Quarantine One-Shot #006 // Hearts Aflame

The demon grinned.

“Anything’s possible,” it said. “For the right price. What do you want?” The man told him: there was a woman he desired, but she hid from him. He wanted to see her, the woman who set him aflame. The demon nodded. “I can help,” it said.

“And the price?” the man asked. The demon shrugged.

“Time,” it said. “I want one year from the end of your life.” The man smiled with relief. He’d thought the demon would ask for his heart, his soul. But a year?

“Done,” he said. The demon snapped its fingers.

“You will see her tomorrow,” it said. The man went home and early to bed, though excitement kept him from sleeping much.

In the morning, he woke to screaming.

“Fire!” came the call. “Fire! Help!” He struggled into clothes and ran outside to see the inn burning, half-dressed guests milling around in a mumbling shock.

“Is everyone all right?” he asked.

“All accounted for but one,” said the innkeeper in between heaving buckets of water. The man looked up, and there was the woman who haunted his dreams, hanging half out a window. He darted inside, ignoring the shouts behind him.

I’ll save her, he thought. Surely that will unlock her heart to me. He burst into her room. The relief on her face turned to confusion, then horror anddelight?as the man fell to his knees, clutching at his chest.

“What is this?” he asked.

“One year,” the woman said, and her features melted into those of the demon. “You would have died one year from today.” It leaned in as the fire licked closer. “But now, you’re mine.”

Note: There’s more I wanted to do here, but I kept to my rules of no more than 2 pages in the Traveler’s Notebook and minimal edits.

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