Nathan's Laserium: The Robot and the Devil

A robot of my acquaintance sold his soul to the devil. The deal was, Old Nick would provide my robot friend with a soul, and in return the robot would sell that soul back to him. I tried to talk him out of it- I mean, I hardly ever use my soul, so what did he need one for- but he was pretty determined. You know how hard it can be trying to talk a robot out of something once he has made up his mind. All the same, I figured I better go with him to meet the Prince of Darkness.

Satan was a lot like I imagined he would be- a class act, but indescribably evil at the same time. He wasn't actually doing anything evil, exactly, but you could just feel those vibes emanating from his Versace suit. We met in an upper crust retro-20s jazz club uptown. I introduced myself as the robot's attorney. It was a lie, of course, and the devil knew it, but that just meant I had earned his respect.

The robot wanted to get straight down to business, but I steered the conversation back to small talk. Shooting the breeze with the devil is surprisingly easy. If you ask just the right questions, he will tell you some of the most amazing stories you'll ever hear. Just don't be ingratiating- he hates that. And it probably goes without saying that you shouldn't talk religion with him. Politics, though- he's all over that. Anyways, after a few drinks (I had beer, hellboy drank highballs and the robot is a teetotaller) we were ready to discuss terms.

"My client wishes, against my advice, to obtain a soul from you. In return, he will pledge that soul back to you. Upon his demise the soul shall revert back to your ownership."

"Agreed," said the devil. He produced a contract from his inside pocket, signed it and handed it to the robot to sign. Then I witnessed it and it was official. Done. Robot had a soul and, well, so did the devil.

"Now that I have a soul I can give myself a name!" said the robot. "I think I will be . . . Robby."

"No," I said. Satan agreed.

"Why not? I like the sound of it."

"Trust me, you don't want to be Robby the Robot. Pick another name."

The devil said, "I'll sell you a name." I shushed him. Not everyday you can do that to the Evil One.

"What would you suggest?" he asked me.

"Ah man, I don't know. Choose something that has meaning for you. Maybe you should try and 'find' yourself first, now that you have a soul and all."

So he got up and left without even saying good-bye. Protocol wasn't his primary function, apparently.

I turned back to Satan. "So what's your scam?"

"No scam. I always honor my deals."

"If you could just make souls out of thin air then you could have as many souls as you wanted and wouldn't need to make deals for them."

"I like the challenge of obtaining them this way. I am an aficionado."

"I still don't buy it. I think you're lying."

"I encourage that vice in others, but find little need for it myself."

I raised my eyebrow at him, and stared him in the eye. A dangerous gambit, but I sensed the devil kind of liked me so I risked it.

"Fine," he grinned. "You are correct- I can not manufacture a soul from nothing. But your friend does indeed possess one- I did not lie about that. It is not my fault if he was ignorant of this fact before he came to me. I merely gave him the necessary impetus to be able to believe. Call it the Dumbo Effect, if you will."

"And all you charged for this service was his eternal soul."

"Yes."

I was angry, and I had to get away to think. The wheels in my head were spinning, but not nearly as fast as a robot's would. I needed to find "Robby" or whatever the hell he was calling himself. We needed to figure a way out of this contract. I excused myself.

"Let me get the check," said Lucifer. "It's the least I can do. And here's my card- call me if you ever want to sell your soul."

All kinds of ideas were swirling through my mind as I caught up with the robot. There had to be a way to beat the devil at his own game. Some kind of robot virus that would mutate the soul, so that Satan wouldn't be able to recognize it; or maybe he used nanocyte ink that would disappear or even alter the contract to make it null and void. There had to be a way.

"The devil tricked you! You already have a soul!" I said, without even a greeting.

"How is that possible?" Reading robot expressions was hard, but he didn't seem to be alarmed, just curious.

"Well, I heard a fable once when I was a kid- about a lion who was concerned that he didn't have a soul. So he asked a wise man how he could know whether he had one or not, and the wise man told him, 'The fact that you are concerned that you have a soul is proof of its existence.' Maybe it's something like that. You grew your own soul from wanting one so bad!"

"I still haven't chosen a name. Can you help me?"

"What the hell are you talking about? Who cares about your name? We have to figure out a way to get your soul back from the devil!"

"I think something from Egyptian mythology might be cool. What was the name of the creature who would eat your soul if it weighed less than the golden feather? Ammit, wasn't it? I think I will be named Ammit from now on."

"Dammit Ammit! This is serious! Focus, we have to save your soul here!" I felt like screaming. I did scream. "Gaaaaarrrgghhhhh!!!" But "Ammit" just kept blathering on as if he didn't even hear me.

"Yes, Ammit. The devourer of souls. I like it. It's much better than Robby the Robot. I'm glad you and the devil wouldn't let me be Robby. Of course, I was so sure my name was going to be Robby that I'm afraid I signed Lucifer's little contract under that name."

I was still screaming so it took a second or two for that statement to sink in. "Wha . .? You mean . . ."

"I must confess that I sold Robby the Robot's soul to the devil. I hope he doesn't mind. Since he is an inanimate object collecting dust in a studio warehouse somewhere I think I can safely assume he won't. The devil will probably be angry, but he'll have to take it up with Robby."

I never kissed a robot before, and I wouldn't recommend it since they are cold and metallic, but it was definitely appropriate on this occasion. Then we danced- the Robot, of course.


(May 2004)

- Nathan Waddell