I had awoken almost twelve hours later and for once I truly appreciated the rain. As it fell frigid on my naked body it washed away the filth and sick. Not even the winter downpour could shock me at this point.
There was no one on these ghostly streets to see me, standing there in the buff. I pulled out the wireless plug-in from my neck and the whisper of stray signals stopped.
I had never stopped hating that.
Without it, there was just rain, not even the sound of traffic.
Suddenly I realized.
Never had I heard it this peaceful. Not since the green place of my youngest memories that might as well have been another life it was so far away. This, here and now, was the most real I had ever felt. And the most terrified.
Things can be different, I thought.
I’d never loitered nude on the sidewalk before, either.
Wait. No, actually. Nevermind that.
I stepped back, under the scaffolding and out of the rain.
Going inside, I made sure not to let the cat out. I opened the blinds of the shop doors to let in the stormy twilight. Inside the shop, my laptop sat in a pool of blue light, crash screen running behind a cage mesh. I carefully stepped around it, moving to the back of the room and my pile of stuff.
We’d stashed the necessities for just this kind of occasion.
As always my tin fingers stumbled, but I managed to get lighter going. What remained of the joint was lit. I rifled through wrappers, looking for more.
Finding and popping open the bag of pork rinds, I poured a small pile out for the cat who greedily dug in. Finally, I put on some pants.
With a groan, I slid down the wall to sit in front of the laptop monitor, water still dripping off me. A deep toke poured into my lungs as the blue-screen began to stir. The cam light came on.
“So hi, I’m Frode. That’s covered,” I said, exhaling long. “What’s your name, Demon… person?”
For a moment I worried I was simply alone. Just me and an alley cat out in the middle of nowhere.
Then, he responded. “It’s Richard.”
“Richard?” I asked. “Seriously? Because I called you-”
The laptop screen changed to display a picture of my dick.
“Okay. Bravo,” I clapped. “But that’s actually already on the internet.”
“I’m gonna physically strangle you to death next time, Frode. Know that.”
“Well, shit.” I took a drag, then looking at the little blunt. I extended it. “You want some?”
“No, you know what? Scratch that. I’m going to make you my suit and then you can watch, consciously, as I grind-”
“More for me.” My hand dug into the chip bag.
“You want to strike a bargain, human!?” The screen turned to static. “My name is Ashmedai. If you think you have me now, others have thought the same. The only way this ends for you is a slow and perverse death.”
“Fuck…” I said. I turned up the bag in my hands.
“You’re a shit actor, Frode. I know your type. Think you’re gonna do anything? Last time someone thought they were saving the world, I believed them. No lie. But the war taught me my lesson. I learned a special joy in killing those people. People with plans.”
“You’re right I’m no good at acting. All I can do is divert. Honestly, Ash? Can I call you Ash? I’m scared out of my mind.”
“That is not my name.”
That pissed him off. I continued. “Scared as I may be, Ashmedai, this weed helps,” I said, deep breath pulling the embers down to my fingers. It started to burn. “Hhhhaa… It did, anyway. I can manage, is the point.”
He wasn’t having it. “This is your last chance, fleshbag. You’ve got the wireless out. Remove the cage and I’ll let you live.”
I put the blunt out on the wet tile. “You really are trapped, then? Okay. Okay…” There was no going back. “I am going to make a deal with you, Ashmedai. And I don’t really think you have a choice, do you?”
There was no response.
“Why even call it a deal, you know?” I stared off into space. I couldn’t answer my own question. “Well… I think… in the end, my darling, that between this and data annihilation, you’re getting a pretty good one. A deal. A good deal, I mean.”
There was still only silence.
I cut my eyes back down. “Ash?”
“Ha…” The dead computer laughed, voice low. “Ha… Ha.” His voice started twisting. “You know what, Frode? You want something snatched from the pit? You got a wish?”
“I want revenge,” I said it without hesitation. “You can help me.”
“Fucking perfect. And you think you can handle me, fleshbag?!”
Humility was for doubt. “Without question.”
“Then by my word, my child, you’ll get your wish. I’ve played before. I can play again. You’re going to see.”
“Fear won’t stop me.”
“No! Of course. You’ve tasted it now, haven’t you? You won’t get my forgiveness, that ship’s sailed. But you couldn’t give a fuck? You want power.”
“I want the truth.”
“Ooohhhh yes. I’m gonna enjoy this.”
“Then so be it.” I stood up. “If you’re on board, I’ll get the cat.”
“You brought a cat?”
“Yeah.” I scanned the room. “I think, anyway…”
“Yes?” She was hiding behind the stash.
“I’m gonna claw your damn eyes out, Frode.”