A plume of yellow, sour-smelling smoke erupted under the bridge. Allen scooted back in fear along the dirty ground until he hit the wall behind him. A short, plump, red-skinned demon in a navy blue suit walked out of the smoke. He glanced down at Allen and smiled.
“Hello,” the demon said. He sounded surprisingly pleasant, like a call center employee on their first call of the day. “Let’s bargain. What do you want for your soul?” he asked. Somehow, the demon’s smile eased Allen’s mind. He found the strength, with the support of the wall, to push himself up to his feet.
“Food, friends, a nice house and a healthy, lucid, long life. Give me a few decades like that and you can take my soul to Hell when I die.” The demon nodded and snapped his fingers, an obsidian clipboard appeared in his hands.
“Happy to help,” he said. “Let’s get to it. Name?” he asked. Allen narrowed his eyes.
“You’re Satan… don’t you know it?” he asked. The demon sighed.
“Of course I know your name, Mr. Allen Lopez. I need you to tell me your name for the paperwork. Surely you can understand the need for bureaucratic procedures in my line of work. And for the record, I am not Satan; he only handles important deals,” the demon said. Allen gave a slight nod of understanding and waited for the next question.
“NAME?” the demon repeated.
“Oh, sorry. My name is Allen Lopez,” he replied.
“Thank you. Favorite number?” the demon asked.
“47. That’s a weird que-,” Allen was interrupted by a heavy sigh from the demon.
“Damnit, I thought I finally got one,” he mumbled, then looked at Allen. “Wait here,” he said. Before Allen could ask why the demon disappeared. Allen waited for half an hour before another plume of yellow smoke filled the underpass. This time a much larger demon stepped out of the smoke, still in a navy blue suit and carrying a wicker basket. This demon was more than twice Allen’s height, his thick black horns scraped the bottom of the bridge.
“Allen!” the demon said excitedly. “Good to meet you,” he dropped the basket at Allen’s feet. “This is yours. No tricks, bargains or anything, just a straight gift. I heard you were hungry.” Allen knelt to peek inside the basket. He saw fresh clothes, an envelope full of cash and a bucket of fried chicken. He shook his head and forced himself to close the basket and step away from it.
“I haven’t sold my soul yet, I can’t take that,” he said.
“Here’s the thing, Allen. Hell can’t buy your soul, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work out a deal.”
“Wait. What do you mean you can’t buy my soul? Why not?” As he asked his eyes widened. “Is it protected by God?” The demon burst into booming laughter that echoed in the short tunnel around them.
“Protected is a strong word. Let’s just say the universe runs on certain rules. One of those rules is I can’t buy souls like yours.”
“Oh,” Allen said. “So.. how can we make a deal?”
“Well, I can’t buy your soul, but you can join my team. And the people on my team are very well taken care of.”
“What do I have to do on your team?” Allen asked, then he realized something. “Your team? Are you Satan?”
“I am,” Satan smiled. “And you don’t have to do anything. Just agree to be on my team, then live your life the way you see fit. Wait, actually, there is one thing you have to do,” Satan corrected himself. “Get a tattoo with the number 47 on it.”
“And then what?” Satan shrugged.
“Then you live your life however you like. You’ll be able to contact us if you find yourself in need of anything.”
“And I don’t have to.. hurt anyone? Or like get followers or anything?” Satan chuckled; it rumbled the air around Allen.
“We’re not a pyramid scheme, you don’t need a downline.”
“But what happens to my soul when I do die? How do I know I’m not going to Hell?”
“Because if you could, we would have bought your soul. I have to cut this short, I interrupted another meeting to talk to you. However, I don’t want you to feel pressured to make a decision now. That basket is for you, no strings attached. Get back to me if you decide you want to be on my team,” Satan said.
“Wait!” the demon’s kindness made Allen’s decision for him. “I’ll do it! I’m on your team!” he shouted. Satan nodded.
“Wonderful. I still have to go, but I’ll send someone with a welcome package. Enjoy your meal until then, by the time you’re done you’ll have a home waiting for you.” Satan disappeared in a puff of foul-smelling smoke. Allen ignored it and grabbed a chicken leg to start eating.
After finishing a couple of pieces he noticed a minty scent fill the air. He looked up to see a tall man with a white beard in a green suit.
“So, tell me about your dream home,” the man said.