Michael has made a deadly pact with the Devil. Can his love, Maggie, save him?
|This first chapter of my novel-in-progress. It will be online for about two weeks.
All's Fair in Love and Wrath
“Hi Maggie,” Michael said, his voice as cheerful as he manage as he walked up to her as she was packing her books up after class. Michael had to really concentrate to keep his voice from faltering and his body from shaking from the incredible surge of adrenaline he felt in his blood at that moment.
“Hi Michael,” Maggie said in a much more believable cheerful voice, though, unlike his voice, Michael was sure her cheerfulness was sincere. When he saw Maggie happy, he was happy. In fact, when Michael saw her at all, he was happy. What kind of guy wouldn’t want be happy to see the girl he considers to be the most beautiful girl alive? Maggie’s body was graceful and sleek like a dark bird. Her skin was creamy and looked like silk. Her chin was rounded, as if to invite a touch and her smile was wide and toothy, like a bright ivory dawn. Her lips were bright pink and danced playfully along her teeth. Her eyes, through her oriental lids, were like two orbs of perfect mystery; begging Michael’s investigation. Her hair, at shoulder length, was a gentle flow of black and brown liquid that is to be drunk in with pleasure. Her hair smelled of passion fruit, which exited him even more.
Michael tried to swallow the lump in his throat and relax. “I, um, had two tickets to see the symphony this Saturday, but the person I was going with cancelled and so, you know, I have that extra seat and, um, it you’re no busy or anything, you could come with me to see it”. Michael had said it all in one breath. He tried not to pant for breath. It was all a lie though. There was a symphony, but he hadn’t bought the tickets yet because it would be a waste if she let him down and, of course, there was no second person. Michael had been hoping that the second person would be Maggie.
A brief look of thought crossed her face, and then she looked into Michael’s eyes. As her smile dropped from her shining face, he could feel the pity in her eyes before he heard it in her voice. “Michael,” she said softly, with a look that was appropriate for a dog that thought it was going to the park, but the person knows the animal is being taken to be put down; it was a look of pity for a poor creature. “I’d love too,” Here comes the ‘but’, Michael thought, already knowing the answer, “but you know I have a boyfriend and he doesn’t like me going out or even talking with boys who like me. I do like you, but as a friend. You’re such a nice guy, you know. But I can’t.” She touched his shoulder before turning away and walking out with her books.
Michael had known the answer, but the pain of disappointment still made me feel sick inside. ‘This is a curse’, Michael thought. Wanting the unattainable girl is his curse. ‘But she is so perfect,’ he thought.
Suddenly a rage leaped into him. Rage at himself for not being good enough, rage at this boyfriend he didn’t even know for getting in his way, and rage at the world in general for making his life so unbearable. Michael picked up a book that been left behind in the classroom and threw it as hard as I could. Despite not being athletic, the book traveled far very quickly and smashed into a cabinet on the other side of the room. The glass window on the cabinet smashed. Michael watched the glass tinkle and crunch on the floor for a moment. Then he stormed out of the room. His face was the epitome of anger. The teacher looked up at Michael and said something, but Michael didn’t hear him through the redness of his emotions.
Michael didn’t know where he was going to go right now, but he had to get away from here. He didn’t care about people in his way. He was on a veritable warpath through the halls. Most people who saw the swirling black-clad thunder-cloud that was Michael storming their way moved back against the lockers. Students who knew Michael were staring after him. Michael didn’t care; he hardly even noticed.
He was still just as enraged when he bumped into Frank. Frank was one of those big types that beat on the people who got in his way. In fact, Frank had the uncanny ability to remind Michael of his personal failings, real or not. Frank had had some sort of drink in his hand, but the impact had caused it to fall into a puddle. Michael didn’t care about the drink or Frank. He proceeded to walk around Frank and down the hall before he discovered where I was, but he didn’t get far before Frank grabbed the back of his shirt and yanked him back. “Don’t touch me Frank. Just leave me alone. I don’t care anymore,” Michael said to the orange haired brute with more courage and force then he’d ever had before.
“Or what?” Frank said snidely. He let go of me and pushed he away from him. Michael stumbled backwards as Frank’s moronic friends snickered, but he did not fall. Michael has a policy of not wasting his time with idiots, and that seemed to win out over the urge to fight, so he continued walking at the same pace and in the same direction as before. Frank tried to grab him again; this time to hit him, but Michael spun around at the touch so violently that Frank was startled.
