This is the first version of one of my favorite stories that I have ever written.
It started as a writing group challenge in which we were supposed to have our character interact with several different personality types.
I feel like I nailed it.
The heat in the small room was oppressive enough to bring most beings to tears but Dem hardly noticed it. He waited for a moment before speaking. “Name?” he asked.
“Lance Morris,” the tall man said with a cocky smile as he looked around with interest, “but most people call me Lancer!” The man’s dark eyes sparkled with something akin to mischief.
Dem ignored the sparkle and turned to the M section in the table sized list. “Morris, Kyle. Morris, Lana. Morris, Lisa.”
“That’s too far,” Lance pointed out helpfully. He did not flinch when Dem raised his glowing red eyes and glared. “Well, it is,” the man insisted.
Snorting in irritation Dem turned his attention back to the list. “Morris, Lance. It looks as if you’ll be with us for a while,” Dem plucked a quill out of a smoking inkwell and put a check next to Lance’s name. The mark burned into both the parchment and the back of the man’s hand.
Lance studied the check mark for only a moment before apparently completely ignoring it. “Listen man,” he said, glancing around to make certain no one else was listening, “has Mike Lee checked in yet?” Lance went on before Dem could answer. “Because if I know the guy, and believe me I do, he’s already got a party started down here somewhere and I need in!”
“Mike Lee has indeed checked in,” Dem said carefully. The demon remembered everyone who had checked in.
“Sweet!” Lance pumped a fist, his grin widening. “Can I have my key?”
Dem stared at the outstretched hand before he conjured a heavy, rusted key from the hot air. “Your room number is on…”
Snatching the item from Dem’s clawed fingers Lance moved around the desk and towards the bell-demon that had just appeared. “Thanks,” he waved back at Dem, “I’m sure I can find it.”
The demon sighed. “Next,” he motioned the next murky form out of the darkness and into the glow of the entry room, “name.”
The figure stopped before Dem’s desk and after a moment resolved itself into a woman. “Name?” She asked. “My name?”
Looking the woman over Dem could tell this was going to be one of those cases. She was attractive, for a human, and obviously used to getting her way. He gave her an impatient glare.
“Oh!” she looked around, “since I’m the only one here I guess you mean me.” Plastering on what was surely her most alluring smile the woman said, “my name is Darla. Darla Gray.”
Dem found the G tab and began his search, claw going down the page.
“Excuse me,” Darla said sweetly, “but could you tell me where I am?”
“You’re in the entry room of Hell.”
“What?” Darla’s smile faded for the briefest of moments before returning, wider than ever. “There must be a mistake.” She leaned over the table towards Dem. “Do I look like the kind of girl that should be here?”
The demon did not bother to look up. He could hear the pout in her voice and did not need to see it. He quickly found her name and checked it off. “I suggest,” he held Darla’s key between them, “that you leave those antics of yours behind you. According to the record that sort of thing is the reason you’re down here in the first place.” Dem smiled, showing his black, pointed teeth. “And it seems you will be here for quite a long time. I hope you enjoy your stay.”
The woman glared at Dem when she looked up from the mark on her hand. He motioned her towards the now waiting escort. Something from the record book caught his eye and Dem noted that Darla Gray’s stay had just been extended.
“Next,” Dem waved his tail, admitting another fuzzy form. He waited long enough for the man to blink. “Name.”
“Why should I give you my name?” the newly materialized man demanded in a gruff voice. “Maybe you should tell me where I am, why I am here and what your name is.”
“You could not pronounce my name unless I cut your tongue in two.” Dem said flatly.
“Well that’s not very nice, now is it?” the man asked, slamming a massive fist down on the stone table.
To Dem’s satisfaction the man grimaced with the impact.
“What is this place?” the man demanded.
The demon told him. “So if you will give me your name we can get this whole thing started.”
“Forget it,” the man crossed his arms across his chest, “I don’t belong here, there has been a mistake!”
“Fine,” Dem let the venom in his voice drip onto the mortal, “then we shall do it my way.” Faster than any human could follow Dem’s clawed hand shot across the table and fastened around the man’s throat. The man went rigid as the demon’s hand began to glow, pulling information directly from his brain.
“Baxter,” the man sputtered, “Jim.”
“That’s better,” Dem purred, releasing Jim, who slumped forward onto the table.
Ignoring Jim’s gasps of pain Dem turned to the B’s and quickly found Baxter, Jim. “My, my, you have been awful, haven’t you?” Dem asked, eyeing the unusually long list of infractions by Jim’s name.
“What do you know about it?” Jim glared and straightened, some of his courage returning. “There is no way I ended up here. You’d better check your names again, buddy because I…”
Dem listened to the man rant for a few seconds before emitting a growl. “It appears you are not quite ready to check in, sir.” With a flick of his pointed tail the floor under Jim disappeared and the man fell into a black and orange abyss, his screams fading as the floor returned.
“Next!” Dem snapped, rubbing the spot on his forehead between the horns. Before the demon had a chance to ask for a name the person spoke.
“Oh hello, how are you today?”
Dem cringed. Was that courtesy that had just been directed at him?
“Name,” the demon growled at the meek looking man.
“My name is Bartemus Snow,” he smiled, “what’s yours?”
Flinching at the niceness Dem began to flip through the S’s.
“Excuse me,” the man’s sincere smile never faded, “but could you tell me where I am?” He looked around, “this is nothing like the last place I stopped at.”
“The last place you stopped?” Dem inquired flatly.
“Oh yes,” Bartemus nodded, “a very fine place to be sure. The sun was shinning, the sky was blue and the birds were even chirping! Two rather wonderful gentlemen directed me into a waiting room and when I went through the door I ended up here.”
Dem ground his black teeth together, “these two gentlemen, were their names perhaps Lee and Brockmeier?”
“Oh yes!” Bartemus’ blue eyes sparkled, “do you know them?”
“Unfortunately,” Dem grabbed a silver lever behind him with his tail, “I’m sorry sir, there has been a mistake,” with that the demon pulled the lever. Part of the ceiling rolled back letting in a column of bright light. Dem flinched and tried not to look at it.
“Thank you for your help!” Bartemus said with a wave as he ascended.
Dem waited until the door was almost closed again before roaring, “Very funny!” The sound of angels laughing floated through the door just before the light faded away.
“I hate it when those two are on duty,” Dem muttered. He glared at nothing in particular for a moment before yelling, “next!”