“Oh, hell! Here we go again,” thought Frank, now incarnate as a yellow lab puppy and gazing up into the face of none other than a grown-up Billy Steadman.
“Aren’t you a cute little fella?” Billy picked the trembling puppy up by the scruff of the neck. Frank responded by peeing on his shoe. “Whoopsie daisy!” Billy laughed, then pulled the puppy close and scratched behind his ears.
Once again, Billy didn’t recognize Frank. Of course, the last time they’d met—the last nine times, in fact—Frank had looked remarkably different. And they’d never spent much time in one another’s company.
Since the pair’s first encounter, Billy, aside from growing up like all boys do, had remained much the same. That is, he was still the same species. At each of their previous encounters, Billy had been the cause of Frank’s demise, which always resulted in Frank being reincarnated before encountering Billy yet again.
When Billy was two, he had the misfortune of encountering Frank as a honeybee—a honeybee who knew only one way back to the hive. Unfortunately for them both, the toddler had wandered into Frank’s path. Billy took the sting. Frank paid with his life.
When Billy was four, Frank encountered him once again. Frank, now a goldfinch nesting in an orchard near Billy’s home, observed the happy activity indoors. Flying toward the spot where the child played, Frank smashed into the picture window, and it was lights-out for the finch.
For some reason, Frank kept turning up in Billy’s path. He was the squirrel Billy killed with a slingshot, one of the baby rabbits Billy hit with the lawnmower, and a fly Billy smacked with a flyswatter.
Today, Frank was not in the mood to meet up with Billy again. He’d just gotten the hang of being a puppy, and the dog’s life suited him.
Sure enough, Billy selected Frank from the litter and arranged to take the puppy home. Frank cowered in a corner of the crate that Billy carefully strapped into the backseat of his SUV. “Don’t worry, little fella. We’ll get you home and introduce you to the kids. They’re gonna love you.” Frank doubted he would survive long enough to meet Billy’s kids.
Billy pulled out of the drive and turned left down a shady lane. Frank set to howling in hopes that Billy would return him before it was too late.
“Now you stop that. Everything’s gonna be—“ Billy’s voice cut off as a Dodge Ram slammed into the side of the SUV, killing Frank instantly.
“Simulation complete.” The canned voice came over the intercom, and Frank’s eyes flew open. The imp yanked the electrodes from his own skull without waiting for the attending lower demon’s assistance. “What special kind of hell was that?” he shrieked.
The laboratory door opened, and Beelzebub, dressed in a lab coat, entered. “Partial reset reincarnation. It’s a new punishment we’ve been working on for some of our more resistant clientele.”