The room they take him to is dim. There is just enough light emanating from the single bare bulb hanging from the ceiling to illuminate the dust motes dancing in the air.
There is a figure in the corner, and it speaks to him in a thick, clotted voice.
They shove him forward. For a second he is trapped in the small cone of light cast by the bulb. Then he plunges back into the icy, inky darkness.
There are sounds: a scratch, a pop, and a hiss. A pinpoint of flame erupts in front of him and traces an arc through the air. Where it stops, an orange circle of light blooms into life. In the brief flare, the shadows behind the circle divide, pull away, and then close together again. There is the briefest hint of sulfur, quickly overpowered by a sweeter smell.
“Cuban?” he asks.
“Of course,” the figure says.
“That’s illegal, you know.”
The orange circle grows bright, then dims behind a veil of exhaled smoke.
“Funny,” the figure says.
“To the end.”
“That’s what this is, you know.”
“It doesn’t have to be.”
Deep in the shadows, the figure laughs. The sound is like boulders rubbing together.
“They always say that,” the figure says.
“I haven’t had enough,” he says.
“What more is there? You’ve had money. You’ve had fame. You’ve had women. You’ve had your heart’s every desire. Now, I get what I want. That was the deal.”
“Not every desire,” he says.
“My final wish. My greatest desire. To be free of you.”
The temperature in the room spirals down. His teeth begin to chatter in the sudden chill. Before him, the orange circle flares and fades, flares and fades.
“Interesting,” the figure says. “Original. It is enough to buy you some time.”
“I don’t want some time," he says. “I want to be free of you. That’s my heart’s desire.”
“You have it,” the figure says. “For now. But without me, all that you’ve come to enjoy is now gone. And in the end, you’ll want it back. You’ll come to me, begging for it. And when you do, I get what is mine.”
They take him out of the room and dump him in an alley. The chill of the place clings tight to his bones. He staggers into the street, his uncertain future unfolding before him.
He’s free. For what it’s worth.
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer whose non-fiction work has appeared in Dark Discoveries magazine and online at Dark Scribe Magazine and Hellnotes.com. Blu's fiction has appeared online in AlienSkin Magazine, Microhorror.com, and The Delirium Insider. In print, he has stories appearing in Shroud Magazine, the Northern Haunts charity anthology from Shroud Publications, and in Horror Library Vol. 3 from Cutting Block Press, with more to come. Visit Blu online at blugilliand.wordpress.com.