Sharp Bookkeeping

Leonard woke in a white room. He sat up to get his bearings and noticed the walls glowed with a soft white light. He found himself on an obsidian slab and swung his legs over the edge; the floor also emitted the same dim white light. He knew he was dead.

“Mr. Parsons, I hope you enjoyed your life,” a voice said behind him. The startled man swiveled his head toward the speaker. His stomach dropped as soon as he recognized the rotund blonde man dressed in a white suit.

“Welcome to Hell,” Lucifer smiled. Leonard was sure he woke up alone. He quickly spun his head around expecting the rest of the buyers to appear. “Something wrong?” Lucifer asked.

“Why am I here?” Leonard asked.  Lucifer giggled with high-pitched squeaks that sounded odd coming from his round frame.

“I know you got a bit delirious at the end there, but you sold your soul to me, remember?” Lucifer asked. Leonard couldn’t help but nod.

“Yeah, but..,” Leonard continued looking around the plain white room hoping to see anyone else show up.

“But what?” Lucifer asked. “You seem to be waiting for someone,” he added after a few moments of Leonard not answering. That caught Leonard’s full attention. He turned to Lucifer and nodded. He hoped being honest would start the show. Hell had rules to follow and if his soul was promised to others, they couldn’t do anything to him.

“I am,” Leonard admitted. “My soul has other buyers.” Lucifer chuckled.

“That’s not possible.” Leonard also laughed but shook his head.

“It is because I did it. I sold my soul to the fairies to guarantee financial security for my descendants. The witches guaranteed health and longevity for my soul. The vampires promised protection. And obviously, you were there for our deal.” Lucifer tilted his head slightly and narrowed his eyes.

“Were you trying to cheat Hell?” he asked. Leonard laughed again; more obnoxiously this time.

“OF COURSE!” he said. “You’re Hell.

“Oh. Well, this is a problem. Just to avoid any misunderstandings, I need to get this straight. You knowingly sold your soul to multiple parties, is that right?” Leonard nodded enthusiastically. The fact that Lucifer said it was a problem seemed promising. Lucifer chuckled; his laugh was deeper, and more intimidating than his giggles earlier.

“Mr. Parsons,” Lucifer smiled. “How disorganized do you think we are in Hell?” he asked. “Do you think we lack simple bookkeeping skills?”

“What?” Leonard asked. A tight knot began to form in his stomach. “What do you mean?”

“The moment you agreed to our deal, your soul was marked as Hell’s property. No one else could possibly claim it.”

“But…the fairies…,” Leonard said. “.. witches… everyone accepted my deal.”

“Accepted?” Lucifer asked. “Or… amended?” he said with a grin.


“Mr. Parsons, you’re not the first to think himself clever by selling to multiple parties. If you were, you might have gotten away with it. As it stands, Hell now has procedures in place for this kind of thing. Once your soul is ours, it’s off-limits to anyone else. It leaves a mark on you visible to any parties that trade in souls. They’re not allowed to actually purchase it, but they can promise you anything you like. When that happens it simply amends your original deal with me.” Lucifer said. 

“Well…,” Leonard sighed. He was starting to realize he was about to spend an eternity in Hell. “… at least I got more out of you,” he chuckled. Lucifer shrugged.

“You could have done that in our meeting,” Lucifer said with a smile. “You sold your eternal soul, you had all the negotiating power.” 

“Oh,” Leonard felt foolish, but still content. He would endure torment for eternity so long as his family was taken care of.

“It’s a shame you tried to cheat Hell, though,” Lucifer added with a gentle shake of his head.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, there are a few different outcomes from this scenario,” Lucifer said. “Sometimes people don’t realize what they’re doing is considered cheating, or at least don’t admit it. In those cases, the amended deal is still in effect. Hell is, at its core, a customer service industry after all. The customer is often, always right.

“That’s what I-,” Leonard began to protest, but Lucifer shook his head.

“On the other hand,” he spoke over Leonard. “Some people try to cheat Hell. Then, they’re stupid enough to admit it when they get here. That voids all amendments.” Lucifer smiled. “Your descendants get nothing for your time here.”

