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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1386676
Rated: 13+ · Campfire Creative · Short Story · Fantasy · #1386676
About to lose his home, a viable human host shops around for the best home a soul can buy.
[Introduction]          
*Flower3* ~ *Flower3* ~ *Flower3* ~ *Flower3*

This campfire creative was created for Round 3 of "Tourn-a-Rounds. I am hoping the story will conclude before the deadline on Saturday, February 23, 2008.

All genres are acceptable.

Important Note:
To prevent me
the last cicada and my opponent Mark C ~ 9 years on WDC! from being disqualified, please choose to participate in only one campfire should you receive invitations from the both of us.


Prompt:
This Round features a free-form prompt. You may use whatever genre you and your participants are comfortable with to tell a story (just be sure the genre(s) used are appropriate). Have fun with it, and be creative!
*Flower3* ~ *Flower3* ~ *Flower3* ~ *Flower3*

To Parley With Demons

Steven Elliot, penniless despite a six digit salary, found himself in dire straits Monday morning when the final eviction notice arrived. He had three days to come up with payment for his fabulous penthouse suite or move out.

Having grown accustomed to residing in a posh apartment with a spectacular view, he loathed the idea of downsizing.

Once more, he reviewed his options:

He already worked seventy-two hours per week. Any more hours and he would have to sleep in the car in order to get to work on time.

Personal loans were also out of the question. Word had gotten out that he owed almost a quarter million to his friends and family collectively.

His credit report scored disturbingly low for a man with his income bracket so bank loans were out of the question as well.

Steven searched his home for something valuable to sell and realized he owned nothing outright, not even the cashmere comforter that graced his cashmere mattress. Everything was on a payment plan so it seemed pointless to sell something that could only turn his home into a less comfortable place for him.

The last option on his list required a deal with a demon. He had something all demons needed that was his alone to give. He just wasn't sure he was ready to give it up.

Faced with imminent expulsion from the home he'd grown to relish, Steven decided it was time to give Demonic Marketplace some serious consideration.

Sue Randall, a short, pretty blonde greeted Steven as he entered the DM lobby. Her eyes and smile radiated so much positive energy, Steven momentarily forgot his plight until she sat him before a computer terminal and walked away to answer one of the phones.

The results came surprisingly fast -- almost immediately it seemed when the last question was answered. Steven stared at the cryptic symbols on his printout.

Before Steven could turn his eyes away from the curiously odd text, Sue Randall returned beaming wholesomely.

"The symbols on that column represent our clients. The symbols on the next column is your password to gain access to their files for today."

"Oh," Steven grunted disappointedly. "The paperwork doesn't tell me what sort of demon each client is. Is there a way to understand the writing?"

Sue Randall laughed. Steven's heartbeat sped up as the sound entered his ears and fluttered down his spinal cord.

"I see you've selected from our client-sponsored pool. In order to provide the best service to our human and non-human clients, we discovered it was most effective to keep the true natures of the entities hidden so that clients are matched solely on criteria than on the natural inclination for a particular species.

"In the past, clients belonging to popular species such as succubi complained of being swamped by hordes of unsuitable matches, while clients from the less charismatic species such as zombies complained of the low response rate despite the high numbers of perfect matches reported by our system.

"To ensure our participants are honest about their needs and agendas, we've purged all personal data from the results, leaving only the file id and password for our users. Browsing one file at a time may be slower but it has guaranteed more satisfactory matches at Demonic Marketplace."

Steven followed Sue to a small private room. The keyboard had all the crazy looking symbols he found in his results.

"If you find a file you like, you can push that button there," and she pointed to the TALK button on the keyboard. "If the demon's available for a real time chat, you can see him on that screen and talk to him through that microphone. If you need any more help, you can call the help center."

A large sign hung on the wall. It read:

                   When interviewing a demon, it is the responsibility of the
                   interviewer to ask any and as many questions as needed
                   to ensure compatibility. The establishment holds no blame
                   should you neglect to thoroughly investigate your potential
                   partner. All communication through this terminal is recorded
                   for your safety.

Steven glanced at the symbols on his spreadsheet. There were dozens of names but only the first five were perfect matches. Steven wondered, "What do I have to give up to keep my home?"

Pushing aside the little voice inside is head, Steven started typing.
"¢ Φ ☼ რ თ ი & € ₪"

Steven breathed a sigh of relief as the password took.

The demon in the picture looked almost human, except for the lashless eye located smack dab on his forehead.


