Devil’s Due

By John Haas


Satan sat across from Warner Getz in the shabby diner’s back booth, wearing sunglasses, metaphysical ones, to protect him from the shining purity of the other’s soul. The Devil was in his favorite form of well-dressed businessman. Charcoal Armani suit. Power tie. Shoes polished to a shine.

“I didn’t realize the Devil still bought souls,” Warner said, squirming against the fake leather.

“I don’t. Never have. I get enough without any real effort.”

“So all those stories?”

“Utter nonsense. If someone wants to sell me their soul then good chance it’s already mine, or will be soon enough.”

“Why are you here then?” Warner asked, pushing his cold eggs around with a fork.

The Devil risked a glance over the top of his sunglasses. “You have a special soul, and I want it.”

“I thought you didn’t buy souls.”

“I’m more a collector than wholesale purchaser, a connoisseur if you like. A soul like yours comes along once or twice in a lifetime… and I’m talking my lifetime.”

Warner pushed his eggs aside and started rotating the empty coffee cup in slow circles. “I’m nothing special.”

“Of course you wouldn’t think so. Humility is one of the traits making your soul shine.”


“On a spiritual plane.”

“I won’t pretend to understand that,” Warner shrugged. “I just want to help people. Does that make me special?”

“Frankly? Yes. Most so called good people are doing what they’ve been taught without question. They are as good,” the Devil made air quotes, “as brainless sheep. Others follow a strict moral code for some righteous superiority over their fellow man. Altruistic people come closer, but still they delight in the self-satisfaction that their actions bring.”

Satan felt himself warming to his topic. Soon his eyes would be flaring and the smoke of brimstone would trickle from his nostrils. He stepped down from his soapbox.

“Then there is you,” he continued, “doing what’s right no matter who notices or what the circumstances, even if it makes you miserable.”

“I’m hardly perfect.”

“Of course not. You just come closer than others.”

“And you want my soul?”


Satan calmed himself, digging fingernails into the booth’s cheap material.

“How shiny would my soul be if I sold it to you?”

“Depends on your reason behind the sale,” the Devil smiled like a used-car salesman. “If it’s for greed or malice then yours would be like all the rest.”

Satan leaned back, allowing Warner time to think. The man appeared more comfortable now than he had when the Devil first appeared and introduced himself. Progress was being made.

“No,” Warner sighed. “Sorry, not interested.”

“No? Not even for the ability to help people?”

The human’s mouth closed with the sharp clack of teeth. His eyes took on a far-off gaze and when they returned they were brimming with tears. “You’re good at this.”

“Yes, well, ‘Get thee behind me, foul Satan,’ and all that.”

“I’ve worked at helping people for years. Helped get them food, jobs, housing.”

“But people themselves get in the way, don’t they? Greed. Selfishness. Poor choices. Rich and poor alike.”

“Yes. So often I’ve wished I could change how they think, how they act. Make them see what their actions are doing,” Warner started, as if realizing he’d been pouring his soul out to the Devil. “But then they wouldn’t have free will.”

Satan laughed, flames dancing in his eyes. “All free will does is allow people to make the easy, self-gratifying choices which lead them to my front door.”

Warner shook his head, shifting, ready to leave.

The Devil shrugged. “With free will people commit horrible acts, like what happened to your sister.”

Warner stopped. “Laurie.”

“Yes, Laurie. Her friends got her hooked on drugs, but she couldn’t live with that, could she?” Satan didn’t bother mentioning suicides went direct to him.

Two tears fell from Warner’s face, dropping out of sight behind the edge of the table.

“The ability to change the world, to change people’s minds,” Satan made a show of thinking this over. “Yes, I could give you this.”

Warner wiped his eyes and leaned forward on the table conspiratorially. The Devil did the same, as if He did not see everything.

“Change the world,” Warner repeated, “change people’s minds.”

