Thirty years ago, while walking along the edges of a pier in some far-off, sleepy inner harbor that had long since been abandoned, a thought had occurred to me: what's it like to feel no pain? The obvious answer would be to go a syringe of morphine into your arm, and a bullet through your foot to find out. But I mean real pain—the mind-body type that swelters around your heart and squeezes till your vision blackens, and no matter how hard you try, you're never going to be rid of it. Pain doesn't absolve. We just learn to live with it. If only I had learned to do just that, I might still be alive.

Whatever manner of force that had led me to that harbor, had not wanted me to leave without first learning the lesson of a life time. While I strolled mindlessly and without thought or care, a creature, very unlike myself in physical build yet my twin of mind, had been itself strolling. Not aimlessly or without care, but with a methodical predatory eye that was decidedly fixed on me. Although I hadn't known it then, its eyes gleamed with the unadulterated menace of blood-lust.

I clutched my bottle of whiskey closer to my chest and stumbled along, in love with the sickening pangs of hunger that ricocheted around my stomach and my head, veritably begging me for something more sustainable than fermented wheat. I paid no attention to the occasional clang of metal somewhere in the near distance, the groan of behemoth ships as they sat, forgotten at port. My unabashed idiocy paid no attention to the frequent hisses and audible slithers of an unseen and dangerously unwanted presence. Until, the eyes filled of laughter and malice, the creature stepped out into my path; I jumped back, nearly shattering my bottle of whiskey upon the pavement. As my startled gaze frantically roamed its face—analyzing its features to determine its intent—I was suddenly shocked when it smiled at me.

Its demure, slender hand out in front of it, arcing in the typical motion associated with a bow, and then the creature bent at the waist in front of me, bowing deeply. At that moment, I felt my heartbeat flutter with severity. And then, as I fell to the ground in a clumsy, drunken stupor, it beat no more except for a faint, dull thump that I believed I was imagining. I lie there on the ground, my eyes wide open, my breath shallow, and listened to the creature's footfalls. Soft at first, and dull; when they drew nearer, they fell with loud painful crashes in my ear canal.

The creature knelt down next to my head and smiled more intensely, in a warm manner which matched the orange smolder and dancing flames of its stare. The glamor of this creature was stupefying, horrifying, polarizing. It was a demon, and beautifully so—goat horns branched out on either side of its head, fangs decorated its devilish grin, talons the size of steak knives stuck out from the tips of its bony fingers.

"You're the Devil," I whispered, for it was the only thing I could manage to say in that dark hour.

"Heavens, no!" it laughed. The pitch of its voice and lilt of its laughter told me the gender of this creature: female. "That honor is not mine to behold. You may be surprised by how many times that mistake is made, its terribly flattering." The haughty formality in her tone would have been off-putting had it not been for her outward appearance. As she leaned closer towards me, I studied the details of her face, her slender nose, full feminine lips, slanted eyes, long eyelashes. And her delicate frame: the soft swells of her naked breasts, the blackened nipples each adorned with a ring.

"What is it you want?" My senses were fading and I was numb.

She laughed richly. "Your soul, what else? Are you interested in making a... deal?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"If it would calm you, then yes."

I chuckled. "What kind of deal?"

"One of death. You're going to lose things, but the item granted to you will surpass the sorrow of that which is lost."

"I don't mean to split horns here, but I always imagined demons would speak in riddles," a wheezy laughing cough parted my already dry and cracked lips. Rain began to fall—the fire in the demon's eyes blazed stronger.

"This is not a trick of the speech, what I say to you now is the simplest way there is to put it. I heard your thoughts earlier.. the ones about pain. And I ask you now, do you want it?"

"If you're going to take my soul, then clearly I have no choice, you've said as much."

"I want a willing victim. Denial, struggling, its beyond my patience. That's all." The demon shifted herself and leaned over me, her black hair hanging in her eyes.

"What is your name?" I asked timidly.

"Name?" She seemed surprised. "I haven't one."

"That's tranquil—makes you less menacing."

"Gracious," she laughed, clutching her heart—or, where I assumed her heart was; if she had one I knew not. "You make me sound like a decrepit monster. Her laughter subsided and all fell silent except for the soft drops of rain on the harbor. "Down to business. The terms are such: your soul is mine. I wish to harvest it, but not all at once—I prefer piece by piece, over a long period of time. In order to preserve the soul, you'll be granted eternal youth until you soul is gone. Mortal ailments and diseases will not be able to touch you."

"Smoking? Drinking?"

"If that's the method you choose to cope with your predicament, that's your choice. Nothing can kill you except for time."

I shook my head deftly and thought about the situation. Die now or die later... Let a demon consume my soul, or not... I sighed. "Is there some formal pact? Some way to seal it?"

"No. Once you say yes, the deal is done. There is no going back. Do you understand?"


"Do you wish to make the deal?"

I risked no hesitation. "Yes."

"I'd expected as much.. and hoped for it," she said, a sinister smile creeping across her lips.

"H-how do I get..."

"Immortality?" I licked my parched lips. She continued, "Like this." At that moment, she leaned in and laid her demonic lips on mine and using her talons, she plunged her fingers through my chest, and seized the heart beneath. She squeezed the organ until, with a painful tremor, it ceased to beat. With a rough, sickening tear, she ripped the dead muscle from my chest, and I felt every movement, every rip, every tear. When she had successfully parted the heart from its webbing of veins and arteries, and its cage of bone, I lay there gasping. Writhing in pain at the empty, gaping wound in my chest. "The bleeding will cease," she murmured disinterestedly as I watched her inspect my heart in her hand.

"The bleeding," I gasped incredulously. As if the bleeding was what I was concerned with. "Where did my soul go?"

"It became mine." She inspected her nails with a bored expression as if the last forty-five minutes hadn't happened.

"How much longer do I have to live?"

"No one can be certain, but I would wager... Years."

"But.. how many?"

"At first you interested me, but your greed is beginning to bore me, human." She squeezed my heart, and I felt the sharp pang of it in my empty chest. "At least five."

I would have vomited if I had anything in my stomach to expel. Five. Five years. At least? My mind began to race with thoughts of how I might have lived longer without the deal. How foolish—how foolish—of me to imagine I would actually benefit from this deal. I had jumped at the idea of immortality, even should it be a fleeting hundred years in the shadow of the thousands I had hoped. In my pondering and mounting rage, I felt the strangest calm wash over me. In the past, whenever I had felt anger, my blood would begin to pump, my pulse quickening, adrenaline erupting into my system. But without a heart, none of this happened. I felt quiet. Calm. Empty. The rage I began to feel blossomed into an unfulfilled numbness, shrouded in apathy.

"Will I see you again?"



She smiled to herself and turned her head to look at me directly, and her smile grew. Her eyes burned with a rapid fire and the ring in her goat-like ear swayed as her body shook with peels of laughter. When she had cured of her fit, she looked off in the distance sullenly and sighed. "Hell," she said as her eyes flicked over to laugh at me once more.