by T. Mack
Franklin was 14 years old when the demon came. He—Franklin, not the demon—was long and spindly, in the midst of an awkward adolescence. The demon, by contrast, was tall and wide with a large neck, giant arms, and pale blue skin the color of the sky. He—the demon, not Franklin—appeared suddenly in the boy’s bedroom, standing bare footed on the carpet where there had been no one a moment before. Franklin looked silently at the demon, which looked silently back at him.
I’m not going to be afraid, Franklin thought to himself. I summoned it. It’s here because I made it happen. And whatever I demand of it is what it must do. So even though it’s very big and very blue, I won’t be scared. I’m in charge.
“I’m in charge,” said Franklin to the demon.
The demon did not respond, but stared at the boy. It knew what was happening.
“I’m in charge,” Franklin repeated.
“So you say,” the demon replied in a smooth deep voice. “However, I am obliged to tell you the rules.”
“I know the rules,” said Franklin. “I summoned and bound you. Now you must do as I say.”
The demon stared intently at Franklin for another full minute before it responded again. “You speak truth, boy.” This last word was said with some disgust in the creature’s voice, though its facial expression did not show it. “However, you do not speak the whole truth. You did summon and bind me. I must now do as you say. But there is more. Binding goes both ways. If you make the choice and complete our bond, we are connected forever, you and I. Your weakness becomes mine. My strength becomes yours. We will be as one forever more and since the beginning of time. There will not exist a reality where you and I are not one. Do you accept this?”
Franklin heard the demon’s words, but he wasn’t really listening. “I thought you’d have horns,” he said.
The demon smiled then, and finally, Franklin was scared. Though the demon had mostly the look of a human—albeit an extremely tall and muscular one with a strange skin condition—the illusion of its humanity dropped when it smiled. The smile covered too much of its face, spreading nearly from ear to ear. Its lips thinned until they were straight red lines across the gaping width of its mouth. Inside the hole where at least three rows of teeth, yellow and sharp. Stuck sporadically between them were chunks of something, as if Franklin had interrupted the demon during dinner. As he stared more intently at the innumerable teeth—for he could not take his eyes from them—he began to realize they were bloody pieces of meat. Franklin took a step back and the demon seemed to grin even wider. Its blue face had become two parts, a top and bottom, separated entirely by rows and rows of sharp teeth with blood dripping between them.
Franklin took another step back, but began speaking the end of the bonding spell. “Me to you, you to me. Two are one and we are we. From now and always. Since before this forever. You and I are bonded together.”
For a moment nothing happened except that the demon’s smile vanished in the blink of an eye. Its face was suddenly intact again and seemed mostly human. Its expression was neither happy, nor sad, angry, nor disappointed.
Franklin thought for a moment the spell had not worked. Then he heard a slight bubbling. He looked at the floor where a clear glass bowl sat on a brown hand towel spread across the dingy beige carpet. Inside it was a good portion of Franklin’s own blood, which he’d acquired by making a small incision on his left wrist. There were also several herbs and a few dead things the witch had given him to complete the spell. She’d tried to tell Franklin what they were, but he hadn’t cared then or now.
The blood in the bowl began to bubble softly, as if simmering on a stove top. Franklin felt the earth seem to shake beneath him. He widened his stance and bent over slightly in order to keep his balance. But when he looked around the room, nothing else was shaking. Not the bed, not his fishbowl, not his computer monitor.
After several seconds, the sensation stopped. Franklin stood up straight and smiled. His bond with the demon was complete. He felt its strength and power coursing through him. He knew he would no longer tolerate teasing, sit on the sidelines during sporting events, or keep an inhaler in his backpack. The spell had worked. Franklin had power.
The next day, Franklin went to see the local Dark Witch. He’d skipped visiting the four Light Witches in town when he’d decided to try magic. He’d known that what he was looking for, what he really wanted, would be found in the dark, not the light. And though doing business with dark magic dealers was more taboo than buying from light magic dealers, it was still legal. So Franklin had gathered his savings and gone to see the Dark Witch. Now he’d been bound to the demon for less than 24 hours. Already, though, he walked, talked, and thought differently than he ever had before.
