Someone says, “I’d sell my soul for that.” You decide to take them up on their offer.
“What are you going to use it for?” Duncan asked, scratching his head.
“Iunno, but don’t worry I’ll take good care of it. When you want it back I’ll let you know what I want to trade,” said Nate, and that was that.
Forty years passed, and Duncan never had got around to trading back for his soul.
“I figure Nate’s as good as anybody for holding onto it,” he explained once. “I was dumb enough to trade in for tickets to see a band I can’t remember anymore, and it’s probably just as well I didn’t have a second opportunity to make a more dumbass deal with a worse person.”
Nate didn’t often think about the contract that he kept in the dashboard compartment of his truck signed in Duncan’s blood, but when he remembered he just shrugged. He’d willed the thing back to Duncan in the case of his death, because he figured if that happened then Duncan would have to take care of himself.
He probably should have been more surprised when one day a faintly glowing figure popped into the cabin of his truck with him.
Nate carefully pulled his truck over into the shoulder. He figured this would probably take his full attention.
“Hello Nathaniel Graham Bourke,” said the figure.
Nate grunted in response, inclining his head.
“I believe you have something that belongs to me,” the figure continued.
“How do you figure that?” Nate asked warily.
“Your friend Duncan is deceased. Fell down a flight of stairs,” the figure replied.
Nate sighed. “Had he been drinking?” He asked.
The figure hummed as though checking through some mental list. “No. Tripped on his shoelace. Broke his neck.”
Nate nodded to himself. “Well that’s something,” he said. Lisa would have been so disappointed if Duncan had been drinking again, so it was good she at least had that cold comfort that her husband hadn’t lied when he’d said he’d try harder.
“Yes. Your friend is dead and so I’m here to collect the soul I’m owed,” the figure said.
Nate frowned. “Does it work like that?” He wondered doubtfully, “Because I traded for that soul fair and square, so I don’t see how that means I need to just give it away at the first opportunity to the first comer.” Nate wrinkled his nose. “You haven’t even introduced yourself. I’ve kept that soul safe for years, and done my best to encourage Duncan away from making dumbass decisions. I’m not letting it go unless you can prove to me that it’s going to good hands.”
“I am an Angel. What better hands then mine?” The figure asked rhetorically. “I will take Duncan Jacobsen’s soul to the afterlife.”
Nate raised an eyebrow. “Which afterlife?” He wanted to know.
“Duncan Jacobsen was a sinner,” the Angel replied.
“That’s as maybe,” Nate allowed, “but you didn’t answer my question. I’ve been taking care of that soul for forty years now and I’m not going to just give it away to someone who’s going to mistreat it. Duncan was not the clearest thinker, but he tried his best most of the time and I reckon that should count for something.”
The figure started emitting a smell similar to sulfur. (Nate hoped it wouldn’t take too long to get out of the upholstery.)
“Ah,” said Nate. “Well in that case I think I’ll be holding onto it for a while until someone comes up with a better offer.”
“Even if it is inevitable that your friend should end in my custody?” The Angel demanded.
“If that was true,” Nate replied, “then you wouldn’t need to negotiate with me. You could just nab it.” He shook his head and smiled crookedly. “I’m not a well read man, but I do know about salespitches.”
The Angel snarled, but Nate refused to buckle.
“See now you’re just being a bully,” Nate said. “And a sore loser,” he added. “And this is doing nothing to convince me that you’re going to take good care of my buddy’s soul. The opposite really,” he nodded to himself.
The Angel calmed abruptly. “You say you’re waiting for a better offer,” the Angel said with honeyed tones. “So, what would induce you to give the soul to me? What do you desire?”
Nate scoffed. “Already said, didn’t I? Just want to make sure Duncan’s soul is going somewhere good where it’s going to be looked after proper.” He looked the Angel in the rough position where its eyes should be. “If you can honestly promise me that, then we’ve got a deal. If not…” Nate shrugged, “then I reckon I’ll be holding onto this soul a bit longer.”
The sulfurous smell increased in intensity.
“This is not over, Nathaniel Graham Bourke,” the Angel hissed, and disappeared.
“Didn’t reckon it would be,” muttered Nate. “But there’s still time.”
After a few minutes of quiet, Nate restarted the truck and pulled out into the road.
“Thanks Nate,” came a thin whisper from the dashboard.
Nate smiled sadly. “No worries, Dunc. Got your back.”