This piece started out as an experiment in writing in the second person, and then sat in virtual mothballs until Chick Wendig posted his latest Flash Fiction contest. One of the titles seemed to fit after I edited it down a bit. It’s rough, but it helped me get back into fiction. I hope you enjoy!
Not Today, Satan
What was that sound?
It sounded like someone in the kitchen. You lie still, afraid to move.
There it is again. Definitely the kitchen. A cabinet door.
You wish you had a gun under your pillow. That’s crazy. Only crazy people sleep with guns under their pillows. But they’re not this terrified when they hear people in the kitchen.
You sit up as quietly as you can. 3:13 AM. You look for something to use as a weapon. Your iPad. Does Applecare cover self-defense?
You creep as silently as you can down the hall, wielding your iPad in both hands. Is creep the right word? Can you cower and walk at the same time?
“You can stop creeping,” says a voice from the kitchen. Warm honey poured over cold steel.
You enter, and see a man. The shape of a man. A shape darker than the rest of the kitchen. You want to turn on the light, but you are afraid to move.
“Let’s leave the light off for now.”
“Can you read my mind?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he laughs. It’s not a pleasant laugh.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m looking for tea. Don’t you have any tea?”
You get tea, fill the kettle, and put it on the stove.
“But that’s not what you meant. Why I am in your apartment?”
Your brow furrows.
You look over to where you put the iPad.
“You think I’m crazy. You’ve forgotten.”
Your brow furrows again. Does it look as stupid as it feels?
“Prom night?” He asks.
Prom night? What the hell is he talking about? Oh. Not that.
How could he know? He said he couldn’t read your mind. It wouldn’t matter if he could; you weren’t thinking about prom night until he brought it up. The likelihood of a guy offering his soul for something on prom night is pretty good. Lucky guess? Yes, a lucky guess. This guy is full of crap.
“You’re full of crap.”
“What was the name of that place? Belle Vista? On Route 9.”
If you survive this, you’re going to practice brow un-furrowing in the mirror.
“You promised your soul for a night of pleasure. We made it happen, and now we’re here to collect.”
You think about how “night of pleasure” is a very generous description of that encounter.
“Why collect now?”
“We reserve the right to collect whenever we wish.”
The kettle starts to whistle. You turn off the burner quickly, so your neighbors don’t hear. Would that be so bad? They wouldn’t complain, they would just hate you for the noise. You pour the tea and ask the crazy soul collector if he needs milk or sugar. No. He drinks his tea as hot as hell. Ha.
“Let’s sit.” He says. You take seats across from each other.
“You don’t have a choice here.” He tells you. “It just goes so much…easier…if you cooperate.”
You humor him and ask how your teenage self was supposed to understand the gravity of the situation.
“You made the offer in the bathroom of that motel room. Don’t you remember? You agreed to the terms and conditions when you unwrapped the package.”
“Are you comparing prom night sex to opening shrink-wrapped software?”
“Don’t be disgusting. The terms of service were on the condom.”
“What? I didn’t read the package!”
“That’s no excuse.”
“So I gave up my soul because I had prom night sex with the wrong condom?
“Or, the right one.”
You take a sip of tea. “So, are you who I think you are?”
“No, I’m not him. He doesn’t get out in the field much anymore. He’s been busy with all the baby boomers dying off now.”
“That makes sense.” You say. He nods between sips of tea.
“This is really good tea. Lemon Zinger. I might stay for another cup. But look, all you need to do is hold out your hand, and I’ll take the soul. It won’t hurt at all, and it’s not like you’re using it, am I right?”
“A lawyer joke? Isn’t that a little on the nose?”
“Why are you collecting now? That was fifteen years ago.”
“We use them for power. Each soul is worth like a zillion carbon credits. Keeping Hell warm ain’t cheap, and the solar panels just don’t work.”
There goes the brow-furrowing again.
“You’re surprised? The big guy is a true believer. You’d think he’d be all over fossil fuels, but he saw Inconvenient Truth and he’s a sucker.”
Your eyes widen.
“What? What could the old man possibly do to me? You remember where I work, right?” He empties his cup and holds it out, so you walk over to the stove and turn the kettle back on.
“What does losing a soul really mean?”
“Like I said, you won’t miss it. But when you die, you’ll be going south, not north.”
You pour tea as you ask if there’s anything he can do to help you get out of this situation. He frowns and shifts in his seat.
You grab a package of cookies.
“We’re not supposed to reopen negotiations.”
“Not supposed to, or can’t?”
“A deal is a deal, right? Surely a lawyer can understand. You got some tail and great memories, and now we want our soul.” He’s speaking quickly now. A bead of sweat runs down his forehead.
“You can’t force me to surrender my soul, can you?”
“There’s no reason to make this more difficult than it has to be.”
“No reason other than my soul, you mean.”
“People won’t be happy if you don’t cooperate.”
“People? You mean your boss? What’s he going to do? Send me to hell?”
He takes another sip of tea and spills a little when he sets the cup down too hard.
“If you can’t force me to give up my soul, how did you get me laid in the first place? Are you taking credit for something that would have happened anyway?”
“Goddamn. That’s funny.” You smile and hold out the cookies after taking one for yourself.
“You can’t blame us for trying.” He takes one.
“Hell no!” You say, and you both laugh.
“So what can you guys offer me?”
The collector looks back at you, mouth hanging open.
“Hey, you said it yourself. I am a lawyer.”