This story comes courtesy of my latest meetup with Write It Up! Burbank, with such prompts as “a trunk,” “Lucifer himself,” and “stuck in a tree.” Naturally, I have to make a story about the turning points we face in life.
One Last Chance, by Alexander Paul Willging
Word Count: 702
“Hold the camera higher!” Greg called out.
“Not so loud!” Samantha replied. She did comply, however, and raise her video camera two inches higher. Why she let herself get talked into these situations, she would never know.
They stood along a row of trees on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard. It was late in the evening and Sam’s college sweater wasn’t keeping her from freezing. But Greg had insisted by blowing up her phone with fifty-six consecutive text messages, so here she was to record the so-called “alien activity.”
“See, someone on Reddit spotted a burst of fire on this neighborhood,” Greg had told her, bouncing up and down like a hyperactive puppy. “So I said, ‘Cool!’ but that’s not the best part!”
“And what’s the best part?” Sam asked wearily.
Greg pointed at the nearest tree. “That!”
That was the real oddity. An ancient trunk, almost large enough to be a casket, was stuck in the tree’s top branches. Sam didn’t like the look of the artifact. For one thing, she was positive that there were too many iron-wrought skulls on the surface. And neither were trunks supposed to be smoking. From the inside.
The fact that no police or firefighters had shown up was also a huge concern to Sam. At this point, she would’ve gone home with any of them.
“I believe,” Greg declared, “that this is the aliens’ first foray into our world.”
“It’s too small to be a spaceship,” said Sam.
“Maybe they’re smaller than we expect!”
“Or, y’know, it’s just a trunk.”
“A trunk full of ancient alien technology!”
“Pretty sure I could buy this at Crate and Barrel.”
“Look,” Greg interrupted with a hand to his temples, “will you let me have this?”
“I will as soon as you get a real job.” Sam lowered her camera—her one memento from film school. “My mother, God rest her soul, was right about you. You just can’t be happy with a normal life, can you?”
“I—” Greg stopped and looked up at the trunk.
“Don’t even think about touching it,” Sam answered. She was already dialing a number on her phone. “I’ll call LAPD. They’ll sort this out—”
“Oh, will they?”
The voice that answered wasn’t Greg. It had come, to their horror, from inside the trunk.
And then, the trunk opened itself.
Sam could only stare open-mouthed at the creature that emerged from within. A tall, muscular gentleman descended gently onto the sidewalk. He towered over scrawny Greg, dressed in an immaculate crimson suit. He brushed a finger along his pointed beard, and when he smiled at Sam, she saw that his teeth were pointed, too.
“I believe introductions are in order,” said the impossible man. He bowed to Sam and offered her hand, which smelled of brimstone. “I am Lucifer, Angel of the Morning Star, Prince of Darkness, Commander of the Legions of the Damned, etcetera, etcetera.”
“You’re… not…” Sam’s mouth could barely make the words come out.
“Oh, but I am. Watch this.” Lucifer snapped his fingers, and in a burst of hellfire, a bouquet of roses appeared in Sam’s hands. She screamed and dropped her camera.
Greg marched up to the Devil with fire reflected in his eyes. He lifted a tentative hand. “We, uh, welcome you to Earth in peace and—”
“I’m not here for you, sport,” Lucifer replied.
He snapped his fingers again, and Greg froze. Even his eyes went still.
“As for you…” Lucifer’s gaze came back to Sam’s face, and his lips curled into a grin. “I can offer you a fresh start if you like.”
“W-what do you mean?”
“That all depends. Where would you like to start? Weekend in Cancun? An Oscar for Best Director?” The Devil cast a significant glance at poor Greg. “Maybe a better love life?”
Sam turned to Greg. She thought back to all the times they’d shared ever since college. All their late-night talks. All their anniversary gifts. All the support Sam had given him, putting off her dreams to help him get one business after another off the ground.
Then she looked back to the man in the red suit, who waited with an expectant smile.
Sam said, “I’m listening.”
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