"Nil desperandum!" promised the spell book. Just close your eyes and promise not to look.
|"It's hard to say no," the little man said, "when you put it like that."
"Like what?" Stanley asked. "Avaunt?"
The little man flinched again, as though slapped.
"Stop that," he said. "Watch your tongue," he added as Stanley opened his mouth.
But no words issued from the lips of Stanley Agdamowski. He only boggled helplessly at the little man—no more than three feet high—who stood within the flaming pentagram.
If you had asked Stanley beforehand if he thought the old ritual—inscribed, its own preface bragged, on a parchment of human skin with the blood of three witches, but which Stanley had transcribed into a college-ruled spiral notebook with a Bic pen—would actually summon a denizen of Hell, he would have been hard-pressed to say yes. But now, as the stench of brimstone slowly cleared from the fraternity basement, and as he stared at the ruddy little figure who shifted on his feet like he had a hot-foot, Stanley found it even harder to say no.
"Avaunt!" he croaked again, though it was more of a reflex this time. "Er, sorry," he added as the little man squawked.
"Listen, kid!" His newly arrived visitor—who was dressed in a black suit with red pinstripes, and wore a prim little bowler on his head—jabbed a finger at the scrawny college freshman. "You say that word just one more time, and you won't just be sorry, you'll be—"
"Sorry! Sorry!" Stanley tried to catch his breath. "Are you really a, er, a demon?"
"No, I'm a Keebler elf. Ow!" The little man flapped his hand like it had been stung, and jammed it into his mouth. "Seeing as where I'm standing," he mumbled as he sucked his fingers, "it's hard to say to no. And the pentagram compels truth anyway. Also," he added under his breath, "it doesn't know sarcasm from—"
"And you have to grant me three wishes?" Stanley gasped.
The little man rolled his eyes, then addressed the ground between his widely spaced feet.
"You hear that, youse guys?" he shouted. "The little schvantz wants three wishes! Listen, beautiful." He raised his puffy red face to glare at Stanley. "You want three wishes, go find yourself an old lamp and some polishing oil. The firm I work for, we only grant the customer one. And only under considerable duress," he added, and glared at the circle that circumscribed the pentagram.
But Stanley wasn't listening. Now he was looking at the little mans' feet, and he blanched.
They weren't feet. They were hooves!
"You are a demon!" he exclaimed.
The little man groaned. "You know, I've been summoned over five thousand times since your great-great-great-great-grandpa fell out of a tree, picked up a club, and decided to invent fire," he snarled, "and you, kid, are by far the thickest—!"
"You've done this five thousand times?"
"It's someone's dirty job," the little man growled. He put his hand to his mouth, and suddenly there was a short cigar there for him to unscrew from its corner. "Now let's cut this short," he went on as he tapped the ashes off the cigar. "Whaddaya want?"
"Whaddaya mean, what? You did have a plan, didn't you?"
"Oh! Well, what do people usually ask for? In, er, circumstances like—?"
The little man flapped his arms against his sides. "I can't believe this. You know it's cold up here? Okay, wealth, power, sex," he said. "Every once in a while some wisenheimer asks for knowledge because he thinks it'll get an epic poem written about him, but—"
"Wealth, power, sex." Stanley mulled the words.
"Sure. First base gets ya to second, and second base gets ya to third." The little man looked Stanley up and down. "Excuse my bluntness, but I'm guessing it's the third you're desperate for."
"Stammer all you like, kid. You'll find it's hard to say no."
Stanley's eyebrows knit together. "You can set me up with a girl who'll say yes?"
"Oh, it's a standard contract." The imp plucked a folded paper from his jacket pocket. "I get a call, it's the first form I reach for."
Stanley hesitated, then twitched the paper from the little man's hand. It was hot, and it smoldered as he unfolded it. "I have to give you my eternal soul in trade, right?"
"Or your cell phone number, your choice." He cackled when Stanley looked staggered. "Text spam and telemarketers. Now that's eternal punishment for the twenty-first century!"
Stanley read over the contract carefully. There were no loopholes that he could spot, but no obvious trapdoors either. "And if I sign," he asked, "how far do things go?"
"As far as you want, as often as you want, inside a twenty-four hour period."
"Soon as you put your name to the shingle."
Then the little man began to undress. Stanley watched in puzzlement, until he saw him pull a cocktail dress (fire-engine red) out of a nether orifice and start to struggle into it.
"Wait!" Stanley shrieked. "You're the—? The—?"
"That's the way it's gotta work, kid," the demon said. "Besides, ain'tcha never heard the expression, you don't gotta stare at the mantlepiece while poking the unquenchable fire pit of eternal damnation?"
"But—! But you're hideous!"
The little man winced.
"Aw, gee, thanks! It's not like we don't got feelings where I come from! But fine!" He pulled a paper sack from the same place he pulled the dress. "I'll wear this over my head if it'll get you to sign.
"Now," the demon went on, his voice muffled from under the sack. "Unless you got another way of getting it, let's get this on."
Stanley Agdamowski stared at him.
Then he shrugged and signed the contract.
Because, when put like that, it was impossible to say no.
Co-winner of The Writing Cramp: 3-5-21
Prompt: Title it-It's Hard to Say No! [Title Changed Afterward] Genre-Comedy