Always read the fine print.
Everyone knows that part of anything to do with contracts. A less well-known piece of advice is ‘always check for spelling errors’. I learned that the hard way.
From the tennant contract where ‘observe and obey rent-dates” was mis-spelled as ‘lent-dates’, and some smart-ass decided to give up paying rent for 40 days, to the payment clause where ‘paid in EFT or Cash’ was auto-corrected to ‘EFT or Cake’, spelling errors have been responsible for all sorts of absurd, awkward and abysmal legal problems.
My typo-related SNAFU wasn’t quite as bad as those, but just because some poor schmuck has it worse doesn’t make other problems invalid.
‘Abysmal’ is probably the most applicable term for my dilemma, because I signed a contract with a demon.
Dumb move, I know. Even the desperate think twice before resorting to something like that.
In my defence, I wasn’t actually expecting anyone to answer my vague wish for help. Besides, being up to your eyebrows in student debt, about to become homeless because even night-shifts at the local gas station have at least a dozen people competing for every open spot, and the friends who had offered to let you couch-surf for a few nights weren’t in much better financial straits than you are, leaves a person pretty desperate.
Certainly desperate enough to wish that all-powerful higher beings actually existed. I’d even contemplated using my non-existent free time to look for a fairy ring. The fair folk might find my situation amusing enough to take pity, and even if it came with a catch, it would still be a reprieve from my current problems.
Instead, I got a demon.
I reacted about as well as I would to any other unexpected intruder who showed up in the middle of the night when I staggered into the kitchen for a drink of water: I shrieked and threw my sole cooking pot, then sitting in the drying rack at its head. On reflection, a minor concussion might go a long way toward explaining what happened next.
Luckily, the demon had a twisted sense of humour and found it hilarious. They - there was no clear gender, and I wasn’t about to risk asking - offered me what they called the ‘low-fee’ contract. I would get the better-paying job I had applied for, and looked on-track to getting before I turned down the pass that my interviewer made at me, and my rental contract would suddenly have a ‘right-to-buy’ clause, so the last rent payment that I could just barely make would result in my taking ownership.
In exchange, I would have five years before they returned to claim my first-born.
Honestly, there were no down-sides. It would take me more than five years to be in a situation where I could afford to even think about that kind of commitment, let alone afford the IVF treatments. Luckily, neither the contract nor the fine-print said anything about penalties if I didn’t have a child at that point.
My collage degree had included, among other things, modules on contracts and proof-reading. Proof-reading is the important bit here. You go over a document first to see what it says, then a few more times to check for spelling errors, sentence structure, grammar and writing flow, etc.
I went over it once to check for hidden traps or clauses, and to make sure it covered what I had agreed to, then signed it. The demon left me a copy and vanished in a puff of hellfire and brimstone, setting off the smoke alarm in the process.
Fittingly, the contract was the only thing that stayed dry.
After turning the alarm off, a change of clothes, setting the wet things out to dry and cleaning up the kitchen, I fell back into my bed, only to be woken up an hour or so later by my ringing phone. Apparently, demons like to get a little bit of their own in my having the ‘good news’ part of a contract be announced at just after 4a.m.
The first was from my landlord, announcing that he would be bringing the transfer of ownership papers around that afternoon, followed by another at 6a.m from the company I had interviewed at, letting me know that a Supervisor had been fired for sexual harassment and with everyone moving one up in the chain of command, there was another job opening for me to take.
Life was looking up.
It was just under a year later when I found out the problem.
I had just staggered back in at the end of a long shift that had been one fiasco after another, so of course i look into my kitchen and see the demon I made a bargain with sitting there. They didn’t look angry, or smug, or even the integrating attitude of a used car salesman that they normally used when making deals. If I didn’t know it was absurd, I would have said that they looked unbearably awkward.
I closed the door and pulled out a chair. “I’m pretty sure my contract isn’t due for another four years.”
A scaled hand rubbed over horns, possibly the demon equivalent of running a hand through hair. “Yeah, about that… there was a typo.”
Contract typos were never good, and always caused trouble for someone. At the very least, I’d probably have to renegotiate. “What typo?”
As long as it wasn’t ‘five months’ rather than ‘five years’, I had room to negotiate. The demon looked very close to thumping his head on the table. “The bit about the price you agree to pay.”
How was that enough to make the demon look so uncomfortable? Seeing my obvious confusion, they handed me a page with the relevant paragraph.
I put the contract down, wondering if I could claim the typo as a breech of contract on their part. “Well, that’s problematic.”
They rubbed their horns again. “Yeah. Look, it’s still doable. You don’t need to upload it to the internet or anything, or even have to do it ever again afterward. Just your first porn, and we can forget that this ever happened.”
