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.
"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."