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Another Strand In The Great Web – Episode Four Interlude I: The Deal
Somewhere Else Entirely
Mary Jane found herself in a white misty place. What had happened? Why was she lost in a fog bank? The last thing she remembered was talking with Peter and Baby May after being stabbed by the Grey Goblin then darkness.
Out of the unfathomable white vastness, an orange-red figure glided towards Mary Jane. She felt inexplicably drawn towards the only other being in this void. She moved forward. At least she thought it was forward. True direction of movement is hard to determine in a place without visual cues such as landmarks or even distant horizons. When they were closer Mary Jane could see the figure was that of a red-skinned man with spiky reddish-black hair and pointed ears. He displayed an eerie lopsided smile showing sharp teeth and was wearing ornate orange robes that left his chest and most of his arms bare. Reaching out with his right arm he took her hand in his own, which was clawed. Pulling her close he said.
"My name is Mephisto. Welcome to the afterlife Mary Jane Watson-Parker, or should I call you the True Bride of Spider-Man?"
With some difficulty, Mary Jane pulled her hand from Mephisto's strong grip. She stared at him in disbelief. His proclamation chilled her to the very core of her being. 'I'm dead? This is the afterlife? No, it couldn't be true, could it?' she thought.
"There's been a terrible mistake." Mary Jane blurted out. "I don't belong here."
"We don't make mistakes Mary Jane," Mephisto said coldly. "You are dead, this is the afterlife and for all intents and purposes I'm God."
"I don't know exactly who or what you are but you're not God," Mary Jane said with a nervous chuckle. "If anything you look like…." She trailed off a terrible realization dawning on her.
"Ding, ding, ding, guilty as charged," Mephisto said grinning manically his mouth full of gleaming white fangs.
"Stay away," Mary Jane said backpedaling. In spite of her typically logical mind, her Christian roots were repulsed by the confessed nature of the creature in front of her. "I want nothing to do with you."
"Your reaction wounds me deeply Mary Jane," Mephisto said feigning an expression of disappointment. "My only desire is to help you through this difficult time."
"I don't believe you," Mary Jane said.
"Of course if you don't want my help that is fine. Unlike several other higher beings I would never impose my will upon another." Mephisto said turning his back on Mary Jane. With a shrug, he added. "Give my regards to Gwen Stacy when you see her."
"Wait what," Mary Jane said her initial relief washing away.
"Like you, she is here unwilling to move on, trapped in this limbo," Mephisto said his back remaining turned. "You because you can't accept your untimely death her, for other reasons."
"Why is Gwen trapped here?" Mary Jane asked halting her slow backward progression. When no answer was forthcoming she demanded one with much greater force, "answer me!"
"Of course," Mephisto said whirling around to once more face her. "Dear Gwen is stranded here because of her dealings with the Green Goblin Norman Osborn. Her soul cannot move on until Peter forgives her for betraying him and she forgives herself. A shame really such a nice girl. Isn't it terrible how one mistake can mar an otherwise pure existence?"
"No," Mary Jane said.
"I'm afraid so," Mephisto said smiling. Mary Jane heard Gwen's confused voice begging Peter for forgiveness, a voice Mary Jane was sure Peter could not hear. Mary Jane could even glimpse her former friend through the mist or so she thought.
Mephisto said struggling to keep his voice neutral. Beneath his placid façade, an edge of glee was steadily creeping into Mephisto's being, he was about to win he could feel it. The threat the Parker offspring posed would soon be gone forever.
"However, it doesn't have to remain so." Mephisto said.
"I don't understand," Mary Jane said wondering if there was someway to spare her friend from this existence.
"A second chance," Mephisto said a scroll and quill appearing in his hands. "Sign this agreement I shall, in turn, grant you another shot at what you mortals term life."
"What's the catch?" Mary Jane asked eyeing Mephisto suspiciously.
"You will have never meet Peter Parker that night you aunts set you up. In return, I promise Gwen and yourself will both live beyond the points when each of you would have otherwise expired. " Mephisto answered.
"I can't," Mary Jane said shaking her head emphatically. "Peter and I love each other. Why should I give up my husband when we're finally about to be a family with our daughter?"
"Because," Mephisto said struggling to remain calm. "That is my offer, as they say, take it or leave it. I make the rules. Besides you're dead. The fairytale ending of which you speak can never happened. Your journey together is over. Trust me, you'll both be happier apart in the long run."
