The Collector had arrived. How did I know? I could smell him. Sulfur. Not to mention I could hear the hounds scratching ever so softly at the door. Regret was the most prominent emotion, with fear a close second. Being a good-looking, early 20's man I thought I’d make the most of the 10 years he had given me. The meager 10 years I had to enjoy the fame, success and money he had given me. In exchange for the one possession, I had since come to realise is more important than any materialistic item anyone could ever have. And now I had lived out my given years and it was time to pay him what was owed. Was it worth it? Certainly not. I mean sure it was great driving the latest cars, dating the most beautiful women and being on the front covers of numerous magazines. Not to mention dining in multiple foreign countries many times during a week. But now it had come to a very startling and abrupt end. Honestly, I didn’t even notice 10 years had flown by. Well whether or not I had noticed it, my time was up.

He was walking up the stairs now, the stairs that led to my bedroom, my sanctuary. My safe room. I didn’t feel very safe now. My heart was pounding in my chest so hard it felt as though it thought it could break free from my chest and escape, thus saving itself – but no, we were in this together. The moon shone in brightly through the huge sheets of glass that served as windows to my domain, casting long shadows from the trees outside. Shadows that seemed to know my fate and were dancing around my room now in anticipation of the event about to unfold once he reached my room. His ascent up the stairs seemed to be taking forever, and the damn Hounds of Hell stood vigil at my door, scratching, assuring me they were there and ready to tear me apart in the event I foolishly tried to run for it. The shadows continued to dance and a raven landed by my window and stared in. Was it letting me know it was guarding the window or was it merely here to watch the Collector collect my soul? I lay in bed clutching my sheets and wondering what exactly was going to befall me once He knocked on my door. It was locked but would a simple manmade lock withstand a being hailing from Hell?

I rolled over and opened my bedside drawer. The moonlight proceeded to shine on my .50 Desert Eagle, illuminating it as though to assure me that it was indeed the answer to my current predicament. But should I end myself and put the cold, metal barrel to my head, or do my best to keep my nerve and shoot my aggressor once he entered? Rather the latter. It was a long shot that it would work but honestly, there’s not much a dead man can do but hope. I glanced around my room for what might be the last time. The superfluously large television hung on the wall opposite my equally large bed. Beautifully expensive and exotic paintings displayed on every inch of wall space – yet another tribute to my ill-acquired wealth. The Persian rug at the foot of my bed, covering the floor with its splendour. While observing the room it became evident how still the night had become. No birds chirping, no dogs barking. Not even the slightest hint of wind graced the land at present. The stench of sulfur grew stronger, almost to the point of suffocation. He had arrived at my door. The Hounds had stopped scratching. In one last moment of hesitation I decided to pray. Maybe, just maybe this God people believed in would be merciful enough to spare me.

Clearly the last ditch attempt at salvation was futile as I heard a soft, but eerily menacing chuckle from the other side of my door. He did not speak nor knock. He seemed to be relishing in my fear and anticipation of what was to come, by standing outside and laughing at me. I wonder what he looks like. Would he look human? What would he use to accumulate my soul? Would it hurt? What would happen after he did it? Was there any way to perhaps bargain for a few extra years of life, even if reduced to poverty?

The chuckling continued as I was trapped in my thoughts, Desert Eagle in hand, still glistening in the moonlight. Why had I done it? Regret once again seeped in as the pure reality of my imminent annihilation hit me fully as though I had stepped onto a busy highway. Fresh out of college and with not a cent to my name, selling my soul for more money than I could ever spend seemed like a dream come true. I had since come to realise that the dream had now become a nightmare. I had sold my soul for riches and fame, and now, neither the money nor the power I had enjoyed would help me now. My soul was no longer mine and now the time had come for it to be taken. The laughing had stopped. I assume the time for jokes and mind games had passed and it was time for business. I stood there in the dark now, Desert Eagle pointed at the door, waiting for him to try and break in. Perhaps I should start shooting before he even tried to enter?

I moved closer to the door, intent to end him if possible before he had the slightest chance to get to me. I squared up to the door and pulled the trigger. Nothing. I pulled it again, and again, and again. Not so much as a sound came forth from the machine made to take life. I set the gun down and stood there. Not much else to do now.

He did not kick or ram the door. The doorknob simply began to turn. The sulfuric smell was now suffocating and I could not breath. The doorknob turned slowly and once again, the brilliance of the moon showed me just how slowly it was turning. The door creaked open and my heart seemed to stop. There was nothing at the door. A sense of instant relief washed over me. Perhaps he had simply been toying with my mind and would leave me to live out the rest of my days. My thoughts were violently interrupted when I felt an icy finger run down the side of my face.

I could feel his presence behind me. I could TASTE the sulfur now that he had me in his grasp. My knees trembled and a cold sweat broke out across my brow. He continued to stroke and caress my cheek, as though we had once been lovers. I broke down in tears, and my whole body trembled. How I wanted to turn to get a look at the creature that had opened my door, only to appear behind me. I could not find the strength, nor the courage to face my doom. I grew faint and felt my knees give in, but I did not fall. He was holding me up. Supporting me.

His face or whatever he possessed neared my ear from behind. “It is time to go,” he said softly. Almost seductively.

And we went. Into the darkness.

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