beelzebub's Apprentice

Submitted into Contest #215 in response to: Write a story about someone making a deal with the devil.... view prompt

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Fantasy Horror Funny

Hey Beelzebub, let’s make a deal!”

It wasn’t Tom’s first trip on the river Styx. He had made many pilgrimages there since his daddy turned over the real estate business to him decades ago. At first, he didn’t believe it existed. Those stories of his father’s canoe trips on the river had to be bullshit. He remembered his dad’s long absences during his childhood. He’d always return with a new scheme, a bag of money and a red glow to his eyes. Failed business ventures would suddenly be successful and business partners and adversaries would mysteriously fall ill or die. He became one of the biggest real estate moguls in the country and one of the wealthiest. Ray, his lawyer, often accompanied him on these trips. Rumors had it that Ray owned a boat on the river and had been a river guide there for years. Ray initially frightened little Tommy with his bloodshot eyes, fiendish laugh and long fingernails. Tom also suspected that Ray had a tail since his pants always had a strange bulge in the back. Tom’s mother just laughed when he shared his concerns with her. She seemed unconcerned about her husband’s long absences and his association with this strange lawyer. So why should little Tommy care?

Yet as the years passed, Tom’s dad’s appearance changed, and his personality coarsened. The red glow in his eyes intensified, his body wasted away, and he became crooked and bent. His German accent became more pronounced and his manner more imperious. Tommy was happy to attend boarding school away from home. He took out his frustrations on other students. His large stature and premature growth spurt made him a feared bully. Teachers and parents hesitated to discipline him. They feared the wrath of his father. So, Tommy got away with murder, possibly literally and figuratively. There was the story of the missing student a grade below Tom. He had stood up to Tom weeks before he went missing and was never found. Although authorities suspected foul play, they could not prove anything. The boy’s parents mysteriously fell ill, months after they confronted Tom’s father as did the school’s principal when he expelled Tom.

Tom finished his schooling at home although there was a question whether his father bought his GED. The same question came up when Tom was accepted to a prestigious business school. Despite missing many classes and spending evenings in bars and whore houses, he would routinely receive straight ‘A’s on his report cards. At least that’s what he told his mother and friends. It’s not clear that his father cared enough to validate his claims. In any case, Tom dropped out after two years and joined his father’s real estate business. After a few months, his father realized Tom talked a good game but could never close a deal. He suggested they take a trip on the river with his friend and lawyer Ray. Tom was thrilled. He had never been invited before and suspected that the ‘river’ didn’t exist. These trips had to be an excuse to get away from the house and have a wild time. Tom still excelled at whoring and drinking (and bullying). He hoped he could impress his old man.

Much to his surprise, the three of them flew in his father’s private plane to Kentucky and took a limousine through some badlands to an uncharted river. Tom could never find it on any map. When they arrived at a rotting dock, Tom was surprised to find a modern yacht moored there. The numbers 666 were emblazoned in red on its side. An old, wizened man with a greenish tinge to his skin welcomed them as they boarded. He led them below deck to the dining room where a table was set for three. Trays of jalapeno peppers, raw horse radish, Sriracha, curry and hot chili sat on a red tablecloth. Both Ray and his father sat down and began eating with relish. Tom hesitated. He always avoided hot food because of a sensitive stomach. His father encouraged him to dig in while Ray nodded with red chili dripping from his mouth. Not wanting to disappoint, Tom bit into a jalapeno pepper. His mouth immediately caught fire and he began to cough. His father laughed and pounded his back with his open hand. Tom tried to laugh with him, but it only increased his coughing and choking. Ray rose, went into the galley and returned with a pitcher of red liquid. He poured a glass and handed it to Tom. After one swig, Tom realized that he was drinking a Red Pepper Sangita Margarita. It added gasoline to the fire in his mouth. Much to the glee of the other passengers, he rose and ran into the galley, seeking water. When he returned, flushed, his father’s only comment was: “You’re going to have to toughen up son, and soon. Our hostess does not tolerate weakness.”

There had been no mention of a hostess before the trip. Tom wondered if it really was a hostess or madam of the whore house, he had been anticipating. He avoided any more of the entrees but helped himself to two big slices of the Devil’s Food Cake from the dessert table. If it took eating hot dishes to impress his dad, he would learn to tolerate them, just not that day. He took his last plateful of cake and walked back onto the deck. The horizon had become bloody red and to his horror, there were some huge waterfalls ahead. He dropped his plate and ran to the captain’s cabin where he found the little green man steering straight for the falls.

“Stop! don’t you see the falls!” He screamed as he tried to wrestle the steering wheel from the little navigator.

