Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Faustus. I was unfortunate enough to be born in this century in Egypt. Why misfortunate you ask? Because things couldn’t have been worse for me. I used to be a straight A student in school and college. While that should mean that I am well educated and know a lot of stuff about a lot of things, I don’t. Our educational system works on memorizing. That means after the exams and no longer using the info, all the things I learned evaporated from my mind. The other part of my problem is work. I have none and I can’t find any. Nothing says Egypt more than a 30 year old unemployed man.
So to recap; I am 30, barely know anything, and have no hope of finding a job. And that led to the stupidest decision I have ever made. It is the sort of thing that you hear about or see in a movie and think to yourself “Who is dumb enough to do that?” The answer turned out to be “Me”.
I think it is time for some clichés to set the mood. It was a long dark night–at midnight to be specific. I was walking in a lightless street, feeling as lost, confused, and angry as I’ve been feeling for the last decade. I came by a big long crossroad, also dark and deserted. A very weird looking guy suddenly appeared right in the middle of the crossroad. He was tall, and devilishly handsome (pun intended). He seemed to be emitting darkness and coldness, like he was the source of all of it. Needless to say he made me feel uneasy. If this had been a movie that would’ve been the part where a car suddenly shows up and kidnaps me. Or a helicopter appears out of nowhere along with black vans filled with agents with guns coming to arrest me. But this is real life where that doesn’t happen. But apparently, weirder stuff do.
Back to the mysterious guy. The closer I got to him, the more silence seemed to prevail, and the more the world seemed to disappear. When he spoke, his voices felt disembodied; if he wasn’t the only one around, I would’ve thought someone else was speaking. It felt like it didn’t come from his throat, but from inside my mind, and yet there was an echo to it that filled the world around me.
“Hey Faustus” he said “Don’t you know it is dangerous to walk into a dark crossroad this late at night”
As you can expect, the first thing I said was “How do you know my name? Do I know you?”
He laughed a very gloating laugh “I love it when people say that. You do know me, or at least know of me. I am the great Lucifer. And that is how I know who you are and everything about you.”
“OK” I said uncertain of what I was supposed to do or react. No one ever told me what I should do when I meet a crazy person.
He sighed exasperatedly. He was obviously bored of having the same conversation over and over again. “Humans are so narrow-minded. You know of me. You know I exist. And yet when I appear before you, you act like I am a fictional character from fairy tales”
Then the most unnerving thing happened. His pupils were on fire. Or to be more accurate, they were fire. My first instinct was to run. But I was too scared, and let’s admit it, too intrigued to run.
“You didn’t try to run” He sounded proud “I knew you were different. That is why you were given the honor of meeting me and not one of my demons”
He looked at me like he was waiting for me to say or do something, but my mind was completely blank. That seemed to really annoy him, A LOT. I guess he must have had somewhere to be and this was taking longer than he wanted.
Suddenly there was fire everywhere and that was enough to snap me back to reality. I looked around panicking, thinking if I don’t run I’ll get burned. But it seemed to go everywhere but 6 meters in every direction around us. Even smoke didn’t dare come near us.
“Now that I have your attention again, let’s talk business”
“Business?” That I didn’t expect.
“Your life sucks, no offence. And it is not going to be any better in the future. So I’ve decided to offer you a deal. I will make you rich and successful and anything else you want – you’ll set the terms you want- in exchange for your soul. And don’t ask me what I am going to do with it. It is too obvious and it is none of your business”
“I’ve seen enough movies to know that” I said, terrified of the thought. “And when do you get my soul?”
“Tell me first your price, and then I’ll tell you when you’ll pay for it”
Every part of me was telling me to run and forget that this ever happened. I recalled everything I’ve heard about those who sell their soul to the devil (even if I didn’t believe it then) and how they rot in Hell for all eternity. And I remembered the movies I’ve seen; they die before their time, as soon as they achieve their dreams. The darkness inside of me took its turn to speak “Is there really something called Hell? That seems more like a scary tale they tell children and adults to get them in line. And even if you don’t sell your soul, you still might go to Hell after you die. The only difference is, you wouldn’t have had a good worthy life and have gone to this so-called Hell for nothing”.
For some reason, this seemed to make sense to me. It was a valid argument. And I was so tired of being a loser and having everyone remind me of how big of a loser I am.
“OK” I screamed out without even realizing it. “I’ll give you my soul but I don’t want a limited time offer. I want to be a genius like Bradley Cooper in Limitless. I want to be able to start my own company. And I want to live a long normal life and you get to have my soul when I die”
“I accept this deal, but with one small alteration. You say you will start your own company. So let me give you an incentive to make you work hard; the minute your company fails, you die and I get your soul. As long as it is a big successful company, your soul is yours”.
