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Inspiration

A short story

I stood on the edge of the bridge and flicked a cigarette — one of many — over the railing, observing it as it made its way into the darkness below, all the while imagining it was me.

“To hell with it,” I finally said under my breath and began climbing over the railing.

Just as I was about to jump, however, I heard a voice from behind me say, “Just a moment.”

I hadn’t noticed anyone walking up to me. I turned around and saw a gentleman in his forties with slicked back hair and a neat moustache. The stranger was exquisitely dressed.

“What do you want?” I said with indifference.

“To hell with it?” the stranger said. “But it can’t be that bad, can it?”

“Oh trust me, it is.”

“I see.” The stranger frowned. “Yet since you apparently haven’t got anything to lose anymore, then why don’t you humor an old man and tell him what drove you to this?”

An old man? He didn’t seem so old. In any case, I thought it over for a minute and decided, why the hell not? “Got a cigarette?”

I noticed the stranger looking at the ground in front of me, which was covered in cigarette butts. “Never mind that,” I said, “just . . . practicing for hell.”

“By all means.” The man took out an extravagant silvery cigarette case from the inside pocket of his jacket. The case had the initials M.P. engraved on it in large fancy letters.

“How odd. I have the exact same initials,” I remarked as I took an all-white cigarette from it.

“An interesting coincidence. Let me guess — Michael, is it?”

“How did you know?”

The stranger gave a half-smile. “Just a lucky guess.”

Right. “So you still wanna know what drove me to this?”

“By all means.”

“Well . . .” I lit the cigarette, sucked on it and exhaled a large puff of smoke into the cold night. “First of all, I’m a writer. Or at least, I wanted to be one.”

“I see. And what do you write?”

“Horror.”

“Do you now?” The stranger seemed intrigued.

“But I’ve only published a couple of short stories thus far in some second rate magazines and I’ve barely earned anything by doing so. I’ve tried for years, but it just isn’t happening. I also got fired recently, so I’m broke. And, to top it all off, my girlfriend of three years just left me. I can’t go on like this.”

The stranger nodded with sympathy. “Well, as it so happens, I am the executive editor of a famous — or rather, infamous — publishing house.”

“Really? What do you publish?”

He tilted his head. “Horror exclusively. And since we’ve been in a bit of a slump recently, I wouldn’t at all mind giving your work a look.”

“Really?” I could hardly believe what he was saying.

“Absolutely. Listen, why don’t you come by my office tomorrow and bring some of your stories and I’ll have a look. And you can leave this” — he motioned towards the edge of the bridge — “ghastly business for another day.”

I glanced towards the railing of the bridge for a moment. I couldn’t believe my luck. I had never been particularly religious, but in this instance it seemed as though God was looking out for me. Of course, since I had nothing to lose, I enthusiastically agreed to the offer.

“Here.” He handed me his business card.

“Thank you.” I took the card into my hand without looking at it. “By the way, what were you doing on this bridge at this hour?”

“Oh, just taking a midnight stroll.” His mouth twisted. “I prefer to take them in the cover of the night. Less people around.”

“Well . . . I suppose I was extremely lucky you came by when you did.”

The stranger lifted an eyebrow and said, “There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Just an old expression. Don’t worry, you’ll soon learn what it means.”

I nodded in confusion. “All right. Until tomorrow then?”

“Until tomorrow, Michael,” he said and began walking away.

I examined the business card he had given me. On it was printed:

Mich Peshito
Executive Editor
Pandemonium Publishing
Hell’s Kitchen, 56th street
777–728–2660

Pandemonium Publishing, huh? Strangely, I had never heard of them. And I thought I had already sent my work out to all the major — not to mention minor — horror publishers in New York. But I guess I must have missed this one.

By the time I looked up from the card, the stranger had disappeared.


I visited the publishing house on 56th street the next day. The skyscraper where they were situated in looked very sleek and high-class. They must have been well off. Why had I never heard of them before?

