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Daria and associated characters are ©2010 MTV Networks
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Synopsis: What happened to Tommy Sherman after the goalpost crate fell on him? Nothing good, that’s for sure.
Author's Notes: Echopapa posed an Iron Chef on PPMB in April 2010: write a ficlet wherein a Lawndalean makes a deal with Old Scratch for personal gain. That sounded good. This story takes off from a well-known event in “The Misery Chick.”
Acknowledgements: Thank you, Echopapa!
“You rotten cheater!” Tommy roared in spirit-form, floating a foot above the grass of the high-school gridiron. “There wasn't anything about this in the contract! This wasn’t supposed to happen! You lied to Tommy!”
“No, Mister Sherman,” said the white cat in a bored tone. It lay on its side completely relaxed, its head up and eyes half closed, stretched out on a sun-warmed bench in the football bleachers. It ignored the panicked shouts and horrified cries of students gathering nearby. “You were not cheated," it went on. "Everything you asked for in exchange for your immortal soul, you received.”
“But you went and killed me right before I got my goal-post ceremony!”
“I had nothing to do with that,” said the cat. “The fault lay with you. Thanks to your impulsive and unthinking nature, you tried rocking the badly balanced wooden crate containing the breakaway goalpost, and it fell and crushed your skull. You—and only you—accidentally killed yourself. No one else in the world had a thing to do with it.”
“You still cheated me!” Tommy Sherman shook a thick index finger at the cat’s placid face. “That contract I signed isn’t any good!”
“That contract is perfectly good, Mister Sherman. In your senior year you asked to become known as the greatest football star in Lawndale High’s history, and you received that honor. As part of the bargain, you were brought out of your self-induced coma—another consequence of your heedless character—just before that state championship. Our side adhered to both the letter and spirit of the agreement. Indeed, even though you are dead now, your wish is still in effect. No other person will ever replace you as the greatest football player in Lawndale High’s history.”
Tommy’s ghostly face swelled and turned crimson as he tried to think of a comeback.
The cat stretched and sat up on its haunches. “Mister Sherman,” it said, “we have a few last moments before you are delivered to your eternal fate, so please allow me to explain. Pay attention. You will have more than enough leisure time in eons to come to properly reflect on this matter—if you are able to think at all.”
Enraged, and more than a little afraid the cat was right, Tommy tried to raise his fist to attack. He found himself unable to move a millimeter. The cat’s eyes glowed blood red as it glared down at him. Its voice remained level and self-assured.
“Like so many of your kind,” it said, “you are laboring under the ridiculous belief that a bargain with the Devil is fraught with peril because of the fine print on the contract, or some other legal trickery. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Devil has an essentially infinite amount of time until the Final Judgment, given the extra-temporal nature of Hell— ‘extra-temporal’ means ‘outside of normal time,’ by the way. There is no rush to collect souls who bargained themselves away from God’s Will for trivia. Had you not been so careless with that crate, you could easily have lived another sixty years in relative comfort. Alas, thanks only to your stupidity, that was not to be.
“There was no fine print involved, Mister Sherman, no tricks to trip a hulking fool who thought himself clever as foxes. All was exactly as it seemed. You promised X later in exchange for Y now, and it was done.
“Only one bit of all the lore on these matters remains true: a bargain with the Devil is fraught with peril. It is because you are trading away your soul for something of no comparable worth. Like all before you, you saw the bargain as giving up nothing to gain everything, when in fact it is exactly the reverse. You will never see Paradise, Mister Sherman. You will never move on to the next stage of existence and know the glories and wonders of that new Life. You will instead ceaselessly burn to the end of endless time, a pain-mad microscopic coal in a smoking, blinding, searing lake of fire. You were presented with the most important choice you could ever make, given the free will to choose, and you picked damnation. That is all there is to it.”
“It won’t happen!” screamed Tommy, completely unnerved. “God won’t let it happen!”
The cat raised an eyebrow. “God already has,” it said. “Nothing exists anywhere without the permission of God. Not even me. Do you understand? I am as much an agent of God as I am of any lesser power. What I do is what God wants done."
"I repent!" Tommy shrieked. "I repent! Save me!"
"How sweet," said the cat, "but Daniel Webster is not going to appear and defend you in a trial, and you are not going to play chess with Death. No one will save you. Salvation for the willfully wicked is not in the script."
"You can't do this to me, Devil!"
"Oh, I can, but I am not the Devil. I never said I was. A mere go-between, that's all. Perhaps it would help if you think of me as a gardener, Mister Sherman. I weed out the riotous flowerbeds of Earth until only the seed of the best plants remains for the great Garden to come.
“In short, there was no trick, no need for legalities. You got what you wanted.” The cat lifted its chin. “Now it is time for me to collect your debt. Any last words, Mister Sherman?”
Tommy had a few last words after all. The cat listened to only the first half-dozen profanities, then raised a paw and made a tiny motion as if flicking away a flea.
And Tommy Sherman was gone. The cat heard a brief scream as he went. It gave a faint smile in response, then rose and strolled away as sirens approached the football field from several directions.
“There you are, Fluffy!” cried Sandi Griffin a few hours later when she got home. She picked up the white cat and cuddled it to her chest as she spoke. “The most awful thing happened at school today! I heard from Tori that Ricky wants to ask Quinn Morgendorffer out on Friday instead of asking me! The nerve of him! The nerve of her! I’d just about sell my soul to do something about that boy-stealing redhead!”
Nestled in her arms, the cat closed its eyes… and smiled. If he could keep himself from eating that aromatic but indigestible foundation his mistress used with her makeup, the coming week would be simply marvelous.
04/21/10, 04/30/10, 05/01/10