Thursday, September 03, 2015

How to back out of a Faustian bargain


Jimmy Lee was a Taiwanese immigrant. As the story begins, Lee is a student at Lamar High in Houston. He got good scores in math and science. But he was too nerdy to be successful with the girls. He pined for the cheerleaders, but–alas!–they didn't pine for him.

One time the head cheerleader invited him over to her house. Jimmy was ecstatic. He spent hours deciding what to wear. He was so nervous.

But, as it turned out, she just wanted him to troubleshoot her computer. He got a reputation for that. Other cheerleaders asked him to troubleshoot their computers. Not one ever took him out on a date. Some of them even had the bad taste to have their boyfriends over at the same time he was troubleshooting their computers.

He attempted to ingratiate himself with the cheerleaders by trying out for the football team. But in Texas, you have to be a member of the Nephilim to make the football team. 

Jimmy became so frustrated that he decided to make a pact with the devil. Next morning, after the blood was dry on the 30-year-contract, he jumped out of bed, expecting a sudden transformation. But when he saw himself in the bathroom mirror, it was the same scrawny kid staring back at him.  

He felt the devil double-crossed him. And if you can't trust the devil, who can you trust? 

But when he got to school, things were different. Although he looked the same and felt the same, although he was the same, when girls looked at him, they magically saw the boy of their dreams–whoever that might be. If it was the quarterback, that's what they saw; if it was the lead singer of a boyband, that's what they saw. 

And that's not all. When Jimmy went to the ATM to withdrawal $20, his account had the same amount of money after the withdrawal as it did before. So he began to test it. He withdrew $133, which is all he had in the bank. But it still showed $133 after he emptied his account. So he withdrew $500. The machine spat out 5 C-bills, and it showed $133 remaining in the account.

Three months later, Jimmy was a high-school dropout. By then the cheerleaders were low-hanging fruit. He was getting unsolicited invitations from supermodels. He drove a Lamborghini Egoista. Had a superyacht. Bought the Breakers for his summer home. Bought the Getty villa for his winter home. Bought Hearst Castle for his other winter home. 

And it's not every 16-year-old boy who can take a private jet to Monaco to play high-stakes poker. Not to mention that every hand he was dealt was a winning hand. Indeed, sometimes he had to fold to fake a losing hand–otherwise, casino security would become suspicious. 


The years flew by. Then, early one morning, Jimmy was suddenly transported to a firepit. Actually, after his eyes adjusted to the infernal lighting, it was a throne room encircle by flame. Mephistopheles was on the throne, with Wormwood at his right hand and Screwtape at his left hand.

"Why am I here?" Jimmy asked.

"Advance notice that your contract comes due today," said Mephistopheles. "At midnight tonight, I will dispatch the hellhounds to drag your soul to the everlasting bonfire."

"You've got the wrong man!" Jimmy protested.

"Mistaken identity? We hear that excuse all the time. But here's the contract. Here's your signature on the dotted line. My legal department has authenticated the signature," Mephistopheles replied. 

"I'm afraid you don't understand," Jimmy said. "I don't deny that that's my signature. Rather, I deny that that's my blood!"

Mephistopheles was momentarily speechless. "That's impossible! I sent Wormwood and Screwtape to witness the phlebotomist draw your blood, label the vial with your name, and store it. That's the vial you brought when you dipped the quill pen into the vial and signed the contract in your own blood."

Mephistopheles turned to Wormwood and Screwtape. "You better not tell me that you bungled the chain of custody!" he glared. "I needn't remind you what I did to the last demon who bungled a contract!"

They were terrified. "No, your Lowness, we did just as you said." 

"That's true enough so far as it goes," Jimmy interjected. "What they didn't know is that my mom was the phlebotomist. She switched samples. Relabeled the sample I brought." 

Once more, Mephistopheles was momentarily speechless. "Give me a moment to consult the legal department," he said–dialing his cellphone.

After a couple of minutes, he turned to Jimmy: "According to Clarence Darrow, what you did is technically legal. Shady, but legal. And around here, we like shady. The shadier the better. I even got second opinions from F. Lee Bailey and Melvin Belli," Mephistopheles explained.

"Ordinarily, I don't take kindly to humans who try to trick the devil," he continued. "But for you to sign a blood pact in someone else's blood is so fiendishly clever that it's worthy of yours truly–and that's not a compliment I pay often or lightly–let me assure you!"

Jimmy heaved a sigh of relief that his ruse worked. "Does that mean I'm free to go?" he asked.

"You yourself are off the hook," Mephistopheles answered. "Saved by a technicality. But there's a loose end to tie up. It's still a valid contract. According to legal precedent, it is ultimately the blood donor, and not the signatory, who is party to the bargain. So I still have a soul to claim. Before you are free to leave, you must give me the name of the donor. Whose blood does that signature belong to?"

"Jerry Walls," Jimmy answered. 

"Sounds vaguely familiar," Mephistopheles replied. He then leaned over as Wormwood whispered something in his ear."

"Ah, that Jerry Walls!" Mephistopheles exclaimed. "The quack philosopher who fancies himself an expert on heaven, hell, and purgatory. Admittedly, my recollection of heaven is a distant memory, but as the world authority on all things infernal, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that Walls doesn't know the first thing about hell. His books should be shelved in the fiction section. This, however, will be a splendid opportunity to set him straight!"

"Just out of curiosity, what about purgatory?" Jimmy asked. 