I brought with me a dozen of my best short stories and a novella. Although I had received so many rejections for them already, I knew that the stories were good; they were just too dark and unusual for much mainstream appeal. But perhaps this Mr Peshito was different. Perhaps he’d give me a chance.

The office of Pandemonium Publishing was on the 36th floor of the building. When I stepped out of the elevator, a beautiful and pale brunette with large breasts was walking towards me. “Hello, my name is Lilith,” she said. “This way.” She led me into a large room that was full of grotesque-looking statues.

The executive editor was sitting behind a large black marble desk. The view of the cityscape from the all-glass wall behind him was impressive.

“Good day, Michael,” the executive editor said, standing up from his desk.

“Good day, Mr Peshito,” I said, admiring the statues. “I must say, a very fitting interior for a horror publisher.”

“Please, call me Mich,” he said warmly. “And as to the statues, demonology happens to be a hobby of mine.” He walked towards me and shook my hand; his hand was cold. “The one you’re standing next to right now, for instance, is Mammon, the demon of wealth and greed.”

I turned my head towards the wolf-like demon for a moment. I then noticed a seemingly out of place statue behind it. “And who’s this one?” I pointed at the statue of a nude seductress, who, come to think of it, somewhat resembled the woman who had greeted me near the elevator. “It’s not monstrous like the others.”

“Oh that? It’s a succubus,” Mich said. “And she’s monstrous all right, but in a different way.”

“A demon in female form,” I heard Lilith’s voice from behind me say. She walked in the room holding a large silver platter in her hands and gave me a lascivious wink when I looked at her. “A succubus,” she continued, “seduces men by having sex with them.”

As she bent over to place the platter on the table, for just a fraction of a second it seemed as though she had no underwear on. My god. What I wouldn’t give to sleep with a woman like that, I secretly thought.

Mich cleared his throat. “Yes, thank you, Lilith,” he said. She nodded innocently and left the room. “Please, help yourself; there’s some coffee and deviled eggs with black caviar.”

“Thank you,” I said, still thinking of Lilith.

“Meanwhile, I wouldn’t mind taking a look at one of these stories of yours.”

“Sure thing.” I handed him the folder.

“Just relax for a while and have a cup of coffee, while I look them over, all right?”

“Sure. Do you mind if I examine the statues a bit more?”

“Be my guest.”

This guy must be some eccentric millionaire, I thought. No way that a publishing house — and for horror at that — could ever afford the rent in such a place.

I spent about fifteen minutes drinking my coffee and looking at the demon-statues. As I was looking at Asmodeus, the demon of lust, I was again reminded of the buxom beauty who had greeted me here. Had I ever seen a more beautiful woman in my life? Her perfect face . . . Those plump lips . . . Those big breasts . . . That round ass . . . That shaved —

“This is great writing, Michael, truly,” Mich said as I suddenly came out of my daydream.

“T-thank you,” I stuttered, nervously taking a seat in the black leather chair in front of his desk. “Which one did you read?”

“The one called Bête Noire.”

“Ah, one of my personal favorites.”

“You definitely have a knack for writing horror, Michael.”

“Yes, well my life’s been a pretty big inspiration so far.”

Mich smiled. “But perhaps we can change that. I’d like to publish these stories.”

I was — what’s the word? — flabbergasted. “What, all of them?”

“Yes.”

“But you haven’t even read them all!”

“No, but I’ve read one. And I’m sure the others are equally good, if not better.” He took a piece of printed paper out of his desk drawer. Had he already prepared it beforehand? “I’d like to give you sixteen thousand dollars upfront for the rights to publish them.”

“Sixteen thousand for just a dozen short stories and a novella?”

“Of course, you’ll also get royalties.”

I was stunned into silence. “I-I don’t know what to say,” I stammered after I regained my ability to speak.

