by Tautvydas Tamašauskas

"Again?" said Kristine when her husband Siegfried had announced about going out for a Pilsner with his cousin after work. Kristine and Siegfried were eating early breakfast and drinking coffeeat the kitchen table.

"Yes," said Siegfried, "he phoned me yesterday".

"What about me?"

"He invites you as well. When are you leaving the theatre?"

"At nine or ten," she said.

"We are meeting at six."

"You drank beer yesterday. Can't you stay at home tonight?"

"I've made a promise. Sorry," he saidgazing through the window into the autumn darkness.

"You drink beer a lot. When are you going to come back?"

"I don't know. Late."

"You know, I'm fed up," said Kristine putting her cup on the table. "You are always somewhere else but not home."

"You too. You're always in the theatre," Siegfried looked her in the eye.

"It's different.You perfectly know that the premire is approaching," she said. "I have plenty of work to do."

"What's wrong with you? Why can't I have a beer then?"

"Maybe you've got another woman"

Siegfried stood up dropping the fork on the table, and leaving the steaming cup he shuffled to the entrance hall.

"Where are you going?" said Kristine. "Your breakfast isn't finished.

"I'm not hungry."

"Nice breakfast indeed."

"Go to hell!" the door slammed and Kristine was left alone in the kitchen.

Kristine went grim as she knew that she had crossed the line. The quarrels between them were a rather frequent event and quite often it was her lashing that started war, though it was not always the case. Siegfried was not pleased that she had been spending so much time in the theatre, whereas she did not like his late woozy wanderings in Berlin. The war would start impetuously and it would end soon but the peace would never last long. Just few days ago they were enjoying chocolate miracles at Fassbender Rausch and now they fought again.

Kristine felt better at the theatre while shewas rehearsing the play with her actorsin front of the canvasdepicting the exploding star. Her play "The sun goes supernova. THE SUN GOES SUPERNOVA" told a story about people living their last days against the impending calamity.

Kristine left the theatre at ten o'clock in the evening.The full-moon was bathing nocturnal Berlin in a silver ghostly light and the biting autumn chill was scratching Kristine's automobile windows as she drove home in the maze of streets. It was halfway home when she received a call from the police and the tragic news struck her. She stopped the car in the winding lane and tears began to flow down her face. He was gone. Siegfried had been attacked in the street and one of the muggers had sunk the knife into his flesh. To the police it was yet another murder case; to her it meant losing part of her own soul for they had loved each other in spite of the frequent arguing.

Having seen the body, Kristine got home after midnight. Now she was sittingon a cerise sofa in the living room breathing in the soothing smell of the candle burning on a coffee table beside her. Kristine's heart was braking as the memories flooded her and all the memorabilia in the apartment caused the distressing pain. Just in the morning Siegfried was a breathing living person and now he was gone. Kristine hated herself. Why did she argue with him? Why was she such a bitch? The last memory of Siegfried she had was he dropping the fork on the table and slamming the door. Her entire life she would remember the last morning he was alive and the moment he had left the apartment not having kissed her goodbye as he always did. Oh, what a trifle now seemed the reason of the morning argument. What a trifle indeed.

Kristine sobbed and would have sold her soul to the devil if she could have him back. At that very moment a thought came to her mind, a crazy thought. She ended up in the basement instantly and after delving in the cardboard boxes full of books and papers she brought a thick dusty tome bound in leather, faded silver writing visible on the cover. "The Tome of the Black Magic" was the title of the book which once had belonged to her grandmother.

Having found in the book the instructions she needed, Kristine disappeared in the kitchen and returned instantly to the living room holding a large knife in her hand. Taking a gulp of air into her lungs she made a shallow incision along the inner side of the forearm and the searing pain ran across her arm but she did not make a sound. Kristine moistened her fingers in the bleeding wound and drew the pentagram on the floor; then she lit more candles and put them at the spikes of the pentagram. Having bandaged up her arm, Kristine stepped in front of her drawing with the tome of the black magic in her trembling hands and whispered the incantation in a sturdy voice.

The candle flames were dancing above the gory pentagram and the moonlight was seeping through the windows when Kristine heard the soft footsteps in the hall and her blood froze in her veins. The one who entered the room had neither the horns nor the hoofs as one might had expected; the black hair curled on the man's head, the moustache was framing his lips and a goatee sprang from his chin. Wearing the plain dark suit, the stranger looked like the ordinary man but there was something extraordinary in his cunning smile and malevolent gaze.

