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Friday, August 31, 2012

Excerpt From: We Can Be Heroes


(Image taken from: s985.photobucket.com)

Here's the first chapter of a novel about Comic-Conventions that I never finished. I might put up more later if people show an interest. Please let me know what you think.
               





            “Oh, shit,” Chucky said, pointing across the street as we walked down the cold, congested New York City sidewalk, “The Maxx!”
            “Where?” I asked.
“There, man! What are you blind?”
Chucky was right. A short guy who looked like he was about 300 pounds was dressed as The Maxx, which was a comic book character from the 90s. He wore purple spandex from head to toe and he lumbered across the street with his head down. He had these gigantic, yellow claws, probably made of ceramics, and he also had these enormous teeth jutting from his mask. They looked like they were cut from a lampshade (Way to stay true to character, dude). I’ve never seen anybody dressed as The Maxx before back home for the Cons in Louisiana. It was always Batman or Spiderman or, oh, God, Superman—If, that is, people were even cosplaying at all. There was no originality whatsoever back home and you could tell all the costumes people wore were store-bought. They were plastic and cheap-looking and ugly. Nobody took the time to stitch their outfits together or even pay top-dollar for some quality workmanship. It was all Party City bullshit. None of those assholes deserved to don Batman’s codpiece.
            “Hey, where’s Mr. Gone?” My friend, Stew, joked. He wore green goggles on his forehead, a black trench coat, black gloves, black boots, and a pasted on mustache. He also had a drawn in scar shaped like a half moon around his left eye. He emulated Cylinder #80 from our favorite comic book series, Cylinder 79.
            “Don’t know,” I said as we neared the end of the block. “But we must be heading in the right direction. Look.”
            A stampede of colorfully dressed people ran across the street behind The Maxx as the light turned green. I saw at least one Flash, one Daredevil and three Deadpools in the mix of costumes.
            “Well, that’s fuckin’ gay,” my friend, Phil said. “Looks like Deadpool’s gonna be the big character this year. Fuckin’ clones. There ain’t even a Deadpool movie coming out this year. What the fuck?”
I nudged Phil in the side.
            “Chill with the ‘gay’ shit, dude. We ain’t back home.”
            We got to the end of the block and watched a brigade of taxis whiz by. This was our first trip to New York. We’ve been to the FanCon in Chicago a few times and even the big one in San Fran. We’re always dressed up as Cylinders #78-81. But we’ve never been to the New York Con. We’ve always talked about it though.
            We would have missed this year, too, if we didn’t find out the producers and actors of the new Cylinder 79 TV show were going to be here for a guest panel.  
Now, if you’re unfamiliar with Cylinder 79, I ain’t gonna hate on you (Though, don’t tell Phil, cause he just might). Most people never heard of it before it got optioned up for a TV Show on AMC a few months ago. But it actually dates back to the mid-80s. Terrence Steele left Marvel and founded Vision Storm Comics to create it. In a nutshell, it’s about these assassins that are manufactured in Cylinders and sent back in time to change history. It was kind of like The Terminator, but edgier. And smarter, too (Though, its detractors will tell you otherwise—But don’t listen to its detractors. They’re idiots).
            All four of us were ready to either boo uproariously, or cheer until our heads exploded when we got into the Cy’ 79 Panel. It all depends on the sneak preview they show at the Con. We shall see.
            While we stood at the corner, a crowd surrounded us and a cute redheaded Asian girl with pigtails wearing a school girl outfit stood beside my friend, Stew. He nudged me in the side and threw his head in her direction. She looked over at me and smiled. I smiled back.
            “What are you guys supposed to be?” she asked.
            Phil snorted.
            “We’re Cylinders,” I answered, even though Stew could have answered himself. He always was shy around girls. “From the series Cylinder 79.”
            She nodded, shrugged and then smiled.
The yellow post at the other end of the street switched from having a red hand to a white figure with outstretched legs.
            “Well, have fun,” she said as the crowd rushed across the street, pushing us along with it. I watched the curves of her butt move back and forth as she walked.