Name: Rick Norick
Category: Ojoonok (aka The Third Eye)
Dimension of Origin: Earth
Age: barely 3000 years
Abilities: telepath

Description:
I'm a young, wealthy Ojoonok born and raised on Earth. I've never gone to other dimensions but I have travelled pretty much everywhere on Earth, possibly at least twice. Not sure since the continents occasionally shift.

I'm looking for a new host as my host's fiance doesn't like the way I look at her when they kiss.

I'm willing to pay up to $3000/month for the right body. I can adhere pretty much anywhere on the body although I prefer the face, back of the hand, or any part of the body that doesn't get covered or shaved.


"Three thousand dollars? Hm..."

Steve's hand hovered over the TALK button.

"I wonder if it hurts to graft the eye?"
"No. I believe the Demon Specialist Surgeons of the DM use a local anesthetic. According to my current host, the optical fusing with the brain 'tickles'." Steve jarred in his seat. His hand was still hovering over the button. "Oh, I am sorry, do press, and we can continue this conversation with lips."

It would have taken too much resolve to question the action, so Steve pressed the talk button and the image of the Ojoonokian swam into liquid-like focus on the screen.

"Where's your host?" Steve asked, noting the pale olive skin which stretched taut over his bare upper body and face. It took Steve a second to realise Rick Norick had the tiniest of mouths under slits for a nose "Roswell" was his first thought, and the Demon laughed loudly inside Steve's head.

"Yes, some of the family have settled there. Not me - I'm a city boy, like you."

"I didn't tell you that."

"You didn't have to." Steve's hand fluttered over the button, ready to sever this most uncomfortable of links, and sensing this Rick spoke with more urgency. "Oh, I wouldn't dream of intruding all the time. I just want to watch over my investments."

"Which are...?" Steve asked, warily.

"Very profitable. I couldn't dream of including you in the finer points unless we were merged, could I?"

Maybe not, Steve tried very hard not to think, but he was sure the flash of flesh and crying children which crossed his mind were not images of his own creation, and that throw-away-comment about Rick's current host "not liking it when the Ojoonokian watched them kiss.

Mind made up, before it was taken over and lost, Steve fought all the attempts to stop him cutting off the live link, and pounded on the TALK button which left the screen blank, except for the blinking green light of the waiting cursor.

*^! was a top row type, so he fed it in and pressed return.

Name: Deevoorak Malaki
Category: 7th Seal of Hell, Accounting.
Dimension of Origin: Universal Accountancy Auditors
Age: N/A
Abilities: Math

Description:
I'm head of the department and looking to recruit Earth Auditor Reporters. No fixed hours, which means strictly no overtime. No travel/service expences* Field work will be required, and some bailiff duties (inc. soul retrieval)

salary $4,000 per month + commission

*except tax deductible
Oh good, Deevoor's not a telepath.

Steve felt his pulse slow down mildly while he considered the new record carefully.

Math seemed a relatively harmless skill although the bit about soul retrieval made him squeamish.

Still, the penthouse won't pay for itself, and mentally blocked out the parts he didn't like about the job description.

Let's see. I'm already working 72 hours per week, so I can't take on another job.

Yet, a sufficiently grand commission could afford me to retire, buy my landlord and everything else.


Steve pressed the TALK button. Without acknowledging the demon when it appeared, he blurted, "How much commission?"

"Hold please, while I get you to payroll."

"No! Wait," but he was too late. Another demon appeared on the screen, possibly the same one.

Steve blinked at the reappearance of the ash colored, hairless demon portraying the characteristic pointy fangs and double horns twisting out of its forehead.

"Aren't you the same demon I just spoke to?" Steve asked. He held his breath, slightly cringing at the thought of appearing foolish for his job interview.

Steve watched the demonic lips part. Bits and pieces of the office space became viewable through the gaps between its fangs. The intercom picked up the sound of a strong gust of wind.

"Oh, not another one! Don't tell me we all look alike to you!"

"I was looking for Deevoorak Malaki," Steve pressed. "He posted a job on the Demonic Marketplace and ..."

"I see." Its lips closed and shrunk back to the front of its face. "What would you like to know?"

"Are you Deevoorak?"

"Do I look like Deevoorak?" The eyes narrowed into slits.

Steve slid his seat further away from the screen. The demon regarded the inwardly quaking human silently for a moment before its lips peeled back into its impossible 360 degree smile. Once more, a flapping gust of wind burst from the intercom.

"I'm just playing with you. I'm Pacha, Head of Payroll."