“But….. but…,” Leonard sputtered trying to find a way out. Lucifer shrugged.

“You were gifted the ability to see and interact with Fae in exchange for your soul,” Lucifer said. “That deal was completed, so, let’s get started on that eternity of torture.”

Hand-mouth Coordination

“…he feinted!” Emily burst into giggles at her own punchline. Kirk narrowed his eyes and tilted his head slightly.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “That can happen if you’re light-headed.” Emily rolled her eyes and shook her head; her long silver hair shimmered like a curtain with the motion.

“Light-headed monk?” she asked. “Monks don’t faint, they feint.”

“Oh,” Kirk nodded. “Okay, I get it. It just isn’t funny,” he said.

“Oh, what do you know?” Emily playfully shoved Kirk over. They both sat alone in the school gym. Faint red-orange light came in through the window as the sun was close to setting.

“Well, I heard your whole act…,” he shrugged. “…and that one? It was the worst part.” He glanced out the window.

“And, now I know why you didn’t answer when I said, “Sure, I have time. How long would it last?” he chuckled. “Trust me, you can cut that one easily, and a few other ones. But, all you did was tell me jokes for an hour. Aren’t you doing a magic show?””Yeah, but that’s easy,” Emily said. She reached behind her back while keeping her eyes locked on Kirk’s. When she brought her hand forward again she held several small toy sheep. “I’ve got a flock of tricks up my sleeve.”

Photographic Memory


“Why are we here?” Christine asked. Her friend, Dora asked for company while she ran an errand. The pair of teenage girls stood in front of an abandoned school. She followed Dora along the sidewalk to the entrance. The tall, unkempt grass had not covered the path completely, yet. “And what happened?”

“Ballisea,” Dora replied. Christine looked up past the weathered bricks of the school to the bright blue sky.

“Why isn’t the sky red?” she asked. Dora shrugged with one hand placed on the door. Christine watched the door age, crack, then crumble out of their way.

“I was 10 at the time,” she said, stepping into the dim school. “I didn’t think to ask her what she planned for my Earth,” she said with a lighthearted tone. There was no electricity but enough light came in through dozens of evenly spaced skylights throughout the halls.

“You got away okay. Did your family too?” Dora tensed and shook her head, but managed to keep navigating the halls.

“I was here when it happened. I was so panicked; I Traversed for the first time. One minute I was screaming at skeletons in the school. The next minute I was screaming at strangers in another universe. Luckily, one of them was a Mundo. He said I shouldn’t come back.” Dora turned and entered a classroom filled with overturned desks; she made a beeline for one in the back.

“You never saw your family again?” Christine asked. Dora shook her head as she lifted the top of an upright desk. She pulled out a black spiral notebook with the word ‘DeLorean’ drawn on the cover. She opened the notebook to show Christine. A photo of a smiling family was taped to the inside front cover.

“That’s why we’re here,” Dora said.

Devil’s Night In

“Who’s that scary guy?” Arthur giggled with the toddler in his arms while he pointed at his husband, Eric. “Who’s the scary man?” he repeated while Eric got emergency contact information from the child’s parents.

“Are you sure it’s okay?” Debbie, the baby’s mom asked for the twentieth time in as many minutes. The men seemed like a nice couple but she wasn’t sure ‘nice’ was what her baby needed. They were a far cry from what she expected when the Satanic temple offered her a child-free date night. She and her husband desperately needed to reconnect and she jumped at the chance.

The well-dressed, obviously in love, couple that showed up at her door instantly put Debbie’s mind at ease. That only lasted a moment before guilt took over. These men had no idea what they were in for; how frightening her child could be.

“Maybe we shouldn’t,” Debbie turned to her husband. “You know how grumpy Set can be,” she added. Murray sighed at his wife, but shook his head. Then, he looked up at Arthur and Eric.

“You boys are from the temple, you know the situation with Set, don’t you?” Both men nodded, Arthur bounced the baby in his arms while he did.