"How do you do?" said the visitor in a silky voice approaching Kristine. "My name is Satan, Lucifer, Abaddon, Antichrist, Beelzebub, the prince of darkness if you wish. Call me whatever you want."

The devil stretched his arm to Kristine who shook his hand totally flabbergasted and collapsed on the sofa. Satan ensconced on the crimson armchair at the other side of thetable.

"You have summoned me, "said Satan, "because you want to make a bargain, I suppose?"

"I Yes I do," said Kristine. "I've lost my husband tonight."

"And you want him back?"

"Yes. Would Could you?.."

"Of course, I could," the devil peered at Kristine from beneath his thick eyebrows.

"I would do anything to be with Siegfried again," she said.

"Anything?" said the devil smiling wily. "Be careful with your words. It's dangerous to make such statements so carelessly."

"I know what I say," said Kristine firmly. "It's true that I used to be a horrible wife. But I see itnow. I understand. I won't err again."

"Do you know how we call such specimen like you down there?"said the devil. "The wife of the century. You should have been nice to each other while both of you were alive. But humans never think what might happen the other day and always regret when it's too late."

"But it is not, is it? You can do it"

"Of course, I can. But it will cost you dearly."

"How much?

"The soul, obviously."

"You are going to take my soul in return?"

"Not necessarily yours" said the devil grinning. "You can either sell your soul or another's. It's up to you to choose. You will get what you wish for, but remember - in the end your soul will burn in hell for eternity. Or someone else's soul. You choose."

Kristine gazed through the window into the nightand thoughts were boiling in her head. The prospect of the eternal flames of hell was not comforting a bit. On the other hand, she could not condemn cold heartedly an innocent soul for such a horrible doom. Or could she? The thought of losing the only chance she had to get Siegfried back was unbearable.

"I agree," she said.

"So you are going to sell your soul for me?"

"No the other's," Kristine's voice trembled.

"The soul of the other? But that's extraordinary," exclaimed the devil. "That is what I call the bargain. Condemning the innocent person for the eternal flames of hell in a cold blood just to reach your own goal. That's fantastic. You don't really need this."

The devil pointed to the silver crucifix hanging on Kristine's neck which she was clutching in her fist unconsciously. Guilt swarmed into Kristine's veins but she forced it to retreat immediately.

"That's my decision," she whispered.

"Oh, it is indeed", said the devil and the amply scribbled scroll materialised from the thin air. "We'll have to sign the contract."

Kristine reached for the parchment but Satan pulled it back.

"Listen carefully," he said. "Tomorrow be at the Brandenburg Gate on the side of Strae des 17. Juni streetat 11.47 p.m. The first person to say your name there will owe the soul to me. Do you understand?"

"Yes," said Kristine and she saw a black feather lying on the table which had been absolutely empty just few seconds ago. She seized the feather looking for an ink.

"Uh-uh! You need to sign with your blood!"

Having unbandaged her wounded arm, Kristine damped the tip of the feather with the blood and scrawled her signature on the parchment.

"Done," said the devil in a sinister voice and shiver went down Kristine's spine.

The scroll along with the feather melted into the air immediately; after that Satan left the room and Kristine followed.The devil opened the bathroom door but the inside did not resemble the bathroom at all. It was a narrow square room with the metal plate on the wall and the "up" and "down" buttons on it, the strong smell of sulphur emanating from inside.

The devil turned to Kristine unexpectedly and her face lost the colour becoming bone white as she did not expect such a swift move.

"The end has no end," he whispered into her ear grinning crookedly and stepped into the elevator leaving Kristinebewildered.

"Remember: tomorrow night, 11.47 p.m., Brandenburg Gate."

Kristine nodded as the devil pressed the "down" button; the bathroom door slammed with the bang and after opening them again Kristine only saw the spacious tiled room with a bath and the smell of sulphur was gone.

The other day Kristine phoned to the theatre director and told him about the day-old tragedy and that she wouldn't show up in the theatre that day. The director told her compassionately not to worry about the play and to bid farewell to her husband. He assured that the play would be fine and added that it was going to be the hell of a show at the premire.

Yes, it was going to beindeed, thought Kristine. She was busy with the funeral stuff the whole day and she waited for the reunion with Siegfried eagerly. The spectral cape had hooded arcane Berlin and the silver luminary had brooded over the city again when Kristine got into her car. While Kristine was driving in the Strae des 17. Juni, the walls of trees looming on both sides of the street, she thought about what would happen. Whom would she meet? Whose soul she was going to sacrifice for her own goal? She began to doubt her decision as guilt approached her again but at that moment she saw it.

