Granny always told me as a boy that if the devil ever crossed you, yank a knot in his tail. In southern Louisiana there was always talk of the devil. I've never been a history buff, but I'm sure the same old cauldron-and-broomstick superstition was conceived back in colonial times. The Holland family rose out of the ashes of the war, and within the marsh bogs and swamps of the south, created an empire of cotton and textiles. Many people blamed my great, great grandparents' wealth on their affairs with the ungodly, which always sounded preposterous to me. Stories of voodoo dolls and black cats were mere campfire talk. Especially considering my family's enormous financial collapse during the Great Depression, leaving us virtually homeless forever.

Nowadays, we live in the same old swamp. The land where Holland Manor once stood is now completely inhabitable. In life it seems the forces of nature always have their way and will snatch any crop of land from even the most successful of parasitic humans. My house is a small shack just off from that specific crop. It's a one-story, white-walled, little muggy trailer with cracked windows vines sprung out across it. Poverty is an understatement when it comes to my property.

I live alone, luckily. I could never afford someone's residence alongside me. I can never hold a job and my pathetically self-righteous parents gave away my inheritance to charity and church. They're dead now. And living without their aid has been viciously crippling. I work a part-time job at a fast food joint nearby. I've had to sell most of our property, most of the possessions I've carried from my childhood to present, and really anything that isn't a necessity. We were always poor but since their demise in a car crash over a year ago I have never felt such hopelessness and financial ruin.

I don't spend much of my time at home. When I'm not working twelve-hour shifts, six days a week, I am usually at the local public library. Books have always been something I've loved. I'll never have the money for an education, but books and internet were something I could soak my brain in. Internet especially. During my adolescence, I went there every day as I transitioned preferences from books to internet. I've always loved the digital world. Worshiped it, if I may be totally frank. But I've never had what I was looking for. There's just not enough hours in the day to spend on the library's computers. And there's never enough reliable internet "juice" for my purposes. I hate it when there's a disconnection or something goes wrong.

The internet was something I wanted for my own house, to have for my spare time. I could never afford it, nor did they even offer it out in the Holland swamps, the very definition of the middle of nowhere. I didn't expect that to change anytime soon, but a man could always dream. It wasn't until a fatally humid Monday morning that it all changed.

I remember perfectly, the sun was a pale orb behind the haze of black storm clouds. The heat was still potent enough to make me strip down and lay spread-legged in the middle of the floor of my dangerously cluttered living room. I felt the sweat produce from my skin and fall aimlessly everywhere. My body seemed to shed twice its weight in water from the putrid summer spell. That's when I heard the knocking on the back door. Three times it knocked. Knock. Knock. Knock.

Immediately I presumed a robber, for such peculiarity as to knock on the back door. I couldn't help but rush to the baseball bat I had hung above my couch, taking it from its wooden display and dashing through the kitchen and to the door. As I ripped it open, expecting some thug with a ski mask, I found no one. Empty air, that's it. "Someone there?" I called, poking my head out of the door frame. No response. Nothing. "Maybe it was just a noise," I mumbled at myself, closing the door behind me, pushing the hot air back outside.

Crash. I could hear the hard pinging of glass shattering and flowing out across my kitchen floor. With caution I turned and began to move, halting as I saw the strange substance sprawled across my white tiled floor. It was thick and black, like charcoal and chocolate. Dirt and mud smeared across my floor―in the shape of cloven hooves. The prints were splattered treacherously across the tiles, turning my stomach as I felt the blood leave my face. I clutched the bat tighter, following the tracks into my own kitchen and eyeing the glass cup that had tipped over from the counter onto my floor. "The hell," I started, "Did an animal get in?"

The silence was uncanny, filling the hairs of my head with a coldness that still remains unmatched. Then, with certain subtlety, a whistling pronounced through the air just behind me. My body whirled around, moving with such panic-induced speed I have never matched. My naked body dripping profusely with sweat, but not that of heat affliction―rather of fear.

Amidst the dark before me was a tall man of white skin. He wore no clothing and for a moment I thought he was a mere delusion―a reflection of myself. But within seconds I saw that he was different. His body was slimmer than mine and had a white and gray color scheme to it. It was almost reptilian in having scales and a sleek texture. His midsection was covered in dark hairs that swallowed him down to his feet, which were twisted black hooves. His head was odd in that it was crowned with the horns of a mighty ram and his face was serpentine with a small nose and elliptical pupils in those foreign crimson eyes. Thick black lipstick bathed tight, slender lips. His fingers were tipped with long, black claws and his ears were pointed like those of a fairy. His lips parted and revealed a forked tongue flickering from broken, mangled fangs. But what caught my eye the most was the giant tail swinging from his bottom. It was an enormous tail with scales and a checker-board-colored rattle.

"Ave, dear August Urban Holland." the man said, grinning. His voice was gentle but dominate as thunder. It was melting with inconceivable passion that I so desperately wanted to enkindle. The way his tongue flowed with the pronunciation of my name was magnetic.

