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Contractual Obligations

Jessica M. Kormos leads a double life: QA by day, writer by night. She's a Pennsylvania native who moved to California temporarily--ten years ago--and happily calls San Diego home. She writes science fiction and horror, freelances as a writer and data analyst, and makes surprisingly edible brownies. Jessica's work has appeared in Urban Fantasist and Tales to Terrify, and she is a graduate of Viable Paradise XVIII. When she's not writing she hikes, swing dances, plays cello, and gets lost in wonderfully twisted horror games. She will always stop to pet a dog. You can find her on her website at jessicakormos.com.

"If you want me to stay, Alice, I'll need you to agree to a few things. First of all, you'll need to sin a little."
"I don't want to do anything really bad."
"Well, Alice, you'll have to do something a little bad."
"It's part of the contract--the deal--that we're making."
"So I have to pinky swear?"
"Yes, a pinky swear will work."
"And if I do, you'll stay?"
"I'll stay."
"And then we can go have fun?"
"All the fun you can handle, kiddo."
"Okay. How about if I walk across the street without looking both ways? I'll only look one way."
"Good start. We have to cross the street to get to the amusement park anyways. What else?"
"And then... I'll sneak in without paying!"
"You are truly a rebel after my own heart."
"I'll tell a big, fat lie and say I can't find my mommy. I'll pretend I'm crying. Then we'll get cotton candy, and we won't even pay for it!"
"That should be sufficient to keep me here."
"Astaroth, what does 'sufficient' mean?"
"It means good enough. You've got syrup on your chin, Al."
"Thank you. My mama taught me manners."
"I know. Your mama is good."
"Are you good?"
"I haven't always been, Al, no. I've done some really, really bad things."
"Like what?"
"Always with the questions, that I am always obliged to answer."
"Nevermind. But bad stuff. I'm a bad guy. A demon, if you will"
"Nuh-uh. You helped my mom."
"Keep saying good things about me. It'll make my boss mad."
"Who's that? Is he as mean as Mommy's old boss, Miss Stewart? She's a poophead; I hate her."
"Oh much meaner. My boss is a poophead, too. You may have heard of him. His name is Lucifer."
"Your boss is a boy and his name is LUCY FUR?"
"Heh, it is now."
"So what did Lucy Fur do that made you run away?"
"I supposed if I say 'worked me to the point of existential dread that threatened to crush me with the intensity of a black hole' that won't have much meaning? I mean, you're only five."
"Five and a HALF."
"Five and a half, I'm sorry. I forgot how important those six months are at this age."
"You talk funny."
"No, you talk funny."
"Tell me the story. You promised."
"Work on finishing that pancake and I will. Miss, another chocolate milk?"
"Chocolate milk! Chocolate milk!"
"Eat up."
"I guess I should start with 'Once upon a time.' Once upon a time, there was a really big war, like, the biggest war you've ever seen."
"When? I don't remember a war."
"Long before you were born."
"Like when Grandma was born?"
"Even older."
"No way."
"Way. This war didn't happen here, on earth, it happened far, far away. This war happened between the stars, on the plains of Heaven. I was on the losing side."
"Whoa. You fought God?"
"I did. As part of my punishment, I was cast down into Hell, along with Lucifer. We were angels once. Now we're considered fallen angels at best; devils at worst. Or demons. We have many names."
"That's SO LAME."
"At first it was pretty cool. I got promoted to be Lucifer's second in command, and even got my own office. Being a bad boy was a hit with the ladies, let me tell you. Anyway. It was a nice change of pace from Heaven."
"At least you got to keep your wings, even if they are black. My wings would be purple."
"Purple wings would match the color of your soul. See this mark here? No, it's okay; it doesn't hurt. Part of my punishment means I can't fly anymore. My wings are broken beyond repair."
"Super duper lame. That makes me sad."
"Don't be sad for me, Al. Not on a day like today."
"God's a jerk."
"Is that right."
"He is. I went to church and I prayed for him to save Mr. Pickles, but Mr. Pickles died anyways."
"Mr. Pickles?"
"My pet hamster."
"Ah. Just curious, Al, is that how you managed to summon me?"
"I guess so?"
"Look at you, lying already. We'll make a recalcitrant of you yet."
"You keep using big words. I was so mad when I prayed in church and nothing happened. Praying in church didn't keep mommy from losing her job. Nobody there helped us when Daddy left. I stomped my feet--Mommy said it was a tantrum--and I said that if God didn't help, maybe the Devil would."
"Well, I guess maybe there is something to be said about divine timing. Because you needed help, and I needed a break."
"Lucy never let you take a vacation?"
"Nope. Not once."
"Do you at least get to eat ice cream for dinner, or whenever you want?"
"No ice cream. It's too hot where I live. Remember the time the air conditioning broke in your van on the way back from Florida? Hotter than that."
"That's not fair."
"Lucy isn't a big fan of being fair."
"So now you're on vacation with me?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes."
"Are you here to do more bad things? Will you make me do bad things?"
"No more than what's necessary to keep me here. I'm tired of all the bad stuff, Al. I've had lifetimes and lifetimes of it. I want to have some fun and enjoy myself for a change."
"Does that mean you don't want to be a demon anymore?"
"Not really, Al. No. I don't."
"So what are we going to do?"
"Besides the amusement park? I've never petted a kitten."
"Not once. I'd like to pet a kitten, and spend a whole day watching cartoons. See the ocean. Eat ice cream and donuts until we can't eat anymore."
"The cream filled ones topped with chocolate are the best. But not that icky yellow pudding cream. The white kind."
"If you don't have diabetes by the time I'm done with you, I will have failed miserably at my job."
"Die a beets?"
"Don't worry about it, kiddo. There's just one catch. If you want me to stay, you have to let me into your soul."
"But why? I can see you, here, right now."
"This body you see before you? This is nothing more than a glimmer--a trick of the eye. I can be seen if I want to be, like to buy you breakfast. But it's tough for me to hold this image."
"Ohhhh, I get it now. If I let you in my soul, we'll always be together?"
"Maybe, kiddo. Lucy is pretty powerful. Oh now, don't cry. There's no crying in demonic possession."
"Here. I made you this."
"What is it?"
"It's a friendship bracelet. The purple string is me, and the red string is you."
"I don't think I've ever had a friend before."
"You're my bestest friend. So yes, you can be in my soul."
"Let me pay for breakfast first. It's a perfect fit, Alice. Thank you. I'll help you put it on your wrist when I transfer bodies."
"Then we'll go to the amusement park? And ride rides all day long?"
"Yes, Alice. I promise."
"And you'll always be my friend? No matter what?"
"No matter what."
"Your wings. They're not broken anymore."
The End
This story was first published on Friday, April 28th, 2017

Author Comments

This story came into being through many silly discussions about the rules of demonic possession and exorcism. What started as a very tongue-in-cheek story turned into something more meaningful to me. It's simply a tale of two lonely souls looking for connection. Astaroth is described in grimoires as a demon bound to answer any question asked of him. I couldn't think of a more perfect counterpoint than a curious child.

- Jessica M. Kormos
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