“They’ll be fine,” Murray grabbed Debbie by the arm and pulled her toward the door.

“Bye honey,” Debbie waved at Set while Murray opened the door. A small whine escaped from Set’s mouth as if he realized what was happening. Debbie stepped through the door; before it closed Set let out a demonic, gravelly wail. A faint cloud of yellow sulfur flowed out of the baby’s mouth. It’s soft skin darkened, hardened, and cracked into crimson scales.

“Oh no,” Debbie turned around to walk back into the apartment, but Arthur shook his head.

“We got this,” he said with a comforting smile.

“RAWAAAAWWWR!” Eric’s tan face was covered with red scales and his eyes glowed orange while he made devil faces at the demonic child. Set giggled. He was so distracted that he didn’t notice his mother turn around and leave.

Sharp Discussion

“He’s going to let this continue?” Satan asked. The giant red-skinned man sat in his cavern office behind a large obsidian desk. In front of him sat a young woman with sea-green curls and olive skin. Isla nodded an answer to his question.

“He wants to see, ‘how it plays out’,” she said. Her exasperated eye roll gave away her true feelings on the subject. Satan sighed.

“I feel like he’s losing interest in the whole thing. Between this and letting Ballisea run wild,” Satan gestured at Isla with his hand. “He didn’t even come in person.”

“He has been doing it for a while,” Isla agreed. “Some of the Middlemen think he’s following your example. He might be considering a successor.” Satan’s eyes went wide in shock; but, he couldn’t say he was surprised.

“You can’t mean…,” Satan paused looking for the right words. “She’s a Zero! She was at least. now she’s -,”  Isla interrupted him.

“Now she’s running her own afterlife. After being just you two for so long, the big guy thinks a third competitor could spice things up. He thinks she couldn’t possibly make any headway this late in the game,” Isla shook her head. “We’ve been trying to convince him he’s underestimating her.” Satan nodded vigorously.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned,” he chuckled. “Even if the bossman said, ‘I have no doubts Dana Sharp will win this round’; that would still be underestimating her. He sees everything, but he doesn’t notice everything.” Isla nodded.

“We know. The scarier part is; she’s found somewhere to hide.”

“What?!” Satan asked. “That’s… that’s impossible! Where?” Isla rolled her eyes again and giggled.

“If we knew that she wouldn’t be hidden.”

“And he’s still not going to step in and stop it? That’s cheating.”

“Big man says it’s not cheating if we can’t catch her doing it. Which, we can’t.” 

Satan grumbled under his breath for a few moments, the finally shook his head.

“You know what I just realized? It’s not my problem anymore,” he said. “Julie’s almost done with her quest, then I’m out of here. If he’s not going to worry about it, I’m not going to either.”

“That’s what the Middlemen decided too,” Isla nodded. “It’s business as usual, just a bit slower,” Isla said. She stood from the chair. “Was there anything else you wanted to bring to his attention?” she asked; a black portal opened to her side. Satan shook his head.

“That was everything. Thank you, Isla,” he said. Isla nodded, waved, then stepped through the portal.

Hellish Rolemodel

“It’s not uncommon for a boy growing up with a single mother to hear that his father belonged in Hell,” Eric began his speech. A gentle laugh ran through the small crowd of familiar faces. Despite being a very lavish wedding, the guest list was kept to a minimum. “Though, it is more rare to learn that your dad is Satan,” Eric turned and smiled at the giant red man sitting next to his wife: Eric’s mother. The red man in a black suit smiled at Eric and held his wife’s hand.

“What can I say about my dad? He’s an evil, conniving, snake of a man that left his wife as soon I was born. But…,” Eric smiled at his dad to let him know there were no hard feelings. “…He’s also a man that learns from his mistakes. A man that learned how to keep his job and his home life separate. A man that is giving up his limitless power to get back together with the woman he loves because he now knows what’s important to him. Because of his example, I know what’s important to me.” Eric reached down and grabbed Arthur’s hand to encourage him up. Arthur stood next to his husband proudly.