When Franklin walked through the door of the small, dimly lit shop, a bell over the door jingled. The witch, who had been placing books on shelves near the back of the store, made her way quickly toward the front. She spotted Franklin and smiled, knowing he was different today.
“You possess the demon,” she said. “I can see it in you. You have its power.” The witch’s voice, which Franklin had at first expected to be low and gravelly, was high and smooth. It had struck him the day before and did so again. It was a sound that reminded him of the bell that had just rang above his head.
“Yes,” he said simply. Franklin was finding that his bond with the demon had changed so much for him already. He no longer needed to use so many words. He didn’t care anymore to explain himself all the time or fill silence to make things more comfortable. So he said only that one word to the witch and let the quiet between them settle.
“It will be interesting,” said the witch after a short while, “to see what you will do with your power in the time to come. Please do not forget to visit me when you are ready for more magic… and more.”
Franklin smirked. Prior to yesterday, he hadn’t had much of a sexual awakening. He liked girls, sure, but he was shy and didn’t know how to talk to them. Now, he noticed the witch’s figure beneath the purple, flowing fabric of her dress. He looked directly at her curves and didn’t care if she saw. He knew with certainty that he’d sleep with her at some point, probably many times. Probably in ways that most people would think indecent or even fiendish. Franklin winked at the witch, turned around, and left her shop.
From that day, Franklin’s life was split in two pieces: before the demon and after the demon. Before, Franklin had been a regular boy. He’d made pretty good grades, been able to run a lap around the track without doubling over in pain, had a few friends with whom he played video games, and by all other accounts been a basically normal kid. Though he hadn’t been immensely kind, he’d also not been cruel. While he got teased, he wasn’t horribly bullied. He was neither small nor big for his age, neither unattractive nor overly handsome. He was average, normal, and unremarkable by his own standard.
After the demon, though, Franklin became everything he ever wanted. In the years of high school following his bond, he suddenly made A’s without trying. He was exceptional at athletics and joined the football and baseball teams. Girls noticed him and went out of their way to be noticed by him. The friends from before were left behind for new companions: smarter, more popular, and more attractive. He got invited to parties he would never have known about before. Quickly, Franklin became taller and more muscular than his peers. He was considered the hottest guy in school. He teased instead of being teased. He even dipped his toe in bullying.
When he was 16, Franklin finally started an affair with the Dark Witch, whose name was Miranda. The sexual escapades were frequent and over time, grew more and more taboo. When Franklin was 18, just before he left for college, his relationship with the witch ended when he strangled her until she passed out during their lovemaking. When she awoke, he was still going on top of her. The witch never spoke to him again. He didn’t care.
During college, Franklin repeated his high school successes, but with much more sex, drugs, and debauchery. After college, Franklin was offered the chance to take his sports career pro but chose instead to go into business, where he made lots of money for himself and his company—usually at the expense of some poor nobody who couldn’t afford to do battle with his lawyers.
As his twenties began to come toward their close, Franklin found that he was discontent. He’d grown bored of the beautiful women, expensive foods, and amazing views from high-rise apartments and offices. He didn’t care anymore about trips to Europe, meeting celebrities, and all the other glamorous nonsense that made up his life. None of it entertained him anymore. None of it made him feel anything.
One evening during his 28th year, Franklin sat in his apartment alone. His naked skin was warm on the cool leather of his couch. He’d just kicked out a girl, maybe Samantha?…Sabrina?…Sarah?…Who cared anyway? She’d given him a bit of sexual service that was decent enough. And she was beautiful, like all his women. Also like all women, she’d been eager for more of him. But Franklin was so bored. He made her leave and contemplated what to do next.
In the midst of his self-pity, Franklin decided to summon the demon. He didn’t know where the demon had been. He honestly hadn’t cared. After the bond had been established and Franklin had the demon’s power, he had banished it away. He ordered it to make itself scarce while he lived his life and enjoyed the advantage of its power. Then he’d stopped thinking about it altogether. Following that, he’d never once wondered what happened to the creature of evil that made his entire life possible. Now he summoned the demon and it appeared.
