Jakes life had been good for the past week. Very good in fact. Ever since he had met a demon that just handed him a piece of bone that could change anything about another person with just a thought. With the bones’ help Jake had finally gotten everything he felt life owed him. His friend Mei-Ling hadn’t been so lucky. A week ago her name had been Dave, and she had gotten into an argument with Jake when she found out the guy she called a friend had turned her mother Lauren into a oversexed nymphomaniac going by the name Bunny. Unfortunately Jake had gotten to the wish-bone first during the ensuing scuffle.
So now Mei-Ling was waiting at the porch in front of Jakes house wearing her best dress, to welcome the love of her life back from his five day trip to Vegas.
At the same time she dreaded another agonizing day of heartbreak as he ignored all her - increasingly desperate hints- and just bragged about all the other women he had been with. She couldn’t remember when she had first realized that she desperately wanted to get into his pants or why people suddenly seemed to trip over themselves to offer Jake money, sex or whatever else he wanted. In fact there were a lot of curious things about the past week and she couldn’t shake the feeling that it was important. But whenever Mei-Ling tried to figure out why, her mind inevitably drifted to mental images of Jake getting undressed after gym. After that she was too preoccupied with sighing longingly that Mei-Ling never questioned why exactly she remembered scenes from the mens’ locker-room but none from the ladies one..
A black sports-car with mirrored windows pulling up on the curb pulled Mei-Ling out of her latest steamy daydream about Jake in the communal shower, and she got up to hurry towards it only for her steps to falter when the drivers door opened and a woman – no, Mei-Ling had to correct herself with a pang of envy, a bombshell with a capital B – step outside. Mei-Ling knew she wasn’t bad looking, at least at an intellectual level, but compared to the women around Jake she felt like a chubby little preteen.
All those worries were forgotten when the woman opened the car to help Jake outside. Mei-Ling practically flew towards the car to take the arm not occupied by the other woman. “What happened?!” she asked, hating the slight waver in her voice and the building dampness in the corner of her eye. She had cried more in the past week than she could remember doing in the entire year before, and she despised how weak and foolish it made her feel. But she just couldn’t help it. ‘Strapping’ wasn’t a word anyone would have associated with Jake, but the person emerging from the car looked …wilted. Yes that was a fitting word. When he had left for his trip Jake had been brimming with energy and excitement. While not traditionally handsome, his chubby face framed by blonde curls had always put Mei-Ling in mind of Cupid, especially when his blue eyes sparkled with excitement. And there was just enough fat to his body to make him soft and cuddly without looking fat. But now his face looked gaunt despite it’s vestiges of baby-fat and his eye and hair had lost all their luster.
“ ‘m just tired. ” Jake mumbled, after looking between Mei-Ling and Ms. Bombshell for a few confused moments.
“Of course.” Mei-Ling gave him her best encouraging smile “Three days of partying would wear anybody out. ” she clutched his upper arm a bit tighter against her chest as she looked towards Bombshell “I’ll take care of him. ” for a moment it looked like the other woman was about to protest, but a mumbled “ ‘s alright.” From Jake cut her off “ Just want t’ sleep.”
Mei-Ling felt a guilty pleasure at the disappointment in her rivals eyes, a moment later that satisfaction turned into helpless outrage as the woman bent down to plant a passionate kiss on Jakes lips. Mei-Ling just about managed to school her expression back into a -hopefully convincing- sympathetic one by the time the seductress released her beloved. Oh how she longed to do the same! But that would be crossing a line. She didn’t expect men to do all the work, but if Jake didn’t at least hint at wanting more than friendship confessing her feelings would just mess things up. She was pulled from her beginning daydream of confessions and kisses, as the other woman deposited a duffel back beside her with a THUD, before climbing back into her car and driving off.
And this wasn’t the time to dwell on her own problems anyway! Jake clearly needed her help.
