Afflictions: Part Twenty Six

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After they’d gone back to town and rested a night, Jude and Zoey posed with Tim, Jimmy, Dale, and Casey, and Guillermo and a cop took the picture. This was something more like Jude had in mind to do, but it felt like he was helpful yesterday. He also learned something interesting about his power, so he didn’t exactly regret it.

Once a few pictures had been taken, Tim turned to Jude. “Well it was great to meet you, Jude. Hope we can work together again sometime in the future.”

“And you can tell the folk at the DSR that we’ll be in touch about maybe joining up.” Jimmy added.

Jude groaned internally at the realization that he still hadn’t told the DSR about any of this, but that was a later problem. “Will do, Jimmy. I hope to work with you some time soon. Maybe the agency will actually let me if you join up.” He laughed.

“Have a safe rest of your trip!” Casey smiled.

“Will do.” Guillermo nodded.

Zoey took one last selfie with Tim, then they all piled back into the car. It had been an unexpectedly long detour, since they were planning on covering a bit more distance before they decided to stop for the night, but it was definitely enjoyable. The stuff going on with the tents and guards with power-armor was definitely concerning, so he figured he should actually call this in at some point soon. He decided to get it done once they’d finished driving for the day. He’d already had a high enough dose of work in his vacation for now.

“I’m thinking we should stop for gas before we leave town.” Guillermo nodded. “Does anyone need to go to the bathroom or get some snacks or something?”

“I could probably use a restroom break.” Jude replied.

“If we’re stopping, I can run in and get snacks then.” Zoey answered, but she seemed a little tired again. Jude figured she was probably just bummed about not getting to hang out more with Tim and his crew.

“Sounds like a plan.” Guillermo nodded, and pulled into the first gas station they saw.

On the wall of the store, was a sign saying the restrooms were around the side, along with some graffiti he couldn’t be bothered to read. Jude groaned, and made his way around the store, letting Zoey go in to get food by herself.

Leaning against the wall was some dirty looking dude, that Jude did his best to ignore. He was all for charity, but he really didn’t like the idea of starting up conversations outside a gas station bathroom. He just had to hope it wasn’t occupied. Sure enough, Jude jiggled the handle, and it was locked. He sighed and made his way over to the wall by the dude that he passed earlier.

“Say can you do me a favor?” The man started.

Jude took a moment collect himself, before turning to the man.

“Don’t incinerate me, Jude.” The man finished.

Standing where the man was, there was now something humanoid with red skin and curled horns. It was wearing the same clothes as the man, and didn’t move.

Jude leapt back and readied himself for trouble. He’d been slightly on edge, but he definitely wasn’t expecting this. He was thinking someone might try to mug him. Evidently he’d attracted the attention of some kind of demon. And on top of all that, he still had to use the bathroom.

“What do you want?” Jude demanded.

“Don’t worry, I couldn’t win if I fought you anyways.” The man didn’t move from where he leaned. “I just have a question for you. Do you care to make a deal?”

“No way.” Jude shook his head. “Not interested. I’ve heard enough mythology to know this is a bad idea.”

“Suit yourself.” He shrugged. “I didn’t think you’d spring for it.” He pulled a card out of his pocket. “Call me if you change your mind, I’m never far away.”

Jude reluctantly took the card, and watched the man walk down the road. He’d half expected him to turn to go talk to Zoey or Guillermo, since he evidently knew something about him, but evidently not. He looked down at the card. It listed a name and a number.

Caveat: Granter of your Wildest Dreams

The person came out of the bathroom, so Jude pocketed his card and tried to make it quick.

Zoey stood at the register with a few snacks on the counter. She’d had a lot of trouble sleeping last night, but she thought she’d been acting as fun as possible. It wasn’t their fault she couldn’t handle even going to sleep, so she didn’t want to take it out on them. This was supposed to be vacation after all. Her nightmares didn’t seem to take the week off, though. She’d hoped it would be better out of the house, but it wasn’t.

“That’ll be $16.66.” The man at the register smiled.

Zoey handed him a 20 dollar bill, and stared back off into the distance.

“Can I interest you in anything else? A good night’s sleep, perhaps? Maybe get rid of those pesky nightmares?” The man continued in his cheery tone.

It took Zoey a second to process what the man had asked, but once she did she looked back over at him. Something didn’t feel right. She concentrated on him for a second, and his form started to change. His skin began to become red, and the headphones he was wearing turned into large curling horns. His smile remained unchanged.

“Anything at all?” He asked.

Zoey stumbled back a few feet, and bumped into one of the shelves. “You’re…”

“The devil?” He tilted his head. “Close, but no cigar. You’re underage anyways. I’m Caveat. I’m here to offer you a deal. I don’t want your soul or anything, so don’t worry. I think you’ll find my price relatively low, really.”

“You… You can make the nightmares stop?” Everything in her was screaming that this was an awful idea, but if the nightmares stopped she could sleep again. She could go on more missions. She could stop being such a burden.

“Absolutely.” The man nodded.

Zoey hesitated for a moment. She wasn’t sure if she could trust him, but it might be worth hearing him out.

“What’s your price…?”

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Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

I’m still slammed with work, so not much writing is happening (or likely will be happening for a while), but I’m managing to survive. Hope you’re doing well.

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