“No need to say anything,” he said with a devious smile and handed me a fountain pen. “You just need to sign the contract.”

No sooner had he extended me the pen as I was already signing the contract without even bothering to read what was written on it.

“There’s really only one important condition there that you must fulfill,” he said.

“Yes?”

“We’re going to need more stories.”

“Sure. Absolutely. I have more at home. I’ve got a bunch of rough drafts that only need to be polished up a bit.”

“And we’d also like a novel, Michael. That’s very important. But of course, there’s no rush.”

“A novel? Sure, I can do that. I already have several ideas for a novel, just waiting to be fleshed out.”

“I’m sure you can,” Mich said, putting his hands together and rubbing them. “Then I shall have a check written out for you. And I’ll have Lilith schedule our next meeting. But for now, I have work to do. I’ll be seeing you again soon, Michael.”

I clumsily got up from my chair. “Sure, Mr Peshito, sure. See you soon. And . . . thank you! From the bottom of my heart.”

“You’re more than welcome. And please, call me Mich.”

“Thank you, Mich.” I started towards the exit. “By the way, who’s this ugly-looking creature guarding the room up there?” There was a large and unsightly-looking horned bust standing over the doorway, which I found intriguing.

Mich stood silent for a while before finally replying, “Oh that? That’s the demon of wrath.”

“Oh? And what’s his name?”

“Satan.”


The last couple of months in my life had been great. I felt as though I was finally getting the recognition I had always deserved. I was somebody. I was appreciated. People liked me. I was invited to parties. And I had money. All in all, I was one lucky devil. And to think, just a couple of months earlier I was ready to end it all. I was glad I didn’t.

I was at a publishing party for a collection of my short stories, titled ‘Into the Fire’ (the title had been suggested by Mich). The people at the party were . . . peculiar, to say the least. They were all extravagantly dressed and most seemed rather old, yet they all told me how much they loved my fiction. I guess horror had hidden audiences I never dreamed of.

“Enjoying yourself?” Mich said as he walked up to me.

“I am endlessly in your debt.”

“Nonsense. It’s more of a barter.”

“I can’t believe all these people like my stories.”

“Why not?”

“They all look so distinguished.”

“As do you, Michael. I must say, that suit of yours” — he clicked his tongue — “simply immaculate.”

“Thanks.” I had just bought a 350-dollar suit. After years in the gutter, I felt I deserved it.

“By the by,” Mich said, wetting his lips, “with this short-story collection we have now published everything you’ve given us, Michael. Yet we’re anxious for more. Much more. So, are you working on anything? Have you already started that novel you promised us? I hope to see a first draft soon.”

“Ah.” I turned my eyes away from him. “I had hoped you wouldn’t ask about that. To be honest, I haven’t really written much in the past months. I’ve started a few things, sure, but then quickly abandoned them.”

“Why what’s the matter, Michael?” Mich said with concern. “Writer’s block?”

“Just a lack of inspiration I guess. You see, back when my life was going down the drain, it was so much easier for me to think up horrifying scenarios — my life being a major inspiration — in which I implanted my own feelings of hopelessness, anguish, and despair and which, in turn, made the stories feel authentic. And when everything suddenly became so much better, I . . . I just don’t feel it anymore when I write, you know. I don’t feel the anger and the sadness anymore. And most importantly, I don’t feel the darkness. And without feeling all that, everything I write is just . . . well, shit.”

Mich seemed to be considering for a while what I had told him. “I understand, Michael,” he finally said, putting his hand on my shoulder. “But if it’s inspiration you need, then know that there are ways of getting it. Indeed, one of them happens to be standing right over there.” He motioned towards Lilith, who was watching the party from a corner, slowly smoking a cigarette.

“Lilith? She’s not really the kind of inspiration I mean, Mich.”

“Oh really? You’d be surprised.”

Lilith was now walking towards us.

“Now excuse me, Michael. I’ve got a little business to discuss with Heinrich over there.” He walked away just as Lilith came near me.