“Don’t touch me!” Michael yelled at the top of his lungs. It was so loud and so full of anger that all activity stopped in the hallway. Lockers stopped in mid-swing as everyone stared at Michael in shock. Even Frank and his gang were stunned by the massive outburst. Satisfied, Michael turned around quickly and rushed out down the hall, his mind still enflamed with hate.
A vice-principal had heard Michael shout and approached him. “What is the meaning of this, young man? Yelling like that in a Catholic school?” the balding, red-faced authoritative figure said. Michael could care less what was said. He uttered a short string of obscenities at the frustrated man, not caring what happened to him at all. The vice-principal was thoroughly shocked and enraged at such insolence to his petty authority. He grasped Michael’s arm, his face even redder then before. “You’re coming to my office now!” he spat. Michael jerked his arm away and ran. He needed to get out of this confining, evil, oppressive place. He hated being here.
He quickly outran the slow-moving man, but Michael kept moving. Then he saw Maggie. She was standing with her friends. When she saw him, she pretended to ignore him, but she saw the look on Michael’s face. As Michael neared her, he barely gave her a glance as the pain of rejection stung anew. Suddenly, she stepped in front of him. “Look, Michael. I’m s…” Her apology was cut short as he pushed her away with his shoulder. His heart pained to insult her like that, but his mind didn’t care.
As Michael pushed open the door to the outside, he didn’t see, but he heard some people in the hall yelling after him. Michael didn’t care. Michael heard Maggie’s friends comfort her and they told her not to “worry about it. Forget him”.
Michael burst from the school doors and ran from his pursuers as fast as he could. Michael’s house wasn’t very far away and though the air was cool, it wasn’t cold enough to wear a coat. Even if he had been cold, the heat of Michael’s fury would have kept him warm. The sky was dark and gray. It had not rained that day and Michael didn’t think it would.
Michael remember briefly that the lunch break at school had just started, so he had an excuse to go home, but he didn’t intend on going back to school when lunch was over. Michael did not want to face all those people leering at him and laughing at him and making jokes about him. The thoughts fueled Michael’s anger and enflamed his blood again. Michael walked quickly home.
On the way there, Michael’s thoughts were filled with horrible scenes of frenzied murders, rapes, suicides, and bombings of the various people he had encountered today. I hate all of it, thought Michael. ‘What has He done to help me?’ Michael thought, referring to God, the One who had given him life and the One who made it miserable for him. How could such a benevolent God do these things to people? Good people suffer, while bad people get rewarded. Michael remembered a time in his life when he had been a happy kid. Content with few friends and doing well in school. Then people like Frank came along and exploited every difference he had for their own popularity and entertainment. Even then, young Michael knew that he would be everyone's scapegoat.
‘If I had any real power, I’d show the world the respect it deserves,’ Michael thought. The idea sparked dark images of burning landscapes and suffering, while he endured and overcame all of it.
Then he remembered Maggie. The thought of her still hurt inside him. ‘Is this love?’ Michael thought. ‘This pain inside me?’ The only person that Michael loved has caused and is causing pain. Every thought of her face brought daggers through his chest and a nearly overwhelming sorrow as his loss overcame him. ‘I’ll never have her. Not after what happened today. I can see what my fate is. I’ll forever be the “Nice Guy,”’ he realized. Michael raised his head and looked at the fair blue sky and the clouds in the distance. He saw how they rose up and touched the sky. ‘If I had real power, I could prove that I was worthy of her. I would give her the world if I could.’
Now Michael felt even more depressed than angry. He was going to stay home though. He didn’t want to face Maggie and Frank and the others. ‘Screw all of them. They’ll be sorry someday,’ Michael said to himself, thoughts again turning to hate.
Michael had been walking for only fifteen minutes or so when he got home. It was a fairly small bungalow in the middle of the suburbs. It was not very fancy on the outside and a lot worse on the inside.
Michael unlocked the door and went inside. He took off his boots and went into the living room, which wasn’t really fit for living. Beer cans and old pizzas were scattered about the room, and the TV was tuned to a channel of static. Fortunately, very little of this mess was his. All the beer belonged to his dad, who, to Michael’s utter horror, was in the kitchen talking on the phone. ‘Oh crap,’ was all he could think. Coming home, Michael knew, was a fatal mistake. He had been so preoccupied with his own thoughts that he had forgotten that his dad would be home from work early today.
