The story I have in Prime Fiction is called Showman. It features a devilish street performer who is able to turn a pleasant evening into a living nightmare. Is he really a demon from Hell, or is it all just an illusion?
Here is a snippet:
The devil waits for the laughter to fade. He is a showman, and holds the attention of everyone in the crowd.
“Now!” he shouts. He holds the whip out for all to see. “Are you all ready for My Final Trick?”
“YES!” the audience all cry in response.
Leigh is shaking her head in denial. I mumble “no,” but nobody hears.
“What did you say?” the devil asks.
“YES!!” they all shout, more loudly.
Leigh is still shaking her head. She’s looking down at her feet, plainly terrified and hating every moment.
“I can’t hear you!” the performer says, an obvious lie.
“YES!!!” The noise is deafening.
The devil stands back for a moment with his hands on his hips, enjoying the response as if it’s a form of adulation, or worship.
“OK! Now Leigh, Stand Very Still!” He’s moved behind her and punctuates his words with a crack of the whip. Leigh flinches. Several people in the crowd let out small gasps of surprise, and there’s a snigger or two from the back.
I shut my eyes and grimace as if the whip has opened up a wound on my back. The sound has caused me physical pain, and I could only guess at what it has done to Leigh.
When I open my eyes, the devil is looking around. I want to rush into the stage and steal my Leigh away from him, but I’m too afraid to move.
“Very good, my precious,” he says. “Very good indeed.” He moves so close that he’s almost rubbing against her, making her lean away from his loathsome face in revulsion. He runs his tongue suggestively over his teeth and I hate him like I’d seldom hated anyone before. But I’m powerless and ashamed of that lack of strength. He has us both under his spell.
“Now,” he says just to her, but loud enough for all to hear. “This is what we’re going to do.” Still too close, he opens his jacket and takes an innocuous drinking straw from an inside pocket.
“We’re going to play a little game,” he says. He’s still breathing at her, drooling over her cheek. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
“No,” says Leigh. I can hear the fear and disgust in her voice. My heart aches to do something, to do anything to make this stop. But the crowd simply chortles in happy anticipation.
The devil grins. “Of course you would,” he says, but Leigh shakes her head. “Aww, please, pretty lady? All I want you to do is hold this straw between your teeth.” He holds the end of it close to her face and gives her no choice. I can see that she is afraid and wants only to run, but the demon holds her in place by his strength of will.
And the crowd … the crowd is no longer a random collection of strangers watching a show.
The crowd is instead a gathering of ghouls, of imps and creatures of the dark, watching with an avid hunger and excitement all of their own. They drool and snarl like slobbering beasts, and I expect to catch the stench of sulfur for the third time.
Instead, it’s the odor of death and decay that fills my senses.
This time, it’s so quick that I barely have time for panic. Before I can do so much as clutch at my chest to keep my heart from bursting, Leigh accepts her fate and bites the end of the straw…
You can read the rest of this story here on Amazon.