A Kingdom for your Soul
By: Lynne Phillips

"A kingdom for your soul. Who wants to trade? A kingdom for your soul?" a wavering voice carried through the marketplace. People turned, interested until they spied the old man pushing his cart through the crowd.

Joel watched him approach. He liked the idea of being a king.

"Old man, I'm interested, what do I need to do?'

"You promise me your soul and I give you a kingdom."

"How do I know you can deliver?"

The tinker produced a sceptre, tapped Joel on the shoulder, dressing Joel in the kingly regalia.

"Nice, but that doesn't give me a kingdom."

"You haven't agreed to trade your soul yet."

"Where would my kingdom be?' he challenged.

"Where it is always warm." The old man indicated the dank surroundings. "You would leave all this behind."

Images of beautiful girls bearing platters of fruit danced through Joel's mind.

"When would you want my soul?"

"Not until you died."

What did he have to lose? Who wouldn't prefer being a king instead of a shoemaker's apprentice?

"I agree," he heard himself say, without regret.

"Close your eyes," the old man said.

When Joel opened his eyes, the old man was gone. Soft music filled the air and the scent of roses was intoxicating.

Joel felt a weight on his head. It was a crown.

"So, the old guy came through."

A carriage stood awaiting him, pulled by a brace of white horses; it swept Joel towards a magnificent palace. Beautiful women rushed to meet him.

"Welcome King Joel," they chorused, pulling him up the steps to a gigantic throne.

Joel enjoyed being a king. He bathed in scented water, washed by beautiful women. Dressed in grandeur, he rode in a golden carriage through his kingdom. The sun shone and the people called, "Hail, King Joel."

Life was wonderful. King Joel sighed with pleasure. He was young and would enjoy many years ruling here. The old man could have his soul when he was dead, what would he care.

***

Three months passed. The vestiges of magnificence began to fade. The palace didn't gleam in the sunshine, the bathwater was tepid, and the women weren't as beautiful. Joel sent for his advisor.

"I demand to know what is happening to my kingdom."

"I'm sure you are mistaken, King Joel."

Days passed and things deteriorated more. Joel insisted on answers.

"Perhaps you are not well. I'll mix you a tonic," his advisor said smiling.

The tonic smelled of honey, but it tasted bitter. King Joel collapsed dead. The advisor morphed into the old tinker.

"It's time to pay, King Joel."

He carried Joel's body deep underground. Flames flickered. The intense heat released Joel's soul. Men, wearing rusty crowns worked breaking rocks. Demons whipped them to work harder. Their haunted eyes turned towards Joel.

"Hail King Joel," they chanted. A demon adjusted his rusty crown, shackled him to the chain gang, and handed him a pick-axe.

"Time to find one more sucker," the old tinker said, smiling.

The End

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