The Cost at the Crossroads

Everyone in town always talked about the deals that could be made at the crossroads down the street. Damon didn’t believe, but he was willing to try anything to save her. Nothing from science had worked, so now he was willing to step into the unknown. Now, he stood in the center of the crossroads, dirt covering his shoes and fear filling his heart. 

He pulled the little book out of his pocket and opened it to a page he had marked during his research. Reading the words written there, he stood waiting for something – anything – to happen. The fear in his heart doubled as the air grew cold and the sky darkened. A figure appeared on the horizon, walking toward him. As it got closer, Damon could see it was a woman. 

She was dressed in jeans and some kind of flowing shirt that clung off her shoulders and dipped dangerously low between her breasts. “Hello, Damon. Good to meet you,” she said, stopping a few feet from him and the center of the crossroads.

Damon swallowed. She didn’t look like he expected. He had been expecting a man older than time and he had gotten a twenty-something woman. It was more than a little disconcerting. “I assume you are the Crossroads Demon?” He asked.

“Any way you slice it. To answer the question rolling around in your head, I can appear in whatever form I want. You called to me, so what are you here to request?” She asked.

Damon cleared his throat. “I come to ask you to save Gwenna Nightree,” he said.

The woman stood there, appearing to think about his request for a long moment before speaking. “And what are you willing to offer in trade for her safety?”

“What is your price, woman?” He asked, not even understanding what was happening or if it was ever real.

The smile that touched her lips was one of pure mischief. “That depends on what you are willing to give to have her safe.” she looked at him, staring until he began to feel uneasy.

Damon felt the weight of the world settle onto his shoulders. “She means the world to me. I would give anything to keep her safe. So, can you save her?” He asked. Gwenna had been missing for more than six months now. There hadn’t been a ransom or anything. The police had decided she had just run away. He didn’t believe that. He knew she had been taken and was in trouble.

A wave of her hand and the woman’s smile fell. “It’s done. She will be home safe and sound before nightfall. Your price, my boy, is a year. A year of your life.” She said. 

A moment later, he felt himself being pulled into darkness thicker than anything he had ever felt before. The silence was deafening and complete.

The sun was bright when he opened his eyes. The woman, the crossroads demon, was standing over him as he lay on the dirt of the crossroads. “What?” He asked, his voice sounding oddly dry and unused.

“Good morning Damon,” she said. A smile lit her eyes and in a blink, she was gone.

He stood, feeling stiff and tired at the same time. Looking back at the ground he had woken up on, he thought it had all been a strange dream. Shaking his head, he walked back to the bar he had stopped at last night. 

The door to the bar swung open easily at his touch. Inside, he found a nearly empty bar. Just the bartender standing behind the smooth wooden bar wiping down glasses. The man looked up, his eyes going wide at the sight of Damon. “Been a long time. Where you been hiding?” The man asked.

“What do you mean I was in here last night? Had two beers with the old man who sits in the corner.” Damon said.

The barkeep’s smile was odd and made Damon feel uneasy as he spoke, “That was a more than a year ago.”

Damon dropped onto the stool at the end of the bar. “A year?” He thought about what he remembered. And the woman’s price – a year of his life – that couldn’t be what she had meant. 

“Yeah, a lot of things happened since that night. Hell – the old man was killed, and I almost lost the bar for two.”

Damon felt his heart skitter. “You got a phone I can use?” He asked.

The barkeep pointed to the far side of the room. “You want anything?”

“I’ll let you know.” Damon crossed the room and dropped two quarters into the old payphone. He dialed a number from memory. 

Two rings later, Gwenna’s voice answered. “Hello,” she said.

“Gwenna?” Her name squeaked out on a breath.

There was a long pause on the line. “Damon? Is that you?” She asked.

“Yes, it’s so good to hear your voice.” He sighed. Anything and everything else that had happened while he was gone no longer mattered. She was home safe and sound. Everything else could be figured out in time.

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