“Everything comes with a price.”
Hearing this, the hunched over woman breaks down sobbing into her hands.
The heart monitor next to her husband’s body beeps steadily.
A few minutes pass.
A breath. “How does it work? Do you just kill me and he wakes up?”
“No. To exchange your life for his, I literally tear out your throat.” A grimace. “It’ll be bloody and messy, but I can guarantee that you’ll live. That’s part of the deal.”
She raises an eyebrow. “That makes no sense. I’m exchanging my life for his, but I’m going to live?” She shakes her head and scoffs, “What kind of devil are you?”
“To live doesn’t mean you’re alive.”
A beat. He can see the color drain from her face as the realization hits her. Her hand flies to the charm at the end of her necklace.
“A little mermaid. How fitting.” He smiles. “Is your husband’s life worth never speaking above a whisper ever again? Is it worth never singing again?” His voice gets louder, faster. “And if you say no, will you ever be able to sing knowing you could have saved his life–?”
“STOP! Please, just take it.” She shudders. “Will it hurt?”
He pats her shoulder.
He sits alone in a pew of the hospital’s dim little chapel. The lights flicker.
“It’s done.” The man looks down at his bloodied hand, flexing his gnarled fingers that can never again hold a paintbrush, and thinks to the woman who after today will never again speak above a whisper, let alone sing.
“Don’t look so glum, my boy. You helped someone save a life today.”
He tenses as the disembodied voice floats out the shadowy corners of the room.
“And condemned yet another’s soul to an eternity in Hell!” He snaps, hands clenched tightly in his lap.
“So self-righteous. You’re the one that made her the offer to save her husband. She would have gotten over losing him and moved on eventually. But instead, you convinced her to sell her soul for the man she loves,” the voice snickers before continuing, “I’m sure this isn’t what they mean when they say ‘pay it forward’.”
“They still have a chance. They can still live happily together–”
“–And your only son could have gone to college after you gave up the tendons your hands in exchange for his cancer going into remission, but he abandoned you, his only family, and instead fell in love with heroin,” the voice hissed in a flash of irritation.
“You gave her my offer. And you did it with a smile because you knew that once she accepted it, your deal with me would be done. Just like those that came before you.”
Tears fall onto his still-clenched hands. “I couldn’t stop smiling because I knew she would take it. And I would finally be able to die.” A sob. “I just want this to end. I can’t live like this anymore.”
“I suppose I’ll hold up my end of the deal. Snip Snip!”
His hands unclench and he slumps over, head bowed as if in prayer. He looks asleep… except for his motionless chest.
“You mortals are so dramatic,” the voice muses to itself, amusement coloring its tone once again. “If only you idiots would remember that everything comes with a price.”