Saturday, December 10, 2016

Good Old Days...

Krampus was bored. He leaned back on his throne and cleaned under his claws. Looking around his chambers he noticed the cobwebs in the corners and the dust on the chains. He let out a loud sigh.

"Archibald! Archibald, come in here!"

An old man slowly walked in to the chamber.

"Yes, sir?"

Krampus waved a taloned hand around in the air, "This place is filthy. Did you notice how filthy it is in here?"

"We are doing our best, sir, but we haven't had a lot of help in recent, well, decades."

Krampus sighed again, "Don't you think I KNOW that?" He rolled his fearsome eyes. "We need to make Christmas Great Again!"

Archibald shook his head, "You've been watching American television."

"What else am I supposed to do? This should be my busiest time of year. I ache to get out there and do my job. But here I sit. Bored. A FEAR DEMON SHOULD NEVER BE BORED!"

Archibald reached out a hand and patted Krampus' scaly knee, "I know. It's not the way things should be done. Have you talked to Nick? He might have some ideas on how you can spend your time."

"Nick? NICK? That sellout. He let them turn him into a joke. An elf for goodness sake. They call him a jolly old elf. He's as much of an elf as I am."

"But at least he's not bored."

"Oh I bet he is. I bet the whole factory is bored. Nobody wants simple toys anymore. They haven't made a handcrafted toy in his shop in almost a century. He doesn't even maintain the lists anymore. At least he used to do that. Though I haven't been able to do my job with them for way too long."

"He still gets around. He gets out and about. I think that is what keeps him from being bored."

Krampus rolled his eyes again. "I'm telling you he is bored. That's why he goes out and does those mall gigs in those ridiculous outfits. At least that way he can pretend he's doing his old job. But it's not like anyone is hiring for me. The one time I tried to do that parade in Germany they turned me away for being too scary looking. 'Krampus is in good fun,we don't want to actually terrorize the children.' NO we do want to terrorize them! That's what I'm all about! When one or two children a year disappeared in to my bag everyone was much better behaved." Krampus looked at the dust again, "And my house was much cleaner."

Krampus got up and started pacing. Archibald knew what was coming next. The coal lecture.

"It all started with the coal!"

Archibald knew his part, "The coal, sir?"

"Yes! The coal! The early warning sign for children to straighten up and fly right. You get a lump of coal in your stocking instead of a toy and your parents knew that you better have a better year next year or I was coming to visit. But no, these modern parents wouldn't hear of that. They saw a piece of coal in a stocking and tossed it out! Not their sweet little Johnny or June. No way. And now it's even worse. You give a kid a piece of coal and they will be on the local news talking about how Santa bullied their little brat. YOUR CHILD EARNED THAT COAL."

Archibald nodded.

"And then they decided that a simple wooden toy, painstakingly hand crafted I might add, wasn't good enough so they started buying expensive things and slapping Nick's name on them. Okay, I'll admit the first time it happened I laughed. The look on his face was priceless. But then when they ignored the coal warning..." Krampus shook his head slowly.

"Yes, sir, it's a real shame."

Krampus walked over to the hooks holding his chains and his bag. "I haven't been able to collect a deserving child in so long I am not even sure I remember how."

"Oh, sir, I am sure it would come right back to you. Like riding a bicycle."

Krampus held his clawed hands out toward Archibald, "Not a skill I ever picked up."

"Understood, sir."

Krampus walked back over and flopped down on to his throne, "I guess we need to call the Merry Maids again."

"Yes, sir, we should. And, sir?"

"Yes, yes, I know, no scaring the help or they charge double. Soft. Everyone has gotten so soft."

"Yes, sir, they have. Shall I bring you some cocoa?"

"With the tiny marshmallows?"

"Of course, sir. And The Nightmare Before Christmas is on tonight. I know how much you love that movie."

"Thank you, Archibald."

"Of course, sir."

Krampus leaned back and resumed cleaning his claws. He was just so bored.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas Visits...

