The ContractA Story by Bryan Wolford
Never make a deal with the devil.
The day started out as any other Friday. Mark had gone to work without any problems. The day had trudged along like normal. Reports were written, meetings were attended, and his computer was stared at just like it is every Friday when the work for the weekend makes for a long day. He even left fifteen minutes early just like every other week.
Traffic was busy as usual. The subway was crowded and Mark had to stand. He was home by six o’clock. Everything was as it was every Friday for the past six months or so. He took off his suit and changed into a pair of jeans and a light sweater. Even though it was the beginning of April the nights were still a little chilly in Chicago.
The phone rang and right away he knew who it was. He picked up the receiver with such quickness that he almost whacked himself in the side of the head.
“Hello beautiful,” he said into the phone with a huge smile on his face.
“Hey sweetie,” Diane responded from the other end of the phone. They had been dating pretty steadily for seven months now. Mark had met her through a mutual friend at a dinner party. Instantly they had been attracted to each other. After their first date they had spent two weeks in each other’s company. Mark was pretty sure he was in love. He even practiced saying it to her while she was asleep in his arms. Part of him wanted to say it to her face but another part of him was afraid that she wouldn’t feel the same way. He would be crushed if he ended up saying those words to her only to have her tell him that she didn’t feel that way.
“The movie starts at 7:30. Should we grab something to eat before hand?” he asked her.
“Sounds great.” They said their good byes and Mark headed out his door. A cab ride later he stood in front of the restaurant that they had mutually agreed to. He wasn’t sure what movie they were going to see but he was pretty sure it would be the new Julia Roberts chick flick that had just come out. That wasn’t his top choice but he knew she had wanted to see it so he would agree to it if she brought it up. He went inside and found that she had not yet arrived. The maitre’ d sat him at a table and he ordered some water. Thoughts kept swirling inside his head of if he should tell her that he loved her. He was twenty-nine years old and the time to get married was quickly approaching. His mother had been on him for quite some time to give her a grandchild. Of course the grandchild would only be accepted if he had a wife so he had to start thinking about marriage soon. His career was going well and he would be able to afford having a family soon. The spending on electronic equipment and nights out at the clubs would have to be cut short but he could handle that.
In the middle of his thoughts the maitre’ d brought Diane over to the table. Mark smiled as soon as he saw her. She smiled back and he knew that he had to tell her soon. Maybe even before dinner was over. If he had to pick someone to spend the rest of his life with it would be her. The flow of her hair as it hit her shoulders, the curves of her lips, and the blue tint of her eyes. She was absolutely beautiful to him. Sure she was no Jennifer Love Hewitt but then again who was? He grabbed her hand from across the table and gave it a light squeeze. When she sat down her gaze instantly fell to the tablecloth rather than into his face. His smile suddenly fell off his face.
“What’s the matter?” he asked her. She released his hand and put both of her hands in her lap. Slowly she brought her eyes up to his. He could tell that her eyes were filling up with tears. That could only mean a few things and not one of them were good.
“I’ve been thinking.” With that phrase he knew that by the end of the conversation that both of them would be crying. “I did some thinking last week and I began to thing about us.”
“What about us?” he said with alarm.
“I’m not happy.”
“Not happy? Why aren’t you happy? I thought things were going great.” His lip gave a small quiver at the end of the sentence. He bit it back hoping she hadn’t seen it.
“I don’t know and that’s the problem. I’m just not happy in this situation. That tells me enough. I just need some time to think about things. My life is just hitting a cross road and I have no idea where it’s going to go. I began thinking about all the things we’ve done together and I just realized that even though they were good times that I’m not happy.”
“Why? Is it something that I did or said?” She looked at him and tears began streaming down the sides of her face.
“No. You’ve done nothing wrong. You treated me the best you could have treated me. I just have all these thoughts swirling inside of my head right now and I don’t know what to do about them. I don’t want to hurt you but I can’t keep going like this. We’re just not what I want.”
“What do you want?” His lip was getting harder to control and he was sure she could see it quivering.
“I don’t know. That’s what I need to figure out.”
“Well what do I need to do to fix this? What can I do to make sure we stay together?”
“There’s nothing you can do. This is just how it has to be.” She started to get up. Mark didn’t want her to leave. He still had questions and he wasn’t getting the answers he was looking for.
