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900

I was in a good mood when returning from school that night. The final exam wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and despite everything that happened I still managed to get in a lot of studying. I even ended an hour earlier than I expected to- which, in retrospect may not have been an indicator of a good grade, but all that mattered was that the exam was over, and I could finally catch a little break. And I really needed this break; I had been tired and exhausted lately and I needed to catch up on sleep. I even bought fried chicken from Church’s to celebrate with Hector. My ankle was also healing well- I had a slight limp when walking but I didn't have to use crutches for long before I could just walk with a cast on.

I never expected to come back from school to see Hector’s head in a sack and his hands in what looked to be golden handcuffs, with five figures surrounding him, trying to get Hector to stop thrashing around. All five figures were in hooded robes, but I could immediately tell they were not human. Instead of heads, the figures all seemed to be big, unblinking eyeballs shrouded in rounded hoods. They had red veins popping at all times and looked to be wet to the touch. They all turned towards me, then towards each other, seemingly confused. I couldn’t really tell if they were confused or not because they were literal floating eyeballs in hoods, but body language says a lot.

The tallest figure of all was not an eyeball, but a pair of lips that seemed to be floating in the hood. The pair of lips looked ancient and shriveled, chapped everywhere, like it belonged to a wizened witch rather than a youthful individual. It had a gigantic book in its hand that looked older than my grandfather and the eyeballs (if I could read eyeballs’ emotions, that is) looked genuinely surprised at my arrival. Hector made a sound of urgency; he sounded like he was gagged and couldn’t form proper words.

“Ah, Finn Conway. I did not expect you here for another 36 minutes and 22 seconds. But so good of you to join us anyway, we’re running on a tight schedule as is.” Watching a gigantic pair of lips speak was honestly not the strangest thing I’d seen, but it was still quite unsettling. It also had the most normal voice I’d ever heard- also unsettling, considering the voice was coming out from a literal pair of lips.

“Yeah, well, exams ended early. Who are you and what are you doing in my house?” I demanded. “And why does Hector look like he’s being kidnapped?”

“Oh, because he is.” The mouth replied, shutting his book. My eyes widened; what was going on?

“What?” I turned to Hector, then to the mouth. “What are you talking about? And seriously, who are you?”

“Perhaps you’d be more familiar with this form of mine.” As soon as I blinked, the pair of lips and all of the eyeballs were replaced with Daniel, the first person who responded to my Craigslist ad and the first person I interviewed to be a potential roommate. I opened my mouth to speak, but he put up his hand to interrupt me.

“Before you ask questions, you can just continue to refer to us collectively as Daniel, because my true identity would be inconceivable to you. Put simply, I am what you humans would call your ‘guardian angel’. I am from the high courts of Heaven and I uphold the law as the delivery of what keeps the universe in balance, My eyes are always on the lookout for any potential glitches in the system, so to speak.” Daniel motioned to the other figures, who quickly reverted back to being floating eyeballs with hoods. Their unblinking mannerisms were extremely strange.

“To you, we may seem like separate parts, but that is not the case. We are all one in the same. These eyes judge, and I, as the mouth, deliver the verdict. I exist to make sure you live your lifeline out to where you were destined to be. I am there to make sure your lives do not exceed nor fail to meet your deadlines, and that nothing gets in the way of it.”

“I-”

“But being that I am not entirely omnipotent, and I have billions of other humans to watch over, I can only really drop by and check in when you are in grave danger. And this demon,” Daniel gestured to Hector, who was still trying to squirm away from the figures restraining him. “Is putting you in grave danger simply by exposing you to the truth of the universe, which you should not be learning as a mere mortal human.”

Hector’s muffled yells got louder and louder in his head sack. In another blink of an eye, Daniel reverted back to the pair of lips from before.

“I am terribly overworked as is, but I got word of the demon’s whereabouts in this area around the same time you began your interviews for a new roommate. Unfortunately, my timing was off and I was not able to interrupt your meeting. When we had the interview, I was really checking in on a tip-off of the exiled demon.”

“Daniel wasn’t real?” I recalled the super-normal interview with the seemingly super-normal, aspiring chemist Daniel and couldn’t remember anything that would have suggested him being anything but what he said he was. Hector was shaking his head and yelling as if to say, 'no he wasn't, now can you help me out here?'

