Archive for the 'The Devil and Daniel the Fry Cook' Category

25
Jan
10

The Devil and Danielle the Fry Cook – Part 1

Welcome back!

Before we get to this week’s story, I want to mention the mystery event I talked about in last week’s post.  I said that I would soon be ending the short stories on this blog but they would be replaced by something else.  I then said that it would be a good idea for any fans of the blog to buy a copy of The Apocalypse Shift from Amazon before that happened.  I figured that, for all my cryptic talk, most people would still be able to figure out what was going to start appearing here as of February 15.  My original intention was to not actually say what the mystery event was until it actually happened. 

Well, I’ve changed my mind, and I’m announcing it now: as soon as I run out of stories set in the AS universe, I will start serializing Apocalypse Shift 2.

I’ll be posting the novel here one chapter at a time.  I’ll likely be doing one a week, although I’m getting far enough ahead on the project that I’m considering possibly posting two chapters a week, one on Monday and one on Thursday.  I’ll have a better idea about how to approach that as the time comes closer, I think.

While the sequel is written in such a way that you dont’ exactly have to have read the first book to understand it, I still suggest reading The Apocalypse Shift before you read the second book, as book 2 will be chock full of spoilers from book 1.

Okay then, on to today’s story.  I hope you enjoy!

Derek J. Goodman

The Devil and Danielle the Fry Cook – Part 1

     It was only on a hunch that Carrie took a position at Burger Master, although she did definitely need the job.  Just because she had gotten multiple scholarships based on her soaring grades didn’t mean she was financially secure.  Other than paying for college she still needed to keep a roof over her head and something other than ramen in her cupboard.  A few of her schoolmates, even ones late in their twenties like Carrie was, still lived at home and depended on their parents to pay for school.  Carrie could have lived at home, but her parents were hardly rich and she knew what kind of burden she would be if she expected that kind of thing from them.  Other people who didn’t care about things like that made her sick.

     But there were a lot better jobs than shift supervisor at Burger Master.  Carrie could have had them easily, but she had wanted this one.  The hours were terrible and the pay sucked, but most other jobs didn’t have a coworker who had sold her soul to the Devil.

     Carrie didn’t have solid proof that Danielle had done it, but these sorts of things left trails that could be followed if you knew where to look.  She was well aware that her obsession could be construed as morbid, which was why she took great care to hide it.  She went to school for Library Science because she enjoyed books and loved stories.  She wanted to surround herself with them, study them, understand them on some deeper level than all the people who virtually ignored them in this modern world.  And as she had studied she couldn’t help but start to believe that some stories, the old ones that lasted for generations simply by word of mouth alone, had some truth to them.  She’d found obscure references in some books and newspapers to people who claimed they had actually met Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.  One con artist in Colorado insisted for years, even on his death bed, that he himself had been conned by the Tooth Fairy.  Carrie wasn’t sure about any of those stories, but tales of selling your soul to the Devil and then winning it back in some competition?  She’d now seen with her own eyes what she believed to be proof.

     Just because she believed such a thing was possible didn’t mean she wanted to try it out just to be sure.  She was not a religious person and got annoyed at anybody who followed religion blindly, but if she believed a soul was real enough that it could be sold then it was probably something she wanted to keep.  If she wasn’t willing sell it herself, though, it had never seemed likely that she would prove her hypothesis.  Then she had come in one day for lunch at the Burger Master on Speer Boulevard and a young woman had taken her order.

     Danielle was just a few years out of high school and kind of pretty, but she would have been gorgeous if she cared about her looks at all.  Her hair didn’t appear to have even been combed in a week and there was a stain on the sleeve of her uniform that looked like it would come out easily if she only washed it.  When she had taken Carrie’s order she had been surly, acting like making her use the register was the rudest thing Carrie could possibly do.  These were details that Carrie didn’t register until later, though.  What Carrie did notice was the odor coming off the girl.  There were actually several odors that Carrie noticed, mostly grease from the fry vats along with just a hint of body odor and even pot.  But underneath it all, just faint enough that Carrie hadn’t entirely been sure it wasn’t her imagination at first, was the smell of sulfur.  After a little discreet research Carrie had been almost certain.  Danielle had in fact made a deal with the Devil.

