The sharp scent of too much fresh peppermint woke Jared. He sat up in a panic; his last memory was struggling against his friends. He thought Mundo and Eric were his friends up until the moment they stabbed his heart with an obsidian dagger. As he took his last breaths, Jared felt them using the blade on his arm. He hurriedly turned his arm to check and found a number two scarred over.
“What the hell?” he asked as he checked his surroundings. Jared sat on a soft mound in an emerald field of peppermint plants under a red sky.
“Correct on the first try!” a man said behind him. Jared hopped to his feet and whirled around in one motion to see who was behind him. It was a tall man with perfectly parted white hair and a well-groomed white beard. He wore a green suit that blended in well with the peppermint field, with a white vest and white bow tie. The number 37 was tattooed on his right cheek under a rotating glass eye painted like a globe.
“This is Hell?” Jared asked. “Are you the devil? I thought you’d be more…,” he gestured with his hands over his head alluding to horns. “…devilish.”
“Indeed he is. I am not him. My name is Peppermint and I am able to function as his representation. That being said, how exactly did you get here?”
“I chose my friends poorly,” Jared sighed.
“Well, that’s hardly enough to get you here,” the man smiled. “Let’s try to be more specific, what are your last memories?”
“My so-called buddies sacrificed me.” he turned enough to show the stranger the number two on his arm. “I don’t even think I’m the first guy they did it to, and they must have thought it was hilarious to do it on my birthday.”
“They gave you that as part of the sacrifice?” Peppermint asked with sudden interest.
“Yeah,” Jared nodded.
“Before or after?”
“What does it matter? I’m in hell while they’re getting their laughs,” Jared looked around. It surprised him that Hell was so pleasant. There was actually a cool breeze blowing across his skin. His nose got used to the peppermint smell enough that he was thankful it wasn’t brimstone and sulfur.
“It’s quite important. Did they scar you with the number before or after they killed you? And for that matter, was one of your friends named Eric?”
“I wasn’t dead yet I guess, but they definitely stabbed me first. And yeah,” Jared nodded. “How’d you know about Eric?” Peppermint smiled but shook his head.
“I wish that boy would stop abusing his knowledge,” he said under his breath. “Anyway, that explains everything. Congratulations, you’re on our team.”
“What do you mean? I still don’t know what’s going on. I’m working for Hell now? I don’t want that!” Jared whined.
“Working for is a bit strong. As I said, you’re on our team. You’ll be going back to Earth to live your life as you see fit. We don’t tell you what to do, but all your actions are considered to be performed by a member of Hell. Before you return, I need to explain your powers to you.”
“I get to go back?!” Jared grinned. “With powers? Yes!” Jared took a moment to pop his knuckles. “I can’t wait to teach those ex-friends of mine a lesson. Can I shoot fireballs at them?” Peppermint shook his head.
“You are Unique Soul #02, El Diablito. You can infect people with a microbe just by touching their bare skin. Anyone else they touch also becomes infected. The microbe gives you control of their minds. You cannot innately throw fireballs, but El Diablito does have a certain affinity for magic. If you’re not in a hurry to get back, I can arrange a magic tutor for you.”
“Yeah!” Jared growled. “Give me all the magic you can, my revenge is going to hurt.”
“Revenge? For what?” Peppermint asked.
“They KILLED me on my BIRTHDAY!”
“It seems to me that they did you a favor. You’re going back to Earth any time you want. You’ve got powers now, and you’re going to learn magic. Don’t you think that brief stabbing pain in your chest is worth the powers you’ve been given?”
“Bullcrap, they didn’t know what was going to happen. They’re just a bunch of crazy Satanists; I’m the one that lucked out. They wanted to send me to burn in Hell forever, I can’t forgive that.”
“Don’t let Eric hear you say that, he’s surprisingly sentimental. You’ll hurt his feelings. Sometimes people do favors for us without us realizing it.”
“So, what? They did know?” Peppermint nodded.”No matter how long you stay here to master your magic, you’ll never be able to…,” Peppermint added air quotes. “…teach Eric a lesson. That boy is the literal son of the Devil. He knew exactly what he was doing and what would happen. Knowing him, he probably meant it as a birthday gift.”