“I’m sorry folks, there’s nothing I can do,” said Dilmaz, reading the flaming letters etched onto the yellowed parchment. “I did what you wanted and now it’s time to pay up.”
“Please, read it one more time. There must have been a mistake, I would never…” The spindly woman hugged the burbling baby to her chest and blinked up at him through eyelashes that created a small breeze.
A man chiselled from stone beside her placed a hand like marble on her shoulder. “Darling, we must be strong.”
Dilmaz rolled his eyes and began to read from the top of the contract yet again. “We, Sophia and Derek Kloidon, agree to the arrangement that as payment for wealth, fame and a life beyond luxury, to deliver our firstborn to the demon Dilmaz. We also accept that as an offset of this agreement our souls will be eternally dammed. No refunds or bartering’s of this chosen price will be allowed within the parameters of this contact.”
The man shook his head wistfully and gave a sorrowful sigh. “We can’t change what has been written, dear. It’s best if we just move on.”
“Derek! This is our daughter. I’m not giving her away to some guy whose name sounds like some sort of brand of trashy jewellery!” The woman stared at him wide-eyed and buried her child even further in her chest.
“Excuse you,” mumbled Dilmaz. He snapped the contract out of existence and held out his arms for the kid.
The man twisted his wife around and gazed into her eyes, tears sparkling in his own. “Deary, please. We can always get another one.”
“They don’t grow on trees, Derek!”
“Neither do Ferrari’s.”
The woman sighed and stared down at the tiny infant wriggling against her. So small and fragile. So beautiful and precious. The sort of child that you feel was made specifically for you.
“Make it quick,” she sobbed and pushed the baby into Dilmaz’s hands. Then turning, she ran away up a rose trellised driveway and into the shining mansion looming over a gleaming lake.
The man eyed him with a granite glare as Dilmaz just smirked and shook his head. “Humans. You’re so dramatic.”
Before the man could say anything in reply, Dilmaz fell into the ground. Sending up a little spurt of flame as he descended, never being able to resist an exit with class.
He landed in a leather office chair and flicked open a small notebook sitting discarded on a grand desk which might have once been quite nice if it wasn’t scarred by a crisscross of charcoal streaks. He made a small tick next to a task titled, ‘take payment from brats’ and blew away the wisps of smoke that rose from his fingertip from where he had run it across the page. There was only one other thing of particular interest upon this desk and that was a shrunken severed head who rose his stitched eyebrows expectantly as Dilmaz flipped the notebook back closed.
“You get the job done?” asked the head.
“Yeah, yeah. Humans are so easy to make a deal with these days, it’s disturbing almost. Not that I’m complaining.” Dilmaz answered. “Anything much happen down here, Hector?”
It is very hard to shrug when you are missing the most crucial body part required for such an action, yet somehow, Hector managed. Though he did end up rolling halfway across the table. “None in our department. I heard a fire-breathing lion-goat-snake got loose somewhere near the volcanic activity sector but nothing near here.”
“Ah well, what can you expect. At least one of my contracts finally reached its due,” said Dilmaz.
Hector, righting himself as he did so, turned to him with a curious expression. “What was the payment?”
Dilmaz smiled and lifted the gurgling baby onto the desk from where he had previously dumped it in a small garbage bin at his feet. “A firstborn. To tell the truth I wouldn’t think it would do much better if it had stayed with its parents. As I said, humans.”
Hector stared up at him in surprise. “Ah, going old school then.”
Dilmaz frowned. “Old school?”
“No efficient way to get rid of them. Innocent souls keep going Up There when, you know, and then it all becomes kind of redundant, don’t it.” Hector explained, rolling out of reach of the infants grabbing hands and drooling mouth. “Can’t think of anyone else who’s done it since the 1700s.”
Dilmaz glared at him and opened his mouth to snap at him a reply when he realised one key factor that was of great importance to his situation. “Uh,” he said, eyeing the baby warily. “How do I get rid of it?”
“Lava pits, just ‘round the corner,” Hector answered.
“Right.” Said Dilmaz and he rose from the desk, picking up the baby that was now preoccupied with sucking on its foot as he left the office.
Hector was not wrong. Before he had even turned the ascribed corner, Dilmaz could feel the heat from the bubbling magma. He relished it as he thought all creatures great and small should appreciate the skin melting qualities of the molten rock. The baby, he assumed, must have agreed with him as it giggled the entire short walk to its doom.
Smoke, sulphur and many other choking gases curled up and wrapped themselves around the tiny child as Dilmaz held it out over the liquid fire. He glared at the baby as it gazed back innocently at him. How dare it.
“Stop doing that,” said Dilmaz, shaking it.
This was a mistake as it just started laughing again.
Dilmaz groaned. “You’re about to die so stop it. Only idiots die laughing.”
The baby only laughed harder and stretched out two chubby arms to his stern face.
Dilmaz closed his eyes, trying to block out the infant's cries of glee. All he had to do was drop it and he could go rig some elections or one of his other favourite past times.
He accidentally cracked open one eyelid. “Damn you.”
He moved the child from over the lava pit and retreated from the edge, mumbling curses under his breath. “Why did you have to be so…”
The baby threw up on him. The toxic gases in the air finally taking effect.
“…detestable,” Dilmaz sighed.
The baby smiled at the comment, pleased with itself. Dilmaz shook his head in defeat and hid the tiny infant under his leather jacket, scurrying off down a winding stone corridor. “Come on, and keep quiet.”
Zissa would have described her childhood as a perfectly acceptable way of growing up. She couldn’t say it was entirely normal but that didn’t stop it from having its odd moments of normality. One such moment being now as she strode onto the school stage, a small knife in her hand and the rest of its family in her belt.
Throwing knives wasn’t exactly a talent, it was more of a skill that Zissa just happened to be very talented at. The judges would understand.
Blinded by the lights, it was difficult to see the state of the crowd but it was obvious they were bored. Each parent dodding off until their special little someone hopped on stage. What wasn’t difficult to see, was Wilbur across from her. He looked terrified. It had been so nice when he had volunteered to help her with her act.
She lifted her first knife and narrowed her eyes, aiming at a spot to the left of his head. She pulled back and released. Thud. Wilbur let out a small whimper as it quivered slightly, inches from his ear. Her act was flawless, each blade landing where she wanted it. Not that she cared. She just liked throwing sharp objects, but she supposed Wilbur would be quite upset if she let one accidentally land in his leg. He was very sweet.
Watching the final knife fly through the air, she turned as it planted itself to close for comfort above Wilbur’s head. The judges seemed to have forgotten their job and stared at her, letting a long silence drag out only to be broken by a voice at the back of the hall.
“Good job sweetie! You’re doing great!”