John Adler looked up at Michael. His eyes locked with his father’s. Michael had seen this look before. John was drunk, like usual after he gets back from work, and obviously angry with him. He was only keeping his cool because he was on the phone with someone.
“Thanks you for calling Mister Hearting. I’ll be sure to have a talk with Michael,” John said. Mr. Hearting was the vice-principal at the school. He was the one that had stopped Michael in the hallway before he saw Maggie. John said goodbye and hung up the phone. Michael was absolutely frozen with fear at his impending doom as John walked into the room and was standing nearly toe-to-toe with him.
“That was the vice-principal. He said you were yelling and screaming and causing problems. Is this true?” John’s voice was on the edge of outburst.
“I…I had … something…happened,” Michael stammered. He wasn’t able to stand up to his father. It was impossible. Michael quit trying to explain and just nodded.
“That’s what I thought,” said his father. “There’s always some reason with you. But excuses don’t add up in this family. If you want to call this a family.” John paused, like he always did at this point. It was a little time for Michael to remember. “You killed Sam and that caused your mother to leave. That left you with me.” John’s voice was louder and very nearly shouting. “You should have left then you little ingrate! I’ve done everything I could to give you an education and this…” he pointed to the telephone, “This is what I get? I loved Sam and you took him away! You should have died instead! You are nothing!” John was really yelling now and he stood right in Michael’s face. They were nearly the same height. Michael could smell the alcohol on him and feared that it would induce John’s violence. Michael’s fear of a beating kept him silent. He prayed that he would be let go.
John’s face was red with rage and he gave Michael a vicious backhanded slap across the face. Michael fell from the force of it and his vision filled with a white flash of pain as his brain collided with his skull. “Get out of my sight, boy,” John said. His father sat down in the old reclining chair where he must have been sitting before Michael had arrived and resumed drinking.
Michael picked himself up and started toward his room, still dizzy from the blow. It was a miracle that John hadn’t beaten him further. When he got to his room he locked the door and went to the mirror above his dresser. He wasn’t crying or anything, he had withstood worse hits than that, but he was shaking a bit from the adrenaline. When he looked in the mirror Michael noticed that John had drawn blood. His left cheek was cut from John’s wedding ring, ‘which he still wears for some reason,’ thought Michael. ‘Maybe it’s only because it’s sharp enough to cut me.’
Michael touched the cut. It stung but it wasn’t very deep. Michael had a First-Aid kit in his drawer for this sort of thing.
Michael might have gone to the police under different circumstances, but he deserved it. ‘I did kill Sammie. It is my entire fault,’ he thought, as he cleaned the slow-moving blood with an alcohol soaked cotton swab. The stinging pain was nothing compared to the pain he felt in his chest. It was worse than the pain he felt at Maggie’s rejection. It was a pain he had felt for over a year.
And all because his father could not let go and forget, like Michael wanted to. It hurt too much to remember all the time. To be forced to remember. ‘He wasn’t supposed to go to the dock by himself. Mom said so. I was supposed to look after him,’ thought Michael, remembering that summer day last year, tears finally falling down his face because of the horrible pain in his gut. ‘I was only distracted for a moment, and then Sam was on the dock, chasing a frog. I yelled at him to stop, but then he fell in the water after the frog. He can’t swim!’ A barrage of mental images assaulted Michael. He let his head bleed. He staggered over to his bed, barely seeing anything through his tears of anguish, and fell into the sheets.
He remembered the sweet face of a loving young brother, the sounds of him thrashing in panic and the sound of his own heartbeat as he stood at the end of the dock, frozen in fear. Then the piercing sound of his mother screaming, screaming, screaming, at the cold, lifeless Sam.
“I can’t take it anymore!” Michael tried to yell at the top of his lungs, though he choked on his words and only made a squelching noise. Then the sound of his father yelling and hitting his mother a while after Sam’s death; the white flashing pain as John hit him repeatedly. The feeling of helplessness and worthlessness were now deeply entrenched into his gut.
“I wish I could tell him how much I miss him and how sorry I am for letting him die,” Michael said to himself through tears and choked voice, “but I can’t because I’m down here and he’s up there, if there is an ‘up there’.”
