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Faust, Redux

All five candles lining the pentagram went out at once as a sulfurous odor filled the room. A tall, cloaked figure slunk out from a corner where it hadn't previously been.
"Well," said the demon, "you've got me. What do you want?"
The magician was stunned. He hadn't expected this to work, not really. It hadn't ever worked before.
"Come on," said the demon. "I don't have all day. Why am I here?"
"I... wanted to sell you my soul," sputtered the magician.
"Your soul," replied the demon, regarding the magician with palpable contempt. "In exchange for what?"
"For riches. For power. I want you to make me the greatest magician of the era." The magician regretted not thinking his demands through beforehand, but again, he hadn't actually expected this to work.
"I'll give you ten dollars," answered the demon, fishing around in his pocket.
"Ten dollars?"
The demon shrugged and produced his wallet. "The very fact that you're trying to sell me your soul for riches and power tells me that I'd probably get it anyhow." Then the demon frowned, and asked if the magician could break a twenty.
The magician nodded, but then said that he wasn't sure he wanted to. "It just doesn't seem worth it for ten dollars," he said.
"Suit yourself." The demon put his wallet away. "But I think you're making a mistake. Imagine the peace of mind you'd have if you took my money. As it is, you'll have to work really hard to turn your life around, with no guarantee of success. Sell me your soul and there's no point in trying; you get out of even having to make the attempt. Save yourself the effort and buy yourself a sandwich or something."
The magician looked at the demon. It was almost lunchtime.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, October 29th, 2020
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