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Flash Fiction 2016

Second Place Winner


The Infernal Dozen
by Mike Podgor

"Stolas, come forth and lend me your power!"

Much to his amazement, the circle began to glow with an infernal power, and a figure coalesced.  Dominic looked at the book.  Yes, the parts were all there.  A feathered head, a beak, two long legs.  Except whoever had done the illustration had taken some generous liberties.  The creature standing before him had none of the majesty of the illustration; it was a red squat thing that seemed to be more fluff than feather.  It turned to look at Dominic.

Stolas, famed prince of Hell, spoke.  "Oh!  Hello there.  This is quite a surprise!  How may I help you?"

Dominic had been prepared to do some light combat with this demon, or perhaps bargain with it, but nothing in the book had prepared him for this politeness.  He decided to proceed as if Stolas was unwilling.

"Stolas!  I have brought you forth to give me boons three!"

The demon's brow furrowed over its insect-like eyes.  "Why are you talking like that?"

"The book said—" started Dominic, but then Stolas cut him off.  "Which one is that?  They're mostly wrong.  I should know.  I helped write them."

Dominic lowered the book.  "You what?"

"Most demons aren't very cooperative, but when those were written, the authors found out I was far more helpful," said Stolas.  "Except I don't actually know much about Hell and its hierarchies.  I know a little, of course, but not enough to be of any help.  And I can't really grant any boons.  Unless you'd like some coffee."

Dominic deflated.  "Coffee?  I brought you up from Hell and all you can offer me is coffee?"

"I could go get some lunch," said Stolas.  "Also, I wasn't in Hell, I was sightseeing at the Vatican.  Before that, I was in Ohio.  I haven't been to Hell in a long time, honestly."

Dominic had to know.  "How does a demon get into the Vatican?"

"He needs a valid passport.  That's why I was in Ohio," said Stolas, raising more questions.

"Fine. Just give me some coffee," said Dominic.

Stolas inflated his cheeks and expelled a stream of hot coffee, narrowly missing Dominic.  It smelled horrible and probably tasted worse.  Stolas somehow blushed, despite being beet red already.  "I suppose I should have warned you.  If you like I can pop down to the store and get you some good coffee?  Maybe some donuts?"

Dominic thought of the closest store and how this demon had wronged him.  He had wanted the secrets of the stars, wealth, power, all things Stolas was rumored to give.  Instead, he had this nigh-impotent thing in front of him, and he rather wanted to see Stolas suffer.  He knew the shopkeeper to be an angry man with a firm twelve-doughnut limit.  Stolas would be reamed.

"You are bound to me, so we shall go to the store and you shall get me thirteen donuts."

"You do look a bit thin.  A baker's dozen it is!"

"A demonic dozen," corrected Dominic.  He opened the circle and prepared for all of this to be some subterfuge, for the demon to show its true self and attack.

Instead, Stolas scampered out.  "That's not even a thing," he happily disagreed.

The doughnut shop was a short walk.  It was early in the morning, so not many people were out to see Dominic and his companion.  He was keeping an eye on the demon, waiting for him to strike, but Stolas was just walking along with his beak contorted into a grin. It was unnerving.

They reached the doughnut shop and Stolas pushed his way in.  A large Middle Eastern man came to the counter.  Dominic knew this man well and knew this demon had met its admittedly low-tier match.

The shopkeeper looked down at Stolas.  "What do you want, bug-bird?"

"Thirteen donuts," said Stolas.

Dominic saw the shopkeeper’s eyes darken.  "How many did you say?"

Stolas said, "Thirteen?"

The shopkeeper thrust a meaty finger at a sign forbidding that many donuts.  "Only twelve!  Less, but not more!"

"I don't see why," said Stolas.  "I'm willing to pay for the extra."

"The number thirteen killed my family," said the shopkeeper.

"That doesn't even make sense," said Stolas.  "How could the number thirteen kill anyone?  It's a concept, not a physical thing!"

"I swear upon their graves, that number killed my family."  The shopkeeper pulled a photo from his pocket that showed a number thirteen with legs and arms, each arm holding a bloody sword.

"I'll be double damned," said Stolas.  "How about this?  I buy twelve donuts, then that chap buys one."

"You have to buy them all," said Dominic.

"I'll spot you the money," said Stolas.  "Do we have a deal, my good man?"

"We have a deal," said the shopkeeper, but as he put the thirteen donuts into a box, the number thirteen erupted through the door and ran him through with a sword while screaming.  Dominic was too shocked to dodge another blow.  He fell, too, and felt his spirit torn from his body.  When he woke up in Hell, Stolas was standing over him.

"Good news, buddy!  You're my intern!"

Dominic screamed so loud that all the hordes of Hell could hear him.

Mike Podgor is a writer from Ohio.  When he's not working on collaborative efforts with the Fictosphere, he's usually letting the creative works of others wash over him.  His most recent effort is an urban fantasy novel titled Horny Demons with Issues.

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