Michael Sanders’ work shoes clicked dully down the sidewalk. It wasn’t a drum beat rhythm but a quick double step as he looked over his shoulder. The sidewalk was damp from an all-day drizzle, and the iron gates that he walked along had droplets stuck to them. The sky was gray, not a light gray, like the sun was still trying to make its self known, but a deep gray, almost black. It was gusty tonight and the wind tried to sneak up the man’s heavy leather coat. Michael had to hurry or else he would surely get caught.
Finally, Michael came to the south entrance of the Mount Olivet Cemetery, where there was a big oak tree to help Michael hide as he entered. It was already unlocked because of a friend he had conveniently paid off. For a week now Michael Sanders has tracked the night shift guards as they walked between trees and old grave stones. He had leaned against the front brick entrance and smoked a joint, watching out of the corner of his dull blue eyes for many nights. The big oak tree was on Michael’s right so he walked behind it and continued along the fence, only cutting through when he knew a guard was about to come his way.
The corner Michael was aiming for was practically hidden by another tree that seemed to be just as old as the oldest grave stone on this hill. He was so worried about the guards and the timing of everything that Michael tripped over a plaque in the ground. The corner had been protruding from the hard ground.
It felt like a dull knife had struck Michael right in the lungs, and he couldn’t help but mutter “Shit!” But with that single word spilling from his lips Michael unleased many other sounds that bounced off the concrete grave stones. They were of different volumes, but still the same word and from the same man. He froze and quickly slid into the shadow of a taller statue. Which so happened to be an angel with her wings flared and her head tilted upwards. Because it had rained all day, to some degree, the blackness on her face had washed away in tracks and it seemed like she was crying for the departed. For the next five minutes, he saw long lines of bright white flashlights and deep voices calling out.
One shouted, “I heard you! You dumb kids! Come out and there won’t be any trouble.”
He rolled his eyes
Another, “You think it’s funny drinking alcohol. It won’t be fun anymore when we catch you. We could send you bunch to jail. How do you like that?”
After some more threats from the night guards they gave up and turned there lights off, fading back into the night.
He looked up at the angel and silently thanked whoever was out there. When he reached the south most corner he paused. Michael hadn’t come to visit a grave, but to pray for help. There was a corner of the graveyard that wasn’t considered part of the specific landmark for the dead. It was a place to pray. It was an odd grotto with not just one but many saints. Not sure which statue to go to and beg for someone’s help, Michael stood there and stared at all the saints in their frozen poses. There were up to seven statues that surrounded the elevated Blessed Virgin Mary in a semi-circle, and a few were patron saints of some illness. St. Ann stood to Mary’s right, she was the Saint of Infertility, then two statues away was St. Julianna Falconieri Patron saint of chronic illness. Then all the way to The Virgin Mary’s left was St. Peregrine Laziosi who was the Patron saint for Cancer. Michael finally was pushed onto his knees in front of the statue of Mary by his fear and anxiety for the future.
“Please, if anyone is there – if anyone is there my wife, Alyssa, she’s sick. She’s such a strong loving woman and kind. She’s given me everything I could never ask for. Alyssa’s the best mother one could ask for. She’s cared for our daughter, Eve, when I had to be at work. Please! How am I to do this without her?”
There was a breath of silence. In the back of Michael’s mind, he was relieved that none of the guards had heard his sudden outburst. Salty tears were brimming his tear ducts as he waited for a miracle. Michael was a man of great faith, but he grew up being taught how to believe and have faith so he knew nothing else. Michael always came to pray when times got tough. Alyssa was in the hospital, because of him. It had been a car crash speeding around a slick ninety-degree turn. The family of three soon to be for crashed into a tree and was rushed to the hospital. A low tree branch had come through the windshield and hit Michaels wife in the chest just enough to cause serious damage.
“Please!” a single tear ran down Michael Sanders face.
Michael jumped and turned at hearing a deep clear voice. The man was tall with wide shoulders and dark eyes. He was casually leaning against one of the statues with his arms crossed and his ankles too. “Yes?” It was an unsure response to the appearance of this dark man.
“Did you or did you not call for help?” His lips were thin but turned upward like he was inwardly making fun of the way Michael dressed.
“I did call. But I didn’t think I’d get an answer in the form of…of you.” Michael gestured towards the man in dark jeans and a leather jacket with his collar flipped up to protect his neck from the rain. He looked to be in his late twenty’s.
“Well,” The suspicious man swung his arms out in a here-I-am move. In a flash of distant lightning Michael could have sworn he saw the shadow of broken skeletal wings with very few feathers. But then it was gone and he was looking at someone he didn’t know. The figure continued, “What did you need?”
“Who are you?” Michaels gut was making little tornado movements. Something was off.
The man rolled his dark eyes. “Your savior,” in a cocky voice.
Michaels started backing up like he was being stalked and started shaking his head. “I didn’t call for you.”
“Well you called for someone! I was just the only one who got up here and answered.” He was getting impatient and there seemed to be an aura of eeriness surrounding him.
“What? ‘Up here’? Where are you from?”
With that the man smirked and his eyes turned red and his skeletal wings flared from his back.
Michael fell back like he was pushed off the ledge of a cliff. “H-how?”
The demon pinched the bridge of his nose and shut his eyes tightly. “Michael, you’re a man of faith. You have to realize that even though there is light: God,” The demon pointed up, “there is also dark: me,” then to himself.
