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The demon pulled itself to his full height, his three pairs of curling ram horns scraping the ceiling of the cave. He flexed his four muscle-bound arms while just below them, six octopoid tentacles writhed in anticipation. A tendril of black smoke wafted from his snout and he gritted his teeth briefly before speaking.
“I ain’t gonna tell you again. I don’t want no trouble in my bar,” he growled, the tone in his voice unmistakable even over the noise of the band.
The problem begun when a short fat dretch who had drank too much stumbled into a kyton, tangling in his chains. The aggravated kyton took this as a deliberate offense, demons and devils never really getting along during the soberest of times, and offered to turn the dretch inside-out. Unfortunately for the kyton, this remark was overheard by a nearby table of vrock, who, by the flecks of spittle on their vulture-like beaks, had been spoiling for a fight all evening.
That’s when the myrmyxicus behind the bar knew he had to step in a put an end to it before it started. After all, he owned the place.
It was called the Hell Hole, and it was one of the more popular night spots in all of Dis. The owner, M’lnzch’t (whom the regulars all called Mel), was a general retired from the battle between Good and Evil. Though he sometimes missed the heat of combat, he enjoyed serving drinks more, even on a night like this one.
Vomitz the imp had come in at the start of the evening, throwing around anguii like he was running for the Lord of Lies. “Just closed a sweet deal with some sucker evangelist,” he explained as he bought a round for the entire bar. “Pulled the old soul re-installation gag, too. As if the years he spent fleecing the gullible to save the money to buy it back didn’t already damn him thrice over.” He sniggered. “Hung himself an hour later.” That brought a roar of gurgling laughter from the other patrons.
Now it was hours later, and the Hell Hole was continuing to a brisk business on Vomitz’ dollar. Mel saw that the imp’s glass was empty yet again, so he sidled over on his eel-like body.
“Need a refill?” he asked.
The imp’s eyes were a bit glazed over, and he took his time responding. “Yeah, ‘nother pint of Ol’ Scratch.”
Mel nodded. One of his tentacles grabbed a fresh glass from behind him and held it under the spout. He pulled the spout with one arm, while another refilled the bowl of dead roaches in front of Vomitz. He set the glass of deep red ale down on the bar and mentally added the price to Vomitz’ tab. “Good commission today, huh?”
Vomitz blinked slowly and then nodded. He took a long sip of his beer. “Did I ever tell you about the one that got away, Mel?”
“I don’t think so, Vom.” In fact, the imp had told this story dozens of times. Usually when he was drunk.
“Happened, let’s see,” he exhaled sharply, “1963. Not a bad year for us, I’d say…Lakonia, Tab cola, Whiskey A Go-Go, and, of course…” Vomitz mimed looking down the sight of a gun and made a shooting noise. Spittle hit the devil sitting next to me. “Sorry.” Mel got the devil another drink and put that one on Vomitz’ tab as well. “Anyway, there I was minding my own business, having a relaxing sulphur bath, when suddenly—poof!—I’m summoned out of the blue. So there I am standing in a puddle of goat’s blood in some castle somewhere looking up at this, well, wizard. All decked out in formal crimson robes. By the markings on the floor and the smell of sandalwood, I figure this chump’s got ahold of the Diaboli Codex. Great, right? I mean, I’m bound, no getting out of it unless the guy says. So I start talking smooth, trying to explain that all this mystical mumbo jumbo isn’t need any more. I mean, we’re in the yellow pages, for Baal’s sake. But this guy doesn’t budge, he just stands there muttering something about havin’ killed an angel. Now I know this guy’s crazy. I mean, no way he killed an angel, they don’t go to Earth. Still, I gotta do the deal or else I’m stuck with this nut until he dies. So I pull out the standard boilerplate—power, money, sex, yadda yadda yadda. And he signs it, still mumbling under his breath about how he might as well since he figures he’s damned already. I’m all like, don’t I know it. These days, most of ‘em are headed for the firepits before they turn 13. Anyway, the guy signs and I’m off, but bam, if he doesn’t summon me again a year later. He says—and he’s more with it this time ‘round—that he wants to renegotiate his contract. Get this, he wants to sell us someone else’s soul for more power. I tell him we don’t do that, because otherwise he’s doin’ my job, right? Well, he musta been studying, because he hits me with…something. I ain’t ever felt pain like that before. I figure it’s time to sic the lawyers on this schmuck, let him know what ‘renegotiate’ means.” Vomitz swallowed another gulp of ale. “Two days later, this guy’s got his deal, and the damned lawyers are billing me for the time! For the next decade, I make it my personal mission to get this guy. I try every trick in the book—the Pigeon Drop, the Lobsang Rampa, the Ribos Operation, all of it. Nothing can fool this guy. All the while, he’s collecting knowledge and performing rituals. Won’t tell me what he’s looking for, though. Then one day, it looks like he slips up. He summons me to make another trade, and there’s no protective circle. No candles, no incense. I start laughing—cackling really, some of my best stuff—but then he starts chuckling along with me. That’s when I notice his eyes. There’s nothing behind them. They’re empty, like space. I realized then that the human’s soul—Jimkins? Jensen?—was gone. Damn fool messed around and got in touch with something that scooped him out and slipped into his skin like a finely tailored suit. And it wasn’t any ghost or any one of us. It was something else. Something alien.” By this point in the story, even though he’s finished his beer, Vomitz has completely sobered up. “I got outta there lickety split and spent my entire savings getting my truename changed. No way I wanted to see that thing again.”
Vomitz turned and stared blankly at the band for a few seconds. A paeliryon, her eyes heavy with mascara, strummed on the intensines of a still-living Chinese boy, his screams accompanied by a rosy-red kelvezu on harpsichord.
When the imp speaks again, his squeaky voice is barely audible. “It’s still out there, Mel, I know it. Plotting and planning.” He shudders. “God help those humans.”