     Carrie had gotten the job easily enough and had quickly proven herself to be capable of supervising.  Even though Danielle had worked there longer and would have been next in line for a supervisor position, she hadn’t complained.  That would have implied that Danielle had even the smallest ambition at all to become more in life, and after only a few times working with her Carrie realized that was something Danielle lacked.  Despite the fact that Danielle had actually been the reason she took this job and Carrie wanted Danielle to eventually trust her enough to confide about the whole soul selling thing, Carrie couldn’t help but feel some disdain at the girl.

     So that was how it was when they worked, tolerating each other but not liking each other, until the day the Devil came in and ordered a hamburger.

     It was a Monday evening.  Monday’s were never that busy, and the crew at Burger Master was the bare minimum.  Danielle was at the fry station, Carrie manned the front counter and the drive-thru, and a teenager named Andy made the burgers.  Andy seemed like a nice enough kid, but Carrie didn’t feel comfortable working with him.  She couldn’t help but think he maybe had a crush on her.  He tended to get even more awkward than normal around her, and despite her uniform hiding what little figure she had she still caught him staring at her chest once in a while when he thought she wasn’t paying attention.  He was a good worker, though, ten times better than Danielle, so she was going to tolerate him tonight.

     What little dinner rush they expected tonight would start sometime around five, so by four-thirty Carrie was trying to make sure they had enough burgers ready to go in the freezer next to the broiler and plenty of fries on the basket rack.  Andy was wiping down the front tables but Danielle had disappeared to the bathroom for the third time in the last hour.  Carrie was so busy fuming to herself and wondering if there was really anything wrong with killing someone who’s soul was forfeit that she didn’t notice the door chime go off as someone came in.  She didn’t even realize anyone was standing at the register until she heard the girl clear her throat.

     “Oh, sorry!” Carrie said as she walked up to the counter.  “I didn’t see you there.”

     “That’s okay,” the girl said.  “I’m not the kind of person people tend to notice.”  Carrie wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be a joke or not.  To Carrie the girl certainly looked like exactly the kind who was easily noticed.  People tended to pay attention to perky teenage blonds with incredibly short skirts and huge breasts.  The girl smiled and showed off impossibly white teeth.  “Double burger with extra bacon, please.  And extra mayo.  And a jumbo order of fries.  Oh, and onion rings.”

     Carrie started ringing all that up, all the while wondering how any woman could eat like that and still keep such a ridiculous figure.  She didn’t think such a thing would be possible without selling your soul to…

     Carrie’s gaze instantly snapped away from the register keys and back to the girl.  No.  No way.  There was no way that this could be…  Or could it?

     The girl frowned.  “Is something wrong?”

     Carrie struggled to keep her thoughts straight.  “No, of course not.  There’s nothing… uh, right, uh, would you like anything to drink with that?”

     “No thank you.  But maybe you could help me with something else.  I was coming here to visit a friend, but I don’t see her around.  Is Danielle here?”

     Carrie paused.  Holy crap, this was really happening.  Even though a part of her had been hoping for this moment, the moment where she finally saw the truth in so many old stories, she had never really thought it would come.  And she certainly had never expected how much effort it took to avoid crapping her pants.

     The girl raised an eyebrow at her.  “You’ve figured it out, huh?  I don’t think I’ve ever made a deal with you, though.  So how is it you know who I am?”

     “Er, um… I read things… uh, study stuff and stories… yeah.  Uh.”

     “Carrie?”  Andy was walking up to the counter, the sanitizer rag for the tables still in hand.  “Is something wrong?”  He glanced at the girl but didn’t seem to see anything interesting at first.  Then he did a double take, his gaze finally coming to rest on the tightness of her shirt.  The girl ignored him, keeping her focus on Carrie.

     “Look, you don’t need to be afraid,” the girl said.  “Just tell me where Danielle is and then I can make you forget I was even here.”

     Carrie didn’t know what was scarier: the thought that the Devil was in fact standing right in front of her or the possibility that she might not even remember this later.  Before she could say anything in protest, however, the door behind the counter opened from the back hallway and Danielle came back in.  She was too busy looking at her hands- a suspicious smudge on them made Carrie think she hadn’t even bothered to wash them- to notice the girl at first.  When she finally looked up she stopped in her tracks.