“Figuratively speaking, Daniel was not what you were looking for in a roommate.” The mouth concluded.

I squeezed my temples. This was beginning to feel a lot like a headache.

“Okay, pause. So what you’re saying is that you know exactly when I’m supposed to…die, or whatever, and Hector’s presence has been messing around with my original deadline?”

“Yes. It is all in the book. The book is law, and I uphold and embody the law.” Mouth-Daniel motioned to the ancient book he was holding; on closer inspection, it was dog-eared throughout and he had his thumb lodged between specific pages, as if to keep track of where he was.

“You uphold and embody the law.” I repeated slowly.

“Indeed.”

“Alright. And you also said you’d drop by if I were in grave danger, but where were you when I was basically kidnapped against my will? That doesn’t sound like following the law to me.” I said bitterly, being careful about my word selection. I knew this may not have been the right time or place but if I really had a guardian angel this whole time, why was he absent when the Amy situation happened?

“Excuse me?”

“It should be in that book of yours- y’know, when I got kidnapped by my stalker, Amy, and was almost forced to marry her at gunpoint?”

Mouth-Daniel waved me off. “It is understandable that you were thrown off by those turn of events, but I can assure you that was not life-threatening in the least. fact, you would have lived a long life under her care, well into your 80s. Initially, you would have resisted, flabbergasted by the proclamation of her emotions. But then you would have realized how devoted she was to you and came around. You would have eventually fallen in love with her.”

“Man, that’s not love, that’s Stockholm Syndrome. You would have really been okay with me living a life that I never wanted to?” I scoffed; I couldn’t believe what Mouth-Daniel was spewing out of his, well, mouth. “Some guardian angel you are.”

“Finn Conway, you are sorely mistaken. My job is not to ensure you live a life of the utmost quality. What I exist to ensure is the quantity of your life and see that the laws are being followed. And quantity-wise, your lifeline has been a series of tangles and loops ever since this demon entered your life. At one point, you were supposed to die a few days ago, and at another point, your life was extended to beyond what a mere mortal could live until; you would have quite literally made history. This is not how it should have been. And that is what I am here to fix- to clean up the mess the demon made and to right the wrongs of your lifeline.”

"So it would have been fine with you if I ended up living a miserable lie of a life."

"Again, I only uphold and embody the law. What you do in your life is none of my concern."

Mouth-Daniel’s eerie calm demeanor was beginning to get on my nerves. But before I could retort, he interrupted me again.

“But that is not all that I seek to uphold and embody. Your lifeline is one of many, but your world is still one of its kind.”

He materialized a small black object from his palm. He held up the black box-looking object, and I quickly realized it was a GoPro. But there was only one reason someone like Mouth-Daniel would be showing me a GoPro in this situation.

“Are you aware of what this is?”

I gulped. I had a feeling I knew where this was going. “Uh, a camera?”

“Yes.” Mouth-Daniel said, crushing the camera between his fingers. His fingers resembled golden daggers, and his hand as a whole was comprised of six of those golden digits. What was left of the camera then spontaneously combusted into a flame and melted away in Mouth-Daniel’s floating palm. The palm of his hand displayed a small holographic visual of a staticky, third-party recording of what had gone down in the Pollack’s household.

“This was hidden between the bookshelves of Mabel Pollack’s room, carefully placed so a recording of the exorcism could be captured without the camera being seen by anybody. If it weren’t for us, the Pollack family would have figured out the truth and possibly caused the recording to go viral on the Internet.”

I cursed myself for not being more careful. I didn’t even think to check the room for any cameras because I didn’t think Chris would actually try and record the “exorcism”; thank God the video didn’t get out. I also felt somewhat betrayed by Chris; we never even gave permission for him to record the exorcism, much less witness it in the first place.

“This is precisely what I am talking about. Not only is the demon’s presence affecting your own lifeline, its very presence is disrupting the balance between our worlds and this should not happen. Had this video gotten out, our PR department would have had an extremely difficult time trying to convince people online that this video was a hoax. Scenes like these are difficult to fake, even though human visual effects have made huge developments.”

