God and the Devil sat on a mountain.
That would have been poetic. There would have been towering red cliffs and brown dust riding the air. A battle of wits, perhaps
But as it was, God was nowhere to be found, and the Devil sat alone on a mountain in Tyrol, Austria, watching the morning mist rise. He was tousle-haired, blonde and razor-thin today, dressed in a white shirt and black breeches. Tomorrow, perhaps he would be redheaded, or Asian. He had not decided.
Before the sun had fully risen, he walked the wandering hillside path down towards the village, and stopped at the first log cabin he came to under a broken birch tree.
He had business here. Some twenty years ago, he had made a wager. And now, it was collection day.
He knocked once. The Peasant answered, now in his forties, sallow faced. He was once muscled and proud, and while he still looked hard-working, he was also worn. He stared wearily at the Devil and gave a great sigh, looking years older than he was.
“I suppose you’ve come for my soul, then,” he said. The Devil may have looked different from his shape twenty years ago, but once one had met him, they knew him in all his forms.
The Devil raised an eyebrow. “Your soul? Why would I want that? I have hundred of souls in Hell that put themselves there every day. I don’t need another one. No…I want something better.” He pointed at the dilapidated cabin behind him. “I want your life for a day.”
The peasant looked befuddled, and shook his head as if to clear gnats away from his face. “W-what? You want–”
“Your life,” the Devil repeated, growing impatient. “One day. You take my life, I take yours.”
The peasant scoffed. “Do you remember our bargain? You gave me power and riches! I plundered kings, and womanized all throughout the land. I killed hundreds, and all knew my name and feared it!”
“And now, your name is forgotten. You are no one, living in a mountainside village, married to the clan leader’s daughter. You hunt game and sell it to the village below to make your bread. I know who you are and what your story is,” the Devil snapped. “I don’t care. That is my price for our wager.”
The Peasant tilted his head, considering it for a moment. “Let me tell my wife,” he said at last, disappearing inside of the log house. When he returned, it was with a determined look on his face, his hand outstrecthed.
“It’s a deal,” he said. When the Devil took his hand, the man vanished into thin air, into Hell, where he would resume the Devil’s duties.
The Devil took a deep breath, and began his day. He wandered through the wheat fields, feeling the golden grain against his palms. Then he hunted game, grunting and sweating and fighting against his own fatigue to take down three deer. He trapped four rabbits as well, and took them to the cabin. He skinned them, and sold them in the village below for more than their worth, but was forgiven because of the quality of the meat.
He spent the afternoon on a lake dock, fishing for trout or pike. He caught two trout, and carried them home to the Peasant’s wife to make them for dinner. After they ate, he partook in the young wife’s beauty. He knew she would never be completely satisfied by her husband ever again, and almost felt regret. Almost. But it was not enough to stop him.
They walked along the lakeside after dinner, watching the will-o-wisps float and bob above the cattails like tiny stars. Then, he looked up and admired the clear view of all the constellations.
“You have to admit…he has a keen eye,” he said to no one in particular.
The wife returned to the cabin first. The Devil stood outside, staring up at the moon, and summoned the Peasant back to his side.
Sweating, trembling and hyperventilating, the Peasant appeared on all fours before stumbling to his feet. “That was more than a day!” he said finally.
“No it wasn’t. One day, that was the bargain,” the Devil said.
“It felt like ages!” the Peasant said, wiping his face on his sleeve. “I had to oversee Hell. There were thousands being tortured by lesser demons. They all cried out for mercy! One of them was my cousin, who committed suicide years ago, but he could not see or hear me!”
The Devil nodded, waving at him to continue.
“I tempted the innocent and encouraged the wicked. An angel told me to play his advocate, and I drove a man to kill his own wife because he believed she had slept with another man. She hadn’t!”
“I don’t often tempt anyone,” the Devil said. “That was probably the angel’s idea of a joke. Men do just fine tempting themselves, although sometimes it looks good for the particularly virtuous.” But the Peasant was so distraught, he didn’t hear any of this.
“Then, I thought that was the worst, but it wasn’t. There was what felt like days of just sitting, doing NOTHING! I stared at a wall for an eternity! I have never known the depths of boredom before that!”
The Devil was smiling when the Peasant finally finished and looked at him.
“How do you do it?” the Peasant asked, his eyes a hollow memory of what they had been that morning.
The Devil, his hands in his pockets, gave a little shrug and began to walk backwards into the evening shadows. “Well…it often feels more like a burden than a good thing…” And as he vanished into darkness, his voice lingered along with the faint scent of hellifire on the night mountain air.
“But then…there are always the wagers.”
This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Finding a skinnier me who gave me this prompt: “Sometimes it felt more like a burden than a good thing….”. I challenged MRMacrum with the prompt: “Take the first random person you see in a magazine ad after reading this prompt. Write about their life: who they are, what they like and don’t like. Their professions, hobbies, passions. If you formulate a short story from this, all the better. Final version should be no more than 600 words”.
I immediately regretted giving that prompt, lol, because I had to do it in writing class, but I’m not sure I would want to do it now. Sorry, MRMacrum!
For once, this story is NOT based on anything Ebony-related. This is just some fun original fantasy-fiction. On that note, I don’t want to get into any religious discussions or debates with anyone because it’s fantasy. I read the prompt and the first sentence of this came into my head. The picture on here just inspired it further.
I probably owe some influence of this story to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, especially the part where Lucifer leaves Hell, and later when he admires the sunset.