She looked out the window at the worsening weather. She really needed to leave soon. With the snow she might have already waited too long. But at least she would be able to blame the storm for being late. She would give him another 10 minutes. It's not like it would be the first time he didn't show up without calling. She couldn't even be mad considering she had done it to him a few times as well. It was the nature of their relationship, sometimes things came up. 

She shivered. The wind was strong enough that she was getting a breeze from standing too near the window. She had tried to sit patiently and wait but waiting was never her strong suit. And it was worse waiting for him. Taking time to question why she was here was never a good idea. Thinking about what she was doing, what she was risking.

Guilt. There was always guilt. 

She had had lunch with a friend and they had talked about guilt. Her friend didn't believe in it. Or at least didn't believe in feeling it for long. "Guilt is an actionable emotion. If you are feeling it, you stop what you are doing that is causing it." But was it that simple? She didn't think so. After all why should she feel guilty? Didn't she deserve this? Didn't she work hard? Didn't she keep everything going and never ask for anything? If what she was doing didn't really hurt anyone then there was no reason to feel guilty.  Especially at Christmastime. There was so much expected of her. Buy all the presents, decorate the house, do the cards, plan the meals, arrange all of the schedules for the school programs, bake the cookies, and always keep the Christmas spirit high!

She deserved this.

If nobody knew then nobody could get hurt.

That's what she told herself.

And it worked.

Until she was waiting and it was quiet.

Like now.

When she knew she should be at home, or at least on her way to the restaurant for one more Christmas party. There was always something else she should be doing instead of this.

Guilt.

She paced. Maybe it was a sign. Maybe she should just stop. It was selfish. It was wrong. Everyone would say so. If there was anyone she could tell, that is, they would say so if they knew. And they would be shocked. She wasn't the sort of person who did things like this after all. She was the picture of normal. Of boring. Middle class, suburban, working mother. Her picture could have been in the dictionary next to "normal." But she had her secret. She smiled. Her one thing that was just hers. The thing that would have shocked everyone. And was that what made it good? The secrecy?  

She looked at her watch again. She was going to have to give up. He wasn't coming. She looked in the mirror suddenly feeling ridiculous in her outfit. She had worn red lingerie and tied a big ribbon around her body. Like a Christmas gift. What had seemed sexy and fun earlier now seemed desperate and sad. She untied the ribbon and took off the red laced bra and panties putting back on her normal underwear. Her practical cotton. She grabbed her jeans from the chair and slipped them back over her hips. Catching a glimpse of her soft belly in the mirror. Why did she think she was sexy before? The body that had carried 3 kids? Sexy was a long time ago. She pulled her sweater over her head and dropped the lingerie and bow in to the trash can. One and done. And not really even one. But she couldn't really bring them home with her. Sexy Christmas packages didn't really play in the 'burbs.

She braced herself for the cold blast and opened the door to the hotel room. There was a large bag blocking the door with a note attached. 

Good Little Boys and Girls get presents from Santa.
Bad Little Boys and Girls get a visit from me.

Merry Christmas,
-K

She could hear the ringing of his chains fading in the distance, she had just missed him dropping off her "gift."

As the blood soaked through the bottom of the bag she knew now why her lover was late, and knew which list Krampus had put them both on.

She was still screaming when the police arrived. 




Friday, December 2, 2016

Freaks...

When you melt down how do you do it?

Oh come on, everyone melts down sometimes. How do you do it?

I am a fairly quiet freak out person. I get smaller and smaller and more contained in myself. Until I reach maximum minimum and then I blow up surprising everyone around me with the level and volume of my freak out. The getting smaller is the early warning but no one really pays attention to it because you don't notice someone getting smaller. Lack of something (unless it's food, sex or air) doesn't really register as much as excess of something.

