A SECOND CHANCE

A SECOND CHANCE

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

“So, what’s your story?”

Tom was standing by the door, he turned to look at the man who asked him the question. What he saw was a fat man—his face was round, and he needed a shave and a haircut.

“What was that you said?” Tom asked.

“Your story,” the fat man said. “I want to know your story.”

“My story?”

The fat man nodded. “Yeah. What brought you here?”

Tom looked around. The room they were in was small, designed and built to contain just a few people at a time—two or three, maybe four at the most. The door was made of metal bars and so was the small window. The floor was made of smooth cement. There were four bunk beds.

“Don’t you talk at all?”

Tom ignored the question and looked at the ceiling. It was low. Then he turned to look at the fat man. “You talk too much.”

“Take it easy, man; I’m only trying to make a conversation.”

“Really?”

“Calm down, okay? I don’t want to pester you.”

“Well, you already are.”

“I only want to get to know you, you know? As we’re the only ones here for now.”

“For now?”

“Yeah, for now. Maybe later, more people will join us.”

Tom glanced around the small space. “You think?”

“Maybe four or five more. This cell can hold up to ten people.”

“Ten people would never fit here.”

The fat man sneered at him. “Ever seen sardines packed in tins? You’d be surprised at how many they can fit into a small cell like this.”

“That would be crazy.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that before. But while you’re here, anything could happen and the world wouldn’t give a damn.”

“So, what is your story?”

The fat man snorted. “Pretty smart of you to throw my own question right back at me.”

“Now you don’t want to talk?”

“Nah, I’ll talk. What’s there to lose anyway?”

“Maybe nothing.”

“Sure, maybe nothing. Anyway, I was at Calvin’s Cold Beer, drinking away my sorrows.” The fat man’s eyes rolled at Tom. “You ever been there before? You ever been to Calvin’s?”

“No, never.”

“Pity.”

“Yeah, maybe. But let’s not get into that. What were you saying?”

“Yeah, about Calvin’s, right? Well, I went there for a drink. It was just me. I needed to sit and just be by myself. You understand? Just me and my beer. So, I sit there, drinking and listening to those soft jazzy tunes that Calvin’s loves to play. Damn. You need to hear those tunes. They go back, way back to the good old age of jazz.”

“So, you were sent here because you were drinking?”

The fat man scowled. “What’s wrong with having a cold beer?”

“I don’t know.”

The fat man scowled again. “It’s my story, isn’t it? You don’t have to go pushing me to speed it up. After all, you refused to tell me yours.”

“And is that why you keep going around in circles?”

“I haven’t finished it yet. Can’t you be patient?”

“Fine. Take your time.”

“Better,” the fat man said. He rubbed his forehead. “Where was I? Oh yeah, me and my bottle of beer. Nothing but a cold bottle of beer on the table. And then this dude walks up to me and says, ‘I want a beer too’.”

“He wanted a beer?”

“Can you imagine that? Asking Albert for a beer. As if I’m the bartender or something!”

“Albert?”

The fat man nodded. “Yeah, that’s me. Fat Al, they call me. But what do I have to do with bartending?”

“Maybe he thought you were the one in charge,”

“But I was sitting at a table by the window, like any customer. He just came right up to me and asked me for a beer!”

“So what happened?”

“So, I tell the dude something’s wrong with him, do I look like a bartender? The dude goes, ‘I don’t care. All I need is a beer. Get it for me’. I tell him to leave me alone, I’m not in the mood for silly games. The dude tells me he doesn’t give a damn, all he wants is a beer.”

“He was just looking for trouble.”

“Looking for trouble? He wasn’t just looking for trouble, he was trouble. No matter what I did, he just hung around. I tried to get him to leave me alone. Then he grabbed my bottle and drank it.”

“He stole your beer?”

“And finished it all in one go, just like that,” Al snapped his fingers.

“He had some nerve. First, he provokes you, then he takes your drink.”

“But no amount of nerve was going to get away with my drink.”

“What did you do?”

“I told him to buy me another beer, but he said ‘NO’. That’s when I lost it.”

“You lost what?”

“Everything. I just lost everything. My senses, my patience—everything.”

“Really? What happened?”

“I just looked at the empty bottle, picked it up, smashed it on his head. He fell, I pounced on him and clobbered his head with the bottle. I don’t know how long I was on him, or even how many times I must have hit him. I just kept at it with a drive I didn’t know I had.”

“What about the bartender or the other customers? None of them stopped you?”

