I know, I know, I am really really late with this, but last friday, before I could finish my story for The Chuck Wendig challenge: Life is Hell, I was (perhaps true to the subject) smote by sickness and have spent the better part of a week on the couch, hacking up my lungs and fighting off my cotton ball brain. Today, feeling a lot better, I finished my contribution and have decided to pester the world with it, despite it’s lateness. The ending is a bit rough, but I’ve parked this baby way too long as it is. Bear with me.
The Nightly Grind
By Trine Toft Schmidt
Azu closes his eyes and attempts to get a line to the priest. The signal is weak and broken. A voice, all fire and pain, intercepts the signal with annoying clarity.
“Do you know that for twenty souls extra each month, you can upgrade your subscription to 666 minutes of mind-to-mind or eye-for-an-eye, a day?” Azu cuts the connection, his lunch break is only an hour long and if he can’t get hold of the priest now, he has to make the call on the commute home. If he had 666 minutes it wouldn’t be a problem of course, he could do it while he worked, like the lower-downs. But twenty souls? That’s steep. It’s hard enough bringing home the brimstone as it is. Lately the bosses have put the screws to the higher levels, demanding a thousand souls a month and unpaid overtime in the torture chambers and still the stingy angels only dish out a measly four hundred a month. Azu simply can’t afford any more expenses until he gets a raise.
Which is why he’s saving all his minutes on this priest. Father O’Leary, catholic, devout and fiercely virtuous. If Azu could bring home that soul, he would get the attention of those on the lower levels, he would be on the fast track for the pits down below, which, of course, means getting a larger slice of the soul-cake each month.
Azu waits a few minutes and then tries the priest again. He’s surprised when he gets a rare crystal-clear connection, no static, no pray-interference, just a straight line to the priest’s innermost thoughts. He doesn’t have eye-for-an-eye, but he can sense the surroundings of the priest, mostly from the free-flying snippets of thoughts and sensory input that clutter the mind-space. There’s singing in the background, probably the nuns, so it must be early morning, which fits the foul minty smell of toothpaste, that sends Azu’s lunch rolling in the pit of his stomach.
He’s been dialling up Father O’Leary for a week now, laying the ground work for the take-over, and he’s got the priest rattled. Last night, using his remaining 11 minutes to check in before dinner, the priest had the unmistakable smell of whiskey about him. There are chinks in his religious armour.
Chinks Azu now begins to crack further apart. He starts out gently, conjures up an image of a nun, nothing too specific, so the priest can fill in the blanks himself.
“Look at that black habit. What do you think hides underneath?”
He can feel the priest’s attention waver slightly. It doesn’t matter that Azu can’t see what Father O’Leary is seeing. Azu has never met anyone devout or pious enough to not attach their eyes to someone they think fit the suggestion.
“Imagine what is under there. The soft skin of her legs, how warm and moist it must be under all those layers.”
Father O’Leary tries to flood his brain with the text of his sermon, pushing Azu behind some gobbledygook about not coveting your neighbour’s wife. It has been his tactic for the last couple of nights, so Azu just turns up the volume, projects more skin, moving up the calves, toward white rounded thighs, slowly. He adds a little sensory input as well, suggestive smells and sounds.
Testosterone floods the priest’s system and Azu grins to himself, lathers on more skin, suggests more warmth. Whispers ‘what harm can it do?’ like a mantra in the priest’s head.
In the background the singing has stopped and Azu senses movement around the priest. The nuns are leaving and Father O’Leary must be talking, because half his brain is suddenly awash in flimsy religious sentiments, boring sermon details, something about coffee and cake and flowers. But the other half is pushing the image of a black habit about as if he’s playing hide and seek with it. The thought of the nun is growing by the second, and finally Azu catches a glimpse of her.
She’s small and disgustingly clothed, but she’s got a nice little round face and sweet innocent blue eyes. Azu grins to himself and pounces, latches on to the priest’s image of her, projects hands onto it, creating something like a 1.st person shooter game, only all about seduction, not killing. He moves the hands over the nun’s body, pulling clothing out of the way, lifting up black skirts. He adds sounds, moans and whispers of consent.
Azu is being pressed to the sides of the priest’s brain by fast reproducing images and emotions, shame mingling with an excitement, lust with reason and above it all, the almost tangible sensation and anticipation of plunging into a warm wet hole. Azu doesn’t have a heart, but if he had it would be thrashing about with the thrill of the win. He’s so close now, one little move or word from the priest and Azu is on the fast track downward.
Azu senses movement, the light is changing from gloomy shadow to something sunnier. They are moving into back rooms, where doors can be shut and locked. Where curtains can be pulled. There’s the distinct sound of a door shutting.
All religious sentiment and harmless chit-chatter has left the priest’s brain. Images now form and multiply on their own volition and Azu slides into the background, adding only a little ambiance by letting out his patented sub-level white-noise moan. This is what seals the deal eight out of ten times.
The two are talking, Father O’Leary’s voice butter and cream, the nun’s strawberries and sugar, by the window, standing close. Father O’Leary is sliding out of his vestments and Azu feels the victory jitter of his non-heart, the sound of rustling clothes is as exciting as the act of sex itself. The soul is practically in his hands already.
The nails-on-blackboard voice of his boss, pull Azu out of his call just as the priest puts his hand on the nun’s shoulder.
“MY OFFICE. NOW.”
Azu jumps to his feet, grins and starts the trek down to the sixth level.