Michael regained control of his sobbing and wiped his face. He stared at the ceiling and said, “I’ll do anything I can to see you again Sammy. I just want to say how sorry I am.” Michael gave up and cried.
Michael opened his eyes. It was dark in his room and he was still lying on his bed. He looked over at the clock on his bedside table. It was past eleven o’clock. Michael realized that he must have fallen asleep and missed dinner.
“Forget it,” he said to himself, “Food’s not worth being with him.”
He got out of his bed and turned on the desk lamp across the room. It was a small room; one could almost call it a closet. The weak lamplight showed the few posters he’d managed to salvage after his father’s last rampage. John had destroyed his room several times in the name of Sam. He said that Michael should have no better possessions than Sam did and that Sam hated him for being alive. Michael never confirmed his father’s beliefs, but Michael knew that it was true. ‘I wish I could have taken his place,’ always crossed his mind. That thought had crossed his mind so many times that past year and so many more times just this night.
Michael sat at his desk and took the pictures of Maggie and Sam out from the hidden drawer in his desk. Michael had stolen the picture of Maggie from her friend and the photo of Sam from his funeral. He put them on his desk and admired them.
‘These are the only two people I ever loved,’ he thought. Then as he picked up Maggie’s picture he thought, ‘She hates me; I’m not good enough for her. I don’t deserve someone that beautiful and perfect. Not the way I am.’ Then Sam’s picture, ‘and I let him down. I killed my own brother and he won’t ever let me forget.’
He lets the pictures fall back onto the desk and let his head fall forward into his hands on his desk. ‘My life is eternal suffering. I have nothing left. There has to be some answer,’ he thought.
Then he heard it. A long, distant train siren outside caught his attention. That was his answer. That was his way out.
Michael’s mind was made up. His life wasn’t worth the suffering he’s had to endure. Society and the will of God have ruined his life and all his dreams and everyone he had ever known had crushed his beliefs and will. It was time find eternal peace.
Michael got up and put on the old pair of sneakers he had in his closet. He went to the single window he had in his room and slid it open and jumped quietly onto the damp, cool grass. Although it was autumn it was warmer than he expected, but it was still cool enough to penetrate his clothes. He ran as fast as he could across his yard. The train tracks weren’t more than a kilometer away. He was sure he would make it in time.
As he ran through the dark park he saw his warm breath billowing up from his mouth. Michael stopped and looked at it as if for the first time. It floated up and dissipated into nothingness among the darkness of space and stars. In fact, as Michael looked, he realized that he couldn’t see many stars. The sky had cleared since the afternoon and there was a slit of a moon high in the sky, but the orange light of the city on the horizon dulled the stars.
Michael had seen the stars before but since Sam died, he had only stared at the ground. Michael found the orange city lights invading the dark beauty of the sky disgusting. He hoped he’d see the stars again, maybe.
The train’s whistle sounded again: louder, closer this time. Michael remembered his mission and what he had to do and continued running forward to meet his destiny.
Michael got to the tracks just in time. The train wasn’t far. He could feel it. Michael shoes crunched on the gravel as he stepped onto the tracks. He could feel the ground vibrating underneath him at the approaching train.
Suddenly, from the darkness, loomed the train. Its headlight blinded Michael, filling his vision. The deafening noise of metal wheels on metal tracks was his world. ‘There is no turning back now,’ Michael thought, ‘If there is a God who cares, He’ll save me from being killed. And if I do go to Hell, I just hope I get to see Sam on my way down.’
Michael closed his eyes, though it made no difference. The light was still blinding and the noise still deafening. The train must only be a few feet away. It was only a split second away.
Then the sound stopped. Dead silence. Michael stood just as he had for a few seconds. ‘Has it happened yet?’ he thought. ‘Am I dead?’
“No, you’re not dead,” said a deep male voice beside him. Michael opened his eyes. The train loomed above him. The metal frame was just inches from his face. He turned around to meet the voice that spoke to him. It was a man in a suit. A well-made black suit by its perfect fit and cut. He had black hair and a goatee. Michael wasn’t sure, because it was dark, but it looked like his eyes, pupil and everything, were black. The man stood at the edge of the tracks.
“I’m not?” Michael asked.