“You showed up kind of late, but you’ve been the number 1 dad ever since. You’re Satan,” Eric chuckled. “Everyone has something bad to say about you, but you don’t let what others think get in the way of you doing what you have you to do. You taught me how to be happy with who I am and I wouldn’t be standing here next to the man I love if I never learned that lesson. Even on my Earth people are a little backward about things like this,” Eric leaned over and kissed Arthur on the cheek. A soft cheer ran through the crowd. “Not a lot, but enough to deter me, if I didn’t have the role model I did. Thank you, dad. For being the most loving demon ever. This may be Arthur’s and my wedding, but we’re celebrating you too.”

Sharp Purchase

A red plume of smoke filled the summoning circle. It wasn’t the sulfury yellow Denny expected; it smelled like cinnamon instead of rotten eggs.

Did the sugar actually make a difference?” Denny wondered briefly, then he noticed a figure in the circle as the smoke cleared. A short, chubby man wearing a white suit stepped forward and out of the pentagram. The man’s blond hair was neatly combed over his bald spot. He wore a deep red shirt under his white coat. Along with his white tie, he looked more like a salesman than the demon Denny expected. Denny jumped back when he realized the man walked out of the circle.

“YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE TRAPPED!” Denny shouted as he tried to keep his recliner between him and the stranger. He was glad he tried the summoning in his basement. The man chuckled and put his hands up to show he meant no harm; he even took a step back.

“If you used the right ingredients, a demon would be trapped,” he said. “But, you didn’t so you got me. I’m not a demon, and therefore not trapped.”

“You’re not a demon? Then what are you doing here?” Denny asked. He relaxed a bit but still remained on the other side of the brown leather seat.

“I’m here to make a deal with you just the same. I assume you were planning to sell your soul?” he asked.

“To a demon,” Denny nodded. “Not to another human. What can you do for me?”

“Mr. Carson I assure you my company, Sharp Development, can offer you a much better bargain for your soul than any demon.”

“How’d you know my name?” Denny asked. The man chuckled and gestured at the powdery, white pentagram at his feet.

“Intent is part of the summoning ritual, isn’t it? It’s along the same lines as ‘Caller I.D.’, a demon would have to know whom they’re dealing with.”

“You can really bargain for my soul?” Denny asked. The man nodded.

“I wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t,” he said. The short man took a step forward and extended his hand. “You can call me Lucifer,” he said. Denny took a step around the recliner when he saw Lucifer extend a hand, but he stopped the moment he heard the man’s name.

“You’re the devil!?” he asked and again stepped back. Lucifer chuckled and shook his head.

“Lucifer’s a name like any other. Sam, Denny, Jesus; they’re just names. I’m here to buy your soul for my employer, but it’s only a coincidence. I have no affiliation with Hell, my loyalties are to Sharp Development.”

“What does Sharp Development, whatever that is, want with my soul?”

“What does Hell want with it?” Lucifer shrugged. “It’s not my job to know, and I imagine you’d have a hard time getting an explanation from a demon. So, it’s kind of moot; the point is do you want to sell it or not?”

“Alright,” Denny nodded and relaxed completely. Lucifer had plenty of time to hurt him if he wanted to, but he remained polite and friendly. “What can you give me for it?” Lucifer’s grin faded; he shook his head.

“Some advice Mr. Carson. You’re not obligated to deal with me. If you choose not to, it’s possible you’d try to summon a demon again with the proper ingredients. Should you go that route please promise me you won’t ask the demon, ‘What’ll you give me?’. They will give you as little as they can get away with. Let’s try this. You tell me what you’re after.” Lucifer said. Denny was genuinely surprised Lucifer was being helpful.

“I don’t know,” Denny admitted with a sigh. “Things are so hopeless right now. I need a new life,” he chuckled. “A new planet maybe. I dunno, I just thought a demon could just magically fix everything for me.” Lucifer nodded in understanding.

