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Charles Kelly’s sixtieth birthday came and went. He felt relieved that Karakor had not returned as he had promised, and was convinced that the demon had forgotten their contract. One morning, he sat down at his easel beside the attic window, briefly glancing at the sailboats in the distance. He picked up the antique pen and began to sketch the figure of the Speck, one of his many superhero characters. But when Kelly looked down at his drawing, the hideous face of Karakor stared back at him.

Kelly abruptly stood up, stepping away from the easel. For a moment, the attic was deathly quiet. Then Kelly heard the ominous voice of the demon rattling in his head.

“The time has come,” said Karakor. “You have failed to honour our agreement.”

“No, I haven’t,” Kelly insisted. “I created the story you wanted.”

“Then where is it?” Karakor demanded.

“Right here,” said Kelly, picking up an oversized pad of paper. “I finished it last month. It’s an extra-long story called Eclipse of the Superheroes.”

“What good is it to me sitting here in your studio?” snapped Karakor. “I want the whole world to read it. When will it be published?”

“Never!” said Kelly defiantly. “It doesn’t have to be published. That wasn’t the deal. All I had to do was to create the story, and I did.”

Karakor flew into a rage. “I gave you everything!” he roared. “You would have nothing without me. Nothing! Your artwork, your success, your acclaim are all my doing! I’ll tear you apart!”

“I’m not afraid of you,” said Kelly, his voice shaking. “You can’t kill me. I’ve fulfilled our pact.” Karakor glared coldly.

“Perhaps I won’t kill you,” he declared, “but, as I promised, you will wish that you had never been born!”

Kelly tried to back away but found to his horror that he couldn’t move his legs. “What are you doing?” he exclaimed, as he was steadily pulled toward his easel. He tried to shout for help, but no sound came from his lips.

Charles Kelly vanished.

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