She ignored Jakes mild protest at her fussing as she led him back towards his room, dragging the surprisingly heavy bag with her. One of the triplets had already prepared their brothers favorite meal. Which was anther of those curious things, Jake used to have three sisters – Kate, Alexis and Jennifer- he was locked into a perpetual sibling-rivalry with. But at some point the girls had become identical to the point that it was impossible to distinguish them from each other. Their old personalities were still intact, but they looked and dressed exactly the same and insisted that each of them was called ‘Heather’. They also insisted on doing all the house-work, now and they had become very considerate towards Jake.
After tucking Jake into bed – not literally – Mei-Ling went back down to get a slice of lasagna so Jake could have dinner in bed. When she came back in Jake was standing at his desk, examining the copy of “Streets of Fisticuffs: Revolution” she had bought at the mall the day before. She had completely forgotten she had asked a Heather to put it somewhere while Mei-Ling waited outside.
“Ah. I remembered how much fun we had with the first one back in high-school, so when I saw it sitting on the shelf yesterday, I just couldn’t help myself.” She explained, feeling slightly embarrassed. She had found the game, when she had resolved to ditch the jeans and t-shirts and welcome her beloved in something that was a bit more …everything. And now she was acutely aware that she was alone with her crush and wearing the most daring dress she could bring herself to wear in public. She had felt so good about it, but now the make-up, the new hairstyle and the neckline felt so …desperate. Pathetic.
“You didn’t open it yet.” Jake sounded slightly confused as he picked at the shrink wrap. Usually Mei-Ling couldn’t wait to test out any new game she got her hands on.
“Welllll I thought it would be fun to experience it together. Figuring out the special moves. Beating the first boss. Y’ know. If I opened it you’d have to play catch-up from the moment we start this. I thought starting on equal footing would be fairer. More fun, you know. ” Mei-Ling explained with a nervous smile.
The reassurance of a familiar topic had done wonders for Mei-Lings composure, but the nervousness returned in full as Jake just continued to look at her with an unreadable expression.
“But we can do that tomorrow. When you aren’t asleep on your feet.” She added hastily as she remembered how beat down Jake was. Chuckling nervously when Jake still didn’t react.
“You know.” Jake finally said, managing to somehow sound even more tired than before “It’s not even funny any more?”
“What is?” Mei-Ling asked, confused and a little bit hurt. Did he think her attempts to make her feelings understood were funny!?
Instead of answering Jake pulled a small piece of bone from his pocket. The sight of the thing filled Mei-Ling with dread, and she recoiled as black flames erupted around the bones and the hand holding it. The frightened little scream became one of outrage as Dave found himself standing in his friend room wearing a dress that was a few sizes too small. “You!” the newly restored Dave growled as he stalked towards Jake, fist clenched in anticipation of the thrashing he’d give his former friend. “Don’t you dare do that ever again!”
Jake didn’t look concerned, and why should he? Blue-black flames erupted around the bone, and Dave had no choice but to comply as Jake told him to “Just sit down until I say otherwise.” tiredly pinching the bridge of his nose, Jake continued “As I said. It wasn’t really that funny to begin with. I just couldn’t deal with you any more, so…”
“So you turned me into some sort of sex-kitten for your personal amusement?!” Dave finished outraged “What the fuck, man!?”
“I thought it’d be funny. See you prance around, acting like your favorite waifu.” Jake sighs “I thought you’d be a maid or some blonde with tits the size of beachballs. Like the ones in the stuff you gave me. But instead you were….. ” There was an awkward silence as both young men recalled Mei-Lings actions for the past few days, albeit from very different perspectives. “Well, it was really awkward.” Jake finished his line of thought.
“Why the hell did you think I’d give you the games I liked best, dumbass.” Dave mumbled “I know we have different tastes. “ adding in a more venomous tone ”And I actually care about people other than myself.”
“I do care about other people.” Jake protested weakly “I’m not a friggin monster!”
“The first thing – literally the FIRST thing- you did after you got the bone was turn my mother into some vapid…..” Dave hesitated, before finishing in a much quieter tone “ …some vapid bimbo.”
“The first thing I did was drive over to your house to share this with you.” Jake protested “ but you weren’t there and, I always thought your mom was hot, and…”
“She’s an accountant for Christs sake! But the last week she couldn’t even go shopping without forgetting something if there were more than five things on the grocery list. You ruined her life!“
“All I wanted was to have a little fun.” Jake sounded almost pleading “I didn’t think…”
“No. You didn’t.” Dave agreed “And if you have a shred of decency left we will walk over to my house right now and fix this.” He looked at the dress covering his bare legs. “But first I will need some clothes.”