“They tried, but they couldn’t—I just fended them off. I only stopped when the cops came. Anyway, by the time I was pulled away, I couldn’t even recognise the dude’s face.”

“You hit him that hard?”

“Hit? No, I pounded his face into a pulp so bad that I couldn’t tell where his nose or eyes were anymore. There was blood everywhere, on my hands, my face, my hair, the floor—everywhere you looked. He had it coming, that piece of shit.”

“Really?”

“The first thing that came to my mind when I looked around was that I must have been inside a butcher.”

“And your victim, do you think he will live?”

“Who cares? All I know is he won’t be snatching no beers from me no more.”

“You’re right about that, Albert. But you have to pray that he doesn’t die from his injuries.”

“Die? You think he would?”

“If that happens, then you’ll have much more on your hands than you imagined. You don’t want a lawyer throwing around words like ‘aggravated assault’ and ‘murder’.”

Albert scratched his head. “That doesn’t sound good.”

“Maybe you had already had too much beer. That could explain why your rage was so uncontrollable.”

“But I only had the one.”

“Even one bottle is enough to intoxicate a man.”

“But I normally have about seven before anything kicks in.”

Tom glanced at Al’s stomach. “Seven? And you only had one before he came along?”

“Yeah, I was still on that first one.”

“Well, one or seven bottles, it’s irrelevant now. Just pray that he doesn’t die.”

“He was still breathing when the cops took me away.”

“Are you sure, or was he struggling to breathe?”

Al was silent as his eyes darted back and forth across the cell. “I don't know.”

“He could have been struggling to breathe, but you would think he was still breathing. An enraged person could easily be deceived by that.”

“Deceived. Enraged,” Al repeated quietly. He sat there on the floor, weighed down by his emotions. He looked smaller than before.

“Don’t let that bring you down,” Tom said trying to reassure Al.

“That’s easy for you to say, mister. I know I could’ve killed that man. And if that’s what happened…” Al was staring at his hands, as if not believing they were his—or that they had, or could have, killed someone. “I couldn’t have killed him.”

“But you bashed that man’s head with a bottle like this.” Tom made a fist and slammed it into his open palm. “Not once, not twice, but repeatedly. You said there was blood everywhere. Where do you think all that came from? Come on, Albert. It was the result of your handiwork. I’m sorry, but no one can survive getting their face disfigured in such a brutal way.”

“I just wanted to drink alone.”

“And now what do you want? Another drink?”

“Another drink? Are you making fun of me or what?”

“No. I am just trying to imagine what you’re thinking.”

“Oh god, definitely not another drink…” Al paused, searching for the right word. Then it hit him. He looked up. “I don’t even know your name.”

“That’s because you never asked.”

“What’s your name?”

“Just call me Thomas.”

“Thomas? As in Tom?”

“Sure, as in Tom.”

“Okay. You know what, Tom? You sound like you might know how things could work out. So what do you think about all this?”

“It all depends on what happens to the man you assaulted. If he lives, then everything could be fine for you. But if he doesn’t—well, it might not be good for you.”

“It might not be good for me? No, I don’t want that.”

“It’s not about what you want that matters. It’s what the law says and what the lawyers can prove. It’s about what the evidence would show.”

“No, Tom, I don’t want to go down for this. I don’t want to be a goner.”

“Isn’t that what this place is for?” Tom asked, looking around the small cell. “A place for goners?”

“Are you saying you’ve got a similar problem too?”

“Not really. I was just thinking aloud.”

“What did you do, anyway?”

“Me?”

“Yeah, you. Why are you here?”

“I doubt you’d believe me if I told you.”

Al chuckled—his belly seemed to come to life, wobbling with every move of his cheeks and body. “You just want to lift the mood a bit, don’t you? Really? You think I won’t believe you?”

Tom settled his gaze past the bars of the small window. “Believe me, you wouldn’t.”

“But you believed my story, didn’t you?”

Tom nodded, his eyes still looking somewhere beyond the window. “Yes, I did, because I had no reason not to.”

“Enough of all this,” Al waved his remark away. “Tell me what happened. What’s your story?”

“Are you sure that my story is more important to you than finding a way out of your predicament?”

“What do you mean?”

“Just what I said. If I was in your situation, I’d be seriously thinking of a way out of my mess, rather than asking about someone else’s story. So, how long have you been here?”

“Me? Going on two weeks now.”

“And I just arrived today.”

“Yeah.”