“You found the right guy,” he chuckled. “A new life? Maybe a new planet? Why not both? Let me tell you, that’s a deal you’d never get from Hell.”

“You can do that?” Denny asked. Lucifer nodded with a grin.

“Sharp Development specializes in giving people the life of their dreams. And we have access to thousands of Earths; any of which you can choose to live on. We have prehistoric worlds full of dinosaurs, futuristic worlds with flying cars, and everything in between. Recreate your body the way you want, and you’re not limited to human. There are 25 races to choose from.” 

“I can get all that by selling my soul?”

“To Sharp Development,” Lucifer nodded. “The best you’ll get from Hell is some extra money. Maybe billions, but, the way your Earth is going… would money really make anything better for you?”

“Not really,” Denny admitted. “I’d rather just start fresh as a new me in a new place.” 

“Great!” A puff of red smoke erupted from Lucifer’s hand. When it dissipated he was holding a glossy white clipboard loaded with papers. “I just need your signature on a few forms.”

Blessed by Satan

“Mr. Satan, there’s an ‘Arthur’ here to see you. No appointment but he says he knows you?” Debbie’s voice came over the intercom. Satan sat alone in his cavern-like office. His obsidian desk was covered with several short piles of paper. He was in the midst of moving papers from one pile into another; he paused to try and think of an Arthur he knew.  Only one came to mind; but, he doubted that was his visitor.

“Kind of busy. What about?” he asked through the intercom.

“Eric,” a young man’s voice replied. It was the Arthur he knew!

“Send him in!” Satan said. He jumped out of his highback leather chair. He ran around the desk and reached the door just in time to see a young man walk in. He wore a coffee brown suit that went well with his short, light brown beard. It was the first time Satan had seen him so dressed up; and, it was odd he was visiting Hell alone.

“Arthur! What a surprise!” Satan extended a hand and was relieved when Arthur shook it. “What brings you down here?” Satan showed Arthur to a seat in front of his desk, then returned to his own chair.

“I won’t take up too much of your time..,” Arthur started to explain. Satan immediately regretted saying he was busy. He didn’t know Arthur very well at all; but, Arthur was his son’s closest friend. If he needed something, Satan would do what he can.

“Don’t worry about it,” Satan leaned forward and placed a burly, dark-suited arm on the desk. In one smooth motion, he swept all the stacks of his desk and onto the floor. “I’m Satan,” he winked at Arthur. “I can finish things at my own pace.” He instantly regretted the action, he put himself quite a bit behind schedule. Fortunately, he did see Arthur relax a little.

“So take your time,” Satan smiled. “What can I do for you?”

“Well, first I wanted to apologize to you…,” Arthur bowed his head. “…for hurting Eric’s feelings. You were kind enough to give us a tour of Hell and I reacted…,” he sighed and his head dipped lower. “…poorly. I couldn’t take it out on you, so I directed my frustrations to Eric.” Satan grinned broadly and shook his head.

“Don’t worry about it! All things considered, you handled it pretty well. And, you’ve made up since then; something Eric’s very glad for. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy,” Satan said. He caught a slight smile on Arthur’s face that he tried to hide.

“Me neither,” Arthur said. “I mean, he makes me happier than I’ve ever been too,” he clarified, then, he took in a deep breath and released it in a heavy sigh. “Which is why I’m here,” Arthur said. He stood from the seat and took a step closer to Satan’s desk. Even seated, Satan towered above Arthur; he looked up and into Satan’s eyes.

“Your son means the world to me, and I’ll never hurt him like that again,” Arthur said. “So, please..,” he clasped his hands together as if begging Satan. “…please.. will you give me permission to marry Eric?”

Arthur stared into Satan’s eyes. Their usual red glow faded leaving inky black spheres; Arthur held the uneasy gaze. He felt like he was staring into an abyss, but he would stare into forever for Eric. After a few silent moments, red liquid gathered in the corner of Satan’s eye. It overflowed, ran down his cheek and landed on the obsidian desk with a hiss as it tried to ignite the stone. Satan chuckled. He reached up, wiped away the rest of the red from his eyes, then blinked a couple of times.

