Demon's Mark, or Mark's Prey
by Amy Sisson
The man in the black fedora closes his eyes briefly, then turns to face the demon behind him. He holds his arms out from his sides and tilts his head back, offering himself, his face peaceful, or perhaps resigned.
The man waits patiently for what seems an eternity, arms outstretched, until the demon finally rushes forth with a roar and rakes its claw across the man's throat. The smell of blood enrages the beast further and it slashes again, this time slicing through the man's clothing and across his chest. The man falls to his knees, gurgling as he tries to breathe, but still he keeps his face turned up towards the demon.
The monster's third attack, this time with its other claw, finishes the man, and the beast crouches over his prize for a furtive taste. Once sated, the creature rises and bellows, in rage or triumph or both, then turns and disappears back down the alley. Since it is a dead end, it is unclear where the demon goes, but after several moments of silence, I realize that I'm alone in the alley, with only a corpse for company.
This is, in a sense, your average demon story. Man--or woman, of course, but in this case a man--weak-willed and vain, covetous of the better things in life, seeks an easy route rather than one involving long, hard work for quiet rewards. He may not even know what he's seeking, but the yearning informs every breath that he takes and poisons those things in his life that are good.
And demons, they can smell a mark, sense an easy target. Then they approach, but not in their normal guise. They make themselves attractive, alluring, wearing fine clothes and drinking exotic wine, and offering the same to their prey. When inhibitions are lowered, and the mark has become confident of a sympathetic ear, he explains how he's been cheated out of the best things in life. The demon sniffs and circles, advances and retreats.
At just the right moment, the demon makes the offer.