In the flickering candlelight of an old, abandoned farmhouse, John Fortune carefully inscribed a pentagram on the living room floor. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled while torrential rain pelted the roof. Fortune chanted a runic formula and in a flash of light and a cloud of smoke, a huge, ugly, but affable looking demon appeared.
“Well mortal, why have you summoned me from the black abyss of Hell?” His eyes gleamed like burning coals but his his clawlike hands were not as long and sharp as some.
“I’ve called you up because I want to make a bargain for my soul!”
“Oh, tarnation! One of those! why me? Why do I get assigned to all you crazies? The last one wanted immortality! He thought it would be a good way to have his cake and eat it too. I had one like that over a hundred years ago. I explained to the idiot, I didn’t care! My powers are enhanced by the number of people who believe in me. This just means I will always have one believer, but you aren’t really equipped for this. Sure enough, after 50 years he became hopelessly insane! Ah well, Try to tell these mortals anything! Then there was this other fellow, wanted me to make him a genius at mathematics. Called me up and started to say ‘I’ve always been bad at geometry…’ I’ll say he was, he made a hexagram, not a pentagram! I hauled him right off to his eternal destiny! Right now! I love greeting these people passing over who don’t believe in us demons! This one fellow, Carl something or other wrote a whole book about how we were all ignorant superstition. You should have seen the look on his face! And he screamed, boy did he scream!…”
“Look,” Fortune said, “Save all this for your memoirs!
This is a straight forward deal. I want the power to turn lead into gold. At the end of my life you can have it–my soul that is.”
The demon snapped his fingers. Considering his long claws, it would seem impossible,but that;s what he did.
“All right, here are the papers. Read them. I think you will find them in order. Sign in blood.”
“Wow! How can you do that in just an instant?”
“Oh, that. It’s nothing. We have the finest legal department in the world–the very best, the most successful lawyers come down here to assist us.”
Fortune signed it–in blood. A day later he received a set of plans for a cyclotron. Fortune exploded in uncontrolled rage. He called up the demon again.
“You cheated me,” he said. “It would cost a couple of million dolars to build a cyclotron and a lot to keep it running. If I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t have made this deal in the first place. I thought the devil kept his word in these matters. Where I come from, a deal is a deal!”
“Calm down, mortal, let me think about this a minute! He looked thoughtful for a few moments. Then he said “O.K., I agree you got shortchanged on this. Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll give you this little book. There’s an incantation that will do just what a cyclotron will do–change lead into gold.”
Fortune was mollified. A week later he had bought an old bank building in a small town and fixed up the vault for his purposes. It was filled with piles of lead ingots. Fortune locked himself in and began using his incantation to change the lead into gold. After several hours he was through. “Gold! Gold!” he exulted. “I’m rich! Rich! Do you hear, rich! Beyond my wildest dreams!”
Then he dropped dead–the devil had kept his word. Lead turned into gold in a cyclotron is radioactive. He got exactly what he asked for. Hey–a deal is a deal!