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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Contest Entry · #1765707
A bum tries to sell his soul, but the Devil isn't so ready to accept it.
“I wish I had… a million dollars!”

“Oh, that’s an original wish, yes. ‘A million dollars’. Might as well ask for the ability to fly while you’re at it.”

“I… Could you do that?”

“No, not with the same wish. No. You could either get one million dollars or the unique ability of wingless, machineless, unmitigated flight.”


“Absolute. Complete. Pure.”

“Uh, you should’ve used one of those other words. ‘Unmitigated’ really tells your age, Old Scratch.”

“Really? How so?”

“I mean, you’re the Devil, right? Satan? I’m bartering with you, asking for the ultimate wish and you use a word like ‘unmitigated’ with a guy like me? Look at me. I’m a desperate mess of a man, barely a shell of my former self. I’m living on the streets, stealing food out of dumpsters, doing things I never thought I’d ever do, and you expect me to understand a four-syllable word like ‘unmitigated’?”

“It’s a five-syllable word, actually.”

“Yeah, and there’s another thing: you’re correcting me. That’s the second time you’ve done so. Do you recall the first time?”

“Do you really have to use that finger for emphasis? I mean, it’s just a bit rude.”

“It was when you said my wish wasn’t good enough! Here I am, a bum on the streets asking for a million dollars, and you ridicule me for being unoriginal.”


“Yeah, ridicule. Mock. Scorn. Deride.”

“Someone’s overusing their thesaurus…”

“So, yeah, a million dollars is what a guy in my situation would want. No, I guess need. I need a million dollars.”

“You don’t need a million dollars.”

“There you go ag—“

“Here me out: you’re a bum on the street, true. And you’ve summoned me out of sheer desperation to try and get something of your life back, yes? Well, a million dollars is a bit of a stretch, isn’t it? It’s true that it wouldn’t go far these days, but, a million? Really? You couldn’t get yourself back on the right path with, say, ten thousand? Or five thousand? Or a gentleman’s grand? Asking for a million… Well, that just shows a sophomoric sign of…”

“What, Old Scratch? What? Greed? You saying I’m greedy?”

“I wouldn’t say greedy, per say. It just seems… unnecessary.”

“Oh, I get it. You can’t do it!”


“I’m saying you can’t do it! And I bet that whole ‘You should try unmitigated flight’ spiel was crap, too!”

“Now, let’s not say things that aren’t true, okay? I mean, the Big Guy says ‘Thou shalt not lie’, doesn’t he?”

“Who gives a crap? You’re accusing me of something potentially worse! You’re labeling me with a Deadly Sin, Mister Brimstone!”

“I’m not about labels. No one said anything about labels. I mean, except you.”

“Oh, puh-leeze! Are you even Satan or are you another hobo that moved to the area recently and look to pick grammatical fights with other bums? ‘Cause, I mean, if it’s a bum fight you’re lookin’ for, you’ve come to the right alley. I could use the money. Where’s the film crew?”

“No, no, I’m not looking for a bum fight. And I guess you’re right: I shouldn’t have second-guessed you. After all, you’re the one whose soul I’ll be detaining in eighteen years. I just hope your life from here on out will be worth it.”

“Trust me. I can do a lot of good with one million dollars.”

“Yeah, yeah, no doubt. Sigh. So… I guess the ability to fly is off the table?”

“Uh, I think so, yeah.”

Sigh. Okay. I understand. No one ever chooses to fly anymore. Right, so, I’ll make up the contract, summon my Notary Demon… and you sign here, here, initial here. Uh, you got another form of I.D.? No? Okay, I’m sure it’ll clear. Great. Good. Glad I could do business with you. And I’ll see you in eighteen years, Mr. Gates.”

“Please, call me Bill.”

Word Count: 650
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