Steve relaxed, realizing the windy noise was just Pacha's laughter.

"If you are serious about the job, you won't get to see Deevoorak right away. First, I will determine if you are qualified for the job."

Steve's gut dropped at the first question, "Accounting Irregularities?" Steve stared back blankly.

"Have you any experience in generating accounting irregularities, especially the hard to trace kind?" Steve shook his head.

"Are you sure?" Pacha's eyes narrowed. Slips of a quarter million dollars worth of IOUs flashed across his mind. Swiftly, he killed the thought with a soothing image of the cashmere bedsheets waiting for him back at the penthouse.

"Can you add?" Steve nodded his head.

"Evil, you've passed the test. Not only have you skimmed off your friends and family remorselessly, you do so damnably. I think you will be a credit to our organization.

"I'll send your name to Deevoorak right away," Pacha congratulated him. "You should hear from him next week."

Next week? But rent is due Wednesday! Before Steve could protest, the screen darkened, forcing him to move on to the next record.


Name: Harpa Lotta Bouta Wusit
Category: A Fate Worse Than Death
Dimension of Origin: Tree of Knowledge, Realm of Disgrace
Age: Very Old
Abilities: Empath, Illusion

Description:
Recently, I became a very, very, very, great grandparent to the latest spawn of acutely agonizing destinies waiting to be unleashed on unsuspecting souls.

I am looking for a temporary replacement to take charge of my duties while I dote on my grand kids for a century or two.

Be prepared to name your price so I may alter your destiny more to your liking.
Steve, sighed, pressed TALK and waited for an image to appear on the screen. All he got was a delightful screen saver of a desert island with a solitary palm tree... which winked at him.

"Oh, do be quiet!" The palm tree hissed at his involuntary yelp of surprise. "I've only just got them down for the night."

"Night?" Steve whispered, casting his eyes over the sunshine vista through the DM window.

"It's always night here in the Realm of Disgrace - I'm babysitting."

The palm-tree illusion fizzled out of existence to be momentarily replaced with the haunting vista of a million tortured souls crammed into a landscape of misery and tar, illuminated by fire pits of desolation.

"Ah." Steve nodded. "Anyway, about the job? How would I be replacing you in your absence? What is the job spec?"

"I'm so glad you asked." Harpa smiled, although it was hard to prove, as her current illusion was of a bed side lamp. "You'll need an empath graft from the DM surgical surgeries: ask them what the procedure is; I'm all natural, see? Your new ability will allow you to experience the daily misery and torture of all humanity. I tend to find the best resources are those wonderfully drab "Emo" kids - not even starving kids in poverty seem to be able to match the misery they give off in waves.

"Once you target souls for destruction, simply create the illusion you can answer all their repressed hopes and wishes, before pulling the rug from underneath their fragile hearts and crushing their souls. There's a great bonus incentive if you can take out a group: you should have seen the tally of misery caused by my inspirational glamor of "My Chemical Romance" splitting up - I swear, I'm a genius."

"Rrrright... you want me to feed of misery and crush the hopes and dreams of those around me?"

"In a nutshell - yes!"

"And all I'll need is an 'Empath' graft?"

"Yup!"

"And you will OK all my expenses, a monthly salary of $10k?" Why not push it?, he reasoned. "And my hours are my own?"

"Sure!"

"When do you want me to start?" Steve beamed.

"Just as soon as you sign the immortality clause, silly!"

"Clause?"

"Yup. I plan on a couple of centuries off, and I hate training up newbies, only to loose 'em after a couple of millennia. Who knows? I may wanna take the little tykes off for an extended tour of the Doom Dimensions - you'll love living in The Tree of Knowledge: there isn't a night goes by without the gaping maw of hell trying to consume you."

"Erm - I'll get back to you!" Steve slammed the button and the image of a dancing parrot disappeared.

Maybe he was being too picky. Time was marching, and he needed to think more about the green stuff and less about the job. With that in mind, he pulled up an interesting set of squiggles and fed the details in.

Name: Denise
Category: Disease - Four Horsemen of the Appocalypse
Dimension of Origin: Lore, fancy and 4th circle of hell
Age: Never ask a lady!
Abilities: Bio-chemical degrees from seven major seats of learning

Description:
Currently the Personal Assistant to Pestilence, I need a short sabbatical to recuperate from some experimental strains of influenza.

I am looking for a temporary replacement to take charge of my duties and act as a nurse-maid to my boss when things don't go so well in the lab.