“Hey,” she said, handing me a class of red wine.

“Hey yourself. You didn’t put any roofies in this, did you?”

She gave a devilish smile. “I guess you’re gonna have to find out.”

I took a mouthful.

“Feeling dizzy yet?” she said.

“Yeah. But it’s not from the wine.”

After the party ended, Lilith invited me over to her place. I must admit, the thought of fucking her had crossed my mind. After all, she happened to be the most beautiful creature I had ever laid my eyes upon. She simply oozed of sex appeal. And to my surprise, she appeared to be taking an interest in me, even though I wasn’t much to look at. Then again, maybe years of being ignored had worn down my self-confidence.

We were sitting on a red leather couch in her dark apartment, drinking wine. After we had finished making out — the inside of her mouth strangely seemed to taste like sulphur — I said to her, “So what do you think about my stories?”

“They’re great, but . . .”

“But?”

“But I think they could use a little bit more sex in them.”

“Sex?”

“That’s just a personal preference though. Pleasure and pain; I like them together.”

“Do you now?” I lifted my eyebrows.

She licked her lips. “Want me to show you?”

How could I have refused? She led me into another room in her gothic apartment and flicked the lights on. The walls of the room were blood-red and it was filled with bondage equipment. On the walls were plastered dozens of pornographic polaroids. They depicted pretty hardcore stuff. A woman was tied up. Choked. Had hot wax dripped on her. Whipped until she bled. Not to mention penetrated by various men.

On closer examination, I realized that the person in the photographs was none other than Lilith herself. It’s safe to say that I had a massive hard-on by then.

“Do you like what you see?” she said, putting her hand on my crotch.

I did indeed.


I arrived home at about two in the afternoon the next day.

“I was at a party,” I told my girlfriend — me and her had gotten back together again after I had achieved my modicum of fame. “I fell asleep on the couch.”

She bought it. Or at least pretended she did. She had suddenly become very accepting with me lately. I doubted whether she really loved me; whether she had ever really loved me, to be honest, save perhaps for the very beginning of our relationship. But I didn’t care. I had enough people paying attention to me for once in my life. What can I say? I guess I craved attention. But then that’s what happens when you’ve been ignored for so much of your life.

In the evening I began writing a horror story about a man who met a woman that turned out to be a demoness in disguise; a demoness that fed on his sexual energy. However, I couldn’t think of a good ending for it. It seemed as though I needed an unexpected and horrifying twist to really make it work.


Lilith called me the next day and told me she had HIV.

So that’s the twist.

“What . . . the . . . FUCK!?” I could hardly keep my composure over the phone.

She laughed. “Just a little trade-off, Michael.”

“A trade-off?”

“You didn’t think a girl like me would have sex with a guy like you just for nothing, did you?”

“What are you saying to me? What the fuck are you saying to me? What the . . . YOU HAVE HIV, BITCH! H-I-FUCKING-V!” I screamed at her. “YOU FUCKING WHORE! YOU FUCKING — ” I started hyperventilating.

“What can I say?” She sighed. “You don’t get something for nothing.”

“Why,” I said through gritted teeth, “didn’t you make me use a condom, for fuck’s sake?”

“For fuck’s sake?” Lilith chuckled. “Because it ruins the sex.”

“Oh does it now? Well congratulations, bitch, cause you’ve just ruined my fucking life.” I slammed the phone down on the receiver.

I tried to calm down. I smoked five cigarettes. It didn’t help.

I called Mich. “Did you know Lilith had HIV?” I said, trying to suppress my anger.

“Why yes,” he said with a calm tone of voice.

“What? You knew? Then why the fuck did you direct me towards her in the first place?”

“Because she’s been feeling particularly lustful as of late and, to be frank, she tends to get a little crazy when she cannot whet her appetite.”

“You . . .” I could hardly believe what he was saying. Who the hell was this guy?

