My only success in life was being to summon a demon. Something I’ve only been able to do once. She was a lesser demon, more of a ghost than your typical demon with horns and goat’s legs. I was surprised the whole process had even worked, it’s not like demonology is a respected study and collegiate field of education. You can’t major in this kind of stuff. Everything I knew about demons came from an old encyclopedia my grandfather gave me.

My grandfather was a crotchety old man. He hated everything and everyone. Honestly, I half expected to summon him the first time, considering he was the closest thing to a demon I knew. All my successes in the world of hell I attribute to that spiteful old man. I’m certain if it weren’t for him, and his pure hatred for any joy in the world, I would’ve opened a bakery, or perhaps been hired by a Silicon Valley startup. My life would be dreamy as all hell right now.

Anyway, after summoning Haapheeshus (did you know demons name themselves?) I figured I could make a career out of this. So, I did what any rational young adult would do, I started a business summoning demons. Usually demons have to make a pact with the summoner, but I knew a few ways around that. Well, in theory I did, I just had one small problem: I wasn't able to summon any more demons. What else was I to do other than stretch the truth a little? I mean, I was already trying to summon demons, its not like my business was getting an A+ rating on the BBB.

“Nothing’s happening,” the young man sat across from me on the floor, a bejeweled and dimly lit crescent moon drawn on the floor in chicken’s blood separated us. In the center of the moon lay the heart of a housefly and the flight of a canary. The kid wanted to have a demon get his crush to reciprocate his love. Not really ethical, but again we’re talking about demons here.

“Patience, kid, summonings can take days or even weeks, demons don’t work on our perception of time and they only come if they want to.” That wasn’t entirely true, but this kid didn’t know any better, so I wasn’t exactly hurting him. He was my first paying customer too; I needed a good review.

“Do I have to be here? Or can you call me when the demon arrives?” the kid asked. That was something I never thought of. Did I even need to be there? I didn’t know. Perhaps the demon would show up in my dreams, or even his dreams. Or as a stray house cat. I didn’t know. Demons can do some pretty crazy shit.

“Uh, no, no you don’t. You can leave whenever. I’ll call you when the demon shows up. Just be patient and you’ll receive your dark reward,” I tried to at least sell the popular satanist image. In truth, you didn’t need any of the signs, circles, pentagrams, stars, or concoctions to summon a lesser demon. They came of their own free will whenever they were called. It was really like sending out an email blast. Demons are capable of hearing and understanding the thoughts of all mankind at whatever moment they choose. So, if you could send out a compelling enough message, the demons would come. I thought I was good at it, considering I’d summoned Haapheeshus, but apparently, I wasn’t. I needed to do something; I’d sunk all I had into this business. I made a sign and everything. I couldn’t let it fail just because the demons were too pompous to write back, the damned bastards.

So, I did what any self-respecting demonologist would do. I made it up. This kid wanted a demon to get his crush to like him, I could at least get him to think he had a demon helping him. It’s not like demon’s are known to be accommodating or anything.

“Hey, kid, you better hurry down here, your summoning is almost complete!” I yelled into the phone as a cacophony of shrieks and wails blared into the receiver. I hung up the phone and turned off the speaker behind me. This could work. The kid came into my shop not twenty minutes later. The lights were out, and the place had been ransacked. He stepped through the broken doorway and through the all but destroyed front office into the back room. A black figure rose from the floor where the crescent moon had been drawn. Its bulbous red eyes reflected the kid back to himself a hundred times over, dark red wings sprouted from the back of a black cloak, and a long, thin, leathery tube of a mouth hung from the head.

“Wh-wh-whaaaaaa!” the monster screamed. The kid fell the ground in terror and tried to run, but the door slammed shut and locked.

“Wh-why did you call me?!” the monster cried through a wet mucus laden voice.

“P-please don’t hurt me! Where’s the Summoner? He’s supposed to be here,” the boy cowered at the door.

“Do not concern yourself with the affairs of the nether world! I have chosen to help you, what do you desire? I will grant it to you!” The creature pulled back from the dim candles and hid itself in the darkness, its voice grew more human. The young boy, with the monster no longer visible, stood tall and gathered his wits.

“I-I want Lucy to like me. She’s everything to me and I want her to feel the same way!”

“Ah, young love, how sweet of a calling. How easily corrupted it can be. You give me joy, child, joy that such evil can come of such purity. The desires of youth are so easily tainted. She will love you. Talk with her tomorrow and you will see. Just know this, you will be required to sacrifice much for this gift. The time will come where I will call upon you and require the most precious thing you do not know you have,” the demon cackled and pushed itself back into the light. In response the boy fell back and turned away from the face. “Now leave! Do not call upon me again!” The door unlocked and the boy dashed out of the office, terrified, but also relieved that the summoning had worked.

