The Devil Has an Autograph Book

The actor’s name was Ruffus McVladden and he sat behind a cheap plastic desk with a cheap vinyl tablecloth in front of it. His career had faded away when the time travel adventure show he starred in got canceled thirty-four years ago. It had gathered a major cult following in its day, so now he made his living doing the convention circuit, signing autographs for fans, and making public appearances to promote “Krinkle’s New Whitening Superpaste for your Teeth.” It might not be the ideal life but such were the horrors of typecasting.

He sighed, but continued to write his name over and over on glossy pictures of himself stepping out of the “Cronos IV” timeship. As he wrote his name he thought about all the great things of life, chatted with his fans for a few minutes, then thought about the pointlessness of his own life. For instance, where was his lucky signing pen? He had left home with it in his jacket pocket. It was still there when he had arrived at the convention, now it was gone! He snatched the photo out of the next fan’s hand a little forcefully. He had signed his first Hollywood contract with that pen! What right did it have to walk out on him?

An overweight man was next in line. He had duffel bag full of every piece of “Time March” merchandise he owned and wouldn’t leave until all of it was autographed. Next came a shy woman, then a dozen fans dressed in elaborate Time Bug costumes. They had taught themselves the language and greeted him with meaningless buzzes and chirps.

“Was the Thagon invasion really stopped with a secret alliance? I thought only Nanos could talk to them?”

A short bald man. “What does the Time Visor really do?”

“Why was the gray door open when Private Prophet was trying to escape from the Prison World in episode 17?”

“Isn’t the paradox factor achieved in episode 90 a little unrealistic?”

“The Private never should have left the desert princess. They where perfect for each other.”

“Will there ever be a ‘Time March II’ series?” a small woman with small glasses.

“My name Lucifer….”

“What?” Ruffus looked up. The man was indeed dressed like the Devil. He had ivory horns sticking up through a scaly mask, he wore an inverted pentagram at his throat, and a pair of clawed gloves on his hands. His Italian business suit was so black it almost hurt to look at. He smelled dirty…no, not just dirty. He reeked of uncleanliness. It was one of the better costumes he’d seen, but not the best.

“They let you into the convention smelling like that?” Ruffus asked in astonishment.

“To all save you I wear a thousand beautiful fragrances. They remind me of the angelic regiment I wore before I decided to leave Heaven….” said the fan in the devil costume casually.

“I didn’t know Satan watched TV.” said Ruffus.

“I do far more than simply watch TV, I own all of Hollywood and most of the smaller independent studios. What better way is there to spread violence and corrupt children? I can be as subtle or as direct as I want, and as long as I keep it entertaining the mortals keep watching it.”

“That must make your job easier.” said the actor. The man in the costume merely smiled.

“I’ll sign small items for fifteen dollars, posters will cost you twenty.”

The Devil withdrew what appeared to be a small black autograph book and offered it to the retired actor. “Here are the fifteen dollars you wanted Mr. McVladden.” Ruffus inspected the bills, then said, “I half expected you to pay in gold doubloons.”

“Accountancy was always a strength of mine.” confessed the Devil. “If money is the root of all evil then don’t you agree that a Lord of Evil such as myself should know how it works?”

Names crowded the pages of the book, he seemed to be more than a sci-fi fan. He’d collected signatures from politicians, C.E.O.s, and world leaders as well as Hollywood stars and pop musicians. Some of the earlier entries puzzled Ruffus. Who was Isobel Gowdie or Janet Breadheid? Alice Cooper signed it twice. He must have been pretty strung out the first time, it looked like the signature of someone who could barely write. Towards the beginning it had a long line of “X”es in faded red ink. Whatever, it wasn’t the worst thing he’d been asked to autograph.

Ruffus McVladden signed the book and said, “I don’t believe a word of what you just said. All of you fans are crazy, you’re just more crazy than the rest.”

“Believe in me or not, it matters little. Farewell.” The crazy fan in the Lucifer costume walked away, he gave Bill Shatner a conspiratorial wink as he prowled towards Artist’s Ally looking for whom he may devour.