Hours to suit, some drug/infectious disease testing, 100K per global infection spread.
A Non-Existent User
“Well this might work…” Steve warily weighted the pros and cons before finally shrugging and pressing the ‘Talk’ button.

The image of a woman with brunette hair, scaly green skin and large yellow eyes appeared on the screen. She looked fairly young as she peered into the screen to look at him with pursed lips.

“Hold on, let me get my glasses…” She murmured in a gravelly voice. She shuffled around on something- probably a desk- before perching a pair of square, wire rimmed glasses on the bridge of her nose and looking at Steve.

“What do you want?” She asked sharply, looking at him with mild trepidation.

“I’m here for the job you advertised for on demonmarket.com?” Steve stated, looking her over also. She didn’t look that bad… though then again, neither had any of the others…

“Oh! You want to be my replacement? Why didn’t you say so! What’s your name, sweetie?” Denise seemed to lose her cold exterior and smiled, showing off long black fangs in a smile.

“Um… Steven Elliot…” This was new… Despite himself, Steve felt his mind creating the image of Denise in a kitchen baking cookies for the neighborhood children. She was anything but demonic in his mind.

“Oh well then I suppose that you will do- after all this is one of the simplest jobs in all levels of Hell.” Denise’s smile widened and Steve felt the corners of his mouth twitch. That smile was infectious…

“So what would I be doing- exactly?” he asked the demon picked up what looked to be a cup of coffee and took a dainty sip.

“Oh, lots of things, top priority would be to make my boss happy, Pesty is extremely picky about anything that crosses under his nose. Also you would be playing around with illnesses and other fun things like that…” Denise squinted her eyes at Steve and frowned slightly.

“Of course the question of dying is always a problem… you’ll need to sign the immortality clause-”

“That’s what the last chick said! What exactly does it DO to you?” Steve was curious and he had been too shaken by Harpa’s reasons to ask her.

“Oh it only ensures that you don’t die anytime soon- or ever for that matter.” Denise waved her hand absently and Steve noticed the long black nails on the scaly limb.

“So why would I need to sign it for this job?”

“Well we DO fiddle around with diseases… The clause is only there so that none of the employees keel over during experimentation- its actually not very bad…” Denise smiled and leaned over to rest her chin on the tops of her folded hands, treating Steve to a view of her cleavage.

Steve thought for a moment. The demon was dangling carrots in front of his face, but where was the stick to help prompt him along?

“Denise! Where in Hell are you?!” Denise rolled her eyes at the weak, sickly voice.

“One second, sweetheart…” She turned and called in a sickly sweet voice. “Yes, Pestilence?”

“I need you to see what you can do with this strain of hepatitis! NOW!” Denise growled to herself and turned to Steve.

“I’ll get back to you, Sweetie.” She blew him a kiss before the screen went blank.
Steve was beginning to get impatient. He has looked at four jobs and could not find one that was right for him or at least one that did not involve the immortality clause. He did not want to live forever.

He huffed as he skimmed the list again. "Hmmm....this one looks interesting."

☻♣♦◘○•╙£ / Mæ
Name:
Category: Receptionist, Interviewer
Dimension of Origin: 6th Circle Hell Lane
Age:6,012 years
Abilities: Transfer deaths to proper dimensions, Be cruel and un-forgiving

Description: Looking for the right person to replace the last receptionist who is being promoted. You have to have good typing skills and be able to answer calls in a proper hateful attitude. Some occasional interviews will be required for unannounced deaths to place them where they need to be, rather it be eternal damnation, haunting, exorcisms, torture, etc. Must be available any hours.

Steve hit the "Talk" button. A demon appeared with red cracked skin that was oozing with blood. Small beady black eyes glared at him. "What?! Who do you want?"

"Uh...M.." Steve stuttered.

"Come on, out with it. I don't have all century! I do have other calls coming in." The demon spat out through yellow crooked teeth.

"I was calling for the Receptionist job. Mæ." Steve said harshly, a little annoyed.

"Ahhh..if you keep an attitude up like that you might have a chance. But don't hold your breath." The demon disappeared and another screen came up.

"Yes?" A black skinned demon appeared with long green hair and tiger eyes.

"Mæ?" Steve asked.

"Yes. What do you want?" She asked as she continued to type on a keyboard with out looking up at the screen.

"The job? I'm inquiring about the post."
Mæ grumbled, "Too late. That job has already been filled."

"What?" Steve's skin tone flushed with disappointment.

"Not everyone is qualified to route calls for the Customer Disservice Center. Unfortunately for you, we found the perfect man for the job."