Jake was quick to hand Dave a pair of sweatpants and an old t-shirt and followed the other guy meekly as they made their way to Daves’ home. Dave tried to cling to his righteous anger as they walked, but it was hard not to feel a pang of sympathy seeing how weary Jake looked as he plodded along beside him. A man going to his execution, was the first association that came to Dave mind, but it didn’t feel quite right. He didn’t seem reluctant to come with her, more …..resigned? Defeated. He looked like the pictures of shell-shocked soldiers. Like he had left something vital back in Vegas.
It was probably just a bad case of hangover and lack of sleep, Dave told himself, Jake had probably partied like a Rock-star for three days straight and was just feeling the consequences. But he just couldn’t suppress the small traitorous part of his mind, that felt petty for clinging to a grudge and refusing to utter the simple words “Is everything alright?” . But the part that rightfully felt betrayed and angry won out by a large margin. And that part thought refraining from giving Jake a bloody nose was already more mercy than he deserved.
When they finally arrived at Daves house, it took them a moment to find his mother. Until Dave looked to the window overlooking the back yard where he could see his mother sunbathing - one hand absently caressing her crotch. “Oh for…!” he cursed silently before dragging Jake to the window and pointing “Just fix this before Mr. Hendersmith calls the cops again.” As reddish flames began to cover Jakes hand, he added “She probably would like being a bit younger. Just give her back her mind. And her name. And get rid of the pornstar …everything” Jake just nodded along mutely at each suggestion, before turning to Dave “Done. I….” Jake sighed “I shouldn’t have done it. I just…” he trailed off shaking his head slightly.
“No shit Sherlock.” Dave said dryly “Sometimes I really wonder…I mean you said a demon gave the bone to you. A frigging demon. And you just thought ‘Nothing bad ever came from demons. ’. Then your first impulse is to turn my mom into a some braindead pornstar. ” Jake looked like he was about to protest, but Dave cut him off “You didn’t have to stick around to kick out the sleazy boyfriend she picked up at the supermarket instead of milk and tomatoes. You didn’t have to drag her inside because she wanted to sunbath in the nude in the middle of the front-yard. No you just left to literally fuck around elsewhere. Hell I should probably thank the Heavens you didn’t decide to make me into a bimbo too, or this could have been even worse. Heck if you hadn’t been too uncomfortable with Mei-Ling really being me to try anything, it probably would have. And did you at any point look at all the messed up stuff you did, and realise the bone was turning you evil?! ”
“Oh, that was all him.” The man in the top-hat said.
“I have known him for years! Jake would never…… ” Dave stopped as he noticed the look of horror on Jakes face, then it hit him. The stranger had been with Jake as he arrived in the car, but he had just been an unimportant detail in the background. Dave hadn’t even questioned why a man in an old fashioned suit, complete with top-hat, was following them around.
Even without Jake whispering “It’s him!” his voice hoarse with panic “The demon! It’s him!” Dave would have known this man was the source of all the misery of the past week. Something about the way he held himself and the icy blue eyes that seemed to almost glow with a light of their own, spoke of malevolent power. The black goatee didn’t help, either. “Ahhh I love this part.” The man said, with a small chuckle. “As I….”
“Stay back! I remember now! You have been following me since I got the bone!” Jake screamed as the demon took a step forward, holding the bone in his outstretched hand as if it was a crucifix. Or a gun.
“Stay back! I can see you now! I see you!” Jake shouted again as the demon didn’t show any sign of retreating.
A heartbeat later, the demons form wavered in sync with the multicolored flames erupting around the bone, but the creature showed no sign of worry. “You are only hurting yourself, Jake.” it said calmly, as it’s form distorted only to snap back the next moment.
Dave watched the flames flare and travel down Jakes arm as he redoubled his efforts to ward of the demon. A moment later they guttered and went out. Jake looked between the demon and the inert bone in shock and confusion.