            Chucky whistled and Stew nodded.
            “Much better than the swill we have back home, huh, fellas?” Chucky said.
            “I’ll say,” I said.
            “She’s fuckin’ retarded,” Phil said.
            “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” We all said.
            I took out our agenda as we crossed another block. A guy with a goatee and yellow earbuds took one look at us and shook his head.
            “Fuckin’ asshole,” Phil grumbled as the guy walked away.
            “Do we have any time to do anything else besides the panel today?” Stew asked, rubbing his hand through his blond wig and scratching his brown hair, “The Panel is at 4:30, right?”
            “Maaaaan, I ain’t sitting in no motherfuckin’ room for six hours,” Phil said. “The other panels before it are terrible anyway, aren’t they? What’s it say, Tom?”
            “Well, they aren’t the best,” I answered.
            “Yeah, but the whole point of this trip in the first place was to see Cylinder 79,” Chucky said. “We gotta prioritize.”
            “I agree,” Stew said. “It might fill up and then we came here for nothing.”
            “Look, we’ll wait in line an hour before the panel,” Phil said, “And no sooner.” He pointed at my agenda, “I want to hit up that speed dating shit they got going on at one. We may even get this asshole laid tonight,” he said, throwing his thumb back at Stew.
            “Shut up,” Stew said, “I got a girl back home.”
            “You call that wildebeest a girl?”
            “Hey! Watch it, asshole.” Stew balled up his gloved fists.
            “Alright, alright,” I said, “Enough of that. And Phil’s right.”
            “What?!” Stew exclaimed.
            “About not sitting in the same room all day,” I said, though, Darlene was quite hideous.
            “I’m always right,” Phil said. “Fuckin’ robots.”
            We crossed another street and neared the Jacob Javits Center. Since we left the hotel, we’ve basically just followed the crowd, as they were all migrating in the same direction. Maybe later, we’d check out some of the famous tourist traps in the city, but we don’t have time right now. It was 9:00AM and the doors were about to be opening. We would have left earlier, but Stew had a hard time getting out of the room. He kept rushing back and always saying that he forgot something like his wallet or his key card. Phil had to drag his ass out by the fifth time he did this.
            “So, we’re gonna check out Sega’s booth first,” Phil said. “Then we can walk the floor, dick around a bit, you know?”
            “I want to stop at the DC booth,” Stew said.
            “Fuck DC,” Phil said.
            “You know what, Phil? You’re being a real asshole today.”
            “All right, all right,” I said, “Jesus, you’re all acting like a bunch of girls. We don’t have to stay attached to the hip all day if we don’t want to. We’re all adults. We can do our own separate things. God. You two are so catty.”
“Yeah, but we’re all doing that speed dating shit at one,” Phil said, and he wrapped his arm around Stew’s shoulder. “Lunch at 2 and then, stand in line for Cylinder at 3. That’s our day.”
            I shrugged.
            “Sure.”
            “Yeah, I guess,” Stew said.
            Chucky exhaled.
            “As long as we get good seats.”
            “Stop worrying, dick cheese, we will. We will! You worry too much. You’re like an old Jewish lady.”
            “Let’s not bring up your mom,” Stew said.
            Phil imitated laughter, and then, gave him the finger.
            “Well, anyway, we got everything all sorted out,” I said, “The Sega booth first. If y’all want.”
            “Sure,” Phil said. “As long we’re in speed dating by one. I don’t give a fuck.”
            We rounded the corner, our agenda ready, our tickets out when—
            A line, about as big as Jormagander was long, wrapped itself around the giant black building two times over.
            My jaw dropped. Phil slapped Stew in the back of the head and Chucky said “Holy shit.”
            “You dumb fuck,” Phil said. “You made us late.”
            “It’s not MY fault. Holy jeez, this is insane!”
            I sighed.
            “Well, there go those plans.”  I took out a pen and crossed out Sega booth from the agenda.
            Stew rubbed the back of his head and gave Phil a dirty look. We all fell in line. A massive group fell in behind us. This…was going to take awhile.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The comic itself

Hey, y'all, if you haven't checked out the website yet, please do so. Oh, and here's a sneak peak of what's to come in the Marigold section.





