“Well I thought you needed some inspiration, Michael. Didn’t you get it?”

“Wait; who is she to you, anyway?” Not that I really wanted to know the answer.

“Who is she? Why she’s my daughter of course. Couldn’t you have guessed?”

I was speechless.

“We’re through,” I said after a long pause.

“You have a contract, Michael.”

“Fuck your contract!” I smashed the phone against the wall.


I went to the hospital. I got tested for HIV. My hope of it being just some kind of sick and demented joke was shattered into a million fucking pieces when the test results came back positive. And oh how the edges cut. HIV was no joke. I was fucked. And I was fucked.

I felt depressed as hell. After I exited the hospital, I decided to go to the nearest bar and get wasted.

“A double whiskey on the rocks,” I said to the bartender. “On second thought, fuck the rocks; just give me the whole bottle.”

“Bad day, huh?” the bartender said.

“The worst in my life thus far.” The bartender handed me a bottle of Jim Beam; I unscrewed the cap and took a mouthful. “Which is really saying something.”

“Tell me about it. The universe . . . it just doesn’t care, does it?”

“It doesn’t,” I said bitterly. “And what’s worse, sometimes it seems as though it’s consciously torturing us. As though our lives were just one big fucking joke.”

“Yeah, God’s a comedian all right,” the bartender said.

“Playing to an audience that’s too scared to laugh,” I finished the quote.

He then moved on to serve someone else.

I moved into a dark and lonely corner of the bar with my Jim Beam. It didn’t taste very good. In fact, it kind of tasted like gasoline. But then, isn’t that the fucking point? Drinking alcohol to drown one’s sorrows is like putting out fire with gasoline. It had always been. But when you’re fucked you just want to get even more fucked. So fuck it.

Sitting there, drinking my whiskey, I wished that I had never met Mich Peshito. Perhaps I’d be dead if I hadn’t. But what’s so bad about being dead? No one suffers when they’re dead, do they? You know, I had sensed that there was something off about him from the start. But I had ignored this feeling. I had ignored it because he had promised me fame and fortune. And, truth be told, he had delivered. Hell, he saved my life and even made it good for a while — only to set it on fire shortly thereafter. It was like teasing a dog with a juicy steak. You give him the steak and then, while he is busy devouring it, you suddenly kick the shit out of him. Well, life’s a bitch. First it fucks you. And then it fucks you up.

As I was brooding over my strange fate, the bar got quiet all of a sudden, as though everyone had suddenly left.

“Michael,” I heard an ominously familiar voice from behind me say.

Speak of the devil and he shall appear. I turned my head and there was Mich. I looked around the bar; it seemed completely empty. He sat down behind my table, facing me. He was drinking a Bloody Mary.

“What are you doing here?” I said with contempt. “How the hell did you find me?”

“Just . . .”

“A coincidence?”

“Exactly.”

I sighed. “What do you want?”

“I only want what you owe me.”

“I don’t owe you shit.”

“Oh yes you do, Michael. Yes. You. Do. Don’t you dare fuck with me now. You signed a contract. And a contract must be honoured. Otherwise, who are you? Nothing. Worse than nothing.” His eyes narrowed. “I lifted you up once, but I can also tear you down. You owe me a novel, Michael.” He said the last sentence with almost a growl.

“And what’ll you do if I don’t deliver?” As though my life could get any worse.

“Trust me, you don’t want to find out.” He finished his Bloody Mary in one gulp and then got up to leave.

“Who the hell are you?” I called after him as he was walking away.

He stopped for a brief moment and turned around. “Who do you think I am?” he said with an ominous glare.


A week passed. I had ignored Mich’s warning. And then suddenly I got a call. My mother had died. In a fire.

Now, I was never one for family and all that shit and my mother and I weren’t exactly on the best of terms, but she was the only family I had left. And now she was gone. Thanks to Mich, I was sure of it.

