Friday, October 21, 2011

Crossroads (Part 3 of 3)

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.”

Meredith looked at him for a long, long time. Her head tilted slightly to the right, her face revealing nothing. The breezes twisting around her stopped, and everything went still. Too still.

Jason felt his certainty waver. The selfish part of him wanted to dig up his bag and run. Not out of fear, but from the shame. She’d always been good at this. Holding back, using her silence to make him speak. He felt fifteen again as he asked the question he didn’t want to hear the answer to. “What did you do, Mere?”

At this, her eyes turned kind. For the first time since she’d appeared, she looked like Meredith, and not some demon hiding behind her face. “I promised I’d always look out for you, didn’t I?”

“Not like this.” The sickness that had started in Jason’s stomach reached out for the rest of his body. Anger like liquid fire shot through his veins. He wanted to climb into hell and take down whatever demon had convinced his sweet, selfless sister to give up her soul. She didn’t deserve hell. Especially not for him. “You should’ve let me die.”

Meredith nodded. “Maybe I could’ve, if you were dying, but you weren’t.”

“I don’t understand. If I wasn’t dying, then why?”

“Would you have rather been a quadriplegic for the rest of your life? I couldn’t stand it, my baby brother, forever strapped into a chair, all because I was late picking him up.”

Jason thought back to the accident. So much of it was missing from his memory. He didn’t know why he’d been on the roof of the school that day, or how he’d managed to fall off. And since it was after school hours, no one had seen him but the janitor that found him splattered on the ground and called 911. He didn’t even know he’d been waiting for his sister. “No that’s…” He wanted to say that wasn’t true, but suddenly truth seemed like a slippery thing. Instead he told her what he knew. “That wasn’t worth your soul.”

Meredith shrugged. “What’s done is done.”

Jason walked toward her. The closer he got, the more he could feel the heat leaking from her in waves. It reminded him that she was here with him, but her soul was down there burning. He cupped his hand around the bag dangling from her wrist. It was heavy. Too heavy for someone as frail as Meredith to hold. The longer he held it, the more he realized he wasn’t feeling weight, he was feeling pull. The bag was her anchor. It kept her tied to hell even when she was out in the human world. It only increased his determination. He held his gaze steady on hers. “I can fix this.”

“Don’t.” She whispered.

“My soul for yours.” He said, and the bag he held in his hand began to glow.

They both studied it for a few moments before Meredith took a deep breath. “Are you sure? Your soul for my freedom?”

Jason knew he should be feeling fear, or at least sadness, but all he felt was relief. He would be redeemed. His life, all the terrible things he’d done since his sister died would be erased. Meredith would make the world a better place then he ever could’ve. He was positive, and he made his voice show it. “My soul for your freedom.”

A blast of heat burst at them from the ground, shooting Meredith’s hair straight up into the air. For a moment Jason thought she looked like she was falling. And then he realized the sensation was his. His feet stayed rooted to the ground, but he felt his soul detach and drop down, farther and farther until it touched flame. He squeezed his eyes shut in agony, but behind his lids he saw a landscape of fire and torture so horrific it made the burning of his soul feel like a slight itch.

“Jacey, open up.” Meredith teased. She sounded much more vibrant and alive than she had moments before.

Jason opened his eyes, grateful that at least his sister was saved.

Meredith pulled her bag free wrist away from Jason’s hand and grinned as he panted and tried to catch his breath. “Thanks, kid,” she said, in voice not at all her own.

As Jason watched, pale, pretty, teenaged Meredith morphed into a gorgeous, golden-skinned, raven-haired woman of about thirty. Without the headscarf and the shabby clothes and the wrinkles, it took him a moment to recognize the gypsy woman who’d told him how to summon the demon.

Jason glanced down at the heavy bag that now dangled from his wrist and could hardly speak. “Where’s Meredith?”

The painfully attractive woman threw her head back and laughed. “Hell if I know, kid.” she ruffled his hair as she walked past him, still grinning. “Thanks for the trade.”

Next week is our week off, but we'll be back on Monday, October 31st with an all new tangle started by Natalie!

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