I took my proposal to the Department of Infernal Affairs. Never heard of it? There’s always one nearby if you know where to look. Someone’s got to coordinate for the Other Side, after all, and what could be more hellish than bureaucracy for which the normal human meanings of time and space don’t apply?

That day, I had a modest proposal all typed up with the proper forms filled out in quadruplicate and properly stamped and sealed with blood. I was ready to pledge my soul to the Other Side in exchange for something in the here and now, like many people (more than you’d think) have done in the past. I was ushered in to see the local Department Manager after a wait of only 97 hours; that they sped things along, I thought, was indicative of how important the issue was.

Unlike most of the workers for the Other Side, the department manager wasn’t a human sympathizer or required to wear a disguising glamour. He was all raw and evil, leaking noxious fumes and fluids. The only concession for my sake was a business suit, which must have been made out of teflon to withstand all that Other Side hellish ichor.

“It’s a nice proposal,” he said in a voice that sounded like two concrete blocks being ground together. “But I’m going to have to turn you down. We don’t want your soul, not for this or any other bargain.”

“What?” I said. “Why not?”

“I’m going to be honest with you,” the Department Manager said, tenting the clawed pseudopods that served him for quasi-arms. “Fulfilling wishes, making changes to the physical world from the spiritual? It has costs. Effort, time, and soul energy. In the old days, when souls were pennies a gallon, it was no problem. But things have changed, and the arithmetic isn’t always as good.”

“But it’s a small request,” I said. “Hardly anything needs to be changed, and you get my soul forever!”

“That’s the other thing,” said the Department Manager in his ruinous voice. “We on the Other Side have quite the actuarial staff, and we’ve done a few calculations. Turns out that the kind of person who’d sell their soul, or even consider it, is usually a right bastard in their own way. 90% of them, they’re ours anyway in the fullness of time; we get the whole soul without having to expend any effort at all.”

“So what are you telling me?”

“No more soul deals anywhere, ever. Only exceptions are for mass cults, business leaders, and politicians. That one comes from the Big Guy himself, incidentally, so don’t try going over my amorphous eyestalk to the District Manager either.”

“Then why see me at all? Why make me wait just to shoot me down? why have the forms in the first place? I wasted almost a year of my life getting this ready, all for nothing!”

The Department Manager grinned with all six of his tooth-ringed mouth-suckers. “We’re still the Other Side, kid. It’s what we do.”

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