“Well, It’s a good thing I cleared those papers,” he said with a broad grin. “I was not expecting to cry today. But…,” he nodded at Arthur. “…I’m definitely expecting to cry at the wedding.”

Devil’s Run

Something about the oncoming joggers bothered Roy to give them a second look. His first thought was to ignore them as the usual joggers he saw every weekend. He noted several familiar faces in the crowd, then realized it was actually a crowd. The joggers he recognized didn’t normally run together, and there were a dozen others. Many of them weren’t even wearing athletic clothes. He saw jeans and business suits in the crowd; then, he noticed their faces.

Their eyes were wide and their mouths seemed stuck open. Roy came to stop and glanced behind him. The few regulars that were running behind him now ran the other way. He heard a growing commotion coming through his noise-cancelling earbuds and turned forward again.

The crowd was now about 30 feet away and he could hear them screaming over his music. He briefly wondered if they were running at him, but their eyes seemed focused on some vague location behind him.

Despite his fragile, boney appearance, Roy suspected he was literally the strongest man in the world. He never told anyone because he didn’t want to stand out in any way; but, his strength easily qualified him as a Super. He trusted his strength and stood his ground once the crowd reached him; he wanted to find out what scared them.

“What’s goin-,” he tried asking someone but they ran by ignoring him. The crowd didn’t even seem to know he was there, he was shoved from all sides as they mobbed past him. Each time someone pushed past him, a vague idea repeated itself in his mind.

RUN!” The thought became so insistent he shook his head several times to try and force it out of his mind.  Finally, the crowd moved past him, and he spotted a single figure lightly jogging his way.

It was a young woman that Roy didn’t recognize. She wore a flowing black gown that seemed to grow sheer as she jogged toward him. The thin, translucent fabric did little to hide her body from the bright sunlight. Her face was flushed with a bright pink color that wasn’t limited to her cheeks; Roy got the sense that it was her actual skin color. Her shoulder-length hair sparkled like polished gold.

She stopped once she reached Roy, and he looked into her eyes to keep his from wandering; her pupils were a translucent honey-gold color.

“Hello,” she grinned at him then slowly spun around with arms spread to bask in the sunshine. “It’s a beautiful day for a run!” She did a complete turn and faced him again with a slight pout. “Don’t you feel like running?” she asked. Roy assumed this is the woman they crowd was running from.

“What did you do them?” he asked, and he turned to point at the fleeing mob. He was startled to discover the entire crowd standing there behind. The stood in a half-circle behind him quiet and still like wax figures.

“I’ve been locked away alone for a very long time. Now that I’m free again, I wanted to stretch my legs and get some fresh air,” the woman said. “And, I hate going anywhere by myself.”

“Locked away?…” Roy began to think he’d found a supervillain that would force him into exposing his super strength. He wanted to know who he should return her to. “By who? Why?”

“Why?” She repeated his question, her golden eyes clouded with hurt. “I was a mistake. I’m sure you’ve hidden and ignored your fair share of mistakes,” she said. Roy nodded subconsciously. “You can imagine how much deeper and darker my hiding place was; a mistake made by someone…,” the woman pointed upward. “…that likes being known for not making any mistakes.”

GOD!?” Roy managed to sound sarcastic and surprised all at once. “You’re…,” he pointed an accusing finger at her, but suddenly had his doubts. “… are you Satan?” The woman’s eyes sparkled again. The silent crowd behind him burst into laughter.

“Ha!” she added. “That desk job is beneath me,” she delicately presented her hand to Roy. “I’m Unique Soul #02, El Diablito. You may call me, Diavola.”

“Uh. I don’t have a number, but 42 is my favorite one,” he reached for her hand out of habit. “I’m just Roy,” he touched her hand. 

Roy,” she gave a soft, almost romantic sigh, except he didn’t see her lips move. He somehow felt her voice caressing his mind; it felt like a nap on a cool rainy day. He knew that she wouldn’t mind if he took a peek and let his eyes roam down her body.