I have been watching various freak outs over social media recently. There have been the political freak outs. Both sides. The ones freaking out in October because they were sure they were winning to the freak out in November when they lost. The ones freaking out in October because they were sure they were losing to the freak out in November when they won. The people feeling like they've got the freedom to REALLY let loose with their opinions now and people just need to suck it up because #trumpsamerica and those that are absolutely sure that they need to stand even more firm in their liberal ideals because #trumpsamerica.

I've watched people dealing with the news of Fidel Castro's death. I'm an American and a child of the 80s where the Cold War was an actual thing. He was always portrayed as a bad guy in my world. A REALLY bad guy. Learning later about Batista and how he was a REALLY bad guy as well, and how Castro could have been a hero (so close!) didn't really change that. Batista was a US backed dictator who raided his country's wealth for his (and his cronies) own pocketbook. Castro was a Russian backed dictator that did pretty much the same thing. Just with a different philosophy behind it. So as the reports have come out and I've watched people freak out that anyone would have anything good to say about Castro as well as people freaking out that people have no idea who Castro was except for the US tilted coverage I've found it interesting. Like I said I have my USA glasses on where he is concerned. In my world he was a bad guy. But that doesn't change the fact that I can see that there are Cuban people grieving his death so in their world he was something else. The world is a complicated place. Same way I feel about lifting the Cuban embargo. The embargo didn't do anything to help the problems, or sway the Castros. But it did hurt the Cuban people so something needed to change. And people freaked out about that as well.

We have the typical Christmastime freak outs. Not enough time. Not enough money. People not giving you the wish you want in exactly the way you want it, now with the additional flavor of #trumpsamerica WE SAY CHRISTMAS NOW, BITCHES! (Yes, I've seen it. No they don't get the irony in Merry Christmas said in anger.)

We have flag burning freak outs. We have anthem kneeling freak outs. We have peaceful protest freak outs. We have rioting freak outs. We have people freaking out over the thought of all of these things. And we have people freaking out over those people freaking out.

The flavor of most of these freak outs has been nasty. Not all of them. Some of them have been sad freak outs. But the majority have been nasty. Mean spirited. My side is better than yours. You are in a bubble and ignoring me so you are an idiot (while ignoring the fact that they are in a pretty thick bubble of their own.) Watching people freak out over a celebrity having an opinion and daring to share it while a day later they are sharing the opinion of a celebrity who agrees with them.

Have we just reached a point where the baseline is freak out? Where nasty is our go to? Where we are just incapable of dealing with each other in any way outside of total agreement or major freak out?

I cherish my friends that I disagree with who are capable of talking about why they feel the way they do without the freak out. Understanding that a discussion isn't a contest. That the point in having a conversation shouldn't be to make the other person agree with you. That aren't looking for the "gotcha" moment where they can declare you a hypocrite and smugly wander off to freak out at someone else. (You all already know I believe we are all hypocrites in one way or another so this to me is a weak sauce way of arguing a point, I will totally use it if you are bugging the shit out of me, but even then I will know in my mind it's weak sauce)

I'm not really sure where I wanted to go with this blog. I'm not even sure if I have a point. I just felt myself getting smaller over the past few days and knew I needed to get a little bigger or everyone was going to be in trouble. Let's call it a Holiday Gift.

CHRISTMAS, BITCHES!





Monday, November 14, 2016

I see you...

Since the results of the election were known the media (social, mainstream, specialty only you believe this boutiques) have all been unified in saying that we failed to See the Trump voter. That we isolated ourselves from their real and true concerns and this is why Clinton lost.

Put aside the fact that in looking at actual voter numbers and turnout Clinton lost because people who voted democrat in the past stayed home. Trump didn't actually get more votes than his republican predecessors, he got fewer total votes than Romney, in fact, and there was no hand wringing over how we needed to See the Romney supporters. Set aside the fact that Clinton lost in key areas because of that lower turnout, but still won the popular vote. The majority of the people voted for Clinton. But we need to See the Trump voters.

Okay. I see you.

In fact I might see you more than you like.