I would've thought my body to go limp, but there was an aberrant lack of fear. My body was being pulled to him, called from him, mastered by him. I took steps toward him as I inspected his form. "You're the―" I began, barely able to start before he interrupted.

"Wordless be thou, I am aware," he said, "thou needn't be fearful, for I come to bargain with thee and not destroy. Prostrate thyself now in my company, for where be the presence of God is gone, there be I. I am many things. I am the god of this world, I am the prince of the power of the air, I am called Beelzebub and the Devil, I am the one who slips from the recesses of Pandora's Box, I am thy greatest fears: Mephistopheles." It was all and more than I needed to know from him. In his presence, I felt safe.

"What will you do to me?" I asked, though more curious than afraid. Mephistopheles hoofed his way forward, making loud clicks along the tiled floor. He reached forward, and with a cold hand clutched my face. It was as though electric was sent through my body. Every sensual gland of my innermost soul was stimulated.

"The ruin of this man is loud," he said, "Such that I pity him above all men who walk the earth. Therefore my proposal is this: that he give up his very soul for things of flesh."

I removed his hand from my face but held onto it still. I could not bring myself to let go, to deprive myself of such intoxication. "I'll give you my soul at that very price," I replied.

"Name it," said Mephistopheles.

"Give me free and unlimited internet access. The highest speed and the highest quality," I replied. And a wide grin grew across his scaly face.

"Shall I seal this deal?" Mephistopheles asked as he held me by the head and lurched forward. Forward. Forward. I only nodded and immediately felt the pain of a long, warm tendril piling down my throat. His pink tongue stretching from his lips and shooting down my mouth, squirming down my throat as a worm or python. I couldn't breathe and the blood which streamed from the corners of my lips was falling onto my toes. I could feel the warm fluid very clearly now.

I blacked out.

I'm not sure what had happened after that or what else he had done to me, all I remember is that I woke in my bedroom, sprawled across the covers. Heart beating. Throat aching. Body shaking. What had I done? I sat up, my fingers quivering and eyes twitching. A bright light cast shadows behind me. My skin lit up white in its shine. The lusty glow of a laptop screen at my heels. I crossed my legs and brought the device forward, noting all five bars lit up on a WiFi connection. But where was the WiFi coming from? No router in sight. However, that which was in sight was a small sticky-note stamped to the top of the screen.

"If you ever need anything, just whistle.

I spent days on the internet. Days. I neglected my job and all responsibility. My phone set ablaze with hundreds of calls from my bosses, though I never answered one. I knew by the time a week or so passed I'd been fired, but I didn't care. This was all I needed. My internet empire had only begun. Within days I accumulated a wealth of Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Nothing seemed more satisfactory to me than knowing my words were being read by one thousand people. I was on online communities, I researched what interested me, I ordered online. I even developed a nasty taste for explicit videos.

I was typing to a friend from out of town. My family had been close with his since we were young and I'd always tried to stay in touch with him but usually failed in each sorry attempt. But now I had better ways of communication. I kept him updated on my life, though I told neither him nor anybody else about my experience with the Devil. He encouraged me to go back to work and find a new job if I had actually been fired, but I couldn't find the time to. So much to see, so much to do. I was in a digital paradise. I began typing, "I hope when you guys come down for the holidays we can mee―"

My hands stopped. I found them clutching each other. Desperately. The pain was pulsing through them relentlessly and deluding me to the belief they were falling off, that my fingers were slowly melting from their posts. I grunted, wheezed, and grumbled. But as I looked I found them perfectly still and in their correct places. The only thing I noticed was the odd way in which my knuckles were now shaped. The middle ones had ascended quite above the others. The pain radiated like a bomb. I gritted my teeth and panicked. What was happening to my hands? Finally, I remembered the note. The note. The note. The note.

I puckered my lips sourly and pushed a whistle from them. It was a wet, hoarse whistle passed through the veil of pain and physical trial. Suddenly, as I sat cradling my hands, I heard the clanking of the same hooves bounding my way. Mephistopheles' body fluttered forth from pockets of shadow in the corner of the room. His eyes met mine which were to the brim with tears.

"My lovely, why doth thou cry out as a woman in labor?" he asked.

"M-m-my hands!" I stuttered, barely able to heave the words from my teeth. "My hands! Help me! My hands!"

Mephistopheles smiled. His thick black lips flushed with avarice and lust and all of the tricky workings of the underworld. I felt his passion kindle on its own; the pleasure of my suffering was the deepest pleasure he could capture. "August, there is no thing under heaven nor above hell which reapeth what was never sown. Thy pleasure was given at the cost of thy eternal soul and the hour has fallen in which ye shall pay. Ye must venture into the wilderness and find for me a child of purity and tender heart and dash his blood against the altar of thine wickedness, shouting 'ad Satanas qui laetificat juventutem meam!'"

My eyes burst, my face heating with blood. "You want me to kill?"

