This is an old one I found lurking in the depths of my Google Drive. It was enjoyable to read because I still like the concept and a fair bit of the writing, but I can see how I’ve improved since – crikey, the document was created September 2013! I managed not to edit anything except one typo and a missing word, so remember this is almost 2 years old…
Anyway, here’s the prompt:
“It’s a hell of a thing killing a man. You take away all he’s got, and all he’s ever gonna have.”
-Clint Eastwood as Will Munny, Unforgiven
Your prompt is to write a story expanding on this quote. Feel free to interpret it in any way you like.
Terry woke up feeling particularly great. Cold, but great. He must have had an excellent night’s sleep, as all of his usual aches and pains seemed to have disappeared. This was especially impressive considering he, the old fogey of the office, had been out on the lash with the young’uns the night before.
He rolled over and realised that he was still at the birthday lad’s house. As were all of his co-workers, who were still partying. In complete silence. With a tall bloke who appeared to have some sort of red paint over every inch of his skin. The tall bloke also appeared to have horns, hooves, a pointed tail, and a seriously sharp pitchfork.
Ah, thought Terry, quickly tallying up his sins. Shit.
“So you’re awake at last!” the red bloke cried as he strode over, arms open in welcome, his pitch black and wickedly sharp teeth appearing at total odds with the huge, friendly grin currently spread across his face.
“You took longer than they usually do to come around,” he continued brightly. “That’s what a hard night of partying does for you, I suppose. I felt quite jealous watching tonight’s events, I must admit; it’s been an age since I had a good party. An aeon, in fact! Not too many of my guests feel like celebrating with me, sadly. I don’t know why.”
Terry sat up and blinked a few times, his mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. He then noticed that he was sitting on his own corpse,. Terry whimpered, and quickly scrambled away to the other side of the room, where he slid down the wall to curl up on the floor and resume his fish impression.
“My apologies!” the man said with a laugh as he walked over to Terry. “I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ve not been properly introduced: the name’s Lucifer. You’ve probably heard of me.”
Lucifer offered his hand and Terry shook it in a daze. He sat up slowly, watching one of his coworkers, Jamie, notice his vacant body lying on the sofa. Jamie proceeded to point and laugh, and everyone else followed suit. The drunken idiots thought he had only passed out.
“Great,” Terry grumbled to himself. “My legacy will be that I’m a total lightweight.”
Lucifer was still talking away off to Terry’s left. “You’ve not heard much about me though, I bet,” he said petulantly. “Not everything I do, because nobody ever hears of that. ‘Oh there’s Lucifer,’ they all say, ‘he’s The Devil. He lives in Hell and feasts on the souls of Men.’ That I may be and that I may do, but there’s more to the job than lounging around in the Blazing Tomb of Tortured Souls sipping on the blood of innocents, you know!”
“I’m sure there is…” Terry replied distantly, watching Pete balance a beer can on Corpse Terry’s head. Everyone fell about laughing as the can toppled over and spilt cheap beer over his hair. Well that’ll smell just lovely at the funeral.
As the party-goers looked for more items to balance on Corpse Terry, Lucifer proudly expounded upon his important and varied job description.
“As well as all the fun stuff, I also come to this Mortal Realm to harvest souls” he bragged, puffing his chest out and making the points of his black ribs stick through his skin even further. He obviously thought that this made him look terribly impressive, but the actual effect was more “deeply unsettling” than “awe-inspiring”.
A frown suddenly darkened Lucifer’s angular face. “All anybody ever hears about is that boney old git, Death. Something about that mouldy old moth-eaten robe inspires fear and awe in mortal Man.
“I suppose,” he said slowly, tapping his neatly-trimmed goatee thoughtfully with a pointed black fingernail, “the scythe that is sharp enough to cleave an atom in twain must also be part of it. As well as the fact that when you stare into his eye sockets it’s like gazing into the abyss of space and viewing all of creation, time, and the eventual demise of the universe in one painfully glorious second.”
“Mmm, yes…” Terry mumbled, more concerned with the variety of small household objects that were currently being stuffed down Corpse Terry’s pants. From his first day on the job, as soon as he’d gotten a look at the average age of the office, he knew this would happen. Well, not the dying of a heart attack at a 26th birthday party bit, but definitely the bit where the old guy got humiliated by all the youngsters.
Lucifer sighed wistfully. “Anyway, whatever it is about Death that inspires such awe in Mankind, it’s apparently far superior to red skin, a couple of sharp lumps on your head, and a funny-shaped tail.” The corners of his mouth turned down as he picked lint from the jagged end of his tail.
The genuine dejection in Lucifer’s voice took Terry by surprise. “Oh, come now, don’t say that. I think you look, err, handsomely… terrifying?” he offered hesitantly, hoping this was indeed the look that Lucifer was going for.
The Lord of the Underworld brightened visibly, and Terry breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps that kind deed would put him up a level in hell, maybe earn him fewer dunkings in the Acid Pools of Perpetual Scouring.
Lucifer plopped himself down next to Terry, stretching his scrawny red legs out in front of him. “What was I saying? Oh yes. Death. What mortal Man doesn’t know about him is that he doesn’t actually do anything! All he does is sit around reading his musty old books, calculating the endless cycle of life and death, yada yada yada…”
He leant in closer to Terry (who got a serious whiff of fresh blood and charred meat), nudged him in the side with a sharp elbow, and whispered conspiratorially: “he can’t even do that well – he has to wear glasses, you know! It’s true! All of this is just between you and I, you understand.”