Mouth-Daniel then directed his attention back to Hector, who was still struggling against the eyeballs keeping him in the sack. The pair of lips made a nodding motion, and the eyeballs immediately stopped trying to restrain Hector. One of them uncovered his head from the sack and ripped out the rag in his mouth, avoiding Hector’s gasps for breaths and coughs. His face was battered and bruised and he was bleeding profusely from his mouth. I knew he didn’t handle pain the same way as a human would, but it still looked extremely painful. One of Mouth-Daniel’s eyeballs floated to the book, opened it, and began scanning it as Mouth-Daniel continued to speak.

“You have violated several rules. You damaged purgatory spirits, eradicated and consumed a fellow brethren, helped human Mabel Pollack cheat death by your brethren and lengthened her lifeline beyond what it should have been, and you still have not showed up for your judicial hearing for your original crime. Your presence has affected this human and the human now knows more than it ever should have. The human’s timeline is damaged and must be reset to where it should have been from the start.” Mouth-Daniel declared. “Also, profiting off fake exorcisms? Really?”

Hector shrugged. “I had to pay rent.”

Mouth-Daniel sighed. “Well, you know what is coming to you. As the keeper of the law, I declare that you will be held accountable for the betrayal of your kind and breaking various rules while here in the mortals’ realm.”

“You can’t just waltz in here and decide that on your own.” I grabbed Daniel’s arm. There was nothing to grab; there was only fabric. I immediately retracted my hand, appalled by the emptiness I felt. Clearly, otherworldly creatures’ bodies didn’t work the same way human bodies did. Shivers ran down my spine.

“Actually, I can. I am the law.” Daniel retorted. I cringed at the pair of lips and crossed my arms. The eyeballs moved to cover Hector again, who protested by trying to kick their lack of a body. Needless to say, it didn’t work.

“At least hear Hector out,” I pleaded. “He clearly has his own reasons for doing things.”

“Let the demon try and defend itself,” Daniel nodded reluctantly. The eyeballs paused in their movements.

“Thanks for the golden opportunity. I would have explained earlier if you didn’t ambush me and tie me up like this.” Hector sighed, gesturing to his beat-up face. “I made a contract with the human. I’m legally bound to protect him until he dies.”

The eyeballs spun in place in what I thought was an eye-rolling motion, and Mouth-Daniel snapped his fingers, ordering the eyeballs to mute Hector again by putting on the mouth gag. This was obviously not what he wanted to hear. Hector flailed and protested against his restraints.

“You made a contract? With this human? Don’t make me laugh, there is no way-”

“Actually, yeah!” I shot up in my seat, coming to my senses. Everyone’s focus was on me now and I knew I couldn’t stop. I knew what would help get Hector out of this mess, and it was something he had been mentioning for a long time.

“Everything he did was to keep me safe from danger. And isn’t that a valid reason for him to have had broken all those rules? Yeah, he may have thrown me into a bunch of danger simply by existing, but he also protected me from those dangers. It was to uphold our contract.” I hoped this was going in the right direction, because I was saying what immediately came to mind. "Every crime he committed in my world was to keep me safe."

“And where is this contract?” Mouth-Daniel demanded.

“Uh, does it have to be a physical contract? Can’t it just be word of mouth?”

“Without physical evidence, we have no reason to pursue this revelation.”

I thought for a moment, then rushed over to my room. “Hold up.” I mumbled as I rummaged through my desk, through the mess of papers, until I found a fried chicken oil-stained roommate contract that we signed when Hector moved in. It contained a bunch of jargon about the lease and the responsibilities of a roommate, and also Hector’s special addition of fried chicken on Fridays in exchange for protection of my soul. My name was signed on the bottom of the confirmation page, and Hector opted to put his bloody fingerprint instead because he thought that was how contracts were supposed to be formed.

I handed the forms over to Eyeball-Daniel, who had followed me in. Eyeball-Daniel snatched it from me and took it back to the others to discuss the forms. As they contemplated in silence, I sat by Hector, who looked tired and beaten.

"Are they talking?"

"Yeah, you just can't hear them. It's like a psychic conversation."

“I don’t suppose I can help you out with those cuffs?” I murmured, trying not to attract so much attention from the Daniels. Hector shook his head.

“Nah, this is made up of material you humans will never be able to discover. It’s fine, it’s just a little uncomfortable.” He assured. I nodded.

