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Crossroads

That dude in the limo down at the crossroads? Sure, make a deal with him.
For some souls, he definitely overpays.

Crossroads by Anthony Ferguson



Joey Lynch was a no good bum. He knew that. The world knew that. Even in the low circles he moved in, his reputation was shot. Bad debts to bad people. Joey knew his cards were marked.
That’s why Joey stood at the crossroads at midnight on the wrong side of town. Right under the spot where they used to hang murderers, so the story went. Superstitious fairy-tales they may have been, but the old bartender had told him the story to a Robert Johnson blues track, about how a man could turn his luck by making a deal with a certain gentleman. Poor Joey was in no position to refuse, backed against a wall, a metaphorical gun to his head that was too close to becoming literal.
Joey belched whisky fumes in the cold witching hour air. He was turning to leave when the black limo eased up beside him and the window slid down.
Two minutes later he was shaking the Devil’s hand.
“But none of your tricks, Lucifer,” Joey warned. “I’m wise to your games.”
“My word is my honour,” the Devil replied, a glint in his golden eye.
“So I get a fifty dollar bill, every time I stick my hand in my pocket, agreed? From any pair of pants I wear, any time, for the rest of my long and fruitful life. After which, you get my soul.”
Satan cocked an eyebrow. “It’s a strange request, but as you wish.”
“Your word?”
“Try your pocket.”
Joey dipped a hand in, it came up empty.
“Try the other hand,” Lucifer shrugged.
Joey tried his left, came up with a fifty. He whooped in delight. The Devil grinned and produced a parchment.
“Sign here, but be sure to read the small print.”
Joey snorted and snatched the pen away. “The fuck do I care about my soul? Just gimme everything in this world.”
The following months were a blur for Joey. His debts repaid, his reputation restored. He was king of the underworld, lord of the flies. Beelzebub was as good as his word, the fifties flourished every time Joey reached into his pocket.
With the money, new friends appeared, and the women flocked. They came in droves, until he grew weary of their snarling, grasping, and demanding. Never once did he hear anyone say they loved him.
If Joey had heeded the Devil’s advice, he would have read it all in the small print, but alas, poor Joey, ever more the stranger in a crowded room. Surrounded by many and cherished by none. He moved out of the gutter into the penthouse, but the sewer still overflowed.
One night, Joey took a wrong turn trying to find the bathroom in a fancy casino and found himself in a stinking back alley. Before he knew it he had a knife pointed at his guts and was handing over his wallet.
Joey gave the mug a bitter smile. Lank hair, pallid skin, restless eyes. Like looking in a mirror at his old self. He watched the bum pocket his money. Plenty more where that came from.
“That all you got, man?”
“Afraid so,” Joey shrugged. “Funny, you kind of remind me of myself not so long ago. Dare to dream, pal.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that,” the thief replied, and made to turn away before hesitating. “Before you go.”
“Yeah?”
The thug gestured with the knife. His eyes flashing gold in the moonlight.
“Empty your pockets.”

Anthony Ferguson has had several stories published in a range of magazines and anthologies. He wrote The Sex Doll: A History (McFarland 2010), edited Devil Dolls and Duplicates in Australian Horror (Equilibrium 2011). 2nd prize AHWA/Melbourne Zombie Convention 2013 Short Story Competition, and AHWA 2014 Flash Fiction Competition. Judge in AHWA Awards 2015, and Australian Shadows Awards 2016. Anthony blogs at http://apferguson.com/