“Wait.” She sat back down but looked at the top of the table and her face showed him that she refused to look him straight in the face.
“Where did this come from? I just saw you yesterday and everything seemed fine.”
“I told you I have been thinking about it for awhile. It just seems that I can’t be happy with you for some reason. I don’t know what that reason is. I just need time to think. To figure out my life right now.”
“There has to be something that I can do.” Now his lip was really quivering. There really wasn’t much of a reason to try and hide it anymore. His eyes began to water and his lip began shaking uncontrollably. “I would do anything to save this.”
“I told you there’s nothing you can do. It is what it is. It has nothing to do with you. This is something I have to do for myself. I feel like I need this time by myself right now.” Mark lowered his head and stared into his lap. The inside of his body felt like it was going to explode. His heart was beating way to fast for the rest of his body to catch up with.
“Will we ever get a chance to be together again?” When she answered her voice cracked.
“I don’t think so.”
“Why? I don’t understand. Why does it have to end like this? I would do anything for you. I’d swim across the ocean if I had to. I’d jump the Grand Canyon if I knew it would bring you back to me. Hell, I’d sell my soul to the devil if I knew it would get you back.”
“Don’t say stuff like that. You can’t do any of those things and even so I don’t think it would make much of a difference. I have to go.” With that she stood up and walked out of the restaurant. Mark put his head down on the table and began to cry. He was usually not one to cry in public but he felt as though his heart had just been ripped out of his chest. If people were staring at him he didn’t much care. Right now he was mad at the whole world and just wanted to be left alone. If they wanted to whisper about him then let them.
After twenty minutes he got up and walked out of the restaurant. He didn’t hail a cab and elected to walk the five miles home. When he finally got there he wished that he could be somewhere else. Everything in his apartment reminded him of her. He looked at the couch and remembered the first time they kissed had been on that sofa. The stereo sat blankly on top of his entertainment center. He knew that inside was the CD that they had danced to not even three nights ago. On his right side was the small kitchen. The counter had a small burn mark on it from the night they had made dinner together only to burn it when they decided to ditch the food for a fun sexual experience on the floor. The chicken had been burnt to a crisp and the pan had left the mark on the counter. Mark collapsed onto the couch. He didn’t even want to go into the bedroom. Instead he watched as his hand reached for the remote to the stereo and hit the power button. As much as he didn’t want to listen to the CD his hand wouldn’t stop pushing the buttons on the remote. The stereo made some noise as the CD was selected and it whirled through all the songs before it got to the one he had selected. Edwin McCain came over the speakers. Tears began to stream down his cheeks as his brain unlocked all kinds of memories. Her smell, the way she cocked her head when she smiled at him, the feel of her skin beneath his fingers. All of this was coming at him at once. Before the song was over he had fallen asleep on his sofa.
He was awakened with pounding on his door. At first he had no idea where he was. Then he remembered what had happened at the restaurant. The pounding came again at his door. He swung his head towards the noise confused. Who could be at his door at this hour? Then his whole face brightened as he began to think maybe it was Diane and she had changed her mind. With the quickness of a cat he leaped from the sofa and opened the door. Much to his disappointment Diane was not in the hallway, but much to his surprise a man in a suit with a briefcase in his hand was in the hallway. Mark glanced to either side down the hallway as if the answer to whom this man was and what he wanted would be further down the hall.
“Can I help you?” Mark asked. The man in hall shifted his briefcase to his other hand and stuck his hand towards Mark.
“I think you can. I’m looking for Mark Rask. Would you by chance be him?” Now Mark was really puzzled.
“Yes I am. Who are you?” The man smiled as Mark shook his hand.
“My name is Edward Johnson. I am an attorney.”
“An attorney?” The first thought in his head was that Diane was suing him over something but he couldn’t think of anything that she would be able to sue him over. He didn’t owe her anything and had nothing in his possession that belonged to her besides the toothbrush that sat in his medicine cabinet. “What is this about?”
“Could we enter your apartment to talk about this?” Mark really didn’t want to let him in his house but if Diane were suing him it would have to be over something outrageous. He didn’t want his neighbors getting a free show and then snickering at him later if that was the case.
