"I hate this", said Adam, to his empty dining room. It was late at night. He was alone. His only company at his table were several bottles of wine and his glass. He was just a drunk man, talking to himself out of the anguish of his latest break-up.
So it was with mild surprise that he heard someone reply, "hate enough to do something about it?" He looked up, and he would have sworn that the alcohol was making him hallucinate - except that drinking had never affected him that way before. What he saw across his table was a man - dressed in red tights with horns on his head and a pitchfork on his lap, twirling both his black mustache and his pointed tail. He looked like he'd just stepped out of a cartoon.
The alcohol might not have been causing a hallucination, but it did alter Adam's response. Rather than screaming or freaking out, he instead found himself replying, "what do you know, man? What do you know about how hateful women can be?"
"Oh, believe me, I do know. Let's say that... I'm not unfamiliar with the nature of women. Women and I go way back." said the other man, in a smarmy yet coarse and haughty voice. Adam went on with his drunken rant: "But Ashley, man, Ashley. How could she... She's not just any other women. She's stupid. And cruel. More than any other women. I hate her."
"Oh, you mean me?" There was a 'poof' across the table, and the man in red tights had transformed himself into a pretty young women. "Ashley!" shouted Adam, for it was her - with that arc in her nose and her hair framing her cheekbones. "Ashley! I love you! How could you - just dump me like that? And why on Valentine's day? What did I do? Why can't we stay together?"
'Ashley' opened her pink lips and spoke, but the voice that came out was the same smarmy, coarse, and haughty voice of the man in red. And it said, "Because, hon, you're just not good enough. You're kinda cute from some angles, but not really good looking, you know? And I regularly get hit on by other guys who have more money than you. They're always more interesting, too - you got boring pretty quickly. Basically, I just thought I could do much better."
Adam was momentarily stunned into silence. He didn't know whether he would next explode in anger or start crying his eyes out. But before anything else could happen, 'Ashley' transformed back into the man in red, and he said, "Oh come on, I did you a favor. Would you rather that I tell you again all the lies you've already heard? 'Oh, it's not you, it's me', 'Oh, I just don't think we'll work out', 'Oh, let's stay friends'? Bah. You needed to hear the truth, and that's what I just told you. I did you a favor!"
Adam's eyes narrowed, and his mind seemed to focus a bit through his drunken haze. He said:
"What do you want? You're not in the business of doing favors."
"Oh? What have you heard about me?"
"Nothing good. That you tempt people to destroy their souls."
"Oh please. You can't believe everything you hear. Is it really so hard to believe that I've come to help you?" As the man said this, he grow white wings and a halo appeared over his head, and his clothing became white. But upon closer inspection, the halo was clearly held up by some metal wires extending up from his back, and the wings were poorly fitted props that was cramped awkwardly between the chair and the man's back. The man, now in white, looked like he was at a masquerade party in a cheap angel's costume.
"Look, I really did come here to do you a favor - to offer you a gift!" continued the man, in his smarmy, coarse, and haughty voice, twirling his mustache the whole time. "How would you like to have any woman you want?"
"What's the catch?"
"Come on now. You're hurting my feelings! There is no catch."
"You're lying. I bet it's something like all the women will go completely crazy fighting over me, so that my life is ruined because of the madness and the drama. Right?"
"No, not at all. Not all women will go after you - just the ones that you show affection to. And they'll only be in love with you "normally" - there's no diabolical super-powered obsession involved."
"Oh? Then is this some scheme to trap me or corrupt me through sex? Where I can have any women that I want so that I get completely addicted to perpetual sex with supermodels and somehow ruin myself?"
"Not at all. I mean, you can choose to use your gift in that way, and I won't stop you. To be honest, perpetual sex with supermodels is pretty nice. But the gift will also let you settle down with a nice family, if that's what you want. The choice is yours."
"'Nice family'? You probably mean that my kids will be your spawn and they'll grow up to be mass murderers who begin their killing spree by stabbing me. That's your idea of a 'nice family', isn't it?"
"Please. Any wife or kids you choose to have will be perfectly normal. I mean, they might be crazy, but that's not any more likely than for anyone else. There's nothing in my gift that will specifically turn them that way. You want your nice, suburban house and your white picket fence and a devoted, loving wife to grow old with in material comfort? My gift allows for that. It will even let you have up to two kids and a dog and a well-manicured lawn if you want. Nothing in my gift prevents any of that."
"What if my ex-girlfriends go crazy because they're still in love with me? Are you going to make them go insane with jealously and become ax-murdering lunatics who come after me?"
"Again, no. The exes you acquire through this gift are no more likely to go crazy than anyone else's ex-girlfriends. Look, do you know who I am? Do you honest think that if I wanted to screw you, I'd have to trick you in some way? I'm offering you this gift, because I really want you to have it. Because I really want to see you embrace it wholeheartedly, for your own enjoyment and benefit. Is that really so hard to believe?"
"Yes. Why are you being so - generous? Why offer me this gift at all?"
"I already explained why. I earnestly want to see you accept the gift and use it. And why shouldn't I be generous? I am powerful: I can give what gifts I please, if only to just demonstrate that I can. In fact, I think I'll do that right now: in addition to giving this gift to you, I'll pass on your exact same gift to any children you might have. They'll be marked by the gift from birth, but only after they're fully grown I'll activate for them the ability to have any sexual partner they want. How's that for generous?"
"Seriously? There's no catch? The women I show affection towards won't suddenly become monstrously ugly? This "mark" on my future kids isn't some hideous birthmark, and it won't make them turn evil? I won't become impotent or change sexual orientation as soon as I get in bed with these women? My natural life span won't be shortened as a result of this gift?"
"No, no, no, and no. I've told you exactly what my gift will do. There are no such unexpected, additional side effects you need to fear."
"You're still hiding something. There's some fine print you're not telling me."
"No, I've told you everything, in perfectly clear language. We've gone over all of the abilities, powers, restrictions, limitations, and conditions on your gift. The only thing you have to do, is to say that you accept. Do you?"
The question hung in the air. Adam wasn't sure whether he had become more sober or more confused since this conversation began. He thought about his answer for a bit - but it was late, and he was tired, drunk, and emotionally unstable. He thought he might not remember anything the next morning.
As it turned out, he ended up remembering quite a bit - he remembered saying "I accept". He remembered much of the details of the deal. But he could not remember what it had been that was nagging at the back of his mind about those details. And so, he never came to understand the nature or the magnitude of his mistake.
(Continued in Part 2 of the story.)
You may next want to read:
The want of a mate (Part 2) (Next post of this series)
The dialogue between two aliens who found a book on Earth
The intellect trap
Another post, from the table of contents