Hellish Candidate

“This is your last chance to back out,” the giant-red-skinned man said. He stood between a group of three college kids and an enormous obsidian gate that dwarfed the 10-foot tall demon. “There is no going back after this.”

“Wait,.. but that’s just for Julie, right? I’m just here for the ride,” a young man with a light brown beard asked. He was holding hands with the third one of the group; a lean, dark-haired man. The tall demon looked down at him.

“Yes, Arthur,” he said with an exaggerated eye-roll. All three kids chuckled at his playfulness. “You and Eric can go off and neck or whatever it is kids do on your Earth if you get bored watching her kill people.”

Daaaad..,” Eric whined at the devil with a raised eyebrow; he lifted his hand to show their intertwined fingers. Satan flinched out of embarrassment then cleared his throat. “

“Right! No, sorry,” he shook his head. “They’re not people, they’re Zeros. Julie’s going to kill-,”

*AHEM* Eric cleared his throat. The devil shrugged and gave up.

“Forget it; the point is Julie’s the only one in any real danger. You guys can quit or join her any time.” He looked down at Julie. The short girl with a bright orange faux hawk was less than half his height; she stared up at him with a defiant smile.

“Start cleaning out your desk, old man,” she said playfully. “I’ll be back for your job real soon.” The devil grinned.

“Don’t worry too much it if you’re not. You cut to the front of a long line; there are more and better candidates after you.” Her smile turned into an annoyed scowl.

“I’m ready,” she said. Satan dropped a pitch-black dagger; it buried itself in the ground in front of Julie. It was as large as a claymore compared to her petite frame.

“Whooooaaa.” Arthur and Julie marveled at the sword. The weapon looked like a shadow trapped in a blade. The outer edges gleamed like steel in Hell’s red sunlight but the interior was an impenetrable black. The hilt was made from the same black material wrapped with red leather. Julie grabbed the handle with both hands; it immediately shrunk to a size that was easier for her to manage. She waved the black bowie-knife around to get used to the weight.

“You must get the kill-,” Satan glanced at Arthur, then back to Julie. “You must eliminate all your Zeros with this weapon. If you make even one mistake, you fail. Eric can show you how to use it.” Julie looked up at Satan. She stabbed the air in front of her several times.

“I think I got the hang of it,” she said. Satan shook his head. “Eric can show you how to use it once you get going. For now…,” the devil stepped out of the way to let them see the black gate. There was a young woman that looked exactly like Julie strapped to the bottom of the bars. “…get going. There’s your first Zero.” Julie sprinted across the short distance to charge at the bound girl.

“By the way,” Satan said offhandedly. Julie did not slow down to listen; she was on her way to ruling Hell. She plunged the shadow knife into the girl’s chest. “It’s going to hurt,” the devil finished his warning.  Julie screamed in pain. Her voice matched her victim’s and overtook it once the Zero slumped forward in silence. Julie let go of the dagger and fell to her knees. She hunched forward holding her head and screaming at the ground.

After almost a minute of nonstop screaming and writhing her voice began to quiet. It happened slowly at first; then all at once. Julie sat up on her knees and looked around.

“Whooooaaa…” she said and stood up from the ground. She walked toward the three men.

“Whoooaaaa…” Arthur repeated. He was surprised that her smooth pale skin was now slightly red. She had two black baby horns growing out of the top of her head. He pointed at her, then excitedly patted the top of his head with both hands while laughing. Julie reached up and her eyes went wide when she touched the horns; she giggled.

“What did it feel like?” Arthur asked.

“What color are these?” she asked and pointed to her head.

“Black,” he said. “Like portal black.”

“Okay, touch one,” she grabbed his hand and brought it to one of her stubby horns.

“Hey, it’s not smooth,” he said. “It feels like…,” he rubbed his finger up and down one of them. “…like it has spirals or something. Like a screw.” Julie nodded.

“Yep, that’s what it felt like; they were screwed out from the inside.”

“One down, several thousand to go,” Satan said. He pointed to the gate; it was open now. The woman’s corpse was in the process of being dragged away by a three-headed dog. The black dagger lay on the ground in front of the gate. “Step through the gate to find the next you.”

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