“I hope I didn’t make things worse with the whole contract thing. I don’t think it was in his book of law or whatever.” I hesitated, looking down at my hands. Hector nudged me with his knee.

“Are you kidding? You really saved my ass back there by bringing up the contract. Here’s a secret, that book isn’t 100% right all the time and it takes some time to update with newer information. It’s kind of like Wikipedia. That’s probably why they didn’t know about the roommate agreement, because they tend to miss little details like that from time to time. They really didn’t believe me when I told them ‘cause they think I lie a lot, but they had no choice but to believe you, since you’re a human. I don’t know if that’ll fly in the end, it definitely won’t excuse everything I did before coming here but it will help me out with everything I did for you.”

“Everything you did before coming here, huh? All this because you refused to eat humans? Might have been easier to just eat our souls and be done with it.” I asked. Hector stared at me, then let out a short laugh.

“Wait, I never did tell you the real reason why I’m in so much trouble, did I?” Hector said, fidgeting with his restraints. It was my turn to stare.

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, all that about being kicked out of Hell for refusing to eat humans? I wasn’t lying about the refusing to eat humans part, I’m genuinely sick of eating humans and wanted to branch out. Sure, it got me dirty looks in the streets but it’s not a violation of a law or anything. It’s just an unpopular way of life.” Hector shrugged. “I told you it was complicated last time you asked, and I just didn’t feel like a highway was the right time or place to tell you the whole story. I was never kicked out of Hell, so to speak. I’m sure you could tell from what that mouth was flapping, I was avoiding my arrest warrant for committing an actual crime.”

“Wait, so you were lying to me?”

“I mean, I wanted to make a good first impression at the roommate interview. I wanted to be cool. Being kicked out of Hell was the coolest thing I could think of.” Hector gnawed at the handcuffs, to no avail. "Also, I thought it was pretty self-explanatory."

“How is that even remotely co- how is that supposed to make a good impress- dude, you told me you were kicked out for refusing to eat humans!” I sputtered. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. If refusing to eat humans wasn’t Hector’s crime, then what was?

“Why would I be condemned to Hell prison for a diet preference? That’s so George Orwell. You’d really believe anything I say.”

“Well, I had no reason to believe otherwise! Everything you said was crazy enough for me to just come to accept. What’s the real reason you’re in this mess, then?” I demanded. “We’ve come this far and you’re about to be arrested, so you might as well be straight with me for once.”

Hector was silent, his gaze falling on the figures who were still conversing, probably within their own psychic realm or whatever.

“I made a deal under the table with a soul I was supposed to torture,” Hector finally said. “You’re already aware this isn’t my body. I never told you the details, though. This is Hector Sanchez, and he died when he was 27 back in 1922. Grew up poor, mom died when he was born. Left with only a sister who died of polio when he was 12 and a father who struggled to make ends meet. Worked as a paper boy and earned pennies, stole a lot to eat when his dad couldn’t feed him. But they had a lot of debt from a lot of past mistakes. Hector went to Hell for killing three mobsters, because he thought those people were the mobsters who were threatening his family for their debt. Turns out, he pissed off a whole other group of mobsters who murdered him in cold blood after finding out that their own were killed by him. And he never got justice for the debt he never deserved. He ended up in Hell because he killed the wrong people at the wrong time, wrong place.”

“That...doesn't sound fair.”

“Life’s not fair. You know that.”

“Why hit up a deal with him specifically? Why not all the other souls you’ve tortured in your lifetime?”

“Well,” Hector grinned. “I liked his name.”

My jaw slacked. “That’s it?”

“Yeah.”

“Aren’t there a million Hectors out there?”

“Yeah, but this one happened to be tortured at the right time, right place, by the right guy: me. Despite me always skinning him only to put the skin back on his body to do it all over again, he told me his life story, and I listened. This was around the time where I decided to go on my non-human binge. Then I thought, why not borrow this guy’s body and identity and go to his world to try all the foods he always mentioned back when he was alive? Long story short, I snuck his soul to Purgatory while I borrowed his identity to fuck around in your world. Couldn’t send him to Heaven ‘cause they have a lot of security guards there, but Purgatory beats Hell by a long shot.”

