by The Wynn Brothers
“Seventy hours,” said the man across the table from Peter Crown. Peter had invited him in for tea on an impulse that didn’t feel like his own. He didn’t even remember hearing a knock at the door.
Somewhere in the middle of the pouring, the man introduced himself as the Devil. He said it with a disturbing pride, and Peter opted not to argue.
“Seventy hours,” the Devil repeated as he stirred his tea. “That’s how long you have to save your life.”
Between sips, he explained the deal. The Devil had arrived precisely two days and twenty-two hours before Peter Crown was scheduled to die. But Peter could win back his life, if he could accomplish one simple task.
“Show me a reliable friend,” the Devil said over the ceramic clink of his cup returning to its saucer. “It can’t be a relative or a lover. Choose someone from your past, and I will grant this person’s greatest desire. Then, I will present a letter written by you, where you beg this person to give up the new gift in order to save your life. But choose carefully; on only six occasions have I seen . . . a reliable friend.”
Peter searched his past.
“You’re thinking of Brian Leonard,” said the Devil. Peter didn’t know if he was guessing or reading his mind, but either way, he was right. Brian had served in the fire department alongside Peter. They had entered many burning buildings together.
“He saved your life once,” the Devil announced, “And now you think he just might do it again.”
“I’m sure he would,” Peter replied.
“Sure enough to put your life on it? You have time to think it over, if you’d—”
“I don’t need time.”
“Splendid,” said the Devil. “Your friend Brian now has his heart’s greatest desire. And you have exactly sixty-nine hours and fifty-three minutes to draft a letter convincing him to give it up. I’d find a pen, if I were you.”
Peter already knew what Brian’s greatest desire was, and he knew exactly what he would write.
I’m sorry, my friend. It has been far too long since we spoke. My life has been in a stupor lately, but today I woke.
I’m sure this letter will find you watching your daughter walk for the very first time. I know that’s a hill you thought she’d never climb.
It’s a miracle I cannot explain, but I know that tumor is now gone from her brain.
As for the stranger who delivered this note, tell him this is number seven. I can’t wait to share the full story, my friend, when we meet in heaven.
This gift that I send you today was a wonderful lesson for me to learn. Enjoy it, and know that I want nothing in return.
For me, my time has come to an end. But I’m proud to be your reliable friend.
As for Peter Crown, he would never see the Devil again.
Todd and Tim Wynn are screenwriters who have just released their first novel. They are two-time winners of the Silver Ace Award at the Las Vegas Film Festival, for two different screenplays. Their debut science-fiction novel “Trespassers,” is currently available in paperback through major bookstores (Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million).