“You said earlier that others have come and gone, before I was brought in?”

“Yeah.”

“So in all that time, nothing has ever been said or done about you?”

“No.”

“Think about it, Albert. You know the truth, even though you’re being stubborn. They might have already decided your case. That man might already be dead. That’s why they aren’t letting you out.”

“You think so?” Al’s voice had now become low and troubled. He gazed up through eyes that seemed to have shrunk in size, as if looking at Tom too openly might confirm his own guilt.

“I really believe that’s what’s happening. Two weeks? That’s far too long already. You have to do something.”

“But what can I do? I’m stuck here in this cell.”

“Yes, for now.”

“For now?”

Tom glanced outside the door, listening for footsteps. Then he leaned towards Al. “What if you had the chance to go back?”

“Go back?”

“To the past.”

“The past? Come on, Tom, are you messing with me?”

“It’s not a joke. This is a chance for you to correct the mistake you made.”

“By going back to the past?”

“Yes. Go back, make a different decision, and you won’t be in jail anymore.”

“You’re right. I mean, if I could go back in time, I sure wouldn’t drink any beers. And I wouldn’t go to any bars either, not Calvin’s or any other place.”

“And then you wouldn’t end up in here, right?”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Doesn’t that sound good, being free and not locked up? Having the opportunity to make things right?”

“It does sound really good,” Al gushed. Then his mood changed, as if a dark cloud suddenly appeared above him. He looked at Tom. “But could someone really do that?”

“It can be done.”

“I don’t believe you.”

 

 

Chapter 2

 

Tom held his gaze for a while. He then pointed at the metal bars on the door. “You see those bars?”

“Yeah, sure, I see them.”

“Whatever you choose to believe will not change the fact that they are metal bars, right?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“No, you need to understand that fact. Those metal bars are metal bars, whether you agree or not. In that same way, people can go back to the past, whether you believe it’s true or not.”

“But how?”

“It just takes knowing what to do and how to do it, that’s all.”

“And then?”

“Are you interested?”

“Interested? Of course I’m interested! How can I go back?”

Tom glanced around again to make sure no one was listening. “I can send you there.”

“Can you? Really?”

Tom hushed him. “Keep it down! You don’t want others hearing what we’re saying, do you?”

“No, no, no. I’m sorry. I think I got carried away there. Can you say it again?” Al asked in a lower voice.

“I said that I can send you back to the past, to your past.”

“But how?”

“It’s easy, but it will cost you.”

“Cost me what? Money? I have some money in my bank account. How much do you want?”

“No, not money, Albert. Something more precious.”

“What could be more precious than money?”

“There are many things more precious than money. Many things indeed.”

“Really? I thought money is the most valuable thing in the world.”

“That’s true, but not for everyone. I don’t want any money.”

“Okay, tell me, then. What do you want?”

“A soul.”

Al’s jaw dropped. “What?” 

“Just one, Albert. Just one soul.”

“A soul? Where am I going to find you a soul?”

“There are many around you, around us, all around the neighborhood. Even in that bar you went to—what was the name again?”

“Calvin’s Cold Beer.”

“Yes, at Calvin’s there should be plenty of people you could choose from.”

“And I think I know just the one,” Al said, with a grim expression on his face.

“You do? Who would that be?”

“The dude who got me into this mess, of course! That crazy son of a gun. I hate him for what he did to me. He’s the root of all my problems. It was his fault I got thrown in here and he’s why I’m stuck here today. So, giving you his soul would not only be the right thing to do, but it would also mean that I’m doing the world a favour! And do you know why? Well, I’ll tell you why—because this world would be such a better place without him.”

“There you go, now you’re talking. So it shouldn’t be difficult to give me that one soul, should it?”

Al shook his head vigorously. “It would be so damned easy. But what do I have to do? I don’t have to kill him, do I? That’s kind of what got me here in the first place.”

“You wouldn’t have to do much. All you have to do is to give him your drink, and I’ll do the rest.”

“You’d do the rest?”

“You just leave everything else to me, Albert. All you need to do is identify the person whose soul you want to give me, then get him a drink. That’s all.”

“And just like that, I wouldn’t be in this cell anymore?”

“Just like that. Everything would be back to normal for you. You wouldn’t be here; you would be free.”

“You’re actually serious?”

“Yes. I wouldn’t joke about such a thing.”

“But how?”

“There you go again, asking irrelevant questions. Do you want to be free or not?”

“Of course I do. I want to be free.”