I see you when you like Facebook posts and comment on them. If your friend has their post set to friends of friends or public I see that. It shows up in my feed. So I see you. More than you know.

I see you posting that you prayed for a Trump victory. The same Trump that you called ungodly just a few months earlier. The same one you chastised for not being a "true Christian" when Carson and Cruz were still in the race. Now granted, I left the church years ago (not in small part due to shit like this) but I don't remember the part where God gave a fig about our politics. Weren't you just posting memes about not caring who sat in the White House because God sat on the throne? Oh wait, that was when you thought Trump was going to lose. Yeah, I saw that too.

I see you wringing your hands and being completely upset over protests. I see you remained silent when Joe Walsh (the former congressman, not the Eagle) called for armed insurrection if Trump lost. In fact you didn't really say much when Trump himself said he would only accept the results of the election if he won. But I see you now calling for the babies to quit their whining about the fair results of the election. Only losers who want a trophy for everything contest such things...Though I saw you voted for a man who not only contested the results of the last two elections but the very Americanism of the man who won. I saw that too.

I see that we are not to question if you are a racist because obviously you are not. How could you be? Haven't you been calling out Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton for race baiting for years? But  I see you are silent on the appointment of a White Supremacist to Chief Adviser for Trump. I see that.

I see you posting how thrilled you are that woman of "real class" will now be the First Lady. Yet you were again, silent when people called our current First Lady Moochelle. Or worse. Our current First Lady who is an accomplished woman in her own right who has made kids and Veterans her causes while in the White House. Who has handled herself so beautifully and so graciously, that the first big speech our next First Lady made was cribbed from one of Michelle's. I see that you equate class with something other than I do and I have to wonder if it's just skin tone. Because otherwise I don't see how you could think one was classier than the other. Now see me for a minute, I don't have a problem with our next First Lady and I do not agree with anyone who tries to slut shame her for posing nude. It's her body and she gets to decide what to do with it. Just don't talk to me about class when what you mean is white.

I see you not understanding why people are worried about the next four years and how they could lose newly gained rights. I see you posting links to articles where Trump says gay marriage is fine, and the settled law of the land because that's what the supreme court decided. But I also see that he is going to appoint people to the supreme court that will work to overturn settled law of the land that has been in place for 40 years, not 2. And I see that our Vice President Elect believes in conversion therapy (shock the gay out of your system) and religious freedom laws (pray in the discrimination) I see you don't have anything to say about that. I also see you slamming people for being worried about the next four years when you are the proud owner of 4 new guns and more ammo than you will use in a lifetime because you were pretty sure Obama was coming for them. I see you.

I see you now liking and sharing posts about Trump when a month ago you were deeply insulted at his casual banter about sexual assault. I see that you now refer to it as salty language or vulgar talk. Pussy. Cunt. Fuckface. Asswipe. Douchcanoe. I can go on, and many of you have seen me do it. That's salty, vulgar talk which I use pretty fucking constantly...I just grab them and start kissing, I grab them by the pussy and you can get away with it too...the word pussy isn't the offensive part in there. Something you knew a month ago but somehow forgot. I guess the republican party just grabbed you by the pussy until you voted for Trump and they got away with it too.

I see you posting that your only reason for voting for Trump was his new found anti-abortion stance. Your. Only. Reason. I see that you trust him to take away this settled law while ignoring other issues of settled law. And that your deep concern over the unborn did not lend itself to deep concern over those already born and living in this world. The refugees seeking safety, for instance. If only they hadn't been born yet, they might have fallen in to your reason for voting. I see that's what only reason means. Do you?

I see you blasting the left wing Hollywood elite. While voting in a reality TV star (and after voting in an actor in the 80s) and sharing Mike Rowe's EPIC TAKE DOWN OF HILLARY SUPPORTERS! I see that your problem isn't with celebrities sharing their political views, it's with celebrities not sharing yours.