What do you think?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Visitor


(Image taken from: cutcaster.com)

“Nghh, ughh. Mm.”

“Honey?”

Joe cracked the bathroom door as he sat on the toilet. He saw his girlfriend squirming beneath the covers.

“Charlie horse again, babe?”

She shifted and then clapped her hand to her forehead.

“Mm…”

“Do you need anything?”

“No, it’s just…”

“Honey?”

“It’s just… Harold again.”

She drifted back to sleep, making pained, guttural noises from the other room.

Joe closed the door and stared blankly at the wall.

Jesus. Not again.

He hit the roll of toilet paper angrily. He wrapped it around his hand and wiped his ass.

Joe and Gladys had been going out for 9 years now. In a few days, he planned on proposing to her (And not chicken out this time). But now, this had to happen? Oh, God. Their relationship had been mostly good with a few break-ups along the way.  But they always found one another back in each other’s arms, hoping they didn’t sleep around too much in the interim while they were apart.

But the one thing that was consistent in all the years Joe knew Gladys was that she was haunted in her dreams by a man named Harold.

By her description of him, he was a tall, black man plagued with pockmarks around his nose. She couldn’t remember ever meeting him in real life. He had sunken in cheeks and greasy black hair, parted to the side. And his eyes were yellow with jaundice. But the part that scared Joe the most about him was his tongue. Whenever Harold talked—and Gladys said his voice was high and garbled like a chicken’s—a red centipede would wiggle between his lips.

Joe was tired of this crap. He thought it was over. But now, here it was again showing its ugly, pockmarked face.

The doctor said the frequent pain in her legs was merely a Charlie horse since she was always on her feet all day at the hospital. But Gladys believed otherwise, as it was the same pain she remembered having as a child. It was a stiff, cold feeling, “Like icy fingers pushing out from the inside.”
Joe shook his head. He cracked open the door again and saw Gladys still squirming beneath the covers. She was like a snake in the grass. He wanted to wake her but he wouldn’t dare try that again.  Not after the last time he did that. He still had the scar on his wrist as a reminder.

Two years ago, after some pleading, he finally convinced her to go to a psychiatrist. His name was Dr. Naviello. But that didn’t last long. After she went to a few sessions, she had to stop. Her dreams with Harold were getting ridiculous. She was having them almost every night.

But ever since she stopped seeing Dr. Naviello, Harold had vanished.

It was a miracle. The longest she had ever gone without him. It—

“Guuuuuuh. AHHHH!”

“Gladys?”

Joe pulled up his pants and threw open the door in time to see Gladys rip the covers from her legs.

“What’s wrong?”

He ran to her but stopped and backed away.

“Gladys?”

Even in the slim light, he saw that her eyes were piss yellow. She screamed.

Joe watched her shaking foot and saw her middle toe flip down freakishly as if it were broken. He nearly vomited. A crevice went from her cracked toe to her knee. And then, in one sick motion, her leg split apart like a giant mouth. Joe ran back into the bathroom. He slammed the door behind him and locked it.

 Gladys screamed. Joe covered his ears.

“Oh, my God!” She shouted, “Oh, my God! Joeeeey!”

The bed posts banged against the wall in the other room and Joe stared at the door. He pawed the sink and stumbled across the small space. He slumped into the bathtub.

There was a tearing noise, like ripping paper and then, footsteps.

They were loud and heavy and they came to the foot of the bathroom door. Joe held his breath. He stared through the crazy shapes made by the shower’s glass door and waited until he couldn’t take it anymore. But when he stood up, the footsteps began to walk away down the stairs. He closed his eyes and heard the front door slam. He let out a sigh of relief but also cried.

He let her die.

And Harold was real.

He stood back up and crept out of the bath tub. He cracked open the door and on the other side was a single, jaundiced eye, staring back at him.

