Fred Whetherington held the stiff piece of parchment lightly in his hand as he drank his morning coffee. His wife, Willie, sat across the table from him sipping a glass of juice. His voice was calm as he said, “This was on my pillow this morning when I awoke.”

She smiled and replied lightly, “He does like the dramatic touches, doesn’t he?”

Fred laughed slightly. “At least he didn’t do the full flash of fire and puff of smoke thing this time.”

“Last time he did that,” Willie bristled, “it scorched the carpet. And it took forever to get the sulfur smell out of the house.”

“He once told me that he doesn’t like the smell of brimstone any more than we do,” Fred added with another slight laugh, “but he has to use it to keep up his image.”

A long pause followed before Fred continued. He held up the stiff paper that was still curled slightly from having been rolled up. The heavy wax of a broken seal hung on the back of the upper edge, pulling it slightly back. “This is official notice that the term of our agreement is upon us. Do you want me to read it to you?”

“He expects you to, doesn’t he?” was her only response.

“It says,” he continued as he read the fancy script on the page in front of him, “‘Be it known by all concerned that on this first day of October in the twelve thousand and thirty-ninth year since the great fall and rise of myself, the term of one thousand earthly years having passed, I hereby invoke the completion clause to the contract which exists between myself and Frederick and Wilhelmina Whetherington.'”

“Notice that he uses our current names and the modern calendar,” Fred commented before continuing. “It goes on, ‘This constitutes thirty days notice that on or before midnight of October thirty-first of this year, also known as Halloween, the aforementioned couple’s bodies and souls will be due and collectable. Said bodies and souls are to be brought to the place agreed upon through future missives and presented to me for transfer into Hell. I hereby swear, vow, and affirm that I have fulfilled my portion of the referenced contract and have provided wealth, life, and sustenance as well as the originally-specified unlimited sexual power and opportunity for the term of said contract and now claim the payment agreed upon at the signing of that document.'”

He took a sip of his coffee. “If he always spoke like that, it’s no wonder that The Benevolent One kicked him out of the upper abode,” he said.

“I guess no one has ever liked lawyers,” Willie responded. “Is there any way around it, honey?”

After another sip of coffee, Frederick replied, “Sorry, I don’t see any way out of it. It was nice while it lasted, but the agreement itself is very specific. After one thousand years, we are to be conducted into the depths of Hell.”

“Maybe we can find an escape clause,” she said. “You, yourself, have been a lawyer many times, off and on, in the past thousand years. You know that no contract is unbreakable. There is always a way out.”

“The contract isn’t the main problem,” he said. “It never is. People think having an iron-clad contract will get it done, but do you realize how many times through the years, because of some insignificant loophole, I have been able to reverse things and weasel out of something while still legally fulfilling the exact wording of the contract.”

“Ah yes,” Willie answered with a laugh. “I particularly liked that time that your construction company built a tunnel between that town’s two defensive castles. The contract specifically said that it was to stretch from beneath the moat of the high castle to beneath the moat of the low castle.”

She laughed again. “It never said anything about actually going under the walls of either castle itself. The mayor and council were royally pissed about having to pay extra for all that support structure in the tunnels to safely go beneath the walls. But you showed them clearly that you had fulfilled the terms of the contract as they had written it, and that the additional construction was at their expense.”

“But this isn’t castle walls,” Fred replied. “This is hell, and that is precisely the problem. It is iron clad that we are to enter hell. And there is, unfortunately, no way out of hell, once you have entered,”

“That isn’t totally true, m’Lord,” a deep voice said from behind them.

“Maxwell,” Fred said cheerfully. “I didn’t hear you come in. How much did you overhear?”

“Enough m’Lord,” he answered. “It sounds as if your contract with The Fallen One has come due. I assume that means that your contract with me and Marta will also come to an end.”

“I’m afraid so,” said Fred. “But all you had to promise in return for a long and comfortable life was your faithful service to Willie and me, so it’s a little different for you. After we’re gone, you and Marta will begin aging normally once again and will eventually die. But The Fallen One won’t have any claim on your souls.”

“If you read your contract very carefully– which I have– ” Maxwell continued in his very precise way of speaking, “you will see that he doesn’t actually have any claim on your souls either.”

“What do you mean?” asked Wilhelmina “The wording is specific and unbreakable. On Halloween, sometime before midnight, we are to enter Hell, and once we have entered, there is no return.”

“Back when you first revealed your powers to me and Marta, m’Lord, Florence was the economic power of the world. We entered your service there. Do you not remember that very interesting writer by the name of Durante degli Alighieri whom you often invited to your parties?”

When both Fred and Willie looked back at him with confused faces, he added, “He is better remembered by his nickname, ‘Dante.'”

“Ah yes,” replied Fred. “He was always going on and on about that book he was working on about his journey through Hell.”

“Precisely, m’Lord,” said Maxwell. “His journey THROUGH hell.”

“Dante went through hell and came out on the other side!” both Fred and Willie shouted together. “There has to be an escape clause.”