Once I was sure the kid had left, I pulled the mask off and turned on the lights. I couldn’t believe that worked. The vacuum hose fell out of the black cardboard. When I tried to catch it the bike reflectors that were pinned to the shoddy mask fell to the floor. I gave up on the thing and just scooped it all into the trash. It was a trivial matter to clean up the shop, I had only scattered a few papers and unhinged the door. All that was left was to give the kid a call tomorrow and see if it worked. This whole business hinged on this girl’s response.

I never thought of myself as lucky, just a little better at tricking Fate into my favor. When that kid came back to me paying for the service, a dopey grin on his face, he had nothing but a beaming attitude and great things to say. Some would say I got lucky, but like I said, Fate’s not too hard to swindle.

From that point everything went great. I had a little too much overhead when it came to the costumes, but I could more than manage considering what my clientele was willing to pay. For the most part these people just needed a confidence boost, even the occasional massage, it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

That’s when she came. The damn woman wanted the Devil. The Lord of Lies himself, Satan. How the hell was I supposed to conjure up the devil or even pretend I was him? It’s just not possible. People will go to great lengths to believe in these demons I make up, but trust me when I say this, they know if they’re talking to the Devil. I couldn’t refuse her though, even one bad experience and then everyone would know I was a fraud. I needed help to pull this off.

The ad I put in the paper read: Help Wanted! Demonologist, Exorcism Expert, Warlock, and Summoner. Priests need not apply. Naturally this brought in a rather interesting crowd of people. My shop usually attracted some weirdos, but dear Lord these people were nuts! I’m telling you, if you think I’m crazy, you haven’t seen anything. One man came in with two ravens on each of his shoulders. In the middle of the meeting he gouged out one of his eyes and claimed to be Odin himself. I think he somewhat came to his senses as he began screaming in horrific terror once he realized he couldn’t put his eye back in. That was the norm I was now dealing with.

By this point the client was breathing down my neck and I didn’t have any more time to be picky about my new assistant. I’m not so sure this woman wasn’t really the Devil trying to satisfy some twisted narcissism in summoning himself to pleasure his ego. I don’t know why I had to be mixed up in it, but the client was willing to pay good, really good. I’m not too keen on the details, but she wanted to make a deal with Devil to allow her husband to inconspicuously die so she could inherit his vast quantities of wealth. Most normal demons could handle that, but she also wanted it to be painful, as painful for him as she could possibly manage. She was rather self-important as well; shocking, I know.

My search went on until a teenage boy came into my office. He was probably no older than 15, but honestly, I had no reason to complain. This was the most normal thing to happen to me since I opened the interviews up. The boy’s name was Elphias.

“I would like to be your assistant,” he said walking up to my desk.

“No,” I responded.

“But you need one. You said you needed a Demonologist, Exorcism Expert, Warlock, and Summoner.  I come from a family of Warlock’s. We specialize in lower class trickster demons, but we’ve also some experience in dealing with the Generals of Hell. My family has been working in this business for thousands of years. We’re directly descended from a Judas Iscariot and have strong ties to the dark ar—“

“Look, kid, you could be the greatest summoner in all the land, but you’re just not right for this job. Come back in 10 years when your feet touch the ground while you sit. Got it?” I didn’t have time for this, I needed someone immediately and I still had a lot of names to get through.

“I’ll show you! I promise I can help!” Elphias pushed out his chair and crouched to the floor, his hands outstretched.

“What are you doing? Get up,” I said prodding him with my foot. He didn’t respond. I reached down to grab him, but before I could touch him the room exploded in a brilliant light and a wide portal to a fiery wasteland opened before us. A being with two camel heads, the tail of a basilisk, the beaks of a red hawk, and the arms of a raptor (demons pick their own forms).

“Who calls upon me, Griltas the Anointed? What grand task do you have for my greatness?” the two heads said in unison, its tail swished back and forth.

“Griltas, I am Elphias, Warlock, I have called upon you only to prove my power to my new master. Thank you for your presence,” Elphias said. The demon looked back and forth between me and the boy.

“That’s it?” Griltas said.

“Yes, your greatness is awe inspiring thank you for your help.”

“Your wish is granted! Master of this child, have you seen this one’s power?”

“Uh, sure,” I said, not really paying attention as I tried to piece together the different parts of the demon’s body.

“Your payment will be due, young one. I will come to collect when you least suspect me,” the demon cackled and then disappeared into the portal.

“See, I can summon just as well as the rest of them. Will you take me on as your apprentice? I’ve heard of your greatness. Please?” Elphias still knelt on the floor. He looked pitifully small and helpless. He probably could use a mentor and I really did need the help. I was sure having an actual warlock to help with clients would be great for business.

“I will take you on as my apprentice. Come tomorrow at 2 P.M. for your first task,” I said.

“2 P.M. I got it. Thank you so much! You won’t regret this, Summoner,” the kid jumped up in glee and giggled his way out of my shop. I liked him. He had a good attitude.

At 2 P.M. exactly the shop door opened and Elphias teetered through yelling, “Good afternoon!”

“Right on time, perfect. I didn’t expect you to be on time,” I said.

“Is that bad?” he said.

