• Reviews, critiques and the like are welcome. This story is a section of a larger story. Brain is a character I created last night from my avatar. Ira and his brothers and sister are characters I created two years ago. All these characters belong to me, though the Sins themselves do not.

    Brain stood before a dark mahogany desk, his head bowed and hidden by a hat, face covered by a black bio-mask. His attire was no different from his mask and hat, all black and concealing far more than anyone could bear to see. The only skin he showed was on his perfect arms. No scars ranged over this region whatsoever. It was the first reward he'd gained from Ira, his master. Good deeds, they say, are rewarded, and the bad punished. He had led a wicked life. It would take many good deeds before he regained what he'd once had.

    He stood before Ira, a tall and quiet "man," who waited the report of his latest attack. Brain lifted his face and pulled his hat off, revealing a shock of messy black hair and two gaping holes where eyes had once been {"The one thing you will never gain back," Ira had said about them}. Slowly, he reached up and removed the bio-mask as well, revealing a gaping mouth. Where there had once been lips, thin and pale, but very much lips all the same, now was only bare teeth, stark against the black of his attire. His skin was marred all about his face, jagged lines everywhere. He sucked in a breath of air through his teeth and nodded.

    "It's done," he said, speaking more into Ira's mind than anything else.

    "Prove it," came the sultry tones of the demon before him. Ira rose then, moving to meet Brain. He placed claw-like hands on either side of Brain's face, leaned close and touched the Undead Soldier's forehead with his own, closing his eyes. "Tell me everything."

    Brain closed his sockets, pale skin slipping down over emptiness, and remembered.

    It was dark. It always was when the Undead Soldier struck. Frank moved quietly about his room, shaking with fear. The lifeblood of the demons.

    Brain lurked in the shadow of the room, waiting for Frank's moment of weakness, when the man would drop his guard for those few fatal seconds. Pacing. The man was pacing. And it was driving the Soldier insane. He waited still, quiet, impatient.

    And Frank sat on the edge of the bed, sighing heavily. Brain came forward, knife in one hand, a gun in the other. He intended to use both tonight. He caught Frank 'round the middle and yanked him up, spinning him and slamming him into a wall. Frank yelled, but Brain ended it with a quick flick of his wrist. No one can speak through a bleeding voice-box. No one can live long with one either.

    He moved back, letting Frank fall against the wall, and pulled the gun, firing four shots, one in each hand and foot. The gun slipped from his hand.

    "You pay your dues this month, Frankie?" he asked.

    Frank wept.

    "A soul, you see, is collateral. It's the very essence of who we are and if you, in some way, tarnish that soul after you've sworn it over to a demon of Hell? Well... Well, then you've got some problems ahead of you. You gave your soul for the death of a man. A man you hated. You killed him with your own hands, no weapons needed. Strangled him. Left your fingerprints all over his home and person. And yet you weren't caught. That is Ira's gift to you. He has chosen, for the price of a soul, amenity. But you? Ahaha, you..."

    He fell silent and crouched in front of Frank, pulling his mask away and grinning (as best he could) at the man. Frank shrieked, or at least tried to.

    "You were feeling remorse. You don't like Ira's gift? You can never be caught for it. No matter how many people you confess to. God, the priest, the police. None of them can punish you for this now, because you've already condemned yourself. But... you went too far. You took advantage of a good thing. You see, you tried to run, and you tried to kill again."

    Frank curled tightly into himself on the floor, clutching his bleeding hands to his throat.

    "That was not appreciated at all. And so, Ira has sent me, to collect."

    A final wheeze escaped Frank, followed by a fifth gunshot. Frank was gone.

    Ira stepped back and smiled at Brain. "My Brain. My beloved Brain. You have done so many wonderful things for me in this one collection." He clasped his own hands together then and smiled wider. "You will be rewarded. Frank's soul is one rife with Sin and guilt. He'll be going into the till. And you will be immensely rewarded."

    "Thank you, Master," Brain sighed, his voice no more than a whisper.

    "Come here," Ira exclaimed, moving to his desk and sitting behind it. "Come here and let me show you to my brothers and sister. Let me gloat."

    Brain moved quickly to Ira's side, his head held high as the screens in the desk console lit up and rose. Six faces, beautiful human faces, each with eyes as black as night, appeared. Ira giggled giddily. "Brothers. Sister. It seems Suri's brushing his influence on me again. I've got something to gloat."

    Six near identical voices sighed while six faces rolled their obsidian eyes.

    "You always must do this, Ira?" a slightly more feminine voice intoned.

    Ira turned his eyes on his only sister, Lust's orchestrator. "Yes, Luxa."

    "Then make it quick. What did your Undead Soldier do this time?"

    "He collected Frank's payment. Frank's... final payment."

    Suri, the demon of Pride, lifted his head and dropped it in a soft nod. "Frank... owed us each. He was a prideful b*****d after you gave him amenity. He threw his life away at bar after bar, looking for the next cheap thrill. He'd pick fights. He'd gamble and screw people over, in more ways than one. He was... Vicious."


    "Good work, brother," Avie, the demon of Greed, added quickly. "Now, may I return to my games?"

    "Yes, go. All of you go. But remember to tally this one for my side."

    The others groaned and vanished once more into the desk console. Ira sat quietly a moment, then turned to Brain, grinning again. "You... are amazing."

    "Thank you, Master." Brain bowed his head again.

    "What, if anything, would you ask for this time?" Ira asked, rising to meet his Soldier once more.

    "Normalcy," Brain sighed. "And beauty. Like your own."

    Ira fell silent a moment. "I can give you a fraction of that," he said finally. "But not the full deal. You must remember your place, and if you were to meet me in beauty, we could be faced with a problem."

    "Then a fraction is all I ask."

    Ira nodded and seemed to think a bit. He reached forward, once again placing a claw-like hand on either side of Brain's face. "Relax, my beloved Brain."

    Brain slipped into unconsciousness to the sounds of Ira's heart beating in his ears, a sound his own body would never make again. He woke hours later to the smells of burnt flesh and fresh coffee. He sat up slowly, stretching and yawning, before reaching a hand up to scrub at his face. It itched terribly.

    His fingers grazed over the source of the itching quickly and his eyes became wide. Lips. He had lips. A mouth. A face again. He leaped from his resting place on the couch and sprang for the bathroom, an unnecessary addition to Ira's home, but welcome all the same. He gazed at the darkened mirror and gasped. Before him sat a normal-looking man. His cheeks were no longer scarred, except for the one jagged line down his right cheek that he'd had since childhood. His chin was intact. He had lips covering his teeth. He tested them, pulling them back into a smile, and winced at the new-ness of it all. He stared, in awe, at his new face and wanted so badly to weep.

    But no tears would come. Ira had given him a fraction of his beauty. The Soldier had a face once more, but the eyes that had once been so beautifully green within his head remained the black and unseeing emptiness they had always been. Sockets, staring out of a near-perfect face, unseeing, and yet seeing all. He was rewarded alright. But at the same time, he felt he'd been punished all the same.