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The demon was only fifteen inches tall. At that diminutive height she was easy to overlook and easy to underestimate. Avery made the first mistake several times but subsequent to his first encounter with Mavka, he was careful to show a certain petrified level of respect.

He didn’t know where she’d come from, but her manifestation at his bedside one night (after an evening of heavy drinking and heavier boasting at O’Connor’s) was sufficient to elicit a rather immediate and painful sobriety.

Her skin was leathery and ruby-red, the color attenuating to a paler tangerine on her winglets. Avery was surprised to see that her appearance matched the sermons he’d been subject to. And she made Avery the usual offer, one which he had read about in a double handful of stories, but had never given credence to.

(Image by Alistair from Pixabay)

The impossibility of it all was offset by the attractiveness of Mavka’s offer. So much so, he was unable to focus at work. His mind was roiling with possibilities and not a little fear.

It had been a month of relentless pounding.

Carly got the promotion Avery was pining for. Sami beat him, 6-1, at tennis—and smirked about it for days. Penelope’s lawyers were cleverer than his own, and she got the vacation house, the Mercedes, and the children. Hamid just proclaimed “past performance is not a guarantee of future results” when Avery called him, sweating, about his mutual funds’ nosedive. And Frank-the-louse managed to abscond with the back strip of Avery’s turf by erecting a fence a yard over the property line, and professed innocence when Avery protested.

A nice round-up of current events. Avery wondered when the next shoe would drop—what miserable thing would happen today? As the month came to a close he became closely acquainted with his Scotch bottle.

So Mavka’s proposal had its attractions, even when he was sober. The next visit—or maybe it was “visitation”?—was the following week. Same offer.

She visited often, and each time Avery came a little closer to acquiescing. His initial response had been laughter but the light show that erupted from her barbed tail was impressive, and he discovered that photons hurt. A lot.

With his bank account spiraling downward and his debt spiraling upward, Mavka offered freedom from financial worry. But even more alluring was her promise of retribution.

“What exactly happens if I sign?”

Mavka smiled, but without any joviality. “Carly will not be able to take that promotion.”

“She’s already got it,” Avery protested.

“Offered and accepted, yes. But you’ll see, she won’t be in a position to fill it. In fact, she won’t be able to do any job at all.”

Avery froze. Then, considering that prospect, he relaxed. Yes…

“And Sami?”

“Can’t play tennis if you’ve got two broken arms,” she smirked.

“And Frank?”

“The fence will burn down, and it will burn again if he tries to replace it.”

Avery was almost afraid to ask… “What about my ex-wife?”

Mavka’s eyes narrowed. “Do you really want to know?” Upon consideration, he did not.

“I want the Mercedes back!”

“Sign and it’s yours.”

So, he had to give up his soul—big deal.

“Ready? Just sign here,” she purred.

He’d never felt so ready for anything in his life. Once the contract was signed and the ink was dry, everyone who’d ever been an obstacle to his success was out of the way. He lifted his pen and out of the corner of his eye, something shifted.

“Well,” she murmured, “what are you waiting for?” A man who chose a car over his children was already seven-eighths hers. Her winglets rustled.

Avery picked up the quill pen. Inked his name, exhaled, smiled.

It was his last voluntary action, ever.


This story previously appeared in the anthology Tales From Shelf 804.
Edited by Marie Ginga


Melody Friedenthal is a librarian at a public library and a copyeditor for MetaStellar. In her spare time she's the chief bottle-washer for To Tell A Tale Writers' Group and is an affiliate member of the SFWA. Her work has been published in Tales From Shelf 804: an anthology, N3F, Bardsy, MetaStellar, and New Myths. She believes writing is a gateway drug, alpacas are cute, and dark chocolate is heaven.