“Mr. Jones, there’s a man here to see you.”
Jane’s voice sounds slightly strained.
A few moments ago, Furguson Jones had being sitting in his penthouse office looking down on the city of New York with pride. I worked my way to the top. There was something not quite right here. He looked at the calendar on his desk again: August 19.
He felt a twinge of worry in his gut.
Why do I feel so worried? I’m a multibillionaire.
“Jane, I told you I wasn’t to be disturbed.”
“Sorry, sir, but this man won’t take no for an answer. Should I call security?”
“Well, what does he want?”
“He says he’s the devil and he’s come to collect.”
Instantly Ferguson’s demeanour changed.
August 19. Why does that date linger on my mind? “No, Jane, let him through.”
Something tells me I need to see this guy…But why…?
He looked at the calendar again. He felt like he was on the verge of unlocking some hidden memory and for some reason it had something to do with loon who was in the lobby.
I will humour him.
A bald, middle aged man walked into his office. Before Furguson could say anything he sat himself down with a heavy sigh into the chair opposite Ferguson’s desk.
“Hello, and what can I do for you today?” said Furguson with a half-smile.
“You know who I am, don’t you?”
“Yes, my secretary told me you said you were the Devil.”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, what do you want with me?”
“I will come to that in a little while.”
“I’m a God-fearing Christian, I attend church every Sunday!”
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to take you to Hell just yet. I gave up taking people to hell with me yesterday; I need a break. After millions of years it does get a bit tiring.”
“Well, what would happen if you stopped taking people to hell?”
“Switch on your computer and take a look.’
Furguson switched on his computer which came alive with a low whine. He typed in the national news channel.
I’m shocked!
He watched footage of zombies walking the streets.
“When there’s no more room in Hell the dead shall walk the Earth,” said the middle-aged man sat in front of him.”
“If you quit and people’s souls stop going to Hell but stay here instead, it will be Hell on Earth!”
“Don’t worry, I haven’t quit entirely. I ‘m just taking a few hours off.”
“Are you going to take me to Hell? Why else are you here?”
“Ordinarily the answer would be yes, but I’m fed up. I’ve been collecting souls and sending people to Hell to be tortured for millions of years. I’m weary. So, so weary. All I ever hear is the screams of the damned.”
“So, I’m not going to hell but heaven instead?”
“Not exactly. You see, even if I wanted to quit, the powers that be wouldn’t look on it lightly.”
“What do you mean? Why me? You know I will say it again, I am a God-fearing Christian!”
“You know, God, the fates, the people upstairs, they just wouldn’t let me quit. I need some time off. I’m going to go for a walk around New York for a few hours, when I come back I intend to collect.” The middle-aged man got up and walked out.
Once he had left, Furguson opened the desk draw on his right and pulled out his Bible and started to read. He was still reading a few hours later when the intercom rang again.
“Mr. Jones, it’s that man who says he’s the Devil here again.”
“Let him through, Jane.”
The middle-aged man walked in and sat himself down again with a heavy sigh.
My mind is racing, there’s something not quite right here.
The middle-aged man stared at him with a sad, contemplative expression.
“Did you enjoy your walk?”
“Yes, it was pleasant. But now I’m back.”
“Why are you back? Well, I ask again, what do you want with me?”
I thought this guy was just a loon, but those news images…What if this guy really is the Devil? Furguson pulled out his Bible and held it in front of him. “In the name of God, be gone and disturb me no more!”
The man stared at him with what Furguson thought was a weary expression.
“That won’t help you. It’s too late.”
“Too late for what? What do you mean?”
“You sold me your soul nearly twenty years ago.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about?”
“I know you don’t. That was part of the deal. You wouldn’t remember until I came to collect.”
A memory flashed through Furguson’s mind. He was cold and hungry, and sleeping under a railway bridge; he saw the man appear out of the autumnal gloom.
A thought flashed through his mind unbidden.
I’ve got the contract in my desk drawer, the one that only I have the key to, which hasn’t being opened since I first bought this place.
He unlocked the desk drawer on his left, pulled out an aged piece of parchment and ripped it into small pieces.
“Do you know the number of people that have tried that?” The man waved his hand and the parchment was suddenly whole again.
“I’ve seen every trick in the book when it comes to people trying to get out of a deal with me.”
“Oh God, no! Please no!”
“I’m sorry we had a deal. I know that you are not a bad person and I’m tempted to look the other way, very tempted. But that will only buy you a few hours, you know the guy upstairs just wouldn’t understand…”
The middle-aged man waved his hand in front of Furguson.
I’ve got a banging headache! The pain is unbearable. It’s increasing and increasing….
Furguson saw his body collapse to the floor in front of him.
‘You just had an aneurism.” He sighed wearily, “You are dead.”
The middle-aged man got up put his arm around Furguson. Furguson gave a howl of pain.
“Shhhss…Don’t worry. I will take it easy on you.”
A white door appeared in front them. Furguson heard screams, the like of which he had never heard before. They both stepped through.
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