FAVOR FOR A NEIGBOR
She’s really gone and done it this time. Parker has been known to put me in some tricky situations, but this time she’s really done it. I didn’t think she could top the whole kitchen incident, but definitely sending me to Hell has to be the winner. How do I even begin to get out of here? I stand here, facing this man with what looks like a dog collar on his neck. I look closer and could see it was engraved with something that was too dark to see at the moment. Who is he and what are his intentions?
“So what is your name, human,” he asks while placing a hand in his pocket, seamlessly. “We’ll need to make acquaintance before we are to move any further here, you see”.
“In all honesty, Mr. Man, I don’t want to move forward. I just want to get out of here,” I reply, trying to hide the concern trebling through my body.
He grins at me and nods his head. “Don’t worry yourself, mortal. There is a way out of here and seeing how you didn’t enter here through natural means, giving us your name will not imprison you here.”
The man takes a closer look at me as he sniffs at the dead air. That’s when I notice the darkness of everything around us other than the space between him and me. It was dimly lit. I couldn’t see anything beyond the well-groomed man, in front of me. At this point, I’m out of options. I’ll have to play along until I get the answers I need and get back to my apartment with my soul intact.
“The name is Vincient and who might you be? The devil?”
“Not at all, Vincient,” he responds as he scoffs. “I’m Cerberus, the gate keeper.” He snaps his fingers and torches light up around us. The light reveals the vastness of the location. It’s just a large circular cavern with a large gate behind Cerberus, which without a doubt, was the gate he watches. If I had any doubt I wasn’t in Hell, the little display of power and the menacing gates have thrown that out the window.
Ok. Play it cool, Vincient.
“What happens now, gatekeeper? You going to show me the way out of here? No harm, no foul, right?” I say as I shrug my shoulders at him.
“My hands are tied here. I don’t make any of those calls and you’re gonna have to go in and talk to the man in charge when it comes to those kinds of decisions. He’ll be here shortly so you two can hash things out.
I think I already know who I’m going to be dealing with here so no need to question him on that. “You know, the description I imagined for you and this place doesn’t really match up with what I had in mind, Cerberus.
“We made some changes over the centuries. I know you’re not much of a threat to us here so no need to scare you to death with my true form. Besides, eating people is much easier to control when I’m not in that form. My master really hates for me to do that when there is a potential client for him.”
“Potential client?” I say baffling. I better play this out because it sounds to me like if I’m anything other than that, I get eaten. “Nevermind”
Suddenly, the gates begin to inch open. I could hear the sound of faint screams beyond it as the temperature of the room begin to rise, but I’m not sure if it’s because of the gates opening or if it’s just my nerves sending my body temp sky high. A shadow appears instantly outside of the gate as if it just teleported there. I couldn’t make out its figure, but I could see his eyes glowing red as he made his way over to us. Cerberus took a knee and bows as he approaches. I stand there amazed at the sight.
“Hello, Vincient. You were probably expecting to see my father today, but he is busier than you think these days. I am Damian, the first born. Now, we don’t have much time so we have to deal quickly before your soul evaporates.”
I wipe the sweat from my forehead with my shirt and continue to listen. I have so many questions, but doesn’t look or feel like I’ll have a lot of time talk here. A silver desk appears between Damian and me as he seems to levitate towards me. His shadowy form looking more demonic as he draws closer. I could see the heat radiate from him as if looking through gas fumes. Cerberus stands up and takes a step backwards with no expression on his face. I turn my attention back to the desk as Damian begins to talk.
“I’m going to send you back to your plain now, but you have to choose one of my parting gifts before you leave,” Damian says calmly as he waves his hand over the desktop and three small chests appear. “The coin in the first chest will grant you fortune. The key in the second chance will open all the right doors. The stone in the final chest will give you strength to move mountains.”
“They all sound nice and dandy, first born, but what’s the catch?” I say as I begin to panting. The air in the room feels as if it was getting harder to breathe in.
Damian chuckles and says “The catch is that you will owe me a favor. I may need something or someone from your plain and I expect you to deliver. You can choose not to take it and we’ll have to discuss another way for you to return to your body which requires you to travel through the Underworld meaning you’ll need to get through the gate. Cerberus isn’t out here for his health. Well, sort of. The point is that you’ll have to face off against him before entering.”
My body begins to feel weak and I drop down to a knee with my hands gripping the edge of the desk. I’m dripping sweat and finding it hard to speak. I’m not sure what’s happening to me, but I’m out of options here. I reach up and grab the key from the chest before falling onto my back.
“Wise decision, Vince,” Damian says through his excitement as the desk vanishes and he makes his way back to the gate. “I’ll be in touch, mortal. Now that we’re business partners, I’m able to reach you as need be, but your time here is up.” He looks over at Cerberus and nods before the gate closes. Cerberus walks over to me and lifts me up by the collar of my shirt with one hand. My eyes close and the sound of fire crackling ceases.
My eyes open to Parker still sitting there looking at me, innocently, in her sheer night gown. I’m not sure if she is still a witch or a succubus. I wanted to yell at her, but I couldn’t. I felt drained as if I’ve been working in a hundred degree weather for the last twelve hours. I simply grab the sword and make my way out of her apartment.
“Traveling between plains can take a lot out of you or so I’m told. You were only out mere moments here, but not sure how long you were there. That was another ritual in my grandmother’s diary which wasn’t labeled at all. Where did you end up going anyway?”
“Goodnight, Parker.” I close the door to her apartment without so much as a glance back at her. Then, I realize there is something else in my hand; a key with a tiny skull etched into it.
“I should’ve taken the money.”