“No,” he said off-handedly, “I’ve just stopped time. Just in the nick of time as it were,” the man said with a chuckle at his own pun, and then he looked at the train. Michael couldn’t believe it. God had actually saved him.
Michael saw the man’s face contort in impossible ways, and then it returned back to normal. “I’m not God, boy!” the man said sharply to a startled Michael. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name, at least to you, is Satan.” The man bowed, obviously enjoying the title and the idea of frightening a mortal.
Michael, who was enrolled in a Catholic school, had been taught to resist Satan’s temptations, but Michael didn’t care. He wanted to at least hear what he had to say. He was going to Hell anyway, so why not listen for a while? ‘What other choice do I have?’ he thought.
“So what do you want from me?” Michael asked.
“It’s not what I want from you; it’s what I can offer you,” replied Satan.
“You want to make me an offer?” Michael said. The idea of being offered something was somewhat new to Michael. Anything Michael had ever truly wanted usually came with a very large price. A price he could never hope to pay. But the idea of an offer made by a god, even an evil one, was very appealing.
“Sure,” Satan said. “You never got what you wanted in life and certainly not what you needed. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here – “ Satan gestured to the frozen train. “I could tell you who is responsible for your horrible life, but then, you already know.”
“That’s right. He never liked the way you turned out, so he decided to make you suffer for His entertainment. He would never let you have what you really wanted.”
Michael recalled the constant bullying and consistent disappointment. And the pain that loosing his brother had caused and how Maggie had basically ripped his heart out. All of these and more were obviously beyond his control. He was made this way and God was the one who made him the way he was. It was His fault.
“Yes,” Satan said. “It is His fault. He won’t help you, but I will. I want to grant your wish.”
“What wish?” said Michael.
“The wish you made earlier today. You wished to have real power. The kind of power that could destroy cities at a word and also win the hand of any girl you wanted,” said Satan with a knowing smirk, as if he knew about Maggie, which he most certainly did if he had been listening to Michael. “I want to give you that power,” he continued, giving Michael a fatherly pat on the back. “You deserve it.” Satan stuck out a professionally manicured hand and waited for Michael’s handshake to secure the deal.
Michael had never felt more accepted or appreciated in all his life. Society had never accepted him, neither did his family, except Sammy, and Maggie didn’t appreciate him either. If he was a near-god, she would have to like him. Michael was about to shake Satan’s hand, when he remembered that deals like this rarely came without a cost. He drew his hand back.
“What’s the price for all this? I mean, absolute power doesn’t come free, right? Even you paid a price,” Michael said. Satan’s smile shook for a second, but reformed in a moment. Satan probably expected this.
But then he spoke, “It’s simple, Michael. You get immortality, invincibility, and command over the vast armies of Hell, all the perks of being a deity on Earth. Not even God will be able to touch you and the faithful will become faithless under your fist. All that I ask is that you do what you’ve always dreamed of doing –“ Satan paused for a moment. Michael thought that Satan got taller and blended into the shadows more. “Watch the world burn.”
Michael was a bit shocked to hear it. “I’m supposed to destroy the world?”
“Is that a problem?” Satan said calmly, as if he didn’t know destroying the world was evil.
“No,” Michael said gravely, knowing that he has dreamed for this moment and this chance. He’d finally show the world his rage. ’But what about Sam?’ he thought, ‘When will I ever get to see him again?’
As if he read Michael’s thoughts, Satan spoke, “As an added incentive, when the world is ours, I will resurrect your brother and you two will be reunited.”
Michael stared in disbelief. “You can do that?”
“Of course I can. Why not? His soul is mine and I can do with it what I will.”
Michael’s blood ran cold. “My brother is in Hell?”
“Well, yes, considering the circumstances of his death, but I’ve been watching and waiting for you, so his suffering his been … less.”
Michael’s insides seethed with anger at Satan for having Sam’s soul and at himself for sending it there, but he did have a chance to bring him back. To give him the life that he didn’t have. But the price…. “What if I don’t accept your terms? What if I don’t care anymore?”
Satan’s face darkened, “Then you will never be able to experience this again.”
The train, the night, and everything else melted around Michael and Satan. The gravel on the tracks became carpet and walls loomed and solidified from the pitch of night. Then everything came into focus. They stood in Michael’s house.
“How…” Michael said, looking at Satan.
“Just watch, boy.”
