Steve flipped the tome over and placed it flat on the wooden table in front of him, then took a step back. He was a little nervous—this would be the first demon he’d ever tried to summon. Well, that’s not true. There was the one time when he stood in his bathroom, turned off the light, and chanted “Bloody Mary” three times as he stared into the mirror. Nothing happened, though, so he chalked that one up as a failure. This would be his first successful demon summoning.
He was positive it would work. He’d done all the research: read dozens of blogs about séances and summonings, watched The Exorcism of Emily Rose twice, and meticulously studied the demon summoning tutorial on eHow.com. He was more than ready, more than prepared—in fact, he had been for two weeks now. The tome, though, proved hard to get a hold of. Barnes and Noble was fresh out of ancient demonic tomes; Borders Books had went bankrupt years ago; and Amazon.com only had one in stock, sold via a third party for $24.99. Steve didn’t trust third party vendors—he knew they’d just steal his credit card. Still, if he was going to summon the Demon of Patron Wealth, he figured getting his credit card stolen wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
It took two weeks for the order to arrive from Amazon.com. The seller was located somewhere in Africa, a member of a long forgotten tribe that had recently been discovered, taught the virtues of Christianity, and introduced to the world of eCommerce. The plain, brown package came on a Wednesday morning and sat outside Steve’s Midtown apartment for about six hours. He was home the whole time, but they never so much as knocked to let him know it had come. They just left his ancient, demonic tome on the stoop outside of his apartment, prime for the taking by inner-city school kids. Steve had been furious upon finding it; as soon as he finished summoning his demon, he swore he would buy FedEx and fire every last one of its employees.
The tome was pretty run-of-the-mill for an ancient demonic book, if not a little on the heavy side: the cover was blank and brown, forged from some kind of stone centuries ago, then hidden for the majority of its life; its pages were worn and tattered, a few folded over and others pointing out at strange angles; several faint, unrecognizable characters spanned vertically down the spine of the tome. It looked pretty authentic.
Steve didn’t wait around long to begin the summoning. He’d been looking forward to having his own wealth-producing demon for weeks now, ever since he’d seen a documentary about them on the History Channel. The creatures were believed to be responsible for the riches of some of the wealthiest people in the world: Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, and Kirstie Alley. Their businesses—Microsoft, Facebook, and Cheers—were simply façades; their true wealth was the work of a summoned Demon, providing them any sum they desired, with, as Steve assumed, no particular downsides.
Steve stared at the tome lying flat on top of the table, its pages opened to what he felt was the most wealthy-looking demon, a long inscription scribbled just beneath. He’d used Google to translate the text into pronounceable English characters, which worked surprisingly well, then printed it out and placed it next to the tome. He’d waited so long for this moment, spent so many sleepless nights waiting to finally get revenge on the world for not making him a billionaire. Now it was his turn. He took one final deep breath and began the incantation.
“Sawubona,” Steve began, slowly sounding out each awkward consonant, “ngiyaxolisa ukukuphazamisa”— the room began to shake slightly — “kodwa ngidinga lokubiza idemoni yengcebo!” Steve took a deep breath, then shouted “Siyijabulele!”
The entire apartment began to rumble, Steve’s dishes falling off the nearby kitchen counter and onto the floor. He knew he should’ve put them away, eHow.com said to keep any breakable items away from the summoning. It had slipped his mind, and now he was paying the consequences. He could just buy more once he got his demon, though.
The tome slowly lifted itself into the air, levitating a few inches above the table without any assistance. It was working—he was going to be a demonic owner. Its pages slowly began turning over, as if a breeze were gusting across it, quickly lifting and slapping each brittle page down with a soft smack. Steve took a step back, the tome now almost touching his ceiling, as a black cloud seeped out from its pages. It was inky and dark, as if the Exxon-Valdez had crashed directly in his kitchen, with the edges of the cloud swirling and contorting while it spread across the air over Steve’s head. A beam of light erupted from the middle, knocking Steve back and into the wall behind him. He fell to the floor as the room went silent.