     “Oh,” Danielle said.  “Oh crap.”

     The girl smiled.  “There you are.”  Her perfect white teeth started to turn a sickly yellow and each one grew to a sharp point.  “Danielle Koplopski, the time has come.”  The girl slowly grew until she was nearly seven feet tall, and her skin darkened to a deep red. 

     “Holy…!  What the hell!” Andy screamed, tripping over his own feet as he tried to back away from the creature and falling flat on his butt.  The Devil didn’t even acknowledge him.  The skin on her forehead ripped open and two massive ram-like horns curled up out of the holes.  Her shoes changed to hooves and the air suddenly stank of brimstone.

     “According to the contract you signed with Hell one year ago today, your soul is now mine,” she said to Danielle.  “You can either give it to me quietly or I can rip you apart first and use your spleen as a urinal cake.  Your choice.”  With no effort the Devil jumped over the counter and landed between Danielle and Carrie.

     “No, wait, that wasn’t the agreement!” Danielle said as she started to back away.  “This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen!”

     This was exactly the way it always occured in folklore, Carrie realized.  Or maybe not quite.  Before she could think, before it occurred to her that it was perhaps not a good idea, she spoke.  “She can challenge you.”

     The Devil spun around to look down on Carrie, and for the first time since she came in, the Devil looked less than happy.  “Oh, please say you didn’t say that.”

     Carrie paused, thinking maybe it would be better to say she didn’t say that and the Devil could just continue on with her soul collecting, but that wasn’t how all this was supposed to work.  Carrie knew the rules, or at least she thought she did, and this was the only opportunity Danielle would have at not getting sucked into Hell.

     “She can challenge you to some sort of contest to keep her soul, right?  That’s how it always works in the stories.”

     Danielle flashed Carrie a look that was somewhere between hopeful and uncomprehending.  The Devil sighed and, even though she kept her new demonic shape, started shrinking back to her original size.  “Damn it,” the Devil said.  “I’ve gone through the last twenty soul collections without anybody knowing that rule.  What did you say your name was?”

     Carrie gulped.  “I didn’t.  And I don’t think I should tell you.”

     “Oh, come on.  Don’t be overly dramatic.  It’s not like I can do anything to you just because I know your name.  I just want to know who I’m dealing with.”  She shrugged.  “It’s only polite.”

     “Uh… Carrie.  Carrie Salinger.”

     “Well, Carrie Salinger, since you seem to know what you’re doing and Danielle here is clueless, I guess it would only be fair to give you a few minutes to confer with her.”  The Devil held her hand out palm up, and after a small burst of flame a legal-sized document sat in her hand.  “Here’s the contract.  You can look it over with her.  You have ten minutes to come up with the challenge and its terms.”  She handed Carrie the contract.  Maybe Carrie wasn’t reading demon body language right, but the Devil actually seemed to be depressed.  “But it would really be nice if we could get this over with as soon as possible.  I’m already on overtime and I’ve been on my feet all day.”

*    *    *

     Danielle and Andy went to sit in a booth in a far corner of Burger Master while Carrie took a couple moments with the Devil to make sure she had any important rules they might need in deciding.  When they were finished, Carrie left the Devil behind the counter and went to join the other two.

     “Would someone please explain to me what is going on?” Andy said.  “I mean, is that who I think it is?”

     Carrie set Danielle’s contract on the table and slid into the booth next to Andy.  Normally she wasn’t very comfortable being this close to him, but for once his attention was on someone other than her.  She couldn’t help but notice that, despite the Devil’s current demonic form, he still stared at her breasts.  Danielle slumped across from them, her jaw slack and her eyes wide and focused on nothing.  “Yep,” Carrie said.  “And I would think it’s obvious what’s going on.  Danielle is pretty close to screwed.”

     “Are you sure it’s a good idea to leave her back there?” Andy said.  Carrie looked towards the back to see the Devil take a basket of fries and set it in the fryer.  “What if a customer comes in and sees her?”

     “She said it would be okay,” Carrie said.  “According to her, this neighborhood is used to strange things.  Also she apparently surrounded the entire store in a kind of time bubble to keep us separate from the rest of reality until we decide what we’re going to do.  I couldn’t really follow what she was saying about it.  The whole description was very Hawking.”