“Are you the devil?” Michael couldn’t help how curious he had become.
“Ha! Me? The Lord of All Darkness himself? I wish. But no. I’m just one of his many misbehaving demons.”
There was a moment’s pause as Michael Sanders took in the gravity of this information, and he realized what he had got himself into. He held his hands out to the demon in a don’t-come-any-closer gesture. “I don’t want your help. I’ve changed my mind.”
“Oh come now. Your wife is sick Michael Sanders. You need someone else’s help. Specifically, not of this world and so here I stand at your beck and call.”
“No.” Michael started backing away from the demon he had unknowingly summoned.
“Yes, or your wife is going to die.” The red eyed demon came closer.
Michaels took a breath like he was going to call out for help. But was stopped by the demon’s finger to his lips, and the predator standing over Michael made a sound Caesar Millan would to a misbehaving dog. “They can’t hear you.”
“What? Why not?”
“Because you’re not in your dimension anymore.” The demon smirked.
“There’s no such thing as -” suddenly the demon was once again inches away from Michael holding him like a child who wasn’t listening, with hands firmly wrapped around Michael’s shoulders, his fingers pulsating on the rhythm of his inpatient’s.
“Shh!” then he flatly said, like he was stating the facts “Yes, there is. Heaven is one, Hell is one, and earth and the galaxy is another.” The demon took a sharp breath in, and said at a whisper “They. Can’t. Hear. You.”
It seemed that Michael Sanders had finally come to his senses and realized what he got himself into. It came to him in an odd way, it was like he was hearing a new sound for the first time, and his stomach was trying to decide for him if everything was okay. But it wasn’t and so Michael stumbled to the ground and spilled what was left in his guts.
“You have got to be kidding me.” The demon stepped back disgusted and mumbled, “I can’t believe I got myself into this,” just under his breath. Michael did not hear him because of the overwhelming realization that was causing him to vomit. “I did not drag my ass up here to be spewed on. Stand the hell up and at least try to act like a man.” Then under his breath again, “Even though you men are indecent creatures.”
Michael finally calmed down enough to stand and bravely look the demon in the eyes. “We are not indecent; we are images of God.”
“Yeah, of course you are.” The demon was about done with Michael realizing he wasn’t going to have any fun for at least the next ten maybe twenty years like he hoped. He’s just been so tired of the boring old shit, torturing the same way. He didn’t want to be a demon with that job anymore. He wanted to try Shadowing for a change. It could be fun messing with someone for half their life before their soul is finally sucked free. That’s what Shadowing is, a demon follows the mortal around through his or her life time and the goal was to retrieve the soul. There was nowhere in the rule book that said a demon couldn’t have a little fun with the human’s mind.
“Ah, shit.” The demon mumbled. He knew what he wanted but the only way to make it look like he was the bad guy, even though he still would be after the deal, was to make it seem like Michael wasn’t going to get what he truly wanted.
“Well, Michael I guess this is it. You aren’t looking for my specific help, I don’t believe, so I’ll just be on my way.” The demon turned his broad back and flared his smoky, skeletal wings.
There was a pause. The demon let Michael panic. Then: “Wait!”
“Yes?” his face was in shadow from Michaels view but it wasn’t hard to see the twinkle of pure giddy evilness in his eyes.
“I’ll make the deal with you.”
The demon simply nodded and held out a hand to indicate Michael to continue.
Michael inhaled and then exhaled quickly before he began. “I want you to give my wife more time.”
The demon nodded, his heart feeling light with the excitement of a deal. Here we go, he thought. “Of course.”
“There’s more?” The demon who has yet to share his name with Michael, yes he’s notice but Michael also hasn’t asked, raised a single eyebrow.
“…You have to protect my daughter after all of this is over.”
The demon wasn’t going to give his feelings about this extra job away, but he felt like fireworks were going off for his birthday. Instead he said the opposite of what he wanted too. “I can’t do that.”
The desperation that was coming from Michael seemed to flare up as he grabbed the demon by the shirt. “You will or else you get nothing from me. Not my soul, not my life.”
The demon huffed, “Fine, but to let you have more time with your family, just enough to say good-bye, I need to take time away from your life and add it to Alyssa’s instead.”
“You’re talking about only a part of my soul.”
The demon waved his hand around in the air like it wasn’t of any importance. “Yeah, if you really want to know the details of the transfer.”
Michael was too far in to back out now, he knew that. “Fine. Do it.”
“Are you sure?” The demon wasn’t going to ask this question, but he did have some sort of soul, it was a dark one of course but he had feelings too.
Michael didn’t know what his short future held, but he believed all children deserved a mother in their lives. “Yes!” His shout echoed off the man-made cave that surrounded the saints. Then there was a thick silence that followed.
“Okay.” That single word was filled with a deep foreboding yet thinly surrounded by the demon’s excitement. He seemed to fade in and out blending in with their surroundings.
In a last attempt Michael spoke his second request. “you still have to protect my daughter when I’m gone.”
“Yes, we’ve established that. Now are you ready?”
Michael Sanders nodded and swallowed.
It didn’t seem like anything happened, but he knew something was missing. He felt like he had blacked out, so when Michael picked himself off the damp ground he briefly saw the demon disappear in a black smoke that smelled like rotten eggs.
Then he heard a deep smooth voice in his ear. “it was nice working with you, Michael Sanders.”