“Sure. Come on in.” Mark stepped aside and let Edward in. The attorney headed straight for the couch and set his briefcase down on the coffee table. He clicked both the clasps on the front of it and raised the lid. Papers began to shuffle around inside. Mark was now more curious than ever as to what was going on.
“Alright, we’re inside now tell me what this is about.” Edward looked up at him and smiled again. Something in the smile made Mark’s skin crawl.
“You like to get right down to business. I like that. Forget all that small talk bullshit eh?” He pulled a small stack of papers out of the briefcase and set them on the coffee table. “Basically I represent a client that would like to do some business with you.” Mark looked at his watch and saw that it was now almost ten-thirty. Who in the hell would want to be doing business at this hour of the day?
“Business? What kind of business?”
“Why trading of course.”
“Trading?” Edward flashed that smile again. Mark had to look away to keep from getting really creeped out. “What trading? And who does business at this kind of hour?”
“My client works at all hours of the day. And the trade is very simple.” Edward picked up the stack of papers that sat on the table and handed them over to Mark. “This is a contract sent to you by my client. Inside you’ll see all the conditions and such. All you have to do is sign it and write in what you desire.” Mark began to look over the document. Most of it was fine print stuff that was usual in most contracts. You could barely read it. He flipped to the end and looked at the last paragraph. There was a large space marked WISH and next to that was a space for the recipient to sign their name. Mark looked back up at Edward who sat silently on the sofa with that smile still on his face.
“What the f**k is this?” Mark asked. The smile fell away from Edwards face for a brief second and then returned. It made him look like a shark. All those teeth in his mouth made him seem like a threat for no other reason than the fact that if you stuck your hand out he might bite it off. As far as size went Edward Johnson was not a big man. He couldn’t have been more than five foot three and one hundred seventy-five pounds, but those teeth made him seem like a predator more than anything else about him. That aura about him had to help him win cases on more than one occasion Mark was sure of that.
“I’m sorry? Is there a problem?” Edward asked nonchalantly.
“Yeah. What the hell is this?”
“A contract. You write in what you want and sign it. You get the one thing that you desired and at the appropriate time your soul is then transferred to my client.” Mark was suddenly furious.
“Does she think this is funny?”
“I’m sorry, she?” Mark walked over toward Edward and he stood up from the sofa taking a defensive stance.
“Yeah. Tell Diane that I don’t find this funny.”
“I’m sorry sir I don’t know who Diane is. I was just sent here by my client to give you the contract. I don’t know the circumstances of your situation. I never do; I’m just sent with a contract. Whatever the problem is I never know. I like it better that way.” Edwards face no longer reminded Mark of a shark but that of a weasel. That was more than likely due to the rage flowing through him.
“Don’t pull that s**t with me. Get the f**k out of here!” Edward ran out the door as fast as his legs would carry him. Mark slammed the door shut after him. He looked at the contract in his hand and tore it in half throwing the papers up into the air. A small knock came from his door. He swung it open and Edward was standing there. His face was pale and he was sweating.
“I’m sorry I just forgot my briefcase.” Mark walked over to the coffee table and picked up the briefcase. He walked back to the door and threw it at Edward with as much force he could muster. It hit him in the chest and then spilled out onto the floor. Mark slammed the door once again. He put his hands against his temples and closed his eyes. The blood in his head was throbbing. When he opened his eyes again he saw the small pieces of paper that was once a contract, supposedly for his soul, lying all over his floor. He picked them up and threw them into the garbage can. Without even thinking about it he went to the phone and punched the seven-digit number that would connect him to Diane. After three rings her answering machine came on. Either she had gone to a friend’s house or she knew who was calling and refused to pick up the phone.
“I hope you thought that was funny sending that guy over here with that contract. I didn’t find it so funny. I can’t believe you would stoop this low as to make fun of me like this. We meant so much to each other. What the f**k are you doing?” Mark hung up the phone. He had meant to get through his whole rant without crying but now his eyes began to flow again. The tears left new trails next to the trails left on his face from crying earlier. His emotions were on a rollercoaster. One second he wanted to punch the wall and the next he wanted to just lie down and cry. He opted instead to just walk into his bedroom and go to sleep.
