Father Figure

“Ow!” Jeff hissed from the sudden sting. He brought his hand up to make sure his finger was still attached and felt better when he saw it. He tried bending it, but the small cut proved too painful to move it very far. He glanced at the faded, yellow sheet and realized it looked like a brand new sheet. Blood-red letters, words, and sentences filled the sheet while he watched. “What the hell?” He recognized his father’s name, Michael Auburn, on the bottom while looking over the sheet; then, he eyed the rest of the document.

“Contract…” he picked out words that seemed important. “Soul…” the sight of the sheet filling itself in was enough to convince him the situation was real. He let himself fall into his dad’s high-back leather chair while he stared at the paper trying to make sense of it.

“Michael! I thought you’d never -” Jeff jumped when a gravelly, cracking voice spoke up behind him. He spun around in the chair and came face to face with a small red, winged imp sitting on his father’s bar. “Oh. You’re not Michael,” the imp’s eyes narrowed.

Jeff stared at the imp through wide eyes. He stayed silent while his mind raced to understand the situation. The imp disappeared with a hollow-sounding pop, then Jeff heard the voice behind him again.

“You signed Michael’s contract, but you’re not him,” the imp shook his head and frowned with disappointment. “That’s bad. Real bad.”

“It was an accident!” Jeff felt the need to explain his side. “I got a paper cut from the sheet while going through my dad’s things.” The imp raised his right eyebrow.

“Going through your father’s things? That’s horrible! And I’ve been to hell,” it said. He chuckled at his own joke, but Jeff interrupted.

“I’m not being nosy… he died last month.” The imp’s eyes grew to the size of saucers and a faint smile appeared on his chubby baby face.

“Really? Really really??” The imp sat down on the edge of the desk with an eager look on his face and stared at Jeff. “That changes everything.” The imp grabbed the sheet from the desk and looked it up and down, then he nodded at Jeff. “Yep, we can deal.”

“What do you mean?” Jeff asked. He scooted forward on his seat.

“You accidentally found a nice little loophole to this,” the imp held up the contract. “Normally these are non-transferable. This one was prepared for your father. He never signed it, I guess your blood is close enough. Now, no matter what you may think about Hell, we take our paperwork very seriously. Your signature was an accident, and we have no claim on your soul, but…” the imp’s smile grew broader. “We also have a chance to do something very, very cool. How’d you like to see your dad again?”

“Yes! How? Yes!” Jeff sat up straighter.

“Pay attention,” the imp said. “Here’s the deal. We offered your dad one wish for his soul. Technically you’ve earned one wish for his soul. You could wish for anything you like, and as part of the deal his soul will be sent to Hell.” Jeff shook his head.

“No! No way!”

“BUT!” the imp interrupted loudly. “If you wished for your dad to be alive, his soul can’t go to hell.” A smile grew on Jeff’s face, but the imp was quick to in raise a hand. “Hold on, you gotta hear the whole thing. We don’t really like loopholes in Hell. If you make that wish the penalty is your soul gets sent to hell instead. Immediately.” The imp shrugged and made a “so-so” gesture with his hand. “More or less immediately, I did promise you could see him. What d’ya think?”

“Hold on, let me make sure I got this right. I can wish for my dad to be alive, but it’ll cost my soul?” Jeff asked. The imp nodded. “And nothing will happen to him when he dies?”

“Not a thing, this is your contract now.”

“Okay. Do it. I wish my dad was alive,” Jeff said.

“Coming up.” The imp stood on the desk and snapped his fingers. A puff of smelly, yellow smoke filled the room. Jeff’s hands flew upward to protect his mouth and nose from the stench. He saw a tall silhouette appear in the smoke and moved toward it.

“Dad?” Jeff’s voice sounded muffled behind his hands. He stood in front of the figure and looked up. After a moment the putrid smoke began to clear and settle. Jeff recognized the bearded face of his father. He dropped his arms and stepped forward for a hug, but the imp interrupted.

“Oh good, you saw him.” The imp snapped his fingers again. Jeff and the billowing smoke disappeared from the room. The tall man turned to the imp and smiled.

“Well?” he asked. The imp chuckled and nodded his head.

“It’s scary how well your plan worked.”

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