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Fifty-cent Demon
by Atk. Butterfly

Tecumceh motioned with his arm as he forced the evil spirit toward the canning machinery. Too long the spirit had occupied the manufacturing plant, giving the owners losses that they could scarcely afford. Sheer desperation finally convinced them to permit the Indian shaman to come on site and fight the evil that others kept insisting was in the plant. To the owners' amazement, the spirit became visible when confronted by the shaman as he battled it with all his skill and might. Backward, ever backward, the evil spirit retreated while workers stood ready to put the last phase of the plan into operation.

Nodding with his head, Tecumceh signaled the workers to do their part. Quickly, they engaged the vacuum pump while the evil spirit was at the nozzle. With an audible slurping noise, the evil spirit sped into the pump.

John Galway shouted, "Okay, can it now!"

More workers moved quickly to send empty cans through the mechanized filling line. Others just as quickly connected the vacuum pump to the delivery system so that the evil spirit would be placed into the cans. Nearly two thousand cans went through the line before the shaman nodded that he was satisfied that the evil spirit was no longer inside the vacuum chamber.

John Galway went over to the shaman. "Tecumceh, I owe you more than words can express."

"Honor your word that there will always be jobs for my people. Your words will be enough then."

"That I will, Tecumceh. If you'll have your tribal chief meet with me later, we'll see about sending some of your people to school so they can become managers and not just bodies on the line," John said.

Tecumceh nodded. He felt he had no need to say anything more. His gaze fell upon the cans as those were collected into cartons and then bundled onto a pallet.

John shouted, "Make sure that pallet is marked on all four sides that it's never to be disturbed or used! Then put it in Area Five!"

One worker said, "Hey, these things are freshness dated like our regular cans!"

There were some muffled laughs among the workers who knew that the dates didn't really matter when it came to the contents of those particular cans. There would never come a date when they weren't fresh or dangerous.

Ebbing Mercer walked into the plant area with Keith, the employee hiring supervisor. Ebbing muttered, "Sure a lot of damn Indians working here. They give you much trouble?"

Keith turned and said, "Those men and women pull their weight here. I suggest that you try to work as well as they do and watch your tongue at the same time. We work as a team here."

"Sorry, didn't mean anything. Just that the ones I've seen are always on welfare."

"This isn't welfare. This is a job and they do it well. Maybe you'll learn to appreciate that by working here."

Ebbing said, "Uh, right, sir."

"John War-eagle! Got a new worker for your shift," Keith said before the two men met and then moved out of hearing range from Ebbing.

"Oh, shit! Now I'm in for it," Ebbing muttered.

John returned to Ebbing's side. John said, "Okay, I'm partnering you with different personnel each morning this week so you can see how the job is done. You'll study in the afternoons. By next week, you should be pulling your own weight. You have any problems, just call for me. Everyone calls me John. How do you like to be addressed?"

Ebbing thought for a moment, then said, "I guess Mercer is fine with me."

John nodded.

"How's the job, man?" Ralph, Ebbing's friend, asked.

Ebbing replied, "It's a job. Not much to it. Sweep up broken glass on the bottling line, pick up cans on the canning line. Mop up on both. They haven't given me anything really good to do yet. They claim that I can advance to more complex stuff."

"So you're not fixing the equipment like you thought?"

"I will be. Ain't no Injun going to keep me from being in charge someday."

"You're working for an Injun?" Ralph asked.

"For now. Someday he'll be working for me," Ebbing answered.

Ralph asked, "What's the chances of getting some free drinks? Think you could slip some out the door when no one's looking?"

"Maybe when my shift switches to the graveyard shift. That's not for another week," Ebbing replied.

Ralph waited in the shadows beside the opened bay door. Stacked pallets of canned or bottled sodas stood not far from him as he waited for Ebbing to return with a promised case of free drinks.

"No, you can't take a break now. Get back on the bottling line, Mercer," John ordered.

Tired of waiting, Ralph sneaked through the open bay door. Spotting a pallet without plastic wrap surrounding it, he grabbed at the topmost case. As quickly as he could, Ralph headed back for the open bay door. He failed to notice that the case was far lighter than usual.

