I look at the gossamer-like substance in the simple shoebox on my desk, and back to Old Nick. His usually red tinged skin is even darker than usual. (He’s red like terminal blood pressure, like dying roses, like menstrual blood.)
“Nick, old buddy,” I say. I tut affectionately. I take a long drag of the e-cigarette and release impotent steam into the atmosphere. These things, they are soul stealing – (har har that’s a little joke). But it is true, they are fake. Fake like a fleshlight instead of an honesttogodtrue woman, fake like aspartame, whatever that shit is, fake like crocodile tears, all salt, no feeling. Trust me; I know when something is fake.
“Nick, Nick, Nick. We had a deal. You can’t renege on it now, old pal. A deal’s a deal. You got my soul. I got … well… “I shrug and look around at the cheap office with its cheap furnishings. The photos of my beautiful but used wife on the desk. My name plate on the glass panel of the office door, only half of my name visible from this perspective. A NEIMAD
I’m not a bad man. I’ve just had some hard decisions to make.
I reach for the lid of the box, to replace it, to give it back to Satan. The substance presses itself hard against the wall closest to me. It feels my presence. I feel its presence. It feels like home. I can’t take it back. It’s both my salvation and my undoing. I steel myself with practise nonchalance and cover it once again. I slide it with the tip of my fingers back across the table, to the dusky man in front of me. He looks at it. A single tear slides down his face. It is turned to vapour before it can hit the floor.
“Enough of this foolishness,” I tell him. I push a box of tissues – usually reserved for women seeking proof of their cheating husbands or parents looking for missing children – towards him. “Don’t set the place on fire.”
He snivels pathetically. Him. The Dark Lord, the Terror of Heaven and Earth, The Scourge, is sitting in my office gently wafting sulphur-flavoured-tear-smoke.
“But…it wasn’t supposed to go this way,” he says plaintively, the flame in his eyes dulled to a low burn, “You can’t get everything you want without it destroying you.”
I’m not a bad man. I’ve just had some difficult decisions to make.
“Perhaps I’m the exception to the rule,” I reply. I notice the fiery tears on the tissue. I wonder how much Satan tears are worth on the black market. (Oh yes, there’s a market, to those of us in the know. Look in the blogs, look in the message boards, hidden in public on eBay. It’s there, certain as I fucked my ol’ lady this morning.)
“Is it really that good?” He asks plaintively. He wants the answer to be no. He wants to see me suffering, in life even as my soul will post death. The soul I exchanged for all of this. If you believe in that shit.
I lean across the table, taking another hit from the cursed e-cigarette. Who wouldn’t want to live this life longer? I let the useless steam waft from my nostrils, mingling with the sulphur of the being in front of me.
“It’s fucking better than you could ever believe.” The words are almost whispered.
He stands. Little known fact: Even evil personified can only make short trips to this realm. And well, this evil is getting on a bit. Losing his edge, the same way he lost his successor, his protégé.
He shuffles towards the door, a defeated, red skinned man. Prime candidate for a heart attack, the box containing my soul under his arm. He turns around and looks at me, with his still brimming (har har – fire and brimstone, get it?) eyes.
“Are you sure?”
I walk towards him and embrace him gently.
“Dad, look I told you. I wanted out of the family business. Now go home and say hi to Mum for me.”
As I close the door behind him, I feel the remnants of his soul tremble in my pocket.