Referent: Some Fall"That's it, then?"
"That's it," the demon said with a smile. I would've expected it to be overly charismatic, or slimy, or wrong, but it was just...a smile. A friendly turn of the lips that felt honest, but not exceptionally so. Had it not been for the odd movements, I would have doubted that the being was a demon.
"I just...give my soul, and I get whatever I want in this life?"
The entity's eyes crinkled in a way that made me think of suppressed laughter. "Yes. I realize what you've been told of me, but honestly, I do keep my word."
And that...did fit the stories. Any number of tricks, any number of exact words and twisted language, but the being on the other end never lied.
"I want...I want to go back," I said softly. "To how I was before the accident. Body and...abilities." I had developed several phobias, one of enclosed spaces that I could get over fairly easily, one of restricted movement that I could avoid fairly easily, and one of cars that I couldn't do anything about. "I don't want to lose any memories, but I want to be, well." I gestured at my wheelchair. "As able-bodied as I was beforehand, and without the phobias the dang thing gave me. Free of scars." I realized I had looked away, and looked back up at those truly human eyes. "Can you do that?"
The demon nodded. "Yes. It's not the most common request, but it's certainly within my power." A piece of parchment--parchment, seriously, not paper and not human skin or anything, just parchment--appeared in a miniscule puff of not-acrid smoke.
"May I?" I asked, holding my hand out.
"Of course. Mind not to bleed on it."
I checked my hands for any wounds, then just slid a pair of thin gloves on to be safe. The demon nodded in approval. "The whole signing in blood thing is true, then?" I asked, glancing up.
"Yeah. It's the only thing the higher-ups accept." The entity shrugged. "Doesn't take much. A drop would work, and should you wish to avoid injuring yourself intentionally, I could just as easily wait for the next time you bled for another reason." And even that didn't sound threatening. Just...like when you've met someone from another culture, and the speech patterns are a bit off.
I read, occasionally looking up at the humanoid. I wanted to see hunger, some unwholesome desire for my soul. All I saw was a decent salesperson, good at the job and a reasonably good person.
"Thanks." I read over the contract carefully, twice. It said, in clear language, that I would be as physically healthy and fit as I had been before the accident--with specifics around to make clear which accident--and that any phobias or mental illnesses I'd developed as a result would also be healed. "Mental illness" was what my doctor would define as such, were she being completely honest. I would lose no memories.
A simple clause at the end stated that, in exchange for the previously mentioned help, I would lose my soul.
There was a little twist in my chest, about where my heart was. I wanted to walk again. I really did. But this was so permanent. This is so tempting; this is so permanent; which am I going to let decide me?
I slipped off the gloves, flipped out my swiss army knife, and bled on the paper.
Even then, when I still expected some final gotcha, some wicked grin or evil laugh, the demon merely smiled. The blood dried, not-quite-human hands folded the paper, and the being was gone.
Ragged breath. Mine. It had been so easy, far to easy, to completely miss every sign.
The demon had looked human. So unbelievably human, and I'd assumed glamour; I'd assumed practice; I'd heard every hoofbeat and assumed I was listening to a zebra. I'd never quite thought that maybe, as I stared at the being that was so human and just slightly off, I was simply looking at a human without a soul.
I had found the being, and noticed for the first time that I had not idea whether the entity was male, female, somewhere between or somewhere outside. It seemed an odd thing to miss.
"Can I undo it?"
"I don't see why not."
The demon shrugged. "How should I know?"
Index finger held up. "We made our deal. If you want your soul back, then it's your right to try and find it." The same finger, tapping the folded contract. "You've given. I never said I'd taken away."