Michael looked around. Not only were they in his house, but also from his surroundings, Michael knew that it was two years ago, at Christmas. Michael remembered it well.
“Ugh. Christmas. What a phony holiday,” Satan said to himself, though he could have been talking to Michael, “The dates are all wrong and happiness is only a mask over inevitable disappointment when one’s expectations are high. It’s sad really.”
Michael didn’t believe Satan. This had been the best Christmas ever. The tree was lit up. It was the largest he’d ever seen. There were cards on the mantel and the warm air was filled with the spirit of Christmas. Good times.
Just then Sam ran into the living room in his pajamas.
“Sam!” Michael yelled and ran forward. Satan stopped Michael with a soft hand on his shoulder. Sam hadn’t even noticed them.
“He can’t see you, Michael. None of this is real. It’s from your memories. But you do remember this time and place don’t you?”
“Yes, I do,” Michael said quietly.
An older boy walked into the room behind Sam. It took a moment before Michael realized it was himself. He looked different then.
“You were happy then,” Satan whispered into his ear, as if to remind him.
Satan was right, he had been happier then than any time before it. That moment would happen soon. It was Christmas morning, around ten o’clock in the morning. Michael didn’t know how they had slept in that long, but they had. Michael younger self pointed out a present under the tree. It was a gift from him to Sam.
Sam’s eyes lit up and he opened the present. It was a framed picture of Michael and Sam that their mother had taken a few months earlier. Sam was such a sweet little boy. He wasn’t polluted by television or anything. He was an angel to everyone who knew him and the best little brother a guy could have. He exclaimed out loud and gave Michael a hug.
“This is the best present ever, Michael! Thanks a lot. You’re the best,” Sam said.
The real Michael watched the scene unfold. It was like he was there again. He wished he could say something and be with him and have these times back.
“I can give you that time back. I can bring him back. Flesh and blood Sam. You can be brothers again and never have to worry about being apart. Your life can be perfect and happy again. Just shake my hand.”
The vision suddenly disappeared like smoke blown away by the wind.
“Or the train will kill you and you will be thrown straight into the darkest pits of Hell and never, ever see anyone again. Your brother will resent you, the girl will hate you, and you will have missed the last and greatest opportunity of your life!”
Michael knew he had no choice, but why shouldn’t he accept? Sure, it was wrong to kill, Michael knew that, but he could have Sam back and forget that he had ever killed him the first time. He would be able to protect Sammy. Plus, he could be with Maggie and live, all three of them, forever in bliss.
As for destroying the world, the world deserves it. Michael knew that was what he has wanted to do for a long time. He would make God pay for ruining his life.
Satan smiled and extended his right hand, already knowing Michael’s decision. Michael reached his out his own right hand and placed it in Satan’s. Satan squeezed Michael’s tightly to the point of pain.
The final, binding word, spoken by Satan, echoed from his mouth and into Michael’s. There was a tremendous bright flash and Michael’s hand felt like it was being burned all the way through. The heat and the energy traveled his arm and through his body. He screamed in agony and squeezed his eyes shut, but the sound was too loud for his voice to be heard. There was a final, deafening bang and then … the sound of a train.
Michael opened his eyes. The unbearably loud sound of the passing train was all Michael heard. He was standing right beside the tracks, staring at the blur of passing compartments. Michael’s hand was sore. Michael lifted it and looked at carefully because it was still very dark. He remembered what had happened and he remembered the incredible, burning pain. His hand should have been gone, or at least blackened, but Michael saw that it was fine. He wiggled his fingers and saw that they still worked. Aside from a throbbing pain in his hand, and now in his head, which was probably caused by the noise of the train. Other than those minor sores, he was physically fine.
‘Maybe it was all a dream,’ he thought, remembering the events in front of the time-frozen train, ‘maybe I had a seizure or something, dreamed all that up and fell off the tracks. I don’t know… Let’s go home. Maybe I’ll find some answers in the morning.’
The train had passed by him completely now and a lonely whistle from the train reached Michael’s ringing ears. Michael stumbled off toward home, still dazed and confused by the past events. The next few minutes before he got home were a blur. In fact, Michael didn’t even remember getting into bed.
That morning, Michael got up feeling like a new man. He didn’t even feel hungry. Unlike usual, Michael actually felt alert just after getting up. He felt really great, but considering what he thought he remembered from last night, he didn’t think he should. Michael brushed the idea of Satan and all that other stuff off his mind.