The demon only sighed “So much for that. Then again, there is something poetic about you spending the last metaphorical drops in the tank in a childish and pointless tantrum.”
Dave finally shook of the confusion and panic that had him frozen to the spot, enough to stammer “What…what do you want?” Fearing he already knew the answer.
The demon just chuckled “Ah, Mr. Hart. So nice of you to join the conversation. And to answer your unspoken question: I am not here for Jakes soul.”
“You aren’t?” Jake asked, a glimmer of hope stealing into his voice.
“You aren’t?” Dave echoed him.
“I am not actually a demon in the biblical sense. Never met the devil. “ the demon spread a hand to his left side as if introducing an invisible guest, then the other to his right as he continued” Or god for that matter. I couldn’t even say if they exist.” His fingers, Dave noted, had an additional joint making them unnaturally long and thin.
“But you said…” Jake looked forlornly at the bone in his hand.
“I say that to give my customers a sporting chance, Jake.” The demon explained with a sinister smile “So anyone with a shred of wisdom, has a chance to ask about the fine print.”
“The fine print?” Dave asked, he had been waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since Jake mentioned where he got the bone from, he just hadn’t expectd to happen that soon. Jake had gone white as a sheet.
“The fine print.” The demon confirmed “I may not be a demon in the classical sene. But your friends soul is gone now.”
“Give it back.” There was no force behind Jakes demand, only a plaintive hope.
“I don’t have it.” The demon shrugged “Every fire needs fuel.”
“It is in hell?” “No.” Dave answered Jakes question, earning him a confused look from his friend “He means the flames around the bone.” An approving nod from the man in the top-hat, confirmed the theory.
Jake looked between Dave and the demon in confusion for several moments before dropping the bone as if it had become white-hot, moaning “Oh, god.” Tears filled Jakes eyes as he slowly backed away from the bone until his back hit the wall beside the window. “Oh god.” He moaned again before slowly collapsing to the floor and burying his face in his hands.
The sight of his friend falling apart like this was almost enough to make Dave want to bury the hatchet. Almost. Instead, after staring down at Jake trying to shut out the world, he turned to the demon “So. What is going to happen to him?”
“That depends. Every man and woman has a spark of divinity inside them. Or a spark of magic, depending on who you ask. I prefer to call it the soul, to keep with the infernal metaphor. It is what allows you to make your mark on the world and tells the universe ‘This is who I am’. The bone just fans this spark to a fire. It allows the user to impose his will on how someone should be over the objections of their soul. But a candle that burns twice as bright…. “ he shrugged “And sadly once it is snuffed out it can never be rekindled by any method I know of.”
“Hmm.” Dave had noted, that Jake had gone very still some time during the demons monolog, probably listening to every word even with his head still buried in his hands. He wasn’t sure he wanted Jake to hear the next part, but taking the demon aside for a private chat wasn’t really an option either . Not without looking really suspicious. “So the soul or spark determines how we change the world and how we are changed by it? And now that Jakes soul has been burnt away, he can no longer impose his will? And if someone tried to change him….” Dave ventured.
The man in the top hat looked genuinely pleased at the question “Ohhh yes. You are a quick one. I lift my hat to you, sir.” he proclaimed as he removed his top-hat in a sweeping florish “ And please excuse my negligence. I completely forgot to introduce myself: My name is Ezekiel Royceston. A pleasure to make your acquaintance.” Dave took a moment to tear his eyes away from the three horns that had been hidden beneath the hat, forming a crown of sorts. Each horn was a bit different in shape and each seemed to be made from a different metal, bronze, brass and gold. “So if he stays like this….?”
The demon nodded in response ”Yes. He’ll be quite defenseless.” Dave felt cold as he realized why his friend had just meekly done whatever Dave told him in a firm voice. Had it gone even further? He had wanted Jake to feel bad, so now his friend was feeling bad about what he had done? No. He had known Jake like kindergarten. His friend was impulsive and did stupid things but he was a good person. “Demons need a body to manifest in this world ” Ezekiel continued “ and without a soul to put up a fight, there is nothing stopping them from taking Jakes.”