They don’t exactly know how the fire got started, but my mother had been asleep at the time. She had burned to death right in her bed. Obviously, it wasn’t going to be an open-casket funeral.

As my long-forgotten friends and relatives were paying their respects — many of whom I didn’t even recognize anymore — who else happened to walk into the funeral parlour but the devil himself.

I immediately went over to him and pushed him into another room. “The fuck are you doing here?”

“Easy, Michael. I’m just here to pay my respects, that’s all.” He extended me an envelope. “Here. A little something to help you with the funeral expenses, plus a little extra for you.”

“I don’t want your fucking money.”

“Take it,” he said with a barely controlled aggression, shoving the envelope into my pocket.

“I know why you’re really here. You’ve come to gloat. Because it was you who did this.”

“An interesting theory, Michael,” he said with a sly smile.

“That’s all you have to say?”

“Actually there is one more thing I have to say.”

“Which is?”

“Don’t forget about the contract. Michael.”

“Why the hell do you keep repeating my name all the time? Also, I’m not interested in your meaningless little contract, Mich” — I pronounced the name as though it was the most vulgar thing in the known universe — “as I’ve already explicitly expressed to you several times before. And if you don’t like it, you can sue me.”

“Suit yourself, Michael,” he said, patting me on the shoulder. “Suit yourself.”


As I began getting treatment for HIV, it began increasingly hard keeping it a secret, so I eventually told my girlfriend what had happened. Unsurprisingly, she left me then and there . . . after having destroyed half the apartment. Of course, it was my own doing. Lust had gotten the better of me. And now I was paying the price. When exactly had my life become a cautionary tale of biblical morality? I wondered.

I was in a hole. A really deep one. So deep that I could feel the fires of hell burning beneath. I hadn’t written shit for Mich and I knew he wouldn’t leave me alone until I did what I was told. Like a shadow he hung over me. The shadow of death.

Once again, I was drowning my sorrows in alcohol, my oldest friend. After I had enough — which was a lot these days — I got up and began stumbling towards the exit of the seedy bar I was in. The pain of the world had been anesthetized once more.

Right after exiting, I felt the urge to puke, so I went into a dark alleyway behind the bar. As I leaned there against the wall, puking my guts out, someone suddenly pushed me down on the ground with his foot and I fell into my own puke.

“What the fuck?” I mumbled, puke dripping from my mouth.

Three pale and sickly men who looked like junkies were standing over me and staring at me with disgust. One of them, the apparent leader of the lot, clicked his tongue. Tsk tsk tsk. “Drinking away your life when you still have so much to do.” He had an English accent. “Pathetic.”

“Look who’s talking. Did Mich send you?” Not that I didn’t already know the answer.

“Nah. It was Queen Elizabeth that sent me.”

“Fuck you,” I said, puke still dripping from my mouth.

“No. Fuck you.” He then punched me in the face with his foot while the other two joined in. They proceeded to beat me until I passed out.


I woke up in the hospital the next day. The barman had found me when he was closing up for the night and had called an ambulance for me.

I was in the hospital for about a month before my wounds had healed enough so that I was able to properly walk again. However, there was a wound which, although seemingly healed, kept constantly pulsing with pain that only grew worse over time. Those bastards had carved something into my skin, you see. Some kind of occult symbol. I could already guess what the symbol meant.

And that’s how I began writing the novel he wanted. Since that was the only thing that seemed to make the pain stop. At least that’s the way it seemed to me. Naturally, I had also considered the fact that I was simply going insane.


After a couple of months of writing I had at last finished the first draft. It was lousy, but at least the symbol on my stomach didn’t seem to hurt as much anymore. The novel was largely inspired by real life, which, I presume, is what Mich had wanted in the first place. It wasn’t a remarkable story in the least, but then it wasn’t my aim to please him. I merely wanted the contract to end. I wanted to wake up from the nightmare I had found myself in, even though deep inside I had the sinister feeling that I never would.

