So — to return to my original question, have you ever had the sneaky feeling that cartoon physics make more sense than real-life physics?
For instance, if you’re running from a real live Demon From Hell — which, I might remind the reader, is not supposed to exist — and you really, really need to make a 90-degree Road-Runneresque turn into another corridor to escape — shouldn’t you be able to do that without smashing into the wall and lying in a crumpled heap on the floor?
Struggling into a sitting position and bracing my back against the wall, I looked up just as the demon came to a stop in front of me. Easily eight feet tall, he had wings covered in peacock feathers, two large horns on either side of his forehead and a strong odour of brimstone. After briefly looking behind him, he stooped down in front of me and held out a singed parchment with a lot of writing on it.
“I just need you to sign this, please.”
Along with the smell of brimstone, the demon was accompanied by his own unholy sound track — the screams of endless lost souls crying out in damnation. A fearful and hopeless wailing that didn’t just curdle the blood, but turned it into thick yoghurt.
Briefly glancing behind him again, he turned back to me and yelled, “Will you shut up!”
I closed my mouth. The wailing stopped. I deduced a connection.
“That’s better,” he said, and crouched down on his haunches so he could talk to me face to face.
I didn’t want to talk to him face to face. The wailing started again, but acting on my previous deduction I closed my mouth and once more it stopped.
“I don’t have much time,” he said, “so I need you to sign this contract quickly. Well, not sign, really. Just voluntarily put your thumbprint in blood on it.”
“I’m not signing anything. Nothing. Not in pen. Not in blood. Especially not in blood. And not in pen either. Did I mention that? I’m not going to make a pact with the devil — I won’t even sign on with Rogers Cable TV. I will not make any deals with you. I’ve resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. I am a free man.”
The demon drew back his head. “The Prisoner. I’m impressed. Great show. But it’s not like that. I can explain it in more detail later, but right now we’re rushed for time.”
“Not me,” I said somewhat hysterically. “I’ve got all the time in the world. I can sit here all night. I’m not giving you my soul, and that’s my last word!”
“I don’t want your soul,” he said.
“What do you want?”
“I was thinking maybe $20 a week?”
“Twenty dollars a …”
“A week. Negotiable. I don’t care. Maybe ten.”
“You — you want a salary? No soul?”
He shook his head emphatically. “No soul.”
“And what do I get?”
He beamed at me with a broad smile. There were way too many teeth in that smile.
“You get a partner.”
“For $20 a week…”
“For $10 or $20 a week you’ll be my partner?”
“That’s it. Just sign at the bottom of this document and we’re squared away.”
He gave the parchment a flip and it unfolded to a length of about six feet.
“You’re kidding!” I squealed. (In a manly fashion.) “That’s almost as long as the cable company’s contract.”
“It’s mostly just boilerplate,” he assured me. “I admit, I haven’t looked it over carefully myself, but the important part is here.”
He pointed to a paragraph that read:
Oiad olor ol oiad l-o plapli gemeganza conisbra niis oiad olor ol oiad cro-od-zi plapli niis ollor morb ial ol grosb crcrg corsi olani nostoah oiad olor ol oiad cro-od-zi plapli vls oiad olor ol oiad l-o part.
“What the hell is that?” I yelled. “It’s not English and it doesn’t even look like Latin!”
“Oh, sorry,” he said. “It’s Enochian. Basically it says the the party of the first part, which is me, will work for the party of the second part, which is you, for the agreed-upon sum until such times as the party of the second part, which is you, decides to terminate the deal.”
“Why do you want to make a deal with me that has you working for me at less than slave-wages when you’re not even getting my soul out of the bargain?”
“I need to be on Earth. I need to be corporeal for a while. And think of the advantages to you.”
“How about a partner who can become invisible at will,” he said, and promptly faded away.
I stared at the empty hallway for a moment while the truth dawned on me. I’d been hallucinating. This was all nothing more than —
And then the hallway was gone, blocked by a massive demon.
“Uh — impressive,” I said.
“Oh,” he said waving a hand, “that’s nothing. We demons have all sorts of powers.”
“Still not signing. You demons also have all sorts of lies.”
“We don’t lie!” he said, affronted. Then, after a pause, “Okay, we lie. We lie all the time. It kind of goes with the territory. But I’m not lying. I really, really need to be on Earth for a while and I don’t have time to explain. Nergal knows I’m here and is suspicious. I know he followed me, and he’s going to try to stop me and –” he broke off, looking as though he was about to burst into tears. “And — I just can’t stop! It’s too important!”
“Who’s Nergal? What is so important? I’m not doing anything until I know why you want to be on Earth.”
He looked behind him again, growing more agitated by the second.
“One of our demons,” he said. “She’s disappeared. I need to find her. Nergal is the Chief of the Secret Police in Hell, and he doesn’t want anyone else looking into the disappearance, most especially me.”
There was a boom in the ceremony room, like a fireball erupting inside a ball of smoke.
The demon’s wings drooped and he looked defeated.
“He’s here,” he said. “Nergal is here.”
“Why? Why do you want to look for her so badly?”
“Because,” he said, sounding both weary and sad, “she’s my sister and I think she’s involved in a dangerous cult!”
There are notes to this chapter, which can be found by hovering over the “Story Notes: No spoilers” tab at the top of the page.
Warning — Read the chapter first, otherwise the notes may be an inadvertent spoiler.
This is my 12th entry in the February writing challenge, “30 Minus 2 Days of Writing: III” (or 30M2DoW) issued by We Work for Cheese, the rules for which, such as they are, I am completely ignoring — except the attempt to post each day during the month.