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A Life for a Life

by William Majors

The whir of the engine began to cease as Ethan parked his car in a spot near his house, or at least the house he lived in at the moment. He would much rather be at school than at home. Then again, school wasn’t much of a better choice. It wasn’t as if he hated school itself, he had enough common sense to know that ultimately it helped to bolster his future.

Ethan could never land on one reason. Was it that he hated the learning process? Perhaps. One can only bear to hear that the mitochondria is the cell’s powerhouse so many times before being driven to madness.

Maybe the teachers were to blame, he held no ill will towards them personally. He just couldn’t stand the useless lessons being blurted out by teachers more uncaring than even he could handle. It wasn’t as if they were being paid to lecture off facts that one would forget as soon as testing was finished. Oh wait, that’s exactly why they were there.

Was it the fault of the other students, maybe. Year of odd social graces, a large helping of timidness, and a less than stellar physical frame did leave him in a bubble all to himself. Despite him trying for 3 years to reach out, nobody took his hand. By his senior year, he came to accept the fact that he had become a background character to someone else’s story. Though Ethan did suppose that it was a good protection against sinful acts such as drugs or alcohol, he wouldn’t partake even if asked. He knew better than to ruin his life so young with such a beginners trap.

Plus his poor social abilities did protect him from any girls trying to get busy and ruining his life through premature fatherhood. Though that one he probably wouldn’t object to as much. What boy his age doesn’t think about hitting a home run with a pretty girl?

He could spend all day and night thinking about why he despised school, though he knew at some point he would have to go inside. Opening the door and fiddling with the broken lock, Ethan stepped inside to a familiar scene, seeing his mother on the computer and his stepdad drunk on the couch.

“Hi Ethan, don’t forget to say hi to John.” Ethan obliged with a simple “Hello” and a slight wave of his hand. As Ethan expected, the only thing he got in response was a simple snore.

“Dinner will be ready soon” Ethan knew that to be a lie as the kitchen lay bare of any utensils or food. He didn’t call out his mother on this blatant lie as he knew John would be in charge of dinner. Which meant that dinner wouldn’t be ready until 8:30 if luck was on side, which typically was not.

If Ethan worked at his job which he also couldn’t stand, he would not have this problem as no matter when he got home, dinner would have already passed. However he didn’t have work on this day so he would be forced to participate at a late dinner.

Going into the only place Ethan could remotely call sanctuary. He entered his room. Ethan finished his homework long before he got back as there was nothing better to do on his lunch or recess. Without homework, Ethan had nothing to do.

Peering outside, he noticed the sky was cloudy. There was no sign it would rain however clouds were blocking any opportunity of getting sun. He figured since he had nothing better to do, he would go on a walk.

Stepping outside his room and witnessing the same sight as when he entered. He informed his mother that he was going for a walk.

“Do you want me to go with you?

“No, I’m good”

“Alright, I’m just glad you’re doing for a walk.”

Stepping outside, Ethan was correct at there being no sun in the sky due to the clouds. It was still bright out as it was only 4:00 in the afternoon so brightness was still present. Ethan decided to turn right to begin his walk. He had no idea where he wanted to go, just that he wanted to walk.

Walking to the end of the block, he noticed it was quiet. This was odd as downtown was a pretty noisy place, even at a time like this. Even continuing, he heard nothing and saw no one. It was a strange sight, he would’ve seen someone by now, even a sign of life in the window. Anything.

“Seems quiet doesn’t it?” Ethan turned around to find, Nobody, not a soul in sight.

“Hey buddy, over here.” Ethan turned back around again.

“You’re getting warmer” Ethan could hear the voice coming from down the sidewalk. He also thought he could barely make out the shape of someone. He quickly ran over to the end to once again see no one. Ethan was beginning to go mad at this mockery. Ethan felt a tap on his shoulder, reacting quickly he curled his fist to try to strike the unknown assailant. However he quickly stopped his assault to see that it was someone a couple years younger than he was.

“Whoa buddy, calm yourself.” The boy in question could definitely fit the bill of someone who would mess with people like Ethan.

“I don’t know what you want, but I’m not really in the mood to talk.” Ethan began to make his retreat when he felt a cane move in front of him. The sudden obstruction caused him to trip. While getting up, he began to hear another voice.

“My dear, old chap. I apologize for that, I was only trying to get your attention.” Turning around, Ethan noticed the boy gone and in his place was an older formal looking gentleman with a black suit and a mane of gray hair. “If you don’t want to talk, that’s fine. At least let me lay out my 2 pounds, or cents in your linguistic tongue.”

