The Wish List
By: Austin Crawley
"My Lord, more letters have come... for the holiday."
Despite the fearsome appearance of the hulking, red-scaled demon, he cringed while delivering this unwelcome news. His yellow, rheumy eyes searched his Master's expression for indications of his current temper.
The Prince of Darkness looked up, regarding the slanted reptilian windows to the demon's soul and only sighed, weary at the ritual that he knew would be repeated many times before the Christmas season passed on Earth.
"Give them to me, Rhum," he commanded.
The demon suppressed any outside reaction to the change in instructions and handed the letters to Satan. Always in the past, the Master had said to burn them. What did it matter to the King of Hell whether requests should reach their intended recipient in the North Pole? Rhum swallowed his confusion and awaited further orders.
The Master shuffled the three letters, reading the inscription on each one. They all read, "To Satan."
"Why don't their parents pay more attention?" Satan wondered out loud. "If they cannot correct a simple mistake, what chance have they of teaching their progeny right from wrong? I put to you, Rhum, that these three credulous brood will grow to be future acolytes of the dark path. I've half a mind to grant their wishes and give them a lesson to be careful what they wish for."
Rhum noted the tone of melancholy in his Master's voice and remained silent, fearing that any interruption to Satan's train of thought would bring dire results. He watched the long, taloned fingers rip open one of the letters. The red, dragon-like eyes of his Master moved from side to side, reading the missive as if it were a document of importance.
"This one is from a small boy. He wants a dump truck. Not a plastic one, he specifies, but a real metal one. He's all but put the brand name on it. That will cost him."
Rhum's heart leapt as a twisted corner of the Master's mouth curled in a sneer. He awaited instructions in gleeful anticipation.
"You'll see to this one personally, Rhum. Find a full sized dump truck. One carrying gravel or something equally heavy. See that it careens out of control on Christmas Day and smashes into this tyke's family home. Extra points if it crushes the Christmas tree and all the presents. Maybe a family member or two as well."
"It will be done, My Lord!" Rhum bowed to his Master in subservience and awaited further instructions. The talons were ripping a second letter open and there would surely be more mischief to see to.
The Master frowned.
"This one is from a teenage girl. Why can't she spell? She shouldn't even believe in Santa at her age."
"Perhaps, My Lord," Rhum ventured, "hers was not mis-addressed after all."
The Master responded to the suggestion with a cruel, tight-lipped smile.
"You may be right, Rhum. She asks for music. An MP3 player loaded with songs from every era. This will be a big job for you, Rhum."
"I can do it for you, Master, only convey to me your wishes!" Rhum leapt up and down twice before he could control his enthusiasm, then he cowered once again before his Master.
"Arrange for her to win an MP3 player... something popular. Then fill it with songs that feed depression, especially ones that have driven people to suicide in the past. Be sure to include some by The Cure, and definitely Taxi by Harry Chapin. Set the machine so that it plays in random order, but have Gloomy Sunday by Billie Holiday come up every few songs. We should be seeing this girl soon. Maybe by New Year."
"It will be done as you say, My Lord." Rhum bowed again, keeping his eyes down. A play list had already begun to form in his mind... one guaranteed to send an angsty teenager over the edge.
Satan opened the third letter. He frowned again, this time more deeply.
"No ten-year-old should be this unselfish," Satan said in satin overtones, obviously speaking aloud to himself. Rhum waited for a few moments, watching his Master read the letter again, then his curiosity got the better of him.
"What does it say, My Lord?"
The Prince of Darkness flicked a glance at Rhum as if he had forgotten the demon was present.
"It's from a boy. His sister has a tumor and his only Christmas wish is for her to not have it anymore. He doesn't wish for an operation or for money for medical bills. There's nothing here for me to work with! Nothing to make go wrong."
"Perhaps the laws of cause and effect, Master," Rhum ventured. "A reason for spontaneous remission that will bring dire consequences." The demon's glint of satisfaction was accompanied by a broad, sharp-toothed grin.
"Of course," Satan mused aloud. "Cannabis oil..."
"With adequate exposure, the child's entire family can be arrested on Christmas Day." Rhum chuckled and danced from one foot to another. "The child's uncle is a user. He can supply, but the mother will have to COMply!" The demon chuckled deeply from his throat at his play on words, then let out a loud hiss.
"Arrange it, Rhum," Satan commanded. "Be sure to get the timing right. It will be worth the mercy healing if some trouble can be got out of it."
