Eli did not sleep that night, but he was still startled by the noises coming from downstairs. He heard his father get angry again. Yet this time, things seemed much more violent.
“I will not let you do this!” his father screamed. “He is MY SON, and I will NOT stand by and let you-“
A blood-curdling shriek came from downstairs, followed by his father’s anguished scream. Eli then heard a loud thud and footsteps rushing upstairs. He got up and opened the door. He saw his dad, his shirt untucked and torn in places, his arm bleeding.
“Dad!” Eli cried. “What happened?!”
“I’ll explain on the way. We need to get out of here.” He grabbed Eli’s hand and rushed down the stairs.
“What about mom?”
“Mom is… Mom’s fine. She’s visiting a friend, she’ll come later.”
They ran out into the darkness. Beside his dad’s car was another one that Eli did not recognize. When asked about it, his father said nothing. Once they were in the car, his father rode down the neighborhood at a speed that was undeniably above the speed limit.
“Dad, what are you doing!” Eli shouted. “You’ll never make that turn at this rate!”
“We have no time to lose. It’ll all be-“ He suddenly turned deathly pale. “The brakes,” he whispered. He didn’t say another word, but Eli knew what was going on. They were going faster and faster, his dad was frantically pushing on the brake, but nothing happened. Someone had cut their brakes, and now they would crash. Eli never expected that would be the end of it. His dad did his best, swerving and turning as fast as he could, but in the end, a tree blocked their way. The last thing Eli heard was a deafening crash.
And then he was crouching on the sidewalk in a puddle made up of his own blood. He was watching the wreck burn and the large tree it had hit catch the fire from it.
“Dad!” he screamed, rushing to the wreckage. But before he could get close enough, the vehicle exploded, leaving behind only a burning heap of twisted metal. Eli screamed in horror. Suddenly, his screaming stopped. A thought occurred to him. Perhaps it was not too late? He did not have paper on him, or a pen, but he had lost enough blood to make it work. He crouched beside his puddle of blood and, fighting back tears, he started drawing shapes on the sidewalk. Please, please, please, speak to me, he thought. And sure enough, his hand soon began writing on its own in an ornate, calligraphic font.
“I wish my father was alive again!” he shouted into the concrete slab. For what seemed like an eternity, nothing appeared. “DO IT!”
“You have to! Please!”
Not only is it not in my power, but there is nothing you could do to make up for it.
There is nothing that is of equal value to human life. Even if you were to give your own life, that would not be enough for me to bring your father’s life. I am sorry.
“What the hell are you talking about? You were granting my wishes!”
Nothing is free, Eli.
Eli slammed his fist on the ground and started sobbing uncontrollably. He felt his hand move again, but couldn’t even muster up the strength to look at what was written. In the end, however, he lifted his head, and saw the message from the demon.
Please, Eli. Don’t cry.
“What else am I supposed to do? What do you care? You’re a demon!”
I am. But I also care about you. I am always with you, after all.
“Liar! If you were, you would do something about this.”
And I am trying. Listen to me. There is one thing you may do.
“What is it?” Eli’s tears stopped flowing and he was now looking at his hand as hard as he possibly could.
Your father may not come back to life, but that does not mean you cannot help him. Your father was a good man, but he has committed an unforgiveable sin in the past. He is now suffering for all eternity. However… Eli’s hands were shaking. If you wish it, I can end his suffering.
“Yes!” Eli sobbed. “Yes, please. Don’t let my dad suffer. I wish for my father to be saved.”
Are you sure? Is your father’s salvation what you wish for?
“Yes. I have never wished for anything more.”
Very well, then. Your wish has been heard. Eli tried to get up after that, but his hand was still out of his control. Oh, and Eli – thanks :)
He was in the gray space from the dream again, the trumpets blaring louder than ever before, but this time they were harmonized. The man got off from the dromedary and smiled at Eli. It was a strange, serene smile, that filled Eli with unease. The man bowed to him, and as he clapped, the sound of the trumpets became distorted, his own figure and that of the dromedary disintegrating before Eli’s eyes. The gray landscape started falling apart as well, and before he knew it, his eyes were open again, and he saw his mother. They were in some dimly lit room, and she was wearing a large hood on her head.
“He’s awake,” she whispered. Eli then noticed three more figures in the room, their faces obscured by the shadows of their hoods. “Rise, o Paimon, granter of wishes. Your time has come. We, your humble servants welcome you.”
Eli stood up. He had not wished to stand up, he just did, as if someone else was in control of his body. He tried to turn his head, to move his arm, to shake his leg – nothing worked. His body seemed to be on autopilot, and he was a prisoner in its cockpit.
“Greetings to you, dear followers,” his voice came from his lips. It was unmistakably his own voice, and he could even taste the words on his lips, but they came out on their own. Eli wanted to cry, but his voice box was not his own anymore, nor were his tears. He felt his hands reach out for something. He was holding something warm – it was an oil lantern. He saw himself move and reach for the front door, ignoring the protests of his “followers”. As he stepped outside, he slammed the lantern into the floor and locked the door, leading the people inside the building that turned out to be a shed, to scream. Eli himself wanted to scream, but only a chuckle came from his throat.
“We are free now, Eli.”