“What the hell happened to you?” Franklin asked when he laid eyes upon the creature.
“You did,” the demon responded.
The demon had once been more than seven feet tall, as wide as two men, and built like a human body builder. Now, it was less than six feet tall and of average build. Its skin, which had been a pale but vibrant blue was now a pallid gray. The demon also had bruises, scrapes, and cuts all over its skin.
For several minutes, the two considered each other. The man was curious, intrigued, and for the first time in a long time, not the slightest bit bored. The demon, for its part, was as stoic and emotionless as ever.
“How have I done that to you? I haven’t seen you in more than a decade.”
“My power is your power. The more you have, the less I have. Your sins are my sins. The more you sin, the more I suffer.”
Franklin considered the demon’s words. He got to his feet and approached it. He stood before it, looking down because he had grown to slightly more than six feet tall while it had shrank to less.
“What does that mean? My sins are your suffering?”
The demon smiled. Unlike his smile more than two decades before, there was only one row of teeth. They were still sharp points, though. “I thought you said you knew the rules, boy. We are bonded. You carry my strength. I carry your burden. You are Dorian Gray. I am your portrait. The wrongs you do in your life are reflected on me. But unlike a painting, I feel. So I suffer for your sin as you siphon my power.”
Franklin smiled and considered the concept. How very intriguing. He pointed at a bruise over the demon’s ribs. “Why did you get this?”
The demon did not look down but answered without hesitation. “You stole a cab from an old lady.”
Franklin chuckled and pointed to a cut under the demon’s left eye. “This?”
“You beat up your girlfriend.”
“This one?” He pointed to a scrape on its left cheek.
“You betrayed your friend. He lost his job and his family because you wanted the bigger office and a pay bump you didn’t need.”
This time Franklin laughed out loud. “Have you been watching everything I do for twenty-four years?”
The demon looked at Franklin with true emotion for the first time. It looked a lot like pity. It was as if the creature thought the man stupid. When it spoke, it did so slowly, as if to a simpleton. “Me to you, you to me. Two are one and we are we. From now and always. Since before this forever. You and I are bonded together.”
Franklin stepped back from the demon and surveyed its body, a canvas of his deeds and misdeeds. He laughed again. “Okay, demon. Let’s see what you can handle.”
Franklin desperately wanted to observe this aspect of his bond with the demon. So he didn’t send it away again. Instead, he put it in one of the spare bedrooms of his spacious apartment. Every day, he came home to see what kind of new injuries the demon had acquired.
Franklin spread gossip at the office that could ruin a woman’s marriage. For this the demon received a gash on its arm. Franklin dressed up in disguise and mugged a couple he knew while they walked home from their anniversary dinner. He hit the wife in the face with the butt of his gun. The demon acquired a wound across his back as if he’d been lashed with a whip.
Franklin was fascinated by this phenomenon and it became to him a game. He conducted worse and crueler acts only to run home and see what they had done to the demon. He crossed lines that should never be crossed and hurt people in ways that human decency should not allow. For two years, Franklin was entertained by his demon in this way. Eventually, though, he found that when he was cruel to people, when he hurt them and made them suffer, he no longer ran home to see the effect on the demon. He knew what it did to that creature. Now he became entertained by what it did to the people who actually suffered it.
Franklin remained a successful and rich businessman. He continued to date beautiful women and meet celebrities. However, by the time he was 34, he regularly led a double life. During the day, he was just another charming and handsome man in an expensive suit with an overpriced watch on his wrist and his pick of beautiful women wherever he went. In the dark, though, he was something else. He was a thief and a fiend, a sadist, a rapist, and a serial killer. He was a monster. In truth, he’d become a demon.
The tortured creature remained in Franklin’s guest bedroom. The door stayed locked whenever Franklin himself was not inside. The demon never made demands for food, sleep, or a bathroom. It never tried to make conversation. It never judged Franklin’s actions or tried to convince him to stop. It simply existed in an ever more piteous state.
