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I did the Devil a favor once.

On my morning walk, they asked me for directions. I lived in a confusing part of town. The street signs were eroded or absent in my neighborhood, and I knew they would not find it on their own.

They wore a well-fit azure suit that might have cost more than the car they should have been driving, yet they were on foot.

Their manners were impeccable, as they kindly asked if I could tell them the way.

“Easier if I show you,” I said. “It’s only a little out of the way, and some extra walking never hurt anyone.”

They seemed surprised and pleased as they followed me around the unmarked corners of my neighborhood’s old streets, their polished leather shoes tapping gently beside my worn out sneakers.

What the Devil’s engagement was, I never learned.

We reached their destination—the house of Mr. Flanders, who would later recover from pancreatic cancer in a miraculous turnaround—and the Devil nodded their thanks to me.

“I am in your debt,” they said with a solemn bow.

Before I could wave it off as no trouble, they were already knocking on Mr. Flanders’ door. I shrugged and made my way home, eventually forgetting the event, as older people do.

I lived to be 83, a good run considering my family history.

Now, I stood in darkness and shadow, uncertain where to go. I was dead, that much was certain, but I hadn’t expected to need a map. Weren’t you simply meant to go where you should be in the afterlife? How aggravating.

Before my frustration could overtake me, I heard a voice, one I recognized in more ways than one.

“I had hoped to see you sooner,” said the Devil with a teasing smile. “But you never called your favor in.”

I chuckled. “I had forgotten, and you were disguised!” I paused and recalled some other things I had lost to age. “It’s nice to remember everything again.”

The Devil nodded. “Brains are so constricting.” They offered me their spectral arm. “Might I repay you now?”

“How so?”

They gestured at the formless infinity around us. “I shall guide you to your destination. It’s only a little out of the way, and some extra walking never hurt anyone.”

I hesitated. “It’s not Hell, right?”

They laughed, and it was the most glorious sound. “Certainly not.”

“Oh, good.” I took the Devil’s arm, and they walked me to the afterlife.

Ariel Cross

Ariel Cross is a fantasy author and blogger with a love for representation and subversion. To them, happiness is a warm glass of mead on a cold day.

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