Martin sells his soul, or does he?
|Word count 1362
“Daddy, you write one too.” Abbey passed a coloured pencil to her father.
“I’m too old, sweetheart. Santa doesn’t want to hear from me.” Martin stood up from his crouched position on the carpet. He gave a grunt of pain.
“Well, how is he going to know what you want for Christmas?”
Martin chuckled and ruffled his six-year-old daughter’s blonde curls.
“Come on, Daddy. Write Santa a letter, then we can post them together when we go to the shops,” his daughter pleaded.
Martin could never resist those big blue eyes. “Okay, you win, but I’ve not been really good this year. Not like you.”
He took the bag of dried-up pens and pencils, searching until he found a black marker pen which still had its lid.
“Righto, what do I really wish for?” Martin’s eyes filled with tears. He looked down at his daughter, her tongue poking out of her mouth in concentration as she finished her Christmas list.
“Do you want to read my letter?” Abbey asked.
“No, Darling. Letters to Santa are secret. They are just for him to read. Fold it up and put it in the envelope. Don’t forget to write Santa’s address on the front and we’ll go to the post office and get a stamp after lunch.”
Abbey raced from the living room into the kitchen to show her mother the letter. “I’ve finished, Mummy. Daddy is going to send a letter too.”
Martin knew this was going to be his last Christmas. His heart broke when he thought about never seeing his daughter and baby son grow up. He’d battled melanoma for several years, but the doctor told him and Fiona last week the cancer had spread throughout his body. There was nothing anyone could do to halt the disease. “Go home and enjoy the time you have left, Martin. I’m so sorry,”
Martin sat on the floor, a piece of printing paper on the coffee table in front of him, his hand poised over the bare sheet.
The thing I want most in the world is to live to see my children grow up. I want to see Abbey get married. I want to be a grandfather and even a great-grandfather. I want to live FOREVER.
His tears fell onto the page, causing the black ink to run. He ran his hand across the words, making them almost unreadable, then quickly folded the paper when Abbey bounced back into the room.
“Put Santa’s address on it, Daddy. Mr. Santa Claus, The North Pole.”
“You do it, Abbey,” Martin wiped his eyes as he stuffed the letter into an envelope and sealed it before handing it to his daughter.
Later, after lunch, Abbey and Martin walked down into the village to the post office. Abbey asked Mrs Brown for two stamps for letters to the North Pole. Old Mrs Brown had been running the post office in the small village for over thirty years. She knew all the local children.
“Did you write these yourself? You are getting a big girl.” The post woman smiled.
Mrs Brown’s kind eyes looked at Martin. “She looks just like you when you were her age. I remember you posting your letters to Santa.” Her grey curls bounced as she laughed. “Here you are Abbey, don’t forget to put the stamps on the right way up.”
Abbey licked the stamps, carefully sticking them on the two letters before going to drop them into the red post box. Martin lifted his daughter so she could reach. He heard her letter drop into the box. “Now yours, Daddy,” she said. Martin saw her large wonky print, a different colour for each letter.
To Satan, North Pole, he read. He smiled when he noticed the mistake, but said nothing. He heard the letter drop.
The children were asleep at last. Martin hadn’t had the heart to say no to “Just one more story, Daddy, please.” They were both so excited about tomorrow. His little boy, James, wasn’t really old enough to know what all the fuss was about, he was only two years old. But Abbey’s excitement had rubbed off on him, and he’d been difficult to put to bed.
Martin sat looking at the angelic faces of his children and tears ran down his face.
At last, he tore himself away and made his way downstairs where Fiona was putting the finishing touches to the presents under the tree. He poured them both a glass of wine and they sat silently by the fire, each lost in their own thoughts. The flames flickered in the darkened room, the only other source of light came from the Christmas tree in the corner.
A knock on the door startled them both. “Who on earth could this be?” Fiona sat up, spilling her wine.
Martin opened the front door to a smartly dressed young man. He stood in the porch's light. Behind him, in the darkness, snowflakes were fluttering. He held a briefcase in his left hand and held out his right to shake Martin’s.
“I’m here in answer to your letter of the 19th December.”
Martin looked perplexed. “I’m sorry. What did you say your name was? It’s a bit late on Christmas Eve to be making a house call, don’t you think?”
“My supervisor seemed to think it was urgent and asked me to make a call on his behalf.”
“Who is your supervisor? What is this about?”
The man opened his briefcase and brought out a letter. Martin looked and knew at a glance it was the letter to Santa he’d posted with Abbey. He laughed. “Is this some sort of joke?”
“Apparently not. You made a bid for immortality?” The man paused, waiting.
Martin was speechless.
“I believe you’ve a short time to live. Am I right in saying that?” When Martin didn’t answer, the man said, “My name is Azazel and I’m here to cut a deal on behalf of my boss. He apologises because he couldn’t come in person, but this is a very busy time for him.”
“Who is it, Martin?” Fiona called out.
“It’s okay, Darling. I’ll just be a minute.” Martin closed the hall door. Azazel had stepped inside out of the weather. The snow was falling heavily now; a thin coating already covering the lawn outside. “This is crazy. It can’t be happening. There’s no such thing as Satan. It’s a joke. Who put you up to it?”
“Here’s my card. People have the idea there’s just the one Satan. Can you imagine only one Master managing all the business of the entire universe? You can find my superior, Bezal, in the Dictionary of Demons. It’s like Hell’s Yellow Pages.”
“What do you want!” Martin was getting angry. “Just say what it is and then leave.”
“I’m here to offer you a special deal. I’m authorised to give you a long life, at least fifty more years, for your soul. Just a tiny drop of blood from your finger on here,” he glanced at a document, “and I’ll be gone.”
“Fifty years, you say?” Martin held out his right hand.
Azazel pricked Martin’s forefinger with a gold needle, then passed him the clipboard, directing him to place a drop of blood gently on the dotted line.
“Wake up, Martin, it’s gone midnight. Abbey will be awake in a few hours checking to see if Santa arrived.” Fiona shook Martin’s shoulder.
“What happened? Did the man leave?”
“What man? There’s been no one here. You must have been dreaming, Darling.” Fiona yawned. “I’m going to bed. Don’t stay up too long.”
Martin sat in the silence. He stood up and checked the locks. Leaving the Christmas tree lights flashing on and off, he peered through the window at the snow-covered street. Under the light of a streetlamp, just for a second, he was sure he saw a young man carrying a briefcase. When he looked again, there was no one there.
As he ran up the stairs he absentmindedly rubbed the fingers on his right hand together. He seemed renewed. Perhaps the doctors were wrong. He felt as if he could live for at least another fifty years.