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27 November, 2008: [331/365], 13:56.37 [Thursday]
Filed under: Microfiction, Stupidity

“The hot chocolate here is utterly useless.” Something you don’t hear every day. J. Ricci looked up from his coffee mug, filled for the fifth time, and it wasn’t even eight in the morning. The Argonne Falls Federal Building wasn’t even open, and here was some pushy jerk, complaining about the free refreshments. How’d he even get in here anyway? Why were refreshments being served, anyway?

“Beg pardon?” Ricci tried to smile, but it just ended up a contrived rictus, maddening in its inhuman width, and his eyes still looked perpetually annoyed. The man making the odd statement stood before him, with a similar grimace stretched across his face. He held out his hand; Ricci, looking back down, didn’t accept.

Pulling his hand back, the man introduced himself. “Graves. Ben Graves.” The wry smirk he wore across his smooth, sterile face compressed into a malicious sneer, but for only a split second. He then smiled a neutral smile, and all seemed to be okay with the world. Not great, but okay.

Ricci, who hadn’t noticed any of this, brushed the man aside. “Wait your turn by the wall. If you have a problem with the refreshments, please write a complaint for the suggestion box. An agent will see you in a moment.”

In a flash of rage, Ricci was blasted in the face with a short torrent of bland scalding hot chocolate. He threw himself to the floor, screeching in blinding red pain, thrashing, and gasping for air in the shock and chaos of what just happened. The rest of the staff stood by, mouths agape with disbelief, as Graves towered over his helpless victim, cackling with seething wrath.

“Well, it looks like I have discovered a use for this bland and featureless drink.” His otherworldly grey eyes suddenly flickered red and the structure around him and his quarry seemed to crumble into nonexistence. “Do you remember me? Five years ago? The Kenny G concert?” Graves kicked Ricci sharply in beneath the ribs, perhaps to help jog Ricci’s memory. “You have an unpaid debt, and I’ve come to collect.”

“No, for the love of God, I don’t remember! Please, stop, I—cough—can’t breathe…” Ricci pleaded for mercy. He really couldn’t remember. He’d never been to a Kenny G concert—he didn’t even like Kenny G. Ricci reached out a gnarled hand in desperation, but Graves crushed it in his now stony fist.

“You made a deal, and you reneged on it! I granted you a night with that young lady, and yet you fail to acknowledge your obligation!” Graves’s voice deepened and became gravelly, and he appeared to be levitating. “Infidels get no second chances!” His skin, which was smooth, clammy, and rather pale when the two had met, was now the color and texture of rust. It wasn’t possible to look directly into his eyes without being stricken with blindness and leprosy, but for reference, they were an impossibly luminous black. The ground beneath him glowed a deep red and appeared to be melting. Ricci was shaking violently in fear and pain, but mostly due to the fantastically copious amount of blood he’d lost.

“Wait! I was never at a Kenny G concert! I’ve been married for seven years! I’d never cheat—“

Silence! Do you truly not remember my ghastly visage?” Graves’s twisted, scaly body grew yards taller as the room reached volcanic temperatures. “Do you deny the duty I am owed? Jeremiah Ricci, you will be punished for crossing Beelzebub! And he will not be as kind as I have been!” Hounds composed of fire rose from the crater that had formed in the ground beneath the terrifying demon, and surrounded his new slave. Ricci cried out, not in pain, but in abject confusion.

“What? No, my name isn’t Jeremiah,” he screamed, “it’s Jarvis! I’m not the one you want!” Ricci was hysterical, bloody tears of frustration pouring down his face. Graves suddenly loosened his iron grip from the poor man’s hand.

“Really? You’re not Jeremiah Ricci, 894 Crestwood Drive?” Graves regained his human façade.

“No! You have the wrong man! Please, I beg you, let me die now,” pleaded the broken, barely recognizable Ricci. Suddenly, almost comically, the ground closed up, and the walls materialized back into existence. The air cooled to a perfectly tolerable climate-controlled sixty-eight degrees. Graves helped Ricci, who appeared to have sustained no injuries, from the floor, and dusted him off.

He cleaned the puddle of lukewarm chocolate from the floor and continued to apologize. “Oh, hey, sorry about that, man. Charon must’ve taken a wrong tributary off the Acheron River. No hard feelings?” His body no longer broken, but his mind shattered, Ricci fell back to the floor and let forth a hoarse yet blood-curdling scream.


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