“We’re losing him!”
That was the last thing I heard. I could barely see anything because my eyes were so filled with tears; they were a constant waterfall. My name is Lucile Smith, and the past six months have been a torrent of emotions for me trapped inside a bright, colorless hospital room with not a window in sight. Heavy breathing equipment was littered around the bed where my father lay, holding on to life and taking each breath like it was his last. I was shaking, and my chest felt heavy, like I was wearing one of those lead vests you don to get an x-ray. My whole body was numb. My legs were made of jello, and my head was like a hot air balloon. I don’t think I could’ve gotten up out of my chair even if I’d had the inclination.
My arms were practically useless, having no more function than a spoon has for digging a six by six hole in the ground. I was in terrible condition, unable to do anything physically and being totally trapped inside my own mind, yet still unable to thoroughly grasp the whole fiasco. As impossible as it may seem, my mother was in even worse condition. She appeared to have aged ten years, mainly because her skin, which once had the golden glow of a happy soul, was now as pale as freshly fallen snow. She reminded me of a ghost. I wished I could have helped somehow, but her answer to me was always “I’m fine” and “things were going to be ok.” My mother is the strongest person I know; she never loses hope, and I draw strength from her.
We have been in this wretched hospital room for three months straight, six on and off, and yet it feels like it has been an eon. Adding to that frustration, our mental and physical health has been declining. Scratch that; we have been plummeting down an eternal abyss at the speed of light towards a seemingly inevitable conclusion. I have spent the last two days sitting in a chair, holding on to my father’s hand. He hasn’t even been awake most of the time. Still, when he has been, he’s been saying the most dreadfully frightening things.
The worst one was when he whispered to my mother, “I’m going to a better place baby, I’m just sorry I couldn’t be here for you longer.” I had to step outside in the hallway after that; I just couldn’t keep it together anymore, and his words were often hard to make out with the breathing tube. He would always follow these heartbreaking statements with a gentle squeeze of the hand. Even though the words were reassuring, they still made me terribly sick to my stomach.
I don’t want him to be in my heart; I want him to be right beside me, and I don’t want to be strong either. Why should I have to be? All because of lung cancer from secondhand smoke? My father never even smoked, but because my grandfather did, he now has to pay the price for it? It’s not fair.
The second of the last two days started off like all the rest. As always, the food was awful; I think I had a hamburger of some kind. I don’t even know how to describe how detestable it was, and I barely ate any of it for fear of seeing it again. The doctors were detached as always. The nurses were rude and treated us like we were utterly obsolete. My poor mother seemed to know something terrible was coming. She has always had a curse of knowing what’s going to happen before it does. My mother’s breathing mirrored my father’s: short, sporadic, and weak, even though she was not the one dying of lung cancer. I could almost see the golden glow of his spirit fading, like an angel taking flight. Then all of a sudden, I heard a high-pitched whine, like that of a dog. I looked up to see that my father’s electrocardiogram had flatlined. The doctors and nurses rushed in like the coming of high tide and crowded around the bed. Someone yelled, “We’re losing him!” Overcome with an indescribable passion, I screamed to high heaven, or as I soon learned, down to hell.
Next, without warning, time slowed down, and the world around me stopped. Nobody moved, and I watched as this horrifying moment was frozen in time. Everything was eerily quiet and calm, like the ocean before a hurricane was about to hit. Subsequently, the world slowly faded out to darkness until everything around me vanished, and I felt like I had entered into a different realm. This was clearly not any ordinary darkness; because it was thick, like a heavy fog. It somehow felt old, I don’t know how I would know or how it did, but it felt as old as time itself. Something wasn’t right, and I didn’t feel alone either. Oddly, I could feel the presence of another soul, or maybe I should say being because it didn’t feel like a soul. It felt darker, older, and more conniving. With a quick, sharp movement, I spun around and saw a man sitting in a chair. He was dressed in all black and practically blended into the darkness, if not for his pale white skin. Upon closer inspection, I realized he was actually quite attractive with perfect features and broad shoulders. However, when I took a step towards him, I froze. I had just looked into his eyes and observed that they were completely black—dark as the night, like black holes trying to suck in all life. Before I had time to react further, the chair was gone, and he was standing right in front of me. I do not know how he moved so quickly, but I realized he was tall and intimidating. Suddenly, the scene shifted, and I was standing over my father’s bed. He was dying, again. I felt the sting of tears in my eyes.
