Blood and Butterflies
Side hustle treating ghosts with PTSD and amateur monster boxing not cutting it. Broke down. Called this number that suddenly appeared on the back of a Tarot Card (The Devil, Thoth deck, a 1-800 number). Yeah that's right. I was ready to shake me some red right hands. What else can you do but sign a contract with the Devil when it feels like God's taken a contract out on you? Pressed 2 for English. Pressed 3 for Soul Sales. Automated voice, between screams, informed me that an infernal representative would be on shortly to review my karma score and see what kind of pact I was qualified for. The hold music was Black Sabbath covers done by Abba. Yeah, I know. Devil Magick's weird that way.
Finally got a rep on the line who meticulously recorded my info and scheduled a meet-up with a field agent.
"I don't get to talk to the Big Guy downstairs?"
"No more than you would if you wanted to talk to the president of the bank about opening a savings account with a $20 bill."
So took the evening off and met up with the sales rep at the Duke over in East Terminus.
We met in a booth over by the dart board at the back corner of the bar. The rep had the scent of bullshit, easy money, and freshly eaten pussy all over his shit eaten grin. Dude looked like a rock star's manager ready to lay down a wicked TED talk on the miracles of cocaine. He offered me a cigarette. I accepted.
For in the presence of Hell's Agents know that one is free to smoke without reprimand from staff while the drinks, no matter how weakly poured behind the bar, arrive as doubles upon your table. Yeah, I know. Devil Magick's fun that way.
He gave me a name that basically translates to our ears as a graveyard wail that ends in the gurgling sound of a man drowning in quicksand.
So I just call him some variation of 'Man' or 'Bro' like I do when the weed and dissociation wipes out the name of someone I've met either once or a dozen times.
"Okay man," I shrug, "give it to me?"
"Give what to you?"
"The pitch, man, sell me what I don't know I want yet or, I dunno, reawaken some old dream of mine and inform it that it has a gentleman caller with a payday soul to burn. Come at me with some of that old Don Draper shit."
"Alright. You're ready to think big. That's good. Very good." The rep sips a drink they don't serve anywhere or anytime except when he's around. "Okay, ask yourself this. Are you ready to take your writing talents to the next level? Are you ready to take your art into the 21st century and offer your audience the next-gen multiplatform experience they truly deserve? Hell, have you considered an audience?"
"And well you fucking should. Because picture this. A live feed, right?, where you slit your throat and have people Venmo you a buck for every butterfly they count fluttering out of the smiley face you've drawn on your neck."
The rep sits there, excited opening day smile, black fingernail caressing the side of the glass.
I give the only response you can in this situation - "What?"
"You. A knife. A live feed. What else do I have to explain?"
"Are the butterflies a metaphor."
"I don't know, probably, sure. I mean they're your butterflies, Jack, I'd imagine you'd know better than me on that one."
"And the slit throat as well?"
"Oh... no, no, that would have to be quite literal, I'm afraid. Has to be if we want to get those precious, precious clicks and likes and shares."
"Literally slit my throat?"
"Yep," the rep grins, "over and over again. Every therapy session. Every bad cancer night. Every moment of self-torture. Every job humiliation. All of it swarming out of your slit throat live before the eyes of a growing audience."
"But that's... that's not..."
"... what? Possible. Ha! Devil Magick's cool that way! We'll seal your slit throat with a marketing brand (it'll only burn a bit at first then a lot much further down the line). You'll be as good as new ready to slit your throat for an audience starved for blood and butterflies. I mean that's what you're selling isn't it, Jack? Blood and Butterflies."
"And that's your offer?"
"Have you gotten a better one?"
Of course I fucking haven't. Which I translate to him as a firm -
"Can I think on it?"
The rep laughs, motions for another drink, and lights up a joint he's pulled from behind my ear through some act of prestidigitation. "No, Jack. It doesn't work that way. You're selling blood and butterflies and we're buying blood and butterflies. You take the deal or you take your chances being on the shit list of a divine being you believe in only to curse."
"So, what'll it be?," Hell's Agent here offers me a hit off the sweetest smelling joint I've whiffed since the West Coast.
I put out the cigarette even though I still got half of it to go. I take a sip off a half filled drink before abandoning it. And with a polite thank you I decline. The rep understands completely. Wishes me luck with no sarcasm. He goes to shake my head. I almost accept it on instinct before wagging an admonishing finger at him. "Almost got me."
"Can't blame a guy for trying?," the rep winks.
I get halfway across the bar and turn around to see there's already another mortal sitting in my seat at the booth getting the pitch de resistance from the rep.
Fuck it and my Hexx App pings. An assignment down in Midtown. Shadows in a certain alleyway cannibalizing those who cast them. Standard rates. I'm beat. I'm tired. I'm broke.
I click the accept rune and make my way towards another long night's hustle.