There is, however, more than one type of debt.
The Pied Piper was hired by the town of Hamelin to rid its world of rats. Once he piped them away, the town refused to pay. He then proceeded to pipe the children away.
Sooner or later, the piper needs to be paid.
I offer the following in response: Salvation
The devil bared his teeth and snarled. White foam lacquered his mouth and formed stalactites on his jaw. There was little trace of the animal he once was underneath his mangy fur.
Dangling perilously from a tree-branch, Lottie was a ten-foot drop from certain death. She felt her grip slipping and screamed, splinters digging into her hands. What made me think hiking alone was a good idea? She replayed the fight with Eric. It was supposed to be a romantic weekend getaway, but he decided to get stoned. “Help!” she pleaded, tears threatening to form.
A loud crack ricocheted through the woods and the foaming devil fell in a very final, short-lived yelp. Startled, she looked at the silent beast for signs of life. It didn't move. She giggled, an awkward reaction, as she dropped to the ground. A sharp stabbing pain shot through her knees, but she shook it off and searched through the trees for her benefactor. Soon, a man adorned in hunter orange camouflage stepped into view, a small-bore rifle carried cautiously in his hands. “Don’t touch it,” he warned as he approached.
She rubbed life into her arms, feeling light-headed. “I wouldn’t, I mean, is that…an actual rabid dog?”
“Was.” He placed his rifle down and pulled a trash-bag from his pack. “Did it bite you?”
“No, I climbed the tree when I saw it.” His features were grizzled and a cloud of stench enveloped him made of earth, sweat, and sulfur. “I should thank you,” she said, trying not to focus on his smell.
“Yes, you should.”
That was rude, she thought, unsure how to respond. “Thanks, I guess,” she said finally. She watched as he meticulously disposed of the diseased corpse. He worked with the precision of an experienced hunter; quickly, efficiently. Coupled with his unexplained attitude, his methodic movements disturbed her. She began to wonder if the dog had been the least of her problems.
“You need something?” the man grumbled, casting a look from the edge of his unshaven face as he rose, bag in one hand, rifle in the other.
“You oughta head back to your…camp…don’t you think?”
She withered under his scowl, her toes twitching as she felt the impulse to run. “I don’t suppose you’d point me towards Stipple Creek Campsite?” she asked timidly, chiding herself for leaving her GPS tracker behind.
After a moment, his bag-hand motioned west. “After you, Charlotte.”
“Your father’s got Forestry looking for you and your stoner boyfriend’s a suspect in your disappearance.” His smirk was unsettling. “And now that everyone’s ruined my hunt, your father owes me double for rescuing your ass. Time to pay the piper.”
Buzzards circled ominously overhead. Her heart sinking, Lottie trudged westerly, hunter in tow. Facing her father after a lie was one thing, indebting him to a stranger for her life was another. The devil's death would not keep her from the swift hand of her father's justice.