Writing project, January 2019

This month’s word is improve, meaning “to bring into a more desirable or excellent condition”.

——————

When it came right down to it, most people were willing to bargain with demons. The chance to improve instantly, to become the perfect version of themselves, was too tempting to resist.

And it wasn’t like the demonic bargains you read about in myths. There was no loophole, no hidden fine print, no catch. You got what you asked for. More than that, you got what you wanted. Of course, you were going to be eternally tortured once you died, but there’s a downside to everything. And most people managed to ignore that part, anyhow: the general feeling seemed to be “I’ll probably go to hell anyway, might as well get some benefit from it”.

So demonic bargains were common, is what I’m saying. If somebody’s life suddenly improved, most people assumed they’d made a deal with a devil. After all, why struggle to do it the hard way, and possibly fail, when success could be guaranteed?

There were some who railed against it, saying that the chance of heaven was worth pain and failure here on earth, but most people ignored them. Once their life started going downhill, most people would go to their nearest demonic summoning station.

The process was simple: you took one of the small needles available, pricked your finger and put a few drops of blood in the receptacle. A demon appeared and you negotiated for what you wanted. Very simple, practically foolproof. And yet, Tod managed to mess it up.

He didn’t mean to, of course. Whenever he caused catastrophe, it was never deliberate or malicious. He was the giant puppy of destruction. And he nearly ruined the demonic bargaining system forever.

He didn’t like needles, you see. And you can already tell how this is going to go. He brought a friend, and used a few drops of the friend’s blood to activate the receptacle, and then made a bargain in his own name. This worked fine – until, a few years later, his friend decided he too wanted to make a bargain with a demon.

Because, as it turned out, the bargain is actually made with the person whose blood is used, and so a number of beings were extremely angry:

  • Tod’s friend, because they couldn’t make a bargain of their own, and because they were now doomed to hell
  • The demon Tod had bargained with, because they’d been tricked
  • That demon’s superiors, because it made them look bad
  • The angels, because they hadn’t noticed the issue either

Those who thought it was no big deal:

  • Tod, because he had died and somehow ended up in heaven, from where, it appeared, you could not be ejected even if you didn’t really deserve to be there.

At this point, a number of changes were rapidly made to the system, the main one being that a demon was stationed in each summoning station to watch people give their blood. This was an unpopular, because boring, job, and the majority of the demons doing it spent their time coming up with special punishments for Tod, should they ever get their claws on him.

Tod was fully aware of this, because he liked to people-watch back on Earth, but he wasn’t worried since he knew that there were no take-backs for heaven: once you were in, you were in. He did feel a little sorry for his friend, but mostly he felt smug. Somehow he, Tod, an average individual, had outsmarted hell. He was actually kind of proud of that.

© bardofupton 2019

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