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|By RavenBlack, 25th February 2002.|
The bar was as any bar; smoky, crowded, noisy and dimly lit. The corner, wherein waited a man, was darker and smokier, but also quieter and emptier. None of the patrons knew why the corner was empty, but they all assumed there must be a good reason - perhaps the man had a strength and violence which belied his appearance. Perhaps each of them was the only one who didn't know. So they thought, and so they stayed away.
The doors were slowly opened to admit another man. Tendrils of clean air pierced the smoke, an inversed mirror image of the wisps of smoke that escaped in return. The newcomer was alone, and nobody showed any intent to approach him. He, meanwhile, was looking around as though expecting to recognise someone. Eventually, his eyes adjusted to the environment, he managed to focus on the mysterious man in the corner. He started over, neglecting to even pause to soothe his parched throat.
He moved as one who is used to crowds parting for him, or at least, he would have, if the crowds had obliged. As it was, he rather moved as one who is not used to crowds not parting; buffeted and bumped, he would have spilled his drink, had he been carrying one. It seemed as though the crowd as a whole was intent on preventing him reaching his destination, yet each individual member either was apologetic, or glowered as if the collision were his fault.
As if he had crossed an invisible line, suddenly the crowds were gone. Not literally disappeared - they were still there, behind him - but they no longer surrounded, no longer knocked him. The man in the corner didn't move, still resting his head on his hands, and his elbows on the grimy table. There was a light, the interloper noticed, above the table - it merely wasn't switched on. The seated man didn't appear to be smoking, nor was there an ash tray, which made the smoke in the area seem a little strange. If the approaching man had noticed, he might have supposed it was something to do with the arrangement of the ventilation in the room. He just took a seat, however.
"I hear you can fix me up."
The waiting man, his wait ended, looked up. "I can. My price is a little steep."
"I heard about that, but I'm not sure I believe..."
"For your soul, I can make you a rich man."
"I don't believe in souls."
The man smiled a thin-lipped smile. "That doesn't matter to me. If you're right, you have nothing to lose."
The supplicant hesitated a moment, and licked his lips. "What do you do with my soul?"
"Just as your disbelief is no concern of mine, my purposes are no concern of yours."
"I suppose. Where do I sign?"
"Here," said the smoke-shrouded figure, pulling a thin sheaf of papers from under his coat.
Without even being read, the contract was signed. Nobody but the waiting man saw a shadow drift from the newcomer to himself. Both men stood and left, as one. This time the crowds parted effortlessly for their passage.
The scene is the same, but this time, a different man in the corner. Younger, muscular, his hair less grayed, a feel of confidence about him. This time, the patrons knew why they stayed away. This time, the smoke was evidently from a cigar in the man's hand.
This time, when the doors opened, the newcomer was older, and appeared to have his own aura of smoke. This time, the newcomer knew where he was going - he had been there before, sitting where the sleek young man now was. This time, the crowds parted easily, and the man took his seat with only a small patina of nervousness.
"I want power," announced the entrant.
"A soul..." The smug seated figure began.
"Give me the contract," demanded the older man, to the confusion of the younger.
The man recovered himself, and pulled out a sheaf of paper, much like the one that had been passed from the other's older hands before. The older man snatched it, and signed.
Both men saw the shadow pass between them. Both were pleased. Only the older man remained pleased, as the passed soul imploded violently, erasing the younger man from existence.
Yes, God was very pleased. He wondered why he had never thought to use deception before, in His struggle with the evil he had accidentally set loose, so long before. Such a useful tool. Perhaps he would use it again.
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