I’m still working on Mostly Hidden, but this random story popped into my head yesterday and I wrote it up pretty quickly. Hope you enjoy.
There is a hierarchy to hell. A certain complex order to the eternal burning and chaos.
“The big man”, as those idiots on Earth called him, rarely actually dirtied his hands with anything, anymore. He was at the top of the chain of command, but had so many tiers of responsibility below him that he didn’t really have to address much any more.
Sorry. I have forgotten to introduce myself. I’m Gabriel. No, not that Gabriel, I’m one of the fallen ones. I’m a dealer.
Souls, lives, fame, money, power, anything. I’ll give it and I’ll take it, as long as the price is right. It seems the classic deal is “such-and-such for my soul, after such-and-such number of years”. We’re always the winners in the end. After the person dies, what we gave them (or, at least, the significance of it to them, which is the main reason) doesn’t really mean anything anymore, but we still have them. To feast upon. We’re stuck in Hell with all these losers from Earth, but aren’t allowed to eat them, so we’ve got to find our own prey, and that’s how we do it.
I find it funny, actually, how the amount of people on Earth that are aware of our existence is small, and diminishing further as time goes on, and the amount of people who actually “use” that knowledge (and, therefore, have access to our “deals”) is far more miniscule.
I’ve negotiated deals with a lot of people, many of whom have eventually turned out to be pretty well known on Earth, though, of course, no knowledge of our arrangement is known. That’s good.
I was summoned by a man named Stephen Davis Monroe. He was a little-known writer scraping out a pittance in Masonville, South Carolina. He, honestly, was a very boring man. Was.
I have no idea how he came to learn about us, really. I didn’t ask. I had much better things to be doing, at the time, and wanted to get this deal over and done with.
Skill in writing and incredible fame. Not that original of a deal, I had dealt with it dozens of times before. Those writers that had burst out of obscurity to capture the minds of millions of people… Almost all of them were due to us.
Anyway, the price I offered was eight years. Somehow he argued me up to ten, but that was probably due to my want to get away as soon as possible. Anyway, I granted it and made my way back to the underworld.
I suppose, after that, he sat down and wrote. And I’m sure the words flowed from the ink in his pen just as surely as the blood would flow from his veins as one of my Takers took his life and carried his soul back to me, still warm and smelling of blood and regret…
Ah. Anyway. I was saying.
Time is a funny thing, down here. What can seem like seconds can be years, and vice versa. We occasionally look down to see what the idiotic fools who have taken our help are up to, and he was certainly one to follow. He took the world by storm, so to speak, and quickly garnered millions of fans. By year five, he was a multibillionaire, with thirty-seven published novels, all of which had sold a minimum of ten million copies. He spoke worldwide on his books. Soon, he began writing nonfiction books about popular topics, which further increased his acclaim.
I had read (read isn’t really the correct word. More accurately, I gained complete knowledge of their contents instantaneously.) all of his books, and, in his latter ones, had begun to pick up on a bit of a pattern that was developing.
The existence of a “higher-world” and sometimes, as well, a “lower-world”, filled with such things as me.
All in all, though, that wasn’t that strange of a thing to see in writing of his style, and I didn’t pay much attention to it until he began philosophizing in his nonfiction books about whether there was a God, and other such metaphysical things. I was intrigued by his answers, and the obvious (to me) fact that he was hinting at the fact that he had been in contact with such things before. It was a bit concerning, but at this time, he only had two years left – ah, damn, I knew I should have stuck with eight years -, and I doubted anything would happen of it.
I should have not trusted that to be the case. I suppose I knew at the time that it was really wishful thinking, and could have acted, somehow, on it right away and forestalled the coming events – but I didn’t.
Six months before his reaping, he wrote a book, or, rather, an exposé, on everything. Our existence, how to make deals with us, how easy we were to use (hah!), everything.
I should have broken the rules right then and there and pulled him out of the world at that moment but I hesitated for a second and the moment was over and the move was done.
Millions of people believed him. I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen it as it was happening. It was only through his previously achieved fame that his words were accepted so quickly, so trustingly, so… stupidly. Stupid or not, though, of course it was all true. It was all true, and who wouldn’t want to have anything they wanted.
Of course, when these things were only little-known, and usually only to those people who desperately “needed” to know them so badly that they would do anything to change how things were, it was about big things. Now that everyone knew, people were suddenly making deals about the most trivial of things – keeping a loved one alive for a few more years, repairing a relationship – and so on. Such stupidity.
Stupidity on our part as well as theirs. How! How could we have not seen this as a possibility. The fact that someone could, and would, tell the world about this little secret.
Everyone, and I mean everyone in the sense of easily ninety percent of people, began making deals with us. The hierarchy of Hell was overturned in the sudden need for many more representatives and “dealers”. Not that I’m complaining, of course; we hadn’t had so much to eat for millenia. But it was absolute chaos in our world.
That was nothing compared to Stephen Davis Monroe’s next book. Expose, it was titled. A terribly accurate title. In the previous book he had not told much about his particular run-in with us. This book, a small, fifty-page leaflet, told all about that. In particular, it told how he would soon be taken.
Ah, that was one move well played on his part. Having millions of devout followers that have just been told that something, not even someone, is going to kill their “god” of sorts. That is a recipe for revolt against that thing.
A lot of people made deals with us to keep him alive. That’s sort of a grey area of the law when it comes to reaping. A few of the more illigitimate dealers accepted those deals anyway, not really intending to hold up their end of the bargain if they met with any resistance.
Other people (those who had already made some stupid deal) figured out that they could bargain to not kill themselves. If they killed themselves prematurely, of course, we didn’t get their soul. That tactic actually worked pretty well for a while.
It was a battle of humanity versus Hell for a while, all until that day. I came prepared, dressed in my formal blacks and reds, ready to take him back with me.
Somehow, in the midst of all the chaos, he managed to write another (fiction) book, about some silly plot about gods and things. Utter trash. Nobody read it, anyway, since the entire world was in an absolute uproar. (I cannot over-stress the major effect this revelation had upon the world at large, that the spiritual world was all-too-real and all-too-powerful.)
Thing is, when fifteen thousand people win the lottery, nobody gets a particularly large piece of the prize. That’s pretty much how it worked with this. So many people were making deals, nothing much mattered.
I came to him, in his office. He had just finished writing something – I didn’t look what it was, but it didn’t matter – and turned to me with the look of disappointment.
“They couldn’t stop it, stop you, could they?” he asked.
“Not a snowball’s chance in Hell,” I answered.
He collapsed on the floor in front of me and my mouth opened, sharp teeth glinting as I crouched beside his body. His soul, his heart, his body was mine, now, one of the multitudes that I had taken in my career, and was nothing more important than any of the others. He had caused chaos, sure, but that would die down. His soul tasted just like the others. I made a feast of him in that bleak office, while the world still struggled vainly against my comrades.