Chris Lewis Carter
The intercom plays a tinny rendition of Chopin’s Funeral March, and my secretary’s voice fills the office.
“Mr. Shax, your 4:30 has arrived.”
“Just a moment, Cheryl.” I pop open the bottle of polish stashed in my briefcase and slather a handful over the onyx-black horns jutting out of my forehead.
For the love of Lucifer, please let this be the last one.
“Alright, send him in.”
My door opens, and the grizzled old man who steps inside is exactly what I’m looking for in an applicant. His assigned body appears to be in its fifties, with a tangle of silver hair and a knotted beard that twists in all directions. He’s wearing a long, black cloak that’s covered in dried bloodstains and has a patch over his left eye.
Promising, sure, but appearance can only take you so far. Yesterday, a candidate tried to impress me by wearing a suit jacket made of human skin, but he forgot my name twice during the interview. Twice!
DemoniCorp wants me to hire a psychopath, not a moron.
Still, I’ve got a good feeling about this one. After we shake hands, I offer him a seat across from my desk built entirely out of varnished skulls.
“Thanks for seeing me,” he rasps, sounding like he just finished eating a carton of cigarettes. “I’m grateful for the opportunity.” Satan’s pitchfork, he even talks the part.
“My pleasure. It’s nice to finally meet the man behind the resume,” I boom, trying to sound even more baritone than usual. “Arson, robbery, homicide… Very impressive credentials, Mr. Miller.”
“Call me Charles,” he says, tracing a finger across the ridges in his chair, which is made from thousands of children’s teeth. “And thank you. It’s always nice to hear your work is appreciated.”
I nod, then click my blood-red pen and hover it above the questionnaire on my desk. “Right, then. Down to business. Tell me, Charles, what do you know about the position you’re applying for?”
He pauses for a moment, like he’s unsure if I’m testing him somehow, then says, “The ad said supernatural killer. Sounds pretty straightforward to me.”
“Well, yes, but let me elaborate,” I say, scribbling a few notes on the paper. “For over five thousand years, DemoniCorp has been the Underworld’s largest exporter of ghouls, demons, and reincarnated serial killers. We send them back to Earth to terrorize unsuspecting teenagers, and in return they help thin out some of the planet’s, shall we say, less intelligent occupants.”
Charles reaches inside his cloak and pulls out a rusty machete, which he then uses to prune his gnarled fingernails. “Everyone wins.”
We take a moment to admire the shower of molten rock outside my office window — one of the many advantages to working at the base of an active volcano.
“Not anymore. Kids these days are becoming incredibly good at destroying our monsters. In fact, we’ve lost over a dozen of our employees in the past six months alone,” I say, as flakes of ash collect against the glass. “That’s why DemoniCorp is looking for an exceptionally evil soul to return to Earth and extract their unholy wrath upon our target demographic.”
Charles rubs his hands together and flashes a grin full of yellow teeth. “Yes, I definitely feel this position matches my…skill set.”
“That’s the spirit,” I say, tapping the questionnaire. “All you need to do is answer a few simple questions to see if you’re qualified for this particular line of work. We take reaching our quota of dead teenagers very seriously here.”
“Good to know,” Charles says, tossing his machete onto the kitten-skin rug lying at his feet. “Fire away.”
Sweet Beelzebub, please let this one work out. If he’s half the lunatic I think he is, that promotion is as good as mine.
“Question one,” I say. “Did you die in a unique or brutal fashion, potentially causing others to fear your return in search of bloody vengeance?”
“Oh, well, um…” Charles shifts awkwardly in the teeth-chair.
Is the magma outside catching the light, or is he actually starting to blush?
“It’s a pretty crazy story,” he says finally.
My pen quivers in anticipation. “Do tell,” I say. “Struck by lightning on Halloween? Committed suicide on an ancient burial ground?” I shoot him a quick wink. “Did it involve a pagan ritual, by chance?”
“Slipped in the driveway,” he says, suddenly becoming very interested in his shoes. “Hit my head on the mailbox.”
I laugh politely, thinking this must be his idea of a joke, but his expression is unflinchingly grim.
“Seriously?” I say.
“Oh.” I’m not even sure what box to check on the questionnaire.
“Would you describe the mailbox as being malevolent?”
“Not really,” he says. “It was shaped like a duck.”
I sigh, then stroke my pointed beard for a moment. “Let’s mark you down as ‘Other.’”
So what if his grand exit wasn’t that impressive. Not everyone gets to be impaled on a cursed Aztec spear. He’ll still work out.
“Question two,” I continue. “With your final words, did you swear the bloody vengeance referred to in question one?”
“You want to know my last words?” Charles says.
He’s squirming again. Sweet Sammael, he looks uncomfortable.
“We’re out of mozzarella.”
“Excuse me?” I say.
“My last words.” Charles clucks his tongue for a few seconds. “I told my wife that we were out of mozzarella. I was on my way to the store, but…”
“Mailbox attack?” I offer.
Two days ago, my co-worker, Gaap, interviewed a guy who was put to death by the electric chair. His last words were — and I quote — “Today I fry, but tomorrow you’ll die!”
Seriously, how perfect is that? He would have got the job if he didn’t insist on not working holidays. Special occasions are our bread and butter. Just ask Ici-kill, he’s non-stop during Christmas.
I check off, “Inaudible,” and move down the list.
“Ah, here’s a good one,” I say. “Question three. Would you prefer to return in humanoid form, or are you comfortable with your soul being housed inside an inanimate object?”