"Aye," replied Mephistopheles, wrinkling his nose in a sick cackle. "I give thee nine suns. If ye hast not repaid me by thus, thy arthritis will increase tenfold in merely an hour and spread about thy body until ye are no longer human. In thy moaning and grieving ye shall die, for the wages of sin is death."

"But how will I do anything with this pain?" I shouted, thumping my hands against the bed and coming forward, looking at the Devil through waterfalls. He merely tilted his head and hushed me with one finger pressed against my thudding lips. Instantly I felt the pain in my hands vanish. I stretched them and held them up against my face, letting out a moan.

"Ye hath nine suns."

It was certainly complicated but I convinced that childhood friend I mentioned early to stop by for the weekend. His name is Justin and he has a wife named Amanda and a five-year-old son, Gabe. I was guilt-ridden and desperation-driven. My mind was flying through all of the bad thoughts, the possibilities. I couldn't understand why it had happened to me.

They flew down from Virginia morning, arriving late in the afternoon. The July air was sweet with swamp gas as I saw them treading down the dirt path to my front porch. Justin was a short and stocky young man with buzz cut hair and big blue eyes. He wore a Virginia State University t-shirt with a Trojan head promulgated on the front. His wife, Amanda, a taller woman with wavy blonde hair fixed into a delightful bun. She wore a red and white plaid shirt and jeans. Their son, Gabe, had young blonde hair and some kind of cartoon character on his own t-shirt. He was always smiling. Even when he wasn't, the eyes which were derived from his father would smile for him.

"Hey there, how's it going, my man?" Justin said, pointing finger guns at me and giving me a giant bear hug as he pranced onto my rotting porch. I greeted his wife happily, extending a welcoming hand to her as I invited them into my home. Gabe was ecstatic, perfectly happy to get out in the swamp. He kept asking me if I ate possum. Such a cute child. It was really a shame.

The same night I remember plainly. Justin and his family were staying in a motel a few miles west. At one o'clock I got in my car and fired it up, took off down the trail, and dashed onto the road. The dim headlights illuminated the flushed road grown up with weeds and grass. I hit the highway quickly and managed to make it to the front of the motel by one thirty. I saw their car first, then it was just a matter of finding their room, which was simple. It appeared the two had gone to sleep while Gabe stayed awake, the TV flashing light onto his young face in the middle of the dark room. I tapped quietly on the window, not enough to wake the parents but just enough to get his attention. His head turned and spread with a great grin as he approached and I gestured for him to crawl out the window.

The car ride was fun for him, guilty for me. And the walk from the car to the porch was even nastier. But then our path changed and I lead him down a path into the darkness of the swamp. Flashlight in one hand and his small body carried in the other arm, I made my way to the place I'd always go to as a kid when I wanted to escape my parents. It was deep in the woods where no one would look to find you. I tried to remain quiet while at the same time keeping Gabe entertained. I wouldn't want him to get spooked by the woods, or by the jangling of knives on my person.

It was fast. He didn't feel a thing. On that massive withered tree trunk.... The image of the treetops and overhanging limbs was the last he ever saw. My hands were trembling, sticky and red. I smelled that foul, vicious scent of the fresh carrion. His small little body was limp across the flat surface of the fossilized stump. How could I live knowing I had done that? I fell to my knees, my eyes letting loose once more. Feeling a cold hand come across my shoulder, I flinched and turned to see the same demon in all his malefic splendor. Mephistopheles, deceiver of the whole world.

"Do not cry, August," he cooed softly into my ear as he ran his fingers down my spine. Leering, he bent over that I might feel his deep breath in my ear. "It be unlike that he should ever amount to anything regardless... Only a child with nothing to offer but the years he had not used. Do not cry. I will restore thee to thy pleasure tenfold! But ye must make the sacrament monthly unto me. Now come along. We shall go back home."

I didn't know what I was doing anymore. But I followed the Devil back to my house, stumbling through the door as I fell on the carpet of the living room. His clacking hooves rotated till he faced me and picked me up by the arms, dragging me with jealous strength until I was on my bed again. I was still crying, my mind still blaring a thousand thoughts a second. "What have I done? What have I done? What did you do to me?"

"Lo, dearest," the Devil replied, "thy access to the world wide web continues. Thou hast fulfilled thy debt for now. Thine pleasure shalt commence again!" I quickly grabbed him by the arms and flipped his sleek body over me and onto the bed. I assumed something resilient, but he only gazed up at me with the same scarlet irises. His pupils dilated, black pools consuming his eyes. I felt his long muscular tail slithering, intertwining with my leg.

"The deal is off."

I twisted his tail and grabbed it, my sweating palm pulling a whipping python and pushing it into a large knot. The rattle went off. That solemnly visceral sound pierced my ears to the point of unbearable pain. I fell off my bed, my whole body filling with the strange ache I had felt in my hands. "Out! Out! Out! Get out!" My voice croaked. The lights dimmed. There was no one in the room but me.

Written by Mr.estrus
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