Speak of the Devil
Notes: I don’t own a thing, except for this computer and this ‘bright’ idea. Reaper belongs to the CW and Buffy belongs to Joss Whedon. I’m borrowing a few bits and pieces from the amazing Season 8 comic but not everything.
Chapter 1 – Speak of the Devil
Orphaned items. The first time Sam Oliver heard the word phrase, he thought it was sad. Poor little items. Unwanted. Left behind. Lonely. That was before he found out that literally hundreds of items were orphaned every day. They were stuck in random places by customers who didn’t care that it took underpaid employees like Sam hours to find each and every item and then put the items back where they belonged. And people left things in the weirdest places.
Like the 8,000 BTU air conditioner that was sitting smack dab in the middle of the seasonal aisle – the Christmas aisle.
“How did you get here?” Sam asked the box.
The box sat silent and if an inanimate cardboard container could commit mockery, Sam would have sworn the box was mocking him. It had to be. How could the box not have heard the dressing-down Ted had just given him, concluding with an order to get that box out of the way so shoppers could maneuver their carts down Aisle 3. Maybe he could move it just enough for one cart to go by and then call Sock for some help…
Bracing himself, Sam put both hands on the box and shoved.
The box flew across the aisle and crashed loudly into the steel shelving that held different sizes of artificial Christmas trees. For an unnerving second, the shelves swayed. Sam had a brief vision of being buried under a hundred fiber-optic trees and then, mercifully, the swaying stopped.
Sam approached the box warily. Maybe the box was empty. That could explain how he sent it flying so easily. But it didn’t explain the shelves. Which meant only one thing.
The Devil had a job for him.
“Is that an air conditioner?”
Sock’s booming voice nearly made Sam drop the box he was carrying. “Uh, well…”
“It is! What happened?” Sock circled Sam and tugged lightly on the cord that dangled from the battered cardboard box. “Ted wouldn’t match a competitor’s price?”
Sam tossed the box into the nearest Dumpster, where it landed with a crash that wasn’t nearly as impressive as the one it made earlier in Aisle 3. “I did it. I didn’t mean to, it just sort of happened and –“
“Super-strength! The Devil gave you super-strength!”
“Sam’s got super-strength?” Ben came up alongside Sock.
“Look what he did to that air-conditioner,” Sock said, pointing into the Dumpster. “You have any other cool powers?”
“Super-speed would be nice. Ted told me to get the orphaned items cleaned up and I just spent the past half hour trying to sneak that air conditioner out.” Sam sighed wearily. “I’m on notice. Again.”
“It’s the third time.”
Ben shook his head. “I’d help you but they’ve got me up front helping customers take stuff out to their cars.”
“And I’m doing that thing,” Sock said.
“What thing?’ Ben asked.
“You know. The thing.”
Sam raised both hands in surrender. Whatever that thing was, he would find out soon enough. And probably wouldn’t like it much. Sock’s things could be as innocuous as a beer bong constructed from parts he pilfered from plumbing or potentially scandalous, like the hole cut into the wall by the break room so they could eavesdrop on Ted. “It’s fine. I’ll deal with it.”
Squaring his shoulders, he headed back into the Bench where he was sure the Devil or Ted would be waiting for him.
“Sammy!” And there he was, standing in the middle of Aisle 3 holding a gaily-wrapped box. The Devil grinned and held the box out to Sam. “I brought you a Christmas present.”
“A vessel. Thanks.” Sam started to reach for the box but the Devil snatched it back.
“Hey! Just because I’m me doesn’t mean I can’t get into the spirit of the season, Sammy.” The Devil clapped a hand to his chest in indignation. “Besides, can’t I give my best employee a little something to show my appreciation?”
“Uh, yeah, you could.” And he had. On more than one occasion. Accepting gifts from the Devil, Sam learned the hard way, wasn’t a good idea. “Um, thanks.”
The Devil beamed at him and held out the box once more. “You’re welcome, Sammy. You know, this is my favorite time of the year.”
“Of course.” The Devil flashed his too-bright smile as he reached for a plastic candy cane ornament, picking up speed and smarmy-used-car-salesman enthusiasm while he continued. “Peace on earth? Never happen. Good will toward men? Not if there’s only one Elmo left on the shelves. This season has it all. Avarice. Gluttony. Greed. And they’re doing it in His name.”
“Oh.” It figured.
“Well, aren’t you going to open it?”
“Oh.” Sam looked down at the small box. “Maybe I should wait til Christmas.”
The Devil snorted. “Oh, come on. Why wait?”
Bracing himself, Sam opened the box and peered inside. Whatever it was smelled like it came from Hell that was for certain. “Uh, what is it?”
“It’s a scapula, buddy. You wear it for protection.” The Devil clapped Sam on the back. “I had the boys working overtime to get it ready for you.”
“Am…am I going to need protection?”
“Let’s put it this way, Sammy, the strength I’ve given you isn’t enough. This particular soul is a bit more dangerous than what you’re used to dealing with.”
Sam looked back down at the scapula and when he looked up again, they were standing in the unlikeliest of places. A church. Or, more accurately, what used to be a church. The pews had been smashed to splinters and blood was splattered across the altar. There were bodies on the altar as well. One of them was a priest with his head twisted nearly all the way around. The rest, Sam realized, were parishioners. It was Sunday. Even though he was stuck working holiday hours, people were going to church. His gaze wandered to several small, still forms, dressed in white. Altar boys.
“My God –“ he began.
“Your who?!” The Devil clucked his tongue. “Really, Sam.”
“What happened here?”
“The soul got angry and trashed the church. Duh. Notice anything missing?”
“It’s hard to tell.” Sam’s gaze wandered over the wreckage. “Wait a second. The statues of Mary and Jesus –“
“Pulverized. No. What’s missing is a chalice that they were using as a communion cup. It was very old, which is why the soul wanted it.” The Devil picked up a shredded Bible, glanced at it and then discarded it the same way he’d thrown aside the candy cane ornament. “The soul’s name is Warren Mears and, Sammy, I think you’re going to need help on this one.”
Yeah, yeah, I know. According to the comic, Amy Madison kept Warren alive. I like him better flayed and burnt to death, but hey, that’s me.