WISH #1 …
Leonard twisted the gold ring around his finger, scanning the book open on the desk, trying to ignore the dark red brown stain that streaked across the words. Finally he shrugged.
“Let’s see if you were right, Father, or just insane. And,” he grinned wryly, the dark shadow of his beard lifting, “if you were insane then what does that make me?”
A quick slice on his finger tip, the blade of the black-hafted knife sinking deeper than he expected, Leonard rotated his hand until the blood covered the gold ring and filled the etchings. Muttering words that felt wrong and large in his mouth, he slipped the ring off and placed it on the floor. Each syllable threatened to choke him now as he continued the simple verse. Eyes wide, he watched the golden ring stretch outward, sliding with a metallic scrape across the wooden floor until it found the edge of the circle inscribed there.
Jaw cracking with the effort of continuing the spell, Leonard watched in awe as a figure swelled upward from the floor. He finished the incantation, veins throbbing and tongue swollen. The last word escaped on a gasp.
The creature inside the ring flicked the air above the ring, grimacing when a clear tone rang. It was hard for Leonard to describe it as the demon’s skin was so dark that the meagre light in the study seemed to be absorbed by it. The man shook his head.
“Not insane then, Dad.”
“Well, what have we here?” its voice was deep and cultured, “Ah, Maxwell Bright’s son, I see. The old reprobate told me he was going to burn that book, melt the ring down.”
Leonard lifted the leather bound book and flipped it over so the charring could be seen on the other side, “Came close.”
“I am glad he didn’t. Not many of those around.”
The demon lifted its blunt muzzle and inhaled deeply.
“Oh, my, I smell bitterness and lost dreams. Revenge and,” it sniffed again, “A hint of lost love. Tasty. Missing Daddy?”
“No,” Leonard’s voice was harsh. “Not Daddy’s favourite, then.”
“Hardly. My Father only loved himself. But I was his only child and,” Leonard hefted the book, “This is all he had to leave to me.”
“Oh, he spent it all then? Lost it all? Tell me … we didn’t converse much the last time we met but he
did taste of disappointment,” the grin was full of sharpened delight.
“All of it. We lived out his last days in a single room rented out by a landlord my mother paid in her services – not all of it cleaning.”
“And what did you do after Daddy died?” “What does it matter?” Leonard grated.
The dark oily shoulders shrugged, “I am interested. Not much news on my side of the Veil.”
“Mum got me through school and into University after she married the landlord. He complained but after I won the scholarship he couldn’t really do anything about it. I became an accountant,” Leonard swivelled around to look at the study, “Eventually I was able to buy our old home back.”
Leonard grinned as behind him the tone rang again and the demon gasped. He turned around to find it cradling a taloned hand against its chest.
“Don’t think I can’t multi-task, demon, I have the words still looping in my head.” It sighed, “So business isn’t so good now, boy, that you must call me.”
“Business is what it is. We have our own business to discuss.” “Three wishes, yes. But not just any kind.”
“The only kind I can grant. If your motivation isn’t selfish then I get your soul,” a thin tongue escaped its lips and flicked across a scaled cheek.
“You get my soul anyway.”
“Yes, after the last wish, when you die, if you wish well. I get it earlier, though, if you wish wrong. Are you ready for your first wish?”
Leonard straightened his shoulders.
“My father wished for money first, didn’t he?” “That’s right. Is that what you want?”
“When he did the stock markets fell and the GFC was launched.”
“I cannot create money, fool, all I can do is take what is already there. Do you want the money?”
“Not like that. It’s bad for business. I want five cents from every bank account in the world that has a balance over five thousand dollars transferred undetectably into my account held in Switzerland.
Each transfer is to take place on a random day over the next year. The transfer is to be repeated every third year throughout my life. This is my wish.”
The demon cocked his head and contemplated the human for a moment. It leant slowly toward the barrier and inhaled deeply.
“Smells selfish,” It clicked its fingers, “I like it! You are much smarter than your dear old Dad. Your wish is granted.”
“Then you are released.”
The demon winked and began to fade, “See you next time.” Leonard grimaced.
WISH #2 …
The demon flicked the barrier and glared at Leonard. It seemed wrong to Leonard that it looked no different whilst he felt the aches of a body past its prime. Grey strands now lightened the dark beard.
“You have another wish?”
“What? No conversation this time?” Leonard asked.
The demon growled, “I hate the second wish. Once you humans get the first one, you rarely make a mistake in the second. There is nothing in it for me. But,” the creature looked at him slyly, “Last time we did not introduce ourselves properly. What name do you have, human?”
“I am hardly that stupid. I have read the book, you know.”
The huge shoulders rippled in a shrug, “It has worked before. Tell me what you wish for then.” “My father wished for the most beautiful woman in the world to marry him and be his, didn’t he?” “You know the story.”
“He didn’t think to wish for her to love him. Or that he should love her. My Mother was just a possession for him.”