     “So what are we going to do?” he asked.

     “What do you mean, we?  You don’t have to be involved in this if you don’t want to.”

     Andy shrugged and edged himself closer to Carrie.  “Hey, neither do you.  I’m willing do whatever I need to if I can, as long as you don’t go putting my soul on the line in the process.  If anyone’s going to be selling my soul then it’ll be me.”

     Carrie raised an eyebrow at that.  “Whatever, as long as Danielle doesn’t mind you helping.  Do you?”  She pointed this last question at Danielle, but she was still slumped and staring at the table.  Carrie snapped her fingers in front of Danielle’s face.  “Hey, earth to Danielle!  Snap out of it.”

     Danielle finally looked at Carrie.  “Is this really for real?  Could I really lose my soul here?”

     Carrie sighed.  “Yes, Danielle.  What the hell did you think would happen when you sold your soul?”

     Danielle shook her head.  “I guess I didn’t really believe it.  I mean, I did have to go to a crossroads at midnight to find her, and she did have horns when she made me sign in my own blood, but I figured maybe I was just seeing things because I was stoned.”

     “Well, I hope it was worth it,” Andy said.  “What did you sell it for, anyway?”

     Carrie snorted.  “I know what it was.  Take a look.”  She slid the contract over for him to look at it.

     “Well, it sure as hell wasn’t beauty or riches,” Andy said.  He picked up the contract and looked it over for a few seconds before his eyes went wide.  “Are you kidding me?  I can’t be reading this right.”

     “Nope,” Carrie said.  “You’re reading it right.”

     “But… Danielle, this says you sold your soul for an Xbox.”  He studied it for a few seconds longer before dropping it back to the table.  “A plain old Xbox.  You didn’t even ask for a 360.”

     Danielle shrugged.  “That was all I wanted that day.”

     “But you didn’t even keep it,” Carrie said.  “That’s how I knew what you had done.  I tracked down the video game store you sold it to.  They can’t even sell it because it burns everything it touches and smells like sulfur.”

     Danielle shrugged again.  “I got the munchies one day and didn’t have any cash.”

     “Wow,” Andy said.  “That’s all I can say.  Just… wow.”

     “Never mind that for now,” Carrie said.  “We need to figure out what we’re going to do to save her soul.”

     “Hey, I think I read a story like this in American Lit Class once, something about a lawyer,” Andy said.  “Can’t we call on the guy from the story?  Have the Devil bring him back to life long enough to argue Danielle’s case?  His name was… uh, I can’t really remember.”

     “Daniel Webster,” Carrie said.  “And no, we can’t.  The Devil specifically pointed that out to me in the contract.  Apparently after that story came out too many people tried doing it.”  Carrie took a closer look at the contract.  “Huh.  Also, for the same reason, we can’t call on Johnny Cochrane.”

     “Then you can’t do anything?” Danielle asked.  “Why the hell did you even stop her if you can’t do anything?”

     “But we can do something.”  Carrie positioned the contract where they could all get a good look and pointed to a line of fine print.  “All soul-selling contracts have one last chance for the seller to redeem themselves, a challenge-clause.  The seller can challenge the Devil to any sort of contest they want.  If they win the seller keeps his or her soul.  If they lose, though… oh, wait.”  Carrie picked up the contract and read the fine print closer.  She felt her breath catch in her throat.  “It says here that someone else has to vouch for the seller during the contest.  If the seller loses, then the person who vouched for them loses his or her soul as well.”

     Carrie looked at Danielle, who had gone back to staring at the table, then at Andy.  Andy shook his head and held up his hands.  “Uh-uh, don’t look at me.  I’m not going to risk my soul for her.  Now if it were you, then hell yeah I’d do it but…”

     “Andy, just shut up for a minute,” Carrie said.  She set down the contract and stared at Danielle for a long moment.  Was she really willing to risk her soul for this girl?  This lazy, unremarkable girl who was unwilling to try in even the slightest way to make something of her life?  Danielle wasn’t sure, but how could she live with herself if she didn’t?  It was a huge choice, and one she would have to make quickly before…

     “Hey, Carrie?” Andy said as he looked at the contract.  “You do realize that you already volunteered your soul, right?”