Ebbing felt tired. The night shift hours took getting used to. He wasn't much in the mood for jokes and games as he arrived home. That was when Ralph approached him with some other friends by Ralph's side.

"Some free drinks these are!"

"Remind us not to ask you for any favors again, Ebbing!"

"What's the problem? What gives?" Ebbing asked.

"Nothing gives! The free drinks you gave Ralph are all empty cans! This your idea of a joke, Ebbing?"

Ralph shook the can in his hand and popped the top with it pointing straight at Ebbing.

Ebbing replied, "What free drinks? I couldn't get off to give Ralph . . ."

Ebbing fell unconscious to the ground as fifty cents worth of demon invaded his body.

When Ebbing regained consciousness, he was about to be transported to a hospital by paramedics. Groggily, Ebbing shook his head at the paramedics when one said, "We're transporting you to General."

"No way. I'm just tired from working all night and having my friends pull sick jokes on me. Now get away from me and let me be!"

"He doesn't want treatment."

"You're damned right, I don't. Now . . . Hell, you even ruined my shirt! You'll be lucky if I don't sue you!" Ebbing shouted as his strength returned.

Alone inside his apartment, Ebbing sat down on the edge of his unmade bed. Inside his mind, thoughts collided with other thoughts.

I can help you if you'll help me. Do you want to be in charge? To have power?

Of course I want to be in charge. But the only power anyone understands is based on having money which I don't have.

Not true. There is a deeper, older font of power that most people know nothing of. That power can be yours. You have only to do as I say and I will give you power.

Prove it. Give me a sample now.

And if I prove it so? Then you will do as I say?

Depends on just what you want me to do.

Only to restore me to myself. Do that, I'll grant you power that no mortal has possessed for ages.

That's all I have to do?

Nothing more. Nothing less. To show my sincerity, I grant you a full day of power to do with as you choose. Mind you, because I'm not fully restored, the power you have for the next 24 hours is limited in its strength.

All I want is proof that you really can do something for me if I restore you. Just what do you mean anyway by restoring you?

I have been split into many pieces, each contained away from the others so that I might not regain my ascendency and wreak vengence upon my foes. You merely have to release those other parts of me so that I can rejoin them into one force.

Sounds simple enough.

Ebbing gazed thoughtfully at the waitress as she moved from table to table serving supper. Ebbing wondered just how much of her was padding when her clothes suddenly disappeared. He gawked at her intensely as she routinely went through her duties.

Having fun seeing her as she truly is, Ebbing?

You bet, Ebbing replied in his thoughts. Is this part of my power?

I did this for your eyes only. I have given you true sight concerning her. If you want her truly naked, you have only to wish it and she will truly be so.

Ebbing replied, Naw, then I won't get anything to eat. It's better this way.

"What's your problem, Ebbing?" the waitress demanded as she reached his table.

"Nothing, Darla. Just that I've never quite seen you like you are tonight," Ebbing replied.

"Lawd, you'd swear that I was naked by the way you're almost drooling. This is only my usual waitress uniform I'm wearing. What'll you have?"

Ebbing replied, "I'm still on the graveyard shift. Give me the number two breakfast."

"Right. Coming right up. If you don't mind, try screwing your eyeballs back in," Darla said.

Ebbing tried to approach the pallet containing almost the rest of the evil spirit. However, something repelled him. He told the spirit, I'll just run at it to reach it.

It won't work. It's protected by the shaman's charms, the spirit thought back at Ebbing, only it was too late. The spirit couldn't control Ebbing while Ebbing possessed the power.

Ebbing ran at the pallet only to be repelled as he had been the first time. His body bounced farther and harder off the invisible barrier than before. When Ebbing hit the concrete flooring, his head struck with a hard smack that crushed bone. Blood flowed toward one of the drains to mix with spilled soda from a nearby bottling line.

John found Mercer lying on the floor with blood trailing away. Immediately, John called the plant's medics, but it was too late.

Above them the wisp of evil, having been further weakened by the loss of its host, was powerless to prevent the exhaust fans from expelling it into the night air. Caught in the breeze, it flew off helplessly into the sky until it could be caught once more.

The End

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"Fifty-cent Demon" ©Atk. Butterfly. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Raven Electrick ©2000-2001 Karen A. Romanko. Clipart by Corel®.