The air was boiling hot then suddenly freezing cold in the few seconds I closed my eyes.
I found myself sitting in a diner across from the Devils child. A stack of pancakes sat in front of each of us.
“Where are we?” I stared around and noticed the place was silent. So silent. No one dared move. From the other patrons to the server pouring coffee into a overflowing cup.
“I can never have enough syrup on my cakes.” He didn’t look up to even answer.
“Fine. Why are we here? Why am I here!?”
He didn’t cover his mouth as he coughed a patch of blood onto his pancakes. It didn’t stop him cutting up and take a big bite. “To discuss a change in tactics.”
“To what?” I shrugged.
“To your type of people. The Agnostic, Athiest, the undecided voter! You guys have ruined my game by not playing. Heck, even the new Pope made the call that Athiests can get into heaven.”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“So,” he pushed the plate forward having devoured the pancakes. He pointed at my plate with a raised eyebrow. I shook my head and he started working on my plate. “You guys get to win because you have no expectations. I worked really hard on rules that nobody can live up to.”
“You made the rules?”
“I didn’t write them down for you, no. I did set things up for believers to fail. You guys looked at the world you lived in and just… took it!”
“Skeptic thinking is just a way to understand how the universe works. People living by rules of a religion… made no sense to me.”
“And a growing number think so too.”
“So the monopoly of irrational thinking is over. The fact I’m arguing with a hallucination won’t change that.”
“I’m certain I will wake up in a hospital any moment.”
“Or a shallow grave.” he said with a wicked smile.
“So you’re upset that even having pancakes with the devil won’t make me play the game?”
“I can’t really do that with everyone can I. So here’s my plan, I’m quitting.”
“How do you do that? Won’t He get upset you’re not doing your job?”
“Except for a few brimstones he doesn’t get ‘mad’ at anyone. No I have decided that God can have the lot of you.”
“Nah. Imagine if the worst people came to your party? You can’t really have heaven with the suicide bomber who killed you.”
“What does this mean for me. I know I don’t need to care, even if true, until I’m dead or dying.”
“I know, I know. The last thing I’m doing is giving you a job.”
“I don’t want it.” I insisted.
“Hold up. You choose.”
He was clearly waiting to make a dramatic point. I bit. “Choose what?”
“Who gets in.”
I had to sigh at that one. “You get those rejected for paradise. How’s that quitting?”
“They are just gone, not mine. You get what you wanted.”
“I don’t want any of this.”
His laughing became more struggled. A cough of blood landed on my face. I quickly rubbed it off. “Sure it is. You already felt it was logical to just disappear after you die. I’m making you choose to make it happen.”
“God is ok with this?”
“Funny enough ya. Something about logic being the new organized religion. Also it falls into my domain. So since I’ve given my domain to man.” He pointed at me firmly “this man.”
I suddenly felt warm and sweaty. Then I knew “I choose to let you in.”
“Excuse me. He said I was out.”
“He is ok with me choosing. I also choose nobody else can get in.”
“Why? Don’t you want a life after this?” He almost seemed upset by this break in his plan.
“No. I think you guys deserve each other. Besides if I just decide nobody else can get in, us wee humans might try to be truly good and make a difference during the time we have.”
A cough hard enough to rip a hole in his neck halted his response for a moment. His response leaked out the new bleeding gash.
“Deserve each other? I knew I would lose when I rebelled the first time. You humans will fail to do great things.”
“It won’t matter what you think. You’re dying aren’t you?”
“Ya. Only way to have this chat with you and give up my charge. These pancakes were to die for. I gotta say that look forward to humans continuing failure to entertain me from heaven.” He cringed heavily on the word before falling over onto his plate.
The last breath left him and the cafe came to life. The server apologized for the overfilled coffee and other continued their eating not noticing anything weird had happened.
I awoke at home. No sulphur or burning blood in my room. I knew I would wake up and none of that had happened.
Part of me knew that even if it happened that us wee humans might finally reach the age of logic and reason. Our final destination notwithstanding.
I awoke to a puff of smoke and the smell of rotten egg sulfur.
“Behold! For I am the dark lord! The fallen!” A voice boomed and rattled my bones.
I hopped out of bed to face what stood in the parting smoke. It was… a child.
“You say you’re the devil?”
“Mr. Satan, please.” He started walking around my room. Browsing through my possessions and I thought even admiring some of my book choices.
“So… why would the fallen one come and wake up a devout Athiest in the middle of the night?”
He chuckled and coughed in a sickly child like manner. “Are you now? The fact you see me before you means maybe you leaned more Agnostic. People like to vote Athiest when things are going well.”