The Brandenburg Gate, a massive triumphal arc supported by the twelve columns was gleaming ahead, tearing itself from the darkness. Atop the gate there was the brass quadriga and the Roman goddess Victoria stood in itholding a sceptre with the iron cross in her hands, olive wreath on her head. A short lane ran from the gate to the left, the Reichstag building with an enormous glass dome resting at the end of the lane. The moon rimmed by the indigo clouds silver-plated on the edges casted the supernatural light on the Reichstag and the gate. Kristine parked her car in thestreet and approached the gate examining some people loitering around but she did not know any of them.

It was already 11.47 p.m. and at that moment the sound of the squeaking brake reached Kristine's ears. She turned round and saw two dazzling spots of light soaring straight to her from the street at immense speed. Kristine sighed as realisation of impending doom came to her and the uncontrollable car hit her with the tremendous force ripping the world from her senses.

She did not know how much time had passed until she regained consciousness. Kristine did not feel pain which was strange as the impact was severebut soon enough she realised what had happened. She saw her body sprawled in front of her, twisted in a strange way, her bag tossed on the pavement, blood oozing from the wounds. The car was lying on its roof, the driver hanging upside-down in his seat unconscious but breathing, still alive. To Kristine's astonishment she became somewhat transparent and glowed in the moonlight but she was not the only one in such a state as many other ghostly figures were at the gate and at the square behind it, and even on the roof of the Reichstag. The passers-by hurrying to the car and to Kristine's dead body did not seem to notice the apparitions.

One of the ghosts parted from the glowing flock and approached Kristine. She gasped recognising Siegfried and excitement overwhelmed her.

"Kristine?" he said dumbfounded.

"Siegfried!" she said rushing to him and they embraced sealing their lips with a kiss. Right away the terrifying perception struck Kristine as she remembered the bargain with the devil. Siegfried spoke her name; he was the first to say it.

The loud rasping noise came from above and the smell of sulphur touched Kristine's nostrils. On the gate the quadriga had sprung to life. The four horses seemed to be made not of brass anymore but were sooty black, scratching the roof of the gatewith their heavy hoofs, eyes blazing hellish red and fire flapping instead of their mane. The chariot tarnished too as did the robe of Victoriawho now had the crown of thorns on her head instead of the olive wreath. Where her eyes had been now the openings gaped as bottomless as the pits and the flames were blazingfrom the eyeholes like torches. The infernal creature roared in a low terrible voice, the iron cross melted instantly and the frightened ghosts fled in all directions.

The horses leaped from the roof of the gate dragging the chariot after them and it plunged down but at that moment the wide bat-like wings sprang from the back of the beasts and the chariot flew clumsily towards Kristine and Siegfried.

"What the hell?" said Siegfried as Kristine grabbed his hand and they fell to the pavement the chariot whizzing by just few inches above them sending the waves of the sulphurous heat.

The chariot rolled in the street, went up again and began to make a loopin the sky heading to the direction of the Reichstag as Kristen dashed to her lifeless body surrounded by people who did not see any of this carnivalesque show. The quadriga landed on theroof of the Reichstag, rumbled on it and crashed all through the glass dome strewing splinters on the ground while Kristine accumulated all her strength and praying all her hopes to the heaven snatched the crucifix from her lifeless body making bewildered people sigh as they saw the cross gliding in the air.

The hope flaming inside her chest, Kristine stepped forward to the approaching quadriga raising the crucifix in her hand. The silver Jesus sprang to life as well and did the following stunt: goggling to the flying chariot he tore himself off desperately from the cross, jumped on the pavement and darted into the darkness.

The demonic Victoria swung her sceptre like a whip and the two tongues of fire shot from it, one of them twining about Kristine's wrist and the other around Siegfried's ankle. The chariot plunked down on the ground and lumbered to the Brandenburg Gate dragging hapless Kristine and Siegfriedbehind it.

Victoria turned her head with the flaming eyes to Kristine and bellowed in a deep voice:

"You wanted to be together, so you will be!"

Victoria guffawed and Kristine saw the ground gaping before the Brandenburg Gate, fire spurting from the pits of hell. The first who had disappeared into the hole were the fore demonic horses, the chariot together with Victoriaplunging down after them; and before ducking into the flames of hell Kristine thought that the end for her and Siegfried had come. The end that had no end. The end for the eternity.

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