The keys bounced off the spindly, horned man’s suit and fell to the floor with a hard jingle. He stared at Jerry with glowing red eyes.
“Was that an assault?” he asked with sincere curiosity.
“No,” Jerry chuckled. “That was me giving you my soul. It’s the green Kia out front, next to the Mercedes. Thanks for the great decade, I think I can handle it on my own from here on out.” The bookish demon sighed and knelt to pick up the keys.
“I like you, Jerry. You were a fountain of entertainment over these last 10 years.” He closed the distance between them and held the keys out to Jerry. “You don’t want to go this route. You can’t outsmart Hell, we’ve been doing this for too long. If you try…,” the demon shrugged. “Technically, you already did; but, I’ll let you take it back and make the right decision.” Jerry shook his head and refused to take the keys back.
“My soul, meaning a soul that I own, in exchange for a decade of successes,” Jerry recited the short contract. He could not believe the form was that simple. It was less than a paragraph, with no sign of fine print anywhere. The demon conceded the point with a curt nod.
“I had a good feeling about you so I used one of our less formal contracts. I trusted you to follow the spirit of our agreement, surely you knew we didn’t want your car.” Laughter burst out of Jerry; he threw his head back for extra obnoxiousness.
“The spirit of the contract?! You’re a DEMON. Yeah, I know what you wanted, but you should have been more specific.” Jerry’s eyes flicked down at the keys still in the demon’s hand.
“You’ve got my soul, better hit that highway to Hell,” he laughed again. The demon sighed again.
“Are you positive this is how you want to conclude our deal?” he asked. “You know you’re intentionally giving me the wrong thing, you’re sure that’s okay?”
“My soul for a decade of successes,” Jerry repeated. “Yeah. I’m sure.” The demon sighed and closed his hand around the keys. He slipped them into his coat pocket, then pulled out an obsidian pocket watch.
“Well, you’ve changed the deal a bit, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed,” the demon said.
“Fixed? What do you-” Jerry’s question was interrupted when the demon pressed the watch’s crown. A flash of red light from the watch made Jerry blink.
When he opened his eyes again he felt strange. He looked around his living room; it was smaller and emptier than moments ago. His marble tiles were replaced by dirty, disgusting gray carpet. The tasteful mint green walls were replaced by faded blue, peeling wallpaper. Jerry recognized it immediately.
“What happened? Why are we back at my old place?” Jerry asked, but in the back of his mind, he thought he knew. He was okay with canceling the deal altogether, he half expected the outcome. He felt he learned a lot from his successes over the decade. If he had to do it again, he could. He was almost eager to take advantage of the unintentional do-over with his knowledge of the future.
“You changed our deal at the end. So now, -“
“You’re canceling it!” Jerry blurted. The demon shook his horned head.
“You changed our deal at the end, so I get to change our deal at the beginning.” Jerry’s eyes narrowed.
“What do you mean? How can you change it? The deal’s over!” the demon nodded.
“It is, I have the keys to your soul. But, your successes need to be tweaked a bit to reflect the new deal. So here we are on day one of your decade.”
“I want to cancel it!” Jerry suddenly realized this wasn’t what he planned. “We’re on day one! Cancel it!” The demon shook his head as his smile grew.
“Sorry, Jerry. I like you enough that I gave you a chance. If you chose to cancel it instead of trying to cheat me, I would have let you. But, you agreed that giving me your Kia was the conclusion to our deal.” Jerry was crushed, but he was still confident he could succeed over the next decade. If it only cost him his car, he could survive that.
“Fine. A decade of successes is still a decade of successes,” Jerry replied through gritted teeth. The demon nodded.
“Exactly. Your definition of a soul for my definition of success.”
“Wait, what?” Jerry asked.
“You know, from some perspectives…,” as the demon spoke, the ugly carpet at his feet burst into flames. “…surviving the day is considered quite a success.”