Joe tried to close the door, but it swung open. Joe screamed, and the tall, black man with the pockmarks screamed with him. With Harold’s mouth wide open, his tongue, a long, red centipede, leapt out of his face and flew into Joe’s mouth. He felt it scrambling around his tongue. It clawed at his teeth and stung his gums. He couldn’t breathe as he fell backward into the glass shower door and banged his head. The last thing he heard was the sound of Harold coughing.
***
I’m tired. So, so tired.

I hope that poor girl’s alright. The last time I saw her alive she was only a babe. Her father was so nice to me. I worked for him for over 14 years, driving him around the city. He was a good man. Everybody cried at his funeral. And he loved that girl of his. He used to show me pictures of her sometimes. She had such beautiful hair. It was blond.

Damn.

The afterlife is cold and endless. The stars are close here and they sparkle like diamonds. I wonder if they’re angels. They gotta be something. They can’t just be stars. I won’t allow myself to believe they’re just stars. Not after being stuck in that poor girl’s body for all those years. That damn centipede.  It jumped in my mouth and followed me into the afterlife. It brought me to the girl. I don’t know why or how, but it did, and it wouldn’t let me leave. Not until it was ready. And it wasn’t ready for years.

But you want to know the strangest thing about all of this? I actually miss him. I’m happy that I’m free of him, as you didn’t feel like yourself with him in you, but at least he provided me with company.

Now, I’m all alone.

And I can’t get that boy’s eyes out of my head. He looked like he saw a ghost. And I guess that’s what I was to him.

A ghost.

I sure as hell wasn’t a man anymore. Hadn’t been a man in years. Decades, even. Who knows how long?

God, it’s cold out here. I thought it would be warmer. It was a hell of lot warmer in that poor girl’s legs. But it was tighter, too. I couldn’t breathe. Not ever. It was hell.

All the same, I sure hope she’s okay.

I didn’t mean to hurt her.

It was that damned centipede. I wonder where he is now.

I kind of miss him.

***
Gladys lay in a hospital bed. Her lower body was beneath covers.

She shifted and groaned. A heart monitor beeped by her bed. She didn’t know where she was.
As her eyes fluttered open, the area spread apart  in front of her like fog drifting. Behind her right eye, she saw what looked like a man looking at her. He felt like Harold but he looked like Joe. He stood with his hands in his pockets, watching her.

“Good morning,” a woman said. Gladys wiped her face.

“What happened?”

The nurse offered a small, feigned smile and walked by her bedside.

“You had an accident….with your legs. How are you feeling?”

Gladys shifted and squirmed. Her back itched and her legs were numb. But…she felt different for some reason. Like she just threw up and was completely empty. It was a refreshing feeling, invigorating.

“I feel dizzy,” Gladys said.

“That’s normal. Are you in pain?”

“Yes. My legs.”
The nurse chewed her lower lip.

“Well, there’s a morphine button by your bedside.”

Gladys padded around until she found it and tapped it a few times.

“I don’t feel anything.”

“Give it time. You will. I’ll be back within the hour to turn you over. I’m going to need assistance.”

Gladys nodded and blinked. The warm embrace of sleep returned to her. She lay her head against the pillow and saw Joe again. He had his head down and looked sad. He opened his mouth and the centipede wiggled between his lips, just as it had with Harold.

Just as it had with Harold.

And that was the last she ever saw of the centipede. It was the last she ever saw of Joe, too.

For the remainder of that day, she slept. 

And she didn’t have any more dreams.

Lord Imagination

Here's another cool picture from my book. I swear, my imagination has taken me to a lot of places. I don't know why I thought to make him to be a villain.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

God Knows What Lines the Devil's Pockets


(Image taken from:drawception.com)