“Tell me, what good would it do you to find out how?”

“I’m sorry, but I—”

“Don’t apologise. I’ll give you an option. I could tell you everything you want to know, on one condition: you would never leave this place.”

“What? No, that’s not fair.”

“Yes, it’s very fair, Albert. My time isn’t available for unnecessary enquiries. You choose what you want, either I tell you how everything works, or we go back and rectify your past. What is it going to be?”

“The past,” Al said hurriedly. “Tom, let’s go back to the past—my past, please.”

“Very well, then. Come closer to me.”

“Like this?” Al stood up and stepped towards Tom.

“Place your hands in mine.”

As Al stretched out his hands, Tom motioned him to stop. “I do want you to note one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Once you arrive at Calvin’s Cold Beer, you should just go ahead and order your drink, like you did the first time. Act as normal as possible.”

“Sure, I understand.”

“When that man comes to ask for your drink, don’t argue with him or engage in any confrontation, okay? You simply need to hand over your drink to him. Do you understand?”

“Yeah, I understand.”

“You must not argue with him, otherwise everything will be ruined.”

“I get it. No arguments, I just hand him my drink.”

“Good, now give me your hands. Close your eyes and think about Calvin’s.”

“Okay. I’m thinking about Calvin’s.”

“No, Albert. Think only of Calvin’s and nothing else.”

“Okay, got it.”

“Don’t think of anything else—not me, yourself, the drinks, nothing. Close your mind to every other thought and concentrate only on Calvin’s.”

“Like this?”

“Think harder, Albert. Harder.”

“What about now?”

“I said think, Albert, think for goodness sake.”

“Okay!”

“Now you may go and order your drink.”

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Al opened his eyes and gasped.

His surroundings had changed. Gone were the smooth walls and floors of the jail cell that he had been in. Gone were the small window and door made of metal bars. He found himself standing in the middle of a dimly lit but spacious room. All around were chairs and tables, with people sitting and talking to each other. On their tables were bottles of wine and beer, and a range of glasses.

“Hey man, watch it!” Someone bumped into him and walked away.

Al snapped out of whatever shock he was in and noticed a waitress walking by with a tray of drinks.

“Is this Calvin’s?” He asked her.

“Yes, it is. Can I get you anything?”

“Could you please get me two bottles of cold beer? I’ll be sitting right over there,” he pointed.

She followed his finger to an empty table by the window. “Sure, no problem,” she said, leaving to deliver her order. 

As Al sat down at the table, a shadow flashed across his eyes. He blinked a couple of times, and everything was back to normal again. Then someone tapped his arm.

He almost jumped when he saw Tom in front of him. He glanced around frantically. “What are you doing here? Why are you sitting there? He’ll be coming over any minute now!”

“Who? Your chosen soul? The so-called ‘dude’?”

“Yeah, so go sit somewhere else!”

“Relax, Albert. He isn’t here yet. He will be here soon, but don’t worry about that. I only wanted to check up on you to make sure that everything is alright.”

Al nodded, still distractedly looking around. “Fine, yeah, everything’s alright.”

Tom regarded him closely, “Are you sure?”

“Of course.”

“Then why did you order two bottles of beer?”

“What?”

“I saw you order two bottles of beer, Albert. What do you need two bottles for?”

“Come on, man. I just got out of jail, for crying out loud! What’s wrong with a couple cold beers?”

“Everything is wrong. You have to stay focused on why you’re here, not celebrating.”

“I know what I’m doing here, okay?”

Tom shook his head. “No, you don’t. You’re doing it all wrong.”

Al glanced over his shoulder to make sure no one could hear them. “Look, let me tell you what’s going to happen. That dude is still going to come here, right?”

“Yes. He is going to come here.”

“And you’re dead sure about this?”

“Definitely. He’s already on his way to the bar.”

“Good,” Al rubbed his hands together in satisfaction. “I’ll be drinking a beer and he’ll want to join me when he sees the other one.”

“You don’t get it, do you? You’re trying to change the past. It doesn’t work like that.”

“But it’s still the same thing! I’m here in the same bar, expecting the same dude.”

“Yes, that’s true, but you can only change your actions after the man arrives. Once you do that, everything else will change. But you cannot try to change the situation itself.”

“Calm down, I know what I’m doing.”

Al felt Tom’s hand on his arm. “You’re doing this wrong, Albert. Trust me, you will fail if you continue this way. Just order one bottle, one bottle. Do you understand? Just one bottle.”