“I’m sure The Fallen One has changed the wording since Dante let that little piece of information out of the bag, so to speak,” Maxwell said, “but your contract pre-dates him by almost four hundred years. The loophole is still in place. All you have to do is go through the proper levels of hell and emerge on the other side. When you do so, you will have fulfilled your contract to the letter, but will have escaped Hell, itself. I’m not sure if the wealth, life, and all of that will continue as before, but the worst case would be that we would all age normally after you complete the journey.”

“One problem,” Willie said dejectedly. “One very big problem. Dante’s book was fiction. He never really went to– or through– Hell.”

“But he had stumbled onto the truth,” Maxwell responded with a raised hand and a slightly raised voice. He pointed his extended finger at Willie as he continued, “And THAT is what is important. Do you not remember the night when HE showed up in the middle of one of your dinner parties in Venice.”

“Ah yes,” said Fred, “half of the guests jumped into the canal when he suddenly appeared in a thunderous flash of light. The rest ran into the inner courtyard and barricaded themselves there until the next morning.”

“Not all of them,” corrected Maxwell. “You and m’Lady just stood there looking very, very upset that your dinner party was ruined. And one guest ran screaming upstairs to the bedrooms seeking a place to hide. The Fallen One followed that guest upstairs and had a very heated discussion about the possible costs of revealing secrets of the nether realm.”

A heavily-accented voice interrupted his story with, “… and I was upstairs getting the guest rooms ready at the time.”

“Marta heard everything,” Maxwell continued. “The Fallen One was extremely upset that Dante had guessed a secret weakness of Hell– or at least of The Fallen One’s contracts. He held him up against the wall and snarled, ‘I’m not sure how much you know and how much you have accidentally guessed, but I am going to explain to you EXACTLY how Hell works. And if your final book is anywhere close to that, or reveals more than you have already said, I will send my minions to tear you limb from limb and eat your flesh for as long as you still live…” The Fallen One’s eyes became pools of flame at this point as he said in an icy staccato, “… and – I – can – make – you – live – FOREVER!‘”

Marta again interrupted, “Evidently the real escape path only exists on the night of the completion of the contract. Or maybe it is only open on that night each year when the veil between this world and the nether world is the thinnest. It doesn’t matter which is correct because your contract happens to end on the night of the thinnest veil. So, in either case, the escape route will be open for you this Halloween night when your contract fulfills and you are to enter Hell.”

Maxwell interrupted his wife and said, almost showing excitement in his voice, “The journey itself, like Dante’s final book, is metaphoric, but the levels are not. Despite what Dante wrote, there are only seven– like there are only seven deadly sins. All that is required is for a person to sequentially go through the seven levels of a particular sin between dark and midnight and they can escape Hell forever– at least under the terms of your current contract. Since your contract dealt primarily with sexuality, all you have to do is go through– or at least witness– all seven levels of sexual sin before midnight.”

“In other words,” Willie chirped, “we have to have one hell of a Halloween night in order to stay out of hell.”

She laughed slightly and added, “Even if it doesn’t work, we’ll go out with a bang.”

Maxwell coughed and said in a somewhat embarrassed tone of voice. “Uh… yes m’Lady. That is one way of looking at it.”

“But I’ve never heard of seven levels of sexual sin,” said Fred. “How will we know what to do, and in what order?”

“We’ve done a little research over the years,” said Marta. “We’ve had the time. And we knew this day would eventually come.”

“And?” said Wilhelmina.

“And I will guide you through the seven levels of sexual sin,” replied Maxwell. He was actually starting to sound more pompous than usual. “It has to be done in front of at least a double-double coven of witnesses, so you need to invite forty-eight or more of your friends who will stay all the way through until midnight.”

“Do they have to be invited?” Willie asked. “Friends might leave early. They sometimes do, you know. Perhaps street rabble would be better. If we pay someone to stay, they will remain until they get their money.”

“Perhaps, m’Lady, you should do both,” intoned Maxwell. “Invite your friends, but make it worth their while to stay until the stroke of midnight. And invite some of the rabble of the street. We will also need some unwilling participants in our little journey through sexual hell… unless you want to use some of your friends for that.”

“That might be interesting,” laughed Willie, “but I think it might be safer to use the street rabble.”

“Then I believe it is time to prepare a little parchment of our own,” Fred said slowly as he pushed back his chair and stood next to the table. As he began walking toward his den, he added, “Maxwell, would you please help me prepare the invitations? We are going to invite thirty of our friends to a Halloween orgy they will never forget.”

He laughed– it was not a pleasant laugh. Then he said, “And we can forget about rounding up street rabble. I think I can come up with another list of at least thirty enemies who pretend to be my friends whom I would love to have experience our evening. Fifteen couples who are friends and fifteen who are actually enemies would give us a total of sixty people. That should supply the needed numbers actually attending.”

The invitations went out the next day. Fred and Willie were known for their lavish– and decadent– parties, so the invitations were eagerly received. As an incentive to stay for the whole evening, the invitations also announced that there were to be cash prizes given out at midnight. One thousand dollars would be given for the best costume, another thousand for the sexiest costume, another thousand for the sluttiest, and another thousand for the most evil. In addition, a ten thousand dollar door prize would be given to someone chosen at random from among the guests.