“I don’t really think they do.” After a moment of him staring unconvincingly at me, I added “things aren’t going so well.”
“Why should I? Far as I know you’re not really here. I mean the devil pops into my room to see how my life is, to what? Make it worse?”
“If I’m not Mr. Satan. Who do you think I am?”
“Some demented joke with a magic trick smoke bomb. Besides, it’s not up to me to prove you are who you say you are.”
His laugh became harsher and ending with more gurgling. “Really? Is your life so dismissive? Here…”
He produced a dirty mud covered lunch box. I recognized it as one I had as a child. Opening it, he took out a dagger covered in dirt and what seemed to be dried blood.
Without hesitation he slashed his hand a blood spilt onto the floor.
I recoiled as the floor burned as each drop of blood landed.
I fixed my posture to not show that I was bothered to see a child bleed burning blood.
“Yes. I’m am both sizzle and steak. Come with me, please.”
He began walking towards me and I held up my hands. “Hey. Whatever parlour tricks you might have can impress. Even if you are who you say you are, that’s a perfect reason I shouldn’t go anywhere.”
The last thing I saw was a creepy boys smirk and his sizzling blood spreading to surround me.
A short story from the Opening Line of “They were all dead”
Here is a old story that might give those interested, a view of my writing style from back in the day. Enjoy SmallVictories!
I woke up with a pounding headache. It was my graduation ceremony last night, and I had too much to drink of course. Not that it was my choice, all my fathers friends bought me congratulation drinks. While I might be bigger than most of my classmates at a bulky 9.5 meters, I couldn’t hold my alcohol.
I remember being asked by a friend of my fathers, Mr Zavin, head of some government department, what careers I had in mind.
“You should work for me, it isn’t the highest paying government department, but you needn’t worry about any hazardous assignments. Leave that for the meat heads in Galactic Deployment.”
I was shaken by his offer, every point in my education talked of the opportunities in the G.D. How serving the Empire was all there was. I had managed to slur some kind of response, “What exactly do you want me to do?”
“Show up in a couple of cycles at my office,” he smiled and put a business chip in my pocket. “We can get you started.”
I decided I would take the job since I really didn’t like the idea of serving for the Empire. So after breaking the news to my father, I showed up a couple of days later for my first day of work.
It was a small government office squeezed between two much larger Galactic Deployment offices.
I met Zavin’s assistant in my new office, “Welcome Mr. Hilt! I hope it wasn’t too hard finding the place. Most applicants never show up, they ask Galactic Deployment for directions to us, and end up being sent to another sector.”
“It wasn’t too bad. What do we do here exactly… Mr?”
“Gils. We here at the Department of Growth work to keep our development of this planet in check. Taking care of humans can be time consuming if not done right.”
“Humans? As in deer meat?”
Gils smiled, “Yes, you take it for granted when you eat it. But most still exist in the wild. When we need to expand facilities on this rock, we sweep in, collecting some meat in the process, but for the most part just herding them so we can build.”
“Humans. Never liked the stuff.”
“Me neither. I prefer the bigger stuff.”
When I saw my first clan of humans, they were not what I thought they would look like. It was their eyes that caught my attention. They all stared at me and held the glare before they began running.
As Gils put it, running might seem like it solves our problem of clearing them out but for us when they run they usually come back to cause problems. This has been true since the day the Empire set foot on the planet. The humans always come back for more.
I was set to simple work. To just shovel all the huts and tents and throw them into the trash collector. The department planned to build some kind of resort on this mountain range. The visiting representatives of the Empire liked visiting areas with snow, somehow its considered exotic.
I was sweeping up the buildings when I heard a crackling sound from behind me. It was then that my feet gave out under me and I began to fall from what I thought was solid ground.
I didn’t know where the edge of this pit was, but I attempted to grab something that would stop me from falling in. Gils hand was there to grab my back and pull me up before I fell into what looked like a pit of trees sharpened into spears. This would have been a death trap for me.
“Woh! Those vermin built their settlement over a trap.” Gils voice came across more interested in this human tactic than making me feel better about my near death moment. “I have seen traps built before, but usually they are more obvious in their location. They must have lived atop it just in case of this day.”
Human tactics? I always thought wild humans were simple deer with simple thoughts. “Do we encounter traps often?”
“Often enough, yes. But don’t worry, they rarely do any real harm”
My first month went well, we cleared out many human settlements and I started to see what he meant about the traps. The humans almost seemed obsessed with taking any of us down.
They lost their world to us almost a millennia ago, so I am certain they know they can never defeat the Empire. So why are they still fighting just to kill what they can? I guess maybe they care to eat us too?