One night, Franklin decided he would not go out. He would instead spend the evening with his demon. It was a special occasion, after all. He fixed himself a drink, unlocked the bedroom door, and stepped inside. The room had no furniture. It was bare, with nothing interrupting the white carpet or light gray walls. In the center of the room, the demon sat. It could no longer stand as its legs were both broken and bent in unnatural ways. Its entire body was twisted, hunched over and folded in on itself, as if it were a piece of paper someone had balled up before tossing in the trash. Its skin was now a sickly yellow pallor, though most of that skin was difficult to see between all the open wounds covering its body. In some places, the skin should have been visible but looked as though it had been flayed off. One of the demon’s eyes was gone, the other swelled nearly shut. One ear was missing and the top of its head was blistered and raw as if it had been exposed to fire and left untreated.
The demon was a pitiful sight, so small and helpless, while Franklin felt so big and strong. He gazed at it for a long time while sipping his drink. Finally, he spoke.
“You don’t look so good, demon.”
“You look better than ever,” the demon responded.
Franklin nodded. “I feel wonderful. Do you know what today is?”
The broken face of the creature twitched, as if it was trying to smile. But its jaw was broken and its lip busted, so a twitch was all it could manage. “Yes.”
“It’s our 20th anniversary! We’ve been bonded 20 years today. Isn’t that something?”
The demon looked at Franklin with its one good eye, but said nothing. Franklin squatted, his knees bent, his entire body balanced on the balls of his feet. He brought his eyes level with those of the demon on the floor.
“Twenty years ago, I was a scrawny, unremarkable kid with a cheap spell playing at dark magic. Now, I’m the most powerful person I know. Even those in more powerful positions than me are only there because I don’t desire those positions. I am stronger and smarter than anyone else. There is nothing I can’t do and no one who can stop me from doing or getting exactly what I want. By contrast, look at you. You were larger than life back then. Now you’re nothing but a sad heap of miserable flesh. Isn’t that amazing?”
The demon spoke and Franklin heard. Though the demon’s mouth, which was broken, did not move. Inside his mind, Franklin heard the demon speak.
“You weren’t unremarkable. You, like all people, were an amazing well of possibilities. There were infinite ways your life could have gone. But you chose a single one, the one with no further options and no second chances. And you did so without considering all the other options available to you. You did so without fully understanding the option you chose. You weren’t unremarkable. You were stupid. You always have been and will always remain so. There is no hope for you and no escape. I am your life and you are my hell. And here we are.”
Franklin stood, surprised. He was thrown off by hearing the creature’s voice in his head. And the words the demon had said didn’t help his unease.
“I don’t need to escape, idiot. I have an undying supernatural creature that gives me strength and—“
“Who said I am undying? I certainly did not, for that would have been a lie. I can’t lie to you. We are bound.”
Franklin stared at the broken creature as the demon’s laugh resounded in his head. “You stupid boy,” it said. “I am not undying. I am already dead.”
Franklin stared into the demon’s one remaining eye and for the first time saw the vast blackness there, the void beyond life, and a darkness so deep that light would never penetrate it. He suddenly felt dizzy. Then he was falling.
Franklin never hit the carpet. He fell into the darkness and kept falling. He was sure he’d passed out. He saw nothing and heard nothing and felt nothing but the sensation of falling. There was no air around him, no wind rushing past as he toppled head over feet toward the bottom of an infinite drop. Franklin tried to wake up but couldn’t seem to pull himself out of the hole. He fell and fell and fell. He could not say how far or how long. It may have been a fall as deep as the universe and as long as infinity.
At some point, though, the falling stopped. With it went the darkness. And Franklin was standing again, this time on a grungy beige carpet. In front of him was a boy, 14 years old, long and spindly, in the midst of an awkward adolescence.
“I’m in charge,” said the boy to Franklin.
In that moment, Franklin finally understood the rules. He looked at the boy, but said nothing. I am his life and he is my hell, thought Franklin.
“I’m in charge,” the boy repeated.
Thanks for reading my original story. I hope you liked it. Whether you did or not, let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Be sure to check out Jen P’s original tale, The Pumpkin Carver, if you haven’t already. And come back next week for an original piece by Ana.
Happy Halloween, geeks!