"No such thing!" Mephistopheles guffawed. "Just a fundraising stunt to pay for the pope's building projects."

"I appreciate the clarification," Jimmy said.

"In any event, there's a certain–how shall I say?–poetic justice that a hell dabbler like Walls bought out your contract. Serves him right! You might consider it penal substitution, in a twisted sort of way. And around here, we like twisted. The twistier the better!" Mephistopheles chortled. 


Late afternoon, as Jerry Walls was driving home from work, he noticed a Rottweiler with glowing eyes in the rearview mirror. He assumed it must be eyeshine as the dusky light impinged on the tapetum lucidum. Yet every time he looked in the rearview mirror, there was another Rottweiler tailing his car. By the time he got home, there was a pack of Rottweilers with glowing eyes tagging along.

And long after sunset, when he peered through the blinds, he could see multiple pairs of fiery eyes on his front yard. Like a row of little stoplights in the dark. It was a bit unnerving. 

And that's before they began to howl. Made sleep impossible. He glanced at his clock: 11:59 PM. A minute later he felt unaccountably hot. 


  1. Steve, I also really enjoyed your work Musica Mundana. It reminded me of all three books of C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, along with his Till We Have Faces, Umberto Eco's books Foucault's Pendulum and The Name of the Rose, and John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. Though, once or twice I got the feeling that a sentence or two was accidentally deleted. The minor typos didn't bother me, but I think it's such a good work of fiction that someone should proofread it. Also, the lack of quotation marks sometimes made it difficult to follow the story. I loved how it included philosophy, theology, psychology, prose, poetry, fantasy, science fiction, mythology, classic literature, the liturgical calendar, Greek, Latin et cetera, yet with a devotional/pastoral flavor.

    It has everything I was looking for in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead but better and more. I still haven't finished Gilead. It's so plodding and theologically weak. I don't understand why Calvinists recommend the book. As I understand it, she's more of a liberal Calvinist. In its stead Calvinists should recommend your book Musica Mundana.

    Also, I've noticed that something like 5 of your last fiction haven't been posted on your blog "Where Dreams Come True." As well as "But These Things Are Written."

  2. Wow that was intense. Well written.
    I imagine the similarity with my name was purely coincidental.

    1. Only if the similarities extend to your real estate holdings, romantic history with supermodels, trips to Monaco, and encounters with a guy sporting horns, cleft-feet, a pointy-tail, and a Van Dyke beard.

    2. You misunderstand, steve. What veritas meant is that he's secretly Jerry Walls.

    3. CR, you seem to be the one misunderstanding. veritasdomain contributes to a blog where one of the guys is a pastor named "Jim Lee." Which is the same name as the character "Jimmy Lee."

    4. Though, that shouldn't be too surprising since both "James" and "Lee" are common given and last names. I myself have the first name "James" and I had a Korean friend named "James Lee." We also know that "Lee" is a common name among Caucasians too. Think Lee Majors ((born Harvey Lee Yeary) who played The Six Million Dollar Man and the famous Civil War general Robert. E. Lee.

    5. Not only is "Lee" a common last AND First name, but so is James. Think of the actor named "Kevin James or the basketball player LeBron James.

    6. It turns out Kevin James' real name is Kevin George Knipfing. So, to make up for my mistake, here's a Wiki article of famous people with the last name "James."

  3. The "fiction" tag has been sadly underused on Triablogue for a long time. No updates to "Where Dreams Come True" either.

    Priorities, Steve.

    1. Hmm...I'm not sure if you're saying you're for or against Steve, and for or against my comment.

      The "fiction" tag has been sadly underused on Triablogue for a long time.

      I could interpret this to mean that there are a lot of blogposts on Triablogue which should be rejected because they make bad arguments and are lies.

      No updates to "Where Dreams Come True" either. Priorities, Steve.

      Of course Steve apologetical works are more important than his fiction and should take greater priority. But what's wrong with Steve or anyone else writing fiction? Much progress has been made in promoting and persuading people of the liberal ideas through fiction. Think of how America basically turned anti-gay to pro-gay exactly around the time when the tv show Will and Grace came out (pun intended).

      Think of the impact C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Naria has had in converting people to Christianity or at least extending/prolonging a little further Christian influence over Western society in the past 65 years.

      C.S. Lewis wrote, "Reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning." Liberals (not to mention demons) understand this (consciously or unconsciously) and that's why they use movies, plays and novels to sway people's opinions. I predict in 10 years Western attitudes regarding SMBD will be much more accepting than they are now on account of the popularity of the fictional work of 50 Shades of Grey.

    2. Fiction is so powerful in shaping people's worldview that Philip Pullman wrote The Golden Compass (AKA "Northern Lights") to try to counteract the influence of the Chronicles of Narnia. Unfortunately for him, Lewis was a better writer.

      This also why the reading of literature is so important in secular educational systems. Just recently, my (non-Christian) niece told me she read Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children for college. Surely, this is an example of a non-Christian University trying to inculcate a certain worldview in the hearts and minds of its students.

  4. Sometimes I wish there were a "like" button here.

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  6. How could anyone enjoy writing a story about sending someone, through no devices of their own, to Hell? That's so vicious...perhaps psychopathic...

    1. "How could anyone enjoy writing a story about sending someone, through no devices of their own, to Hell? That's so vicious...perhaps psychopathic..."

      How could anyone have such a tin ear for reading satire? That's so inerudite...perhaps ignorant...