I have eaten human meat before, but its a cheap meat. When the Empire came, they brought proper cattle. I guess we must seem like a good meal.
I was tracking a group of humans on my own this time. We dealt with their initial settlement and I was charged with running up front to herd them into our traps. There was a strange building up ahead.
A very old human one by the looks of it. It was made of stone and the architecture was more advanced than what I had dealt with before. Decrepit as it was, I was interested.
I got closer and realized inside were the humans. Gils’ research showed most humans just keep running until dark. But this group had stopped here. Why?
I was hit across the face by a rock I think. It hit me hard enough to cause a bruise for sure. I looked to the rock building and saw the humans arming small slingshot like machines. Well, to them they must be great catapults.
More hit me. At first it was annoyance, but as the attack intensified I realized some were on fire. I decided to fall back and let the others know that these humans were better prepared.
My foot caught on something as I turned around, and, as I tried to catch my balance a larger boulder struck my temple. I began to tumble down a hillside out of control.
‘Oof!’ my stomach lurched as it collided with a tree, knocking the air out of me. I fell off a cliff into a lake. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t get my ahead above the water. I blacked out.
The lake could not have been too deep, as I awoke along its shore.
I heard a noise as I tried to correct my vision. It was a human youth who stood with a spear in hand but not in a fighting stance. I think he had been trying to figure out if I was alive before I awoke.
“Hello giant” he said.
He speaks our language? I sat up and stared at him in confusion. “Umm, hello there human. Why do you not flee like the others?”
“I do not think you want to eat me today. Also, you are a horrible swimmer so I could just out swim you to the other side to the castle.”
The other side, where I was attacked by the humans. He must be with them.
I got up quickly in case I was in another ambush, but as I looked around we really were alone here.
“I am not here to do battle with you. I was only watching you out of curiosity when I saw you fall. My name is Farad, what is your name giant?” He had moved away from me after I had got to my feet. He seemed to know how to find a ‘safe’ distance from my kind.
“Hilt. Ago Hilt. I think you and your people need to leave this area. We plan to develop this land. I do not think your people would want to get caught.”
“No, we would not want to be caught by others of your kind. But we will not leave here.”
I always thought humans daft, maybe with these traps I had given them more credit. “You know you cannot win against us. Even with the best weapons at your disposal you cannot win.”
“Perhaps.” The human nodded goodbye to me and ran into the forest.
Having used all my energy to come to my feet, I finally sat down to rest after my ordeal. I lost my communicator in the lake, so I would have to walk back on my own.
Gils looked at me perplexed as I walked up to the office. He seemed annoyed.
“Where have you been and why are you soaking wet?”
I didn’t know if I should tell him about my meeting with Farad and his people. I could show them the castle later. “I fell into a lake.”
“Well, why you were taking a swim, we were working. I gave you a big chance here to prove your worth. We expected you to push the humans forward into our traps hours ago.” He seemed more annoyed than I would have expected with this setback.
“I encountered some problems with the humans. They had set up an ambush for me.”
He scoffed. “Don’t be silly. I’ve taught you that these traps are nothing to worry about if you have a head on your shoulders. Tomorrow I will go with you to take care of these traps. Get some rest we leave early.”
I went back to my room and dried off. I thought about my day and wondered, why did Farad leave me to come back and report. They must have planned that attack a while ago. Why did they not kill me as I had expected?
Gils lead the way in the direction I told him the humans had set up. I told him about their weapons. He laughed and corrected me saying what humans have could barely be considered weapons.
I saw the castle up ahead and pointed it out to Gils. He grabbed a tree out of the ground as he walked towards the castle. He walked right up to the castle. It was abandoned.
“They must have fled after you came across it.”
“I don’t know why they would have. I didn’t do any harm to them, and they had their chance to run before.” I replied.
A whistling sound to my right caught my attention. I turned my head just in time to see a boulder fly into Gils shoulder. The humans seemed to have taken higher ground to assault us. They knew I would be back and they had adapted, again.
“We don’t have time for this!” Gils yelled as he stormed up the hill into the assault.
“What do you mean, Gils?” I said as I grabbed some dead trunks as a shield.
As he swatted volleys of arrows out of the way he yelled to me “Budget cuts, just found out yesterday that our budget is cut by almost 70%.”
That must be why he was so annoyed before. He always complained about G.D. getting all the funding, this was another nail in the coffin for us at the D.o.G.
I got my shield up just in time to stop a ball of fire hit me. This is more intense than when I came before. Were they really trying to kill me last time?
I saw something rope like go taught behind Gils legs, but before I could figure out what it was a dozen large rocks struck Gils in the chest. He stumbled back slightly but that was part of their plan.