I see that you are unhappy with your economic situation and that you voted for him to bring back manufacturing jobs. While he wore clothes made in China, after hiring undocumented workers and using cheaper Chinese steel to build his buildings. I see that republicans are pro business, anti regulations but somehow he is going to regulate and tax businesses back in to manufacturing products here. I see that you believe this but I am having a hard time understanding how both things can be true. Less and more regulation.

I see that you are in favor of a wall. I see that you want to keep our borders secure. That the undocumented immigrants are ruining our country. But the largest increase of undocumented immigrants (or illegal aliens if you are having a hard time following) entering the country right now actually come from Asian countries and just overstay their visas. So why do you think Trump focused on a Wall between the US and Mexico and not on the real issue?

And I see you on my own feed. Liking my posts when I call out the bullshit on the left and ignoring or arguing with me when I call out the bullshit on the right. All the while trying to say you didn't vote for Trump just because of that R. Okay...

So the media wants me to see you. To understand your frustrations. To acknowledge your hurt. Okay.
I see you. I've seen you all along. I just don't think you realized how much I've seen. And now you should know that I will keep watching. It's up to you to show me something different.

I see you...

Since the results of the election were known the media (social, mainstream, specialty only you believe this boutiques) have all been unified in saying that we failed to See the Trump voter. That we isolated ourselves from their real and true concerns and this is why Clinton lost.

Put aside the fact that in looking at actual voter numbers and turnout Clinton lost because people who voted democrat in the past stayed home. Trump didn't actually get more votes than his republican predecessors, he got fewer total votes than Romney, in fact, and there was no hand wringing over how we needed to See the Romney supporters. Set aside the fact that Clinton lost in key areas because of that lower turnout, but still won the popular vote. The majority of the people voted for Clinton. But we need to See the Trump voters.

Okay. I see you.

In fact I might see you more than you like.

I see you when you like Facebook posts and comment on them. If your friend has their post set to friends of friends or public I see that. It shows up in my feed. So I see you. More than you know.

I see you posting that you prayed for a Trump victory. The same Trump that you called ungodly just a few months earlier. The same one you chastised for not being a "true Christian" when Carson and Cruz were still in the race. Now granted, I left the church years ago (not in small part due to shit like this) but I don't remember the part where God gave a fig about our politics. Weren't you just posting memes about not caring who sat in the White House because God sat on the throne? Oh wait, that was when you thought Trump was going to lose. Yeah, I saw that too.

I see you wringing your hands and being completely upset over protests. I see you remained silent when Joe Walsh (the former congressman, not the Eagle) called for armed insurrection if Trump lost. In fact you didn't really say much when Trump himself said he would only accept the results of the election if he won. But I see you now calling for the babies to quit their whining about the fair results of the election. Only losers who want a trophy for everything contest such things...Though I saw you voted for a man who not only contested the results of the last two elections but the very Americanism of the man who won. I saw that too.

I see that we are not to question if you are a racist because obviously you are not. How could you be? Haven't you been calling out Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton for race baiting for years? But I see you are silent on the appointment of a White Supremacist to Chief Strategist for Trump. I see that.

I see you posting how thrilled you are that a woman of "real class" will now be the First Lady. Yet you were, again, silent when people called our current First Lady "Moochelle." Or worse. Our current First Lady who is an accomplished woman in her own right who has made kids and Veterans her causes while in the White House. Who has handled herself so beautifully and so graciously, that the first big speech our next First Lady made was cribbed from one of Michelle's. I see that you equate class with something other than I do and I have to wonder if it's just skin tone. Because otherwise I don't see how you could think one was classier than the other. Now see me for a minute, I don't have a problem with our next First Lady and I do not agree with anyone who tries to slut shame her for posing nude. It's her body and she gets to decide what to do with it. Just don't talk to me about class when what you mean is white.