Beelzebub’s eyes flashed once he realized the winning hand he held in his claws. All about him in the caves of Hell, flames erupted from hubcap sized craters in sporadic bursts. The fireballs sprouted from the cavernous floor like palm trees. The screams of the damned echoed in the tiny Poker room, which only had a single felt table in the center and some uncomfortable stools encircling it. This was the full extent of recreation in all of Hell, and only Big Daddy’s top generals could use it.
Beelzebub rubbed his unctuous, black hair and leaned back on his stool as if he didn’t have three Kings and two tens in his possession. He remained as cool as a melting ice cap, which really wasn’t that cool at all, but it would have to suffice. He brought his cards close to his hairy, bare chest and made sure the flies circling his head couldn’t see them. They had terrible Poker faces.
            “I’m in,” Azazel said, cackling. He was sitting across from Beelzebub. He scratched his furry neck and clopped his right hoof as he threw down four poker chips. The souls trapped within them banged their fists against the ivory surface of the chips, screaming to be released. Azazel looked up at Beelzebub and smiled, revealing both rows of the baby fingers that were his teeth.
            He’s bluffing, Beelzebub thought. He watched the fingers in Azazel’s mouth wiggle outwardly. They looked like strands of paper being blown by a fan behind them. He should learn to keep his damned mouth shut when he bets.
Whenever Azazel had a good hand, Beelzebub always noticed that the baby fingers would wiggle inwardly, as if they were strumming a bass, rather than outwardly. Beelzebub had also always listened to the nervous clopping of Azazel’s right hoof. Your face may be saying yes yes, but your hoof, and your TEETH, don’t lie, boy. I’ve got this in the bag.
            “I fold,” the god known as Ba’al grumbled, sitting to Beelzebub’s left at the circular table. The frog that was on his right shoulder puffed out his chest, while the cat on his left shoulder licked itself. “A lousy game I’m having today, huh, fellas? I’m going to go get a drink. You guys want anything?”
            “I’m good,” Beelzebub said.
            “I’ll take one,” Azazel said, the baby fingers still wiggling outwardly.
            “What about you, Pazuzu? You want anything?”
             “Naw, I’m good, man. Thanks anyway,” Pazuzu said, sitting to Beelzebub’s right. He was rail thin and his right hand looked like he was waving while his left hand looked like he wanted to slow down traffic, as one hand was up in the air and the other was pointing downward. He hid his cards in his left hand, concealing them underneath the table. If Pazuzu had been better at Poker, the others would have forced him to take off his sunglasses and keep his cards where everybody could see them. But Pazuzu wasn’t the hottest pepper in the enchilada, and they let him play however he pleased. It was the least they could do. After all, Beelzebub and Azazel did get most of his chips at every hand. The only one at the table who didn’t bet against him was Ba’al, and that was only because he was the nice one. Beelzebub often wondered how Ba’al got to be a general in Big Daddy’s Army in the first place. He probably cheated on other things, he thought. Like his wife. Or his taxes.
            “Suit yourself.” Ba’al said. He stood up and pushed in his stool. The cat on his right shoulder hissed and Ba’al swatted it on the nose. Once hit, it slapped its lips together as if it had a hair stuck on its tongue and shut up. Ba’al got up and scurried out of the room with his enormous spider legs. When he was gone, Beelzebub nodded at Pazuzu.
            “Alright, so what’s it gonna be, Pazuzu?”
            “Umm,” Pazuzu said, lowering his sunglasses with his scorpion tail to get a better look at his cards, “I think I’ll—um—I think—um—well, let’s see,” he pushed the human souls forward with his tail and then, took them back. Pushed them forward again, and then, took them back again.
            “Hurry up already,” Beelzebub said after a time.
            “Yeah, hurry up,” Azazel whined, “I’m not even supposed to be here right now. I was scheduled to work twenty minutes ago.”
What?” Pazuzu said with his mouth wide open, “What are you doing here then?”
            “What are you, my wife? Come on, just play already. The sooner we get this game over with, the sooner I can get back to work.”
            Beelzebub just shook his head. Azazel was such a flake. One of these days, Big Daddy was going to catch him goofing off and then where would he be?
 “You in or you out?” Beelzebub asked Pazuzu again.
