Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Soul (07/13/06)
TITLE: The Devil on My Desk
By Jan Ackerson
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So—here it is, the story of my success. Only a year ago, my little toy company was operating out of my basement. I’d had some success with an action figure equipped with interactive features. I designed a microchip which, along with sensors to detect sound and motion, gave each figure a huge range of responses; so that they actually seemed to converse with their owners.
Orders were increasing; I needed to expand to a larger facility. I hoped to close the year with a modest profit, and when I looked to the future, I saw only dollar signs.
One morning, I entered my office and saw that someone—my partner, I assumed—had left on my desk a new action figure. Must be the prototype for the new line, I thought, and I picked it up to study it more closely.
The workmanship was phenomenal—such detail and realism! It was about six inches tall, and I had to laugh as I turned it over. It was a faithful reproduction of every stereotyped image of Satan. Dark red, with horns, a pitchfork, a long tail—and meticulously covered with thousands of tiny scales. Strangely enough, the figure even felt warm to the touch.
“What’s this?” I must have spoken aloud, for the little figure responded.
“I’m the ticket to all your dreams.” Its voice was small and slightly scratchy, and I concluded that the toy contained one of my own interactive microchips. But this model was incredibly more advanced than anything I had ever made. When it spoke, its head actually turned, and the tail twitched.
“Well, hello! What are you?” I flicked on my lamp to get a better look at the manufacture of this remarkable toy. I was disappointed, then, when it repeated its first response. My own figures could go weeks without duplicating sentences. “Ticket to my dreams, eh? And just how are you going to do that?” I continued to examine the little devil, unable to detect where the microchip had been inserted. Really, the craftsmanship was quite superior.
It spoke again. “Just sign here.”
To my delight, the little red fellow produced a tiny document covered with microscopic print. I played along, to see what it would do next.
“What happens when I sign?”
“All your dreams come true.” The figure indicated the tiny paper. “Just sign here.”
Another repeated response. It may have had sophisticated artistry, but the microcircuits were inferior—a flaw easily fixed. This toy definitely had possibilities. I considered the expense of modifying our current line. “What’ll it cost…” I wondered aloud, and to my surprise, the action figure replied.
“Only your soul. Just sign here.”
My soul! How entertaining! I decided to see the conversation to its conclusion. What would happen, I wondered, if I signed its tiny contract? I took a pen and inked my initials on the dotted line.
The little doll hopped up and down in an imitation of glee—a superior demonstration of animatronics. Then I saw, lying on the desk beside it, what I had not seen before: detailed plans for the manufacture of Devil Dolls.
The rest of my story is well known. The manufacturing process is my secret, but the figures are amazingly easy and inexpensive to make, and I’ve already sold millions at a substantial profit. This past Christmas, people stampeded the department stores in their desperation to buy Devil Dolls. Soon, we’ll be expanding to the worldwide market.
It’s funny, but the prototype I found that day has never interacted with me since I signed the contract. It sits on my desk, a hunk of red plastic with a pitchfork in one hand and a contract in the other.
Coincidentally, my dreams have indeed come true. I will retire soon, only thirty years old, with nothing but pleasure to occupy me for years. I am not superstitious—I have no fear for my soul.
Still, I need to locate the little figure’s microchip. There are times when it emits a horrid rasping sound—almost as if it is laughing at me.
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