“No. It’s good. One less thing I have to teach you. Well, let’s jump right into this. Our first task is given to us by one Ms. Sochala. She would like us to summon Satan to kill her husband. It’s why I needed you. Though great I am, I cannot summon Satan on my own.”

“Oh…” Elphias looked down.

“What’s the matter?”

“Well you see, I’m not good enough to do that.”

“Nonsense, together we can. Let’s just go to the back room and get the ceremony started. Have you tried to summon a greater demon before? You need them for the more difficult requests.”

“No, I haven’t. My father has once, but only once.”

“No problem. I’ll show you how it’s done,” I led him to my back room and pushed aside a box that was overflowing with fabric, sewing tools, and masks. “Sit down here.” I didn’t know what to do at this point. I had never truly tried to summon another demon since my first client and now this kid relied on me to teach him how to be a great summoner. Though, if I could fool the rest of these people, I could certainly fool this kid too. It was for his own good, really.

“I’m sure you already know that we don’t need any symbols or sacrifices to summon lesser demons. This isn’t the case for greater ones. We’ll need something huge to get Satan’s attention, and on top of that, we need to have a compelling argument for him to actually help us. How do you usually get a demon to come to you?” I was glad to have skimmed the greater demon’s portion of the encyclopedia the night before.

“Well, I just introduce myself and ask them to help.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah, is that wrong?”

I looked at the kid, dumbfounded. All he had to do was ask. Perhaps he really did come from a family of warlocks. It’s not like he had a reason to lie. “No, no, not at all. I just don’t know if the greater demons will respond to that. You wouldn’t happen to have any virgin’s blood on you, would you?”

“No, I don’t.”

“That’s fine, we can just use the dog’s blood I have in the fridge, it’s leftover from a summoning I did last week,” I went to the fridge and dug around for the blood. Stored just behind the plastic bowl of blood was a tightly wrapped bag labeled carrion liver. I grabbed that too, just to be safe. I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I’d faked my way through stickier situations than this. “Alright, kid, pour the blood in between us and draw it out into a circle. Then place this liver in the center. The blood of our sacrifice and the desperation in our plea should be enough to call upon the Lord of Death, War, and Pestilence. You go ahead and lead the plea; I want to see how well you do in this. Remember to use as many titles of grandeur that you can think of.”

“I’ll try. I usually don’t do this out loud. How should I start?” Elphias said.

“Just start by addressing him.”

Elphias took a deep breath and whispered, “Hear my plea accept the sacrifice of my soul. Lord of Lies, Lord of Hatred, Lord of Death, Destruction, Deviance, Terror, War, and Pestilence. Come to us—

“Not us, to the client,” I whispered.

“Oh ya,” Elphias stumbled on his words and then continued, “Come to Ms. Sochala and grant her the desires of her soul.”

We sat for a moment and waited. Nothing happened.

“Well it was a long shot anyway. We’ll need to get some virgin’s blood, that should take us in the right direction. Come on Elphias, you did good. Don’t expect us to be successful on our first try at summoning the Lord of Hell,” I said. I reached out to help Elphias up, but again before I touched him the room exploded in a brilliant light. A brightly lit portal burst open between us. Within it a burly man dressed head to toe in shining bronze armor stood baring a shield and spear. Upon his head was a brilliantly feathered helmet gleamed in a nonexistent light.

“Ms. Sochala it is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance. I am Ares! God of War! Who shall we fight against?” Ares stepped through the portal, his taught stature commanding, his muscles bulging, and his jawline sharp. The god exuded confidence, hatred, and beauty in one single gaze. His presence was glorious, for about 30 seconds.

“What in the hell are you doing here?!” I shouted. Of all the things that could go wrong, summoning a god when trying to summon a demon was probably the worst.

“You called upon me. Where is Ms. Sochala? I am here to defeat her enemies! It has been long since I’ve tasted the field of battle. Long since my spear has been wet with the blood of tyrants. How shall we fight? Swords? Bows? Fists? I can do it all!” Ares pushed out his chest and banged his fist against his shield, impressing no one.

“I’m sorry, master. I’m so sorry. This is my fault. I failed…” Elphias dropped the ground holding his head down in shame.

“It’s fine, Elphias, we all make mistakes. Let’s just send him back and we’ll be done,” I said.

“Send me back? Oh no, I cannot return to Olympus until the war has been won! We will bath in the blood of our enemies. Elphias, young man, show me to Ms. Sochala so that we might ascertain her battle strategy. You will the first great general in her army.” With that the God of War picked up Elphias and rushed out my shop. That’s one reason I stuck with demons and strayed from from any ancient pantheons after I learned of their existence from my encyclopedia. At least demons listen, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to twist your wishes to malicious or devious means. The gods just do as they please with no regard for subtlety. It’s just sloppy.

“Master!” Elphias’s voice trailed off in the distance. I shouldn’t be making a habit of getting my assistants kidnapped, but honestly that wasn’t the first time nor was it the last. I wasn’t going to lose Elphias though. He was much to valuable to lose, not like the others. If I was to save my poor young friend, I’d need more help.