"What about my soul? Don't you want that too?" Mary Jane said remembering the many tales she had heard concerning scheming demons.
Mephisto laughed heartily before replying. "Whatever for, I've only taken souls as principal payment in special cases for several centuries now. There is a glut of them on the market, thus their value has been rendered practically worthless. Besides these days playing god, if you'll excuse the crude expression, is far more fun. Alright, what will it be May Jane? Stay Spider-Man's Wife and remain here with Gwen forever or roll the dice by becoming an ordinary girl free of metahuman entanglements? Hurry up lass while I might exist forever I am a busy entity. I cannot linger here all day if you will."
Hesitantly Mary Jane took the offered scroll and quill. "Other than me and Peter having never met nothing else will change, right?" She said. Forgive me tiger.
"More or less, now will you accept my deal or not?" Mephisto said.
"The World won't end or anything like that if I accept?" Mary Jane asked uncertainly.
"Of course not, Earth has been around eons it isn't going anywhere." Mephisto scoffed.
"I'm not sure." Mary Jane said. "What about Baby May? I can't erase her from existence that would be trading one life for another, hers for Gwen's. I couldn't do that."
"Oh, very well," Mephisto said. "She'll change a bit but she'll still exist, only without you being her mother."
Mary Jane paused looking at the scroll warily. "Maybe I shouldn't."
"How about I sweeten things further." Mephisto said. With a snap of his fingers, the writing on the scroll changed. "There, I've added an escape clause to the contract. If you are dissatisfied with the deal for any reason all you must do to nullify it is share a loving kiss with Peter Parker within 72 hours." He knew Peter Parker in whatever reality would be far too honorable to ever share a meaningful kiss with a person he barely knew, so he saw little danger adding the clause to seal their deal. "I'm being very generous here Mary Jane. My deals are usually far more one-sided in my favor."
Unbeknownst to Mephisto another being of immense power knew of his meddling and was greatly displeased. The Great Weaver of The Web of Life would not let this interference in his domain stand. While under normal circumstances he could not directly intervene in the affairs of those whose fates he oversaw these were far from being normal circumstances. As such, he vowed he would do everything in his power help Mary Jane in her hour of need.
"No," Mary Jane said with conviction.
"What did you say?" Mephisto asked his body going rigid.
"I won't sign." Mary Jane repeated.
"Ingrate," Mephisto roared. "I offer you something most mortals only dream of, a second chance at life. And you choose to throw it away because things will be a bit messy."
"A bit messy," Mary Jane said incredulously. "You tried to trick me into giving away my marriage and my family."
"Everything has a price," Mephisto said feigning offense.
"Sorry, I can't live that life," Mary Jane said ignoring Mephisto's intransigence. "I refuse to be trapped without Peter or Baby May. Our love is everything to me."
"Humans are all the same," Mephisto chided wagging his right index finger at Mary Jane. "I offer you what you want and I get no thanks, how rude. I can save you from death and limbo. Remember you died in your husband's arms. Not to worry, I can always leave you here forever instead. If that is really what you want?" He finished with a grin.
"I'd rather die the woman I was and spend eternity here than live the life you offer," Mary Jane said. She then added. "Sorry Gwen, but I can't make a deal with him."
"Unfortunately I'm not giving up so easily," Mephisto said. "You're not staying here. You are coming with me to Hell!"
"I think not." A booming voice said. Out of nowhere a large, humanoid spider creature appeared to Mephisto's right. "This incarnation of Mary Jane Watson-Parker has proven himself worthy of a continued chance at her original life by rebuking your temptation. She has rejected the easy path in favor of the difficult path. She has proven herself a truly worthy member of the Web of Life. Her time is not yet. Thus I the Great Weaver set things right by preventing further interference with her or those she holds dear Mephist and henceforth banish you from his portion of my realm."
The scroll in Mephisto's clawed hand burned away leaving nothing behind by dust. "It isn't fair I won." Mephisto wailed turning his fiery red eyes on Mary Jane he hissed. "I'll remember you." Mephisto then faded away ranting and raving against Mary Jane and the "Great Weaver" until his voice finally ceased being heard.
"I am grateful Great Weaver. I'll never forget what you've done for me ans my family." Mary Jane said to the entity that had quite literally saved the life she held so dear.
"Go, my child, be returned," Great Weaver said waving a clawed appendage at Mary Jane who vanished.
To Be Continued