     “What?”

     “It says so right here.”  He handed the contract back to her and pointed to a line of text.  “When you challenged the Devil on Danielle’s behalf, that counted as vouching for her.”

     Carrie read the line then let loose with every curse word she had ever learned in her life.  “I guess that’s it then.  I’m in this.”

     Danielle looked hopefully at Carrie.  “So you’ll help me?”

     “I guess I will,” Carrie said.  She waited for Danielle to say something in the way of thanks, but she didn’t.  “All right then, we’ve got to figure out what the challenge is going to be.”

     “What kind of challenge can it be?” Andy asked.

     “Anything, really.  Musical challenges are popular in the old stories.  Danielle, can you play any instruments or sing or anything?”

     Danielle shrugged then sang the first line of “The Star Spangled Banner.”  It sounded like she was stepping on baby mice.

     “Okay, so no on that,” Carrie said.

     “What about chess?” Andy asked.  “Aren’t there stories where people play chess against the Devil?”

     “Not the Devil, the Grim Reaper,” Carrie said.  “But I guess the principle is the same.  Are you any good at games?”

     Danielle shook her head.

     “Not even video games?  For christ sakes, you sold your soul for a game console!”

     Danielle shrugged again.  “I didn’t really play it that much.”

     Carrie struggled to keep her frustration from showing on the surface.  “Danielle, isn’t there anything you’re good at?  Both our souls depend on this.”

     Danielle appeared to think about this for a moment.  The action looked like it physically hurt her.  “Not really.  I don’t do much.  I guess I eat.  And sleep.  And work here.”

     “That’s it?” Carrie said.  “You can’t think of anything else?”

     “Nope.”

     Carrie sighed.  “Then I guess that’s what we’ll have to work with.”  She stood up.  “Come on.”

     Andy and Danielle followed her back to the counter.  In addition to the fries, the Devil had made her own burger, and she was about to ring it all up in the register before they returned.  “Okay, we’ve got it,” Carrie said.  “We challenge you to work here.”

     The Devil had been leaning against the counter, but at Carrie’s words she stood ramrod straight.  Carrie hadn’t realized the Devil was capable of looking horrified.  “Oh come on.  You’ve got to be kidding.”

     Carrie took a deep breath before she continued.  She was making all this up as she went.  There were so many ways this could backfire, but it was all she could do.  Danielle didn’t give her much to go on.  “Until the end of the shift.  You work and Danielle works.  Whoever’s better at the job, whoever is the cleanest, the quickest, the most polite to customers, she’s the winner.”

     The Devil didn’t appear happy, which Carrie could only think counted in their favor.  “And who’ll be the one to judge to say who’s better?”

     Carrie shrugged.  “I’m the supervisor.  I guess I will.”

     “You do realize your soul is on the line, too, right?  How do I know you’ll judge fairly?”

     “Would it help if I swore on the Bible?”

     “Do you believe in the Bible?”

     “Not really.”

     “Then no.  What do you believe in?”

     Carrie shrugged again.  “Knowledge?  Stories?  Maybe if I swore on my textbooks?”

     The Devil looked her in the eyes, looked deep, and Carrie felt an uncomfortable probing sensation like all the contents of her head were being randomly flipped through.  After several seconds, the Devil sighed.

     “Yeah, seems like you mean it.  Okay then, I guess we’ll get this challenge started, huh?”  Her horns slowly retracted into her head and her whole form once more became the perky blond, but now she wore a Burger Master uniform.  Her nametag proclaimed “Hi!  I’m Lucy Irons!  In training!”

     “Just let me finish ringing up my meal first,” the Devil said.  She produced some money from a newly formed pocket, then deftly punched her order into the register.  Carrie felt a sinking sensation in her stomach.  She herself still didn’t know the register well enough to ring in an order that fast.  “Do I get an employee discount?”

     “Um, yeah,” Carrie said.  “Say, you haven’t by any chance worked in a place like this before, have you?”

     The Devil nodded, but she didn’t appear proud of herself.  “Of course I have.  If there’s any place in existence with an overabundance of fast food restaurants, it’s Hell.”

     It might have just been her imagination, but Carrie thought she could actually feel her soul slipping away.

To Be Continued

(c) 2010 Derek Goodman