Harry stretched out and yawned. He knew it was getting late, but he
couldn't force himself to go to his bed. He was content sitting in
front of the TV He couldn't blame himself for being so inert. Harry had spent all
day unpacking boxes and moving furniture aroun
d in his new apartment. Harry had always hated moving- it took a lot out of you and the place was a mess for weeks, sometimes months.
Oh well. His new job at the posh advertising agency has worth all the trouble.
He idly flipped through the channels (the cable hadn't been installed yet)- the only programs on this late were infomercials. Harry settled on the Wonder Knives - he secretly loved the demonstrations.
Knives. They reminded him of an old friend- an eccentric girl named Cassandra. She had a large collection of knives, mostly the unusual ones found at sci-fi conventions. One of the walls of her room had been completely dedicated to this collection. Harry remembered how the red paint on the wall made the knives stand out more, made the blades seems a little sharper.
He had asked her about it once, when they had first met at the local shitty punk club. Harry couldn't remember what caused the subject to be brought up, but her answer had stayed with him:
Oh, you know. It's something to do.
Harry had almost laughed then. Here was a girl who collected weapons of death and it's just something to do. Funny.
I must have dosed off, thought Harry. The knives infomercial had ended and a new one was starting.
Harry smiled; he missed Cassandra. She had been his concert buddy for all the shows he went to, and shared his passion for photography.
He had a crush on her at one point, but it didn't last long, and turned into a milder, more family-like love. She had moved when she was seventeen, and unfortunately, he had lost touch with her. He wondered what she was up to.
The TV showed a long white table against bright gold curtains. Harry thought the set-up was like the carnival magic shows he saw as a kid. You don't see that sort of thing on television anymore.
A thin man came on-screen. He wore an off-white tuxedo and had wiry red hair shooting out from his head.
"Greetings, night-owls of Los Angeles." said the man. "I have a hell of an offer for you."
Harry frowned. Just what sort of infomercial was this?
"Chances are, if you have been in this city for a substantial amount of time, you already know who I am." the man continued. "For this program, I have assumed the name of Mr. Stan- partially not to alarm newcomers, and partially because I thought it would be a nice touch."
He smiled and Harry's stomach twisted- Mr. Stan's grin was disturbing.
"To all the, undoubtedly, confused newcomers, I wish to assure you I have little, if any, direct influence on your day-to-day life here in this, ah, lovely city. I am merely the hand in certain puppets, the pulling of particular strings, rarely making an appearance to the general audience. This is one of those rare moments, so consider yourself lucky sleep did not come to you tonight.
"I mentioned earlier of an offer, which I shall reveal in a moment. I wish to stress, however, how rare of an opportunity this is in these hyperactive modern times. My office is no longer free to the public as it used to be; I do not have the staff nor the time to carry out all the requests I would receive, and thus I have been forced to limit myself, something I would never see myself doing when I first started this little business. But I guess this all shows what lurks in the hearts of humans, eh?
"I am offering you this: anything. Anything you want! All of your wishes are mine to grant, and all you have to do is want it, desire it. You don't even have to dial a number.
"Of course, I do ask for one thing in return."
Your soul, thought Harry.
"Your soul!" said Mr. Stan. He grinned, beaming with salesman charm.
"Anything you desire for just one, heh, small payment of your soul. It's just that simple and easy!"
Harry shook his head. He must be dreaming. Satan didn't appear on late night infomercials. The news media and religious groups would be flipping out!
He briefly recalled Cassandra's last night in their hometown. They were on top of his Volkswagen watching the sun set with the Joe Jackson blaring on the radio. She took off her favorite necklace and, smiling brightly, handed it to him.
"Take care of it." she said. "I'll want it back someday." Harry had nodded and tried not to cry.
He clutched at the necklace under his shirt. Harry always wore it. It was a thin silver chain with a small dark red butterfly pendent.
Cassandra had called it "the Blooderfly"; she had adored the thing.
Mr. Stan coughed.
"So Harry, what do you say?"
Harry's head snapped up.
"I said: So Harry, what do you say?" said Mr. Stan. "Are you okay, kid? You look like you just saw a ghost."
Harry swallowed hard.
"No ghost, sir." he whispered. "Just the Devil on T.V."
Mr. Stan smiled tightly and shook his head.
"You're new around here, aren't you?"
"I moved in three days ago."
"That explains a lot. Where did you used to live?"
"Tennessee!" Mr. Stan laughed. "Shit! This must be a hell of a culture shock for you."
"That's a way of putting it, sir.
Mr. Stan laughed again.
"I like you, kid. I hope we can do business together."
I must be dreaming. thought Harry. This cannot possibly be real. The Devil doesn't air infomercials in LA. The Devil doesn't have red hair. The Devil certainly doesn't wear white. This is just a screwed up dream.
It doesn't matter if you accept his offer.
Harry smiled. It was a dream, anyways, nothing real. What harm comes from a dream?
"Okay. Let's do business."
Mr. Stan clapped his hands.
"Wonderful! So, tell me Harry: what do you desire?"
Harry fingered the Blooderfly and thought of the knife collection. He knew what he wanted.
"I want to know where my friend Cassandra is."
Mr. Stan smiled.
Mr. Stan looked curiously at Harry.
"You can have anything you want, you know." he said slowly. "Is that all you want?"
"...you only have one soul."
Mr. Stan stopped smiling and looked at Harry for a moment.
"...Shake my hand, Harry."
Mr. Stan reached out his through the television screen. Harry shook it, shuddering as a jolt went through him, followed by a sensation of something being drained from his body.
Mr. Stan let go and lit a cigarette. He gestured to the box closest to Harry.
"On top of that box is a piece of paper." he said. "It has the information you want."
Harry snatched up the paper and read it. He looked at the T.V., dropped the paper and pinched his cheek hard.
"Ow." he mumbled.
He gazed at the T.V.; Mr. Stan was watching him.
"It's not a dream, is it." said Harry.
"It's never a dream here, kid"
Harry was unable to speak. Mr. Stan took a drag from his cigarette.
"You know something, kid? I've done an uncountable number of these transactions for a multitude of desires." He looked straight at Harry. "But none of those desires were for objects as valuable as that paper."
The T.V. turned off.
The next morning, Harry made himself some coffee and looked at the paper again.
Cassandra was right above his apartment.
He had already put the Blooderfly into a small box. He would knock on her door. hand it to her and smile.
You might want this back, he'll say.
He didn't know how she would react. Hell, he didn't know what she'd done these past years, if she looked the same or if she was completely different person.
They'd have a lot of catching up to do. He knew they would spend hours telling stories, just like they used to do.
He'd have to tell her about his dream of the Devil's infomercial. She'd get a kick out of that.