Downline

“That’s all?!” Dennis grumbled. He stared at the single dollar bill but refused to take it from the demon’s hand. “My soul is worth more than a dollar!” The lean, dark-suited demon shrugged; he let the bill fall to the floor of Dennis’ run-down apartment.

“Is it? Do you have any proof?”

“Yeah, I got proof. Jerry sold his soul last week for a billion dollars.” If it weren’t for Jerry’s encouragement, Dennis would have never found himself dealing with a demon at midnight. They were far from best friends, but the pair of acquaintances grew up together. They were often in each other’s classes and their parents forced birthday party invites on them. They shared a mutual respect and dislike of each other. It came as a surprise when Jerry visited with a bundle of groceries to brag about his demonic windfall.

“Oh, you’re a friend of Jerry’s?” The demon asked with renewed interest. He reached into his suit and pulled out a small red notepad, then flipped through it. “Oh, right, here you are. Dennis Jimenez.” He looked up to see Dennis nodding eagerly.

“Well, that’s a different situation,” the demon replied. He knelt to pick up the dollar bill and tucked it back into his pocket. “It’s a good thing you didn’t accept this.” He snapped his fingers and released a small, sour puff of sulfur.

“Alright, that contract’s canceled, let’s start again. Jerry sold his soul for a billion dollars. He made a straight transaction and got to name his price. You and I made a bet with very vague terms,” the wagged a red finger at Dennis. “Tsk tsk. That’s a bad idea when dealing with Hell. To me, your soul is only worth about a dollar. Jerry was a special sort of win for our team. As a result of his deal, since you’re friends, I’m able to offer you a billion dollars also.”

“YES!” Dennis shouted.

“It’s just a simple question, sounds good?” The demon asked; he extended his hand.

“YES!” Dennis repeated and grabbed the demon’s hand. The demon nodded.

“What year was Jerry, your friend, just so we’re clear, born?” he asked.

“1985!” Dennis screamed and immediately began hopping up and down in place.

“You’re right,” the demon nodded with a smile. “Congratulations.”

“WOOHOO!!”Dennis jumped higher and yelled louder. “I’M A BILLIONAIRE!” He started to laugh, the demon joined in with his own obnoxious laughter.

“No. hahaha. You’re not,”  the demon chuckled. “You’re going to Hell.” Dennis immediately stopped celebrating.

“What?” he asked. “I gave the right answer!”  The demon nodded.

“I just finished telling you that vague deals were a bad idea, and you went ahead and did it anyway.”

“NO! NONONONo! You said if I answered the question, you’d give me a billion dollars!”

“I said, I’m able to offer you a million dollars.” The demon said flatly. “Then, I said it was a simple question, and asked you if that sounded good. You said yes, without specifying any other terms.” His toothy smile grew. “I never said you had to get the right answer to win the money.”

“WHAT!? That’s BULLCRAP! What sense does that make that you want the wrong answer??!” The demon sighed.

“It’s not about what answer I want. I told you it was a special case because you’re on Jerry’s list. He made quite an interesting deal. Apparently, he earns another billion dollars for each of his friends that goes to Hell too.” The demon chuckled. “It’s probably why he specified the right answer is the losing answer.”

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