Every demon had its own signature look, painstakingly crafted to strike fear into the hearts of mortals.
Anzu took the form of an enormous, fire-breathing bird. Moloch went for the classic “horns and an unnerving number of eyes” aesthetic. Tuchulcha, a chthonic demon who terrorized those darn Etruscans, had hair made of snakes, pointed ears, and the sharp beak of a vulture.
And then there was Amy.
Amy was not like the other demons. While they had been fated to serve the Darkness as punishment—or, to hear the Darkness tell it, reward—for lives filled with unspeakably heinous acts, Amy was a mere child.
No one was quite sure how her pure soul had been bound to the Darkness. Some called it a clerical error, others claimed she had been the cursed result of the union between a human and a demon. Whatever the cause, she had been touched by the Darkness now and the Light could no longer see her, so in the Darkness she remained. And every one of the Darkness’s children had to earn their keep.
Amy’s chosen form had none of the drama and terror of the others. She drew upon her appearance in life, giving herself big, blue eyes and a mop of strawberry blonde curls. Her dress and pinafore were reminiscent of Alice, her favorite storybook character, and she wore a perfect, pink bow in her hair, its ribbon matching those on her Easter basket.
“What is the basket for?” the Darkness asked.
Amy grinned, her voice trembling from her barely-contained fit of giggles. “It’s where I’m going to put all of the souls!”
Amy could barely read, so another demon had to draw up her contract. Other than that, she worked alone, appearing lost and on the verge of tears before desperate people all across the globe.
“I can’t find my mommy,” she would say, hooking a finger in her mouth and looking up at them with watery eyes that would shame any anime character. Oh, she wouldn’t always say it in English. No, the Darkness translated for her, winding around the language center of her brain and rewiring her neurons so she could speak any language.
She said it tickled.
No one could resist Amy. Even the most devious murderer would find themselves stopping in their tracks, drawn to her. Invariably, they would take her hand when she offered it, and that contact was all she needed.
Time froze around them, bird wings stopped mid-flap and peoples’ faces contorted as they paused in the middle of a word. The rest of the world slowly shrank away, leaving only Amy and her prospective victim.
She smiled, wiping away the tears. “You’ve been naughty, haven’t you?”
The victim—sometimes a woman, but more often than not a man—stammered. But she knew what he was thinking.
“How could a little girl know what you’ve done when even the police haven’t?” She shrugged. “People tell me I’m precocious, but I dunno what that means.”
And then, while they were stunned by the impossible depths of her dimples, she rolled out the contract, her name already signed at the bottom in pink crayon.
“You have been a very bad man,” she told him, shaking her finger in imitation of adults. “Someday, you will die, and your soul will go to H-E-L-L.” Amy may have been a demon, but that didn’t mean she was allowed to swear. “You don’t want your soul to go there, do you?”
He shook his head, eyes wide with fear.
“Well, then maybe you should sell it to me. You’ll still go to H-E-L-L when you die, but you’ll do chores for us instead of being tortured.”
Amy couldn’t quite pronounce “corrupt the heathens to help bring about Armageddon,” so she called it “chores” instead.
The man signed. They always signed, even the most devout believers in their faith, because they knew they would never be able to earn forgiveness from the Light, even through a lifetime of penance. If only they knew the Light didn’t particularly care for penance and that its forgiveness could easily be bought with a good loaf of banana bread, the Darkness would have been very lonely indeed; but that particular revelation had never made it into the holy books, and so Amy’s latest victim sold his soul like all the others.
Amy put the soul in her basket and started up time again. She liked to make the souls look like chocolates; sometimes, when the Darkness wasn’t looking, she would nibble on them a bit.
The Darkness had too many souls. It knew this for a fact, because it counted them every day. Couldn’t have the Light accusing it of stealing any, not after that incident with the unbaptized babies. (The Darkness couldn’t help if one of its demons had misread her own holy book and taken it upon herself to start a heathen nursery.)
And the numbers were definitely off. Not by one or two, which could be explained by the same processing error that made the odd soul go missing, but by hundreds.
