Emblem 096: The devil’s bargain

A man is approached by the Devil, who says to him, “You know the drill: three wishes for your soul. Anything you want, right now, in exchange for something you’re pretty sure doesn’t exist. What do you say?” The man thinks about it.

He’s seen every episode of The Twilight Zone many times. And if Rod Serling has taught him anything it’s that, no, you can’t have what you wish for. Something will screw it up, and that something will turn out to be the wish itself.

But why?

He thinks that wishes are about not accepting the way things are—“I wish this was different than it really is.” It’s as if when you wish something was different, you’ve set yourself in opposition to it. You’ve made yourself its enemy. And it returns the compliment.

Really what the man wants—behind the obvious things like lots of money, a big house and the fastest car in the world—is not to die. Ever. He can just imagine how that one might backfire. He’d make the wish and then realize he was actually a robot, or a department store mannequin, or a ventriloquist’s dummy. Something that shows you that you were better off before you started. As if the way things are right now is exactly the way he would wish they were, once his wishes were granted. As if all his wishes are already true, without him making any.

For some reason the man finds this very moving. He clasps the Devil’s hands in his. “Thank you,” he says, tears in his eyes. “Thank you so much. I won’t forget this.” He goes on his way into a world transformed.

The Devil isn’t used to such a response. He’s not sure what to do now. Maybe take the rest of the day off?


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