Thursday, February 8, 2018

Friday Flash: 333

We were back this week to one of my favorite flash fiction challenges, over there in Wendig land: the subgenre mash-up. After a few tries (to avoid some genres I don't deal in), the magic dice gave me "comic fantasy" and "occult detective." That seemed to go nicely with a story I had already begun, based on some half-sleeping idea that came to me early one morning. 1000 words exactly.


“Really, 333, you must try harder.”

Disturbed from his reading, the demon pushed his glasses up and folded the morning edition of The Infernal Times into a better position for reading.

“I must?”

“You aren’t half the demon your father was, may he rest in pieces.”

333 raised a chiseled eyebrow. “No one is half the demon Dear Old Dad was.”

“But we had such hopes of you! That’s why they gave you that number!”

“To remind me every day that I’m at best half of what old 666 was?”

The Demonic Division Chief ground his teeth. He did that a lot, especially around 333. That was why he had tender stubs instead of intimidating fangs.  333 gave in.

“Very well.” He laid the newspaper aside. “I’ll go see what I can do in the world.”

“I want souls, 333, do you hear me?”

333 popped into existence on a street corner in one of the ritzier neighborhoods of the city. He figured it was easiest to harvest souls among the rich. That dreadful text about the chap Jesus even said so. Now to go find someone who was doing what he shouldn’t, and push him a little farther that way.

Fading himself until only the most perceptive would see him even in bright sunlight, 333 drifted in and out of houses for hours.

Maybe this wasn’t the best plan. No one was home—ah! Here was someone! Lying on the floor, too. Drink was always a good way to the doomed soul.

333 hovered over the sprawled body, then drew back with a sigh. Too late. This one wasn’t drunk, he was dead. Either a heart attack or… 333 bent closer and sniffed. Yes, poison.

There was something. All he had to do was find the killer, and he had a soul for the DDC.

The door opened, a woman entered the room, saw the corpse, and exited screaming. 333 settled himself in a corner and waited. After a while, the woman came back, still a bit hysterical, but able to explain to the police that she had been out shopping and came back to find her husband lying on the floor dead.

That’s interesting, 333 thought. He had had to get a lot closer than she did to be sure the man was dead. Was that inexperience, or did the heartbroken wife know before she opened the door that her husband was dead?

The police did what police do, and eventually the body was carted away. That was fine with 333, since that soul was out of his reach. He stayed put, and watched the wife. She sat alone and cried for a while after the police left, then went and poured herself a drink. She chose to open a fresh bottle, he saw, but that made sense when she must at least guess her husband had been poisoned.

It also made sense if she’d done the poisoning.

After a while, a younger woman arrived, and led the wife away into another part of the house. 333 drifted out of his corner and inspected the bottles in the liquor cabinet. Sure enough, one contained a substance very unhealthy for humans. Careless of the police to leave it there, but they had pretty clearly not believed it was murder. Old rich guys had heart attacks. Old rich important guys had heart attacks even when there were knives sticking in their backs.

333 passed through the door and followed the two women into the kitchen, where the younger was making tea for the elder. He avoided the steam from the tea-kettle—bad for his vibrations—and settled in to listen.

“Well, Mom, you know he’s had a bad heart for years.”

“I know he’s had it well under control, too!” The old woman had more snap in her than 333 expected. “That was no heart attack, and you know it as well as I do.”

The daughter tried to look skeptical, but didn’t succeed very well. “Who on earth do you think would kill Papa?”

“Lord knows. Any number of people, I should think. He really was an SOB, you know,” was the next surprising reply.

333 thought that made it sound like maybe the wife did it. But if so, why would she give herself such a motive right out loud to her daughter?

“Oh, Mom!” The daughter didn’t seem to have much else to say, but helped her mother off to “go lie down and try to rest.”

Back in the kitchen, the younger woman pulled out a phone. “No one suspects a thing, dear,” she said when her call was answered. “I’ll start at once getting Mom to transfer control of the money to me.”

Well, that answered that question, 333 thought. Here was a soul ripe for the picking. Just get her to commit to him, and she was his. Maybe he could nab the “dear” on the other end of the phone line, too.

Remaining invisible, 333 pushed his voice out just enough to whisper in her ear. “There are easier ways.”

It really was absurdly easy. The police ignored the old woman’s insistence that someone had killed her husband, and still further ignored her insistence that someone was trying to kill her. She did her best to eat and drink nothing she hadn’t bought and opened or prepared herself.

And 333 signed an agreement with the daughter to keep the police out of it in exchange for her soul and that of her partner.

Too bad they weren’t so good at reading the invisible print. 333 needed souls now, not in 30 years. As soon as the old lady was dead—to his surprise, she was promptly collected by the other side—and the younger couple had inherited, 333 came collecting.

They protested, but he had the contract, signed in their blood.  Besides, they’d never miss their souls. Plenty of people in their line of work got on fine without them.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!


  1. Great! I could see more coming of an occult detective series :)

    1. It wasn't quite the direction I thought it would go when I had the first vision of old 333, but it worked. I can see him ending up doing no end of good, cleaning up the world by glomming all the souls that were already lost!

  2. This is great, funny but also sad. I'd love to read more.

  3. I like this character, the reluctant, self-conscious demon.


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