"Infinite pain. Destruction of your soul. Factoring polynomials. You into that kind of stuff, Kitcher?"
My conversation with The Legacy wasn't going as planned. In my defense, though, I planned the conversation prior to learning that his team-mate on the 1979 wrestling team was living some kind of immortal life in room 277.
After I mostly recovered from the shock of realizing that an un-aged William Tavers was currently sitting in a classroom upstairs, I entered the gym and found The Legacy presiding over a freshman gym class. They were running laps around the gym and he was yelling at them. "You're so slow because you're on your phones too much! We didn't even have phones in seventy-nine!"
He greeted me with disdain. "Kitcher. You here to rescue one of these slugs," he gestured at the red-faced, winded freshman, "from getting physically fit?"
"Why the heck is William Tavers still taking classes at Westlands?"
"He goes by Billy. Billy Tavers, got it?"
"Oh. Kay. Why is Billy Tavers still a teenage student in this school?"
He looked around to see if anyone had overheard our conversation. The freshmen, currently running laps around the gym, were all looking at me, or rather the pad of hall passes I held in my hand, hoping that they were the one who would be dismissed. But none of them acted as if they heard us.
"In here," The Legacy ushered me into the equipment closet. "Keep running laps!" he shouted to the freshmen as we ducked out of sight.
"Infinite pain. Destruction of your soul. Factoring polynomials. You into that kind of stuff, Kitcher?"
"Then I strongly urge you to forget anything you think you know about the kids in room 277."
"Who are they? Besides Billy, I mean?"
The Legacy sat down heavily on a stack of acrobatics mats. He looked down at his feet. When he looked back up at me, he had the same expression as the young John Wagner in the team photograph. Hopeless. Frightened. "They're all in there. The whole wrestling team, except for me."
Awkward silence. For an awkwardly long time. It was ... you know ... awkward.
"They say you're a pretty good pass runner, Kitcher. So you must know a thing or two about excellence. About success."
"Sure." I had no idea what he was talking about.
"When you reach the top levels of your sport, it consumes you. Your whole being is tied to your success. You'd do anything to win. Anything to win state championship."
"So," I quipped, "What did you do. Make a deal with the devil to win state?"
"NO!" he shouted. "No. I did not make a deal with the devil."
Another awkward silence.
"I made a deal with a demon named Yog Sothoth."
At this point in your reading, try to imagine a montage of scenes of The Legacy passionately gesturing, yelling, crying, arguing with himself, and generally having a really intense personal experience as he tried to explain something very important to me. As it turns out, I was the first person he had ever told about the time he made a deal with a demon in return for the state wrestling championship. Everything he'd been keeping bottled up since 1979 came out in one long confession. There was stuff about a Ouija board, a contract signed in blood, payment in the form of the team's souls should The Legacy back out of the deal, keeping the team locked away in escrow until the deal is complete, and something about factoring polynomials. In hindsight, I probably should have written some of it down.
I knew he was finished dumping his confession on me when he got up, leaned out of the equipment closet doorway and screamed at the freshmen. "KEEP! RUNNING!"
"So," I began when he sat back down on the gymnastics mats. "The entire seventy-nine team is trapped in limbo in room 277 until you give the demon Yog Sothoth your soul?"
"Yes." The Legacy who screamed at the freshmen moments ago was replaced by fearful John Wagner from the 1979 photograph. "And Yog Sothoth gets the team's souls if you leave Westlands without giving it to him?"
"Yes." The Legacy wiped tears from the corners of his eyes. "I've been working here for forty years, because I'm too afraid to give up my soul. And I can't sacrifice the team, Kitcher. I can't! They had nothing to do with my deal." He took a few choked-up breaths. "The way I see it, Kitcher, I have to die at Westlands and somehow have my body be buried on the grounds. Then Yog Sothoth must release the team without taking my soul."
By now he had officially switched from being choked up to full-on blubbering. "I don't want to die at Westfields. I don't want to be buried here."
What a crappy deal! Signing up to have the team held hostage until The Legacy either forfeits his soul, leaves Westlands (at which point he effectively hands over the team's souls to the demon), or somehow manages to find a way to die and be interred in the high school. All for a stupid wrestling match. Fortunately, I had already figured out a way for everyone (except the demon) to walk away from this arrangement.
"I can fix that," I told him. "I'll just deliver early dismissal passes to everyone in room 277. They'll be free and you can finally go to college or whatever, and the demon doesn't get anyone's soul."
Another awkward silence. They were getting more awkward the longer we talked.
"Kitcher. I'm embarrassed to admit, in the almost forty years I've been at Westlands, I hadn't thought of that."