“Of course, of course,” Terry reassured him, rubbing his sore side. Somewhere deep inside he wondered how his side could be sore when he didn’t actually have one anymore, but he pushed this thought swiftly to one side. “So Death does nothing at all?” he asked to distract himself, also hoping for more information that he could use to improve his stay in the Flaming Pit of Infinite Damnation.
Lucifer nodded eagerly. “Indeed! When somebody important is due to die Death will sit up, crack those creaky old bones, polish his skull, and step out of the Realm of the Unliving to greet them. But then all he does is strut about saying grand but quite frankly meaningless things in a voice like the echo of time itself! Who gets stuck with the dirty work? Ol’ muggins here, that’s who” he pouted, jabbing at his chest.
“That must be awful” Terry sympathised, watching from the corner of his eye the frantic search going on back in the Realm of the Living. Oh no, he thought to himself with growing dread, what have they got planned now?
Lucifer was gazing up at the ceiling, deep in contemplation. “It’s a Hell of thing, Killing Man. I suppose that’s why they get me to do it, eh? You might think that I only handle a percentage of the work – either small or large, depending on your view of humanity – but I do it all. I just take certain souls down with me and send certain souls up to them.”
“They? Them?” Terry asked, swearing inwardly as he saw Chris joyfully produce a packet of multi-coloured Sharpies from the depths of a drawer and lift them heavenwards like a holy artifact. Everyone began cheering and clapping. Bastards.
“You know,” Lucifer replied, raising his eyebrows and waving his hand above his head, “them. That lot up there.”
“Like, God and Jesus?” Visions of pearly gates perched atop haloed mountains of fluffy clouds filled Terry’s thoughts. There was still a chance he was heading there!
Lucifer tutted. “God and Jesus indeed. Pah! Those two are worse than Death.”
“Lazy layabouts that don’t lift a finger in the general running of the Mortal Realm. Too busy patting each other on the back for their pathetic miracles.”
“They don’t even run Heaven well! They’ve been serving the same terrible shrimp cocktail for millennia, so I hear.”
“And don’t get me started on Saints.”
“Bunch of useless, arrogant, holier-than-thou idiots!”
“I thought you didn’t want to get started on them?”
There was a brief pause.
“Seriously though, Saints are the worst. Impotent fools, the lot of them! I cannot wait until they start to Fall. It’s been a long time since someone Fell from Grace.”
Lucifer stewed in silent irritation, glaring up at the ceiling. Terry sent a silent prayer to whoever ran things Up There, desperately hoping that he was one of the few (or many) that were sent upwards rather than dragged downwards to the Inferno of Interminable Misery.
He noticed with vague surprise that someone in the Realm of the Living had finally discovered that he was dead, and smirked to himself as he watched his co-workers run around in a blind panic.
All of a sudden Lucifer sprang to his hooves and clamped his hands over his mouth, making Terry jump. He might have wet himself in fear and surprise had the appropriate equipment not been left behind in the Mortal Realm with the rest of his now Sharpie-tattooed body.
“Oh no! What a terrible host I am being!” Lucifer breathed through his fingers, the black spheres of his eyes wide as saucers. “Here’s you – a soul freshly-torn from all he ever had and all he ever dreamed of having – and I’m prattling on about myself and my problems!”
“No, really, it’s okay, you’re a wonderful host” Terry reassured him hurriedly, feeling absolutely no shame for his sycophantic behaviour. He was fairly sure he was off to heaven (sure, he was a bit of a glutton – as evidenced by his rather portly physique – and he had definitely had some lust-filled experiences in his youth, but surely not enough to warrant Hell!) and he didn’t want to displease Lucifer and end up being transferred to the Flaming Depths of Oblivion instead.
“I guess I just woke up on the wrong side of the Furnace of Immeasurable Heat this morning” Lucifer said with a shrug. “Speaking of furnaces, I suppose you’ll want to be getting on!”
Terry’s heart sank. Or, rather, his consciousness pretended that his soul had a heart to sink, and sank that. Corpse Terry’s heart remained firmly in place, despite Paul’s attempts to beat in back into action.
“Drat and blast it all!” Lucifer cried, stamping a hoof in frustration. “Now I’ve gone and ruined the surprise. And I was so looking forward to seeing your face when you arrived in the Unholy Planes of Ultimate Pain.”
“It’s okay” Terry said with a sigh as he got to his feet. He watched the paramedics enter the party, barge quickly through the guests, then stop short in surprise upon realising that someone had actually graffitied the deceased.
Paul sheepishly removed a wooden spoon from between Corpse Terry’s buttocks.
The paramedics frowned.
“Never mind!” said Lucifer cheerily as he clapped Terry on the back in a friendly manner. “There will be plenty more surprises once you get down there, don’t you worry about that. I’ll send you on ahead, then I’ll be along in a bit to get you settled into the Endless Torture of the Damned.”
“Thanks. I guess.”
“Cheerio!” The Devil said with a cheeky grin, wiggling his fingers in a happy little wave. “See you in Hell!”