Al pulled away from Tom’s hold. “I already ordered two.”

“Send it back. Ask the waitress to return it.”

“Too late,” Al said, glancing ahead.

Tom could see the waitress weaving past the other tables. She was holding up a tray with two bottles of beer.

“There’s still time to ask her to take one back. You have to send one bottle back,” Tom reached for Al’s arm again, hoping his touch would make him see reason.

But it didn’t. Al shook loose from his grip and stared fixedly at the beer bottles on the tray. Tom was sure he saw Al lick his lips.

Tom gripped him by the arm again. “Albert, just remember the price you need to pay. Remember the soul you are going to give.”

“What about the soul?” Al asked, not taking his eyes off the waitress.

“One soul must be given whether you like it or not.”

“And it will be! You think I won’t give you his soul?”

“I know you want to, but you need to stay focused.”

“I am focused.”

“Albert, for your own sake: listen to me.”

“I am listening!”

“You need to really listen to what I am saying, Albert.”

Al, nodded still focused on the approaching waitress with his beer.

“Albert!”

“What? What is it?” Al felt frustrated but still hadn’t bothered to look in Tom’s direction, too distracted by the beer as it got closer and closer.

“If you mess this up, you only have yourself to blame. Do you understand?”

Al was smiling and nodding. And waving. He was waving at the waitress as she arrived with his order. “Yes, I understand.”

The waitress frowned as she slowly put the tray on the table. “What do you understand?”

“Sorry, I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to my friend.”

The frown was still on her face as she placed the two bottles in front of him. “Your friend? What friend?”

“He’s right here—” Al began to say and stopped. There was no one sitting with him. Tom had suddenly disappeared.

“You said a friend of yours was here?” the waitress asked as Al looked around, hoping to catch sight of Tom.

“Yeah, he must’ve left. I wonder where he could’ve gone to so quickly,” Al wondered aloud, but Tom’s sudden disappearance didn’t seem to bother him that much. He turned back to the waitress. “Well, I guess he’s not around anymore.”

“I see,” the waitress said. “So, what do I do with the extra drink? Do you want me to take it back?”

“Take it back?” Al asked, with an expression of alarm on his face. “Why the hell would you want to do that?”

“Hey, take it easy, okay?”

“Exactly,” Al said, with a broad smile. He reached into his pocket and tossed some money at the waitress. “Keep the change.”

“This is far too much,” she said, counting the money.

“Then consider it a generous tip,” Al grinned.

“Thanks. Can I get you anything else?”

“Nope.”

“Okay, enjoy your drinks, sir.”

“Oh I will!”

“I’ll be around in case you need me,” the waitress said.

“Ok, thanks,” Al said, watching her disappear into the crowd. But as she left, he thought he saw a strange shadow moving near her. He squinted at it but it vanished.

He glanced back at the seat next to him. It was still empty. Tom had not returned. Maybe not yet, he mused, as he eyed the two bottles on the table.

He picked up his first beer, but as he lifted it to his mouth, he thought he saw the same shadow across the room. He lowered the bottle and peered around again. Still, he didn’t see anyone that he could recognise.

My eyes playing games on me? He thought, taking a long sip and savouring the taste.

He smacked his lips. In a few short gulps, he finished the entire bottle. He put it back on the table and reached for the second one. He downed the contents before slamming the second empty bottle on the table.

Wiping his lips with the back of his hand, Al turned to look around the room. He couldn’t see anyone familiar close by. My target has still not arrived, he mused.

He rubbed his chin and glanced around again. Why isn’t he here yet?

Al’s eyes caught sight of the two empty bottles in front of him. Well, what was he to do, other than waiting?

But surely he couldn’t wait with empty bottles as companions! Al smiled to himself and spun around in his seat. Peering through the crowd, he found the waitress who had served him earlier.

He waved at her to come over.

“Done with your drinks?”

Al nodded and pointed at the empty bottles. “I need more.”

The waitress nodded. “Sure. How many more do you need?”

Al burped and raised two fingers at her. “Two more should do the trick!” He dipped his hand into his pocket. “Here, get me my drinks and keep the change.”

The waitress counted the money and beamed at him.

Al had hardly settled back in his seat before the drinks arrived. The waitress smiled at him again. “I’ll be just around the corner in case you need anything.”

Al waved her off, and picked up a bottle. Once he finished it, he dropped it on the table and glanced around. Still no sight of him, he thought. Well, it’s his bad luck and my gain. Al picked up the second bottle.

