I woke up gasping, just like every other morning. The vivid images of flashing lights and crumpled metal quickly faded out of my mind. After a few deep breaths, I noticed that the air tasted…off. Bad, but not regular morning breath bad.
When I opened the bedroom door, the smell hit me like a ton of bricks. Engulfed in rotten egg stench so thick I could almost see it, it took all my willpower just to suppress gagging. My eyes watered. As far as I knew, nothing dangerous smelled like sulphur, gas leaks or the like. Still, I had to find the source.
Rounding the corner toward the kitchen, the cause of the odor became immediately apparent. A massive black creature sat patiently on the couch in my living room, apparently waiting for me. Its skin looked thick and shiny, except for a smattering of long-healed scars. I could tell its eyes more by location than appearance, two slick depressions on either side of its elongated head that glittered in the cool morning light filtering through the blinds. Its hands, with claws like small swords, held a stack of crisp white paper.
Clearly, I hadn’t woken up after all. As screwed up as this whole thing was though, it probably showed progress. After all, the last couple years, I’d only ever had the one dream. At least this was new. I nodded in acknowledgement at the creature, turned around, and went back to bed.
A few hours later, I woke up gasping. I felt a little strange. It was too bright. A glance at the clock told me that I should have been up hours ago. That didn’t make any sense, I never overslept. My mind tracked back to the strange dream I’d had before the usual one replayed itself again. Maybe there was something off about my sleep cycles.
When I walked back into the living room, odd sleep patterns suddenly dropped down my priority list. Sitting on my coffee table was a thick stack of printer paper secured with a wide binder clip. I approached it, noticing both that it seemed to have a mild stink to it, and that there was a handwritten Post-It note on the top page. “For your review,” it said, “Let me know when you can reschedule.” Part of me smiled, I’d been on disability so long I’d almost forgotten what it was like to be useful.
Thinking it might amuse me, I sat down to take a look at the mysterious document. It was a contract, and a complicated one at that. It also seemed to be a joke. Somebody called “The Miracle Firm, LLC” supposedly offering me (by name, with full middle initial, nicely done) impossible services for eternal (though probably reasonable) prices. I had to give it to the prankster, whoever it was, they’d put a lot of time and effort into this thing. I expected most of the pages to be filled with copy and paste boilerplate just to pad it out, but no, somebody had drafted this thing from scratch, just for me.
With nothing else to do, I brewed a pot of coffee and spent a couple hours going through the contract. I have to admit, I really wanted what I was being offered. Nobody else could even provide it, let alone for a price I could afford. After finishing up the contract, I sat and stared at it for a good long while, as though it would make an argument that would make up my mind. Finally, I put my pen down on the signature line and lay my signature on the page.
With a yellow explosion of sulphur, the demon reappeared. I handed it the agreement, last page still folded over the top displaying my still-wet signature. The creature smiled and, with a mere wave of its razor-clawed hand, countersigned with a glowing red symbol that radiated heat and power. Then it lay its stinking heavy palm on top of my head, and I was asleep.
The dream came again, as it always did. The fear. The darkness. The crash. This one continued on though. The coma. The funeral. The surgeries. The parts that I had never stopped living, so I never needed to relive them in dreams. Then came the parts that had never happened before, not in a dream or anywhere else. The driver, out of prison, in his home, sucking down a bottle of cheap gin. He smells something bad, something strong, gagging him even more than the booze did. He spots the demon, and his eyes doubled in size, like mine did when I saw his Buick that night. With those knife-like hands, the creature cuts him to ribbons with little effort.
I awoke smiling, for the first time in a very long time. My body felt rested, peaceful. Not wanting to look, I ran my hands over my legs, feeling only smooth skin instead of thick, lumpy scar tissue. Within moments, the demon returned in its cologne of brimstone, sparkling eye patches seemingly viewing me with glee. It beckoned me with a long, sharp claw. “Time to hold up your end of the agreement,” it growled.
“Thank you,” I said. “You can go now.” The demon cocked its head to the side like a confused puppy. Its body rippled and pulsed in anger, the unearthly creature’s version of a throbbing forehead vein. It shot its arm toward me at an incredible rate of speed, the honed tips of its fingers stopping so close to my face that I could have sworn I felt them. The demon howled in rage and confusion as its body ripped itself to shreds and fell to the floor, disintegrating into a pile of glittering black ash.
From the pile, I retrieved the soot stained contract and straightened up the pages, still amazed at how easy it had been to get my many handwritten edits accepted, especially considering how long I’d been out of practice. You’d think that somebody in the business of contracts would know not to sign without reading first.
(This story originally appeared on reddit/r/nosleep in October 2016)