Updated: Dec 28, 2021
Mikey immediately clutches his elbow and winces. His skin starts leaking tiny drops of blood from the three feet he slid across the hot concrete. Marta chuckles to herself, sitting on a small skate box near Mikey. She jockeys her skateboard back and forth under her feet in front of her. A smirk of enjoyment forms at his brutal wipeout.
“One more chance, Mikey. Hit a kickflip off a rail grind and you have yourself a date,” Marta shouts.
Determined to take her out for burgers and shakes in his beat up PT Cruiser, Mikey runs back up to the top of the ramp. He carefully places the lip of his board to the edge and aligns it perfectly with the same rail he just fell from. His heart races. The pressure to perform mounts. One kickflip off a rail. That’s it. One trick and he’ll be the coolest Junior at Pyre Heights. Just before slamming his foot down onto the edge of his board, I flash atop his shoulder, coolly leaning against his neck.
“It would be pretty tough if you embarrassed yourself again, Mike,” I say, rubbing the back of my sharp black nails against my lapel. “I just, I just wonder...what if you could guarantee you nail this kickflip? What if you could, I don’t know, make a trade for your wildest dreams?”
Mikey relaxes his stance and tilts his head towards me, “A trade? Like what for what?”
I whip my tail around and use the knife-like edge to clean my crooked smile. He’s mine. “Nothing important. You just have to give it to me sometime before you die.”
“Give you what?”
“Just your soul Mike. That thing I’ve heard you say isn’t real. Give me the rights to it and sometime when you’re ready, I’ll come collect. Until then, you and Marta will...well, let’s just say you’ll be making a certain PT Cruiser and other locals hotter than Hell.” I pat his cheek with one hand and snap my fingers with the other. A pen and contract float in front of his eyes. “Right on the dotted line, Mike.”
Mikey stares at the curled parchment floating in front of him over the edge of the ramp. With a trembling hand, he grabs the black fountain pen and signs his name.
I snap my fingers again, float back, and enjoy my handy work.
I watch Mikey nail the kickflip with ease. I watch Marta shrug and agree to go on a date with him.
I watch Mikey and Marta have a great relationship, until Marta’s manipulative nature drives Mikey’s insecurity up a wall. To prove his love, he attends a college out west with her, one that he hates. I watch Mikey give everything he has to keep their relationship alive, until a new man, some football jock named Garret, comes along and effortlessly steals Marta away.
I watch Mikey blame himself for losing her. I watch Mikey fill his empty heart with hard drugs, alcohol, and west coast friends that make even my skin crawl. In fact, I was sure I had made deals with most of them already.
I watch Mikey, leaning against the trunk of that same PT Cruiser some ten years later, sob into his hands as black smoke billows from the engine. Before I walk to the other side to greet him, I lean over the fumes and take a deep inhale. It smells like regret and desperation, my two favorite scents in the world.
“How’s life, Mike?”
Mikey pulls his face from his hands and looks me square in the eyes. At first his shoulders tense, but he quickly relaxes and lets out a deeply pained sigh.
“I’m ready to give you my soul.”
My lips purse tightly for a second to hide my excitement. “Sounds good to me, Mike.” I quickly but calmly dig for my portal clicker in my pocket. A quick press, two beeps, and a burning door frame appears, letting out the muffled screams of the damned.
Mikey drops his head and begins walking towards the door and then stops. “Before you take me to Hell,” he says, looking over his shoulder, “can you tell me what went wrong? What could I have done differently? Could...could all of this have been avoided?”
I thought about kicking him through the door to get things over with. Quicker delivery, quicker commission. But I didn’t. Instead, I thought I’d try something new, maybe make his eternity even worse. How sweet that would be.
“You know Mike, we demons have a competitor. Just one guy, he’s the worst. Ever since he came around our part of town once, it’s been a lot harder for us to fill our quotas, get paid what we deserve from the Boss.” I lean against the car, again digging into my pocket, this time for a soul cigarette to light. Hopefully it will give me a hit of patience to address Mikey’s question before I throw him into the lake of Fire. At the very bottom of my pants pocket I find one and light it. A quick drag, and I am ready to stand on my soapbox.
“Thing is about this guy, he conducts business way differently than us. His mission is to make people see their value in who they are supposed to be, while our mission is to wrap your value up in stuff or someone else.” I take another drag. “The reason you took that contract in the first place was because Marta symbolized more than a hot girl in school, she was your key to fame. Accolade. Felt good walking side by side with her for a few years, didn’t it?”
Mikey sheepishly nods.
“The problem, Mike, is people change. Stuff decays. So when your value is wrapped up in it, you lose yourself. And if you don’t know how to truly find yourself again? Well, you’re willing to give up anything for a believable imitation, even though you know, deep down, it’s not really you.”
My speech works better than expected because Mikey clutches his face again and weeps loudly. At this point the soul cigarette’s buzz is wearing off and I don’t have the patience for more mortal tears. So, I give him a swift kick in the lower back.
“Thanks for doing business Mike,” I shout at him. His body begins to dissolve as he descends screaming deeper and deeper into the hole. “Enjoy the eternal agony of never finding the real you.”