Suddenly, a shadow fell over him. He held the bottle still and looked up. There was a huge man standing in front of him. His head was clean shaven, while the beard underneath his chin was thick and bushy. His arms bulged out of his t-shirt. He was looking directly at Al.

The man did not say anything as Al regarded him for a while. Eventually, Al snorted. “You don’t scare me. I knocked you down before, and I can do it again.”

The man growled like an angry beast. “What?”

Al took a long sip from his fourth bottle of beer. Then looked up at the man and smiled. “You heard me.”

“Give me your drink,” the man said in a firm voice.

“You think you can intimidate me into handing over my drink to you?”

“I said give me your drink.”

Al remembered what Tom had said to him in the cell and smiled then he slowly and deliberately took a long sip before placing the empty bottle on the table.

The stranger took another step forward. “Get me a beer.”

“Go to hell.”

“Hell? I’ll show you what it’s like to go to hell and come back.”

Al gripped his bottle tightly, taken aback by what he just heard. “What do you mean ‘come back’?”

In response, the man threw a clenched fist right at Al’s face. Al quickly ducked and watched the fist fly over his head. But as he stood up, he blinked and squinted into the distance, momentarily distracted by a moving shadow. Just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone. Al realized that there was something oddly familiar about the sinister shadow. Could it be? Was it? Tom?

Al suddenly felt the cold steel piercing through him. He gasped and looked down. The entire blade of a knife had disappeared into his side.

Al tried to stand upright, but stumbled and fell to the floor. Although his arms and hands broke his fall, they were not strong enough to support his weight. Gradually, he rolled onto his side. He struggled to get up, but the pain was excruciating. He tried to sit up again but his hand slipped on the wet floor. Then he saw that his hands were stained red.

Al stared at them in shock. That was when he understood what it was: blood. His blood.

He looked down at the floor again and saw that he was sitting in a dark red pool. It was growing, flowing out from underneath him.

With bloody hands, he grabbed the handle of the knife and tried to pull it out. But even a slight movement caused sharp pain to surge through him. He cried out and let go of the knife.

He began to cough, then noticed that the man was staring at him.

“You killed me.”

“You died?” Al said slowly, feeling the pain bite deeper with each word.

“How…how… did you… come back?”

“I made a deal to give a soul. Your soul.”

“No!” And that was when Al saw him again.

Tom was sitting at his table, smiling oddly at him.

“You…” Al gasped, spluttering blood all over his shirt.

Tom nodded. “Yes, it’s me, Albert.”

“Can I go now?” the man asked, looking at Tom.

Tom smiled broadly and waved his hand at him. “Of course, you can leave. You have given me what I wanted: one soul. Our deal is complete.”

“Thank you, thank you so much,” The man looked down at Al on the floor. “ Enjoy hell.”

Al screamed wordlessly as he watched the man leave. He turned to Tom. “You…you… lied … to me.”

“No, I didn’t. It was you who messed up.”

“I… did… not…”

“I warned you not to change the situation. Just play your part and follow the original story. Why order so many drinks? Why drink all that beer? Why did you have to do all that?”

“But… it… didn’t… change … anything.”

“It changed everything, Albert. Now he has won and you have lost. Again.”

“Again…?”

“Yes, again. You have lost again and there is no more going back. Your soul is mine now.”

“But you… said… I could… offer… his… soul.”

“But you went against the rules. You were supposed to follow my instructions. But you choose not to, even with all my warnings.”

“… What?”

“Yes, I gave you so many warnings—through the waitress and through my several appearances. All you had to do was to give your drink to him. But no. You chose not to. You did everything I warned you against.”

“Give me… another… chance… please.”

“I’m sorry, Albert, but rules are rules. Your soul now belongs to me.”

“Please…”

“It’s too late,” Tom said standing up. “Time to go.”

Al was surprised to see that he could now stand up. He stood up without any effort, and without any strength of his own. It was as if some invisible force had lifted him onto his feet. Suddenly, his legs seemed to have a life of their own. As he walked, he heard the clangs of metal on metal. That was when he noticed the chains with shackles around his wrists and ankles. He was chained like a prisoner.

Al couldn’t understand what had happened. So many questions raced through his mind.

Tom started moving through the crowded bar. No one seemed to pay any attention to him, or to Al being pulled along by the iron shackles.

“Where are we going?” Al asked, his voice heavy with fear and worry.

“Where else? To hell.”

 

THE END

Lamees Alhassar