At this instant, I heard from behind me in a low whispery voice, “I can save him… but there’s going to be a price.” I turned around and looked into the dark, serpent-like eyes. I couldn’t speak, and he knew it. So he continued, “At the end of your life, on the final hour of your final day, your soul will belong to me. That’s my price. If you agree, I will sign an eternity contract in my blood, giving you my word that your father will be fine and live to the end of his natural days.”
A contract appeared with a spark of vibrant red light. He then pulled a metal quill from the shadowy gloom. It was etched with horrifying carvings that seemed to be writhing and swirling. Next, he pricked his finger and brought his hand down for me to see. I watched in horror as oily, pitch-black blood oozed from the prick. He turned back to the contract and pressed his finger into the old, waxy paper. In a flash of brilliant crimson luminescence, his name and an oath appeared on the contract. It stated: “The Former Angel of Light hereby promises to give Lucile Smith’s father health in exchange for a price of his choice.” The agreement then sealed itself with a clap of thunder so loud it felt like the world had split in half.
Lucifer turned back to me. “My price…” he leaned in close to my ear and whispered in a voice that sounded like a hundred ghosts speaking in unison, “…is your soul.”
I can only describe the voice as evil persuasion. I glanced at my father, and although I was shaking and stuttering, I managed to blunder out, “That’s not what my father would want.”
To which he scoffed angrily in a voice of a thousand demons, “Not what your father would want, child?! Your father would want to live!
At that moment, he touched his long, cold index finger to my forehead, and I began falling through the darkness. Suddenly, the void lit up, and I saw my father, mother, and I eating dinner together. Then, it flashed to my fifteenth birthday, precisely a month before he was diagnosed. As I watched the past versions of us laugh and enjoy each other’s presence, tears rushed to my eyes. Next, I saw my Dad teaching me how to drive, just a day after that very same birthday. I gave us both a heart attack when I almost hit our neighbor’s mailbox. Another memory I didn’t even know I possessed was the day I was born. My father was holding me with tears of joy lining the corners of his eyes. He whispered to me, “Daddy loves you, little Lucile. You are my greatest gift, and I will always be there for you.” So many more memories shifted and dashed before my eyes that I can hardly recall them all.
Before I knew it, I was back in the presence of the Devil. “Well?” he inquired. I hesitantly nodded, to which he responded, “Wise choice, my dear. Now shake my hand to make it official.”
He held out his hand. I knew this was wrong, but how could I do anything else? Slowly I lifted my shaky hand, which felt like I was lifting the entire world. I was inches away when he clasped my hand firmly and pulled me in close. He had a firm grip that was as cold as ice. I was dreadfully afraid as he leaned in close to my ear and whispered, “Do not worry, Lucile. This was all just a bad dream.” Without warning, his skin began to burn, and his body contorted. I heard a terrible noise, like the suffering of a million people. His black coat turned into appalling bat-like wings, the skin around his mouth burned away to reveal rotting black fangs, and he grew to a monstrous size. As I watched in horror, massive fire-red horns pierced through the skin on his forehead, claws like death grew from his fingers, and his skin turned a pale orange. After this terrifying transformation, he let me go, and I was falling faster and faster into the darkness.
I awoke screaming, the lights in my room went on, and my mother and father came rushing in, “Lucy! What’s the matter?” my father said. I was bawling, and I began rapidly unraveling my whole story to the two of them between sobs. “How are you here, Dad? You’ve been sick for months? Mom, don’t you remember?” They tried to assure me it was all just a dream, but it still felt so real.
Now I am left with a haunting question, did I actually sell my soul to the Devil? Did he keep his promise but create a reality where my father had never fallen ill? Perhaps it was all just a dream, or maybe one day, on the final hour of my final day, the Devil’s bill will come due.