“What do you want with me?”

“I already told you, I simply want to talk, I know you like the sky like this. I figured this was the only way to drag you out of that dungeon you call a room.”

“And, goodbye.” Ethan was confused on how this man knew that specific detail though he chalked it up to not many people being outside at the moment and you would have to be a fan of cloudy cold weather to walk outside. Thought the comment about his room was suspicious.

“Does the comment about your room bother you?” Ethan turned around ready to press the man for how he knew such a personal detail.

“It seems I’ve gone and gotten your attention. That’s fine, I wanted to get your attention.”

“What exactly do you want from me, you’re starting to freak me out” Ethan began to take a more defensive stance but figured that if this man knows that much about him and is trying this hard to talk to him, he realized that this person may be worth talking to, even for just a moment.

“Glad I got your attention. Before I move forward, I do want to apologize for my earlier interactions. It’s quite hard to get someone’s attention in this day and age. Though judging by your mannerisms. You seem to be taking it incredibly well.”

“What do you mean? Are you talking about the douche kid? Is he your son, or maybe your grandkid?

“Heavens no. If I had a grandkid like that I’d crucify him. Hmm, you still do that right?”

“No…” Ethan was confused by that remark. If he meant crucifixion as a dark joke he could see past it. Though that last part rubbed Ethan the wrong way.

“Then who are you? You clearly know who I am and a lot of my past. But I haven’t any idea who you are.”

“Right you are Ethan Agreste! I’ve known you since you were merely a Spermatozoa inside your father. As for myself, well I’ve been given a plethora of names across history. Ethan was beginning to form a hypothesis on this man’s identity. Even though it was incredibly outlandish, he decided to go for it anyway.

“Are you the devil?” A smirk began to appear on the man’s face as if to signal that Ethan’s query was correct.

“Impressive, that was a one in a million guess, perhaps you know more about me than you thought. I am indeed the Devil, though you are free to also call me: Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebul, Iblis, Belial, or Mephistopheles. I have others, but those are what comes to mind at the moment. Frankly you’re free to call me whatever, you can’t often me.”

“Wait, you’re the devil. Like the devil devil?” Ethan began to turn white at the existential dread this reveal carried, and the fact that his.

“Relax, I’m not here to do anything to nasty. I simply want to help. I heard your plight and listened, it’s the nice thing to do.”

“Wouldn’t that be God’s job?”

“Let me level with you kid, the saying the lord works in mysterious ways doesn’t mean squat. Simply put, it’s his excuse to ignore people. Why else do you think this bat flu is running rampant all around town? But I digress. I could spend all day talking about this or that. But why don’t we cut to business.”

“My deal is quite simple. I’m going to perform something I developed called a soul transplant. You will essentially switch places with another person I have lined up. He’ll take your boring life, and you’ll take his less boring life. Thus, you’ll both be happy living your best life.” This deal sounded pretty cut and dry to Ethan, though his gut told him there was more to this deal.

“Sounds enticing, but I know how these work. You want something from me don’t you? What’s the catch, do you want my soul or something?"

“Smart, kid. I had a feeling you’d ask that next. Perhaps If I came to you a couple hundred years ago I’d ask for your soul. Though frankly, with the amount of sinners around at the moment, I have more souls than I know what to do with. I’ve begun to find it more fun to do these sorts of things. My soul transplants are quite popular, you know. I can switch any soul with any other soul. One of my all time favorites is having a lizard and a college student change bodies. Though seeing what that scale brain is up to nowadays, that may be one of the only deals I regret. Again I digress.”

Ethan began to come to an understanding of the Devil’s pitch. “So, you’ll just Freaky Friday me and some other person my age?”

“Sort of a lame and cliche way of describing it, but yes. I sense interest. I’m ready to operate if you are. Though I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell you of the risks.”


“Everything has a risk you know, from driving to sleeping. Even eating your vegetables can turn you into a vegetable if you aren’t careful.

“It’s starting to get late. What are the dangers to this procedure?” Ethan began to grow impatient at the Devil’s ramblings.

“So sorry, ramblings a nasty habit. Luckily there are only a couple risks so it’ll go by fast. To begin, once you switch to your new body. There’s no switching back, you can switch to other bodies but you can never return your own once your soul is sucked out. Secondly: Any history or baggage the person carried before the switch will be yours to bear. Finally, your personality and mind will remain intact. You’ll still be the same person inside, you’ll just be physically different and you’ll be perceived as the person you switched with. Do you understand?”