What was particularly lousy about the novel was the ending. And some part of me must have known that Mich would hate it. I guess I just didn’t care anymore by that point. The ending was the only part of the novel that was remotely pleasurable for me to write. Since, after all, it ended with revenge. And revenge fantasies, as unrealistic as they may be, are usually at least cathartic. If Mich wanted a better ending, he’d have to find someone else to write it for him. I was through with being his lackey.

I mailed the manuscript to Pandemonium Publishing. I had hoped that this would be the last that I’d have to deal with them. But of course, a born pessimist that I was, I doubted that’d be the case.


A couple of days passed. I had spent most of it in my apartment, high. I had recently picked up a heroin habit, you see, after some guy in a bar offered it to me once. I wasn’t proud of it. But what can I say? It dulled the pain of being alive.

Then all of a sudden I got a call. It was Mich. “It’s no good, Michael. The ending is no good.”

“Then change it,” I said with impatience.

“But it’s your story.”

“I don’t care. I fulfilled my end of the contract. We’re done.”

There was a long pause at the other side of the phone. “All right,” he eventually said. “If that’s the way you want to play it. However, I would like to meet with you just one last time.”

“Why?” I didn’t like where this was going.

“To give you the money you are owed for the novel.”

“Wire it.”

“I would much rather prefer to give it to you in person, Michael.”’

What choice did I have? I needed the money. The HIV medicine didn’t come cheap, fucking America. And neither did the heroin — even though it was much cheaper than the HIV medicine. Besides, after what happened to me the last time I had turned him down, I didn’t even want to fucking guess what would happen the next time.

“All right,” I ultimately said with defeat. “When?”

“How about tonight?”

Fuck it. Let’s get it over with. “Tonight it is then.”

I stepped out of the taxi on 56th street. It was a cold and dark Autumn night and the wind itself seemed heavy with foreboding as it rustled the trees near the entrance of the skyscraper, painting grotesque shadows upon the ground beneath a backdrop of dull streetlights. Like fallen angels these shadows appeared to me right then. For some reason, I had the distinct impression that I wasn’t going to leave this building alive that night. But at least one way or another, it would all be over soon.

As I stepped out of the elevator, I saw Lilith already waiting for me.

“You get the fuck away from me,” I said as I walked towards Mich’s office. She blew me a kiss, the bitch.

“Good evening, Michael,” Mich said, sitting at his desk, calmly smoking a cigar.

I didn’t reply.

“Look, it’s understandable if you’re a little sore with us,” he said, turning his gaze towards my stomach where the symbol had been carved. “However, we only want what you owe us.”

“And I already delivered. Now where’s my money?”

“Unfortunately, what you delivered was . . . inadequate, to say the least. Especially that ending, Michael. So unrealistic. What were you thinking?” He clicked his tongue. “Was it a lack of inspiration again that made you write such shit?” He all but growled the last words.

“I . . .”

“Is it more inspiration, Michael? Is that what you need?” He suddenly got up from behind his desk and began walking towards me.

I took a step back.

“Well then,” he said. “Let me inspire you towards real horror.

Just then I heard someone approach from behind me. I turned around; it was Lilith. She stuck a needle in my neck and pushed its contents into my bloodstream. An immense feeling of weakness suddenly took over me and I dropped on my knees.

“What . . . are you . . . doing to me?” I strained. My vision grew hazy.

As Mich stood before me, I suddenly saw him grow in size and take on the appearance of an unspeakably hideous shadowy creature with wings. Black smoke appeared to be emanating from his very skin.

He lifted me up by the neck with one of his hands, its claws digging into my skin. “I TOLD YOU, MICHAEL,” he said in a coarse and inhuman voice as he looked at me with his blackened eyes, “THAT THE ENDING WAS NO GOOD. I MEANT THE ENDING OF YOUR LIFE.”

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