“That sounds super illegal, and I’m not even familiar with your laws.”

“Look, everything isn’t always black and white. I never really approved of the way these tight-asses threw bad guys in Heaven and good guys in Hell, just ‘cause of the way their books told them they should do it. Hector Sanchez didn’t die a fair death, and he sure as Hell didn’t live a fair life. The odds were always stacked against him. I’d like to think what I did was morally right…which, actually, kind of goes against everything I’m supposed to stand for.”

I exhaled slowly. This was a lot to take in at once, but this time I knew Hector had no reason to be fabricating anything, seeing as he was in a tough situation now. The more I thought about it, the more I saw things from his perspective. The real Hector Sanchez really was disadvantaged from the start. He never would have went through that if we were born into a family with better luck, better wealth, and better status. I wondered if cases like Hector’s was common- things that led souls to be wrongfully incarcerated to Hell just because they broke some laws that were a million years old and clearly not adapted to changing times. It sounded all too similar to certain criminal laws we had on Earth, and I realized- maybe Hell and Earth weren’t so different, after all.

“Y’know, you’re right. And for a demon, you’re really not as bad as you make your kind out to be.” I remarked. “I mean, maybe it’s just you and every other demon just sucks. But you’re more human than demon in my eyes.” We exchanged tense smiles.

“Hey, after a few centuries this demon thing gets really old. The arrest was worth the execution.”

“E-Execution?”

“Oh yeah, I’m most likely gonna get the human equivalent of a death sentence and be eradicated in the flames of Hell forever for what I did.”

My jaw dropped as the Daniels turned around, seemingly reaching an agreement.

“We have taken the words of this physical contract into consideration. The contract is…valid.” Mouth-Daniel finally said. Hector looked ecstatic, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

“However,” Mouth-Daniel cut off our celebration. “Seeing as the situation is somewhat paradoxical in that he caused the very problems he was protecting you from, this must be submitted to the higher Courts for further inspection. In addition, he will still be facing trial for his crimes of sending a guilty soul to Purgatory.”

I deflated. “What? How is that fair?”

“It is just. I am the law.” Mouth-Daniel insisted.

“We get it, you’re the fucking law.” Hector slumped back in his seat. “So what now?”

Mouth-Daniel closed the book, and the book disappeared from between his hands. “Now that the demon is in our custody, we will be taking the demon back to our realm where he will be tried. But I will say, the contract was compelling and may help dispel some crimes here…even if it was paradoxical.”

I drowned out Mouth-Daniel’s words as I realized what was awaiting Hector. Here, courts really showed no mercy in cases with people who were disadvantaged from the start. A lot of undeserving people got death sentences for cases that should have been reviewed better. And it really seemed like Hector was not going to get a good outcome, despite the contract; the contract couldn’t save him from a guilty verdict. And what usually followed guilty verdicts wasn’t good. I couldn’t stand to hear Hector being forced to attend an unfair trial and potentially get executed. I stood in front of him, immobile and firm.

“So you’re just going to execute him because he did something that went against your book? Have you ever considered the fact that your book is wrong? ‘Cause from what he tells me, it’s not always updated 100%, and it really doesn’t account for all the injustices that the real Hector Sanchez faced when he was sent to Hell in the first place. And you said so yourself that you're not omnipotent, so how am I supposed to believe your book is absolute?” I stormed.

“The book is absolute and I will not dispute that with a human. Your feeble mind will never be able to comprehend the sheer vastness of the contents of this book, which contains the answers to questions you humans will never be able to know despite seeking profusely. But I never said anything about execution.” Mouth-Daniel remarked, sounding confused.

“I…aren’t you taking him to trial? You guys have been implying Hector’s guilty, and he…I’m assuming he’s gonna get executed or something down there when the trial doesn’t work out in his favor.” I stammered, realizing Hector duped me again. One last hoorah before he left.

“He will not be executed, per se. His crime is not of that caliber. He will have to perform what you humans equate to as community service, but execution requires a far greater crime. And he has not committed that.”

Hector laughed obnoxiously in the background. “Dude, did you really think I was gonna get executed? Where the fuck did you get that idea?”