“Yeah, I understand.” Ethan was quite certain in his decision. Nothing was more certain in his mind.

“I can feel it, you’re quite enthusiastic about this Ethan. However, are you sure this is what you want? Think your decision over carefully.”

Ethan began to weigh the pros and cons in his mind. On the one hand, his entire life would be uprooted and altered permanently. His family would be torn away. There was also the possibility that this unknown person’t life may be worse than his own.

On the other hand, he would finally be able to fit in with his peers and wouldn’t be a wallflower any more. Ethan also felt that his family had long since forsaken him since his own father left the picture and his Stepfather was doing a less than stellar job of fulfilling that role. Plus he felt as his mother was growing distant and giving any attention meant for him to his drunken Step-Father . He probably wouldn’t even be missed.

As for the unknown factor of the switch. It was a risk he was willing to take. Plus if it didn’t work out, he could always switch again. The devil said nothing about switching to another new body.

“Well, do we have a deal? I don’t have all day.”

“You have a deal.” Ethan began to extend his hand, quickly the devil recoiled his hand.

“Whoa, careful there. You’ll end up burning your hand. Here is the contract, just sign and we can get started.” Ethan quickly went over the contract. Agreeing to the terms previously laid out by the devil, and making sure there wasn’t any other funny business. He signed the contract.

“Nice job kid.” Now, before I can get this procedure started. You need to simply go to sleep. Once you wake from your slumber, your new and improved life will begin. I’ll inform your counterpart that his time has come as well. Just go to bed and the fun will begin.

Ethan, satisfied at his decision, began to walk back. However he was curious about who his counterpart was. However his question would go unanswered as the devil had vanished and life seemingly returned to the street, even the clouds had begun to subside. Ethan walked back and spent his seemingly final evening with his family.

Despite the typical rude comments blared out from his stepfather and the uncaring attitude of his mother. For once in his life, he couldn’t care less. He was finally about to get away from his life. After dinner, he told his mother he was extra tired and would go to bed early. His mother didn’t mind and he wished him a goodnight.

After taking care of his evening routine for the final time. He went to his room to fall asleep and ponder about what he would do with his new life. Suddenly a tiredness hit him like never before and he suddenly passed out.

Ethan awoke to a new nicer bedroom. He immediately got up, and went to check himself out. His new body was comparable to that of the dreamiest jocks. He also went to his desk and saw a picture of himself with a bunch of friends, and best of all, he held a girl closely next to him.

Ethan truly believed he hit the jackpot. The previous person would’ve had to have been insane to trade lives with Ethan’s. Ethan over there must be cursing by now. Ethan got dressed and went downstairs to greet his new family.

However when he got downstairs, he noticed his new family and presumably his girlfriend’s family sitting in the living room waiting for him.

“Hi Mom, Hi Dad” Ethan wasn’t expecting a welcoming committee but he did think this was strange.

“Is that all you have to say for yourself? Do you know how much trouble you’re in?”

All Ethan could think to say was a “Maybe.”

“Maybe?! You and Miranda are definitely in the shark tank now. Thanks to you, our daughter’s body is completely sullied.” Ethan didn’t quite know what that meant but he had a feeling where this conversation was going.

“How could you do that? We don’t ask much, but one thing we won’t allow is unprotected funny business.”

“And thanks to you, our daughter has an unwelcome in her body.” Ethan could feel his soul begin to leave his body at this news. Though he felt the circumstances were unfair. He did realize this was part of the deal that any baggage left would be Ethan’s to bear. “I’m sorry, I’m willing to pay for an abortion, and I’ll be more careful next time.”

“For your information, there won’t be a next time. I’m certain you know our policy. Three strikes and you’re out. Don’t think you’re getting out of the bed you’ve made for yourself.”

“That’s right, you wanted to grow up and here you are. Starting today you’ll have to pay rent, and if you don’t like it then you can get the hell out.”

“As long as it’s with Miranda of course, you know the rules. She’s your problem now boy.” Ethan was in complete shock, he could say nothing and nothing came to his mind. In one day, no one hour his life went from bad to worse. In his mind, Ethan began to curse the devil for this transgression.

“It’s not my fault you’re unhappy. You’re the one who wanted this.” Though he hated to admit it, it was true. Despite trying to find a scapegoat somewhere. The only true person to blame was Ethan himself. In the end, Ethan got what he truly wanted. Though what that life entailed would never be known. Perhaps the life he was given was better than the hand he was dealt now. Ethan would never truly know, for he became another soul who traded a life for a life.


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