The extraneous souls were hardly perfect. If the Light came looking for them, it could be argued that all of their little transgressions added up and that they truly belonged down there. The Darkness certainly had enough lawyers to argue that case. But the Darkness generally favored the deeply evil humans, having no real need for litterbugs and people who recorded Yankees games without the express written permission of Major League Baseball.
A quick check of the Darkness’s computer—which, being in Hell, naturally ran Windows Vista—revealed that all of the wayward souls had appeared since the arrival of one demon.
The Darkness looked over the top of the monitor. If it had possessed eyes, it would have narrowed them.
Amy sat on a blackened island amid the lava that made up the floor, humming to herself and playing with dolls.
Dolls which the Darkness did not remember giving her.
Perhaps this Amy child belonged with the Darkness after all, if she was so devious as to turn souls into playthings.
Amy approached the man as she always did, doing her best to play the part of a lost, little girl. She’d even rubbed some dirt on her dress to really sell the illusion.
“Mister?” she said quietly. English this time; she didn’t want the Darkness tagging along on this trip.
The man turned around, stopping in his tracks when his gaze fell upon the little girl. “Oh. Hello.”
“I can’t find my mommy,” Amy said, extending her hand. But he didn’t reach for it, choosing instead to swivel on the spot, searching the busy streets of London.
“Oh dear. What does she look like, sweetheart?”
Amy couldn’t touch him. He had to initiate; that was the rule. “She’s tall,” she said, making her voice sound even younger than she looked. “Real tall, with pointy shoes and yellow hair. Please, Mister. I’m afwaid.”
No adult could resist the cutesy “W instead of R” trick. That was how she’d nabbed Jack the Wipper’s soul.
The man bent to her level, his face all soft and sad. She let a single tear fall down her cheek, and saw the exact moment his heart broke.
“Oh, you poor thing!” The instant his hand touched hers, the bustling pedestrian traffic halted, and the man gasped at the utter lack of movement and sound. “What is this?” he whispered.
Amy dropped the cute act in favor of a more business-like attitude. She was still a five-year-old girl with enormous eyes and dimples for days, of course, so the effect was negligible. But she pronounced all of her Rs.
“I know what happened,” she said, breaking from her usual script. “With your husband.”
Grief replaced the man’s terror, and he put his hand to his heart. “It was an accident. I got angry when he told me, but I didn’t mean to—
“I know,” she assured him. “And more importantly, the Darkness knows.”
“Some people call it Hades, or Lucifer…I call it Dar-Dar when we’re being silly.” Amy shrugged. “But that’s not important. Someday, you’re going to die, and the Light is going to take you to Heaven unless you give me your soul.”
The urgency of her voice confused the man. “Why would I want to give you my soul, if I’m supposed to go to Heaven?”
Her answer was simple. “Because he isn’t there.”
Amy rolled out the contract. It was messy and misspelled, not to mention written on the back of an envelope, but she hadn’t dare let another demon help her with this one.
The man signed it without a second thought, and time started up again as Amy took the man’s soul. She turned it not into a chocolate but rather a little doll, and tucked it into her pocket.
Later that night, when all the other demons were asleep or doing chores, Amy crawled out of bed and took out the box she hid behind a pile of brimstone. Hundreds of teeny dolls smiled up at her blankly, each one holding another doll’s hand. Some were enveloped in a great group hug.
Only one lacked companionship. Amy took him out, and pulled the newest one from her pocket. Their painted-on smiles never changed, but she could feel them see each other for the first time.
Under her breath, so the Darkness couldn’t hear, Amy gave them voices.
“I missed you so much!”
“Me too. What are you doing here? I hope you didn’t sell your soul.”
“I did, but I won’t have to do evil things. I sold it to Amy, not the Darkness.”
“Because I didn’t want to go to Heaven if you aren’t there. I don’t care about the bad stuff you’ve done. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
She made them kiss before tucking them gently back into the box. Their hands were already locked together, and nothing would ever be able to separate them.