Charles grabs a hot coal from the candy dish on my desk and pops it in his mouth. “You mean, stuff my soul inside a toaster or something?” he says between chews.
I hadn’t thought about it, but that’s not a bad idea. I’ll pitch it to R&D first thing tomorrow.
“It’s entirely your decision,” I say. “Sure, there’s a certain level of comfort in a typical body, but never underestimate the element of surprise. Imagine how easy it’ll be to get the drop on a group of teenagers as a homicidal toilet seat.”
When he narrows his good eye at me, I quickly add, “DemoniCorp loves to have employees who are team players.”
“Humanoid, please,” he says.
I check off the box, then rub my temples so hard that another pair of horns poke through the surface of my leathery skin. “Alright, let’s try another one. Question four: do you have any relatives currently living on Earth who could carry on your dark work in the event of your unfortunate demise?”
Charles shakes his head. “No.”
“No? Honestly, Mr. Miller…” I chuck my pen over my shoulder, where it sticks in the eye socket of the human head I have mounted on a hunting plaque. “Not even a child? I’m telling you, they make the best successors. Sure, they might try to stop you at first — maybe even side with the teenagers out to destroy you — but give them a year or so to mull things over and they’ll take up your legacy every time.”
Charles shrugs. “No kids. Think I’ve got a cousin in Ohio, though. Heard he became an accountant.”
Why me, Baal? Just once, can’t an arch-demon interview a well-spoken serial killer with an extended family, who died in a tragic incinerator accident, and wouldn’t have a problem being reincarnated as a snow-blower?
Is that too much to ask?
“Question five, and this is a big one,” I say. “Assuming you are sent back to Earth, describe to me your ideal method of slaughtering teenagers.”
“Hmm, that’s a toughie,” Charles says, then gets up from his seat and grabs the machete. “If you people gave me a bunch of spooky superpowers, I’d run straight for the biggest group of teenagers I could find and cut them to ribbons before they knew what’s what.” He waves the blade around like a possessed feather-duster. “He-ayah! Ha! Woo-ah! Ga-”
“Mr. Miller, I’m going to stop you right there.” I crumple the questionnaire into a ball and throw it in the trash. “Honestly, I don’t even know where to start.”
Charles cocks his head to the side, then slumps back down in the chair. “You didn’t let me finish.”
“Trust me, you’ve said plenty,” I say. “First of all, our killers never run anywhere — they walk. Sure, your target is allowed to run, but you’re supposed to know exactly where they’re headed and calmly stroll to that location. It’s like the old saying, slow and steady wins the chase.”
Charles opens his mouth to respond, but I don’t give him the opportunity. It’s been a long day and I’m in the mood to rant.
“Not to mention that nonsense about finding the biggest group of teenagers. Everybody knows that you focus your attention on four, maybe five, tops, and at least two of them better be dating!”
Chopin’s Funeral March blares from the intercom again, which is probably for the best. I’m about two seconds away from lecturing this wannabe on the finer points of stalking teens while they shower.
“Mr. Shax, I’ve got a John Gordon here to see you,” my secretary says. “He says it’s urgent.”
Mephisto’s ghost, will this day ever end?
I take a deep breath, then push the intercom button. “Gore-Eyed Gordon is back already? He just got reincarnated last week.”
The line goes silent for a moment, then Cheryl comes back on. “He says that he’s really sorry, but his long-lost daughter tricked him into revealing his true weakness.”
“Unbelievable,” I say. “So help me, he’s not getting another chance until somebody recites his name three times!”
“I’ll tell him you’re busy, sir.”
“No, it’s fine, Cheryl. Just a minute.” I turn back to Charles, and see that his patch is now on the opposite side. He quickly slides it back, but not before I notice that both eyes are perfectly fine. “You aren’t really psychotic, are you Mr. Miller?”
He fidgets with his hands, then sighs. “Err, not exactly, no. It’s just so hard to find employment these days,” he says with the smooth voice of a television announcer. “I didn’t bathe for a week to prepare for this interview. Even had to borrow an outfit from my neighbour. Now there’s a nut-job. The guy loves earwigs. Seriously, he makes wigs out of human ears!”
“No kidding. Tell him to drop off his resume.” I push back my chair, and stand up. “At any rate, it’s been a… pleasure meeting you. We’ll be making our final decision within the next few weeks.”
Charles nods, and we exchange another brief handshake.
“Level with me, Mr. Slacks,” he says, tucking the machete back inside his cloak. “I’m not getting the job, am I?”
“Truthfully? Not a chance,” I say. “But we encourage all applicants to apply with us again in the future. Judging by the current rate of humanity’s progress, DemoniCorp should be opening a brand new division within the next hundred years.”
“Oh yeah?” he says. “That sounds exciting.”
“It certainly is. We’re going to revolutionize the supernatural killer industry.” I walk him to the door, then clap my hand over his shoulder. “Just think about it. Executing teenagers in…outer space!”
From high-school textbooks to award-winning magazines and podcasts, CHRIS LEWIS CARTER has been featured in over two dozen publications — both online and print — including Nelson Literacy 8, Word Riot, Thunderdome, Murky Depths, Niteblade, and Pseudopod. A member of Studio Kontrabida, he is the lead writer for Rival Threads: Last Class Heroes, their first video game, which is scheduled to be released for iOS, Windows, and Mac in 2013. He is also the creator of Camp Myth, a successfully-kickstarted YA series. Find out more at www.chrislewiscarter.com.