“Shut up,” I said, turning red at my mistake. “You really wanted to screw around one last time, huh? You guys really made this whole thing sound horrible and beyond repair-”

“It is horrible. The demon disrupted the balance of the universe and messed with your timeline, which will take some time to get back to normal.” Mouth-Daniel interrupted.

“You made it sound horrible enough for an execution.” I retorted. “How am I supposed to know what punishments fit the crime in your book?”

Mouth-Daniel interrupted again; higher beings really needed to learn some manners. “All I want to know is, why? Why would you want to confine yourself to a mortal life, escape trial, rather than face a sentence that would be more of an inconvenience than an execution? Instead, you chose to take the more difficult route and avoid your responsibilities.”

“All we do down there is torture souls and eat humans. It gets old after a couple of centuries and I got bored. I wanted to try something new, is that so bad?” Hector shrugged.

“By doing this, you have singlehandedly upset the already tedious balance between us and the humans and exposed their world to even more calamities from Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. You have potentially shortened and lengthened Finn Conway’s lifespan to ridiculous degrees by making him aware of our worlds and vice versa.”

Hector was silent for a moment. “Well, when you put it that way it does sound pretty bad enough for an execution.”

“And I must remind you that you will still be held accountable for the-“

“Yeah, I know. Soul to Purgatory bad. Torture souls forever good.” Hector sarcastically drawled. The Daniels nodded, and took off their hoods. They all simultaneously turned into human Daniels again.

“We will be waiting outside this building for you. We will take another portal back to Hell; this one will be eradicated.” Daniel walked over to where Amy had carved the summoning circle into the floor and put his palm over the grooved ridges. In one smooth swipe, the circle disappeared, and the wood was back to normal- before Amy defiled it with her insanity. With his other palm, Daniel produced a small black duffel bag which he threw onto Hector’s lap.

“Please pack lightly, and only what you need. We will see you in no more than fifteen minutes.”

“Wait,” Hector stopped them. “What about him?”

He pointed to me. “Uh, what about me?”

“Isn’t it protocol to wipe his memory or whatever?” Hector asked. I gaped at him. I didn’t want my memories wiped, the last thing I needed were gaps in my memory from a brain reboot.

“We cannot. There would be too much of a discrepancy between his memory loss and his true memories if we were to tamper with his mind at this point. It is far too late. It could put him in even further danger of a shorter timeline. No one will believe him, anyway. This does come off as preposterous to most humans.”

“Cool. Good for you, Finn, you get to remember every little thing that happened to you.” Hector nudged me. I glared at him.

With that, all of the Daniels walked out of the apartment. I debated telling them how weird it looked that they were all essentially the same person in different clothes, but figured people would just pass them off as quintuplets or something. They were the least of my concerns in that moment.

“Well.” Hector got up once the restraints melted off his wrists. He stretched his back and yawned. “That’s that. It’s been a great run. Sorry you have to find another roommate again. You can keep whatever’s left of the fake exorcism money, I don’t need it where I’m going.”

Hector rummaged around the apartment, beginning to pack up.

“So that’s it?” I said. “You're really leaving? Just like this?”

“Not ‘cause I want to, obviously. But you heard the eyeballs. I gotta blast. There’s no point in running anymore, they have me cornered and I‘d rather just deal with this shit now before it gets any worse.”

“Guess that means I have to find another place.” I murmured. “Now that there’s no stalker following me where I live, I don’t have to live with a roommate out of fear for my life anymore. And hey, the lease will end soon, so I wouldn’t be breaking any contracts.” I realized the irony of my statement shortly after I said it.

“Hey, at least one of us benefitted from contracts, right?” Hector commented.

He seemed to ponder what to bring back and contemplated the amount of room he had in his small bag. He ended up only packing his fryer and the fried chicken I brought back into the duffel bag he was provided. Those were the only things that he wanted to take back to Hell before his trial. Knowing it was the last of his things made me feel a pang of guilt. I crossed my arms.

“If the trial goes well, will I ever see you again?” I asked. The strange feeling of sadness was beginning to set in; though these has been the wildest weeks I had been through in my entire life, I knew that I would feel a void where Hector and his strange fried-chicken loving self were. And I had to admit, Hector grew on me in the short time we had together.

“No, probably not. I’m most likely going to be confined to torture duty for at least a couple centuries for what I did.” he said. I looked downcast, and Hector laughed.