In small type beneath the announcement of the prizes it said, “Certain guests may be called upon to participate in themed demonstrations throughout the evening. Participation is mandatory, but couples who participate will receive a minimum of an additional $5000 each.” It then added in even smaller print, “Acceptance of this invitation is acceptance of these terms.”

No one ever bothers to read the small print, especially on an invitation.

Thirty invitations went out. It was hoped that at least twenty-four of the couples would accept the invitation, but within days, replies from all thirty indicated that they would attend.


Halloween arrived at last. The long driveway which led back to Whetherington villa was lined with Jack O’Lanterns, and a fake graveyard, complete with a mechanical hooded figure of death, decorated the secluded front lawn. Orange lights outlined all edges on the front of the house. Inside, spider webs festooned with black bows and shiny silk witch’s hats stretched across the walls of the foyer. Ancient broomsticks, carved pumpkins and other symbols of Halloween were scattered throughout the house. A large bubbling caldron in the middle of the living room, whose steam poured out across the floor to form a low hanging mist throughout the house, completed the theme.

The evening was to begin with a sumptuous dinner so the guests began arriving around six for pre-dinner drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Fred and Willie greeted each guest at the door, and immediately after the guests walked past, dictated notes to their personal secretaries who were listening to the earwigs both hosts were wearing.

Fred especially liked the Adam and Eve costumes and they topped his best costume list. Adam was wearing a fig leaf loincloth with what appeared to be a snake peeking out from the front. Eve was also wearing leaves, but two large, red apples with very large stems appeared to hang from the front.

Wilhelmina, on the other hand, felt that the spider and the fly were the best. The makeup was perfect, both the spider and the fly’s faces were horrific, and it was very difficult to tell whether the spider or the fly was the male of the couple. “Maybe you will be able to tell if the spider eats the fly,” Fred told her with a smirk. He then added, “Or perhaps we will have to give out a double prize.”

Both agreed that Marilyn Monroe, accompanied by Madonna, were the sexiest couple, but they disagreed as to which was the sexy slut and which was a sexy drag-queen. “Are you sure that isn’t Cindy and Clarice?” Willie asked.

“No,” answered Fred, “Cindy is Cinderella and Clarice is the handsome prince.”

“They do make a handsome couple, don’t they?” she replied.

“They always have,” he answered. “They always have.”

Fred and Willie also agreed that the naughty nurse and horny doctor were the sluttiest. The doctor was wearing a hospital lab coat, open at the front with nothing under it but a very strategically placed OR mask. The nurse was wearing a skirt not much bigger than a belt, thigh-high white fishnet stockings with red crosses on the front, and an oversized, old-fashioned nurse’s cap. Her tiny, but oddly shaped, thong was red with a white cross exactly over her clit. What made the tiny thong look strange was that it did not decrease in a V to just a G-string going between her legs. Instead, it remained an inch or two wide until it curved slightly up to meet the strings of the waistband. Two stethoscope heads acting as nipple covers completed the ensemble.

By 6:45, it appeared as if all of the guests had arrived and Fred and Willie had all but given up on selecting a most evil costume. Then the door opened and both of their mouths dropped wide open in shock. Someone made up to look exactly like The Fallen One walked through the door with a female companion made up to look like a she-devil– and not just any she-devil. She was the spitting image of The Mother of Lilith.

“It’s not him. It’s not him,” Fred hissed to Willie. “He’s not quite the right height and doesn’t move right, so it’s not him. But, damned, that makeup is exact. It has to be someone who has met him… someone with a huge set of brass balls.”

“It’s not her, either,” Willie hissed back. “She’s smaller, and much more graceful than that, but the skin looks right. With as much as she is showing, it had to have been dyed red all over her body, and her yellow eyes have the same slits as The Mother.”

Fred started to whisper something else to Willie, but stopped because the couple was now directly in front of them. The man took Fred’s outstretched hand in greeting and said in a deep, resonant voice, “Thank you for inviting me into your house. I go by many names, but tonight you may call me ‘Scratch.'”

At the same time, the woman took Willie’s hand and murmured, “And you may call me Lily.”

Maxwell and Marta were standing nearby holding trays of canape’s and champagne for the arriving guests. Both looked over with raised eyebrows and strange expressions on their faces. Max shrugged his shoulders and formed his lips into an exaggerated frown. He then mouthed, “I have no idea.”

Willie recovered first from the shock which had frozen them in place and said cheerily. “Welcome to the greatest Halloween party ever. We will be dining shortly.”

She grabbed a flute of champagne from the tray Marta was holding and offered it to The Mother, saying, “We have opened the best of our wine cellar for tonight. After all, tomorrow may never come.”

“Tomorrow always comes,” the man dressed as The Fallen One said with a deep chuckle. “The question is whether or not you will be there to see the sunrise.”

“Yes,” Fred answered dryly, “that is always the question.” Then after his own forced chuckle he added, “… isn’t it?”

At exactly seven pm, Maxwell appeared at the edge of the room and announced in his typically precise manner, “Dinner is served.”