I see you not understanding why people are worried about the next four years and how they could lose newly gained rights. I see you posting links to articles where Trump says gay marriage is fine, and the settled law of the land because that's what the supreme court decided. But I also see that he is going to appoint people to the supreme court that will work to overturn settled law of the land that has been in place for 40 years, not 2. And I see that our Vice President Elect believes in conversion therapy (shock the gay out of your system) and religious freedom laws (pray in the discrimination) I see you don't have anything to say about that. I also see you slamming people for being worried about the next four years when you are the proud owner of 4 new guns and more ammo than you will use in a lifetime because you were pretty sure Obama was coming for them. I see you.

I see you now liking and sharing posts about Trump when a month ago you were deeply insulted at his casual banter about sexual assault. I see that you now refer to it as salty language or vulgar talk. Pussy. Cunt. Fuckface. Asswipe. Douchcanoe. I can go on, and many of you have seen me do it. That's salty, vulgar talk which I use pretty fucking constantly...I just grab them and start kissing, I grab them by the pussy and you can get away with it too...the word pussy isn't the offensive part in there. Something you knew a month ago but somehow forgot. I guess the republican party just grabbed you by the pussy until you voted for Trump and they got away with it too.

I see you posting that your only reason for voting for Trump was his new found anti-abortion stance. Your. Only. Reason. I see that you trust him to take away this settled law while ignoring other issues of settled law. And that your deep concern over the unborn did not lend itself to deep concern over those already born and living in this world. The refugees seeking safety, for instance. If only they hadn't been born yet, they might have fallen in to your reason for voting. I see that's what only reason means. Do you?

I see you blasting the left wing Hollywood elite. While voting in a reality TV star (and after voting in an actor in the 80s) and sharing Mike Rowe's EPIC TAKE DOWN OF HILLARY SUPPORTERS! I see that your problem isn't with celebrities sharing their political views, it's with celebrities not sharing yours.

I see that you are unhappy with your economic situation and that you voted for him to bring back manufacturing jobs. While he wore clothes made in China, after hiring undocumented workers and using cheaper Chinese steel to build his buildings. I see that republicans are pro business, anti regulations but somehow he is going to regulate and tax businesses back in to manufacturing products here. I see that you believe this but I am having a hard time understanding how both things can be true. Less and more regulation.

I see that you are in favor of a wall. I see that you want to keep our borders secure. That the undocumented immigrants are ruining our country. But the largest increase of undocumented immigrants (or illegal aliens if you are having a hard time following) entering the country right now actually come from Asian countries and just overstay their visas. So why do you think Trump focused on a Wall between the US and Mexico and not on the real issue?

And I see you on my own feed. Liking my posts when I call out the bullshit on the left and ignoring or arguing with me when I call out the bullshit on the right. All the while trying to say you didn't vote for Trump just because of that R. Okay...

So the media wants me to see you. To understand your frustrations. To acknowledge your hurt. Okay. I see you. I've seen you all along. I just don't think you realized how much I've seen. And now you should know that I will keep watching. It's up to you to show me something different.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Fog...

Had she already missed the turn? She slowed down even more trying to get her bearings. The fog was so thick this morning it made the world unfamiliar. Her normal 15 minute drive had taken 30 so far and she wasn't really sure if she was still on the right road. None of the landmarks she used to guide her way were visible. Was the last street light 38th street or 47th? Was she close to the turn or had she passed it? She peered out at the road again hoping for a glimpse of something familiar.

Oncoming cars appeared out of nowhere. Small pinpricks of haloed light showing for just an instance before the car passed on the other side of the road. She checked the dashboard again to make sure her fog lights were on. She reached over and turned down the radio even more and kept looking ahead. Trying to concentrate on the cotton ball she was driving through. She didn't dare slow down any more than she already had worried that cars behind her wouldn't notice until it was too late.

Was that a neon glow ahead? She strained to see if it was the blue of the new Lebanese restaurant's sign. Yes, it looked like it. This was right. She was still a few blocks from her turn. She hadn't missed it. She kept going.

The only way out of the fog was through it.