And the deal was struck. A contract appeared in my hand accompanied by a sharp pain in the left chest, right on the heart. I looked and I saw blood on my shirt.
“The contract has to be signed with your blood”
I put my finger on the cut to cover it with blood and signed my name at the bottom of the contract. Just as I wrote the last letter, the contract and the fire disappeared. It was just me and him and silence once again.
“Good luck, Faustus” he said it in a way that made me feel it was meant to be a curse. And with that he disappeared.
That was 6 years ago. The cut on my heart never healed, and the bleeding never stopped. I’ve tried everything. But even with all my money and all the advancement of medicine, a simple cut turned out to be impossible to treat.
As per my deal with Lucifer, I am as smart as Cooper in Limitless. I can see every possible scenario to every situation. I can see the end of a game from the moment it starts; the result of every variable. But when it comes to my life, every scenario I see seems to end with a fire. When I choose a girl to marry, I see the wedding set on fire. Whenever I consider a deal for my company, I see my company on fire.
That is why I had no choice but to always go with the safe usual options that everyone always does. And that is a source of great irony. All my life I thought if I had been a little more intelligence, things would have been so much better for me,. Now I am one of the smartest people on the face of this Earth, yet I can’t use my intelligence for my own advantage. Keeping the company successful in order to keep my soul for the longest time possible turned out to be the hardest job I’ve ever had to do. I work 24/7, travel all over the world, and that is barely enough; the company is merely doing OK. I became the modern day Uncle Scrooge; I have more money than I could ever need, but I have no time to spend it or enjoy it. Personal and social lives haven’t been an option for the last 6 years. And neither has sleep.
It turned out that Lucifer added a gift to the deal; I can create and control fire. At first I was so excited remembering all the cool movies I’ve seen where characters were able to do that and how much fun they had with it. So I started to “have fun” with it. I’d make my friends think their car is on fire and then create an explosion around it. Then after they freaked out and when the smoke clears, they see their car is intact. Yep, that was all my “genius” mind could think of. At first I did this prank on my friends, then family, then random people when I was bored. But soon I started to realize why Lucifer gave me that ability; so I’d never lose sight of our deal, so that I’d never forget my fate, and so that I’d never enjoy the deal. This “cool” ability became my torture, which is why I stopped using it. But that didn’t actually help. I now see my future residence in every fire I come across, no matter how small. Even cooking became a punishment for me.
My life now is a living hell, looks like there is no escaping it. My deal with Lucifer has brought me nothing but torture. Before, I had nothing and was miserable, but now l have no life. I have seen all the things I once wanted to see. I have done all the things I had wanted to do. And I have all the things I had ever wanted to have. But they don’t seem to mean anything to me, or bring me any joy. Every waking and sleeping moment of my life, I am regretting that night, thinking no matter how much life sucked back then, at least the little things made me happy; my friends, family, occasional outings and parties. At least I was able to sleep and escape from life for a while.
And this brings us to where I am right now, outside my company, at 11:58 PM, taking a last long look at the nightmare I once longed for and sold my soul for. I guess the old saying is right “Be careful what you wish for”.
I look at my watch, it is 12 AM. Talk about a happy coincidence, I didn’t mean for it to happen at this exact moment, but the irony is too sweet to let it pass. I snap my finger and watch the yellow and orange as they rise, spreading warmth all around. It is unstoppable as it makes its way to the top like I once did.
In a matter of seconds the fire is everywhere, not an inch of the building was spared. And since this is Egypt, the fire truck won’t be here before a minimum of half an hour, and maximum next month. That means it is going to be a job well done.
Lucifer suddenly appears before me, confused and dumbfounded. I look at him and give him a finally relieved smile. “What can I say, I missed you and couldn’t get a hold of you so I decided to plan this happy event to see you”. If it was possible to make Lucifer feel like the stupidest man wandered earth and the heavens, this has certainly done it. “I don’t understand! Why? I should be the one to burn it or do something to force you to give me your soul”
“I’ve had enough, I’d rather be dead and tortured out in the open, than to be secretly tortured in the disguise of being blissed. And this stupid move is nothing compared to what I’ve done 6 years ago.”
He just stood there, still unable to grasp what I’ve said and done.
“Do you want to take me now, or should I get another ride to Hell”
That confused looks never wavered from his face as he approaches me still trying to comprehend what I have done. And here I am, standing next to Lucifer himself with a relieved smile on my face. I take a last long look at the glorious fire and suddenly; it all turned black.