It wasn’t quite that simple. “Any chance that the contract could be satisfied with a professionally-shot nude? A pin-up?”
The demon shook their head. “No. Since this is kind of on us, we’ll make sure that no-one will ever see it and that it can’t be leaked or hacked, if that helps.”
Damnit. I thumped my own head on the table. “That’s not the issue. I can’t.”
The demon frowned, sitting up. “Can’t or won’t? I know that it’s awkward, but - “
I cut them off. “Can’t. I’m sex-repulsed Asexual. The idea of having sex, much less filming it, makes me physically ill.”
The demon was momentarily side-tracked. “Then how were you planning on producing a first born for our payment?”
I’d been hoping to have the five years pass without managing to conceive, honestly, but I had a back-up plan. “I’d planned on IVF, but I need to save up the money first, and there’s no guarantee it would take on the first try.”
The demon frowned. “Damn. I keep telling the contract department that we need to factor in clauses for cases of alternate sexuality. Let me think on this, and I’ll try to find a compromise. You’re sure that you’re sex-repulsed. Not grey-A, or ‘don’t mind it as a recreational activity’-Ace? Demi-sexual, even?”
He didn’t sound particularly hopeful, and I felt a strange surge of sympathy. “I’m afraid not. Black stripe all the way.”
He groaned, mystic runes starting to glow beneath him. “Right. I’ll keep you updated.”
He vanished, leaving me alone. Despite the situation, I couldn’t help smiling a little. Who would have figured that a literal demon from Hell was more progressive than the average Conservative?
I was nearly finished making dinner when there was another hellish visitation. Turning around, I squeaked and dropped the pot I’d been filling with water.
The thing most frequently made people question my Asexuality was that I was ok talking about sex as a theory, and had no problem finding people visually attractive. It was like looking at statues in a museum; I could admire the craftsmanship without wanting to do anything about it. This was a better-endowed Apollo, and a living Galatea, both very scantily clad, and watching me with great interest. I wanted to hide under my bed. My parents raised me polite, though, so I tried to smile. “Hi. Mind if I ask who you are and what you’re doing here?”
The male-looking one propped his chin on his fist, giving me a dazzling smile. “Hopefully seducing you, gorgeous.”
Why did attractive guys always manage to ruin the scenery by opening their mouthes? I pulled the sheperd’s pie out of the oven and pulled out three plates. Did demons still eat food? Oh, well, no harm in offering. “Didn’t the demon I bargained with pass on the fact that I wasn’t into sex? Like, at all.”
The female-looking one offered a smile of gentle understanding that made my heart flutter. I had a weakness for people I could connect with emotionally. “He did, but the Mid-Boss wants to have the contract completed, and sent us to make absolutely sure that you weren’t just lying to get out of it.”
That was fair enough. “But why are there two of you?”
The male one shrugged, having dropped the ‘wannabe-seducer’ attitude as he dug into the plate in front of him. “She is a Succubus, I’m an Incubus. The higher-ups wanted to cover all the bases, as it were.”
The female one nodded in agreement. “We can call up a few more, if you’re into orgies. Whatever kink takes your fancy, really. Shapeshifting is an option, too, if you’re into fantasy or sci-fi.”
If my face got any redder, I was going to catch on fire. Frantically, I scanned through the memories of when a cousin had tried to ‘fix’ me by spamming me with pornographic images, trying to think of a solution. “None of the above, actually. Look, I have to give the demon my first porn. How active of a participant do I have to be?”
The female one sighed. “That wasn’t specified. As long as we don’t get punished for failure, I’m open to suggestions for wiggle-room.”
That was a relief. “So, my family went through this stretch where they thought I could be cured if they just found the right kink or right guy, so I wouldn’t up learning far more than I ever wanted about the adult industry.”
The male one leaned forward, a mischievous smile on his face that was far more attractive than the seductive smirk. “I’m always open to frustrating the higher-ups. Go on.”
Maybe he wasn’t so bad, after all. “Exhibitionism and role-play. You tie me to a chair, or something, and I play a captive audience while you seduce each other.”
He beamed. “Perfect. I don’t do reluctant partners. Are you sure we need to tie you up?”
I smiled back. “Put it this way, me being tied to a chair is the only way we’re getting through this without me doing a runner, and sitting through it should cause more than enough anguish and suffering to satisfy your bosses.”
The female one draped an arm around my shoulders. “Whatever you like. Do you mind if we visit occasionally afterward? You’ve got good ideas, and I love your pie.”
I beamed, compliments for something I’d done, rather than my looks, were so much more effective. “Anytime. Just warn me in advance so I don’t throw anything at you.”