She smiled to herself. Yes. The only way out is through.

Her thumb automatically caressed the empty spot on her left finger. The past year had been all about making it through. And she had. You reach a point where you are as miserable as you can get. Where you have cried as much as you can. Where the hurt is all there is. And then you have two choices. You stop there. Frozen forever. Miserable. Or you keep going. Slowly, sure. Making sure you look for signs that you are on the right road. But you keep going. Protecting yourself so you don't get hit out of the blue. But you keep going. And eventually you make it out.

She had kept going.

She waited at the muted stoplight to turn. Her destination now feet away. The glow of the lights in the parking lot a beacon to guide her in.

The only way out is through.

Slowly.

Carefully.

But she had made it safely through the fog.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Deals...

He sat across the desk from her watching as she reviewed his paperwork. He was trying very hard to concentrate but she was incredibly attractive and he was having a difficult time focusing.

"I see you have all of your requests listed. The amount of money you feel it will take to further your career. The accolades you wish to receive during your lifetime. And what do you have to offer us?"

"Well, my soul, of course." Kyle stammered out.

"Of course." She said it with such barely disguised contempt it threw him for a loop.

"Yes. My soul." He said it more confidently this time.

She leaned back in her chair, pushing the paperwork forward on her desk. Tilting her head to the side and raising one perfectly arched eyebrow she said, "Why is it that you people seem to think your soul is worth anything? What do you think the barter rate is for souls? Do you think I can pay the property taxes on this building with souls? Do you think these shoes," and with that she stretched out a perfectly shaped leg and pointed to a pair of Jimmy Choos were paid for with souls?"

"Well, that's standard, isn't it? I mean, you give me..."

"We give you wealth and fame and fortune beyond your wildest imagination and you give us your soul. Yes, I've heard it all before."

"Then we have a deal right?"

She laughed. A pure crystalline laugh that sent chills up spine and gave him goosebumps. It was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard.

"No, we don't have a deal. I want to let you in a few secrets. First off, as I said, your soul doesn't keep the lights on, sweetheart. We have bills to pay. Obligations to keep. And nobody wants a soul instead of cash. Or gold. Or pelts. What you all want always changes. And second, the moment you walked in that door willing to barter your soul for goods it was already ours." She spread her hands out palms up and shrugged her perfect shoulders.

"What?"

"Such a basic concept that seems to get lost on your kind all of the time. If you are willing to trade your soul for goods then it's not a healthy soul and it's already ours. That's really the way the soul exchange works."

"But I didn't get anything for it."

"It's not supposed to be a commodity, idiot! It's your soul! You aren't supposed to get something for it, you are supposed to use it to guide your actions! It wasn't defective when it was installed but you broke it so now why in the world would we buy it?"

"But that's not the way the stories go. People sell their soul to the devil, the devil makes their wishes come true."

"And who wrote the stories?"

"Lots of people have written stories like that."

"Like, oh, I don't know, people who thought they could make this sort of deal? People who might have made other deals and then wrote stories like that to make themselves feel better?"

"What do you mean, other deals?"

"Other deals. I'm not rejecting your application, I'm just saying we need to negotiate terms. I see that you want to be a rock star. Okay. You want to make millions and win Grammys. Okay. You want groupies and adoration from the masses. Okay. We can do all of that. We have the connections to make that happen. Up to and including fixing," she waved her hand in his direction, "this look you have going."

"I like my look."

"And how many record deals do you have?"

He hung his head.

"We can make all of that happen for you. But we aren't taking something we already own as payment. We'll take 45% of all of your earnings. We'll take the edges of your sanity. We'll take a few of your fans at some point in a very spectacular way, maybe an accident at a concert or a mass suicide while listening to your records. We'll take a few members of your future entourage or possibly family depending on who gets the case number and what will amuse them that day. Eventually we will take back your looks and your talent, but we won't let you know they are gone so you will keep parading around acting like you still have them."

