The sad old demon sat in the corner of the elevator hunched over his knees, face in hands. Thick leathery skin, no longer the vibrant red of youth but purplish with age. His wings twitched and closed around him, their fine silk shredded now by the arrows of countless do-gooders.
Across from him, his charge — Ernest Trimble, a professor of English who cared nothing for his job and less for his life — swayed back and forth uneasily.
The elevator stopped and a passenger boarded: Mrs. Wells in 410. She nodded slightly and sadly at Trimble, who did not offer her assistance with the cart she dragged in behind her and which forced the demon to his feet by virtue of its size.
The demon hated Mrs. Wells with all the charcoal burning in his heart. Sure, she seemed a sweet old lady but he saw delight in her eyes the moment she smelled the booze on Ernest’s breath. Ernest couldn’t see it. He was too drunk. And anyway by the time he’d slurred out “Nice night, eh Mishuz Wells?” she’d managed to transform that gleam into self-righteous pity. She fixed him with it now, holding his blurry gaze for too long as if she were searching for something in it.
“Christ,” the demon thought to himself, “Can’t wait to get off this elevator.”
Then Mrs. Wells wrinkled her glaucomous eyes into a pitying smile and nodded quietly. “Yes. Nice night.”
The demon’s stomach filled with hot bile and suddenly the depression which had filled him moments before — the creeping in his spine that had told him he was getting too old for this and that Ernest Trimble of Apartment 401 would be his last charge because he simply could not find the strength to take another soul — suddenly all that worry slid away from him and he felt glorious rage creeping up his spine as he leaned over the cold, frail body of Mrs. Wells to whisper hotly in her ear: “You’re next.”