Michael put on his bathrobe, which was black and red, and walked to the washroom. Michael closed and locked the door behind him and looked at himself in the mirror, just as he did every morning. ‘Wow,’ he thought, ‘you’re looking pretty good today, for a morning.’ Michael was about to get the shaving cream ready when he noticed that he didn’t even need to shave. His facial hair was exactly the same length as it was yesterday. He felt the face. He was right; it was just as smooth as when he shaved yesterday. Then he saw his hand in the mirror. His right hand. The hand that he remembered being horribly burned but looked fine afterwards. In fact, as Michael looked at it he saw that his hand was more then fine, it was prefect. His entire hand and some of his forearm were a light pink color, unlike the rest of his arm, which was a bit more tanned. It was if the skin on his hand was new. Even the hair on his arm was shorter and his nails weren’t as dirty as his other hand. Michael touched the pink flesh with his other hand. The skin felt more sensitive than normal, just like new skin does. “My hand was burned off, but Satan had promised invincibility, so my hand regenerated!” Michael said to himself.
Michael remembered how John had struck him yesterday. He remembered it bitterly and vividly. The ring had left a jagged cut and Michael had bandaged it. He lifted the bandage off his left cheek. There was nothing there except pink new flesh. There wasn’t even a scar.
Michael wanted to try a new experiment. He looked in the drawer beside the sink and found a razor. He picked it up with his new hand and held it up to the light. The razor was very sharp and clean. He placed the razor onto his right cheek near his nose. Michael pressed inwards. Michael could feel the blade piercing his skin and then he quickly ran it across his cheek to his ear. It hurt a good deal to make a cut this deep, but Michael had endured worse pain than this. John and Frank’s beatings have raised his pain threshold significantly. Michael pulled the razor away. The razor and his fingers were covered in blood and the wound burned with pain and was oozing blood. Right before Michael’s eyes, before the first drop of blood fell off his chin, the cut closed from nose to ear. The white color of the scar was suddenly replaced by pink flesh. All this had happened in less than a second. All that was left was the blood on his cheek and hand, but that too, was suddenly absorbed into his skin. Now there was only a faint mark. The blood on the razor evaporated into the air, leaving the razor perfectly clean.
“Well I’ll be damned,” Michael said, touching that scar, “It was all true.” Michael realized that everything that Satan had said came true. He is immortal and invincible. Michael filled with hope at seeing his brother again and images of himself, Sam, and Maggie filled his mind. Then a loud whisper filled his head. “Remember the pain,” it said. Michael knew that voice. It was … his father’s. Then Michael remembered all the pain and suffering at John’s hands. All of it directed at Michael. All that pain inflicted again as if he were there again. The screaming filled his mind and Michael doubled over. Then it stopped and the words, ‘You Know What To DO’, echoed in his mind. The hot rage and the familiar hate filled him. His father’s words of scorn bubbled to the surface of his mind. Michael’s hate came to life on his body. Pitch-black clothes, darker than he had ever worn, erupted from his shoulders and fell onto his body perfectly, replacing his bathrobe. His hair turned jet black and grew longer and seemed to pull itself back. Michael’s goatee grew and darkened. Michael was now the embodiment of his hate. He was the person he had always wanted to look like. And he had a mission.
Michael stormed out of the bathroom and into the kitchen. John Adler was sitting at the breakfast table behind a newspaper. The hollow fluorescent light mixed in with the rich sunlight from a window to his left. From his posture, Michael could tell that his father was severely hung-over, but would still go to work. Michael stood across from John but did not say anything. Michael had sat at this place many times before, watching John from behind his paper, too cowardly to look at the wounds he’d inflicted upon his son. Even so, John always had a word or two of scorn for Michael at breakfast to remind him of his failures. How many times before today had Michael eaten dinner here just to avoid his father? His father who was viciously beating his mother at the time. How many times did he wish he could defend her from him? How many times had Michael blamed himself for causing all this? But no, it had been John who had landed all those punches onto a woman. It was he who beat them both. It was the man sitting across from Michael that made his life miserable.
“Eat your breakfast Michael and get to school. I don’t want to hear about you again Michael,” John said, sensing that Michael was there, “Is that clear?”