            “I fold,” Pazuzu said, dropping his head, “I didn’t have anything anyway.”
            He laid down his cards and there was a four, a five, a six, a seven, and an eight, mixed about, and all of them diamonds—a straight flush.
            Both Azazel and Beelzebub’s mouths dropped, but the latter cleared his throat, and the former nodded in recognition.
            “Yeah, uh, tough break,” Beelzebub said.
            “What a lousy hand,” Azazel agreed, “Good thing you didn’t play it.”
            When Ba’al scuttled down the stairs and returned to the room with a two bottles of fire, he looked down at Pazuzu’s cards and nearly dropped the drinks right there on the floor.
            “Holy smokes, you have a—”
            With Pazuzu’s head turned, Beelzebub cleared his throat even louder and Azazel shook his head while cutting his hand in front of his throat.
            “Tell me about it,” Pazuzu said in response to Ba’al’s exclamation, “Not even a lousy pair of twos.”
            Beelzebub saw Ba’al’s eyes flash in his direction for a moment, but then, he shook his head.
            “Yeah, that sucks,” Ba’al said while the frog on his right shoulder was making a bubble, “Here’s your drink,” he said to Azazel, and when he gave it to him, his low-lidded eyes give an expression of, “Shame on the two of you.”
            “Uh, thanks,” Azazel said, “I owe you one.”
            “You sure do,” Ba’al said, sweeping up his chips, “Hey, Pazuzu, you want to get out of here? I foresee some more bad luck in your future with my infinite wisdom if you stay.”
            “You do?” Pazuzu asked, almost whining, “Aw, man. Well, okay.”
            He scooped up his chips and they screamed as they fell into his pocket. He headed out with Ba’al, who turned his head only slightly to shake it again at them. Beelzebub could care less. This game had gone on long anyway. They started two hours ago after his shift had ended. Two less demons was a good thing.
            When the two of them walked up the steps and disappeared, Beelzebub brought his cards close to his chest again. His eyes were slits.
            “I raise you,” he said, tossing in three more souls. They were of much higher value than the paltry ones he threw in earlier. There was a murderer in this pile, as well as his defense lawyer, and also a philanderer as well for good measure.
            “I see you,” Azazel said, smiling, throwing in three convicts, “And I raise you this,” he said. And he tossed in an extremely rare soul—that of a U.S. President.
            Even the flies around Beelzebub’s head stopped buzzing to take notice.
            “Is that?”
            “The one and only,” Azazel said, nodding, “Old Hickory himself, Andrew Jackson. So, do you fold, or what?”
            Beelzebub grew nervous, but steeled himself. Still, the damage had been done. His confidence faltered. He held the cards closer to his chest, not even realizing that he was doing it.
            Could he really have that good a hand? Beelzebub thought, looking down at his own cards again. He recollected all the times he had played Azazel in games and wondered if he had ever been this confident before? Dammit, he couldn’t remember! All the games they played in the past were a blur as he sat there, looking at America’s seventh president staring up at him, raising his dukes.
But he had a Full House, dammit. A Full House! He just had to meet his call, even if it wasn’t a bluff. He made his decision just as he saw something that made his eyes pop out of his head. The first thing he saw was the form-fitting black Speedo walking down the stairs. Next, he saw the red torso with the six, six, six pack of abs. Finally, he saw the thick, black horns and black wings, and there was no escaping what he was seeing now. Big Daddy, standing nine feet tall behind Azazel, had his claws balled up into fists. He was not amused.
            “Azazeeeeeel!” He screamed, and Azazel jumped, “What did I tell you about playing games on company time?”
            Azazel’s baby finger teeth started to wiggle in disarray as he turned his head.
            “I, uh,” he stammered.
Just then, Beelzebub, realizing that his friend’s confidence was now shattered, pulled out one of his most prized possessions: His Henry VIII Poker chip.
            “I call,” Beelzebub said, tapping the crowned head on his chip, “And raise you.”
            Azazel took a quick peek at the chip and then, looked back up at Big Daddy, who shot flames out of his spiked wings.
            “You dare turn your head from me to look at a Poker chip?” Big Daddy bellowed, his serpentine eyes burned like hot coals.
