“You’re sure you can get me in to see the band?” Lila Dawkins asks, biting her bottom lip. Four young men with swooped hairstyles and smoldering gazes are plastered across her jacket sleeves, a white tee-shirt with the word costume written in sharpie underneath. “Everyone says the tickets are sold out.”
“Not just see it, my dear. You’ll get to meet each of the members.” I reach into my pocket, tugging on the strings of reality that rest there, and pull out two hot pink concert tickets. Lila’s eyes go wide as saucers, mouth practically drooling. I’ve got her right where I want her. “So, what do you say, Ms. Dawkins? Do we have a deal? Just a tiny pinprick of blood and you’ll have all the terrible boyband music you could dream of.”
Her glitter-varnished nails snatch up the tickets. “Give me the contract.”
“Excellent decision. If you could just bleed on the dotted—”
I cough in the sudden flutter of smoke despite my lack of lungs, swatting the black gas away. A pentagram drawn poorly in duct tape sits beneath my shoes, the walls changing from pleasant pink to exposed brick. As the smoke fades, I find myself staring at a ragtag duo of teenage boys. I pinch the bridge of my nose, trying to ignore the fact that my last deal before reaching the monthly demon quota has been ruined by a couple of idiots.
In all my years serving Hell, there has been no greater annoyance than being halfway through the transaction of a soul, the sharp metallic sting of a blood signature in the air, when some teenager sucks you into a crumbling basement to entertain their friends.
“Hello, gentlemen,” I greet them, putting on my best charm. “I see we’re in the market for a deal.”
“I knew it would work,” the one with pock-marked acne scars exclaims. The bright flash of a camera nearly blinds me. “What should we have him do?”
“I need a soul in order to do anything, as I’m sure you’re aware.”
“We could have him change our Algebra grades,” the one with braces suggests. “Or show us what a soul looks like.”
“He is standing right here and he is not doing anything without a soul.”
“But as soon as we lift the pentagram, you’re free to terrorize Halloween. That’s better than a deal. Now, I command you to show us a soul!”
A dry smile forms at my cracked lips. “You humans think this is our favorite holiday, a chance to go out into the vibrant world of the living dressed in our scariest forms, is that right?”
The boys nod.
“You couldn’t be more wrong,” I declare, vexed. “Being a demon is a job. An unforgiving job I certainly didn’t choose. There are deals to be made, souls to be bought. Some of us are even contractually obligated to do a few possessions. Do you know how difficult it is to draft up a two-hundred-page soul agreement on a day when fifty different people think it would be fun to do a little spell and summon you without cause? Halloween should be our most profitable day of the year, but snot-nosed fools like you make it a nightmare.”
“He sounds like your dad, Seth. Summon a better one,” Braces whines.
Acne pulls out a bottle of holy water, splashing me in the face. “Begone, demon!”
“You don’t have to tell me twice.” With a snap, I disintegrate both of their smartphones. “And, a word of advice, get some real holy water before you dabble in black magic.”
I appear in my charred cubicle with a sigh. The summoning rituals used to be secret, something you could only get if you desperately needed to make a deal with a demon. People used to come to us to bring their loved ones back to life, or to advance in their careers. Now all anyone ever does is try to take pictures and post them on the internet. Lately, it seems like the internet is stealing more souls than all of my fellow demons combined.
Thankfully, there are only a few hours left until Halloween’s over. The boss won’t be too merciful if I miss my soul quota again, but maybe I can scrape up another deal before the inevitable midnight summonings start. I might even flash an ivory fang at the lucky kids who get to see my bad side, then maybe they’ll tell their friends to cease and desist. In my one hundred and twelve years of living down here, fear seems to work much better on humans than a demon politely asking them to stop chanting ancient spells.
“I call to thee, Dark Spirits,” a faint voice murmurs in my ears as phantom hands begin to yank me forward. “Hear our call, Demons of the Deep…”
“Don’t you dare,” I swear, glancing at the clock to find my deadline ticking closer. Margery gives me a malicious wave from the reception desk. “Send someone else to answer the—”
Jade Swann can be found writing with a cup of coffee in one hand and a Boston Terrier by her side. Her work has been published in Microfiction Monday Magazine and in the anthology Nonsensically Challenged Volume 2.
Thank you for your Patreon support; it means a lot to us.