Red Stan is none too happy. He popped out of the fireplace this evening even redder than usual and believe me, that takes some doing. I pulled the safety pin out of my chairside fire extinguisher, just in case.
"You left me out of the book!" He waved the charred remnants of a paperback at me.
"Uh... what?" I let my hand stay on the fire extinguisher.
"You wrote about most of the others. You had Baal in there and Asmodeus and that dope Orobas and even the hideous little freak Bifrons. All I get is a quick mention. Not even a cameo role. I am insulted." He folded his arms fast enough to make the remaining bits of the paperback explode into ash.
"Uh... what? Which book are we talking about here?"
"This one." He thrust his hand at me, sending a few flakes of ash my way. "I... oh. I appear to have incinerated it." Red Stan snorted. "Well, it deserved to be burned anyway. I might order a few more, just to burn them."
"Can we back up a little?" The only book that includes the demons he mentioned is Jessica's Trap and that's not out yet. "How did you get hold of a copy?"
"I bought it on Amazon, of course. They are the only ones who'll deliver to my address."
I shook my head. "You have an Amazon account? Wait - never mind that. Jessica's Trap doesn't come out until April 7th, and then only on Kindle at first. The paperback won't be available until a couple of weeks later."
"It's out now. And I'm not in it." Red Stan assumed his most petulant pose.
I turned to my computer and called up Amazon.co.uk. No sign of the book. Kindle store - nothing. Did Red Stan have access to some kind of demonic Amazon? Amazon.hell, maybe?
It turned out to be even more bizarre. Amazon.com have the book for sale, so apparently those on the other side of Hell, in America, can already buy it.
"Well?" Red Stan demanded my attention.
"Why am I not in this book? It's about demons so I should be in there."
I scratched my head. "There are a lot of demons and it's not that big a book. I couldn't fit everyone in."
"That's not the point!" he roared. "I'm in charge. Any demon stuff, I should be right in the middle of it all."
"Oh, no," I said. "I couldn't possibly include anyone I know in my books. That would just be rude. Tell you what, I'll write something with you in it, just for you. How's that?"
His anger subsided. "Well, it would be nice." He inspected his hoof. "I mean, it's not asking much, is it? Every other horror writer has me in their stories."
"Is that why you don't keep popping out of their fireplaces?" I doubted the reason would be so simple but I entertained a little hope. "Do you only visit those who don't write about you?"
"Ah, no, that's not it. Your fireplace just happens to be one of Hell's portals. Your ancestor, Dume the Deranged, built the early part of the castle to include this portal." Red Stan laughed. "And to think, they said he was insane."
Actually, they said he was deranged, and my researches lead me to suspect it was true. I let the matter pass. It seemed I'd just have to put up with Red Stan's spontaneous and combustible visits. Ah well, best keep the fire extinguishers handy.
"Okay," I said. "I'll write you a story."
"Good." Red Stan moved back to the fireplace. "Oh, and just for a change, could you write one where I win? No thwarting or 'get thee hence' or any of that nonsense? I mean, I win in real life all the time. It would be good to have a bit of accurate reporting for once."
"No problem. I'll make sure you win and I'll make it devious and cruel."
"Lovely. I look forward to it." He ducked into the fireplace, cursed as his horns struck the mantelpiece, and vanished.
I slid the safety pin back into the fire extinguisher. Well, it's good to know that Jessica's Trap is available to the world, or at least to a large part of it. Now all I have to do is invent a tale for Red Stan. Most people get away with giving him their souls. I think they get off lightly.
My fingers paused above the keyboard. Death isn't in that book either. I closed my eyes. This whole scene is going to happen all over again, I just know it.
Perhaps Death doesn't have an Amazon account. I can but hope.