            “I uh, I,” Azazel stammered, and Beelzebub grinned just a teensy bit. Big Daddy crossed his arms over his incredibly buff chest and pouted.
            “You know what,” Big Daddy said, “Save it. I’m tired of your excuses.”
            He pushed Azazel’s hands forward and looked at his cards. His pout deepened and his eyes grew lower and colder. The whole room felt about 30 degrees hotter.
            “I’m going to make you a deal,” Big Daddy said, pulling the cards back up in the trembling hands of Azazel, “If you win this hand,” he said, “Hey, are you listening to me?”
            “Huh?” Beelzebub said. His eyes had been focused on Azazel, “Me?”
            “Yeah, you, dummy,” he said, reaching into a pocket on his tight-fitting Speedo. He pulled out three chips. “If you win this hand, I’ll give you these,” he said, and he flipped the chips in the air and when they stopped spinning on the table, Beelzebub nearly had a heart attack. Lying in front of him were the chips of Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, and Saddam Hussein. They all looked up at him and scowled. Beelzebub looked up at Big Daddy next. And Big Daddy looked pissed.
            “I—” Beelzebub said as he looked at the chip and then up at Azazel, whose complexion has gone from wood brown to milk white.
            “Silence,” Big Daddy said, looking down at Azazel with sheer contempt, “If you lose, Azazel, then you’re going to be taking the place of those chips.”
            Beelzebub’s eyes darted over to Azazel, who swallowed a hard rock down his throat. The goat man then looked back up at Beelzebub—his friend Beelzebub—and Beelzebub could read the fear on his friend’s face. He didn’t even have to see his teeth wiggle to tell how scared he was. The demon was depressed. Seeing this, Beelzebub had a change of heart. Having the big three evils that were sitting on the table would make him the top dog of demons in Hell. But he couldn’t do that to a friend. Not even one as lazy and as annoying as Azazel. Beelzebub laid his cards face down on the table and lowered his head to Big Daddy.
            “I regretfully decline your offer, my Lord,” he said, “I’m sorry, but I feel—.”
            “It’s either him, or you,” Big Daddy said curtly.
            “A Full House,” Beelzebub said, flipping his cards over after he heard his ultimatum.
            Big Daddy grabbed the cards from Azazel’s hands and flipped them over on the table, “A pair of fours,” he said, “Let’s go, Azazel.”
            And with a blast of black magic, Azazel poofed into a ball of smoke and ended up wobbling on the table in the form of a Poker chip. Beelzebub could hear his friend screaming as he pounded on the inside of the chip next to Hitler on the table. Not even in his wildest dreams had Beelzebub ever imagined seeing one of his buddies in the form of a Poker chip. It meant that it could happen to anybody. Even him.
            “No good, lazy bum,” Big Daddy muttered to himself, picking up the chip and shoving it into his pocket, “You’re going to have to cover his shift now, Beelzebub. Move!”
            “Yes, sir, right away, sir!” Beelzebub said with the image of Azazel still screaming in his head. He shot up from the table and rushed up the steps when he heard Big Daddy calling him.
            “Hey,” Big Daddy shouted, and Beelzebub jumped.
            “Yes, sir?”
            “You forgot these,” he said, walking up the steps and handing him the chips he had won.
            “Oh, yes, sir, thank you, sir,” Beelzebub said, the flies bowing in unison with him.
            “Don’t end up like him,” Big Daddy said, pointing to his own pocket.
            “Oh, no, sir, I won’t, sir,” he said, standing at attention for at least a few seconds before Big Daddy spun his wrist around.
            “Well,” he said with flames burning in his eyes, “Get moving!”
            “Yes, sir, right away, sir!”
            And Beelzebub ran up the steps to the seventh circle of Hell. He was sorry for his friend, but happy that he had a whole bunch of evil souls in his pocket and wasn’t a soul in somebody else’s, let alone Big Daddy’s. Beelzebub could hear his master walking up the steps behind him with the sound of his friend’s screaming coming from the bottom of his Speedo pockets. He wondered if the other Big Daddy up in the clouds had ever done a similar thing with His souls. But he tried not to think about that right now. He had a shift to get to, and the last thing he wanted was to be late. He rushed out of Hell’s recreation room. He wondered what Big Daddy’s pockets smelled like. Possibly smoke. Possibly fire. But one thing was certain. He didn’t want to find out.