Mæ leaned over to the right, allowing Steve a glimpse of the people working behind her. Her wavy green bangs pointed towards their latest co-worker.

Steve gasped.

There in the background draped over a swivel chair, slumbered his old buddy Max. Shooting out of his scalp in every direction were massive tangles and coils of wires and antennas of every style and make imaginable. Mæ had turned his friend into some kind of robo-switchboard-satellite-dished-vegetable.

"What did you do to him?" Steve stammered, unable to tear his eyes off of the various instruments that whirred, churned and clicked atop of the cleanly shaven head.

"Oh a little bit of this and little bit of that. Max loves his new career. He hardly talks about his old life anymore." Her yellowy irises purred with delight at the sight of the lobotomized man. She gravitated closer to the camera and whispered, "I just love the uniform! Don't you?"

Steve dashed for the door, trying to get out of the room. Where the handle should have been, lay a mistakably realistic likeness of a large brass door knob. There was nothing to grab, nothing to turn. Steve howled his outrage.

A cackle erupted hideously from the intercom. Mæ was laughing at him.

Steve slammed the TALK button and she vanished from view, replaced by the familiar cursor begging for its next command.

"I don't want to do this anymore! I just want out of here," he implored. "Where's that help button?"

The monitor flickered and text poured onto the screen.

"If you're looking for the help center, how may I assist you?" the screen printed.

"How?" Steve stood still for a moment, mentally unprepared to acknowledge the eavesdropper.

Or for the likelihood that the DM trapped him inside a room with a demonic computer terminal for several hours.

Steve demanded, "For starters, get me out of this room!"

"I'm afraid I can't do that," the System font blurted.

"Why not? You can't hold me here against my will," Steve argued.

"Did you read the fine print?"

Steve quickly glanced through the paperwork. "What fine print? I read everything!"

"Perhaps you should read the sign on the wall again," the screen suggested.

Steve glanced up at the sign:


                   When interviewing a demon, it is the responsibility of the
                   interviewer to ask any and as many questions as needed
                   to ensure compatibility. The establishment holds no blame
                   should you neglect to thoroughly investigate your potential
                   partner. All communication through this terminal is recorded
                   for your safety.


The screen typed encouragingly, "Look closely at the writing on the upper right corner."

Steve growled, "What writing? All I see is the DM logo..." A shudder coursed through his shoulders and he fell back into his seat.

Artfully scribbled into the shape of the all familiar DM logo was the fine print that he failed to catch when he entered the room.


         Warning: Once the door closes, the occupant may leave the room under any of the following conditions:
         a) The door is open.
         b) The occupant has died.
         c) The occupant has entered a binding agreement with a client.


"Now don't you feel silly. That warning was here all along."

Steve smashed his fist into the keyboard and the screen turned blue.
Back at the DM lobby...

Sue Randall loved working the front desk. She got to meet characters from all walks of life. Some of the people led exciting lives while others wasted theirs on meaningless pursuits.

The company's fulfillment plan was her favorite perk. Demonic Marketplace paid royally for every new soul she successfully registered into the program. She was so well suited to her duties that the company took care of her every desire.

The mail clerk manifested himself and delivered the latest corporate daily. "Don't I get a kiss for it?" he asked her in his sweetest voice.

She smiled bewitchingly, loving every moment of his unswerving devotion. It brought back her favorite moment in time: the day when Dr. Faustavius awoke the demon within. Until then, her charms worked only on humans. With her inner demon freed to roam beside her, she discovered to her delight that a great number of demonic species crumbled before her influence.

It was good to be Sue Randall.

She picked up the corporate daily, coyly averting her eyes to the latest news.

"Oh, I know this name," she cooed. "Steven Elliot. Didn't I sign him up last week?"

"I bet you did, Darling," the demon cooed back, barely aware of the words rolling off of his tongue.

"Oh my. His penthouse is fully furnished and available! All for the bargain price of unpaid back rent!"

"Back rent," the mail clerk echoed vacuously.

Without another thought, Sue answered the ad and snatched the home off the market. It hardly mattered that she already owned twenty other properties she will never live in.

She bought this penthouse as a favor for Steve. After all, it was his love for the penthouse that brought him into her lair in the first place. The least she could do was hold it for him until he got out of his contract, whenever, if ever he did.


The End!

© Copyright 2008 the last cicada, Acme ~ 10 year WdC Anniversary, xx-xx, ~* Moon Beam *~, (known as GROUP).
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