Michael didn’t say anything at all. He just stared at the newspaper and the cowardly man behind it with a burning hate. The newspaper lowered slowly, but not low enough for John to see Michael. John was annoyed by Michael’s lack of usually pathetic replies. “I said, is that clear?” John said.
“No it’s not,” Michael said, “You know, I’ve always known that you hated me and never really loved me, but now I realize that you never loved Sam. You only used his death as a way to get to me,” Michael’s voice was now a scream, “You hated us both and you hated Mom! And now you’re going to pay for it!”
John slammed the newspaper down and stood up quickly. He was startled by Michael’s sudden aggression and angry that Michael would stand up to him and say those things. John was a bit taller than Michael was, and he had a medium build. The size and weight difference, plus John’s sudden violence, had kept Michael docile all this time. Michael had known that he would have never won a fight under normal circumstances, but now Michael was no longer afraid. Michael now had so much more power over John than John ever had over him.
“How dare you say that about Sam!” John yelled, “You say I never loved Sam, but it was you whom I never loved. You were the one who killed him in the first place and I do blame you. You took Sam’s short life away because you were too petty to even watch after him. You let my little boy drown! If anyone deserves to pay for his death, it’s you!”
Even as John struck Michael’s head and face, Michael felt none of it, nor did he move from where he stood. Only his head moved from the force of the blows, but Michael was not hurt in the least. Michael was only hurt by those words again. The words that John used to force him to remember. The words he had said to him for so long. The words he would say for the last time!
John swung again at Michael’s head. Michael saw it and had enough of it. He moved suddenly; much faster than any man could move. He threw the table across the kitchen with inhuman strength and while it was still in the air, he pushed his father into it. They both crashed together at the same time into some cabinets at the other end of the kitchen. John’s head fell over onto his chest. His head was bleeding and his chest was slightly deformed from the violent shove. Michel had surely cracked some ribs. Michael saw that John was still breathing and walked over to him, pushing wood fragments from his path, to tower above the broken man.
John was dazed from the collision. When Michael’s shadow loomed over him, John raised his head at looked at Michael with burning contempt and pain.
“I’ve paid enough to you, John,” Michael said, his eyes fiery like molten rock, “The only person I haven’t paid my tribute to is Sam himself and I do plan on paying that price, but I owe you nothing more! You made my life a living Hell, so I will bring that Hell upon you and everyone else who is like you. You took whatever dignity and respect I had for myself and anyone else, so I do the same to you.”
Michael’s eyes seemed to burn brighter and his demeanor darkened as he reached his mental arm into John’s chest and pulled free John’s immortal soul. Though John could not see it, Michael could see that indescribable thing inside John. Michael griped it and could feel it pulse with life, though it wasn’t physically there. Michael squeezed it and the feeling in Michael’s mind was euphoric and he closed his eyes. Michael heard, distantly, his father moan in pain. Michael slowly crushed John’s essence until it oozed through the cracks of his mind like putty through the cracks of a fist. Michael felt the small, tired soul shudder one last time, like a small animal, then disappear into nothing. Michael wiped the ethereal residue from his mind and opened his eyes. He saw a man lying on a kitchen floor, surrounded by broken and shattered wood and a growing red pool of blood, looking melted and drained, like heated wax, and who was now a lifeless and, worse then that, a soulless shell of a body.
Michael stared at the empty vessel that once contained something human. Michael’s mind was filled with noise as if his senses had been heightened. His heartbeat was strong and flawless; his veins flowed with energy-laced blood; his head buzzed with a power that Michael had never felt before in his life. No human could ever surpass the kind of power he had. Michael felt exhilarated.
Just then, Michael saw John’s face disfigure like soft clay. The features quickly became like that of Satan: strong, handsome, and deep. Only the remaining features that had been possessed by his father sullied them.
“Good job, Michael,” the Satan-John said, the lips moving coldly and mechanically, but the deep, soft voice came through perfectly, “You showed the Father who was in control here.
“He was but the first of those who stand in your way. But your time has come and there is much work to be done. Are you ready to do it and complete our agreement?”
Michael answered “yes”, looking apathetically at the face of both his only friend and his greatest enemy, which he had overcome.
Satan smiled, like a fox to an easy prey, “Good. You will be given everything you will need and I will advise you when needed. I will also give you one final gift…” The voice trailed off and the Satan-John face faded back to John’s face.