Thus dismissed with a wave of his Master's hand, Demon Rhum set out to accomplish all that he had been charged to orchestrate. But when Christmas Day arrived, he returned to the foot of Satan's throne, cowering again in fear.
"My Lord," the demon addressed his Master. "I bring you grave news."
Thus prepared, The Prince of Darkness turned to his demonic minion with a smirk on his face and gestured for Rhum to speak.
"All was arranged according to your instructions, My Lord, but some interference has... altered the outcome."
A silent moment passed, then Satan became impatient.
"Out with it, Rhum. I may have eternity at my beck and call, but I do despise dramatic pauses."
"Apologies, My Lord," the demon continued. "The house was struck with the dump truck as you required, destroying the Christmas tree and all the packages beneath it. But the family had insurance and, to get to the point, Sir, a meager supply of presents has been replaced with substantially more gifts and badly needed repairs to the house itself have been provided by the construction company held responsible."
Satan nodded without expression and awaited the next part of the report.
"The teenage girl won a music device from a radio program just before Christmas, as instructed, but her family gave her gift certificates to buy music of her choice and she has erased all of the best songs... called them depressing."
Again, Satan nodded his head, taking in the information. He still gave no indication of a reaction.
"The little girl was provided with cannabis oil by her uncle and the tumor has gone, My Lord. But..."
"Spit it out, Rhum, I grow impatient." The Prince of Darkness turned and glowered at his minion.
"They moved her to Colorado, My Lord. Colorado legalized cannabis in 2012, as you know. There is to be no prosecution."
"I suppose her brother got Christmas presents as well as his wish?" Satan still showed no reaction to the unwelcome news of his minion's failures.
"Yes, My Lord. Though the move reduced the family's finances, the uncle provided a sumptuous dinner in his wood house with a snow covered forest outside. It was like a Christmas card."
Grateful for his Master's emotional restraint, Rhum cowered further on the floor and hoped against hope that Satan would be too distracted with his disappointment to think of anything too... creative... as a punishment.
"Leave me, Rhum. I wish solitude." Satan turned his back to the demon, dismissing him more with the gesture than with his words.
"As you command, Master." Rhum slunk out of the throne room as quickly a s his four limbs could crawl. Grateful for the respite, he launched into a run as soon as he was out of his Master's view.
At that same moment, unobserved, one side of Satan's mouth curled up into a sinister smirk. He turned and walked through a door behind the throne of Hell, where no demon was allowed to pass. Only Satan himself was allowed to use this passage, or knew where it went. He stepped into a room with long wooden tables, now unoccupied, and swished his red cape off, turned it, and slipped it on the other way round so that the white, furry trim showed. He produced a red, pointed hat from a secret pocket and placed it on his head, covering his horns.
Then he walked further into an adjoining room, where the elves were already at work making the next year's presents. A supervisor elf saw his Master enter and approached.
"All is going smoothly, Sir. We've followed up on all the year's assignments and the elves are hard at work making new toys for next year."
"Excellent, Dikki," Santa replied, for thus his head elf knew him. "You made sure the kid got the dump truck? The Tonka one? Nothing cheap."
"As you ordered, Sir," Dikki assured him. "The insurance money covered it all, even the toy truck. They sure are expensive nowadays!"
"Yes," Santa/Satan agreed. "Acquiring the same toys their grandparents took for granted will make greedy souls of many children. What about the music?"
"Cheap downloads have made the young people insatiable," the elf reported. "Most of them are sharing illegal pirated songs now."
"So much for the honest nature of humankind to endure." Santa shook his head in apparent disappointment.
"At least things are going well in Colorado," Dikki chirped. "They even gave the citizens a tax refund! And the little girl has made a full recovery."
Satan stroked his beard, grown curly and white in the refractive light of the snowy North Pole sunlight streaming through the windows. "That one was a freebie," he muttered to himself. "Though it should put the cat among the pigeons between the politicians and the pharmaceutical companies. Merry Christmas, Dikki."
An evil grin spread across his face, then he turned and walked towards the door that would take him back to his throne room in Hell, remembering to collect some popcorn from the Christmas workshop to enjoy while he watched the results of his generosity unfold.
About the author:
Austin Crawley has written stories for more than ten years, usually involving ghosts, demons or spirits in some form. In 2015, he decided it was time to publish. He is currently working on a Dystopian series with a supernatural twist.