He started falling back head over heels down the hill. Straight towards a row of trees sharpened to spikes.
I charged down to try and help him. His momentum was too much and he slammed into the sharpened tree line. The trees pierced their way through his chest.
I stared in shock at his dead body. I never thought we could ever be taken down by these humans. They were too simple minded. Weren’t they?
I realized that the assault from the humans had stopped. I stared and looked up at them. I could see the group just standing, looking at me.
“He had caused so many deaths for us,” came a voice behind me.
Farad was there, standing up the hill out in the open. He must not fear me anymore.
“I know, but so have I. Why did you not kill me before? Why not now?” I looked into his small unblinking eyes.
“We know who you are Ago Hilt. You are the son of a wealthy man who would have liked you to have gone off and served your Empire. We also know that you have not killed any of our kind. Not directly anyways.”
“How would you know that? Who are you to know this much about me and my kind?”
“The advantage of being so much smaller than you giants is that you think of us as just vermin. To be ignored or exterminated. But we learned your language and taught it through our generations. We sneak into your camps at night and learn about you.”
Humans. They exist as minor snacks for us in our cities, but what do they learn from us being in our homes?
“Am I free to go?” I asked.
“In a way yes. As you know your Department is loosing money to Galactic Deployment. This development area has become no longer,” he paused a moment, “cost effective for you. We had to kill this man Gils to make the point. You want to build elsewhere.”
I didn’t think much more after that. The human Farad was right. We could not afford to uproot such a bad bunch of humans.
I picked up Gils’ body and brought it back to our work camp. Gils’ assistant looked confused as I explained the cost of doing business here and how we should just go somewhere else to build The Great Empire Museum.
Very much my to blend a dash of science fiction into a fantasy story. Thoughts?
“Please stay calm” was the first thing he heard. It was the loudest whisper he had heard in his life. As if it were inside his head.
“Prepare yourself for visual stimuli” again came the female whisper. A woman that Ben did not recognize but knew immediately that she could be trusted. No sooner than he begin to wonder why he trusted her so much, he was overwhelmed by the brightness attacking his eyes.
As the edges around objects became clear he saw the voice. A woman stood at the edge of his bed. At first he thought he must be in a hospital but the room seemed empty of anything but his bed, the woman, and a large square light acting a source of sunlight.
“Ben, what is the last thing you remember?” he almost didn’t respond as he tried to member how to speak for a moment.
“Umm…” he thought of coughing but nothing came. “I was driving in my car. On my way to work.”
“Yes Ben. I can corroborate that, but after that?”
He couldn’t. Sitting up he shook his head in a way he thought would jar his memory. His movement felt jerky at first but softened as he sat up. Growing frustrated by his failing memory he focused on her for answers.
“It’s ok Ben. That is as far as I expect you to remember. She softened her facial features before she began speaking again. “The conditions were not favourable. Heavy snow. Night driving.”
She approached him as he recalled the conditions of his accident. That’s right, he could almost feel the snow building up under his bed now as it did his car. He was there again! The white walls of the room came towards him as snow filled his vision.
Her hand was on his shoulder, and the room snapped back into place.
“Careful Ben, your ability to recall is significantly increased, especially during the wake up session.”
He knew somehow before she said it. “You did not survive the spin out.” He was dead and every part of him now knew.
He looked at his shoulder where her hand rested. He followed down to his hand and held it in front of her. The hand was as if a mannequin was his personal puppet. “What…”
“Ben, your human body was crushed. ” her curtsy pause for him to understand not nearly enough. “Your mind was as saved from the cold conditions and years of technology research.”
Years!? That was right, he knew. A part in the back of his mind told him that much time had passed.
The year was 2156 October 25.
“That’s good. You are learning your new architecture. You can access more than that, reach with your mind to know who I am.”
Melanie personal A.I.
Personal AI? His A.I. She wasn’t a real person and neither was he. She only existed in his head, a head of wiring and memory drives. His body now moved care free and he stood out of bed. For a moment he thought he would bump into Melanie but as he realized he wouldn’t, he passed through her image.
His mind awoke with every piece of information he wanted to know. He was an android, built to house minds copied from the ill and dying. Also the minds of those saved from previous generations. He knew that the technology to create full artificial minds was never developed but instead started with human minds mapped to technology. Him.
She appeared in front of him. Her AI creating a image in his head to communicate with him in ways he was used to, but she was really in his head.
“I’d like to show you around Ben. You can lookup whatever you like in your data feed, but I think you want to take a real look around.”
He was a dead man.
By Patrick Cullen