Steve opened his eyes just as the last of the black, inky cloud slithering back into the pages of the tome. It was now lying back down on the table, just as he had left it. He pushed himself up onto his feet and took a step toward the tome. He didn’t feel any richer, nor did he feel any more like a demon-owner. He must have done something wrong.
“Hey,” said a high-pitched voice from behind him, followed by a metallic clink against the ground. Steve turned around. A small, red creature was standing in his door way, no taller than three-and-a-half feet. It was partially naked, a burlap cloth around its waist, small black horns on his forehead. It held a small, brown pouch in its left hand, with what appeared to be a quarter lying on the floor under it. “You called?”
“Demon?” Steve said, his eyes wide.
“By occupation,” the demon said, reaching down to pick up the coin it had dropped. “Name’s Gary. Why did you call for me?”
“D-d-demon,” Steve repeated. “Demon!”
Gary stared at Steve, his head askew. “Yeah, we covered that. What do you want?”
“Wealth!” Steve shouted, a smile streaking across his face. “Wealth, wealth. I need wealth. Riches. Money. Gold.”
“Well you called on the right guy. How much do you need?”
“All of it,” Steve said. “Everything. I want to be the richest, to be the desire of millions. I want it all.”
“Can do, buddy. Just need you to sign here.” Gary said, pulling a clipboard into existence. It was large, almost larger than himself, with an incredibly thick stack of papers clipped on. It looked more like Steve was purchasing several homes, rather than simply summoning a demon to provide him with unlimited riches.
“What’s this?” Steve said.
“Basic T’s and C’s. You know, terms and conditions. Keeps liability off Satan, few safety wavers to make sure you don’t blame us if you hurt yourself, cancellation agreement in which you can never cancel, one or two dozen torture clauses, and a small section about selling your soul to us for all time. Nothing weird. You can just sign on the first page and it’ll become eternally binding.”
“And then I get the money?” Steve said. He turned and began rummaging through the desk drawer behind him for a pen, not bothering to wait for a response.
“Sure,” Gary said. “You sign this, you get the money.”
Steve turned around, a clear Bic pen in hand. “Give me it,” he said, reaching his hand out toward the contract. Gary smiled and thrust the clipboard toward him. Steve grabbed it, flipped it over, and quickly scribbled his name across dotted line, then handed it back.
“Great!” Gary said. “Perfect.”
“Give me my money now. I want it all. I want to be richer than Bill Gates and Kirstie Alley combined.”
“Sure thing, champ,” Gary said, walking toward Steve with his hand outstretched. The small, brown bag sat in his upturned palm. He pushed it into Steve’s hand.
“What’s this?” Steve said, pulling on the strings at its top to open it up.
“The money,” Gary said.
“It’s all in here?” Steve glanced inside. What appeared to be several quarters, pennies, dimes, and nickels sat inside. “This is like $1.45.”
“Wow, good guess. It’s actually $1.43. You’re one of the closest yet.”
“I don’t get it,” Steve said. “Where’s my riches? My wealth?”
“It’s in that bag,” Gary said. “It’ll always be in the bag. Check it out.” Gary grabbed the bag and emptied it onto the floor, then handed it back to Steve. He glanced inside; it was still full.
“There’s still $1.43 in there,” he said, glancing down at the $1.43 in coins lying on the floor.
“Yeah, you’ll always have $1.43 in there. That’s what it caps out at. But you can only do it five times per day.” Gary paused. “It’s a union thing.”
“I don’t understand, you’re the Demon of Patron Wealth. This isn’t wealth. This is pocket change. I sold you my soul, where is my money? My riches?”
“What? Demon of Patron We—oh. See, you got the wrong guy. I’m the Demon of Loose Change. Happens all the time,” Gary said, laughing. “Honestly, just last week some guy in Australia did the same thing. He had a better accent, though.”
Steve glanced down at the bag and stared at his new union-limited source of $1.43. He couldn’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed with his decision to sell his soul for what amounted to $7.15 per day.