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A Faustian Unbargain

by João Ventura

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In his office at the top of the Department, Herr Doktor Faust (Dr. rer. nat.) works at the computer, navigating the cyberspace, looking for a solution to the problem that torments continuously his spirit: to find a way to stop the inexorable trajectory to the final chaos. Yes, Faust is searching for eternal youth.

He cannot find answers in Biology, nor in Physics, much less in Theology or Metaphysics. But he continues relentlessly his never-ending search, for which he got recently a new motivation: he saw Gretchen, the new PhD student, running across the lawn in front of the building, in her daily jogging, and he fell in love with the grace of her movements and the perfection of her body.

Tonight Faust feels particularly troubled, his research doesn’t produce any result and, in extreme despair, he grabs the old book he discovered recently in the library basement. It is a book of magic and witchcraft, with explanations on the ways to do the most terrible deeds. Faust makes up his mind and he summons the Lord of Darkness.

The office is suddenly filled with a blinding light and when he opens his eyes, Faust sees a smiling creature who bows and presents himself: “Mephisto, at your service. I can give you eternal youth in exchange for a mere signature on this piece of paper.”

In the hands of Mephisto, a sheet of paper with writing on it and a Mont Blanc fountain pen have suddenly materialized.

Faust has always heard that the Devil knows a lot because he is old, but Faust himself is no longer young, either. Therefore, he asks his visitor a few questions:

“Are you certified according to ISO 10006 standards? Are you a member of the Notaries Guild, entitled to formalize contracts for buying and selling souls?”

Mephisto hesitates, and Faust insists: “In a nutshell, how can I be sure you are who you say you are?”

A new blinding light fills the room, leading Faust to think that it is becoming a bit repetitious. There is now an obvious sulfur smell, and in front of Faust there is a second creature, similar to the first one but bigger, clearly more important. With a thundering voice, the new visitor demands, “Mephisto Junior, what are you doing here?”

“I... I...” Junior stammers.

“You know quite well that only after passing course 3.032 Relations With Inferior Species are you allowed to contact humans! You will be grounded in Gabriel’s cloud and we will have a talk later.”

“Not in Heaven, Daddy! Please, not in Heaven!”

“Silence! Be gone!” The voice resonates in a way that the bookcases in the office start shaking. Mephisto Junior disappears in a cloud of smoke.

“Coming back to business talk...” Mephistopheles says, facing Faust with his best smile.

Faust doesn’t like that smile. In fact, he starts thinking that the situation can easily swerve out of control, and he starts doubting that he has chosen the right course of action. “Wait a minute,” Faust says. “Your credentials.”


“Yes, a document from a higher authority confirming that you are who you claim to be.”

“A higher authority?”

Calmly and slowly, Faust points upwards.

Mephistopheles can’t believe his eyes. “Ask Him for a certificate? Him? Never!” And he disappears with an enormous thunderclap.

The smell of sulfur is now more intense. Faust opens a window to ventilate the room. He remembers a professor he had many years ago and the way he summarized the two main laws of Thermodynamics. First law: You can’t win. Second law: You can’t even break even.

So very true! Then the only solution is to try to slow down entropy:

He stops smoking.
He starts a diet.
He begins regular medical checkups.
He now goes to the gym every day.

But he always falls into a melancholy state of mind when he sees Gretchen jogging by in her skimpy running togs...

Copyright © 2014 by João Ventura

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