Sympathy for Whom?

A Pink Dormouse Production


"They say my boss has all the best tunes. Well if he does, I'm the one who wrote them."

The Devil's Guitar Player had ribbons in his hair today. Rainbow colours contrasting against ebony hair and ivory skin. His suit was so black it seemed to absorb what little light reached this corner of the strangely silent bar. Silver encircled each of his fingers, his neck and both wrists, and dangled in various arcane shapes from his ears. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a packet of cigarettes. Death was the brand, now why should that come as a surprise to anyone?

"How much?" he asked, as the cigarette lit of its own accord. "Just what is your soul worth? The ability to play perfectly again - every time? The return to life of your loved ones? The death of your enemies?"

"Who says I have a soul to sell?" his companion said. "And if I was in the market, why should I sell it to you?"

"Everyone's in the market. But only my boss is buying. And he doesn't like to be refused." He shook the cigarette packet so one emerged. "Cigarette, Valentine?"

The man shook his head.

"No thank you, I don't. But surely you knew that?"

"It's the Other Side who are all-knowing - we just have to rely on information from our field operatives." He replaced the packet whence it had come, and poured himself a shot of vodka (same brand, naturally). "I don't suppose you drink either, do you?"

Valentine - if that was his name - shook his head.

"So what do you do for fun, I wonder," this duke of Hell mused. "Maybe it's time I showed you something."

The room rapidly brightened and reality reshaped itself, then they were standing in a desert. Where tables had been, now there lay the bleached and partially scattered skeletons of cattle. Where drinkers had sat, now birds pecked at already bare bones. Away from the darkness his skin was as pale as ever, but in this light its waxy sheen was revealed. Although it was stretched tight over high cheekbones, no veins showed through.

"This," he gestured at the never-ending yet ever-changing sands that surrounded them, "is where you came from, I believe?"

The other nodded, as the wind whipped up a storm around him - and him alone - obscuring his appearance to the casual observer.

"And this," the Devil's Guitar Player gestured causing reality to fold upon itself again, "is where you were when my boss first noticed you."

Bones stood on end, gained flesh and shape and became people. The air darkened but was intersected at random intervals by beams of coloured light. The people - children many of them - turned and fell silent as a band ran onto the stage at one end of the vast auditorium.

"A concert," the man whispered.

"Your last," the Devil's Guitar Player corrected him. "Your last until now, that is. Watch." He gestured towards one of the light beams.

As they stared at it, the concert and all its trappings vanished, save for that one light, which grew brighter, moved faster, and was now accompanied by a high-pitched whining. The beam hit the ground, shattered and was replaced by a fireball.

"Only one musician survived the crash," the Devil's Guitar Player said. "You. Now surely your soul is a small price to pay for that to have never happened?"

"I'm not selling."

"How about your injuries then? You could be restored to what you were; maybe even be a better player for all that happened to you. Is that worth a little trifle like your soul?"

"I can live without my music. Without a soul, what am I?"

"You could be very wealthy." The Devil's Guitar Player ran a hand through his hair, causing his bangles and earrings to jangle. "What's a soul compared to being able to buy all your wildest dreams?"

"I don't dream anymore," the man said. "You have shown me nothing that could make me change my mind."

"One more image." The Devil's Guitar Player gestured extravagantly, and the black of night around them became a washed-out grey. A slow, steady drizzle fell on an unmarked grave. "Your future."

"So I will die alone and unremembered? Why should I care?" The man turned away. "I've seen enough. May I go now?"

"Have it your way." The Devil's Guitar Player snapped his fingers, and returned the man to the bar where they had first spoken. He raised the cigarette to his lips at long last, and took a slow, steady draw. Then he turned around. "I tried, but he wasn't interested."

"So I noticed," said the casual observer. "Give him time, and maybe I'll approach him next. Now play for me."




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