“You want a woman, boy?” It sniffed, “You have none, I see.”
“No, no. I have no complaints. I want to be able to influence people to make decisions I want them to make.”
“No need for marriage if you could do that. But,” it sighed, “I find I am compelled to tell you that demon-influence does not last. The target must eventually return to their own sense of self.”
“It would be enough. I only need it to last long enough to influence certain votes. To ensure the legislation I want to pass can pass. Taxes. Concessions. That sort of thing.”
The demon looked at him with admiration.
“It is all business with you, isn’t it?” It closed its eyes and drew in the air, “And it is another selfish wish. Granted. You are a surprising human. I look forward to collecting your soul.”
WISH #3 …
Leonard stayed seated whilst the demon explored the circle, his fingers brushing across the cheap cardboard scrapbooks nestled in his lap. He smiled as the demon slapped the circle and howled as the barrier held.
“Well, human, your will has grown over the years even as your body has withered. Time for the final wish.”
“My father wished for his cancer to be cured, did he not? Not that it made much difference as he drank himself to death not long after when he lost all we had in bad investments.”
It rolled his eyes, “Must you compare everything you do with what your father did? It is clear you are just as selfish as he even if you happen to be smarter. The stink of it is on your soul.”
“I wish for a complete cure for cancer …”
The demon grinned widely, “Not a selfish wish! I have you, human!” Leonard held up a hand.
“Smell it,” he instructed.
The demon did and frowned, “I do not understand.”
“I am more like my father than I would like,” Leonard smiled gently, “I find I have his affliction and cancer grows in my brain. It has made me think. The man that holds the patent to the cure to all cancer would be holding an awful lot.”
The demon shook its head, “Business again. You are worse than a demon, human. I am motivated by greed and hatred and violence. You are cool enough to freeze even my heart. What motivates you?”
Leonard flattened his hand against the scrapbooks and chuckled, “You’d be amazed. Can you do it?” “It is difficult. The components have to be out there already. I cannot create them.”
It closed its eyes and stilled. Leonard silently reinforced the incantation. Finally the ebony eyes opened again.
“There is a team working in Australia and another in Germany. One of the doctors has now emailed the other team with a question that will make them all realise that they only have to put their work together to solve the final problems. It just so happens that you have a controlling interest in both the companies that finance their work.”
“Good. That is good,” Leonard sighed.
“You have a long life ahead, human. I await your death with pleasure.” The demon began to fade.
“My name is Leonard,” the man whispered.
The demon snapped back into clarity. It reached out toward the barrier and sighed as its talons passed through.
“Foolish boy, you gave me your name. I can take your soul now.”
“No matter. The cancer that grows in my head is too far advanced for any cures now. Its tendrils have invaded my body and I do not wish to experience the degeneration that will precede my early death.”
“But your last wish …”
“It was still selfish. My estate will deal with that patent.”
A hot wind rose and the demon leapt forward, fangs agape and talons outstretched ready to rend and tear at the man. The claw swept downward but the creature screamed with rage as it passed harmlessly through the man’s body. The scrapbooks tumbled to the ground.
Leonard looked down at himself in surprise. “What happened?”
The demon roared and shadows flickered around it.
“I cannot take your soul. The other One claims it. I have no power over you,” the demon looked upward and bellowed, “But the wishes were selfish. He should be mine. Mine!”
Leonard shook his head in wonder, “Well, I’ll be. I thought I was being selfish. I was sure of it. I wanted to be different to my father, you see. That was my motivation. Being completely different.”
“Your motivation?” the demon snarled. “Here, look. I kept it all.”
Leonard leant over to scoop up the scrapbooks. As he did so, his heart, worn out by the constant battles with his disease, faltered. Leonard put a hand to his chest and slumped forward. The spell died in his head and his last breath fled, taking his soul upward.
The demon pushed at the inert body with a toe and muttered foul words.
It scooped up the scrapbooks and flicked through them. They were stuffed with newspaper articles. ‘Anonymous benefactor.
Generous donation. Ground-breaking programs. Rescue from poverty.
Rescue from drug addiction. Rescue …’
It swore again and the air darkened. The first scrapbook was thrown aside but the second was no
‘Conflict ended. Unprecedented co-operation. More money for education. More money for hospitals.
Innovative legislation passed. Peace …
The demon tore at the pages and a paper fluttered free. Enraged, it read a copy of the last will and testament of Leonard Bright. All the patents and assets held were to be passed to a trust that would administer them for the benefit of all.
The demon spluttered and red flashed deep in the ebony eyes.
It ran a talon down its side and pointed the dripping claw at the leather bound book still open on the desk. The pages began to brown and they fell into ashes. Another gesture at the gold ring and the molten metal ran across the wooden floor where it had been embedded.
“I liked your Dad better,” he accused the crumpled body before finally fading away.
By Dianne M. Dean from Australia