“Okay, you convinced me. When do I start working?”
The man gave Simon a toothy grin and scratched his pointy goatee with an equally pointed fingernail. “We’ll get to that. First, the job’s perks. You will be in charge of your own self and no one can fire you. You get to travel the world. The -”
“I told you, I’m sold. When do I start?”
The man put out his hands and begged for patience. “The drawback is that you don’t have a fixed timetable. You go to work whenever you’re needed. You must always follow the day’s appointments. This is very important. You can’t miss any. Do you want to know what the job is?”
“Do I really get my weight in gold every month?” Simon asked.
“And the whole world will know of me.”
“So, when do I start? Monday?”
“No, as soon as you sign.” The man took a piece of paper out of a pocket and pointed at the right spot with his fingernail. “Sign here.” When Simon took the paper, the man scratched Simon’s finger with the tip of his fingernail. A drop of Simon’s blood landed on the paper. “Never mind that. Just sign the contract, please.”
Simon did as instructed.
“Congratulations, Simon. You are now Hell’s caretaker. Have fun.”
“You know I’ll tear you to pieces when I find you, right?” Her voice echoed in the vast chamber. “Don’t make me chase you, boy.”
“You can’t hurt me any more,” Tristan said a moment later.
She chuckled. “Big words from someone small like -”
“Look at you.” His voice came from straight ahead.
“I got you now,” she whispered and narrowed her eyes.
Tristan’s head appeared from inside the darkness, then the rest of his body followed.
She gave him a hyena’s grin.
“Look at you,” he repeated. “You’ve spent yourself completely. You’re just a wisp of smoke and a set of eyes. Look where we stand.” He breathed a faint laugh. “You are no more.”
Mike kicked a pebble on the pier and watched it plop down into the sea. “Okay, we’re here. Now what?”
Alex rolled his eyes and sighed as if he had other, better things to do than explain trivial things to the village fool for the tenth time. “Now we wait.” He spoke slowly and intoned each word to make sure the message got through. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and bounced on the balls of his feet.
Mike fought the urge to introduce his fist to Alex’s face. Instead, he nodded and chewed on his lower lip. Moments later, when the silence became unbearable, he spoke again. “For how long?” Pompous, know-it-all little prick was going to get the beating of a lifetime, if he gave him another stupid or arrogant answer.
“Until something big happens. Now. Shut. Up.”
Mike flexed his fist and tried to picture his friend’s nose as a swollen, three-feet-wide monstrosity across his face. He caught sight of something strange from the corner of his eye. He turned his head to it, and something cold sped from the base of his skull, down his spine, all the way to his limbs. “Big as in… like that perhaps?” He pointed at the shore.
Alex turned and looked. His face turned ashen, and the bulge on his throat went down once and rose slowly. His mouth hung.
“Sea going away big enough for you? Where’s the sea going, Alex? Huh? You messed up. Again.”