“Kidding, kidding! I’m telling you, it’s no big deal. You’re definitely going to see me again.” Hector assured. I felt a wave of relief wash over me. “The trial’s not gonna be that bad. At least, I hope. I’m really hoping I’ll only be held accountable for what my crimes back down in Hell. If I get a good enough lawyer to represent me they’ll be able to sleaze the contract into freeing me from any crimes committed while with you. The best lawyers end up in Hell, after all.”

I guess I looked unconvinced, because Hector continued on with his explanation. He put a hand on my shoulder in a reassuring manner.

“Look at it this way, man. We’re contractually bound until you die. It might be a while, but I’ll see you again. We have no cell service in Hell, though, so if I do visit it’s gonna have to be a surprise.”

“Alright.” I took his words and chose to trust that we would eventually cross paths again. I uncrossed my arms and stuck my hand out for Hector to shake. “Until next time, then?”

Hector glanced at my hand, grabbed it, and pulled me into the most awkward and clumsy hug that I had ever experienced. I was surprised, to say in the least; I had never seen Hector do anything that could have been considered remotely affectionate so this was strange to me. Hector pat my back tensely, clearly uncomfortable by the gesture that he initiated.

“Hm. This is weird. Hugs are weird.”

He let go, and Hector rubbed his neck nervously- a habit he picked up from me. “I saw that people hug in TV when leaving each other for a long time but now that I’ve tried it, I have no idea why. It just makes things sadder, and this isn't even the end of things.” I nodded in agreement, amused by his discomfort at a simple hug, especially considering he’s done worse things. Hector zipped up his duffle bag, and I gazed at the immaculate floorboards where the summoning circle once was. To think all of this happened because I was careless and put my information online for my stalker to find; as an IT guy I really should have known better. But my carelessness led to meeting Hector, learning more about the universe than ever, and having weird misadventures with otherworldly creatures in my otherwise boring, law-abiding life. And I managed to stay sane and alive through all of it. If I could have done it all again, I wouldn’t have changed a thing- except maybe my stupid username from the game, MrPeanutButter26.

“Thanks for everything, Finn. I really had a great time here. You know, for a human, you weren’t that bad.” Hector smiled at me. Despite his words, his smile felt incredibly sincere this time around, and it was a shame that the one time he showed human-like vulnerability, it was because he was leaving for an unknown amount of time.

“I’ll see you around.” I said, smiling back. "And Hector?"

"Yeah?"

"Sorry for...you know. Saying I wouldn't have ever went through this stuff if you weren't here. You've been through a lot, and that was selfish of me to say, especially when you saved my life. Even though you caused it, I guess. My life's been more exciting than it's ever been since you came. And I don't want you to leave thinking I hated you."

"Apology accepted. I knew you didn't hate me, you worry about the weirdest shit."

I rolled my eyes. Hector took one last look around the apartment, and then at me before closing the door gently behind him. I heard the rustle of his duffle hitting his leg as he walked away into the hallway, until I heard nothing else but silence.

In a nutshell, I had a really strange time with Hector, but it was exciting nonetheless. I don’t know when he’ll come back and how he’ll manage to stay out of trouble, but I knew he would figure out a way somehow. And when he did, I would treat him to more fried chicken places- maybe even take him on a trip to Louisiana so he can get some of that genuine fried chicken experience. I have a feeling this isn’t the end of our encounters with one another, and despite everything, I’m glad I met Hector. His fried-chicken loving presence is always welcome at my place, wherever I end up moving to.

All in all, thanks for following me in my strange misadventures, guys. It’s been a wild ride. I promise I’ll keep you updated if Hector ever visits again, and when he does I'm sure strange happenings will follow once more.

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127

Gods.

We struggled, we raged, we fought, and we died. We knew only enough to pick up a large branch and hit what made us angry. We spoke, but too many languages, we did not know how to talk to each other. Then they came.The descriptions of the Gods have been forgotten to history. Gods are all we know them as.

*****************

5000 rotations before uplift.

His name was Rusha. The first among us to converse with the gods. They showed us knowledge our species did not have. How to shape stone and trees for tools. How to make the land more bountiful. They taught us how to communicate. Above all they taught us that we are not unique, and that there are many in the universe like us. We should prepare one day to join them amongst the stars.

