John thought he was being courteous by doing it in the bathtub. This way his mother wouldn’t have to spend all day cleaning up; all she’d have to do is turn on the faucet. He’d wanted to do it in his bedroom, the only space in the house that was truly his, but the guilty feeling that he’d gotten from considering it was enough to change his mind. John could clearly see his mother standing over his dead body, shaking her head sadly and saying, “Oh, John. The carpet!”
John shifted around until he was as comfortable as he could get in the straight-backed, chipped, cast iron tub. He stared at the faucet and briefly wondered if running the water would make the clean up a little easier. There was no guarantee that anyone would find him until late morning, and even though he’d never seen old, clotted blood, John was willing to bet that it was murder to get out.
In the end, he decided against it. A little scrubbing was the least his mother could do for him.
The scissors on the edge of the tub were long and wickedly sharp. John had been eyeing them since his mother added them to her sewing kit. She’d been too oblivious to notice.
The blade sliced deeply into his left wrist, cutting through skin, veins, and tendons all in one go. Gritting his teeth, he repeated the motion on his right wrist and watched as the blade once again sliced cleanly through. John breathed a sigh of relief for that – he wasn’t sure if he had it in him to hack at his wrists . Sighing, he leaned back in the tub and propped his elbow on the rim. Dark red blood gushed from the wound, dripping down to pool in his lap. He watched it for a few moments before closing his eyes and waiting to die.
It wasn’t so much a noise that alerted John to the fact that he was no longer alone as it was a feeling. The lack of shrieks and reprobation told John that it wasn’t either of his parents. It took considerable effort to force his eyes open, and when he did John saw a shadow on the floor that did not belong. He slowly turned his head and followed the shadow back to a well-dressed man who stood across the room, leaning against the dirty counter and looking as though he belonged there. He was handsome in his own way, with dark, slick hair and bottomless brown eyes.
“Who the fuck are you?” John asked, though the answer was irrelevant. One glance told John all that he needed to know. It was a demon, though this one was different than the demons he usually saw. This one had the kind of power that the others only dreamed about, and he had it in spades. It radiated from him, filling the small bathroom with its suffocating presence. If John reached out, he was sure he could touch it, that it would cling to his fingers and not let go.
The demon smiled as he straightened the silk tie that he wore. He was dressed in an elaborate three-piece suit that had been cut from the finest fabrics available. The human image was a carefully crafted representation of the demon inside. No matter what world he was in, this being would command the respect that he was due.
The demon's gaze was pulled to the blood dripping from John's wrist, and for a moment he watched, seemingly transfixed. John was about to repeat his question when the demon pushed away from the counter and came to stand next to the tub.
"Have the pamphlets taught you nothing?" The demon asked sternly, looking very much like John's father when he was about to lose his patience.
Several slips of brightly coloured paper materialized in the demon's hand, and he presented them with a flourish. John recognized them instantly: the school guidance councilor had insisted that John read them, but he'd thrown them in the garbage on the way home.
"Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, young man!" The demon continued. After a moment, his stern, serious expression melted away and he began to laugh. The sound was rich and thick, and it ghosted across John's skin, raising the hairs at the back of his neck.
"You do realize that by doing that," the demon pointed at John's wrists, "you'll be seeing more of us, don't you?"
John told himself that the sick feeling in his stomach was due to the blood loss.
"We knew it was coming; your kind is so quick to do it. We've even been placing bets on just when you'd decide that enough was enough," the demon said.
“I guess whoever picked today is real happy,” John replied.
“He is,” the demon said with a smile. “You’re looking at him, Johnny-Boy.”
It was getting hard to think, but John tried desperately to stay focused. It took a moment for him to finally ask, “And what do you win?" He wondered if it would be best not to know.
“I win you,” the demon said with a sweet smile on his face. The expression was so at odds with what John knew the creature to be that the feeling of dread in his stomach intensified. There was a gleeful look the demon's eyes, and John tried to shrink away when he knelt down.
“I thought for sure that you would do it quickly, throw yourself off a bridge or in front of a car. I was oh so disappointed.”
“I just bet you were,” John mumbled. He watched as the demon held up one bleeding wrist. The cut had stopped throbbing minutes ago, and with it had gone the feeling in his fingers. Blood continued to flow over the ruined skin, sliding down John’s arm to his elbow. The demon ran his fingers through the sticky mess and traced a bloody B on John’s white T-shirt.
“B is for Balthazar,” the demon said.
“And A is for apple,” John snapped.
The slap shouldn’t have been unexpected, but it still took John by surprise.
“I can smell your fear, little boy,” Balthazar said as he leaned in and pressed his face against the dying mortal’s neck. “It’s beautiful.”
John closed his eyes and did his best to keep his breathing deep and even. The pounding of his heart was quickly using up the last of his body’s strength. Another shiver raced down his spine as a warm tongue darted out to taste his skin.
“I’m feeling regret here, Johnny,” Balthazar continued as he pulled away. “I should have come to you a long time ago. You’re so fucking twisted that I think you’re getting off on this. Fear isn’t the only thing I can smell on you.”
“Liar,” John said softly.
Balthazar only smiled as he reached out and trailed his fingers through the congealing blood in John’s lap. He scooped up a handful of blood, pausing momentarily to tease his fingers across the fly of the boy’s jeans, before holding out his hand as though it were a painter’s pallet. Balthazar dipped his index finger into the mess and stared at his canvas for a moment before settling on a course of action. He painted John’s mouth red, taking his time as he traced the curves of the boy's top lip.
"You look like some kind of grotesque whore, Johnny," Balthazar said with a laugh. "Are you?"
"Not like you'll ever know," John said softly, though he tried to project his voice. His vision was starting to go fuzzy and he blinked furiously, trying to keep the demon in focus.
"That's where you're wrong," Balthazar said. He grabbed John's T-shirt with his bloody hand and pulled the boy forward as though he weighed nothing at all. His mouth came down hard on the mortal's, his tongue quickly snaking past John's lips and teeth. John didn’t fight the kiss, though he couldn't tell if his acquiescence was due to his lack of strength or a genuine desire not to pull away. At the last moment his tongue reached out and tentatively touched Balthazar's.
John felt what little strength that was left in his body quickly drain away. His head lolled back on his shoulders, and as Balthazar laid him back against the tile wall, John felt that familiar tongue tracing the contour of his lips, licking away what blood still remained.
When he began to lose consciousness, John expected things to go black as pitch. He figured it would steal over him slowly, drag him under, and hold him down. Instead of black, he saw red. Red, the colour of blood, or burning, blistering skin. It was the colour of Hell, John realized.
He fought against it and opened his eyes just in time to see his mother come into the room.
The last thing he heard as he was loaded into the ambulance was the demon's voice.
“When you wake up in Hell, remember one thing, Johnny: you will always belong to me.”