“Do me a favor?” she asked. Roy didn’t know if her lips moved or not, but it didn’t matter. He nodded.

“Of course, anything you want.”

“Run,” she whispered.

Roy ran.

Stellar Invitation

Christine skated on the empty boardwalk at top speed. She enjoyed the bright sunshine and cool breeze of a Saturday morning. The 17-year-old could skate as fast as she wanted; no one else was around. Christine convinced the entire town that none of them wanted to visit the boardwalk on Saturday mornings.

She did not know how her abilities worked exactly, but over the years she narrowed down the procedure to a touch. She could control someone’s mind after a simple touch. Whatever it was that gave her control also seemed to be infectious. If a person under her control touched someone else, they both fell under her thrall.

Christine tried not to use it too often; she could ‘turn it off’ in people and give them free will again.. at least until Saturdays. It was the one day that she let herself flex her gift for a few hours so she could skate unimpeded. She enjoyed having a relatively normal life. She found enjoyment in doing things ‘the regular way’ without forcing anyone to give her anything.

She was so used to the barren boardwalk that she slowed to a stop when she spotted a girl heading in her direction. Even though Christine stopped skating, the dark-skinned girl kept moving toward her. The stranger had a pair of afro-puffs atop her head tied with bright golden ribbons that swayed with the breeze. She wore a candy apple-red windbreaker and a pair of denim shorts; then, Christine noticed the girl was on skates too.

“Hi!” The stranger rolled to a stop in front of Christine and offered a hand.

“Hi,” Christine replied with less enthusiasm, but she accepted the handshake. She knew one other person was not a big deal, but Christine preferred being alone, even in public. She had grown used to having the beach to herself and wanted to keep the trend. “You want to go home for a few hours and come back later,” Christine willed the thought into the girl’s mind.

“I’m Britt,” she said with a smile.  

“C-Christine,” she introduced herself with a stutter. It confused her that Britt introduced herself at all. “You need to go home,” Christine tried the suggestion again.

“Where is everyone?” Britt asked and spread her arms to gesture at the empty boardwalk.

“Uhh,” Christine shrugged. “It’s like this every Saturday,” she replied. She never needed to practice lying and felt glad that she could get by with a carefully worded truth.

“Awesome,” Britt said. She nodded and her smile grew from ear to ear. “Are you any good with those?” she asked with a glance down at Christine’s skates.

“I can skate without falling over?” Christine shrugged. The fact that Britt seemed immune to her ability bothered Christine more than she wanted to admit. Britt laughed a bit, then elaborated.

“I was thinking of something more competitive. Is roller derby a thing around here?” The question melted Christine’s unease in an instant. One of the more unexpected consequences of her abilities was that she won every game. Somehow even when her opponents had free will, they chose to let her win. She tried to lose dozens of times but still won. But Britt was immune and competitive and they had the whole empty boardwalk to skate on.

“I wish,” Christine replied; she finally added her own smile now that she felt comfortable. “I’ve seen some matches on TV and it looks like a ton of fun.”

“Hmmm,” Britt seemed to be thinking over Christine’s answer. “And what about the AlterNet?” she asked. Christine waited for a moment to let Britt finish her thought.

“Alternate what?” she asked once the silence started to make her uncomfortable. Britt giggled.

“You’d know,” she said. Britt stood up straighter, shifted her weight, and crossed her arms. She looked Christine up and down as if appraising her. “So you’ve only seen derby on TV and you’ve never heard of the AlterNet?” Christine shrugged. The questions seemed rhetorical and didn’t know what else to do. “I’m starting a roller derby team, how’d you like to be on it?”

“Yes!” Christine cheered and hopped in place with excitement.

“But there’s something I have to know first,” Britt said. “Are you fast?”

“Faster than you,” Christine replied with a broad smile.

“Oh yeah?” Britt asked. She moved to stand next to Christine; both of them faced the same direction. Britt crouched to a runner’s position ready to push off with her legs and gestured for Christine to do the same. “Show me.”