Like I said, I have an affinity for pass running! "Cool. Anyway, um, sixth period is almost over. I'll write up the passes and deliver them tomorrow."
There was a burning smell in the attendance office when I got back from the gym. I sniffed around the room and found the source of the odor – an undelivered pass, burned black around the edges, lay on top of the dismissal log book. It said:
Name: Yog Sothoth
Room: Teachers' lounge
Reason: Contract negotiation
If you've been out of high school for a while, then you might not understand why I found this note so problematic. First, the pass needed to be delivered to the teachers' lounge. No student ever goes in the teachers' lounge. Second, sixth period was almost over. By the time I got to the lounge, the bell would have rung and I'd be late for seventh. Oh, and the demon. That's probably bad too.
I glanced at the clock to see how much time I had. Two minutes and ... forever. The second hand on the clock was frozen. Time, according to the school's master clock, had stopped.
The hallways between the attendance office and the teachers' lounge were completely empty, and utterly silent. I paused in front of the door to the lounge. Seventy percent of my fear was due to the fact that the demon Yog Sothoth was behind the door. The remaining thirty percent of my fear was due to the fact that I was a student about to enter the forbidden teachers' lounge.
I had never been in, or even looked inside of the teachers' lounge. It contained a couch, four comfortable-looking chairs, and a coffee table with a few old issues of Time magazine and Sports Illustrated. A small kitchenette with a refrigerator and a microwave occupied the back of the space. Mrs. Holmes and Mr. Jackson were stuck to the ceiling. Yog Sothoth sat on the couch.
Imagine what you'd have if you took a pile of the grossest road-kill you've ever seen, mixed it up with about two hundred pounds of hamburger meat, and formed it into a roughly humanoid shape. Stick six or seven goat eyeballs around its head, make the both the arms and legs end in bony bulges with a few dozen fingers and claws sticking out in odd directions, and give it a mouth that looks like an anus with fangs. That's Yog Sothoth. He has a beautiful baritone voice, though.
"Pass runner," he gestured to the comfy chair directly under Mrs. Holmes. "Have a seat."
I sat down and looked up at Mrs. Holmes. Her arms and legs were spread out as if she fell up onto the ceiling. Her face was frozen in horror.
Yog Sothoth said something, but I didn't really hear it because I was distracted by the sight of my sophomore history teacher squashed onto the ceiling above me.
"Kitcher!" The demon shouted and snapped a few of its fingers to get my attention.
"uh, yeah, uh."
"I was talking about the laws of physics, Kitcher. You've studied physics, yes?"
"You mean, like Ef equals Em Ay, and stuff like that?"
"Yes. Those laws." He paused for a moment and looked at me with four of his six goat eyes. "The laws of physics are bullshit."
"I knew it!" (I didn't get very good grades in physics)
"They're bullshit for me, anyway. Demons aren't bound by physical laws."
"cool." (You think you'd have a better response? I doubt it.)
"Yes, it's very cool. Stopping time," he gestured at the clock, "Reversing gravity," he gestured at Mrs. Holmes and Mr. Jackson, "No problem."
"But, Kitcher, there's a catch. Us demons are bound by words. Promises, deals, contracts. Once we've agreed to something, we cannot go back on our word, no matter how much we'd like to."
"That's why I need to discuss your plan to deliver early dismissal passes to my students in 277 tomorrow. The contract the young John Wagner signed basically put the souls of his teammates at risk for the state championship."
"I know. He's such a jerk!"
"Oh, John's not really a bad guy. He just doesn't read very carefully. He thought the clause about the team being relegated to my classroom until he left school only applied until graduation. After he graduated, and the team was still locked up, he realized that the deal is forEVER. He panicked and got a job in the phys-ed department. And here we are."
"Well, I'm going to deliver early dismissal passes to the whole team tomorrow."
"Before you do, read this." A foot-thick binder of blood-soaked goat-skin pages appeared on my lap.
I opened the binder. Neat lines of blood-ink calligraphy clearly stated: "Flenglmath gloraxboojney Grthim dothrethgreth slargnaxoth..."
"This is the most metal thing I've ever seen." (Well, it was).
"Let me translate for you, Kitcher. It says that anyone acting as an independently motivated hero – and that's what you'll be if you deliver dismissal passes to 277 – must forfeit their soul if they fail to complete the prespecified heroic task."
"Kitcher – If you deliver passes to my wrestling team, then I will assign you a heroic task to complete. If you fail to complete the task, I will consume your soul."
That sounded bad. "What would my task be?"
"If you deliver dismissal passes to room 277, then, in accordance with the contract's requirements of an independently motivated hero, you will have to successfully deliver twenty early dismissal passes during period six tomorrow. If you fail to deliver even a single pass, then I will eat your soul."