"Forty-five percent of my earnings! But if you take 45% of my earnings and the IRS takes 40% and my agent takes 20% I won't have anything left!"

She laughed again. "Of all of the things I listed that is what bothered you, the money, and yet you still thought your soul had some sort of value to us."

"But how will I pay you that much and still meet other obligations? Or wait...are you the IRS? They are evil."

She turned and glared at him, "You think the IRS is evil?  Because they collect the taxes? What about the woman you walked past this morning on your way in to the building. The one begging for a few dollars by our front door. She's collecting, do you think she is evil?"

"She is probably on drugs."

"Or starving. Or cold. Or just broke. Did you even look at her or did you just walk on by, intent on your transaction. Selling your "walk by a homeless person without a second thought" soul."

He at least still had enough decency to look ashamed at that.

"The terms are all lined out," she picked up the phone on her desk, "Rodrigo? Will you bring in the new contract please? Thank you."

"Can I have a lawyer look them over?"

She laughed again, "Sure you can. And then when he gets you committed you can consider all of the mistakes you made today."

"Oh, I guess that's true."

"It is. We aren't liars here. No matter what you would think. We find honesty to much more painful."

At that an incredibly attractive man in an impeccably tailored suit walked in to the office. "The new contract."

"Thank you, Rodrigo. Please call Stephan and Ginger and see if they have time for," again she did the dismissive wave in his direction,"well, everything."

"Of course, ma'am."

After Rodrigo had left the office Kyle shook his head, "Will I look like him when you are done with the makeover?"

"Oh no. You don't have the bone structure. We can only improve on what is there, not redesign the frame! Besides, you don't have to be as good looking as he is, you will be out there, not here."

"Is everyone who works here that perfect?"

"Of course. We are in the temptation business. We wouldn't be very tempting if we looked like...well...that." Again she waved toward him.

"Do you really look like this, or is it just illusion?"

She leaned forward, "Oh no, it's all smoke and mirrors, our true shapes would turn your blood to ice and melt your brain. We are too fearful and terrible for the mortal mind to comprehend."

His eyes got impossibly wide and he leaned as far away from her desk as he could.

She laughed again, "I'm just kidding. Of course this is what we really look like. Have you never paid attention to the stories the other side tells? 'You are made in HIS image.'  We are the original. Now you know how far you've fallen."

Kyle shook his head and then started looking through the contract, "What is this about the forgetting?"

"Oh the forgetting, that's the most important part. You won't remember this deal most of the time. When you are asleep you will have nightmares. When you are very high, or very drunk you will get flashes. But for the most part you will believe you did this all yourself. And as your choices get worse and worse you will feel so much guilt. When you take the drugs. When you ruin the roadie's life by introducing him to heroin. When you lose a fortune in a pyramid scheme, you will think it's all your fault. All on you."

"But if I forget how will you collect the 45%? Isn't that a fault in your payment plan?"

"Did you not listen to me talk about the drugs you are going to do? The heroin? The pyramid scheme? We will get our cut. We don't have you drop off briefcases full of hundreds. Don't be ridiculous. We exchange goods. We just work at a high profit margin. Oh, and one more thing, I wouldn't skip out on the IRS to try and make the payments. So many people try to do that. If you stop paying us, we just terminate the contract. If you stop paying them, well, they take their payment in other ways and as you will see from that clause," she pointed at his contract, "If you go to debtors prison or are thrown in jail for any other reasons your benefits stop accruing until your release."

"Wait, back up, you just terminate the contract if I stop paying? So this isn't binding?"

She laughed again, "Oh, Kyle, you really are a dolt! How do you think we terminate the contract? This isn't a nonbinding agreement. No payment, no contract. No. Contract."

The realization of what she was saying settled in, "Oh."

"Well? Do we have a deal?"

He thought about it for a moment. Looking over the pages of the contract. What all would be taken from him in payment. Then he signed the last page. "Yes. You win."

She smiled, "We always do."