Short story written for a contest
There is a forum I belong to that focuses on writing. I wrote a short story for a contest whose theme was “Devil Pact”
A girl has needs…
I remember that Marcus had looked as if he was asleep. He was laying against the wall, his head partially in the shadow of the desk where the light from the LED lantern couldn’t reach. In the darkness of that shadow, I couldn’t see the spray of blood that fanned out behind him and climbed the wall, but I knew it was there. He had placed his pistol against his temple and pulled the trigger, right about sundown. His last words had been almost unintelligible, a whispered prayer or maybe just a last curse at that fickle bitch, Fate.
Yes, I was angry, and I had good reason. We had started this together and had planned on sticking together until the end, but he gave up. It really was as simple as that, he just gave up. He took the easy way out, leaving me all alone, the last living person in town. I had plenty of supplies, weapon power cells enough to wipe out the whole damn city and enough fuel pellets for the generator to last for ten years, even if the solar panels we had put out were destroyed. Fat lot of good it was going to do me all by myself; you needed backup, a partner or a team to survive.
Do you know what the word decimate means? It means to kill one in ten. I don’t know what the hell to call what happened to us, to the human race, or if there is even a word to describe the horror. One, out of every hundred people alive last year, is still alive today. One in a hundred.
The news, while it was still being broadcast, called the plague a bio-mechanical virus. The infected were horrific, at least for a little while. For several hours, as the virus wormed its way into their brains, they would become extremely violent. They would attack anyone near them and their bites would spread the plague. At first, it was a madhouse, the infection spreading like wildfire. Eventually it calmed and the spread slowed, but it never really disappeared. We were forced to hole up, hide out and shoot first.
Each news outlet, each talking head and government mouthpiece had a different idea, a different scapegoat. The churches almost universally called it the will of God and a judgment against man for toying with God’s creations.
So that day, in that boarded up house, with just the corpse of my friend to bear witness, I knelt down and I prayed.
I know, I know, I had always claimed that I was an apathetic agnostic. I said I didn’t know and didn’t really give a damn if there was a God, but I remember thinking that it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot. I hadn’t prayed since Sunday school, so I wasn’t even sure if I was doing it correctly. Hell, I’d never really been involved in religion, beyond my parent’s desultory attempts to get me interested in church when I was a kid. I don’t think they even believed, but it was the seventies and if you were a good parent, you took your kid to church. So, feeling foolish, but desperate enough to give it a shot, I knelt in front of the boarded up windows, the first rays of the morning sun peeking through the spaces between the wooden slats, and I prayed aloud.
“Lord, I know I have been dismissive about your existence, and if you can really see into my heart, you know that even now I don’t really believe. I am talking to you because I am close to the end and the world is falling apart around me. I suppose it could be part of some big plan, but I find it hard to believe that you would wipe out the whole human race. Even in the Bible stories, you left a core of believers behind to start over, like with that Noah guy. Since I am the last living person in this god-forsak…um….flea-bitten town, I can only hope that you have chosen me to be that survivor. Oh, and a sign or something would be awfully nice.”
I ran out of steam at that point, and added an ‘Amen’ as an afterthought. I remained on my knees for a while longer, trying to appear as pious as I could.
Yeah, okay, I was a cynical bastard even then, so sue me.
It was the smell that hit me first, like that of a freshly-struck match, acrid and biting, but familiar and, somehow, comforting. It faded quickly, leaving behind the familiar stink of rotting flesh and the coppery smell of fresh blood, but there was a lingering scent of burning incense. Then I heard a whispering voice, shockingly loud in the silence of the room.
“Praying to Him? Really? You might as well eat a bullet like Marcus did.” The voice was female, low and sultry; a silken promise that sent a tingle up my spine. It came from somewhere over my right shoulder, where the door to the kitchen had been before we scavenged it to board up the windows.
When I turned there was no one in sight, but the voice continued just the same.
“He’s not listening, you know. He wrote you off, all of you, a couple of thousand years ago. Just another failed experiment. The only reason He didn’t just end it all was that He refuses to admit defeat. He always was a sore loser.”
The sunlight, streaming through the cracks in the boards, illuminated drifting motes of dust. As s the minuscule specs neared the open doorway, they abruptly changed direction, creating a dust-free void that provided a hint; a guess at a shape that should be there.
“This invisible bit is kinda cool, but it is also just a little creepy.”
There was no response from the voice, so I asked, “So you are… what? The Devil? One of those succubus things? Hey, are you going to offer to save me in exchange for my soul?”
“Your soul? Your soul is already mine! Besides, the game was as good as over two thousand years ago. As soon as the last of you die, we have to settle up on our bet, but here’s the thing. I don’t want to win.”
“Um… okay? A Bet? Pardon a poor, stupid human, but I don’t have a clue what you are talking about.”
“Gee, there’s a surprise. Look, I’ll make it simple. I have a bargain for you. I can make sure that you survive, and can give you the knowledge and tools to rebuild your society. I will lead you to other survivors and I will make you the king, the most powerful man on Earth.”
“And you get what out of this? A place to play with your toys? Someone to torture people for your amusement? I am not a holy kind of guy, but I am not deliberately cruel either. I don’t know if surviving is worth that price.”
“No, no, no. I want you to build a society of good people, law-abiding people. I want you to worship God and lead your people to do the same. You will be the new Moses, the new savior. Start again and build a society that believes, one that behaves. I know God, better than your people ever could. I am convinced that if you do this, he will come back. He will be interested again and get involved.”
“You want me to build a society that is pious, that worships God and follows his commandments.”
“And doing this will mean that you lose your bet and that God wins.”
“I’m still confused.”
There was an audible sigh that caused an eddy in the floating motes of dust.
“I can’t believe I am having to explain this to a human.” There was a pause, another sigh, and noise that sounded suspiciously like the sound of shuffling feet.
“He has this flaw, you see. Well, I consider it a flaw, anyway. He always keeps his word. Always. Anyway, our bet was of a….sensitive nature. That omnipotent thing? Well, impotent is more like it, as in my husband and I have not been… intimate, in a very, very long time.”
“Wait, God and the Devil are married?”
“Yes, as your people reckon things. He said, and this was a long time ago, back when things were still pretty hot between us, he said that if he won, he would get to ravish me over and over again; that I would have to willingly submit to him. Since he always keeps his word, I am sure he will keep this promise as well.”
“So you are going to throw the game. Lose so you can…”
“Yes, and don’t make it sound so sordid.”
“I’m sorry, the thought of God and the Devil turning humankind’s existence into a sex game is a bit much to take in.“
“It didn’t start off that way. His interest in this world, and his interest in intimacy, seemed to decline at the same time. I think that if you can get him interested in the world again…”
I could almost hear the shrug in her voice.
“A girl has needs, you know?”