Samuel pushed against his hotel door, trying to keep the mob that had formed out in the hallway from breaking it down. The only thing keeping them out was the thin metal chain that was tearing away from the door frame. Samuel turned and leaned his back into it as he heard the tiny click. Whipping around, he locked the deadbolt and backed away as the banging grew louder.
This wasn’t what he had in mind when he made that deal long ago with the strange man in the alley. He just wanted a little luck on his side—to sell his manuscript that he worked on for years to pay for his family. He hadn’t expected to lose everything as fast as he gained it.
“Aww, are we starting to realize this isn’t what you expected?”
Samuel spun around in his posh room, his eyes growing wide with fear as he saw the suited man stand from the king-sized bed. Taking off his fedora, he threw it onto the blanket and took a step forward.
“You—don’t come near me!” Samuel shouted as he backed away towards the door. He wasn’t sure which he feared most, the crowd of overzealous fans gathering outside his bedroom door or the man who had caused it all.
The man clucked his tongue as he continued to advance. “But this was what you wanted, Samuel. Remember? We talked about this months ago.”
“I agreed to a little fame, a little fortune—but not this,” Samuel insisted. He walked around the man to the other side of the room near his balcony doors, keeping some distance between them.
“And I gave you that. I can’t help that you blew up as fast as you did.” A book appeared in the man’s hand. Licking his fingers, he flipped through the pages in admiration of his work. “You have a gift, Samuel. One that should be shared with the world. That’s what you wanted when we last spoke.”
“You tricked me—”
“It sounds to me like you’re ungrateful for all the attention. Your books have brought you tons of money. Look at this place!” The man held his arms wide, spinning around in the center of the luxurious room. “On a fancy book tour in the Big Apple with millions of adoring fans. I know this was what you desired.”
The door splintered as the people banged harder against it. Samuel jumped at the sound, fear quickening his heart and racing through his veins. He swallowed hard, his mouth dry as he gripped the handle of the balcony door against his back.
“And losing my family? Was that a part of it?”
The man dropped his hands to his side, shaking his head. “Every good writer has a tragic backstory. You know that. It was in your book.”
“You killed them!”
“No!” The man’s features darkened as a low growl rose from his chest. Samuel stiffened, his blood running cold. The creature before him sighed, lifting his hands to straighten his tie. “They were holding you back from your true potential. I simply removed them to tip the scales in your favor. You’re the one who did the rest, following the breadcrumbs. Every decision you’ve made after our deal has been solely your own.”
One of the wooden panels broke on the door behind the man as a person reached through, trying to undo the locks. The man turned around, a wicked grin spreading across his face as he turned back to Samuel.
“What do you think they’ll do once they have you? They seem hungry to me, wishing to devour your latest novel that you’ve yet to write.”
Samuel flung open the balcony door and slammed it behind him as the mob stormed his hotel room. Taking a chair, he slid it under the doorknobs as the glass rattled. He looked over the railing at the tiny people and cars below as the cold night air tousled his hair.
The man rested his elbows on the railing and looked out over the glow of lights around them. Samuel could only hear the beating of his heart as tears pooled in his eyes. Then, grabbing his hair, he pulled at it trying to form some kind of escape plan.
“How about one more deal? I’m a generous man.”
Samuel sniffed, turning to face him. He didn’t see a way out of this but to take his offer even after knowing what it could cost him. The man smiled, exposing his yellow teeth as he extended his hand.
Glass shattered to the ground as his fans tried to reach him. He had to act quickly if he wanted to save himself. Samuel clasped the man’s hand as he toppled over the railing towards the busy street below. He felt the roaring of the wind sliding past his ears and a faint voice calling to him.
“Wake up!” the voice said as Samuel awoke with a gasp, sucking in air. Cool, petite hands grasped his face as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.
“It’s just a dream,” the woman cooed as he relaxed. He felt the lightest brush of her lips against his as she lay back down beside him, rubbing his chest with her hand. He held her to him as she snuggled into his arm, settling back to sleep.
The door to their bedroom opened as his son ran towards the bed, jumping in between them. “I had a nightmare!”
“Oh, it’s okay, my love,” his wife said, holding him to her. Samuel turned onto his side to face the pair, blinking back the stinging tears. His wife reached over and turned on a bedside lamp, illuminating the room as Samuel kissed them both.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” she asked, concern in her voice.
“Daddy, why are you crying?” his son asked.
“I’ll never give you up. Never.”
His wife squeezed his hand as she sat up in bed. Samuel’s son hugged him as he rubbed his eyes. “So, tell me about this nightmare, son.”
His son trembled in his arms. Samuel leaned down as he ushered him to whisper in his ear. “Daddy…there’s a man in my room.”
Samuel leaped from the bed, tearing through the house as he flipped on lights. His wife and son came out of the room, peering down the hallway. His rampage ceased as he entered his son’s room, and the man in the fedora stood from the toddler bed, holding a stuffed teddy bear in his hand.
“How does it feel, Samuel?”
“Get out of my house!”
The man chuckled low, tossing the bear aside. “What do you think it cost you this time?”
“You stay away from them,” Samuel growled as he took a step forward.
“Honey, who are you talking to?” Samuel’s wife turned the corner and placed a hand on his shoulder. Samuel turned his attention to her, before spinning back around to see the man had vanished.
Samuel paced his son’s room as the pair watched him. Checking the closet, he stared at his son’s artwork adorning the wall over his dresser. Taking a picture from the wall, his son walked up to him. Samuel bent down to his eye level and held up one of the drawings from months ago before he had met his demon.
“Who’s this person with mommy and daddy?” Samuel asked, pointing a trembling figure toward the tall, slender form on the page.
“That’s the man who visits me in my sleep. He told me I was a lucky kid and could have one wish.”
Samuel swallowed hard. “And what did you wish for?”
“That he would help you with your story.”
Samuel choked back the sob as he let his head fall into his hands. His wife rushed over as he fell to the ground, landing against the base of the dresser. His son wrapped his arms around him as he heard his wife ask him what was wrong. The only thought stuck in his mind was how truly unfortunate he was.