He leaned his head backwards, looked at the ceiling and sighed. After a short wait, he heard the click of the front lock turning, accompanied by the jingle of the door’s attached bell. He placed his unfinished work back into the inbox, placed his pen and highlighter back in their place in the top right drawer, and then dialed the number of the local psychiatrist, who happened to be a high school friend and teammate. The friend listened to his story and assured Harley that he wasn’t crazy, but penciled him in for a 9 a.m. appointment the next day. And also, congratulations on the election.
Harley put down the phone and stared at the office clock. A quarter after five; he had fifteen minutes to get to his mother’s. Short of a gunshot wound or coma, she did not accept an excuse for being late, and would not let you forget it for years to come. He grabbed his keys and left through the back door into the public parking lot, half-expecting to see snakes writhing over his car. There were none. He slid in behind the steering wheel and drove to his mother’s house.
She lived out on the outskirts of town, in a large Victorian home on an oversized lot, his childhood home. He parked in the empty driveway – she sold her car years ago, after she decided she didn’t like driving – and made his way to the porch, ringing the doorbell. The door opened slightly and he stepped in, surprised not to see anyone there. He looked up to see his mother rushing through the foyer towards him, throwing her arms around his neck and hugging him tightly. He looked past her to see a strange red glow coming from the living room.
“I just knew you were going to win,” she exclaimed as she released her hug. She took his hand and led him towards the living room. “I just knew it! Everybody kept saying the other guy was going to win, but I prayed and prayed for you to win and it happened!”
“Well, God works in mysterious ways, Mom,” he said.
She looked at him, amused. “Who said anything about God,” she asked, as they entered the living room. The furniture had been moved aside, and in chalk a pentagram had been drawn on the worn carpet, from which the red glow emanated. He thought he could make out a figure silhouetted in the light, but wasn’t quite sure.
“Honey, I need to tell you; your father and I… We’re not really Methodists.”
Harley stammered. “But.. But… Mom… “
“Everything we’ve had, all of your father’s successes, all of your opportunities, the came from Satan,” she said. “He’s provided well for us.”
“But Mom, how can you… this is ridiculous.” He walked towards the light. How can you…?”
“You’ve got a great future in front of you, Sweetie. Being Mayor is just the start. You can move on to the State Senate, Congress… you can even be Governor one day.”
“I don’t get it. How can you call yourself to the Devil? What’s gotten into your head?” He inadvertently stepped on one of the chalk marks. The figure in the light raised an arm, and Harley flew backwards, tumbling over a chair and into the wall. He lay crumbled on the floor. His mother walked over and kneeled down next to him, again taking his hand.
“We all have to make compromises, Honey. The deal’s been agreed on already, so you can’t back out now. You’ve seen things today, haven’t you?” He stared blankly at her, not able to speak. “If you don’t follow through, it could get worse.”
“Mom, I didn’t agree… I can’t do what he asks…”
“Oh, Sweetie Pie. He doesn’t ask.” He looked up towards the figure, The light had grown brighter, and the figure seemed larger.
His mother patted his hand, demanding his attention again. “Your Dad used to have a saying. He’d say ‘Get with the program.’ You need to get with the program, Hon.” As he looked at her, he saw tears of blood start to run from her eyes. “Our family’s made a lot of commitments. I made a lot of commitments on your behalf, and I’ll have to pay the penalties if you back out.” He could see her skin start to melt. He recoiled.
“And think of what you could do. You could do a lot of good. A governor would help the needy, could create jobs. This could be a wonderful chance to make a difference.” He looked away, and when he looked back his mother had become a corpse. A talking corpse.
“I promised you’d go along, Pooh Bear.” Her left eye fell out of its socket.
“Harley picked himself up and closed his eyes. Chanting rang in his ears, softly at first, the louder, until everything else was blocked out. He remained still for five, then ten, minutes.
Harley opened his eyes and walked softly across the living room, past his mother and around the couch, until he stood at the edge of the pentagram, inches from the light. He knelt on the floor and clasped his hands.
“How can I serve you, my Lord?”
© 2017, Dave Allen. All rights reserved.
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