Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Crossroads (Part 2 of 3)

When the truck had gone, and the dust settled, the demon stood before him. It wasn’t what he’d expected. It had no horns. No forked tongue or spaded tail. No pitchfork like a cartoon devil. It had eyes, not red, but as green as his own. And skin the color of milk with a touch of honey.

And a face Jason Turner could never forget.

The demon wore his sister’s face. There was no mistaking her crooked smile nor could he miss the small scar on her chin.

“No,” he said and retreated one small step. A feint at what he actually wanted to do in that moment.

He’d been prepared to go toe to toe with something inhuman, with something grotesque and terrible. He’d never seen a demon before tonight, but he’d had it on good authority that they weren’t that easy to look upon. Of course, he wasn’t finding it easy to look upon his sister, either.

The demon cocked its head to the side regarding him through amused eyes. “No? C’mon, Jacey. Is that any way to greet me after so long.”

The pain in his stomach writhed again. “You can’t be here,” he said, gritting his teeth across his words.

“I’m afraid I can,” was her response.

For a quiet moment, Jason watched the demon, his sister. He had come here to change his life. He’d come looking for the means to forget the person he’d been in all the years before this one and be better. There was irony in it, to be sure; selling your soul in order to convince yourself you have one. That was the level to which Jason had fallen. Only a demon could raise him up again.

But his sister hadn’t suffered from his less desirable traits. She had been kind and loving and good. The sort of person who’d give the coat on her back if she saw someone in need. The sort of person who made sacrifices for others. Jason had never been that good or selfless. He was the sort of person who chastised her for confusing recklessness with kindness. He was the sort of person who summoned demons at crossroads. Not her. She couldn’t be here.

A trick, he thought, that’s all this is. “Why are you using her face?”

Slow snaking breezes lifted the dust around her feet. It billowed around her, obscuring her feet in dull clouds. Moonlight cast pallor over everything, greying even her vibrant skin. And all around them, beetles snapped and clattered from the tall, dying grasses.

“Always so good with denial.” The demon with his sister’s face said sadly.

Lifting her hand before her, she opened her fingers to reveal a small leather bag. Not his, he realized. This one was darker, the drawstring at the top adorned with beads that glittered green and pink in the moonlight. Its strap was long and coiled around her wrist many times. At the edge of those coils her skin was pinched and pink. Even at a distance, Jason could see the scar from where it had dug into her skin.

He didn’t want to recognize it and he didn’t know what it meant that he did, but the beads on the bag were distinct. They were the beads from a necklace he’d given her on her seventeenth birthday when he’d been barely fifteen. It hadn’t been in their budget, but he’d taken extra work at the butcher for a month to afford it. That was before he’d discovered easier, more practical ways of affording the finer things in life.

“Jacey.” Her hand closed again on the little bag, clutching. Her fingers flushed white and Jason remembered how they twisted in the bed sheets at the end of another sleepless night. Her skin had lost its blush of honey so quickly and no one understood how or why such a healthy girl had grown so suddenly ill. Exceptionally tragic given her brother’s concurrent recovery from a fall that should have left him immobilized if not dead. “Jacey, why are you here?”

Before she appeared, he’d known the answer to that. If the demon that answered his call had born any other face he’d have said, “My soul for health and wealth.” Now, though, it wasn’t so simple.

“I’m here to make a deal.” Jason said, finding a small piece of resolve to stand on. He cleared his throat and smoothed his shirt before he continued. “I’m here to bargain for your soul.”

See you Friday for Valerie's conclusion!

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