Satan nodded agreement. Temptation was the tricky part, and that was done. The rest was detail, but one of those details was how problematic giving someone the power to change the world could be. Could Warner Getz bring back a peace which hadn’t been seen since Eden? Possibly. But Eden had fallen, and honestly the challenge would be enjoyable. This game had become too easy, too one-sided.

“In exchange for my soul,” Warner said.

“For your soul.”

“How long would I have?”

“Ten years seems fair.”

“Ten? I’m forty-one and could live to ninety.”

“I’m not offering fifty years.”

“I’ll take forty.”


They settled on twenty, Satan congratulating himself on his bargaining skills.

“Twenty years until you collect my soul,” Warner confirmed.


Warner was quiet, thinking. “I would need you to not interfere.”

Satan laughed, souring milk in the kitchen. Of course he planned to interfere, every chance he got.

“That’s what I thought.” Warner started to rise.

Fingernails dug deeper into the seat, scraping against the springs and wood supporting it. Black, oily smoke streamed from the devil’s nose and his eyes flared with the fires of the damned. He glared at the shining purity of Warner’s soul, the way a magpie would with a bit of tinfoil. If anything it was brighter now, not even tarnished from dealing with the Devil. He had to have it!

“Fine!” Satan snapped.

“No interference?”

“No interference.”

“And you won’t withdraw the power without my consent.”

“I promise.”

“Is your promise worth anything?”

“Well, it’s in the contract too.”

Warner held one hand out. “Let’s see that contract.”


Two decades later the world was a loathsome, disgusting paradise. No crime, pollution, politics, selfishness, cruelty, lies, stupidity, addictions or any of the hundred other dirty deeds which Satan loved. Today, that soul which had coaxed him from hell twenty years ago glowed like a spiritual sun.

“Has it been twenty years already?” Warner asked as the Devil appeared.

“I’m sure you’re well aware of the time.”

Warner scrutinized him. “I don’t suppose you will admit those times you broke our contract by trying to surreptitiously interfere?”

“Me?” the Devil looked shocked at the idea.

Of course he had tried to interfere, in many indirect ways which couldn’t be traced back. An African warlord finding the funds he needed. A natural disaster decimating a city. Each time Warner was there with his ever-growing crowd of acolytes, fixing problems, helping people, and turning Satan’s interference around to help promote his cause.

After a while Satan had contented himself to watch and wait.

Warner admired the golden age outside his window. “Time to go then.”

“You have ten minutes.”

“Nothing I can do that hasn’t already been done. The world is on its own now.”

Yes, on its own again. It would be an interesting challenge. The last time he’d only needed to tempt one of two people, now there were billions. “You’ve made quite a mess for me.”

“And now you’ll try to change it all back, undo all my work.”

“Things fall apart.”

“And in the place of the fallen, the new rises. I have to hope free will is strong enough to resist your temptations this time.”


The Devil did not believe it for a moment.

“Well, let’s go,” Warner said.

“Are you in such a hurry to see Hell?”

“In a way I am.”

Unusual. A warning chime rang in Satan’s mind. “Why?”

“Oh, I plan to change Hell, as I changed Earth.”

The Devil laughed. “Difficult without the power.”

“I’ll have that too.”

“And what do you have to bargain with this time?”

“No need to bargain, I have our contract.”

The Devil stopped, going over the wording in his head, seeking a loophole.

“You agreed,” Warner said, “that I had twenty years until you claimed my soul.”


“And you agreed you wouldn’t take the ability away without my say-so.”

Satan saw where this was headed. He may re-take earth but lose Hell in the bargain. “You tricked me.”

Warner smiled. “I think you will be quite busy here on Earth while I acquaint myself to Hell.”

“I don’t have to take you,” the Devil said.

“Twenty years and you collect my soul. That was the deal.”

“True, but it’s my discretion on whether to collect.”

“Well, I’m sixty-one. How many years do I have left? Twenty? Thirty? Then what? Heaven won’t take a man who sold his soul.”

Satan would make sure Warner Getz lived long, using those years to prepare.

“Then again,” Warner said, pulling a gun from his pocket, “suicides go straight to Hell.”


“I’ll race you.”

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