crossed himself. They had not talked in a long time. He had been too occupied with others things. Like war and enlisting.

    But why had it made sense before to sleep and slip away so effortlessly? What had gotten into him? He was supposed to remember the unfinished mission. They still had to get everyone out of China and back home to the states. In the hours ahead, the crew would wade ashore and wander through the land, looking for Chinese civilians to point them to safety, and the Japanese wouldn’t be far. They would search the beach and the bomber wreckage in the morning, scouring for any shred of evidence of the American bombers. So he couldn’t simply slip away. This devil pact was off. Sleep was easier, undoubtedly, but their mission pressed him onward.

    Morrison began to repeat the prayer anew, his tone rising more fervently. John joined him and felt glad to hear the captain and the crew doing the same in the bobbing, rubber raft. The coldness in his body began to subside. His mind cleared. He felt alert again. He felt alive.
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