With a cackle and unexpected strength, the little man cast Tom aside and continued steering straight for the falls. When Tom recovered, to his amazement the yacht was past the falls floating slowly in the air downwards towards a black hole in the water. He froze for a few minutes and closed his eyes. He could feel the temperature rising as they descended further and further into the hole. After what seemed an eternity, the vessel softly landed in what seemed to be a river of blood and moored at a long plastic dock. Ray and his dad joined him on the deck, and they disembarked. They followed a red carpet leading to a city with an orange glow ahead. The air was hot and smoky. Tom wondered if there were any nearby wildfires. He was confused and slightly frightened. He had never imagined this kind of trip. Where were the girls, the parties and casinos? He’d thought this trip would allow him to introduce to his dad to his vision of buying and running casinos. Instead, he had entered a nightmare. Maybe he was dreaming. His sweat seemed real.

As they walked along the carpet, Tom’s dad and Ray were laughing and joking. They seemed at ease. Tom was choking on the thick air and coughing spasmodically. He could not understand why the men were not more concerned. Suddenly, an orange mansion was looming ahead. Vultures, crows and bats circled this building. Their presence unnerved Tom even more. Still, his dad and Ray seemed unconcerned. Maybe his Dad was right, and he was a wus.

They passed through thick double doors and entered a long hallway. The men seemed familiar with the mansion. They led Tom to a large office where the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen sat at a desk. She had long orangish hair, wore a low-cut orange gown and radiated power and sexuality. Her skin was deeply tanned and had an almost orange glow. Tom wasn’t sure but her facial feature seemed to change moment to moment. He could swear that he had seen each iteration in his dreams. As they entered the room, the woman stood and smiled. Both Ray and Tom’s dad went around the desk, bowed and kissed the ring on her left hand. The woman nodded towards Tom and in a sultry voice asked: “Who do have here?”

Tom’s dad smiled and put his arm around Tom while answering: “As promised, Bea, this is my son Tom. My other son would not survive the trip here.”

Bea approached Tom, took his measure and hissed: “He’ll do just fine.”

At his father’s urging, Tom kissed Bea’s ring and felt a strange surge of power and electricity. The ring burned his lips, and he jumped back. The two men were horrified and waited for Bea’s response. Her laugh eased the tension and the men laughed with her. Bea dismissed Tom to a large sitting room, decorated with portraits of famous historical figures. Tom recognized Hitler and Stalin but could not identify less modern personages. He waited for what felt like an eternity until his dad and Roy came and fetched him, leading him back to the office. Bea sat at her desk and was even more beautiful than she was the previous hour. Her face had transformed once again. Tom would swear later that she resembled Betty Jean, his first crush. His father led him to a chair in front of the desk. Bea took a folder out of one of the drawers in her desk and put a bunch of papers in front of him. They were contracts of some kind with more words than Tom cared to read. At his father’s urging, he signed each page with only a superficial perusal.

“It’s good for our business. I’ve signed these contracts many times over the years. It will protect our family for generations.” His father put his hand on Tom’s shoulder as he spoke. Tom was in a fog, but he felt an overwhelming urge to comply without checking the details.

Ray added: “The protection is ironclad. You could kill someone on Fifth Ave and escape scot-free. With this agreement, no one will be able to resist you. Grab who or what you want without consequences.”

The visit ended with more ring kissing and bowing. Bea, who now resembled a famous super model, dismissed the men with a wave of her hand. The three men left the mansion and walked back to the yacht. Tom felt strangely transformed and powerful.

Once back on the mainland, Tom went to work immediately. He made deals that were impossible previously. His connections grew exponentially, and his sexual exploits became legendary. Resistance was futile. When his father and Ray died, Tom took the trip down the River Styx independently. Often, there were other passengers on the yacht. A Russian president, a Syrian ophthalmologist, a Saudi prince and a North Korean dictator were frequent fliers. He even met his third wife, a Serbian supermodel, on one of these trips. In recent years, American politicians crowded the yacht and seemed transformed after each trip. Tom wondered if they had signed the same contracts. Seniority had its benefits because they all deferred to him. He entertained the possibility of going into politics. Bea or Madame Beelzebub encouraged this idea. She even invited his sons and daughter for a family conference. They came away impressed and energized. They also seemed transformed and convinced that politics was the family legacy.

Before the final decision, Tom visited Bea one last time. She offered him a new contract which guaranteed a winning campaign but there was a catch. Once he won the presidency, the country would come under her domain. He signed.

September 13, 2023 23:35

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3 comments

Rose Lind
04:17 Sep 30, 2023

Liked this. Especially as the boat later filled with American presidents etc. Was the contract to Azriel?

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Lucid C
15:00 Sep 18, 2023

Interesting concept. I love Bea being short for Beelzebub, along with Bea being a feminine figure.

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Rabab Zaidi
08:21 Sep 18, 2023

Unnerving.

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