So against my better tastes, I checked out some parts of the Ghost Rider movie. WOW, is it bad. But some of the glimmers of potential helped push forward my own thinking and help me expand on the cosmology I started to outline in my earlier piece on souls. The following is a rewritten version of the start of this scene; it also serves as a demonstrative anecdote for what I've got in mind. . .
(Johnny stops and stares at the man inspecting his bike.)
JOHNNY BLAZE: You.
MEPHISTO: (Without looking up:) Good to see you to, Johnny Boy. Nice bike.
JOHNNY BLAZE: Stay away from me.
MEPHISTO: Oh, I couldn't do that. I'm your greatest fan. Pheonix, Denver, Houston. . .I've been watching over you, all along.
JOHNNY BLAZE: It *was* you- keeping me alive.
MEPHISTO: Oh, no, no- It's all you, Johnny! You've got that fire inside, that special something which keeps you going, always driving you on to the next big thrill. Me, I've just been here to watch it grow. And now I need that fire to make sure a little job of mine gets done right.
JOHNNY BLAZE: Not interested.
MEPHISTO: (Chuckles) You think you have a choice.
JOHNNY BLAZE: I know these games you play- they've got rules. You can't make me do anything, not if I refuse.
MEPHISTO: Ah, yes. That pesky old rule number one: No direct control over those poor souls who catch my eye. (Continuing as he points towards Johnny's chest:) But I don't see any soul there, Johnny. Just a shell; a brain and a body, going through the motions.
JOHNNY BLAZE: You trying to say I'm just a machine?
MEPHISTO: Normally you would be. But I'm a generous kind of guy, even though no one ever shows any gratitude. See, there's something special about that empty space where a soul used to be. It's the perfect place to plant a seed, and watch it grow, until the day it finally bears fruit. And believe me, ten years is nothing when you've been around as along as I have.
JOHNNY BLAZE: Whatever you want done, do it yourself.
(He gets on the bike to leave, but Mephisto closes a hand on his arm.)
MEPHISTO: It's time, Zarathos. Find the one called Blackheart and destroy him for me.
(Johnny reacts to the name as though he's been dunked in ice water. It takes him a second to remember to jerk his arm away.)
JOHNNY BLAZE: What'd you just call me?
MEPHISTO: Part of you recognizes that name, doesn't it? (Continuing as Johnny begins to shudder and gasp- he's having some kind of attack.) A part that's buried deep, and now it's clawing its way out to answer its master's call.
(Johnny tries to say something, but can't get the words out.)
MEPHISTO: I told you, Johnny- you're just a shell. It's the fire inside I want; so now I'm turning that shell inside out.
(Still struggling to breathe, Johnny manages to seize the throttle and send the bike roaring away. Mephisto watches him go with a smile.)