By H. E. Remus
She stood at the crossroads, where there were four stop signs. It was freezing.
Her nose was numb. There were tiny frozen pieces of snow, ice, and her own frosty breath that framed her hood, closed as tight as she could manage without obscuring her vision. The sky was grey, flat. There was no active snow but for that which the wind blew about as a cruel joke, reminding the residents of the plains that no matter what they did there would always be snow blowing in the winter. She wanted to check her smartphone for the temperature, but it would be colder to remove her hands from her pockets, more of a risk to expose the device to the elements.
There were no cars out in this weather, at this time of night. It was becoming dusk, the color of the sky darkening into the night.
What am I waiting for? She wondered. Was it fear? Was it excitement?
She looked out over the crossroads. She could barely see past any of the road signs. The wind howled on the open hills, shooting down from the arctic circle across Canada to consume the open midwestern cornfields with frozen sleep.
Just do it. She thought to herself, and opened her cold lips to shout into the snowy void.
“HEY! HEY! HEY!” She shrieked, her voice as loud and rigorous and committed as she could manage.
“You have to mean it.” She remembered Alice saying. “Scream it like you want Him to come.”
At first, there was nothing but the howling wind and the ice biting at her skin and making her cheeks rosy. The hush of the winter air was still dull as a padded room. Her voice hadn’t echoed, it hadn’t been sent across the wind.
It didn’t work. She thought. That was stupid.
For a few more minutes, she stood there by one of the signs, waiting for a car, waiting for someone in a dark black cloak to appear. Perhaps she hadn’t done it right. Alice would know. Alice had seen the Someone.
“HEY!” She tried again. “HEY! HEY!” Back into the wind went her voice, snatched by the whirling bits of snow and ice around her. She felt a bone-chilling shiver climb her spine from her coccyx to the tip-top cervical vertebrae at the back of her skull. It was slow, and made her shudder all over for a moment.
“Hello.” Said a voice, and the girl whipped around to look for its owner. “Well isn’t it a bitch out here?”
Beside her, as she peeked out from the edge of her hood, she saw a strange looking man in black swim trunks with sunglasses on. There were seven little upside down crosses on either side of them. She counted quickly. She loved to count.
“Fuck, it’s cold.” Said the man, looking older and grizzled and somehow still handsome. He was fit, topless. He wasn’t fat, nor was He thin. She couldn’t see his eyes. His hair was thick and dark, with heavy streaks of gray like stripes throughout. He pushed His sunglasses down a little, and she noticed He was holding a drink with a cocktail umbrella shaped like a little knife.
“So?” He asked. “Do you want to make a deal with me, or what?”
“Uhm,” She started out, biting her lip. He’s not… He’s not what I thought. “I think so.” She said.
“Well, out with it.” He demanded, looking at her with piercing red eyes. She’d never seen red eyes before. She was mesmerized.
“I want you to kill someone for me.” She said aloud, the words feeling strange on her heart as she did so. She had wanted it for a long time. She did not anticipate how it would feel to say it aloud, though.
“Look, I haven’t got all day here.” He said, tapping His glass as he raised it to His lips and tipped His head back. He drank the rest of the golden-red liquor inside it. Then He tipped the glass over and dumped the little knife and all the ice down onto the snow at their feet. She looked down. He wore sandals. His legs looked older, too, as if they’d had some experience in the world. She realized His swim trunks had ten tiny five pointed stars on each side. She was counting again.
“You’re really going for it, aren’t you?” She asked.
“What?” He leaned in closer. She could smell His breath, somehow still hot despite the ice surrounding them. It smelled of liquor, and burning pine.
“Look at your outfit. You picked those clothes?” She mocked, unable to help herself.
“Are you serious?” He leaned back and threw His cocktail container into the road. It smashed against ice, the glass shattering and sliding from the sheer force. “You’re going to give the fucking Devil a hard time about his Satanic clothes?”
“Everyone wears those these days.” She said. “You couldn’t find something scarier, more creative?”
“Hey, not a lot of people summon me, OK?” He became defensive. “I’ll wear what I want, thank you very fucking much. I am the Devil.” She began to notice His speech patterns. He made an indignant sound. “Don’t fuck with me, kid. What do you want already? I can’t just kill people, you know. Some people have destinies and shit.”
“Destinies and shit?” She asked skeptically. “You know, if it weren’t for the fact that I just summoned you, I’d have a hard time believing you were the Devil.”
“Is this how you talk to the old men in your life? I’m thousands of years old here. Don’t fuck with me. I told you. Make a deal and be done with it or I’ll make a deal with the damn Son of God right now for your measly little soul.”
“Aren’t I about to give you my soul anyways?”
“Ew, no.” The Devil looked at her with His bright red eyes over His dark sunglasses in the dead of winter, topless, full of bile, and irritated. “Souls are disgusting. Why do you think I throw all of them in a pit of fire? Have you seen one?” He seemed to shake something off. “Ick. No. I’m a bigger fan of debauchery and lecherous behavior.”
“I see.” She said. “So if you kill someone, you don’t get their soul?”
“Didn’t you hear me, kid? I can’t just kill someone.”
“Can you give me the power to do it?”
“I could.” He said, leaning against the stop sign beside them. He was tall. There was something strangely attractive about Him, something odd that she found herself drawn to. Something sexual, something sinful.
He is the Devil. She thought to herself. He’s supposed to bring lust, anger, sloth, pride, and all that to humans, right?
“I’ve never had somebody procrastinate on a deal so much.” He said. “What do I get if I give you some of my power?”
“What can I do with your power?” She inquired.
“You can do lots of stuff. I’ll give you a manual. Come on, come on, deal or no deal?”
“Wait!” She said. “What am I giving you? A vacation to the Bahamas?”
He stood up straight. “That’s enough out of you.” He spat, then coughed and belched some smoke out towards the road. “Let me visit you during the full moon every month.” His eyes gleamed.
“Visit me?” She asked. She saw the look He gave her. She wasn’t particularly attractive, but she wasn’t ugly. She had a shapely ass. She knew what he meant. He was impatient.
“You know. Take you to the boneyard?”
“I never thought the Devil would be a cheesy bastard.” She said. “I should be the one telling you to fuck off.”
“You’re the one who called me here. Either I get to visit you and we fuck once a month, or you don’t get the power.”
Something in the way He said fuck once a month drew her in. Sure, He was several thousand years her senior. But He was a sarcastic silver fox, also.
How bad can it be to sleep with Satan? She wondered to herself. She wanted revenge more than she cared about who she slept with. She wanted the power He could give her.
“Well, you’re not ugly.” She said aloud, returning the flirtation.
“Cool.” He leaned through in the cold wind, ice and snow battering the both of them, and kissed her cheek with His scorching mouth. Her face burned hot and bright, flaming with her own embarrassment and his heat. Everything smelled like smoking pine.
“Deal?” She asked Him.
He squeezed her ass quickly after He kissed her cheek. It made her jump.
“Deal.” He winked a bright red eye at her over His sunglasses, not for the last time. “See you next month.” He grinned, and He was gone.
She looked down, feeling cold again. His piney alcoholic smell had already been swept away by the wintry weather.
She saw His little cocktail knife on the ground in the snow, and leaned down to pick it up. It was small, but she could read in tiny letters on the side, manual.
What am I supposed to do with this? She wondered. He’s coming back in a month. How is this a manual?