And then they were gone.

Rusha became a revered elder and the teachings spread across our people.

We prospered for many generations but old hates and new anger brings discord.

***************

2000 rotations to uplift

War between the two largest factions was in full swing, thousands dead.The largest city of Jalesha, (nearly 1.5 million lives) sat before the Plains of the Gods. Most of it was engulfed with two large armies, both sides numbering in the hundreds of thousand. Men charged with swords and spears. The noise from the nearly 30,000 Dorais eight hooved steeds. Each Steed had been carrying one swordsman and one archer on their back.

Mere seconds before the armies clashed, the sky became brighter than the Sun at midday. All stopped and a voice rang in the air.

"We came before and showed you the path to peace. You have progressed far but you must forgo your anger."

And when the light gone and the voice had left us stunned, in its wake, in the mild of the Plains of the Gods stood a monument far beyond our understanding. It was a solid cube of metal 50 ft on all sides. in large words all could read.

"We will return, Be prepared"

****************

1000 rotations to uplift.

Many more generations have past in a forced peace the old anger and hate have returned again. We have staved off the war because of the words of the gods. But as all things, time passed and the gods became forgotten. The monument of the Gods, covered in the progress of a growing metropolis,nas the plains of the gods was finally enveloped by the city Jalesha. We had conquered the skies and seas of our world. We prepared for the next step into the stars. But some thought we should not go. But the words of the gods have been forgotten and the hatred of the world grew. The First ship to leave our atmosphere was almost destroyed by a missile from a faction that did not want us to travel space. But seconds before the destruction the missile just stopped and dropped from the sky. A light shines from the Monument of the gods hidden deep within the city where it had been buried by centuries of neglect. And then the light was gone. and the ship entered space. .

The monument had unburied itself and the words upon it had changed. The gods had spoken again.

"The Future is yours but you must want it.

The Gods had left us the final piece. Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but we must want the peace and must not forget what the hate and anger brings. With this our species flourished, finally uniting, and traveled to the other planets in our system.

**********

Uplift

The long distance sensor drones at the edge of the system picked up a massive signature. It was moving at speeds we could not comprehend. While travel in the system was common we had yet to develop a way to leave our system that did not involve generational ships. We at first thought it was a large asteroid. We were wrong, as its speed slowed as it entered the system. It was broadcasting in Common.

It just repeated "We have returned."

The monument of the gods, left two thousand rotations ago, emitted light. The area around the monument had long been turned in to a park area. As light emitted from the surface, it began to move, openings began to form. Within minutes, the metal structure had turned into a building. Odd architecture, but definitely a building.

The large ship loomed over the plant settling in orbit above the monument. The leaders of our world journeyed to the monument. As the last arrived, with all present, a light shone from the ship to the top of the monument building. several minutes later the door opened and out came, not floating, not anything but walking, on its own two feet.

The being in the front of the group dressed in all white with a dark helmet, it seemed to glow. It walked up to Director Ramasha, the leader of Trella Prime our home. He removed his helmet and suit, to show what we now understand as a human.

In perfect Common. "My name is Magnus. We are not gods. We are called Humans. and we would like to be friends. Not rulers."

**********

200 rotations post uplift.

Tarish had since his childhood on Trella Prime met many humans and some Morgof. The second oldest sentient race after humans. The Morgofs were introverts but highly agile. They had taken to zero g like fish to water as the humans say. Makes sense since they were from a world with 80% ocean coverage and spent 75% percent of their lives in water though they breathed air. Truth told they have a biology much like an earth turtle.

It is my first time to a pre uplift world. I am going to analyze and see if any attention is needed or if they should be left alone. We will leave sensor drones but they will be cloaked and we will also leave a comsat in orbit and cloaked to relay information back to headquarters.

I sit back and think how long we have been uplifted. Nearly 200 rotations now. As we speak their are 5 known Uplifted races and the humans. We have nearly one thousand known planets that have sentients, We like the humans did before help shepherd them to maturity.

I sit and think on the humans sometimes.

The humans wanted nothing more than a friend, a companion in the the Darkness. They wanted nothing. What they helped bring about is a universe bathed in in their light. No longer dark and quiet but teeming with Life and the word Friend.

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