Hello again people of the internet, here I am again with another of these Tiny Tales. If you’re just tuning in now, this segment is where I find a piece of art on the internet and create a story around it. Now without further ado, another short story for your reading pleasure.

The Cruel Man.jpg(Dream Catcher by alejowar)

“You want to sell me a what?”

“Did you not hear me, little beggar? I asked if you wanted to buy a soul.”

I was shocked. I have seen a lot of things in this world but this man is by far the strangest. The man that stood above me was tall and grim, his face weathered as if it were an ancient temple statue made grey flesh. His clothes shrouded all but his face, and his grizzled beard concealed more of it further. And on his shoulder a raven sat, looking down on me like a judge before a man to be hanged. And in his hand, a lantern filled with a light I had never once seen. A light that looked for all the world like a tiny winged human form.

“What are you, some kind of devil making an offer like that? I won’t fall for demonic tricks!”

The man scoffed. “You don’t seem to understand this world. A devil would barter for your soul. A demon would simply kill you for it. I am but a man, and I have no interest in your soul. After all, I’m offering you this one.”

Saying that, he held up the lamp, its tiny glowing light shining blue and white with wings as iridescent as its body. The tiny thing was scarcely bigger than one’s hand and yet my heart swelled at the sight of it, as if I was looking into the deepest crag below or sitting atop the highest mountain.

“What would I even do with the soul of someone else anyway?”

“A fair question. This world is dangerous, to be sure. Not a single person here isn’t afraid of a violent end. But with this,” he said as he held up the lamp which cast a blue light over his face. “you might stave off that death. Let someone else take the fall if you were to succumb to wounds or illness.”

“Are you talking about… Immortality?”

“Not at all.” he said with a shake of his head. “Immortality is a myth, a trap for the greedy. No, this I offer is an extension to your life. A few more years to live.”

I looked away. “A few more years to suffer.”

The man’s lips split into a smile. “Not from what I can see.”

“What do you mean?”

“You have potential. Not a destiny, far from it. Destiny is a word used to inspire zealots to blindly follow their masters. Potential is what comes from within, remember that.” the man said as he continued to smile. “I wouldn’t sell this to any old fool.”

“Are you sure you aren’t the old fool? The gods will damn you for selling something like that if what you’re selling is real.”

The old man’s smile faded. “If the gods were still alive, then I wouldn’t have something like this in the first place.”

His words hurt me. I wasn’t sure why. I looked again at the bright little shape in the lamp before looking to the raven upon the man’s shoulder, its eyes red as fresh gore. It only just occurred to me then that I had never seen that bird blink. Not once.

“So what is your answer then? Will you accept?” The old man asked, shifting my attention once more as he held up the lantern.

“Even if I wanted to, how could I? I have nothing.”

To this, the old man shook his head. “And already you’ve forgotten what I said. Stupid child. You lie to yourself that your life is over when it has barely even begun. There may come a time when you look back on this day and curse yourself, so foolish as to make the decision you did when you knew nothing and yet acted as if you pulled your own strings. This choice is yours alone to make.”

The man set the lantern down causing the little figure inside to jolt, blue light sparking from it like the union of flint and stone. The light from the unholy lantern shone on me. It revealed the rags that pretend to be my clothes, the dirt and grime from the bottom of the world that clung to my skin. I had fought with dogs and others like me just to survive in this miserable life. And this man. This cruel, cruel man. He comes with a trinket beyond all value and offers to sell it without even asking for anything in return?

“I wonder. Will you will make the right choice?” he smirked.

I looked to the lantern again. What else could I possibly say?

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