Mark spent the rest of the weekend sitting in his apartment. Numerous times he tried to start a movie or read a book but his mind would never let him focus. It always wondered to her face. He still couldn’t grasp what had been wrong. They had seemed perfectly happy together then out of the blue this came and hit him right in the face. None of it made sense. Since birth you’re always told that you meet someone, you become happy together, you fall in love, and then you get married. What had happened in this equation to throw all of that out of balance?
By Monday Mark was an absolute wreck. He hadn’t shaven and looked completely unkempt. His shirt was wrinkled and his tie was loose and askew around his neck. Everyone at work gave him a subtle glance and then rolled their eyes in amazement when the looked back down at their computers. Mark didn’t even notice all the looks he was getting and made his way to his desk. As he set his briefcase down he noticed an envelope with his name on it sitting squarely in the middle of the desk. He looked around the office as if the perpetrator that set this on his desk would just be standing off to one side lazily waiting for him to show up. The back flap on the envelope was not sealed and he easily opened it. When he unfolded the papers that were inside, anger spread across his face. It was another copy of the contract that the lawyer had brought over only a couple of nights before. He began to tear this copy to shreds and threw them into the garbage. Afterwards he went into the bathroom and stayed in there for twenty minutes as he splashed water on his face and tried to relax so that he wouldn’t draw attention to himself.
When he returned to his desk he saw all the work that he had to do for today stacked neatly to one side. He leafed through some of them and came to the realization that he didn’t want to do any of them. The mail-boy walked by and dropped a pile of mail onto his desk. After searching through them all he saw another envelope with his name on it. He quickly opened it and saw yet another copy of the contract. Becoming enraged he ripped it into pieces and then threw them into the garbage. Grabbing his briefcase he ran out of the building and made his way home.
Walking into the lobby of his apartment he decided to get his mail. He opened the mailbox and grabbed a handful of letters. When he got into his apartment he threw them on the kitchen table and went to the fridge to get himself something to drink. The beer felt good going down his throat. He walked over to the mail and looked through it. Most of them were bills that he really wasn’t in the mood to deal with so he just set them aside. When he reached the bottom of the pile he saw another white envelope with his name written on it. He began to laugh, as he knew exactly what it was.
“Fine,” he said. “I’ll sign the damn thing. I’ll f*****g sign it. Just stop sending them to me!” He pulled the contract out and began to scrawl his name across the bottom. In the area designated for his wish he wrote I wish that Diane wanted to get back together with me! As soon as he finished dotting the exclamation point the contract suddenly caught fire and instantly disappeared without leaving a burn mark on his table or leaving behind any ashes. He stood staring in disbelief. Even the envelope that the contract had come in seemed to have vanished without a trace. Just then the phone rang. The machine clicked on and his voice came over and instructed the caller to leave a message. As he bent over to look on the floor for any remains of the contract Diane’s voice came over the machine.
“Mark? Mark are you there?” she asked. “I just called to say I’m sorry. I was stupid. I am so sorry.” Mark grabbed the phone.
“Oh good. I didn’t think you were home.”
“Why are you calling?”
“Mark I was stupid. I don’t know what came over me. I take it all back.” Mark began to cry. It was what he had wanted to hear all weekend. “Do you want to meet me for lunch?” she asked.
“Yes! Yes! Where ever you want.” They made their plans and Mark jumped in the shower.
As the time approached Mark had begun to get nervous. He was standing on the corner that they usually met on when they had lunch plans. People walked busily through the streets but Mark paid them no attention. His world had just brightened beyond his expectations. Things seemed to be getting better and his whole weekend of moping and being depressed seemed like a memory.
“Mark!” came a voice from down the block. He turned and saw Diane running from a block away. Mark stood on the corner and waited for her. She neared the intersection that stood between them and to his dismay ran straight through without looking. The screech of tires made everyone around jump. A large bus had blown through the yellow light and was now on it’s way through the intersection. To Mark it was all happening in slow motion. He saw the bus plow down Diane with unforgiving strength.
“No!” The scream escaped his throat to late and he was not able to stop what had happened. He ran to where the bus was stopped but Diane was to far under the bus for him to reach. As he stepped back he looked up at the side of the bus and there spray painted in large red letters were the words PAID IN FULL.
© 2010 Bryan Wolford
Added on January 13, 2010
Last Updated on January 13, 2010
AboutHorror writer out of Illinois trying to get his motivation going. more..